Business Digest


February 06, 2004

In the Region

Jobless rate fell from 4.7% to 4.6% in region in Dec.

The Baltimore region's unemployment rate in December nudged down to 4.6 percent from 4.7 percent as 9,000 people left the labor force, according to numbers released yesterday.

Still, the city of Baltimore's rate of 7.8 percent was third-worst in the state, behind the Eastern Shore counties of Dorchester (8.2 percent) and Worcester (13.2 percent), said the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Those numbers were not adjusted for seasonal variations. Statewide, the unadjusted unemployment rate in December was 4.1 percent, steady from the previous month.

Howard County posted a 2.4 percent unemployment rate; Carroll, 3 percent; Anne Arundel, 3.2 percent; Harford, 4.2 percent; and Baltimore County, 4.5 percent.

Host Marriott sells 3 hotels, is near selling 2 more

Hotel owner Host Marriott of Bethesda said yesterday that it will sell six hotels for $100 million to help repay company debt. Host said it has sold the Atlanta Marriott Northwest, the Detroit Airport Marriott and the Detroit Marriott Southfield hotels.

Host Marriott says it's closing sales on two others, the Atlanta Marriott Norcross and the Fullerton Marriott at California State University. The sales of all five are expected to bring in $70 million.

In addition, the real estate company plans to sell a Marriott hotel at the Mexico City airport for an additional $30 million.

Host Marriott expects to sell approximately $500 million in assets in 2004, including the transactions announced yesterday.

UnitedHealth gets OK to buy 3 companies

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. approved yesterday a proposed acquisition of three insurance companies by UnitedHealth Group Inc.

The companies are MAMSI Life and Health Insurance Company, Optimum Choice Inc. and MD-Individual Practice Association Inc. All are subsidiaries of Mid Atlantic Medical Services Inc.

Redmer said UnitedHealth Group does not plan to liquidate the companies or make other major changes to their management. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division have already approved the acquisition.

Sinclair's quarterly profit fell 8.6%, to $173 million

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. posted fourth-quarter broadcast revenue yesterday of $173.1 million, an 8.6 percent decline from the $189.4 million in revenue in the final quarter of 2002.

The Hunt Valley company also reported net income of $16 million for the three months that ended Dec. 31, compared with $23.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2002.

Net broadcast revenues were $661.8 million for the 12 months that ended Dec. 31, 1.3 percent less than in 2002. Net income last year was $14 million, compared with a loss in 2002 of $574.8 million, which was the result of a change in accounting principle.

Lawyer becomes chairman of K Bank of Owings Mills

Marc S. Rosen, founder and managing partner of Shar, Rosen & Warshaw LLC, has taken over as chairman of K Bank of Owings Mills.

Rosen replaces the retiring Bernard "Bernie" Dackman, who helped lead the bank from its rural roots in 1961 to a regional retail and real estate lender with nearly $500 million in assets.

Rosen, a civil litigator who joined the bank's board in 1985, will continue his law practice while serving as chairman. Richard Sussman, a real estate lawyer and board member since 1985, takes over as vice chairman.

Annapolis data company went from red to black

TeleCommunication Systems Inc., an Annapolis wireless data technology company, reported fourth-quarter net income of $1.4 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $1.8 million, or 6 cents a share, in the 2002 quarter.

For the year, the company posted a net loss of $13.5 million, or 45 cents a share. That compared with a loss of $17.8 million, or 61 cents a share, in 2002.

Last month, TeleCommunication Systems acquired the Enterprise Mobility Solutions unit of Aether Systems Inc. for $19 million in cash.

Local due-diligence firm opens office in Calif.

EMG, a Hunt Valley provider of commercial real estate due-diligence services, has opened a satellite office in Orange County, Calif., to handle business expansion in the Pacific Southwest.

Mark Haskell, the company's regional vice president, will oversee operations and business development initiatives there.


NYSE won't sue ex-CEO over huge payout

The New York Stock Exchange said yesterday it won't sue its former chief executive and chairman over his lavish pay package but that it is cutting the salaries of its top officials.

The current chief executive, John A. Thain, said the potential case against Richard A. Grasso is in the hands of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York state regulators. Both offices had previously indicated that they were looking into the issue of Grasso's pay.

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