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Business news in brief

In the Region

PNC seeks OK for dividend hike

PNC Financial Services Group Inc., Pittsburgh, is seeking approval from regulators for a dividend increase or share buyback, chief executive officer James E. Rohr said. The bank slashed the dividend last year to 10 cents a share from 66 cents to conserve capital. PNC has 10 percent of all deposits in the Philadelphia area, placing it third in market share. - Bloomberg News

PSE&G cuts gas bills 5%

Public Service Electric & Gas Co., New Jersey's largest utility, announced a 5 percent reduction in residential natural gas bills, saving a typical household nearly $10 a month. Under the new gas supply rates, a residential gas heating customer who uses 160 therms in a winter month, or 1,050 therms per year, will see a bill decrease of $64.68 on an annual basis, leaving the total bill at $1,221.08. PSE&G has lowered gas bills about 31 percent – or about $500 annually - since January 2009, when wholesale prices started to drop. - Andrew Maykuth

SEC charges 2 with insider trading

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Jeffery J. Temple, a former information systems and security manager at an undisclosed Wilmington law firm, with insider trading that netted him and his brother-in-law, Benedict M. Pastro, $182,000 in illegal profits. Temple allegedly used nonpublic information to trade in advance of at least 22 merger announcements by 20 companies, the SEC said in a civil complaint in Delaware. Lawyers for Temple and Pastro, both of Newark, Del., did not return calls seeking comment. - Harold Brubaker

Pep Boys quarterly profit doubles

The Pep Boys - Manny Moe & Jack, Philadelphia, reported third-quarter profit that more than doubled on a 5 percent rise in sales. The auto service and retail chain posted net income of $5.7 million, or 11 cents per share, in the quarter ended Oct. 30 compared with $2.1 million, or 4 cents per share for the same period a year ago. Same-store sales - a measure of retail performance at stores open for at least a year - increased 3.5 percent. - Reid Kanaley

Contract OK'd for new PGW chief

The Philadelphia Gas Commission voted unanimously to approve a three-year contract between Philadelphia Gas Works and Craig White, its new chief executive officer. White, 54, who is currently chief operating officer, will take over on March 1 for retiring CEO Thomas E. Knudsen. - Andrew Maykuth

Cephalon CEO to stay on leave

Cephalon Inc. said chairman and chief executive officer Frank Baldino Jr. will remain on a medical leave of absence indefinitely. In August, the Frazer biotechnology company said Baldino, who also is the company's founder, took a medical leave, but did not provide additional details. Chief operating officer J. Kevin Buchi will continue to handle Baldino's responsibilities. - AP

Metals firm buys Pa., N.C. sites

Alro Steel Corp., Jackson, Mich., said it was acquiring certain assets of Anderson Metals' three metals service centers: in Huntingdon Valley and York, Pa., and in Greensboro, N.C., for an undisclosed amount. The sites have a total of 45 employees, who are to be retained. Anderson Metals is based in York. - Roslyn Rudolph

Sunoco CEO wins Chamber award

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce named Lynn L. Elsenhans, chief executive officer of Sunoco Inc., Philadelphia, as the winner of its 2011 Paradigm Award recognizing an outstanding businesswoman in the region. As recipient, Elsenhans will designate $25,000 in charitable gifts provided with support from Ernst & Young. The award will be presented on March 17. - Andrew Maykuth


Consumer borrowing jumps

Consumer borrowing rose in October at an annual rate of $3.4 billion, the most in more than two years, led by a big rise in the category that includes student loans, the Federal Reserve said. But the strength is being heavily influenced as the result of a recently enacted law that makes the government the primary lender to students. Americans have been reducing their borrowing since late 2008 as they struggle to cope with a slow economy and high unemployment. - AP

Madoff investor to return $625M

Carl Shapiro, one of the first clients of convicted con man Bernard L. Madoff, and a group of related investors agreed to forfeit $625 million in profits to the government. The federal government sued Shapiro, contending the profit his group withdrew from accounts with Madoff came from money invested by victims of Madoff's fraudulent investment advisory business. Investors lost about $20 billion to Madoff, the government has said. - Bloomberg News

Microsoft to add privacy options

Microsoft Corp. said it would add features to its Internet Explorer browser that let users better protect their privacy online by creating "Do Not Call" lists for the Internet. Internet Explorer 9 will bar listed websites from tracking what users do on the Web, said Dean Hachamovitch, a Microsoft vice president who's in charge of Internet Explorer. - Bloomberg News

Pharma firms settle pricing charges

The Justice Department said three pharmaceutical manufacturers agreed to pay $421 million to settle allegations that they reported inflated prices for numerous products. The government said the companies knew federal health care programs relied on the inflated prices to set payment rates. The companies are Abbott Laboratories Inc., Abbott Park, Ill.; B. Braun Medical Inc., Bethlehem, Pa.; and Roxane Laboratories Inc., Columbus, Ohio. - AP

IMF backs extension of Greek loans

The International Monetary Fund supports a plan to extend beyond 2013 Greece's repayment of $150 billion in bailout loans without imposing new conditions on the financially struggling country, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said. Meanwhile, protests against austerity measures continued. On Tuesday, about 500 pensioners marched through central Athens before Strauss-Kahn's arrival, and 2,000 protesters from a communist-backed union rallied outside Parliament before his appearance there. - AP