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Business roundup: Citizens Financial Group names directors with IPO experience; more

| Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Citizens' board adds directors with IPO experience

Two board members have joined Citizens Financial Group as the Rhode Island-based bank prepares to break from its corporate parent in the United Kingdom. In joining Citizens' board, Mark Casady and Robert Gillespie bring expertise that could prove valuable as Citizens prepares to become independent of Royal Bank of Scotland by 2016. Casady, CEO of LPL Financial, the nation's largest independent broker-dealer, successfully led that firm through an initial public offering in 2010. Gillespie, a non-executive director for RBS, brings “extensive industry knowledge and significant regulatory expertise,” Citizens CEO Bruce Van Saun wrote in a statement on Monday. RBS acquired Citizens in 1988. The U.K. financial giant is under pressure from the British government to improve profitability, and, as a result, has moved to divest itself of American banking operations. RBS filed paperwork in May for an IPO in which it hopes to raise about $100 million. RBS said last year that it would sell up to a 25 percent stake in Citizens by the end of 2014 and fully exit the business by 2016. Citizens is the Pittsburgh region's second-largest retail bank, with 131 branches and 9 percent market share.

Bureau warns about virtual currency risks

Federal regulators are warning consumers about the risks of using virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it will begin fielding complaints from people who rely on products such as Bitcoin and online exchanges for such currencies. In issuing an advisory warning, the agency notes that the currencies are not backed by the government, have volatile exchanges rates and are targeted by hackers and scammers. Unlike bank accounts, Bitcoin-based deposits are not federally insured. Bureau director Richard Cordray wrote in a statement that “consumers are stepping into the Wild West.” Cordray acknowledges that virtual currencies can facilitate online transactions by making it easier to process payments. The Securities and Exchange Commission previously issued an investor alert about virtual currencies.

NEP Group Inc. agrees to acquire Oregon company

NEP Group Inc., an O'Hara-based company that provides television production services around the world, said on Monday that it agreed to acquire the assets of MIRA Mobile Television, a remote production company in Portland, Ore., for an undisclosed price. The transaction, expected to be completed by Aug. 28, will integrate MIRA into NEP's mobile units operations in the United States. MIRA's nine high-definition mobile production units will join NEP's fleet of more than 70 HD units worldwide. NEP has broadcast and live-event service companies in the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil, and presents thousands of events annually.

Chiquita gets buyout offer from Safra, Cutrale

Chiquita Brands has received a buyout offer of about $611 million from investment firm Safra Group and agribusiness and juice company Cutrale Group. Safra and Cutrale are offering $13 per share, a 29 percent premium to Chiquita Brands International Inc.'s closing price of $10.06 on Friday. The unsolicited bid was made as Chiquita and Fyffes of Ireland work on their own transaction. The companies agreed in March to merge in a stock-for-stock deal to establish the world's biggest banana supplier. If a transaction were to occur between Chiquita and Fyffes, Chiquita's headquarters would move from Charlotte to Dublin, a more tax-efficient corporate base. In a letter sent to Chiquita President and CEO Edward Lonergan and Chairwoman Kerrii Anderson, Safra and Cutrale wrote that they believe their proposed transaction doesn't have the same execution risk and uncertainty that a deal with Fyffes does. The companies said that they think their offer gives more value to Chiquita shareholders and could be completed before year's end. Safra and Cutrale said that they would like to hear from Chiquita about their offer by noon Friday. Representatives from Chiquita and Fyffes did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Chicken fries back on menu

Miami-based Burger King is bringing back chicken fries, the breaded and fried chicken strips served in a fry-style box. Consumers took to social media to request the item, complaining on Facebook and Twitter when they were taken off the menu in 2012. “We underestimated the cult following that the product had,” said Alex Macedo, the company's North American president. “There's a big opportunity for us to bring it back.” Burger King Worldwide Inc. has been trying to boost sales by introducing products as fast-food competition intensifies. Its rivals also are revamping their menus. McDonald's Corp. recently began selling a $2 jalapeno double burger, while Wendy's Co. brought back pretzel buns in June. Burger King first sold chicken fries in 2005. The product will be offered for about 12 weeks, or while supplies last.

FDA rules could jeopardize Black & Mild cigar name

Plans to regulate cigars and other tobacco products the same as cigarettes could threaten Black & Mild, one of the nation's top-selling cigar brands. Under a Food and Drug Administration proposal, cigar makers would have to remove descriptions such as “light,” “mild,” “medium” or “low” from their products, raising a unique question about the fate of Black & Mild. The descriptions were banned for cigarettes under a 2009 law because many smokers wrongly thought they meant the products were less harmful than “full-flavor” cigarettes. Cigarette makers have since replaced those words with colors such as gold, silver, blue and orange on such brands, which usually feature different filters and milder-flavored blends. In a filing made public on Monday, Richmond-based Altria Group Inc., which owns Black & Mild maker John Middleton Co., voiced concerns that the proposal could force the company to abandon or change the brand name.

Other business news

Mylan Inc. received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell Capecitabine tablets, a drug used to treat certain types of breast, colon and colorectal cancers. Capecitabine is the generic version of Genentech Inc.'s Xeloda, which had sales in the United States of $773.8 million in the 12 months ended June 30.

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