Insurer reports wider annual deficit

Tuesday, November 16, 2010; A19

The federal agency that insures the pensions of one in seven Americans said Monday that its annual deficit increased 4.5 percent to $23 billion.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. also said it paid $5.6 billion in benefits to participants in company pension plans that failed in fiscal 2010, ended Sept. 30. It noted that 147 pension plans failed, up from 144 a year earlier.

The PBGC's finances have been battered in recent years by the weak economy, which has brought more corporate bankruptcies and resulting failures of pension plans. The agency assumes the pension liabilities of some companies in bankruptcy.

The PBGC said its total obligations increased by $11.5 billion to $102.5 billion. On the other hand, the agency has $79.5 billion in assets to pay those obligations.

The situation was helped this year by having 38 companies emerge from bankruptcy proceedings with their pension plans intact. That saved about $4 billion in obligations that otherwise would have had to be paid, the agency said, and preserved benefits for about 250,000 employees and retirees.

- Associated Press

Lowe's profit rises on improved cost controls

Lowe's said Monday that shoppers are spending on smaller painting and gardening projects but still avoiding major renovations because of worries about the economy.

That caution weighed on the home-improvement chain's third-quarter revenue, which rose 2 percent to $11.59 billion, missing analysts' forecasts. Revenue at stores open at least one year edged up just 0.2 percent during the quarter.

But Lowe's said that reining in inventory and controlling costs helped its third-quarter profit rise 19 percent, to $404 million from $344 million a year earlier.

- Associated Press

Also in Business

l BHP to resume share buyback: Mining giant BHP Billiton resumed a share buyback after abandoning its hostile $40 billion takeover offer for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan in the face of opposition from Canada's government.

BHP will purchase $4.2 billion of its shares under a $13 billion buyback program suspended in 2007, the Melbourne-based company said Monday in a statement.

BHP ended its pursuit of Potash, the world's largest fertilizer maker, after Canada's government said the deal didn't meet legal requirements to bring "net benefits" to the country.

l Gazprom seeks to drill off Cuban coast: Russian oil producer Gazprom Neft has signed an agreement with Petronas of Malaysia to buy a 30 percent stake in an exploration project off the coast of Cuba.

The agreement requires approval by Cuban authorities, Gazprom Neft said Monday. The company is seeking to expand abroad in Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea and Iraq as it looks to double output to 2 million barrels a day in 2020.

Petronas and the Cuban government signed a production sharing agreement for four blocks in the Gulf of Mexico in 2007, according to Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russia's Gazprom natural- gas export monopoly. The first exploration drilling is scheduled for 2011.

- From news services

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