In the Region

Target settles race-bias case involving area store

Target Corp. will pay $775,000 to Michael Hill and 13 other African American current and former employees of Target's Springfield, Delaware County, store to settle a race discrimination and retaliation case. The case was filed in federal court in Philadelphia in 2005 against the Minneapolis-based retailing company by the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Philadelphia office. Hill, who joined the company in 2003, had been in training to become a store manager. He and the others were racially harassed by a white store manager, the lawsuit said. Hill's internal complaints did not resolve the problem, the suit said, and Hill eventually quit, saying he faced retaliation for complaining. The consent decree, signed yesterday, also requires Target to institute training against racial discrimination.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

StoneMor Partners increases payout a penny a share

StoneMor Partners L.P. raised its quarterly dividend by a penny yesterday, to 50 cents a share. The new dividend is payable Feb. 14 to shareholders as of Feb. 2. The Bristol company said its annual cash-flow results and recent acquisitions allow it to continue to increase its quarterly distributions. Cash flow in the quarter ended Sept. 30 was $10.3 million, up 185 percent from the same time in 2005. Free cash flow is cash from operations, excluding capital expenditures. The company's profit for the first nine months of 2006 rose 15 percent to $3.1 million. StoneMor owns 177 cemeteries and 27 funeral homes in 21 states. Its shares were up 30 cents yesterday to close at $25.60 on the Nasdaq.

- Paul Schweizer

1.8 million shares of Alliance Bancorp up for sale

Alliance Bank, a Broomall savings institution, said it would sell 1.8 million shares of the common stock of its parent, Alliance Bancorp Inc. of Pennsylvania, in a community offering. The price will be $10 a share. The company also will issue 5.4 million shares in exchange for former outstanding shares of Alliance Bank. Closing for the transactions will occur Tuesday. Shares of the company are expected to trade on or about Wednesday on the Nasdaq Global Market. The bank has nine branches in Delaware and Chester Counties.

- Paul Schweizer

Aramark completes merger that takes it private

Aramark Corp., the Philadelphia food-service provider, said it had completed the merger in which Aramark is being taken private by an investor group led by Joseph Neubauer, the company's chairman and chief executive officer. The $8.3 billion deal, announced in August, included $2 billion in debt. Aramark stockholders will receive $33.80 for each of their shares, which ceased trading on the New York Stock Exchange at market close yesterday. Aramark said about 250 senior managers, in addition to Neubauer, will invest in the new company.

- Harold Brubaker

Carpenter Technology expanding Reading facility

Carpenter Technology Corp., Wyomissing, Pa., has announced a $115 million expansion of its melt-capacity facility at Reading. The company, which produces and distributes specialty stainless steel, titanium and other alloys, said the investment would create 100 jobs. Carpenter Technology announced in September that it wanted to invest $200 million in capital expenditures over the next few years. The latest upgrades would help the company meet future demands from key end-use markets, such as energy, medical and aerospace, it said.

- Madhusmita Bora

First Resource Bank to pay 5% stock dividend

First Resource Bank, Exton, announced a 5 percent stock dividend, payable to shareholders of record on Feb. 1. The dividend, with a Feb. 15 distribution date, will increase the outstanding shares of common stock to approximately 1.14 million.

- Reid Kanaley


IMF says China should rely less on investment

China should ease exchange-rate controls to let its currency depreciate, and shift the basis of its growth to domestic consumer demand, the head of the International Monetary Fund said. After meetings with China's prime minister and the central bank and finance ministry chiefs, IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato said they agreed that China had to reduce reliance on investment. De Rato said allowing a more market-driven exchange rate would give financial authorities more flexibility in setting interest rates to curb investment.

- AP

Halliburton 4th-quarter profit off, but tops estimates

Oil industry services provider Halliburton Co. said its fourth-quarter profit fell 40 percent, due in large part to a gain a year ago, but the results still beat analysts' expectations. Earnings fell to $658 million, or 64 cents a share, from $1.1 billion, or $1.04 a share, during the same period a year ago. The prior year's results benefited from $540 million, or 51 cents a share, of income related to a reduction in a deferred tax asset valuation allowance. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were looking for earnings of 61 cents a share.

- AP

SEC formally investigating KB Home option grants

Home builder KB Home said the Securities and Exchange Commission launched a formal investigation into its stock option granting practices. In a regulatory filing, the company said it was cooperating with the SEC probe. Last August, KB Home, Los Angeles, received an informal inquiry from the SEC relating to its option practices. The company's chief executive officer, Bruce Karatz, was forced to step down in November after it was disclosed that he was the beneficiary of favorably dated option awards.

- AP

AirTran posts $3.3 million loss for 4th quarter

AirTran Holdings Inc., which operates low-fare air carrier AirTran Airways and is bidding for the parent of Midwest Airlines, said it lost $3.3 million in the fourth quarter. A profitable performance in the last two months of 2006 failed to offset losses in October, said Bob Fornaro, company president and chief operating officer. The overall loss for AirTran, Orlando, Fla., was 4 cents a share in the quarter, compared with a profit of $369,000, or break-even on a per-share basis, during the same period last year.

- AP

SEC go after more OTC fraud repeat offenders

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will boost scrutiny of over-the-counter market frauds to identify and pursue repeat offenders who facilitate misconduct, the agency's enforcement chief said. The SEC will target even supporting players whose names are linked to multiple infractions in such cases, including lawyers, brokers, penny-stock promoters, and shell-company sellers, Linda Thomsen, the highest-ranking U.S. securities enforcer, said in an interview Thursday. "If you go after the other players, you have more effect," potentially upsetting a variety of scams, she said.

- Bloomberg News

Nasdaq: No increased bid for London Stock Exchange

The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. said it would not raise its offer to take over the London Stock Exchange ahead of the deadline this weekend. An LSE combination with Nasdaq would create the world's largest equity market by listings, made up of more than 6,400 quoted companies with a total market capitalization of $12.4 trillion. In an announcement to the London Exchange, Nasdaq said there wasn't enough time left to make any agreement with the LSE board to sweeten the $24.02-per-share offer. The announcement came just ahead of the deadline for LSE shareholders to accept the hostile offer, which values the exchange at $5.3 billion.

- AP