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In the RegionComcast to buy cable systems...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In the Region

Comcast to buy cable systems here from AT&T;

Comcast Corp., the No. 3 U.S. cable-television operator, has agreed to pay rival AT&T; Corp. $500 million to buy properties, including TCI in Baltimore.

Comcast, already the largest cable TV company in the Baltimore area, will pay cash for AT&T; cable systems with 110,000 customers, the company said in a filing at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday. The Philadelphia-based company is paying $4,545 per customer. AT&T; has been selling cable systems to pay down debt.

Comcast has been acquiring cable customers from Washington, D.C., to New Jersey, where it is the largest cable operator. The company has 8.5 million subscribers, and AT&T;, which also is the No. 1 U.S. long-distance provider, serves 14.8 million homes.

Both figures include the Baltimore transaction, which Comcast said it expects to complete by June 30.

Borders to open Annapolis book store

Borders Group Inc. said yesterday that it will open a 26,500- square-foot store in Annapolis in November, its eighth store in the Greater Baltimore area.

The store will carry more than 150,000 books, music, periodical and video titles, an will have a cafe. It will be at Westfield Shoppingtown on Route 178 and Bestgate Road.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company owns and operates roughly 1,200 retail stores, including several international stores, the Waldenbooks chain and a United Kingdom-based bookstore chain. It is the No. 2 bookseller in the United States behind Barnes & Noble Inc.

York says earnings on track for year

Heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration products maker York International Corp. said yesterday that it is comfortable with its previously announced earnings guidance for 2001 as cost-cutting measures have helped offset the effects of the weak economy.

The York, Pa.-based company said it expects earnings of $3.24 to $3.50 per share for the year, excluding items. It earned $2.70 per share in 2000.

"While the U.S. economic weakness continues, we believe our cost-reduction initiatives announced in October of 2000 will allow us to perform at expected levels," President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Young said at an investor conference. "We are comfortable with earnings-per-share estimates for 2001, based on the current economic climate."

Lockheed delivers vehicle simulators

Lockheed Martin said yesterday that it has delivered $8 million in armored vehicle simulators to the Army in Fort Carson, Colo.

Included in the shipment are 10 Abrams tank simulators, five Bradley fighting vehicle simulators and two dismounted infantry workstations.

Lockheed said the deliveries were made weeks ahead of schedule.

Advertising.com in deal with thinkkitchen.com

Advertising.com, the Baltimore company that runs advertising campaigns on the Internet, has announced that Lechters' e-commerce division, thinkkitchen.com, will use its new "floating" ad technology. Financial terms were not disclosed. Through the deal with thinkkitchen.com, the housewares company will use floating ad campaigns to promote the launch of its Web site.

Advertising.com's new floating ads pop up on a computer screen when a consumer goes onto a Web site. Then the ad shrinks and moves into a corner, where users can click on it to make it become interactive.

Elsewhere

Microsoft schedules Windows XP for late-October release

Windows XP, Microsoft Corp.'s new version of its personal computer operating system, will be released in late October, in time for the holiday season but too late for the back-to-school crowd.

"We're going to blow out the holiday season," Group Vice President Jim Allchin said yesterday. "It would have been nice to make back- to-school, but quality did come first."

Microsoft will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to promote the new product, to be released Oct. 25. Allchin said the campaign will cost twice what Microsoft spent to advertise Windows 95 in the first four months after it was launched in August 1995, but he declined to give specifics.

National Semiconductor to pare 1,100 jobs

Major computer chip maker National Semiconductor Corp. sharply lowered its outlook for the current quarter yesterday and said it would cut 1,100 jobs, or 10 percent of its work force.

The company said orders have been lower than expected, inventory is high and it has been hurt by consolidation among manufacturers of cell phones.

For its fiscal fourth quarter, which ends May 27, National Semiconductor expects to post revenue of $390 million to $400 million, down 18 percent from the third quarter. Excluding one-time charges, it expects earnings to range from break-even to a loss of 4 cents per share.

First Data to move its world HQ to Colo.

First Data Corp., the world's largest processor of credit-card payments, said yesterday that it plans to move its global headquarters to Colorado from Atlanta, where it will continue to maintain a corporate office.

First Data has broken ground on a $50 million, 166,000-square-foot Douglas County office complex just outside Denver. The company already has an office in Denver that manages several operations with about 2,600 workers.

Workers based in Atlanta, the site of the company's corporate headquarters since 1998, will remain there. First Data also has a corporate office in Omaha, Neb.

At Home Corp. agrees to Web service standards

At Home Corp. will agree to pay customers of Cox Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. when the No. 1 provider of fast Internet access using cable television provides poor service, a senior executive said yesterday.

Agreements being negotiated with the cable companies will require that At Home meet 12 to 15 service standards, including that its network operate at least 99.95 percent of the time, said Steve Brookstein, senior vice president of At Home's Internet division.

The agreements will cover numerous issues, such as network outages and the performance of At Home's call center in solving customer complaints, and set penalties when At Home fails to meet the standards, he said. The agreements are expected to be in place within 30 days to 60 days.

Blue Fox flights to be strictly business

British airline Blue Fox Executive Airlines Ltd. plans to offer flights with nothing but business- class seats between New York and London by next year.

Blue Fox said it intends to fly two round-trip Boeing 767-300 flights daily between New York's JFK airport and London's Stansted, with the wide-body planes carrying just 138 seats instead of the normal 220 to 270 seats.

Promoter Michael Lord-Castle said Blue Fox is considering offers from three potential backers, each of which is willing to put up the 60 million pounds ($85 million) he needs to finance the operation. The fares will be in the vicinity of the $1,700 full-economy fares that the major airlines charge, he said.

Polaroid sells buildings to pay down debt

Polaroid Corp. has sold two buildings near Boston for $35.7 million to pay down debt.

The buildings, on a 3.8-acre site behind Polaroid's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., were sold to an unspecified buyer, said spokeswoman Anne McCarthy.

Polaroid is selling assets and cutting costs while trying to return to profitability with sales of new instant-photography products, digital photography and services. The company received waivers last month from lenders for violations of bank-loan agreements through May 15, giving it more time to renegotiate about $500 million in loans.

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

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