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Business Briefs, 2/11/2000

Saturday, February 12, 2000

By the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Steel industry gets relief

President Clinton granted relief to the U.S. steel industry yesterday in two major cases where steelmakers had sought government action against a flood of foreign steel. Clinton imposed higher tariffs on steel wire rod exceeding specific levels for three years. He also imposed an additional tariff on line pipe, but the penalty tariff will drop in both the second and third years.

Utilities settle with PUC

The state Public Utility Commission has ordered United Gas Management, a Delaware-based firm, to pay $59,000 to settle consumer complaints that the company deceived them into switching natural gas suppliers without their consent. Last month, United Gas also agreed to pay $250,000 to the state to settle consumer complaints, following an investigation by state Attorney General Mike Fisher. The PUC also has ordered Exelon Energy, a subsidiary of Peco Energy Co. of Philadelphia, to pay $4,000 to settle consumer complaints that a marketing firm hired by Exelon misled consumers into switching electric suppliers.

Urban's cash flow grows

Urban Shopping Centers Inc., the Chicago company proposing a $480 million transformation of Downtown Pittsburgh, has more cash and net income than it did a year ago. But it also has more debt. The publicly traded real estate investment trust yesterday said funds available for distribution, a measure of Urban's ability to raise cash and distribute dividends, rose 19.8 percent for the three months ended Dec. 31 and 17.1 percent for the year. Funds from operations rose 15.4 percent for the quarter and 15.6 percent for the year. Total sales at Urban's shopping centers and malls were also up for the year, but total occupancy was down slightly. Total debt rose 43.8 percent for the 12-months period to to $1.52 billion.

News Record fading away

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is ceasing separate publication of a combined North Hills News Record/Tribune-Review edition, and will wrap North Hills coverage into its daily newspaper, with special sections targeted to former News Record readers. The North Hills News Record was a twice-a-week publication that went to seven days a week during the 1992 Pittsburgh Press strike that shut down both daily Pittsburgh papers for eight months. Greensburg-based Tribune-Review Publishing Co. purchased the North Hills News Record in late 1997 from Gannett Co.

Reynolds holders OK union

Reynolds Metals Co. shareholders overwhelmingly approved plans to merge with Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum producer. The merger, announced in August, must be approved by regulators in the United States, Europe and other countries. Reynolds shareholders will get 1.06 Alcoa shares for each of their shares. The companies hope to complete the transaction by the end of June.

Calgon Carbon posts loss

Calgon Carbon Corp. reported a fourth-quarter loss of $20.8 million, or 54 cents per diluted share, on sales of $70.3 million, vs. net income of $2.4 million, or 6 cents a share, on sales of $73.2 million a year ago. For all of 1999, the company lost $13.7 million, or 35 cents per diluted share, on sales of $296.1 million, vs. net income of $8.3 million, or 21 cents per diluted share, on sales of $301 million in 1998. Results include restructuring charges of $29.8 million for the 1999 fourth quarter and full year, and a charge of $7.3 million for 1998.

Also in business ...

Duquesne University's Chrysler Corp. Small Business Development Center is sponsoring a Puerto Rico Trade Mission April 12-16. To register for the mission, call 412-396-6233 ... A member of the United Steelworkers union has been arraigned in federal court in Akron, Ohio, on charges of phoning in a bomb threat to AK Steel's Middletown, Ohio, headquarters in November ... In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Rite Aid Corp. plans to cut its stake in Inc. to 151/2 percent from 20 percent ... The Allstate Corp. increased the regular quarterly dividend to 17 cents a share from 15 cents, payable April 3 to shareholders of record Feb. 29.

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