Business briefs


POSTED: Monday, August 17, 2009

Buffett's Berkshire increases stakes in health companies

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. » Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. took a stake in Becton Dickinson & Co. as shares of the syringe and laboratory equipment maker advanced in the second quarter.

Berkshire had 1.2 million shares of the Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based, medical supplies company at the end of the second quarter, Berkshire said in a regulatory filing listing U.S. stock holdings as of June 30. Berkshire, based in Omaha, Neb., also increased its stake in Johnson & Johnson, the world's largest maker of health care products, by 14 percent.

Frank Betz, a partner at Warren, N.J.- based Carret Zane Capital Management, which owns Berkshire shares, said Becton Dickinson is a proven company with predictable earnings. Buffet, he said, is “;keen on the health care sector and its long-term possibilities as Americans age.”;

Bank closings reach 77 this year with 4 more shutdowns

WASHINGTON » Regulators have shut down real estate lender Colonial BancGroup Inc. in the biggest U.S. bank failure this year and also closed four banks in Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania. The closings last week boosted to 77 the number of federally insured banks that have failed in 2009.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of the banks: Montgomery, Ala.-based Colonial, with about $25 billion in assets; Community Bank of Arizona, based in Phoenix; Union Bank of Gilbert, Ariz.; Community Bank of Nevada, based in Las Vegas; and Dwelling House Savings & Loan Association in Pittsburgh.

The FDIC approved the sale of Colonial's $20 billion in deposits and about $22 billion of its assets to BB&T Corp., which is based in Winston-Salem, N.C. The failed bank's 346 branches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Texas will reopen at the normal times starting on Saturday as offices of BB&T, the FDIC said.

Investor recounts affair with Madoff in her new book

NEW YORK » Bernard Madoff's decades-long fraud might not have been his only secret. A new book says he had a two-decade affair with one of his investors.

The memoir, “;Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, and Me,”; was written by Sheryl Weinstein, whose relationship with Madoff spanned more than 20 years while both were married, said John Murphy, a spokesman for publisher St. Martin's Press. It goes on sale Aug. 25.

Madoff, 71, is serving 150 years in prison for defrauding investors. Weinstein says she met him at a business meeting when she was chief financial officer for the charitable women's organization Hadassah, where she had a role in investment decisions.

Madoff attorney Ira Sorkin said he hopes the author “;was more discreet with her investment obligations than she has allegedly been with her sex life.”;

An attorney for Madoff's wife, Ruth Madoff, said his client did not know about the “;alleged affair.”; The attorney, Peter Chavkin, said the allegations were a powerful reminder to those who claim Ruth Madoff knew about her husband's massive Ponzi scheme “;that there are some things that some spouses — however close they are — do not share with each other.”;

Forums offer forecasts

The 35th annual Business Outlook Forums by First Hawaiian Bank have been scheduled for Kauai and the Big Island.

Speakers include economists Leroy Laney, who will address forecasts for the economy on each island, and Jack Suyderhoud, speaking on forecasts for the U.S. and global economies.

The schedule:

» Kauai: 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.

» Big Island: 11 a.m. Sept. 22 at the Hilo Hawaiian and 4 p.m. Sept 22 at the Hapuna Prince Hotel.

Anyone interested in attending should contact their local chamber of commerce for details.

Total recall

The following recalls have been announced:

» About 220,000 Psyclone Essentials and React Wii four-dock battery recharging stations, manufactured in China and distributed by Griffin International Cos. of Minneapolis, because the battery pack can overheat. Both items were available between January 2008 and July 2009. Details: (888) 344-4702, or www.psyclonegamer.com/Wii4Dock or www.cpsc.gov.

Coming up

» Tomorrow: Labor Department releases Producer Price Index for July, 8:30 a.m.; Commerce Department releases housing starts for July, 8:30 a.m.

» Wednesday: BJ's Wholesale Club Inc., Deere & Co., and Limited Brands Inc. release quarterly results.

» Thursday: Conference Board releases leading indicators for July; Barnes & Noble Inc., Gap Inc., H.J. Heinz Co. and Sears Holdings Corp. release quarterly results.

» Friday: National Association of Realtors releases existing home sales for July.