Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

February 10, 2005

In The Region

Gap to close warehouse in Harford Co., lay off 170

Gap Inc. plans to close its Harford County distribution center, home to 170 employees, and shift the work to plants in New York and Tennessee, company officials said yesterday.

Layoffs could start in April, and work at the Edgewood center is scheduled to close by summer. The San Francisco-based retailer, owner of the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy, said it was making the shift in search of greater efficiency.

A spokeswoman said some employees at the company's center in Edgewood could be offered jobs at other facilities and relocation benefits, while the rest would receive severance pay.

Duratek shares lose 20% on decline in 4Q revenue

Duratek Inc.'s shares fell nearly 20 percent yesterday after the Columbia company reported a decline in fourth-quarter revenue and earnings from operations.

In its unaudited financial report released yesterday, Duratek reported that income from operations was $6.2 million for the period that ended Dec. 31, a decline of $1.3 million - or 17.3 percent - from $7.5 million recorded for the 2003 quarter.

Including taxes, a change in accounting and the cost of repurchasing preferred stock, Duratek's net income for the latest quarter was $3 million, a swing to profitability of 20 cents a share from the net loss of $33.37 million, or $2.46 a share, for the fourth quarter of 2003.

Guitar Center Inc. chain to buy Frederick dealer

Guitar Center Inc., the nation's largest musical instruments chain, said yesterday that it agreed to acquire Music & Arts Center, a privately held instruments dealer in Frederick that caters to the beginning musician, for $90 million plus assumed debt of $8 million.

Music & Arts Center's operations include about 60 stores and seven educational support centers. The company delivers band instruments and services to students, parents, teachers and schools. It had sales of about $80 million for the year that ended Jan. 31.

Elsewhere

U.S. wholesale inventories rose 0.4% in December

U.S. wholesale inventories rose 0.4 percent in December, less than forecast and drained by rising sales of automobiles, machinery and computer equipment.

The increase brought the value of stocks to $328.3 billion and followed a 1.2 percent rise in November, the Commerce Department said yesterday. Economists had forecast a 0.9 percent rise.

Sales increased 0.9 percent in December, a record-breaking 19th consecutive gain, after a 0.8 percent rise. Consumer spending in the last six months of 2004 rose at the fastest pace in almost five years.

Bank of America's trading units to pay $375 million

Bank of America Corp.'s mutual-fund adviser company, brokerage and clearing firm have agreed to pay a total of $375 million to settle regulators' charges of improper trading that hurt ordinary shareholders, authorities said yesterday.

The settlement, which includes $125 million in civil fines and $250 million in restitution, is in an agreement between Banc of America Capital Management, BACAP Distributors and Banc of America Securities, the three Bank of America companies, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the office of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Dow implant claimants say settlement checks too slow

Women who claim Dow Corning Corp.'s silicone breast implants made them sick are not getting their settlement checks fast enough, their lawyers and the chemical company say. Dow Corning's emergence from bankruptcy June 1 opened the door for checks to go out from the $2.35 billion fund the company set aside for the settlement. But so far, only about 10 percent of claimants have received money. Through the end of 2004, 14,807 checks totaling $111.7 million had been mailed; 145,000 people have filed claims.

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

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