Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

July 03, 2004

In The Region

Small business customers face 38% rise in power cost

Allegheny Power said it expects that the cost of electricity will rise more than 38 percent for most of its 25,000 commercial and industrial users in Maryland after rate caps expire Dec. 31.

The 38 percent increase applies to small businesses, said Allegheny, a subsidiary of Allegheny Energy Inc. Mid-size companies can expect to pay about 50 percent more for electricity from Allegheny. Residential rate caps remain in effect through 2008.

The restructured rates will be 74 percent higher for Allegheny's largest customers, but neither of the two users big enough to qualify will pay more immediately because they have contracts running through 2005, a spokesman said.

Allegheny is the last major utility provider in Maryland to post rate increases for its service territory. It will be the last to see rate caps for business and commercial customers expire.

Those caps expired Wednesday for the state's two largest utilities, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co., which owns Conectiv. For Pepco, rate caps also expired for residential customers.

U.S. Foodservice names lawyer chief ethics officer

U.S. Foodservice Inc., the No. 2 food distributor that was rocked by an accounting scandal last year, has appointed an attorney as its chief ethics officer.

Cindy Hallberlin is an expert in compliance and corporate governance and ethics, the Columbia company said yesterday. She previously was ethics officer, employment counsel and senior director of fair employment at Giant Food Inc. of Landover.

U.S. Foodservice, Stop & Shop and Giant supermarkets are all owned by the Dutch retailer Royal Ahold NV. Before the scandal, Ahold was the world's third-largest food retailer.

Md. regulator reviews order of Delaware on Blue Cross

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. said yesterday that he is reviewing an order from his Delaware counterpart that would loosen the relationship between CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Delaware.

Under the order, the Delaware Blues would remain connected to Owings Mills-based CareFirst, but could divorce from the regional insurer under certain conditions.

"We will not allow any action that will hurt the stability of CareFirst or negatively impact Maryland subscribers," Redmer said.

Elsewhere

Becton Dickinson to pay $100 million to settle suit

Becton Dickinson & Co., the world's largest manufacturer of medical syringes and needles, said yesterday that it would pay $100 million to settle a smaller competitor's accusations that it had illegally manipulated the hospital-supply market for years.

Retractable Technologies had filed an antitrust lawsuit saying it had been largely shut out of the hospital market for its products, which are intended to better protect health care workers from accidental nicks that can transmit blood-borne diseases. The lawsuit had been scheduled to go to trial next week in Texas.

Becton Dickinson's chairman and chief executive, Edward J. Ludwig, said in a conference call with securities analysts that he believed the company had handled its sales to hospitals "in a most appropriate and legal manner," but Becton Dickinson agreed to settle the lawsuit to avoid "protracted trials" and appeals.

Mad cow ruled out in second animal

Mad cow disease has been ruled out in another animal, the government said yesterday. It was the second time this week that more tests proved negative for an animal suspected of carrying the brain-wasting illness.

The Agriculture Department gave no additional information about either animal. Both were subjected to more definitive testing after initial screenings for infection were inconclusive.

This column was compiled from reports by Sun staff writers, the Associated Press, The New York Times and Bloomberg News.

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