Early Briefing: Discovery's First Day

*Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications became a publicly traded company Thursday, a move aimed at giving it a new vehicle for acquiring programming, Internet sites and network distribution properties. "We'll now have a currency which will help us to be more competitive in recruiting the best talent, some financial flexibility in the marketplace, and we're really going to focus on international growth," said chief executive David M. Zaslav. Discovery's A shares opened Thursday at $18.53 and closed down 25 percent, at $13.81. Non-voting C shares opened at $12.80 and closed up 25 percent, at $16.

*Constellation Energy Group, the Baltimore-based energy giant whose stock has plunged amid worries over liquidity, agreed Thursday to be sold for $4.73 billion to MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a subsidiary of Warren E. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. The hasty sale, announced about 48 hours after MidAmerican was first approached, was designed to end what a Standard & Poor's analyst called "an acute crisis of confidence" that had wiped out half the company's value on Monday and Tuesday.

*The declining economy and housing slowdown have forced local governments across the Washington region to recalculate their budgets and cut spending. But most area officials said Thursdday that the impact of the credit crisis on Wall Street has been minimal because their governments few own variable-rate bonds. A notable exception is the District, which has had the interest rate on some of its $600 million in bonds double this week, from about 2.75 percent to 5.5 percent.

*A lifeguard provider abruptly shut its doors and failed to pay lifeguards, many of them foreign students. The company, Century Pool Management, is now under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Serbian Embassy has been inundated with pleas for help from students, many of them so broke they can't afford bus tickets to get to airports for their flights home. Kensington-based Century was one of the largest companies of its kind in the region, providing lifeguards to more than 500 community pools in Maryland and Virginia.

*The Washington Nationals' new ballpark is on pace to generate about $13.5 million in sales taxes for the District government in its inaugural season, well below the $16.1 million city officials had projected when the ballpark was under construction. Meanwhile, the team owners still have not paid $3.5 million in rent that was due in the spring, contending that the ballpark is not "substantially complete."

*Just a block north of the stadium is an office building with million-dollar views, a 360-degree panorama that looks out at Nationals Park, the Anacostia River, the Capitol Dome, the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral and the Old Post Office. But 19 months after Lerner Enterprises announced in March 2007 that its shiny 10-story complex at 20 M St. SE was "substantially complete," it remains substantially empty. The only tenant, a Wachovia Bank branch, occupies a section of the ground floor but has yet to open.

*From the Reliable Source: Freddie Mac chief financial officer Anthony Piszel put his Easton, Md., Georgian-style waterfront mansion up for sale two weeks ago, the New York Post first reported Thursday. Asking price: $4.975 million. It's been less than two years since he bought it for $3.375 million. Six bedrooms, gourmet kitchen, guesthouse, three-car garage -- and it comes furnished.

By Terri Rupar  |  September 19, 2008; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Morning Brief
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