Business news in brief

Fancy costumes were the order of the day. Traders dressed as Batman and as a hippie with a wild wig raise a toast to celebrate Carnival while on the floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Germany. Traders wear costumes as part of a long-standing tradition in honor of Germany's Carnival festivities.
Fancy costumes were the order of the day. Traders dressed as Batman and as a hippie with a wild wig raise a toast to celebrate Carnival while on the floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Germany. Traders wear costumes as part of a long-standing tradition in honor of Germany's Carnival festivities. (RALPH ORLOWSKI / Bloomberg)
Posted: February 13, 2013

In the Region

Settlement OK'd in herbicide case

DuPont Co., the Wilmington chemical giant, won a federal judge's approval to settle class-action claims that its Imprelis herbicide damaged trees at tens of thousands of homes and golf courses. The preliminary approval of the settlement was granted by U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter in Philadelphia. DuPont agreed to remove damaged trees and pay for replacements, maintenance and warranties, according to the judge's order. DuPont has set aside $750 million to compensate customers for tree damage caused by the weed killer and has said the total could reach $900 million. The figure reflects claims paid directly by DuPont and doesn't include the class action lawsuit, a company official said last month. - Bloomberg News

CEO in merger deal steps down

The chief executive of Catholic Health East's possible merger partner, Trinity Health, of Michigan, is leaving to become CEO of WellPoint Inc., one of the nation's largest health insurers, WellPoint and Trinity said. Catholic Heath East, of Newtown, and Trinity in October announced a preliminary agreement to form what management said would be the nation's second-largest Catholic health-care system. Catholic Health East, whose Philadelphia area holdings include St. Mary in Langhorne, Our Lady of Lourdes in Camden, and Mercy Fitzgerald in Darby, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the departure of Joseph R. Swedish had any implications for the proposed merger. Swedish was slated to head the combined operations of Catholic Health East and Trinity. - Harold Brubaker

Debate over natural gas exports

The top two members of a U.S. Senate committee for energy split over expanding exports of natural gas coming from Pennsylvania and other states, mirroring a disagreement between fuel consumers such as Dow Chemical Co. and producers such as Exxon Mobil Corp. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Oregon), the new chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a committee hearing that unfettered exports could drive up domestic prices for U.S. manufacturers and vowed legislation to control them. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the panel's top Republican, said exports are "real money," and warned against making decisions best left to markets. - Bloomberg News

N.Y. delays gas-drilling regulations

Long-awaited regulations for shale gas drilling in New York state will be delayed further because the state's health commissioner said his office needs more time to study the possible health impacts. The Department of Environmental Conservation had faced a deadline Wednesday to complete its 41/2-year-old environmental impact study of drilling for gas using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Marcellus Shale that also underlies Pennsylvania. DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said he expected Health Commissioner Nirav Shah's review to be done in a few weeks. Shah said he needed more time to review recent studies. He said his review focuses, in particular, on the relationship of fracking to the health impacts of drinking water, as well as other areas such as air quality and community impacts. - AP

PREIT sells Fla. mall

Mall owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, or PREIT, said it sold the 1.1 million-square-foot Orlando Fashion Square Mall in Orlando, Fla., for $35 million in cash. The company said the sale was part of its announced program to sell noncore assets. PREIT will realize a gain of $600,000 from the sale, it said. PREIT owns 47 properties, primarily in Mid-Atlantic states. - Reid Kanaley

Elsewhere

Jan. surplus shrinks 2013 deficit

The Treasury Department said the government took in a surplus of $2.9 billion in January, helped by nearly $9 billion more in Social Security taxes. Last month, Congress and the White House allowed a temporary cut in Social Security taxes to expire. Through the first four months of the 2013 budget year, the deficit has grown $290.4 billion. That's nearly $60 billion lower than the same period a year ago. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the deficit will total $845 billion for the full year - the first time the government has run a deficit below $1 trillion since 2008. - AP

S&P expects to beat gov't lawsuit

The parent company of Standard & Poor's is prepared to spend years beating back a federal lawsuit that accuses the company of giving falsely high ratings to mortgage investments that helped trigger the financial crisis, executives said. The government may seek up to $5 billion - several years' worth of profits for McGraw-Hill, it said in a civil complaint filed last week in federal court in Los Angeles. The company executives told analysts on a conference call that it believes the charges lack merit. The analysts focused on whether the company can fend off the lawsuit and maintain growth in the Standard & Poor's Rating Services division. - AP

Alfa Romeo returning to U.S.

After a 30-year absence, Italy's storied Alfa Romeo brand will return to the United States later this year with a new two-seat compact sports car. Italian automaker Fiat SpA said the long-delayed Alfa 4C will go on sale during the second half of the year. Fiat owns Alfa and controls the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram brands in the United States. The 4C will officially debut at the Geneva International Motor Show next month. - AP

2d shareholder against Dell deal

A shareholder rebellion against Dell's proposed $24.4 billion sale to its founder and other investors is gaining more support, fueling a belief that the struggling personal computer maker will have to wrangle a higher price to get the deal done. Mutual fund firm T. Rowe Price joined the opposition. Price and another shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management, believe that founder and CEO Michael Dell and the investment firm Silver Lake are seizing control and ending Dell Inc.'s 25-year history as a publicly held company on the cheap. - AP

Yahoo to trim app offerings

Yahoo Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer told an audience of investors that she thinks Yahoo will be better served with just 12 to 15 mobile applications, down from a portfolio of as many as 75 different programs in recent years. Offering so many different mobile applications has proven too overwhelming for Yahoo's 200 million mobile users, Mayer said. - AP

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