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In the Region

Developers buy last campground in Ocean City

The only spot where tent and RV campers can lay their heads in Ocean City has been sold, officials said yesterday.

Wilma Thomas, the campground's manager, said its owners have decided to sell the property for development. "The most feasible use for this property is not as a campground at this time, so therefore, it has been sold," Thomas told The Daily Times of Salisbury. "It's sad, but I think everyone here knew it would happen."

Donna Abbott, an Ocean City spokeswoman, said development trends within the city are leading property owners away from RV campgrounds and tent sites.

The Ocean City Campground is a 200-lot facility that has been operating for several decades. The campground is a mix of nightly rentals, including some tent sites, and longer-term leases on lots big enough for trailers. State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer owned a trailer on the popular campground about 10 years ago.

NeighborCare to fill Medco prescriptions

NeighborCare Inc., the institutional pharmacy based in Baltimore, announced an agreement with Medco Health Solutions Inc. yesterday to supply prescriptions to nursing home residents under the new Medicare prescription benefit, which begins next year.

Medco, a pharmacy benefits management company in Franklin Lakes, N.J., plans to offer a Medicare prescription plan. NeighborCare's pharmacies in 34 states, which already fill prescriptions for nursing home residents, will become part of Medco's network, meaning Medco members can get prescriptions filled by NeighborCare.

Allegheny Energy seeks loan to refinance debt

Allegheny Energy Inc., which owns power plants and utilities in five states, including Maryland, is seeking a $1.08 billion loan to refinance debt at lower rates, the company said yesterday.

The proposed loan will be used to repay a $744 million loan that carries interest at 2.5 percentage points more than the London inter-bank offered rate. The utility owner is seeking to cut interest costs.

Allegheny, based in Greensburg, Pa., will also use the proceeds to repay about $331 million of its 10.25 percent senior notes due in November 2007 and $35 million of its 13 percent senior notes also maturing in November 2007, the company has said.


Shareholders OK Japanese merger, creating No. 1 bank

Shareholders of Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group Inc. and UFJ Holdings Inc. approved Mitsubishi Tokyo's acquisition of UFJ yesterday, paving the way for the creation of the world's largest banking group by assets.

Mitsubishi Tokyo, Japan's second-largest bank, will absorb UFJ, the nation's fourth-largest bank, on Oct. 1, creating an institution with assets of about 190 trillion yen ($1.77 trillion), surpassing U.S. financial giant Citigroup Inc.

Mitsubishi Tokyo and UFJ announced the merger ratio in February, under which one UFJ share will be exchanged for 0.62 Mitsubishi Tokyo share. Banking analysts say that share ratio was generally appropriate. Sumitomo Mitsui withdrew its merger bid, ending an unprecedented takeover battle in the Japanese banking industry.

Many foreign institutional investors, who hold about 30 percent of UFJ shares, initially had doubts about the planned merger amid a persistent bid from Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. to merge with UFJ.

Merger rumors boost stock of 2 exchanges

Speculation about a merger of the two biggest U.S. futures exchanges vaulted Chicago Mercantile Exchange stock to an all-time high yesterday after its longtime rival, the Chicago Board of Trade, acknowledged it is considering unspecified outside offers.

Rumors of the possible cross-town pairing had circulated for months but appeared to gain credence after the Board of Trade's parent company issued a terse statement Tuesday that it had received "unsolicited, nonbinding expressions of interest in a business combination."

CBOT Holdings Inc., which has been poised to take the exchange public, said its board of directors was considering the proposals and cited the possibility of an "acquisition, sale or other transaction."

Shares of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings Inc. rose $34.95, or 12.9 percent, to a record closing price of $305.95 on the New York Stock Exchange after reaching $307.80. That's more than an eightfold increase in the price since the company went public at $35 a share in December 2002.

20 bond traders to pay record $1.65 million fine

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Piper Jaffray Cos. and 17 other firms will pay a combined $1.65 million to the NASD for late and improper reporting of municipal bond trades, a record fine by the regulator for such lapses.

The firms made late or inaccurate reports to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board from January 2003 to October 2004, the NASD said in a statement yesterday. At the time, bond dealers were to report the trades by midnight of the day of the trade.

SEC clears takeover of Unocal by Chevron

Oil and gas company Chevron Corp. said yesterday that its proposed $16.4 billion takeover of rival Unocal Corp. has cleared its final regulatory hurdle, meaning the offer now hangs on a shareholder vote Aug. 10.

Unocal originally accepted Chevron's bid but is also now considering a higher, $18.5 billion offer from China's state-owned oil company CNOOC Ltd.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Tuesday, Unocal said it continues to recommend the Chevron offer.

The SEC has cleared Chevron's registration statement for the transaction, the company said. This was the final U.S. regulatory requirement after the Federal Trade Commission's approval of the deal.

Ashland shareholders OK sale of stake to Marathon

Ashland Inc. shareholders voted yesterday to approve the sale of the company's minority stake in Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC to partner Marathon Oil Corp., as the approximately $3.7 billion cash and stock transaction cleared its final hurdle.

James J. O'Brien, Ashland's top executive, called it a "momentous occasion" because the company is cutting its historic ties to gasoline refining and marketing.

Ashland owns 38 percent of Marathon Ashland, the nation's fifth-largest gasoline refiner and marketer. Houston-based Marathon owns the rest. The transaction is expected to close today.

Northwest Airlines raises fares again

Northwest Airlines Corp. said yesterday that high fuel prices are prompting it to try another fare increase.

Northwest said it added $50 each way to fares that had been capped at $499, and added $5 each way to fares that match discount carriers. It also said it was adding a two-night minimum stay in some markets.

This is the second time Northwest has added $50 to fares that match the $499 cap Delta Air Lines introduced in January. The last one failed after other carriers didn't go along.

Accord reached to end Finnish paper mills strike

Stora Enso Oyj, the world's biggest papermaker, and Finnish rivals including UPM-Kymmene Oyj said yesterday that they reached an agreement with workers to end a six-week shutdown that had idled a fifth of European paper capacity.

The deal was struck after meetings in Helsinki between the Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the Finnish Paper Workers' Union, which had twice rejected previous proposals.

Details won't be made public until the union's central council gives its approval tomorrow, said its leader, Jouko Ahonen.

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

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