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Tuesday's business briefs

| Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Airport authority debt upgraded by S&P

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services upgraded its credit rating for the Allegheny County Airport Authority's $360.9 million in long-term debt to A-, or upper-medium investment grade. It previously had a BBB+, or medium grade, rating. The ratings agency also assigned a similar rating to $50.8 million in bonds issued this year for various capital projects at Pittsburgh International Airport. Likewise, Moody's Investors Service upgraded its outlook for the new bonds to positive from stable. The airport plans to spend $8 million to repair and update its six people-mover train cars. The authority bought two new cars and repaired four others in 1999-2000, less than a decade after the people-mover system started running when Pittsburgh International opened in 1992, said spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny. Bombardier Transportation in West Mifflin built the system and will handle the upcoming work, scheduled to be completed by next spring. The airport also plans to spend $20 million on improvements to its terminals, including roof work, carpet replacement and improvements to ticket counters; $12 million on an ongoing project to repair the short-term parking garage; and $5 million on projects designed to reduce energy costs.

Giant Eagle plans addition to Shadyside store

Giant Eagle supermarket plans to build a new cafe at its Shadyside store where shoppers can have a meal with up to two beers. The plan is to build a two-story, 4,320-square-foot building on the eastern side of the store on Centre Avenue, Nick Doichev told members of the Shadyside Action Coalition at their meeting. "The lower level of 2,160 square feet will be for shoppers and the upper level, also with 2,160 square feet, will be for team members (employees) of the store," said Doichev, a principal with DLA Architectural of Green Tree. No cost estimate of the expansion was available. Plans are to present the plan during a briefing before the City Planning Commission on May 1 and follow that up with a public hearing later, he said.

Regulators approve Cheniere export plant

Regulators granted Cheniere Energy approval on Monday to build an export plant for liquefied natural gas at Sabine Pass in Louisiana, the first project of its kind in the United States in 50 years. The approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission paves the way for construction to begin at Sabine Pass LNG, which Cheniere says could be ready by 2015. Cheniere will be able to export up to 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, the equivalent of 16 million tons per year of LNG, from Sabine Pass. The plant will be built in two stages, the first consisting of two production units, or trains, of 4 mtpa each, FERC said. Cheniere said it has engaged eight financial institutions to raise up to $4 billion in debt to help finance construction at Sabine.

Citi made $2.9B in 1Q; global transactions grow

Citigroup, which has 4,600 branches in 40 countries, boasts that it is the most global American bank. That reach paid off big time in the first three months of the year. Citigroup pulled in record revenue from processing transactions for its international corporate clients, and its loans to customers in Asia and Latin America grew. The bank said Monday that it made $2.9 billion in the first three months of the year, or 95 cents per share, which includes a $1.3 billion accounting charge that Citi took because the value of its debt increased. Citigroup's revenue in the quarter was $19.4 billion, down 2 percent from the year-ago quarter.

Grubb & Ellis becomes Newmark Grubb Knight Frank

The Grubb & Ellis Co. name, long part of Pittsburgh's real estate market, is gone and in its place, the new name is Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. The Grubb & Ellis Co. was acquired by BGC Partners in mid-April. Previously, BGC had acquired Newmark Knight Frank and with the merger of Grubb & Ellis, has created Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, its new full-service commercial real estate firm. Garry Gosin is CEO of the combined Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. Jimmy Kuhn is president of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, which with its London-based Knights Frank, operate from more than 240 offices in five continents.

Earnings

-- United Refining Co., a Warren-based oil refinery and chain of gas stations, reported a net loss of $237,000 in its second quarter, ended Feb. 29. The loss compares to net income of $261,000 in the same quarter last year, the company said. Sales jumped 23 percent in the December-February quarter to $848.8 million, up from $692.3 million the year before. Privately held United Refining is owned by John Catsimatidis, the owner of a chain of New York grocery stores. Investors own $365 million in company bonds.

-- Apollo Bancorp Inc., the parent of Apollo Trust Co., said quarterly net income increased 9 percent to $339,000, or 68 cents a share, from $311,000, or 57 cents a share, a year earlier. Total assets stood at $147 million as of March 31. Apollo operates five branches in Western Pennsylvania.

Other business news

-- Federated Investors Inc., Downtown, said Monday it completed the acquisition of Prime Rate Capital Management LLP, a London-based manager of some $4.3 billion (U.S.) in fixed-income products from Matrix Group Limited. Renamed "Federated Prime Rate Capital Management," the business establishes Federated's first office in London and employs 10 people there. Terms of the deal, first announced in December, were not disclosed. Federated manages about $370 billion worth of mutual funds and separate accounts.

-- Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.'s planned acquisition of Harleysville Mutual Insurance Co. was approved by Pennsylvania's insurance regulator. "Harleysville and Nationwide have complementary product lines, and together the companies offer more choices to policyholders," Insurance Commissioner Mike Consedine said Monday.

-- Build-A-Bear Workshop said it will reopen a Ross Park Mall store on April 27 on the mall's lower level, near Macy's, with new interactive features including a digital Hear Me sound studio. The store closed on April 7. Through the Stuffed with Hugs program, visitors will be invited on April 28 to make special bears for free that will be donated to a local children's charity.

-- A second Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza restaurant in the region will open Thursday in Monroeville. The restaurant is located at 2740 Stroschein Road in the Miracle Mile shopping center. The first Anthony's opened at Settler's Ridge shopping center in Robinson and a third Pittsburgh-area restaurant is planned for later this year, but no location has been announced.

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