Business news in brief

Posted: April 19, 2012

IN THE REGION

Pols: Keep it as a refinery

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D., Pa.) and the Delaware County Council urged ConocoPhillips to sell its refinery in Trainer to a buyer that would keep the refinery operating as a manufacturing facility rather than turn it into a fuel storage terminal. Prompted by rumors that potential buyers of the ConocoPhillips refinery in Trainer plan to shut down the plant, the elected leaders wrote to ConocoPhillips chief executive James Mulva to urge him to sell the plant to buyer that would operate it as a refinery, which would employ more people and require more investment than a fuel-storage facility. Delta Air Lines Inc. is reportedly a top bidder to buy the refinery. ConocoPhillips declined to comment on the sales process. “ConocoPhillips is making every effort possible to find a buyer for the refinery and we are planning for the sales process to continue through the end of May,” spokesman Rich Johnson said in an e-mail. — Andrew Maykuth

Merck wins in Fosamax trial

Merck & Co. said it won another lawsuit brought by a patient who said the company’s osteoporosis drug Fosamax caused jaw problems. Merck, which faces more than 2,300 lawsuits connected to Fosamax, said it has won five of the six Fosamax-related lawsuits that have gone to trial. In the latest instance, a jury in Atlantic City found in Merck’s favor. The lawsuit was brought by a woman who used Fosamax between 2002 and 2008, and who blamed the drug for jaw problems and complications that followed the removal of four of her teeth in October 2007. Merck said the woman had evidence of significant infections that required invasive dental procedures and had conditions that impaired her healing after surgery. The patients suing Merck say they developed jaw and dental problems including osteonecrosis of the jaw, or rotting of the jawbone, after using Fosamax. — AP

Two banks boost dividends

Two area banks boosted their quarterly dividends. Susquehanna Bancshares Inc., a Lititz bank with 261 branches in the Mid-Atlantic, announced a new dividend of 5 cents per share, a 2-cent increase. The dividend will be paid May 18 to shareholders of record on May 1. Montgomery County’s Harleysville Savings Financial Corp. raised its quarterly dividend by a penny, to 20 cents per share. The new dividend will be paid May 23 to shareholders of record on May 9. Harleysville has seven full-service branches. — Harold Brubaker

WPCS shares rise on contracts

Shares in WPCS International Inc., a communications infrastructure engineering company in Exton, rose 36 percent after the company said it had $16 million in new contracts. The new contracts include projects for the University of California-Berkeley and several school, emergency service and police organizations and utilities around the U.S. Four contracts are in Australia, and one is in China, for Taian Gas Group. WPCS last month reported a loss of $10.3 million, or $1.48 per share for the third fiscal quarter. “As we continue to obtain new contracts, we believe that we will turn around the recent performance and deliver much better results in the upcoming fiscal year,” executive vice president Myron Polulak said in a statement. Shares close at $1.37, up 36 cents.— Reid Kanaley

U.K. suit expected in MF Global case

A trustee for MF Global Inc., the failed brokerage that was headed by former New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine, plans to pursue a lawsuit in the U.K. to recover $700 million in customer funds, according to an e-mailed statement. The trustee, James Giddens, has been working since November to return the $700 million in funds and has already filed a claim with the administrators overseeing the company’s MF Global UK Ltd. unit, according to the statement. Giddens, appointed under Securities and Exchange Commission rules to return funds to former customers of the failed brokerage, seeks to have a British court decide the issue. — Bloomberg News

ELSEWHERE

American plans 1,200 more job cuts

American Airlines wants to eliminate 1,200 nonunion jobs as it cuts costs while under bankruptcy protection.

That pushes the company’s overall job-cut target to 14,200. It announced plans in February to cut 13,000 union pilots, flight attendants and ground workers. American, the nation’s third-biggest airline, has about 73,000 workers. The company wants to outsource the jobs of all airport skycaps and cargo agents, cancel a planned lump-sum payment that was due for nonunion workers next year, freeze their pension plan, cut vacation and paid holidays, and reduce medical benefits. — AP

CEO loans hit Chesapeake shares

Chesapeake Energy Corp., the second-largest U.S. natural-gas producer, fell to its lowest in three years after a report that chairman and chief executive Aubrey McClendon used his stakes in company wells as collateral to finance his share of the well costs. Chesapeake fell $ 1.06, or 5.5 percent, to $18.06. Earlier, shares declined as much as 10 percent to $17.17, the lowest intraday since July 8, 2009. McClendon has borrowed as much as $1.1 billion during the last three years to pay for his share of well costs, using his well stakes as collateral, Reuters reported, citing loan documents. The arrangements may compromise his duty to shareholders, Reuters said, citing interviews with academics, analysts, and attorneys. — Bloomberg News

Mortgage applications rise

Mortgage applications for the week ending April 13 rose 6.9 percent from the previous seven days, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported. The increase was, however, caused by a jump in refinance applications, which accounted for 75.2 percent of all mortgage applications, compared with 70.5 percent the previous week. The increase was the result of a drop in interest rates, the lenders’ group said. — Alan J. Heavens

PayPal adds to eBay profit

eBay Inc.’s first-quarter net income grew 20 percent thanks to higher revenue from its PayPal business and brisk sales at its e-commerce websites. eBay said that it earned $570 million, or 44 cents per share, in the January-March period. That’s up from $476 million, or 36 cents per share, a year ago. Adjusted earnings of 55 cents per share beat Wall Street’s estimates by 3 cents. Revenue grew 29 percent to $3.28 billion from $2.55 billion. — AP

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