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Business News in Brief

Business news from around the region and elsewhere.


Pa. casino revenue declines

April gambling receipts from table games at Pennsylvania casinos fell 9 percent, according to state figures, just a month after hitting a record high as competition grows in bordering states Ohio and Maryland. Gross revenue from the 11 casinos in April was $56.5 million, down from March receipts of $61.9 million, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said. It beat April 2011 receipts by 7 percent, but per-table revenue fell 10 percent from the year-ago period. SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia by far had the highest per-table average, with almost $136,000 per table in April. — AP

PPL to focus on rate-regulated utilities

PPL Corp. has fundamentally repositioned itself in two years to concentrate its business on rate-regulated utilities rather than the more volatile power-generation sector, William H. Spence, PPL chairman and chief executive, told shareholders at its annual meeting Wednesday in Bethlehem. The Allentown company, which operates PPL Electric Utilities in Pennsylvania, acquired utilities in Kentucky and the United Kingdom in the last two years and projects that 70 percent of its earnings this year will come from rate-regulated businesses. In 2010, 73 percent of PPL's earnings came from power-generation, which has suffered from a downturn in wholesale electricity prices. "The bottom line is this: Without the additional earnings from these rate-regulated operations, PPL's earnings per share would be significantly depressed for 2012 and the foreseeable future," Spence said. — Andrew Maykuth

Bank expands student loan business

RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc., which owns Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, said it is expanding its private student loan business to all 48 contiguous states from the 12 now served by Citizens and Charter One, another bank owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. The move comes amid increased attention to the heavy debt loads of college students. A Citizens spokeswoman said the bank's student loan business had grown 50 percent in the past year, but declined to say how much Citizens has in student loans outstanding. — Harold Brubaker

Skype rolls out on Comcast systems

Skype on the TV has been launched on Comcast Corp.'s cable systems in Boston and Seattle and will be rolled out to other markets. The service will be available in Philadelphia by the early summer, the company said. — Bob Fernandez

NBC networks to show Olympics

Comcast-owned NBC Sports will show Olympics events on the cable channels CNBC, MSNBC and Bravo, in addition to the 24-hour NBC Sports Network. MSNBC, in a ratings battle with Fox News and CNN, will air 155.5 hours of wrestling, badminton, basketball and other Olympic events. CNBC will air 73 hours of men's and women's boxing. Bravo will carry 56 hours of tennis between July 28 and Aug. 3. — Bob Fernandez

Dorman announces stock split

Aftermarket auto parts maker Dorman Products Inc., of Colmar, announced a two-for-one stock split. Shareholders of record June 1 will receive one new share for each one held, effective June 15, the company said. The move "is intended to improve the liquidity of our common stock thereby making it more attractive to investors," said Steven Berman, chairman and chief executive officer. Shares of Dorman closed up more than 5 percent at $51.49 Wednesday. — Reid Kanaley


Boyd Gaming makes $1.45B purchase

Boyd Gaming Corp. is buying Peninsula Gaming L.L.C. for $1.45 billion, boosting Boyd's presence in the Midwest and Louisiana. The deal announced Wednesday will add five casinos to Boyd's operations. One is in Kansas, two in Iowa and two in Louisiana. Boyd Gaming is part-owner of the Borgata in Atlantic City. — AP

Single-family home starts increase

Single-family housing starts, a key measure of the health of the new-home market, rose 2.3 percent in April from March, the Census Bureau reported. Overall starts were up 2.6 percent in April over March and 29.9 percent over the same month in 2011. Overall permits — an indicator of future construction — fell 7 percent in April from March but were 23.7 percent above April 2011. Single-family permits were 1.9 percent above March, the bureau reported. — Alan J. Heavens

Mortgage applications rise

Continuing declines in fixed interest rates prompted a 9.2 percent increase in mortgage applications last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported. Most of the increase came, however, from refinancing. The percentage of loans for refinancing increased to 74.9 percent from 72.1 percent the previous week. The percentage of mortgages for buying a house fell 2.4 percent from the previous week. The government program encouraging borrowers to refinance played a small role in the increase in that mortgage activity. The association said the increase in refinance activity last week was concentrated in the conventional sector, which was up around 14 percent for the week, while government refinance applications were up only 4 percent. — Alan J. Heavens

Skechers to settle FTC charges

Rates unchanged for money funds

The average seven-day yield on taxable money-market funds was 0.03 percent this week, unchanged from last week, according to iMoneyNet Inc. A seven-day yield is an annual yield that is based on the preceding seven days' level of income by the fund. The average yield on tax-free funds was 0.02 percent this week, unchanged from last week. — Rhonda Dickey