Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

February 28, 2006

Maryland: Lending

Lenders bailing out of Montgomery

About 20 mortgage lenders have decided to stop doing business in Montgomery County, blaming an anti-discrimination law that will go into effect in the jurisdiction next week, according to the Maryland Association of Mortgage Brokers. The ordinance adds examples to the definition of discriminatory lending and raises maximum damages 100-fold, to $500,000. Supporters say the law is no more stringent than the federal fair-housing rules, but opponents say the wording is precariously vague. The lenders pulling out handle about a third of the mortgage business in the county.

Banking

M&T drops fees at Sheetz ATMs

M&T Bank Corp. announced yesterday that customers who withdraw money at Sheetz convenience stores will no longer pay an ATM surcharge fee beginning March 1, regardless of where they bank. The financial details of the agreement weren't disclosed. Americans paid more than $4.3 billion in ATM charges last year for using machines not owned by their banks, according to Bankrate.com. Sheetz customers might still be charged by their own banks for using an M&T machine. Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T also announced plans to replace ATMs in Sheetz stores with touch-screen machines that dispense U.S. postage stamps. Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz has 320 stores in six states.

Education

Profit, revenue up, Laureate reports

Laureate Education Inc., a Baltimore-based for-profit education company, reported yesterday that its earnings and revenue increased in the fourth quarter of 2005 and that enrollment in campus-based establishments was 41 percent higher at the end of 2005 than it was a year earlier. The company reported revenue of $277.8 million on earnings of $46.4 million, or 89 cents per diluted share, for the fourth quarter. That compares with revenue of $210.4 million on earnings of $33.3 million, or 65 cents per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2004. Laureate reported revenue of $875.4 million and earnings of $75.2 million, or $1.45 per diluted share, for the year 2005, compared with revenue of $646.9 million and earnings of $63 million, or $1.29 per diluted share, in 2004.

Pharmaceuticals

Avalon stock sale raises $7.25 million

Avalon Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced yesterday that it had raised $7.25 million by selling 1.7 million shares of stock for $4.35 apiece to institutional investors, including Biotechnology Value Fund L.P. of San Francisco. The Germantown biopharmaceutical company said it plans to use the funds to expand its cancer drug discovery program and help support the company during an expensive round of clinical trials. Avalon's stock closed up 2 cents yesterday to $4.99 on the Nasdaq stock market.

Airports

Business booming at Cumberland

WILEY FORD, W.Va. --The growth in businesses basing aircraft at Greater Cumberland Regional Airport is helping the airport keep on track with a $45 million runway upgrade, airport officials said. Aviation Experts International, a company that maintains aircraft acquired by banks and holding companies when an airline goes bankrupt, has one 50-passenger regional jet at the airport, which is in West Virginia a few miles south of Cumberland. Another international banking and brokerage company has based its Hawker jet at the airport. Lynn A. Nelson, a member of the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority, which operates the airport, said the Federal Aviation Administration bases the need for runway upgrades on the largest aircraft based at an airport. The project calls for new parallel taxiways that could handle aircraft the size of a Boeing 727 or 737. Groundbreaking for the project is expected next year.

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