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Business news in brief

In the Region

Hershey considers packaging change

Hershey Co. is considering changes to the design of a mint that Philadelphia police say looks nearly identical to a tiny heat-sealed bag used to sell powdered street drugs. The revelation came a week after criticism surfaced about Ice Breakers Pacs. "It was certainly never our intention to create any confusion with this product," company spokesman Kirk Saville said. Ice Breakers Pacs are nickel-size dissolvable pouches with a powdered sweetener inside.

- AP

Discovery Laboratories plans share offering

Discovery Laboratories Inc. said it will raise $25 million in a registered direct offering that is expected to close Wednesday. The Warrington biotechnology company plans to sell 10 million shares to institutional investors at $2.50 each. The company's lead product candidate, Surfaxin, to prevent respiratory distress in premature infants, is under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

- Linda Loyd

Burlington Coat Factory reports drop in sales

Privately held Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. said same-store sales for the latest quarter dropped 8 percent, from a year ago. It blamed the decrease on unusually warm weather during most of the quarter, and weak consumer demand. Net sales for the quarter that ended Dec. 1 were $946.6 million, down 3.9 percent.

- Reid Kanaley

AstraZeneca subsidiary to have 3 drugs in trials

British drugmaker AstraZeneca P.L.C., with U.S. headquarters near Wilmington, said its newly acquired MedImmune business expects to have at least three new drug candidates in trials by 2010 and hopes to have an average of six new drug applications for submission per year. AstraZeneca bought MedImmune Inc., Gaithersburg, Md., in June for $15.6 billion.

- AP

Kenexa Corp. buys back 1 million-plus shares

Staffing firm Kenexa Corp. of Wayne announced that it had repurchased more than 1 million shares since early November and expected to have about 24.5 million weighted average shares for all of 2008. The company authorized a 2-million-share buyback on Nov. 8.

- Karl Stark

Rohm & Haas raises prices as much as 10%

Rohm & Haas Co., Philadelphia, said higher costs had prompted it to raise prices up to 10 percent for products sold to the adhesives, plastic additives, textiles, nonwoven, graphic arts, paper and leather industries in the Asia-Pacific region. The increase of 10 percent for tin-based heat stabilizers, and 5 percent to 10 percent for all other products, including acrylics and modified acrylics, styrenics and modified styrenics, polyurethanes, polyesters and related technologies, will take effect after Jan. 1, as contracts allow.

- Reid Kanaley

Unisys prices $210 million of debt securities

Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell said it had priced $210 million of debt securities that will be sold next week and will mature in 2016. The notes will be sold at 98.719 percent of their face value. Combined with an interest rate of 12.5 percent, that gives them a total yield of 12.75 percent. Unisys said it will use the proceeds to redeem notes due next year. Those notes pay 77/8 percent interest.

- Paul Schweizer


Millions could benefit from credit-card suit

About 30 million people in the United States are receiving notices that they may be eligible for $25 or more from the $336 million settlement of a class-action suit over foreign currency conversions on credit and debit cards. The case alleged that card companies overcharged when converting foreign transactions into dollars and did not disclose all fees. Cards involved were branded by Visa, MasterCard or Diners Club, and issued by major American banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc.

- AP

Perelman to float public offering

Billionaire investor Ronald Perelman, a Philadelphia native, filed to raise $500 million in an initial public offering of a company, MAFS Acquisition Corp., set up to finance an acquisition. MAFS, known as a blank-check or special-purpose acquisition company, will use the money to finance a deal that has not been identified by MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., Perelman's holding company.

- Bloomberg News

Bankruptcy judge OKs changes to Delphi plan

A judge in the Delphi bankruptcy case approved changes to a plan by investors to inject as much as $2.55 billion into the auto-parts-maker, moving it closer to an exit from court protection. Hedge fund Appaloosa Management L.P. and five other investors would get equity stakes in a reorganized Delphi Corp. The approval was designed to clear the way to a vote on the company's Chapter 11 plan.

- AP

Verizon wins exemption from sales regulation

Verizon Communications Inc. won an appeal that exempts it from regulations on data services it sells to large businesses. The Federal Communications Commission granted a petition from Verizon in March 2006 to ease rules on fiber-optic Ethernet services, virtual private networks, and other data-services businesses for purposes other than Internet access. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia yesterday declined to review the agency's action.

- AP

United to pay shareholders $250 million

United Airlines parent UAL Corp., responding to pressure from investors, will pay shareholders $250 million after winning approval for the plan from its lenders. The payout of $2.15 a share follows a 14 percent drop for the stock since late October. The distribution will occur Jan. 23 to shareholders as of Jan. 9, Chicago-based UAL said. The company also paid $500 million in debt as part of the lender agreement.

- Bloomberg News

ConocoPhillips hopes to increase capital spending

ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, said it planned to raise its capital spending budget more than 13 percent in 2008. The Houston-based company set a budget of $15.3 billion for the program, which includes $14.3 billion for expenditures and an additional $1 billion for loans to affiliates and to fund the company's venture with Canadian oil producer EnCana Corp.

- AP

Volvo Trucks to lay off up to 650 from Va. plant

Volvo Trucks North America will lay off up to 650 people next month at its Dublin plant in southwest Virginia. It is the second round of layoffs since November 2006, when about one-third of the plant's 3,170-person workforce was let go. Many of those workers were rehired, and the plant now has 2,900 workers, Volvo said. The new layoffs, which will occur at the end of January, are permanent.

- AP

China willing to discuss trade surplus

Chinese officials say they are willing to discuss ways to ease China's massive trade surplus with the United States in talks next week with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and other U.S. officials. But the officials, speaking at a background briefing for reporters, indicated no new willingness to allow the Chinese currency to appreciate faster against the dollar.

- AP