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Business news in brief

In the Region

Aker identifies source of loan

Aker Philadelphia Shipyard Inc. has entered into an agreement with Caterpillar Financial Services Corp. for a construction loan totaling $80 million, the shipyard said Wednesday in a filing on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The private construction financing was announced in February, along with $42 million from Pennsylvania, and a commitment by Aker ASA, the Norwegian parent company, of $210 million to complete two ships that do not yet have buyers. Under the agreement, Caterpillar will fund as much as $40 million for each of two product tankers being built for the shipyard's own account. Aker previously said it received a commitment letter from a third-party lender and expected the transaction to close in the second quarter. The shipyard completed the loan documents Wednesday and disclosed the name of the lender. Without state money, and private construction financing, the Philadelphia shipyard might have closed. - Linda Loyd

Lannett names new chairman

Philadelphia generic-pharmaceutical maker Lannett Co. Inc. said Ronald A. West would replace William Farber as chairman of the board July 1. West, 77, has been a member of the Lannett board since 2002. He previously was chairman and chief executive officer of automotive-equipment manufacturer Dura Corp. He is a director of Beecher Associates, an industrial real estate investment company. Farber, 79, Lannett's chairman since 1991, will remain as chairman emeritus, the company said. - Maria Panaritis

2 N.J. utilities lowering rates

Two New Jersey natural gas utilities will lower their rates this fall. Public Service Electric & Gas Co. proposed reducing rates by 1.1 percent for residential customers. And South Jersey Gas filed a proposal with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to reduce residential rates 4.3 percent in the winter. - Andrew Maykuth

Hersha boosts dividend 20%

Hersha Hospitality Trust, of Philadelphia and Harrisburg, said it was raising the dividend on its common stock to 6 cents a share from 5 cents. The dividend is payable July 15 to shareholders June 30. Two years ago, in the midst of the country's real estate meltdown, Hersha lowered its dividend from 18 cents; the increase next month will be the first since then. In that period, the company has posted net losses in five of the eight quarters, including a $13.4 million loss in the first quarter this year. - Paul Schweizer

VWR buys Utah competitor

VWR International L.L.C., Radnor, said it bought BioExpress Corp., a competitor in the laboratory-supplies industry, for an undisclosed price. BioExpress is a private Kaysville, Utah, firm with 90 employees and specializes in lab supplies for schools, government, and biotech companies. VWR, also privately owned, has 7,000 employees. - Paul Schweizer


Group targets 'negative' tax rate

Eleven U.S. corporations including General Electric Co., Boeing Co., and Wells Fargo & Co. together reported $62 billion in domestic profits in 2010 while paying a negative 3.6 percent federal tax rate, according to data released by Citizens for Tax Justice. The group, which is backed by labor unions, hopes the data will help persuade President Obama to abandon his efforts to rewrite the corporate tax code without collecting additional revenue. The organization said the figures made the case for using a corporate tax overhaul to generate more revenue. GE's chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, serves on Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Citizens for Tax Justice said the company's effective tax rate during 2010 was a negative 64 percent on $5.1 billion in U.S. profits. "GE is fully compliant with all tax laws," company spokesman Andrew Williams said in an e-mailed statement. "There are no exceptions." GE plans to file its 2010 federal tax return by September and anticipates that it will have a "small" tax liability, Williams said in the statement. - Bloomberg News

Two carriers raise bag fees

Both Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. are raising fees to check a second bag on flights to Europe. The first bag is still free. Previously, they both charged $50 for a second bag. Now Delta will charge $60 if it's checked online, $75 at the airport. United and Continental are charging $70 to check a second bag. Delta is also adding a $30 fee for a second bag between the United States and most of Latin America. Its previous fee of $150 for overweight bags on flights to Europe will drop to $75. The Delta changes begin with tickets bought Wednesday. Both airlines say they made the changes to match their European partners. - AP

Judge rules in favor of Orbitz

American Airlines must allow Orbitz Worldwide Inc. to resume selling the carrier's tickets, a judge in Chicago ruled. Illinois Circuit Judge Lee Preston in Chicago ordered American Airlines to reinstate's and Orbitz for Business's ability to ticket its flights. Preston overturned an earlier decision denying a request by Travelport L.P. for a preliminary injunction, finding that the company has a right in need of legal protection. Travelport owns about 48 percent of Chicago-based Orbitz, according to its website. - Bloomberg News

Google says it thwarted hackers

Google Inc. said hackers tried to steal passwords from hundreds of Gmail users, targeting the accounts of government officials in the United States and Asia. The campaign, which appears to have started in China, probably used a phishing scam to collect passwords with the goal of monitoring e-mail content, Eric Grosse, engineering director on the Google Security Team, said. Google said it detected and disrupted the campaign, secured users' accounts, and notified authorities. - Bloomberg News

Money-fund yields unchanged

The average seven-day yield on taxable money-market funds was 0.02 percent this week, unchanged from last week, iMoneyNet Inc. said. A seven-day yield is an annual yield based on the preceding seven days' level of income by the fund. The average yield on tax-free funds was 0.02 percent this week, unchanged from last week. - Rhonda Dickey