Originally created 07/10/98

Additional business news

Big brokerage firms negotiate with SEC

WASHINGTON -- Nearly three dozen big Wall Street firms have begun preliminary settlement talks with federal regulators over alleged trading violations on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The brokerage firms in discussions with the Securities and Exchange Commission include some of Wall Street's biggest names: Merrill Lynch & Co., Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., PaineWebber Group Inc. and Mayer & Schweitzer Inc., part of Charles Schwab Corp.

While the case goes back to 1994, when the SEC and the Justice Department began investigating alleged price manipulation by dealers on the Nasdaq market, this apparently is the first time the brokerage firms have discussed a settlement with the SEC.

Augusta Steak & Ale closes

After 21 years in operation, Augusta's Steak & Ale restaurant was closed this week as part of its parent company's plan to build more modern outlets through franchising during the next five years.

Dallas-based S&A Restaurant Corp., has closed 27 other restaurants across the country, according to company spokesman Chris Barnes. All restaurants closed were "not attaining a level of sales advantageous to the company" he said.

The company plans to sell the property at 2505 Washington Road.

Local orthopedic company sold

Maryland-based Hanger Orthopedic Group Inc. this week announced the purchase of Augusta Brace Inc., a local orthopedic and prosthetic-device company founded in 1969.

The purchase was part of an acquisition of three other companies located in Mississippi, Kansas and Florida.

The publicly traded company, which specializes in orthopedic and prosthetic practice management, did not disclose terms of the sale but said the aggregate net sales of the four companies last year was $3.1 million.

Drug firms to spend more on ads

NEW YORK -- Pharmaceutical companies will spend at least $1.3 billion in 1998 to pitch prescription drugs in magazines and on television, a 50 percent jump from 1997 spending, an industry researcher estimated Thursday.

Changes in drug-advertising rules have made television ads far more attractive for companies. Half of this year's spending on consumer ads for prescription drugs will be for TV spots, with 40 percent earmarked for magazines, according to research firm IMS Health.

In 1996, TV ads accounted for just 11 percent of drug ad spending, while consumer magazines got 81 percent.


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