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Roundup: First Energy shares fall; Sprint offers $2.1B for Clearwire; more

| Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

FirstEnergy stock falls on ratings concern

FirstEnergy Corp., whose utilities serve 6 million customers and includes West Penn Power and Penn Power in the Pittsburgh region, fell to its lowest in four months upon a UBS Securities LLC report that said it needs to sell about $500 million in assets next year to preserve its credit rating. FirstEnergy, based in Akron, Ohio, declined 1.2 percent to $40.72, the lowest since Aug. 10. The power company faces negative cash flows of about $1.1 billion from 2013 to 2015 as it pays off $1.4 billion in debt at its retail power marketing business and about $400 million held by a transmission unit, Julien Dumoulin-Smith, a New York-based UBS analyst, said in a report. FirstEnergy will need to sell assets such as hydroplants or a coal mine to maintain its BBB- rating from Standard & Poor's, said Dumoulin-Smith.

McKees Rocks industrial park gets money for improvements

An industrial park being built by Trinity Commercial Development LLC on the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad site in McKees Rocks received a grant of up to $250,000 to improve the roads large tractor trailers will use to go to and from the park. The Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County Thursday approved the grant under the Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund, which will be used to widen an intersection and improve traffic along the roads. The industrial/business park will cost about $50 million during the next nine years and when fully built out, will have more than 460,000 square feet of new and renovated space for industrial and commercial businesses, said Craig Rippole, Trinity president. He said his company will own 52 of the 105-acre site, east of Island Avenue and straddled by the McKees Rock bridge.

Sprint offers $2.1 billion for rest of Clearwire

Sprint Nextel has offered to buy out the minority shareholders of Clearwire for $2.1 billion in a deal that would give it total control of the struggling company and more space on the airwaves for data services. Sprint said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it's offering $2.90 per share for the 49 percent of the wireless network operator that it doesn't already own. Clearwire's board hasn't approved the sale, but said it's in discussions with Sprint. Clearwire shares jumped 15 percent to $3.16, suggesting that investors believe a better offer may be comin

FDA review of tobacco products grinds to a halt

Talk about a smoke break. Tobacco companies have introduced almost no new cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products in the United States in more than 18 months because the federal government has prevented them from doing so, an Associated Press review has found. It's an unprecedented pause for an industry that historically has introduced dozens of new products annually, and reflects its increasingly uneasy relationship with the Food and Drug Administration, which in 2009 began regulating tobacco.

Other business news:

• Medical device maker Neuro Kine-tics Inc. said John Friel, retired CEO of Medrad Inc., joined its board of directors and is advising management on growth. Neuro Kinetics is developing devices and diagnostic techniques, including the detection of brain injuries. The O'Hara company recently was awarded a $2.4 million contract from the Department of Defense to develop applications for battlefield testing of combat brain injuries.

• Northwest Bancshares Inc., Warren, said Thursday its board authorized the repurchase of an additional 5 million shares, or 5.2 percent of outstanding stock. Northwest has 2.6 million shares left to repurchase under its existing 4.75 million-share authorization. The bank has 166 branches, including 28 in the Pittsburgh region.

• The Monroeville Convention Center will receive a $75,000 grant from the Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund to help advertise its facility in hopes of bringing more meetings and shows to its facility in Monroeville. The funds, approved Thursday by the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County, will be used to provide a marketing program that includes a new video of the facility.

— Staff and wire reports

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