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In Brief

CHICAGO

Improving economy boosts results for General Growth

Improving economic conditions and business trends for its retail tenants helped shopping mall owner General Growth Properties Inc. report a gain in first-quarter funds from operations, reversing a year-ago loss.

The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection more than a year ago, said Monday that the recovering economy led to a rise in sales and leasing activity for the quarter. General Growth Chief Executive Adam Metz said the company continues to curb its expenses and noted that occupancy rates have stabilized.

The company said core funds from operations rose to $254.1 million, or 78 cents a share, for the three months ended March 31. That compares with a core funds from operations loss of $122.9 million, or 38 cents a share, a year earlier.

Stripping out costs related to the company’s reorganization and other one-time items, funds from operations declined to $159.4 million, or 49 cents a share, versus $176.7 million, or 55 cents a share.

General Growth also returned to profitability in the quarter, posting net income of $78.4 million, or 25 cents a share, compared with a loss of $396.1 million, or $1.27 a share, a year earlier. Revenue slipped about 3 percent to $761.2 million.

In Las Vegas, General Growth operates owns the Boulevard, Meadows and Fashion Show malls, the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and the Shoppes at Palazzo.

CHICAGO

Coffee drinks, chicken nuggets boost sales for McDonald’s

Icy coffee drinks and chicken nuggets lured McDonald’s Corp. customers to spend more in April, boosting a key performance measure, the fast-food chain said Monday.

Around the globe, sales in locations open at least a year rose 4.9 percent last month. In the U.S., the figure climbed 3.8 percent.

That’s slightly less than the gains made in March, when the measure rose 4.2 percent, but was still the second-best posting in a year for the company’s American business.

The measure is a key indicator of a restaurant chain’s performance because it excludes growth at sites that open or close during the year.

An emphasis on drinks and even cheaper-than-usual prices was helping McDonald’s woo diners, Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore said.

"We believe the beverage center initiative is allowing (McDonald’s) to attract sales from those customers that are feeling better about the economy and willing to spend more, while a focus on the core and the Dollar Menu holds on to customers still seeking extreme value," she wrote in a research note.

WASHINGTON

After loss, Fannie Mae asks government for $8.4 billion

Fannie Mae has again asked taxpayers for more money — this time $8.4 billion — after reporting another steep loss for the first quarter. The taxpayer bill for rescuing Fannie and its sibling Freddie Mac has grown to $145 billion — and the final tally could be much higher.

Fannie and Freddie, created by Congress, buy mortgages from lenders and package them into bonds that are resold to global investors. Together the pair own or guarantee almost 31 million home loans worth about $5.5 trillion. That’s about half of all mortgages.

The two companies loosened their lending standards for borrowers during the real estate boom and are reeling from the consequences. As the housing bubble burst, they were unable to raise enough money to stay afloat, and the government effectively nationalized them.

Fannie Mae lost $13.1 billion, or $2.29 per share, in the January to March period. That takes into account $1.5 billion in dividends paid to the Treasury Department. It compares with a loss of $23.2 billion, or $4.09 a share, a year earlier.

RICHMOND, Va.

Movie Gallery plans to close remaining Hollywood Videos

Movie Gallery Inc., the owner of struggling movie rental chain Hollywood Video, is planning to close its remaining stores and liquidate as consumers are increasingly getting movies through the mail, vending machines and high-speed Internet connections.

The No. 2 rental chain behind Blockbuster Inc. filed a notice with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond late last week that it will terminate its business operations after defaulting on a loan from one of its creditors.

An agreement filed with the court said the move to close more than 1,900 remaining stores is in the "best interests" of the company and its creditors. A bankruptcy judge must approve the agreement, which does not specify a time line.

Phone calls to Movie Gallery and an attorney representing the company were not immediately returned.

Movie Galley operates four stores in Las Vegas, at 9921 W. Charleston Blvd., 7450 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 3300 E. Flamingo Road and 7375 S Durango Drive. On Monday, Hollywood Video’s website listed closing sales for the Lake Mead and West Charleston shops.

ATLANTIC CITY

Casino revenues down less than 1 percent on Boardwalk

Atlantic City’s three-year losing streak may finally be coming to an end.

Casino revenues in the nation’s second-largest gambling market were down less than 1 percent in April, indicating a prolonged slide may finally be leveling off.

The city’s 11 casinos won $311.5 million in April, a decrease of 0.7 percent over the same month a year ago.

Revenue at table games was $95.6 million, an increase of nearly 3 percent. Slot machines brought in $215.8 million, a decrease of 2.2 percent.

For the year’s first four months, casinos won $1.17 billion, down 7.6 percent from the same period in 2009.

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Twitter glitch let users fake celebrity followers

A Twitter glitch has allowed users to game the popularity contest by making it appear that celebrities had subscribed to read their miniblog postings, known as tweets.

The flaw, which Twitter said Monday it has fixed, allowed users to add anyone else as a follower of their tweets. Normally, the other person has to initiate such "following."

It’s unclear how long the flaw existed and how many people took advantage of it. Twitter Inc. says it’s looking at the issue.

A side effect of the fix was that for about an hour on Monday, Twitter users showed zero followers while the company fixed the problem.

People who exploited the bug got more than an ego boost from having famous people appear to be their fans. For a time, those celebrities really did become their audience and received the tweets from people who had fraudulently added them as followers.

 

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