Pacific Northwest U.S. Army criminal investigators are looking into damage to two military helicopters on a production line at a Boeing...

Share story

Pacific Northwest

U.S. Army criminal investigators are looking into damage to two military helicopters on a production line at a Boeing plant in suburban Philadelphia, prompting the company to shut down the line.

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat whose district includes the plant, said Wednesday he was told wires that appeared to be broken or severed were found in one helicopter and a suspicious washer was found in a second.

There is a “low probability that it was not deliberate,” Sestak said, but he added that unintentional damage remains a possibility. He said he has talked with company and union officials and was told the investigation could take two weeks.

The company didn’t disclose specifics about why it shut down the H-47 Chinook line Tuesday at the Boeing Rotorcraft Systems plant in Ridley Township, Pa.

About 60 workers stayed home Wednesday. Boeing said no decision has been made on whether they would be asked to return to work today.

Nation / World

FTC

Agency may probe Countrywide

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, asked the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday to join other government and court agencies investigating Countrywide Financial, the largest U.S. home-mortgage lender.

Schumer based his request on what he called “an emerging pattern of apparent misconduct” in Countrywide’s treatment of borrowers who seek bankruptcy protection.

The request followed a May 6 hearing at which witnesses testified Countrywide and other mortgage lenders abuse the bankruptcy-court system by filing unjustified foreclosures against borrowers, piling on questionable fees and misstating the amounts owed.

General Electric

Report: Appliances to be jettisoned

General Electric plans to auction off its appliance business, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

GE has hired Goldman Sachs to run an auction for the appliance division, according to the newspaper, which quoted unidentified sources. The sale could yield $5 billion to $8 billion, the Journal reported.

Spokesmen for GE and Goldman Sachs would not comment.

Whole Foods

Weak 2Q report drives shares down

Shares of Whole Foods tumbled nearly 14 percent Wednesday after the company said its fiscal second-quarter profit fell 13 percent, missing Wall Street estimates, and same-store sales grew but at a slower pace than in recent years.

Whole Foods shares fell $4.68, or 14 percent, to $28.96 Wednesday after sinking to a 52-week low of $28.85 earlier in the session.

A Goldman Sachs analyst said it was the first time in recent memory that economic trends seemed to hurt Whole Foods sales. An analyst from RBC Capital Markets said the disappointing same-store sales confirmed his belief that traffic in the stores has slowed due to the weak economy.

Craig Johnson, a consultant to retailers and retail investors, said Whole Foods is suffering just like department-store chains Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus — because upper-middle-class shoppers who enjoy touches of luxury in their lives are struggling.

“Wal-Mart and Costco are capturing a growing share of the food dollar from all the grocery chains, including Whole Foods,” Johnson said.

Macy’s

Forecast beat despite sales slump

Despite a $59 million loss and a slump in sales in the first quarter, Macy’s on Wednesday posted results that beat Wall Street expectations because of what analysts said were tight controls on expenses and inventories.

The loss resulted from lower sales and the cost of consolidating business units, Macy’s said.

Losses totaled 14 cents a share in the three months ended May 3, compared with a profit of $36 million, or 8 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago, Macy’s said. Revenue was $5.75 billion, down from $5.92 billion a year ago.

Stripping out unusual charges, earnings from continuing operations were 2 cents a share, Macy’s said.

Deere & Co.

Robust profit, word of warning

Deere & Co., the world’s biggest maker of farm machinery, said Wednesday its second-quarter profit rose 22 percent, propelled by lofty crop prices that stoked global demand for its farm equipment despite a faltering U.S. economy.

But the Moline, Ill.-based company warned that rising costs of such raw materials as steel could cut into its earnings over coming months, sending its shares down nearly 10 percent Wednesday. Deere also said it was seeing spot parts shortages “cropping up.”

The maker of tractors and harvesting machinery said its profit for the period ended April 30 jumped to $763.5 million, or $1.74 per share, up from $623.6 million, or $1.36 per share, during the same period last year.

Sony

Strong sales boost recovery

Sony punctuated its recovery by swinging to a profit for the January-March quarter from a loss a year ago on its way to a record performance for the fiscal year as it reduced losses from its PlayStation 3 video-game business.

Strong sales of flat panel TVs and digital cameras also helped nearly triple annual profit compared to the previous financial year, the electronics and entertainment company said Wednesday.

FedEx Kinko’s

Interim head appointed CEO

FedEx has named Brian Philips president and chief executive of FedEx Kinko’s, the parent shipping company’s office and print-services division.

Philips had been acting chief executive of FedEx Kinko’s since the end of March, when former CEO Ken May resigned. The promotion was announced Wednesday.

Philips joined FedEx in 1993 and is the former vice president of U.S. marketing for FedEx Services.

Linens ‘n Things

Liquidator to be picked at auction

Linens ‘n Things, the bankrupt housewares retailer, won court permission for an auction to choose a liquidator to help close 120 of its 589 stores.

The company will hold an auction May 29 to pick a liquidator, according to an order signed Tuesday by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi in Wilmington, Del.

The chain plans to start liquidating the 120 underperforming stores in June. Linens, with 15,900 workers at 551 U.S. locations as of Dec. 31, will cut about 2,500 of its 17,500 jobs worldwide, the company said.

Virgin Mobile USA

Talks with SK push shares up

Shares of Virgin Mobile USA rose more than 30 percent Wednesday after the wireless-phone company acknowledged it is holding talks with South Korea’s SK Telecom about a merger involving U.S. assets.

SK also said it is discussing a deal with Virgin Mobile involving its Helio U.S. subsidiary. Neither company disclosed the exact nature of the discussions, though a deal could involve Virgin Mobile buying Helio or SK acquiring Virgin and combining it with Helio.

“[T]hese discussions are in early stages, and there are no assurances that any transaction will result,” the company said. “Virgin Mobile USA will have no further comment unless a definitive agreement is reached.”

Shares of Virgin Mobile jumped 11 percent to close at $3.37 on Wednesday.

Compiled from The Associated Press, MarketWatch and USA Today