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Business news in brief

In the Region

Jevic Transportation seeks bankruptcy protection

Jevic Transportation Inc., a Delran trucking company, sought bankruptcy protection a day after saying it would halt operations because of rising fuel costs and tightening credit. The company listed both debt and assets of $50 million to $100 million in Chapter 11 documents filed yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington. Jevic said in court papers that it terminated about 90 percent of its 1,500 employees.

- Bloomberg News

Sovereign Bancorp takes steps to ride out slump

Sovereign Bancorp Inc., Philadelphia, has raised $1.9 billion in stock and debt so it can "handle any further deterioration in the economy," said chief executive officer Joseph P. Campanelli, who is based in Boston. Sovereign issued 179.7 million shares of common stock at $8 a share, for $1.39 billion, exceeding its $1 billion target, and $500 million of fixed-rate 8.75 percent subordinated notes, maturing in 2018. Sovereign's share value has fallen to 2001 levels as the home-lending business has slowed, but the bank is now "well-capitalized" by federal regulatory standards and will use the money to repay the Federal Home Loan Bank system and other "general" purposes, the bank said. Company shares closed down 1 cent at $8.10.

- Joseph N. DiStefano

Quaker Chemical to triple Ohio production

Quaker Chemical Corp. will spend $19.8 million to triple production at its Middletown, Ohio, plant, which makes steel, cleaner and hydraulic fluids, the company said. The Conshohocken company also said it would transfer all production except for metalworking fluids to Middletown from its plant in Detroit. About half of the expansion funds will come from industrial-development bonds to be issued by the Butler County, Ohio, port authority. In addition, the company will receive a $3.5 million loan from Ohio. When the upgrade is completed, Quaker said, its cash flow will improve by $3 million annually, mostly attributable to lower manufacturing costs.

- Paul Schweizer

FMC Corp. is buying food-stabilizer operation

FMC Corp., the Philadelphia chemical company, announced yesterday that it would acquire the hydrocolloids-ingredients business of Wayne, N.J.-based International Specialty Products Inc. The purchase price was not disclosed. The move will enhance FMC's position in hydrocolloids, which are used for thickening, stabilizing and gelling, as well as for forming film around other ingredients, and are used in the food, pharmaceutical and specialty industries. ISP's hydrocolloid-ingredients business had revenue of about $80 million in 2007.

- Roslyn Rudolph

Board OKs repurchase of Harleysville Group stock

Harleysville Group Inc., a property and casualty insurer for small and midsize businesses, said its board authorized the repurchase of up to 1.5 million shares, or about 5 percent, of its outstanding common stock. The company said that over the last year it had already bought back more than 10 percent of its shares. Harleysville's shares closed at $36.45 on Nasdaq. Their 52-week range is $27.57 to $37.89.

- Harold Brubaker

Harleysville company wins contract with utility

Met-Pro Corp., Harleysville, said it won a $600,000 contract to supply parts to a U.S. electric utility company. The order, for replacement parts for equipment, is expected to be shipped by October. Met-Pro sells fluid-handling products and equipment for purification of air and liquids.

- Paul Schweizer

Liquefied-gas production at Bethlehem plant up

A liquefied-gas-production facility in Bethlehem has expanded its capacity by 600 tons a day, the two partners in the plant said. The plant, East Coast Oxygen, is owned jointly by Air Products & Chemicals Inc., Allentown, and Linde North America Inc., Murray Hill, N.J. The companies said the plant now was one of the largest production sites for liquefied nitrogen, oxygen and argon in the United States. Its gases are used for food chilling and freezing, chemical production, and metals manufacturing. The plant began operation in 2000.

- Paul Schweizer


Crackdown on telemarketing scams marks gains

Federal and state officials announced a widespread crackdown against telemarketing scams that have bilked thousands of consumers, many of them elderly, out of tens of millions of dollars. The sweep, dubbed "Operation Tele-PHONEY," was coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission and has yielded more than 180 enforcement actions in the United States and Canada. That makes it the largest such operation the FTC has ever coordinated, the agency said.

- AP

Fed auctions more loans to struggling banks

Working to relieve stressed credit markets, the Federal Reserve has auctioned an additional $75 billion in loans to squeezed banks, bringing the total to $510 billion since December. The most recent auction was the Fed's 12th. The auctions are part of an effort to help ease the credit crunch, which erupted in August and hit a crisis point in March with the near collapse and forced sale of the Bear Stearns Cos. Inc., the nation's fifth-largest investment house, to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

- AP

JPMorgan keeping nearly half of Bear Stearns staff

JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s chief executive officer confirmed that the bank would keep nearly half of the employees at the Bear Stearns Cos. Inc., the struggling investment bank that JPMorgan agreed to buy in March. At JPMorgan's annual shareholder meeting, CEO James Dimon said in his opening remarks: "We're retaining 45 percent of the Bear Stearns staff." Most of those job offers have already been made. Last week, Dimon said at a conference that it had offered jobs to 6,000 of the 14,000 Bear Stearns workers and found positions outside the company for an additional 1,500. Dimon has said that the acquisition of Bear Stearns would result in job cuts at JPMorgan, but would not say how many during yesterday's meeting.

- AP

Fannie Mae CEO: Housing crisis about halfway over

Fannie Mae's chief executive officer told shareholders that the housing market is "about halfway through" its crisis and that home prices could fall as much as 25 percent before the worst is over. The largest U.S. buyer and guarantor of home mortgages will be able to weather the downturn and expand its business, Fannie Mae's president and CEO, Daniel Mudd, said as he and other top executives faced shareholders at an annual meeting in New Orleans.

- AP

U.S. urges China to join group of oil consumers

A U.S. official urged China to join the International Energy Agency - a group of major oil consumers that includes the United States and European governments - and aid its efforts to keep petroleum markets stable in times of crisis. "China's participation in the IEA's collective emergency response system would make the system stronger," Daniel S. Sullivan, an assistant U.S. secretary of state, said in a speech at a business conference. China is the world's second-largest oil consumer after the United States.

- AP