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Beltsville company, French firm to seek meningitis...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Beltsville company, French firm to seek meningitis B vaccine

Beltsville-based North American Vaccine said yesterday that it plans to sign an agreement with Pasteur Merieux Serums & Vaccins of Paris to develop a conjugate vaccine to fight meningitis B. Pasteur Merieux, a subsidiary of Rhone-Poulenc, operates in North America through Connaught Laboratories.

The vaccine would be used to defend against meningococcal B bacteria, which is responsible for most cases of meningitis in developed countries since the late 1940s. In the United States, the bacteria account for 50 percent of the 2,600 yearly cases of meningitis, and it is on the rise in South America and Europe.

Under the proposed agreement, publicly held North American Vaccine and Pasteur Merieux-Connaught would hold exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the meningitis B vaccine. The product would be sold globally.

Total fees and payments to North American Vaccine could be $50 million if the company receives clinical and regulatory approvals for the new vaccine, the company said. North American Vaccine also would get royalties on sales by Pasteur Merieux-Connaught.

Stock prices rise 12.9% for 12 Baltimore firms

The stocks of a dozen Baltimore-based companies jumped nearly 13 percent in the third quarter to outperform companies in 20 other cities, according to a survey by Money/Norby Cities Index.

The Baltimore companies ranked fourth on the list of 24, with a 12.9 percent increase in their stock prices in the quarter, compared with a 7.7 percent gain in the second period of the year.

Alex. Brown Inc. led the group with a 35.76 percent increase in its stock price in the quarter, followed by Mercantile Bankshares Corp., which had a 21.11 percent gain, according to the Money survey. Other top gainers included Life Technologies Inc., whose stock was up 17.78 percent; Manor Care Inc., up 16.74 percent; and Black & Decker Corp., up 10.53 percent.

Baltimore ranked behind Los Angeles, where companies gained 18.8 percent; San Diego, which showed a 16.6 percent gain; and New York City, which had a 14.4 percent gain.

TVI Corp. to supply shelters at Fla. air base

Beltsville-based TVI Corp. says it again has been chosen by the Air Force to supply 13 shelter systems to Hurlburt Air Force Base, Fla., after a second protest from a losing bidder. The bidder's second protest to the General Accounting Office will delay the work about 90 days, the company said.

The contract is valued at $1.4 million. The systems consist of three connected shelters supported by a utility trailer.

TVI also announced it has received a three-year, $600,000-plus contract for thermal targets for an Army tank gunnery range.

United HealthCare acquires MetraHealth for $1.59 billion

United HealthCare Corp. said yesterday that it has completed its $1.59 billion acquisition of MetraHealth Cos. Inc., creating the nation's largest health care management services company.

Annual revenues are expected to be more than $8 billion, United HealthCare said. MetraHealth was 48.25 percent-owned each by Travelers Group and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

Under the merger agreement, adjusted for a $60 million pre-acquisition dividend to MetraHealth's former owners, United HealthCare paid $1.09 billion in cash and $500 million of preferred stock, the company said.

MetraHealth's former owners are eligible to receive up to an additional $700 million if certain performance levels are met.

International lottery launched on Internet

InterLotto, an international lottery licensed in Liechtenstein and launched yesterday, will give the world's 50 million Internet users the opportunity every week to win a jackpot of at least 1.2 million Swiss francs -- about $1 million -- by dialing a new World Wide Web page.

Interlotto officials said players could nominate charities to receive awards. At least 5 percent of InterLotto revenues will go to charity initially, with 65 percent to be given in prize money and the rest used for paying costs.

Tickets cost 5 Swiss francs -- $4.30 -- with a minimum purchase of two. The first drawing is Saturday.

Union calls 'best' offer by Boeing unacceptable

Negotiators for Seattle-based Boeing Co. made their "best and final" contract proposal to the Machinists union late Monday, a day of demonstrations and a slowdown by members of the aerospace company's largest union.

Machinists leaders said the company's offer is "totally unacceptable" and they'll recommend a strike vote.

The three-year contract proposal was to be distributed today to the more than 34,000 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers employed by Boeing. Voting is scheduled tomorrow; the old pact expires at midnight that night.

A walkout would require a two-thirds vote, but Machinists District Lodge 751 President Bill Johnson said his members are ready to strike. His district represents about 26,000 Boeing employees in the Puget Sound area.

Apple growers' lawsuit against CBS rejected

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has rejected a lawsuit by Washington state apple growers against CBS over a "60 Minutes" program on the dangers of the apple growth hormone Alar.

The growers failed to offer evidence that could prove false the program's statements that Alar posed a high risk of cancer, particularly to children, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, saying the statements were based on animal studies that are an accepted method of assessing the likelihood of cancer in humans.

Alar, a trade name for the chemical daminozide, was sprayed on apples to promote growth. The Environmental Protection Agency later banned it for use on food.

Dean Witter ends bonus to brokers selling own funds

Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. yesterday became the last major Wall Street firm to abandon the controversial practice of paying brokers extra commissions for peddling the firm's own mutual funds.

Dean Witter also said it would end the practice of paying upfront bonuses to lure brokers from rival companies. In addition, it would no longer recruit brokers by offering them higher commissions than paid to its existing brokers. However, it said it would only abandon the higher commissions if its rivals do.

The brokerage unit of Dean Witter, Discover & Co. said it changed the policy as part of a broader reform of compensation practices recommended by an industry panel last spring.

Gannett, Knight-Ridder see drop in earnings

Knight-Ridder Inc. and Gannett Co. Inc. said yesterday they expect to report lower third-quarter profits because of increased security, hiring of replacement workers and other costs in the 12-week strike against the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News.

Knight-Ridder's earnings will drop about 50 cents a share, or $25 million, and Gannett's profits will drop about 15 cents a share, or $21 million, the companies said.

Microsoft's Gates topped in salary by his No. 3

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates may be the richest businessman in the world, but he is far from the best-paid executive at the software giant. Microsoft's chief operating officer, Robert Herbold, the company's No. 3 executive, currenty receives more than double Gates' base pay and bonus, according to the company's annual financial report.

Mr. Herbold, who joined Microsoft in late 1994 after more than 25 years at Procter & Gamble Co, gets at least $900,000 a year in annual salary and bonus over his first four years of employment, plus options to buy 325,000 shares of Microsoft at $62.25 each beginning in November 2001. The stock currently sells at $88.875.

Mr. Gates the world's richest person outside royalty, made about $416,000 in salary and bonus in the company's latest fiscal year. But his 24 percent stake in the company he co-founded 20 years ago is worth $12.5 billion.

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