Business news briefs: PPG venture in China expanding

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PPG venture in China expanding

PPG Industries said its PFG Fiber Glass (Kunshan) Co. joint venture in China started a fourth furnace to meet growing demand from the Asian electronics market. PFG Fiber Glass (Kunshan) is a venture between PPG and Nan Ya Plastics Corp. The new furnace will have annual capacity of 38,000 metric tons of glass fiber and glass yarn.

State insurance agency receives $3.2M settlement

The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance announced on Tuesday that it would be receiving a share of the $3.2 million settlement agreement penalty collected from Bankers Life and Casualty Co. The Illinois insurance company was dinged for failing to correct some of the concerns that were raised in a 2007 regulatory review, including inappropriate denials of benefit claims and failure to conduct timely claims investigations, according to the state.

Bayer AG drops out of bidding war for firm

Bayer AG said Tuesday it will not raise its offer for Schiff Nutrition International, in effect dropping out of a potential bidding war with Britain's Reckitt Benckiser Group, which launched a surprise bid last week. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bayer said a competitive bidding process "would result in a price outside Bayer's set financial criteria." Bayer had offered $1.1 billion, or $34 a share, for Salt Lake City-based Schiff before Reckitt emerged with an offer of $1.4 billion, or $42 a share.

Heinz Endowments award to help nonprofits

The Heinz Endowments awarded $49,000 to Pittsburgh Cares for HandsOn Tech, a program that helps nonprofits better utilize technology. The money will be used to fund technology assessments and training at more than 40 nonprofits. Google's Pittsburgh office and other local technology companies are partners in the program, which is in its second year of operation.

U.S. housing construction boosted in October

U.S. builders started construction in October on the most homes and apartments since July 2008, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Builders broke ground on homes last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 894,000. The 3.6 percent gain from September was driven by apartment construction as single-family home construction dipped 0.2 percent. Meanwhile, applications for building permits, a sign of future construction, fell 2.7 percent to 866,000, after jumping 12 percent in September to a four-year high. Still, permits to build single-family homes rose to their highest level since July 2008.

Icahn raises his stake in Chesapeake Energy

Activist investor Carl Icahn bumped up his stake in Chesapeake Energy, a company in which he has already pushed for sweeping changes in governance. A regulatory filing shows Mr. Icahn now owns 8.98 percent, compared with a 7.6 percent stake in the Oklahoma City company he held this summer. Chesapeake has been reeling from a combination of historically low natural gas prices and questions from investors about its management.

Earnings

• The H.J. Heinz Co. reported a profit of $289.4 million in the second quarter Tuesday, up from $237 million in the same period a year ago. On an earnings per share basis, the Pittsburgh food company reported 90 cents in the three months ended Oct. 28, compared to 73 cents last year. Analysts had been looking, on average, for 88 cents per share. Sales rose 0.5 percent to $2.83 billion, compared to $2.81 billion a year ago. Unfavorable foreign currency produced a 2.4 percent hit to sales.

• Hewlett-Packard Co. said on Tuesday that it's the victim of a $5-billion-plus fraud, claiming Autonomy Corp. PLC, a British company it bought last year for $9.7 billion, lied about its finances. Autonomy's former CEO said HP's allegations are false. The Palo Alto, Calif., company is taking a $8.8 billion charge to align the accounting value of Autonomy with its real value. HP's net loss for the fiscal fourth quarter amounted to $6.85 billion, or $3.49 per share, compared to net income of $239 million, or 12 cents per share, in the same period last year. Excluding special charges, HP earned $1.16 per share in the latest quarter, just above the average analyst forecast of $1.14 per share. HP's revenue was $30.0 billion, down 7 percent from last year.

• Best Buy Co. reported a loss of $10 million, or 3 cents per share, for the three months ended Nov. 3. That compares with net income of $156 million, or 42 cents per share in the prior year period for the Minneapolis electronics chain. Excluding one-time items, earnings totaled 3 cents per share. Analysts expected earnings of 13 cents per share, according to FactSet. Revenue fell 4 percent to $10.75 billion from $11.15 billion. Revenue in stores open at least one year continued to slide, down 4.3 percent for the quarter.

Nissan upgrades electric Leaf automobile

The upgraded Nissan Motor Co. Leaf electric car that was unveiled Tuesday can travel further without recharging (142 miles), tells drivers how much battery life is left -- and comes in a cheaper model ($31,000). More than 17,000 Leaf cars have been sold in the U.S.

Also in business ...

Calgon Carbon Corp. said its board approved the repurchase of up to $100 million of the company's outstanding shares. ... Federal safety regulators are investigating about 24,000 motorcycles BMW R-Series motorcycles from the 2005 through 2008 model years for gasoline leaks that could cause fires.

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