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News Corp. reports $1.55 billion loss

LOS ANGELES – News Corp. posted a $1.55 billion loss in the fourth quarter after booking a large write-down on its publishing assets, as it prepares to spin the unit off into a separate company.

The $2.9 billion write-down was largely related to the publishing assets’ declining value.

Although the write-down was a non-cash charge, it resulted in a loss for the three-month period. News Corp.’s stock fell 82 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $22.90 in after-hours trading.

<h3> acquires rival

LOS ANGELES – The New York Times Co. has agreed to sell its troubled online information service,, to rival for $270 million, or two-thirds of what the Times paid for it in 2005, according to a person familiar with the matter.

<p> provides information on a wide variety of topics and also operates and Content is written by paid experts known as guides., by contrast, relies on users to answer questions.

The Times purchased for roughly $410 million. It has suffered in the past year because of a change in the way Google handles search results. That change made content harder to find.

The sale was reported earlier by AllThingsD, a website affiliated with the Wall Street Journal. The Times company confirmed discussions of a sale but said no definitive agreement has been reached.

Citigroup launches own-to-rent program

Citigroup will try something new to keep struggling homeowners out of foreclosure: Turn them into renters.

CitiMortgage announced the program Wednesday and painted it as a way to help homeowners stuck in houses they can’t afford. The New York-based bank, however, won’t manage the program. Instead, it is handing the reins to an investment firm. The bank just sold a $158 million mortgage portfolio to investment firms that will manage the program.

Carrington Capital Management says the pilot program will help about 500 homeowners in six markets that have been hit especially hard by the plunge in housing prices: Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, Nevada and Georgia. It says it will begin contacting eligible homeowners this month.

Homeowners who choose to participate would have to transfer the ownership of their house to Carrington and another firm, Oaktree Capital Management. Carrington would then negotiate with the homeowners-turned-renters for “a manageable monthly payment” and how long the lease should last.

World beer production up 27th straight year

TOKYO – A new report says the world’s appetite for beer hit a new high last year, with China leading the way.

The report released Wednesday by the research arm of a major Japanese brewery said it was the 27th consecutive year that beer production marked an increase. It attributed the rise to robust demand in Asia and developing countries.

The report commissioned by Kirin Holdings said 50.9 billion gallons of beer were produced last year, up 3.7 percent from 2010. China was the world’s largest beer producer – accounting for about 25 percent – for the 10th straight year.

The United States saw a slight decrease in production from the year before but still ranked second at 11.7 percent, followed by Brazil and Russia.