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Roundup: Dell shareholders approve buyout; computer upgrades behind drop in jobless claims; more

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Dell shareholders approve buyout

Dell shareholders have approved a $24.8 billion offer from its founder to buy the company and take it private, ending the struggling computer maker's quarter-century history as a publicly held company. At the end of a shareholder meeting Thursday, Dell officials said that based on preliminary results, the proposal had enough votes in favor of it to pass. Michael Dell, the company's chairman, CEO and founder, who made his offer with an investment group led by Silver Lake Partners, has said he can turn the company around. But he has said the process will involve a painful realignment that is likely to trim its earnings for another year or two. Last month, Dell reported a 72 percent drop in profit for its most recent quarter, as the company cut prices to shore up computer sales. The company's stock has plunged by more than 40 percent since Dell returned for a second stint as CEO in 2007.

Heads of exchanges agree on steps to prevent breakdowns

The heads of U.S. securities exchanges have agreed to pursue changes intended to limit technical breakdowns and better manage those that occur. The officials met Thursday with Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White. White held the meeting just three weeks after a technical outage on the Nasdaq stock exchange shut down trading for three hours. About a dozen officials participated in the closed-door meeting at SEC headquarters, including the heads of Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange. One idea announced after the meeting would be for exchanges to implement “kill switches” that could automatically shut down a firm's trading system. The NYSE has begun work on kill switches. The exchanges also said they will review their systems and develop plans for stricter standards.

Jobless claims drop; computer issues cited

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plummeted last week by 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 292,000. But the drop was mostly because of technical issues in two states that delayed the processing of applications. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average fell to 321,250, the lowest in six years. A government spokesman says the steep drop occurred because two states upgraded their computer systems last week and did not process all their applications. “This is not necessarily an indication of a change in labor market conditions,” he said. The spokesman would not identify the states, but said one was small and one large. Big states like California and Texas can swing the weekly data by 10,000 or more. Applications will likely rebound in the coming weeks, he said.

United shuts down website bookings

For a little while on Thursday, United Airlines was giving away airplane tickets for free, or close to it. Passengers reported buying tickets for $5 to $10. United says it accidentally filed fares for $0, although airport charges might have resulted in a small cost. United stopped taking bookings through its website and phone centers to prevent more of the tickets from being sold or given away. United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the mistake was due to an error in filing the fares, not a problem with the website. The airline doesn't yet know how many tickets were sold at the unusually low prices. She said United has not yet decided whether it will honor the tickets.

Fewer homes entered foreclosure in August

Lenders initiated foreclosure action in August against the fewest homes for any month in nearly eight years, a trend that should help reduce the number of homes lost to foreclosure in the months ahead. Some 55,775 homes entered the foreclosure process last month, a decline of 8 percent from July and down 44 percent from August last year, foreclosure listing firm Realty­Trac Inc. said Thursday.

Other business news

• Quintech Electronics & Communications Inc., a supplier of signal routing equipment to the satellite, broadcast and wireless industries, said it will acquire DEV Systemtechnik GmbH & Co. for an undisclosed price. Indiana, Pa.-based Quintech expects the deal for DEV Systemtechnik, based in Friedberg, Germany, to close by the end of this month.

• Lesleh Precision Inc., Belle Vernon, Washington County, is receiving about $1.4 million in public funding from the state to expand operations to a larger facility in nearby Rostraver in Westmoreland County. The company, which makes precision tooling machinery, pledged to create 29 jobs and retain its 32 current employees. The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority is providing $1.3 million in low-interest loans. The state Department of Community and Economic Development is providing $129,050 in job-creation and training grants.

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