Business Briefs: Westinghouse signs agreement in China

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Westinghouse signs agreement in China

Westinghouse Electric Co. has signed a memorandum of agreement with a Chinese-owned joint venture that completes negotiations on the Instrumentation and Control Template Contract for future reactors in the country, the Cranberry-based nuclear energy firm announced Wednesday. Four of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactors are under construction in China.

GNC begins new brand campaign, competition

Pittsburgh-based GNC Holdings, Inc. is launching a new brand campaign, "Respect Yourself," which the health, wellness and sports nutrition retailer says will be "celebrating individuals who enjoy great self-respect by living a healthy lifestyle." In addition, GNC will begin in March taking photo and video submissions relating personal health and fitness success stories as part of a "Me on GNC" worldwide competition. Details on the competition will be posted on GNC's Facebook page and in GNC retail stores.

Alpha Lab startup grabs $1.5 million in funding

Insurance Zebra, an Austin, Texas-based insurance comparison company that started out of Alpha Lab, has secured a $1.5 million seed round investment. The investment was led by Austin-based Silverton Partners and includes contributions from Birchmere Labs and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. CEO Adam Lyons said the company will use the funds to officially launch its website in the next two months.

Consumer spending ticked up 0.2% in December

The Commerce Department said Thursday that consumer spending rose 0.2 percent last month. That is slightly slower than the 0.4 percent increase in November. Income jumped 2.6 percent in December from November, the biggest gain since December 2004. The main driver of the increase was dividend payments, which companies accelerated to beat the January rise in income tax rates. Wages and salaries grew only 0.6 percent.

Jobless applications jump, but not in Pennsylvania

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits leapt 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The increase comes after applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows. Pennsylvania bucked the trend, reporting the biggest decrease in claims due to fewer layoffs in construction, professional and scientific services and restaurants.

Local Earnings

• Education Management Corp. reported net income of $31.1 million, or 25 cents per share, in the second quarter compared to $63.1 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts had been looking, on average, for earnings of 18 cents.

Net revenues dropped 11.2 percent, from $737.2 million a year earlier to $654.9 million in the three months ended Dec. 31. The company said that was mainly because of a 12.7 percent drop in average enrolled student body for the three-month period compared to a year earlier.

Local earnings

• Consol Energy reported a fourth-quarter net income of $150 million, or 65 cents per diluted share, down from the $196 million and 85 cents seen the same time one year ago, the Cecil-based energy company said Thursday. Net income for 2012 was $388 million, or $1.70 per diluted share. That's down from 2011's net income of $632 million and $2.76 per share.

Fourth-quarter revenue fell by about $200 million from last year, to $1.2 billion, owing to a drop in coal sales and lower coal prices. The company's natural gas division saw its revenue stay flat in the fourth quarter at $9.4 million. Over the past year, Consol made $350 million from selling non-revenue producing assets such as coal reserves throughout Appalachia and Western Canada. The company said it expects to continue selling assets in 2013.

• Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc. saw revenue increase 8 percent to $12.5 billion in 2012, up from $11.56 billion in 2011, the company reported Thursday. The scientific instrument maker, with headquarters in Waltham, Mass., said its adjusted earnings per share jumped 19 percent to a record $4.94 as it issued its first quarterly dividend in company history. Thermo Fisher employs about 1,600 workers locally.

Also in business...

John O'Britz was named chief financial officer at Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania. He was previously director of finance for Franklin Interiors. ... Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.53 percent, up from 3.42 percent last week and the first time the rate has exceeded 3.50 since September. The average for the 15-year fixed mortgage advanced to 2.81 percent from 2.71 percent last week. ... Frito-Lay plans to roll out its Doritos in a "Taco Bell" flavor as a limited-time product this spring, aiming to capitalize on the popularity of the Doritos-flavored tacos introduced by the fast-food chain last year.

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