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Business … briefly

Business … briefly

By: The Associated Press

The Messenger 12.31.07

NEW YORK (AP) — It hasn’t taken John Thain long to put his stamp on the world’s largest brokerage.
After being named chairman and chief executive of Merrill Lynch & Co. just three weeks ago, Thain last week secured a capital infusion worth up to $6.2 billion and sold off one of Merrill’s lending units. His fast action came at a critical time; some analysts think Merrill is facing credit-related writedowns of $10 billion for the fourth quarter.
Merrill said it will receive a cash infusion from Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and U.S. money manager Davis Selected Advisors. It also sold its commercial finance business to General Electric Co.’s finance arm for an undisclosed price.
But Merrill shares, which initially rose on news of the investment, fell as it became clear Temasek and Davis bought in at a 14 percent discount, the price Merrill apparently had to pay to bolster its balance sheet.
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GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) — Cerberus Capital Management L.P. agreed Monday to pay United Rentals Inc. a $100 million breakup fee for dropping its $4 billion purchase of the equipment-rental company.
Cerberus agreed to pay the fee after a Delaware court ruled the private equity firm was allowed to scrap the takeover, which it abandoned last month.
Greenwich-based United Rentals had asked the Delaware Court of Chancery to force Cerberus to complete the takeover.
But Court Chancellor William B. Chandler III ruled against United Rentals Friday, the two companies said.
United Rentals, which rents equipment ranging from heavy machines to hand tools, has decided not to appeal the ruling, but requested that Cerberus pay the termination fee required by the merger agreement, it said Monday.
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NEW YORK (AP) — Just weeks ago, the holiday shopping season seemed headed for disaster. But in the waning hours before Christmas, the nation’s retailers got their wish — a last-minute surge of shopping that helped meet their modest sales goals, according to data released late Monday by research firm ShopperTrak RCT Corp.
And with post-Christmas shopping to come, some malls and stores were downright optimistic.
While consumers jammed stores at the start of the season in search of discounts and hot items such as Nintendo Co.’s Wii game console, a challenging economy prompted them to hold out until the end for bigger discounts.
An extra full weekend before Christmas also caused shoppers to procrastinate.
In fact, Christmas Eve was expected to be a bigger shopping day than in past years because many employers gave workers the day off, with the holiday falling on Tuesday.
The spree defied fears that a deepening housing slump, escalating credit crisis and higher gas and food prices would turn shoppers into Grinches — even in the end.

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