Business news briefs: Brokerage acquiring Pittsburgh firm

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Brokerage acquiring city firm

Sagewell Partners, a North Side benefits and consulting firm that specializes in life and disability benefits, is being acquired by California's Alliant Insurance Services, according to the two companies. Sagewell CEO David Osterhaus will become an executive vice president and managing director at Alliant, which in 2012 was purchased for $1.8 billion by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. private equity firm.

Hospital's BBB+ rating stays

Fitch Ratings has affirmed its BBB+ rating for Washington Hospital on its collective $67.5 million in bonds, citing the hospital's leading market share in the Washington area, low debt burden and overall financial performance.

Recommendation on sows

Smithfield Foods is recommending that its contract growers phase out the practice of keeping female hogs in small metal crates while pregnant. The world's largest pork producer said Tuesday that it is asking the growers to move pregnant sows from gestation crates to group housing by 2022.

Annual lending increased

Pennsylvania participants in the federal Small Business Lending Fund increased annual lending by $536.1 million in 2013, according to a recent Department of Treasury report. The report shows that the state increase is part of a national trend that has boosted small business lending among SBLF members by $11.2 billion in 2013.

U.S. Bancorp making moves

U.S. Bancorp agreed to buy the Chicago branches of Charter One Bank owned by RBS Citizens Financial Group, paying a deposit premium of about $315 million. The deal covers $5.3 billion of deposits, $1.1 billion of loans, 94 branches and 800 employees, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp said.

U.S. trade deficit shrinks

U.S. exports rose to a record high in November, helping to shrink the nation's trade deficit to the lowest in four years. The Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit in goods and services with the rest of the world totaled $34.3 billion in November. That was the lowest since fall 2009 and a steep drop from a trade gap of $39.3 billion in October, seasonally adjusted. U.S. exports reached $194.9 billion in November, and imports fell to $229.1 billion in November.

Great success for Apple apps

Apple says people spent more than $10 billion in its app store last year, on apps such as "Minecraft," "Angry Birds Star Wars" and "Sleep Cycle" alarm clock. December was the most successful month in the store's history, as customers spent $1 billion that month. Apple says the year's total was also a record.

Apartment rents on way up

U.S. apartment rents probably will rise 3.3 percent in 2014, little changed from last year, as the most construction in a decade boosts vacancies and limits landlords' ability to increase rates, Reis Inc., a New York-based research company, said in its quarterly report. Rents climbed to an average of $1,083 a month in the fourth quarter from $1,074 in the previous three months and $1,049 a year earlier, Reis said.

Also in business...

Downtown-based Education Management Corp. named Charles Restivo, who has been the interim president of all of The Art Institutes for the last six months, the president of The Art Institutes.



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