Fidelity raises rates, cuts costs

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Fidelity National Financial Inc. has raised title insurance rates in 22 states and slashed $231 million in annual expenses by firing workers and closing offices since acquiring the underwriting subsidiaries of rival LandAmerica Financial Group Inc. in December. In announcing plans to issue 13.3 million shares of common stock, Fidelity disclosed that through the end of March it had fired 2,068 of the 5,500 workers formerly employed by LandAmerica subsidiaries Commonwealth Land Title, Lawyers Title and United Capital Title Insurance Co. Fidelity acquired the companies a month after LandAmerica filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November, allowing the company to overtake First American Corp. as the nation's largest title insurer but prompting analysts at Fitch Ratings to downgrade the company's debt (see story). Fidelity has since closed 216 of the 500 direct title offices it acquired in the acquisition, and is cutting ties with about half of the independent title ...