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Equity firm to buy Tyson's TNT Crust

Tyson Foods Inc. has agreed to sell its pizza crust business to private equity firm Peak Rock Capital, the Springdale company said Thursday.

Both parties plan to close on the deal in September, a news release said. Terms were not disclosed. According to Peak Rock's website, the firm invests in "middle-market situations." Peak's portfolio ranges from outdoor products and technology companies, to honey and organic-bread makers.

TNT Crust, a Wisconsin-based producer of partially baked crusts, flat breads and self-rising crusts, was founded in 1981. More than 400 employees work at two plants in Green Bay, Wis. They are "expected to continue with the company under the new owner," the release said.

In March, Tyson shared its intent to sell TNT. The sale aligns with the company's recent strategy "focused on expanding Tyson Foods' leadership position in protein," Sally Grimes, Tyson's group president of Prepared Foods, said in the release.

"As we focused on protein, we sold several nonprotein businesses this year and anticipate selling our pizza crust business in the fourth quarter," Tom Hayes, Tyson's president and chief executive officer, told analysts, investors and reporters this week.

Some recent sales include Sara Lee Frozen Bakery and Van's, a maker of soups and sauces.

-- Nathan Owens

Rite Aid stock skids after merger fails

Rite Aid shares plunged Thursday as the company headed into an uncertain future after calling off its merger with the grocer Albertsons.

Analysts and retail insiders questioned the drugstore chain's prospects after it ended a planned takeover by Albertsons before Rite Aid shareholders could vote on it. That vote also faced shaky prospects due to opposition from shareholders and influential proxy advisory firms.

Rite Aid Chairman and CEO John Standley said in a prepared statement that his company would continue to "build momentum" for big parts of its business like its renovated stores, expanded pharmacy services and its customer loyalty program. Rite Aid also said its board will consider governance changes, although it did not elaborate.

The Camp Hill, Pa.-based company has struggled with high debt levels and tough competition, as narrowing drugstore networks have pushed customers away from its stores.

Shares of Rite Aid declined 11.5 percent to $1.54 Thursday in New York.

-- The Associated Press

Rates for long-term mortgages decline

WASHINGTON -- Long-term U.S. mortgage rates are down this week amid a restrained home-buying season this summer.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages slipped to 4.59 percent from 4.60 percent last week. Long-term loan rates have been running at their highest levels in seven years. The average benchmark 30-year rate reached a high this year of 4.66 percent on May 24. By contrast, the rate stood at 3.90 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans fell to 4.05 percent this week from 4.08 percent last week.

Higher mortgage rates combined with steadily rising home prices have dampened home sales this summer despite the robust economy and job market.

The Federal Reserve recently left its key interest rate unchanged but signaled further gradual rate hikes in the months ahead as long as the economy stays healthy.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.

-- The Associated Press

Producer price index rises 3.3% in July

WASHINGTON -- U.S. wholesale prices were steady in July after two months of large increases, a sign inflation pressures may have softened.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the producer price index -- which measures price changes before they reach the consumer -- increased 3.3 percent last month from a year earlier. That's down slightly from 3.4 percent in June, which was the biggest in six years.

Gas prices and other energy costs fell after two months of strong gains, and food costs also declined. The price of soybeans and other oilseeds fell 14 percent, the most in four years, likely reflecting a buildup in soybean stocks after China imposed tariffs on them in retaliation for U.S. duties.

With the economy growing at a healthy clip, inflation has perked up after nearly a decade of mostly tame prices.

-- The Associated Press

Refinery builder aims to sidestep panel

BISMARCK, N.D. -- The company planning an oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota is asking state regulators to dismiss a complaint filed by environmental groups over the site.

Meridian Energy Group made its request to the Public Service Commission on Wednesday, arguing that the three-member panel has no authority under state law to wade into the dispute over the Davis Refinery.

The company's plan to build the $800 million plant 3 miles from the park has prompted opposition by environmental groups and others who fear pollution from the refinery will mar the park's scenery and erode air quality.

Meridian maintains that the plant will have modern technology and will be "the cleanest refinery on the planet." Supporters say it will boost the area's economy.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Dakota Resource Council in late June filed a complaint with the state commission, maintaining that Meridian needs a permit for the site because the refinery's capacity will be 55,000 barrels per day -- above the threshold of 50,000 barrels in state law that triggers a commission review. The groups cited a number Meridian has previously given to the media, investors and government officials.

Meridian attorney Lawrence Bender said those statements were made as far back as 2 ½ years ago and are outdated.

-- The Associated Press

Pot-derived epilepsy drug to be pricey

A new marijuana-derived drug to treat rare forms of severe epilepsy in children will cost about $32,500 per patient, per year.

Epidiolex, the first cannabis pharmaceutical to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, contains the active ingredient cannabidiol (CBD). It does not contain psychoactive molecule THC, which generates the high for which marijuana is best known.

In an earnings call Tuesday, GW Pharmaceuticals said about 1,200 people -- primarily patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome who participated in the drug trials -- currently are receiving Epidiolex.

CBD remains a Schedule 1 drug, according to the federal government, which means it has no recognized medical use. Before Epidiolex can be prescribed, the FDA must reschedule CBD.

"We expect to make Epidiolex available to U.S. patients this fall, following rescheduling, which is expected to occur within 90 days of FDA approval," said GW Pharmaceuticals' CEO Justin Gover.

The retail price of the drug is high, but GW said costs were in line with other brand-name anti-epileptic drugs used to treat the same intractable conditions. With insurance, out-of-pocket costs per month could range from $5 to $200 a month, GW executives said.

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer

Business on 08/10/2018

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