In the Region

Lockheed Martin told to suspend ship construction

Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's largest defense contractor, was ordered to stop construction on a $197.6 million U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship because of "significant cost increases," the service said. The stop-work order will be in effect for 90 days while the shipbuilding program is reviewed, said Lt. John Gay, a Navy spokesman. Lockheed Martin is overseeing construction of the first and third vessels of what eventually will be a 55-ship fleet. The first ship, which was contracted at $270 million and is 70 percent completed, also is experiencing cost overruns, the Navy said. General Dynamics Corp. is building the second and fourth vessels, while contracts for the others have yet to be awarded. The ship on which work was halted is being built by Lockheed's Maritime Systems & Sensors unit of Moorestown, at the Bollinger Shipyard in Lockport, La. - Bloomberg News

Union groups sue over overseas shipbuilding sites

The Philadelphia Metal Trades Council of the AFL-CIO in Philadelphia and the Metal Trades department of the national AFL-CIO yesterday sued the United States Coast Guard and the National Vessel Documentation Center in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia alleging that the agencies violated national laws, endangered national security and cut employment by allowing components of ships to be built abroad and then assembled in the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard. The suit said that the practice violates the Jones Act, which requires that ships be built in the United States to maintain shipbuilding proficiency for national security purposes. Union spokesman Greg Kenefick said Aker employs 600 shipbuilders locally, but would employ at least 1,800 if the workers did all the work. In May and November, the Coast Guard affirmed that ships assembled in the United States were "United States built." The Coast Guard had no comment.

- Jane M. Von Bergen

Turner Investment gives six staffers ownership stake

Turner Investment Partners of Berwyn said it has appointed six staff members as principals of the firm. As principals, they will hold an ownership stake in the company. With their appointment, Turner said, 77 of the company's 103 employees have an ownership stake. Turner, founded in 1990, manages $22 billion in investments for institutions and individuals. Its assets have doubled in the last three years.

- Paul Schweizer

Elsewhere

Four airlines increase their round-trip fares

American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp., four of the five largest U.S. carriers, raised round-trip fares by as much as $10 in the industry's first major boost this year. United increased fares across its network, a change matched by AMR Corp.'s American and Delta. Northwest changed prices only in markets where it competes with low-fare airlines, adding $6 to tickets for flights of 1,000 miles or less, and $10 on longer routes. Major U.S. airlines implemented at least 10 broad fare increases last year to help offset rising fuel costs. Yesterday's moves follow a 16 percent drop in the average price of jet fuel for immediate delivery in New York Harbor since Dec. 1. Fourth-ranked Continental Airlines Inc. was the only carrier among the top five by passenger traffic not to raise fares. JetBlue Airways Corp. and US Airways Group Inc. said they were evaluating the changes.

- Bloomberg News

Northwest Airlines files plan with bankruptcy court

Northwest Airlines Corp., the nation's fifth-largest carrier, filed its bankruptcy reorganization plan yesterday, another step toward its planned emergence from Chapter 11 protection in the second quarter of this year. The plan did not address perhaps the largest question surrounding Northwest right now: Whether it will merge with another airline. Northwest has hired a merger advisory firm, although it has not commented publicly on its plans. Northwest's bankruptcy judge in New York extended until Feb. 15 its time to file disclosures related to the plan.

- AP

Reorganization is ahead of schedule, Ford says

Ford Motor Co.'s plan to return to profitability by slashing thousands of jobs and closing plants is ahead of schedule, chief executive Alan Mulally said. Faced with increasing competition from overseas rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp., Mulally said Ford's restructuring plan, which includes a 29 percent reduction of its total North American work force by 2008, was "absolutely the right thing to do." Ford has seen its market share deteriorate in recent years, as high fuel prices have driven consumers away from its signature sport utility vehicles and light trucks. At the same time, Toyota has seen its U.S. sales rise, beating Ford out for the No. 2 sales spot in July and November.

- AP

Manufacturers see increase in sales and inventories

Inventories at U.S. businesses rose in November even as sales improved, giving manufacturers little reason to boost production. The value of unsold goods at factories, retailers and wholesalers rose 0.4 percent, the most since August, after a 0.2 percent gain in October, the Commerce Department said in Washington. Sales rose 0.5 percent after decreasing 0.2 percent. The amount of inventory on hand was enough to last 1.3 months, a level not exceeded since February 2005.

- Bloomberg News

Cingular and BellSouth ads to carry the AT&T name

AT&T Inc., the biggest U.S. telephone company, is extending its brand to incorporate Cingular Wireless and BellSouth Corp. in an effort to save $2.8 billion in advertising costs. The San Antonio-based company will tout "the new AT&T" in ads on television, the Internet, billboards and radio starting next week, said Wendy Clark, a senior vice president.

- Bloomberg News

NYSE wants to sell Web sites real-time price data

NYSE Group Inc., operator of the world's largest stock market, will seek regulatory approval for a plan that may extend the distribution of real-time information on stock prices to millions of investors over the Internet. The New York Stock Exchange is proposing to sell price data to Web sites for $100,000, according to a copy of the NYSE's filing submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Unlike other programs offered by some exchanges, the NYSE's one-year test plan wouldn't require a per-user fee, allowing Web sites to easily distribute the data. Under the plan outlined in the filing, the NYSE would offer the price of the last trade and exclude data about the number of shares that changed hands and information on unfilled bids or offers. The price information is currently available for free with more than a 10-minute delay.

- Bloomberg News

Venezuela plans to rebuild refinery in Nicaragua

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced plans to build an oil refinery in Nicaragua, where he hopes to establish a foothold for further operations across Central America, Petroleos de Venezuela SA said. Chavez, in Managua to attend the Jan. 10 inauguration of President Daniel Ortega, did not say when construction of the refinery, due to process up to 150,000 barrels of crude a day, would begin.

- Bloomberg News

ConocoPhillips to buy back up to $1 billion in stock

ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, said it plans to repurchase as much as $1 billion of its stock after it tightened capital expenditures in the wake of falling oil prices. About $750 million of stock will be bought in the current quarter, the Houston-based company said. In December, ConocoPhillips cut its 2007 capital spending plan 25 percent to $12.3 billion after last year's purchase of a stake in Russian oil giant OAO Lukoil.

- Bloomberg News