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TMCNet:  Business Highlights

[December 17, 2012]

Business Highlights

(Associated Press Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ___ Higher taxes for millions It's later than you think.

WASHINGTON (AP) _ While much of Washington is consumed by the debate over tax increases scheduled to take effect next year, big tax hikes have already gone into effect for millions of families and businesses this year.

More than 70 tax breaks enjoyed by individuals and businesses expired at the end of 2011. If Congress doesn't extend them retroactively back to the beginning of this year, a typical middle-class family could face a $4,000 tax increase when it files its 2012 return in the spring, according to an analysis by H&R Block, the tax preparing giant.



At the same time, businesses could lose dozens of tax breaks they have enjoyed for years, including generous credits for investing in research and development, write-offs for restaurants and retail stores that expand or upgrade and tax breaks for financial companies with overseas subsidiaries.

___ Bangladesh probe: Fire sabotage, owner negligent DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ A Bangladesh government committee investigating the garment factory fire that killed 112 people last month said in its findings Monday that the blaze was sabotage, probably by someone who worked there.

But the panel said that no matter who set the fire, the owner of the factory also should be punished for the deaths because he neglected worker safety.

The factory lacked emergency exits and only three floors of the eight-story building were legally built. Surviving employees said gates had been locked and managers had told them to go back to work after the fire alarm went off.

___ Good time for pickup buyers as GM sweetens deals DETROIT (AP) _ General Motors is offering generous deals on Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks after they piled up on dealer lots.

GM is matching or beating discounts from rivals Ford and Chrysler this month. It miscalculated in November when it reduced incentives and truck buyers went looking elsewhere for sweeter deals.

The three Detroit automakers have been vying for new truck business all year as the market continues a slow rebound from the Great Recession. Experts say buyers can now get discounts of $4,500 or more on some of the best-selling vehicles in the country. Throw in low interest rates, sweet lease deals and abundant financing and it's a good time for people who are in the market for a truck.

___ Tropicana uses the carrot to squeeze juice sales NEW YORK (AP) _ Tropicana wants more people to drink its juice, so it's extending a carrot _ and a bushel of other vegetables.

As sugar-conscious Americans continue to shy away from fruit juices, Tropicana is using vegetables for the first time in recent history with a new drink called "Farmstand" set to hit shelves next month. By marketing the juice as a way for moms to sneak some veggies into their kids' diets, the division of PepsiCo Inc. is betting that carrots and beets can give it a new avenue for growth.

The foray into the fruit-and-vegetable category comes after Tropicana executives watched Campbell Soup find success with V-8 V-Fusion drinks, which uncovered a sweet spot by making vegetables more palatable by mixing them with fruit. Since its rollout in 2006, Campbell has grown V-Fusion sales with multiple new flavors and varieties.

___ Economists forecasting moderate 2013 growth WASHINGTON (AP) _ Business economists believe the country will see modest growth in 2013 with strength coming from a further rebound in housing which will help offset weakness in business investment.

In its latest survey of top forecasters, the National Association for Business Economics says it is looking for the economy to grow in 2013 by 2.1 percent after 2.2 percent growth in 2012. That would continue the same tepid growth the country has seen since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009.

Growth at that pace is not strong enough to make a significant improvement in unemployment. The NABE economists believe unemployment will average 7.7 percent for all of next year, right at the level it reached in November.

___ Sprint raises offer, to buy Clearwire for $2.2 billion NEW YORK (AP) _ Sprint, the country's third-largest cellphone company, said Monday that it will buy out the portion of wireless network operator Clearwire that it doesn't already own after raising its offer price to $2.2 billion.

The deal would give Sprint control of a struggling affiliate, one it depends upon to provide high-speed "Sprint 4G" data services for some of its phones. It would increase Sprint's access to the airwaves, meaning it could boost data speeds in coming years. However, cell towers using Clearwire spectrum have poor range, making it difficult to provide broad coverage.

Sprint Nextel Corp. said it will pay $2.97 per share for the nearly 50 percent stake in Clearwire stock it doesn't already own. A board committee that excluded Sprint appointees approved the offer. The board hadn't approved Sprint's earlier offer of $2.90 per share, or a total of $2.1 billion, which was made Thursday.

___ Elliott offers to buy Compuware for $2.35 billion NEW YORK (AP) _ Compuware shares jumped 17 percent Monday, after one of its largest shareholders offered to buy the software development company for about $2.35 billion in a bid to turn it around.

New York-based investment firm Elliott Management, which holds an 8 percent stake in Compuware Corp., wants to acquire it for $11 per share. The offer represents a 15 percent premium over its Friday closing stock price.

Elliott touted its experience in the software industry and familiarity with Compuware, saying that it's "uniquely situated" to get the best value for the company's shareholders. It said it's confident that it can find financing for such a deal and wants to meet with the company's board as soon as possible.

___ Caribou Coffee being taken private in $340 million deal MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Caribou Coffee is being taken private by a German holding company in a deal valued at about $340 million.

The coffee chain, which has 610 locations in the U.S. and overseas, said Monday that it will continue to operate as an independent company with its own brand and management team once the buyout by Joh. A Benckiser Group GmbH closes. The German investment firm also purchased a majority stake in Peet's Coffee & Tea Inc. earlier this year.

Joh. A. Benckiser Group GmbH will pay $16 per share, a 30 percent premium to Caribou's Friday closing price of $12.32.

___ Laclede Group to buy 2 Southern Union utilities NEW YORK (AP) _ Laclede will buy two of Southern Union Co.'s utilities, Missouri Gas Energy and New England Gas Co., for $1.02 billion.

Energy Transfer Equity's takeover of pipeline operator Southern Union Co closed early this year.

The deal announced Monday also includes the assumption of about $20 million in debt, so the companies value it at nearly $1.04 billion.

___ Apple sells 2 million iPhone 5s in China in first 3 days NEW YORK (AP) _ Apple said Monday that it sold more than 2 million iPhone 5s in China in their first three days of availability, setting a record for that market.

IPhone 5, which launched in China on Friday, will be available in more than 100 countries by the end of December.

The phone first went on sale Sept. 21 in the U.S., Germany, France, Japan and five other countries, with more than 5 million of the phones sold in the following three days.

___ By The Associated Press(equals) The Dow Jones industrial average rose 100.38 points to 13,235.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 16.78 points to 1,430.36 and the Nasdaq composite index rose 39.27 points to 3,010.60.

Benchmark crude rose 47 cents to close at $87.20 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell 54 cents to $107.64 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Heating oil fell 2 cents to $2.96 a gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents to $3.36 per 1,000 cubic feet, its first gain in eight trading sessions. Wholesale gasoline fell less than a penny to close at $2.65 a gallon.

(c) 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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