Business Digest

BUSINESS DIGEST

March 07, 2007

Maryland: Taxes

U.S. holding refunds of $2.2 billion from '03

The federal government is holding more than $2.2 billion for 1.8 million people who failed to file a tax return in 2003 and didn't get their refund. They have until April 17 to file a return with the Internal Revenue Service, otherwise the U.S. Treasury will keep the cash. About 41,300 of these non-filers are Marylanders who are due a total of $55.1 million. Get the forms to file previous years' returns at www.irs.gov or call 800-829-3676.

Eileen Ambrose

Manufacturing

Weirton union gets Mittal assurance

Members of the union representing workers at Sparrows Point's sister steel mill in Weirton, W.Va., say they have assurances from Mittal Steel Co. NV that investments will be made in the plant now that it will remain part of the Netherlands-based company. International Steelworkers Union officials met with Mittal executives in Chicago on Monday and were told that "Mittal wants to make Weirton the premiere producer of tin plate in the United States,"the union said. Last month, Mittal was negotiating to sell Weirton to Esmark Inc., to avoid antitrust issues regarding tin plate production in the United States as part of Mittal's $33 billion merger with Luxembourg-based Arcelor SA. But two weeks ago, the Justice Department decided Mittal should sell Sparrows Point instead. As a result, Mittal ended talks with Esmark over Weirton. But Esmark officials have since told Mittal they are interested in buying Sparrows Point. A call to Esmark's chief executive was not returned yesterday.

Allison Connolly

Biotechnology

Avalon, Merck join on research

Merck & Co. will pay Germantown's Avalon Pharmaceuticals Inc. possibly more than $200 million to find and develop compounds for fighting cancer. Merck will be responsible for the clinical development, regulatory approval and marketing of any drugs developed by Avalon.

Nation: Airlines

US Airways fixing computer glitch

US Airways said yesterday that its operations were returning to normal after computer glitches started shutting down hundreds of check-in kiosks over the weekend. A spokesman said technicians were continuing to fix computer systems in several cities where travelers experienced delays. Meanwhile, the carrier asked its customers to use Web-based check-ins. Problems with self-service kiosks in Charlotte, N.C., Philadelphia, Boston and Las Vegas began Sunday.

JetBlue to ground Embraer aircraft

JetBlue Airways Corp., the first airline to fly 100-seat Embraer jets, said yesterday that it would start grounding the planes tomorrow to fix persistent software problems. JetBlue will contract with regional carrier ExpressJet Holdings Inc. for four 50-seat aircraft to replace the 25 Embraer E190s as they are sidelined two at a time.

Compensation

Ex-Coke executive forfeits $8.94 million

Former Coca-Cola Co. marketing chief Mary Minnick forfeited $8.94 million in compensation and benefits after her resignation from the soft-drink maker last month, soon after she was passed over for president. Minnick, who also oversaw strategy and innovation for the world's largest soft-drink maker, was paid $1.26 million in severance, twice her salary, Coke said yesterday in a regulatory filing. She also was eligible for an annual incentive award for 2006 of at least $1.4 million, subject to company performance, plus vested retirement and other benefits.

Earnings

Brown-Forman net income falls 13%

Brown-Forman Corp., whose brands include Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Southern Comfort and Finlandia vodka, reported yesterday a 13 percent drop in fiscal third-quarter profit. For the three months that ended Jan. 31, earnings totaled $105.1 million, or 85 cents per share, down from $120.5 million, or 98 cents per share, a year ago, which included a one-time net gain of about $14 million, or 14 cents a share, that French liquor company Pernod Ricard SA paid to terminate a joint venture.

Safety

Bausch & Lomb recalls ReNu MultiPlus

Bausch & Lomb Inc., already humbled by a worldwide recall of its ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution, said yesterday that it was recalling about 1.5 million bottles of ReNu MultiPlus because trace amounts of iron could cause the cleaner to lose effectiveness earlier than normal. The company said it has carried out a limited voluntary recall of 12 lots of its ReNu MultiPlus solution.

Retailing

Wal-Mart to ship online orders free

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is offering free shipping on items ordered online and picked up at 750 U.S. stores, betting that customers coming to collect their merchandise may be enticed to buy more. The program will be expanded to all 3,300 U.S. Wal-Mart stores by September, the company said yesterday. Clothing and bulky items such as hot tubs and mattresses aren't eligible for free shipping.

Insurance

American Family pays $1.1 billion

Storms across the Midwest caused American Family Insurance Co. to pay a record $1.1 billion in losses last year. American Family saw losses nearly triple from $390.7 million in 2005 because of storms that hit its main business areas, the company said yesterday.

This column was compiled from dispatches by Sun reporters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.

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