LETTER FROM . . . DULLES; Moving Into A Higher Orbit

Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles enjoyed an end-of-the-year uptick in its stock after a year-long bumpy ride, thanks to several bits of good news, including last week's announcement of a contract with NASA worth potentially $1.5 billion.

The satellite maker's stock closed at $18.56D Friday, up $1.06D from the previous close. The stock had been on a steady downward course since a high of $45.31D in January, sinking to a low of $10.80 last month.

In addition to the five-year NASA contract, under which Orbital will design, produce, and test satellites, NASA awarded the company a $35 million contract for use of its Pegasus rocket to launch satellites NASA will use for a scientific experiment.

Other stock-moving news in the last few weeks of 1999 included an announcement that the company had sold 33 percent of its MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates Ltd. subsidiary, raising $75 million.

Wall Street endured a meteor storm of bad news from Orbital all year, as the company twice restated its earnings and fired its auditor, KPMG LLP, after an accounting dispute.

Attempting to strengthen the management team, which some analysts say is thin given the company's fast growth, chief executive David W. Thompson hired a president and chief operating officer to relieve him of some of the day-to-day management duties. James R. Thompson Jr. (no relation) took the newly created post in October.

Orbital initially reported 1998 revenue of about $735 million. However, the company is in the process of restating its financial results for 1997 and 1998. It has changed the way in which it accounts for revenue from its Orbimage subsidiary and is reviewing how another subsidiary, GPS navigation company Magellan Corp., is valued.

-- Sarah Schafer


Dan Betts's strategy to build Deck America Inc.'s business went into high gear after its April move to a new headquarters in Woodbridge.

"We basically grew out of our space at Lorton," said Betts, the chief executive, whose company had been in Fairfax County for about 16 years.

Since moving into the 400,000-square-foot Woodbridge facility -- spending $1.7 million -- Deck America has added 50 employees, for a total of 230. Sales have grown by a third from 1998, to an expected $12 million in 1999.

With the new Woodbridge space, the company had room for updated equipment, which in turn helped improve the quality of Deck America's product, said Steve Wilson, vice president of sales and marketing.

"This is the best the company has done since we started," Betts said.

Betts founded Deck America -- which specializes in residential deck and enclosure manufacturing and installation -- in 1975 in Pittsburgh and moved to Lorton in 1983. The company's customers -- located in the Washington region only -- number more than 2,000, Betts said.

-- Amy Joyce

ROCKVILLE; Extra Space For HealthExtras

Online health products retailer HealthExtras Inc. leased another 25,000 square feet at its headquarters on Research Boulevard in Rockville to keep up with its growth.

Chief executive David Blair said the expansion will allow the company to continue to increase membership and build up its technology infrastructure and customer service operations.

The company's main business is selling supplemental health and disability insurance, underwritten by a third-party insurance company, via the Internet, using disabled actor Christopher Reeve as its spokesman. The company went public this summer and will report operating revenue this year. It has yet to make a profit.

ANNAPOLIS; Condor Drops Safari

Condor Technology Solutions Inc., a nationwide Internet consulting company based in Annapolis, decided to sell its Safari Solutions subsidiary to focus on its core consulting business.

Denver-based Safari specializes in Web-based software that allows businesses to function better.

Condor hired RCW Mirus Inc., a Boston-based investment bank, to shop the subsidiary to potential buyers.

Condor is an amalgamation of more than a dozen information technology consulting firms bought in the past two years. It had $49 million in revenue in the third quarter but lost $4.3 million.

DULLES; Bankrupt Firm To Sell Intelidata Stock

Worldcorp Inc. registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell 500,000 shares of Intelidata Technologies Corp. stock worth about $2.25 million.

Worldcorp, a holding company currently operating in bankruptcy, is Intelidata's largest shareholder, owning about 25 percent of Intelidata's 33 million outstanding shares.

Reston-based Intelidata historically has made telecommunications devices, such as caller ID units, but in 1999 decided to focus on its Internet banking software business.

COLUMBIA; U.S. Foodservice Hires E-Help

U.S. Foodservice Inc. hired GTE Internetworking to build the backbone of its planned e-commerce effort.

Dubbed NextDayGourmet by the company, the proposed Web site will sell restaurant-grade kitchen equipment and supplies as well as specialty food items directly to the consumer. U.S. Foodservice is the fifth-largest food service company in the country, with clients mainly in the restaurant business.

BELSVILLE; Software Firm Buys Distributor

Micros Systems Inc. bought Laurel-based Hayman Systems, which distributes Micros' software in the United States and Canada.

Terms were not disclosed.

Micros said it would change Hayman's name to Micros-Fidelio Southeast, but that otherwise its operations would remain unchanged. Richard Hayman, president and co-owner of Hayman, will become vice president of the southeast region.

Hayman distributes equipment and supplies to thousands of retail and hospitality customers nationwide.

Beltsville-based Micros makes software for the hospitality industry.

California retail automation product manufacturer Bristol Retail Solutions Inc., Hayman and Micros agreed in June to terminate a previously agreed-upon letter of intent for Bristol to buy Hayman and Micros. Bristol had said talks might resume in the future based on its business conditions.