Business Digest

September 07, 2007

Maryland : Acquisitions

MuniMae buys land-fund firm

Municipal Mortgage & Equity LLC, the Baltimore company better known as MuniMae, announced yesterday that it has acquired the Sustainable Land Fund, an Owings Mills firm that arranges investments in land that provide conservation opportunities.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Sustainable Land Fund, formed early last year, buys land and allows limited development while selling conservation credits to developers who need to offset the environmental impact of their projects.

MuniMae, a real estate financier, branched into financing solar and other renewable power projects last year.

Laura Smitherman

Davis Inotek to sell unit to Thermo Fisher

Baltimore-based Davis Inotek Instruments LLC, a manufacturer and distributor of test, measurement and control equipment, said yesterday that it has agreed to sell its instrument sales business to Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. of Waltham, Mass.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The deal did not include the company's related calibration-services business. Davis Inotek will be renamed Davis Calibration to reflect the change. The instrument sales business had 2006 sales of $30 million, the Associated Press reported.

Davis Inotek is owned by JPB Enterprises, a Columbia-based private equity firm founded in 1995 by former W.R. Grace & Co. chief executive J.P. Bolduc.

Litigation

Court clears way for sex-bias lawsuit

A federal court in Baltimore has ruled that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can proceed to trial with its sex-discrimination lawsuit against the former L.A. Weight Loss Centers Inc. on behalf of male job applicants nationwide, the federal agency said yesterday.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. rejected the Horsham, Pa.-based weight loss company's motion to dismiss the case in his ruling last week.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit in February 2002, alleging that the company engaged in a pattern of discrimination against men in recruiting and hiring and in assignment of employees. The case also involves claims of retaliation. The alleged practice came to light when former Maryland employee Kathy Koch filed a complaint with the EEOC's office in Baltimore, claiming that she was disciplined and fired in retaliation for attempting to hire male applicants, according to the lawsuit. The company denies all charges.

Hanah Cho

Power generation

Thurmont ponders `green' power plant

The town of Thurmont is considering building a power plant fueled by cow manure or cornstalks to provide electricity to its 6,000 residents, officials said yesterday. Town Clerk Richard May said Thurmont has contracted with consulting firm Energy Management Strategies to pursue grants for such a project. The reported goal is have the plant in operation in three to four years.

BGE offering rebates for energy efficiency

Baltimore Gas & Electric said yesterday it has launched two new programs that will pay homeowners rebates for investing in certain energy efficient appliances and light bulbs. Customers who buy clothes washers, freezers and refrigerators that carry the Energy Star designation - meaning they meet strict government energy efficiency standards - can earn rebates of $50 to $75. In addition, the utility has teamed with Home Depot, Costco and other retailers to cut the price of energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. The programs were recently approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission. Information: www. bgesmartenergy.com.

Paul Adams

Nation

: Retailing

Walgreen to open 550 new stores in '08

Walgreen Co., the largest U.S. drugstore chain, will open 550 new stores next year to boost the number of prescriptions it fills. After closings and relocations, the retailer will have 475 new stores, Chief Operating Officer Gregory Wasson said yesterday at a retail conference in New York.

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

Nation : Settlement

UnitedHealthcare to pay $12 million

UnitedHealthcare yesterday settled complaints about its past claims practices, agreeing to pay $12 million in fines to 36 states and the District of Columbia. The largest sum, about $4 million, is going to New York, where the health insurer covers about 1 million people. A joint investigation by insurance officials in the states found that the Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer often applied incorrect fee schedules and deductibles, didn't promptly pay claims, and was generally unable to correct problems pointed out by regulators, New York state insurance officials said yesterday. Insurance officials in New York, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida and Iowa led the settlement negotiations. The company also agreed to meet benchmarks for improving its claims accuracy and timeliness, appeals and handling of consumer complaints, or face up to $8 million in additional fines.

Economy

Recession more likely, Fed figure says

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