In the Region

Liquor Control Board, 3 union locals reach pact

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has reached a tentative agreement with three union locals that represent nearly 2,800 employees in the state's liquor stores, the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 said. The proposed contract includes a $1,250 lump-sum cash payment to full-time employees as soon as possible after the contract takes effect July 1. Subsequent years include 3 percent wage increases in July 2008 and July 2009 and a 4 percent increase in October 2010. The current contract pays from $10.27 to $19.27 an hour, depending on experience and job classification, the union said. The deal includes workers in Local 23, which covers workers in Western Pennsylvania, and Local 27, which represents board employees in some parts of Delaware County.

- Harold Brubaker

SAI Global to buy compliance business called Midi

SAI Global Ltd., Princeton, said it had agreed to buy Compliance & Ethics Learning Solutions Corp., Plainsboro, N.J., which is known as Midi, for $45 million. SAI's chief executive officer, Ross Wraight, said the move would expand his company's compliance business. SAI said market demand for Midi's services was reinforced by the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley corporate-accountability law and other regulatory requirements.

- Thomas J. Brady

Air Products' stake makes Malaysia unit wholly owned

Air Products & Chemicals Inc., Allentown, said it bought a 30 percent stake in a Malaysian subsidiary from its joint-venture partner, making the operation a wholly-owned subsidiary. Terms were not disclosed. Air Products reported $55 million in sales in Malaysia in 2006.

- Bob Fernandez

Elsewhere

China 1st nation to top $1 trillion in foreign reserves

China's foreign exchange reserves, already the world's largest, have passed $1 trillion, the government announced amid debate over how the country should use its newfound wealth. The central bank said its reserves stood at $1.0663 trillion at the end of December, up more than 30 percent from one year earlier, making this the first country officially to top the $1 trillion mark. China passed Japan in early 2006 as the nation with the biggest foreign reserves as Beijing drained money from its economy, stockpiling much of it in U.S. Treasuries in an effort to prevent a spike in inflation as export revenue surged in. The figure announced by the People's Bank of China was slightly below estimates by outside experts, who forecast that the reserves would surpass $1.1 trillion by the end of 2006.

- AP

AOL bids for Swedish online-marketer TradeDoubler

AOL L.L.C., a unit of Time Warner Inc., said it was making a $900 million cash bid to buy Swedish online-marketing specialist TradeDoubler A.B. in an effort to improve its Internet advertising in Europe. The bid offers $30.60 a share for TradeDoubler, and the company's board has unanimously recommended that its shareholders accept the offer, AOL said. TradeDoubler shares soared nearly 12 percent to $31.46 on the Stockholm exchange. Time Warner's chief executive officer Jeff Bewkes said the acquisition would help AOL become a bigger player in the European online-advertising market.

- AP

British Airways cabin-crew employees vote to strike

Thousands of British Airways P.L.C. employees have voted to strike after disputes centering on sick pay and pensions, union officials said. In one of the largest majorities seen in such a dispute, about 96 percent of cabin crews voting on the action opted for a strike, the Transport and General Workers Union said. No strike deadline was set. Cabin-crew workers had contended that the airline pressured them to come to work even if they felt sick, the union said. A separate dispute focused on pension plans.

- AP

Honda to invest up to $200 million for 2d India plant

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. will invest $150 million to $200 million to build a second plant in India to meet growing demand for cars there, an official said. The Tokyo-based manufacturer of cars and motorcycles will locate the plant in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, according to Honda spokeswoman Yasuko Matsuura. Honda has yet to decide on the exact site of the new plant, but it will be selected in coming months, and construction is to begin later this year, Matsuura said. That plant will begin operating in the first half of 2009 with an initial capacity of 50,000 cars a year, and Honda plans to increase it gradually, according to the spokeswoman. The company plans to find a site large enough to produce 200,000 cars annually, she said.

- AP

Japan, trying to exit deflation, may raise interest rate

Japan is at a crucial stage of exiting deflation, and the central bank must help the economy shake off the crippling fall in prices, the economy minister said, reiterating her opposition to an early interest-rate increase. There is growing speculation that the Bank of Japan will raise a key interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 0.5 percent Thursday, at the end of its two-day policy meeting. Japan "is in an extremely crucial period of getting out of deflation, and consumption is weak - the Bank of Japan must be sharing these points," Economy Minister Hiroko Ota told reporters in Tokyo.

- AP

Quest Software expects $150 million backdating cost

Quest Software Inc., a maker of database-management programs, said it expected to have pretax costs of about $150 million through March 2006 to account for backdated stock options. An internal review did not find fraud or intentional misconduct by former or current employees, said the Aliso Viejo, Calif., company. A special committee investigating options will not recommend further changes to the company's management, Quest said.

- Bloomberg News