In the RegionWilliams extends Corvis contract amid...

In the Region

Williams extends Corvis contract amid record transmission


Corvis Corp. is expected to announce today that it - along with Tulsa-based nationwide fiber-optic network provider Williams Communications Group, Inc. - has achieved a record-breaking transmission over a fiber-optic network.

Columbia-based Corvis, which makes equipment for fiber-optic networks, was able to successfully transmit light signals about 3,968 miles along a network without having to recharge them. That means a beam of light carrying information could travel farther than from Boston to San Diego without getting a boost along the way.


With the successful completion of this transmission, Williams has extended its contract with Corvis from a $200 million contract to a $300 million, multiyear contract.

Profit, revenue decline at Integral Systems

Integral Systems Inc., a developer of satellite software for ground systems, reported net income of $1.1 million for its fiscal first quarter, which ended Dec. 31 - a 29 percent decrease from the $1.5 million it booked a year earlier. On a diluted per share basis, net income declined to 11 cents from 17 cents.

The Lanham company's revenue fell 32 percent, to $8.5 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2001, compared with $12.5 million in the year-earlier quarter.

Integral's operating income fell to $640,000 in the quarter from $2 million in the 2000 quarter.

Choice Hotels' quarter comes in at 28 cents a share

Choice Hotels International Inc., a Silver Spring-based hotel franchiser, yesterday reported net income of $14.78 million, or 28 cents per diluted share, for its fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 31, compared with $14.84 million, or 27 cents per diluted share, posted for the final quarter of 1999.

Royalty revenue was up 6 percent, to $35.1 million, compared with $33.1 million in the 1999 quarter. The company recorded charges in the latest quarter for acquisition and corporate restructuring costs, as well as investments made in Friendly Hotels.


GenVec licenses drug to combat blindness

GenVec Inc. said yesterday that it has licensed a drug candidate from Northwestern University that could help prevent blindness in certain patients.

The Gaithersburg-based gene-therapy company said it intends to use Pigment Epithelium-Derived Factor, which it licensed from Northwestern, to block abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyes of patients with macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The growth of such blood vessels can cause blindness.

Noble Steed adds 3 health care clients

Noble Steed Associates Inc., a Hunt Valley advertising and marketing agency, has taken on three new health care clients with combined annual billings estimated at more than $6 million.

The company has been hired to help launch a new product for Capital Blue Cross of Central Pennsylvania - the largest health care insurer in central Pennsylvania - and to bring a new look to the brand campaign. Other projects include campaigns for Christiana Care Corp., a health care system based in Wilmington, Del.


Noble Steed also will work on branding for DC Chartered Health Plan, a Washington-based managed care insurer that specializes in health care coverage for Medicaid recipients.


Credit ratings of Lucent are cut nearly to junk status

Lucent Technologies Inc.'s credit ratings were cut to within a notch of junk status by Standard & Poor's Corp. and Moody's Investors Service yesterday, after revenue at the biggest maker of phone equipment fell in the fiscal first quarter.

The two credit-rating companies also said the outlook for Lucent's debt is "negative." The cuts add to a slide that's taken the company close to below investment grade from among the highest-rated borrowers just a few months ago. Lucent can now no longer sell commercial paper, a type of short-term debt that companies use to ensure that they have enough cash day to day.

The cuts follow Lucent's first drop in sales and operating loss in its five-year history as an independent company from former parent AT&T; Corp. Lucent had a loss from operations of $1.58 billion in the quarter that ended Dec. 31 as revenue tumbled 26 percent. Its shares have plunged 69 percent in the past year.


Delta's pilots vote to authorize a strike

Pilots at Delta Air Lines Inc. have voted overwhelmingly to approve a strike against the No. 3 U.S. airline if negotiations fail to produce a contract.

The Air Line Pilots Association said that ballots were cast by 99 percent of pilots eligible to vote, with 97 percent voting to authorize a walkout.

Delta and ALPA began contract talks in September 1999 and have been negotiating with federal mediators since December. The union has sought wage increases, job security and other improved benefits for about 9,800 pilots. The two sides have set a Feb. 28 deadline to reach a mediated settlement. A strike could occur as early as April 1.

Schlumberger buying Britain's Sema PLC

U.S. energy services company Schlumberger Ltd. is buying the British information technology services concern Sema PLC for $5.2 billion.


The acquisition would help New York-based Schlumberger enlarge its growing systems integration business, particularly in the development of smart cards, or wallet-size devices embedded with microchips.

Oil demand eases; prices yet to follow

The growth of world oil demand has slowed faster than expected in pace with a cooling global economy, but has yet to push prices lower, a respected industry survey said yesterday.

World oil demand growth has fallen by 140,000 barrels per day to 1.5 million barrels per day, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said in its monthly report.

It predicted continuing volatility in oil markets because of moves by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut production to keep prices high, and the consequent reduction in oil inventories.

Burlington Northern stops genetic testing


Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., the No. 2 U.S. railroad, said yesterday that it ended genetic tests of workers who claimed carpal tunnel syndrome disability, after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Friday to halt the practice.

The EEOC filed its first-ever lawsuit on the issue to stop the testing, claiming the practice violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The railroad said it voluntarily agreed to an order in U.S. District Court in Sioux City, Iowa, to stop the testing.

Office furniture maker to cut jobs, earn less

Steelcase Inc., the largest U.S maker of office furniture, said it's cutting up to 1,200 jobs and will earn perhaps 11 percent less than forecast in fiscal 2001 because of the slowing U.S. economy.

The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company said it will fire about 5 percent of its work force: 700 temporary employees, 215 hourly workers and 200 to 300 salaried staff.


The reductions are in Athens, Ala.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Grand Rapids; Tustin, Calif.; and Solon, Ohio. Steelcase will close factories in Colorado Springs and Solon, leaving it with about 21,000 workers at 33 plants.

Anadarko is buying Berkley Petroleum

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. says it will buy Berkley Petroleum Corp. of Canada for $777 million, enlarging its natural gas business.

Houston-based Anadarko will pay about $7.60 for each share of Berkley and assume about $250 million in debt. The boards of both companies approved the deal.

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