Pacific Northwest Iraq on Monday signed two deals worth $5 billion to buy 40 planes from Boeing and 10 planes from Canada's Bombardier to...

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Iraq on Monday signed two deals worth $5 billion to buy 40 planes from Boeing and 10 planes from Canada’s Bombardier to upgrade Iraqi Airways’ aging fleet.

The deals were signed by Finance Minister Bayan Jabr in a Baghdad ceremony attended by Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson, as well as U.S., British and Canadian diplomats.

Boeing said the firm order from Iraq was for 30 Boeing 737-800s, with an option for 10 more. List price for the firm order is $2.2 billion; the estimated actual price, based on data from aircraft valuation firm Avitas, is about $1.4 billion.

Boeing and Iraq are finalizing an additional order for 10 new 787s, the company said in a statement.

Western United

Judge OKs sale of Spokane firm

A Thurston County judge has approved the sale of Spokane’s Western United Life Assurance, one of the biggest unresolved issues left over from the 2004 collapse of Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities.

Global Life Holdings, an entity created to buy Western United, will pay about $55 million in cash, real estate and other assets for the 45-year-old company, whose primary business is fixed annuity contracts.

Western United has been in receivership under Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s office since March 2004. Kreidler took control of the company to protect the interests of its tens of thousands of policyholders as Met Mortgage sank into scandal and bankruptcy.

The conflicting interests of Kreidler’s office, creditors of Met and sister company Summit Securities, and their complex network of subsidiaries — not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars of overstated real-estate assets on Western’s books — had made it difficult to find a buyer.

Once the deal closes, $15 million will go to preferred shareholders of Western’s holding company, whose claims have priority over those of Met’s investors; they ultimately will share in the remainder.

T-Mobile USA

“3G” coverage goes live in N.Y.

T-Mobile USA has fired up its third-generation wireless network in the U.S., announcing Monday that it’s now live in New York City.

Other major cities will get “3G” coverage later this year, the Bellevue company said, confirming previously announced plans.

Web browsing and downloading content like ringtones will be twice as fast with 3G on four phone models that T-Mobile USA started selling last year.

T-Mobile USA is the nation’s fourth-largest cellular carrier and a unit of Deutsche Telekom.


Beijing campus to cost $280M

Microsoft plans to spend $280 million building a research-and-development campus in Beijing, bolstering efforts to create more products for the world’s most populous nation.

The center, the company’s largest outside the U.S., will be completed by 2010, Zhang Yaqin, chairman of Microsoft’s research-and-development operations in China, told a news briefing in the Chinese capital today.

“This campus represents the role China is playing to help shape Microsoft’s growing portfolio of products and services as the company expands its business across the world,” Zhang said.

The new campus in Beijing will be able to house more than 5,000 people when completed, Zhang said.

The company said in November it planned to add 1,000 engineers in China by June, with about 90 percent of those workers developing products for the fastest-growing major economy.

Microsoft has research centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. It had about 3,000 engineers in China as of November, the most of any country outside the U.S. The company employs about 5,000 people in China, Zhang said in November.

Bank of America

Countrywide deal “on track” to close

Bank of America, seeking to quell speculation that it will abandon its $4 billion purchase of Countrywide Financial, said the takeover is proceeding as planned.

“The transaction is on track to close in the third quarter as agreed to,” Robert Stickler, a spokesman for the Charlotte, N.C., company, said Monday.

Countrywide, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, plunged in New York trading after Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group analyst Paul Miller cut his rating and urged Bank of America to abandon the transaction.

Miller changed his rating on Calabasas, Calif.-based Countrywide to “underperform” from “market perform” and lowered his price target to $2 a share from $7.


Conservative to exit commission

Paul Atkins, one of three Republican members of the Securities and Exchange Commission, announced Monday that he will leave the agency after the end of his term on June 5.

Atkins, widely considered the most conservative member of the SEC in recent years with the strongest free-market bent, was appointed by President Bush in July 2002 at the height of the corporate accounting scandals.

At the time he was a partner at big accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and had previously worked at the SEC on the staffs of two former chairmen.

Wal-Mart Stores, Target

More drugs added to low-price program

Wal-Mart Stores announced Monday it would expand its discounted prescription-drug program to offer 90-day supplies for $10 and add several women’s medications at a discount. It also said it would lower the price of more than 1,000 over-the-counter drugs.

Target said late Monday it would match the major elements of Wal-Mart’s program.

The move marks the third phase of a Wal-Mart program that began in 2006 to provide a 30-day supply of generic prescription drugs for $4.

Wal-Mart said the program has saved customers more than $1 billion.


GM strike adds to automaker woes

A strike Monday by a United Autoworkers local at the General Motors plant in Kansas City, Kan., could endanger production of the popular Chevrolet Malibu sedan, adding to mounting problems for the automaker.

Employees at the Fairfax plant, which has more than 2,500 UAW members, set up pickets in medians and at the gates of the sprawling plant, and vowed to stay out for as long as necessary to get a contract.

The strike is particularly important to GM because the plant produces the Malibu, a medium-sized sedan that was named “Car of the Year” at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The redesigned 2008 Malibu has posted strong sales since its launch last fall, as drivers reacting to high gasoline prices and the struggling economy move away from trucks and sport-utility vehicles.


Regulators urged to block Verizon

Google urged U.S. regulators to prevent Verizon Wireless from excluding the carrier’s mobile phones from open-access rules that apply to airwaves Verizon bought for $4.7 billion in a government auction.

The Federal Communications Commission shouldn’t grant Verizon the nationwide set of licenses, known as the C-block, unless the company guarantees that its devices will let subscribers use the network to download any legal program, Google said in a May 2 petition.

The FCC’s C-block rules, backed by Google and consumer advocates, require Verizon to let any device or program run on the airwaves, breaking a wireless-carrier tradition of limiting the products they support.

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