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Business news in brief

Trade dispute threatens 4,500 U.K. jobs

LONDON -- The British government is trying to find a way to protect some 4,500 jobs in Belfast endangered by a trade dispute.

The dispute pits American manufacturer Boeing against Canada's Bombardier, which employs many people at its facilities in Northern Ireland.

Boeing claims Bombardier receives Canadian subsidies allowing it to undercut the market. The U.S. Commerce Department will announce this month whether to impose duties on Bombardier.

U.K. officials are seeking a compromise that would safeguard the Belfast jobs. British media say Prime Minister Theresa May has raised the matter with President Donald Trump.

The British government said in a statement that Britain's priority is to encourage Boeing to drop the case in favor of a negotiated settlement.

Boeing said Tuesday it prefers to "let the process play out."

-- The Associated Press

Wells Fargo CEO warns of more trouble

SAN FRANCISCO -- The battering Wells Fargo & Co. has taken over the past year from multiple scandals in its consumer operations might not be finished, Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan said Tuesday.

"We've been very focused on opening every drawer and turning over every rock in the company," Sloan said at an investor conference in New York sponsored by Barclays PLC, where many of the questions focused on recent damage to the bank's reputation. "I can't promise you that it's exactly over with."

Sloan said new issues could be found by consultants the San Francisco-based lender hired to review business units outside the retail bank, where a sales scandal broke out a year ago. While Wells Fargo will spend an "elevated" amount on consultants during the third quarter, those expenses should moderate during the final quarter of 2017, according to a presentation on the bank's website. The lender previously said it was spending between $70 million and $80 million per quarter.

Wells Fargo remains in hot water with customers and politicians over its fake accounts scandal after revealing two weeks ago that possibly a million more customers were affected than earlier estimated. The lender is also facing legal backlash from borrowers who said they were charged fees for the bank to lock in promised rates on new mortgages, and others who were hurt by its auto-lending division billing for unwanted car insurance.

-- Bloomberg News

Tariff fears scuttle solar industry work

ST. LOUIS -- Solar developers are suspending construction as the looming threat of U.S. import tariffs has driven up prices and spurred hoarding, crimping panel supplies.

"We've had roughly $500 million worth of work that we've had to put on hold," said Scott Canada, who oversees renewable energy projects for McCarthy Building Cos. of St. Louis. "The supply of panels has just evaporated as everybody is grabbing what they can."

The disruptions date to about May, after bankrupt panel manufacturer Suniva Inc. filed a trade complaint asking for protection from cheap imports. As the case gained steam, developers rushed to stockpile every available panel. The case is currently before the U.S. International Trade Commission and may eventually reach the Oval Office, where President Donald Trump has the authority to impose tariffs.

The crunch is an abrupt reversal for the U.S. solar industry, which six months ago was awash in inexpensive panels. Developers say prices have swelled by about 40 percent in the past four months, making some projects uneconomical to build. That's if they're lucky enough to have a supplier at all.

"If you don't have panels lined up for '17, then you aren't going to get them," said Laura Stern, president and co-founder of Nautilus Solar Energy LLC in Summit, N.J. "The market is really tight."

-- Bloomberg News

Air Berlin says sick-out puts it at risk

BERLIN -- A sick-out by Air Berlin PLC pilots is threatening an immediate grounding of the insolvent airline.

"What happened today massively jeopardizes the entire insolvency proceedings," Frank Kebekus, the airline's general representative appointed by a court, said in a statement Tuesday. "Unless the situation changes in the short term, we will have to end operations and all efforts to reorganize."

Air Berlin canceled some 100 flights after about 200 of its 1,500 pilots said they were unfit to fly, with many notifying their employer just before their scheduled departures. Air Berlin said that behavior resembled "playing with fire" and cost the airline several million dollars.

With the deadline drawing close for investors to submit bids for Air Berlin, operations are facing increasing disruption. The carrier said Monday it will cancel numerous routes to the Caribbean and some U.S. flights from Sept. 25, and only customers who bought tickets after the company filed for insolvency on Aug. 15 will be reimbursed.

-- Bloomberg News

Alexion will move to Boston, cut jobs

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. has announced that it is relocating its headquarters from New Haven, Conn., to Boston.

In what it calls a plan to "re-align the global organization with its refocused corporate strategy," the company also announced Tuesday it is cutting 20 percent of its workforce.

The company said about 400 jobs will move to Boston by the middle of next year. The company will maintain a research and development center in New Haven with about 450 employees.

Alexion said the moves are expected to save about $270 million annually, and allow the reinvestment of about $100 million a year into research and development.

Chief Executive Officer Ludwig Hantson said the moves "will create a leaner organization with greater financial flexibility."

Alexion developed Soliris, a high-priced treatment for two rare genetic disorders.

-- The Associated Press

Business on 09/13/2017

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