Business Digest

THE BALTIMORE SUN

IN THE REGION

Digene Corp. makes 1st profit: $260,000, or a penny a share

Digene Corp., a maker of cervical-cancer tests, said yesterday that its fiscal fourth-quarter net income was $260,000, or 1 cent a share, the first profit in the company history.

That compared with a loss of $4.47 million, or 25 cents per share, in the fiscal fourth quarter last year.

The Gaithersburg company said its revenue rose 50 percent to $19.1 million from $12.7 million, for the quarter, which ended June 30. Digene had full-year revenue of $63.1 million, up from $48.9 million in fiscal 2002.

The company also said that it expects sales of its test for human papillomavirus to rise. Sales of the company's Pap test rose 68 percent to $16 million from $9.5 million in the year-earlier period.

Benelogic benefits software to be used by CareFirst

Benelogic, a Timonium designer of software for administering employee benefits, said yesterday that it will begin offering online enrollment services to CareFirst Inc.'s more than 50 non-federal group businesses in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

Benelogic's software allows benefits data to be transmitted daily to CareFirst customers. Benelogic serves clients in the transportation, health insurance, banking, information technology and retail industries.

CareFirst, the largest not-for-profit health insurance company in Maryland, offers health insurance products, direct health care and administrative services to more than 3.2 million individuals and groups in Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Delaware.

ELSEWHERE

Northrop to pay $60 million to settle Navy overcharge case

The Pentagon said yesterday that Northrop Grumman Corp. has agreed to pay $60 million to settle a case in which the company's Newport News Shipbuilding Inc. subsidiary overcharged the government for costs associated with a contract to build double-hulled tankers.

The settlement was announced by the Pentagon's office of the inspector general, which investigated the allegations with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

The overcharges were for "independent research and development" in 1994-99 on a contract to design and develop double-hulled tankers, the Pentagon said. Newport News Shipbuilding has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman since November 2001.

Amazon sues 11 marketers over fake e-mail addresses

Amazon.com Inc. has filed federal lawsuits against 11 marketers, contending they faked e-mail addresses to appear as if the messages were sent by the Web retailer, the company said yesterday.

The suits, filed Monday and yesterday in several U.S. district courts and in Ontario Superior Court of Justice, seek injunctions to stop the alleged e-mail forgeries as well as millions of dollars in punitive damages.

The lawsuits are part of a broader effort by Amazon.com to stop e-mail "spoofing" of the company's name, the retailer said in a statement. Spoofing is a practice in which outsiders send e-mail to consumers that purports to be from another company or person.

Amazon.com, Internet auction site eBay and other companies have long been targets of e-mail forgers.

Fleming sells core business to 4 buyers, not just one

Bankrupt grocery distributor Fleming Cos. has sold its core business to four buyers instead of the single buyer who had been previously identified.

Fleming said in a regulatory filing that it sold wholesale-distribution facilities in California, Hawaii and Wisconsin to C&S; Wholesale of Vermont; a plant in Garland, Texas, to Grocers Supply Co. of Houston; Miami operations to Associated Grocers of Florida; and facilities in the Midwest and Southeast to Associated Wholesale Grocers of Kansas City.

Fleming previously had agreed to sell all the facilities to C&S; for $400 million. Terms of the sales were not disclosed.

Siebel settles civil suit filed by La. pension plan

Siebel Systems Inc., which was sued last year by the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana over executive pay, said yesterday that it had settled the civil case by agreeing to disclose more information, add directors to committees and pay $900,000 in legal fees.

The business software provider and the Teachers' Retirement System were headed for a Nov. 3 trial to determine whether Siebel lavished its board with stock options to the detriment of rank-and-file shareholders.

United Airlines to restore Pacific flights next month

United Airlines said yesterday that it will restore all trans-Pacific flights next month, including those from Hong Kong, as it attempts to recover from the sharp downturn in air travel caused by SARS.

The world's No. 2 carrier cut 75 percent of its flights into and out of Hong Kong at the peak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, said Mark Schwab, a United vice president.

United's chief executive, Glenn F. Tilton, who begins a two-day trip to Beijing today, said he will hold talks to help United expand into the booming mainland Chinese aviation market. The airline earns 17 percent of its revenue from trans-Pacific routes.

Target discount stores expect sales to rise 4%-5%

Target Corp.'s sales were well above plan last week as strength at its namesake discount stores continued to drive growth, the company said yesterday.

For all of August, Target expects sales growth of 4 percent to 5 percent at Target stores, with same-store sales for the total corporation 1 percentage point to 1.5 percentage points below that.

Target stores, which are tracking well above expectations for the month, have offset weaker results at the company's Mervyn's and Marshall Field's stores for the month so far, the retailer said.

Electronic Data Systems might cut additional jobs

Electronic Data Systems Corp. said in a regulatory filing that it might cut additional jobs beyond the 2 percent work force reduction it announced in June. But a spokesman warned that the company hasn't reached a decision about making additional job cuts. The previously announced layoffs amounted to 2,700 at EDS, which manages computer systems for other companies and government agencies.

The EDS spokesman said there could be additional layoffs if redundant jobs and processes are discovered, but he said the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission does not mean that more layoffs are imminent.

Part-time workers reach record level in Japan

Reflecting the increasingly austere business climate in Japan, part-time or temporary employees now make up roughly a quarter of the work force, according to government figures released Tuesday.

The number of non-regular employees - part-time, temporary or contract workers - in Japan reached a record 14.5 million in 2002, according to a government report.

The report put the total size of the work force at 63.2 million, including 34.9 million regular, full-time employees.

Australian nickel firm signs $650 million China pact

WMC Resources Ltd., the world's third-largest nickel producer, said it has signed a 1 billion Australian dollar ($650 million) nickel supply contract with Jinchuan Group Ltd., China's dominant nickel producer.

The Australian producer will supply nickel-in-matte, or partially processed nickel, from Western Australia to Jinchuan over six years.

From 2005, WMC will divert significant sales directly into China when existing contracts with Japan's Sumitomo Metal and Mining Co. expire. As a result, Jinchuan will replace Sumitomo as WMC's largest nickel-in-matte customer.

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

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