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Buffett's MidAmerican cuts stake in Constellation

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., whose deal to buy Constellation Energy Group last year was abandoned, has further reduced its stake in the Baltimore energy company, according to a regulatory filing made public Thursday. MidAmerican, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, owned 6.26 percent of Constellation as of Tuesday, down from 7.45 percent in February. Buffett had received a 10 percent stake in Constellation as part of a series of incentives when Constellation rejected his offer in favor of an investment from France's largest utility. The deal with Electricite de France is subject to regulatory approval.

- Hanah Cho

Sinclair Broadcasting reports $85.7 million loss in Q1

Television station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said it posted a net loss of $85.7 million, or $1.06 per share, in the first quarter, compared with profit of $15 million, or 17 cents per share, in the first three months of 2008. The Hunt Valley-based company, one of the largest independent television station owners in the country with 58 stations, said local advertising revenue fell 18.3 percent, while national advertising revenue slid 31.3 percent. The hardest hit categories included automotive, services, movies and fast food. The loss included an after-tax, $100.8 million write down of the value of goodwill and other intangible assets. The company reported station broadcast revenues of $131.3 million, down 18.4 percent from the first three months of 2008. To deal with a slow advertising climate, Sinclair has eliminated 200 jobs this year.

- Lorraine Mirabella

Hampden Village Centre announces two new tenants

Trout Daniel & Associates, a full-service commercial real estate company in Baltimore, said on Thursday that it signed two new leases at the Hampden Village Centre, the former Northern District Police station that has been converted into office and retail space. The nonprofit Art with a Heart Inc. leased 1,591 square feet of office space in the Stable Suites portion of the building. The psychiatry office of Jennifer Teitelbaum Palmer leased 1,053 square feet in the Main Building. Hampden Village Centre, located at Keswick Road in Baltimore, is a 28,370-square-foot facility with tenants that include U.S. Lacrosse, Community Law Center, Janis Marketing, M3 Promotions, Paragraphics and 1899, LLC. Just over 10,000 square feet of space is still available.

- Andrea K. Walker

Corporate Office Properties Trust declares dividend

Suburban office developer Corporate Office Properties Trust said Thursday its board of trustees has declared a quarterly dividend of 37 cents per common share for the second quarter. The dividend will be paid on July 15 to shareholders of record at the end of the quarter on June 30, the Columbia-based real estate investment trust said. COPT, a landlord for government and defense contractor tenants, owned 259 office buildings as of March 31. The company, which increased its dividend 9.6 percent for the third quarter of 2008, has paid a dividend of 37 cents per share for the past three quarters.

- Lorraine Mirabella

Pfizer offers free Lipitor, Viagra, other drugs for jobless

TRENTON, N.J.: Pfizer Inc. says it will provide 70 of its most widely prescribed prescription drugs - including Lipitor and Viagra - for free to people who have lost their jobs and health insurance. The world's biggest drug maker said Thursday it will give away the medicines for up to a year to Americans who lost jobs since Jan. 1 and have been on the Pfizer drug for three months or more. Officials for New York-based Pfizer said they don't know how much the program will cost and haven't put a cap on spending for it. Applicants will have to sign a statement that they are suffering financial hardship and provide a "pink slip" or similar employer notice. Applications will be accepted through Dec. 31.

- Associated Press

FTC sues to halt auto warranty 'robo-calls'

WASHINGTON: Federal regulators filed suits Thursday against several companies they say are behind a national wave of spam "robo-calls" that warn people their auto warranties are expiring and offer new service plans. Federal Trade Commission officials said they asked a federal court in Chicago to halt the illegal telemarketing campaign of "Your Car Warranty Has Expired." Officials say as many as 1 billion of the nuisance calls have been made to Americans. The FTC named Voice Touch Inc. and Transcontinental Warranty Inc., which it called the telemarketer and promoter of the scheme, respectively, in the lawsuits. The agency is seeking injunctions forcing them to return allegedly ill-gotten gains. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the companies made "extraordinary" forts to conceal their identities by masking their phone numbers. Such concealment by telemarketers is illegal, as is refusal to promptly identify themselves to consumers. Representatives from Voice Touch and Transcontinental Warranty couldn't be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

-Associated Press

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