Posted at 3:51 PM ET, 08/14/2009

Signing Off For Now

The Washington Post is evaluating how best to use its resources to serve readers and has decided to discontinue the WashBiz blog for now. Previous postings will be available as an archive.

We're committed to providing the best local business coverage of the Washington region. Keep an eye on our Local Business page for new features.

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Posted at 10:17 AM ET, 06/23/2009

SAIC Announces New CEO is Walter Havenstein

San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp. announced this morning the retirement of its CEO Kenneth Dahlberg, who has been with the company since November 2003.

"Consistent with the company's mandatory retirement policy for executive officers," Dahlberg will step down effective September 20, the science and technology contractor said in a statement. SAIC also confirmed Walter Havenstein, outgoing CEO of Rockville-based defense contractor BAE Systems, will take his place. BAE first announced the move yesterday, as you may have read in today's Post story.

Under Dahlberg's leadership, SAIC transitioned from employee-owned to publicly traded and grew its annual revenues to $10 billion. SAIC is one of the region's biggest employers, with more than 17,000 workers in the Washington area.

--Emma L. Carew

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Posted at 6:24 PM ET, 06/22/2009

BAE Executive to Head SAIC

Walt Havenstein is stepping down after three years as chief executive of the Rockville-based U.S. arm of British defense contractor BAE to take that position at fellow contractor Science Applications International Corp.

Retired Marine Gen. Tony Zinni, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, will be interim chief executive and chairman of the board at BAE Systems while the firm searches for a replacement for Havenstein, the company said. Zinni, the former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, has sat on the board of BAE Systems for five years.

Havenstein's resignation is effective Friday, BAE said. San Diego-based SAIC declined to comment on its chief executive position. Kenneth Dahlberg, 64, has been its chief executive since November 2003, led the company's transition from employee-owned to publicly traded, and grew its revenue to $10.07 billion. SAIC is one of the area's biggest employers, with more than 17,000 workers in Washington.

BAE Systems makes defense and security products including Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. The U.S. contracting businesses, which include land, air and sea products as well as security services, accounted for 58 percent of its parent company's $34 billion in sales last year. Havenstein had been with the company 10 years and also served as chief operating officer of the parent company. Zinni will fill this position as well.

Havenstein was not available to comment on the transition.

While BAE Systems makes combat vehicles and focuses on products geared toward military forces, SAIC's work ranges from defense to areas like public health and energy.

Defense industry consultant Loren Thompson said Havenstein's move to a company with a distinctly different portfolio and Zinni's ascension at BAE Systems are part of a larger shift in leadership across the defense industry, he said.

"With the drawdown in Iraq signaling a leveling off, if not decline, in defense spending, the reorganization of the defense industry seems to have begun," Thompson said.

--Emma L. Carew

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Posted at 7:30 AM ET, 06/16/2009

Early Briefing: Six Flags Shareholders

Six Flags filed for bankruptcy protection over the weekend, and shareholders including Washington Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder and Bill Gates's Cascade Investment are likely to see their shares wiped out, according to a bankruptcy expert. Snyder has chaired the company since winning a proxy fight with Gates's support in 2005, and he owns about 6 percent of the shares. Those shares are likely to be worthless as the company pays off more senior creditors in anticipation of issuing new shares.

The chief executive of Gannett is taking a temporary medical leave of absence, the company said. Gannett, which is based in McLean and publishes USA Today, said that Craig Dubow, who also serves as the company's chairman and president, is taking time off following back surgery.
Gracia C. Martore, executive vice president and chief financial officer, will serve as the company's principal executive officer until Dubow returns to work, Gannett said.

Boeing said it has agreed to buy eXMeritus of Fairfax for an undisclosed amount. EXMeritus, which has fewer than 30 workers, provides hardware and software that lets federal agencies share information securely. The deal is expected to close at the end of the month.
Boeing characterized the move as part of its strategy to get more heavily into the cyber and intelligence markets. "Our military and government customers have said that protecting vital information networks against cyber attacks is one of the nation's highest priorities, and Boeing is responding to the call," Jim Albaugh, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems chief executive, said in a statement.

