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Business news in brief

Masaaki Shirakawa, governor of the Bank of Japan, arrives for a news conference in Tokyo where the bank announced a cut in its benchmark interest rate to 0.1 percent. It also said it would buy corporate debt.
Masaaki Shirakawa, governor of the Bank of Japan, arrives for a news conference in Tokyo where the bank announced a cut in its benchmark interest rate to 0.1 percent. It also said it would buy corporate debt.Read moreTOMOHIRO OHSUMI / Bloomberg News

In the Region

Dow suspends firm in alleged tip-off

Dow Chemical Co.

suspended its relationship with

Brunswick Group

after one of the public-relations firm's employees allegedly tipped off traders to Dow's acquisition of

Rohm & Haas Co.

, Philadelphia. Business ties with Brunswick Group have been halted pending the outcome of an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, said David Winder, a spokesman for Dow Chemical. Matthew Devlin, a former salesman for Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., passed secret tips from his wife, who worked at Brunswick, to traders who made hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors alleged Thursday. Federal prosecutors in New York filed criminal insider-trading charges against Devlin and others for alleged illegal trades in a dozen transactions. David Lipin, a Brunswick spokesman, wasn't immediately available to comment.

- Bloomberg News

Teva purchase cleared by U.S., Europe

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

, the world's biggest maker of generic drugs, received U.S. and European antitrust approval to buy competitor

Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc.

after selling certain overlapping products. Teva, an Israeli company, has North American headquarters in North Wales and has three other sites in the Philadelphia region. The Federal Trade Commission is requiring the companies to divest 16 generic products representing $60 million in annual sales and 13 overlapping generics still in development, Teva and Barr said in a statement. The European Commission, the 27-nation European Union's antitrust regulator, cleared the deal earlier yesterday on the condition that certain cancer drugs and prescription vitamins would be sold.

- Bloomberg News

FDA requests more data on drug

Centocor Inc.

, a Horsham unit of

Johnson & Johnson,

said the Food and Drug Administration requested additional information about its experimental drug to treat psoriasis. Centocor has asked the FDA to approve its drug ustekinumab to treat the immune system disorder, which causes painful, red scales on the skin. In a letter to the company, FDA regulators requested Centocor to develop a plan to ensure the drug is used appropriately. The strategy would include distributing a medication guide to patients. Regulators did not ask the company to conduct any new studies of the drug. "We anticipate responding to the FDA in January 2009 and remain focused on bringing ustekinumab to market," said Senior Vice President Jerome Boscia.

- AP

PSE&G customers to see lower rates

Public Service Electric & Gas

residential customers will soon see their heating bills go down by about 5 percent. The utility announced the cut Thursday, citing decreases in the wholesale cost of natural gas. The lower rates, which take effect Jan. 1, mean a residential customer who uses 100 therms in a winter month will pay $158.74 per month, a savings of $8.22. PSE&G serves 1.7 million natural gas customers in northern and central New Jersey.

- AP

Burgess named CEO at Graham

Plastic-container manufacturer

Graham Packaging Co.

L.P., York, named

Mark S. Burgess

its new chief executive officer. Burgess has been the company's chief financial officer and chief operating officer. His appointment is effective Jan. 1. Warren D. Knowlton, CEO since 2006, is resigning, effective Dec. 31, but has agreed to continue with the company in the role of executive chairman, Graham said in a statement. Graham is majority owned by the Blackstone Group of New York.

- Reid Kanaley


Panasonic to buy Sanyo


has begun a $9 billion takeover of Japanese rival


, hoping that transforming into one of the world's biggest electronics companies will help it weather tough business conditions. Top shareholders, including Goldman Sachs, had been haggling over the price with Panasonic Corp. since it expressed interest in Sanyo last month, but yesterday revealed they'd settled on a tender offer price of $1.47 a share. The deal would also allow Panasonic, which makes Viera TVs and Diga Blu-ray disc players, to take advantage of struggling Sanyo's green businesses in solar panels and rechargeable batteries.

- AP

U.S. files trade case against China

The Bush administration filed a trade case against China over its use of export subsidies to promote Chinese products.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab

, in announcing the case, said China was violating global trade rules administered by the

World Trade Organization

in the way it operates a "famous brands" program to promote the sale of Chinese goods in other countries. The United States could be cleared to impose economic sanctions against China if negotiations between the two nations fail to resolve the dispute and if a WTO hearing panel rules in favor of the United States.

- AP

Japan cuts key rate to 0.1 percent

Japan's central bank cut its key interest rate to 0.1 percent, joining the U.S. Federal Reserve in lowering borrowing rates to nearly zero amid an ever-worsening outlook for the global economy. The

Bank of Japan

also introduced new steps to ease a growing credit crunch for companies. The cut was widely expected and comes after the government lowered its economic forecast for the fiscal year through March to negative 0.8 percent from positive 1.3 percent.

- AP

Fed provides auction details


Federal Reserve

released a schedule of auctions that allow squeezed banks to obtain short-term cash loans to help them cope with the global credit crisis. The Fed will conduct six auctions in the first three months of next year. Auctions conducted on Jan. 12, Feb. 9, and March 9 give banks the opportunity to obtain 28-day loans. Auctions conducted on Jan. 26, Feb. 23, and March 23 allow banks to get 84-day loans. To ease the severe credit crunch, the Fed last December launched the program to give banks a new way to get short-term loans and help them over the credit hump. A lockup in lending between banks, and to businesses and consumers, has aggravated the economy's problems, throwing the country into a recession. The Fed has been working closely with other central banks to coordinate the relief efforts.

- AP