Business news in brief

Posted: December 06, 2012

In the Region

Bank pays tax for same-sex couples

TD Bank, which has one of its two U.S. headquarters in Cherry Hill, said it will begin to offset the cost of federal and state taxes that its employees in same-sex partnerships pay in excess of those of heterosexual married couples. The tax equalization will take effect on Jan. 1. Same-sex partnerships are not recognized under federal or many state laws, causing people enrolled in domestic-partner health benefits to incur extra taxes, the bank said. - Reid Kanaley

Dorman announces extra dividend

Aftermarket auto parts maker Dorman Products Inc., of Colmar, announced a special $1.50-per-share dividend, payable Dec. 28 to shareholders of record Dec. 17. The announcement came as many companies accelerate dividend payments in advance of a possible 2013 increase in the tax rate on dividend income. The aggregate amount of the dividend is about $55 million, Dorman said. - Inquirer staff

Hospital expansion phase complete

St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne said it completed Phase 1 of its $22 million emergency department and trauma center expansion, which added 18 private treatment rooms, bringing the total to 62, the hospital said. Completion of Phase 2 is expected in the spring and will include a new front entrance and reception areas for patients who arrive on their own. The final phase, renovation of the original space, is slated for completion next summer. - Harold Brubaker

Sustainability exec stepping down

Leanne Krueger-Braneky, the first executive director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, is resigning that post effective Feb. 1 after eight years leading the advocacy group for locally owned businesses committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. She will join BALLE (the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) in Washington as director of fellowship and alumni, working from her Philadelphia home. SBN's board of directors is conducting an open search for Krueger-Braneky's replacement. - Diane Mastrull

QVC entity acquires Oodle

QVC Inc., the shopping network based near West Chester, said a subsidiary, California Voices L.L.C., agreed to acquire the assets of Oodle Inc., which runs the Oodle Marketplace application on Facebook. Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal to broaden QVC's reach into "social commerce" is expected to close by Dec. 31, QVC said. - Reid Kanaley

Search on for 'innovative solutions'

Independence Blue Cross, Philadelphia, joined the University of Pennsylvania hospital system in hiring DreamIt Ventures of Philadelphia to pick 10 small health-care companies that offer "innovative solutions." Winners will be encouraged with technical assistance and grants of up to $50,000, in exchange for giving Penn and IBC an 8 percent equity stake. DreamIt will accept applications through Feb. 8 for the "Philadelphia Health Accelerator" program. Winning entries get offices at Venturef0rth, a Philadelphia coworking space, April to July, culminating in a "Demo Day" for investors and health-care company reps. - Joseph N. DiStefano

Restaurant outfitter picks N.J. site

Restaurant Equippers, of Columbus, Ohio, has picked the Point, the former multiplex movie theater at Routes 38 and 70 in Pennsauken for its first East Coast venture, a 45,500-square-foot restaurant outfitter. "We're a warehouse store. We have low prices on restaurant equipment, and we have restaurant supplies," said Dave Kelly, the chain's marketing director. "Our customers know if you need 40 chairs quickly, if you need freezers, refrigerators, you name it, 99 percent of it we'll have in stock. Just bring your truck in and you can drive it away." He hopes to open by June. - Joseph N. DiStefano

Elsewhere

Starbucks to add even more cafes

Starbucks Corp. plans to add at least 1,500 cafes in the United States over the next five years. The plan would boost the number of Starbucks cafes in the country by about 13 percent. Taking into account Canada and South America, Starbucks plans to add a total of 3,000 new cafes in the Americas. Worldwide, the company says it will have more than 20,000 cafes by 2014, up from its current count of about 18,000. Much of that growth will come from China, which Starbucks says will pass Canada as its second-biggest market. - AP

Service sector grew in Nov.

U.S. service companies grew at a slightly faster pace in November because sales and new orders rose, a good sign for the economy. The Institute for Supply Management said its index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 54.7 from 54.2 in October. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. November's figure was above the 12-month average of 54.4. The report measures growth in a broad range of businesses from retail and construction companies to health-care and financial-services firms. The industries covered employ about 90 percent of the workforce. - AP

Backlash changes Darden plan

The owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster says it won't bump any full-time workers down to part-time status after its tests aimed at limiting health-care costs resulted in a publicity backlash that took a bite out of sales. At the same time, Darden Restaurants Inc. isn't ruling out relying more heavily on part-timers over the long haul. The company, based in Orlando, Fla., is set to announce Thursday that none of its current full-time employees will have their status changed as a result of the new regulations. The move will come just two days after the company lowered its profit outlook for the year, citing failed promotions and negative publicity from its tests that used more part-time employees. - AP

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