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Business Briefing

November 20, 2009

Claims for jobless pay hold steady

The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment insurance was unchanged last week, while continuing claims for benefits dipped.

The Labor Department says first-time claims for jobless benefits were a seasonally adjusted 505,000, the same as the previous week's revised figure and matching analysts' expectations. The number of people still getting benefits fell by 39,000 to 5.61 million.

Index signals slow growth in 2010

A private forecast of economic activity over the next six months edged up less than expected in October, signaling slow, bumpy growth next year.

The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.3% last month. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a 0.5% gain. The index climbed 1% in September.

ACQUISITIONS

Pinnacle buying Birds Eye Foods

A company controlled by private equity giant Blackstone Group is buying Birds Eye Foods Inc., the nation's largest producer of frozen food, for $1.3 billion.

As a result, a planned public offering of Birds Eye Foods stock is being withdrawn.

The buyer, Blackstone's Pinnacle Foods Group, sells such products as Duncan Hines cake mixes, Swanson frozen dinners, Vlasic pickles and Mrs. Butterworth's syrup.

Birds Eye, based in Rochester, N.Y., sells its namesake frozen vegetables as well as such brands as Tim's Cascade Snacks and Nalley Chili.

Pinnacle said it expected to fund the acquisition with debt financing and a "significant new equity contribution" from Blackstone. The transaction is expected to close by the first quarter of 2010.

PUBLISHING

Newspapers' ad revenue falls 28%

U.S. newspaper industry advertising revenue fell 28% in the third quarter, Newspaper Assn. of America data show.

Industrywide ad revenue dropped to $6.44 billion from $8.94 billion a year earlier, according to the Arlington, Va.-based trade group. Total ad sales had plunged 29% in the second quarter.

Newspaper publishers haven't posted a quarterly gain in ad revenue since the third quarter of 2006.

COURTS

Ex-McKesson head convicted

The former head of the country's largest drug distributor was convicted of fraud for his role nearly 10 years ago in one of the costliest corporate accounting scandals of the time.

A federal jury in San Francisco convicted former McKesson Corp. Chairman Charles McCall but acquitted former General Counsel Jay Lapine.

The two first faced trial in 2006 when a jury deadlocked on most of the same charges.

The case stemmed from an alleged accounting scheme that led San Francisco-based McKesson to restate results for 1998 and 1999.

News of the restatement caused its stock price to plummet 47%, costing investors $8.6 billion.

SOFTWARE

Windows 7 sales top predecessors'

Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 7, released last month, is selling twice as fast as any previous version of the operating system, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said.

Separately, the software giant said its shareholders voted to indicate support for the company's compensation policies in the firm's first so-called say-on-pay vote.

-- times wire reports

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