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Roundup: Toyota to pay $29M; GNC profit jumps, dividend up; more

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Toyota to pay $29M to settle safety suit

Toyota said on Thursday it will pay $29 million to 29 states and American Samoa as part of a settlement related to its safety recalls. State attorneys general sued Toyota in 2010 when it recalled 14 million vehicles globally for accelerating without warning. The lawsuit accused Toyota of failing to notify customers promptly about the problems. During their investigation, the attorneys general found that poor communication between Toyota's headquarters in Japan and its U.S. operations had contributed to the problem. Toyota has promised to improve communications and give its U.S. executives more decision-making power. Toyota has agreed to post owners' manuals online in an effort to make sure vehicle information is easily accessible.

GNC profit soars; dividend raised

Health products maker and retailer GNC Holdings Inc. reported a profit of $47.4 million for the fourth quarter, up 26 percent from $37.7 million a year ago. Downtown-based GNC said its $565 million in revenue for the October through December period was up 10.9 percent, although Hurricane Sandy cut same-store sales by about $4 million. For the full year, GNC had record net income of $240 million, up from $132.3 million for 2011, and record revenue of $2.43 billion, an increase of 17.3 percent. The company declared a 15-cent dividend for the first quarter of 2013, an increase of 4 cents over the prior amount. The dividend will be payable around March 29 to shareholders of record on March 15. GNC's board said it will repurchase up to an aggregate $250 million of common stock during the next year.

Electricity shopping may go faster

Electricity customers who opt to sign up with another supplier will be able to do so faster if state utility regulators' recommendations adopted on Thursday gain final approval. The Public Utility Commission adopted changes to Pennsylvania's electricity market in a 5-0 vote. Utilities including Duquesne Light, West Penn Power and Penn Power will remain “default” suppliers in their territories, providing a base price to compare. But the biggest, tangible change for consumers is a shortening of the “switching” period from 30 days or more now to about 10 days, PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said. Some changes in the measure require legislative approval.

GM posts $898M 4Q net profit

General Motors made money in North America and Asia and lost a bundle in Europe as it nearly doubled last year's fourth-quarter profit. But the numbers were complicated by a dizzying array of accounting gains and losses for tax credits and devaluation of European assets. The biggest U.S. automaker reported net income of $898 million, or 54 cents per share, compared with $468 million, or 28 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 3 percent to $39.3 billion. The fourth-quarter profit included billions in one-time accounting gains and losses that ended up being a $100 million increase. Without the gain, the company earned 48 cents per share, falling short of Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 51 cents.

InBev revises offer for brewer

Anheuser-Busch InBev changed the terms of its proposed $20.1 billion acquisition of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo on Thursday in an attempt to push through a deal that federal regulators say will kill competition. AB InBev is willing to sell Modelo's Piedras Negras brewery and give perpetual rights for Corona and the Modelo brands in the United States to Constellation for $2.9 billion, the company said. The Mexican brewery, which makes Corona, Corona Light and Modelo Especial, will give Constellation total control over the production of Corona and Modelo sold in the United States. Under previous terms of the complicated deal, Modelo would have sold its half of Crown Imports to wine maker Constellation Brands Inc. to address antitrust concerns.

CBS 4Q results fall short

CBS Corp.'s revenue and earnings grew in the final quarter of the year, but the results fell short of analysts' forecasts, sending shares down in after-market trading. Advertising revenue grew 3 percent, CBS said on Thursday. The company pointed out that last year's licensing revenue bump from the sale of CW network shows to Netflix and Hulu wasn't repeated. Net income was $393 million, or 60 cents per share. That's up from $370 million, or 55 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 2 percent to $3.7 billion, below the $3.83 billion analysts were expecting. The company aid it would double its share buyback program by $1 billion in 2013.

Other business news

• American Eagle Outfitters Inc. said Thursday it will promote the Student Conservation Association with window displays and videos in more than 800 of its stores in the United States and Canada, and on its 25-story-high billboard in New York City's Times Square. The South Side-based retailer has sponsored the association's Alternative Spring Break program since 2007 and provided other support.

— Staff and wire reports

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