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Business news in brief

In the Region

N.J.'s suit says Pa. power plant's emissions illegal

New Jersey's attorney general sued Reliant Energy Inc., Houston, over contentions that one of its coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania violated the federal Clean Air Act. The Portland Generating Station in Northampton County produces illegal emissions of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide, Attorney General Anne Milgram said in the suit. The power plant is upwind of Warren County, N.J., and 400-foot smokestacks increase the mobility of emissions, Milgram said in the suit. "The Portland facility has a valid air permit, and Reliant is operating the facility in compliance with the requirements of that permit," a Reliant spokeswoman said.

- Bloomberg News

Pa. health officials say yes to Manor Care sale

The Pennsylvania Health Department has approved the sale of a nursing-home chain to a private-equity firm despite concerns raised by the state's largest health-care union. The Carlyle Group will be licensed to operate 46 Pennsylvania nursing homes owned by Manor Care Inc., Health Department spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said. Officials of Manor Care sought to convince state regulators that the $6.3 billion sale would not affect the quality of care provided to more than 7,000 patients in Pennsylvania. Regulators in more than 30 states have now approved the sale, Manor Care spokesman Rick Rump said. The Service Employees International Union mounted a nationwide campaign against the sale, alleging that Carlyle would cut back on patient care to help pay back the money it borrowed to buy Manor Care. The SEIU represents about 1,100 of Manor Care's 60,000 employees, including 50 in Pennsylvania.

- AP

Synthes gets nod to sell disk replacement in U.S.

Synthes Inc., West Chester, a manufacturer of spinal-implant devices, said the Food and Drug Administration had approved its ProDisc-C for sale in the United States. The product, an implant that replaces a diseased back disk, is already marketed in Europe and other countries. Synthes, which makes instruments, implants and biomaterials for spinal disorders, employs about 1,400 in several Chester County locations, including Brandywine, Paoli and West Chester. Synthes has 8,770 employees worldwide.

- Linda Loyd

Investor shifts stance on Ikon's stock buyback

Steel Partners II L.P., the New York investment company run by Warren Lichtenstein, has changed its mind about how it will handle a decision by Ikon Office Solutions Inc. to buy back its stock. Steel Partners, which has a 10.7 percent stake in Ikon, had urged the Malvern copy-machine distributor and document-management company to accelerate and expand its buyback program, spending up to $850 million to buy stock at $17.50 a share. Ikon agreed and initiated a Dutch auction, saying it would buy $295 million worth of shares between $13 and $15 a share by midnight today. Lichtenstein had said Steel Partners would not participate in the tender offer. But, according to a federal filing, Steel Partners now plans to tender "a significant number" of its shares. It did not say at what price it would offer those shares. Ikon shares closed yesterday at $13 in more than four times the usual trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

CeeLite raises $4 million in private equity

CeeLite L.L.C., which manufactures flat, flexible lighting called Light Emitting Capacitors, announced it raised $4 million from a private-equity investment. The Blue Bell company said the Musser Group provided $2 million, and the other $2 million came from private unnamed investors. The Musser Group, Wayne, will have two seats on CeeLite's board. CeeLite's lighting uses paper-thin sheets of plastic layered inside with phosphors that, when charged with electric current, emit bright white light. The technology can be used to illuminate pillars, countertops, floors, billboards, street signs and transit buses. The firm plans to use the funding to expand and build a manufacturing plant in the Philadelphia area next year.

- Linda Loyd

StoneMor prices public offering at $20.26 a share

StoneMor Partners L.P., a publicly traded Bristol cemetery and funeral home owner and operator, said it priced a public offering of 3.6 million shares at $20.26 each. Of the total, the company will sell 2.65 million shares, and shareholders will sell 985,000. StoneMor said it would use the net proceeds of about $49.8 million from the shares it is selling to pay a portion of the cash price for the 45 cemeteries, 30 funeral homes and pet cemetery it acquired from Service Corp. International and related entities. StoneMor said the offering was expected to close Friday. The company's shares closed down 56 cents yesterday at $19.70.

- Tom Belden


Senate fails to patch AMT with a tax increase

The Senate tried to block an increase in the alternative minimum tax last night, but the 48-46 vote fell short of the votes needed to advance the measure, which demanded that the patch be paid for with new tax revenue. That sets the stage for a final House vote today of a Senate-passed bill that fixes the AMT for a year but provides no offsets to pay for it. Even if an AMT fix is enacted, the IRS says it will take seven weeks to reprogram and test tax forms, affecting the processing of tax returns and slowing refunds for millions of taxpayers. The AMT was created in 1969 to make sure that rich people did not totally avoid paying taxes. But the tax, which applies more stringent rules for using deductions in calculating tax obligations, was never adjusted for inflation, and every year it hits more middle- and upper-middle-income people.

- AP

MovieBeam shuts down as parent reorganizes

MovieBeam, an experiment in video-on-demand launched by the Walt Disney Co., has shut down as part of its new parent's reorganization under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. The four-year-old service, which transmitted movies over the air for storage on a set-top box that was like a hard drive, ceased operations Saturday, said Meaghan Repko, a spokeswoman for Movie Gallery Inc., Dothan, Ala. The service was operating in more than 30 metro areas nationwide, including Philadelphia, according to its Web site. Movie Gallery filed for bankruptcy in October after months of struggling with debt.

- AP

House backs bill for relief after terrorist attack

The House approved a government insurance program that commits Washington to paying for most of the damage in the event of a terrorist attack in the next seven years. The vote was 360-53. The legislation, already passed by the Senate, is expected to be signed shortly by President Bush.

- New York Times News Service

Former AIG executive charged in billing scam

A former American International Group Inc. vice president was charged with stealing more than $1 million from the company by setting up phony headhunter firms and approving payment of bills they submitted, prosecutors said. John Falcetta, who was fired in August, conspired with three other men to create the bogus firms, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in New York. The fax number for one of the sham search firms, Broadbent Advisory Group, is registered to a Dunkin' Donuts store in Philadelphia, prosecutors said. "We are cooperating fully with the authorities," AIG spokesman Michael Arcaro said.

- Bloomberg News