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Business news briefs — Feb. 18


Profits shared at Lordstown

United Auto Workers employees at General Motors plants including Lords­town where the Chevrolet Cruze is built will receive up to $7,500 in profit-sharing payouts this month, according to GM and UAW representatives.

Regular full-time employees who worked 1,850 compensated hours last year will receive the maximum amount, while workers who logged less than 1,850 hours will receive a pro-rated sum.

GM has had forms of profit sharing in place since the 1980s, said Bill Grotz, GM manager of manufacturing and labor communications.

But in recent years, the payout has been determined by a formula that was first negotiated between GM and the UAW in 2009 as a part of GM’s restructuring agreement. It was renewed in UAW’s most recent contract, negotiated with GM in 2011.

Temporary workers — those brought in for short-term projects such as new product launches and production surges — are not eligible for the bonus, Grotz said.

Buyout offer increases

Specialty insurer National Interstate Corp. will respond today to a new $30 per share buyout offer from its majority shareholder.

Cincinnati insurer American Financial Group Inc. has increased its tender offer to $30 per share from $28 to buy all outstanding shares — about 9.5 million shares — of Richfield-based National Interstate. AFG already owns about 52 percent of National Interstate. AFG said $30 per share was its best and final price.

National Interstate said its board of directors will file a document today with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its position. Four of National Interstate’s 10 directors are AFG executives; a fifth director recently retired from AFG.


Drug unit worth $25 billion

Actavis PLC plans to buy Forest Laboratories Inc. in an approximately $25 billion cash-and-stock combination that will create a drug maker with a product portfolio that includes drugs like the Alz­heimer’s disease treatment Namenda.

Actavis said Tuesday it will pay Forest shareholders $26.04 in cash and a portion of an Actavis share for each Forest share.

Dublin-based Actavis was formed in 2012 through a $5.6 billion tie-up between generic drug maker Watson Pharmaceuticals and Actavis Group. It has grown rapidly through acquisitions, including an $8.5 billion deal it closed last fall to buy another Irish drug maker, Warner Chilcott.

New York-based Forest Labs has been squeezed by generic competition to some of its biggest drugs, including its anxiety and depression drug Lexapro. It also faces the loss of patent protection for Namenda in 2015. The company has launched several new drugs, including the depressive disorder treatment Viibryd and lung disease drug Daliresp, to help make up for those losses.


Coke and Pepsi cutting costs

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are looking to boost financial results by cutting costs. Coca-Cola said Tuesday it was expanding its cost-cutting program to produce another $1 billion in savings by 2016. PepsiCo also said last week that it would extend its cost-cutting program over the next five years, with a significant amount coming from job cuts.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, Coca-Cola Co. earned $1.71 billion, or 38 cents per share. Not including one-time items such as the restructuring of its bottling operations overseas, it earned 46 cents per share, in line with Wall Street expectations. A year ago, the company earned $1.87 billion, or 41 cents per share. Revenue fell to $11.04 billion, short of the $11.31 billion Wall Street expected.


Duke to sell 13 power plants

Duke Energy is seeking a buyer for 13 power plants, 11 of which are in Ohio, a move the company says is necessitated by the state’s increasingly unpredictable climate for electricity generators.

The Charlotte, N.C., utility announced its intentions after hinting at them last week when the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rejected a proposed $729 million rate increase. Duke will retain its electricity delivery businesses in Ohio and Kentucky, which primarily serve the Cincinnati area. The delivery business maintains power lines and sends bills to about 1.3 million customers.

Compiled from staff and wire reports.


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