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Business news in brief

In the Region

Airgas shares up after bond-offering declared

Shares of Airgas Inc. closed higher yesterday after it said it would sell $350 million of debt securities. It is the Radnor company's first bond offering in four years. The securities will be sold to institutional buyers and will mature in 2018. Proceeds will be used to reduce the company's debt. Bank of America Corp., the Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are managing the sale. Airgas last sold bonds in March 2004, according to Bloomberg News. The company is a distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases and other industrial products. Its shares closed up $2.28 at $62.49 on the New York Stock Exchange.

- Paul Schweizer

Inquirer parent negotiating loan terms with banks

Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., which publishes The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and, is negotiating changes in loan terms with Citizens Bank and other lenders, Standard & Poor's Leveraged Commentary & Data debt news service told clients, citing unnamed sources. The company has been in technical default on a bank loan convenant and has been looking at ways to reduce total debt, including asset sales. The banks blocked payment Sunday to investors who hold the company's so-called mezzanine debt, S&P said. Spokesman Jay Devine had no immediate comment. Mezzanine investors include PMH chairman Bruce Toll, who declined to comment and referred inquiries to company chief executive officer Brian Tierney and Devine.

- Joseph N. DiStefano

Wyeth to resume sales of risky drug for dogs

Wyeth will resume sales of the heartworm medicine ProHeart 6, more than three years after a voluntary recall that followed the deaths of almost 500 dogs, with restrictions like those on some risky drugs for humans. Only veterinarians who register with the company, which has major operations in the Philadelphia area, and who take part in Web-based training will be able to buy the drug, the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine said yesterday in statement on the agency's Web site. The FDA encouraged vets and dog owners "to report any possible adverse reactions."

- Bloomberg News

Expo center in Oaks to host 2 of 3 big 2009 shows

The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, which replaced the former Fort Washington Expo Center, will be host to two of three major shows next year: the Suburban Home & Flower Show, Feb. 19 to 22, and the Suburban Fall Home Show, Oct. 16 to 18. Both will be produced by Joyce Mockus, who recently launched her own event company, D&D Expositions. The company is also putting together the Philadelphia Fall Home Show, Sept. 26 to 28 for the Convention Center.

- Suzette Parmley

DuPont to alter wheat and rice for bigger yields

DuPont Co., Wilmington, plans to engineer wheat and rice to boost yields, using similar technology developed for gene-altered corn and soybeans. Farmers in recent months have asked DuPont to develop higher-yielding wheat varieties to help keep pace with output of crops such as corn, said William S. Niebur, vice president of crop-genetics research. DuPont's Pioneer unit has focused on engineering corn that combats bugs, and soybeans and corn that resist weed killer. Separately, the chemical-maker won a jury verdict in the retrial of a claim that toxic chemicals from its plant in DeLisle, Miss., caused a deputy sheriff to contract cancer. In 2005, the former deputy, Glen Strong, and his wife won a $15.5 million jury verdict, which was reversed on appeal. A jury in Laurel, Miss., cleared DuPont yesterday in the retrial.

- Bloomberg News

LLR, managers team up to buy Singer Equities

LLR Partners Inc., a Philadelphia private-equity firm, announced it was partnering with the senior management team of Singer Equities Inc., Maryland, to acquire the business from Paul Singer and his family. Singer is a group of distributorships in the industrial-rubber-products industry operating through five companies: Allied Rubber & Rigging, Hampton Rubber Co., National Hose & Accessory, PRC Industrial Supply and R/W Connection. The company serves a national customer base through its 11 branches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Maine, Virginia and Texas.

- Suzette Parmley

Laundry-detergent plant in N. Brunswick to close

A laundry-detergent-maker is planning to close its North Brunswick plant and distribution center and lay off 300 workers. Officials of Princeton-based Church & Dwight Co. say the facility is inefficient and unsuitable for future growth. The company released a statement saying its New Jersey employees would be offered severance and transition benefits. They would also be considered for job opportunities at a new facility the company plans to build in Jackson Township, Pa., near Wilkes-Barre. Church & Dwight makes laundry detergent for several brand names, including Arm & Hammer.

- AP


Fed OKs sale of Countrywide to Bank of America

The Federal Reserve has given approval for Bank of America Corp. to purchase distressed subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. The Fed board approved the deal in a 32-page order issued yesterday. Countrywide had said previously it would hold a special meeting of shareholders June 25 to approve the proposed sale.

- AP

Ford to cut additional 15% of white-collar workers

A top Ford Motor Co. executive told North American white-collar workers that the company wanted to cut its salaried workforce costs 15 percent and that some people would lose their jobs. Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas division, said in an e-mail message sent to workers that the cuts would take place by Aug. 1. Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said that the company had no target number of employees to cut, but that each department had a salary cost-cutting goal. The automaker, based in Dearborn, Mich., had 23,700 salaried workers at the end of last year. The company has cut the white-collar workforce in North America by 10,800 since the end of 2005, mostly through attrition, early-retirement offers, and voluntary buyouts.

- AP

Broadcom ex-CEO indicted in backdating scheme

Broadcom Corp.'s former chief executive officer Henry Nicholas was indicted for a stock-options backdating scheme that forced the chipmaker to restate earnings by $2.22 billion. He was also charged with drug crimes, including secretly spiking the drinks of customers with the hallucinogen ecstasy. Nicholas, 48, the company's co-founder, was indicted with former chief financial officer William Ruehle, who was charged with securities fraud over the backdating. Nicholas surrendered to the FBI yesterday, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek.

- Bloomberg News

Investment banks ease borrowing from the Fed

Wall Street companies are scaling back their borrowing from the Federal Reserve's emergency-lending program. A Fed report yesterday says the investment firms averaged $8.26 billion in daily borrowing over the last week. That compared with $12.33 billion the previous week.

- AP