Pacific Northwest Continental said yesterday that it plans to expand its fleet of Boeing jets even though its flight attendants rejected...

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Continental said yesterday that it plans to expand its fleet of Boeing jets even though its flight attendants rejected a tentative deal to cut wages and benefits.


Labor concessions totaling about $250 million were approved Wednesday by the Houston airline’s other unions, including those representing pilots and mechanics. Continental had warned last month that if its unions hadn’t ratified the pacts by Wednesday, the airline would have had to cut an additional $300 million, shrink its fleet, furlough workers and cancel new jet orders.


Continental said yesterday that it will follow through on plans to increase its fleet by leasing eight Boeing 757-300 aircraft starting this summer and accelerating delivery of six Boeing 737-800 aircraft into 2006. Continental also will acquire 10 Boeing 787 aircraft beginning in 2009.


Continental also said it would continue labor-concession talks with its flight attendants.


Microsoft



MSN executive leaving for Yahoo!

Microsoft confirmed yesterday that Scott Moore, general manager of the MSN Network Experience team, is leaving the company to join Yahoo!


Moore oversees five publishing groups, including Slate.com, MSNBC.com and MSN video. He was previously general manager of MSN News and Information and president of MSNBC on the Internet.


Microsoft also confirmed that Frank Barbieri, a group product manager and marketing head of the Portable Media Center initiative, is leaving.


The departures were reported yesterday on the PaidContent.org site.


Microsoft



Suits filed against alleged “phishers”

Microsoft yesterday filed 117 federal lawsuits against unnamed defendants, accusing them of a high-tech form of identity theft known as “phishing.”


The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, accuses the “John Doe” defendants of using mass e-mail or pop-up ads to dupe consumers into revealing personal information such as bank-account information, passwords or Social Security numbers.


The company said it filed the lawsuits in hopes of uncovering some of the largest operators.


In phishing scams, the Internet-based communications often purport to be from legitimate organizations, such as banks, and use that perception of a trusted relationship to get people to reveal personal information.


Icos



Collaboration set on antibody drugs

Icos, the Bothell biotech company, said yesterday it has agreed to collaborate on antibody drugs against cancer with Caprion Pharmaceuticals, a privately held Canadian company.


Caprion will contribute its antibody targets and some further preliminary work on them, while Icos will handle early development. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Icos said it will make upfront payments and milestone payments and will pay licensing fees.



Retail industry



Takeover speculation hits J.C. Penney, Saks

More shakeout in the retail industry could be on the horizon as both J.C. Penney and Saks surfaced yesterday as possible takeover targets.


Stocks for the department-store chains closed up 8.4 percent and 9 percent, respectively, as Wall Street paid heed to what could be two more deals in a rapidly consolidating industry.


Private investment firms Cerberus Capital Management and Carlyle Group are teaming up to make a $16 billion to $18 billion bid for Penney, according to a report yesterday in Women’s Wear Daily.


Meanwhile, Saks is trying to line up buyers for assets that include its regional department-store group. The board of Birmingham, Ala.-based Saks has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to explore “strategic alternatives,” the New York Times reported yesterday.


Spokesmen at Penney and Saks called the reports speculation.


Blockbuster



$51.6 million paid to CEO last year

Blockbuster said it paid Chief Executive Officer John Antioco $51.6 million last year, a disclosure that came the same day the biggest U.S. video-rental chain said it would cut 300 jobs.


Antioco’s compensation rose fivefold from 2003, partly because he was granted 5 million options for leading the company’s October spinoff from Viacom. Dallas-based Blockbuster’s shares fell 47 percent during 2004.


Blockbuster also said yesterday that it will eliminate about 20 percent of headquarters staff to free funds to invest $70 million in its Web-based video-rental business.



Nation/World



Airline industry



Association tallies toll from fuel prices

Airlines worldwide will post a combined loss this year as soaring fuel prices raise operating costs, the International Air Transport Association said yesterday.


The industry’s fuel bill would exceed $73 billion if the price of crude oil averages $43 a barrel in 2005, said Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of IATA, which represents more than 270 airlines worldwide. Oil closed at $55.40 yesterday in New York.


IATA in December forecast the airline industry would earn a combined $1.2 billion in 2005, which would be the industry’s first annual profit since 2000. That estimate was based on rising passenger traffic and an average $34 a barrel for oil.


Airlines worldwide had a loss of about $4.8 billion last year, spending $63 billion on fuel.


Morgan Stanley



Ex-executives push for chairman’s ouster

A group of former Morgan Stanley executives yesterday stepped up pressure for the ouster of Chief Executive Philip Purcell, openly soliciting support from the company’s top shareholders.


Morgan Stanley shares rose more than 3 percent amid speculation that increased pressure could force Purcell to step down or prompt the firm to sell out to a big bank, traders and investors said.


“I expect something to happen here. The drumbeats are loud. The board of directors has to pay attention to significant shareholders and to Wall Street itself,” said Anton Schutz, president of Mendon Capital Advisors, which controls 95,000 shares of Morgan Stanley.


Morgan Stanley declined to comment.


Compiled from the Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg News and Reuters