Pacific Northwest Jeff Krida, president and chief executive of Seattle-based Cruise West, plans to retire at the end of this month to pursue...

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Pacific Northwest

Jeff Krida, president and chief executive of Seattle-based Cruise West, plans to retire at the end of this month to pursue an interest in developing volunteer tourism opportunities.

Krida, 62, joined Cruise West as president and chief operating officer in 2000. During his tenure, the company began offering itineraries in Asia, the South Pacific and Panama and Costa Rica and acquired three ships.

Krida also supported its “Our Bear Cares” program, which allows cruise-ship passengers to participate in volunteer activities while visiting Cruise West destinations, the company said.

Krida will remain a consultant to Cruise West, a privately held company with nine ships able to carry between 78 and 138 passengers each. His replacement has not been named.

Boeing

Rocket-launch contract awarded

Boeing won a contract from the Department of Defense valued at as much as $505.3 million to provide rocket-launch services.

Boeing will provide services using Delta IV launch vehicles to the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Defense said on its Web site Wednesday.

The National Reconnaissance Office will use the rockets to launch spy satellites used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department.

Nation / World

Nymex

Economic fears push down oil

Crude futures skidded lower Wednesday, falling more than $2 a barrel to their lowest closing price in three months on concerns that oil supplies are growing even as the economy and demand are cooling.

“The [oil] market has become quite sensitized to any move in equities,” said Linda Rafield, senior oil analyst at Platts, the energy-research arm of McGraw-Hill.

Light, sweet crude for March delivery fell $2.22 to settle at $86.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) Wednesday. Oil last closed below $87 a barrel Oct. 23.

eBay

CEO confirms her departure

Meg Whitman will soon step down as chief executive of eBay, the online auction company that went from wobbly startup to multibillion-dollar household name in her 10-year tenure.

Whitman, 51, had been reported to be plotting the move and handing the job to John Donahoe, 47, who has been heading eBay’s core auction and e-commerce businesses. She confirmed her March 31 departure as eBay reported fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday.

Whitman will remain on eBay’s board of directors.

EBay shares rose $1.81, 6.7 percent, to close at $28.94 in advance of the earnings report and Whitman’s announcement. In extended trading, the stock initially hit $29.80, up another 3 percent, after the company’s earnings beat analysts’ expectations.

Motorola

Shares plunge on bleak outlook

Motorola’s new CEO Greg Brown spooked investors Wednesday with a gloomy assessment of the cellphone maker’s inability to turn around its ailing handset division, saying a recovery will take longer than expected.

Shares nose-dived almost 23 percent to a 4 ½-year low on the company’s outlook for worse-than-anticipated first-quarter results and Brown’s acknowledgment that Motorola is short on promising new products.

Motorola also reported results from the fourth quarter that were about as weak as analysts had feared, with net profit falling 84 percent and mobile-phone sales down 38 percent.

Brown said global market share — already down to 13 percent late last year from 23 percent at the end of 2006 — is continuing to drop as Nokia and other competitors carve into its sales.

Motorola shares plunged $2.31, or 18.8 percent, to $10.01 Wednesday, dipping below $10 for the first time since August 2003. They have lost more than 60 percent of their value in the last 15 months.

ConocoPhillips

Record oil prices yield big profit

Record oil prices at the end of 2007 helped ConocoPhillips post a 37 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit, even as the third-largest U.S. oil company produced less crude and natural gas than a year earlier.

ConocoPhillips was the first of the big players to report. Exxon Mobil and Chevron are scheduled to release results Feb. 1.

And some analysts say it’s possible Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, could beat its 2006 profit of $39.5 billion, the largest by a U.S. company.

ConocoPhillips said Wednesday its fourth-quarter net income rose to $4.37 billion, or $2.71 per share, compared with $3.2 billion, or $1.91 per share, during the same period a year earlier.

Revenue increased to $52.7 billion from $41.5 billion a year ago.

ConocoPhillips shares rose 55 cents to close at $71.73 Wednesday.

Pfizer

Revenue outlook for ’08 is raised

Pfizer beat Wall Street earnings expectations for the fourth quarter, raised its 2008 revenue outlook and said it is on track to rebuild its product pipeline.

Net income dropped 70 percent to $2.88 billion, or 42 cents a share, from a year earlier when the company had a one-time gain from selling its consumer-products division to Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer said Wednesday.

Profit excluding some items was 52 cents a share, exceeding estimates by 5 cents.

Meanwhile, the company is making preparations as its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor is edging closer to patent expiration in 2010.

Shares of Pfizer, a Dow component, rose 63 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $22.86 Wednesday.

Southwest Airlines

Gains posted, but warning issued

Southwest Airlines doubled its profit in the fourth quarter, thanks again to its financial wizardry in hedging against high fuel costs, but its CEO didn’t rule out that the airline — which hasn’t posted a losing quarter since early 1991 — might lose money in the first three months of this year.

Southwest shares rallied Wednesday to close up 78 cents, or 6.5 percent, at $12.76, their highest level in a month.

The carrier’s long streak of profitable quarters is in jeopardy, however, because of higher costs for fuel and other items including maintenance.

“I can’t give you a guarantee that there won’t be a loss in the first quarter,” said Chief Executive Gary Kelly.

Analysts are forecasting a slim first-quarter profit of 3 cents per share, with better results the rest of this year.

United Technologies

Sikorsky, Otis sales lift earnings

Industrial conglomerate United Technologies’ fourth-quarter earnings rose 23 percent as broad-based sales increased, led by its aerospace unit Sikorsky and elevator maker Otis, the company said Wednesday.

Net income rose to $1.06 billion, or $1.08 per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31 from $865 million, or 87 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

The result exceeded estimates on Wall Street, where analysts expected profit of $1.06 per share, according to Thomson Financial.

Revenue jumped 15 percent to $14.71 billion from $12.79 billion last year, surpassing Wall Street estimates for $14.08 billion.

Shares of United Technologies, a Dow industrial stock, rose $3.74, or 5.6 percent, to $70.98 Wednesday.

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