Business Briefs: 5/1/14

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Prescription claims firm plans N. Versailles cuts

Express Scripts, the St. Louis-based company that processes prescription claims for UPMC Health Plan and others, has told employees at its North Versailles office that it wants to eliminate 55 of the local 140 pharmacist positions. Spokesman Brian Henry said the company has asked for volunteers for the workforce reduction “across a few facilities nationwide, including North Versailles.”

He said the pharmacists have until Sunday to decide if they will stay or leave, after which “we are going to reassess where we are after we get volunteers and determine our next steps from there.” The company, currently with about 700 employees, recently announced its intention to move its employees from North Versailles to North Huntingdon. Earlier this week, Express Scripts reported a 12 percent drop in earnings for the first quarter of 2014.

Buffett’s mug will appear on special ketchup bottles

Pickle pins and special ketchup bottles adorned with the faces of Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett and vice chairman Charlie Munger will be part of the H.J. Heinz Co.’s first appearance as part of the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting held in Omaha, Neb. This year’s event, set for Saturday, is expected to draw 35,000 shareholders. Pittsburgh-based Heinz was acquired last year by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital. Ketchup bottles with Mr. Buffett’s image will sell for $2, while Mr. Munger’s will sell for $1.50, at Mr. Buffett’s suggestion. Every year, various Berkshire Hathaway companies sell products at the event.

UPMC East construction set to begin today

Construction is set to begin today for a new, 20-bed rehabilitation wing at UPMC East in Monroeville. This will be the ninth systemwide location for the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, which specializes in inpatient care for people needing physical, occupational or speech therapy following serious injury or illness. Peter Hurh will serve at medical director at the UPMC East location, which is scheduled to open July 1.

Quaker Steak & Lube names new CEO

Sharon-based restaurant franchise Quaker Steak & Lube has named Greg Lippert to the chief executive officer position, effective immediately. Mr. Lippert had been CEO of Mazzio’s in Tulsa, Okla., which has 140 restaurants in 10 states. Quaker Steak & Lube has more than 60 locations in the U.S. and Canada. In January, CFO Frederick Dreibholz stepped in as interim CEO. John Longstreet, who started on the board in 2004 and became CEO in 2010, had stepped down.

Area banks rank high in customer happiness survey

Northwest Savings Bank based in Warren, Pa., ranked highest in customer satisfaction among 31 financial institutions in the mid-Atlantic region in a just-released annual survey by J.D. Power and Associates. Other Pittsburgh-area banks receiving above-average ratings were S&T Bank (No. 5), First Commonwealth (No. 6) and PNC (No. 9). Four area banks in the poll ranked below average: FNB (17), Huntington (19), Citizens (22) and First Niagara (24). The survey measured six factors: account information, account activities, facility, fees, problem resolution and product offerings. Overall, customer satisfaction with banks is at an all-time high, J.D. Power said, as banks improve experiences, reduce problems and create a better understanding of fees.

Local earnings

• GlaxoSmithKline, which employs about 450 in the Pittsburgh area, reported a 10 percent drop in sales for the first quarter on revenue of $9.45 billion Wednesday. The London-based pharmaceutical company attributed the decline to a 2 percent drop in group sales, including a 10 percent decline in pharmaceutical and vaccine sales in the U.S. due in part to increased competition to its asthma drug, Advair. Last week, Glaxo officials announced they will divest Glaxo’s oncology portfolio for $16 billion while acquiring the Novartis global vaccine business for an initial cash outlay of $5.25 billion, while the two will jointly create a consumer health care business with Glaxo holding a majority equity share.

• FedFirst Financial Corp., parent company of First Federal Savings Bank in Monessen, reported net income of $534,000, or 23 cents per share, for the first quarter, down from $794,000, or 32 cents, in the same three months last year. Earlier this month, FedFirst announced it agreed to be acquired by Community Bank of Carmichaels. The transaction is expected to be completed late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter.

Google to shield students from digital ads

Google announced Wednesday it will no longer try to sell ads based on personal information collected about students using a suite of products tailored for schools. Among other things, Google says it will no longer scan texts of Gmails sent through its Apps for Education for clues about students’s interests.

Wal-Mart brings one-stop shopping to car insurance

Wal-Mart has teamed up with to let shoppers compare and buy insurance policies online. The service is available immediately in eight states, including Pennsylvania. AutoInsurance will earn a commission every time a policy is sold. The free service offers customers multiple quotes from some of the leading national insurance carriers.

From staff and wire reports

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