Business Briefs

Pinnacle Foods approves sale to buyout specialist

MOUNTAIN LAKES, N.J. -- Pinnacle Foods Group Inc., the privately held owner of Duncan Hines baking mixes, Hungry Man and Swanson frozen dinners and Vlasic pickles, has agreed to be acquired by a group led by the buyout specialist Blackstone Group for about $1.3 billion in cash.

Former Kraft Foods Inc. Chief Executive Roger Deromedi will become chairman when the deal closes, the companies said in announcing the deal Monday.

In addition to the cash payment, the buyers will assume about $900 million in debt, Pinnacle spokesman Roy Winnick said.

Bank of America offers help to freeze victims

Bank of America officials said Monday that the bank will donate $50,000 to three United Way agencies in the central San Joaquin Valley to help workers affected by January's freeze that caused an estimated $1 billion in damage in California.

The bank also has special programs for its customers living in seven Valley counties affected by the freeze, including Kings, Fresno, Madera and Tulare counties.

Customers can increase their credit limits on Bank of America-issued Visa and MasterCards; modify or defer payments on loans, credit cards or lines of credit; access special home equity programs; purchase a new home through the bank's special mortgage program with waived fees and an expedited loan process; avoid bank withdrawal penalties on time deposits and existing Bank of America IRAs.

Small businesses also may qualify for similar benefits on business and personal loans.

Customers should apply for the programs before March 30 at any bank branch or by calling (800) 831-5586.

Deadline to register for fruit tech day arrives

PARLIER -- Today is the deadline to register for a free University of California Tree Fruit and Table Grape Postharvest Technology Day.

The program, to include lunch, will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Kearney Agricultural Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave. in Parlier.

The program will focus on preharvest and postharvest decay control and fruit safety issues. Hands-on demonstrations are planned.

Technology Day will include presenters Jim Adaskaveg, Carlos H. Crisosto, Kevin Day, Themis Michailides, Joe Smilanick and Trevor Suslow; and a demonstration by F. Gordon Mitchell Laboratory.

Details: (559) 646-6545.

Clorox warns about lottery sweepstakes scam

The Clorox Co. and the Better Business Bureau are warning residents about a lottery scam in which victims have received letters from the International Clearing Commission House in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, saying they have won a large cash prize in the American Lottery Sweepstakes.

The letter is accompanied by a check purportedly from The Clorox Co., and the consumer is asked to send a check to cover lottery fees.

Clorox has no connection with the clearing house or sweepstakes. The company has notified the FBI.

Anyone who receives such a letter is asked to contact the local FBI office or call Clorox directly at (510) 271-2966.

Markets pull back after acquisitions fall through

NEW YORK -- Wall Street extended its losses Monday as investors awaited a stream of key economic data this week and were left disappointed by the collapse of several closely watched acquisition deals.

The markets, which pulled back last week amid concern about inflation's impact on interest rates, traded cautiously, with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke set to testify about the economy before Congress on Wednesday. Government data due Friday should shed light on wholesale inflation and the state of the housing market.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.28, or 0.22%, to 12,552.55.

Coca-Cola mends rift with some of its bottlers

ATLANTA -- A rift between The Coca-Cola Co. and some bottlers has been eased, as the world's largest beverage maker announced Monday that several suits over its plan to distribute Powerade to Wal-Mart stores directly through the retailer's warehouses were being dropped.

Coca-Cola also said it will work with the bottlers "to develop and test new customer service and distribution systems." The company and its bottlers will consider shipping products directly to retailers' warehouses, as well as other ideas, Coca-Cola spokesman Dan Schafer said. In turn, the bottlers will be compensated for products delivered in their regions through forms of distribution other than themselves, Schafer said.

Earnings rise at Loews

NEW YORK -- Loews Corp., a conglomerate with interests in tobacco, watchmaking, financial services and oil drilling, said Monday its fourth-quarter earnings climbed, boosted by results at its offshore drilling and insurance units.