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Business news in brief

In the Region

Armstrong Holdings distributes assets

Armstrong Holdings Inc., the parent of Armstrong World Industries Inc., distributed its entire assets, $28 million, to its shareholders, and will cease to exist, the Lancaster flooring company said yesterday. The holders of 40.6 million outstanding shares of Armstrong Holdings stock, which stopped trading Dec. 5, will receive 69 cents a share. The $28 million is a payment in cash and shares to the holding company from Armstrong World Industries, which continues to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol AWI. Shares closed up 8 cents yesterday at $40.38.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

Pep Boys says quarterly report will take more time

The Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack, the Philadelphia automotive retail and service chain, said it would require more time to complete its financial report for the quarter through Nov. 3 to account for store closures. The retailer plans to file the report on or before Tuesday, it said in a statement. Last month, Pep Boys said it would close 31 stores and take pretax charges of $17 million.

- Bloomberg News

Global Asset Management files for IPO

Global Asset Management Inc., Wayne, has filed a preliminary prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission for its plan to raise $200 million in an initial public stock offering. The stock would be listed on the American Stock Exchange. Global Asset plans to acquire an alternative asset-management business, though "we do not have any specific business" in mind, according to the filing. J. Paul Bagley, chairman of Fortune Management Inc., would serve as chairman, and Hamilton Lane founder Leslie A. Brun, a Fortune director, would serve as chief executive officer. Brun is a board member and investor at Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., which owns The Inquirer. Hamilton Lane provides private-equity asset-management services.

- Joseph N. DiStefano

$785,000 granted for promoting college studies

The Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board and the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania received $785,000 in grants to open a Graduate! Philadelphia center in the Gallery at Market East next month. The center, to be housed in a storefront at the mall, is designed to help the 80,000 Philadelphia residents who have some college experience but no degree to return to school to complete their studies. The center, funded by grants from the city and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will help adults with applications, financial aid and workshops. The goal is to create workers with the credentials to land higher-paying jobs and to use those workers to attract businesses into the region. Nine area colleges, including Community College of Philadelphia, are participating.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

Veolia Energy completes deal for Thermal

Veolia Energy said in a statement that it made final the acquisition of Thermal North America Inc. from affiliates of Denham Capital Management L.P., a private-equity firm. In 2005, Thermal North America bought Trigen Energy Corp., which has operations in Philadelphia. Thermal North America has projected revenue of $425 million in 2007, the statement said.

- Rhonda Dickey

Peco wants to build substation in Worcester Twp.

Peco Energy said it hoped to build an electric transmission substation on Fisher Road in Worcester Township, Montgomery County. The substation, on nine acres owned by Peco, will convert high-voltage power from an existing transmission line into lower-voltage power. Peco, which must get approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to build the substation, said it would alleviate congestion with power flows in the regional grid. Peco expects to finish construction of the $50 million project by the summer of 2010.

- Jane M. Von Bergen


GE leasing unit ordered 55 aircraft from Boeing

Boeing Co. won an order valued at $4.5 billion from General Electric Co.'s jet-leasing unit. The GE Commercial Aviation Services order is for 53 next-generation 737-800s and two 777-300ER passenger jetliners, Boeing, Chicago, said in a statement. The order had been attributed to an unidentified customer on Boeing's orders-and-deliveries Web site. The contract value is based on list prices, which do not include discounts traditionally given to large customers such as GE.

- Bloomberg News

Freddie Mac reports increase in mortgage rates

Mortgage rates, which had been sliding, went up this week. That was disappointing news to would-be home buyers. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reported that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.11 percent. That was up from last week's rate of 5.96 percent, which was the lowest in more than two years. Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages moved up to 5.50 percent from 5.46 percent last week.

- AP

AMD says it expects to post a profit next year

Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the second-largest maker of personal-computer processors, said it expected to become profitable again in 2008, backing away from an earlier goal of ending its losses this year. The company will report an operating profit in the third quarter, chief executive officer Hector Ruiz said in a conference call. Advanced Micro will exit the second quarter at the break-even point, he said.

- Bloomberg News

R.I. Blue Cross & Blue Shield to pay lobbying fine

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island will pay $20 million but avoid criminal charges after a federal investigation into improper lobbying of stage legislators by its executives. Under an agreement announced by U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente, Blue Cross will cooperate with prosecutors in a continuing investigation, accept increased oversight for two years, and acknowledge responsibility for the conduct of its executives.

- AP

Hollywood directors say talks could start in Jan.

Hollywood directors said they would hold off on contract negotiations with studios for now, but could start talks after New Year's Day. The move could increase pressure on striking Hollywood writers to reach a new contract with studios and end their six-week walkout. The directors' guild represents about 13,500 directors and associated production workers. Its contract with the alliance is set to expire June 30. Meanwhile, union officials representing the striking Hollywood writers said they had filed an unfair-labor-practices complaint contending that the studios violated federal law by breaking off negotiations. The Writers Guild of America demanded in a statement that the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers return to the bargaining table so the strike can be ended and thousands of workers idled by the walkout can return to their jobs.

- AP

Make Microsoft give Net users a choice, EC asked

Web-browser developer Opera Software ASA asked the European Commission to force Microsoft Corp. to give users a choice of Internet software with its Windows operating system. The small Norwegian company also alleged that Microsoft was holding developers back from making programs that work with each other "by not following accepted Web standards." Microsoft said its Internet Explorer browser had been a part of Windows for more than a decade and supported a wide range of Web standards.

- AP