Business Digest


January 16, 2004

In The Region

Aether's president quits in move tied to sale of division

George M. Davis, president and vice chairman of Aether Systems Inc., stepped down yesterday from the Owings Mills wireless data communications services company and resigned as a board member.

In light of the recent sale of Aether's Enterprise Mobility Solutions Division to TeleCommunication Systems Inc. of Annapolis, Davis and Aether management decided that the "time was right for him to pursue new opportunities and challenges," according to a company statement.

His resignation is effective immediately and Aether does not plan to hire a replacement or fill the board vacancy. Davis had been a key member of the company's management team since 1996.

Rouse Co. increases dividend 5 cents to 47 cents

The Rouse Co. said yesterday that its board of directors had approved a 12 percent increase in its stock dividend.

The quarterly payout will increase to 47 cents, from 42 cents a share, payable March 31 to shareholders of record March 17.

The Columbia real estate investment trust has increased its common stock dividend annually for 10 years.

Also yesterday, Rouse said Bert N. Mitchell, chief executive of the nation's largest minority-owned public accounting firm, has joined company's board of directors. Mitchell, who founded Mitchell & Titus LLP, also is on the board of directors of BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. and is chairman of Ariel Mutual Funds.

Lockheed wins EPA pact worth up to $700 million

Lockheed Martin Corp., the largest provider of computers and related services to the U.S. government, won a contract yesterday worth up to $700 million to provide systems to support the Environmental Protection Agency.

Under the nine-year contract, Lockheed will provide security, data management, high-performance computing and other services to the agency, the Bethesda company said.. Its technology services unit will do the EPA work.

Novascreen Biosciences awarded federal contract

Novascreen Biosciences Corp. of Hanover said yesterday that it has been awarded a five-year, $12.95 million contract by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Novascreen said it would be working to develop a pipeline of new drug candidates aimed at boosting the human immune system's natural ability to fight off infectious diseases.

At a time when infectious diseases are growing both in number and virulence - and with worries of bioterrorism on the rise - long-term success could decrease the reliance on antibiotics, said Novascreen, a private company that conducts drug-discovery and development programs financed with NIH grants and contracts.

Westerman to oversee Fila USA global marketing

Sport Brands International has promoted Mark Westerman, the vice president of marketing communication at Fila USA, to vice president of global marketing communication.

It is the latest in a series of new appointments at Fila, which was purchased by Sports Brands International of New York in June. Fila USA has headquarters in Sparks.

Westerman also will oversee entertainment marketing, public relations, Web site, and key-account marketing.


Company on list of best employers to cut 200 jobs

The Scooter Store, the nation's largest provider of motorized wheelchairs, is cutting about 200 jobs, many of them at its home operations in New Braunfels, Texas.

The layoffs come just two weeks after the Scooter Store was named to Fortune magazine's list of the country's top 100 best places to work. The company, which placed 58th on the list, was praised for its open management style.

Scooter Store officials blamed the layoffs on "a shortsighted, bureaucratic overreaction" by Medicare to fraud in the power wheelchair industry. The company, which operates in 39 states, leads an industry that has come under intense scrutiny because Medicare spending on the devices rocketed from $289 million in 1999 to $845 million in 2002.

Airline charges $6 extra to offset rise in fuel cost

American Airlines, the world's largest carrier, raised round-trip domestic fares by $6 per ticket yesterday because of rising fuel costs, the second attempt at such an increase in less than a month.

The increase raises to $26 the fuel-related surcharge on a round-trip ticket. American's first attempt at an increase, on Dec. 19, was withdrawn several days later when other airlines declined to match it.

The average spot price for a gallon of jet fuel has risen 19 percent to 99 cents a gallon in the past two months, American said. Each 1-cent increase in the fuel price boosts the airline's annual spending by $30 million.

USAir attendants win arbitration over layoffs

US Airways should have offered a voluntary furlough to its flight attendants before implementing a plan to lay off hundreds of workers, an arbitrator ruled yesterday.

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