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Business news in brief

In the Region

Chocolate-pricing suits being consolidated in Pa.

A federal judge and dozens of lawyers began to figure out yesterday how to consolidate about 80 lawsuits that contend chocolate manufacturers conspired to artificially boost prices. U.S. District Judge Christopher C. Connor is handling cases from across the United States that have been merged in Harrisburg federal court, about 10 miles from the headquarters of the Hershey Co., one of the defendants. Hershey attorney Thomas D. Yannucci argued that his client and the other defendants - units of Mars Inc., Nestlé S.A. and Cadbury Schweppes P.L.C., as well as ITWAL Ltd., a Canadian distributor - deserved the right to seek dismissal before turning over documents that might be used against them.

- AP

Comcast Web site is targeted by hackers

Hackers redirected Internet traffic from Comcast Corp.'s Web portal to another site for several hours overnight, leaving a cryptic message. The front page of went down shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday and was replaced with a note saying the hackers had "RoXed" Comcast, according to postings at Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury said late yesterday that the hijacking had been reversed, but that some users still were unable to access and Web-based e-mail. There was no indication that e-mail or other private information was compromised by the attack, the Philadelphia cable company said.

- AP

NutriSystem is targeted by overtime suit

NutriSystem Inc., Horsham, failed to pay overtime to an estimated 400 sales associates, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by a former sales associate, Adrian E. Parker of Philadelphia. Parker is seeking class-action status on behalf of himself and other call-center salespeople who, according to the suit filed Wednesday, were paid a minimum rate of $10 an hour but could earn more, supplanting the base pay with a flat rate of $18 to $40 for every sale made. Commissioned salespeople are typically not eligible for overtime under federal labor law. "We feel the compensation plan is in accordance with applicable law, both state and federal," said NutriSystem's attorney, Sarah E. Bouchard, of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius L.L.P., Philadelphia. (Read the complaint and the company's response via



- Jane M. Von Bergen

More time is requested for sale of Tropicana

The retired New Jersey Supreme Court justice overseeing the sale of the Tropicana Casino & Resort wants to reject all the bids made so far for the Atlantic City casino and start over in soliciting new buyers. Gary Stein asked the state Casino Control Commission for four additional months to complete the sale process. In a letter to the commission, Stein wrote that a bankruptcy filing by the Tropicana's former owner, along with still-volatile credit markets, were making it hard to complete the sale on schedule. Stein has declined to say how many bids were submitted. The commission will consider the request at its meeting Wednesday.

- AP

More talks held on US Airways-United merger

The chief executives of United Airlines and US Airways met yesterday, but there were no indications a decision was near on whether to combine the two carriers, a person with knowledge of the meeting said. Glenn Tilton, of UAL Corp.'s United, and Doug Parker, of US Airways Group Inc., Philadelphia's dominant carrier, have been communicating about a potential deal for more than two months. Word of plans for their latest meeting drew extra interest after published reports that the talks appeared to have broken off. No other details emerged immediately about the meeting, which took place at an undisclosed location. The source was not authorized to discuss the talks and spoke on condition of anonymity.

- AP

Former judge is joining Cozen O'Connor

Former Commonwealth Court Judge James Gardner Colins will join the general-litigation practice at Cozen O'Connor, the Philadelphia law firm said. Beginning in July, he will focus on public-utility and insurance regulation. Colins, a Philadelphia resident, stepped down from Commonwealth Court in January after 23 years. He served two terms as its president judge.

- Paul Schweizer

Ikon to redeem $100 million in notes

Ikon Office Solutions Inc., the Malvern document-management company, will redeem for cash the remaining $100 million of its $150 million of senior unsecured floating-rate notes due 2012. The first $50 million was redeemed earlier in May. As a result of the redemptions, Ikon will incur a $5.7 million loss from the early extinguishment of debt in its fiscal third quarter, which ends June 30.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

Six Flags announces $10 cut in ticket prices

Six Flags Great Adventure is cutting ticket prices $10 to help consumers battling rising costs. The Jackson, N.J., theme park said the new $49.99 ticket price was effective Tuesday and would be available for a limited time.

- AP

Red Cross to honor Blue Cross chief executive

The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter said in a statement that it would honor Joseph A. Frick, president and chief executive officer of Independence Blue Cross, with the 2008 Citizen of the Year Award. The awards ceremony is June 12.

- Rhonda Dickey


Dell reports quarterly gains in profit and sales

Dell Inc. said its profit and sales grew in its fiscal first quarter, beating Wall Street expectations and signaling that the computer-maker's turnaround efforts may be paying off. For the three months ended May 2, Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, earned $784 million, or 38 cents a share, up from $756 million, or 34 cents a share, in the same period a year earlier. Dell said its revenue increased 9 percent, to $16.08 billion from $14.72 billion. On average, analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected a profit of 34 cents a share on sales of $15.68 billion.

- AP

Banking profits down 45.7 percent, regulators say

Federal regulators say banking-industry profits were nearly halved in the first quarter, reflecting slumps in housing and credit markets. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data show the nation's federally insured banks and savings institutions, which include Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., earned $19.3 billion in the January-to-March period. That was a drop of 45.7 percent from the $35.6 billion earned a year earlier.

- AP