washingtonpost.com
NATIONAL BRIEFING

Friday, November 21, 2008

CREDIT

Microsoft Weighs Debt Offering

Microsoft may sell senior unsecured debt securities, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in what would be the world's largest software maker's inaugural bond offering. The shelf registration clears the way for the company to issue debt at any time.

The proceeds would go toward general corporate purposes, including stock buybacks, acquisitions, capital expenditures and for working capital. Microsoft, tapping demand for high-quality debt offerings amid the turmoil in the markets, became the first company in a decade to receive the top credit rating from Standard & Poor's after deciding to raise funds in September.

MEDIA

N.Y. Times Co. Cuts Dividend

The New York Times Co. is slashing its quarterly dividend by 74 percent, to 6 cents per share from 23 cents per share, amid a worsening advertising slump. The move will result in annual savings of $98 million.

The cut applies to both publicly held Class A shares as well as nonpublic Class B shares, which hold powerful voting rights and are held mostly by the Sulzberger family, the controlling shareholders of the newspaper publisher.

BANKING

Disputed Tax Provision Revisited

Lawmakers introduced legislation to reverse a controversial tax change by the Treasury Department that could provide the banking industry a windfall of up to $140 billion.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) and five other member of the House tax-writing committee, would make the Treasury decision inoperative going forward, but not affect previous bank mergers that relied on the Sept. 30 change. It would also require the department's inspector general to investigate potential conflicts of interest related to the decision.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) also introduced a bill earlier this week to undo the change, which deals with a tax provision limiting a kind of shelter involved in corporate mergers. But his legislation would also be retroactive.

Thrifts Lost $4 Billion in Quarter

U.S. thrifts lost $4 billion in the third quarter as they set aside $7.9 billion to cover losses from bad mortgages and other loans, their government regulator said.

The quarterly results released by the federal Office of Thrift Supervision exclude Washington Mutual, whose collapse in September was the largest bank failure in U.S. history, and IndyMac Bank, which failed in July.

The nation's more than 800 thrifts earned $704 million -- including results from Washington Mutual and IndyMac -- in the year-ago period. Total thrift assets fell to $1.18 trillion in third quarter from $1.57 trillion in the year-ago period. The agency said the number of troubled thrifts jumped to 23 in the third quarter, from 17 in the second quarter and 12 a year earlier.

RETAIL

Steve & Barry's to Be Liquidated

Steve & Barry's stores and the chain's parent company have abandoned plans to keep stores open during bankruptcy protection and will liquidate them over the next few months, according to a bankruptcy court filing.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based retailer had filed for Chapter 11 protection in July after its growth plans were hurt as consumers cut back on spending. The investment firms that bought Steve & Barry's in August said they planned to keep operating with a smaller base.

The company is the latest casualty of the weak retail sector. While some stores that have declared bankruptcy, such as electronics retailer Circuit City, still plan to keep stores open, others, including Linens 'N Things and Mervyns, have begun to liquidate all of their stores.

REGULATORS

SEC's General Counsel Leaving

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission General Counsel Brian Cartwright plans to step down to return to the private sector. Cartwright will remain with the agency for a "period of time" to help assure continuity, the SEC said in a statement today. He was a partner at law firm Latham & Watkins before joining the SEC in January 2006.

EARNINGS

Barnes & Noble reported a larger-than-expected quarterly loss on significant drops in traffic and consumer spending at its stores. The company reported a loss of $18.4 million from a profit of $4.4 million in the comparable period a year earlier. Revenue dipped 4 percent to $1.12 billion.

Dell said its third-quarter profit fell 5 percent, to $727 million, as businesses around the world bought fewer computers. Sales slipped 3 percent to about $15 billion, shy of analyst expectations for $16.2 billion. In the Americas, Dell's largest region for business sales, revenue dropped 8 percent.

Compiled from reports by Washington Post staff writers, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company