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In the RegionCrestar Financial's parent says earnings...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In the Region

Crestar Financial's parent says earnings increased 12%

SunTrust Banks Inc., the country's ninth-largest bank and parent of Crestar Financial, said yesterday its first-quarter operating earnings rose 12 percent, to $328.3 million, or $1.07 a share. In the comparable period last year, the company earned $292.2 million, or 91 cents.

Net income, including $8.9 million in charges taken for its takeover of Crestar Financial, rose to $319.4 million, or $1.04, from $281.7 million, or 87 cents, in the first quarter of 1999.

Earnings grew largely on merger-related cost savings, lower loan losses and one-time securities gains, though a sharp downturn in mortgage lending, mortgage servicing and thinner lending margins dragged down revenue growth for the Atlanta company.

With the acquisition of Crestar, SunTrust now has $96 billion in assets and branches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

CSX president ousted after nine months on job

Bedeviled by rising customer frustration and falling profits, ex-Conrailer Ronald J. Conway was ousted yesterday after only nine months as president of CSX, the nation's third-largest railroad.

CSX Corp. and the rail unit of rival Norfolk Southern Corp. remain in the grip of service and safety problems -- as well as plummeting stock prices -- arising from their June 1 breakup of Conrail Inc., the Philadelphia freight railroad.

Conway was removed by John W. Snow, chairman and chief executive officer of CSX, who said he has taken personal control of his $10.8 billion company's rail unit.

Snow said he will spend the next two days visiting major points on the 23,400-mile network, launching a period of hands-on management that will have CSX on course toward a full recovery by July 1.

Jos. A. Bank sales rose 7.3% in March

Sales rose 7.3 percent in March at Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. stores open at leas a year, the Hampstead chain said yesterday.

Sales for the month that ended April 1 increased 9.9 percent to $16.2 million, compared with $14.8 million in March 1999. Catalog sales fell 3.7 percent in March, but Internet sales increased 600 percent, the company said.

The company recently reported a 5.5 percent rise in comparable store sales in its fourth quarter, which ended Jan. 29.

BB&T; meets expectations as profit rises $182 million

BB&T; Corp., a banking company in Winston Salem, N.C., yesterday reported its first quarter operating earnings were in line with analysts' expectations, rising to $182 million, or 52 cents a share, compared with $148.8 million, or 48 cents, in the same quarter in 1999.

The banking company, which entered the Maryland market with the purchase last year of Mason-Dixon Bancshares in Carroll County, said interest income increased 16 percent to $906.6 million, while interest expense was up 22 percent to $452.6 million. Net interest income increased 11 percent to $432.5 million. Loans grew to $31.5 billion, up 10.9 percent from a year earlier, while its net yield slipped to 4.25 percent from 4.26 percent.

BB&T;'s net income, including $19.8 million in charges for an acquisition, was $162.2 million, or 46 cents a share. That was up from $154 million, or 44 cents, a year earlier.

Guilford brain cancer drug wins approval in Spain

Guilford Pharmaceuticals Inc. said yesterday it had received a $1 million milestone payment from Aventis S.A., formerly Rhone- Poulenc Rorer Pharmaceuticals Inc., after winning regulatory approval of its brain cancer treatment Gliadel in Spain.

"We are pleased to have achieved this regulatory milestone," said Craig R. Smith, Guilford's president and chief executive officer. "Addiionally, we look forward to the results of a multinational Phase III clinical trial to assess the survival benefit of Gliadel Wafer when used at the time of first surgery."

Elsewhere

No. 1 phone company in Britain may sell Yellow Pages unit

British Telecommunications PLC, Britain's dominant phone company, may announce a spin-off of its Yellow Pages unit to help reverse a 26 percent slide in its stock price this year, people familiar with the company's plans said yesterday.

The spin-off of a unit worth as much as 10 billion pounds ($15.9 billion) is part of a revamp begun two months ago after BT reported a bigger-than-expected decline in third-quarter profits that cut 18 percent off its shares in one day. BT will probably outline the plans as soon as tomorrow , the sources said. The measures are designed to boost British Telecom's stock by highlighting the value of the operating units inside the company, which in 1981 was the first in Europe to lose its monopoly. Company officials declined to comment.

Cisco to pay $118 million for Israeli bandwidth firm

Cisco Systems Inc., the global leader in networking for the Internet, said yesterday that it will buy privately-held Pentacom Ltd. for about $118 million in stock

Pentacom, based in Herzliya, Israel, makes products using Spatial Reuse Protocol which doubles bandwidth -- or data transfer capacity -- in metropolitan Internet networks.

Cisco will exchange $118 million in common stock for all outstanding shares and options of Pentacom. The acquisition follows Cisco's 11 percent investment in Pentacom in June.

Deutsche Bank spin-off expects profits to rise

Deutsche Bank AG's retail unit, left without a banking partner when Deutsche's $29 billion purchase of Dresdner Bank AG fell apart last week, forecast that profit will rise this year as it cuts costs and expands Internet services.

Deutsche Bank 24 said it expects operating profit will rise to more than 200 million euros ($193 million) from 177 million euros in 1999. Deutsche Bank 24 posted net income of 38 million euros last year.

NASD rejects request for chairman's ouster

The National Association of Securities Dealers , which owns the Nasdaq stock market, yesterday brushed aside a demand by one of its board members for the resignation of Chairman Frank G. Zarb because of Zarb's involvement in a New Jersey fraud case.

Alan Davidson, president of the Independent Broker-Dealer Association, called on the chairman to step down because of a civil lawsuit in which a former professional football player accused Zarb of misleading him when he was being recruited by the firm that Zarb headed at the time.

NASD executives said Davidson was using the New Jersey case to derail plans to restructure the Nasdaq through a $1.3 billion private placement. Davidson in March said he would oppose the private placement unless the NASD postponed a vote on it.

27-year-old manager quits as his hot fund cools off

Frank P. Slattery V, who had a phenomenal first year as a manager of the PBHG New Opportunities Fund but stumbled over the past month amid market turbulence, resigned yesterday.

Slattery, 27, did not return a telephone call seeking comment on his departure, which was announced by the company. He had run the New Opportunities Fund since February 1999.

14 oil, chemical firms to use Web for buying

Fourteen oil and chemical companies led by BP Amoco PLC and the Royal Dutch/Shell Group say they will create an Internet-based procurement exchange designed to help members reduce costs.

The Web site will allow companies to buy and sell parts and equipment needed for both exploration and refining. The founding companies are committed to using the Web site for a "significant amount" of their $125 billion in procurement each year, Shell said.

This column was compiled from reports by Sun staff writers, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Bridge News.

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