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Business news in brief

In the Region

Rite Aid sees Nov. sales fall

Hurricane Sandy and generic drugs teamed up to squeeze drugstore operator Rite Aid Corp.'s revenue from established stores last month. The Camp Hill, Pa., company said that revenue from stores open at least a year fell 3 percent in the five weeks that ended Dec. 1. That included a 4.2 percent decrease in pharmacy sales - even though the prescription count climbed 2.2 percent - and a drop of less than 1 percent from the rest of the store. Shares of Rite Aid closed at 97 cents, down 2 cents. - AP

What's Canadian for 'water ice'?

Rita's Italian Ice, the Trevose-based chain of water ice shops, intends to open its first locations in Canada. The company awarded a master franchise to Canada Water Ice Co. Ltd., of Calgary, that calls for 80 outlets to be developed over five years. Rita's has 625 locations in 19 U.S. states. - Inquirer staff

Liberty Property prices debt offering

Liberty Property Trust has priced a $300 million offering of 3.375 percent senior unsecured notes, which are due June 15, 2023, and would yield 3.386 percent. The Malvern commercial real estate company said the proceeds would be used to repay outstanding debt on its unsecured credit facility and for general corporate purposes. The debt offering is expected to close Monday. - Inquirer staff

Armstrong to hire 145 in W. Va.

Lancaster-based Armstrong World Industries Inc. plans to hire 145 workers at a hardwood plant in West Virginia to meet increasing demand. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin confirmed the hirings at the 575-worker plant in Beverly. In April, the maker of flooring, ceilings, and cabinets recalled dozens of workers who were laid off in November 2011. - AP

EU court rejects AstraZeneca appeal

AstraZeneca P.L.C. lost the final appeal of a European Union ruling that it misled patent officials and flouted antitrust rules to keep a generic competitor off the market. The EU Court of Justice, the 27-nation bloc's highest court, also rejected AstraZeneca's bid to quash a $68.6 million fine in a decision. AstraZeneca, which has its U.S. headquarters in Wilmington, violated antitrust rules by blocking market access of a generic version of its Prilosec heartburn medicine, the European Commission said in its 2005 decision. - Bloomberg News


Conn. hedge fund to liquidate

Diamondback Capital Management L.L.C., among the hedge funds raided by the FBI two years ago in the U.S. investigation of insider trading on Wall Street, is liquidating after an exodus of clients. The fund received requests from investors to withdraw about $520 million, or 26 percent of its assets, for the end of the year, cofounders Richard Schimel and Lawrence Sapanski said in a client letter. The redemptions left Stamford, Conn.-based Diamondback with $1.5 billion assets, down from $5.8 billion in November 2010, when its offices were searched by the FBI. - Bloomberg News

Bank cuts forecast for EU growth

The European Central Bank warned of another gloomy year for the 17 European Union countries that use the euro, cutting its forecast for economic growth in 2013 from plus 0.5 percent to minus 0.3 percent. Even so, the bank left rates unchanged at its meeting Thursday, and ECB head Mario Draghi gave little sign he was leaning toward any more cuts to stimulate growth. The bank's 22-member governing council kept its benchmark refinancing rate unchanged at 0.75 percent. Draghi saw "downside risk to the economic outlook" and said that "weak activity is expected to extend into next year," with a gradual recovery later in 2013. - AP

Zynga seeks Nev. gambling OK

The online-games company Zynga Inc. said it has asked Nevada gambling regulators for a decision that could pave the way for it to enter the U.S. gambling market. The move follows Zynga's October disclosure that it has signed a deal to offer online poker and casino games, played with real money, in the United Kingdom. The San Francisco-based developer of "FarmVille 2" said it plans to launch those U.K. games in the first half of 2013. Zynga said the process with Nevada regulators should take 12 to 18 months. - AP

Big Lots: CEO under investigation

Big Lots Inc. said that CEO Steven Fishman was under investigation by the Justice Department over stock trades he made and that it received a grand jury subpoena from the Manhattan U.S. attorney requesting documents relating to the trades. "We are fully cooperating with the U.S. attorney in connection with the subpoena," the Columbus, Ohio-based discount retailer said in a regulatory filing. Big Lots said the Securities and Exchange Commission was also conducting an inquiry into the matter. - Bloomberg News

Net worth grows by 2.7 pct. in Q3

Household wealth in the United States climbed in the third quarter, reflecting increases in stock values and home prices that are helping boost consumer confidence. Net worth for households and nonprofit groups increased by $1.72 trillion from July through September, or 2.7 percent from the previous three months, to $64.8 trillion, the Federal Reserve said. Net worth is still below its prerecession peak, one reason the central bank is considering additional actions to spur expansion. - Bloomberg News

Goodbye, WTI. Hello, Brent.

Even the U.S. Energy Department no longer deems America's benchmark oil grade as the best guide to global prices, as rising production swells national stockpiles. The Energy Information Administration in Washington dispensed with West Texas Intermediate for its price forecasts in its Annual Energy Outlook 2013 released Wednesday, adopting North Sea Brent crude instead. It's the first time the department has used Brent, reflecting "a growing discrepancy" between WTI and global crude prices, it said. - Bloomberg News