Business news in brief

Commuting to work need not be boring. That’s the idea behind a 64-foot interactive billboard that will let you play with dogs — virtual ones. Beneful brand’s campaign opened in New York’s Columbus Circle subway station, with plans for billboards in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and St. Louis. As people walk by, the subway pooches will start following them, pawing the screen and giving happy yips to encourage a game of fetch with virtual balls. DIANE BONDAREFF/AP Images for Beneful
Commuting to work need not be boring. That’s the idea behind a 64-foot interactive billboard that will let you play with dogs — virtual ones. Beneful brand’s campaign opened in New York’s Columbus Circle subway station, with plans for billboards in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and St. Louis. As people walk by, the subway pooches will start following them, pawing the screen and giving happy yips to encourage a game of fetch with virtual balls. DIANE BONDAREFF/AP Images for Beneful
Posted: May 02, 2012

IN THE REGION

Clinic chain sold

Physiotherapy Associates, an Exton-based chain of more than 650 outpatient rehabilitation, prosthetics and orthotics (artificial limbs and casts) clinics across the U.S., has been sold by Chicago investment firms Water Street Healthcare Partners and Wind Point Partners to Court Square Capital Partners, a New York investment firm. Financial terms were not disclosed. — Joseph N. DiStefano

Radian shares fall on quarterly loss

Shares in Radian Group Inc. fell 7 percent after the Philadelphia mortgage insurer reported a $169.2 million loss in the first quarter and projected that its main operating subsidiary would need an injection of capital later this year to maintain a key capital ratio at a level required by regulators. The loss included $90.6 million from the change in value of financial instruments. For the same period a year ago, Radian reported net income of $103 million. The shares closed at $2.89, down 23 cent, on the New York Stock Exchange. — Harold Brubaker

Ametek raises dividend, splits stock

Electronic device maker Ametek Inc., of Berwyn, declared a 50 percent increase in its dividend and announced a 3-for-2 stock split based on what the company said was its “strong financial position and future expectations.” The new shares are payable June 29 to shareholders of record June 15. The post-split quarterly dividend, payable June 29, will be 6 cents per share (comparable to 9 cents per current share). Ametek, whose products are used in the aerospace and energy industries, said April 26 that first-quarter earnings rose 22 percent, to 68 cents a share, from a year earlier, beating analysts’ estimates. — Reid Kanaley

Philly Fed head sees housing stabilizing

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia president Charles Plosser said he expects to see “stabilization and maybe slight improvement” for housing in 2012. In a speech in San Diego, Plosser cautioned, however, that “at a national level, though, we must acknowledge that we entered the recession over-invested in residential real estate, and we are not likely to see a strong housing recovery until the surplus inventory of foreclosed and distressed properties declines.” He said housing and related sectors “are not likely to return to those heady prerecession highs, nor should we expect them to do so. Those highs were unsustainable, and the housing crash that ensued destroyed a great deal of wealth for consumers and the economy as a whole.” — Alan J. Heavens

Harleysville Group acquisition done

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. completed its purchase of Montgomery County insurer Harleysville Group Inc. for $60 per share, or $834 million, the Columbus, Ohio, insurer said. A legal fight continues over whether policyholders of Harleysville Mutual Insurance Co., the parent of Harleysville Group, should have received a payout. — Harold Brubaker

Hospitals warn on Medicaid losses

Under the proposed state budget for fiscal 2012-13, Pennsylvania hospitals face widening losses on care for poor patients who are covered by Medical Assistance, the state version of Medicaid, according to the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. The association said hospitals in the state lost 11 cents on every dollar of Medical Assistance services provided in the year ended June 30, 2011. That gap is projected to increase to 27 cents by fiscal 2015, the group said. The cumulative shortfall between fiscal 2011 through fiscal 2015 was estimated at $5.28 billion, a sum that is “potentially catastrophic for Pennsylvania’s hospitals,” the association said. — Harold Brubaker

Pfizer profit down on Lipitor sales

Drugmaker Pfizer Inc.’s first-quarter net income fell 19 percent to $1.79 billion, or 24 cents per share, mainly due to new generic competition and $2.6 billion in legal, restructuring and other charges. Pfizer has significant operations in the Philadelphia region. In the first full quarter since blockbuster cholesterol pill Lipitor lost U.S. patent protection, its sales fell 71 percent in the U.S. and 42 percent worldwide, to $1.4 billion. But big discounts to insurers and patients helped retain a third of the market, far more than usual. Pfizer has two potential blockbusters awaiting approval. — AP

Hefty quarter at Teleflex

Medical equipment maker Teleflex Inc., of Limerick, reported a hefty first-quarter as it reorganized its business after selling its aerospace business. Teleflex restructured after selling its aerospace unit to AAR Corp. for $280 million in December. Teleflex took a $332 million goodwill impairment charge in the first quarter. The company said it lost $283.7 million, or $6.96 per share, in the three months ended April 1. A year ago it reported a profit of $77.8 million, or $1.92 per share. Teleflex said it earned $1.01 per share if the impairment charge and other one-time items are excluded. Medical revenue increased 10 percent, to $387.8 million from $354 million. Analysts expected income of 96 cents per share and $370.9 million in revenue, according to estimates compiled by FactSet. — AP

ELSEWHERE

Toyota is back

Toyota Motor Corp. is putting a year of earthquake-related shortages behind it and grabbing sales from stumbling General Motors and Ford. Toyota’s sales rose 12 percent in April, and its share of the market returned to levels it hasn’t seen since before the March 2011 earthquake in Japan. Its sales outpaced the industry as a whole, which saw growth of 2.3 percent last month, according to Autodata Corp. Toyota snatched buyers from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. All saw sales fall in April, according to trade-in data from auto research site Edmunds.com. Toyota also got a boost from the updated Camry sedan and two new versions of the Prius hybrid. — AP

RIM unveils new BlackBerry

Research In Motion Ltd.’s new chief executive unveiled a newly designed BlackBerry smartphone prototype powered by a reimagined operating system — the very software the company has pinned its future on. Thorsten Heins revealed features of the BlackBerry 10 operating system running on a prototype device at the company’s BlackBerry World conference in Orlando. He provided no update on the software’s launch date. The once iconic company has had difficulty competing with flashier, consumer-oriented phones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone and models that run Google Inc.’s Android software. Investors were not impressed. RIM’s stock closed down 82 cents, or 5.7 percent, to $13.48. — AP

Fed: Debit fees down for retailers

Retailers are paying significantly less every time a customer swipes a debit card under a rule capping the fees that banks are allowed to charge. The Federal Reserve said in a report that the average fee paid by merchants for debit card transactions covered by the rule was 24 cents in the fourth quarter of 2011. That compares with an average of 43 cents before the Fed’s rule took effect Oct. 1. The rule was mandated under the 2010 financial overhaul law. — AP

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