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Business news in brief

In the Region

Center to pay $3.28M in billing case

St. Mary's Medical Center, which voluntarily disclosed it had improperly billed Medicare, agreed to pay $3.28 million to resolve claims related to the billings, Zane David Memeger, the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, said. The hospital billed Medicare for more expensive one-day hospital admissions on some occasions when it should have billed for observations or outpatient visits, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. St. Mary's said it has updated its billing process and staff training. - Harold Brubaker

FCC urged to demand more data

Advocacy groups asked the Federal Communications Commission to demand more documents from Comcast Corp. before voting on the Philadelphia cable company's proposed merger with General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal. Comcast should supply the FCC with contracts to carry other companies' programs since 2006, Andrew Jay Schwartzman, policy director of Media Access Project, said in a letter posted Tuesday on the FCC's website. The contracts will help the agency determine whether Comcast restricts program suppliers from selling their shows to competing online providers, Schwartzman said in the letter filed on behalf of his group, Free Press, Consumer Federation of America, Public Knowledge, and Consumers Union. Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice didn't reply to requests for comment. FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard declined to comment. - Bloomberg News

Regulator: Guarantees not reported

American International Group Inc., the bailed-out U.S. insurer, failed to report $18.7 billion of policyholder guarantees at two property-casualty subsidiaries in 2008, its Pennsylvania regulator said. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh and American Home Assurance Co., which issued the guarantees to bolster other AIG units, had contingent liabilities tied to the promises of $157 billion on Dec. 31, 2008, compared with the $138.3 billion disclosed at the time, Robert Pratter, the state's acting insurance commissioner, said in a report. AIG agrees with the findings, Robert Schimek, chief financial officer of Chartis, AIG's property-casualty business, said in a Dec. 7 letter to the regulator. AIG's units "have the appropriate controls to ensure more accurate disclosures," Schimek said in the letter, which was attached to the report. - Bloomberg News

Expanded use sought for Remicade

Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc., Horsham, said it asked the Food and Drug Administration for permission to market its Remicade drug for children with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflamatory bowel disease. Remicade already is approved to treat adults with moderately to severely active UC. Centocor, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, develops medicines for immunology, kidney diseases, and cancer. - Paul Schweizer


Blizzard delays $1B in shopping

The blizzard that swept through the Northeast on Sunday and Monday delayed $1 billion in retail spending, according to the research firm ShopperTrak, but won't derail a holiday shopping season expected to be the best since 2007. The effect won't be as bad as last year's pre-Christmas snowstorm that similarly paralyzed parts of the East Coast. That cost retailers an estimated $2 billion, according to the weather research firm Planalytics. About $10 billion in retail sales usually takes place Dec. 26-27, ShopperTrak says. Bad weather likely delayed about 10 percent of that. The storm's effects weren't enough to change ShopperTrak's estimate for a 4 percent gain over last year in revenue for the Nov. 1-Dec. 31 holiday season. Retailers will still see much of the spending when shoppers return to stores as streets are cleared and transportation restored. - AP

Mortgage assistance tailing off

Fewer troubled homeowners are receiving assistance with their mortgages as government efforts to prevent foreclosures are slowing. About 470,000 homeowners received help on their mortgages in the July-September quarter, federal regulators say. That's a 17 percent drop from the previous quarter and a decline of 32 percent from the same period last year. The pool of homeowners eligible to have their mortgages modified is declining, federal officials say, as banks have concluded many distressed borrowers can't be helped. That is pushing up the number of foreclosed homes, which keeps home prices low. The number of completed foreclosures rose by 11.2 percent in the third quarter compared with the previous three months, according to a report from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Office of Thrift Supervision. - AP

Simon gets loan for U.K. bid

Simon Property Group Inc. got a $4.6 billion loan that will help the company bid for Capital Shopping Centres Group P.L.C. The loan "would enable Simon to satisfy in full acceptances due under a firm offer for CSC," Simon said. The Indianapolis-based Simon has an ownership stake in a number of properties in the Philadelphia region, including the King of Prussia mall as well as the Franklin Mills, Montgomery, Oxford Valley, and Granite Run malls. The company's own board has given its approval to make a bid for the London-based landlord. The U.K. Takeover Panel gave Simon until Jan. 12 to announce a "firm intention" to make an offer for Capital Shopping. - Bloomberg News

Portugal to sell up to $26B in bonds

Portugal, struggling to cut the euro region's fourth-largest budget deficit, plans to sell as much as $26 billion in bonds next year to help finance the gap. The country's total borrowing needs are expected to be about $26 billion, the debt agency, known as the IGCP, said in a statement. The government plans to sell a new bond through banks in the first quarter, it said. Portugal is cutting state workers' wages and has raised taxes to show investors it can narrow the budget gap after the Greek fiscal crisis led to a surge in borrowing costs for high-deficit nations in the region. Ireland last month became the second country to seek a bailout and the first to line up aid from the European Financial Stability Facility. - Bloomberg News

Yields mixed on money-market funds

The average seven-day yield on taxable money-market funds was 0.03 percent this week, unchanged from last week, according to iMoneyNet Inc. A seven-day yield is an annual yield that is based on the preceding seven days' level of income by the fund. The average yield on tax-free funds was 0.05 percent this week, up from 0.04 percent last week. - Rhonda Dickey