Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

September 30, 2004

In the Region

Court rejects challenge to Aetna lawsuit settlement

A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge to Aetna's $170 million settlement of class action litigation with physicians. In a decision filed Friday and made public yesterday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the settlement's approval by the U.S. District Court in Miami last fall.

The settlement ended 4-year-old class action lawsuits in which doctors alleged that Aetna had systematically denied, delayed or reduced claims payments. The $170 million covered amounts earmarked for physicians, their lawyers and for a new health care foundation.

Some doctors and the Maryland State Medical Society objected to the settlement and appealed. The 11th Circuit decision said, "We can find no abuse of discretion on the part of the district court in approving the settlement."

Sandy Spring Bancorp lowers earnings outlook

Sandy Spring Bancorp warned investors yesterday that it expects earnings for the full year of $1.80 to $1.90 a share, less than a previous earnings guidance.

The Olney banking company, which has 30 branches in Anne Arundel, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, initially expected earnings of $1.90 to $2.10 per fully diluted share.

The change in earnings expectations follows the company's preliminary review of its third-quarter results, which indicates weaker than expected net interest margin for the quarter and for the rest of the year. The company is scheduled to announce its third-quarter earnings Oct. 14.

Venter to consolidate 3 research centers

Former Celera Genomics head J. Craig Venter said yesterday that he is consolidating three research centers that he formed as part of an institute named for him.

The J. Craig Venter Institute will encompass the current Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation Joint Technology Center and the Center for Advancement of Genomics. Those centers focus on issues such as the role of genetics in medicine, DNA sequencing and the biological production of fuel. They have 200 employees and have a combined annual budget of $50 million.

Venter gained fame as head of Celera, which raced federal researchers to sequence the human genome. He left in 2002 when the company switched its focus to drug development.

Baby boomer job fair to be held in Timonium

Baby boomers seeking jobs and companies that want to hire them will gather at a job fair in Timonium next month for workers age 50 or older.

The Baby Boomer Expo/Senior Expo will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 14 at the 4-H building at the Timonium Fairgrounds. Admission is free.

The job fair is sponsored by the Baltimore County Department of Aging, Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, Maryland Job Service and Baltimore County Office of Employment and Training.

Elsewhere

Computer Associates to cut 800 workers to save $70 million

Computer Associates International Inc. announced a restructuring plan yesterday that would reduce its work force by 800 worldwide, saving the maker of business software $70 million annually once the plan is fully implemented.

The 5 percent cut in its work force follows the company's agreement to pay shareholders $225 million in a settlement. The deal allowed the company to defer criminal prosecution stemming from an accounting investigation by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under the deal, an outside monitor will track the company's financial reporting while it makes three restitution payments of $75 million to shareholders over 18 months.

The company's former chief executive, Sanjay Kumar, and its former head of worldwide sales, Stephen Richards pleaded not guilty last week to federal securities fraud and other charges.

Agere to fire 1,100, 17% of its work force

Agere Systems Inc., whose microchips are used in cell phones and computer disk drives, said yesterday that it will cut 17 percent of its work force and end operations at an Orlando, Fla., plant next year because of a slowdown in orders from customers such as Samsung Corp. and Lucent Technologies Inc.

About 1,100 workers worldwide will be fired, 500 of them immediately. A wafer plant in Orlando with 600 employees will be closed or sold by the end of next year, Agere said.

Sales in Agere's fiscal first quarter, which ends in December, will be as much as $422.8 million, said Agere Chief Executive Officer John Dickson in a conference call. That's well below analysts' estimates of $453.9 million.

Microsoft to offer India XP Starter Edition

Microsoft Corp. is cutting prices and removing features from an Indian version of its Windows XP operating system to tap the large market potential in a country where about 1 percent of the 1 billion people own computers.

The announcement yesterday follows a similar one in Russia this week and brings to five the number of countries where Microsoft is marketing the Windows XP Starter Edition for first-time computer users.

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