In the Region Md. insurance chief sets more hearings on...

BUSINESS DIGEST

April 12, 2002

In the Region

Md. insurance chief sets more hearings on CareFirst deal

Insurance Commissioner Steven B. Larsen announced yesterday additional public hearings April 29-30 on CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield's plan to sell itself to WellPoint Health Networks Inc. for $1.3 billion.

The sessions will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Marriott Inner Harbor Hotel. Public statements will be heard starting about 3:30 p.m. on the second day. For most of the two-day session, Larsen will be questioning William L. Jews, CareFirst's president and chief executive officer, and the consultants who advised CareFirst on its business options.

Larsen conducted three days of hearings last month. He plans more this fall, after his own consultants have studied the deal, and plans to issue a decision by early next year.

Amtrak says Acela train competes with shuttles

Seven months after the terrorist attacks, Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express train appears to be running neck-and-neck with the Delta Air Lines and US Airways shuttles along the heavily traveled Boston-to-Washington corridor.

Backed-up airport security lines, fear of flying, and the comforts of the new train are among the reasons given for the steadily growing number of business travelers trying the 15-month-old Acela service.

The train, which serves Boston, New York, Baltimore and Washington, got a big boost after Sept. 11. And according to the best available records from Amtrak and the airlines, the advantage appears to be holding, with the shuttles yet to rebound fully from the terrorist attacks.

Cytyc Corp. extends offer for Digene until April 25

Digene Corp. said yesterday that Cytyc Corp. is extending the expiration date of its $537.6 million cash-and-stock offer to buy all of Digene's outstanding shares.

The Gaithersburg medical test maker said the extension of Cytyc's offer has been made while the two companies respond to the Federal Trade Commission's request for more information about Cytyc's proposed acquisition of Digene. The FTC is reviewing whether the deal would violate antitrust laws.

The offer, which was scheduled to expire at midnight yesterday, has been extended until midnight April 25.

3 city ad agencies win district ADDY awards

Three Baltimore advertising agencies won ADDY awards in district competition, which included several prestigious New York agencies.

Eisner Communications, along with its Eisner Underground division, won 22 ADDYs, the third highest number of awards behind BBDO with 37 and Young & Rubicam with 24. Baltimore's W.B. Doner & Co. won 7 and Carton Donofrio Partners Inc. won one award.

The district competition included agencies from Maryland, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut. The national ADDY competition, to be judged in Baltimore later this month, will include only agencies that have won at the district level.

Lockheed, striking union hold second day of talks

Lockheed Martin Corp. officials and striking union members opened a second day of talks yesterday aimed at resolving a month-long strike.

About 2,700 members of the Machinists union have been picketing the defense contractor's Marietta, Ga., plant near Atlanta since March 11 after rejecting a contract proposal Lockheed Martin officials have called their best and final offer.

Negotiators and a mediator met for about nine hours Wednesday. Sticking points in the contract include job security, pensions and health insurance. Any major changes in contract proposals must be submitted to union members for a vote, a Machinists spokesman said.

JetBlue stock priced at $27 day before initial offering

Shares of low-fare carrier JetBlue Airways Corp. priced at $27 yesterday, one day ahead of its initial public offering of stock on the Nasdaq market. The company increased the number of shares it originally had intended to sell by 370,000, to 5.87 million.

JetBlue, which serves Washington Dulles International Airport, is going public a little more than two years after it began flying nationwide routes from its base at Kennedy International Airport. JetBlue has 108 flights per day to cities in Florida, California and upstate New York.

The money from its IPO will be used to add 59 new Airbus A320s by the end of 2007, more than tripling the size of JetBlue's fleet.

Elsewhere

Ford to raise cost of health care for retirees, spouses

Ford Motor Co. told retired salaried employees in the United States yesterday that they will pay more of their health-care costs starting in June as the world's second-largest automaker tries to return to profitability.

The retirees, who don't pay a monthly premium now, may pay between $5 and $150 a month depending on the number of people covered, their Medicare status and which coverage plan they select, Ford said.

The change involves about 50,000 retirees and spouses, Ford said, declining to say how much it expects to save from the move. Retired workers represented by the United Auto Workers union aren't affected.

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