Pacific Northwest Alaska Air Group, parent of Alaska Airlines and regional carrier Horizon Air, will take two charges totaling $60 million...

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Alaska Air Group, parent of Alaska Airlines and regional carrier Horizon Air, will take two charges totaling $60 million as it finishes retiring its Boeing MD-80 jets.

Costs of $30 million this quarter and the same amount next quarter will reflect remaining lease payments on four MD-80s, Alaska Air said Monday in a regulatory filing.

Alaska Airlines has been adding more efficient Boeing 737s to replace its MD-80s to help blunt this year’s 38 percent surge in jet fuel. Seattle-based Alaska Air said last week that it would complete the retirements by Aug. 25 instead of Dec. 31. The fleet has 107 737s, its Web site says.

Alaska Air stock fell $1.04, or 5.7 percent, to $17.36 Monday. The shares have tumbled 31 percent this year.

Housing

State gets $32 million in housing money

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Monday that $31.8 million has been awarded to 29 public-housing authorities in Washington. This comes atop some $30 million awarded last year and will be used to create new, modernize existing or replace demolished public-housing units.

The Seattle Housing Authority will receive the largest chunk of the newly allotted funds, $13 million, while the King County Housing Authority will get almost $6 million and the Bremerton Housing Authority just over $1 million. Smaller amounts will go to housing authorities in Tacoma, Everett, Renton, Anacortes, Bellingham and other cities and counties.

More than 16,500 Washington families live in public housing.

Retail

Costco to open store in Australia

Costco Wholesale will open its first Australian store in Melbourne after securing a site in the city’s Docklands area.

Costco will invest more than $57 million in the store and create up to 250 jobs, Victoria State Premier John Brumby said in a statement on his Web site. Construction will start in September and is due for completion at the end of 2009.

The store in Australia’s second-largest city will be about 140,000 square feet.

Seattle-based Costco runs 538 warehouses in North America, Asia and the U.K.

Airlines

Japan Air to test 747 biofuel flight

Japan Airlines said Monday it plans a test flight of a Boeing 747 partially powered by biofuel by early next year as a way to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

JAL will use a biofuel mixed with kerosene in one of four engines on the jet, with the three remaining engines powered by ordinary jet fuel or kerosene, it said in a statement.

The carrier said it plans to use a new generation of biofuel made of nonedible materials to avoid using potential food sources. It said it would announce more details in August.

United Airlines

About 950 pilot jobs on chopping block

United Airlines said Monday it plans to eliminate about 950 pilot jobs beginning this summer in addition to an already announced plan to cut 1,600 salaried positions and reduce its fleet.

The second-largest U.S. carrier told its pilots union about the cuts Monday and said it’s still working out the reductions with the group. Dave Kelly, a spokesman for the United branch of the Air Line Pilots Association, declined to comment.

The initial furlough notices will go out in mid-July and take effect in September, United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said. The cuts will continue into next year, she said.

United has about 6,600 active pilots, McCarthy said.

Delta / Northwest

All-stock buyout loses 50% of value

Delta Air Lines’ all-stock purchase of Northwest Airlines fell to a value of $1.73 billion, less than 50 percent of the total when it was announced, as the price of oil continued to push airline shares down.

Even at that price, Northwest shareholders are betting the Delta buyout offers a better value than what they could find from another bidder or from remaining independent. Northwest shares fell $1.15, or 17 percent, to $5.51 Monday, a 12 percent discount to the value of the Delta transaction.

Delta’s purchase was valued at $3.63 billion on April 14 when the plan was unveiled. The deal, which still requires U.S. regulatory approval, calls for each share of Northwest to be exchanged for 1.25 Delta shares. Delta slid 68 cents, or 12 percent, to $5 Monday.

Facebook / MySpace

Visitor numbers beat those of rival

Facebook may have started to win the global popularity contest over the rival social network site MySpace, judging from some recent figures.

Last month, Facebook had 123.9 million unique visitors and 50.6 billion page views worldwide, according to the research firm ComScore. MySpace, meanwhile, had 114.6 million unique visitors and 45.4 billion page views, the first time Facebook has edged past MySpace in those measures.

Facebook has its growing popularity outside the country to thank for the milestone.

In the U.S., however, MySpace is still on top and pulls in twice as many visitors as its main rival on a monthly basis, according to the firm. MySpace gets more than 70 million visits from U.S. Web surfers in a typical month.

A researcher with ComScore said Monday that Facebook use has been growing quickly, while growth for MySpace has leveled off somewhat. “It’s been around longer,” said Andrew Lipsman about MySpace. “It’s at a different space in its growth curve.”

MySpace was launched in 2003; Facebook was launched in 2004, and use of the site was limited to students until September 2006.

Facebook has seen brisk growth overseas in the past year. From May 2007 to May 2008, its user base grew 162 percent, compared with 5 percent growth for MySpace.

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