Daily Briefing


April 24, 2009

Lower electricity rates next winter

Residential customers of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. can expect electricity rates to be lower next winter compared with the past one that resulted in increased complaints about higher-than-expected utility bills, state energy regulators said Thursday. The new projections are based on bids for electricity for two-year power contracts that begin Oct. 1. The recent bids from an auction completed Monday reflect lower wholesale energy prices. The actual rates will be released by June 1. However, BGE residential customers will pay $16 more on average for their annual bills from June to May 2010. That's because summer electricity prices are higher and that power was purchased months ago.

Hanah Cho

W.R. Grace posts loss of $38.9 million

W.R. Grace & Co. said Thursday that it lost $38.9 million in the first quarter, or 54 cents per share, and cut jobs as part of a restructuring of its manufacturing and administrative operations. In the first quarter a year ago, the Columbia-based specialty chemicals and construction materials company earned $17.7 million, or 24 cents per share. As part of the recent restructuring, Grace took a pretax charge of $19.1 million in the quarter largely for severance. The company would not say where the cuts occurred and how many workers lost jobs. But Grace now employs about 6,200 workers worldwide - including 1,114 in Maryland - and a year ago reported employing around 6,500. The move and other actions are expected to provide more than $40 million in annual cost savings by next year. Grace has been under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since 2001.

Eileen Ambrose

Microsoft 3Q sales, profit fell

SEATTLE: Microsoft Corp. said Thursday that quarterly revenue fell from the previous year for the first time in its 23-year history as a public company, and its profit fell more sharply than Wall Street was expecting. The shortfall illustrated the toll the recession has taken on the world's largest software maker. In January, Microsoft resorted to its first mass layoffs, cutting 5,000 jobs. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said profit dropped 32 percent to $2.98 billion, or 33 cents per share, in the fiscal third quarter that ended March 31. In the 2008 quarter, it earned $4.39 billion, or 47 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected profit of 39 cents per share. Sales slipped 6 percent to $13.6 billion.

Associated Press

Calif. alleges Wells Fargo fraud

California sued investment subsidiaries of Wells Fargo & Co. on Thursday for securities fraud, alleging that the San Francisco financial services company misled investors by selling $1.5 billion in risky securities. The lawsuit, filed in state court in San Francisco, seeks to recover money invested in what are known as auction-rate securities.

Los Angeles Times

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