Fed continues recent freeze on interest rates

Published December 13, 2006

The Federal Reserve kept interest rates steady, but did not signal that rates might actually be lowered soon. Wrapping up their last meeting of the year, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and all but one of his central bank colleagues agreed Tuesday to leave an important rate unchanged at 5.25 percent, the fourth straight meeting without budging the rate. That meant commercial banks' prime interest rate - for certain credit cards, home-equity lines of credit and other loans - stayed at 8.25 percent. For the fourth meeting in a row, Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va., was the lone dissenter. Lacker said he would have preferred that the Fed boost interest rates by one-quarter percentage point. Looking ahead, few economists believe the Federal Reserve will boost rates. The Fed itself is betting that slower economic growth will eventually lessen inflation pressures.

2 companies settle software cases

Two retailers have agreed to pay $424,000 in settlements to the Business Software Alliance for using copyrighted software on their computer systems without paying for it. Burlington Coat Factory Inc. paid $300,000 for using unlicensed Microsoft and McAfee programs. Payless ShoeSource Inc. paid $124,000 for using pirated versions of software made by six companies. The BSA, a Washington, D.C., trade group that operates a software piracy hotline that fields complaints mostly from disgruntled or former employees of offending companies, collected $13-million in settlements in 2005. The group estimates 21 percent of software used in the United States is unlicensed.

Travelocity parent bought for $4.5B

Travel-reservations system operator Sabre Holdings, parent of the online service Travelocity.com, said Tuesday it is being acquired by private-equity groups for about $4.5-billion. Silver Lake Partners and Texas Pacific Group said they will pay $32.75 per share in cash for the company, which connects airline, hotel and car-rental systems with travel agents. They also assume about $550-million in debt. The price per share is a 30 percent premium over Sabre's average closing price over the past 60 days, the companies said. The deal would require approval by Sabre shareholders and is expected to close next spring.

Sprint CEO takes over as chairman

Wireless carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. on Tuesday said it named its president and chief executive, Gary D. Forsee, to serve as chairman. Forsee replaces Tim Donahue, who retires as executive chairman at the end of this month. The company announced Donahue's departure in October. He was chief executive of Nextel Communications Inc. before it was acquired by Sprint last year. Forsee has served as president and chief executive of Sprint Nextel since the combined company's creation in August 2005. Before that, he was the CEO and chairman of Sprint. This is the second job title Forsee will have taken on in six months. He assumed the duties of chief operating officer Len Lauer after Lauer stepped down in August.