Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

January 01, 2004

In The Region

Close is delayed in sale of shipyard at Sparrows Point

The sale of the defunct Baltimore Marine Industries Inc. shipyard in Sparrows Point will likely be delayed at least several days beyond the originally scheduled closing next Monday.

Barletta Willis LLC, a Boston investment group that bought the yard at auction in November for $9.25 million, said yesterday that attorneys for the buyer and seller are still ironing out issues concerning some remaining tenants. Barletta Willis plans to revive the 250-acre waterfront facility as a barge and shipbuilding operation.

The shipyard, formerly operated by Bethlehem Steel Corp., shut down at the end of October after filing for bankruptcy protection last summer. The new owner has said it plans to invest $20 million initially, then about $200 million over five years.

Elsewhere

Dollar continues its slide as euro shoots above $1.26

The dollar continued to move downward yesterday as the euro shot above $1.26, notching the latest in a string of record highs against the battered U.S. currency.

The 12-nation European currency, which has risen more than 20 percent against the dollar in 2003, reached $1.2647. It eased to $1.2572 in late New York trading, up from $1.2549 late Tuesday.

"Fundamentals still require the dollar to fall and a floor on that process has yet to emerge," said Peter Morici, professor of international business at the University of Maryland.

"Late-year volatility is simply playing itself out," said Parul Jain, deputy chief economist at Nomura Securities International.

In 2004, Jain predicted, people will realize that the U.S. economy is strong, that deflationary pressure is easing and that the Fed will "probably engage in a rate hike, probably late 2004 or early 2005," all of which would be supportive of the dollar.

Comcast plans IPO sale of Time Warner cable stake

Comcast Corp., the biggest U.S. cable operator, exercised an option yesterday that would allow it to sell its stake in Time Warner Inc.'s cable business in an initial public offering.

Time Warner will file a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that clears the way for Comcast to sell its stake in the cable unit, according to a regulatory filing.

Comcast gained the right to sell its 21 percent stake in the unit when the companies dissolved an entertainment partnership. Time Warner regained full control of assets such as the HBO channel in that transaction.

Comcast has said it would seek to sell its stake in the cable unit to reduce debt that tripled to more than $30 billion with its purchase of AT&T Corp.'s cable business last year. Since the acquisition, the Philadelphia company has shed about $7 billion in debt by selling assets, including its stake in the QVC home-shopping network.

Federal judge dismisses AOL's lawsuit over spam

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by America Online against a group of Florida computer technicians who allegedly helped senders of junk e-mail.

Chief Judge Claude M. Hilton, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., found Dec. 24 that AOL had failed to show that Virginia had jurisdiction over the defendants simply because the company is located there and the e-mail had gone through its computers.

Seth Berenzweig, a lawyer for the defendants, said yesterday that the decision would affect all lawsuits filed in Virginia against out-of-state defendants for sending spam. More than 50 percent of all worldwide Internet traffic passes through Virginia because AOL and 1,300 other Internet service providers or technology companies are there.

In AOL's view, the dismissal was based on a technicality related to the level of detail needed in the complaint, according to spokesman Nicholas Graham. He said the company was prepared to amend its suit.

Verizon Wireless customers may be due cash, credits

Verizon Wireless Inc., the No. 1 U.S. mobile carrier, said yesterday that most of its current and former customers are entitled to cash and credits of up to $45 each to settle a lawsuit alleging that its billing and disclosures were improper.

Judge William Pate of California Superior Court gave preliminary approval to a revised class action settlement on Nov. 13 after questioning a proposed accord made in 2002, Verizon Wireless said in an e-mail to customers Tuesday. The company denied any wrongdoing in the claims, which date between January 1991 and November.

The lawsuit, first filed in San Diego in 2000, claims the company failed to fully disclose certain fees and limitations of its service, and improperly billed some U.S. customers.

Pay more than doubles for Tyson Foods CEO

Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat processor, more than doubled the compensation for Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John H. Tyson in fiscal 2003 to about $20.9 million, as profit declined.

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