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Roundup: Heartland homes sells properties for $7.5M; union agrees to talks at Philadelphia newspapers; more

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Heartland Homes sells properties for $7.5M

Heartland Homes has “sold” about 100 undeveloped or unsold lots in 13 communities in Allegheny County to its new owners, NVR Inc., for $7.5 million, according to a deed filed in Allegheny County. The properties are located in Bethel Park, Collier, Franklin Park, Marshall, Moon, North Fayette, Oakmont, Pine, Richland, Robinson, South Fayette, South Park and Upper St. Clair. The municipalities and their school districts shared in transfer taxes paid for the properties. In Collier, where the value of the properties was $241,655, both the municipality and the Chartiers Valley School District each received $2,4116.55. Heartland is now part of NVR, following the merger of the company into the Reston, Va.-based firm at the end of 2012.

Union agrees to bargain to help save Philadelphia's major papers

The union representing reporters and editors at Philadelphia's two major newspapers said Thursday that it will bargain a new contract to help prevent the troubled company from being liquidated. Local Newspaper Guild leaders made the announcement after meeting with executives of Interstate General Media LLC, the group that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and the website Interstate had threatened last week to liquidate or sell its assets unless it got new labor agreements with all 11 unions by Friday, according to the Guild. Ten unions have been working without contracts since October; the current Guild contract expires next October. On Thursday, the Guild agreed to negotiate a deal while keeping current provisions in force.

Las Vegas Sands seeks buyer for its casino in Bethlehem

Las Vegas Sands Corp., the company controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is seeking a buyer for its casino in Bethlehem, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The Las Vegas-based company is asking as much as $1 billion for the property, the second-largest casino in the state based on gambling revenue. A deal isn't certain. Efforts to sell the casino have been complicated by price and potential buyers involved in other deals. Penn National Gaming Inc., which bought a St. Louis casino from Caesars Entertainment Corp. in May for $610 million, said in November it's splitting in two. Pinnacle Entertainment, another operator, announced plans to buy Ameristar Casinos Inc. last month for about $900 million.

Amazon makes MP3 catalog available to iPhone users

Amazon says iPhone and iPod Touch users will be able to buy music from its digital store for the first time. Inc. said Thursday that its MP3 library has 22 million songs available. Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music, says that since the introduction of the Cloud Player app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, customers have been asking for the ability to buy music from Amazon directly from their devices. The Apple device users can browse Amazon's MP3 store for music using Apple's Safari Web browser. Music users buy gets saved to their Amazon Cloud Player libraries and can be downloaded or played instantly from Apple devices or other gadgets such as the Kindle Fire.

New furnace efficiency standards withdrawn for Pa. consumers

A federal regulation, requiring consumers in Pennsylvania to purchase high-efficiency furnaces starting in May, has been canceled, following a legal settlement between the Department of Energy and the American Public Gas Association. Instead of requiring furnaces with a 90 percent or higher efficiency rating, the regulation continues at the 80 percent efficiency rate. “We learned last week of the settlement,” said Scott Waitlevertch, an Equitable Gas Co. spokesman. Equitable has offered customers a rebate of $750 if a 95 percent or higher efficiency furnace was installed, and $500 for 90 percent or better. “We've had over 2,000 customers apply for the rebate in our service area that covers Allegheny County and 10 surrounding ... counties,” he said.


• Huntington Bancshares Inc. said fourth-quarter net income jumped 34 percent to a record $159 million, compared with $119 million a year earlier. Results per share equaled 19 cents, versus 14 cents a year ago. Huntington National Bank has about 40 branches in Western Pennsylvania.

• UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s fourth-quarter net income slipped 1 percent, as a rise in costs from medical claims and other expenses countered revenue gains for the nation's largest health insurer. The Minnetonka, Minn., company said it earned $1.24 billion, or $1.20 per share. That compares with $1.26 billion, or $1.17 per share, in the last quarter of 2011, when the company had more shares outstanding. Revenue climbed 11 percent to $28.77 billion, but medical costs grew 12 percent to $20.8 billion.

• Fifth Third Bancorp said fourth-quarter net income jumped 28 percent, helped by improving credit conditions. The Cincinnati-based company earned $390 million, or 43 cents per share. That compares with $305 million, or 33 cents per share, a year ago, and topped analysts' estimates for of 41 cents per share. Fifth Third Bank has 15 branches in Western Pennsylvania.

• Citigroup's fourth quarter earnings fell short of Wall Street's expectations as the bank's legal expenses rose and it released less money from its loan-loss reserves. Citi earned $1.16 billion, or 38 cents per share, compared with $933 million, or 31 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose to $18.7 billion, up 8 percent from the same period a year earlier and slightly below forecasts.

Other business news

• Zimmer Kunz, a regional law firm, will be relocating from U.S. Steel Tower to the 30th floor and a portion of the 29th floor of the Grant Building, Downtown, effective Aug. 1, 2013. It signed a 15-year lease. The search for new space was led by Dan Krauth, a partner of the law firm, who chaired the search committee.

— Staff and wire reports

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