Pacific Northwest Alaska Air Group estimates it will save $80 million to $90 million a year because of changes made by an arbitrator in...

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Alaska Air Group estimates it will save $80 million to $90 million a year because of changes made by an arbitrator in its pilots’ contract.



The arbitrator’s decision was issued April 30, more than four months after Alaska and its pilots failed to reach an agreement on their own.


About $60 million of the savings comes from lower wage rates, $10 million from changed work rules, and roughly $4 million from changes in medial benefits and lower payroll taxes. The lower wage rates also reduce pension costs by $5.5 million to $14 million a year, depending on which measure is used.


Based on a guaranteed minimum of 75 flying hours a month, most Alaska captains earn at least $133,000 a year under the new contract, according to an analysis by John Steinbeck, who runs an informational Web site for pilots.


Shurgard Storage



Barbo to step down as chief executive

Shurgard Storage Centers says Charles Barbo, chief executive and chairman, will step down at the end of the year and be succeeded by David Grant, the company’s president and chief operating officer.


Barbo, who announced his decision to step down at the annual shareholder meeting yesterday, founded the Seattle self-storage company more than 30 years ago. He’ll stay on as nonexecutive chairman and will work on strategic planning.


Separately, Shurgard restated its other comprehensive income for the three months ended March 31, 2004, to reflect a loss of about $4 million compared with a previously reported loss of about $6 million. The restatement related to currency-translation adjustments, Shurgard said.


Laplink



Deal with Microsoft to be announced

Kirkland-based Laplink is scheduled to announce today that it has received an equity investment from Microsoft in a deal that also gives Microsoft access to much of Laplink’s technology portfolio.


The size of the investment was not disclosed, but Laplink Chief Executive Thomas Koll remains the majority shareholder. Koll, a former Microsoft executive, said proceeds will help Laplink develop new products.


Laplink makes software for synchronizing computers, remotely accessing PCs and transferring files between machines.


Microsoft



New test version of program ready

Microsoft said yesterday it has launched a test version of a business-intelligence program designed to help companies evaluate themselves.


Code-named “Maestro,” the application is scheduled to go on sale in early fall for a price that has not been disclosed. Executives said Maestro has more advanced features than an earlier version that was free.


Japan Airlines



Carrier seals deal for 60 Boeing jets

Japan Airlines yesterday finalized a firm contract for 60 Boeing jets. The deal for 30 wide-body 787s, originally announced last year, and 30 narrow-body 737-800s, announced in February, is worth $5.3 billion at list prices, although large discounts are typical.


The 787 piece of the order brings to 112 the number of firm contracts for the new airplane, out of 255 announced commitments.


Rival carrier All Nippon Airlines is the launch customer for the 787 and will take 50 of the jets, starting with the first off the line — scheduled for May 2008.


Japan Airlines also has options for 20 more 787s and 10 more 737s.


EADS



Profit soars on jets, but outlook cautious

European Aeronautic Defence & Space (EADS) more than tripled its operating profit in the first quarter to $851 million, well above market forecasts and swept higher by Airbus, the world’s biggest passenger-jet maker.


But in a sign that sky-high profits may not set the tone for the rest of the year, especially in terms of EADS’ ability to manage its $12 billion net currency exposure, the company yesterday stuck cautiously to its 2005 target of operating profit up 6 percent.


EADS shares rose as much as 2.1 percent to a three-week high of 23.19 euros on the profit news, before halving the gains amid concerns over the failure to name a new Airbus chief and evidence that currency-hedging benefits would soon deteriorate.


General Motors



Kerkorian proceeds with $870 million bid

Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian went ahead yesterday with an offer to buy up to 28 million GM shares — a bid that would roughly double his stake in the automaker — despite last week’s downgrade of GM debt to “junk” status. Shares of General Motors rose slightly.


Kerkorian’s investment firm, Tracinda, is offering nearly $870 million, or $31 a share, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. If all 28 million shares are purchased, Kerkorian would own 8.84 percent of GM’s shares, or a total of 50 million.


The offer is set to expire June 7, the day of GM’s annual meeting in Wilmington, Del.


Saks



Markdown probe to end in departures

Saks asked a senior vice president, accounting chief and the administrative head of its luxury retail chain to resign in connection with the improper collection of $20 million in vendor markdowns.


Bonuses for Saks’ Chief Executive Officer Brad Martin and Chief Financial Officer Douglas Colthart will be reduced or eliminated because of poor communication with the audit committee investigating the matter or inadequate follow-up regarding the markdowns.


Other unnamed managers will be fired or reprimanded, the company said yesterday.


New York Stock Exchange



Member challenges Archipelago merger

A New York Stock Exchange member sued to block the exchange’s merger with Archipelago Holdings, contending the deal shortchanges seat owners and that its underwriter, Goldman Sachs Group, has a conflict of interest.


William Higgins, 68, a former floor broker who has tangled with NYSE executives for more than two decades, filed the suit in State Supreme Court in New York. It seeks class-action status.


The NYSE said last month it would merge with Archipelago in a transaction that speeds the Big Board’s push into electronic trading and transforms the 212-year-old exchange into a public, for-profit company.


Walt Disney Co.



Dissidents file suit over CEO search

Two key dissidents of the Walt Disney Co. yesterday sued the entertainment giant, alleging members of its board made false statements to shareholders about the search for a successor to CEO Michael Eisner.


In the lawsuit, filed in Delaware Chancery court, former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold ask the court to void the election of the Disney directors, force another election and disclose all of the details of how they selected a new CEO.


Among the defendants named in the suit are Eisner, Chairman George Mitchell and Disney President Robert Iger — who was named in March to succeed Eisner as chief executive.


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