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Business news in brief

In the Region

Genesis HealthCare board switches to rival suitor

Genesis HealthCare Corp.'s board of directors has switched allegiance to a different suitor, the company announced yesterday. The board, which had reached a merger agreement with Formation Capital Corp. and JER Partners, has now decided that an offer by Fillmore Capital Partners L.L.C. is "superior." Both private-equity groups have raised their bids for the Kennett Square nursing home company. Fillmore is now offering $69.25 per share in cash plus 8 percent interest after Sept. 1. Formation/JER has bid $68.15 per share plus 9 percent interest after July 31. Fillmore also has pledged to cover the $15 million termination fee Genesis is required to pay Formation/JER. Formation/JER has four days to make a counteroffer. The shareholders meeting to vote on the acquisition has been rescheduled again, this time to May 30.

- Stacey Burling

Las Vegas Sands breaks ground in Bethlehem

Las Vegas Sands Corp. broke ground Monday for a $600 million casino complex at the site of a former steel plant in Bethlehem. The project, called Sands Bethworks, will include shopping, dining, entertainment and a casino. It will also be host to the National Museum of Industrial History, an arts and cultural center, and the local PBS affiliate. In its first phase, the 126-acre development will feature a 300-room hotel, a 200,000-square-foot retail facility, 3,000 slot machines, and a variety of dining and entertainment options. Bethworks is scheduled for completion in late 2008. Las Vegas Sands Corp., of Las Vegas, also operates the Venetian resort and casino in Las Vegas.

- Suzette Parmley

Online-meeting concern StarCite to buy British firm

StarCite Inc., the Philadelphia online-meeting-management company, said it had acquired Travent Ltd., a British company that does similar work for European companies. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Travent has been a distributor of some of the technology StarCite has developed to enable meeting planners to do their work online, StarCite said in a statement. Travent clients spend more than $500 million a year on planning and running corporate meetings, while StarCite clients spend about $6 billion a year, a company spokesman said.

- Tom Belden

Sportswear-maker posts drop in sales, wider loss

Sports-clothing-maker Broder Bros. Co., of Trevose, reported a decline in sales and a wider loss for the first quarter. Sales were $200.6 million for the three months ended March 31, compared with sales of $209.6 million for the same period a year earlier. Net losses grew to $11.1 million for the quarter, compared with a loss of $5.3 million a year earlier. Broder Bros. makes imprintable sportswear and accessories for private labels and other customers. It said it sold fewer white T-shirts and had too little inventory of other products. The company was purchased in May 2000 by private-equity firm Bain Capital Partners L.L.C., of Boston.

- Reid Kanaley

Hertz to lay off 200 in Phila. in Aramark deal

Hertz Global Holdings Inc. said it would lay off about 200 employees, mostly part-timers, in the Philadelphia area who transport rental cars between company locations. Hertz said it was contracting with Aramark Corp., Philadelphia, to handle its vehicle-transportation work. Many of the drivers will find jobs with Aramark, Hertz spokesman Richard Broome said.

- Tom Belden


Bank of America appeals to Dutch court in bank buy

Bank of America Corp. filed an appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court over a ruling this month that froze the company's $21 billion purchase of LaSalle Bank Corp. from ABN Amro Holding N.V. "We're confident that the Dutch Supreme Court, when presented with all the facts, will overturn the [Amsterdam Superior Court's] decision," BofA spokesman Scott Silvestri said. Control of Chicago-based LaSalle Bank has become the key battle in the larger fight to acquire ABN Amro in what would be the largest takeover in the history of the financial industry. ABN is weighing two informal bids, a friendly all-share offer from Barclays P.L.C. that is worth about $84.4 billion, and a hostile one from a three-bank consortium led by The Royal Bank of Scotland Group P.L.C., worth about $94.7 billion, mostly in cash.

- AP

Energy agency official warns of higher gasoline prices

U.S. gasoline prices will be vulnerable to storms, accidents and foreign-supply disruptions until oil companies step up investment in refineries, pipelines and storage tanks, a U.S. Energy Department official said. Regular gasoline in the United States will average $2.95 a gallon from April through September, compared with last summer's average of $2.84, Guy Caruso, who heads the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department's statistical arm, told a Senate panel in Washington. Prices will peak above $3 a gallon in May and August, he said.

- Bloomberg News

White House seems to finesse defense of Wolfowitz

The White House said that "all options are on the table" about the leadership of the World Bank, even as it defended embattled president Paul Wolfowitz as he fought conflict-of-interest charges. Wolfowitz maintains that he acted in good faith in arranging a generous pay package for his girlfriend and is waging a vigorous fight to keep running the institution. Prior to Wolfowitz's appearance before the bank's 24-member board late yesterday, his attorney, Robert Bennett, said: "We look forward to a fair hearing."

- AP

Record 77 million taxpayers filed online this year

A record 77 million taxpayers have filed their tax returns electronically this year, the Internal Revenue Service said. The IRS also said that as of May 4, the average refund this year was $2,255, up 2.5 percent over the same time last year. More than 59 million refunds were deposited directly into savings, checking and brokerage accounts, more than 61 percent of all refunds issued.

- AP

CEO says Allstate to keep shifting from home policies

The Allstate Corp. chief executive officer Thomas Wilson said at the annual meeting in Chicago that it would take years for the insurer to shift away from catastrophe-prone areas and into products other than homeowners insurance. The first-year CEO said the number of homeowners policies the company writes would continue to shrink as it adjusted its strategy amid a sharp increase in the frequency of devastating storms, although homeowners would remain a core business.

- AP

Motorola to offer thinner Razr phone this summer

Motorola Inc., the world's second-biggest mobile-phone-maker, introduced a successor to its top-selling Razr handset in a bid to reverse market-share losses to larger rival Nokia Corp. The Razr(2) is 2 millimeters thinner than the original Razr and has a bigger screen, chief executive officer Ed Zander said. It will start selling this summer, he said. Motorola has sold 98 million Razrs and will continue selling versions of the phone for years, he said.

- Bloomberg News

Thomson wins British watchdog's OK to buy Reuters

The Thomson Corp. won approval for its $17.6 billion takeover of Reuters Group P.L.C. from the British company's editorial watchdog, but the deal now faces intense scrutiny from antitrust regulators and unions unhappy about expected job cuts. The renamed Thomson-Reuters Corp. would reduce the number of major companies providing financial data, news and trading systems to the financial-services industry from three to just two and would vault the service slightly ahead of the current market leader, privately held Bloomberg L.P.

- AP