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In the news, Duke settles with regulators, Zynga drops and more special dividends

Making headlines this morning, Duke Energy's CEO will step down as part of a settlement with regulators, Zynga is losing ground after changing its deal with Facebook, St. Jude Medical will repurchase up to $1 billion of its shares and more companies declare special dividends to get cash back to shareholders ahead of the Fiscal Cliff.

Duke Energy
Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy (DUK), will step down as the head of the company by the end of 2013 as part of a settlement with North Carolina's utilities regulator. The settlement stems from an investigation into the company's takeover of Progress Energy. Progress's CEO, Bill Johnson, was ousted from the combined company hours after the deal was closed, despite previous announcements that Johnson would lead the combined company.  This seeming bait and switch attracted the interest of regulators who had approved the deal based on the understanding that Johnson would stay on after the close of the deal.

United Parcel Service
In other merger news, United Parcel Service (UPS) has offered some concessions to European Union regulators in hopes of getting its $6.8 million takeover of Netherlands-based TNT Express approved. The company said the deal involves the sale of some business activities and assets in the small-package delivery sector as well as “granting access to air capabilities.” Regulators have expressed concern the deal would limit competition in the sector.

The privately held home-improvement retailer announced plans to hire 50 workers at its Eau Claire, Wis. home base and then fly them to a store in Minot, N.D. The Minot store is close to the area where the state has experienced an oil boom and the company has had a hard time filling job openings.

The online game maker fell sharply in after hours trading after Facebook (FB) announced Thursday that it changed the terms of its partnership with Zynga (ZNGA). Under the terms of the new deal Zynga will no longer be required to display Facebook ads or use Facebook payments for games on its own site, while Facebook will be allowed to develop its own games.

St. Jude Medical
The medical device maker's board approved the repurchase of up to $1 billion shares of the company's stock. St. Jude' stock fell last week after regulators in the U.S. criticized the way a wire that connects one of the company's defibrillators to the heart is manufactured and tested.

More Dividends Declared to Avoid Tax Hike

J&J Snack Foods
J&J Snack Foods (JJSF) is raising its quarterly dividend to $0.16 per share from $0.13 per share. The company will also make its next payment on Dec. 27 as opposed to in January to avoid having the payout taxed at a higher rate.

Add Tellabs (TLAB) to the list of companies paying special dividends as  way to return some cash to shareholders ahead of a tax increase on dividend scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013. The company will pay $1 per share on Dec. 21 to holders of record as of Dec. 14.

Regal Entertainment Group
Regal Entertainment Group (RGC) also declared a special dividend of $1 per share payable on Dec. 27 to holders of record as of Dec. 11. That comes in addition to the previously announced payment of 21 cents per share on Dec. 14 to holders of record as of Dec. 5.



Bobby Raines

Bobby Raines is the Managing Editor of the Market Intelligence Center. He has degrees in Mass Communications and History from Emory & Henry College. Bobby worked at a mid-sized daily newspaper before making a switch to covering the financial industry full time in the years leading up to the financial crisis. He has been a member of the Fresh Brewed Media team since 2011 and has served as a writer and analyst. You can write to him at braines@marketintelligencecenter.com or follow him on Twitter: @BRatMICenter.