In the Region Hewlett-Packard case is sent back to city...

BUSINESS DIGEST

May 09, 2001

In the Region

Hewlett-Packard case is sent back to city Circuit Court

A federal judge in Baltimore has sent back to state court a class-action lawsuit accusing computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co. of selling printers containing half-full ink cartridges.

U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson said in an opinion published yesterday that the claims should be heard in Baltimore City Circuit Court because the plaintiffs, led by consumer Molly Hamilton, limited their damage claims to less than $74,000.

Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, Calif., had argued that the case should be removed to federal court because the parties live in different states.

The company also asked Nickerson to dismiss the complaint. The judge did not address that motion.

RailWorks reports profit of 1 cent a share

RailWorks Corp. reported a first-quarter profit of $200,000, or 1 cent per share, beating forecasts and sending the Baltimore County company's stock up 28 cents, nearly 15 percent, yesterday to $2.17 per share.

The company's net income was down more than 91 percent from the $2.3 million it reported in first-quarter 2000. But the results were a marked improvement over the loss of 15 cents per share the company had forecast in March.

RailWorks, a rail construction and transportation services company, reported first-quarter revenue of $170.4 million, up 35.9 percent from the $125.4 million in first quarter of 2000. Company officials said they expect earnings of about 70 cents per share over the next three quarters.

Bankruptcy court OKs Grace financing

Columbia-based W. R. Grace & Co. said yesterday that is has received bankruptcy court approval to use a $250 million loan to pay debts and continue operations.

Grace announced April 2 that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because of a surge in asbestos-related injury claims. The company is among a number that have sought bankruptcy protection because of mounting asbestos claims.

Grace said the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., had approved the debtor-in-possession financing from Bank of America.

Columbia REIT forms a new group

Corporate Office Properties Trust announced yesterday that it has formed a new group to provide third parties with land planning, design, consulting and related services.

The Columbia-based real estate investment trust had been developing, buying and managing suburban office buildings for itself, but decided to use its experience and corporate relationships to create the new business, which will be called Corporate Office Services LLC.

Dwight S. Taylor, president of COPT's development company, will become president of the new services entity and will oversee day-to-day operations of both groups.

Southwest and union prepare to stop talks

Southwest Airlines Co. and the union representing 5,300 ground workers said they will ask to be released from negotiations if talks this week fail to produce an agreement by late Saturday.

A National Mediation Board decision to grant a release would trigger a 30-day "cooling-off" period required before the Transport Workers Union could strike. A walkout would be the first since 1980 at the low-fare airline, which is the largest carrier at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The airline and the TWU, which represents ramp workers, cleaners and other support staff, have been in talks since December 1999. The union rejected a proposal in December.

Fidelity and Deposit adopts Zurich brand name

Fidelity and Deposit Companies, a unit of Zurich North America, has adopted the Zurich brand name. F&D is now known as Zurich's Surety & Financial Enterprises unit.

The operating units within Baltimore-based Surety & Financial Enterprises are Zurich North America Surety, a contract and commercial bonding business; Zurich North America Financial Enterprises; and Zurich North America Mountbatten, an alternative contract bond business.

AstraZeneca signs with Gene Logic

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals said yesterday that it has signed a multiyear subscription to database services provided by Gaithersburg-based Gene Logic Inc. Terms were not disclosed.

The database contains gene expression data and other clinical information from a broad range of normal and diseased human tissues, as well as tissues from model animal systems and human and animal cell lines.

HealthExtras reports smaller quarterly loss

HealthExtras Inc., a Rockville company that sells disability and health insurance on the Internet, yesterday posted a smaller loss and sharply increased revenue for its first quarter, which ended March 31.

The company reported a loss of $2.9 million, or 10 cents a share, compared with a loss of $6.5 million, or 24 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2000, its first as a public company. HealthExtras also redesigned its Web site in March 2000 and acquired a pharmacy benefits company in November.

The changes were reflected in revenue more than four times as high as in the year-earlier quarter - $23.1 million, compared with $5.3 million.

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