Trucks carrying freight into the United States must describe their cargo in advance in electronic messages to customs officials beginning in November, the Homeland Security Department said. Truck companies have three separate deadlines -- Nov. 15, Dec.15 and Jan. 14 -- depending on where they enter the country. Only a small percentage of air, rail and truck cargo is currently inspected.
Leucadia Reports MCI Stake
Leucadia National said it has a 4.96 percent stake in MCI, after receiving regulatory clearance for a possible takeover of the telecom company. Leucadia owns 15.7 million common shares of the Ashburn company, representing an investment of $245.9 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Leucadia also said it amended a registration statement to read, "We cannot assure you that we will acquire control of MCI." It had told antitrust regulators last month that it wanted clearance to acquire 50 percent or more of MCI's shares.
Microsoft has delayed automated distribution of a major security upgrade to its Windows XP Professional operating system, citing a desire to give companies more time to test it. The update, Service Pack 2, won't be available to users of XP Professional until at least Aug. 25, Windows product manager John Murchinson said. The rollout had been scheduled for Monday. People running Windows XP Home Edition, which has more limited networking features, will start getting the update today if their computers are set to receive automatic updates, Murchinson said.
A federal judge dismissed most of the defense's arguments that sought to reduce the potential prison term for former Rite Aid vice chairman Franklin C. Brown for his fraud conviction but agreed with Brown's lawyers that a June Supreme Court decision renders sentencing guidelines in Brown's case unconstitutional. Still, Judge Sylvia H. Rambo said the defense's translation of the Supreme Court ruling "would flout congressional intent and produce absurd results." The federal probation office had recommended that Brown receive a prison sentence of between 10 and nearly 13 years, while his defense has said it should be probation to six months. Rambo set Brown's sentencing for Aug. 30.
Arch Coal's $364 million takeover of Triton Coal is being appealed by the Federal Trade Commission while the agency challenges a judge's decision to permit the transaction, an FTC lawyer said. The government says the combination would let Wyoming mine operators raise prices for coal burned to generate electricity by signaling cuts in output.
Berkshire Hathaway bought 5 million Comcast common shares two days after the cable television operator dropped a $54.1 billion bid for Walt Disney Co., a state filing showed. The April 30 purchase, which was disclosed in a National Association of Insurance Commissioners filing by Berkshire's Geico subsidiary, was not included in the Securities and Exchange Commission quarterly filing by Warren Buffett's holding company, which noted that confidential information had been omitted.
ATA Airlines' parent company warned that the low-cost carrier is likely to run out of cash in early 2005 and might sell some assets or restructure. ATA Holdings said that it lost $90.7 million during the first half as it contended with soaring jet fuel costs and a declining military charter business. It said that its cash flow problems have been compounded because the bank that processes its MasterCard and Visa payments has started holding onto the entire amount charged by a passenger until the flight takes place.
EasyLink Services said the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how it booked an additional $1.8 million in advertising revenue. The company said in a quarterly report that it is having discussions with regulators and that it thinks the deals at issue are not material to its financial statements. The SEC is examining $4.8 million of EasyLink's $61.2 million revenue for 2000. Sources have said the SEC may file civil lawsuits against EasyLink and a corporate officer. SEC Chairman William H. Donaldson sat on the New Jersey technology company's board from 1998 to 2002. Donaldson has recused himself from the investigation.
Interaero pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to illegally shipping $40,000 worth of missile and jet fighter equipment to a supplier in China, who planned to forward the shipment to Iran. The Westlake Village, Calif., company agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and spend five years on corporate probation.
Hershey Foods agreed to buy Mexico's Grupo Lorena to expand its products in Mexico and the U.S. Hispanic market, particularly among Mexican youth. Grupo Lorena, with sales of more than $30 million in 2003, makes and sells Pelon Pelo Rico spicy candy in Mexico and in 16 U.S. states, mostly in Hispanic grocery stores and markets.
7-Eleven acquired the automated teller machine network in its 5,483 company-operated, franchised and licensed stores from American Express for about $44 million. Control of the network is expected to help 7-Eleven integrate the service into its merchandising efforts, chief executive James W. Keyes said.
RealNetworks began selling Internet music at half price as it stepped up efforts to draw customers from Apple Computer's iTunes site. The promotion coincided with the release of RealNetworks' Harmony software, which it designed to allow music downloads to Apple's iPod digital player, which Apple has refused to open to competitors, and other devices.
Travelers Property Casualty's plan to settle asbestos-related disease claims for $500 million was approved by a federal bankruptcy judge. The settlement means asbestos victims will receive extra compensation as a trust that Johns-Manville set up in 1988 to pay asbestos claims runs out of funds. More than 600,000 people sued Travelers, claiming it knew about the hazards of asbestos and failed to disclose them over the course of some 30 years as Johns-Manville's primary insurer.
Canadian officials are opening a criminal investigation into accounting at telecom-equipment maker Nortel Networks. The inquiry follows months of informal review of the company by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The U.S. attorney's office in Dallas has subpoenaed financial documents from the company as part of a criminal investigation in the United States, and securities regulators in both countries are investigating the company.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's federal regulator is reviewing whether the companies charge excessive fees to repackage mortgages from lenders and resell them as mortgage securities. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight plans by Oct. 1 to complete an analysis of the so-called guarantee fees, which generate about a third of the profits for the two largest U.S. mortgage finance companies, agency spokeswoman Corinne Russell said. Fannie Mae's income from such fees rose last year by one-third to a record $2.4 billion, or 33 percent of core earnings totaling $7.3 billion, Ofheo said. Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.) requested the review in a July 23 letter to the federal agency.
Cox Communications increased its customers' Web-surfing speeds in Fairfax County last week, free. The cable and high-speed Internet company offers three tiers of Internet service. Customers of its middle package, which costs $39.95 for users who also subscribe to its cable service, should have download speeds 33 percent faster and upload speeds that are twice as fast as before, according to the company.
Deere & Co.'s fiscal third-quarter profit climbed 62 percent to $401.4 million from resurgent farm and construction equipment sales. Revenue for the three months ended July 31 increased 23 percent to $5.4 billion.
Home Depot reported a nearly 19 percent increase in fiscal second-quarter profit to $1.55 billion as revenue increased 11 percent to nearly $20 billion.
Estee Lauder Cos. said its profit jumped 34 percent to $71.1 million, helped by strong international sales, but missed Wall Street's expectations. In its fiscal fourth quarter, sales rose 15 percent to $1.4 billion.
J.C. Penney reported a second-quarter profit of $1 million, compared with a break-even quarter a year ago. Excluding results from its Eckerd drug store business, which was sold during the quarter, Penney said it earned $72 million, compared with a loss of $3 million a year earlier.
Staples said second-quarter profit grew 39 percent to $122.5 million. It was the 11th straight quarter that Staples' profit has increased 20 percent or more. The office products retailer also announced acquisitions of two supply businesses in Europe and a joint-venture investment in China, which marks Staples' entrance into the nation's $25 billion-a-year office products market.
TJX said fiscal second-quarter earnings fell 4 percent to $118.2 million, reflecting higher markdowns on merchandise due to softer sales trends. The company operates the T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods and A.J. Wright stores, as well as Bob's Stores. Consolidated sales at stores open more than one year, or same-store sales, increased 3 percent over last year.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.