Other items: Search resuming for new biotech association president; and arbitration is the next step after Alaska Airlines pilots' talks fail.

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Shurgard Storage Centers said it expects to take a charge of about $3 million in the first half of next year to settle a nationwide wage-and-hour class-action lawsuit.

The Seattle-based self-storage company said it had reached a tentative deal to settle the suit, which was filed in 2002 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The settlement has not been filed with the court.

Shurgard said the agreement does not admit any wrongdoing by the company. David Grant, Shurgard president and chief operating officer, said the company was surprised by how quickly it was able to reach a settlement. “We were not anticipating [a deal] for at least another year,” he said.

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Edward Wynne, an attorney at the San Francisco firm that brought the suit, said he could not comment until there’s a final settlement.


WBBA


Search resuming for new president

The Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association (WBBA) has re-opened a national search for a new president, after its leading candidate passed up the job. It didn’t identify the candidate.

Ruth Scott said in May that she plans to retire as WBBA president at year’s end. Now Scott said she has agreed to stay on the job through February, and possibly part time in March, while the search for her replacement continues.


Alaska Airlines


Pilots’ talks fail; arbitration next

Negotiators for Alaska Airlines’ pilots and management failed to reach agreement on a new contract as a Wednesday midnight deadline agreed to by both parties passed.

The final 10-day session of intensive negotiations followed nearly 10 months of earlier talks.

Alaska CEO Bill Ayer expressed disappointment and in a statement yesterday blamed “a lack of fundamental agreement on the magnitude of change required to ensure the future viability of Alaska Airlines.”

Both sides will now prepare for binding arbitration. The arbitrator’s decisions will go into effect May 1.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff


ATA Airlines


Company accepts bid from Southwest

ATA Airlines said yesterday it has accepted a $117 million offer from Southwest Airlines that would forge close business ties between two of the nation’s largest discount carriers.

The deal would increase Southwest’s already dominant presence at Chicago’s Midway International Airport and provide cash-strapped ATA the capital it needs to recreate itself as it emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A federal bankruptcy judge in Indianapolis was expected to approve the bid Tuesday, officials with both airlines said.


United Airlines


Union to allow pilots to vote on givebacks

United Airlines pilot-union leaders agreed to let 6,400 crew members vote on a tentative agreement that will cut their pay and benefits to help the company reduce costs and exit bankruptcy.

The union leaders came to a unanimous decision to recommend pilots vote in favor of the tentative agreement reached earlier this week, United’s Air Line Pilots Association said.

Terms of the proposal haven’t been released. United asked pilots last month for $191 million in annual pay and benefit concessions, as part of $725 million in targeted labor-cost cuts.

The carrier said earlier this week that managers and top executives will provide $112 million in concessions. The airline has also proposed scrapping employee pensions for an additional $639 million in savings.

The process may take up to 15 days, union spokesman Dave Kelly said. The company is seeking to have the labor-cost reductions in place by mid-January.


US Airways


Tentative pact OK’d with flight attendants

Bankrupt US Airways said yesterday it has reached a tentative agreement on $94 million in cuts with the union representing its flight attendants.

US Airways hopes the agreement with the union representing 5,200 flight attendants helps it avoid liquidation.

The airline and the Association of Flight Attendants declined to discuss the deal, and the union said it will be reviewed by its Master Executive Council before being sent to members for a ratification vote. US Airways has ratified agreements with its pilots, who took an 18 percent pay cut; it has also ratified an agreement with the Transport Workers Union. David Castleveter, a US Airways spokesman, said negotiations are continuing with the machinists union.


Continental Airlines


Details finalized on pay, benefit cuts

Continental Airlines yesterday finalized a slate of wage and benefits cuts for reservations and food-service workers that the airline said brings it $22 million closer to its goal of cutting $500 million in annual labor costs.

The changes take effect Feb. 28, and come in the same week that Continental announced $48 million of pay and benefits changes for management and clerical employees.

Continental said it is the last of the six major hub-and-spoke carriers to seek companywide pay and benefit reductions and work rule changes since September 2001. The company has already implemented $1.1 billion in cost savings and revenue enhancements without labor rate reductions.


Pacific Northwest



Epoch Biosciences


Stockholders OK Nanogen merger

Shareholders of Nanogen and Epoch Biosciences have voted in favor of merging the two companies, a week after they were unable to get a quorum.

Epoch, a Bothell-based maker of tools to speed up genomic analysis, ceased trading on the Nasdaq yesterday as an independent stock. It closed the trading session at $3.29 a share, with a market value of $94.5 million.

Under terms of the merger, Epoch stockholders will receive 0.4673 shares of Nanogen common stock in exchange for each share of their Epoch common stock. Once the merger is completed, Nanogen will have approximately 50 million common shares outstanding.

Nanogen is a San Diego-based maker of medical diagnostic tools. Its stock closed at $7.06 yesterday, giving it a market value of $239 million.


Adobe


36% profit jump tops estimates

Adobe Systems, the world’s biggest maker of graphic-design software, said fourth-quarter net income jumped 36 percent and topped analysts’ estimates as sales surged for its Creative Suite publishing and design programs.

Net income in the period ended Dec. 3 increased to $113.5 million, or 45 cents, from $83.3 million, or 34 cents, a year earlier, San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe said. Revenue rose 20 percent to $429.5 million from $358.6 million. The shares fell in extended trading.

CEO Bruce Chizen told analysts today that sales are being driven by continued demand for Creative Suite, a package of software released in October 2003 that includes the company’s PhotoShop and Illustrator design programs.

Profit this quarter topped 42 cents a share, the average estimate of 22 analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. Adobe shares fell $1.54 to $61.11.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, Reuters, Bloomberg News,

The Associated Press and Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services