Weyerhaeuser said Tuesday it will take an after-tax charge of $25 million to settle legal actions relating to a 1999 antitrust allegation.

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Weyerhaeuser said Tuesday it will take an after-tax charge of $25 million to settle legal actions relating to a 1999 antitrust allegation.


The litigation stems from antitrust lawsuits filed six years ago in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania that alleged that Weyerhaeuser and other companies conspired to fix or manipulate the price of linerboard.


Weyerhaeuser settled the class-action portion of two civil antitrust lawsuits in 2003, but some customers decided to opt out and pursue separate litigation.


The Federal Way wood-products company said the settlements announced Tuesday are with all but one of those plaintiffs.


Claire Grace, Weyerhaeuser’s acting general counsel, said the company still thinks the lawsuits were without merit, but that it was in the best interest of shareholders to settle.

Boeing

Aeroflot reportedly


looks at 22-jet deal


Flagship Russian carrier Aeroflot wants to buy 22 long-haul planes worth more than $2.5 billion from Boeing, two leading Russian business dailies reported Tuesday.


Vedomosti quoted sources at Aeroflot as saying that the company had decided in favor of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.


Aeroflot Deputy General Director Lev Koshlyakov said the company had chosen between Boeing and Airbus. “If everything goes well, the contract will be signed before the end of March,” he said.


Boeing spokesman Randy Harrison confirmed that the jet maker has been in talks with Aeroflot “for some time” but declined to comment on the status of the negotiations.


Kommersant quoted sources at the company as saying Aeroflot had recently amended the tender and could buy as many as 28 aircraft instead of 22.

Amazon.com

Comic-book artist


alleges misuse


Amazon.com was sued by comic-book artist Robert Crumb over the use of a character made famous with the phrase “Keep on Truckin.”


Crumb claims in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle that if a customer didn’t find a particular product, the character would urge the user to keep searching, said Crumb lawyer Jules Zalon of West Orange, N.J.


Seattle-based Amazon stopped using the character once it was contacted, Zalon said. The lawsuit, filed Dec. 21, seeks cash compensation for the past use of the character, which was copyrighted in 1972.


Amazon officials couldn’t be reached for comment.


Compiled from The Associated Press, Reuters, Seattle Times staff and Bloomberg News



Nation/World



Pacific Northwest

Vivato

Future envisioned,


doors to close


Vivato, a Spokane-based wireless-equipment maker, will shut down and sell its intellectual property and other assets.


The decision to close the five-year-old company was based on its projection of future results, Vivato said. The company also said it will not continue supporting its products for customers.


The cities of Kent and Spokane have partnered with Vivato to create municipal Wi-Fi networks. Vivato had raised $67 million in funding, including $44.5 million in 2003.

Cascade Bancorp

F&M Holding


deal announced


Cascade Bancorp, the Bend, Ore.-based holding company for Bank of the Cascades and Cascade Finance, said it agreed to acquire F&M Holding for $147.1 million in cash and stock.


F&M’s banking subsidiary, Farmers & Merchants State Bank, will add 11 branches in Boise, Idaho, to Cascade’s operations and the purchase will add 2.8 percent to earnings in 2006, Cascade said in a statement Tuesday.


Nation and World

Energy

Mild forecast hurts


natural-gas futures


Natural-gas futures plunged 10 percent Tuesday, settling at their lowest level in three and a half months amid forecasts calling for mild U.S. weather over the next week. It was the third straight decline for natural-gas prices, which have fallen 23 percent since Wednesday, and the sell-off triggered a decline in other energy futures.


January natural-gas futures fell $1.261 to settle at $11.022 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the lowest closing price since the Sept. 13 settlement of $10.763, which was slightly above the level on the day Hurricane Katrina struck and knocked out significant Gulf of Mexico output.


Front-month natural-gas futures reached an all-time intraday high of $15.78 in mid-December as cold weather and predictions of snow storms raised fears about supplies.


Now, with weather forecasters calling for higher than normal temperatures over the next week, the market sentiment has shifted.


“Speculators are tripping over themselves to get out,” said Ed Silliere, a Nymex floor trader at New York-based Energy Merchant Intermarket Futures.


“It’s all weather-related,” said analyst Phil Flynn of Alaron Trading in Chicago. “Unseasonably warm temperatures here in the Midwest and elsewhere have taken the fear out of this market, at least for the near term.”

Guidant

FDA gives warning


to troubled firm


In another blow to troubled Guidant, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the medical-device maker that it has failed to resolve all of the problems the agency found earlier this year during an inspection at the company’s cardiac unit in St. Paul, Minn.


The company said Tuesday it received the FDA’s warning letter Dec. 23, about three months after it replied to a report by the agency on manufacturing and record-keeping problems it found during an August inspection of its St. Paul operations.


Guidant’s announcement of the letter came four days after the company said it would adjust fourth-quarter-revenue estimates to well below Wall Street expectations as it tries to regain consumer confidence after months of product recalls and safety warnings. It also comes as Boston Scientific duels with Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $20 billion for the company.

HealthSouth

Founder wants


separate trial


HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy asked to be tried separately from other defendants on federal charges he arranged $500,000 in bribes to former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.


Scrushy, acquitted in June of a $2.7 billion accounting fraud at HealthSouth, gave Siegelman the money in exchange for a seat on Alabama’s hospital regulatory board, according to an indictment. Scrushy has said the two $250,000 payments were campaign contributions.


The charges are part of a broader indictment that accuses Siegelman, his former chief of staff Paul Hamrick and former Department of Transportation Commissioner Gary Mack Roberts of rigging municipal-bond allocations, construction contracts, trash fees and alcohol regulation in exchange for bribes. The men will be arraigned today on an amended indictment in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, Ala.

U.S. auto industry

Bankrupt carmaker


would lose buyers


Nearly three-quarters of Americans wouldn’t buy a car from a bankrupt company, according to a recent survey.


In a nationwide survey by the Cincinnati-based research firm Directions Research, published Friday, only 26 percent of respondents said they would purchase or lease a new car from a manufacturer that had declared bankruptcy.


General Motors (GM) lost nearly $5 billion in its North American automotive business in the first nine months of 2005, and speculation has mounted among investors that the automaker may eventually be forced to file for Chapter 11 protection. Company executives have denied considering bankruptcy an option.


The survey data indicate that consumer attitudes toward a bankrupt automaker would differ significantly from those toward airlines that have filed for Chapter 11.


Directions Research said the survey wasn’t done at the request of a client nor paid for by an interest group.


Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, Bloomberg News and The Associated Press