Business Briefs: Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowers WPAHS bond rating

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WPAHS bond rating lowered

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has lowered West Penn Allegheny Health System's rating to D from CC on its series 2007A bonds. As part of Highmark's acquisition of WPAHS, the health system's bondholders agreed to accept $87.5 cents on the dollar.

Alcoa may idle some smelters

Alcoa said it is considering idling up to 11 percent of its aluminum smelting capacity because prices for the metal have fallen more than 33 percent since peaking in 2011. The company currently has 13 percent, or 568,000 metric tons of annual capacity, idled. Alcoa said it will review facilities capable of producing 460,000 metric tons, focussing on plants that have high costs or are risky because of energy costs or regulatory concerns.

RTI sells distribution unit

RTI International Metals said it sold Pierce-Spafford Metals, its Garden Grove., Calif. specialty metals distribution unit, to Titanium Industries for about $12.5 million cash. The Moon titanium producer said the divestiture will enhance its focus on its titanium and engineered products and services businesses.

'Friendly' insurance application

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued new "consumer friendly" health insurance applications for those who are uninsured but seeking coverage through various state, federal and private programs. The applications, which can be filled out now (and submitted after Oct. 1), will allow applicants to check their eligibility for private plans, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and tax credits to help pay for coverage. Find the applications at http://pgne.ws/kzZru under the heading "marketplace consumer applications."

Windber center seeks partner

Windber Medical Center in Somerset County is a free agent. In a letter to employees, the 53-bed hospital says that it is seeking a "strategic relationship" with a larger health network -- which could include one of the two main Pittsburgh health networks. Last month, Windber announced a partnership with the mid-state Geisinger Health System for stroke care.

Howard Hanna acquisition

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services has acquired Frank Stefura Realtors in Chippewa, Beaver County. Stefura Realtors is the second acquisition Howard Hanna has made in Beaver County since 1995 when it acquired Dishler Realty.

J.C. Penney apologizes

J.C. Penney is sorry and it wants your business back. The retailer has posted an ad on its YouTube and Facebook pages acknowledging its missteps and asking customers to return to its stores. "Come back to J.C. Penney ... we'd love to see you," the voice-over states.

Dongwon pays Liberia

Dongwon Industries, the South Korean parent of North Shore-based tuna company StarKist, has paid $2 million to Liberia over violations of fishing regulations, according to a statement from Liberia's Bureau of National Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture. Under the terms of the agreement, the government is dropping charges against two Dongwon fishing vessels. The dispute arose over accusations of a fake fishing license, although Dongwon said earlier it had not realized its license was counterfeit.

Factory growth slowed

U.S. factory activity expanded at a slower pace in April, held back by weaker hiring and less company stockpiling. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity slipped to 50.7 last month. That's down from 51.3 in March and the slowest pace this year. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Building spending fell

Construction spending fell 1.7 percent in March, compared with February, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It marked the second decline in the past three months. Even with the recent weakness, construction activity was 4.8 percent higher in March than a year ago at a seasonally adjusted $856.7 billion.

Nissan drops some prices

Nissan is cutting prices on seven of its 18 models in the U.S., hoping its cars and trucks will show up in more Internet searches by shoppers. The price cuts are effective Friday for vehicles that aren't on dealer lots. However Nissan will also make allowances to trim the prices of cars currently in dealer inventories. The cuts will remain in effect indefinitely.

Earnings

• Universal Stainless & Alloy Products said it broke even in the first quarter and forecast gradual improvement for the rest of the year. The Bridgeville specialty steels producer said it earned $40,000, or 1 cent per share, during the quarter vs. net income of $6.3 million, or 86 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Sales fell 34 percent to $49.1 million. The results were in line with guidance the company issued April 25. President and CEO Dennis Oates said sales, shipments and orders improved from fourth quarter levels but "were well below their record levels in the first quarter last year."

• HFF Inc. reported first quarter net income of $2.3 million, or 6 cents a share, compared to net income of $3.4 million, or 9 cents a share, for the first quarter of 2012. First quarter performance for the Downtown-based commercial real estate broker fell well below analysts' expectations that it would earn 12 cents a share for the quarter. First quarter revenue was $54.2 million compared to $51.8 million the first quarter of 2012.

• Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company and owner of NBCUniversal, on Wednesday said its net income rose 17 percent in the latest quarter, powered by continued strong results from its cable operations. The Philadelphia-based company earned $1.44 billion, or 54 cents per share, in the first quarter. That was up from $1.22 billion, or 45 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Excluding a gain of 3 cents per share due to the sale of some airwaves licenses to AT&T, earnings were 51 cents per share. Revenue rose 2.9 percent to $15.31 billion.

• L.B. Foster Co. reported first quarter net income of $4.9 million, 48 cents per diluted share, compared to net income of $3.3 million or 29 cents per diluted share, for the same quarter last year. Analysts had expected the Green Tree-based rail products company to earn 40 cents for the quarter. First quarter sales were $129 million compared to sales of $114 million for the first quarter of 2012.

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