In the RegionVenture capital investments in Md.,...

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In the Region

Venture capital investments in Md., Va. firms fall 50%

Venture capital investments in Maryland and Virginia totaled $364 million in the third quarter, down 50 percent from a year earlier, the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association and research firm Venture Economics reported yesterday.

Maryland and Virginia each had 26 companies that received financing in the quarter that ended Sept. 30. Maryland companies received $184 million and Virginia companies got $180 million. The Maryland sum was the smallest in two years.

The top five companies in terms of money received were Starband Communications of McLean, Va., $50 million; Institutional Shareholder Services of Rockville, $26.1 million; Quantum Photonics of Jessup, $23 million; Megisto Systems of Germantown, $21.6 million; and Riptech Inc. of Alexandria, Va., $21 million.

Nationwide, venture capitalists invested $7.7 billion in start-ups in the third quarter, a 73 percent plunge from the same time last year when the industry reached its quarterly high-water mark of $28.5 billion.

Rite Aid paying $150,000 to settle overcharge claims

Rite Aid Corp., the third-largest U.S. drugstore chain, agreed to pay $150,000 to settle claims that it broke the state's consumer-protection laws by overcharging New Jersey consumers for prescription drugs.

Rite Aid, based in Camp Hill, Pa., agreed to settle claims that it charged cash consumers without insurance higher prices than consumers with prescription drug benefits, the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety said, noting that the higher prices mostly affected seniors.

The company denied any wrongdoing and didn't admit violating any state laws with its "positive override" pricing policy, New Jersey officials said. Rite Aid said it stopped the practice, which occurred under previous management, in June 1998.

Vaccine maker's loss falls from 25 cents a share to 16 cents

Antex Biologics Inc. said yesterday that its third-quarter loss narrowed as revenue rose 54 percent and research costs declined.

The Gaithersburg vaccine developer reported a net loss of $1.7 million, or 16 cents a share, on revenue of $87,900. That compares with a net loss of $1.9 million, or 25 cents a share, on revenue of $57,100 in the third quarter last year.

Research and development costs decreased to $1.2 million from $1.4 million in the year-ago quarter.

Nuances in winning government contracts

Small businesses can learn the nuances of winning a government contract at a symposium from 7:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. today at Camden Yards.

The symposium will include discussions on financing a business, obtaining certification to do business with the government and tips on winning a government contract.

The free event is co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, the U.S. Small Business Administration's Baltimore District Office and several business organizations.

Elsewhere

Ford Motor chairman reportedly to replace Nasser as CEO

DETROIT - Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. will replace Jacques Nasser as chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co., Automotive News reported yesterday.

The company is expected to announce today that Nasser is leaving the company. The move will return the CEO's job to a Ford family member for the first time since Henry Ford II ran the company before resigning as chief executive in 1979.

William Ford Jr., 44, started taking more operational control of the company in July, when the board created the Office of the Chairman and CEO. He and Nasser met regularly to review company operations.

For some weeks, Ford has been looking outside for a successor to Nasser, who had been under pressure for months from Ford's mounting recalls, loss of market share and tumbling profitability. A financial turnaround plan is to be announced in December.

On Oct. 17, Ford reported its second-straight quarterly loss, and its chief financial officer said he expected the world's No. 2 automaker to lose money in the fourth quarter as well. Ford saw its North American market share drop from 23.2 percent in the second quarter to 22.2 percent during the third quarter.

Napster to offer service in first quarter of 2002

Napster Inc., the Internet music service that ran afoul of recording industry copyright complaints, plans to launch its new secure consumer service in the first quarter next year, Chief Executive Officer Konrad Hilbers said yesterday in a speech to an industry conference in Los Angeles.

Napster attracted nearly 60 million users at its peak by enabling people to swap songs for free. But the service has been idle since July because of technical glitches it faced while trying to comply with a court order barring it from offering the trade of copyrighted material.

Pratt & Whitney engines to power French plane

United Technologies Corp., the maker of Pratt & Whitney jet engines, said yesterday that it won a contract valued at more than $3 billion to provide engines for Dassault Aviation SA's new Falcon business plane.

Pratt & Whitney, the third-largest maker of jet engines, beat Honeywell International Inc. for the contract, which is expected to last as long as 20 years. Honeywell won a separate contract valued at as much as $700 million to provide cockpit electronics and other parts for the Falcon 7X.

The French plane maker, which is scheduled to begin production of the Falcon in 2005, has more than 40 letters of intent to buy the aircraft.

NYSE seat costs $100,000 less than last one sold

The New York Stock Exchange said yesterday that one of its seats, which gives owners the right to buy and sell shares on the floor of the Big Board, sold for $2.2 million - $100,000 below the previous sale.

The sale was the third since the Sept. 11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers just a few blocks from the NYSE. The two previous NYSE seats sold went for $2.3 million each.

General Mills to retain overseas Haagen-Dazs

General Mills Inc. said yesterday that it plans to keep Haagen-Dazs' international business, even if the company must sell its stake in the ice cream maker's U.S. unit to Nestle SA.

Nestle and Haagen-Dazs merged their U.S. businesses two years ago to become the No. 2 ice-cream maker. Under that agreement, Nestle can opt to buy the 50 percent of the U.S. business it does not own if Haagen-Dazs' ownership changes.

General Mills, which is buying Haagen-Dazs' parent, Diageo PLC's Pillsbury unit, said it will not exercise an option to sell the international portion of the business to Nestle after completing the purchase this year.

Intel, Advanced Micro cut prices of microprocessors

Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. cut the prices of some of their microprocessors by as much as 29 percent yesterday as the two chip firms slug it out for market share gains and seek to spur demand for personal computers in a weak economy.

Intel, which typically cuts prices about every two months, reduced prices on its fastest Pentium and Pentium 4 chips, and on its Xeon processor, which is aimed at the server market. AMD cut prices on four of its Athlon chips and some of its lower-cost Duron chips for desktop computers.

Nokia's chairman-CEO to stay through 2006

Nokia Corp. said yesterday that its chairman and chief executive, Jorma Ollila, would continue to head the company for another five years through 2006.

Ollila, 51, joined Nokia in 1985 and was appointed president and chief executive in 1992. He has been chairman since 1999. Based in Espoo, Finland, Nokia is the world's largest maker of mobile phones.

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

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