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Business roundup: AT&T-DirecTV deal could be weeks away; natural gas production hits a high; more

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By Staff and Wire Reports
Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

AT&T-DirecTV deal could be weeks away

AT&T's discussions to buy DirecTV are progressing and a deal could happen within two weeks, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that AT&T would use a combination of cash and stock to acquire the satellite TV company. A takeover of DirecTV would cost about $50 billion, the unnamed sources told the newspaper. DirecTV's market value was nearly $45 billion on Monday. DirecTV would maintain its management team as a unit of AT&T, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources. DirecTV Chief Executive Officer Mike White plans to retire after 2015, the sources said.

DirecTV and At&T declined to comment on the report.

Natural gas production hits high

Companies set a U.S. record for natural gas production last month as they took advantage of higher prices and a push to refill reserves that the cold winter depleted, a leading energy analyst reported on Monday. Wells in the lower 48 states combined to produce an average of 67.3 billion cubic feet of gas per day, 500 million more than the daily March average and 4.2 percent more than April 2013, according to estimates from Bentek Energy. On April 13, production hit a record 68 billion cubic feet. The Energy Information Administration will release official figures in June. “With storage inventories so low, U.S. consumers need the production levels seen in March and April to continue throughout the summer to avoid higher prices this winter,” said Jack Weixel, director of energy analysis at Denver-based Bentek.

Pfizer underscores U.K. commitments

Pfizer Inc. wants to allay concerns about its proposed $106 billion takeover offer of pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca, insisting that its promises will be legally binding. The American drugmaker laid out its vision in a memo on Monday to two U.K. parliamentary committees that are studying the proposed deal. The company sought to ease worries that British jobs will be lost and that the nation's science base will be eroded by the potential merger. The cash and stock deal has become politically fraught, with much of the debate centering on whether Pfizer can be trusted to honor promises in what would be the biggest foreign takeover of a British business.

Chrysler reports $690M 1Q loss

Chrysler Group's first-quarter sales jumped because of the new Jeep Cherokee and Ram pickup, but it lost money because of charges related to its merger with Italian automaker Fiat SpA. Chrysler posted a loss of $690 million for the quarter. Without one-time costs of $1.2 billion, the company's net income more than doubled to $486 million. Fiat paid $3.65 billion in January to acquire Chrysler's remaining shares. The two companies are in the process of combining to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The combined company expects to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange in the fourth quarter of this year.

Frozen food group's ad defends products

Frozen food makers plan to air their first national TV ad in defense of their products on Tuesday as the category fights to boost slipping sales. The ad will include the slogan “Frozen: How Fresh Stays Fresh,” and it is intended to address negative attitudes people have about frozen foods. It is part of a major marketing push being funded by the American Frozen Food Institute, an industry group that represents companies such as Nestle and ConAgra. The push occurs as frozen food sales struggle because of a move toward foods people believe are fresher or natural. Although frozen vegetables often are touted as being as wholesome as their fresh counterparts, frozen meals and snacks are widely viewed as full of sodium and preservatives.

Pending home sales in local market rise

Pittsburgh's housing market continued its strong activity during April as pending home sales were up 4.64 percent and the average sales price increased 1.61 percent, according to a report released on Monday. There were 4,011 houses placed under sales agreements, compared with 3,833 in April 2013. The sales price reached $166,870, up from $164,229 a year ago, according to West Penn Multi-List, a major multiple-listing agency that covers a 13-county area. New listings decreased in April, with 3,930 placed on the market, down 1.87 percent from 4,005 in April 2013. Houses remained on the market an average of 96 days, down 3.03 percent from 99 days a year ago.



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