Web-based real estate firm has strong investor interest

Investors set aside housing market doldrums and rushed to grab shares of real estate website Zillow on Wednesday, valuing the company at as much as $1.6 billion.

Zillow Inc., which has never made a profit, is yet another beneficiary of strong investor demand for the latest crop of Internet stocks.

Many of the recent market debutantes provide social networking, online games or search. Zillow’s shares tripled in their trading debut on the Nasdaq stock market.

Zillow had set a price of $20 for its stock late Tuesday. The shares rose as high as $60 before settling back to $38.80 in midday trading, valuing the Seattle-based company at about $1 billion.

The weak housing market did not hurt Zillow’s IPO. Figures released Wednesday show that Americans are buying homes at the weakest pace in 14 years. 

Icahn ups offer for Clorox after initial bid is rejected

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn is staying the course. The hedge fund manager increased his offer for Clorox Co. by almost 5 percent to $10.7 billion on Wednesday, two days after the consumer products maker rejected his initial bid.

In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Icahn said he was boosting his offer to $80 per share from $76.50 a share, which valued the company at $10.2 billion.

Clorox confirmed that it received the revised bid and said that its board, which is consulting with financial and legal advisers, would review the offer “in due course.”

Fund for BP oil spill victims to get independent audit

An independent audit will be performed on the $20 billion fund set up to compensate victims of last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday.

In a letter to the fund’s administrator, Kenneth Feinberg, Holder stressed that the goal is to balance the need for resolving claims quickly and fairly along with the need to start an audit before the end of the year.

Holder said the fund’s “highest priority” should be to achieve speed and fairness. Holder made a June 30 trip to the Gulf Coast in which he heard concerns from Alabama officials and residents about the transparency of the claims process. 

Abbot profits rise on sales of nutritionals, drugs

Drug and medical device maker Abbott Laboratories reported Wednesday that sales of drugs and nutritionals in emerging markets led to an 11 percent rise in its second-quarter profit, leading the company to raise its full-year earnings guidance.

The North Chicago, Ill.-based company says total sales increased 9 percent to $9.62 billion, led by double-digit growth in emerging markets and increasing demand for its best-selling product Humira in the U.S. and abroad.

Sales of the blockbuster inflammatory drug increased 25 percent to nearly $2 billion in the quarter. The drug is used for a half-dozen diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.

— From news service reports