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Business news in brief

In the Region

PUC approves Peco upgrade plan

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission approved Peco's long-term infrastructure-improvement plan Thursday, setting the stage for the company to accelerate a pipe-replacement program for its natural-gas utility. Under Peco's plan, the company will increase its projected annual spending to replace aging natural-gas service lines from $14 million to $34 million per year. Peco's system includes about 1,731 miles of iron mains and bare-steel mains and customer-service lines. Those mains, some built in the 1800s, comprise 14 percent of Peco's system but account for 86 percent of leaks, according to the PUC. Peco pledged to replace its oldest high-risk cast-iron and all of its bare-steel services in about 10 years and replace all cast-iron and bare-steel mains in its system in about 34 years. - Andrew Maykuth

Report: Regional tourism up

A record 38.8 million people from around the United States visited the Philadelphia region in 2012, a 2.1 percent increase over 2011, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. said. The marketing group said those visitors supported 88,761 jobs and represented a $9.75 billion economic impact, up 4.5 percent from 2011. State and local tax revenue generated by the tourists totaled $622 million for the year, according to the GPTMC. - Reid Kanaley

Aqua raises dividend

Aqua America Inc., the Bryn Mawr water utility, increased its quarterly dividend Thursday by 9 percent, from 17.5 cents per share to 19 cents, and declared a 5-for-4 stock split. Both the dividend increase and the stock split will go into effect Sept. 1 to shareholders of record Aug. 16. Aqua, which serves three million customers in 10 states, has experienced robust earnings growth in the last year. Its stock price also has increased 43 percent over the last 12 months during a broad-based bull market for dividend-bearing stocks. - Andrew Maykuth

RadioShack facing $5.8M in claims

RadioShack Corp., the electronics retailer that in February hired its fourth chief executive in three years, said it faced at least $5.8 million in claims for unpaid overtime in a Pennsylvania lawsuit. David Verderame, former manager of a company store near Williamsport, sued the chain last month in state court in Philadelphia in a proposed class action on behalf of all Pennsylvania RadioShack workers, accusing the company of failing to pay overtime since April 2010. RadioShack, of Fort Worth, Texas, had the case moved to U.S. District Court this week, saying its possible liability put the proposed class action under federal jurisdiction. RadioShack runs about 288 stores, kiosks, and dealer locations in Pennsylvania. - Bloomberg News


Fannie has best quarter ever

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae made more money from January through March than it had in any other quarter. Of the $58.7 billion earned, nearly $51 billion came in part from using tax credits. That followed $17.2 billion in profit earned last year. Nearly all of that money is going back to the government, which rescued Fannie and the smaller Freddie Mac during the 2008 financial crisis with a combined $187 billion in taxpayer-funded loans. Under a federal policy adopted last summer, Fannie and Freddie must turn over their entire net worth above $3 billion in each quarter to the Treasury. Fannie said its net worth in the first quarter was $62.4 billion. Fannie will pay a dividend of $59.4 billion to the Treasury next month. - AP

Compound-pharmacy plan backed

State pharmacy officials threw their support behind a proposal giving the Food and Drug Administration authority over large compounding pharmacies, in an effort to head off more outbreaks tied to contaminated medications. The head of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy told Senate lawmakers that his group welcomes FDA action against pharmacies like the one that triggered a deadly meningitis outbreak last year. The group's endorsement is a key step in bringing stricter oversight to the compounding pharmacy industry, which has operated in a gray area of government regulation. - AP

Shorted borrowers to get 2d checks

The Federal Reserve said some mortgage borrowers who were insufficiently paid as part of a settlement will be sent supplemental checks next week. The borrowers, whose home loans were serviced by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, were sent erroneous payments as part of the Independent Foreclosure Review agreement, the Fed said, citing an announcement by Rust Consulting Inc., which processed payments. Rust said some borrowers were sent checks for less than the amount directed by the Fed and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The Minneapolis-based company is distributing $3.6 billion that servicers agreed to pay to settle claims they improperly seized homes amid the subprime mortgage crisis. - Bloomberg News

Enhanced airline WiFi advances

The Federal Communications Commission took a step toward improving Web access for air travelers, voting to write rules to open frequencies for an air-to-ground Internet service proposed by Qualcomm Inc. The agency in a 4-0 vote advanced the plan to help travelers pull in Facebook pages, spreadsheets, videos, games, and music on planes equipped with WiFi systems. The next-generation service needs another vote before final approval by the agency, which is changing leadership. - Bloomberg News

Sony is back in the black

Sony Corp. is back in the black for its fiscal fourth quarter, recording a 93.9 billion yen ($948 million) profit, with big help from a weaker yen that boosts overseas earnings. The Japanese electronics and entertainment company also dragged itself back to profit for the fiscal year ended March 31, following four straight years of red ink. It reported annual earnings of 43 billion yen ($434 million), a reversal from a loss of 457 billion yen ($5.7 billion) the previous year - the worst in the company's nearly seven-decade history. Sony expects the recovery to continue, and projected a 50 billion yen ($505 million) profit for the fiscal year through March 2014, up 16 percent. A weak yen helps Japanese exporters, and the dollar has gained 20 percent against the yen in recent months. Sony had sunk to a 255.2 billion-yen loss for the January-March period in 2012, slammed by its money-losing TV business and competition from rivals Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. - AP