In the Region

Relief on natural-gas bills

Philadelphia natural-gas customers will get a break in their bills, at least in coming months, under new rates that also will help

Philadelphia Gas Works

. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission granted PGW's "emergency" request to raise its base rate by $60 million in 2009 to help it lower long-term financing costs. The increase will help PGW offset a $107 million decline in commodity prices for natural gas. The net bill for customers will drop about 4.2 percent, the commission said.

- Inquirer Staff

Rite Aid quarterly loss nearly triples

Drugstore operator

Rite Aid Corp.

, Camp Hill, said that its loss nearly tripled in its third quarter because of costs to close stores and continuing struggles for its Brooks Eckerd pharmacies. The grim economy and other issues also prompted the company to cut its expectations for next year. In the quarter ended Nov. 29, the company reported a loss of $248.7 million, or 30 cents per share, excluding stock dividends and accretion. A year ago, it lost $93 million, or 12 cents per share. Revenue fell 0.5 percent, to $6.47 billion from $6.5 billion. Without one-time charges, Rite Aid says its loss was $130.1 million, or 15 cents per share.

- AP

WHYY starts Y Info channel

WHYY

announced it would launch a digital TV news and information channel, called Y Info, on Jan. 4. The station's third digital channel will offer 24-hour programming on current affairs, health and science, finance and history, and original station projects, according to WHYY.

Delaware Tonight

,

BBC World News

, and

Wall Street Week

will be among the offerings. "Viewers place a high value on the programs that help them understand and navigate through complex political and economic times without clutter and noise," station chief William J. Marrazzo said.

- Carolyn Davis

Allianz unit to bolster antibias rules

Roster Financial L.L.C

., a Camden subsidiary of

Allianz Life Insurance Co.

of North America, will beef up its antidiscrimination policies and pay $320,000 to settle a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission on behalf of Patrick O. McGlashan 3d, 39, who had been the only black vice president of annuity sales at Roster's Voorhees office. Roster's attorneys did not return repeated calls for comment. The company does not admit any wrongdoing in settling the case.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

American Water to issue new shares

American Water

, Voorhees, said that it would offer $300 million in common stock and that a subsidiary of its German parent company intends to sell an additional $300 million in American Water stock. American Water said it will use proceeds from the new offering to repay debt. The German parent, utility company RWE AG, will receive the proceeds from the subsidiary's sale, American Water said in a statement. American Water shares closed down $1.08, or 5 percent, at $20.74.

- Reid Kanaley

Boscov's receives filing extension

Boscov's Inc.

, the Reading department-store chain that filed for bankruptcy, received a four-month extension of its deadline to file a reorganization plan. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross in Wilmington gave the retailer until April 1 to submit a plan, according to court papers filed Wednesday. The period that prohibits creditors from filing a competing plan expired Dec. 2.

- Bloomberg News

New terms reached on PHH debt

PHH Corp.

, a Mount Laurel mortgage and auto-leasing company, said lenders had agreed to new terms on its debt, reducing the capacity of a series of notes from $3.9 billion to $3.5 billion. The agreement with

Chesapeake Funding

L.L.C.

"will provide us with greater overall flexibility in financing the purchase of vehicles in connection with our fleet management services segment," the company said in a statement. PHH's largest shareholder,

Pennant Capital Management

L.L.C.

, said Nov. 28 that the company was in "peril," and needed to try to become profitable immediately rather than focus on the long term.


- Reid Kanaley

Feds reviewing Delaware River project

The

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

says it has not found any factors that would stop the proposed dredging of the Delaware River shipping channel. The Corps announced that it was conducting an environmental review based on information generated since a 1997 environmental impact statement and is accepting public comment. The project, which also requires Delaware approval, stalled in 2003 amid disputes over its costs and environmental impact.

- AP

Wyeth buys biotech firm

Wyeth

said it bought

Thiakis Ltd.

, a private British biotechnology company, for $30 million. Wyeth may make additional payments of up to $120 million for the acquisition if Thiakis achieves specific performance milestones. Thiakis' lead product is an experimental drug designed to treat obesity by suppressing appetites. Obesity is estimated to affect 300 million people worldwide. The drug is in the initial stages of human testing. Wyeth has corporate headquarters in Madison, N.J., with its pharmaceutical operation based in Collegeville.

- Paul Schweizer

Trump sues to get shot at license

Donald Trump's casino company filed suit in federal court to get another shot at a potentially lucrative slot-machine license in Philadelphia. The lawsuit filed in Harrisburg by

Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc.

names members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and says their rationale for rejecting Trump's application violated the company's constitutional rights to equal protection and to conduct interstate commerce. The gaming board issued a statement from a lawyer, R. Douglas Sherman, who noted that the state Supreme Court already has rejected appeals to the gaming board's decisions and found them "both lawful and supported by the evidence."

- AP

Elsewhere

New credit-card rules - and rates

Credit-card companies, facing an increase in defaults and a decline in consumer spending, are raising some rates, adding fees and cutting credit lines as the

Federal Reserve

makes sweeping changes to the industry. The provisions, approved by the Fed and effective July 1, 2010, may curtail lenders' ability to raise interest rates on current balances, require they apply payments to charges with higher interest rates first, and extend the time customers have to pay bills before incurring late fees. The

Office of Thrift Supervision

, which regulates savings and loans, and the

National Credit Union Administration

approved the rules.

- Bloomberg News

Rating system for nursing homes

About 22 percent of the nation's nearly 16,000 nursing homes received the federal government's lowest rating in a new 5-star system, while 12 percent received the highest ranking. A home could obtain up to five stars based on criteria such as staffing and how well they fared in state inspections. The lowest ranking was one star. Kerry Weems, acting administrator for the

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

, said the agency was taking data already on the agency's Web site and making it easier for patients and families to choose a nursing home. "This should help consumers in narrowing their choices, but nothing should substitute for visiting a nursing home when making a decision," Weems said. Medicare's Nursing Home Compare Web site is at

.

- AP