Business news briefs — March 19

LOCAL BUSINESS

FirstEnergy sets dividend

FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) declared an unchanged quarterly dividend of 55 cents per share, payable June 1 to shareholders of record May 7.

Gilbert in Michigan deal

A company involving Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is moving closer to acquiring Detroit’s Greektown Casino-Hotel.

Greektown Superholdings Inc., the casino’s owner, announced that an agreement had been reached about the potential deal.

Gilbert has said a “significant investment” is planned in and around Greektown Casino-Hotel.

Rock Gaming’s Athens Acquisition LLC entity is involved in the potential deal. Gilbert is chairman of Rock Gaming and founded Detroit-based Quicken Loans. Rock Gaming was formed in 2010 and partnered to develop Horseshoe Casino Cleveland and Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati.

The acquisition would be subject to approval from the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Gilbert’s Rock Ventures LLC has bought up a number of downtown Detroit buildings. On Tuesday, it announced it had acquired the 23-story 1001 Woodward office tower.

TECHNOLOGY

Change in eBay policy

EBay Inc. is overhauling fees for sellers for the first time since 2010, seeking to reduce costs and make pricing less complicated as it competes with bigger rival Amazon.com Inc. for online merchants.

Fees will range from 4 to 10 percent, depending on the size of the seller and the type of products sold, according to Brian Hsu, eBay’s senior director of pricing. The company will also stop charging sellers to list most items, he said.

Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe is taking steps to keep individuals and small businesses from gravitating toward Amazon, which boosted the number of items sold by outside sellers by more than 40 percent last quarter. The new structure is aimed at quelling criticism that eBay’s pricing is overly complicated, and it follows steps taken last year that were designed to make it easier for consumers to shop on the site.

The new structure has many different tiers and varying monthly fees, depending on sales volume, and it remains somewhat complicated, e-commerce analyst Scot Wingo of ChannelAdvisor said. It’s also a necessary step to compete with Amazon, which charges about 12 percent per transaction on average, he said.

EBay separates its sellers into two groups: consumer, or smaller merchants who may sporadically list a few items a month, and stores, which move higher volumes of merchandise.

Previously, the company charged consumer sellers 50 cents to list a product, and tacked on another fee tied to the final price after an item sold.

The new system assigns those merchants a flat fee of 10 percent, capped at $250, and as many as 50 free listings a month — which means no up-front cost for most, according to ChannelAdvisor.

EARNINGS

Walgreen profits up

For the fiscal second quarter ended Feb. 28, Walgreen reported net income of $756 million, or 79 cents per share. That compares with $683 million, or 78 cents per share, in last year’s quarter, when it had fewer shares outstanding. Excluding one-time items such as acquisition-related costs, adjusted earnings totaled 96 cents per share. Revenue came in flat at $18.65 billion. Analysts forecast, on average, earnings of 93 cents per share on $18.74 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

BANKRUPTCY

Hostess assets sold

Snack food maker Hostess Brands Inc. won approval of asset sales totaling more than $800 million. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in White Plains, N.Y., approved sales to Flowers Foods Inc., Grupo Bimbo SAB, Apollo Global Management LLC and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. for most of Hostess’ cake and bread brands.

WALL STREET

Dow rises 3.76 points

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.76 points, or 0.03 percent, to close at 14,455.82.

Other major market indexes fell slightly. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 3.76 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,548.34. The Nasdaq composite fell 8.50 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,229.10.

Among stocks in the news, Electronic Arts fell $1.56, or 8.3 percent, to $17.15 after the video game maker said its adjusted revenue fell 28 percent to $1.18 billion for the last three months of 2012. The figure was below Wall Street’s expectations. CEO John Riccitiello will step down March 30.

Compiled from staff and wire reports


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