Pacific Northwest Seattle-based Blue Nile is going after European consumers — albeit with little ado. The online jeweler quietly launched...

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Seattle-based Blue Nile is going after European consumers — albeit with little ado.



The online jeweler quietly launched a U.K. Web site last fall to determine whether there was demand for its products in Europe. The site, www.bluenile.co.uk, sells only loose diamonds, but the company plans to launch a full site by the holiday season.


Blue Nile yesterday held its first annual shareholders meeting. The company’s stock debuted on the Nasdaq market a year ago.


Chief Executive Mark Vadon said the company holds about a 40 percent share of the U.S. online engagement-ring market. The company’s average engagement-ring price is roughly $5,600 — twice the U.S. average.


Insurance



State parties to share in $14 million offer

More than 15,000 Washington businesses, associations, individuals and others qualify for nearly $14 million in restitution from the nation’s largest insurance-brokerage firm, Marsh & McLennan, as it attempts to settle allegations of fraud and anti-competitive practices.


The firm sent letters Friday to those clients that qualify, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said yesterday.


Settlement offers range from more than $952,000 for Washington Mutual to about $10 for Seattle Frame & Axle. Clients who accept the settlement must sign a release forfeiting future claims related to the matter.


Cray



Onyx official hired to be firm’s CFO

Supercomputer maker Cray has hired Brian Henry of Onyx Software as its chief financial officer, effective immediately.


Henry, 48, joined Onyx in 2001, Seattle-based Cray said. He was chief financial officer of Lante, an Internet consulting company, from 1999 to 2001. He has a master’s in business administration from Harvard University.


Henry replaces former Chief Financial Officer Scott Poteracki, who resigned in November to join MTI Technology.


Paccar



Stock climbs 3.2% on published report

Paccar’s stock climbed 3.2 percent yesterday after Barron’s predicted the shares could rise to more than $100 each. The stock closed yesterday’s session at $71.10, up $2.18.


Paccar has $1.8 billion in cash and may pay a special dividend this year, the weekly newspaper said, without citing a source. The company also may issue a stock buyback or make an acquisition, Barron’s said. Barron’s didn’t give a time frame for the prediction that the stock might top $100.


Microsoft



MSN plans to start satellite-map service

Microsoft’s MSN search engine will start a service to let users access satellite maps to get information on an area’s traffic, weather, businesses and restaurants.


Virtual Earth, which will be available this summer, will provide maps, aerial satellite images, photos and consumer and business directories, Microsoft said.


Boeing



Planned share sale called off at Shanghai

Shanghai Airlines is scrapping a planned share sale that would have raised as much as $72 million to finance a fleet expansion, blaming a slump in the domestic stock market.


The domestic Chinese carrier will proceed with plans to buy nine Boeing planes, company spokesman Xu Junmin said. The order for 787s is valued at $1.08 billion based on list prices.


Shanghai Air may revive the share sale within the next two years, depending on stock-market conditions, Xu said. “If conditions are still unfavorable for a share sale, the company will take out bank loans” to buy the planes, he said.


Hewlett-Packard



Fiorina says next job may be public service

Carly Fiorina, who was ousted in February as Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive, said she is writing a book and that she is more likely to seek a job in public service than one running another company.


“It’s more likely that public service is in the future rather than a corporate role,” Fiorina, 50, said in a speech at the Detroit Economic Club. “Who knows, I may be back to count your votes.”


Northwest Airlines



2,000 more layoffs sought by company

Northwest Airlines wants to lay off about 2,000 more mechanics and cleaners on top of the some 4,400 it already has let go or scheduled for layoff in the next few months.


The 2,450 or so mechanics and cleaners who would remain on Northwest’s payroll would absorb wage and benefit cuts and work-rule changes that would save the airline $176 million a year. Their base pay would be cut by about 25 percent.


About 1,200 of the 2,000 additional job cuts Northwest wants would come in the Twin Cities. By July, the union was on track to have lost about 2,700 members in Minneapolis-St. Paul since late 2000.


That’s the gist of the airline’s latest contract proposal to the employees union.


“It’s a suicide pact,” said Ted Ludwig, president of the Twin Cities local of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. “That’s what they’re asking us to negotiate.”


As is its policy, Northwest would not comment on contract negotiations.


Bank of America



Prosecution rests in Sihpol trial

Prosecutors in the criminal trial of former Bank of America broker Theodore Sihpol rested their case yesterday after examining several final witnesses.


The court heard testimony by executives from two mutual-fund firms early in the day, and prosecutors called as their final witness a Bank of America human-relations executive who gave details of Sihpol’s work history and his compensation at the bank.


Sihpol, 37, is accused of helping Canary make improper trades in and out of mutual funds. Canary paid $40 million to settle fund-trading charges with regulators, and Bank of America paid hundreds of millions of dollars, leaving Sihpol as the lone individual to face possible criminal sanctions in the matter. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.


The case hinges on a series of trades Sihpol allegedly helped the hedge fund make after mutual-fund trading closed at 4 p.m. Trading after hours, a practice known as late trading, can allow a privileged group of investors to make a profit not available to other shareholders of a mutual fund.


Ordinary investors in Nations Funds Trust, Pimco Funds, MFS Funds, the Janus Investment Fund, the Alger Fund and the RS Investment Trust were defrauded of millions of dollars as a result of the trades, according to New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose office brought the charges.


Defense lawyers have argued that Sihpol was a junior broker who wasn’t well versed in mutual-fund trading and who cleared any new or unknown procedures through his bosses.


The Sihpol trial, in state supreme court, is expected to last three or four more weeks.


Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press, Knight Ridder Newspapers, Dow Jones Newswires and Bloomberg News