Briefs

WellPoint: Adapting to Obamacare

WellPoint, the largest U.S. insurer by enrollment, is buying a controlling stake in a private health-insurance exchange, for an undisclosed sum. Bloom Health, based in Minneapolis, offers a menu of health plans to about 20,000 workers at almost 50 companies to compete with similar marketplaces that will be run by state governments as part of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul. With the deal, WellPoint is positioning itself for the advent of state-run insurance exchanges, set to open in 2014. The marketplaces are central to Obama’s goal of expanding coverage to as much as 95 percent of Americans.

Capital One: A Bank That’s Hiring Instead of Firing

Capital One plans to add another 1,800 employees this year, on top of the 1,800 it’s already hired so far in 2011. The Virginia-based lender is seeking to fill openings for bankers, financial analysts, and call-center employees. Capital One is facing scrutiny from bank regulators over its plans to buy ING’s online banking unit, a move that would make it the fifth-biggest U.S. bank by domestic deposits. Consumer rights groups say the deal would create another “too-big-to-fail” financial institution.

ExxonMobil: An Expropriation Deal Is Near

State oil company Petróleos de Venezuela and ExxonMobil are negotiating an arbitration settlement of about $6 billion for assets seized by President Hugo Chávez in 2007. The U.S. oil company at first sought restitution through the courts, but acceded to Chavez’s request to refer the case to the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Exxon has also pared back the amount it is seeking, from $12 billion last year, to $7 billion.

News Corp.: Putting a Price on the Dowler Scandal

News Corp.’s U.K. unit will pay $4.7 million to settle claims that the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid hacked the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, says a person with knowledge of the matter. The settlement includes a $3.15 million payment to the Dowler family and a $1.6 million donation to charity. Reports in July that Dowler’s voice mails had been intercepted triggered a public outcry that forced News Corp. to close the 168-year-old tabloid and drop its bid for control of BSkyB.

Microsoft: Goosing the Dividend

Microsoft, the world’s No. 1 software maker, raised its quarterly dividend 25 percent to 20¢, providing shareholders with a payout at the upper end of forecasts. The Redmond (Wash.)-based company’s cash hoard ballooned by 43 percent last year, prompting calls from investors for it to share more of the wealth. Microsoft would be able to afford a bigger dividend if it could repatriate foreign profits without triggering tax liabilities—a problem that confronts several U.S. tech companies, including Cisco, which has been vocal on the topic.

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    On the Move

    — Holcim: Bernard Fontana to be CEO, effective Feb. 1

    — Thomas Cook: Frank Meysman named chairman-designate starting Oct. 1

    — Al Jazeera: Director General Wadah Khanfar steps down

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