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Halloween freebies

Tags: .biz

Here's a heads up on a couple of Halloween freebies that you could collect tomorrow (along with your candy, of course).

*Taco Bell stores will be giving away free Black Jack tacos from 6 p.m to midnight.

Donuts stores will be giving away a free doughnut to any child age 12 and under who comes to a participating store dressed in a costume (click Read More below for the list of stores). From noon to 6 p.m.

*And Chapel Hill Comics will give people who come to the store in costume a free comic. Warning: part of the deal is that they get to take your picture for their Web site, so think carefully when selecting your costume. The comic selection includes Popeye, Betty, Star Wars, Casper and Little Lulu. The store will close at 6 p.m.

IBM replaces Moffat, executive charged in insider-trading case

IBM has replaced Robert Moffat, the executive charged in the Galleon Group insider-trading case, Bloomberg News reported.

Rod Adkins will take Moffat's spot as head of the mainframe, server and storage-device businesses, IBM spokesman Edward Barbini told Bloomberg. He declined to comment further on Moffat's departure.

Moffat's 31-year career with IBM included running the New York company's personal-computer division in Research Triangle Park earlier this decide. He also helped sell that unit to Lenovo.

Moffat, 53, was put on temporary leave on Oct. 19. He previously was considered a potential successor to CEO Sam Palmisano. Moffat's lawyer has said that he wasn't aware of the insider trading mentioned in the criminal complaint, nor did he financially benefit from the alleged activity.

Adkins, 51, has been at IBM since 1981.

Read the full Bloomberg story here.

Raleigh Trader Joe's draws big crowds

Eager shoppers packed the new Raleigh Trader Joe’s this morning, snapping up cheap produce, cheese, snacks and — of course — cheap wine.

An hour after opening, checkout lines were 10 or 15 people deep.

But unlike the last two Triangle Trader Joe’s openings, there was a little less of the fanatical frenzy that fans have come to expect.

As of 8:30 a.m., just half an hour before the 9 a.m. opening, there was just one person in line: Karen Zander.

The Durham resident works near the Raleigh Trader Joe’s and said she’s drawn by the friendly workers, good prices and high-quality products.

“I took an hour off of work,” she confided. “My co-workers laughed and said it was typically me.”

Another sign of recovery? Taylor Swift tickets sell out

The recession apparently hasn't trickled down to pre-teen girls and other fans of Taylor Swift.

The country singer's May 1 show at the RBC Center in Raleigh sold out within 30 minutes of tickets going on sale at 10 a.m. today, except for a few scattered single tickets.

Of course, tickets really went on sale earlier this week at Taylor Swift's Web site, so this morning's "official" start at Ticketmaster and the RBC Center box office was mostly for older folks who didn't know any better.

Mainline Contracting to sell assets under Ch. 7 bankruptcy

Durham-based Mainline Contracting has ceased operations and converted its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing to a Chapter 7 filing.

The change, announced at a bankruptcy court hearing on Oct. 15, means the company’s assets will be sold to pay off creditors.

The move concludes a rapid fall for Mainline, which ranked 1,156 on Inc. Magazine's 2009 list of the nation's 5,000 fastest-growing companies.

The magazine listed the company as having 385 employees and revenue of $73.6 million. Attempts to reach the company’s president, Randy Garrett, were unsuccessful this morning.

Investors Title reports uptick in profits

Tags: .biz

Investors Title reported an uptick in profits in the third quarter despite lower revenue.

The Chapel Hill company announced this morning that it made a profit of $969,043 in the latest quarter, or 42 cents per share, up 5.7 percent from a year earlier.

Revenue totaled $16.4 million, down from $17.6 million.

Cost-containment efforts and lower payroll expenses enabled the higher profit, according to the company.

"We've done every efficiency we can think of," said Chairman J. Allen Fine.

Investors Title  provides title insurance, which protects against losses arising from ownership disputes. That business depends somewhat on the health of the housing market because many lenders require homeowners to obtain title insurance. The company also manages investments for individuals and businesses.

Four Oaks Bank posts a loss

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The corporate parent of Four Oaks Bank & Trust today reported a third-quarter loss of $547,000.

The quarterly loss, which amounts to eight cents per share, compares to a year-ago profit of $1.4 million a year ago.

The Johnston County-based bank attributed the loss to a hike in its provision for loan losses due to an increase in problem loans. The provision was $10.5 million as of Sept. 30, up from $1.6 million.

That increase obscured several improving fundamentals, including a 13 percent increase in net interest income compared to a year ago, and has risen in each of the last three quarters, CEO Ayden R. Lee Jr. said in a prepared statement.

Progress Energy reports strong third quarter

Despite weak electricity sales, Progress Energy beat analyst expectations for the third quarter as the power company emerges from a prolonged recession. The third quarter is traditionally the company’s most important, accounting for about 40 percent of annual energy sales.

The Raleigh electric utility this morning reported ongoing earnings of $1.22 per share, ahead of analyst expectations of $1.19 per share. For the same three-month period a year ago, at the height of the recession, Progress had reported $1.17 in per share earnings.

The company said it overcame weak usage by aggressive cost cutting throughout its service area in the Carolinas and Florida. Additionally, in Florida Progress benefited from rate increases and early cost-recovery for nuclear plants under development.

"Against the backdrop of the ongoing economic recession, our company performed well operationally and financially during the third quarter," said CEO Bill Johnson, in a prepared statement.

WakeMed exploring partnership with private outpatient chain

Wake County's largest hospital system is exploring a potential partnership with a private company that runs a chain of outpatient surgery centers across the country.

WakeMed's discussions with Surgical Care Affiliates could lead to various collaborations, including SCA managing WakeMed's three outpatient facilities in Raleigh and Cary.

Another possibility would involve WakeMed buying a majority stake in SCA's only local facility, the Blue Ridge Surgery Center just down the street from rival Rex Healthcare.

The two organizations expect to decide on an agreement by the end of February. WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson said hospital officials have talked with Birmingham, Ala.-based SCA for several years about joining forces.

Tapping SCA's experience will help as Wake County's population continues to grow and WakeMed looks at adding more outpatient centers, Atkinson said. Demand for such centers, which are seen as a way to control medical costs compared with inpatient hospitals, could increase with a reformed health-care system.

IBM says no to deductibles

Tags: .biz

IBM is eliminating co-pays and deductibles for most of its U.S. employees as of next year.

The computer-services giant, which has about 10,000 employees in RTP, said today it will provide 100 percent coverage for primary health care. That means no co-pays or deductibles for visits to in-network physicians such as internists, family practitioners and pediatricians.

IBM's new policy goes against a trend in which employers have been raising co-pays and deductibles as a way of getting employees to self-ration health care expenses.

But IBM is betting that its new policy, which takes effect in 2010, will get employees to make more frequent visits to the doctor's office, getting treatment for illnesses before they become more serious.

IBM said its $79 million investment in wellness programs between 2004 and 2007 has yielded about $191 million in savings in health-related costs.

The new policy, which takes effect in 2010, applies to about 80 percent of IBM's U.S. employees. The remainder are covered by HMOs, which typically provide primary care at no cost beyond premium payments.