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Business news in brief

In the Region

Bill proposes airport authority

Pennsylvania State Rep. Bryan Lentz (D., Delaware) reintroduced legislation to create a Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Airport Authority that would include the Lehigh Valley, Wilmington, and Atlantic City airports. His bill would incorporate high-speed rail as an alternative to airport expansion. - Linda Loyd

Comcast, NBCU execs visit FCC

Comcast Corp. chief executive officer Brian Roberts met with Federal Communications Commission regulators who will be asked to approve his company's bid for control of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal unit, people familiar with the meetings said. Roberts and Jeffrey Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal, met separately with four of the five FCC commissioners. The executives told FCC officials the companies intend to file for approval within 30 to 45 days, said two participants in the discussions. - Bloomberg News

Verizon, N.J. settle lawsuit

Verizon New Jersey Inc. agreed to pay New Jersey $795,000 and more than 1,100 customers $50 each to settle a lawsuit. The state Attorney General's Office said in legal papers filed in March that Verizon failed to deliver on some of its promises for its FiOS television, telephone, and Internet services. That included giving flat-screen televisions to new customers. The company says only a small percentage of customers had service problems. - AP

Brandywine hikes quarterly dividend

Brandywine Realty Trust raised its quarterly dividend by 50 percent to 15 cents a share from 10 cents. The dividend is payable Jan. 20 to shareholders Jan. 6. The Radnor company is a real estate investment trust, managing urban and suburban office properties. - Paul Schweizer

N.J. jobless fund could face shortfall

New Jersey's unemployment insurance fund will run out of money to pay benefits in March, Assemblyman John Bramnick (R., Union) said. As a result, unemployment taxes may double next year if Gov.-elect Christopher Christie and the Legislature don't put $1 billion into the fund, he said. Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D., Camden) said the state would seek federal stimulus money and loans to cover any deficit. - Bloomberg News

Pep Boys boosts sales, turns a profit

Citing a hefty boost in its automotive-repairs business, The Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack said revenue rose 1.8 percent in the third quarter to $472.6 million. The Philadelphia company posted net income for the quarter, which ended Oct. 31, of $2.1 million, or 4 cents per share, compared with a loss of $7.3 million, or 14 cents a share, in last year's period. Sales at stores open a year or more, a key retail measure, were up 1.6 percent overall - the first quarterly increase since 2006. - Maria Panaritis

Wells Fargo to repay TARP 'soon'

Wachovia Bank parent Wells Fargo & Co. affirmed plans to repay $25 billion to the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program "as soon as practical." Chief executive officer John Stumpf, at an investment conference, repeated the San Francisco-based company's intent to pay back the government in a "shareholder-friendly" way. He didn't give a timetable and declined to elaborate on the bank's effort to exit the U.S. bank-bailout program. - Bloomberg News


BofA discussing Lewis replacement

Bank of America's board was meeting to discuss potential replacements for CEO Ken Lewis, who has said he plans to leave by the end of the year. It is unclear whether the board has a specific candidate in mind. Bank spokesman Scott Silvestri said a decision would be made "in the near future." Bank of America has been searching for a new CEO since it announced in late September that Lewis planned to retire. - AP

Simon Property pays $2.3B for malls

Simon Property Group Inc., of Indianapolis, said it would buy the outlet shopping centers owned by Prime Outlets Acquisition Co. for $2.3 billion, solidifying Simon's position as the nation's largest public real estate company. Prime Outlets, of Baltimore, operates 22 centers in metropolitan areas. The deal will boost Simon's portfolio to 63 outlet centers with about 25 million square feet. In the Philadelphia area, Simon's shopping centers include the Franklin Mills, Granite Run, Montgomery, Oxford Valley, and Springfield Malls, the Court at King of Prussia, and the Philadelphia Premium Outlets. - AP

CEOs see little growth in hiring

More of America's largest companies will shrink their staffs than will hire in the next six months, according to the latest survey of their CEOs. A quarterly survey from the Business Roundtable found that 19 percent of companies expect to expand their workforces, while 31 percent predict a decrease. That's slightly better than the 13 percent that saw increased hiring three months earlier, when 40 percent forecast cuts. The number of CEOs expecting to increase capital spending nearly doubled, to 40 percent from 21 percent. - AP

Court seems set to reject fraud law

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared inclined to limit federal prosecutors' use of a fraud law that has helped win convictions of high-profile corporate executives and public officials, or throw out the law altogether. The justices, hearing two challenges to the honest-services fraud law, seemed to be in broad agreement that the law was vague and had been used to make a crime out of mistakes and minor transgressions. - AP

Ga. firm loses documentation appeal

Justice Sonia Sotomayor's first U.S. Supreme Court opinion dealt a unanimous setback to businesses, limiting their ability to appeal orders that require the disclosure of documents during litigation. The justices ruled against carpet manufacturer Mohawk Industries Inc. in a suit by an employee who said he was fired after telling a manager that the Calhoun, Ga., company was employing illegal immigrants. Mohawk said it fired the worker because an investigation concluded he had violated immigration laws. The question for the court was whether Mohawk could appeal an order to provide the worker with documents and other information about the investigation. - Bloomberg News