Business news in brief

Students take part in a professional hospitality class at the women's center of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in Manila, Philippines. The agency offers training programs to help people improve their skills for employment.
Students take part in a professional hospitality class at the women's center of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in Manila, Philippines. The agency offers training programs to help people improve their skills for employment. (VEEJAY VILLAFRANCA / Getty)
Posted: May 01, 2013

In the Region

Citizens Bank fined $5M

Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania will pay a $5 million fine for alleged deceptive practices in the marketing and implementation of overdraft payment and other programs, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said. Citizens Bank did not admit or deny liability. As part of the agreement, the bank also agreed to pay a total of $1.4 million to 75,000 affected customers for the alleged violations of Federal Trade Commission regulations on unfair or deceptive acts between January 2008 and November 2011, the FDIC said. "We take the results of these regulatory exams very seriously. We have changed the practices identified in these exam results and are working with our regulators to address any customer impacts that they have identified," said Sylvia T. Bronner, a Citizens spokeswoman in Philadelphia. - Harold Brubaker

Anti-drill activists petition Corbett

Anti-drilling activists calling for a moratorium on Marcellus Shale natural gas development in Pennsylvania on Tuesday presented petitions they say contain more than 100,000 names to Gov. Corbett's office in Harrisburg. The online petition, organized by PennEnvironment, calls shale-gas drilling "one of the greatest threats to Pennsylvania's environment and public health in decades," and calls for a halt to gas extraction until it is proved safe. Other organizations involved in the drive include Clean Water Action, Food and Water Watch, Berks Gas Truth, Protecting Our Waters, and Delaware Riverkeeper Network. - Andrew Maykuth

Shareholders approve Heinz sale

H.J. Heinz Co. is one step closer to going private. The Pittsburgh-based ketchup maker said shareholders overwhelmingly approved its acquisition by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital. The firms have said that Berkshire is acting as a financing partner while 3G, which is known for its aggressive cost-cutting, will run the company. The $23 billion deal, which is the biggest ever in the food industry, is still subject to regulatory approvals. But big changes are already under way. - AP

Cooper buys AmeriHealth stake

Cooper Health System agreed to pay at least $7.5 million for a 20 percent stake in AmeriHealth New Jersey, according to the Camden system's consolidated financial statement for 2012. Cooper and AmeriHealth's parent, Independence Blue Cross, announced the deal April 10, but the price was not disclosed at that time. Cooper said its investment could increase if the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance requires a higher level of capital in the joint venture, which will be set up as a limited liability company. If regulators approve the arrangement, AmeriHealth and Cooper will develop lower-cost health-insurance offerings, executives said. AmeriHealth has about 5 percent of the commercial health-insurance market in New Jersey. - Harold Brubaker

More oversight at TMI reactor

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it will devote additional oversight to Exelon Generation Co.'s Three Mile Island 1 reactor after finding inadequate flood protection of safety equipment at the Middletown, Pa., facility. The NRC said its inspectors last year discovered unprotected electrical conduits through which water could infiltrate the plant's safety equipment in the event of a severe flood. The deficiency was identified during one of the agency's post-Fukushima reviews of U.S. reactors. After the discovery, Exelon sealed the conduits. The NRC categorized the finding as an issue of low to moderate safety significance and will give the reactor "additional scrutiny" until "satisfactory corrective actions have been developed and implemented." - Andrew Maykuth

Herr buys control of Silk City

Herr Foods Inc., which makes potato chips and other snacks at its headquarters in Nottingham, Chester County, said it agreed to buy a controlling stake in Silk City, which makes waffle-sandwich cookies and other baked snacks at its plant in Clifton, N.J. Ed Herr, president of Herr's, said in this statement that the deal adds to Herr's manufacturing capability and its capacity to make and sell "more diverse, natural, and low-fat snacks." Herr's also owns the Flavor Mill, 1853, and Good Natured snack brands. - Joseph N. DiStefano

UGI quarterly profit up 28%

The return of normal winter weather produced benefits for UGI Corp., the Valley Forge energy company that reported a 28 percent increase in earnings. It reported second quarter net income of $173.4 million, or $1.51 per share, compared with $133.4 million, or $1.18 per diluted share, for the prior year. The company, which owns utilities, propane investments, and natural gas pipeline systems, will increase its quarterly dividend 4.6 percent from 27 cents to 28.25 cents per share to shareholders of record as of June 14. The announcement came after the company's shares closed Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange at $40.98 after hitting a 52-week high of $41.08 during the day. - Andrew Maykuth

Elsewhere

Apple said in record bond sale

Apple Inc. is selling $17 billion in bonds, according to a published report. That would make it the largest corporate bond issue ever. Apple is selling the bonds in its first debt issue since the 1990s. The company is raising the money to give to shareholders through dividend payments and stock buybacks. The company has $145 billion in cash, more than enough for the $100 billion cash return program it announced last week. However, most of its money sits in overseas accounts, and the company doesn't plan to bring it to the U.S. until the federal corporate tax rate is lowered. The Wall Street Journal has reported the total value of the issue, citing unnamed bond-market participants. - AP

ECB expected to cut interest rates

Expectations are mounting that European Central Bank will cut interest rates this week after data showed inflation in the euro area at a three-year low and unemployment at a record high. Expectations were already high that the ECB would cut its main interest rate from an all-time low of 0.75 percent at its monthly policy meeting on Thursday despite reservations from some members on its governing council. - AP

Obama expected to name FCC chair

A White House official said President Obama plans on Wednesday to name former cable and wireless industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler to head the Federal Communications Commission. The official said Obama would name FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to serve as acting chairwoman while Wheeler awaits Senate confirmation. Wheeler would replace outgoing Chairman Julius Genachowski. - AP

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