Pacific Northwest Bellevue-based InfoSpace said yesterday it will repurchase up to $100 million in stock because it believes it is undervalued...

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Bellevue-based InfoSpace said yesterday it will repurchase up to $100 million in stock because it believes it is undervalued.

The announcement comes almost three weeks after the company’s stock sank on word that it would have a seasonally slow second quarter.

“We believe the current market price of our stock does not reflect the strength of the business and our ability to generate long-term value for shareholders,” said InfoSpace Chief Executive Jim Voelker.

Yesterday, the company’s stock rose $1.04, or 3.6 percent, to close at $30.26.


Oregon’s economy shows more growth

Oregon’s economy showed more signs of steady growth and recovery in April despite a slight uptick in the unemployment rate as the state labor force reached a record level of nearly 1.9 million workers.

The construction industry led the monthly gains with 2,000 jobs — or 1,000 more than typical for April. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate inched up to 6.5 percent in April from a revised rate of 6.1 percent in March.

Nationally, the jobless rate remained unchanged at 5.2 percent last month. Washington state’s April employment data will be released today.


Machinists to vote on offer by Onex

Members of the Machinists union at Boeing’s Wichita plant will decide next Tuesday whether to accept pay and benefit cuts in exchange for a chance at a job when Canadian investment firm Onex takes over Boeing’s Kansas and Oklahoma commercial-aircraft operations.

The company will offer jobs to between 4,000 and 4,500 of the 6,000 employees at Boeing’s Wichita plant represented by the Machinists union, said Garland Moore, business representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Onex’s final offer was given to union officials Saturday. It asks workers to take a 10 percent pay cut, but it offers a 2 percent wage increase in 2007, 3 percent in 2008 and 3 percent in 2009.

E.K. Riley

Investment firm begins research arm

E.K.Riley, a Seattle investment brokerage founded in 2002, said yesterday that it was starting a research division called E.K.Riley Advisors.

Robert Toomey, who was most recently the managing director of research for RBC Dain Rauscher, will head the division as senior vice president and chief equity strategist.

The company said Toomey will focus on Northwest companies.


Acquisition marks freight-delivery push

UPS, the world’s biggest shipping carrier, is stepping up expansion of its freight-delivery business with its $1.25 billion purchase of trucking company Overnite, a move that drew quick response from rivals who vowed not to be deterred.

The deal announced yesterday is UPS’ largest single acquisition, and follows the Atlanta-based company’s decision last week to spend $24 million to build and equip five regional freight hubs at airports around the country. Overnite shares soared 43 percent; UPS shares also rose.

Shipping heavy freight has been a small percentage of UPS’ overall business, but the company wants to make it a bigger emphasis — and there’s plenty of money in it. Freight hauled by trucks in the U.S. generated $671 billion in revenue for delivery companies in 2004, according to the American Trucking Associations.

Limited Brands

Retail group sees profits fall sharply

The retailer Limited Brands, dragged down in part by big merchandising mistakes at its Express stores, reported yesterday that first-quarter profits fell 76 percent from last year when it had a large, one-time gain.

The operator of chains including Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works missed analysts’ expectations and lowered its earnings forecast for the second quarter and full year. Shares slipped in midday trading.

Earnings for the quarter that ended April 30 totaled $23.1 million, or 6 cents a share, compared with $96.6 million, or 19 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue edged down to $1.974 billion from $1.978 billion a year ago.

Limited Brands’ shares closed up 2 cents at $20.45.


Cool weather hurts, but profits still up

Shares of Lowe’s rose yesterday after the nation’s No. 2 home-improvement retailer posted a 31 percent gain in its first-quarter profits.

The earnings fell short of Wall Street’s earnings expectations, but investors appeared to accept the chain’s explanation that an unseasonably cool March in key markets like the Northeast was the chief culprit for missing its guidance.

Cold and rainy weather cut into sales of nursery products, lumber and seasonal-living items, as consumers were prevented from working on their homes, Lowe’s Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Niblock said.

Lowe’s shares rose $2.94, or 5.6 percent, to close at $55.80 yesterday.


Expenditures part of growth plans

Google, the most-used Internet search engine, said it expects to spend a “significant” amount of cash on acquisitions and other investments in 2005.

The purchases will help the company add new engineering teams and expand the business, Google said yesterday in a regulatory filing.

Google also raised a forecast of how much it would spend on property and equipment in 2005 by 20 percent to $600 million. The company said operating-profit margins may decline in the future as it spends more to grow. The growth rate of costs and expenses may exceed the rate of revenue growth in 2005 and beyond, Google said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shares of Google rose $1.81 to $231.05 yesterday. The stock has almost tripled since Google’s August initial public offering.


San Francisco sues AIG, alleging fraud

The city attorney of San Francisco sued American International Group (AIG) for alleged securities fraud, and seeks to recover losses incurred by the city employees’ retirement system.

The purported class action also names Berkshire Hathaway’s General Re unit, which has been linked to AIG’s recent accounting troubles.

Representatives from AIG and General Re weren’t immediately available to comment on the lawsuit.

In a press release yesterday, the Office of City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the complaint alleges that insurer AIG illegally inflated the company’s stock price with egregious business malfeasance and violations of federal securities laws.

Herrera filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of San Francisco’s employees’ retirement system, which acquired AIG shares between Oct. 1, 1999 and March 30.

AIG is under various government probes for allegedly using improper accounting to boost financial results. The company recently said its ongoing accounting review would result in $2.7 billion in restatements.


Joint effort targets employee tracking

Sprint and Microsoft will jointly market new wireless programs to lure large business customers seeking to keep track of employees in the field.

Sprint yesterday introduced location-based services that let businesses find employees and equipment and share information such as driving directions. Microsoft and International Business Machines have developed programs using Sprint’s framework, and an additional 20 partners are working on applications, the Overland Park, Kan.-based phone company said yesterday.

Hollywood Entertainment

Chain’s founder has eye on Blockbuster

Hollywood Entertainment founder Mark Wattles, whose effort to take the company private failed last year, said he’s seeking backers to buy his onetime competitor, Blockbuster.

“I am in active discussions with potential buyers,” Wattles said in an interview. Wattles said he bought about 1 million shares in Blockbuster, the largest U.S. video-rental chain, in the past month.

Wattles’ effort to take Wilsonville, Ore.-based Hollywood private collapsed in August. He quit as CEO in February. After a battle with Blockbuster, Hollywood, the No. 2 U.S. video-rental chain, was bought by Movie Gallery, then the third-largest chain, for $1.01 billion.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press, Dow Jones Newswires and Bloomberg News