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Business news in brief

In the Region

Back independents, MedQuist shareholders urged

A shareholder in MedQuist Inc., Mount Laurel, has asked fellow stockholders to vote for six "independent" board candidates at an annual meeting Dec. 31. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Costa Brava Partnership III L.P., Boston, which owns 5.2 percent of MedQuist common stock, criticized majority stockholder Royal Philips Electronics N.V. for the medical-transcription company's "present state of affairs." Costa Brava said MedQuist's board lacks enough independent board members - those who are not also employees of the company - after three independent directors abruptly resigned in a disagreement over the process for studying a possible sale of the company. MedQuist has been the focus of several probes over allegations of improperly billing and overcharging customers. MedQuist shares closed down 19 cents yesterday at $8.76 in over-the-counter pink-sheet trading.

- Linda Loyd

U.K. supplier to buy BAE Systems' Lansdale unit

Cobham P.L.C., a U.K. supplier of radio antennas to the U.S. military, agreed to buy BAE Systems P.L.C.'s Lansdale-based electronic-warfare unit for $240 million to add radar equipment and communication-jamming gear. The acquisition of BAE's Surveillance and Attack unit should be completed in the first quarter, Cobham, Wimborne, England, said. The unit, to be renamed Lansdale, supplies electronic-warfare technology to aircraft including the Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16 and Boeing Co. F-18 jet fighters and versions of the Boeing Chinook and Sikorsky Black Hawk military helicopters.

- Bloomberg News

Cancer-treatment hospital to double capacity

Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a two-year-old for-profit hospital in Northeast Philadelphia, said it planned to double capacity next year. The 22-bed hospital, which operates from the refurbished former Parkview Hospital building, combines traditional cancer treatment with naturopathic medicine and other complementary approaches. It will add 16 patient beds, 20 guest rooms for family members, and 3,200 square feet of clinic space in the $12.7 million expansion project, spokeswoman Leigh Fazzina said. Within the next three to five years, it plans to add 100 more rooms, she said.

- Stacey Burling

PJM Interconnection to set up outside monitor

PJM Interconnection L.L.C., Valley Forge, which oversees power lines serving 51 million Americans, agreed to set up an outside monitor to report on competitiveness in the wholesale electricity markets it operates. Current market monitor Joseph Bowring, who said this year that PJM's management was interfering with his market reports, will head the external firm.

- Bloomberg News

PPL to seek approval for nuclear-generating unit

PPL Corp., Allentown, said it would seek regulatory approval to build and operate a nuclear generating unit near the current Susquehanna nuclear plant in Columbia County, Pa. The energy company said that, while it had not decided whether to proceed with construction, it would file a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license application for the unit, in Berwick, in 2008.

- Paul Schweizer

Foamex and Sleep Innovations settle lawsuit

Foamex International Inc., a manufacturer of foam cushioning, and Sleep Innovations Inc. said they had settled a lawsuit. According to the companies, mattress-maker Sleep Innovations Inc. will pay $12 million to Foamex, Linwood, Delaware County. The money was for products received by Sleep Innovations, which had withheld payment pending the outcome of the litigation. With the confidential settlement, the companies have agreed to dismiss their claims in federal court in Philadelphia.

- Bob Fernandez

Exelon to increase dividend and share repurchases

Exelon Corp., the parent of Philadelphia's Peco Energy Co., announced a 13.6 percent dividend increase and a new share repurchase program. The new quarterly dividend of 50 cents a share, up from 44 cents, will be paid March 10 to shareholders on Feb. 15. The stock buyback will be for up to $500 million and is in addition to a $1.25 billion repurchase in September. The Chicago energy's company's shares closed down $2.05 at $83.50 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange trading.

- Paul Schweizer

Payday lender to close 66 remaining Pa. outlets

Advance America Cash Advance Centers Inc. decided to close its 66 remaining shops in Pennsylvania. The Spartanburg, S.C., payday lender said it expected to record about $1.5 million in charges. In July, a Pennsylvania state court ruled that the company violated Pennsylvania consumer law by providing loans of as much as $500 to people in return for 6 percent interest plus a $150 monthly fee.

- AP

Rohm & Haas to raise prices, cites cost increases

Philadelphia chemical giant Rohm & Haas Co. said it would raise prices on certain acrylic and styrene acylic polymers between 4 percent and 7 percent Jan. 1 in the United States and Canada. The company also said it would raise prices on all acrylic emulsions, styrene-containing polymers, and additives sold in the paint market in North America. Escalating oil and petrochemical costs are leading to the price hikes, the company said. Rohm & Haas shares closed down 67 cents yesterday at $54.52 on the New York Stock Exchange.

- Bob Fernandez

WPCS says new contracts total $14.5 million

WPCS International Inc., Exton, said it won about $14.5 million in new contracts. The company provides engineering services for specialty communications systems and wireless infrastructure. The new contracts include projects for HMO provider Kaiser Permanente, the University of California at Davis, Beale Air Force Base in Northern California, and the state of California and its retirement system, CalPERS.

- Reid Kanaley


More federal funds set for heating assistance

Families who depend on home heating assistance can expect more federal dollars this winter. The government's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program would get roughly $409 million more in a year-end budget bill Congress approved yesterday. Fuel aid advocates praised the increase, but warned it wouldn't be enough to keep pace with record prices for home heating oil, particularly in the Northeast. The Senate approved about $2.6 billion late Tuesday for the program, which provides heating and cooling subsidies for the poor. Similar LIHEAP money is part of a massive $555 billion omnibus appropriations package passed by the House yesterday.

- AP

Money market funds' yields fell during week

The average seven-day yield on taxable money market funds fell to 4.08 percent from 4.16 percent last week, according to iMoneyNet Inc. A seven-day yield is an annual yield that is based on the preceding seven days' level of income by the fund. The average yield on tax-free funds fell to 2.69 percent from 2.91 percent last week.

- Rhonda Dickey