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Pacific Northwest

Microsoft

Microsoft settled its antitrust dispute with Daum Communications, hoping it may help its case against South Korean antitrust regulators preparing to rule whether the bundling of programs into Windows unfairly deters competition.

In return for $30 million in compensation, Daum will withdraw all antitrust disputes against Microsoft in South Korea, including a lawsuit in 2004 and a complaint to the Korean Fair Trade Commission in 2001, Daum said today.

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Seattle-based RealNetworks, which had also lodged a complaint in South Korea, last month settled its dispute with Microsoft for $761 million.

The resolutions come as South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission prepares to rule whether Microsoft’s inclusion of Media Player and MSN Messenger programs into Windows unfairly hurts consumers by deterring competition. The commission, due to rule this year, said it will continue investigating.

While the settlements don’t necessarily affect how regulators will rule, Microsoft hopes officials will “take into account some of the decisions that Daum and Real have made,” said Oliver Roll, a Microsoft spokesman.

Safeco

Wilma to take bite out of 4th quarter

Safeco estimated Hurricane Wilma claims would cost the company $29 million in the fourth quarter.

The expenses will reduce fourth-quarter profit by 23 cents a share, the Seattle-based insurer said Thursday.

In the third quarter, hurricanes Katrina and Rita cost Safeco nearly $116 million, or about 91 cents a share.

Safeco’s claims weren’t high enough to trigger reimbursement from Florida’s hurricane-catastrophe fund, and reinsurance won’t cover any of the costs, said company spokesman Paul Hollie.

Insurers pay fees to participate in the fund.

InfoSpace

New entry on S&P SmallCap index

Bellevue-based InfoSpace, which creates content for the Internet and the mobile phone, will be added to a stock index next week, according to Standard & Poor’s.

InfoSpace will be included in the Standard & Poor’s SmallCap 600 index after the close of trading Tuesday. It is replacing Advanced Neuromodulation Systems, which is being acquired by St. Jude Medical, a component of the S&P 500 index.

The announcement Thursday sent InfoSpace’s stock up $1.29, or 5 percent, to $26.92.

Compiled from Bloomberg News and Seattle Times staff

Pacific Northwest

Aviation Partners Boeing

CEO departure comes as surprise

Mike Marino, chief executive of Aviation Partners Boeing, resigned unexpectedly Thursday “to pursue other interests,” according to a company statement.

A joint venture between Aviation Partners and Boeing, the company developed blended winglets — the upward swooping wing tips that improve fuel economy and performance — for 737s and 757s. Some 800 airplanes worldwide already have the winglets installed, mostly retrofitted in service. Airlines pay about $750,000 per set, plus installation.

The company has orders and options for about 2,000 winglet sets. The majority of new Boeing 737s have the winglets installed at the Renton plant.

Marino became CEO in 2003 after more than 20 years at McDonnell Douglas and then Boeing. The company is searching for a replacement.

Port of Seattle

S&P awards bonds its highest rating

Standard & Poor’s assigned its highest rating to bonds the Port of Seattle plans to sell next week, while two other rating agencies affirmed their ratings.

S&P raised its rating to AAA from “AA+ on the Port’s planned issue of $63.93 million in limited-tax general-obligation bonds. Fitch rated the debt AA+ and Moody’s Investors Service rated it Aa1, both unchanged. All agencies rated the outlook “stable.”

S&P said its upgrade reflects the Port’s “high degree of revenue and taxing flexibility; a large, diverse and expanding property-tax base, continued strong demand and solid financial operations.”

“Adding to its statutory and constitutional authority to increase property-tax revenues, the Port has shown the political willingness to do so, as it did in 2003,” it added.

The money raised will pay off debt issued in 2000 and 1999, which paid for expansion of Terminal 18, among other things, S&P said. With this issue, the Port will have $447 million of limited-tax general-obligation debt outstanding, S&P said.

RealNetworks

Panel approves execs’ bonuses

A committee of RealNetworks’ directors has approved a $50,000 cash bonus for its chief financial officer, Roy Goodman, and a $25,000 cash bonus for Senior Vice President Michael Schutzler, the company said Thursday in a regulatory filing.

