Pacific Northwest Seattle's Greyhound bus terminal doesn't qualify as a historical landmark, the city's Landmarks Preservation Board decided...

Share story

Pacific Northwest

Seattle’s Greyhound bus terminal doesn’t qualify as a historical landmark, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board decided Wednesday.

The board rejected a staff recommendation to nominate the 1927 station for protected landmark status. That removes one potential obstacle to developer R.C. Hedreen’s plan to build a 51-story, 1,200-room hotel on the site, at Eighth Avenue and Stewart Street.

Board members said a 1960s remodel had compromised the building’s architectural integrity. While several said its role as the last interurban train station in Seattle was significant, “I don’t know that it still has the ability to convey its importance,” board member Mark Hannum said.

REI

Sales rise on new stores, members

Kent-based outdoor gear and apparel retailer REI said Wednesday that its sales shot up nearly 14 percent in 2007 to $1.3 billion as it opened seven new stores and signed up 625,000 members nationwide.

The member-owned cooperative said its operating profit rose 1 percent to $106.5 million.

REI will distribute $62.8 million to members through its annual patronage dividend, which is based on sales. Later this month, about 3.4 million members will get dividends of 10 percent of their eligible 2007 purchases.

Based on the operating profit, REI will donate $3.7 million to local and national nonprofits that help protect the environment and increase participation in outdoor activities.

REI also said sales at stores open at least a year jumped 8.2 percent in 2007, its third consecutive year of same-store sales growth above 8 percent.

REI, which owns 96 stores in 27 states, said its net income increased nearly 3 percent from a year ago to $41.4 million.

Nation and World

Microsoft

Cheaper version of program on sale

Microsoft introduced a cheaper version of a business-contact program in an effort to attract smaller companies. Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager went on sale Wednesday for $149.95. It was previously available only in versions of Office costing as much as $679.95.

Cisco Systems

Gloomy outlook hurts stock price

Cisco Systems’ second-quarter profit matched Wall Street’s expectations, but shares of the world’s largest Internet networking supplier plunged on the San Jose, Calif., company’s announcement that sales growth in the third quarter would only be 10 percent, below the 15 percent projection by Wall Street analysts.

The forecast disappointed investors, who viewed it as a sign technology spending will continue to weaken as companies gird for a possible recession in the U.S.

Cisco shares sank on the gloomy outlook, falling $1.77, or nearly 8 percent, to $21.31 in after-hours trading. It had slipped 18 cents to close at $23.08 during the regular trading session, before the results were released.

Aviation

Delta, Northwest in final approach?

Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines are inching closer to a combination that would create the nation’s largest carrier, and if a deal is reached it could be announced next week, a person briefed on the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The airlines have reached the point of settling on leadership, and it appears Delta CEO Richard Anderson, would retain that role in a combined carrier, The New York Times reported Wednesday night.

Delta’s board of directors is expected to meet over the next several days.

The person briefed on the discussions cautioned that things could change since Delta also has been talking to United Airlines about a combination.

Mining

Rio Tinto rejects rival’s $147B bid

Rio Tinto rejected a sweetened formal offer from mining rival BHP Billiton on Wednesday, saying the all-share offer worth $147.4 billion still did not reflect the value of the company and its prospects for expansion.

Rio Tinto, which had already rejected an initial approach from BHP Billiton last year as too low, said its boards were unanimous in turning away an offer that would create the dominant global player in iron ore.

BHP Billiton is already the world’s largest diversified mining company, and Rio Tinto is the third-largest. Analysts say that if the deal succeeds it would be the biggest takeover in the mining sector and one of the biggest ever in the corporate world.

Steelmakers in China, Japan and Europe have protested BHP Billiton’s bid, contending that a takeover would give it too much influence over global iron-ore supplies and pricing.

BHP Billiton accounts for around 15 percent of world iron-ore sales, while Rio Tinto is responsible for 24 percent.

Labor Department

Drop-off in worker productivity noted

Worker productivity, the key factor in rising living standards, slowed sharply in the final three months of the year as overall economic activity weakened considerably while labor pressures increased.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, increased at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the October-December quarter, down from a 6 percent performance in the July-September period.

The slowdown reflected the fact that overall economic activity skidded to a near standstill in the final three months of the year, with the gross domestic product rising at a barely perceptible rate of 0.6 percent.

Toll Brothers

Homebuilder grows less optimistic

Over a year ago, the chief executive of luxury-home builder Toll Brothers thought the housing slump could be touching close to the bottom.

These days, the normally chipper Robert Toll is much grimmer.

On Wednesday, Toll Brothers said homebuilding revenue fell by 22 percent in the first quarter, its seventh consecutive quarterly decline. Toll said that despite historically low mortgage rates and falling home prices, a slowing economy could be spooking buyers.

Full earnings results will be released Feb. 27.

Shares of Toll Brothers fell 74 cents, or more than 3 percent, to $21.13 on Wednesday.

MBIA

$750M in common stock to be sold

Bond insurer MBIA said Wednesday it plans to sell $750 million in common stock as it tries to maintain its crucial “AAA” financial strength rating.

MBIA will offer about 50.3 million shares of common stock — at about $14.91 per share — to raise the funds, which it will place in reserve to cover potential future claims.

Warburg Pincus, which has already directly invested $500 million in MBIA, will backstop the offering in exchange for preferred stock, covering shares not sold in the sale.

IAC/Interactive

4th-quarter loss of $369M reported

Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp lost $369.9 million in the fourth quarter, on a big write-down at its mortgage-referral business, tax expenses and costs in anticipation of the proposed spinoff of four businesses.

The report Wednesday came as Diller and Liberty Media boss John Malone are battling for control of the Internet conglomerate whose assets include the HSN home shopping network, Ask.com, Ticketmaster, Citysearch, Evite and LendingTree.

Liberty, a major IAC shareholder, has sued to halt the spinoffs. Diller said the spinoffs, initially planned for the second or third quarter, could be delayed by a couple of months or more. Some analysts say the suits could derail the plan.

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