Business news in brief

Justin Reil, of Brunswick, Maine, prepares merchandise for shipping at a facility at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine. A spokesman at the retailer said it is offering permanent free shipping.
Justin Reil, of Brunswick, Maine, prepares merchandise for shipping at a facility at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine. A spokesman at the retailer said it is offering permanent free shipping.
Posted: March 25, 2011

In the Region

Cephalon wins ruling on Fentora

Cephalon Inc., Frazer, won a U.S. court ruling that may keep Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. from selling generic versions of the painkiller Fentora until a patent expires in 2019. U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson in Wilmington Thursday said Watson's copy would infringe on a Cephalon patent on the drug and rejected efforts by Watson to invalidate the patent. The judge also denied Watson's request to vacate a previously entered order that prevents Watson from marketing its product, Cephalon said in a statement. The medicine generated $160 million in U.S. sales last year for Cephalon. - Bloomberg News

N.J. adds jobs, but jobless rate rises

New Jersey employers added 7,500 jobs to their payrolls in February, but the state's unemployment rate rose slightly as more "discouraged workers" starting looking for employment again. The jobless rate rose to 9.2 percent last month from 9.1 percent in January, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development said. "As potential workers who had stopped looking for jobs sensed that employment opportunities have improved, they reentered the labor force and resumed their job search," the department said. "The reentry of prospective workers can temporarily cause the unemployment rate to rise." People who stop looking for work are not counted as unemployed. - Paul Schweizer

Glendora retailer, parent bought

Eyewear retailer U.S. Vision, Glendora, and its parent company have been bought by Acon Investments, a Washington, D.C., private equity firm, for an undisclosed amount. With 710 outlets - mostly as licensed departments in stores such as Sears, Boscov's and Macy's - the Camden County company is the third-largest U.S. optical chain. The seller of U.S. Vision and parent Refac Optical Group was an affiliate of Palisade Capital Management L.L.C., which will retain a minority stake. - Paul Schweizer

Ice cream making, powered by wind

Turkey Hill Dairy, the Lancaster County ice cream and ice tea maker, said it would receive 25 percent of its annual electricity from a new wind power turbine facility along the Susquehanna River. The $9.5 million Frey Farm project, consisting of two wind turbines, will produce enough power to make six million gallons of ice cream and 15 million gallons of iced tea annually, the Conestoga-based company said. - Paul Schweizer

Elsewhere

Bernanke to hold news conferences

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will begin holding news conferences four times a year to explain the Fed's interest rate decisions and its views on the economy. Bernanke's first news conference will take place after the Fed's April 27 meeting. That will augment the current communications strategy: a brief statement released after each of the Fed's eight policy-making meetings with no officials available to answer questions. - AP

Nissan may shift some work to U.S.

Nissan Motor Co. said it is considering moving some engine production from Japan to the United States because of earthquake damage to a Japanese plant, another illustration of how seriously the disaster has upended the global network of auto supplies. Car factories could face serious shortages of Japanese parts by the middle of next month unless Japan's auto industry can quickly restart its shuttered production following a devastating earthquake and tsunami March 11, experts say. Nissan said it is studying whether to have its Dechard, Tenn., engine plant supply six-cylinder engines to Japan. - AP

U.S. approves deepwater permit

The federal government approved Chevron Corp. for the first permit for completely new exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, saying the oil company had satisfied requirements to show that it could contain a subsea blowout. It is the fifth deepwater permit since new standards were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon blowout and spill last year, but the first to drill in a new oil field. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued a revised permit to drill in 6,750 feet of water 216 miles south of Lafayette, La. - AP

Oracle profit is up sharply

Database software maker Oracle Corp. said its net income rose 78 percent in the fiscal third quarter, helped by a rise in new software license sales and the benefit of three full months of revenue from Sun Microsystems, a company it acquired last year. Net income for the quarter that ended on Feb. 28 increased to $2.1 billion, or 41 cents per share, from $1.2 billion, or 23 cents per share a year earlier. Excluding certain items, Oracle earned 54 cents per share, more than Wall Street was expecting. Analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast earnings of 50 cents per share. Revenue jumped 37 percent to $8.8 billion from $6.4 billion, more than the $8.7 billion analysts predicted. - AP

Spanish banks downgraded

Moody's downgraded the debt of 30 Spanish banks but left untouched the ratings of the country's three largest banks, highlighting the weaknesses in Spain's financial system a day after the government in neighboring Portugal fell. The ratings agency acted two weeks after downgrading Spanish government debt one notch to Aa2. Moody's said its reasons for downgrading banks' senior debt included higher pressure on Spanish sovereign debt and many weak banks, a declining role within the banking system for smaller and regional banks as the sector consolidates, and what it called a weakening future support environment for banks across Europe. - AP

L.L. Bean waiving all shipping fees

As retailers turn to free shipping to lure customers, L.L. Bean on Thursday upped the ante by waiving shipping fees all the time, with no minimum order, putting pressure on rivals. Effective Friday, L.L. Bean joins Zappos.com in offering permanent, no-strings-attached free shipping. Retailers such as L.L. Bean scrutinize the rate at which online customers discard their "virtual" shopping carts when they see the shipping fees. "Three-quarters of consumers say that they will abandon their purchase when they can't get free shipping," said Andrew Lipsman, analyst at comScore Inc., an Internet research firm. - AP

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