Business briefs: Consumer advocate to retire; office vacancy rates fall; Westco profit jumps 18%
Pa. consumer advocate to retire after 22 years
Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate Irwin “Sonny” Popowsky will retire next week after 22 years in the post, and Attorney General Linda Kelly is considering potential candidates to succeed him. Popowsky became an assistant in 1979 in the state's Office of Consumer Advocate, which represents utility customers in matters before the Public Utility Commission and other agencies and courts. In 1988, he argued a U.S. Supreme Court case, Duquesne Light Co. v. Barasch, in which the court ruled that two Pennsylvania utilities could not charge consumers for the costs of four canceled nuclear power plants, a recent legislative resolution honoring Popowsky said. He was appointed to the office's top position in 1990. Kelly's nominee must be confirmed by the state Senate.
City's overall office vacancy rate continues to decline, report finds
Pittsburgh's overall office market vacancy rate as of Sept. 30 was 14.3 percent, down from the 15.1 percent on June 30, according to a report released on Thursday. Downtown's vacancy rate decreased to 14.4 percent from 15.8 percent, while both the Oakland/East End and North suburban regions had the lowest rates at 7.2 percent and 7.3 percent respectively, according to the report by Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. The Class A market broke records when the rate dropped to 8.6 percent from 9.9 percent, and rental rates reached a high of $23.03 per square foot, the report said. The lower office vacancy rate Downtown can be attributed in part to nearly 2 million square feet of space converted to residential use since 2001, according to the report.
Wesco's 3Q profit jumps 18%
Wesco International Inc.'s profit in the third quarter jumped 18 percent over the previous year. Wesco said it earned $63.4 million, or $1.25 a share, up from $53.9 million, or $1.11 a share, in the same period the year before. The South Side-based distributor of electrical products said sales were $1.66 billion, up 5 percent over sales of $1.58 billion the year before. Wesco stock rose $7.94 to $65.11. On Wednesday, it said it will acquire Calgary-based Eecol Electric Corp. for about $1.2 billion, the latest in a series of acquisitions. Eecol will add $1 to per-share earnings after the first year of operation, Wesco said.
West Penn Allegheny makes executive changes
West Penn Allegheny Health System on Thursday announced executive changes, including moves to strengthen specialty services at Canonsburg General Hospital. The system's vice president of facilities and real estate, Diane Allison, resigned to work for Highmark Inc., according to a memo to employees from Michael Greene, the system's interim chief operating officer. Terry Wiltrout, who was CEO of Canonsburg General, was promoted to fill Allison's position. West Penn also named Judy Zedreck, the interim CEO of Allegheny General Hospital, to an additional role of executive vice president of the system's southwest corridor. The position is intended to lead better coordination of services between Canonsburg General and Allegheny General and enhance services that West Penn Allegheny offers patients in Washington County and southern Allegheny County. Kim Sperring, vice president of operations at Allegheny General, will take on the additional role of chief operating officer at Canonsburg General.
Rate on 30-year fixed mortgage near record low
The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to near its record low set earlier this month. The rate on the most popular mortgage dipped to 3.37 percent from 3.39 last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday. Two weeks ago, the rate reached 3.36 percent, its lowest level on records dating to 1971. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, often used for refinancing, set a record low of 2.66 percent, down from last week's 2.7 percent.
• Washington Health Care Services Inc., owner of the 274-bed Washington Hospital, earned $738,000 in the 12 months ended June 30. The nonprofit's net income was down substantially from the previous year on higher expenses and a non-operating loss. In the previous year, Washington earned $21.7 million, according to financial statements made public on Thursday. Revenue increased to $284.3 million, up from $280.1 million in the prior year. A spokesman could not be reached for comment.
• Fifth Third Bancorp said third-quarter net income fell because of one-time expenses related to debt repayment and accounting issues. The Cincinnati-based bank, which has 15 offices in the Pittsburgh area, said net income was $354 million, or 38 cents per share, from $373 million, or 40 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $1.58 billion from $1.57 billion a year ago.
• Southwest Airlines eked out a small third-quarter profit in spite of a September slowdown. Southwest earned $16 million for the quarter, or 2 cents per share. During the same period last year it lost $140 million, or 18 cents per share. Revenue was the same as a year ago, at $4.31 billion.
• Apollo Trust Co.'s parent reported a profit of $308,000, or 61 cents a share, for third quarter, down from $366,000, or 67 cents, a year ago. Apollo Bancorp Inc. said third-quarter net interest income dropped by $88,000. The bank has five locations in the Alle-Kiski Valley.
— Staff and wire reports
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