Business news in brief

A shopper leaves a 7-Eleven in Tokyo. Seven & I Holdings Co., the Tokyo-based owner of the convenience-store brand, forecast a 23 percent jump in profit this fiscal year with the addition of a record 1,500 convenience stores. For the year that ended in February, the company said net income rose 6.3 percent, to $1.4 billion.
A shopper leaves a 7-Eleven in Tokyo. Seven & I Holdings Co., the Tokyo-based owner of the convenience-store brand, forecast a 23 percent jump in profit this fiscal year with the addition of a record 1,500 convenience stores. For the year that ended in February, the company said net income rose 6.3 percent, to $1.4 billion. (KIYOSHI OTA / Bloomberg News)
Posted: April 05, 2013

In the Region

Insurers settle 'kickback' claim

Radian Group Inc., Philadelphia, and three other home-mortgage insurers have agreed to pay a total of $15 million to settle accusations they paid "improper kickbacks" to lenders to gain new business, in the years before the financial meltdown of 2008, according to a statement by the government's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The settlement awaits approval by a federal judge in Florida. Also settling with the government: Genworth Mortgage Insurance Corp., United Guaranty Corp., and Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. The insurers' complex financial arrangements covering the kickbacks were "worthless" to consumers and "inflated" their insurance costs, while boosting insurers' income, bureau director Richard Cordray said. Radian defended the payments and the practice of "reinsuring" its customers' mortgage insurance policies through firms controlled by lenders that gave Radian business. - Joseph N. DiStefano

Pa. approves PGW upgrade plan

Philadelphia Gas Works moved a step closer to getting new funding approved for its accelerated gas-main replacement program. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission unanimously approved the city utility's infrastructure improvement plan, which calls for ramping up PGW's gas-main replacement from 18 miles a year to 25 miles. PGW wants to replace aging cast-iron mains, some of which were installed in the 19th century, with plastic or coated steel pipe. The PUC next will consider PGW's plan to raise $22 million a year to fund the improvements. The funding surcharge would add about $3 a month to a typical residential user's bill. - Andrew Maykuth

PNC increases dividend

PNC Financial Services Group Inc., one of the Philadelphia region's largest banks by deposits, said it is increasing its quarterly dividend by 10 percent, or 4 cents, to 44 cents. The financial- services company said the dividend would be paid May 5 to shareholders of record as of April 16. PNC, based in Pittsburgh, also declared a quarterly cash dividend on four classes of its preferred stocks. - AP

Freeh: Corzine sped broker demise

Former MF Global Holdings Ltd. chairman and chief executive Jon S. Corzine's risky business strategies and mismanagement helped accelerate the futures brokerage's demise, according to a report by bankruptcy trustee Louis Freeh. The 124-page report blames Corzine - the former New Jersey governor - and his management team for bungling an expansion of the company's traditional business model while ignoring deficiencies in its risk controls. Corzine's "aggressive trading strategy" that invested heavily in European sovereign debt produced no significant revenue, and he and chief financial officer Henri Steenkamp knew that the company's controls were flawed as early as May 2010, according to the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. MF's parent company filed for bankruptcy Oct. 31, 2011. - Bloomberg News

Brandywine to sell 10M shares

Brandywine Realty Trust, of Radnor, said it would sell 10 million common shares with net proceeds going to working capital, capital expenditures, and other general corporate purposes. BofA Merrill Lynch and Citigroup will serve as book-running managers, Brandywine said. The shares will be offered "from time to time" as market conditions warrant, it said. Brandywine owns, leased, and managed an office portfolio of 297 properties, as of Dec. 31. Shares closed up 25 cents at $14.97 but lost the gain in late trading after the announcement. - Reid Kanaley

CertainTeed to build $100M plant

Building-materials maker CertainTeed Corp. of Valley Forge said it will build a $100 million asphalt roofing-shingle manufacturing and distribution facility in Jonesburg, Mo. Construction will begin in the summer. CertainTeed operates an additional 10 asphalt-shingle plants, one low-slope commercial roofing facility and three stand-alone granule production plants in the United States. - Reid Kanaley

J&J wins patent case on appeal

A federal appeals court said a Johnson & Johnson heart stent does not infringe a patent held by a doctor and inventor, overturning a $482 million decision against the company. The three-judge panel said a lower court misinterpreted the company's patent and should not have ruled in favor of Bruce Saffran, a doctor from Princeton. Saffran sued J&J in 2007, saying its Cypher stents infringed on his 1997 patent covering technology to deliver medication inside the body. A Texas jury ruled in Saffran's favor in 2011. - AP


Skilling sentence in play

A possible agreement that could reduce the 24-year prison sentence of former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling for his role in the collapse of the once-mighty energy giant is being discussed, according to the Justice Department. The possibility of a sentencing agreement in the case was made public this week in a notice to victims of Enron's collapse. The notice did not specify how Skilling's sentence could be affected if an agreement is reached. Skilling has been in prison since December 2006. Enron collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001 under the weight of years of illicit business deals and accounting tricks. - AP

Walgreen to treat chronic illnesses

Walgreen Co., the largest U.S. drugstore chain, is expanding into treatment of diabetes, asthma, and other chronic illnesses to lure new customers including millions gaining insurance under the Affordable Care Act. More than 330 of Walgreen's roughly 370 Take Care Clinics in stores are now offering chronic-care services as well as advising consumers on whether to seek preventive care such as laboratory tests. Walgreen and rivals CVS Caremark Corp. and Rite Aid Corp. are expanding beyond filling prescriptions and giving flu shots into chronic care traditionally provided by doctors. Walgreen said it's responding to the aging population and complaints by consumers about a lack of access to doctors. - Bloomberg News

Mortgage rates dip

Average mortgage rates crept closer to historic lows this week, as Freddie Mac said the average rate for the 30-year fixed loan edged down to 3.54 percent from 3.57 percent last week. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage declined to 2.74 percent from 2.76 percent last week. - AP

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