Business news in brief
In the Region
Comcast looking to sell 46 cable systems
Comcast Corp., Philadelphia, is trying to sell 46 smaller cable systems serving 400,000 to 500,000 subscribers as it seeks to improve efficiency. "It's not about money at all," said Robert Serrano, an analyst at SNL Kagan, in Monterey, Calif. "They are pruning some of the more outlying areas in order to make a more efficient cluster." Serrano said Comcast could get $3,000 to $4,500 per subscriber, although sale prices would vary by asset. Most of the cable systems are in eight states - Maine, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Virginia, Georgia, West Virginia and California, and almost one-fourth of them are in rural central and northern Maine. The Times Record in Brunswick, Maine, was the first to report that Comcast was selling 46 systems.
Safety board backs airline checks of Boeing planes
U.S. airlines should be required to inspect Boeing Co. 757s to prevent wing sections from coming off in flight, as occurred on a US Airways Group Inc. jet March 22, a safety board said. A wing section measuring 4 feet by 5 feet dislodged near Baltimore on a flight to Philadelphia from Orlando, Fla. The section struck several windows, cracking one, and the plane landed with no one hurt. Three clips attaching the wing section to the plane had fatigue cracks, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday. US Airways, Philadelphia's dominant carrier, discovered cracked clips on seven of 18 757s inspected after the incident, the NTSB said. The board said in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration it "is concerned" that not all carriers may have complied with the second version of a Boeing recommendation in 1991 to inspect 757s for cracked clips. Regulators mandated the first revision of the bulletin that year, not the second, which expanded the group of 757s affected, the NTSB said.
- Bloomberg News
Prudential Bancorp shareholder drops lawsuit
The largest outside shareholder of Prudential Bancorp Inc. of Pennsylvania said he dropped his pending shareholder lawsuit against the small Philadelphia savings bank. Instead, investor Joseph Stillwell said he would pursue a derivative action seeking "the removal of [director] John Judge due to his infirmity," noting that Judge is "at least" 87. A derivative action is taken by shareholders on behalf of the company rather than against the company. Stillwell's investment firm owns 9.8 percent of Prudential and has been seeking a seat on the bank's board for nearly three years.
- Harold Brubaker
Wyeth gets an 'approvable' on osteoporosis drug
Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Collegeville, announced that it received its third "approvable" letter from the FDA for a drug being developed for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. The division of Wyeth received an approvable letter Wednesday from the Food and Drug Administration for bazedoxifene, which works like hormone therapy to strengthen bones to prevent osteoporosis, but is not a hormone, the company said. The letter received this week applies to the use of the drug to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis. The company had received two earlier letters - in April and December 2007, regarding use of the drug as a preventative measure. Wyeth said the letter issued Wednesday raised similar issues and sought further analyses on the incidence of stroke and blood clots. The FDA also questioned some of the data collection and reporting, and requested additional source documents. Wyeth said the letter was "in line with our expectations."
- Roslyn Rudolph
Alliance Bancorp modifies management pacts
Alliance Bancorp Inc. of Pennsylvania, which has come under pressure from investors to improve performance, said it modified its employment agreements with top management. New contracts for chief executive officer Dennis D. Cirucci and chief financial officer Peter J. Meier reduce the terms from three years to a term ending June 30, 2010. Severance was reduced from three times to two times the executive's average salary. Similar changes were made to the contact of chief technology officer.
- Harold Brubaker
Deal ends farmworker-Burger King labor dispute
A farmworkers advocacy group and Burger King Corp. have agreed on a deal to help boost wages and improve conditions for Florida tomato pickers, both sides said. The plan ends a bitter dispute between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Miami-based fast-food company. Burger King agreed to pay 1.5 cents more per pound of tomatoes it buys from Florida growers, with the understanding that a penny of that will be passed to workers. The rest will go to growers to help cover additional payroll taxes and administrative costs they might incur, to encourage their participation. The increase roughly doubles the earnings of the workers while they are picking tomatoes, the worker coalition said. The coalition already has similar agreements with McDonald's Corp. and Taco Bell owner Yum Brands Inc.
GM: Parts-supplier's strike will cost $1.8 billion
General Motors Corp. said the nearly three-month strike at parts-supplier American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. would cost the automaker about $1.8 billion before taxes in the second quarter. GM also said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it expected to produce 230,000 fewer vehicles during the quarter due to the strike, which crippled its production of large sport-utility vehicles and pickups. American Axle said it expected production to resume next week after United Auto Workers members overwhelmingly approved a new contract that contains steep pay cuts and other concessions.
Clear Channel clears debt hurdle in buyout
Clear Channel Communications Inc. said the debt financing needed for its $17.9 billion sale to two private-equity firms is in place, clearing one hurdle in the transaction's path. The radio and outdoor-advertising company agreed to be acquired by the buyout firms Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners in November 2006. This month, the company decided to take a lower price and slightly higher lending rates to settle a dispute with lenders.
Kerkorian sweetens pot in bid for Ford stake
Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian has added $100 million in financing as part of his bid to increase his stake in Ford Motor Co. Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. said in a regulatory filing that it may borrow as much as $600 million from Bank of America, up from a potential loan of $500 million based on an April 15 agreement. Kerkorian has offered $8.50 a share for up to 20 million shares of Ford's common stock, a cash offer worth up to $170 million. If he succeeds, his stake in the automaker would rise to 5 percent from 4.7 percent.
Investigators: Ex-trader had help with fraud
Investigators at Societe Generale said they suspect a former futures trader had help as he tried to cover up unauthorized positions that led to billions in losses at the French bank. In two long-awaited reports, the investigators also said the French bank's management failures and culture of risk-taking were partly to blame for failing to uncover the alleged fraud, which led to a loss of more than $7 billion.