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Business news in brief

In the Region

Region's manufacturers upbeat

Manufacturers in the Philadelphia region this month reported the best business conditions since April, along with an improved outlook for the next six months, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported. The closely watched Philadelphia "Business Outlook Survey" by the Fed followed reported declines in business activity in late October and early November due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Firms responding to the survey reported increases in overall activity, new orders, shipments, and employment compared to the declines reported in November after Sandy, the bank said. Eighty firms from the region, which includes Southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware, participated in the survey, a bank official said. - Reid Kanaley

N.J. unemployment dips - to 9.6%

New Jersey's unemployment rate dipped by one-tenth of a percentage point in November to 9.6 percent. It was the third straight monthly decline after having climbed to 9.9 percent during the summer. Preliminary estimates show the state lost 8,100 jobs last month, partly as a result of the effects of Hurricane Sandy, with declines split almost evenly between the private and public sectors, the state Labor Department reported. The U.S. unemployment rate for November was 7.7 percent. - AP

Merck won't seek approval for drug

Drugmaker Merck & Co. said it would not seek U.S. approval for its cholesterol drug Tredaptive and was recommending that doctors abroad stop prescribing it to new patients, based on failed study results. Results from a 25,700-patient study showed that adding Tredaptive to traditional statin therapy did not lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and related problems. Patients taking the cholesterol combination pill were also more likely to suffer serious but nonfatal adverse events. The Food and Drug Administration rejected Tredaptive in 2008 pending more information about the drug's effects on the heart. - AP

Rite Aid shares jump on turnaround

Shares of Rite Aid Corp., based in Camp Hill, Pa., jumped after the drugstore chain reported its first quarterly profit since May 2007. Rite Aid stores filled more prescriptions in the company's fiscal third quarter, an influx of generic drugs helped profitability, and sales also increased outside the pharmacy portion of its stores. The company also raised its earnings forecast for fiscal 2013. Overall, Rite Aid earned $60.5 million, or 7 cents per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 1. That compares with a loss of $54.5 million, or 6 cents per share, in last year's quarter. Revenue slipped about 1 percent to $6.24 billion. Shares closed up 17 cents, at $1.21. - AP

Nuron raises $80 million

Nuron Biotech Inc. of Exton said it raised $80 million in financing from HealthCare Royalty Partners II L.P. The financing includes a $30 million equity investment and a $50 million agreement tied to future Nuron sales, including sales of Meningitec, a vaccine Nuron acquired earlier this month from Pfizer Inc. Nuron develops biologics and vaccines for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative and infectious diseases. - Inquirer staff

Hersha announces share buyback

Hotel operator Hersha Hospitality Trust of Philadelphia approved a $75 million share buyback, effective through 2013. The repurchase plan may be suspended or discontinued at any time, Hersha said. Company shares rose 6 percent, to close at $5.11. - Reid Kanaley

Journal Register to be auctioned

The Journal Register Co. will be sold at auction early next year. A bankruptcy judge in New York said the winning bid would be announced by Feb. 21. Journal Register filed for bankruptcy protection in September for the second time in three years and hopes to reduce pensions and other costs through a quick sale of the media company's assets. The Yardley company has 18 newspapers and other media properties in 10 states, including the Delaware County Daily Times and the West Chester Daily Local News. A company called Digital First Media currently operates Journal Register along with MediaNews Group. Digital First announced the auction. - AP


RIM loses subscribers

BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion said it lost subscribers for the first time in the latest quarter, as the global number of BlackBerry users dipped to 79 million. But the Canadian company added to its cash position as it prepares to launch BlackBerry 10 smartphones on Jan. 30 that are deemed critical to the company's survival. RIM's stock jumped $1.02, or 7 percent, to $15.14 in after-hours trading. That continued a three-month rally in which the stock has more than doubled from its lowest level since 2003. Three months ago, RIM had 80 million subscribers. Analysts said the loss of one million subscribers was expected. Once coveted symbols of an always-connected lifestyle, BlackBerry phones have lost their luster to Apple Inc.'s iPhone and phones that run on Google Inc.'s Android software. - AP

GM recall: Pickup hoods can fly open

General Motors Co. is recalling more than 145,000 pickup trucks because the hoods can fly open unexpectedly and block the driver's vision. The recall affects Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks from the 2010 through 2012 model years. Most of the trucks were sold in North America. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says some of the trucks may not have a secondary hood latch. If the main latch isn't fastened, the hoods can open while the trucks are in motion. GM said it didn't know of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem. - AP

Olive Garden owner retooling

After new ad campaigns touting the quality of its food failed to spark sales, the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster is retooling its strategy to attract diners with more promotional deals. The shift comes after Darden Restaurants Inc. earlier this fall moved to update the image of its flagship chains and appeal to younger diners in their 20s and 30s, who increasingly prize fresh, high-quality ingredients. The problem is that many of those same diners also want cheaper prices and convenience, reflecting the rise of chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Panera Bread Co., which offer food that's a step up from traditional fast-food for slightly higher prices. - AP