Early Briefing: Shaq and the Oscars

*Shaquille O'Neal's bid for Oasis Winery in Fauquier County was beaten out by one from real estate agent Casey Margenau. But that deal fell through. Could Shaq make a comeback? See the Reliable Source.

*Tammy Cheskis from Anne Arundel County will be one of the people giving away swag at the Golden Globes, despite the fact that the program was canceled. Her business? A line of decorative bed-wetting pads. Again, see the Reliable Source.

*The jobless rate in the Washington region fell to 3 percent in November from 3.1 percent in October, but the pace of hiring slowed to 1.3 percent year-over-year from a one-year growth rate of 3 percent in November 2004. See story

*Shares of XM Satellite Radio Holdings of the District fell the most in 4 1/2 years on speculation that the deal with Sirius won't go through. XM closed down 68 cents, or 5.9 percent, to $10.77. During the day, shares were down 16 percent, the most since August 2003. See market coverage.

*A controversial high-voltage power line for Northern Virginia that was proposed by Dominion Virginia Power is necessary, a consultant report said, though its offers asked for more time to study recent developments. See story

*WGL Holdings, which owns Washington Gas Light, raised earnings guidance for the year, saying it expects a favorable D.C. rate-case settlement to help results. The company estimated earnings of $2.27 to $2.37 per share, or $2.34 to $2.44 per share excluding one-time items. Previously, the company expected profit of $2.08 to $2.18 per share, or $2.17 to $2.27 per share excluding one-time items.

*Sallie Mae received provisional Aaa and Aa1 ratings, the two highest grades, from Moody's Investors Service for $1.5 billion in government-backed student loans that the Reston company, formally known as SLM, plans to package into bonds. The Moody's ratings may help Sallie Mae obtain financing to keep making student loans.

Separately, a Delaware judge changed the trial date to December from July for the legal battle over whether Sallie Mae should get a $900 million breakup fee related to a failed buyout.

*A Gaithersburg man who prosecutors said defrauded homeowners, including his grandmother, was sentenced to six years in prison, Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said.
Nicholas David McLeod, 31, had pleaded guilty to felony theft, embezzlement and acting unscrupulously as a foreclosure consultant. Prosecutors say McLeod catered to people at risk of losing their homes. Prosecutors said he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from at least nine homeowners, including his 83-year-old grandmother. See Maryland briefs.

*Steel Partners II said the current strategy of security services firm Brink's is not in the best interest of shareholders and called for the spinoff of one of its business segments. The investment partnership, which is controlled by Warren G. Lichtenstein, owns about 3 million shares, or a 6.2 percent stake, in the Richmond company, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
If Brink's does not pursue a spinoff of one of its two business segments, Steel Partners said it will demand an immediate sale of the company.

By Terri Rupar  |  January 10, 2008; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Morning Brief
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