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Business news in brief

In the Region

Petitions filed for Highmark-Independence merger

Highmark Inc. and Independence Blue Cross filed petitions yesterday seeking approval of their proposed merger with Pennsylvania's Department of Insurance. The petitions will be available on the department's Web site,


, after 5:30 p.m. on Monday, the Insurance Department said in a release. Public informational hearings will be held around the state, acting Insurance Commissioner Randy Rohrbaugh said. The public can view documents at the department's regional offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh by making an appointment. Public comment can be submitted to the department. An index of comments will be periodically updated online.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

Philadelphia exchange adding euro, pound futures

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange said that it was expanding its world currency product line by adding futures on the euro and the British pound through the Philadelphia Board of Trade. The exchange also said it planned to launch options on the Japanese yen, the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar, pending regulatory approval. In January, the exchanged started handling trades of world currency options on the pound and the euro.

- Harold Brubaker

Carpenter Technology raises payout 33% to 30 cents

Carpenter Technology Corp., Wyomissing, Pa., said it raised the quarterly dividend on its common shares by 33 percent, or 7.5 cents, to 30 cents a share. The move means a new annualized dividend of $1.20 a share, which is a 100 percent increase since the company announced "strategic initiatives" in September. The dividend is payable June 7 to shareholders of record May 8. Carpenter Technology produces and distributes specialty alloys, including stainless steels, titanium alloys and superalloys, and various engineered products.

- Reid Kanaley

Endo Pharmaceuticals' earnings more than double

Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc., Chadds Ford, said first-quarter profit more than doubled on higher sales of its pain medications. Net income was $57.1 million, or 43 cents a share, compared with $20.5 million, or 15 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Revenue increased to $254.4 million from $205 million, exceeding analysts' average estimate of $236.6 million. Endo said the results were favorably affected by $13.8 million in deferred revenue from pain products Opana ER and Opana. Shares rose 78 cents yesterday to $31.40 on the Nasdaq.

- Linda Loyd

Sun Bancorp declares 5% stock dividend

Sun Bancorp Inc., Vineland, said it declared a 5 percent stock dividend, payable May 24 to shareholders of record May 14. This is the 12th straight year in which the the company, the parent of Sun National Bank, has declared a stock dividend. This one will increase the number of outstanding shares by about 1 million, to 21.63 million shares. The bank has about $3.3 billion in assets and more than 70 branches in South and Central Jersey and New Castle County, Del.

- Paul Schweizer

Judge approves settlement of suit against Cigna

Cigna Corp. won a judge's approval of a $93 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by shareholders claiming that the company hid defects in an insurance-claim-processing system, resulting in a share-price drop in 2002. Cigna, the fourth-biggest U.S. health insurance provider, said in December that it would take a $25 million charge for the accord, with the rest covered by insurance. The company said it settled the suit to avoid further litigation costs. "The settlement is outstanding," U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson said at a hearing in Philadelphia. "It's fair, and it's reasonable." He will enter a final order Monday.

- Bloomberg News

Tyco seeking to buy back $6.6 billion in debt

Tyco International Ltd., West Windsor, N.J., offered to buy back $6.6 billion in debt as part of its plan to split into three companies. That amount is about $95 million less than what the indentures governing the bonds say investors should get. The owner of ADT security systems and maker of health-care and electronics products wants to repurchase bonds maturing from 2007 to 2029. Contracts governing the sale of the bonds call for holders to be paid a yield premium of as much as 25 basis points on the longest maturities, or about $542 million over face value. Bondholders had already hired New York lawyer Andrew Rosenberg to negotiate with the company in advance of the offer. They would receive about $750 million above face value for their securities if the contracts were followed.

- Bloomberg News


China's premier pledges to help clean environment

Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to help clean China's air and water and combat global warming by phasing out tax breaks and discounts on land and electricity for highly polluting industries. "More work on energy conservation and emissions reduction is urgently required to deal with global climate change," Wen said. "Our country is a major coal producer and consumer, and reducing polluting emissions is a responsibility we should bear." China accounted for 15 percent of the world's greenhouse gases in 2000, second only to the United States' 21 percent, but the fast-growing Chinese economy is expected to surpass the United States in emissions in the next couple of years.

- AP

Whitacre to retire from top AT&T positions in June

Edward Whitacre Jr., the blunt-talking Texan who led AT&T Inc.'s growth from the smallest of the Baby Bells into the nation's largest telecommunications company, announced he will retire as chairman and chief executive officer in June. He will be replaced in both roles June 3 by chief operating officer Randall Stephenson, 47. In 17 years at the helm, Whitacre, 65, presided over the creation of the nation's largest provider of wireless, broadband and traditional phone service. AT&T, formerly named Southwestern Bell and then SBC Communications, was the smallest of the seven "Baby Bells" spun off in the 1984 government-ordered breakup of the national AT&T monopoly. The company acquired three of its larger Bell siblings, as well as its former corporate parent, the AT&T long-distance business created in the breakup, and renamed itself AT&T in the process.

- AP

Share of homes for sale that were vacant edged up

The percentage of homes for sale sitting vacant reached a record for the sixth straight quarter in the first three months of 2007, a government report showed. Some 2.8 percent of houses for sale were unoccupied last quarter, up from 2.7 percent in the final three months of 2006, the Commerce Department said in Washington. The rate of homeownership fell to 68.4 percent, the lowest since the third quarter of 2003, from 68.5 percent.

- Bloomberg News

Burger King flipped from loss to profit in latest period

Burger King Holdings Inc. said it swung to a profit in the third quarter, fueled by sales of new sandwiches at the second-largest hamburger chain. Net income for the quarter ended March 31 totaled $34 million, or 25 cents a share, versus a loss of $12 million, or 11 cents a share during the year-ago period. Revenue at the Miami-based company grew 9 percent, to $539 million, from $495 million a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had expected per-share net income of 22 cents on revenue of $535 million. Same-store sales rose 3.2 percent at company-owned and franchise restaurants. Results were helped by strong premium burger sales, including the Texas Double Whopper, the BK Stacker, and the Angus Cheesy Bacon sandwich, Burger King said.

- AP