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Business news in brief

In the Region

Glaxo sells Sominex, other brands

Prestige Brands Holdings Inc., maker of Comet cleaner and Murine eye solutions, agreed to buy 17 over-the-counter medicine brands from GlaxoSmithKline P.L.C. for $660 million. London-based Glaxo has operations in Philadelphia. The deal will add about $500 million in annual revenue, Irvington, N.Y.-based Prestige said. The purchase includes digestive helpers Beano and Gaviscon, painkillers Ecotrin and Goody's, and Sominex sleep tablets. - Bloomberg News

Nov. jobless rate down in Pa, not N.J.

The unemployment rate fell in November in Pennsylvania and 42 other states, the most number of states to report such declines in eight years, the Labor Department said. Pennsylvania's seasonally adjusted rate fell to 7.9 percent from October's 8.1 percent. The rate in New Jersey was unchanged at 9.1 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate fell sharply in November to 8.6 percent, the lowest since March 2009. The economy has generated 100,000 or more jobs five months in a row - the first time that has happened since 2006, before the Great Recession. - AP

Penn Virginia expanding in Texas

Radnor-based Penn Virginia Corp. said it would expand oil and gas exploration in Texas' Eagle Ford Shale formation. It has signed an agreement with what Penn Virginia termed a "major oil and gas company" covering about 13,000 acres. Penn Virginia did not name its partner. - Mike Armstrong

Virtual Piggy gets investment

Virtual Piggy Inc., a Philadelphia company that is developing an online service that allows parents to control children's spending online, said it was receiving a "significant financial investment" from an Oracle Corp. veteran. Virtual Piggy said that Kirk Bradley has joined its board, but it did not disclose the amount of his investment. - Mike Armstrong

Fed approves an acquisition by PNC

The Federal Reserve approved Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group's $3.5 billion deal to acquire 424 branches of RBC Bank in the Southeastern United States. PNC, the fourth-largest bank in the Philadelphia region by deposits, agreed last June to buy the six-state franchise of Royal Bank of Canada for cash and stock. The acquisition is expected to be completed in March. - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Comcast fined over Tennis Channel

Tennis Channel, based in Los Angeles, won a carriage dispute with Comcast Corp., of Philadelphia, over the channel's placement on an extra-cost sports package. Federal Communications Commission chief administrative law judge Richard L. Sippel fined Comcast $375,000 and ordered the company to stop discriminating against the channel. Tennis Channel said Comcast was treating it less favorably than the Comcast-owned Golf Channel and Versus, which were not part of an extra-cost package. Comcast said the ruling was an initial decision and "subject to further review" by the FCC or the U.S. Court of Appeals. - Bob Fernandez

FMC marks 80 years on NYSE

FMC Corp., the Philadelphia chemical company, marked its 80th year of listing on the New York Stock Exchange with the ringing of the market's closing bell by company president, chief executive officer, and chairman Pierre Brondeau. FMC listed on the NYSE on April 23, 1931, as the Food Machinery Corp. - Inquirer staff


Fed wants banks to increase reserves

The Federal Reserve said the largest U.S. banks and financial companies should hold extra cash on their balance sheets to cushion themselves against financial crises. The proposal by the chief U.S. banking regulator will affect banks with more than $50 billion in assets. There are even stricter rules for companies with more than $500 billion in assets such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Citigroup Inc. Fed officials did not give a timeline for when the rules will be implemented but said the final rules will be released only after the regulators have had a chance to incorporate comments from the public. The Fed is accepting comments for 90 days. - AP

GM to honor Saab warranties

General Motors Co. said it would honor warranties of Saab cars that were sold in the United States and Canada while the Swedish automaker was part of GM. Cash-strapped Saab filed for bankruptcy in Sweden on Monday. GM says Saab owners should still contact their dealers for warranty work. GM sold Saab to Dutch luxury-sports carmaker Spyker Cars in 2010. - AP

Honda to revamp the Civic

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. is scrambling to revamp its Civic just eight months after a new version hit showrooms, and critics say it is an admission that the compact car fell short in quality and handling. The revamp, to come by the end of 2012, is rare because new models are not usually overhauled for at least three years. Honda executives say they are simply trying to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive small-car market. - AP

FDA takes application for Pfizer drug

Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. said the Food and Drug Administration accepted its application for approval of its experimental drug for adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. The FDA said it expects to rule by August 2012 on the application for tofacitinib, which Pfizer has touted as a promising new treatment for the autoimmune disease. Pfizer says it has also applied for approval by regulators in Japan, and the European Medicines Agency is reviewing the drug. - AP

MF Global subsidiaries bankrupt

Louis Freeh, the bankruptcy trustee for MF Global Holdings Ltd., put three of the holding company's subsidiaries into Chapter 11. They were in unregulated over-the-counter businesses dealing with commodities, foreign exchange, credit swaps, and interest swaps. The three companies, whose businesses were all terminated, had combined assets of $146 million and liabilities of $112 million before the parent filed for bankruptcy Oct. 31. Once having 29 employees, the combined head count for the three companies was down to two, a court filing said. Former New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine was CEO of MF Global. - Bloomberg News

Psychologist: Stanford competent

A forensic psychologist told a federal judge that jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford is mentally stable and competent to stand trial next month on charges of bilking investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme. Stanford had been declared incompetent in January because of an addiction he developed in jail to an antianxiety drug. He spent more than eight months being treated at a North Carolina federal prison hospital. At a court hearing in Houston, Robert Cochrane, who treated Stanford at the hospital, said the financier can now think clearly and assist his defense attorneys. - AP