New Walmart in Vail opens this morning

The Tucson area’s newest Walmart opens today at 9260 S. Houghton Road, with a grand opening ceremony at 7:30 a.m.

The store, with grocery, pharmacy and general merchandise products, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The store will employ about 200 full- and part-time associates.

Store manager Lee Johnson began his Walmart career in 2002 as an hourly associate in the dairy department.

The celebration will include presentations of $6,000 in grants from Walmart to local community groups.

Ventana extends pact with Bayer

Oro Valley-based Ventana Medical Systems Inc. has entered into a multi-year agreement with Bayer Pharma AG to develop so-called companion diagnostics, with a focus on immunohistochemistry across Bayer’s portfolio of targeted drugs.

The new agreement extends a collaboration Ventana and Bayer launched in 2102 and focuses on the development of diagnostic tests for Bayer’s biomarker targeted therapeutics, the companies said Tuesday.

Ventana, a member of the Roche Group, makes a line of instruments for use in immunohistochemistry, which involves detecting certain proteins that bind specifically to antigens present in biological tissues.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Ventana will devote an expert team exclusively to work on development of companion diagnostic tests for targeted Bayer therapies. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


Utility tax pass-through approved

The Arizona Corporation Commission approved new rates for several small water companies on Tuesday, including an order allowing Sahuarita Water Co. to recover the income taxes of its shareholders through its rates.

The Corporation Commission voted last year to allow small utilities that are ‘S’ corporations or other so-called pass-through entities to include the personal income taxes of their owners in rates.

The change will raise the monthly bill for the average Sahuarita Water customer by $2.26 per month or about 7 percent, to an average $33.74 monthly. The company serves about 4,500 customers.


2 key senators agree on Fannie phase-out

WASHINGTON — A plan to phase out government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and instead use mainly private insurers to backstop home loans has advanced in Congress.

The agreement by two key senators and a White House endorsement sent shares of Fannie and Freddie sinking Tuesday. Fannie stock fell $1.79, or more than 30 percent, to $4.03. Freddie dropped $1.48, or 26.8 percent, to $4.04.

The plan — by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Banking Committee, and Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, its senior Republican — would create a new government insurance fund. Investors would pay fees in exchange for insurance on mortgage securities they buy. The government would become a last-resort loan guarantor.

Stock buybacks boost
US equities markets

NEW YORK — If you’re puzzled why the U.S. stock market has risen so fast in a slow-growing economy, consider the stock buyback.

Companies are increasingly engaged in massive stock buyback programs, which reduce the number of its shares in circulation by purchasing them from investors. Spreading earnings over fewer shares translates into higher earnings per share.

It’s a common practice but is one that has exaggerated the health of many companies. Critics say the obsessive focus on buybacks has led companies to put off replacing plants and equipment, funding research and development, and generally doing the kind of spending needed to produce long-term profits.

A bid of $1.8 billion
suits Jos. A. Bank fine

NEW YORK — It looks like the best suitor won.

Men’s Wearhouse Inc. said Tuesday that it’s buying its rival Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. for $1.8 billion to create the nation’s fourth-largest menswear retail chain. The acquisition comes after months of the two chains publicly fighting over who would acquire whom.

The company will pay $65 a share, a 5 percent premium to Jos. A. Bank’s Monday closing price of $61.83.

Labor wants more 401(k) fee disclosures

WASHINGTON — The Labor Department wants financial services companies that administer 401(k) retirement plans to do a better job explaining just what fees and expenses are attached to those plans.

The rule would update one from 2012. Officials say many disclosure forms offered since then have become too lengthy, complex and confusing.

The department says employers who offer such plans need a better “road map” of embedded charges and fees.


China picks owners for 5 private banks

BEIJING — Ten companies have been picked to invest in China’s first five privately owned banks, the industry’s chief regulator said Tuesday.

The banks, part of sweeping reform plans announced last year, will be expected to operate independently and according to market principles.

Regulators announced last year that Beijing would allow the creation of privately financed banks as part of efforts to make the economy more productive by giving market forces a bigger role.

An overhaul of the state-dominated financial system is expected to be the core of what the ruling Communist Party bills as the most ambitious economic changes since the launch of market-style reform in 1979.

S. Korea, Canada reach trade agreement

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea and Canada reached a free-trade agreement Tuesday that the two hope will boost exports and investment.

After more than nine years of negotiations, the two countries said they would remove tariffs on most goods within a decade of the pact taking effect.

Canada agreed to eliminate tariffs on South Korean autos within two years of the deal being ratified. South Korea will reduce tariffs on Canadian beef over 15 years.

Staff and wire reports