The committee also agreed to hire a relocation firm to buy and sell the Austin, Texas, home of Sid Ferrales, a senior vice president for human resources. RealNetworks said it would pay for any loss incurred on the sale by the relocation firm.

NeoRx

Cancer drug wins priority review

NeoRx’s experimental treatment for small-cell lung cancer, picoplatin, was designated an “orphan drug” by federal regulators, the Seattle company said Thursday.

The designation is reserved for drug candidates that address diseases afflicting 200,000 people or fewer in the United States. It means the drug will get a quicker review, tax advantages and seven years of exclusivity on the U.S. market, if it’s approved.

Picoplatin, a platinum chemotherapy product, is in midstage clinical trials involving lung-cancer patients who have become resistant to other platinum treatments.

Nation / World

Yahoo!

Talks abandoned on stake in AOL

NEW YORK — Yahoo! has pulled out of discussions over buying a stake in America Online, leaving Microsoft and Google as the leading potential suitors.

The decision to abandon the talks came after Yahoo! Chief Executive Terry Semel and Chief Finance Officer Susan Decker met late last month with Time Warner executives in New York, said Yahoo! spokeswoman Joanna Stevens.

Stevens said Yahoo! had “politely passed” on proposed terms and “walked away from any interest in a deal.”

Two people close to the discussions said a key stumbling block was Time Warner’s insistence that it retain majority ownership in the AOL unit. They spoke on condition of anonymity because public discussions of any private negotiations were contrary to their companies’ policies.

One of the people familiar with Time Warner’s position said one arrangement under discussion had called for Yahoo! to pay Time Warner in stock worth $13 billion for an 80 percent stake in AOL’s growing content business, which includes its Web sites and the news, music and other services featured on them.

Under that proposal, the person said, Time Warner would keep all of AOL’s Internet access business, which is in decline as users abandon dial-up connections for higher-speed cable and DSL lines.

Yahoo! is the leading Web destination, according to Nielsen/NetRatings and comScore Media Metrix, as more people head to the Internet for news, entertainment, communications and other services.

eBay

Research service offered to shoppers

eBay, the world’s largest online auctioneer, has started a subscription research service to help shoppers get pricing and bidding information.

The service costs $2.99 to $24.99 and offers real-time data on starting prices and average bids, top searches by customers and shipping charges. The information goes back 60 to 90 days and includes international market data.

Chief Executive Meg Whitman is adding services for shoppers as revenue growth slows in the U.S., eBay’s largest market. The new eBay Marketplace Research offering will compete with similar search engines from America Online and retailers that allow consumers to compare prices.

London

Dubai controls London’s Eye

Dubai’s government bought control of the London Eye, Britain’s most popular paying tourist attraction, for $166 million plus debt as British Airways shed its one-third stake in the Ferris wheel.

Dubai International Capital’s Tussauds Group already owned one third of the 443-foot Ferris wheel on the south bank of the River Thames overlooking the Houses of Parliament. It wants to expand the attraction, which carries about 3 million people annually.

British Airways, the Eye’s architects Marks Barfield and the Tussauds Group have been equal shareholders in the attraction since construction began in 1998. It opened in 2000.

British Airways, based in Harmondsworth, England, is selling its stake in the Eye as it concentrates on aviation activities, said Jay Merritt, a spokesman.

Google

Map technology comes to phones

Internet search giant Google has introduced its first downloadable cellphone application, bringing its acclaimed map technology to phones.

With Google Local for mobile devices, users can get colorful, overhead views of a neighborhood and even check a hotel listing to see how close it is to the beach.

Unlike most new cellphone offerings that work on only a handful of phones, Google’s application can be used on more than 100 current phones that use the mobile version of the Java programming language called J2ME.

That includes models from Cingular, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile. Verizon’s phones, BlackBerrys and Palm devices are not compatible.

Google’s application and service is free, but users will need an Internet data plan from their cellphone provider, which adds $10 to $25 to monthly bills.

Google’s search engine is available to cellphone users with an Internet-data plan, but this is the first time Google has added graphics in a separate application to wireless devices.

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