Power companies dangle free nights and weekends
NEW YORK (AP) — Electric bills have long been take-it-or-leave-it affairs: Pay one rate for all the power you used the month before, no matter when you used it.
But some electric companies want to shake-up that rigid business model. They are increasingly offering plans that sound like come-ons from mobile phone companies: Free nights, free weekends and pre-paid plans.
The more customized plans are made easier by the growing use of digital meters that wirelessly link electric companies and customers, allowing both to track usage in real time. Digital meters have not only spurred competition, they have also enabled traditional utilities to reduce their costs by encouraging customers to use electricity during off-peak hours, when it is cheaper.
US builders broke ground on more homes in July
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. developers broke ground on homes at a faster pace in July. But the rise was all due to apartment construction, which is typically volatile. By contrast, builders began work on fewer single-family homes — the bulk of the market — and sought fewer permits to build them.
Friday’s report from the Commerce Department suggests that home building is maintaining its recovery but might be starting to be restrained by higher mortgage rates.
Builders began work on houses and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 896,000 in July, the department said. That was up 6 per cent from June, though below a recent peak of more than 1 million in March. Construction began on 26 per cent more apartments but declined 2.2 per cent for single-family houses.
SEC approves $8 billion sale of NYSE parent to ICE
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. regulators have approved the proposed $8 billion sale of the venerable New York Stock Exchange to a much younger futures exchange. The deal is a symbol of how financial markets are being increasingly reshaped by high technology.
The Securities and Exchange Commission disclosed Friday that it’s authorized the takeover of the two-centuries-old NYSE’s parent by Atlanta-based IntercontinentalExchange, or ICE. The rival acquiring company, founded in 2000, has expanded rapidly through acquisitions over the past decade.
The SEC said in a filing that it’s determined that the merger of the exchanges would comply with securities laws and regulations.
US worker productivity up modestly in April-June
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. worker productivity accelerated to a still-modest 0.9 per cent annual pace between April and June after dropping the previous quarter.
The second-quarter gain beat economists’ expectations and reversed a decline in the January-March quarter, when the Labor Department’s revised numbers show productivity shrank at a 1.7 per cent annual pace.
Labour costs rose at a 1.4 per cent annual pace from April through June, reversing a revised 4.2 per cent drop the previous quarter.
Penney and Ackman sign pact on share sales
NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney Co. and its largest shareholder, William Ackman, have made a deal that sets terms for allowing him to unload his stake in the company in an orderly manner.
The agreement, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday, comes days after Ackman resigned from Penney’s board as part of a deal to resolve an unusually public battle between the activist investor and the struggling department store.
Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management has 17.7 per cent stake, or 39 million shares, in Penney.
AOL’s Patch local news site to lay off up to 500
NEW YORK (AP) — AOL Inc. is laying off up to half the workforce at its Patch local news sites and shuttering or consolidating roughly 150 of the 900 sites while looking for partners for others.
Up to 500 of Patch’s 1,000 employees will go in the layoffs, which started on Friday with 350 people getting pink slips. In all, the layoffs amount to about 9 per cent of AOL’s total workforce of 5,500.
AOL Inc. CEO Tim Armstrong co-founded Patch, an ambitious experiment in local news meant to compete with newspapers, in 2007. AOL bought it in 2009 after Armstrong had taken over the helm of the New York-based Internet company.
Judge won’t fast-track Icahn claim against Dell
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A Delaware judge on Friday dealt a blow to activist investor Carl Icahn’s effort to stop CEO and founder Michael Dell’s $24.8 billion buyout offer for the struggling computer maker.
He refused to fast-track proceedings on Icahn’s claims that Dell Inc. directors have betrayed their duties to shareholders in trying to win support for Michael Dell’s bid.
After three delays, Dell’s board has scheduled a special shareholder vote on Sept. 12 for Michael Dell’s offer of $13.75 per share, plus a 13-cent dividend. That’s to be followed by an overdue annual meeting on Oct. 17.
Companies halt operations amid violence in Egypt
DETROIT (AP) — A number of international companies have suspended operations in Egypt as three days of violent street battles make the streets of Cairo unsafe.
General Motors Co., Electrolux AB, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Heineken N.V., Toyota Motor Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp., BASF SE and others shut down facilities and told thousands of workers to stay at home during unrest that has left more 700 people dead as of late Friday.
BlackBerry chief executive could receive $55.6 million
TORONTO (AP) — BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins could receive as much as $55.6 million if the company is sold and he is ousted from the top job.
Heins would receive $48 million in equity awards, based on the company’s share price at the end of its latest fiscal year, according to a regulatory filing earlier this year. He would also get $7.5 million in compensation for his salary and bonus under the change of control provisions in his contract.
The company would pay $72,000 in benefits and retirement savings.
BlackBerry announced that a sale of the company was one option that would be considered under a strategic review of the company, which has lost market share to Apple and Android-based phones.
Merck suspends sales of cattle feed additive
NEW YORK (AP) — Merck is suspending sales of its cattle feed additive Zilmax in the U.S. and Canada while it studies a possible link between Zilmax and lameness in cattle.
Merck and Co. said Friday that stopping sales will allow it to set up a study protocol and follow certain cattle to find out possible causes of lameness and other mobility problems. The company also plans to review other possible factors like nutrition and transportation of the cattle.
Zilmax is mixed into food and is used to bulk up cattle before they are slaughtered. It has been on the market in the U.S. since 2007 and is one of two supplements approved for that purpose. The products can help feedyards get roughly 25 more pounds of beef from each carcass. They’ve been increasingly used to offset dwindling cattle herd numbers, especially in the face of last year’s drought.
By The Associated Press=
The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 30.72 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 15,081.47 and the Nasdaq composite lost 3.34 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 3,602.78. The S&P 500 lost 5.49 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 1,655.83. The Nasdaq composite lost 3.34 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 3,602.78.
U.S. benchmark crude edged up 13 cents to $107.46 Friday. Brent crude, which is used to price imported crude used by many U.S. refineries, rose 80 cents to $110.40 per barrel for October delivery.
Heating oil rose 1 cent to close at $3.08 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to close at $2.97 a gallon. Natural gas fell 5 cents to $3.37 per 1,000 cubic feet.