Business Briefs: 5/15/14

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Wabtec names Betler CEO

In what one Wall Street analyst called “an anticipated move,” Wilmerding-based rail manufacturer Wabtec named Raymond Betler president and CEO after the markets closed Wednesday. Mr. Betler had served as the company’s president and chief operating officer for the past year. Wabtec CEO Albert Neupaver was named executive chairman. During the shareholders meeting, Emilio A. Fernandez, Lee B. Foster, II and Gary C. Valade were elected to the board.

Highmark, West Penn seek OK of $700M loan

Highmark and the West Penn Allegheny Health System have asked state insurance officials to approve a $700 million loan so West Penn Allegheny can repurchase bonds from Highmark, which acquired the financially ailing health system last year. The loan will be guaranteed by Highmark. According to the filing with the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, WPAHS officials project the deal will mean an annual interest savings of $16-$19 million for them while reducing Highmark’s debt.

ExOne falls short of analyst expectations

The ExOne Co. reported a wider first-quarter loss on an 8 percent drop in revenue, falling well short of analyst expectations. The North Huntingdon 3-D printing company said it lost $5.5 million, or 38 cents per share, on revenue of $7.3 million versus a loss of $1.9 million, or 20 cents per share, and revenue of $7.9 million in the year-ago quarter. Analysts were expecting a loss of 12 cents per share and sales of $9.7 million. The company blamed the performance on lower equipment sales and higher costs for research and development and other items.

Heinz slashes number of agencies handling media

The H.J. Heinz Co. will be consolidating media work that has been handled by 20 agencies around the world and assigning it to Omnicom Media Group and Interpublic Group, effective July 1. The Pittsburgh company said Omnicom will handle most of its global media business and serve as its key media agency, while IPG will serve as the primary agency for its North American business. A company spokesman said the account went through a six-month review process.

Study says lack of skilled workers ails manufacturing

A shortage of skilled workers is crimping the profitability of U.S. manufacturers, according to a study by Accenture and the Manufacturing Institute. Their report estimates manufacturers may be losing up to 11 percent of their earnings before taxes and other items each year because of shortages, which increase overtime costs, reduce operating efficiency and increase turnaround time. Of the 300 companies surveyed, 39 percent said there is a severe shortage of qualified, skilled job applicants.

Netflix’s share of peak Internet traffic rises

Netflix increased its share of fixed-line Internet traffic in North America in the first half of 2014, accounting for 34 percent of data flowing to consumers during peak times, up from 32 percent in the latter half of 2013. That’s according to a new report from Sandvine Inc., a Canadian networking services company.

Producer prices jump; hint of rising inflation

The producer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent from March to April, the Labor Department said Wednesday, after a 0.5 percent increase from February to March. April’s increases were led by higher food prices and greater retailer and wholesaler profit margins. Over the past 12 months, producer prices have risen 2.1 percent, the biggest 12-month gain in more than two years.Netflix's share of peak Internet traffic rises.

Sears considering selling its Canadian operations

Sears is considering selling its 51 percent stake in its Canadian operations as the retailer looks for ways to prop up its sagging business.  Sears expanded into Canada through a joint venture in the early 1950s.

Yahoo snaps up the mobile messaging app Blink

Yahoo is buying the mobile messaging app Blink. Terms of the deal, which was announced Wednesday on Blink’s website, are not being disclosed. Messages sent through Blink self-destruct after a certain amount of time. Its main rival is Snapchat.

From staff and wire reports

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