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Business news in brief

In the Region

On the hunt for 'spokesdogs'

The Philadelphia Water Department is turning to man's best friend for help in battling water pollution. It is sponsoring a contest in Northern Liberties and Queen Village to find the ideal "spokesdog" for each of those neighborhoods. Besides the job of helping to teach pet owners the importance of picking up dog waste, the winning pooches each will get a $200 gift from a local pet store. Thirty finalists will be chosen in the spring via online voting, 15 from each neighborhood. Two winners will then be chosen in June by a panel judging pageants in those neighborhoods. To enter, interested competitors - or rather, their owners - must visit
- Diane Mastrull

GE to expand Pa. locomotive works

General Electric Co. plans to spend $72 million to add a diesel-engine plant and upgrade another in Grove City, Pa. The world's largest maker of diesel locomotives, GE said Tuesday that it would lay out $35 million to build the new plant and spend $37 million on the upgrade. Demand for the remanufacture of engines is being driven by locomotive overhauls and the need to comply with more-stringent federal emission standards for diesel engines that take effect in 2013, GE said. The Grove City plant produces about 2,000 new and remanufactured engines annually.

- Bloomberg News


Bump in U.S. debt limit to be sought

The Obama administration will ask Congress to increase federal borrowing authority by $1.2 trillion as the nation approaches the debt limit set by law, according to a Treasury Department official. The White House will send the request to Congress on Friday, the day the debt is projected to rise to within $100 billion of the $15.194 trillion limit, the official said Tuesday. Congress will be notified under the terms of a deal worked out Aug. 2 after a more-than-two-month standoff between the administration and Republican lawmakers that was followed by a cut in the U.S. debt rating by Standard & Poor's. The limit has been raised twice since the deal was approved, by $900 billion total.

- Bloomberg News

Obama nominates two to Fed board

President Obama has nominated a Harvard University professor and a former Treasury official under President George H.W. Bush - a Democrat and a Republican - to the seven-member Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Jeremy C. Stein, 61, is an economics professor at Harvard, where he teaches courses in finance. He previously served as a senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Jerome H. Powell, 58, is a visiting scholar at the Washington- based Bipartisan Policy Center, where he has focused on federal and state fiscal issues. He served in the first Bush administration as undersecretary of finance at the Treasury Department.

- AP

LCD-makers settle antitrust claims

Sharp Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., and five other makers of liquid crystal display panels used in computers and televisions have agreed to pay $538.6 million to settle antitrust claims by indirect purchasers. Earlier this month, the panel-makers agreed to pay $388 million to settle price-fixing claims by direct buyers of the products, as part of a series of cases consolidated in federal court in San Francisco. Under the new agreement, about $501 million will be available for partial refunds to consumers and about $37 million to compensate governments and other public entities for damages, according to a Dec. 23 court filing. The companies allegedly fixed prices of thin-film liquid crystal display panels, driving up prices for purchasers of TVs, notebook computers, and monitors from 1999 to 2006.
- Bloomberg News

Probation bid spurned in BP case

A U.S. District Court judge in Anchorage, Alaska, has dismissed the federal government's request to revoke a BP subsidiary's probation for a 2009 oil spill on Alaska's North Slope. Judge Ralph Beistline also lifted BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.'s probation altogether in a written order issued Tuesday. BP was convicted of negligent discharge of oil in 2007 in connection with a 200,000-gallon spill on the North Slope a year earlier. There was another spill of 13,500 gallons in 2009. Last month, government lawyers sought to have BP's probation revoked for the latest spill, meaning the probation period could have been lengthened or the company could have faced additional penalties. In his ruling, Beistline said the government failed to prove the company committed criminal negligence.

- AP

MetLife to sell retail-deposit business

MetLife said Tuesday that it planned to sell its U.S. retail-deposit business to GE Capital as it moves away from being a bank holding company. Financial terms were not disclosed. MetLife Inc., which offers insurance and employee-benefit programs, said in July that it was exploring the sale of its banking operations to focus on its other business. GE Capital's banking business, GE Capital Financial, will acquire $7.5 billion in deposits. About $3 billion in other deposits are not part of the deal but will be transferred out of MetLife Bank in the next six months. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

- AP

N.Y. Times to sell small-paper group

The New York Times Co. said Tuesday that it would sell its Regional Media Group to Halifax Media Holdings L.L.C. for $143 million. The division runs 16 small newspapers, including the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif.; the News Chief in Winter Haven, Fla.; and the Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Halifax Media owns the Daytona Beach News-Journal in Florida. The sale is expected to close in a few weeks, and the Times will record an after-tax gain on the sale in the first quarter of 2012. The company plans to use proceeds from the sale for general corporate purposes.

- AP

SEC seeks hold on Citigroup suit

The Securities and Exchange Commission asked a federal appeals court to put an emergency hold on its lawsuit against Citigroup Inc. over mortgage-backed securities, and to expedite its appeal of a judge's rejection of a $285 million settlement in the case. Citigroup consented to the requests, the SEC said in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York. The agency is challenging U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff's refusal to approve an accord resolving claims that New York-based Citigroup misled investors in a $1 billion financial product linked to risky mortgages. The SEC said it wanted to preserve agency resources by putting the case on hold while the appeals court considered Rakoff's ruling.

- Bloomberg News