In the Region

Lyft OKd for Pa., not Phila.

Ride-sharing company Lyft won approval Thursday from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to operate throughout Pennsylvania - except in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Parking Authority, which regulates taxi and limousine service in Philadelphia, has ruled that Lyft, UberX, and other ride-sharing services cannot operate in the city unless they meet the same requirements as taxicabs. The PUC voted, 4-1, to issue Lyft a license to operate for two years if the company complies with conditions designed to ensure driver integrity, vehicle safety, and insurance protections. - Paul Nussbaum

Rite Aid soars on results

Shares of Rite Aid Corp. soared 11.9 percent after the nation's third-largest drugstore chain reported a 47 percent jump in fiscal third-quarter earnings and hiked its annual forecast after cutting it for two straight quarters. For the fiscal third quarter, Rite Aid earned $104.8 million, or 10 cents per share, on $6.69 billion in revenue. The Camp Hill, Pa., company now expects fiscal 2015 earnings of between 31 and 37 cents per share on $26.25 billion to $26.4 billion in revenue. In September, the company had forecast 22 to 33 cents per share on revenue of between $26 billion and $26.3 billion. - AP

Former Rite Aid exec charged

A former Rite Aid executive and a New Jersey businessman have been charged in connection with a $14.6 million surplus inventory-sales kickback scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Timothy P. Foster, 65, of Portland, Ore., a former vice president of quality assurance at Rite Aid, is charged with making false statements to authorities as part of an alleged effort to defraud the Camp Hill-based pharmacy chain from 2001 to 2019. Jay Findling, 54, of Manalapan, N.J., is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Foster led Rite Aid to believe its surplus inventory had been sold to Findling's company, J. Finn Industries L.L.C., for $72.8 million when in fact it had been sold to third parties for $87.4 million, according to court documents. Findling allegedly kicked back a portion of his $14.6 million in profits to Foster. - Diane Mastrull

Hearing set on rail dispute

The Federal Railroad Administration set a Feb. 10 public hearing on a dispute between SEPTA and its Regional Rail employees on a safety rule designed to limit workers' fatigue on the job. SEPTA wants the FRA to renew a waiver that the transit agency has had from the work rule for two years. Unions representing train engineers and conductors have objected, saying SEPTA should be required to follow the rule. The public hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Baldwin Tower, 1510 Chester Pike, Crum Lynne. - Paul Nussbaum

N.Y.-N.J. ports hire Phila. firm

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hired Philadelphia-based Public Financial Management Inc. to advise on bond sales. The agency is hiring an adviser to allow "efficient access" to investment banks, spokesman Steve Coleman said. PFM will be paid from $180 to $350 per hour, depending on the level of the person doing the work, Coleman said. Eight firms applied for the job, he said. - Bloomberg News

Exec sues over firing

A fired American Realty Capital Properties Inc.'s executive sued the firm, its former chairman and chief executive, claiming she was defamed after criticizing new accounting practices at the real estate investment trust as an alleged cover-up of financial manipulation. Former chief accounting officer Lisa P. McAlister alleged that her October termination was in retaliation for her statements, according to her complaint in New York state court in Manhattan. The New York company has offices in Montgomery County. McAlister said she voiced her concerns to ex-chairman Nicholas Schorsch and CEO David Kay before being fired. Both have since stepped down. - Bloomberg News

Merck buys Swiss biotech

Drugmaker Merck & Co. said it bought a Swiss biotech company developing cancer drugs as part of its strategy to be a top player in cancer, one of the hottest pharmaceutical research areas. Merck, based in Kenilworth, N.J., will pay up to $110 million up front to OncoEthix. The privately held company could receive further payments of up to $265 million if it meets targets for testing and product approval. - AP


IRS warns of delays

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says budget cuts just enacted by Congress could delay tax refunds next year. Koskinen said taxpayer services will be hurt, and fewer agents will be auditing returns. He said about half the people who call the agency for assistance won't be able to get through to a person. Congress cut the IRS budget by $346 million, to $10.9 billion, for the budget year that ends in September 2015. - AP

Redfin raises $70.9 million

Redfin Corp., an online real estate brokerage facing escalating competition, raised $70.9 million in a financing round led by institutional investors Wellington Management Co. and Glynn Capital Management. The investment brings Redfin's total funding to about $167 million, according to a statement from the Seattle-based company. - Bloomberg News

Mortgage rates fall

Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013. At the beginning of the year, the 30-year rate stood at 4.53 percent. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, declined to 3.09 percent from 3.20 percent last week. - AP