Business Digest


August 11, 2004

In the Region

Covad starts Internet calling service here

Covad Communications Group Inc., based in San Jose, Calif., launched its voice over Internet calling service for Baltimore businesses yesterday, hoping that companies will adopt the technology and help spur interest in it.

Called VoIP, the service allows businesses to make telephone calls over the Internet, bundling voice and data communications together. AT&T Corp. has recently embraced the technology as its future and during Friday's Olympic Games opening ceremonies, the company will unveil a new ad campaign that highlights a VoIP focus.

Covad, which offers Internet and voice connections, has half a million customers, but saw a slight decrease in its broadband and VoIP subscription billings in the second quarter to $87.5 million, from $89.6 million in the previous quarter. The company uses broadband and VoIP subscription billings to evaluate its performance.

At the end of the second quarter, Covad had about 292,200 consumer and 222,200 business lines in service, representing about 56 percent and 44 percent of total lines, respectively.

500 doctors to test prescribing system

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and DrFirst, a Rockville company that develops computer systems for health, said yesterday that they will offer software, service and palm-size personal digital assistants to 500 doctors to test an electronic prescribing system.

The system will have access to patient records to warn doctors about drug allergies or interactions with other medication. It will also give the doctor electronic access to treatment guidelines and other information. Once the doctor makes a prescription decision, the PDA will transmit the prescription to a pharmacy.

Dr. Eric Baugh, CareFirst's senior vice president for medical affairs, said the system is designed to reduce medical errors and cut costs by reducing paperwork. CareFirst declined to discuss the cost of the project.

John F. Bartos Jr., president of DrFirst, said other Maryland clients using the system for some physicians include MedStar Health and Kaiser Permanente.

Frederick County bank OKs 2-for-1 stock split

Frederick County Bancorp said yesterday that its board of directors approved a 2-for-1 stock split in the form of a 100 percent stock dividend.

Shareholders will receive an additional share of common stock for every share they hold as of Aug. 31. The dividend will be payable Sept. 21.

Frederick County's outstanding options and the option price per share will be adjusted to reflect the stock split. Upon completion of the split, the number of common shares outstanding will be about 1.455 million.

The parent of Frederick County Bank is based in Frederick. It had $156.9 million in assets as of June 30.

Essex Corp. reports hefty rise in profit

Essex Corp. reported yesterday second-quarter net income of $480,000, or 3 cents per share, compared with a profit of $75,000, or a penny per share, a year ago

Revenue in the quarter that ended June 27 soared to $20.6 million in this year's second quarter from $4.1 million last year.

The Columbia company, which develops and markets products for defense, intelligence and commercial customers, said its payroll has risen to 240, more than double the 110 six months ago, in part because of two acquisitions.

Spherix profit follows 2nd-quarter loss in 2003

Spherix Inc. of Beltsville reported yesterday a second-quarter profit of $192,257, or 2 cents per share, compared with a loss of $453,075, or 4 cents a share, for the second quarter of 2003.

Revenue for the latest quarter, which ended June 30, was $6.76 million, a jump of more than 40 percent from revenue of $4.80 million for the comparable quarter in 2003.

Spherix, which made headlines last year after its artificial sweetener, Tagatose, was chosen to sweeten the Diet Pepsi Slurpees sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores, said the $2 million rise in revenue resulted from additional government contracts the company won late last year and early this year. The company reported that it also purchased a half-dozen additional government contracts in its reservations business.


New York judge declines to combine Kozlowski cases

A New York state judge declined yesterday to consolidate a sales tax case against L. Dennis Kozlowski, Tyco International Ltd.'s former chief executive, with the retrial of a corporate looting case against him and Mark H. Swartz, Tyco's ex-chief financial officer.

New York Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Obus denied a motion by prosecutors to consolidate the cases after prosecutors said they intended to pursue an enterprise-corruption charge against Kozlowski and Swartz.

In their first corporate-looting trial, the judge dismissed an enterprise-corruption charge against the two former executives before the case went to the jury. The case ended in a mistrial in May after a juror was improperly contacted during deliberations. A retrial is scheduled for January.

Hewlett-Packard executive leaves for job at Dell

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