Roundup: Coal firm shuts doors, Sears declines after wider loss, Factory output drops, more

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Coal firm shuts doors until December

PBS Coal of Somerset County said it closed temporarily as of Saturday and will remain shut down until early December, longer than typical for this time of year, because of a poor economy and reduced demand. The coal producer based in Friedens will close its two cleaning plants and surface and deep mines until Dec. 2, said spokesman Hank Parke. Business will resume Dec. 3, he said. “It's quite slow — slow orders, slow economy,” Parke said. The company employs about 800 at 15 operations in the county. Most of the employees will be affected by the closure, Parke said. The company normally shuts down at this time of year, he said. “It's just a little longer this time.”

Sears declines after wider loss

Sears Holdings Corp., the retailer controlled by hedge-fund manager Edward Lampert, fell the most in more than 10 months after posting a wider third-quarter loss and its 23rd straight quarterly sales decline. Sears shares fell 19 percent to close at $47.49, the biggest decline since Dec. 27. The Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company lost $498 million, or $4.70 a share, compared to a loss of $421 million, or $3.95, a year earlier. Sales dropped 5.8 percent to $8.86 billion.

Factory output drops

U.S. factory production of machinery and equipment fell sharply last month, held back by temporary disruptions caused by superstorm Sandy and companies' fears that a federal budget crisis could trigger a recession next year. The Federal Reserve said Friday that factory output, the most important component of industrial production, fell 0.9 percent in October from September. It would have been unchanged without the storm, the Fed said. Overall industrial production fell 0.4 percent last month. Utility output dipped 0.1 percent, while mining, which includes oil and gas production, rose 1.5 percent.

Justice Department sues eBay

The Justice Department alleged Friday that Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay Inc., was intimately involved in making an anticompetitive agreement that prohibited eBay and Intuit Inc. from hiring each other's employees. In a federal lawsuit, the government said Whitman and Scott Cook, Intuit's founder and executive committee chair, were involved in forming, monitoring and enforcing the anticompetitive agreement. California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a separate lawsuit under state law, which she said contains stronger protections against anticompetitive practices than federal law. Cook was a member of eBay's board of directors at the same time he was making complaints about eBay's recruiting of Intuit employees.

FTC approves Dollar Thrifty deal

Hertz Global Holdings Inc.'s $2.6 billion purchase of Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc. was cleared by U.S. antitrust regulators on Thursday after almost a half-decade of trying and some late-hour concessions for regulators concerned the deal would limit competition. Hertz agreed to sell 62 Advantage brand outlets along with the rights to operate 29 Dollar Thrifty on-airport locations, the Federal Trade Commission said. Sixteen of the airport outlets were part of the original deal between the companies.

Netflix chief expects proxy battle

Netflix Inc., the world's largest video-streaming service, said it expects activist investor Carl Icahn to start a proxy battle after acquiring an almost 10 percent stake in the company. Netflix, while willing to consider offers, isn't interested in seeking a buyer, Jonathan Friedland, a spokesman for the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company, said. Icahn disclosed his investment in Netflix on Oct. 31, saying he built the holding of stock and options because of the company's “dominant” market position in video streaming. Netflix adopted a so-called poison pill on Nov. 5 to defend against a hostile bid.

IKEA denies Cuba accusations

Furniture giant IKEA reported Friday that its investigation found no evidence the company knew of the possible use of Cuban political prisoners to manufacture goods and that there were no long-term business relations with suppliers in Cuba. The company issued an apology after its investigators from the Ernst & Young firm confirmed reports that IKEA used prison labor in communist East Germany 25 to 30 years ago. But the report also concluded that IKEA “never had any long-term business relations with suppliers in Cuba and that there is no evidence that the IKEA Group was aware of the possible use of political prisoners in Cuba.”

Other business news

• The Fresh Market's planned Mt. Lebanon store will be the first in Western Pennsylvania, although the chain has three other stores in the central or eastern parts of the state. The specialty grocery store signed a lease to locate at 1551 Washington Road. The store will open in 2013.

• Poli Mortgage Group has opened its first office in the Pittsburgh area at 1840 Mayview Road, Suite 100, South Fayette. Derek Bayer, with more than 12 years of experience in mortgage service in Western Pennsylvania, is the branch manager.

— From staff and wire reports

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