Business news in brief

At Volkswagen AG's annual general meeting in Hannover, Germany, on Thursday, an XL1 was among cars on display. The company, Europe's largest automaker, aims to offset declining European demand by rolling out 60 new and updated models this year. Preferred shares of Volkswagen gained 1.3 percent Thursday.
At Volkswagen AG's annual general meeting in Hannover, Germany, on Thursday, an XL1 was among cars on display. The company, Europe's largest automaker, aims to offset declining European demand by rolling out 60 new and updated models this year. Preferred shares of Volkswagen gained 1.3 percent Thursday. (CHRIS RATCLIFFE / Bloomberg News)
Posted: April 26, 2013

In the Region

J&J taken to task by shareholders

Several Johnson & Johnson shareholders took the health-care giant to task during its annual meeting Thursday, citing repeated product recalls, ethical lapses, and excessive executive pay. CEO Alex Gorsky took it in stride, promising improvements and saying J&J was making progress in returning a "reliable supply" of products from its Fort Washington-based McNeil Consumer Healthcare, such as Tylenol and Motrin, to stores. Gorsky says the company is delivering on near-term priorities, including integrating Synthes, the giant West Chester orthopedics-product maker it bought last year for $19.7 billion. Gorsky says J&J, based in New Brunswick, N.J., is making investments that will bring continued growth and is leading the pharmaceutical industry in development of innovative medicines. He also announced an increase in its quarterly dividend, from 61 cents to 66 cents per share. - AP

Marcellus boosts PVR earnings

PVR Partners L.P., the Radnor energy company that is shifting its business from coal royalties to transporting natural gas in areas like Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale region, reported a 43 percent increase in earnings. PVR said adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation were $76 million, up $23 million or 43 percent from a year ago and $8.2 million or 12 percent over the previous quarter. Though distributable cash flow was up 23 percent for the quarter to $49.9 million, the company said it was maintaining its quarterly distribution to 55 cents a unit. Much of the increase in business was derived from the company's Marcellus pipelines in Lycoming County, acquired last year from Chief Gathering L.L.C. PVR partnership units were trading at $25.15 Thursday morning on the New York Stock Exchange, up $1.42 or 6 percent. - Andrew Maykuth

Dividend increase at Destination

Philadelphia apparel retailer Destination Maternity Corp. raised its quarterly dividend 1.25 cents per share, to 18.75 cents. The cash dividend is payable June 28 to shareholders of record on June 7. The company operates 613 Motherhood Maternity, Pea in the Pod, and Destination Maternity stores along with leased department-store space and online outlets. - Reid Kanaley

AmerisourceBergen net falls 78%

Chesterbrook-based wholesale drug supplier AmerisourceBergen said its net income fell from $212.1 million to $45.63 million during the period ending March 31, which is the company's second quarter. Quarterly revenue increased from $19.7 billion in 2012 to $20.5 billion in the same period in 2013, a rise of 4.1 percent. The company said expenses were higher in the calculations because of the inclusion of its World Courier service, which coordinates transport of products used in clinical trials. The company recently sold a Canadian unit and said it would close a facility in South Jersey, but also announced an industry-changing agreement to supply Walgreens drugstores and the British-based company Alliance Boots. - David Sell

Harley-Davidson profit up 30%

Harley-Davidson Inc. said it shipped more motorcycles in the first quarter than a year earlier, even as dealers sold fewer bikes. Net income for the quarter rose 30 percent to $224.1 million, or 99 cents per share, from $172 million, or 74 cents per share, a year ago. Quarterly revenue was $1.6 billion, compared to $1.4 billion for the first three months of 2012. CEO Keith Wandell said the launch of "seasonal surge production" during the quarter at its York, Pa., plant was an example of the company's efficiency moves. Harley said it shipped 75,222 motorcycles to dealers and distributors during the quarter, compared with 64,263 motorcycles in the year-ago period - a 17 percent increase. Dealers sold 54,254 new motorcycles in the latest quarter, compared with 59,677 a year earlier. - Reid Kanaley

Hershey sells more, for more money

The Hershey Co. said profit rose in the first quarter as it sold more of its namesake chocolates and benefited from lower costs for ingredients. For the quarter, Hershey reported net income of $241.9 million, or $1.06 per share. That's up from $198.7 million, or 87 cents per share, a year ago. Not including one-time charges, the company said it earned $1.09 per share, above the $1.04 that analysts were expecting. Revenue rose 6 percent to $1.83 billion from $1.73 billion a year ago, shy of the $1.84 billion that Wall Street was looking for. Overall sales volume rose 5.3 percent, while price increases and favorable foreign currency exchange rates made up the rest. - AP

Elsewhere

Exxon production down again

Growing is hard for a company as big as Exxon. Exxon Mobil Corp. managed to increase earnings slightly in the first quarter, thanks to surging profits from its chemical business and lower taxes. But Exxon makes the bulk of its profit by producing oil and natural gas. And that business slumped - again - in the first three months of the year as production and revenue declined. It was the seventh straight quarter in which production declined compared with the year earlier. - AP

Google changing Europe search

Google Inc. agreed to change how it displays search results in Europe, including better labels of its promoted content and displaying links to competitors. Google hopes to appease concerns it might be abusing its dominant market position in Europe. The European Union's antitrust authority has since 2010 been investigating whether the company is unfairly stifling competition. The EU Commission is proposing a market test of Google's concessions for a month. That would give competitors the chance to say whether they deem them sufficient. - AP

Southwest fares on the rise

Higher fares helped Southwest Airlines Co. make more money than Wall Street expected in the first quarter, but the company said automatic federal spending cuts could hurt revenue in April. The average one-way fare on Southwest is now more than $150 - 4 percent higher than a year ago.   - AP

Mortgage rates fall; 15-year at record

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate for the 30-year fixed loan slipped to 3.40 percent from 3.41 percent last week, near the record-low 3.31 percent rate reached in November. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to 2.61 percent from 2.64 percent last week. That's below the previous record low of 2.63 percent in November, the lowest since the 1990s. Low mortgage rates are helping drive a housing recovery that began last year. Home prices and construction are increasing. - AP

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