Other items: Microsoft sends e-mail to woo PeopleSoft users; Coinstar prices public stock offering: $25 per share; change in stock-trading rules proposed; and SEC official orders Fannie Mae earnings restated.

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Bellevue-based InfoSpace said yesterday that it has agreed to acquire Elkware, a German mobile-games company, for $26 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in January. Elkware has a portfolio of 90 original and branded games built on the Java programming platform, and had sales of $1 million in the third quarter.

The acquisition will help InfoSpace expand its European presence, the company said yesterday. It is InfoSpace’s third mobile-gaming buy of 2004.


Microsoft

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E-mail sent to woo PeopleSoft users

Microsoft sent an e-mail to PeopleSoft customers yesterday asking them to evaluate their options as Oracle’s $10.3 billion acquisition of PeopleSoft moves forward. The letter, written by Corporate Vice President Bill Veghte, suggests that PeopleSoft customers can extend their investments through Microsoft’s .NET Web services platform.

Veghte also recommends that customers move from Unix-based systems to those running Windows. They could also migrate from PeopleSoft to other technologies, including those offered by Microsoft’s business solutions group or by Microsoft partner SAP, Veghte wrote.


Coinstar


Public stock offering priced: $25 per share

Coinstar, the Bellevue company that makes and operates coin-counting machines, priced its offering of 3 million shares at $25 each. Coinstar expects to pull in about $71 million from the sale after expenses.

The public offering is expected to close Monday. Proceeds will be used to fund acquisitions, pay general business expenses, repay or refinance debt, and buy or redeem outstanding debt.

Coinstar stock rose 51 cents, or 2 percent, to $26.16 yesterday.

Underwriters will be given a 30-day option to buy 450,000 shares of common shares to cover over-allotments of stock.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff.


Nation / World


Stock exchanges


Change in trading rules proposed

Federal regulators yesterday proposed a revamped package of changes in how U.S. stocks are traded, extending the reach of a rule requiring brokers to obtain the best possible price for customer orders even if it means going to another market and it takes longer.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 4-1 to open the revised proposal to public comment for 30 days. It could be formally adopted sometime after that. The SEC originally had planned to vote on adopting it yesterday, but an outcry from stock exchanges, professional traders and other Wall Street players wishing to weigh in on the new plan led the agency to postpone a final decision.

Under the revised plan, the so-called “trade-through rule” requiring brokers to get the best possible price would apply to all stock markets and nearly all types of trading orders, assuming that they could be filled electronically. In addition, brokers would be required to “sweep” all the markets to find the best possible price.

SEC officials estimate the new proposal would have saved investors between $321 million and $755 million if it had been in effect in 2003.

If the plan is adopted, all U.S. stock markets would have to be technologically equipped to speedily find the best possible price for customer orders. That could pose a particular challenge for the NYSE, observers say. It plans to revamp its floor-based auction system to create a hybrid structure that would allow for greater electronic trading while also retaining the human specialists who have executed trades since its inception.


Fannie Mae


SEC official orders earnings restated

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chief Accountant Donald Nicolaisen said yesterday a review had found that Fannie Mae had violated accounting rules and that he had told the mortgage giant to restate its earnings.

Nicolaisen said the government-sponsored company’s accounting for 2001 through mid-2004 “did not comply in material respects” with accounting rules for derivatives, financial instruments used to hedge against interest-rate swings.

The SEC has been investigating the accounting of Fannie Mae, which finances one of every five home loans in the United States. Fannie Mae said last month that if the agency found that it had improperly accounted for derivatives, it would show an estimated net loss of $9 billion for the third quarter of this year.

Fannie Mae spokeswoman Janice Daue had no immediate comment Wednesday evening after Nicolaisen’s statement was released.


AirAsia


Airbus expected to win airline’s order

AirAsia, Southeast Asia’s biggest discount airline, said it will sign a preliminary agreement tomorrow to buy an undisclosed number of new aircraft.

Airbus is expected to beat Boeing for the Malaysian airline’s order. AirAsia reportedly will order up to 40 A320 single-aisle aircraft, with options for 40 more planes.


Wal-Mart


Several executives fired, company says

Wal-Mart confirmed yesterday that it fired several executives but would not detail the reason.

“Three company officers were terminated for failing to follow internal company rules,” spokeswoman Mona Williams said. Four other workers who were not at the executive level were also terminated for failing to follow Wal-Mart rules, she said.

The Benton County Daily Record newspaper reported in yesterday’s edition that among those let go was Jim Haworth, executive vice president of operations for the Wal-Mart division.

Williams said that the firings were “not the result of a criminal investigation.” Coughlin’s responsibilities included overseeing Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club warehouse stores.


Krispy Kreme


Deadline missed again on SEC filing

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts missed another deadline yesterday for a regular quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company announced.

The SEC had granted the troubled company an additional five days to file the required 10-Q report after it missed the original Friday deadline.

But in a statement issued yesterday after the close of business the company said it needed more time to analyze certain “franchise matters.”

Krispy Kreme’s fiscal third quarter ended Oct. 31; companies are required to file quarterly 10-Q reports no later than 40 days after the quarter’s end.

A Krispy Kreme spokeswoman did not immediately return a telephone message left yesterday seeking comment.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News.