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Business news in brief

In the Region

Sterling shares dip as a restatement is planned

Shares in Sterling Financial Corp. plummeted 19.6 percent yesterday after the Lancaster company postponed its 2007 annual shareholder meeting and said it expected to restate its financial reports from 2004 through 2006 because of financial irregularities at a commercial-financing subsidiary. On April 19, Sterling said it had launched an internal investigation after receiving information suggesting irregularities in certain financing contracts at Equipment Finance L.L.C., which provides commercial financing for the soft-pulp logging and land-clearing industries, primarily in the southeastern United States. Since starting the investigation, Sterling placed two senior executives at Equipment Finance on leave and installed a chief operating officer. Sterling's shares closed trading on the Nasdaq at $16.65, down $4.07.

- Harold Brubaker

Area unemployment dropped to 3.9 pct. in March

Unemployment in the Philadelphia area fell 0.1 of a percentage point to 3.9 percent in March, the lowest since September 2000, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry said. The total number of people who were unemployed declined 4,300, to 113,900. The jobless rate also fell one-tenth of a percentage point in the city of Philadelphia, to 5.3 percent. The area consists of the city, the four suburban Pennsylvania counties, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem Counties in New Jersey, New Castle County in Delaware and Cecil County in Maryland.

- Paul Schweizer

Fillmore Capital raises bid for Genesis HealthCare

Fillmore Capital Partners L.L.C. has increased its bid for Genesis HealthCare Corp., a Kennett Square company that operates nursing homes and assisted-living residences, Genesis said. Fillmore raised its proposed price by 50 cents a share - from $64.75 a share last week to $65.25. It added a provision to increase the price by a little more than one cent a day from Aug. 15 until the deal closes. Genesis' board is weighing the new offer in comparison to an earlier bid from Formation Capital Corp. and JER Partners for $64.25 per share. Shareholders are scheduled to vote on the Formation/JER proposal Friday.

- Stacey Burling

Rohm & Haas, Ceres receive federal research grant

Rohm & Haas Co., the world's biggest producer of acrylic-paint ingredients, and Ceres Inc. have received a $1.5 million U.S. grant to study making an ingredient for plastics and coatings from genetically modified switchgrass. The companies plan to create a renewable source of methacrylate monomers, an ingredient in acrylic paints, resins and building materials derived from crude oil and natural gas. The process may replace as much as 280 million gallons of oil a year, according to Philadelphia-based Rohm & Haas.

- Bloomberg News

Vishay's first-quarter profit, sales beat estimates

Vishay Intertechnology Inc., a Malvern-based maker of components for electronic gear, reported first-quarter results that beat analysts' estimates. Net income rose to $50 million, or 25 cents a share, from $38.2 million, or 20 cents, a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Sales climbed 4.3 percent to $658.2 million, topping the $635.1 million average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

- Bloomberg News

Firstrust, Wilmington Trust funding Barnegat project

Firstrust Bank and Wilmington Trust joined forces in a $62 million loan for a development in Barnegat, N.J., that includes 677 housing units and Target Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp. stores as anchors of a retail complex. Firstrust, of Conshohocken, and Wilmington each are

lending the Walters Group of Barnegat $31 million for the project.- Harold Brubaker

Environmental Tectonics in deal with automaker

Environmental Tectonics Corp. said that it had been awarded a $1.4 million contract to supply air-handling equipment to a major domestic auto manufacturer, which was not identified. The Southampton company said it would test engine performance and emissions by soaking engines to a desired temperature within a range of minus-48 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, crucial in performing cold-start tests.

- Paul Schweizer

AmeriGas Partners agrees to buy Shell Gas USA

AmeriGas Partners L.P., of King of Prussia, said it had agreed to buy Shell Gas USA, which owns and operates a retail propane-distribution business. Terms were not disclosed, but Shell sells more than 13 million gallons of propane annually to nearly 20,000 customers from 12 locations in Michigan. The sale is expected to be completed during the second quarter. AmeriGas Partners is the nation's largest marketer of retail propane, serving nearly 1.3 million customers from 600 locations in 46 states.

- Paul Schweizer

Air Products completes acquisition of Polish business

Air Products & Chemicals Inc. completed the acquisition of a Polish industrial-gas business from the Linde Group for about $503 million. With the transaction, Allentown-based Air Products is the leading industrial-gas supplier in Poland. European regulators had ordered Linde to sell the business as a condition of its purchase of the BOC Group P.L.C. last year.

- Jeff Bathurst

Aqua America buys company serving Long Island

Aqua America Inc., of Bryn Mawr, completed the purchase of Aquarion Water Company of Sea Cliff Inc., which serves about 13,000 residents on Long Island. Aqua America paid Kelda Group P.L.C. about $7 million for the system.

- Jeff Bathurst


Verizon's first-quarter earnings drop 8.4 percent

Verizon Communications Inc.'s first-quarter earnings fell 8.4 percent to $1.5 billion as strong showings in the cell phone business and the crucial FiOS Internet and TV initiative were offset by the loss of income from assets the company sold over the last year. The profit reported also was hurt by a larger-than-expected loss of traditional telephone customers to cable TV companies and other rival providers, but the bottom line edged most Wall Street forecasts.

- AP

Six more colleges to adopt student-loan code

Six more colleges have agreed to adopt the student-loan code of conduct developed as part of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's probe into what he called improper relationships between schools and lenders. The latest schools to sign onto the code are Marist College, Pratt Institute, Lewis and Clark College, Manhattanville College, Mercy College and Texas Christian University, Cuomo announced. Texas Christian also agreed to reimburse students more than $13,000.

- AP

Rates down for 3-month and 6-month T-bills

The Treasury Department auctioned $13 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 4.785 percent, down from 4.835 percent last week. An additional $12 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 4.820 percent, down from 4.835 percent last week. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,879.05, and the six-month price was $9,756.32.

- Paul Schweizer

Yield dips for 1-year T-bills, a popular mortgage index

The Federal Reserve said the average yield in the secondary market for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, fell to 4.90 percent last week from 4.93 percent the previous week.

- Paul Schweizer