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Top News Links: Friday, Dec. 12

Hagel move ensures Austal’s LCS work

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday backed a Navy recommendation to design a new ship based on an upgraded version of the littoral combat ship, a decision that would ensure continued production at Mobile's Austal USA shipyard. Hagel earlier this year ordered a comprehensive review of the LCS program after concerns arose about the small, swift vessel's firepower and ability to withstand enemy attack. – AL.com

Renasant, Heritage merge in $258M deal

Renasant Corp. and Heritage Financial Group jointly announced a definitive merger agreement wherein the former will acquire the latter in an all-stock deal worth approximately $258 million. Renasant, parent company of Renasant Bank and Renasant Insurance, has over 120 banking, mortgage, financial services and insurance offices spread across Alabama and other Southern states. – Zacks

Hexpol to slash 61 jobs in Shoals

The Shoals was hit with another layoff this week. Swedish company Hexpol issued a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notice Monday stating it will lay off 61 workers at Robbins LLC's rubber compound mixing plant on 3415 Thompson St. in Muscle Shoals. – AL.com

Maybe the South just has more pain

Opiate medications — such as codeine, morphine and OxyContin — are controversial because, while often prescribed to treat pain, they are extremely addictive and frequently overused. The most ardent users of opioid drugs, according to a new survey, were concentrated in four states: Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas. – Vox.com

UM’s Steve Lee honored for his service

Steve Lee, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer at the University of Mobile, was awarded the Meritorious Service Award by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges during its annual meeting Dec. 6-9 in Nashville, TN. – News release

BancorpSouth announces stock repurchase

BancorpSouth Inc. announced Thursday a stock repurchase program through Nov. 30, 2016 to purchase up to an aggregate of 6% or 5,764,000 shares of BancorpSouth's outstanding common stock, par value $2.50 per share.  BancorpSouth has approximately $13.1 billion in total assets. – Money/CNN

BioCryst price target decreased in report

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals had its price target decreased by JP Morgan Chase & Co. from $20.00 to $18.00 in a research report sent to investors on Tuesday morning. The firm currently has an overweight rating on the stock. – WKRB13

Road officials agree to wait on Eufaula

Alabama officials have agreed to delay a highway widening project through Eufaula's historic district through the end of the year while a federal judge considers a suit filed by Eufaula officials trying to stop the project. – AP/TimesUnion

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