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Business news in brief

In the Region

PUC approves PPL spin-off

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Wednesday approved the spin-off of PPL Corp.'s generation and pipeline assets. The approval resolves one regulatory impediment to the spin-off, which involves the combination of PPL's assets with those of Riverstone Holdings L.L.C. into a new publicly traded entity, Talen Energy Corp. PPL shareholders will own 65 percent of Talen. PPL Electric Utilities, which provides electric distribution service to approximately 1.4 million customers in Pennsylvania, is not affected by the transaction. - Andrew Maykuth

Lyft can use older cars

Drivers for Lyft, the electronic ride-hailing service, will be permitted to use older vehicles by late May, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ruled Wednesday. Lyft, which has been seeking to increase its number of drivers in Pennsylvania, will be able to use vehicles that are up to 10 years old, with fewer than 350,000 miles. The current limit is eight years. The Philadelphia Parking Authority has prohibited such ride-share services, but Lyft, like its larger competitor Uber, has continued to operate in Philadelphia in defiance of the ban. - Paul Nussbaum

PTTI plans move to North Phila.

The Philadelphia Technician Training Institute (PTTI), a nonprofit training school that says it has placed graduates with Pep Boys, U-Haul, and other employers, has made a $270,000 down payment toward the $2.2 million purchase of the former Berean Institute building on Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia. PTTI has until May to raise the balance of the funds and close the purchase with the property's owner, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, said founder Sherman McLeod. - Joseph N. DiStefano

Blackboard to buy Schoolwires

No financial terms were released, but education technologies firm Blackboard is buying central Pennsylvania's Schoolwires. Based in State College, Schoolwires has 115 employees in Centre County and 185 worldwide. The company provides Internet technologies for 1,700 school districts and other educational clients. Blackboard, based in Washington, serves 19,000 clients in 100 countries, including 1,900 international educational institutions. - AP

GAO: Longer worker probation

A Government Accountability Office report calls for better supervision of federal civil service employees, better training of managers, better use of probation, and longer probationary periods for certain hires. A longer probationary period is controversial and splits federal employee organizations. After interviewing government officials, employee leaders, and outside experts, the GAO found that with the standard one-year probationary period, supervisors feel they do not have "enough time to observe the individual's performance in all critical areas of the job." - Washington Post


Fed restricts some banks

Citigroup Inc.'s plans to return capital to shareholders got the cleanest approval from the Federal Reserve among top Wall Street banks, one year after the firm failed the regulator's annual stress tests. But Bank of America Corp. got a conditional pass requiring it to shore up internal processes and resubmit its plan for managing capital, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Morgan Stanley cleared only after revising proposals, the Fed said Wednesday in a statement. U.S. units of Deutsche Bank AG and Banco Santander SA failed because of qualitative concerns about their processes. The Fed placed no conditions in passing Citigroup or 24 other firms, including Wells Fargo & Co. The tests are a cornerstone of the Fed's strategy to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis and another government bailout of the largest U.S. banks. The results released Wednesday are the annual exam's second and final round, determining whether lenders can withstand losses and still pay dividends, buy back stock, or make acquisitions. - Bloomberg News

Wall Street bonuses near $173K

The average bonus paid to securities industry employees in New York City grew 2 percent last year to nearly $173,000, New York's state comptroller reported Wednesday. That's the largest average Wall Street bonus since the 2008 financial crisis, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said, according to his office's analysis, though the industry was slightly less profitable last year while adding 2,300 jobs. - AP

Toyota recalls 112,500 vehicles

Toyota is recalling 112,500 cars and SUVs to fix problems with electric power steering controls and electric vehicle software. The largest of two recalls announced Wednesday covers about 110,000 2015 Camry midsize sedans and Highlander SUVs, as well as 2014 and 2015 RAV4 SUVs. Dealers will inspect and replace power steering controls if needed. The other recall covers 2,500 RAV4 electric vehicles from 2012 through 2014. Dealers will fix the motor assembly. Toyota says it knows of no crashes or injuries in either case. - AP