In the Region

Graco recalls 100,000 high chairs; some collapsed

Graco Children's Products Inc., a subsidiary of Newell Rubbermaid Inc., recalled 100,000 high chairs after receiving reports of unlocked chairs collapsing. The high chair can collapse, injuring a child sitting in it, if it is not completely opened and locked, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said. Graco, Exton, received 20 complaints, including a report of an 18-month-old who bruised his foot, a statement said. The high chairs were sold by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Toys R Us Inc., and other retailers from December 2005 to December 2006 for $100 to $130. Customers should contact Graco at 1-877-445-1312 to receive a free repair kit. They can continue to use the high chair until they receive the repair kit, but should make sure they hear a "click" indicating the chair is fully opened and locked, the statement said.

- Bloomberg News

Air Products to increase Hometown plant's capacity

Air Products & Chemicals Inc. said it was expanding capacity at its Hometown, Pa., plant 60 percent, enabling it to produce more tungsten hexafluoride (WF6) for the semiconductor industry. The new capacity will be available during the first half of this year.

- Miriam Hill


Chandler family bids $7.6 billion for Tribune Co.

Tribune Co.'s largest shareholder offered to buy the struggling media conglomerate and spin off its broadcast division in a deal disclosed yesterday and valued at $7.6 billion. Tribune directors will huddle to determine whether the bid by the Chandler family, which came in below what the company once had hoped to receive, or any other offer was worth accepting or whether it should pursue another strategy to boost its sinking stock. The offer by the Chandlers, who own 20 percent of Tribune stock, was disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Chicago-based Tribune, the nation's third-largest newspaper company, had set a Wednesday deadline for submitting offers, but no outside bidder appears to have surfaced who was willing to pay an amount well above the company's current stock price.

- AP

Calif. reportedly would accept HP misdemeanor pleas

California prosecutors offered to drop felony charges against former Hewlett-Packard Co. chairwoman Patricia Dunn and the four other defendants in the company's boardroom spying scandal if they agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, a defense attorney said. Stephen Naratil, an attorney for private investigator Bryan Wagner, said the Attorney General's Office offered a plea deal that would eliminate all four felony charges against his client in exchange for a misdemeanor guilty plea. Naratil said Deputy Attorney General Robert Morgester also told him that the other four defendants in the case - Dunn, former HP ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker, and outside investigators Ronald DeLia and Matthew DePante - were offered the same deal. One of Hunsaker's attorneys, Thomas Nolan Jr., said his client was not interested in any plea deal.

- AP

UnitedHealth's outlook sends health insurers down

UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minneapolis, said it earned $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter, but its tepid outlook for 2007 dragged down its shares and those of other health insurers. UnitedHealth also did not disclose earnings-per-share figures or comparisons with last year because it is still trying to sort out the accounting for its stock options scandal and has said its historical financial statements will be restated. That may have served as an unnerving reminder to investors that UnitedHealth has not yet put the stock options matter behind it. UnitedHealth shares closed down $1.85, or 3.3 percent, at $53.80 on the New York Stock Exchange. They have traded in a 52-week range of $41.44 to $62.10. Other insurers were off 1 percent to 2 percent as well. The drops came after UnitedHealth, the nation's second-largest health insurer, said it expected medical costs to rise about 7.5 percent in 2007.

- AP

Nielsen name to be used in rebranding

VNU Group B.V., which owns the Nielsen television ratings service, said it would rebrand itself as the Nielsen Co. to capitalize on the better-known name. VNU, which has dual headquarters in New York and Haarlem, the Netherlands, will rename those businesses as the Nielsen Co. Inc. and the Nielsen Co. B.V. Besides the well-known television rating service, Nielsen operates a marketing information arm and a publishing arm known for producing Billboard, Adweek and Hollywood Reporter magazines. A consortium of private-equity investors purchased VNU in May for $9.7 billion after a takeover struggle.

- AP

Acquisition activity helps Merrill profit rise 68%

Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., the nation's largest brokerage, said stronger acquisition advisory fees and gains from its private-equity business pushed fourth-quarter profit up 68 percent to beat Wall Street expectations. The New York company reported a profit of $2.3 billion, or $2.41 a share, after preferred dividends. That was up sharply from $1.37 billion, or $1.41 a share, a year earlier. Bigger trading bets and an unprecedented period of acquisition activity helped revenue spike 27 percent to $8.61 billion, compared with $6.79 billion in the year-earlier period. Merrill Lynch easily surpassed Wall Street expectations for a profit of $1.92 a share on revenue of $7.73 billion, according to analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

- AP

Continental Airlines' loss 40% less than a year ago

Continental Airlines Inc. said its fourth-quarter loss narrowed 40 percent as strong fare pricing helped offset increased fuel and labor costs, capping a profitable year that was the big carrier's best since 2000. Continental, which has explored the possibility of a merger with UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, said it lost $26 million, or 29 cents a share, in the last three months of 2006, compared with a loss of $43 million, or 53 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding a charge of $22 million related to lump-sum payments to retiring pilots, the company said it would have lost $4 million, or 4 cents a share.

- AP

Time Inc. cuts 289 jobs to follow shift to Internet

Time Inc. is eliminating 289 jobs as it continues to revamp its huge portfolio of magazines such as Time, People and Sports Illustrated in an effort to adapt as readers and advertisers move to the Internet. The publisher, which is part of the media conglomerate Time Warner Inc., announced to its staff that it was eliminating the jobs in various departments across the company, which publishes about 150 magazines.

- AP

30-year mortgage rates at highest level in 9 weeks

Rates on 30-year mortgages rose this week to their highest level in nine weeks as financial markets reacted to a series of more upbeat financial reports. Freddie Mac reported that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.23 percent this week, up from 6.21 percent last week. It was the highest level since 30-year mortgages stood at 6.24 percent the week of Nov. 16.

- AP

Falling derivatives cut Sallie Mae profit 96%

SLM Corp., the nation's largest provider of loans to college students, said fourth-quarter profit tumbled 96 percent because of a decline in the value of financial contracts it uses to protect against swings in interest rates. Sallie Mae's so-called core earnings fell below estimates. Net income was $18.1 million, or 2 cents a share, down from $431 million, or 96 cents a share, a year earlier, the Reston, Va., company said. Sallie Mae had a loss of $244.5 million related to derivatives and hedges, compared with a gain of $70.2 million in the prior year.

- Bloomberg News