Friday, September 3, 2004

Business digest

Rate on 30-year mortgage off to 5.77%

The average rate on a benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 5.77 percent in the U.S. this week, the lowest since early April, according to Freddie Mac. Other rates also declined.

The 30-year rate dropped from 5.82 percent a week earlier. The latest rate is the lowest since 5.52 percent during the week ended April 2. The one-year adjustable rate dropped to 3.97 percent, the lowest in three months, from 4.05 percent, Freddie Mac said.

Mortgage rates have fallen in nine of the last 11 weeks as the economy showed signs of slower growth. Consumer confidence dropped and manufacturing waned during August, according to reports this week.

Plan on paying bit more at Starbucks

Starbucks Corp., the largest U.S. chain of coffee shops, plans to raise its beverage prices for the first time since August 2000 to cover higher costs for milk and health insurance amid slowing sales.

The increase will take effect by year's end and will be "modest," Chairman Howard Schultz said in an e-mailed statement, without elaborating. Seattle-based Starbucks operates more than 8,000 stores globally.

Enron asks for $1.5B refund in court filing

Enron Corp., which is suing hundreds of business partners including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., said it may recover as much as $1.5 billion it paid them before filing the second-biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Houston-based Enron is targeting more than 1,000 transactions it says were fraudulent, the company said in U.S. bankruptcy court papers.

Patheon reports lower earnings in 3Q

Patheon Inc., the Toronto contract drug maker that operates a plant in Reading, reported lower third-quarter earnings.

For the three months ended July 31, Patheon said net income fell to $1.99 million, or 3.9 cents a share, from $6.1 million, or 11.9 cents a share, a year ago. Revenues rose 3 percent to $116.8 million. The company said third-quarter earnings were hurt by $2.1 million in restructuring costs for its Swindon, United Kingdom plant.

The company said North American prescription revenues rose 16 percent, mainly driven by strong manufacturing volumes at the Reading plant.

Techneglas owes 20 top creditors $50.2M

COLUMBUS - Television glass manufacturer Techneglas said in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings that it owes its 20 largest creditors $50.2 million.

Nearly all the money is owed to the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. in Japan.

Techneglas filed for bankruptcy Wednesday after recent closures of its Columbus and Pittston, Pa., plants.

The Perrysburg plant will remain open with about 50 workers until the end of the year. About 1,100 jobs are being eliminated in all three plants.

Berry Plastics starts $11M Ind. expansion

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - A plastics company has begun an $11 million expansion financed through a new state program that encourages investment.

Berry Plastics plans to add 200,000 square feet to its 550,000-square-foot plant using Ports of Indiana revenue bonds, said Fred Heseman, corporate vice president of operations. The money, formerly available only to ports, can be used for capital projects such as new buildings and equipment.

The plant employs about 1,000 people and makes plastic cups for convenience stores and fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's and Hardee's, Heseman said. The work is expected to double the company's output and add about 85 jobs, Heseman said.

Worthington to buy $64.5M of Western

COLUMBUS - Worthington Industries Inc., which shapes steel for automakers, said it agreed to buy the propane and specialty-gas cylinder assets of Western Industries Inc. for $64.5 million in cash to bolster its cylinder-making unit. The purchase will add to the company's earnings in the first year.

Wire/staff reports

New Delta fares boost ticket sales
Delta's plan due Wednesday
Ohio tax credit struck down
Union for 8,500 Kroger workers pitches contract
Sassoon settles suit with P&G
Contract talks key to budget for symphony
Retail sales hit wilting August
Economy sluggish in spring quarter
Cintas plans labor report on suppliers
Ditch spyware first, Microsoft advises
Stocks rise, investors turn optimistic
American Airlines adds service fee for ticket purchases
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