Business news in brief

The logo atop Aramark's Philadelphia skyscraper. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

In the Region


Aramark going animal friendly


Aramark Corp. adopted an animal welfare policy that includes purchasing commitments for veal, dairy, beef, chickens, and turkeys, the Philadelphia food-service giant said. Under the policy, developed in collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States, Aramark said it will work with suppliers to, for example, reduce the pain caused by the castration of hogs and eventually eliminate tail docking for hogs and cattle. Aramark also said it will work with suppliers to address animal welfare issues associated with fast-growing broiler chickens and turkeys, and support the elimination of certain slaughtering practices considered inhumane by critics. - Harold Brubaker


AstraZeneca, GSK atop list


AstraZeneca P.L.C.'s treatment for heartburn attracted the most spending of any drug under Medicare's drug benefit program. Spending on Nexium was $2.53 billion in 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday, following GlaxoSmithKline P.L.C.'s Advair Diskus at $2.26 billion. Both drugmakers have operations in the Philadelphia area. The data cover beneficiaries of Medicare Part D, the privately run, publicly funded prescription drug program for the elderly. The United States has previously released information on payments by drug and device makers to doctors and hospitals, and on Medicare payments to providers. This is the first time the government is releasing the information on Medicare Part D. - Bloomberg News


Borgata boosts earnings target


The parent company of  Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa boosted its 2015 earnings target for the Atlantic City property to $165 million from $160 million after a strong first quarter. Boyd Gaming Corp., of Las Vegas, on Thursday reported first-quarter net revenue for Borgata of $182.6 million, up 9 percent from $167.3 million in the same period a year ago. The market-leading casino's operating profit nearly doubled to $37.8 million from $20.5 million, thanks in part to a property tax benefit. Four casinos were closed last year - in a long-delayed recognition of Atlantic City's massive market-share losses to neighboring states - putting thousands of people out of work. - Harold Brubaker


AmerisourceBergen sales soar


Valley Forge-based pharmaceutical wholesaler AmerisourceBergen said Thursday quarterly revenue was $32.7 billion, a 14.8 percent increase from the same period in last year. The quarterly net loss of $513.4 million, as compared with a $180.1 million profit in the same period last year, was due in large part to outstanding warrants related to a previously announced $1 billion stock repurchase plan. - David Sell


American Water buys firm


Voorhees-based American Water said Thursday it agreed to acquire Environmental Disposal Corp., which provides wastewater service to more than 5,300 customers in Bedminster and Bernards Townships, N.J. EDC also provides retail wastewater treatment to the Boroughs of Far Hills, Peapack, Gladstone and portions of Bedminster, which is outside EDC's service territory, on the basis of long-term contracts. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the agreement must be approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. - David Sell


Airgas quarterly profit slips


Airgas Inc., based in Radnor, reported a slight increase in sales but a slight decline in profit for the quarter ending March 31, compared with the same period in 2014. The company, which supplies industrial, medical and specialty gases, reported sales and profit increases for its fiscal year, which also ended March 31. Quarterly sales rose from $1.267 billion to $1.301 billion and profit declined from $88.4 million to $87.7 million. Full-year sales revenue rose from $5.1 billion to $5.3 billion and profit rose from $350.8 million to $368.1 million. - David Sell




30-year mortgage rate rises


Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose slightly this week, but remain near historic lows with the spring home-buying season underway and showing strong sales. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the national average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.68 percent from 3.65 percent last week. - Associated Press


Consumer spending surges


U.S. consumers boosted spending in March by the largest amount in four months, a sign that this key sector of the economy is reviving after a frigid winter. Consumer spending increased 0.4 percent in March, the strongest gain since a similar increase in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Spending fell in December and January before climbing a modest 0.2 percent in February. - Associated Press


Wal-Mart making staff shift


Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is planning to shift its regional operating staff in the field back to headquarters, a bid to reduce expenses and reassert control over its sprawling operations, two people familiar with the decision said. The move would relocate personnel from around the U.S. to its corporate office in Bentonville, Ark., said the people, who asked not to be identified because the changes have not been made public. Staff for each region oversee a geographical grouping of stores. Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has about 4,500 U.S. locations. Brian Nick, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, did not have an immediate comment. - Bloomberg News