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Business news briefs — Oct. 18

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LOCAL

Area colleges ranked

Kent State is the largest university in Northeast Ohio, according to a newly compiled list of colleges and universities in the Oct. 14 print edition of Crain’s Cleveland Business.

The list indicates that KSU’s full-time equivalent enrollment is 30,710. The FTE is a measure of the number of students who take full-time loads and is not necessarily the same thing as a head count.

According to the Crain’s list, the most costly institution in Northeast Ohio is the private Cleveland Institute of Music, where tuition, room and board run $54,250 a year. The most costly tax-supported university in Northeast Ohio is the University of Akron, where tuition, room and board run almost $20,500.

The institution with the lowest ratio of undergraduates to graduate students is the private Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where 45 percent of students are undergraduates and 55 percent are graduate students.

The list also includes student-to-faculty ratios, costs, operating budgets and more.

Schulman dividend up

Fairlawn polymer company A. Schulman Inc. increased its dividend by 2.6 percent from the previous quarter to an annual 80 cents per share. The company declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of 20 cents per share payable Nov. 4 to shareholders of record on Oct. 28.

Based on Schulman’s latest stock price, the higher dividend provides a yield of about 3 percent. The company has paid a dividend since it went public in 1972.

“This increase to our dividend reflects the strength of our balance sheet, the ability of our operations to generate significant cash flow, $183 million over the last two years, and our long-term growth prospects,” Joseph M. Gingo, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Also, Schulman said it has purchased 2.2 million shares through Aug. 31 under a $100 million share repurchase program. The company said it has $56.6 million remaining under the program.

AUTO INDUSTRY

Trust has finance issue

The trust responsible for paying the health-care costs of some union retirees of Chrysler Group LLC faces $3 billion in unfunded obligations as it works to get the most for its stake that Fiat SpA wants to buy.

The trust’s benefit obligations narrowed by $414.9 million to $13.4 billion during 2012, according to its amended 2012 financial statement. At the same time, the net value of its assets rose to $10.3 billion, driven mostly by an increase in the estimated value of its 41.5 percent ownership stake in Chrysler that was created when the company came out of bankruptcy in 2009. Italy-based Fiat owns the other 58.5 percent.

While the shortfall was reduced from more than $5 billion a year earlier, the trust needs to maximize the value of its Chrysler holdings to cover the projected cost of retirees’ health care. Unable to agree on a price with Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive officer of both Chrysler and Fiat, the union trust last month forced him to file for a Chrysler initial public offering of stock in a move to put a value on the ownership stake.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Startup growth seen

A new report says funding for business startups rose in the third quarter from year-ago levels, as venture capitalists poured money into a growing number of fledging software companies.

According to the report released Friday, total investments in startups rose 17 percent to $7.78 billion from $6.63 billion in the July-September quarter of 2012. The number of deals rose 7 percent to 1,005 from 937.

The software industry’s $3.57 billion in funding accounted for the largest chunk of the total and marked a 77 percent jump from a year ago. It also marked the first time the industry passed the $3 billion mark in 12 years.

Software also accounted for the largest number of deals with 420, including nine of the quarter’s 11 largest investments.

“It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur with a software company,” Mark McCaffrey, global technology partner and software leader at PriceWaterHouseCoopers U.S. said in a statement. “More venture capital dollars are going into more software deals than we’ve seen in the past decade.”

COMMODITIES

Wheat prices rise

Wheat prices are the highest they’ve been in four months as traders react to reports of a disappointing harvest outlook from Argentina. Wheat rose 19.75 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $7.0575 a bushel Friday, the highest price since June. Corn fell 1.5 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $4.415 a bushel. Soybeans fell two cents, 0.2 percent, to $12.9125 a bushel.

In energy trading, oil rose 14 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $100.81 a barrel. Gold fell $8.40, or 0.6 percent, to $1,314.60 an ounce.

Compiled from staff and wire reports


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