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American Equity Investment Life Holding Co. reported fourth-quarter operating income of $15.6 million, or 29 cents per share, compared with $17 million, or 29 cents per share, in the year-earlier period. For the entire year, operating income was a record $75.2 million, or $1.35 per share, compared with $64.9 million, or $1.10 per share, in 2007. Preliminary net income for the year was $47.1 million, compared with $29 million for 2007. It includes net realized losses of “other than temporary impairments” in invested assets of $114.2 million for 2008, which was less than 1 percent of the total value of the company’s invested assets. Annuity sales totaled $2.3 billion for the year, and net investment income climbed to a record $822.1 million.

First National Bank, a branch of First National Bank of Omaha, has appointed Kurt Gibson president of its Des Moines market. Gibson will be responsible for leading all of the bank’s businesses in Des Moines from its new location in the Davis Brown Tower at 215 10th St. Gibson joined First National Bank as vice president of the Corporate Banking Group in September 2007 after serving as senior vice president of LaSalle Bank National Association.

Drake University will host a lecture tonight on the credit crisis and its impact on secondary real estate markets. Real estate experts Jay Zagoren and Rob Best will speak at 6 p.m. in Room 101 of Aliber Hall, 2847 University Ave., Des Moines. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Gannett Co. Inc., publisher of The Des Moines Register, cut its dividend to 4 cents per share, down 90 percent from 40 cents, MarketWatch reported. The dividend is payable April 1 to shareholders of record as of March 6. The change is expected to give the company more than $325 million annually to help pay down debt and “seize opportunities for growth,” said Chairman Craig Dubow. Other media companies have taken similar steps. New York Times Co. suspended its dividend after cutting it by 74 percent and CBS Corp. cut its dividend to 5 cents from 27 cents a share.

As part of the national economic stimulus package, the Iowa Finance Authority has received nearly $19 million for low-income housing tax credit projects from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has again selected Des Moines to participate in the Emerging 200 initiative, a program that provides entrepreneurial training to 200 small inner-city businesses nationwide with high-growth potential. Des Moines is among the 14 cities chosen for this year’s program and was among 11 cities that piloted the program last year. Up to 15 businesses will be selected in Des Moines. To qualify, companies must have been in business at least three years, have $400,000 or more in gross annual revenues and be located within geographic boundaries designated by the SBA. The program commences in April and ends in November. For more information, contact the SBA office in Des Moines at 284-4522.

The deadline for applying for the Des Moines Money Smart Kid Contest is March 2. The winner will win a $1,000 college savings bond for college or vocational training and will be asked to speak at the Iowa Jump$tart Financial Forum on April 20 in Des Moines. The contest is part of a financial literacy week in April. For more details, go to www.moneysmartweek.org.

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