Business Briefs: Earnings, careers and more

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Merck, Bayer reach deal 

Bayer AG agreed to buy Merck & Co.'s consumer health care business for $14.2 billion in cash. Merck's consumer products include Coppertone sun lotions, Claritin allergy pills and Dr. Scholl's footcare products. Besides its iconic aspirin, Bayer's consumer brands include One-A-Day vitamins, Alka-Seltzer and Aleve pain reliever. Germany-based Bayer said the deal should make it the leader in over-the-counter health products in North and Latin America. The merged business will be based in Whippany, N.J., where Bayer HealthCare has its North American headquarters. Bayer's material science business, which makes plastics and chemicals, has its North American headquarters in Robinson.

BodyMedia executive moving to Char-Broil 

Christine Robins, president and CEO of Downtown-based body monitoring technology company BodyMedia, has been named president and CEO of Columbus, Ga.-based outdoor cooking company Char-Broil. Ms. Robins, who oversaw BodyMedia during its 2013 acquisition by San Francisco-based wearable technology company Jawbone, will step into her new role June 2. Ivo Stivoric, vice president of research and development, will lead the Pittsburgh office.

Knoblock leaving Pittsburgh SBA

Carl Knoblock, Pittsburgh district director of the Small Business Administration for the past eight years, is moving to the SBA's Richmond, Va. office, he wrote in a letter to colleagues Tuesday. Deputy Director Kevin White will be acting district director until a permanent replacement is named for Mr. Knoblock.

Local earnings

• Shares of RTI International Metals slid after the Moon titanium producer said higher interest expenses, winter weather and other factors resulted in a first quarter loss. The company said it lost $4.2 million, or 13 cents per share, from continuing operations, vs. a profit of $4.9 million, or 16 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Sales slid 8 percent to $174.5 million. Analysts had forecast a loss of 11 cents per share, excluding one-time items, on sales of $187 million. RTI shares closed at $25.87, down $1.59. 

• Axiall Corp. reported a first-quarter net loss of $11.6 million, or 17 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $3.5 million, or 6 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2013. Sales dropped to $993.7 million from $1.1 billion in the year-ago quarter. The Atlanta-based chemicals company — created last year when PPG Industries spun off its commodity chemicals business and that unit merged with Georgia Gulf — said the results were impacted by severe winter weather and an outage at one of its facilities. Axiall has about 100 employees Downtown and 20 at a PPG research center in Monroeville.

• Green Tree-based L.B. Foster on Monday blamed bad weather for lower first-quarter earnings. The rail manufacturer reported net income of $3.6 million, or 36 cents per share, in the first quarter, down from $4.9 million, or 48 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Sales declined to $111 million during the three months ended March 31, from $129 million in the first quarter of 2013.

• GNC Holdings, Inc. reported Tuesday the Downtown-based health and wellness products retailer had net income of $69.9 million for the first quarter of 2014, down from $72.6 million for the same period a year ago. Joe Fortunato, GNC president and CEO, cited severe winter weather “resulting in a delayed start to the workout season” as well as “an unusually significant amount of negative media” for the downturn. The company did see a 1.9 percent increase year-over-year in consolidated revenue for the first quarter, fueled by a 3.1 percent increase in retail revenue. GNC stock closed Tuesday at $43.65, down 44 cents.

Chrysler to drop Dodge minivan in revamp

Chrysler is dropping the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan and Dodge Avenger sedan, which it says compete too closely with the Chrysler Town and Country minivan and Chrysler 200 sedan. From now on, the company said, Chrysler will be the mainstream brand while Dodge will be a sporty brand designed to appeal to younger buyers. 

GM recalls Saturn Auras for gear shift problem

General Motors is recalling about 56,214 Saturn Aura midsize cars because the automatic transmission shifters can fail. The recall affects cars from the 2007 and 2008 model years with four-speed transmissions.

Office Depot plans to close at least 400 stores

Office Depot is planning to close at least 400 stores by the end of 2016, as its merger with OfficeMax resulted in an overlap of retail locations. Office Depot said it has not quantified the number of jobs that will be affected by the store closures. 

Trade deficit drops 3.6 percent in March

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in March as exports rebounded to the second-highest level on record, led by strong gains in sales of aircraft, autos and farm goods. The deficit declined to $40.4 billion, down 3.6 percent from a revised February imbalance of $41.9 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Energy exports increased 3 percent to $11.4 billion while petroleum imports dropped 3.4 percent to $30 billion.

Alibaba announces IPO

China’s Alibaba Group is aiming to raise $1 billion in a long-awaited IPO likely to have ripple effects across the Internet. Tuesday’s filing sets the stage for the technology industry’s biggest initial public offering since short messaging service Twitter and its early investors collected $1.8 billion in its stock market debut last fall. Alibaba still could try to raise more money and even surpass the $16 billion that Facebook did two years ago, depending on investor demand for its stock.

Also in business...

Former PNC Bank deputy general counsel Hank Pool has joined Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, the firm announced Monday. Mr. Pool will be the Downtown law firm's senior counsel in its financial services practice.

From staff and wire reports


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