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Business news briefs — Sept. 27

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U.S. has big surplus of corn

Demand for U.S.-grown corn fell the most since 1975 in the past year, leaving a bigger-than-forecast surplus stacked in silos just as farmers begin reaping what the government says will be the world’s largest-
ever crop. Domestic consumption and exports fell a combined 10 percent in the year ended Aug. 31, government data show.

Total supply after the harvest starts this month will rise 24 percent to 14.537 billion bushels as fields recover from last year’s drought, according to the average of 28 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Goldman Sachs analysts say corn will drop to $4.25 a bushel in three months, or 6.1 percent less than now.

The United States will reap 28 percent more corn this season, doubling inventories before next year’s harvest after losing market share to shippers in Brazil, Argentina and Ukraine. Global supply is surging after prices reached a record $8.29 in 2012 and futures are heading for the biggest annual drop in at least five decades. Cheaper grain is boosting profit for Archer Daniels Midland Co., which makes ethanol from the grain, and Sanderson Farms Inc., the third-largest U.S. poultry producer.


FirstMerit changes call center

Akron-based FirstMerit Corp. is in the process of shuffling call center positions between an Akron center and one in Flint, Mich. FirstMerit spokesman Rob Townsend said Friday that after the bank’s acquisition of Citizens Bank, based in Flint, the bank will be keeping call centers open in both cities. However, all inbound calls made to the bank will be handled in Flint and all outbound calls will be handled in Akron.

The changes will happen by the end of the year. Affected employees have been encouraged to apply for other open positions and many have taken new positions, Townsend said. The bank will not say how many positions are affected, but Townsend said there is a severance package being offered to employees who do not take a new position.


Safety features in vehicle tests

Seven new midsize cars and SUVs from the 2013 and 2014 model years earned “superior” ratings in a new test of high-tech safety features designed to prevent front-end crashes.

Another six got “advanced” ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, while 25 received “basic” ratings. Another 36 got no ratings because they either didn’t have the features or their systems didn’t meet the institute’s standards.

Those receiving ratings had either forward collision alert systems, which warn drivers of a possible crash, or automatic braking, which can stop a car if a collision is pending. The highest-rated cars generally had both.

Vehicles with superior ratings were: Cadillac ATS and SRX, Subaru Legacy and Outback, Mercedes C-Class and Volvo S60 and XC60. Cars and SUVs with advanced ratings were:

Acura MDX, Audi A4 and Q5, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lexus ES and Mazda 6. These vehicles received basic ratings: Acura ZDX; BMW 3 series, X3; Chevrolet Equinox and Malibu; Dodge Durango; Ford Edge, Explorer, Flex, Fusion; GMC Terrain, Honda Accord and Crosstour; Infiniti Q50, QX50, QX60, QX70; Jeep Cherokee, Lexus IS and RX; Lincoln MKT, MKX, MKZ; Mercedes GLK, M-Class.


Profit rises at Worthington

Worthington Industries has plenty of helium for its cylinder business — despite concerns about possible shortages of the element — and the company’s profit is on track to continue a gentle rise. Those were a couple of the key messages at the company’s annual shareholders meeting this week. The Columbus-based manufacturer with area operations began its current fiscal year with an increase in sales and net income compared with the same quarter last year.

Shares are up more than 50 percent from a year ago. In the quarter that ended in August, Worthington reported net income of $54.6 million, up from $34 million, and sales of $692 million, up from $666 million.

The company’s steel-processing segment posted sales of $402 million, up from $385 million; the pressure-cylinder segment had sales of $217 million, up from $194 million. The only segment that lost ground was engineered cabs, with sales of $22 million, down from $32 million.


Smithfield is foreign-owned

The world’s largest pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc. completed its sale to Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., the largest shareholder of China’s biggest meat processor.

The $34 per share deal is the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm, valued at about $7.1 billion including debt.

Compiled from staff and wire reports.

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