Early Briefing: Settlement For WR Grace

* Specialty chemical company W.R. Grace agreed to settle outstanding asbestos-related claims with cash, future payments to a victims' trust and 10 million warrants that would allow claimants to buy company stock at a favorable price.

The deal, worth about $1.8 billion, would allow W.R. Grace to move forward with its reorganization, with the aim of emerging from seven years of bankruptcy protection by the end of the year, company officials said. W.R. Grace's stock rose $1.98 after the announcement, closing at $26.83.

* Marriott International announced a broad strategy to reduce its impact on the environment, pledging $2 million to protect the Brazilian rain forest and promising that by the end of the year its guests will be able to offset greenhouse gas emissions from their hotel stays.

Marriott is reducing fuel and water consumption, as well as furnishing its rooms with Bic pens made from pre-consumer recycled plastic. But the centerpiece of its strategy is the effort to protect 1.4 million acres of endangered rain forest in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

Besides the $2 million that Marriott has committed to a fund to help pay for a rain forest protection plan, the company will also help guests offset their hotel stays with contributions of as little as $1 to the same fund. With more than 539,000 rooms, and if only a small portion of guests contribute, environmentalists said the company's impact could be profound. Meeting participants will similarly be able to offset their use of hotel facilities.

* The Carlyle Group has formed a $1.35 billion fund to troll for bruised companies and securities less than a month after the failure of one of its own investments.

The District-based private-equity firm closed the new fund, Carlyle Strategic Partners II, last week, Carlyle said. The fund will look for solid companies and investments whose value has been beaten down by the current economic malaise.

* Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. announced that it successfully tested a rocket that can propel astronauts to safety in event of an emergency on NASA's new spacecraft.

* Several D.C. Council members grilled city lottery and finance officials about a proposed $120 million contract the District wants to award to a start-up company, saying they want to know more about its experience in the gaming industry and whether it is a "bona fide" joint-venture firm.

At a hearing of the council's Committee on Finance and Revenue, members were skeptical about the company, W2I, a partnership between W2Tech, a nine-month-old local firm, and Intralot, an international lottery services provider. They wanted to know about the company's owners and partners and whether the process to select the firm was fair and transparent.

By Dan Beyers  |  April 8, 2008; 6:20 AM ET  | Category:  Morning Brief
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