Business news briefs: FirstEnergy locks out union

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FirstEnergy locks out union

FirstEnergy Corp. has locked out more than 140 workers at Penelec shops in central Pennsylvania after the union rejected what the utility is calling its "last, best and final" contract offer. FirstEnergy spokesman Scott Surgeoner said the lockout affects workers in Altoona, Bedford, Ebensburg, Huntingdon, Lewistown and Shippensburg. Bob Whalen, president of Utility Workers Union of American Local 180, said the contract rejection was "overwhelming" and sends a "clear message" to the company's attempt to "take away benefits" -- especially retiree health care after 2014.

Area gas prices spike

Pittsburgh-area gas prices spiked a bit last week, averaging $3.36 per gallon for regular unleaded, according to online fuel tracking site GasBuddy.com, which surveys about 700 area gas outlets daily. The national average also spiked -- 5.1 cents per gallon -- but remains below Pittsburgh's level at $3.26 per gallon. Still, the prices were 26.2 cents below the level drivers were paying a year ago and 6.1 cents lower than a month ago.

Wal-Mart CEO claims a successor

Wal-Mart Stores CEO and president Mike Duke, 63, plans to retire Feb. 1. The company says Doug McMillon, head of international operations, will succeed him. Mr. Duke will remain on the company's board as chairman of its executive committee. Dave Tovar, a spokesman at Wal-Mart said Mr. Duke's decision to leave was "a personal one."

Number of U.S. homebuyers fell

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell in October for the fifth straight month. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dipped 0.6 percent to 102.1. That's the lowest level since December.

BlackBerry sees shake-up

John Chen, BlackBerry's interim chief executive, has shaken up the management team in a move seen as prelude to him taking the top job himself. Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear and Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben, both hired by recently ousted CEO Thorsten Heins, will leave the struggling smartphone maker. And the company said Monday that Brian Bidulka is being replaced by James Yersh as chief financial officer. Mr. Yersh previously served as senior vice president and controller.

Also in business...

United-American Savings Bank, South Side, declared a regular annual dividend of 20 cents per share, plus a special dividend of 8 cents. The dividends are payable Jan. 13 to shareholders of record Dec. 31.


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