Business news in brief
In the Region
Pa. lawmaker seeks U.S. help with insurer merger
Pennsylvania State Sen. Donald C. White said he was asking federal officials for help to reexamine the proposed merger of Philadelphia's Independence Blue Cross and Highmark Inc., Pittsburgh. White, a Republican from Indiana County, asked U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) to urge the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to look at the merger plan again. White is chairman of the state Senate's banking and insurance committee.
- Jane M. Von Bergen
Teva wins appeals ruling on generic Novartis drug
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the generic-drug company with U.S. headquarters in North Wales, won an appeals court decision that would let it keep selling a lower-cost version of Novartis AG's Famvir treatment for genital herpes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, without issuing an opinion, rejected arguments by Novartis that Teva's version should stay off the market until a patent-infringement trial was held.
- Bloomberg News
City hires Zipcar over nonprofit PhillyCarShare
Zipcar Inc., a for-profit car-rental service based in Cambridge, Mass., has replaced local nonprofit PhillyCarShare Inc. as the City of Philadelphia's rental-car supplier, city and Zipcar officials said. Zipcar "had the lowest price," said Robert Fox, head of the city's Office of Fleet Management. The city used 6 to 10 cars a day from PhillyCarShare and expects to use the same from Zipcar, said procurement commissioner Hugh Ortman. PhillyCarShare has about 500 cars in its local fleet; Zipcar has about 110. PhillyCarShare cost the city about $35,000 a year; Zipcar will cost an estimated $30,000, Ortman added.
- Joseph N. DiStefano
Head of N.J. criminal unit to join Phila. law firm
Gregory A. Paw, director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, will join the Philadelphia-based firm Pepper Hamilton L.L.P. on June 30. He will practice with the firm's White Collar and Corporate Investigations Group. A former lawyer with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, Paw served for 11 months in Baghdad supervising U.S. lawyers and investigators advising the Iraqi government on prosecuting the war crimes of Saddam Hussein and others.
- Chris Mondics
Environmental Tectonics '08 sales up, as was loss
Environmental Tectonics Corp., Southampton, said it lost $13.9 million, or $1.61 a share, in fiscal 2008, compared with a loss of $11.9 million, or $1.35 a share, in 2007. Sales were $22.7 million in 2008, up from $17.4 million. The company said the figures reflected restated 2007 figures.
- Bob Fernandez
Air Products to sell two units to Ky. company
Air Products & Chemicals Inc., Allentown, said it would sell its pressure-sensitive adhesive and atmospheric emulsions businesses to Ashland Inc., Covington, Ky. The $92 million deal includes manufacturing plants in Elkton, Md., and Piedmont, S.C. The two operations had sales of $126 million in 2007.
- Jane M. Von Bergen
N.J. bill: Gas retailers must post cash/credit prices
New Jersey may force gas stations to clearly display whether they sell gasoline at different prices for cash and credit. A Senate panel released legislation requiring gas stations to post signs detailing prices for cash and credit purchases. State regulations allow retailers to set separate prices, but don't address what price must be posted on signs visible from the road.
Pa. bill would limit use of independent contractors
A bill to limit the use of independent contractors by Pennsylvania builders is on its way to the state Senate. The House voted, 122-76, in favor of the Construction Industry Independent Contractor Act. It includes criminal penalties for builders who intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors. It would establish standards for properly classifying independent contractors, including proof they're free from an employer's direction and control.
Franklin Electronic Publishers turns a profit
Annual revenue at Franklin Electronic Publishers Inc. rose in the latest fiscal year to $60.6 million from $52.2 million, the Burlington maker of electronic handheld devices reported. The company also moved into profitability, reporting earnings for the year ended March 31 of $2.5 million, or 30 cents a diluted share, compared with a loss of $3.2 million, or 39 cents a share, the prior year.
- Jane M. Von Bergen
FHA commissioner warns against loan-crisis plan
A Bush administration official warned against overly broad government intervention to stem the housing crisis, arguing that lawmakers' foreclosure-prevention program would saddle taxpayers with too much risk. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees loans made to borrowers with poor credit, could be weakened by a plan for the agency to back as much as $300 billion in new loans to help borrowers refinance into cheaper, fixed-rate mortgages, said commissioner Brian Montgomery.
European Central Bank chief defends tough stance
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet is defending the bank's tough stance on inflation - and repeating that there's a chance it could raise rates at its next monthly meeting. Trichet says the bank could increase rates "by a small amount," a comment that startled markets and helped push the dollar down and send oil prices higher when he first made it last week.
High court makes public-worker bias law tougher
The Supreme Court made it more difficult for individual public employees to sue for workplace discrimination. In a 6-3 decision, the justices ruled against a woman who said her job at the Oregon Department of Agriculture was eliminated because she complained about a colleague who harassed her. Individual victims of discrimination in many instances can assert claims, but "we have often recognized that government has significantly greater leeway in its dealings with citizen employees," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority.
Rates up for short-term T-bills
Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills rose in yesterday's auction. The Treasury Department auctioned $24 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 1.850 percent, up from 1.820 percent last week. An additional $24 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 2.050 percent, up from 1.950 percent last week. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,953.24 while a six-month bill sold for $9,896.36.
Yield drops on index used to change ARMs rates
The Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, fell to 2.14 percent last week from a revised 2.19 percent the previous week.