Five big stories

Published October 15, 2006

1. A big get for Google ... if it pays off

Google, the online search behemoth, agreed to pay $1.65-billion in stock for the popular YouTube video-sharing Web site.

WHAT IT MEANS: The go-go days of the late 1990s, before the dot-com bubble burst, are back - sort of. At least it is for dozens of employees of YouTube who are becoming paper millionaires while their Web site is seeking a profit. Google covets YouTube's young audience of 70-million strong worldwide, but like previous hot Web sites, it's a struggle to make money. And it could face copyright suits akin to those that dogged song-swapping online.

2. You can get something for free: online trades

Bank of America will soon allow millions of customers up to 30 free trades a month if they have at least $25,000 in deposits. It used to cost up to $10 per trade. The program will be rolled out in Florida next year.

WHAT IT MEANS: Good news for online traders: The price war is afoot. Banks and brokerage firms are eager to win your total investment/trading business, even if it means taking a loss on the online side. The average cost for a transaction is about $2, so those hefty profit mark-ups may be disappearing.

3. We'll all pay more for Poe

The Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, the group that covers unpaid claims after insurance companies become insolvent, has paid slightly more than $445-million to nearly 30,000 former policyholders of the bankrupt Poe Financial Group as of Sept. 30 and may have to pay out an additional $400-million. Poe was swamped by claims from Hurricane Wilma last year.

WHAT IT MEANS: The biggest bailout of an insolvent property insurer in Florida by far means policyholders statewide face new assessments on top of what they're paying for unpaid Poe claims and deficits for the state-run Citizens Property Insurance. Look for a 2 percent assessment tacked onto your property bill next year, about $20 for every $1,000 worth of insurance premium.

4. Trump Tower developers pad their piggy banks

Partners with SimDag LLC, the local developers planning Trump Tower Tampa, sold their headquarters building in downtown Tampa for $6-million to Tampa investment banker Robert Moreyra.

WHAT IT MEANS: SimDag has spent nearly two years trying to launch the 52-story Trump skyscraper, which would be the tallest building in west Florida. But they've struggled to find financing and suffered construction overruns. The local developers could use the extra cash from the building sale: former general contractor Turner Construction filed a lien against them this year, saying it was owed $1.2-million.

5. At least we're talking about insurance

About 400 people converged in St. Petersburg Thursday to discuss ways to solve Florida's property insurance crisis.

WHAT IT MEANS: Anger over skyrocketing rates and dropped coverage are giving way to dialogue ... gradually. Among ideas generated during the hour-and-a-half session were: adopting a penny sales tax dedicated to relief from high insurance premiums, capping rate increases and strictly regulating reinsurance agreements that may mask profits funneled between Florida insurance companies and their out-of-state parent companies. What's missing? Strong state leadership to make something happen.