Business news in brief

Dozens of job-seekers line up to enter a National Career Fair in New York. A report on last week's unemployment claims offered the latest evidence that the job market is slowly healing.
Dozens of job-seekers line up to enter a National Career Fair in New York. A report on last week's unemployment claims offered the latest evidence that the job market is slowly healing. (MARK LENNIHAN / Associated Press)
Posted: February 24, 2012

In the Region

Comcast-Sprint patent battle erupts

Comcast Corp., of Philadelphia, sued a unit of Sprint Nextel Corp. over four telecommunications patents. Comcast

"has been irreparably harmed by that infringement and will suffer additional damages" unless the court prevents additional infringement, lawyers for the company said in a complaint in federal court in Delaware. A spokesman for Kansas-based Sprint said the company couldn't immediately comment. Comcast contends that services provided by Sprint, the nation's third-largest wireless phone company, misappropriate technology used for accessing communications data, determining a telephone number, and optimizing a telephone network. Comcast last week filed a separate suit against Sprint claiming infringement of four other telecommunication patents in federal court in Philadelphia. Sprint sued Philadelphia-based Comcast and three other cable companies in December alleging infringement of patents related to transmitting phone calls over digital lines. - Bloomberg News

InterDigital shares up on earnings

Shares of InterDigital Inc., based in King of Prussia, rose 5.28 percent to close at $40.66 after the wireless-technology patent holder announced better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter. For the period ending Dec. 31, the company reported net income of $22.8 million, or 49 cents per share, compared to $34.3 million, or 76 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue for the period was $77 million, down from $95.3 million a year earlier. - Inquirer staff

PREIT sees retail improvement

The Philadelphia-based shopping center owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, or PREIT, said its net loss for the fourth quarter narrowed from a year earlier, as it saw improvement in retail sales at its properties. For its shopping-mall portfolio, the company said, sales per square foot - a key metric - rose to a record $400 for the latest quarter. The company reported a loss of $0.6 million, or 1 cent per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $8.5 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose slightly, to $124.1 million, from $122.2 million. PREIT holdings include 38 shopping malls and other properties in 13 states. - Reid Kanaley

Retirement-fund repayment ordered

West Chester's defunct Compass Capital Partners Ltd. and its owner, Harris M. DeWese, have been ordered to restore $661,000 to the company's retirement plan, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday. The department sued in August to recover retirement funds it said were deposited into DeWese's personal account, or to pay company expenses. DeWese had denied wrongdoing. Five people, including a former partner and DeWese himself, had been plan participants. The summary judgment against DeWese and the company was filed in federal court in Philadelphia and resolves the lawsuit.

- Reid Kanaley

Phila. program wins training grant

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced Thursday a $183 million federal grant program that includes Philadelphia. It is the second round of funding under the H-1B Technical Skills Training Grant Competition. The District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, in Philadelphia, will receive $3.1 million. The grants provide education, training, and job-placement assistance related to high-growth fields in which employers are using the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program to hire foreign workers.

- Inquirer staff


Apple weighing what to do with cash

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook believes the world's most valuable company has more money than it needs. His next challenge is to figure out whether Apple should break from the cash-hoarding ways of his predecessor, the late Steve Jobs, and dip into its $98 billion bank account to pay shareholders a dividend this year. During a question-and-answer session at the company's annual shareholders' meeting, Cook indicated he and the rest of Apple's board were nearing a decision. The board and management are "thinking about this very deeply," Cook said. "This isn't a case where 100 percent of people are going to agree with what we do." Jobs had steadfastly brushed aside suggestions that the company restore its quarterly dividend. Apple stopped making the shareholder payments in 1995, when it was in such deep trouble that it needed to hold on to every cent. - AP

P&G to cut 5,700 jobs

Consumer-products maker Procter & Gamble Inc. said it plans to cut 5,700 jobs over the next year and a half as part of a cost-cutting plan. P&G said it plans to save $10 billion by the end of the fiscal year ending in June 2016. The world's largest consumer-products maker, whose products range from Luvs diapers to Bounty towels, saw slowing sales volume in the United States as consumers continued to spend cautiously. The company also has faced high costs for fuel, packaging, and other commodities. The job cuts amount to about 10 percent of the company's nonmanufacturing workforce. The cuts include 1,600 jobs that P&G announced earlier this month. - AP

Stronger privacy protection urged

The Obama administration is calling for stronger privacy protections for consumers who use the Internet, mobile phones, and other technologies. Technology companies, consumer groups, and others will now convene to jointly craft new protections. Such guidelines will initially be voluntary for companies, but those that agree to abide by them could be subject to sanctions for any violations. Consumer and privacy groups welcomed the effort, though some worried that it won't do enough. Legislation would be needed to require all companies to follow such guidelines. - AP

AIG posts profit for quarter and year

American International Group, the insurance company that was bailed out by the government in 2008, reported a $19.8 billion profit in the fourth quarter of last year, nearly all of it due to a tax-related accounting gain. In the same period a year earlier, the company earned $11.2 billion. The company earned $17.8 billion for 2011. - AP

New jobless claims remain at a nearly four-year low

Initial claims for unemployment benefits continued to remain at a nearly four-year low last week as a new poll showed that a majority of voters now say the economy has begun to recover, a sharp turnaround from five months ago. The Department of Labor reported there were 351,000 new jobless claims in the week ending Feb. 18, the same as the revised figure for the previous week. The four-week average dropped to 359,000 from 366,000, reflecting a continued decrease in claims. The numbers are another sign that the economy is improving. Economists say that weekly claims below 400,000 indicate the economy is adding jobs. - Los Angeles Times