Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

May 14, 2004

In The Region

Spherix narrows loss to $547,000 as sales rise 14%

Spherix Inc., the company that developed the sugar-substitute sweetener Tagatose for last summer's hit Diet Pepsi Slurpee, reported yesterday a first-quarter net loss of $547,000, or a nickel per share. That's a slight improvement from the net loss of $686,000, or 6 cents per share, for the comparable three months in 2003.

Revenue was $5.1 million for the first quarter, up 14 percent from the $4.4 million reported for the first quarter of 2003, said Spherix. The Beltsville company largely attributed the revenue increase to two new government contracts the company won late last year.

Spherix's InfoSpherix Division operates reservation centers and has clients that include state government agencies and the National Park Service. Its BioSpherix division is involved with biotechnology.

Provident Bank to sell three branches in Va., N.C.

Provident Bankshares Corp., the second-largest independent bank based in Maryland, said yesterday that it is selling two branches in southeast Virginia and one in North Carolina to Gateway Bank & Trust of Elizabeth City, N.C.

The branches, which have combined deposits of $140 million, were part of Provident's acquisition of Southern Financial Bank in April. Southern Financial acquired the branches when it bought Essex Bancorp Inc. in the first quarter.

The branches are in Emporia and Suffolk, Va., and Elizabeth City, N.C. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year. Terms were not disclosed.

Sheridan Group to sell notes to buy Maine printer

The Sheridan Group Inc., a Hunt Valley specialty printer, said yesterday that it plans a private placement to offer $60 million in senior secured notes due 2011, in addition to its existing $105 million in senior secured notes, also due 2011.

The company plans to use the proceeds from the sale as part of the financing to acquire the Dingley Press, a large printer of mail-order catalogs in south-central Maine.

The Sheridan Group operates five printing companies that offer printing and support services to the catalog, magazine, book and article reprint markets.

Curves for Women opens outlet at The Rotunda

Curves for Women, a female-only fitness franchise, has opened an outlet in a former print shop at The Rotunda shopping complex at West 40th Street.

Curves leased 3,182 square feet of space for five years, with a five-year renewal option. The Curves workout program combines strength and cardiovascular training through hydraulic resistance in a 30-minute workout.

Business-plan contest awards $51,000 in prizes

The University of Maryland has awarded $51,000 in prizes to students and alumni who devised the best plans for a new company in its fourth-annual business plan competition.

Internet publishing company Squarespace Inc. won the undergraduate category, while the graduate category winner was MacroPhage Networks Inc., a computer network hacker protection company. The winner in the alumni category was Maryland Data Recovery, specializing in recovering data from hard disks.

Second-place winners in the undergraduate, graduate and alumni categories were, respectively, MindSay Interactive, Pervasive Technology Engineering, and TruGamerz.

The winners were awarded cash prizes and professional services from LM&O Advertising, Fish & Richardson PC and Ernst & Young.

Under Armour executive wins marketing award

Steve Battista, director of marketing for Baltimore's Under Armour Performance Apparel, has won a "Stevie" award in the best marketer category.

The "Stevies," named from stephani, the Greek word for crowned, were given out at the 2004 American Business Awards in New York on Monday.

Warschawski PR firm awarded DeWalt account

Warschawski Public Relations said yesterday that it has been named national agency of record for DeWalt, the professional power tool division of Black & Decker Corp.

The Baltimore agency will handle strategic positioning, media relations, and launches of new products and services for DeWalt's line of more than 300 power tool and equipment products and more than 1,600 accessories. Terms were not disclosed.

Shoppers Food picks GKV as its advertising agency

GKV Communications said it has been named agency of record for Shoppers Food and Pharmacy.

The grocery retailer, which operates 58 stores in the Mid-Atlantic, chose the Baltimore agency to handle its $5 million advertising account, which includes creative development, public relations, market research, direct marketing, and media planning and buying.

Elsewhere

FCC backs using TV airwaves for broadband service

Federal regulators endorsed a plan yesterday to tap unused television airwaves to bring high-speed Internet connections and other wireless technologies to more people, especially in rural areas.

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