Business Briefs: 4/23/14

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Heinz voluntary buyout offer deadline passes

The deadline passed Monday for 775 H.J. Heinz Co. employees in the Pittsburgh area to accept a voluntary buyout offer from the company or commit to going forward under the new corporate culture being established by the Pittsburgh food company’s new owners. A company spokesman said Tuesday that Heinz would not be releasing the number of those who take the deal, but reiterated that Heinz will not be cutting its staffing in the region. “We have a robust talent pipeline in place to backfill any vacancies that are created. We look forward to the future, and to achieving our vision with the industry’s best team,” said Michael Mullen, senior vice president of corporate and government affairs.

GlaxoSmithKline reaches deal with Swiss drugmaker

GlaxoSmithKline, the United Kingdom’s largest drugmaker, on Tuesday announced a deal with Novartis, headquartered in Switzerland, in which Glaxo will divest its oncology portfolio for $16 billion while acquiring the Novartis global vaccine business for an initial cash outlay of $5.25 billion. The two firms also will jointly create a consumer health care business with London-based Glaxo holding a 63.5 percent equity share. GlaxoSmithKline has about 450 employees in the Pittsburgh area.

Local Earnings

• First Commonwealth Financial Corp., based in Indiana Township, on Tuesday reported income of $12.3 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter ended March 31, versus $10.6 million, or 11 cents per diluted share, in the same quarter a year ago.

• Allegheny Technologies shares fell 2 percent Tuesday after the Pittsburgh specialty metals producer reported a larger than expected first-quarter loss of $20 million, or 19 cents per share. Sales fell 10 percent to $987.3 million. Analysts had forecast a loss of 3 cents per share on sales of $1.02 billion. Chairman, president and CEO Rich Harshman expressed optimism that business will improve over the remainder of the year, citing a $1.8 billion backlog, the largest backlog in two years.

General Motors seeks protection from lawsuits

General Motors Co. has filed suit in a U.S. bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York asking a judge to protect the company from legal claims for actions that took place before it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. The filing asserts that the “numerous lawsuits” dealing with GM’s recall of cars with possible ignition switch problems are “retained liabilities” of the old GM, not the new company.

Sales of existing homes fell in March as prices rose

Sales of existing homes slipped in March to their lowest level since July 2012 as rising prices and a tight supply of available homes discouraged would-be buyers. The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales edged down 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million. Nationwide, the median sales price last month was $198,500, up 7.9 percent from 12 months ago.

Google challenges nonprofits on ideas to use Glass

Google is asking nonprofit groups to propose ideas for how to use the Web-connected eyewear Google Glass in their work. Five charities that propose the best ideas by May 20 will get a free pair of the glasses, a trip to Google for training and a $25,000 grant to help make their project a reality.

AT&T joins crowded field with online video plans

AT&T and an investment firm run by former News Corp. executive Peter Chernin have formed an online video venture that could rival Netflix and Hulu. AT&T Inc. and Chernin Group said Tuesday that they have committed more than $500 million in funding toward the venture. Verizon Communications Inc. is planning similar services. No start date was announced.

From staff and wire reports

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