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Boeing Co. to proceed with new Dreamliner

| Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003

Boeing Co., the world's largest airplane maker, will proceed with plans for a more fuel-efficient passenger jet that's intended to win over cash-strapped airlines and regain market share from Airbus SAS. The board voted unanimously to begin offering for sale the 7E7 Dreamliner, a 200- to 300-seat airplane that will use at least 15 percent less fuel than comparable jets. The announcement was made with fanfare to 3,000 employees gathered at a convention center in Seattle, near where the airplane will be assembled. Boeing expects customers to be attracted to the savings on fuel, the second-biggest cost for airlines behind labor. The 7E7 design also will be the basis for Boeing's future passenger jets, offering consistency in areas such as cockpit configurations.

MetLife cuts forecast

MetLife Inc. Tuesday cut its earnings forecast for the year, saying a negative opinion by a bond rating agency earlier this year forced it to shore up its capital. The insurance giant now projects 2003 operating income of $2.79 to $2.84 a share, down from a previous estimate of $2.80 to $2.90 per share, according to Chief Financial Officer William J. Wheeler. MetLife estimated fourth-quarter operating income at 71 cents to 76 cents a share. At a presentation for investors broadcast over the Internet, Wheeler also said that the firm's goal of achieving a return on equity of 14 percent on an operating basis by the end of 2005 will be delayed a year. Wheeler said the delay was primarily due to a decision by bond rating agency Moody's earlier this year to put the firm on a negative outlook.

Car rebates added

DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit, the third-largest U.S. automaker, added $500 in rebates on eight models and will give minivan buyers $1,000 cash back as it tries to add to sales gains in October and November. The $500 Holiday Bonus rebates are on models including the Pacifica station wagon, Crossfire sports car and Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee sport-utility vehicles, spokesman James Kenyon said. The latest offers, which end Jan. 2, bring the highest Chrysler rebates to $5,000 on the larger minivans. Automakers will boost incentives this month to compete for year-end gains, Gary Dilts, Chrysler senior vice president of sales, said last week.

Mylan ups dividend

Mylan Laboratories Inc. said Tuesday its board has approved a 35 percent increase in the company's annual dividend to 12 cents per share. The dividend is payable Jan. 15 to shareholders of record on Dec. 31. The Canonsburg-based pharmaceutical company also said it has completed its share repurchase program of 22.5 million shares announced in May 2002.

Gas prices down

Gasoline prices in western Pennsylvania dropped slightly this week, according to AAA East Central. The AAA Fuel Gauge Report said the average price paid for a gallon of regular, unleaded self-serve gasoline in western Pennsylvania this week was $1.461, down from $1.462 last week. One year ago, the average price for the same fuel was $1.32 cents a gallon.

Other business news

  • Mellon Financial Corp. named U.S. Steel Corp. President John P. Surma to its board of directors. With the appointment, Mellon's board now has 16 directors, including 14 independent directors.

  • Shares of FNB Corp. will begin trading under the ticker symbol FNB on the New York Stock Exchange today. The Hermitage financial service company's shares previously traded on the Nasdaq market under the ticker symbol FBAN.

  • Indiana, Pa.-based First Commonwealth Financial Corp. on Tuesday declared a fourth-quarter dividend of 16 cents a share, payable Jan. 16, to shareholders of record on Dec. 31 this year. The dividend represents a 3.2 percent increase over the dividend paid for the comparable year-ago quarter.

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