Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

October 19, 2002

In the Region

Patapsco Bancorp reports slight rise in earnings

Patapsco Bancorp Inc. said yesterday that it earned $341,000, or 67 cents a share, in the first quarter, which ended Sept. 30. The year before, the Baltimore-based company posted a $328,000 profit, or 70 cents a share, for the quarter.

The 4 percent drop in earnings per share, despite an increase in profit, resulted from the issuance of stock options approved by shareholders, the company said.

At the end of last month, the company had assets of $153.6 million, $5.1 million less than in the quarter that ended in June. Since the end of June, deposits have fallen $2.8 million, to $116.7 million, and net loans have dropped $1.7 million, to $116.6 million.

Elsewhere

Bank of America found to be hurt by misused credit cards

Misuse of government credit cards by military personnel has left Bank of America Corp. with more than $60 million in unpaid debt since 1998, a congressional investigation has found.

The investigation reviewing the bank-issued individual travel cards - including at Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, N.C., and Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, N.C. - has found an unusually high number of delinquent cards and a chronic lack of government oversight.

The cards, which work like corporate credit cards, also have been used fraudulently. Investigators found that some cards were used to pay for prostitution, jewelry, cruises and New York Yankees games.The investigators also found that more than 5,000 military personnel submitted bad checks as payment.

The Defense Department is canceling some 400,000 travel cards by the end of this month, nearly 20 percent of the total issued by the federal government, the Office of Management and Budget said.

Bausch & Lomb shares drop after bogus report

Shares of Bausch & Lomb Inc. fell 3 percent yesterday after an Internet columnist revealed that a company news release falsely claimed that Chief Executive Officer Ronald Zarrella graduated from business school.

In announcing Zarrella's appointment as CEO in November, Bausch & Lomb said he graduated from New York University's Stern School of Business in 1978. Zarrella attended the master of business administration program from 1972 to 1976 but left without graduating, the company acknowledged yesterday.

Shares dropped almost 7 percent in early trading after the error was disclosed by Herb Greenberg, a columnist at TheStreet.com. The company posted a corrected biography on its Web site. By the close, Bausch & Lomb shares were down $1.01 to $31.48.

Changes could boost fees for calls to cell phones

A subtle realignment this fall in the nation's inscrutable tangle of phone systems could cause a surprising increase in what some consumers pay to call cell phones from traditional landlines.

The change, rooted in the different ways landline and wireless phone networks are laid out, means that some calls to cell phones that were once considered local now incur higher toll charges.

For most people, the increases will be negligible. Verizon Inc., the largest regional phone company, estimates that in the 33 million households it serves, the average bill will rise pennies per month.

Japan nearly ready with recovery plans

New proposals to reverse Japan's decade-long economic slump will be ready by the end of this month, the government said yesterday.

The plans, long promised by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, are expected to tackle deflation and the billions of dollars of bad-debt saddling the nation's banks.

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

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