In the Region Tax software sites on Web to be made...

BUSINESS DIGEST

April 20, 2000

In the Region

Tax software sites on Web to be made available to the blind

The National Federation of the Blind, based in Baltimore, and the Connecticut attorney general said yesterday that four tax software publishers will make their Web sites more accessible to the blind.

The NFB and Connecticut had contacted the makers of the electronic filing programs after finding that their Web sites were inaccessible to blind customers this tax season, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the NFB, said the agreements are with HDVest, Intuit, H&R Block, and Gilman & Ciocia. The Web sites are hdvest.com, turbotax.com, e1040.com, hrblock.com and taxcut.com.

Earthshell readies biodegradable bowls

Baltimore's EarthShell Corp. said yesterday that the first manufacturing line for its new biodegradable bowls will be delivered to Sweetheart Cup Co.'s plant in Owings Mills this month.

The two companies have a joint venture to manufacture biodegradable Big Mac containers for McDonald's, and the new product represents an expansion of their future production.

Sweetheart also will install equipment to make EarthShell plates, cups and hinged-lid containers typically used for carryout orders at restaurants.

Metro Food CEO to join tech company

John D. Ryder, founder, president and chief executive of Metro Food Markets, said yesterday that he will become president and chief operating officer of an Annapolis-based high-resolution imaging company.

Ryder will join AXS Technologies on May 1. The company uses its imaging technology in e-commerce, allowing consumers to more clearly see the details of goods they are purchasing over the Internet. AXS is part of HPI Holdings in Nyon, Switzerland.

On Tuesday, Supervalu Inc., the parent of Metro Food Markets and Shoppers' Food Warehouse, announced that it will consolidate the administrative functions of the two chains under the leadership of Bill White, current president of Shoppers Food Warehouse.

Magellan Health unit buys companies in West

National MENTOR, a subsidiary of Columbia-based Magellan Health Services Inc., announced yesterday the acquisition of a home care provider in California and a rehabilitation services provider in New Mexico. Terms were not disclosed.

The companies have combined annual revenue of $2.6 million. Boston-based MENTOR, which provides community services such as therapeutic foster care and group home placements, has annual revenue of about $225 million. It has acquired 14 companies since 1998.

Magellan, which derives most of its revenue from providing mental health services to more than 60 million Americans, has said it might sell MENTOR.

AmericasDoctor.com gets $33 million in financing

AmericasDoctor.com, with corporate offices in Owings Mills and in Illinois, yesterday announced $33.5 million in new financing from half a dozen venture capital groups.

The company provides health information and 24-hour live Internet consultations with doctors through its own Web site and through America Online.

A key component of its business plan is to recruit patients for clinical trials of new drugs and therapies.

Elsewhere

SBC Communications,

Cisco to collaborate to increase sales

SBC Communications Inc., the No. 1 U.S. local-phone company, and Cisco Systems Inc., the top maker of computer-networking equipment, said yesterday that they'll work together to increase sales to small and medium businesses.

The two companies will share research and development and sell each other's products under the nonexclusive, 21-month, multibillion-dollar alliance.

The plan involves deploying Cisco equipment in SBC's "backbone" network for the first time. That part of the network carries large volumes of data over long distances.

Top pension plan raises premium to HMOs

In a decision closely watched by U.S. employers, the nation's largest public pension plan approved yesterday an average 4.9 percent premium increase for health maintenance organizations for next year, but put a planned increase in co-payments on hold.

The pension plan, the California Public Employee's Retirement System (CalPERS), is the second-largest U.S. public purchaser of employee health benefits after the federal government, and the largest in California.

The pharmacy benefit co-payment was slated to double to $10 for name-brand drugs, with generic drugs unchanged at $5. Office visit co-pays were to rise to $10 from $5 a visit.

Without those extra co-payments, the premiums would rise by an average 8.6 percent.

DaimlerChrysler reports 3 percent earnings rise

DaimlerChrysler AG surpassed Wall Street expectations yesterday with a 3 percent increase in first-quarter earnings, reporting an increase in overall net income to 1.69 billion euros ($1.62 billion), or 1.69 euros ($1.62) a share, compared with 1.64 billion euros ($1.6 billion), or 1.64 euros ($1.57) a share, a year earlier.

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