In the Region Washington Gas to enter retail electric...

BUSINESS DIGEST

April 13, 2000

In the Region

Washington Gas to enter retail electric power market in July

Washington Gas Energy Services, an unregulated affiliate of Washington Gas Light Co., has announced an alliance with an Atlanta company to help WGES enter Maryland's deregulated electric market in July.

Southern Company Energy Marketing will provide wholesale power supply to WGES. Southern Company Energy Marketing is owned by Southern Energy Inc. -- the largest producer of electricity in the U.S. -- and Vastar Resources Inc.

WGES serves more than 115,000 customers in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Washington Gas Light Co. has 350,000 gas customers in the Maryland suburbs of Washington.

Provident chairman urges stockholders to defeat sale

Provident Bankshares Corp. said yesterday that an independent shareholder services firm is recommending that stockholders vote against a proposal by a dissident shareholder to sell the company.

Peter M. Martin, chairman of Baltimore-based Provident, urged shareholders to follow Institutional Shareholder Services' recommendation.

Provident, which has 85 branches and $5.1 billion in assets, has been under attack by Mid-Atlantic Investors, a Columbia, S.C.-based firm that owns 5.4 percent of the banking company's stock. Its executives contend that investors are suffering because of Provident's poorly performing stock, and that the company should be more profitable.

Adventist HealthCare appoints new CEO

Adventist HealthCare named William G. Robertson president and chief executive officer yesterday. He is CEO of Shawnee Mission Medical Center, a hospital system in the Kansas City, Kan., suburbs.

Adventist HealthCare operates Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park and several nursing homes and other health services in the region.

Shady Grove had its accreditation status downgraded by the private Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and was sharply criticized by state health inspectors last fall after doctors complained about medical errors and other problems there. Several executives left the system in the wake of the reports.

Elsewhere

Railroads ask court to allow proposed merger to go forward

Canadian National Railway is asking a federal court to prevent regulators from derailing its planned merger with Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

The Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, in March imposed a 15-month moratorium on railroad mergers while it studies the problems that resulted from combinations in the 1990s and rewrites its merger rules. That step blocked the pending merger between Canadian National and Burlington Northern, and the board last week rejected their request for an exemption. Canadian National said yesterday that it has filed a motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeking a stay in the moratorium. BNSF also has filed for a stay.

Struggling Tyson Foods replaces chief executive

Tyson Foods Inc. said Chief Executive Officer Wayne Britt stepped down yesterday as head of the nation's top chicken producer and was replaced by Chairman John Tyson, grandson of the company's founder.

Britt, 50, held the top job at the Springdale, Ark.-based company for 1 1/2 years, during which Tyson's stock plunged 50 percent. Like other U.S. chicken producers, Tyson was hurt by a poultry glut and low prices.

AmeriServe to cut jobs after loss of Burger King

AmeriServe Food Distribution Inc. said yesterday that it will lose its account with 5,800 Burger King restaurants, costing the bankrupt company $2.2 billion of its $6.2 billion in annual revenue and prompting Chief Executive Officer Ronald Rittenmeyer to say the company would lay off 1,400 to 1,600 of its 6,000 employees.

Acquisitions left the company with a heavy debt load, causing it to miss payments to suppliers, which in turn resulted in spot shortages of its food and paper products at some restaurants. The troubles prompted several customers, including some Burger King franchisees, to switch to other distributors.

Rittenmeyer said AmeriServe, which filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors Jan. 31, is considering whether it wants to continue as a stand-alone company, find a merger partner or sell some of its assets.

Qwest settles lawsuit on long-distance slamming

Long-distance phone carrier Qwest Communications International Inc. reached a settlement yesterday with the Arizona attorney general's office over a lawsuit contending the company changed people's long distance service without their consent.

The settlement was filed the same day that the "slamming" lawsuit was filed. The suit accused Qwest of such things as submitting false change orders to local phone companies and continuing to bill customers who had deactivated service.

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