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Business news in brief

In the Region

PNC to sell branches to buy bank

PNC Financial Services Group

told the federal government it would sell 61 branches of

National City Corp.

in Western Pennsylvania as a condition for acquiring the bank. The Justice Department's order was not a surprise to the bank, which mentioned the possibility of a required sale when the $5.6 billion deal was announced Oct. 24. Shares of PNC closed down $6.04 at $46.65.

- AP

Lincoln Financial unit lays off workers

Lincoln Financial Distributors Inc.

laid off as much as 3 percent of its employees nationwide Monday, including in Radnor, where the division of

Lincoln National Corp.

is based. Lincoln National employs more than 1,300 in Radnor and Philadelphia. Lincoln spokeswoman Laurel O'Brien confirmed that an undisclosed number of employees were let go across the country Monday from Lincoln Financial Distributors, the company's wholesale division that markets and sells variable and fixed annuities, life insurance, and investment-management products. "We're not disclosing the specific numbers," O'Brien said. Layoffs included administrative personnel, sales and wholesalers. "The continuing poor economy is putting pressure on all financial-services companies," she said. Lincoln's shares closed up 26 cents at $17.03.

- Linda Loyd

Wachovia sends checks in settlement

Wachovia Corp.

started mailing 742,870 checks worth $150.14 million to victims of telemarketing fraud, the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia said. The checks, in varying amounts, are reimbursement for money taken from the bank accounts of mostly elderly victims by telemarketers and their payment processors, which conducted business through Wachovia. The $150 million is part of an October settlement of lawsuits alleging Wachovia officials knew or should have known that withdrawals from victim's bank accounts were being made without proper authorizations.

- Harold Brubaker

Merck considers Vioxx appeal


Merck & Co. Inc.,

which has major operations in the Philadelphia area, is considering an appeal after a Texas state appeals court reversed its own prior dismissal of a $7.75 million judgment in a Vioxx personal-injury lawsuit against the drugmaker. A three-judge panel of the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that there should be a new trial in the case, which was brought by the widow of 71-year-old Leonel Garza. A longtime smoker with a history of heart disease, he died of a heart attack in 2001 after taking Vioxx briefly.

- AP

AmerisourceBergen reaffirms view

AmerisourceBergen Corp.

said it was reaffirming its previously announced fiscal 2009 guidance. The Valley Forge pharmaceutical-services company expects diluted earnings per share for fiscal 2009 of $3.08 to $3.25, an increase of 7 percent to 12 percent over the $2.89 from continuing operations in fiscal 2008. Also unchanged are expectations of total revenue growth of 1 percent to 3 percent. The company also expects to spend about $350 million to repurchase shares. Shares closed up $1.74, or 5.76 percent, at $31.93.

- Roslyn Rudolph

Revamped hotel makes debut

After a $10 million renovation, the former Valley Forge Suites debuted as the revamped

Embassy Suites Philadelphia-Valley Forge Hotel

yesterday. The hotel added a bar, a redesigned restaurant, 229 newly designed suites, and redecorated meeting rooms, pool and lobby. It is the upscale all-suite Embassy Suites brand's 197th hotel. The new hotel, off Route 202 in the Chesterbrook business complex in Wayne, is owned by Chesterbrook Hotel Co. L.L.C. and managed by Valley Forge Management Co. L.L.C.

- Suzette Parmley

Toll Bros. reports CFO's illness

Toll Bros. Inc.

, Horsham, said chief financial officer Joel Rassman has

been diagnosed with leukemia and will begin treatment for the disease. Rassman will continue in his post during the treatment, Toll said in a statement.

- Bloomberg News


Ex-Nasdaq chair charged with fraud

A former Nasdaq stock market chairman was arrested yesterday and charged with securities fraud. He is accused of running a phony investment business that lost at least $50 billion and that he called a "giant Ponzi scheme," prosecutors said.

Bernard L. Madoff

was released on $10 million bail secured by his signature and that of his wife. He declined to comment as he walked out of U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Madoff, 70, is the founder of

Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities L.L.C.

- AP

Stanley Works cuts 2,000 jobs

Stanley Works

, the maker of Stanley and Bostitch tools, said it would cut 2,000 jobs and close three factories as it reduced its 2008 earnings forecast because of "rapidly deteriorating business conditions." The employee reductions represent 10 percent of New Britain, Conn., company's workforce.

- Bloomberg News

Citigroup, UBS buying back securities

Citigroup Inc.



agreed to buy back a total of nearly $30 billion in risky auction-rate securities that federal regulators said the banks marketed to customers as safe. The Securities and Exchange Commission formally approved the settlements with the two banking giants after preliminary deals that were reached in August. Tens of thousands of the banks' customers bought the auction-rate securities before the $330 billion market for them froze in mid-February, the SEC said in announcing the final accords. The new settlements were the largest return of customer money in the agency's history, and all the investors will be made whole, SEC Chairman

Christopher Cox

said in a statement. Citigroup and Switzerland's UBS neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing under the settlements.

- AP

KB Toys files for bankruptcy

In another sign of the grim holiday season,

KB Toys Inc.

filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in four years and plans going-out-of-business sales immediately. The 86-year-old company said in a filing that its debt was "directly attributable to a sudden and sharp decline in consumer sales."

- AP