Other items: New Amazon.com support center planned for Dublin; Oregon jobless rate hit 6.8% in December; among others.

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The farewell has commenced.

Bon-Macy’s yesterday began converting the Bon Marche signs on its Northwest stores to its new, shorter name — Macy’s — starting with its store at the Spokane Valley Mall.

On Tuesday, the Northgate Mall store will become the first Seattle-area outlet to change its signs, followed by the store at Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter on Feb. 11.

Macy’s Northwest spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said the chain won’t set a date to change the signs on its flagship store in downtown Seattle until it receives permits from the city. While all its stores will carry the familiar Macy’s sign with black lettering accentuated by a red star, the flagship store will carry brass letters to maintain the “historic integrity of the building,” she said.

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The Bon Marche, introduced in Seattle in 1890, was renamed Bon-Macy’s in 2003 by parent company Federated Department Stores. Cincinnati-based Federated went a step further in September, saying the Northwest department-store chain would become Macy’s, along with four other regional department-store chains it owns.


Amazon.com


New support center planned for Dublin

Seattle-based Amazon.com yesterday said it would open a center in Dublin, Ireland, to support its U.S. and international online retail sites.

Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith said the company already employs systems and network-operations workers in the U.K., Germany and France. “We’re consolidating all those roles into one location,” she said.

The center, which will hire up to 25 employees over the next two years, will help Amazon’s sites run smoothly, address problems, and improve and introduce new technology features. Smith said Amazon has yet to pick a location, but the office is expected to open in June.


Oregon employment


Jobless rate hit 6.8% in December

Oregon’s unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent in December to bring the state back to the level it reached during the economic recovery in the first half of 2004.

The December rate was a significant improvement from the revised November unemployment rate of 7.2 percent and brought the state’s rate closer to the national unemployment rate of 5.4 percent for December. Oregon has had the highest unemployment rate in the nation for most of the past three years.

Washington had a November jobless rate of 5.7 percent; December numbers will be released Tuesday.


Pacific Market


Seattle firm expands to U.K., Australia

Pacific Market International, a private Seattle company that makes insulated food and beverage containers, said it has acquired two companies, based in Australia and the United Kingdom. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed

The company said it acquired Aladdin Industries in Australia, and the food and beverage container division of Aladdin Sales and Marketing in the U.K.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff and The Associated Press

Nation/World

Pacific Northwest



Hollywood Entertainment


Trade regulators reviewing buyout bid

Hollywood Entertainment, which this week agreed to be purchased by Movie Gallery, said U.S. regulators asked it for more information connected to a potential Blockbuster tender offer for Hollywood shares.

Hollywood said it will respond to the request by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Hollywood also said it had contacted the FTC and Justice Department for an antitrust review of its proposed $850 million purchase by Movie Gallery.

The FTC’s request shouldn’t surprise investors or Blockbuster, said Linda Varoli, an analyst with Merger Insight. Blockbuster Chairman John Antioco told investors at a conference Monday that the company still would “love” to own Hollywood and expected to receive a request for more information from regulators.


Corixa


Genentech buys drug rights to marker

Corixa said yesterday it has sold worldwide rights to Genentech to develop drugs against one of its biological markers. The Seattle biotech company said it will receive $1.6 million upfront, and potentially $8.25 million more in milestone payments and royalties. Genentech will be responsible for the drug-development costs.


Nation and World



US Airways


Judge OKs extending interim financing

US Airways will have access to the cash it needs to keep flying through June as a result of a bankruptcy judge’s approval yesterday of a deal between the nation’s seventh-biggest carrier and the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board.

An interim financing deal between the two parties had been set to expire on Saturday, but U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Mitchell gave his blessing to an extension through June 30. By then, the airline hopes it will have found an investor to provide hundreds of millions of dollars needed to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

The extension comes after US Airways extracted more than $800 million in annual concessions from its labor unions. Mitchell last week imposed an estimated $269 million in concessions on the International Association of Machinists when that union failed to reach a deal.


Royal Ahold


Vendors charged with falsifying audits

Nine food vendors were charged yesterday with helping inflate the earnings of a U.S. subsidiary of Dutch grocery giant Royal Ahold by signing false audit confirmation reports.

The charges come six months after prosecutors accused four executives of the subsidiary, U.S. Foodservice, of inflating earnings by $800 million by reporting fake rebates from the vendors.

Most of the nine men are expected to plead guilty, Kelley said.

Netherlands-based Ahold’s U.S. properties include the Stop & Shop and Giant supermarket chains. U.S. Foodservice is one of the largest distributors of food products in the country.


Molson, Coors


Shareholders wooed with bigger dividend

Bowing to mounting shareholder opposition, Molson and Adolph Coors Co. agreed yesterday to dramatically increase a special dividend for Molson shareholders in hopes of winning approval for their $6 billion merger plan.

The brewers said they would increase the special dividend they had planned to offer Molson shareholders to $4.53 per share, a 67 percent increase from $2.71 under an earlier offer.

After the announcement, one of Molson’s largest shareholders — AIM Trimark Investments, with about 14 percent of Class A shares — said it would support the merger, Morin said.

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