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Business news in brief

In the Region

PPL to repay $30M to Pa. customers

PPL Corp. will refund customers $30 million in overcollected charges. The state's Public Utility Commission approved the repayment to PPL customers this week. State officials say PPL collected the extra money in transition charges related to rate caps. Those caps expire for PPL customers at the end of December. Customers can expect their bills to go up about 30 percent when that happens. The refund will be spread out over monthly bills starting in February. PPL has about 1.4 million customers in central and eastern Pennsylvania. - AP

S&P: Carrier outlook 'much improved'

Standard & Poor's has removed US Airways Group Inc.'s corporate credit rating from "CreditWatch," saying the airline is expected to report "much improved" revenue in 2010. US Airways is the dominant carrier at Philadelphia International Airport. S&P analyst Philip Baggaley affirmed US Airways' "B-" corporate credit rating, but noted the carrier had deferred most 2010 aircraft deliveries. A combination of "reduced capital needs for aircraft" and "an improving revenue outlook" should help operating results. US Airways' ratings had been on CreditWatch with negative implications since July. - Linda Loyd

BioNanomatrix names new CEO

BioNanomatrix Inc., Philadelphia, named its board chairman, Edward L. Erickson, the new president and chief executive officer of the start-up biomedical research company. Erickson succeeds Michael Boyce-Jacino, who has stepped down as president and CEO, and from the board, the company said. Battelle Ventures general partner Tracy Warren succeeds Erickson as chairperson. - Reid Kanaley

Center gets $9.85 million for vaccine

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $9.85 million to the Fraunhofer USA Center for Molecular Biotechnology in Newark, Del., the center and Delaware Gov. Markell announced. The research center will use the money for clinical development of a malaria vaccine. The center, a division of Fraunhofer USA Inc., is a not-for-profit research organization. According to the World Health Organization, 41 percent of the world's population lives in areas where malaria is transmitted; each year more than one million people die from the disease, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa. - Reid Kanaley

Loan's maturity is extended

Orleans Homebuilders Inc., Bensalem, said its lenders executed a limited waiver and amendment extension to its $375 million revolving loan, extending the maturity to Jan. 29. - Bloomberg News


Regulators close banks in 6 states

Regulators have shut down two big California banks, bringing to 140 the number of U.S. banks brought down this year by the weak economy and mounting loan defaults. Earlier yesterday, regulators shut down banks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Illinois. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has taken over the seven, including Imperial Capital Bank, La Jolla, which has about $4 billion in assets and $2.8 billion in deposits, and First Federal Bank of California, Santa Monica, with $6.1 billion of assets and $4.5 billion of deposits. Los Angeles-based City National Bank is acquiring all of Imperial Capital's deposits, as well as $3.3 billion of its assets. OneWest Bank of Pasadena is buying all of First Federal Bank's assets and deposits. - AP

DayQuil packs being recalled

Procter & Gamble Co. is recalling 700,000 packs of Vicks DayQuil capsules because they are not childproof. The company said the affected products do not contain child-resistant packaging, despite labeling claims on the box. The issue affects only DayQuil Cold & Flu 24-Count LiquiCaps Bonus Pack. Consumers can identify the product by the yellow flag in the top-right corner that reads: Bonus 20 Percent More. They can contact the company at 1-800-251-3374 for a refund or replacement coupon. - AP

Ford to speed up debt payment

Ford Motor Co. chief executive officer Alan Mulally says the automaker plans to speed up its debt repayment as its financial condition continues to improve. Mulally also told reporters at a briefing on its new vehicles that Ford will keep its advantage over Chrysler and General Motors next year. Ford has gained sales and market share while its Detroit competitors had to take government aid and go through bankruptcy protection. Ford has about $27 billion in debt. Mulally says the company repaid $10 billion this year and plans to sell $1.6 billion worth of stock. Ford mortgaged all its assets three years ago to borrow $23.5 billion. The loans let it avoid bankruptcy. - AP

French court rules against Google

A Paris court ruled that Google Inc.'s expansion into digital books breaks France's copyright laws, and a judge slapped the Internet search leader with a euro10,000-a-day fine until it stops showing literary snippets. Besides being fined the equivalent of $14,300 for each day in violation, Google was ordered to pay euro300,000 ($430,000) in damages and interest to French publisher La Martiniere, which brought the case on behalf of a group of French publishers. Google attorney Alexandra Neri said the company would appeal. - AP

Departing CEO declines bonus

Morgan Stanley's outgoing chief executive officer John Mack has declined a bonus for the third year in a row. In a memo sent to the investment bank's employees, Mack said he recommended to the board last week that he receive no year-end bonus "given this unprecedented environment and the extraordinary financial support governments provided to our industry." Mack will step down as CEO on Jan. 1, but will remain as chairman. He is being succeeded by co-president James Gorman. - AP

Cruise company's profit drops

Deep discounts on cruises and slower bookings combined to drag down Carnival Corp.'s fourth-quarter profit by 48 percent, the cruise line said. For the three months that ended Nov. 30, Carnival's quarterly profit dropped to $193 million, or 24 cents per share, from $371 million a year earlier. Its revenue slipped to $3.21 billion from $3.3 billion. - AP