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Business news in brief

In the Region

Sales down, but profit up for quarter at Mothers Work

Sales were down, but profit went up at Mothers Work Inc. during the second quarter of fiscal 2007, the company reported yesterday. Net income for the quarter ended March 31 was $2.6 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with $500,000, or 9 cents per share, in the second quarter a year ago. Meanwhile, net sales dropped 0.5 percent to $143.9 million from $144.6 million. Company president Rebecca Matthias said that sales had been affected by unusually cold weather in January and February, but that the margin had improved because of less promotional activity and a reduction in product costs.

- Stacey Burling

Pa. House backs boost in oversight of insurer mergers

The Pennsylvania House passed a bill that would give the state Department of Insurance oversight power over mergers involving nonprofit insurers such as Independence Blue Cross and Highmark. The bill is similar to a measure the Senate passed last month, but adds provisions to preserve the attorney general's authority and establish an eight-member executive board that would make recommendations to the insurance commissioner. The House bill goes to the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee for review.

- Stacey Burling

Neuromed to license painkiller for $30 million

Neuromed Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Conshohocken, said it would pay an initial $30 million to license an extended-release version of the potent opioid pain drug hydromorphone from Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Alza Corp. The drug - five to 10 times more potent than morphine - is sold as Jurnista in Germany and some Scandinavian countries, and it has conditional approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Neuromed said it expected one successful Phase 3 trial would be needed to win U.S. approval for a once-daily version of hydromorphone.

- Linda Loyd

Fourth rejection for Technitrol in its bid for Bel Fuse

For the fourth time, Bel Fuse Inc. said no to rival Technitrol Inc.'s aggressive attempts to acquire it. Bel Fuse, based in Jersey City, N.J., said Technitrol's latest offer - $43 per share in cash - "significantly undervalues Bel's stock." The two companies make electronics parts. Technitrol, of Trevose, previously offered $40.30 per share.

- Stacey Burling

Beijing Med-Pharm to buy stake in China drugmaker

Beijing Med-Pharm Corp., Plymouth Meeting, is acquiring a minority stake in a Chinese manufacturer of primarily over-the-counter medicine, Sunstone Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. in Tangshan, Hebei Province. The alliance extends Beijing Med-Pharm's reach in China because Sunstone has a sales force already promoting to doctors and retail pharmacies. Sunstone products in women's health and pediatrics are the product lines that Beijing Med-Pharm already distributes in China to hospitals.

- Linda Loyd

Brandywine Realty seeks to sell $250 million in notes

Brandywine Realty Trust, Radnor, which owned 261 properties at the end of last year, plans to sell $250 million worth of notes maturing in 2017, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Brandywine said it would use the proceeds to reduce borrowings under its revolving-credit facility, the company said. As of Dec. 31, Brandywine and its subsidiaries had debt of about $2.3 billion.

- Jonathan Berr

Penn Virginia unit raises quarterly dividend by 2 cents

PVG GP L.L.C., Radnor, the general partner of Penn Virginia GP Holdings L.P., raised its quarterly dividend by 2 cents to 26 cents a share. The new dividend is payable May 25 to unit holders May 11. Penn Virginia GP Holdings owns the general-partner interest and 42 percent of the limited-partner interests in Penn Virginia Resource Partners L.P., a manager of coal properties and operator of a business that gathers and processes natural gas.

- Paul Schweizer

Chemical firm FMC to buy back $250 million in stock

FMC Corp., the Philadelphia chemical company, said its board had authorized the repurchase of up to $250 million of common stock. FMC also said it would raise its quarterly dividend 17 percent, or 3 cents a share, to 21 cents a share. The new dividend will be paid in July. The share-repurchase program replaces a $150 million program authorized in February 2006 under which about 1.7 million shares have been repurchased at a cost of $110 million.

- Paul Schweizer

Lamina Ceramics raises $7 million for LED business

Lamina Ceramics Inc., a Westampton designer of high-output light-emitting-diode (LED) lighting, said it had raised $7 million in equity financing to expand operations. Easton Capital Investment Group led the financing, joined by current investors Morgenthaler Ventures, Granite Global Ventures, RedShift Ventures, and CID Equity Capital. Founded in 2001, Lamina said the proceeds would be used for development of LED technology, and for sales and marketing of products.

- Linda Loyd

Vector180 suit accuses EarthLink of disruptions

Vector180, which provides wireless Internet service in Philadelphia, has sued EarthLink Inc. in federal court, accusing the Atlanta company of disrupting its service by interfering with its signals. EarthLink, which is building a system that will make wireless service available throughout Philadelphia, had no comment. Vector asked the court to prevent EarthLink from using frequencies that interfere with Vector's signals.

- Miriam Hill


New York Times investors withhold 42% of votes

New York Times Co. shareholders, led by Morgan Stanley, withheld 42 percent of their votes from directors to protest the Sulzberger family's control over the company. The withhold tally compared with 28 percent at last year's meeting, which began a yearlong campaign by Morgan Stanley. The firm and its supporters, concerned about falling profit and a slumping share price, complained that the New York Times' two classes of stock gave shareholders too little say in the company. Chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. should give up one of his roles, they said.

- Bloomberg News

U.S. education chief forms student-loan task force

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings formed a task force to recommend new regulations for the $85 billion student-loan industry as congressional and state investigators probe allegations of deceptive practices by colleges and lenders. The task force of Education Department staff members will examine the way colleges recommend lenders such as CIT Group Inc. and Nelnet Inc. to students and parents, Spellings said. The group also will review access to the department's student-loan database after concerns it was being misused for marketing.

- Bloomberg News

Missed student-loan payments sink Sallie Mae profit

SLM Corp., the nation's largest student lender, said its first-quarter profit had shrunk 24 percent as more students missed payments on loans. The earnings decline at SLM, commonly known as Sallie Mae, reflects the higher risk of student loans not guaranteed by the federal government. Many more students defaulted in the January-March period, the company said. Sallie Mae, based in Reston, Va., wrote off 3.4 percent of the private debt on its books. That was significantly widened from 1.3 percent a year earlier.

- AP