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First Bank of Georgia parent reports growth

Georgia-Carolina Bancshares, the holding company for First Bank of Georgia, on Wednesday reported first quarter earnings of $1.3 million, or 39 cents per share, up from last year's first quarter, which was $838,000 or 24 cents per share.

Remer Y. Brinson III, the president and CEO of the company, said the increase could be attributed to reductions in provisions for loan losses and non-interest expenses.

"Asset quality continues to be a primary focus in this weakened economy and we continue to maintain a healthy allowance," he said.

Brinson said First Bank has increased its loan allowance this year to 2.29 percent, up from 1.54 percent at this time last year.

Deposits grew from the end of 2010, from $414 million to $428 million at the end of March.

Assets also grew, from $495 million in December to $510 million in March.

Higher prices erode Owens Corning profits

Owens Corning posted weak quarterly results Wednesday as higher raw material prices eroded roofing business margins.

The Toledo, Ohio-based company, that has a glass fiber mat production facility in Aiken County, reported net sales decreased 2 percent to $1.24 billion in the first quarter, compared with $1.27 billion in the first quarter of 2010.

Net earnings were $24 million, or 19 cents per share, compared with net earnings of $48 million, or 38 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2010.

The building materials maker said it expects new residential construction in the U.S. to improve in the second half of this year.

The company, which resolved a Teamsters strike last month in Graniteville, will add 24 jobs next year when it installs a new production line.

Electrolux net profits fall by 50 percent

Swedish home appliance maker Electrolux AB said Wednesday its net profit fell by 50 percent in the first quarter due to unfavorable currency exchange rates, price pressure and increased raw-material costs.

The company, based in Stockholm, said net profit for the period dropped to 457 million kronor ($75 million) from 911 million kronor ($149 million) a year earlier.

Revenue for the quarter fell by 6.7 percent to 23.4 billion kronor. The company said demand was "stable" in Europe and North America, but that increased raw-material costs and continued pressure on prices weighed on results.

"The prices of some of our most important raw materials continue to increase, especially plastics. We expect our costs for raw materials to increase in 2011 by about 2 billion kronor compared to the previous year," President and CEO Keith McLoughlin said in a statement. "Our ambition is to gradually compensate for the increase in costs through price increases, improvements in product mix and cost savings."

McLoughlin was the head of Electrolux's North American headquarters when it moved from Augusta to Charlotte in 2010. The company maintains a customer service center in Augusta.

Supplement maker's profits up 28 percent

Royal DSM NV, the biggest maker of nutritional supplements, said Wednesday that its first quarter earnings grew 28 percent on healthy demand, rising margins and lower taxes.

Net profit was 161 million euro ($236 million), up from 130 million euro, and sales rose 16 percent to 2.23 billion euro. The company said Wednesday it was able to increase prices and margins, more than offsetting higher raw materials costs.

DSM is originally a chemicals company, and also makes high-performance materials used in products such as bulletproof vests and fiber-optic wire casings; and polymers, used in nylon, synthetic rubbers and plastics.

Augusta has the headquarters for DSM Chemicals North America.

In the performance materials segment, DSM said sales growth was 27 percent higher than the first quarter of 2010.

The company said demand was strong in emerging markets, and modest in Western economies. Its tax rate fell to 21 percent from 25 percent by "the application of preferential tax regimes."

Temperatures affect Southern Co. earnings

Southern Co., the parent company for Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear, reported Wednesday that first quarter earnings were $422.3 million, or 50 cents a share, compared with $494.5 million, or 60 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.

Revenues for the first quarter were $4.01 billion, compared with $4.16 billion for the same period a year ago, a 3.5 percent decrease.

Earnings were negatively affected by a return to more normal temperatures for the period, as compared with abnormally cold weather in 2010.

"Activity among our industrial customers has nearly reached pre-recession levels, and we expect that momentum to continue as the year progresses," said Southern Co. Chairman, President and CEO Thomas A. Fanning.

Full-year industrial sales for 2010 increased 7.7 percent compared with 2009, and were further bolstered by a 6.7 percent increase in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the first quarter of 2010.

A recent company survey shows that in 2011, one-third of the largest industrial customers in Georgia expect increases in employment and 60 percent anticipate increases in production.

Kilowatt-hour sales to retail customers in Southern's four-state service area decreased 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the first quarter of 2010. Residential electricity sales decreased 12.6 percent, while commercial sales decreased 3.3 percent.

Total energy sales to Southern Co. customers in the Southeast, including wholesale sales, decreased 7.5 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared with 2010.

Total connections increase for Knology

Knology Inc., one of the Augusta area's Internet and cable service providers, today reported revenue for the first quarter of 2011 was $128 million, compared to revenue of $110 million for the same period one year ago.

Knology reported net income for the first quarter was $12.2 million, or 33 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $815,000, or 2 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2010.

Total connections increased 6,729 during the first quarter to 773,090 as of quarter end. This represents a 9.9 percent increase over a year ago.

Average monthly revenue per connection was $55.49, which represents an increase from $52.48 for the first quarter of 2010.

In February, the company entered into an agreement to acquire cable and broadband assets located in Fort Gordon and Troy, Ala., which is expected to close this summer.

Johnson & Johnson to acquire Synthes

GENEVA --- Health products giant Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it will buy U.S.-Swiss medical device maker Synthes Inc. for $21.3 billion, greatly increasing its share of the market for surgical trauma equipment and orthopedic implants.

J&J's largest ever deal will see the New Jersey-based company offer 159 Swiss francs in cash and stock for each Synthes share. That is a 22 percent premium on the April 14 share price, the day before reports first claimed Synthes was considering a takeover.

Synthes is based in West Chester, Pa., but has its global headquarters in Solothurn, Switzerland. Last year it had global sales of $3.69 billion, including $2.15 billion in North America.

"Orthopedics is a large and growing $37 billion global market and represents an important growth driver for Johnson & Johnson," CEO Bill Weldon said in a statement.

Starbucks is meeting its profit expectations

PORTLAND, ORE. --- Starbucks Corp. brewed up a strong second quarter but warned investors that rising costs for fuel and dairy are a bigger problem than it anticipated for the year.

The coffee giant's shares fell in after-hours trading Wednesday on the news.

Starbucks said its net income jumped 20 percent to $261.6 million, or 34 cents per share, for the quarter. That's up from $217.3 million, or 28 cents per share, earned in the same quarter last year.

Revenue rose nearly 10 percent to $2.79 billion, as it took over its consumer products business and more customers visited its stores.

The results met analyst's profit expectations and beat their $2.73 billion revenue estimate, according to FactSet.

Starbucks had a notable quarter as it expanded its single-cup coffee business, sold its ready-to-drink products in more places and took its packaged coffee business in-house from Kraft Foods Inc.


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Property tax increase OK'd

Augusta commissioners broke a seven-year trend Wednesday and agreed 7-0 to raise property taxes by 1.75 mills to cover a deficit and provide employees a small bonus.
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