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Sep 15, 2011

Alabama county faces bankruptcy decision over debt

/ATLANTA (Reuters) – Alabama’s Jefferson County will decide on Friday whether to declare bankruptcy over its $3.14 billion bond debt and there are hints the outline of a deal with creditors may be possible.

The county has three times deferred making a decision over whether to accept a settlement from creditors over the sewer system debt, which escalated in the mid-2000s, or declare what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Sep 9, 2011

Georgia jobs program cited by Obama has big flaws

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A jobs program in the Southern state of Georgia, cited in President Barack Obama’s plan to fight unemployment, needs big fixes and would not work as a federal initiative, says the official who runs it.

Obama told Congress on Thursday in a major speech on jobs that the state-run Georgia Work$ initiative, along with other measures, would help people unemployed for more than six months and he stressed that Republican leaders in Congress supported it.

Sep 8, 2011

Georgia jobs program eyed as model has big flaws

ATLANTA (Reuters) – A jobs program in the southern state of Georgia, which could feature in President Barack Obama’s plan to fight unemployment, needs big fixes and would not work as a federal initiative, says the official who runs it.

The Georgia Work$ program to help the long-term unemployed has gained national attention as a possible model because it costs taxpayers relatively little and has been effective.

Aug 22, 2011

Southwest says plans radical changes for AirTran

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) plans radical changes for AirTran, the company it acquired in May, chief executive Gary Kelly said on Monday.

The Dallas-based airline, the world’s largest in the low-cost sector, said it will also begin flights to and from Atlanta on February 12, 2012, with 15 daily departures and five nonstop flights including one between Atlanta and Dallas’ Love Field.

Aug 16, 2011

Agility pleads not guilty to U.S. fraud charges

ATLANTA, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Kuwaiti logistics firm Agility
(AGLT.KW: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges it defrauded
the U.S. government over multibillion-dollar supply contracts
during the war in Iraq, a senior company official said.

The case is politically sensitive in Washington and Kuwait
because Agility was one of the largest suppliers to the U.S.
Army in the Middle East during the war in Iraq and is accused
of overcharging over 41 months on $8.5 billion in supply
contracts.

Aug 12, 2011

Alabama county holds key bankruptcy decision meeting

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) – Officials from Alabama’s Jefferson County met on Friday to decide whether to file for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history over a $3.14 billion bond debt or pursue a deal with creditors.

If the southern state’s most populous county opts for bankruptcy, it could rattle the $3.7 trillion U.S. municipal bond market. A Chapter Nine filing would surpass the one declared by Orange County, California, in 1994. Since the 2007-2009 recession, fears of such bankruptcies have worried investors.

Aug 12, 2011

Alabama county starts bankruptcy decision meeting

, Aug 12 (Reuters) – Officials from
Alabama’s Jefferson County met on Friday to decide whether to
file for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history over
a $3.14 billion bond debt or pursue a deal with creditors.

The county’s five commissioners and its attorneys went into
executive session behind closed doors at 9 a.m. local time
(1400 GMT) to consider whether to accept a proposal by
creditors that include JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) on
restructuring and reducing the debt.

Aug 11, 2011

Alabama county creditors bid to defuse debt crisis

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) – Creditors made a fresh offer on Thursday to defuse a $3.14 billion bond debt crisis in Alabama’s Jefferson County and prevent the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Commissioner Joe Knight said the creditors, who include JP Morgan Chase, failed to agree to the figure set by the county for a reduction in its outstanding total debt in a potential sticking point to a deal.

Aug 8, 2011

California businessman becomes Hawks’ new owner

ATLANTA (Reuters) – The new owner of the Atlanta Hawks said on Monday he would do all he could to bring an NBA championship to a city that has made the playoffs the last four years but never clinched the title.

Alex Meruelo reached a sale agreement for a majority ownership stake in the Hawks and the Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta that hosts the team. The deal is subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors, and financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Aug 4, 2011

Alabama county extends talks to avert bankruptcy

Aug 4 (Reuters) – Alabama’s Jefferson
County extended talks over a $3.14 billion sewer bond debt on
Thursday in a bid to avert what would be the largest municipal
bankruptcy in U.S. history. The talks were "extremely fragile" and the one-week extension was to seek further concessions from creditors, said Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington at the end of a closed-door executive session in which the county could have filed for Chapter 9. "We have reviewed the creditors offer in exhaustive detail, point by point. We are working on a counter-offer to their proposal," Carrington told a commission meeting. He gave no details of the negotiations with creditors, who include JP Morgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), but said the decision to extend came after an intervention from Governor Robert Bentley, who has taken an increasingly prominent role in the negotiations. "There were many good points within their proposal, but we feel it is prudent for us to give some minor adjustments and to give one final and best shot to solving this crisis," said finance commissioner Jimmie Stephens after the meeting. Had the county declared bankruptcy it would have been the second U.S. municipality this week to take the highly unusual step. The small city of Central Falls, Rhode Island, filed for Chapter 9 on Monday over an $80 million unfunded pension and retiree health benefit liability. Both places are in part casualties of the U.S. financial crisis as is Vallejo, California, which went bankrupt in 2008. The largest previous Chapter 9 filing was Orange County, California, in 1994. One issue dividing creditors and Jefferson County is how much the 660,000 county residents should pay in sewer rates, according to Stephens. Residents already pay some of the highest sewer rates in the country and some fear several years of steep increases might be part of a deal to refinance the debt. County commissioners say they will resist any steep rises. CORRUPTION, BAD DEALS Municipal bond markets are watching the county's situation closely and any move to bankruptcy could shake the $2.9 trillion market. It could also have major repercussions for Alabama because the county's largest city, Birmingham, is an economic engine for the state. The county's debt is rooted in corruption among local politicians and business leaders that has led to 22 convictions. It also stems from deals made with financial institutions that sold the county a disastrous series of bond swaps in the mid-2000s to refinance an upgrade to its sewer system. Interest on those swaps spiraled in 2008 when the bond market fell sharply, triggering the crisis. The county faces a separate shortfall in its general fund and general fund warrants totaling about $1 billion. Outside the Jefferson County courthouse where the meeting took place a handful of concerned ratepayers held up signs and demanded the commissioners pursue bankruptcy. "Flush JP Morgan down the toilet not ratepayers," one sign read. "The tragic thing is that people are the ones who end up paying for all the lying, thievery and cheating that the politicians have engaged in in the last few years," said Keith Mims, a salesman. If the county pursues Chapter 9 bankruptcy, it will not be exempt from its bond obligations, but would likely face a further period of talks with creditors over refinancing the debt, analysts and county leaders say. (Editing by Tom Brown; editing by Andre Grenon)