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Roundup: Penney stocks plummets; Freedom Environmental sold; Hostess closing 3 bakeries; more

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

J.C. Penney is day's biggest stock loser

J.C. Penney Co. executives may be confident in the department-store chain's everyday low pricing strategy, but its investors are panicking. The company's stock fell more than 13 percent on Monday — the biggest percentage decline by far for the day among big companies in the S&P 500 index. Penney stock lost nearly $3 to close at just under $18, its lowest price since March 2009 when the United States was in a deep recession. The drop follows the company's third consecutive quarter of big losses and sales declines since it decided earlier this year to get rid of hundreds of coupons and sales annually in favor of predictable low prices every day. CEO Ron Johnson, the mastermind behind Apple Inc. stores who took the top job at Penney a year ago, reiterated his confidence in the plan and said returning the company to growth is “Job No. 1.”

Steel firm, union reach 5-year pact

Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc., Bridgeville, said it reached a five-year labor agreement with its 235 hourly workers at its subsidiary in western New York. Employees of Dunkirk Specialty Steel LLC, who are represented by United Steelworkers Local 2693, ratified the agreement on Sunday, the day a contract extension was due to expire. The previous labor pact expired on Oct. 31. Workers at the specialty steelmaker's other plants in Bridgeville and Titusville, who also are represented by the USW, are covered under separate contracts and not affected. Universal Stainless employs 340 in Western Pennsylvania.

Nova Chemicals to sell Leetsdale unit

An investment bank in Franklin Park agreed to buy a Leetsdale-based subsidiary of Nova Chemicals Corp. for an undisclosed price. Headwaters S.C., an investment adviser for family owned businesses, said it will acquire Syntheon Inc., a maker of construction materials owned by Nova. The deal is expected to close by the end of the month. Syntheon, which employs about 25 people in Leetsdale, also has operations in South America in Chile. The deal does not affect any of Nova Chemicals' operations in Western Pennsylvania, which include a manufacturing plant in Monaca and a sales center in Moon. In May, Calgary, Alberta-based Nova announced that Canadian building products maker PFB Corp. would buy its Monaca plant, which employs about 250 workers. That deal is expected to close by the end of this year.

Freedom Environmental sold

Freedom Environmental Services, Greensburg, has been acquired by Environmental Compliance Services Inc., the Agawam, Mass.-based company said Monday. The value of the deal was not disclosed. Freedom Environmental provides environmental site assessments, remediation system design, storage tank inspection, spill prevention, control and countermeasure plans and other services. At least two of its three workers, including founder Brian Pine, will join ECS, which will maintain the Greensburg operation as one of ECS' 13 regional locations.

Hostess to close 3 bakeries

Hostess Brands Inc. is permanently closing three bakeries following a nationwide strike by its bakers union. The Texas-based maker of Twinkies and Ding Dongs says the strike has prevented it from producing and delivering products. Hostess warned earlier this month that the strike, by about 30 percent of its workforce, could lead to bakery closures. It said Monday that it will close bakeries in Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati that collectively employ 627 workers. The company has about 18,300 employees.

Other business news

• Preserve Pittsburgh Project – which has a goal of preventing abandoned houses from deteriorating to the point they must be demolished – will get up to $250,000 toward that goal. The program received the grant from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County through the Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund towards stabilizing these structures prior to any redevelopment plans for the community in which they are situated.

• Bank of New York Mellon Corp. said its BNY Mellon Banco S.A. subsidiary was granted a commercial banking license by the Brazilian Central Bank. The license will allow BNY Mellon to offer custody services for non-resident investors and private equity funds. BNY Mellon has more than 500 workers in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. It manages about $11 billion in assets in Brazil.

• A bankruptcy sale of the Rock Airport and Business Park in West Deer and Indiana townships, scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed until April 5. The delay was to enable additional potential bidders to examine the property, said Attorney Robert Lampl, representing the debtor, Rock Airport of Pittsburgh LLC, headed by Rock Ferrone. Kyrk Pyros of Pittsburgh obtained an initial sales agreement of $6 million on the property.

• PNC Financial Services Group said it hired Steven Van Wyk as executive vice president and head of operations and technology. He will succeed Vice Chairman Thomas Whitford, who plans to retire in March. Van Wyk joins PNC from ING, where he served as global chief operating officer.

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