First Union to buy Virginia bankFirst Union...

First Union to buy Virginia bank

First Union Corp. said yesterday that it signed an agreement to buy Columbia First Bank of Arlington, Va., in a stock swap valued at $60 a share, or $222 million.


Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union said the acquisition will make it the second-largest bank in the Washington area, up from third. NationsBank Corp. is the area's largest bank.

Columbia First has $2.9 billion in assets, $1.5 billion in deposits and 33 branches in Washington, northern Virginia and Maryland. Columbia First will boost First Union's metropolitan area deposits to $6.2 billion from $4.7 billion.


Media venture hires president

Sandy Grushow, former president of Fox Entertainment Group, was named president of a new media and technology venture of Bell Atlantic, Nynex and Pacific Telesis.

The appointment, announced yesterday, takes effect immediately. Mr. Grushow will be based in the company's Century City offices in California.

Mr. Grushow, 35, will lead efforts to create and market programming, said Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer, who resigned on Feb. 23 as president of CBS.

Unemployment claims increase

More Americans filed claims for government unemployment benefits last week, and the four-week average for claims rose to its highest level since July.

First-time jobless claims increased by 3,000, to a seasonally adjusted 341,000, last week, Labor Department figures released yesterday showed. The four-week average for claims, a less volatile gauge, rose to 342,500 last week from 341,750 the previous week.

Bank's earnings drop 28%


Maryland Federal Bancorp Inc. of Laurel, hurt by last year's interest rate increases and by the costs of several branch acquisitions, yesterday reported a 28 percent drop in earnings for the fourth quarter of fiscal 1995, which ended Feb. 28. The parent of Maryland Federal Savings and Loan Association said its earnings declined to $1.9 million, or 63 cents a share, from $2.6 million, or 83 cents a share, a year earlier.

Burns Philp begins revamping

Burns Philp Food Inc. announced yesterday that it had begun a restructuring that would close three of its four U.S. spice plants and cut its spice production costs by 11 percent over five years.

The Sydney, Australia-based company said it had closed a Sparks, Nev.-based Spice Islands brand plant, with 60 workers, last week, and would close a Bethlehem, Pa.-based Durkee French brand plant, with 375 workers, over the next 15 months. Burns said it would fold operations at its Des Moines, Ill., plant into a Tone Bros. Inc. plant in Ankeny, Iowa.