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Business news in brief

In the Region

SEPTA ad contract worth $150M

SEPTA's board of directors approved an advertising contract Thursday that would pay the transit authority at least $150 million over nine years. SEPTA retained its current ad company, Titan Outdoor L.L.C., of New York, to acquire and install ads on SEPTA vehicles and stations. The contract calls for SEPTA to receive 65 percent of ad revenue, while Titan will collect 35 percent. SEPTA's minimum guaranteed revenue will be $75.8 million for the first five years, with $35.4 million and $38.7 million in two additional two-year options. - Paul Nussbaum

Fed: S. Jersey economy stalls

South Jersey's economy hit the brakes in the first quarter of the year, "undoubtedly attributable to the extraordinary winter weather," the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said in a survey of businesses in the region. Firms responding to the survey reported nearly flat growth, and "at best" slight decreases in sales for the January-March period, the bank said. South Jersey business employment showed no growth. The survey's broadest measure of business performance fell from 25.0 for the last three months of 2013 to 2.8 in the first quarter. Index numbers above zero indicate growth. On the bright side, South Jersey firms were optimistic about their growth prospects over the next six months, the Philly Fed said. - Reid Kanaley

UHS buys Washington facility

Universal Health Services Inc., King of Prussia, said it purchased the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, a 124-bed behavioral-health-care facility and outpatient treatment center in the District of Columbia, where UHS already owns the 371-bed George Washington University Hospital. The price for the psychiatric facility was not disclosed. The deal included Arbor Group L.L.C., which has contracts to manage 66 additional beds in D.C. and Maryland, UHS said. UHS already owned 181 mental-health facilities with 19,761 beds. - Harold Brubaker

Hedrick to retire from ISS

Innovative Solutions & Support Inc., the Exton maker of flight instruments, said chief executive officer Geoffrey Hedrick, 71, would retire at the end of the year and be replaced by Shahram Askarpour, the company's president. Askarpour, 57, has been with the company since 2003 and was named president in April 2012. The announcement came during a conference call on the company's quarterly earnings. For the latest quarter, it reported income of $784,000, or 5 cents per share, on sales of $12.5 million, compared with income of $1.1 million, or 7 cents per share, on sales of $8.2 million for the prior-year quarter. - Reid Kanaley

Pfizer to continue buybacks

Pfizer Inc. CEO Ian Read says the drugmaker will keep working to boost shareholder value, with continuing stock buybacks and healthy dividends. At Pfizer's annual meeting in Short Hills, N.J., the Viagra maker said it would pay a 26-cent second-quarter dividend. It raised the first-quarter dividend in December from 24 to 26 cents a share. Read told attendees that the New York pharma firm returned nearly $23 billion to shareholders last year through buybacks and dividends. - AP

No review for J&J ruling

The Arkansas Supreme Court declined to reconsider its decision that threw out a $1.2 billion judgment against Johnson & Johnson of New Jersey and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., which were accused of improperly marketing Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug. In a one-sentence order, the court rejected Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's request for a rehearing on the case. McDaniel had argued that the court was wrong when it said the state misapplied a Medicaid fraud law in the Risperdal case. - AP


GM takes $1.3B charge on recall

The cost of recalling nearly seven million cars and trucks sank General Motors Co.'s first-quarter profit, but the company's CEO said the much-publicized recalls had yet to cut into sales. GM reported its worst financial results in more than four years, with profit falling 86 percent to $125 million. The biggest contributor was a $1.3 billion charge to cover the series of recalls announced since early February, most notably 2.6 million small cars with defective ignition switches. The Detroit automaker is facing government investigations and lawsuits over the small-car recall. - AP

Silicon Valley suit settled

Four major tech companies agreed to settle a lawsuit accusing them of conspiring to hold down salaries in Silicon Valley, just weeks before a high-profile trial had been scheduled to begin. The settlement did not spell out terms. Tech workers filed a class-action lawsuit in 2011 against Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Inc., and Adobe Systems Inc., alleging they conspired to refrain from poaching one another's employees in order to avert a salary war. Trial had been scheduled to begin at the end of May on behalf of roughly 60,000 workers in the class. - Reuters

Bitcoin firm bankruptcy opens

Bankruptcy proceedings began for the Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange, a move that was widely expected after the Tokyo District Court decided this month that the company would not be able to resurrect itself. An administrator will try to sell its assets, but many creditors, including those who had bitcoins with the exchange, might not get their money back. - AP