Business News in Brief

A truck undergoes a scan at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection point at the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego. Exports, which account for about 30 percent of Mexico's gross domestic product, soared 17 percent last year to $350 billion. Mexico's peso gained after industrial production rose more than forecast in the Latin American country and retail sales in the U.S. climbed by the most in five months.SAM HODGSON / Bloomberg News
A truck undergoes a scan at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection point at the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego. Exports, which account for about 30 percent of Mexico's gross domestic product, soared 17 percent last year to $350 billion. Mexico's peso gained after industrial production rose more than forecast in the Latin American country and retail sales in the U.S. climbed by the most in five months.SAM HODGSON / Bloomberg News
Posted: March 14, 2012

In the Region

Pfizer, Biocon scrap accord

Drugmakers Pfizer and Biocon are calling off an agreement to both sell Biocon's insulin and the generic version of several insulin products. The companies say the individual priorities of their so-called biosimilars businesses made them decide to move forward independently. Biosimilars are medicines similar to biologic drugs but are not identical in the way that generic drugs are copies of brand-name pills. Biologic drugs are complex injected drugs manufactured from living cells rather than by mixing chemical compounds together and turning them into pills. Pfizer, which has major operations in the Philadelphia region, said in 2010 that it would pay an initial $200 million to India-based Biocon for the right to sell several insulin products used to treat diabetes.

- AP

New president at NBC10

NBC10, part of Comcast Corp., has named Eric Lerner as president and general manager of the Philadelphia TV station. Lerner is relocating from KIRO-TV, a CBS affiliate in Seattle. He had been vice president and general manager. Prior to Seattle, Lerner worked at TV stations in Fresno, Calif., and Chicago. He replaces the former head of NBC10, Dennis Bianchi, who moved to Fox.

- Bob Fernandez

A.C. Electric warns of scams

Atlantic City Electric on Tuesday warned customers about scam artists who claim to represent the utility and demand payments from prepaid credit cards. The thieves tell the customers that their electric service is scheduled to be shut off and that they should make a payment by purchasing a "Green Dot" prepaid Visa card, said Bill Yingling, a utility spokesman. Customers are then asked to call another phone number, where information is obtained from the prepaid card. Yingling said that five customers had complained about the scam, and that Atlantic City Electric had referred the matter to federal law enforcement. - Andrew Maykuth

Blue Cross completes NaviNet purchase

Independence Blue Cross, of Philadelphia, and partners completed the purchase of Boston-based NaviNet Inc., which operates a large real-time communication network for physicians, hospitals, and health insurers. The price was not disclosed. IBC's partners in the deal are Highmark Inc. in Pittsburgh; Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey in Newark; and Lumeris Corp., a St. Louis software company. The buyers said combining NaviNet and Lumeris technologies would help make "accountable care" - a model of health care that provides financial incentives to doctors and hospitals to improve quality and reduce costs - a reality. The deal was announced last month. - Harold Brubaker

Audubon Savings chooses new CEO

Audubon Savings Bank, which had $203 million in assets and $125 million in deposits on Dec. 31, named Kyle R. McGonigle president and chief executive. McGonigle, who joined Audubon in 2009 and was most recently chief lending officer, replaced Robert A. Dorsey. Before starting at Audubon, McGonigle was a vice president of commercial real estate at Susquehanna Bancshares Inc. The bank has three branches in addition to its headquarters in Audubon.

- Harold Brubaker

U.S. adds Del. site to Superfund

Environmental regulators have added a former chemical plant in the Philadelphia area to its list of the country's most contaminated sites. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday placed the former Metro Container Corp. in Trainer, Delaware County, on the Superfund National Priorities List. That qualifies it for federal funding to clean up hazardous substances that could endanger health and the environment. The EPA said a lagoon on the site was used for disposal of industrial waste. Officials said there was a risk of contamination to the Delaware River and nearby tidal flats and communities. The site had been used for various industrial purposes for decades by different companies. It is currently owned by an industrial painting company that uses the property mainly for storage.

- Matthew Zencey

Elsewhere

Job openings remain stable

Job openings were little changed in January, capping the strongest two months in more than three years, a signal that businesses remain confident about economic expansion. The number of positions waiting to be filled totaled 3.46 million, down from a revised 3.54 million in December that was higher than previously estimated, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The back-to-back reading was the highest since mid-2008. - AP

Fed sees positive view, no new action

The Federal Reserve offered a more positive view of the economy after a burst of hiring since its last meeting. It held off taking further steps to boost the recovery and reiterated its plan to keep short-term interest rates near zero until at least late 2014. The Fed's statement, issued after Wednesday's one-day meeting, was more upbeat than the one in January. Tuesday, it said the unemployment rate had declined notably and should continue to fall as the economy expands. Household spending and business fixed investment continued to advance. Rising oil and gas prices will push up inflation temporarily, but, it said, longer-term inflation should remain stable. - AP

Retail sales show strength

Americans stepped up spending on retail goods in February, evidence that stronger job markets are boosting the economy. Consumers bought more vehicles, clothes, and appliances. They also paid higher prices for gas. Retail sales increased 1.1 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. It was the biggest gain since September. The government also revised upward the sales figures for the previous two months. - AP

US Airways registers domain names

US Airways has made no secret of its interest in a merger with American Airlines and now it's gobbling up Internet domain names. A spokesman for US Airways Group Inc. confirmed Tuesday that the company registered several domain addresses that include the names of both airlines, including usairways-american.com and american-usairways.com. Spokesman Andrew Christie said US Airways bought the domain names to prevent anyone else from buying them inapropriately. He declined to comment about a possible bid for American. US Airways has publicly disclosed that it hired advisers to weigh a bid for AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November. A spokesman for American Airlines, Bruce Hicks, said the airline knew nothing about the domain names. - AP

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