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Business news in brief

In the Region

C&D Technologies shares close higher

Shares of battery maker C&D Technologies Inc., Blue Bell, closed sharply higher yesterday. It had said Thursday that its first-quarter profit tumbled on tough comparisons to a prior-year period boosted by a gain related to the sale of a Chinese plant. But it said sales were higher. For the quarter ended April 30, C&D earned $577,000, or 2 cents per share, compared with $4.1 million, or 13 cents per share, for the same quarter in 2007. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected a loss of a penny per share. The year-ago quarter included a loss from discontinued operations of $5.2 million, or 11 cents per share, along with a gain of $15.2 million on the sale of a plant in Shanghai. Sales rose 21 percent to $93.8 million from $77.5 million. The company attributed the sales growth to a 4 percent increase in unit volume and pricing improvements. C&D shares closed up $1.28, or 18.9 percent, at $8.04.

- AP

Rohm & Haas revises cash-flow statements

Rohm & Haas Co., Philadelphia, revised its statement of cash flows for three years after discovering an error in how foreign-exchange rates affected its short-term debt, cash and cash equivalents. The company changed results in 2005, 2006 and 2007 for financing activities and for foreign-exchange impact on cash, the chemical company said yesterday in a regulatory filing. The error is not material and was discovered while preparing historical pretax business-segment results, which also were reported yesterday, spokesman Brian McPeak said.

- Bloomberg News

Royal Bank of Scotland may need more

Royal Bank of Scotland Group P.L.C. may have less capital than its largest peers and go back for more after raising $23.5 billion in Europe's biggest rights offering, according to Deutsche Bank AG. Edinburgh-based RBS is the parent of Connecticut-based Citizens Bank, which has the second-largest bank-branch network in Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs, after Wachovia Corp. RBS has lost 19 percent of its market value since it announced the rights offer April 22.

- Bloomberg News

Airgas to buy Arizona energy safety company

Radnor gas supplier Airgas Inc. said it is buying Energy Safety Services Inc., a provider of rental safety equipment and safety services based in Phoenix and operating as Oilind Safety. It generated about $21 million in revenues in 2007, according to an Airgas release. A company spokesman said the purchase price was not being released. The transaction is expected to be completed by July 1, and result in the acquisition operating as a stand-alone company within a new Airgas organization that includes construction and rental businesses. Airgas, a distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases and other industrial products, said it intends to offer employment to more than 200 Oilind Safety associates working in 16 locations, primarily in the Western United States.

- Suzette Parmley

Nasdaq OMX to begin shifting customers

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., the electronic exchange that handles most U.S. shares, will begin to shift customers to a single global trading system over the next two years, helping cut $100 million in annual expenses. Nasdaq will extend Inet technology used on its U.S. exchanges to a new London-based market within four months. By 2009, the company will develop Inet platforms for its seven Nordic exchanges and to handle options trading after buying the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, chief executive officer Robert Greifeld said.

- Bloomberg News


Credit cards got less of a workout in April

Consumers relied a lot less on their credit cards in April, with debt in that area rising at the slowest pace in nearly three years. The Federal Reserve said consumer borrowing increased at an annual rate of 4.2 percent in April, slower than the 6.2 percent increase of March. The slowdown reflected the fact that borrowing in the category that includes credit cards rose at an annual rate of just 0.4 percent, the weakest performance since borrowing in this area actually declined at a 1.8 percent rate in May 2005. The slowdown in growth in credit cards and other revolving debt was offset somewhat by a surge in borrowing for auto loans and other types of non-revolving credit, which jumped at an annual rate of 6.5 percent, up from the March rate of increase of 5.5 percent.

- AP

Toyota develops hydrogen-electric green car

Toyota has developed a new fuel-cell hybrid, a green car powered by hydrogen and electricity, that can travel more than twice the distance of its predecessor model without filling up, the automaker said. The improved model's maximum cruising range is 516 miles compared with 205 miles for Toyota's previous fuel-cell model, the automaker said in a statement. The FCHV-adv model will be available for leasing in Japan this year, said Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Kayo Doi. Pricing and other details were not available, and overseas plans were undecided, she said. Fuel-cell vehicles produce no pollution by running on the power of the chemical reaction when hydrogen stored in a tank combines with oxygen in the air to produce water.

- AP

Freddie Mac shares drop despite assurances

Freddie Mac's chief executive officer tried to reassure shareholders that the mortgage finance company's fortunes would improve, after a year in which its share price was sliced by more than 60 percent amid a prolonged housing slump. The buyer and backer of home mortgages will be able to emerge from the housing downturn with a robust business, Freddie Mac chairman and CEO Richard Syron told shareholders at the company's annual meeting in McLean, Va. Wall Street seemed unconvinced as Freddie Mac shares fell $1.33, or 5.3 percent, to close at $23.96. They are down from more than $65 a year ago.

- AP

Aer Lingus offers grim outlook for the year

Aer Lingus P.L.C. warned its shareholders that record-high fuel prices could drive the Irish airline into the red this year and would require at least one U.S. route to be suspended. "Based on current fuel prices and the uncertain economic outlook, we expect, at best, to break even for the year 2008," Chairman John Sharman said in a statement to the airline's annual general meeting. Sharman said the airline would suspend its services to Los Angeles in November and would keep other long-haul routes to U.S. cities under review - a stunning U-turn following its launch this year of routes to San Francisco, Washington, and Orlando, Fla.

- AP

China seeks new investment in U.S. as talks near

China will lead a delegation of companies to the United States to look for investment opportunities as the next round of an economic dialogue begins, Chinese officials said. A new set of Chinese trade negotiators will take over dialogue with the United States at the fourth round of the Sino-U.S. Strategic Economic Dialogue, being held June 17-18 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The Chinese team will be led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan, who took over in March from the well-respected and long-serving Wu Yi. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is returning as head of the U.S. delegation.

- AP