Capital One said that defaults on U.S. credit cards rose in May, but delinquencies slowed for a third straight month. In a regulatory filing, the McLean-based company said the annual net charge-off rate, or the percentage of loans the company believes won't be repaid to total managed loans, rose to 9.41 percent from 8.56 percent in April.
The rate for loans at least 30 days delinquent improved for a third straight month. The delinquency rate fell to 4.9 percent from 5.04 percent.

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Posted at 12:47 PM ET, 06/11/2009

Chindex Shares Up on Improved Results

Chindex International said this morning that fourth-quarter profit rose more than 70 percent, and it swung to a profit for the quarter. Fiscal 2009 revenue and profit were also up, as the Bethesda company sold more medical products and provided more health-care services in its market of China.

Shares are up about 18 percent on the news so far today, trading around $12.70 as of 12:45 p.m. They went as high as $14.20 earlier today after closing yesterday at $10.79.

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Posted at 6:21 PM ET, 06/10/2009

Area Leaders Oppose Say-on-Pay

Washington area business leaders and compensation analysts today expressed opposition to an Obama administration proposal designed to give shareholders more influence over pay for executives of all publicly traded companies.

The proposal is aimed at reining in excessive compensation of corporate executives.

"I don't think this is going to succeed," said Shub Debgupta, senior director of the Corporate Executive Board. Debgupta objected to a "say-on-pay" proposal that would empower shareholders to vote annually on whether an executive pay package should be approved. Companies would be required to forward the vote tallies to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Historically, when shareholders have a say, it hasn't been a very strong voice one way or the other," Debgupta added. "Shareholders, while owners, know very little about the inner workings and risks and issues of the company."

James C. Dinegar
, president and chief executive of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said he opposes federal interference in corporate matters. "I understand the concerns and hope that the shareholders and corporate governance boards do weigh in with appropriate measures," Dinegar said. "The government is not the group I'd like to see setting executive pay level."

The prospect of more government involvement in corporate matters also worried Barbara B. Lang, president and chief executive of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. "I think this is a very slippery slope," Lang said. "I would be concerned about that much government control and oversight in a for-profit firm."

Tim Bartl, senior vice president and general counsel of the Disrict-based Center on Executive Compensation, said a recent survey showed that a majority of institutional shareholders don't want to have a say on pay.

"This would mean that shareholders would have to analyze 30 to 40 pages of disclosures if they're going to make a reasoned determination on an executive's pay package," Bartl said. "If you own 300 companies -- 40 pages times 300 is a lot of reading."

A second proposal would empower the SEC to ensure that compensation committees at companies act independently in setting executive pay. Members of these committees would not be able to take any fees from their respective firms other than what they make for serving on the panels. Attorneys or consultants that help members in their work must be hired by and report to the committee rather than the chief executive of a firm.

--V. Dion Haynes

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Posted at 7:30 AM ET, 06/ 4/2009

Early Briefing: Autos' One-Man PR Machine

Jack Fitzgerald, owner of nine Washington area dealerships -- seven of which are on the chopping block by General Motors and Chrysler -- left his headquarters on Rockville Pike mid-morning yesterday, armed with a black bag, full of thick consumer reports, pie charts and line graphs on cars. In the past three weeks, he's been a virtual one-man PR machine, meeting with local and national politicians and blitzing the media, all in a desperate attempt to save his business.
Fitzgerald was part of a small army of dealers who descended on Capitol Hill in hopes of putting pressure on the automakers and the U.S. government to back off plans to close more than 2,000 dealerships across the country. Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike spoke sympathetically of the dealers' plight, though it was unclear whether any relief was forthcoming.

Despite a drop in metropolitan Washington's jobless rate, regional economists told business leaders yesterday that they expect unemployment to worsen next year before subsiding in 2011 with the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs.
Government data released yesterday show the unemployment rate dropped from 5.9 percent in March to 5.6 percent in April, the second consecutive month it has a decreased. But analysts said they expect it to rise about 1.5 percentage points before recovery kicks in.
Because the number of employed people in the labor force is not rising, regional economist Stephen S. Fuller said April's decline is not an indication of recovery but suggests that more unemployed people are not being counted because they have become discouraged and either stopped looking for work or exhausted their jobless claims.

