Rombro Health Services Ltd., which began as a Baltimore...

Business Newswatch

March 05, 1992

Rombro Health Services Ltd., which began as a Baltimore corner drugstore and went on to carve out a multimillion-dollar niche selling pharmaceutical products to prisons, nursing homes and other health care institutions is being acquired by a New York company that provides medical supplies to nursing homes.

The combined company would be one of the nation's largest vendors of drugs and medical supplies in the long-term-care market with $60 million in annual sales, officials of the companies said.

Rombro Health Services is slated to merge with a subsidiary of Choice Drug Systems Inc. of Inwood, N.Y., which provides nursing homes with pharmacy-related products.

Federal stock market

Federal stock market regulators today approved the American Stock Exchange's plan to create a junior division of young, growing companies that don't yet qualify for listing on the exchange.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted unanimously to approve Amex's Emerging Company Marketplace for firms with between $2 million and $4 million in assets.

Amex officials plan to begin trading in the junior varsity companies on March 18.

Between 15 and 20 companies plan to list their stock with the Emerging Company Marketplace on the first day of trading. Amex officials expect that number to grow to about 50 by year's end.

Amex says the second tier will give smaller companies better access to raising money through the stock markets while they are still growing and most in need of cash.

Fujitsu Ltd.,

Fujitsu Ltd., which dominates foreign supercomputer sales, says it will try to sell high-performance machines in the U.S. market where the Japanese company has failed before.

Fujitsu ranks fourth in the world in building supercomputers, the most powerful high performance machines, according to Dataquest Inc., a market research company in San Jose.

But the U.S. market will be difficult to crack for the company, both because of heavy competition from top U.S. supercomputer makers such as Cray Research Inc., and because of a wave of Japan-bashing sweeping the nation.

The number

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to 437,000 in the week ending Feb. 22, the first decline in three weeks, the government said today.

The Labor Department said new claims for jobless benefits declined by 21,000 from the 458,000 level in the previous week, putting them at their lowest level since late January.

The average edged down to 445,250 in the latest period, from 448,500 for the four-week stretch ending one week earlier.

Trans World Airlines

Trans World Airlines txt announced yesterday that it won't join an industrywide move to increase discount fares by 2 percent, raising some doubt about the ability of other carriers to make the increase stick. TWA was the last of the large carriers to say whether it would follow the move by United, American, Delta and others to raise discount fares, a broad category of tickets purchased in advance.

In a separate announcement, American said it would offer a discount on travel to Europe this spring and summer that would save travelers as much as 33 percent.

Lykes Bros. Steamship

Lykes Bros. Steamship Co. Inc. inaugurated service connecting Baltimore and Africa yesterday with the loading of the Doctor Lykes in Baltimore. The ship is one of two chartered vessels Lykes Lines will initially operate on the African service.

They will run in conjunction with seven ships that SafBank Line Ltd. operates on the route, permitting the two lines to offer service every nine days. Lykes hopes to add two more ships to the African service eventually.

The route will include U.S. ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and ports in South and East Africa. Lykes is based in New Orleans.

A leading bond-rating

A leading bond-rating agency lowered its opinion of $18 billion in IBM's long-term debt yesterday, the second such downgrade in history for the world's biggest computer maker.

The move by Moody's Investors Service reflected growing concern over the ability of International Business Machines Corp. to compete and profit in light of its recently announced restructuring and the industry's slump.

Although IBM's debt ratings remain among the highest of any corporation, the Moody's downgrade was a symbolic blow to a company that is considered one of the most financially sound in the country.

IBM said in a statement that it was disappointed by the Moody's downgrade but that the impact on the company's worldwide financing requirements would be minimal.

Seeking to crack Japan'

Seeking to crack Japan's auto market, General Motors Corp. unleashed a blunt new advertising campaign yesterday that implores consumers to compare GM and Japanese cars in size, price and performance. It was the first time a U.S. automaker had used such a direct advertising approach in Japan, where U.S. cars are viewed by many as shoddily built gas-guzzlers.

"Please compare Cadillac Seville's fuel cost with that of Infiniti's Q-45," says a full-page display in four major Japanese newspapers.

The Philippine government

The Philippine government agreed yesterday to settle its bribery suit against Westinghouse Electric Corp. over a disputed nuclear power plant in a deal that will give the country hundreds of millions of dollars.

The complex agreement calls for Westinghouse to pay $100 million to the Philippines. But the Pittsburgh-based company also will make money by being allowed to operate the nuclear power plant it built outside Manila.

The settlement was reached during negotiations one day before a jury trial was to begin in Newark federal court.

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