Microsoft named Jean-Philippe Courtois to head its international business, putting a 21-year company veteran in charge of divisions that make up 32 percent of sales.

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Microsoft named Jean-Philippe Courtois to head its international business, putting a 21-year company veteran in charge of divisions that make up 32 percent of sales.

Courtois, formerly chief executive of Microsoft’s Europe, Middle East and Africa division, yesterday was appointed president of Microsoft International, a new position overseeing operations in Asia and Latin America as well as Europe, Microsoft said in a statement.

The promotion follows moves by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer aimed at focusing executives’ attention on overseas operations, where sales are outpacing those in the United States.

Washington Mutual

Group challenges planned acquisition

A consumer-advocacy group in New York City has filed a challenge to Washington Mutual’s proposed acquisition of credit-card issuer Providian Financial.

Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch filed documents with the Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates WaMu, saying that WaMu imposes high-rate loans on African Americans more often than whites. The community group is invoking the Community Reinvestment Act to request public hearings, which regulators sometimes hold before deciding whether to approve a merger.

WaMu spokesman Adrian Rodriguez said the company has not yet seen the group’s filing but looks forward to discussing it with Inner City Press.

OVP Venture Partners

Kirkland firm sets $200 million goal

OVP Venture Partners, which invests in technology startups, said yesterday that it would start raising its seventh venture fund in early 2006 with the goal of raising $200 million.

The Kirkland-based company would primarily raise capital from its existing limited partners and would welcome three to four new investors, said Kathy Love, the company’s spokeswoman.

Qwest Communications

Company must pay Oregon $1.05 million

Qwest Communications International was ordered to pay $1.05 million by Oregon for failing to disclose contracts with other telecommunications companies.

Qwest, the No. 4 U.S. local telephone company, agreed to the penalty without admitting guilt, the Oregon Public Utility Commission said in a statement. State law requires carriers and competitors to provide interconnection agreements to the commission, the statement said.

The contracts were used to gain favor for the company’s acquisition in 2000 of US West and to avoid opposition when Qwest entered the long-distance business, the statement said.

The commission found 13 major violations worth $50,000 each and 16 minor violations worth $25,000 each, the statement said.


News Web site offers free video viewing

CNN rolled out free video on its Web site yesterday. Previously, the site had been charging users $4.95 a month to view its videos, and also offered a $12.99 option that included a subscription to RealNetworks’ SuperPass service.

Now, CNN has switched to Microsoft’s Windows Media Player format for the free video, although SuperPass subscribers still can access CNN’s video content.

CNN said it will launch a premium service this fall that offers video for a subscription fee, but it wouldn’t say whether it will go with Microsoft or RealNetworks as a technology partner. A RealNetworks spokesman said yesterday that no long-term plans have been announced.


Online service has local search feature

Microsoft’s MSN division launched yesterday a test version of a new local search service designed to give users telephone numbers, maps and other information.

MSN’s search engine will have a “local” category that users can target for White Pages and Yellow Pages directory information.

Microsoft also said that the Virtual Earth mapping team will join MSN Search and will work on integrating search results with aerial images and Microsoft’s MapPoint Web Service. The Virtual Earth product is expected to debut this summer.


Biotech: Drug meets goal to stop bleeding

ZymoGenetics said yesterday its drug for stopping surgical bleeding, Thrombin, met its main goal of demonstrating safety, and on average it was able to stop bleeding 27 percent faster than a placebo in a midstage clinical trial.

The Seattle biotech company said the detailed results were presented by Dr. Jeffrey Lawson of Duke University at a meeting of the Peripheral Vascular Surgical Society in Chicago.

Of the 37 patients in the study who received Thrombin, one patient produced antibodies against the drug.

For about 90 percent of patients receiving Thrombin, bleeding stopped within 10 minutes, compared with 74 percent of those treated with placebo.

Based on the results, the company said it plans to start a larger, pivotal trial of Thrombin in the second half of this year.


Net firm may expand into online payments

Hoping to build upon the power of its Internet leading search engine, Google is believed to be developing an online-payment system that would pose a stiff challenge to online auctioneer eBay’s industry-dominating PayPal service.

Industry analysts, merchants and investors were digesting reports yesterday that the company is testing a payment system — code-named “Google Wallet” — in hopes of rolling out the service later this year.

Google declined to comment, but the company’s silence didn’t muffle the buzz about a service that would set up a showdown between two powerhouses.

Investors, meanwhile, appeared to view Google as a formidable threat. Google’s shares gained $6.40, or 2.3 percent, yesterday to close at $286.70

eBay’s shares dropped 81 cents, or 2.1 percent, to finish at $37.24.

Clearing House Association

U.S. judge allows probe of 11 big banks

A federal judge refused yesterday to grant a temporary restraining order that would have stopped New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer from investigating large U.S. banks for their lending practices to minorities.

The order was sought by The Clearing House Association of 11 banks and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which are suing Spitzer’s office on grounds that states do not have jurisdiction over national banks.

Judge Sidney Stein in the Southern District of New York handed Spitzer a symbolic victory by allowing his probe to continue despite the suits.

Eight of the 11 banks are federally chartered national banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Wachovia, Bank of America and The Bank of New York.

The OCC, part of the U.S. Treasury, and the bank group filed suit against the attorney general’s office Thursday.

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