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Business news in brief

Business news from around the region and elsewhere.


Sunoco profits in Q1 results

Sunoco Inc., which announced plans this week to merge with Energy Transfer Partners L.P., reported first-quarter net income on Wednesday of $248 million, or $2.32 per share, compared with a net loss of $101 million or 84 cents per share a year ago. When special items were excluded, the company lost $53 million for the quarter. Special items included gains on inventory and a $104 million gain related to the participation payment received in April in connection with the sale of its Toledo refinery in March 2011. Sunoco's refining and supply unit, which the company plans to exit before the merger is completed, lost $87 million, compared with a loss of $138 million a year ago. The company attributed the improvement to lower expenses because of the idling of the Marcus Hook refinery in December. — Andrew Maykuth

Region's unemployment rate declines

Unemployment fell to 8.4 percent in March in the Philadelphia region, which includes parts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, the U.S. Labor Department reported. That's down from 8.8 percent in February and 8.6 percent a year ago. The national unemployment rate in March was 8.2 percent. Gloucester, Burlington and Camden Counties, which together form the Camden metropolitan division, had a 9.7 percent unemployment rate, while Philadelphia, Chester, Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware Counties, averaged together, had an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent in March. — Jane M. Von Bergen

Bryn Mawr buys Delaware bank assets

Bryn Mawr Bank Corp. said it agreed to buy most assets of the First Bank of Delaware, which has two branches and is winding down operations. Bryn Mawr is buying one of those branches and about $100 million in loans and $100 million in deposits, Bryn Mawr said. The price was not disclosed. The First Bank of Delaware was spun off from Philadelphia's Republic First Bancorp Inc. in 2005. Harry D. Madonna, Republic First's chairman and chief executive and executive chairman of First Bank of Delaware said the Delaware bank "will eventually close." The deal is Bryn Mawr's fourth since 2010. — Harold Brubaker

UHS agrees to settle Medicare case

Universal Health Services Inc., of King of Prussia, and its subsidiary Psychiatric Solutions Inc. agreed to pay $3.45 million to settle allegations of Medicare fraud at a California psychiatric facility before UHS purchased it. The alleged fraud, involving the failure of BHC Sierra Vista Hospital Inc. to provide all the services required under a certain Medicare program, occurred between January 2003 and September 2009. UHS's purchase Psychiatric Solutions in November 2010. The Sacramento hospital denied wrongdoing. UHS said in a statement that it "is committed to ensuring that its facilities provide the highest quality health care and comply with all legal and regulatory requirements." Separately, UHS said it had agreed to sell a 213-bed acute-care hospital in Auburn, Wash., for $98 million. — Harold Brubaker

Oracle sets new SAP claim at $777M

Oracle Corp. said it will claim damages of $776.7 million in its retrial of a copyright-infringement lawsuit against SAP AG, the German software firm with an Americas headquarters in Newtown Square. Oracle decided in February to pursue a new trial rather than accept a federal judge's reduction of a 2010 jury verdict the company won from $1.3 billion to $272 million. The retrial is scheduled for June 18 in Oakland, Calif. Oracle sued in 2007 after discovering that SAP's software-maintenance unit had downloaded and copied its software. — Bloomberg News

Pa. slots revenue up 1.3% in April

April slots revenue at Pennsylvania's 11 casinos rose 1.3 percent to $214.1 million from a year ago, thanks largely to the opening of Valley Forge Casino Resort on March 31. Excluding the new casino in King of Prussia, slot revenue would have been down 0.6 percent year-over-year, but last month also had one less Friday and one less Saturday than April 2011. SugarHouse, on Penn's Landing, had the highest growth percentage, up 7.5 percent from last year, while Harrah's Chester — which is being renamed Harrah's Philadelphia — posted the largest decrease at 7.6 percent, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which released the figures. — Suzette Parmley


Board backs Murdoch

News Corp.'s board of directors is giving its "full confidence in Rupert Murdoch's fitness" amid a probe of phone hacking and bribery by the company's U.K. newspapers. The declaration — from a board that governance experts have said lacks independence — comes a day after a British parliamentary committee said Murdoch was "not a fit person" to head a major international company. The 81-year-old Murdoch built News Corp. from a single Australian newspaper and controls the media conglomerate through a family trust. He has come under fire by British lawmakers after two appearances before them since the scandal broke. — AP

Mortgage applications rise

Mortgage applications were up slightly from the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said. Contributing to the 0.1 percent increase was a 2.9 percent rise in mortgages for home purchases, while the refinance application figure fell 0.7 percent from the week before. Still, the refinance share of mortgage activity, while down to 72.6 percent of total applications from 73.4 percent the previous week, predominates. Average 30-year rates were 3.97 percent for the week, according to mortgage tracker — Alan J. Heavens

Firms spending to relocate workers

Forty-four percent of corporate executives surveyed by Atlas Van Lines believe the economy will improve in 2012, the moving company said. Of 360 executives, 26 percent said their firms plan to relocate more workers this year than last, while 86 percent of companies will spend as much or more on relocation in 2012 than in 2011. After progressively declining over the past two years, 65 percent of firms are offering relocated employees full reimbursement, far more often than lump sum or partial reimbursement, the Atlas survey showed. — Alan J. Heavens