Business news in brief

Sean Sweeney
Sean Sweeney
Posted: February 06, 2013

In the Region

CEO steps down at Phila. Insurance

After a bit more than a month as president and chief executive of Philadelphia Insurance Co., Sean Sweeney has stepped down "for personal reasons," the Bala Cynwyd company said. Sweeney's replacement is Robert D. O'Leary Jr., who had been executive vice president and chief marketing officer. Philadelphia Insurance, which was sold to Tokio Marine Holdings Inc. for $4.5 billion in 2008, announced Sweeney's promotion to CEO from chief operating officer in November. The promotion took effect Jan. 1. Sweeney is a nephew of company founder James J. Maguire. Philadelphia Insurance spokesman Bill Procopio said the company had no comment beyond the news release. - Harold Brubaker

5 million flew US Airways in Jan.

US Airways Group Inc. said nearly 5 million passengers boarded its planes in January, a 2.4 percent increase from a year earlier. The Tempe, Ariz.-based carrier, which is the dominant airline in Philadelphia, flew 4.9 billion mainline revenue-passenger miles, which are the miles a plane flies multiplied by the number of paying passengers, last month, up 4.8 percent from January 2012. US Airways' passenger-load factor, or the percentage of filled seats, was 80.7 percent, up from 78.2 percent a year earlier. Capacity rose 1.8 percent year-over-year. US Airways said 83 percent of its flights were on time in January. - Linda Loyd

Met-Pro in 'green fuels' market

Pollution-control equipment maker Met-Pro Corp., of Harleysville, said it received a $600,000 order to supply a purification system for landfill gases at a renewable energy facility in Canada. It did not identify the facility, but said the new system will be part of a proprietary process to improve the fuel quality of naturally produced methane. The order "demonstrates our continuing strong presence in the emerging green fuels market," said CEO Raymond J. De Hont. - Reid Kanaley

Newspaper union ratifies contract

The union representing paper handlers at The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News ratified a new two-year contract Monday after having rejected a tentative agreement Friday. Brian Reice, president of Teamsters Local 169, which represents 23 warehouse employees of Interstate General Media L.L.C., said the initial agreement was rejected based on the wording. After union leaders met with company officials over the weekend, members then voted, with 98 percent supporting the agreement, he said. With the approval by the paper handlers, Interstate General has new contracts in place for 10 of its 11 unions. All of the contracts have contained concessions by labor that the media company has said are needed to return it to profitability. The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, which represents 550 newsroom, advertising sales, circulation, and finance department employees, has scheduled a ratification vote on a new two-year deal for Thursday evening. - Mike Armstrong

Elsewhere

S&P sued on financial crisis role

The U.S. government says Standard & Poor's knowingly inflated its ratings on risky mortgage investments that helped trigger the 2008 financial crisis. The credit rating agency gave high marks to mortgage-backed securities because it wanted to earn more business from the banks that issued the investments, the Justice Department alleges in civil charges filed in federal court in Los Angeles. The government is demanding that S&P to pay at least $5 billion in penalties. Many states, including Pennsylvania, said they were joining in suing S&P. The case is the government's first major action against one of the credit rating agencies that stamped their approval on Wall Street's soon-to-implode mortgage bundles. It marks a milestone for the Justice Department, which has long been criticized for failing to act aggressively against the companies that contributed to the crisis. S&P, a unit of New York-based McGraw-Hill Cos., called the lawsuit "meritless." - AP

$200M alleged stolen by fraud ring

Eighteen people were charged in what may be one of the nation's largest credit card fraud rings, a sprawling international scam that duped credit-rating agencies and used thousands of fake identities to steal at least $200 million, federal authorities said. The elaborate scheme involved improving fake cardholders' credit scores, allowing the scammers to borrow more money that they never repaid, investigators said. Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney in Newark, described an intricate Jersey City-based con that began in 2007, operated in at least 28 states, and wired money to Pakistan, India, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Romania, China and Japan. - AP

New BlackBerry delayed in U.S.

A new BlackBerry with a physical keyboard might not arrive in the United States until May or June, a month or two behind other parts of the world, said the smartphone maker's CEO Thorsten Heins. The keyboard and touchscreen versions of the former Research in Motion Ltd.'s new BlackBerry 10 phones are the Canadian company's attempt at a comeback. The smartphone pioneer that just changed its company name to BlackBerry lost its cachet after Apple's 2007 release of the iPhone. Many BlackBerry users have stayed loyal so far, specifically because they prefer a physical keyboard over the touch screen found on many other devices. - AP

Toyota raises profit forecast

Toyota Motor Corp. raised its fiscal-year profit forecast to triple what it eked out for the disaster-struck previous year, as the world's top automaker continued on a comeback roll as sales surged, especially in the U.S. Toyota's October-December profit jumped 23 percent to $1.09 billion, compared with the same period the previous year. Quarterly sales edged up 9 percent to $58 billion. Underlining its solid recovery, Toyota is now expecting fiscal year profit of $9.3 billion. It had initially expected an $8.5 billion profit. - AP

Euro rising on signs of recovery

The euro rose against the dollar on signs that the economies of the 17 countries that use the euro are recovering. The euro rose to $1.3584 in late trading from $1.3520 late Monday. The British pound fell to $1.5663 from $1.5766. The dollar slipped to 93.36 Japanese yen from 92.38 Japanese yen and to 0.9083 Swiss franc from 0.9084 Swiss franc. The dollar also fell to 99.60 Canadian cents from 99.81 Canadian cents. - AP

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