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Roundup: Columbia Gas to spend $140M on pipelines; nursing homes begind labor talks; more

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Columbia Gas to spend $5.1M on pipelines

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania said it plans to spend $5.1 million in the next three months to replace more than six miles of pipelines in Allegheny, Beaver and Washington counties. That's part of $140 million it will spend on pipeline replacement in 2013. The largest of the seven projects set for the January through March quarter will replace 9,800 feet of aging lines along Jefferson Avenue in Canton. Columbia said its work typically involves tearing out bare steel and cast iron pipes and installing modern plastic lines, along with putting in excess flow valves that shut off service in the event of a leak, for example. Locations of other projects: Willett Road and Joseph Street, Baldwin; Wexford Bayne Road, Pine; Shenango Road, Big Beaver; Duss Avenue, Ambridge and Harmony; and Park Avenue, South Franklin. Since 2007, upgrades have cost more than $400 million statewide.

Baum developer gets $11.6M loan

The developer of the former Day automobile dealership on Baum Boulevard received a $11.6 million office/retail bridge loan from a New York City-based real estate fund manager. Hudson Realty Capital LLC funded the loan that developer John Odell will use to retire existing debt and complete renovation of the building at 5607 Baum and Roup Street, Friendship. The University of Pittsburgh's Department of Biomedical Informatics has leased space on two floors as part of a seven-year lease valued at $811,536 per year. There also is a five-year option to extend the lease. The main tenant, Aldi's, is on the first floor. A Crazy Mocha coffee shop also leased space in the building.

WPAHS investors to be updated

The trustee for investors who own about $726 million in West Penn Allegheny Health System bonds will hold a conference call on Thursday morning to discuss a tentative deal to keep the health system out of bankruptcy court. Trustee UMB Bank, of Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday said the private call would also cover “disclosure of information expected to be made by the (West Penn Allegheny) tomorrow.” Health insurer Highmark Inc. and West Penn Allegheny have been negotiating with bondholders on a deal to reduce the bond debt. West Penn Allegheny spokeswoman Kelly Sorice said there was no announcement planned for Wednesday. Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger could not be reached for comment.

Nursing home workers begin talks

Negotiators representing about 7,000 nursing home workers from across the state have started talks on new labor pacts with the owners of about 80 nursing homes, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania said on Tuesday. The union said its negotiating team met in Harrisburg with representatives of Golden Living Center, Genesis, Extendicare, Reliant and Guardian nursing home companies, plus independent homes, to discuss contracts that expire this year. Bargaining is expected to continue “throughout the winter,” the union said.

Chrysler reaches deal on Jeeps

Fiat SpA and Chrysler Group LLC said Tuesday that they reached an agreement with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. Ltd. to expand cooperation on passenger car manufacturing and sales in China. Guangzhou will build one Jeep model in China for Chrysler for sale in China. A specific model was not announced. The agreement was signed at Chrysler Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., by Zeng Qinghong, general manager and CEO of GAC Group, and Mike Manley, President and CEO of Jeep and head of Chrysler's international operations. Guangzhou began building the Fiat Viaggio in China last September. The plant has initial annual capacity of 140,000 cars and is capable of eventually assembling 500,000 vehicles per year.

Fiserv to buy Open Solutions

Fiserv Inc. is buying Open Solutions Inc. for $55 million and taking on $960 million in debt as the account-processing provider seeks to bolster products and services for banks, credit unions and other financial firms. The acquisition will deliver at least $75 million in additional annual revenue and cut costs by more than $50 million annually over the “next several years” for Fiserv, according to a statement. Brookfield, Wisc.-based Fiserv is expanding the billing and account payments technology it provides for more than 16,000 financial firms, including lenders, billers, mortgage and leasing companies, as well as brokerage and investment firms. Buying Glastonbury, Conn.-based Open Solutions will add 3,300 clients.

Retail sales up 0.5% in December

Consumers increased their spending at retail businesses in December, buying more automobiles, furniture and clothing. Steady job growth and lower gas prices kept consumers shopping for the holidays, despite worries about potential tax increases. Retail sales rose 0.5 percent in December from November, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That's slightly better than November's 0.4 percent increase and the best showing since September. Sales of vehicles and auto parts rose 1.6 percent to lead all categories. Car companies closed out their best sales year since 2007.

Other business news

• The average gasoline price in Western Pennsylvania was unchanged on Tuesday from last week, AAA East Central said. The price for regular was $3.523 a gallon; it was $3.525 a week ago. Prices ranged from $3.600 in Mercer to $3.357 in New Castle. The national average was $3.297.

— Staff and wire reports

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