Business news briefs: 10/27/09

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Money spent on homes declines for 10th quarter

Money spent to buy homes in the five-county region of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties has dropped for 10 consecutive quarters when compared with the same quarter the previous year, according to RealSTATs, a local real estate information service. The region saw 7,421 homes sell in the months of July, August and September this year for a total of $1.15 billion. During that period last year, 7,641 homes changed hands for a total of $1.2 billion.

Report: Climate change bill would bring jobs to Pa.

A report by the University of Illinois, the University of California and Yale University says that climate and energy legislation now in Congress, if passed, could create up to 78,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania. The report said investments under the American Clean Energy and Security Act could add up to $4.3 billion to the state's gross domestic product. The San Francisco-based Energy Foundation, an advocate for energy efficiency and renewable energy, commissioned the report.

Consumer group offers advice on using gift cards

So many people are confused about general purchase gift cards that the Consumer Federation of America came up with a brochure to explain them. The cards, most of which are issued by Visa, MasterCard or American Express, can be used at any store that accepts the cards. But unlike store cards for a specific retailer, they usually cost $4 to $7 to purchase and can be subject to monthly fees as high as $4.95. The brochure explaining the traps can be downloaded at www.consumerfed.org. Click "What's New at CFA" and "Educational Resources."

Verizon reports drop in third-quarter profit

Verizon Communications Inc. said its third-quarter profit skidded almost 30 percent as higher operating costs offset an increase in revenue driven by its wireless business. The company earned $1.18 billion, or 41 cents per share, in the quarter, compared with $1.67 billion, or 59 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding one-time items, Verizon says it earned 60 cents per share -- above analysts' estimates.

PUC OKs Duquesne Light conservation, efficiency plan

The state Public Utility Commission approved an energy efficiency and conservation plan for Duquesne Light Co. to meet requirements of a law passed last year. The law has the goal of reducing electricity consumption and demand. Duquesne Light's plan includes measures for recycling refrigerators and air conditioners, and for offering energy efficiency rebates.

Activist investor Peltz joins Legg Mason board

Billionaire investor and activist shareholder Nelson Peltz is joining the board of directors of asset manager Legg Mason Inc. Legg Mason said yesterday that it was adding Mr. Peltz -- known for recent investments in H.J. Heinz Co. and Wendy's -- after Mr. Peltz's company, Trian Fund Management LP, accumulated a 4.3 percent stake in Legg Mason. Mr. Peltz also is on Heinz's board.

Also in business ...

Dutch financial services company ING Group said yesterday that it planned to separate and later sell its insurance arm, and would issue $11.3 billion in new shares to repay assistance it received from the Dutch state. ... Allegheny Technologies Inc. said yesterday that it had completed the $41 million purchase of Crucible Compaction Metals and Crucible Research, and renamed the company ATI Powder Metals. ... Rohit Negi, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, received a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop tools that predict blackouts and power grid disruptions. ... Mylan Inc.'s Dey Pharma subsidiary launched a redesigned EpiPen auto injector with needle protection. ... Margaret McCormick Barron was named executive vice president of external affairs for the West Penn Allegheny Health System. She served as vice president of legislative affairs for WPAHS since 2003. ... The Heinz Endowments made a grant of $160,000 to Asset Inc. for research and development of a program to help teachers improve math instruction. South Side-based Asset is a nonprofit focused on educational development.



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