In other items: Sprint abandons plan for wireless directory; Symantec stock dives on talk of purchase; Sprint-Nextel merger reportedly OK'd ; Tentative settlements on AOL may be near; and tentative deal with United Airlines pilots reached.

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Cell Therapeutics reported yesterday that Chief Executive James Bianco has sold about 13,000 shares of the company’s stock at $7.50 to $7.65 a share, generating about $100,000.


The proceeds from the sale were used mainly to cover taxes related to the vesting of restricted stock awards, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The sale represents about 2 percent of Bianco’s shares in the Seattle biotech company. He still has 574,597 shares, according to the filing.


Other Cell Therapeutics executives, including Chief Financial Officer Louis Bianco and Chief Medical Officer Jack Singer, reported stock sales for similar reasons.


Qsent


Sprint abandons plan for wireless directory


Sprint PCS, the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, chose earlier this week to back out of a service that would add wireless phone numbers to directory assistance on a voluntary basis.


Portland-based Qsent has the exclusive contract to develop such a directory and expects to complete it early next year. Previously, Verizon Wireless was the only nationwide carrier not participating.


Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint PCS said it will remain active in the company that supports the directory but decided not to implement it after state legislation put “unnecessary operational and financial burdens on carriers and complicates what was intended to be a value-added opt-in service for customers.”


In September, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that requires residents to decide whether they want their cellphone number included in a directory — by written consent.


Software


Symantec stock dives on talk of purchase


Symantec’s reported interest in acquiring Veritas Software for more than $13 billion would represent the computer-security giant’s biggest step beyond its core businesses of defending against viruses and thwarting hackers. Investors weren’t impressed, though, and Symantec’s shares plunged 16 percent.


Symantec, best known for its Norton security programs, has been on an acquisition binge that has extended its reach into security-related areas such as intrusion detection, security management, battling spam and consulting. But with Veritas, the leader in data storage and backup software, Symantec could broaden its reach to include data storage, backup and archiving software.


If a deal were reached, it would be one of the largest in the software industry’s history. Symantec investors didn’t welcome the possible acquisition. Its shares fell $5.41 to close at $27.45. But Veritas shares gained $2.19 to finish at $27.38.


Verizon


Sprint-Nextel merger reportedly OK’d


Directors of Sprint and Nextel Communications agreed yesterday to merge in a deal that would create a new wireless-telecommunications giant, sources said.


Under the merger scheduled to be announced today in New York City, Sprint Chief Executive Gary Forsee would take the top post as chief executive of the combined company and would move to corporate headquarters, which would be in Reston, Va., according to a source. Nextel Chief Executive Timothy Donahue would be executive chairman.


The deal, which would give Sprint slightly more than 50 percent of the combined company, is valued at $36 billion. The merged company would have an operational headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., where Sprint is based, sources said.


Spokesmen for Sprint and Nextel declined to comment. Board members of Sprint and Nextel could not be reached, declined to comment or did not return calls.


A combined Sprint-Nextel would have 39 million customers, making it the third-largest wireless firm, behind Cingular Wireless and Verizon Wireless.


Time Warner


Tentative settlements on AOL may be near


Time Warner has agreed to pay $500 million to $600 million to settle all civil and criminal charges with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), The New York Times reported today.


The Justice Department settlement, concerning how Time Warner’s America Online unit booked advertising deals and subscriber figures, could be announced today, an official close to the case told the newspaper.


The tentative settlement over accounting problems at America Online with the SEC’s enforcement division could also be announced today, the official said.


However, the agreement with the SEC staff requires the approval of the SEC’s five commissioners, which may not come until early next year, the report said.


The SEC has been investigating Time Warner’s accounting for its purchase of German media giant Bertelsmann’s stake in an AOL Europe joint venture.


United Airlines


Tentative deal with pilots reached


United Airlines has secured a tentative contract agreement with its pilots, clearing a critical early hurdle in its effort to make another round of labor cuts in bankruptcy without needing a court order.


The agreement, announced yesterday, makes the pilots the first of United’s four big unions to come to initial terms. All four have decried the bankrupt airline’s latest proposed steep cutbacks but risk having the company’s terms imposed in bankruptcy court if they don’t reach a settlement.


Details were not disclosed by either the company or the union’s leadership, which meets tomorrow in Chicago to decide whether to ask pilots to ratify it.


Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press and Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services