Kirkland-based Celebrate Express, an online and catalog retailer of party supplies, has been approached by suitors interested in a merger or acquisition, the company said in a regulatory filing.

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Kirkland-based Celebrate Express, an online and catalog retailer of party supplies, has been approached by suitors interested in a merger or acquisition, the company said Wednesday in a regulatory filing.

Celebrate Express had expected to announce its fiscal third-quarter financial results Wednesday but postponed the release in light of the possible sale. The company said it has hired Cowen & Co. as its financial adviser during discussions. It declined to name the suitors.

Last year, Celebrate Express said in an annual report to shareholders that it decided against selling the company after an eight-month review. CEO Kevin Green wrote that the company’s management and board believed that turning the business around and generating consistent cash flow were the best ways to increase shareholder value.

Shares of Celebrate Express closed up 43 cents, or 8.4 percent, at $5.56 Wednesday.


Employee shuttle service to widen

Microsoft said Wednesday it will more than double the capacity of the regional employee shuttle service it launched in September.

New routes will serve North Seattle neighborhoods including Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, Laurelhurst and Wedgwood beginning May 5, a spokesman said in an e-mail.

On the Eastside, beginning April 21, Duvall, Cottage Lake, Redmond, Tukwila and Renton will get new routes. Three existing Eastside routes will be improved.

The changes will increase daily capacity on the “Connector” service to 4,600.

Since its debut, 4,300 employees have taken 130,000 trips on the high-end shuttle service. Of the 4,300 riders, more than 2,500 typically drove to work by themselves, Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said in an e-mail.

Flow International

Hedge fund trims stake to 12.5%

Third Point, a New York-based hedge-fund manager, has reduced its investment in Flow International to 12.5 percent.

It now controls 4.71 million shares, down from 5.06 million, or 13.5 percent, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Third Point is still the largest investor in Kent-based Flow, a maker of high-pressure water jets used to cut industrial materials, according to Bloomberg News.


Former AT&T CEO takes on new role

Former AT&T chief executive David Dorman will become Motorola’s chairman next month as the struggling cellphone maker tries to fix its slumping fortunes and split itself into two companies.

Wednesday’s announcement comes two days after Motorola ended a proxy fight with activist investor Carl Icahn, agreeing to seat two of his nominees on its board of directors.

Dorman, 54, will assume the nonexecutive position on May 5, after chairman and former chief executive Ed Zander retires at the company’s annual meeting. He’ll be in charge of the board but have no role in the day-to-day business of the company.

Dorman has spent nearly three decades in telecommunications, working at Sprint, Pacific Bell, SBC and Concert, a global venture between AT&T and British Telecommunications. He became AT&T’s president in December 2000 and served as the company’s chairman and chief executive officer from 2002 until November 2005.

Motorola also agreed to get Icahn’s input on the planned separation and search for a chief executive for that business.

Motorola shares fell 7 cents to $9.42 in midday trading Wednesday.


Gas prices continue climb

The upward trend in energy prices showed no sign of abating Wednesday as gasoline set yet another record at the pump and crude oil topped $112 a barrel for the first time in the futures market.

The national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas rose 1.2 cents to a record $3.343 a gallon, according to a survey of gas stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. With the peak summer driving season still to come and gas following crude higher, the fuel may well reach the retail price of $4 a gallon that the Energy Department has been forecasting.


Weak ’09 recovery forecast for U.S.

The U.S. economy will end the year mired in recession before mounting only a weak recovery in 2009, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In its latest economic forecast, the IMF said the world’s largest economy won’t be hitting on all cylinders until 2010. “In the United States, economic growth has nearly stalled,” said Simon Johnson, the fund’s chief economist.

For the second time in 10 weeks, the IMF has sharply lowered its growth forecasts for both the U.S. and global economies. The fund now predicts that the U.S. economy, hobbled by fallout from the housing market collapse, will grow at a barely perceptible annual rate of 0.5 percent this year and 0.6 percent in 2009.

But Johnson said the slowdown will be more evident in a comparison of U.S. output in the fourth quarter this year with the same period one year earlier. On that basis, the economy will shrink by 0.7 percent. “All major components of domestic demand will be sickly in 2008,” the report said.

Pew Research Center

Americans say they are losing ground

More and more middle-class Americans say they aren’t better off than they were five years ago, reflecting economic pressures amid growing personal debt, a study released Wednesday found.

Their short-term assessment of personal progress, according to the study, is the worst it’s been in nearly half a century.

The survey by the Pew Research Center paints a mixed picture for the 53 percent of adults in the country who define themselves as “middle class,” with household incomes ranging from below $40,000 to more than $100,000.

It found that a majority of all Americans said they haven’t progressed in the last five years.

Adobe Systems

Software lets users download TV

Adobe Systems, the biggest maker of design software, released a program that lets personal-computer users watch television shows downloaded from the Web, an effort to boost revenue from Internet advertising.

With Adobe’s Media Player, users can watch streaming video or download shows to their computers to watch later, the company said today in a statement. Adobe will get an undisclosed cut of advertising revenue from broadcasters using the software.

Chief Executive Officer Shantanu Narayen is releasing more Web-based programs and services to take a larger slice of the $52.4 billion global online ad market.

Adobe, which has about 500 workers in Seattle, last month introduced a free, Web-based version of its Photoshop image-editing application. In November, it started a service with Yahoo! that allows publishers to include relevant ads in Acrobat PDF documents.

The player lets users subscribe to shows and receive new episodes, mimicking digital video recorders for televisions. Adobe said it signed agreements to deliver content from companies including CBS, MTV, Universal and Scripps.

“We are going into a business model where, when our partners make money, they give us a share,” Mark Randall, Adobe’s chief strategist of dynamic media, said in an interview.

The market for online ads will expand 28 percent this year, according to estimates from Piper Jaffray.


British company gets video deal

MySpace has given a British media company exclusive rights to distribute video programming from the social networking site on broadcast television outside the U.S. and to sell DVDs and related merchandise.

Financial terms of the deal with ShineReveille International, a unit of London-based The Shine Group, were not disclosed late Wednesday.

Los Angeles-based MySpace retained the right to distribute content from MySpaceTV online and over mobile networks worldwide — and on broadcast networks in the U.S., the company said.

The company was expected to announce the agreement today at an interactive media conference in Cannes, France.

U.S. Transportation Dept.

Northwest, Delta to share flights

Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines won preliminary approval to share revenue and coordinate schedules across the Atlantic, the Department of Transportation said on Wednesday.

Northwest, Delta, as well as Air France-KLM and two other carriers in the SkyTeam Alliance have sought immunity to essentially operate as one airline across the Atlantic. Northwest has had that permission for KLM for 15 years, before KLM’s merger with Air France.

The Transportation Department said it issued a show-cause order tentatively approving the antitrust immunity. A final ruling is due April 30.

The SkyTeam carriers, which also include Alitalia and Czech Airlines, will remain subject to antitrust laws for non-trans-Atlantic flights.

The antitrust immunity in effect gives Northwest and Delta the benefits of a combination, at least for their Atlantic flights. They have been exploring consolidation of the airlines, but that has been held up so far by the failure of their pilots to make a deal on seniority.

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