In the Region

New CEO for Coat Factory

Burlington Coat Factory Holdings Inc.

named

Thomas A. Kingsbury

president and chief executive officer. Kingsbury, 56, succeeds

Mark Nesci

, who said earlier in the year that he intended to retire after 37 years at the chain of 427 retail stores. Kingsbury most recently was senior executive vice president at

Kohl's Corp.

Burlington Coat was bought by

Bain Capital Partners L.L.C.

for $2.1 billion in April 2006.

- Mike Armstrong

Mortgage insurers on S&P watch

Standard & Poor's

said it might lower the credit ratings of five mortgage insurers, including Philadelphia's

Radian Group Inc.,

MGIC Investment Corp.

, and the

PMI Group Inc.

, on concern that falling home prices and rising unemployment will hurt results. Poor results and disruptions in the capital markets may also "prevent them from obtaining additional capital," S&P said in a statement.

Genworth Financial Inc.

and

Old Republic International Corp.

were also placed on watch by S&P.

- Bloomberg News

Ex-employee, family accused in theft

National Penn Bancshares Inc.

, Boyertown, has accused a former employee and eight relatives of stealing $4.5 million. The bank has filed a lawsuit against the unnamed employee, who was fired Tuesday, and the relatives, National Penn said in a statement. No other employees are known to be involved, and no customer accounts were affected, the bank said.

- Bloomberg News

PPL approved for pilot program

PPL Corp.

said it won regulatory approval for a time-of-use pilot program that enables customers to lower their electric bills by changing usage patterns. Under the test, approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, electricity charges will vary based on time of day and season. The pilot program will begin this winter and continue through 2009 for 1,200 volunteer residential customers. PPL, Allentown, said it would mail invitations to customers until the program is filled. The company wants to make the program available to all customers in 2010.

- Paul Schweizer

USA Technologies extends buyback

USA Technologies Inc.

, Malvern, has doubled the amount of money - to $1 million - that it will spend to repurchase shares, according to a company filing. The board also extended the expiration date of the repurchase program from Dec. 31 to June 30. The Malvern company provides networked credit card and other noncash payment systems in the vending, commercial laundry, hospitality and digital-imaging industries.

- Roslyn Rudolph

Elsewhere

Merrill, BofA approve combination

Shareholders of

Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.

and

Bank of America Corp.

yesterday approved the investment bank's sale to BofA, in a move that will create the nation's largest financial-services firm. During a special shareholders' meeting at company headquarters in New York, Merrill shareholders approved the sale of the company to Bank of America, which brings to an end the independence of an investment bank founded in 1914. Bank of America shareholders approved the deal in a vote in Charlotte, N.C. Merrill has posted five consecutive quarterly losses as it has been forced to cut the value of holdings in a wide variety of investments such as mortgage-backed securities amid the credit crisis. Every Merrill board member except chairman

John Thain

skipped the final act in the 94-year-old firm's history, failing to appear for a shareholder vote on its sale to Bank of America, Bloomberg News reported.

- AP

Surprise drop in consumer borrowing

U.S. consumers unexpectedly cut back on their borrowing in October as the economy sank deeper into recession. The

Federal Reserve

says consumer credit fell at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in October. That compares with a 3.1 percent growth rate logged in September, and marks the deepest cutback since August. Economists expected consumers to boost their borrowing by about $2 billion in October from the previous month. Instead, consumer debt dropped $3.5 billion, to $2.58 trillion. The Fed's measure of consumer borrowing does not include any debt secured by real estate, such as mortgage or home-equity loans.

- AP

Regulators close Ga. bank

First Georgia Community Bank

was closed by regulators yesterday, the 23d U.S. bank seized this year, as mortgage delinquencies and home foreclosures surge to records amid a deepening recession. First Georgia, with $237.5 million in assets and $197.4 million in deposits, was shut by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was named receiver.

United Bank

, Zebulon,

Ga., will assume deposits from First Georgia.

- Bloomberg News

Hartford Financial raises guidance

Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.

raised its profit expectations and reaffirmed the strength of its capital position, more than doubling shares of the insurance company; the shares closed up $7.38, or 102.36 percent, at $14.59. Hartford Financial said it now expected a profit of $4.70 to $4.90 a share for the current full year. That's up from the full-year profit of $4.30 to $4.50 a share that the company forecast when it reported a third-quarter loss of $2.6 billion Oct. 29.

- AP

Mitsubishi to halt production at plant

Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

said it would suspend production at its plant in Normal, Ill., for seven weeks starting Feb. 18. The Tokyo automaker's U.S. sales have fallen 25 percent this year compared with 2007 and were down 36 percent for November alone. Employees will still report to work to perform other duties such as maintenance or training and will be paid as usual.

- AP

Retailer allowed to pay ex-employees

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge allowed

Circuit City Stores Inc.

to continue paying nearly 600 employees laid off at its headquarters before it filed for bankruptcy protection. Pending final order, Judge Kevin Huennekens also gave the consumer-electronics retailer permission to break about 150 leases at locations where it no longer operates stores, which the company said costs $40 million annually. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month.

- AP