A majority of Northwest companies in the early stages of development said their first priority for the year was to hire more employees...

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A majority of Northwest companies in the early stages of development said their first priority for the year was to hire more employees, according to results of a poll by The Northwest Entrepreneur Network.




The survey was sent to 4,200 companies, with nearly 500 responding, during March. In addition to hiring, 39 percent said they were busy raising money, 33 percent were filling board of directors seats and 28 percent were setting up offices.




The Northwest Entrepreneur Network organizes programs and events for early-stage companies. Today, it has 900 members, up from 500 in early 2004, said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, the network’s executive director.




“Given that most of the survey participants are at the founder and CEO level, we believe these survey results are a strong indicator of new entrepreneurial activity,” she said.




Hewlett-Packard



Changes expected to lead to layoffs




Hewlett-Packard said it plans to announce a company restructuring today, a widely anticipated move expected to mean large layoffs at the No. 2 computer maker.




Analysts have been expecting as many as 25,000 job cuts — about one in six current employees — from new Chief Executive Mark Hurd, who joined HP in April following the February ouster of Carly Fiorina.



News Corp.



Intermix acquired for $580 million



News Corp. said yesterday it would buy Intermix Media, owner of the popular MySpace.com social networking site, for $580 million in a move to expand the media conglomerate’s Internet offerings.


The deal comes after News Corp., home to the Fox television network, Fox News and 20th Century Fox film studios, announced Friday the creation of an Internet division to hold the company’s sports, news and entertainment sites.


News Corp. will pay $12 a share, a 12 percent premium over Intermix’s closing price on the American Stock Exchange on Friday.


MySpace.com is the most popular of the once-trendy social networking sites, which allow people with common interests to seek dates, friendship and professional relationships.


Apple



iTunes downloads exceed 500 million




Apple Computer, which generates a third of sales from the iPod music player, said downloads from its iTunes online music store topped 500 million.




Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple surprised analysts last week after reporting iPod shipments rose to a record 6.16 million last quarter, eclipsing the average estimate of 5.29 million. Chief Executive Steve Jobs generated record iPod sales in a quarter that is typically less robust than other periods by selling the music player through Hewlett-Packard and Wal-Mart.




ExxonMobil



Angola production ahead of schedule




ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, started production five months ahead of its original schedule at a $3.5 billion offshore Angolan project that will raise output by 4 percent.




The Kizomba B project and last year’s Kizomba A have the largest offshore production platforms in Africa, ExxonMobil said yesterday in a statement. Kizomba B, located 230 miles off the coast of Angola, is expected to reach output of 250,000 barrels of oil a day, enough to refine two-thirds of the gasoline used in New York state.




The project came online early because of advances in deepwater drilling techniques and an equipment design that Exxon Mobil adapted from the neighboring Kizomba A. The company is counting on Africa, its fastest-growing source of crude, to help make up for slowing output from older fields.




Kizomba B was originally scheduled to start pumping oil in 2006. Exxon Mobil operates Kizomba and owns a 40 percent stake. Other partners include units of BP, Italy’s Eni SpA and Statoil of Norway.



Nissan



Faulty wire forces recall of some SUVs




Nissan North America said yesterday it will recall more than 140,000 Murano sport-utility vehicles amid concerns that a broken wire in the alternator could deplete power to the engine and lead to a crash.




The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a posting on its Web site that a wire could break inside the alternator and prevent the battery from charging. The charger warning and brake warning lamps would come on and the battery would start to discharge. After a short time, the engine would go into a condition that limits the vehicle’s speed and stop running, creating the potential for a crash.




The recall involves more than 125,000 vehicles from the 2003-2005 model years and more than 15,000 vehicles in Canada, Nissan spokesman Dean Case said. No injuries or crashes linked to the problem have been reported, he said.




The recall is expected to begin Aug. 3. Dealers will be instructed to inspect and replace the alternator with a new version that has been upgraded to prevent the problem. Owners can contact Nissan at 800-647-7261.



Venture capital



$6.1 billion raised in 2nd-quarter flurry




Venture capitalists raised $6.1 billion for future investments during the second quarter, continuing a recent upswing that reflects the industry’s renewed appetite for taking risks.




The robust second-quarter activity, reported yesterday by the National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Venture Economics, represented an 88 percent increase from the same time last year.




The amount of money flowing into venture-capital funds is on a pace to increase for the third consecutive year, rebounding from a 2002 low of $3.8 billion — a painful contraction that followed the sobering losses that piled up in the dot-com crash.




Having tended to those financial wounds, venture capitalists have been pouring more money into startups, a trend that’s prompting them to solicit even more money from wealthy individuals, pension funds and college endowments that earmark a sliver of their portfolios for riskier investments.




This marks the second time in the past three quarters that venture capitalists have raised at least $6 billion — a level of activity unseen since 2001 when the industry was still trying to salvage startups from the Internet’s wasteland.




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