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Business news in brief


Hearing on refineries to be webcast

The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee announced Tuesday that its hearing this week on refinery closures will be webcast on the committee's website: The hearing, which will be chaired by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D., Pa.), will focus on the impact that the closing of refineries serving the Northeast will have on fuel markets. Three refineries in Philadelphia are idled or threatened with closure and a fourth refinery in the Virgin Islands also shut down earlier this year. The hearing begins at 2:15 p.m. Thursday in room G-50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. — Andrew Maykuth

30 layoffs at Crozer

Crozer Keystone Health System in Delaware County laid off 30 employees, including 22 managers and eight staff members, as part of an effort trim its workforce by 325, spokeswoman Kathy Scullin said. Most of the cuts were made through early retirement, which accounted for 196 of the full-time-equivalent positions that were eliminated. In all, 216 people took the buyout offer, Scullin said. The balance of the cuts were made through the elimination of vacant positions. — Harold Brubaker

Hershey's quarterly profit up 24%

The Hershey Co. said first-quarter profit rose 24 percent as higher prices and cost cutting helped offsethigher ingredient costs. Its shares rose almost 2 percent in premarket trading. Most food makers have been increasing prices to offset rising ingredient costs. Hershey said higher prices spurred a 11 percentgain in revenue, offset by slightly lower volume.The Hershey, Pa.-based company has also been boosting advertisingspending in the U.S. and abroad. The candy maker said Tuesday that net income rose to $198.7 million, or 87 cents per share, for the quarter ended April 1.That is up from $160.1 million, or 70 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding one-time items, earnings totaled 96 cents per share. Analysts expected 81 cents per share. Revenue rose 11 percent to $1.73 billion. Analysts predicted revenue of $1.66 billion.— AP

PGW doubles furnace rebate

Philadelphia Gas Works announced it has launched a website to promote its EnergySense conservation program and has temporarily doubled the amount of rebates it is offering customers for heater upgrades — up to $2,000 for a high-efficiency boilers. The city-owned utility, which is spending $54 million over five years on energy-efficiency programs, says that only 160 residential customers have received rebates since the program started last year. Homeowners, small businesses and landlords with individually metered units can now get up to $2,000 in rebates for a high efficiency natural gas boiler and up to $500 for a high efficiency furnace. "That's a limited time rebate," said Barry O'Sullivan, PGW's spokesman. He said the offer will end at PGW's discretion. Customers can get more information and apply online at, or call 877-719-3766 to receive an application by mail. — Andrew Maykuth


U.S. probes Dominican labor allegations

The U.S. government is looking into allegations that Dominican Republic sugar growers use child labor and keep workers in slave-like conditions as a possible violation of a free-trade agreement, officials said. A delegation from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Trade and Labor Affairs is in the Caribbean country to review the allegations made by the Rev. Christopher Hartley, a Roman Catholic priest and advocate for the rights of Dominican sugar workers. The U.S. Embassy said the delegation will review his allegations and determine if there have been any violations of the labor provisions of a trade agreement that was signed in 2004 and eliminated tariffs between the U.S., the Dominican Republic and five countries in Central America.— AP

Fitch lifts junk rating on Ford

The Fitch Ratings agency lifted Ford Motor Co.'s credit rating from junk status to investment grade, a sign thatthe company's recovery from near collapse is almost complete. But Ford needs another agency, either Standard & Poor's or Moody's, to make the same upgrade before it can getits blue oval logo, factories and other assets out of hock. Ford lost its investment grade status in 2005.The company mortgaged most of its assets, including the highly recognized logo, to borrow $23.5 billion the following year.That allowed Ford to revamp its cars and trucks and — unlike rivals GM and Chrysler — avoid bankruptcy protection.— AP

Parts makers see no shortage disruption

Executives from four auto parts companies say they don't expect a widespread impact from a shortage of a keyingredient in plastic resin following a March factory explosion in Germany. Officials with Delphi Automotive, Illinois Tool Works, AK Steel and Parker Hannifin said during earnings calls thata shortage of PA-12 shouldn't disrupt their operations. Automakers and parts companies have been scrambling to find substitutes since the factory that makes much of the world'ssupply of the ingredient suspended production. The resin is used in hundreds of parts.— AP

Apple reports blowout iPhone sales

Apple Inc., the world's most valuable company, trumped skeptics once again by reporting blowout iPhone sales.Apple said it sold 35 million iPhones in its most recent quarter, almost twice as many as it sold a year earlier and more than analysts expected. Apple shares fell before the markets closed and the company reported its earnings because investors believed phone companies had reined in iPhone sales. Net income in the quarter that ended in March was $11.6 billion, or $12.30 per share — nearly double the net income of $6 billion, or $6.40 per share, a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting earnings of $10.07 per share. Revenue was $39.2 billion, up 59 percent from a year ago. Analysts were expecting $37 billion.— AP

Google unveils storage service

Google Inc. has unveiled a long-rumored product called Google Drive. It will store personal documents, photos and a wide range of digital content on Google's computers.The first five gigabytes of storage on will be free. Additional capacity can be bought starting at $2.49 per month for 25 gigabytes. Google Drive is a late entrant in an already crowded field that includes services byApple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., as well as start-ups such as Dropbox Inc. and Box Inc. — AP

Wal-Mart official leaving MetLife board

The former head of Wal-Mart in Mexico is stepping down from his board membership at MetLife Inc. The insurance giant said Eduardo Castro-Wright resigned from its board Tuesday "dueto personal reasons." Castro-Wright was the head of Wal-Mart de Mexico at the time of an alleged widespread bribery scheme. Accordingto a report in The New York Times, he was the driving force behind the bribery. Experts say he could face criminal charges.Castro-Wright will step down from two board positions: one with MetLife and another with Metropolitan Life InsuranceCo.— AP