Business news in brief

Lufthansa planes were grounded at Dusseldorf and at other German airports as a five-hour warning strike halted about 760 flights. Cabin crews and ground workers seek a 5.2 percent raise; the airline wants a two-year pay freeze.
Lufthansa planes were grounded at Dusseldorf and at other German airports as a five-hour warning strike halted about 760 flights. Cabin crews and ground workers seek a 5.2 percent raise; the airline wants a two-year pay freeze. (MARTIN MEISSNER / Associated Press)
Posted: March 22, 2013

In the Region

Comcast chief sees huge TV changes

Comcast Corp. chief executive Brian L. Roberts, speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, said he believes that television has evolved more in the last five years than it did in the prior 50. He also said the number of Comcast Internet customers should exceed the number of Comcast TV customers over the next couple of years. Comcast, of Philadelphia, serves about 20 million Internet subscribers and 22 million TV customers. - Bob Fernandez

Fed: Manufacturing expanding here

The Philly Fed's March survey of the region's manufacturers shows slight increases in business activity - a swing from a negative reading in February. The closely watched Business Outlook Survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showed notable increases for general business activity and new orders, the bank said. The survey's broadest measure of manufacturing conditions increased from a reading of minus-12.5 in February to 2.0 this month. A reading above zero indicates growth. The bank said 75 firms in eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware responded. Bloomberg News said its own survey of economists predicted a rise to minus-3 in the Fed survey. - Reid Kanaley

Center City tower sold

CBRE Investments confirmed it sold 2000 Market St., a 600,000-square-foot tower it bought from lender Prudential after its owners defaulted four years ago, to Rosemont Realty Co. of New Mexico. A source familiar with the sale confirmed that the building changed hands for $110 million - twice the $56 million CBRE paid Prudential in 2009 to buy out the previous defaulted owner, a Deutsche Bank real estate fund. CBRE pumped in an additional $20 million for improvements, winning new tenants and leaving CBRE with a net (unamortized) $34 million, four-year profit. The building had previously been sold by Rubenstein & Co. to the Deutsche fund for $76.6 million in 2004. - Joseph N. DiStefano

Airgas shares fall on earning warning

Airgas Inc., the largest U.S. distributor of packaged gases, said it might not meet its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings guidance after sales did not increase through February. Shares fell 5.2 percent, or $5.39, to $97.96. The lack of sales growth, excluding acquisitions, suggests Airgas may miss the low end of its earnings forecast by about 4 percent, the Radnor company said. Airgas in January forecast adjusted earnings of $1.18 to $1.24 a share in the three months through March. The average of 15 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for per-share profit of $1.23. - Bloomberg News

FMC starts $100M plant in Thailand

The chemical-maker FMC Corp., of Philadelphia, said it broke ground on a $100 million manufacturing facility in Rayong, Thailand. The facility will produce microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), a food and pharmaceutical additive, for the growing Asian market, FMC said. The company has existing MCC facilities in Newark, Del., and Cork, Ireland. FMC had 2012 sales of about $3.7 billion. - Reid Kanaley

Philly Pretzel acquires rival shops

Philly Pretzel Factory said that it acquired three Taste of Philly pretzel stores in Philadelphia's northern suburbs and that Taste founder Vince Marinelli was going back to work for Philly Pretzel Factory as project manager in charge of new stores. Marinelli handled farmers-market wholesaling and other responsibilities during the early years of Philly Pretzel, which claims 100 stores, before he set up Taste of Philly in 2000. An additional 12 Taste of Philly stores will remain independent for now. Philly Pretzel Factory plans to open 16 additional stores this year. - Joseph N. DiStefano

Jury awards $15.7M to family

Philadelphia physician Noreen Lewis was awarded $11.4 million by a Philadelphia jury against Central City Toyota for alleged mechanical failure of a rented 2006 Toyota minivan in which the doctor was injured in an accident. The jury awarded an additional $4.3 million to five members of Lewis' family who were passengers when a ball joint failed and the vehicle rolled down a ravine in New York state March 8, 2008, said Thomas J. Duffy, a Lewis attorney. Lewis rented the minivan from PhillyCarShare, a car-sharing organization, which was not found liable or negligent. The van had been inspected by Central City Toyota on Dec. 3, 2007. - Linda Loyd

Pa. to help fund Pittsburgh train

To preserve passenger rail service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, the Corbett administration said it would pay much of the cost of the once-a-day "Pennsylvanian" train. The state will pay $3.8 million of the $6.5 million annual cost of the service, which is operated by Amtrak. Amtrak, which had been paying the full cost, will pay the rest. The Pennsylvanian also has through service to and from Philadelphia and New York City. - Paul Nussbaum

Journal Register sale approved

Journal Register Co., of Yardley, a newspaper publisher in bankruptcy for a second time, won court approval to sell its assets to an affiliate of its current owner in exchange for $114 million in secured debt and about $6 million in cash. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stuart Bernstein in New York overruled objections by a union, part of the Communications Workers of America, that had opposed the deal with the buyer, 21st CMH Acquisition Corp. The union contract expires March 31. The company's newspapers include the Delaware County Daily Times and the Trentonian. - Bloomberg News

Elsewhere

Deadline Friday for Dell offers

Michael Dell is about to find out if other bidders think his company is worth more than he does. The answer could come Friday. It marks the end of a 45-day period that Dell Inc.'s board of directors settled on to allow for offers that might top a Feb. 5 agreement to sell the PC-maker to CEO Dell and a group of investors for $24.4 billion. Blackstone Group is emerging as a likely candidate to trump the current bid of $13.65 per share. A person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press that Blackstone was so intrigued with the prospect of owning Dell that the firm had been courting former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Mark Hurd to run it. - AP

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