Blackboard's patent infringement complaint against Desire2Learn won review by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Blackboard seeks to bar the Canadian firm from importing and selling software that the District-based company alleges infringes on its technology used by colleges to put class lectures online.

Sallie Mae chief executive Albert Lord said he expects loan charge-offs at the student lending company to peak in 2009 and remain high next year. Charge-offs are loans written off as not being repaid. Lord noted that most of the loan losses came from a group of non-traditional loans that were originated between 2003 and 2007.

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Posted at 2:07 PM ET, 06/ 3/2009

Iridium Says Sales Grew, Profit Fell

Bethesda-based Iridium Satellite said first-quarter revenue grew 2 percent, to $75.8 million, while profit fell almost 42 percent, to $9.7 million. The company attributed the profit decline to expenses related to its next-generation satellite program. Iridium, a private company that provides voice and other communications services via satellite, said subscribers were up 31.2 percent from the year-earlier quarter. It expects to continue growing this year, though it said the economic downturn is affecting equipment sales.

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Posted at 1:10 PM ET, 06/ 3/2009

New CFO for GeoEye

Dulles-based GeoEye named Joseph F. Greeves as its chief financial officer. He has previously held that post at companies including Managed Object Solutions, Lazard Technology Partners, and Opnet, which he helped lead through its initial public offering. Henry E. Dubois resigned as finance chief on Dec. 10, though he stayed on as a consultant through March 15.

"Joe's experience in various industries relevant to GeoEye, such as visualization software and experience in international and government sales will be very helpful as GeoEye develops location-based information services for our customers," said chief executive Matt O'Connell in a statement.

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Posted at 7:30 AM ET, 06/ 3/2009

Early Briefing: Union Holds Campaign at Landover Wal-Mart

The United Food and Commercial Workers held organizing campaigns at several Wal-Mart stores across the country this week -- including one yesterday in Landover Hills -- as it renews pressure on the world's largest retailer to increase pay and improve health benefits.
In the Washington area, union representatives said they have been responding to increased inquiries from workers. UFCW Local 400 spokesman Mark Federici said hundreds of Wal-Mart employees in the area have signed union authorization cards, but he declined to give a specific number.

A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the federal government in the cancellation of a contract given to General Dynamics and Boeing to develop the A-12 Navy jet fighter, a federal appeals court said.
Falls Church-based General Dynamics said in a filing last month that its after-tax charge would be about $780 million, or $2.02 a share, if it lost the case. The company said in a statement last night that it plans to appeal the ruling.

Marriott International plans to reduce its debt by as much as $650 million this year to counter a decline in travel spending and lower revenue. The Bethesda company sees signs of stabilization in the economy yet expects revenue per available room to fall by 17 percent to 20 percent for the year, Chief Financial Officer Carl Berquist said at a conference.

Lockheed Martin of Bethesda received a $2.11 billion contract boost for initial production of the next batch of Joint Strike Fighters, the Pentagon said yesterday. The latest contract provides funding for seven Air Force conventional take-off and landing aircraft, seven Marine Corps short take-off and vertical aircraft, plus one fighter jet for the Netherlands and two for the United Kingdom.

McLean-based Qinetiq North America said its revenue rose 42 percent in the year ended March 31, leading to the creation of about 525 U.S. jobs. It attributed the growth in part to work with the Department of Homeland Security and NASA.

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Posted at 7:30 AM ET, 06/ 1/2009

A Call for United Therapeutics

It wasn't a prank call that United Therapeutics President Roger Jeffs got at a conference. It was really from an Eli Lilly executive, who was interested in a partnership related to Cialis and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Read Mike Rosenwald's story of the opportunity it gave the Silver Spring biotech.

In her weekly Download column, Kim Hart takes us to a symposium last week at the University of Maryland where government researchers, computer science professors and corporate financial analysts discussed how to organize and display data. How do you display flu outbreaks, cellphone call logs or senators' voting logs?

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