In the Region Port and channel dredging projects gain...

BUSINESS DIGEST

November 02, 2001

In the Region

Port and channel dredging projects gain in Washington

A House-Senate conference committee has approved an appropriations bill that includes $50 million for various maintenance dredging projects in the port of Baltimore and adjacent shipping channels.

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill for fiscal 2002 includes $8 million to widen and deepen anchorages, dredge new branch channels and dredge a ship turning basin within Baltimore Harbor, said Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrats. Port officials had lobbied for the harbor-improvement projects, which are still under study.

Most of the money is to be spent for routine maintenance on shipping channels leading to the port of Baltimore and to continue development of Poplar Island, a disposal site for dredge material.

First USA closing 2 sites in Pennsylvania, Arizona

First USA Bank of Wilmington, Del., is closing two sites and cutting some jobs to trim costs, company officials said yesterday.

The credit card bank's president, Philip Heasley, told workers that the bank's King of Prussia, Pa., technology office and its Tempe, Ariz., site would be closed. Some of the 35 King of Prussia workers will be offered jobs in Wilmington, where First USA employs 3,000 people.

Some of the 750 Tempe workers will be absorbed at parent Bank One Corp.'s Arizona offices. First USA also is eliminating 50 information-technology jobs.

Spherix earnings and revenue surge

Spherix Inc. said yesterday that its third-quarter earnings more than tripled as its revenue grew 54 percent.

The Beltsville-based operator of call centers, which also is developing the low-calorie sweetener Tagatose, said earnings increased to $1.4 million, or 13 cents a share, from $438,390, or 4 cents a share, in last year's third quarter.

Chief Financial Officer Richard Levin said revenue increased to $6.8 million from $4.4 million in the 2000 quarter as the company signed up more customers and did more business with existing ones.

Eisner ad boutique doubles in size

Eisner Underground, a national advertising boutique created earlier this year as a division of Eisner Communications Inc., has doubled in size by increasing its billings by $5 million.

The new business makes Baltimore-based Eisner Underground a $10 million agency.

In May, Eisner announced the acquisition of Underground Advertising and the plan to build it into a $30 million operation by 2005.

Elsewhere

Continental adding $10 surcharge on many paper tickets

In its latest effort to rein in distribution costs, Continental Airlines said yesterday that it will charge some passengers who insist on paper airline tickets a $10 surcharge.

The carrier said it will add the fee for paper tickets purchased from Continental ticket outlets. The surcharge will offset processing costs and encourage passengers to choose electronic tickets when they can.

The fee will apply to paper tickets purchased from the airline's Web site, Continental reservations centers, city ticket offices and airport ticket offices. The additional cost won't be added to tickets issued for groups, government-contracted fares or by travel agents.

Northrop cancels cruise ship project

Northrop Grumman yesterday canceled a project to build two cruise ships, saying financial woes from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had made it impossible to complete the billion-dollar effort.

The first vessel at the company's Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., is about 40 percent complete.

The Los Angeles-based defense contractor suspended work last week on the two 1,900-passenger vessels it was building for American Classic Voyages, which filed for bankruptcy protection Oct. 19, blaming losses after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Gibson Guitar to buy Baldwin Piano's assets

The Gibson Guitar Corp. said yesterday that it signed a letter of intent to buy the assets of the Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. from GE Capital, a financial services company that had the right to sell Baldwin under a bankruptcy agreement reached last month. Terms were not disclosed.

Baldwin, based in Mason, Ohio, has been in business since 1862, and has factories in Conway and Trumann, Ark. Senior executives who took over the company in May said it was burdened with excessive inventory, severance agreements and executive compensation commitments, and had problems with internal controls.

Gibson was founded in 1894. Its guitars have been used by music stars such as Chet Atkins and B.B. King. The company owns other popular musical brands, such as Epiphone, Kramer, Slingerland Drums, Oberheim Keyboards and Maestro effects.

Black employee will get $250,000 from Best Buy

Best Buy Co. has agreed to pay $250,000 to a black employee who said he was a victim of racial harassment at the Fairless Hills, Pa., store where he worked.

Baron Fralin of Bristol, Pa., said managers at the store were aware of, condoned or participated in a pattern of racially explicit, insulting comments made against him.

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