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BUSINESS IN BRIEF

Bush Signs Bankruptcy Bill

Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page E02

President Bush signed a bill that will make it harder for people with debt to wipe clean their financial slates by declaring bankruptcy. Under the current system, a federal bankruptcy judge determines whether people who have declared bankruptcy must repay some or all of their debt. Under the new law, people with insufficient assets or income can still file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which, if approved by a judge, erases debts entirely after certain assets are forfeited. People with incomes above their state's median will have to pay some or all of their credit card charges, medical bills and other obligations under a court-ordered bankruptcy plan. The law takes effect in six months.

China's Economy Surges in 1st Quarter

China's economy grew by 9.5 percent in the first three months of the year, the government said, warning that it needs to tighten controls on surging investment in new factories and real estate. The increase exceeded the expectations of analysts, who had expected that Beijing's efforts to slow growth would have had a bigger impact. Leading the first-quarter surge was a 22.8 percent jump in investment in factories, construction and other fixed assets, to $133 billion, the government said. Manufacturing and consumer spending also registered double-digit growth, and industrial output was up 16.2 percent.


Billionaire investor Ronald Perelman testified that he relied on Morgan Stanley's financial analysis of its client Sunbeam in deciding whether to sell his 82 percent stake in Coleman to that company in 1998. In his suit, which seeks $2.7 billion in damages, Perelman contends Morgan Stanley helped Sunbeam conceal inflated sales and assisted with a news release trumpeting phony earnings before he swapped his Coleman shares for Sunbeam stock. (Mark Elias -- Bloomberg News)

MORE NEWS

Ravelston officers and directors Conrad M. Black and longtime business partner F. David Radler have resigned as officers and directors of the firm, the private holding company behind the troubled Hollinger media empire. Ravelston is seeking bankruptcy protection. A special committee of Hollinger International directors alleged that Black and a team of executives had improperly received more than $32 million in management fees from Ravelston.

Verizon and SBC, which are installing fiber-optic cable to offer TV service to millions of customers in competition with cable-TV operators, were warned by a key lawmaker that their "deployment plans that skip or avoid" less affluent communities may result in consequences from Congress. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) cited requirements that cable-TV companies serve all households in a franchise area.

A former Tyco International employee testified that she arranged the transfer of millions of dollars of Tyco funds that former top executives L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz used for personal investments and to buy apartments. Kathy McRae said the transfers were recorded as loans to the executives under Tyco's "Key Employee Loan," or relocation loans. Kozlowski and Swartz are facing charges in connection with compensation they received at Tyco.

California's public pension fund said American International Group, AT&T, Delphi, Novell and Weyerhaeuser need to improve their financial performance and corporate governance practices.

Dow Jones shareholders approved a measure that would allow members of the Bancroft family to maintain voting control of the company even if they sell part of their holdings. Shareholder advocates had objected, saying it would unfairly allow the family to reduce its economic stake in the publisher of the Wall Street Journal without giving up voting control.

Ford Motor was handed the second-largest verdict against an automaker when it was ordered by an Illinois jury to pay $43.2 million to the wife and estate of a man who burned to death after his Lincoln Town Car caught fire in a rear-end collision.

Col. Harland Sanders, who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken and appeared in ads until 1980, the year of his death, is being brought back in a slimmer, more youthful image. Yum Brands, which operates the KFC fast-food chain, plans to open 50 stores using the full Kentucky Fried Chicken name with several new entrees and the new colonel.

Accenture, the world's second-largest consultant, agreed to buy Cap Gemini's North American health practice unit for $175 million in cash to boost services to hospitals and health systems. The deal is expected to close in 60 to 90 days.

INTERNATIONAL

The European Union submitted a revised offer on trade in the services sector to its global trading partners that adds concessions to World Trade Organization countries, giving them greater access to the E.U.'s services market. E.U. Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said the offer also includes new safeguards against opening new trade in education, health care or other public services.

Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said clinching a deal for the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas is "off the agenda" for his country. Silva made the comments just days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to visit Brazil.

LOCAL BUSINESS

MCI paid chief executive Michael D. Capellas $25.2 million last year, an eightfold increase from 2003. His salary was $1.56 million, bonus was $5 million and other pay was $625,000, the Ashburn company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Capellas also received restricted stock awards of $18 million related to MCI's emergence from bankruptcy protection. MCI's board approved an increase in his target bonus for 2005 to 150 percent of his base salary from 100 percent.

Loral Space & Communications' lawsuit against Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin over a commercial satellite positioning system technology was revived by a federal appeals court. The court said U.S. District Judge Susan Y. Illston improperly invalidated a Loral patent and sent the case back for further proceedings.


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