Early Briefing: Pain for the Pump Owner
*Like a lot of small-scale entrepreneurs, Cathy Osborne worries that she'll go out of business if fuel prices rise above $4 a gallon. Not because she won't be able to buy gas at that price, but because she won't be able to sell it.
The old mechanical gas pumps with scrolling dials outside her country store in Fauquier County lack the gears to go beyond $3.99 a gallon. State inspectors shut down her diesel pump several months ago when the fuel topped the $4 mark, so now all that's left are two pumps dispensing 87 octane, set currently at $3.75 -- and climbing.
*The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.5 billion contract to build the military's next generation of navigation satellites, crucial for the growing demand by the military, companies and consumers for technology that pinpoints and tracks location.
The Bethesda company beat out rival Boeing for a contract to develop and build two satellites, with an option for 10 more more, the first batch of a constellation called the Global Positioning System III. The Pentagon has said it would likely order 20 satellites on top of that, giving Lockheed a steady stream of revenue in the satellite business for the next two decades.
*A federal jury this week ordered Falls Church government contractor DynCorp to pay more than $15 million to a former minority-owned subcontractor, finding that DynCorp breached its contract and racially discriminated against the firm.
The legal spat started in October 2006 when Worldwide Network Services, a District telecommunications company run by two African Americans, filed suit after DynCorp ended a relationship with WWNS to provide services in Iraq and Afghanistan.
WWNS said it was left with millions in outstanding invoices and nearly collapsed in the aftermath. It also alleged in court filings that DynCorp forced the company off the contract as part of a pattern of racial discrimination, listing several examples, including the use of a South African slur to describe a WWNS employee.
DynCorp, in a statement, said it "does not engage in or tolerate discrimination in any form and rigorously follows the highest standards of business ethics," citing ongoing work with hundreds
of small, minority and disadvantaged businesses.
*American Capital Agency Corp., a real-estate investment trust owned by Bethesda-based American Capital Strategies, yesterday debuted on the Nasdaq, raising $200 million in its initial public offering.
The REIT sold 10 million shares at $20 per share. The company said it will trade in single-family mortgage securities, an area that has been battered over the past several months by the credit markets.
Investors sold nearly 4 million of the shares back into the market rather than hold onto them, which shows the continuing volatility of the markets. Shares of the new REIT closed yesterday at $19.35, off 65 cents from the IPO price. The stock's symbol is AGNC.
*The Maryland Public Service Commission won a victory yesterday from federal energy regulators, who ruled that power companies overcharged electricity customers by $87.5 million two years ago.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission declined to refund the money to customers. But the ruling means that they will save hundreds of millions of dollars on future electric bills, state officials said.
*Washington National Cathedral yesterday laid off 33 people -- 15 percent of its workforce -- as it reorganized its operations and cut costs, Associate Dean Margaret Davis said.
The cathedral, which has a budget of $26 million and just finished celebrating its centennial, expects to see a falloff in investment income, which accounts for 17 percent of its budget, because of the poor performance of the stock market, Davis said. It is also realigning its operation to conform to the new strategic vision developed by Dean Samuel Lloyd III.
May 16, 2008; 5:00 AM ET
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