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Business news in brief

In the Region

House to investigate Wyeth

House lawmakers will investigate

Wyeth, the drugmaker bought last year by Pfizer Inc., after reports that the organ- transplant drug Rapamune was illegally marketed for unapproved uses. Wyeth

has major operations in the Philadelphia area. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said it would review whether Rapamune was targeted at black patients for unapproved uses, according to a letter sent to Pfizer CEO Jeffery Kindler. The committee is looking into whether Wyeth "aggressively encouraged the use of Rapamune to prevent organ rejection following heart, lung, liver, pancreas, and islet cell transplants, without FDA approval," the committee said in a statement. Rapamune is approved to help prevent the rejection of kidney transplants. Regulators last year said kidney-transplant drugs must strengthen warnings about the risk of infections. A Pfizer spokesman did not immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment. - Bloomberg News

Interim CEO now is permanent

After 15 months as interim chief executive officer at Temple University Hospital, Sandra L. Gomberg officially has the job. The hospital announced Friday that she is now CEO and president. Gomberg, a 47-year-old nurse, led the hospital during the strike of 1,500 nurses and allied professionals this spring. She will be in charge of the North Philadelphia hospital, its Episcopal Campus, the Northeastern Ambulatory Care Center, the bone-marrow transplant program at Jeanes Hospital, and the Temple Transport Team. A graduate of Villanova University College of Nursing, Gomberg started work in the pediatric intensive-care unit at Albert Einstein Medical Center. She joined Temple in 1997 to help its now-defunct children's hospital get started. - Stacey Burling

N.J. biotech industry grows

The number of biotechnology companies operating in New Jersey rose to 300 this year from 238 in 2008, BioNJ said. The trade group for the state's biotechnology industry said the gain came even though obtaining venture capital and other funding continues to be difficult because of the slow economy. Of the companies that responded to the group's survey, 78 percent said they intended to hire more employees in the next 12 months. - Paul Schweizer

U.S. grants to fund 2,200 Pa. jobs

As many as 2,200 Pennsylvanians will be paid for community-service jobs with $9 million in grants, the state Department of Labor and Industry announced. More than $5.3 million of those funds will be used to fund about 1,700 jobs handled through the Governor's Office of Citizen Service. And as many as 480 more AmeriCorps jobs will be created with about $3.9 million in five national grants to multistate programs operating in Pennsylvania, the state said. Plus, the state received 12 AmeriCorps grants to support community organizations dealing with education, economic opportunity, health, clean energy, and veterans' services. To get involved, go to Click Community Services/Volunteerism in the left navigation area, then click PennServe, or call 1-866-673-7838. - Roslyn Rudolph

Spirit nears deadline with pilots

Negotiations between Spirit Airlines

and its pilots entered their final stage Friday, with pilots threatening to walk out at midnight if they don't get a new contract. Spirit serves Atlantic City. "We're still in negotiations, and we still hope to reach a deal, but we still have a lot of work to do," said Arthur Luby, assistant director of representation for the Air Line Pilots Association. The company has also said it hopes to make a deal, and strike threats are a common feature of the endgame of airline negotiations. Still, a pilot strike at Spirit could disrupt the travel plans for thousands of passengers. The airline canceled some flights in advance. - AP


April business inventories rise

Inventories held by businesses rose for a fourth consecutive month in April while total business sales increased for a 13th consecutive month. The Commerce Department said Friday that inventories were up 0.4 percent in April after an upwardly revised estimate of a 0.7 percent gain in March. Total business sales rose 0.6 percent in April. The hope is that demand will remain strong enough to persuade businesses to keep restocking their shelves. But a separate report Friday showed that retail sales took a big tumble in May, casting a cloud over hopes for future strength in demand. - AP

Spain considers labor changes

The Spanish government is considering labor-market changes that would make it easier for money-losing companies to lay people off, the labor minister said. Celestino Corbacho said another key goal of the package is to cut the number of workers who have temporary contracts - a full third of the Spanish workforce - with few benefits and scant job security. Most of those laid off in Spain during the global recession had these "garbage contracts." The changes aim to shake up rigid hiring and firing rules and reduce Spain's 20 percent jobless rate to stimulate a moribund economy and reassure markets over the oversized deficit. - AP

Push-back on peanut restrictions

Federal regulators are considering restrictions, or even a ban, on serving peanuts on commercial flights. But the peanut industry is fighting back. "The peanut is such a great snack and such an American snack," says Martin Kanan, CEO of the King Nut Cos., an Ohio company that packages the peanuts served by most U.S. airlines. Peanut allergy can cause life-threatening reactions in people ingesting even trace amounts. - AP

Kohn to stay on Fed board longer

Donald Kohn, the current vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, says he is delaying his departure on the short-staffed Fed board at the request of Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. Kohn says he will remain on the board to give the Senate more time to confirm one of the pending nominations President Obama has made to fill three vacancies on the seven-member board. Kohn had originally said he would step down by July 23. Obama in April said he had chosen Janet Yellen, currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, to become the vice chair of the Fed. But that nomination and two others are still pending before the Senate. - AP

Witness: Bank had to know of bets

A former supervisor of Jerome Kerviel, the Societe Generale futures trader whose high positions cost the bank billions, told a Paris court Friday that bosses must have been aware of Kerviel's over-the-top bets. Benoit Tailleu - who at one time headed the trading desk where Kerviel worked but left the bank before the scandal - said that Kerviel's direct bosses "could not totally ignore" his activities. On the fourth day of his trial, Kerviel's lawyers were still trying to show that the bank tolerated his risk-taking, which Societe Generale has forcefully denied. Kerviel bet up to euro50 billion ($73 billion at the time), costing the bank nearly euro5 billion once it unwound his positions in January 2008. - AP

Volkswagen recalls minivans

Volkswagen AG is recalling nearly 16,000 Routan minivans to address fire concerns involving latches on the sliding doors. The German automaker says the recall affects 2009 minivans, which are jointly developed with Chrysler L.L.C. and built at Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario, plant. - AP

Regulators shut Seattle-based bank

Regulators shut down a bank in Washington state, bringing to 82 the number of U.S. bank failures this year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over Washington First International Bank, Seattle, with $520.9 million in assets and $441.4 million in deposits. East West Bank, Pasadena, Calif., agreed to assume the deposits and $501 million of the assets

of the failed bank. The failure is expected to cost the deposit insurance fund $158.4 million. By this time last year, regulators had closed 37 banks. - AP