In the Region Sodexho could lose food service contract...

BUSINESS DIGEST

September 08, 2001

In the Region

Sodexho could lose food service contract with Marine Corps

Sodexho Inc. of Gaithersburg may lose an $850 million food services deal with the Marine Corps in March after several competitors complained about the bidding process to Congress' investigative arm.

The General Accounting Office recommended last month that the Corps should reopen discussions with other companies that pursued the contract and request revised proposals, said David Ashen, a GAO attorney. Two companies had complained that Sodexho's lower bid was not realistic for the level of food quality and service it was expected to meet.

The contract, -- one of the largest in Sodexho's history, to operate 55 mess halls in the United States -- may be terminated if the Corps finds after further evaluation that the company's bid falls short, according to a Marine Corps spokesman.

Upper Chesapeake nurses reject union on 384-99 vote

Nurses at Upper Chesapeake Health System rejected union representation by a margin of nearly 4 to 1 in balloting Thursday. According to the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, which supervised the election, 99 nurses voted to be represented by the Professional Staff Nurses' Association, a local of the Service Employees International Union, and 384 voted against the union.

Lyle E. Sheldon, president and chief executive officer of the health system, said he was pleased with the vote. Upper Chesapeake owns the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and Harford Memorial Hospital.

T. Rowe Price hires new independent auditor

T. Rowe Price Group Inc. has hired KPMG LLP as its independent accountant, replacing Price waterhouseCoopers LLP, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP will continue to audit the books of Price's mutual funds, the filing said. Directors wanted audits of the corporation and the mutual funds done by different accounting firms.

"It is not a reflection on Price waterhouseCoopers, and it doesn't reflect any problems with our accounting; it is just a policy decision," said Steven E. Norwitz, a spokesman for the Baltimore-based mutual fund company.

Elsewhere

Verizon increasing pay phone calls from 35 cents to 50 cents

Verizon Communications Inc. is raising the price of a local pay phone call from 35 cents to 50 cents.

New York-based Verizon, which serves 33 states, including Maryland, said it has begun converting its 430,000 pay phones to the new price, a process that will take several months. In some states, such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and West Virginia, the increase may not take effect until next year, Verizon said.

The telecommunications giant said it also will increase the price of local directory assistance dialed from pay phones to 50 cents, up from 35 cents in most areas.

Verizon said the use of pay phones has declined 23 percent in the last two years due to the popularity of cell phones, cutting into profits. Pay phone operators Qwest Communications and SBC Communications raised the prices of local calls to 50 cents this summer.

AMR now projecting an even larger loss

AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines, said yesterday that it expects a considerably larger loss in the third quarter because of the weak economy and higher costs for labor and fuel.

Wall Street analysts were expecting AMR Corp. to lose 39 cents per share in the third quarter. But AMR said the loss would be much wider than even its loss of 68 cents per share in the second quarter.

American also said it would further cut capacity in its fleet to counter weakening demand for air travel.

This column was compiled from reports by Sun staff writers, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Reuters.

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