Pacific Northwest The union representing thousands of West Coast dockworkers has reached a tentative contract deal with shippers that promises...

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Pacific Northwest

Labor relations

The union representing thousands of West Coast dockworkers has reached a tentative contract deal with shippers that promises to keep ports running and avoid another blow to the U.S. economy.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced a six-year agreement Monday after lengthy weekend negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The contract covers more than 25,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports, including in Washington. Both sides said they would not release details of the deal, which still must be ratified by union and PMA members.

The previous six-year contract covering dockworkers expired July 1 without a strike or lockout, with both sides insisting they wanted to keep the ports running smoothly.

Aviation

Alaska, Korean Air partners for miles

Korean Air and Alaska Airlines announced a new code-share agreement and expanded frequent-flier partnership that will allow members to earn and redeem miles in either Korean Air’s or Alaska Airlines’ frequent-flier program.

Customers can take advantage of the new partnership from Korean Air’s West Coast gateways of Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with connecting flights from other points throughout the Pacific Northwest. The agreement starts Friday, and customers can begin earning and redeeming miles starting Sept. 3.

Korean Air flies nonstop between Seattle and Seoul/Incheon Airport on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Branded merchandise

Monroe’s Cyrk lays off 23 workers

Cyrk, a Monroe company that sells branded merchandise such as stationery, hats, mugs and shirts, laid off 23 workers earlier this month.

Chief Financial Officer Matt McArthur said the company now has about 75 U.S. employees and about 30 in Europe and Asia.

The layoffs resulted from closing Cyrk’s embroidery and silk-screening operations, which have been outsourced to several other companies nationwide, he said.

Utilities

PSE buys power plant in Sumas

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has completed the purchase of a 125-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant at Sumas, Whatcom County

The $30 million transaction Monday with a subsidiary of National Energy Systems of Kirkland includes a four-mile pipeline that brings natural gas to the plant from a main Canadian gas-transmission line.

The Sumas plant was built in 1993 near the U.S.-Canada border. Bellevue-based Puget Energy says it needs the power to meet a growing demand for electricity.

Financial

Merrill to sell stock, take write-down

Merrill Lynch, in a broad move to clean up its troubled balance sheet, said Monday it will sell a big slice of its toxic asset-backed securities and issue new stock to raise $8.5 billion of fresh capital.

The world’s largest brokerage, struggling to right itself as the credit crisis continues, said it will issue more than 200 million new common shares.

Merrill said it will write down $5.7 billion because of additional losses on the sale of mortgage securities and hedging contracts.

Perhaps the biggest benefactor in the deal is Temasek Holdings, the Singapore sovereign wealth fund and one of Merrill’s biggest investors.

It agreed to buy $3.4 billion worth of shares at a yet-to-be determined price, a potentially large percentage considering Merrill shares are down 54 percent this year.

In addition, Merrill’s management plans to buy 750,000 shares.

The company made the announcement after the markets closed. Its shares fell 11.6 percent to $24.33 in regular trading, then drifted down 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Software

Microsoft launches academic tools

Microsoft on Monday announced a new set of research tools designed to foster open access and communication of scientific data.

The free software was announced at a gathering of about 400 computer-science researchers gathered in Redmond for Microsoft’s annual Faculty Summit. It includes “add-ins” to widely used Microsoft programs including Word and Excel that improve the searchability of academic articles and assign usage rights to them under Creative Commons licenses.

The company also launched an “e-Journal” service to help academics self-publish conference proceedings and research in online journals.

Tony Hey, Microsoft corporate vice president of external research, said the tools can help address a “crisis” in scholarly communication. As new fields form at the edges of existing disciplines, library budgets are not increasing enough to subscribe to or start new academic journals.

Automotive

Shifts cut at GM’s SUV, truck plants

General Motors said Monday it will cut shifts at plants in Ohio and Louisiana, eliminating 1,760 jobs, as part of its previously announced plan to reduce vehicle production due to weak demand for trucks and SUVs.

The moves bring GM’s truck and SUV production cuts to just under the 300,000 units the company had hoped for this year.

GM already has been idling various truck and SUV production for weeks at a time to reach its goal and align its offerings with consumer demand.

At the same time, GM is adding shifts at plants that make the fast-selling Chevrolet Malibu and Cobalt cars.

Japanese rival Toyota, which outsold GM by 277,532 vehicles worldwide in the first six months of this year, cut its global sales forecast earlier Monday by 350,000 vehicles to 9.5 million, blaming sluggish North American sales.

Aviation

Emirates commits to 60 Airbus jets

Airbus won a commitment from Emirates to buy 60 wide-body planes as the Mideast carrier presses ahead with expansion.

The aircraft have a list price of about $12 billion; the estimated actual price, based on data from aircraft valuation firm Avitas, is about $6.5 billion.

Chairman Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum announced the pledge for 30 A330-300 aircraft and 30 more A350s at a ceremony Monday marking the delivery of Emirates’ first A380 plane, in Hamburg, Germany.

Emirates will have 100 A350s on order once the letter of intent is followed by a firm contract, he said.

Emirates is Airbus’ largest customer for the A380 superjumbo, with 58 on order.

It’s the second airline, after Singapore Airlines, to get delivery of the plane.

Communications

Verizon rings up big profit increase

Verizon’s second-quarter profit rose 12 percent, the company said Monday, while revenue was slightly shy of expectations and customers disconnected landlines faster than before.

The nation’s second-largest telecommunications company earned $1.88 billion, or 66 cents a share, in the quarter ended June 30, up from $1.68 billion, or 58 cents a share, a year ago.

Verizon said that excluding a merger-related item, it earned 67 cents a share, beating the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Financial by 2 cents.

Software

Oracle’s allegations

against SAP grow

Escalating its rancor with SAP, business-software maker Oracle accused its rival Monday of knowingly buying then embracing an illegal operation set up to steal Oracle’s products and customers.

The allegations emerged in the latest documents filed in a fraud case Oracle brought against SAP last year in San Francisco federal court. Oracle fired its volley the day before Germany-based SAP is to report its quarterly results.

The 16-month-old lawsuit focuses on TomorrowNow, a software-maintenance specialist SAP bought in 2005 to counter Oracle’s $11.1 billion acquisition of PeopleSoft.

TomorrowNow offered to support PeopleSoft products at lower prices than Oracle did, an advantage SAP hoped to use to lure customers away from its biggest rival in business applications software. Those products automate a wide range of administrative tasks.

But Oracle alleges TomorrowNow relied on a “corrupt” strategy that included breaking into Oracle’s computers to obtain confidential data.

Oracle’s allegations contradict some of the public statements of SAP’s chief executive, Henning Kagermann, who said the company’s hierarchy never had access to any “inappropriate” material obtained by TomorrowNow.

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