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Business news in brief

In the Region

Refinery closings could mean $4 gas

Gasoline prices may rise above $4 next summer if three Philadelphia area refineries close, reducing capacity, said Edward Morse, New York-based head of commodities research at Citigroup. Sunoco Inc. and ConocoPhillips have idled plants in Marcus Hook and Trainer, and Sunoco plans to shut the Philadelphia refinery by July if a buyer isn't found. Together, the plants account for about half of U.S. East Coast refining. "One of the things that's lurking in the marketplace is the consequence of this shutting in of about 700,000 barrels a day of East Coast refineries," Morse said in a Bloomberg TV interview. - Bloomberg News

Pipeline company fined by Pa.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Chesapeake Energy's pipeline division $19,510 for numerous erosion- and sediment-control violations found last winter at a compressor station in Albany Township, Bradford County. The fine against Appalachia Midstream Services L.L.C. of Horseheads, N.Y., represents about six minutes worth of profit of Chesapeake Energy, the largest Marcellus Shale operator, which last year earned $1.8 billion. - Andrew Maykuth

PHH shares plunge on ratings

PHH Corp. shares plunged 14.7 percent, after Standard & Poor's Ratings Services late Wednesday lowered some of the Mount Laurel mortgage company's credit ratings. S&P said it was concerned the company may not be able to repay $423 million in debt due in March 2013. S&P cut PHH's long-term issuer credit rating and its senior unsecured debt two notches in junk status to "BB-" from "BB+" and also took the ratings off CreditWatch, where they had negative implications. S&P said PHH should consider raising additional funds in capital markets, selling or securing unencumbered assets and other measures. Shares closed at $11.11, down $1.91. - AP

Republic First takes loss on loans

Republic First Bancorp Inc. sold $59 million worth of commercial real estate loans to a single investor for net proceeds of $30.6 million, the Philadelphia parent company of Republic Bank said. The loans and foreclosed properties had already been written down to $45.1 million. The sale will result in a $14.5 million loss in the quarter ending this month. Republic, which said the sale substantially cleaned up its balance sheet, had $952.8 million in assets and $833.3 million in deposits on Sept. 30. The bank has 13 branches. - Harold Brubaker

Movie-theater expansion slated

The owner of Moorestown Mall said it would build a 12-screen Regal movie theater slated to open in summer 2013 as part of a mall revitalization project. The 56,000-square-foot Regal Moorestown Mall Stadium 12 & Regal Premium Experience will be twice the size of the United Artists theater it will replace, said Philadelphia-

based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust. The custom-built theater with digital projectors, surround sound, 2D and RealD 3D, and stadium seating will be the first of its kind in the region, according to Regal Entertainment Group. The project follows PREIT's successful effort earlier this year to obtain liquor licenses from Moorestown officials, a move that paved the way for the construction of new mall restaurants. - Maria Panaritis


FCC considers easing ownership rules

The Federal Communications Commission agreed to move ahead to propose easing limits on letting one owner hold a television station and newspaper in the same city. The agency will take comments on any proposal, and no date has been set for a vote, according to an FCC official. On July 7, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia vacated an FCC rule adopted in 2007 to let one owner hold a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the largest markets. The court sent the rule back to the FCC for further consideration, and proposed allowing some broadcast-newspaper combinations. - Bloomberg News

Bankrupt American can buy planes

A bankruptcy judge said that the parent of American Airlines can go ahead with its previously scheduled deliveries of Boeing aircraft next year. Judge Sean Lane ruled that AMR Corp. can continue the process of purchasing 32 Boeing Co. planes. The ruling allows the company to continue renewing its fleet even though it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29. American has also won approval to get out of leases for two dozen aging aircraft. None of the planes are currently in service - AP

Westinghouse nuke reactor approved

Federal regulators have approved a nuclear reactor designed by Western Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse Electric Co. that could power the first nuclear plants built from scratch in this country in more than three decades. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously approved the AP1000 reactor. The certification, effective immediately, will be valid for 15 years. - AP

Condition set for NYSE sale

The Justice Department will allow the creation of the world's largest stock exchange operator after the German conglomerate that wants to buy the New York Stock Exchange sells its stake in a third, smaller American exchange operator. The department said it would allow the merger of NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Boerse AG after the German company orders a subsidiary to sell its 31.5 percent stake in Direct Edge Holdings L.L.C., which is the United States' fourth largest stock exchange operator. The German company, which operates the Frankfurt stock exchange, offered to buy NYSE Euronext for $10 billion in February. - AP

UPS pilots want in on new rest rules

United Parcel Service pilots have gone to court hoping to make the government include them under new rules designed to ensure pilots aren't too sleepy to fly. Their union, the Independent Pilots Association, filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration Thursday, one day after the new rules for passenger airline pilots were announced. Cargo carriers are exempt from the rules. - AP

Stanford ruled competent for trial

Jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford is mentally competent to stand trial on charges he bilked investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme, a judge ruled. U.S. District Judge David Hittner's decision came after a nearly three-day competency hearing for the disgraced financier. The trial is set for Jan. 23. Hittner said he will rule next week on a request from Stanford's attorneys to delay the trial until April. - AP