Business news in brief

Posted: February 01, 2013

In the Region

AmerisourceBergen layoffs in N.J.

The drug wholesaler AmerisourceBergen Inc. filed a notice with the New Jersey Department of Labor indicating it plans to lay off 72 employees April 5 at the company's facility in Thorofare, Gloucester County. AmerisourceBergen, based in Valley Forge, is one of the three largest drug wholesalers in the country, with nearly $80 billion in annual revenue. A spokeswoman said, "We have made the difficult decision to close our Thorofare distribution center, which unfortunately impacts associates at the facility." As of Sept. 30, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, AmerisourceBergen had 26 distribution centers in the United States for its main drug business, including leased facilities in 11 states, New Jersey among them. - David Sell

Pollution standards for gas units

Pennsylvania regulators proposed new air emission standards on natural gas compressor stations, the machinery that moves gas from well sites to transmission lines that environmentalists have targeted as a major pollution source associated with Marcellus Shale development. The Department of Environmental Protection said the new standards impose limits that are 75 percent to 90 percent stricter than current standards for the largest compressor stations. DEP will accept comments on the proposed changes until March 19. More information is available on the agency's website, bit.ly/WikzXZ. - Andrew Maykuth

Bids on Hostess now total $858M

Hostess Brands Inc. CEO Greg Rayburn said initial or stalking-horse bids for assets of the bankrupt maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread now total $858 million, with about $100 million more for sale. Rayburn said he probably would leave the company after the auction process is completed. Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, has chosen a joint offer from Apollo Global Management L.L.C. and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. as the lead bid for Twinkies and other cake brands in a March auction. Hostess assets include a plant in Northeast Philadelphia. - Bloomberg News

PGW offers rebates for businesses

Philadelphia Gas Works, the city-owned utility, announced two new incentive programs for commercial and industrial customers to more efficiently use natural gas. PGW will provide rebates up to $8,400 of the cost of each natural gas boiler or piece of food-service equipment that uses natural gas. It is also giving developers up to $60,000 toward new construction of commercial, industrial, and multifamily dwelling projects that use gas. The programs, previously approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, are part of PGW's EnergySense initiative: www.pgwenergysense.com. - Andrew Maykuth

$121M in robo-signing settlement

One of the biggest U.S. mortgage- processing companies has agreed to pay $121 million to resolve states' claims that it wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes. The settlement agreements between Lender Processing Services Inc., based in Jacksonville, Fla., and 46 states and the District of Columbia include $3.4 million for Pennsylvania and $3.1 million for New Jersey, those states said. State attorneys general alleged that the company engaged in unlawful practices including "robo- signing," in which it automatically signed off on foreclosures without properly reviewing documents. - AP

Hershey profit up; guidance raised

The Hershey Co. said its net income rose 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter, as sales of its Kit Kats, Reese's, and other candies boosted revenue. The company, based in Hershey, Pa., noted that it gained market share across categories during the quarter and raised its outlook for the year. For the October-to- December period, Hershey said it earned $149.9 million, or 66 cents per share. That's up from $142.1 million, or 62 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Excluding one-time items, the company earned 74 cents per share. By that measure, analysts on average expected earnings of 76 cents per share, according to FactSet. Sales rose 12 percent to $1.75 billion from $1.56 billion a year earlier. Analysts expected $1.7 billion. - AP

Milestone for Campus Apartments

Philadelphia-based Campus Apartments L.L.C. said it completed the first phase of a three-phase, $200 million project to upgrade all on-campus residences at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. The $70 million first phase included three new housing residences for a total of 924 students on the Cumberland County campus. A $65 million second phase slated for completion by fall 2014 will house 922 students. Campus Apartments manages housing for 34,500 students in 25 states. - Reid Kanaley

Franklin Mills Walmart to expand

Managers of the Franklin Mills retail complex in Northeast Philadelphia said the 130,000-square-foot Walmart store there will expand to 180,000 square feet on a new site near Old Navy Outlet and Modell's Sporting Goods. Groundbreaking will be in March. The new store will employ 250 additional workers, and will include a full grocery department, according to mall officials. Franklin Mills is operated by Simon Property Group Inc. of Indianapolis. - Reid Kanaley

Elsewhere

Sharp rise in jobless applications

The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week but remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the Labor Department said. The increase comes after applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows. Applications fell by a combined 45,000 in the second and third weeks of January. The volatility reflects the government's difficulty adjusting the data to account for layoffs after the holiday shopping season. - AP

Mortgage rates rise

The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week to its highest level in four months but remains low by historical standards. The rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.53 percent. That's up from 3.42 percent last week and the first time the rate has exceeded 3.50 percent since September. The average for the 15-year fixed mortgage advanced to 2.81 percent from 2.71 percent. Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. It rose to 2 percent Thursday, up from 1.85 percent a week ago. - AP

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