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Business news in brief

In the Region

Penna. plans to raise $373 million through bonds

Pennsylvania plans to sell $373 million of general-obligation bonds at a competitive auction next week to pay for capital projects such as prisons, parks and transit facilities. Proceeds from $346 million of the bonds will fund previously approved projects, said Rick Dreher, director of the state's bureau of revenue, cash flow and debt. The rest will be used to make loans through two state programs, Pennvest and Pennworks, according to the preliminary official statement.

- Bloomberg News

US Airways eliminating more flights from Pittsburgh

US Airways will stop direct flights to five of the 53 cities it serves from Pittsburgh International Airport and also plans to reduce service to 10 other cities, including Philadelphia. Starting in July, the Tempe, Ariz., airline will eliminate nonstop service between Pittsburgh and Altoona, Pa.; Baltimore; San Diego; Seattle; and Buffalo. The cuts leave US Airways with direct service between Pittsburgh and only two West Coast cities - Los Angeles and San Francisco. Flights to those cities will increase to twice daily from June to September. The changes will leave Pittsburgh with 127 daily flights from its largest carrier. Since late 2001, US Airways has eliminated 415 flights from the airport. US Airways carries about 60 percent of the traffic at Philadelphia International Airport.

- AP

Survey: Manufacturing output improves in May

Manufacturing conditions improved in May, and expectations about future business in the industry rose to the highest level since late 2005, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said. The bank's survey is one of the first monthly reports for the manufacturing sector nationwide and is closely followed by economists. It was the strongest reading on the Philadelphia-area manufacturing sector in five months, with 30 percent of companies reporting increasing activity and 26 percent reporting decreasing activity, according to the survey. The balance of the firms reported no changes.

- Bob Fernandez

Jeanes Hospital nurses vote for collective bargaining

Registered nurses at Jeanes Hospital voted 134-86 to join the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, a union that represents 1,850 nurses and professional staff in the Temple University Health System. Jeanes, in Philadelphia's Fox Chase section, was taken over by Temple in 2000. The Wednesday election, supervised by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, had more than 75 percent of the 262 nurses participating.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

Rodale sells Backpacker magazine to Calif. firm

Rodale Inc., Emmaus, sold its Backpacker magazine to Active Interest Media Inc. for an undisclosed amount, the companies said. Active Media, of El Segundo, Calif., publishes enthusiast magazines and books, holds consumer shows, and operates Internet sites. Backpacker, founded in 1973, has a circulation of 340,000 for its nine issues per year. The magazine provides information about backcountry adventure in North America and focuses on hiking trails, camping gear and survival tips.

- Paul Schweizer

Insurer Ace Ltd. to raise quarterly dividend

Ace Ltd., an insurance company with North American headquarters in Philadelphia, said its board had voted to increase the quarterly dividend to 27 cents per ordinary share from 25 cents per ordinary share. The new dividend from the Bermuda-based company is payable July 13 to shareholders of record at the close of business June 29.

- Harold Brubaker

Royal Bancshares to buy back $11 million in shares

Royal Bancshares of Pennsylvania Inc., Narberth, said its board had approved the purchase of up to 5 percent of the company's shares. At yesterday's stock price, that would cost the company about $11 million.

- Harold Brubaker


IBM aims for 50% of earnings from software by 2010

International Business Machines Corp., the world's biggest provider of computer services, plans to get about half its earnings from software by 2010 to compensate for slowing growth in hardware. The company will potentially reach that goal "between now and 2010," chief executive officer Sam Palmisano told analysts in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. The company got 40 percent of profit from software in 2006.

- AP

Liz Claiborne helps Penneys boost profit 13%

J.C. Penney Co. Inc., the third-largest U.S. department-store chain, said first-quarter profit rose 13 percent on sales of exclusive clothing by Liz Claiborne and its new lingerie collection. Net income increased to $238 million, or $1.04 a share, from $210 million, or 89 cents, a year earlier.

- Bloomberg News

CVS to use Lehman Bros. for $2.5 billion buyback

CVS/Caremark Corp., the second-largest U.S. drugstore chain, agreed to buy back $2.5 billion of its shares through a unit of Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. The move is part of previously announced plans to repurchase as much as $5 billion of stock, CVS said in a U.S. regulatory filing. It didn't specify a price for the shares.

- Bloomberg News

WPP Group to buy online-advertiser 24/7 Real Media

WPP Group P.L.C., the world's second-largest advertising and marketing conglomerate, is buying the online advertising company 24/7 Real Media Inc. for $649 million, the companies said. It was the latest deal in the booming online-advertising business, as traditional marketing firms seek to quickly build up their profiles in Internet advertising, which is growing far faster than other kinds of media such as TV, radio and newspapers. WPP, which is based in London, is paying $11.75 per share for 24/7 Real Media, a 30 percent premium over the company's average closing price over the last two months.

- AP

Carrington wins collapsed subprime lender in auction

Private investment firm Carrington Capital Management L.L.C. and an affiliate won a bankruptcy auction of New Century Financial Corp.'s loan-servicing business, agreeing to purchase the core asset from the collapsed subprime mortgage lender for $188 million, New Century said late Wednesday. Carrington and affiliate Carrington Mortgage Services L.L.C. bested an unspecified number of bidders at an auction held in New York earlier in the day. Carrington's offer was 35 percent higher than the $139 million bid the firm made when New Century sought Chapter 11 protection last month, New Century said.

- AP

Rates jump on 30-year fixed mortgages

Rates on 30-year mortgages jumped to the highest level in five weeks as investors expressed disappointment that the Federal Reserve continues to remain worried about inflation threats. Freddie Mac reported that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.21 percent nationwide this week, up from 6.15 percent last week. It was the highest level for 30-year mortgages since they averaged 6.22 percent the week of April 12.

- AP

Ex-officer of Foodservice sentenced to 7 years

The former chief marketing officer of U.S. Foodservice Inc., a subsidiary of supermarket giant Royal Ahold NV, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Mark Kaiser, 52, of Ellicott City, Md., also was fined $50,000 by U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa. He will remain free while the case is appealed. Kaiser was convicted in November after a one-month Manhattan trial of securities fraud, conspiracy, and false filing, charges that could have resulted in a life sentence.

- AP