United Community Banks raises dividend 11 percent

United Community Banks Inc. announced Tuesday it is raising its quarterly dividend by 11 percent to 10 cents per share, payable Oct. 5 to shareholders of record on Sept. 15.

The Blairsville, Ga.-based banking firm, which has grown to more than $11.2 billion in assets, has boosted its profits by more than 10 percent in each of the past 12 quarters and the new dividend payment is up 25 percent from a year ago. In the spring quarter, United Community boosted its operating net income to $29.4 million, or 41 cents per share, up from $26 million, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier.

United Community Banks last week also completed its previously announced purchase of the Horry County State Bank in Myrtle Beach., S.C., and expects to complete its purchase of Four Oaks Bank & Trust Co. in Raleigh, N.C., in the fourth quarter.

"I am extremely pleased with our bankers' very successful execution of our financial and strategic initiatives that led to our twelfth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth in diluted operating earnings per share," said Jimmy Tallent, chairman and chief executive officer.

United Community Bank operates 142 offices in North Georgia, East Tennessee and the Carolinas.


Whistleblower sues Southern over firing

A fired engineer at a now-aborted Mississippi Power Co. plant sued the utility's parent company Tuesday, saying an order to reinstate him is being ignored.

Brett Wingo of Homewood, Ala., filed the whistleblower retaliation case in federal court in Birmingham, Ala. Wingo says in the suit that he tried to tell executives with Atlanta-based Southern Co. that construction at the Kemper County power plant wouldn't meet deadlines promised to investors. Wingo says he raised concerns with executives as high as CEO Tom Fanning before he was fired, and describes that firing as retaliation.

Spokespersons for Southern didn't immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

The suit says Wingo sought to report safety concerns and unrealistic construction schedules internally, but was ignored and then was warned that he was "digging a hole" for his career.

Wingo complained to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which ruled in January that Southern should rehire Wingo and pay back wages and benefits, but Southern has yet to act on that order.


Wisconsin tax breaks costly to win Foxconn

It would take at least 25 years for Wisconsin taxpayers to break even on Gov. Scott Walker's incentives to lure Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn to the state, according to a fiscal analysis released Tuesday.

Walker's bill would exempt construction materials from the state and local sales tax and hand the company up to $2.85 billion in tax credits based on the number of jobs generated. It also would exempt the company from a host of environmental regulations and borrow $252 million to rebuild Interstate 94 near the plant site.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau's analysis of the bill found that Walker's administration found the cost of the tax credits would exceed potential increased tax revenues by $1.04 billion at the end of fiscal year 2032-33. After that year, payments to Foxconn would end and increased tax collections would ring in at about $115 million annually. At that rate, the break-even point would come during the 2042-43 fiscal year.


Michigan seeks Foxconn plant

Gov. Rick Snyder expressed optimism that Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group will open a facility in Michigan, but he said the specifics remain uncertain and it could be a few months before any potential deal takes shape.

Snyder said there is a "strong possibility" for Foxconn to still locate in the state after the company in recent weeks picked neighboring Wisconsin for a $10 billion display panel plant with 3,000 employees that could grow to 13,000.

Snyder said the Chinese company is highly advanced in tooling, machinery and robotics similar to Michigan but does not yet have much of a U.S. presence in those sectors.

"We had very healthy, very good discussions about Michigan's strengths and how it could be very good for Foxconn to be present in Michigan in some fashion. What it is has yet to be determined," he said.


Airlines bumping fewer passengers

Following widespread outrage over a passenger who was violently dragged off an overbooked plane, U.S. airlines are bumping customers at the lowest rate in at least two decades.

The Transportation Department said Tuesday that just one in every 19,000 passengers was kicked off an overbooked flight in the first six months of this year.

That's the lowest rate since the government started keeping track in 1995.

The biggest decline took place between April and June, partly because airlines began paying many more passengers to give up their seats.

Airlines have routinely overbooked flights for years in the expectation that some passengers won't show up. When a flight is overbooked, airlines typically offer travel vouchers to encourage a few passengers to take a later flight.