Business news in brief

Posted: March 09, 2012

In the Region

J&J pill improves cancer rates

Johnson & Johnson said Thursday its prostate cancer pill Zytiga improved survival and delayed the progression of cancer in patients who had not been treated with chemotherapy. The company said patients treated with Zytiga and a steroid had a longer time to death or disease progression than patients treated with a placebo and the steroid. Zytiga met secondary goals in the late-stage study, and the independent monitoring committee recommended that the results from the study be released and that patients taking the placebo be offered Zytiga. The New Jersey company plans to file for a broader marketing approval in the second half of 2012. - AP

Mercy Health names new CEO

The Mercy Health System of Southeastern Pennsylvania named David Clark, a Utah hospital executive, as its new president and chief executive, effective April 2. Clark will join Mercy, which is based in Conshohocken and is part of Catholic Health East, from Intermountain Healthcare in Provo, where he was regional vice president and chief executive for three hospitals. Clark takes over from H. Ray Welch Jr., Catholic Health East's executive vice president of ministry operations, who has also been leading Mercy since August 2010. Mercy has four hospitals in the Philadelphia region. - Harold Brubaker

Fees going up at Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo customers in six states - including Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey - who had free checking accounts will pay $7 a month starting in May. The bank said Thursday it started moving customers in 23 states to the $7 fee last year and is expanding to six more. Customers can avoid the fee by keeping a minimum balance of $1,500 or making direct deposits of at least $500 a month. Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, said it had not offered free checking since 2010. Banks have been adding and experimenting with fees, saying they need to make up lost revenue due to regulatory changes. Customers have protested the charges. - AP

Suppliers OK after Sunoco cutback

Honeywell Inc. has lined up alternate suppliers for key raw materials after Sunoco Inc. canceled a contract to supply the Frankford plant it sold Honeywell for $85 million last year, Honeywell spokesman Peter Dalpe said. Sunoco had agreed to supply cumene so Honeywell could continue making phenol and acetone at the site, which employs 170. Phenol is "a critical raw material" for Honeywell's Resins and Chemical division, Dalpe said. Sunoco has cut back chemical shipments as it closed its Marcus Hook refinery and prepares for the possible closing of its Philadelphia refinery.

- Joseph N. DiStefano

Penn State sets shale program

Pennsylvania State University and two other schools will launch training programs this summer aimed at instructing regulators and policymakers about the latest developments in producing oil and natural gas from shale formations. The program, which will also be hosted at the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Texas at Austin, will provide regulators with a two-week overview of the latest geologic, technological, and environmental developments, said Thomas B. Murphy, codirector of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. The program is funded by $1 million grants from Exxon Mobil Corp. and General Electric Co. - Andrew Maykuth

Elsewhere

U.S. sets price for AIG shares

The government has set a price of $29 a share for the $6 billion in common stock it is selling in insurance giant American International Group Inc. The stock sale is a step toward divesting the government's stake in a company that received the biggest bailout during the 2008 financial crisis. The government had stepped in with $182 billion to rescue AIG. The Treasury Department still owns 77 percent of AIG's common shares, worth $41.8 billion. AIG plans to buy up to $3 billion of the stock being sold at the set price, trading at about $28.50 on the New York Stock Exchange. New York-based AIG also has agreed to repay the government's remaining $8.5 billion preferred-stock investment. - AP

Justice Dept. probes publishers

The Justice Department, after months of investigation of possible pricing collusion between Apple Inc. and electronic-book publishers, is talking with companies about potential settlements and has threatened a lawsuit, people close to the investigation said Thursday. Antitrust officials have been looking into whether Apple and five publishing companies agreed to work together to raise the price of electronic books. The publishers investigated are Penguin Group USA, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan.

- N.Y. Times News Service

Exxon puts more into search for oil

As demand for oil increases, Exxon Mobil Corp. said Thursday it would spend about $150 billion over the next five years to find more natural gas and oil to satisfy the world's growing energy appetite. Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded energy company, expects global energy demand to increase 30 percent by 2040, compared with 2010 levels. As demand grows, CEO Rex Tillerson said Exxon would plow more money into a global search for new resources. Including investments in its refining and chemicals business, Exxon's capital budget for 2012 through 2016 will total $185 billion. - AP

Fender IPO brings some nostalgia

Fender Musical Instruments Corp., the maker of legendary guitars strummed by the likes of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton, filed papers Thursday for a $200 million initial public offering. Founded in 1946 by Leo Fender, the company created the Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars in the 1950s. "The Fender brand in particular is closely associated with the birth of rock-and-roll and has a strong legacy in music and in popular culture," the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company will trade shares under the "FNDR" symbol on the Nasdaq. - AP

House OKs small-business bill

Showing that they can on occasion work together, the House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a package of bills making it easier for small businesses and start-ups to raise the capital they need to grow and hire new workers. Among the provisions, the bills would make it easier for small companies to go public by providing them a temporary reprieve from SEC regulations, remove SEC restrictions preventing small businesses from using ads to solicit investors, and remove SEC restrictions on "crowd-funding" so entrepreneurs can raise equity capital from a large pool of small investors. The legislation now goes to the Senate. - AP

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