Business news in brief

Posted: January 18, 2013

In the Region

  

Pew calls for clean-energy standard

In a report that asserts America's competitive position in clean energy is lagging, the Pew Charitable Trusts advocated the adoption of a national clean-energy standard that sets milestones for deployment of renewable power. The Pew Clean Energy Program said the green-power industry would benefit from the adoption of a national standard similar to those adopted by 29 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Renewable-energy portfolio standards require utilities to assure that a fixed percentage of electricity is generated from clean-energy sources. The recommendation is among several policy suggestions included in the report available online: www.PewTrusts.org/CleanEnergy. - Andrew Maykuth

Shareholder sues DuPont

A DuPont Co. shareholder sued company directors and CEO Ellen Kullman, claiming mismanagement of a seed business led to a $1 billion judgment that threatens to wipe out the company's cash. In a complaint filed in federal court in Wilmington, Robert Zomolosky asked a judge to force Kullman and the board to pay any damages stemming from DuPont's loss of a patent lawsuit involving Monsanto Co.'s weed killer, Roundup. The jury award, the third-biggest last year, could grow to $3 billion depending on future legal rulings, according to the lawsuit. The Wilmington-based company plans to appeal the jury's verdict, according to the complaint, and has asked the judge to overturn the award. - Bloomberg News

CertainTeed plans new shingle plant

CertainTeed Corp., of Valley Forge, said it is evaluating several Midwest locations for an asphalt roofing shingle plant. It would be the company's first new plant since it build its Oxford, N.C., plant in 1978, CertainTeed said. Upon completion of the plant, CertainTeed will own and operate five laminated shingle lines in North America. - Inquirer staff

Hill increases stake in Gerens Hill

Project management firm Hill International Inc., of Marlton, said it paid $9.2 million for an additional 23.8 percent ownership stake in its Madrid-base subsidiary Gerens Hill International S.A. Hill's ownership stake in the subsidiary increased from 69.4 percent to 93.2 percent. Gerens Hill provides project management services in Spain and Mexico. - Inquirer staff

CNG fueling stations proposed

IGS Energy said it would build and operate a $10 million network of compressed natural gas fueling stations for vehicles along Interstate 79 from Charleston, W.Va., to Mount Morris, in Southwestern Pennsylvania. President Scott White said the stations would serve the growing number of businesses and residents using natural gas vehicles. The company said the so-called CNG Fueling Corridor is the first of its kind since drilling in the Marcellus Shale field began to take off. IGS' CNG Services division plans to begin construction in the next few months. IGS is also looking at additional Pennsylvania stations and a similar network in Ohio. - AP

Elsewhere

How many inches in a 'footlong'?

Subway, the world's largest fast food chain with 38,000 locations, is facing widespread criticism after a photo was posted on the company's Facebook page of one of its footlong sandwiches next to a tape measure that shows the sub is just 11 inches long. More than 100,000 people have "liked" or commented on the photo, which had the caption "Subway pls respond." Lookalike pictures popped up elsewhere on Facebook. And The New York Post conducted its own investigation that found that four out of seven footlong sandwiches that it measured were shy of the 12 inches that makes a foot. - AP

Rate down on 30-year mortgage

The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage inched closer to its record low this week, helping to keep home buying more affordable. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.38 percent. That's down from 3.40 percent last week. It hit 3.31 percent in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage was unchanged at 2.66 percent. The record low is 2.63 percent. - AP

BofA eyes mortgage market

Bank of America wants a bigger slice of the mortgage market. This time, the bank is being more careful about how to get it. The bank sketched out plans for regaining some of the ground it lost in home lending. That's a change from the strategy of the last few years, when it concentrated on shedding parts of its mortgage business. Under the new approach the bank is targeting people who are already customers. It also wants to focus on making loans directly to borrowers, rather than buying mortgages from other lenders. - AP

Grassley: Taxpayers subsidize banks

Consumer advocates have complained that U.S. mortgage lenders are getting off easy in a deal to settle charges that they wrongfully foreclosed on many homeowners. Now it turns out the deal is even sweeter for the lenders than it appears: Taxpayers will subsidize them for the money they're ponying up. The Internal Revenue Service regards the lenders' compensation to homeowners as a cost incurred in the course of doing business. Result: It's fully tax-deductible. "The government is abetting the behavior by not preventing the deduction," said U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa). "The taxpayers end up subsidizing the Wall Street banks after the headlines of a big-dollar settlement die down. That's unfair to taxpayers." The 12 lenders are paying $9 billion. - AP

Insurer may be choosy in overhaul

UnitedHealth Group Inc. CEO Stephen Hemsley said analysts shouldn't assume that the nation's largest health insurer will participate widely in the health care overhaul's online insurance exchanges. They will allow people to buy coverage that starts in 2014, some with help from income-based tax credits. Many details of the exchanges have yet to be ironed out. They will vary according to each state and target the individual and small-group health insurance markets. Hemsley said the insurer will only participate in exchanges that it deems fair and commercially sustainable and that provide a reasonable return. - AP

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