Pacific Northwest Malaysia Airlines said Monday it has placed a firm order for 35 narrow-body 737-800 aircraft, with an option for an additional...

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Malaysia Airlines said Monday it has placed a firm order for 35 narrow-body 737-800 aircraft, with an option for an additional 20.

The firm order has a list price of $2.6 billion; the estimated actual price, based on data from aircraft-valuation firm Avitas, is $1.6 billion.

Boeing also confirmed reports Monday that it has signed an agreement with the government of Iraq for the purchase of 30 Next-Generation 737s and 10 787 Dreamliners.

The order would be worth more than $3 billion at list prices, depending on which models are ordered. The estimated actual price, based on Avitas data, is $1.95 billion or more.

Iraq Airways, the national carrier, announced in February plans to buy Boeing planes. The order will be booked once a final contract has been signed, the company said.


Composites unit may go on market

Weyerhaeuser said it is exploring the sale of its patented technology for wood-plastic composites.

The oriented polymer-composites technology is used to make exterior building products, the Federal Way-based company said Monday. The technology platform is based in Kent.

Weyerhaeuser agreed two weeks ago to sell its packaging, recycling and containerboard units to International Paper for $6 billion.

Weyerhaeuser stock rose $1.34, or 2.1 percent, to $65.04 Monday. The shares have fallen 11.8 percent this year.


Cruise-ship season launches today

The cruise-ship season starts today in Seattle with the arrival of the Celebrity Mercury at the Bell Street Cruise Terminal at Pier 66.

The Port of Seattle says it’s the first of 211 ship calls that will bring 800,000 passengers to the city.

Nine cruise ships will call Seattle their home port this summer for cruises to Alaska and British Columbia.

The Port says each time a cruise ship calls, $1.4 million in economic impact for Seattle results.

Micron Technology

Rising chip prices push up stock

Micron Technology, the biggest U.S. maker of memory chips, saw its stock rise the most in almost two months after product prices climbed for the first time since August.

Average prices for dynamic random access memory chips in February rose 3.1 percent from January, Citigroup analyst Glen Yeung said in a report Monday.

Separately, Japan’s largest computer-memory maker, Elpida Memory, announced plans to raise prices 20 percent.

Boise, Idaho-based Micron rose 51 cents, or 9.3 percent, to $5.97 Monday. The shares have fallen 17.7 percent this year.

The price increase indicates an industrywide glut may be drying up. Overproduction caused Micron to report its first annual loss in four years in 2007.

Pacific Ethanol

Distillery to start operations in Idaho

Pacific Ethanol will begin ethanol output at a distillery in Burley, Idaho.

The distillery “will begin grinding corn” this week, Chief Executive Officer Neil Koehler said in a conference call with investors Monday.

The refinery can produce up to 50 million gallons a year. The opening of the plant increases the Sacramento, Calif.-based company’s combined annual capacity to 178 million gallons.

There are currently 145 ethanol distilleries in the U.S., with the capacity to produce about 8.4 billion gallons of the fuel a year, according to the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington.


Consumer banking now separate unit

Citigroup named a veteran retail banker Monday to head its North American consumer banking unit, splitting it off from its credit-card business as Citi struggles to become profitable again after suffering its biggest quarterly loss in its 196-year history.

The latest move is the biggest sign yet that CEO Vikram Pandit, appointed in December, wants to fix Citi’s major parts rather than sell them off to raise cash — at least for now.

It also shows what steps Pandit would take to attract more consumers to Citi’s retail banking unit.

Citi’s worst problems are in its investment banking segment, which made huge losing bets on the mortgage industry. But its bread-andbutter business of lending to and collecting deposits from average people has also been underwhelming shareholders.

Citi is ubiquitous throughout the United States, but in recent years has lost customers to rival banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Wachovia.


Manufacturing pace quickens

Manufacturing activity in China, the world’s fastest-growing major economy, expanded at a faster pace in March, according to a survey of purchasing managers.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 58.4, the highest in almost a year, from 53.4 in February, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing and the National Bureau of Statistics said early today.

The index is based on a survey of more than 700 companies in 20 industries, including energy, metallurgy, automobile and electronics manufacturing. A reading above 50 reflects an expansion in business activity and a reading below 50 indicates a contraction.

The survey tracks changes in output, new orders, export orders, employment, inventories, input costs and output prices. The data is seasonally adjusted.


Belt-tightening to save $3 billion

Dell said Monday it will save as much as $3 billion over the next three years as it cuts costs and lays off workers, with measures including closing a desktop manufacturing facility in Austin.

The world’s No. 2 computer maker will cut 900 of 17,500 jobs in the Austin area by closing the plant, company spokesman David Frink said.

Dell also reaffirmed its plan — announced last year — to cut at least 8,800 jobs, or about 10 percent of its work force.

In the last nine months of fiscal 2008, Dell cut 3,200 jobs.

Two months ago, Dell announced 1,200 job cuts, about 900 at a call center in Canada.

The company also is closing 140 kiosks, mostly in shopping malls, where customers could examine and order computers but not buy them to take with them.

Shares of Dell rose 31 cents to close at $19.92.


Deal for Australian software maker set

Personal-computer and printer maker Hewlett Packard is buying an Australian software maker whose products help businesses manage their records and comply with industry regulations.

Under the terms outlined Monday, Palo Alto-based HP will pay $3.10 per share for privately held Tower Software. The total acquisition price isn’t being disclosed.

The deal represents another step in HP efforts to become a bigger player in business software. Since 2005, HP has spent more than $7 billion buying software makers.

Founded 22 years ago, Canberra, Australia-based Tower Software employs more than 200 and has about 1,000 customers. HP expects to retain most of Tower Software’s workers.


20,000 workers walk off the job

More than 20,000 Vietnamese workers have walked off the job at a Taiwanese-owned plant in Hanoi that makes shoes for Nike, demanding higher pay to keep pace with skyrocketing prices.

The workers at Ching Luh plant, in southern Long An province, went on strike Monday. They want a 20 percent increase to their $59 average monthly salaries along with better lunches at the company cafeteria.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News