Other items: Rocket doesn't reach ideal altitude in test; Medical-device firm raises $6 million;Idaho chip maker profit up for quarter.

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Pacific Northwest


Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler this week joined officials of 43 other states in signing an estimated $120 million settlement with one of the nation’s largest disability insurers.

UnumProvident has about 4,000 policyholders in Washington, and those who believe their claims were inappropriately denied can have them reassessed under criteria set out in the agreement.

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UnumProvident does business in Washington under the names UNUM Life Insurance Co. of America, The Paul Revere Life Insurance Co., and Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co.


Boeing


Rocket doesn’t reach ideal altitude in test

Boeing said yesterday that it had successfully launched its Delta IV heavy-lift rocket for the first time, but a demonstration satellite was placed at a lower orbit than planned.

The flight was a test for the U.S. Air Force ahead of a launch planned for next year using the heavy-lift rocket.

Boeing said preliminary data showed that the first-stage engines shut down prematurely, leading to the lower orbit for the demonstration payload.

“While the demonstration satellite did not reach its intended orbit, we now have enough information and confidence in the Delta IV Heavy to move forward with preparations for the upcoming Defense Support Program launch in 2005,” said Dan Collins, vice president of Boeing Expendable Launch Systems.

The Air Force is still evaluating the situation and declined to comment on any potential fallout, spokesman Joe Davidson said.


NeuroBionics


Medical-device firm raises $6 million

NeuroBionics, a medical-device company in Seattle, said yesterday it has raised a $6 million founding round of capital from Sprout Group and Three Arch Partners.

The company also said John Harris has been named chief executive. Harris was a founder of Heartstream and vice president at Northstar Neuroscience, both Seattle medical-device companies.

NeuroBionics said it plans to develop technologies for treating neurological disorders.


Micron Technology


Idaho chip maker profit up for quarter

Memory-chip maker Micron Technology said yesterday that its profit soared in the latest quarter.

The company posted a profit of $154.9 million, or 23 cents a share, for the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 2, compared with $1.1 million, or less than a penny a share, in the prior year.

Sales at Boise-based Micron increased 14 percent in the quarter to $1.26 billion from $1.11 billion.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff, Reuters and The Associated Press

Nation/World


Seafood importers propose payment to end tariff support

Seafood importers are proposing to pay up to $100 million to struggling Southern shrimpers if they drop their drive to get tariffs slapped on imports of farmed shrimp from six Asian and South American nations.

Thirty-one of the biggest shrimp importers recently circulated a proposal to consider levying a fee of a few cents on each pound of imports and distributing the money to shrimpers.

Any proposal would need to be agreed upon by all parties — the shrimpers, the exporters and the importers — and be approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The importers propose levying the fee for between three and five years. They think it could generate between $60 million and $100 million for shrimpers.


Constellation Brands


Mondavi votes go for buyout

A California wine-country landmark changed hands yesterday as shareholders of the Robert Mondavi Corp. approved a nearly $1.36 billion buyout by New York-based drinks giant Constellation Brands.

The deal was approved at a meeting in San Francisco with more than 80 percent of votes cast by Class A shareholders and 94 percent of votes cast by Class B shareholders in favor of selling.

Mondavi’s board was cool to the initial offer of $970 million, but executives changed their minds after Constellation sweetened the deal.

The Fairport, N.Y.-based company owns St. Pauli Girl beer and Almaden wines, among other brands.


J.C. Penney


Former CEO ends transition, retires

J.C. Penney, the second-largest U.S. department-store chain, said Allen Questrom retired from the company yesterday, three weeks after being replaced by Myron Ullman as chairman and chief executive officer.

Ullman, a former CEO of Macy’s, took over Dec. 1, the retailer said in a statement yesterday. When the company announced the management change in late October, Questrom, 64, said he would stay on as long as necessary to help with the transition.

Ullman takes over as J.C. Penney enters its fifth year of a restructuring plan. Questrom, who joined the company in 2000, centralized purchasing and distribution, and sold its struggling Eckerd drugstore chain.


General Motors


Incentives expected for downsizing

General Motors plans to offer another round of early retirement offers and buyout packages to U.S. salaried workers early next year, the company said yesterday.

GM, the world’s largest automaker, declined to say how many of its roughly 38,000 U.S. salaried employees would receive the offers.

GM, like some other automakers and suppliers, has been shrinking its work force in recent years in the face of declining market share, weak automotive profits and mounting health care and pension costs.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News