In the Region Porsche signs accord to bring 12,000 cars...

BUSINESS DIGEST

March 15, 2002

In the Region

Porsche signs accord to bring 12,000 cars annually through port

Porsche Cars of North America Inc. has signed an agreement to bring 12,000 cars through the port of Baltimore annually, handing the city its fourth auto import deal this year.

The luxury car manufacturer announced the deal after deciding to close its vehicle import center in Charleston, S.C., and move the business to Baltimore and Brunswick, Ga. Porsche said the agreement will help it save money on transportation costs because most of its East Coast customers are in Washington and Florida.

Baltimore-based Amports, the port's largest automobile processing company, won the contract and will begin handling Porsche autos in April. State transportation officials have made attracting more auto imports to Baltimore a key component of a strategic plan to boost waterborne trade.

Black & Decker makes deal with Kwikset chief on loan

Black & Decker Corp., the No. 1 U.S. maker of power tools, will forgive a $100,000 loan it made to the president of its Kwikset hardware business if he stays with the company until 2004.

Black & Decker lent the money to Christopher Metz in 1999 when it moved him to California, where the Kwikset division is based. Metz must remain at Black & Decker for five years, until June 2004, or repay the entire amount, the company said yesterday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. If Black & Decker transfers Metz from California, he will get a $20,000 credit for each year he lived there, the company said.

Loans to executives have attracted the interest of U.S. regulators as they scrutinize financial statements after Enron Corp.'s collapse. WorldCom Inc.'s $198.7 million loan to Chief Executive Bernard Ebbers is being probed by the SEC, and congressional investigators are seeking loan records from Global Crossing Ltd.

Southwest's employees get less in profit sharing

Southwest Airlines Co., the largest carrier at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the only major U.S. carrier to make money last year, distributed 19 percent less in profit sharing to workers after the Sept. 11 attacks deepened a decline in travel during the U.S. recession.

The amount fell to $146 million, or about 12 percent of each worker's gross salary last year, from $179.8 million in 2000, or 16 percent on a per-worker basis, said June Jackson, Southwest's retirement benefits manager. The airline's net income slid 15 percent to $511.1 million last year from 2000.

Payments are made to employee profit-sharing accounts, where workers can buy shares of Dallas-based Southwest or make other investment options. Payments will be made to 28,000 of Southwest's 33,000 workers, who had to have been on the payroll as of Jan. 1, 2001, to collect. The company has earned a profit for 29 straight years.

Yafo raises $22 million in venture funding effort

Yafo Networks Inc., a Hanover company that makes equipment for fiber-optic networks, said yesterday that it raised $22 million in venture funding.

U.S. Venture Partners was the lead investor. Others included New Enterprise Associates and WorldCom Venture Fund.

Yafo said it has now raised a total of $61 million.

Elsewhere

Bias suit settlement OK'd by judge; Ford to pay $10.5 million

A federal judge in Detroit granted final approval yesterday to a $10.5 million settlement in two discrimination lawsuits filed against Ford Motor Co. by hundreds of current and former employees.

In a separate settlement in Virginia, the company agreed to pay at least $145,000 to three women who said they were sexually harassed at work.

The approval of the multimillion-dollar settlement ends the class-action suits charging that a management evaluation system set up by ex-President and CEO Jacques Nasser discriminated against older white employees.

One of the lawsuits had alleged age, race and gender bias, and the other alleged only age discrimination. According to the consent decree, the automaker denied wrongdoing, and charges of race and gender bias were dropped.

Calif., Ohio pension funds to oppose HP-Compaq deal

Pension funds for California teachers and Ohio state workers said yesterday they will vote against the $21 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. by Hewlett-Packard Co., but another large HP investor, Banc One Investment Advisors, said it supports the deal.

With HP's stockholders scheduled to vote Tuesday, more than 21 percent of the shares appear lined up against the deal, and more than 8 percent is publicly in the company's camp.

But many analysts still say HP has a 50-50 chance of winning shareholder approval despite the opposition of HP board member Walter B. Hewlett, son of one of the company's co-founders. Although more companies, organizations and some board members have attached their names to supporting or opposing comments this week, the percentage of shares hasn't changed in a week.

Japan issues upgraded assessment of economy

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