Business digest

November 01, 2007

Maryland : Economy

Aon to eliminate 2,700 jobs

Insurance brokerage Aon Corp., which has several offices in the Baltimore region, said yesterday that it would cut 2,700 jobs as part of a restructuring plan that will save about $240 million a year. The job cuts will be mostly in back-office operations, with about 1,100 expected to be "off-shored or outsourced," Aon said. A spokesman said the Chicago company has not disclosed which offices would be affected by the job cuts. The company has 43,000 employees across 500 offices globally. In Maryland, Aon has offices in Baltimore, Columbia, Owings Mills, Greenbelt and Bethesda.

Litigation

Martek wins patent case injunction

Martek Biosciences Corp. of Columbia has won a court injunction in a patent infringement case, preventing competitor Lonza Group AG from marketing products containing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), Bloomberg News reported yesterday. Martek last year won a verdict in federal court in Delaware that Swiss-based Lonza had infringed its DHA patent. Martek makes a nutritional supplement called lifesDHA, which is added to foods ranging from infant formula to nacho sauce. Martek also won a European patent case last week against Lonza and three other rivals.

M. William Salganik

AmeriDream lifts HUD ban

Gaithersburg-based AmeriDream Inc. got a temporary injunction yesterday against a Department of Housing and Urban Development ban on a type of down payment assistance for buyers. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman's ruling kept the regulation from going into effect as planned. Nonprofit AmeriDream offers down payment help to low- and moderate-income buyers getting mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration. The nonprofits get their money from the homes' sellers, which HUD has criticized because a higher-than-average percentage of the borrowers end up in foreclosure.

Jamie Smith Hopkins

Privacy bid denied in bankruptcy case

The judge presiding over the bankruptcy of American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. denied requests yesterday from some homebuyers to appoint a consumer privacy ombudsman. Paula Rush of Churchville, Md., and two other women who obtained mortgages through American Home asked that an ombudsman be appointed to ensure that borrowers' personal information is protected as American Home sells off its assets, including its mortgage servicing business. Rush is suing American Home in federal court in Maryland for allegedly fraudulent loan practices.

Acquisitions

Williams Scotsman completes merger

Williams Scotsman International Inc. has completed its merger with Ristretto Acquisiton Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Ristretto Group S.a.r.l. The Baltimore-based provider of leased mobile offices and storage units will continue to operate under the Williams Scotsman name and will be headed by its chairman and chief executive, Gerard E. Holhaus. Ristretto is offering shareholders $28.25 per share in cash. The deal also includes the assumption of debt, which brings its total value to $2.2 billion.

Allison Connolly

Nation

: Regulation

Further study sought on Whois databases

A panel on Internet names voted yesterday to defer questions on whether names and other private information on domain name owners should remain public in open, searchable databases called Whois. Instead, the committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decided on further studies, which privacy advocates consider a stall tactic. The committee also rejected a proposal to give Internet users the ability to list third-party contacts rather than their own private data in the Whois databases.

FCC bans exclusive cable pacts

Federal regulators approved a rule yesterday that would ban exclusive agreements that cable television operators have with apartment buildings. The Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved the change, which Chairman Kevin Martin said would help lower cable rates for millions of subscribers who live in apartment buildings, or about 25 million households. He said the move would particularly help minorities who disproportionately live in multi-unit dwellings.

Acquisitions

Clorox to buy Burt's Bees

Clorox Co., looking to expand into the natural beauty products business, said yesterday that it would purchase lip balm maker Burt's Bees for $925 million. Burt's Bees makes beauty products that contain at least 95 percent natural ingredients. The all-cash deal, expected to close by the end of the year, will help Clorox expand beyond its core business.

Automakers

Chrysler to cut about 2,100 jobs

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