Business news in brief

Posted: February 21, 2013

In the Region

Wegmans recalls flour

Wegmans Food Markets recalled its house brand of flour because it may contain small, blue polyurethane balls. The supermarket chain says the 5-pound bags of its all-purpose bleached flour may contain the balls, which are part of equipment used to sift the flour. The company says they're made of food-grade material that doesn't contaminate the product and are easily seen because of their bright color and size, about half the diameter of a dime. The flour was sold between Dec. 24 and Feb. 15. A company spokeswoman says Wednesday that there have been no reports of injury or illness. Packages may be returned to stores for full refunds. Wegmans has 81 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. - AP

Toll results disappoint Wall Street

Homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc., of Horsham, said net income for the quarter ended Jan. 31 was $4.4 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with a loss of $2.8 million, or 2 cents, a year earlier. Analysts had expected earnings of 10 cents a share, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and Toll shares fell 9 percent to close at $33.56. Revenue for the quarter rose 32 percent to $424.6 million, compared with the average analyst estimate of $503.6 million. The company delivered 746 homes in the quarter, about 100 fewer than analysts projected, said Robert Wetenhall, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets L.L.C. - Bloomberg News

More patient info for Abington docs

Independence Blue Cross and Lumeris Inc., a Saint Louis technology firm, have selected Abington Health as the first health system to participate in a program giving doctors a view of the care their patients are receiving, not just in the Abington system, but also at other health-care providers, the companies said. Starting in April, Abington's primary-care doctors will use Lumeris technology to support more than 30,000 patients who are insured by IBC. Lumeris will integrate data from Abington's medical records with information from IBC to give doctors quicker and easier access to information they can use to coordinate patient care. To support the program, Abington hired seven care managers. - Harold Brubaker

Harrisburg may impose losses

Harrisburg may try within weeks to impose losses on creditors to solve a fiscal crisis that threatens its solvency and has landed it in state receivership. Such a move might prompt other distressed U.S. municipalities to pursue similar remedies. The city, which defaulted on debt it guaranteed and lost a bid for bankruptcy, is expected to sell or lease assets such as its parking system by the end of March. Creditors who covered the city's payments may be forced to take less than the full principal due because the transactions won't be enough to retire the total debt of more than $300 million, said Janney Montgomery Scott's Alan Schankel and Matt Fabian, managing director of Municipal Market Advisors. Such an outcome would raise borrowing costs for municipalities in the state and distressed cities nationwide, said Fabian. - Bloomberg News

New CEO named at CubeSmart

CubeSmart, a self-storage company based in Wayne, said Christopher P. Marr, 48, will succeed Dean Jernigan as chief executive when Jernigan retires on Dec. 31. Marr joined CubeSmart in 2006 and is president, chief operating officer, and chief investment officer. Before that, Marr spent four years as chief financial officer at Brandywine Realty Trust. - Harold Brubaker

Merck partnership on biosimilars

Drugmaker Merck & Co. said it will partner with a Korean joint venture company to develop and market multiple biosimilar drugs, which are like generic versions of expensive biologic drugs. It's the latest move to expand Merck BioVentures, a 4-year-old subsidiary that's been working on developing original and biosimilar biologic drugs. New Jersey-based Merck said it entered an agreement to work with Samsung Bioepis Co. Ltd. of Seoul, South Korea, to produce "pre-specified" biosimilars. The companies aren't disclosing financial terms or the individual biologic drugs they are targeting. Merck, which operates in more than 140 countries, will handle marketing of any medicines approved. - AP

Elsewhere

Boeing said to have 787 fix

Boeing Co. has developed a plan that it intends to propose to federal regulators to temporarily fix problems with the 787 Dreamliner's batteries that have kept the planes on the ground for more than a month, a congressional official told the Associated Press. Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner is expected to present the plan to Michael Huerta, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, in a meeting on Friday, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said the company doesn't talk in advance about meetings with federal officials. - AP

Housing starts dip

U.S. homebuilders began work at a slower pace in January than in December. But the decline occurred in the volatile area of apartment construction, which sank 24 percent. By contrast, the rate of single-family homebuilding rose 0.8 percent. Even with the overall decline, the pace of home construction in January was the third-highest since 2008 and was evidence of continued strengthening in residential real estate. And in an encouraging sign for the rest of the year, applications for building permits, a signal of future construction, topped December's rate. Applications for permits are at their highest point since mid-2008. - AP

Tug-of-store over Martha Stewart

Two of the nation's biggest department stores - J.C. Penney and Macy's - began to duke it out in New York State Supreme Court over the right to sell Martha Stewart merchandise. At the heart of the trial is whether Macy's has the exclusive right to sell Martha Stewart-branded products in such categories as cookware, bedding, and bath. Stewart, J.C. Penney's CEO Ron Johnson and Macy's CEO Terry J. Lundgren could be called to testify during the trial. In December 2011, J.C. Penney announced a partnership in which it would open Martha Stewart mini shops in most of its stores, beginning this spring. Macy's sued Martha Stewart Living almost immediately, saying that it had exclusive rights on certain of its products until 2018. - AP

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