Business Digest


March 06, 2003

In The Region

Court dismisses suit to block Marriott on manager pacts

A lawsuit seeking to block Marriott International Inc. from transferring management contracts on 31 of its senior living centers to a new manager was dismissed yesterday, the companies that filed the lawsuit said.

Bethesda-based Marriott, the largest U.S. hotel company, agreed to sell its senior living unit to Sunrise Assisted Living Inc. for $150 million in December. Senior Housing Properties Trust and Five Star Quality Inc., which own and lease some of the centers, sued to prevent Marriott from transferring management contracts to Sunrise as part of the sale.

Massachusetts Superior Court granted Marriott's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Senior Housing and Five Star said. The two companies said they might appeal.

Corvis says jury found it infringed on Ciena patent

Corvis Corp., the Columbia fiber-optic equipment company, was found by a Delaware jury to have infringed on one of Ciena Corp.'s patents but not to have infringed on two others.

A jury in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., found that Corvis' inverse multiplexing transceiver product infringes on a Ciena patent, Corvis said. The jury also found that Corvis' all-optical networking products do not infringe on two of Ciena's system patents, but did not reach a verdict on another patent in question, Corvis said.

Ciena Corp., a fiber-optic equipment maker in Linthicum, was founded by David Huber, who later left the company to start rival Corvis.

BioReliance to repurchase up to 500,000 of its shares

BioReliance Corp. said yesterday that its board of directors authorized the repurchase of up to 500,000 shares of the Rockville company's common stock.

The purchases would be made from time to time on the open market or in privately negotiated transactions over the next two years. Approximately 8.5 million common shares are outstanding.

The company will use working capital to buy the shares. As of Jan. 31, the company had cash and cash equivalents of $38.6 million.

Columbia nonprofit to move to Pier 4

The Centre for Management & Technology, a Columbia nonprofit, said yesterday that it plans to relocate to a new office building downtown on Pier 4, developed by the Cordish Co.

The center, with 25 employees, provides pro-bono management and technology services to tax-exempt organizations.

The six-story, $30 million Pier 4 building next to the Power Plant entertainment complex is nearly leased and is expected to open in the spring. Other tenants include Ernst & Young and Nexgen.


University loses patent suit against Pharmacia, Pfizer

Pfizer Inc. and Pharmacia Corp. won dismissal of a multibillion dollar patent lawsuit over Celebrex, an arthritis painkiller they market jointly, an attorney for the University of Rochester, said yesterday, adding that the university, which filed the complaint, will appeal.

A federal judge declared invalid a University of Rochester patent covering COX-2 inhibitors, the scientific name for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Celebrex, said Gerald Dodson, the university's attorney. The university filed the lawsuit almost three years ago, alleging infringement of a patent issued in April 2000.

New York-based Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, is seeking regulatory approval to buy Peapack, N.J.-based Pharmacia. Last month, Pfizer won European Commission approval of the acquisition, after agreeing to divest five drugs to avoid market concentration that might push up prices. The purchase would give Pfizer all revenue from Celebrex and Bextra, another painkiller, with annual sales of more than $3 billion.

France Telecom loses record $22 billion

France Telecom yesterday reported a net loss of 20.7 billion euros ($22.6 billion) for 2002, the largest annual loss in French corporate history, as it took mammoth write-downs on the value of its investments in other companies.

The loss was more than double the company's 2001 loss of 8.3 billion euros and worse than some analysts had expected.

The write-downs included 8.9 billion euros ($9.7 billion) for German mobile phone operator Mobilcom and NTL; 4.4 billion euros ($4.7 billion) for Equant NV; and 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for Italian unit Wind. Another 900 million euros ($981 million) was written off against Orange Switzerland, the Swiss offshoot of France Telecom's U.K. mobile phone company, Orange SA.

Bank of America finishes buying stake in Mexico bank

Bank of America Corp. yesterday completed its $1.6 billion purchase of a stake in Grupo Financiero Santander Serfin, Mexico's third-biggest bank, expanding into the fastest-growing banking market in North America.

Bank of America, the world's second-largest bank by market value, bought the 24.9 percent share of Grupo Financiero from Santander Central Hispano SA. It followed Citigroup Inc., the world's biggest financial services company, into Mexico.

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