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Business news in brief

In the Region

AmerisourceBergen falls on news of suspension

AmerisourceBergen Corp. shares fell 7.2 percent yesterday after the Valley Forge drug wholesaler reported a higher quarterly profit but said its Orlando, Fla., distribution center had been temporarily suspended from distributing controlled substances and chemicals. The Drug Enforcement Administration said AmerisourceBergen did not maintain effective controls over diversion of hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller, to four Internet pharmacies between Jan. 1, 2006, and Jan. 31, 2007. The company said the temporary suspension affected only the Orlando facility, and could affect 1,400 Florida pharmacy customers.

- Linda Loyd

GlaxoSmithKline earnings flat for first quarter . . .

GlaxoSmithKline P.L.C. said its first-quarter profit was flat as the British pharmaceutical company faced greater competition from generic versions of its drugs in the United States. Glaxo, which has U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia, said earnings, which were slightly better than the market consensus, were also dented by the weakness of the U.S. dollar. Glaxo said net income in the three months through March 31 was $3.01 billion, and sales rose 3 percent to $9.59 billion. Sales in the United States were up 3 percent to $4.8 billion, held down by generic competition to the antidepressant Wellbutrin XL, the anti-nausea drug Zofran, and the anti-inflammatory nasal steroid spray Flonase.

- AP

. . . while Exelon profit rose 73% in same period . . .

Peco's parent, Exelon Corp., reported a 73 percent rise in first-quarter earnings. The Chicago utility said it had a profit of $691 million, or $1.02 per diluted share, on revenue of $4.83 billion, compared with a profit for the same period a year ago of $400 million, or 59 cents per share, on revenue of $3.86 billion. The company attributed the performance to higher profit margins, higher output from its nuclear plants, and cold winter weather in the Northeast, including Peco's territory in the Philadelphia area.

- Reid Kanaley

. . . and Shire's earnings nearly doubled

Shire P.L.C., Britain's third-largest drugmaker, said its first-quarter profit almost doubled, spurred by sales of new medicines such as Elaprase, the first treatment for a rare genetic disease called Hunter syndrome. Net income climbed to $112.7 million, or 21.3 cents a share, from $61.1 million, or 12 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 29 percent to $528 million, boosted by sales of the best-selling Adderall XR for attention deficit disorder and new products including Elaprase and the Daytrana patch. Shire has U.S. headquarters in Wayne.

- Bloomberg News

AmeriGas Propane distribution rises to 61 cents . . .

AmeriGas Propane Inc., King of Prussia, increased its quarterly distribution by 3 cents to 61 cents per limited partnership unit. The new dividend is payable May 18 to unit holders of record on May 10. The company is the general partner of AmeriGas Partners L.P., a publicly traded retail propane marketer.

- Paul Schweizer

. . . and UGI Corp. dividend goes up to 18.5 cents

UGI Corp. said it raised its quarterly dividend by 8.75 cents, or about 5 percent, to 18.5 cents a share. The new dividend is payable July 1 to shareholders of record on June 15.

-Paul Schweizer

Independence Blue Cross and analysts settle OT case

Independence Blue Cross and 91 of its quality data analysts have reached a $625,000 settlement in a case involving overtime pay. In March 2006, the health insurer decided that the analysts should have been paid overtime for extra hours worked between March 2004 and February 2006. On Feb. 6, analyst Elizabeth McGraw filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself and colleagues in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court saying they had not been paid enough. Both sides said they agreed to settle to avoid the expense and uncertainties of litigation.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

Rutgers administrative assistants sign union cards

A majority of Rutgers University's 2,000 administrative assistants have agreed to unionize, said Nat Bender, a spokesman for the Union of Rutgers Administrators. The union is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. Cards were delivered to the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission in Trenton, which will oversee the counting. Rutgers University spokesman Greg Trevor said the university would cooperate in the oversight process.

- Jane M. Von Bergen


SEC investigating trades in Sallie Mae stock

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating trading in the stock of SLM Corp. in connection with a plan by the nation's largest student lender to be acquired and taken private in a $25 billion deal, the company has disclosed. A separate SEC probe involves stock trades by some unnamed directors at SLM, or Sallie Mae, the company said in a regulatory filing. It said the agency issued subpoenas in that inquiry earlier this month. Sallie Mae also reported that its first-quarter profit shrank 24 percent as more students missed payments on loans. Sallie Mae earned $116 million, or 26 cents a share, in the January-March period, compared with $152 million, or 34 cents a share, a year ago.

- AP

N.Y. State settles two more student-lending cases

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo reached agreements with Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in his investigation of abuses in student lending, and called for tougher federal oversight. The U.S. Education Department has been "asleep at the switch" in regulating the $85 billion industry, Cuomo told the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor.

- Bloomberg News

Merrill Lynch sells facility in Plainsboro, N.J.

Financial services company Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. has sold a large campus in central New Jersey to real estate investors from Philadelphia and Montvale, N.J., for $122 million, and plans to move the 1,100 workers there to other locations in the region. The 1.4-million-square-foot property, among the global company's primary locations for two decades, is part of the Princeton Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J.

- AP

Norfolk Southern says profit and revenue dropped

Norfolk Southern Corp., one of three major freight railroads serving Philadelphia, reported a decline in revenue and income for the first quarter, which it attributed to weakness in the automotive and housing industries. For the quarter, net income was $285 million, or 71 cents per diluted share, down from $305 million, or 72 cents per share, during the same period last year.

-Henry J. Holcomb

4.606% yield for 2-year notes highest since Feb. 21

The U.S. Treasury sold $18 billion of two-year notes at a yield of 4.606 percent, the highest since Feb. 21. Demand was stronger than at the last auction, judging by the bid/cover ratio, which compares the number of bids with the amount of securities sold. The bid/cover ratio was 2.93, showing there was more demand than at the Treasury's last sale of two-year notes March 28 when the ratio was 2.81.

- Bloomberg News

Loss for United Airlines' parent bigger than expected

United Airlines' parent posted a bigger-than-expected $152 million first-quarter loss, pressured by the reduced domestic passenger demand that has slowed results for U.S. carriers. UAL Corp. said it added too many flights in January during a slow travel season and was hurt by the storms that crippled flying schedules in February.

- AP