Pacific Northwest Boeing said it will "probably" decide this weekend whether to officially protest the U.S. Air Force's decision to award...

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Pacific Northwest

Boeing

Boeing said it will “probably” decide this weekend whether to officially protest the U.S. Air Force’s decision to award a $35 billion aerial refueling tanker program to partners Northrop Grumman and European Aeronautic, Defence & Space (EADS).

The Air Force moved up its plan to debrief the bidders to today instead of Wednesday amid pressure from the Defense Department and politicians. The briefing “will be decisive” in whether a protest is filed, “though we’re not leaning in that direction,” company spokesman Bill Barksdale said Thursday.

A decision on whether to protest “has to happen soon” because challenges must be filed with the Government Accounting Office within five days of a contract debrief, Barksdale said.

WaMu

S&P cuts credit rating; stock drops

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services cut Washington Mutual’s credit rating Thursday, saying the mortgage crisis was worse than it predicted at the start of the year.

Wall Street balked at the news, sending WaMu’s shares down $1.04, or 8.1 percent, to $11.76 Thursday. The stock is down 30 percent in the past two weeks.

“We now believe that the severity of losses on all residential mortgages will be higher than we had thought and that the weak housing market will now be a longer cycle,” S&P analyst Victoria Wagner said in a news release. “This adds to the time frame to resolve foreclosed properties and the cost to carry these nonperforming assets.”

The ratings agency cut its long-term credit rating on Washington Mutual to “BBB” from “BBB+” and its long-term credit rating on banking subsidiary Washington Mutual Bank to “BBB+” from “A-.” The lower ratings are still considered investment-grade.

WaMu spokeswoman Libby Hutchinson declined to comment on the changes.

Expedia

Travel agency has Web site for India

Seeking to expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, online travel agency Expedia has entered India with a new Web site, Expedia.co.in.

The new site lists nearly 80,000 hotels and allows payments in Indian rupees. A call center in India is staffed with employees who speak both Hindi and English.

Bellevue-based Expedia said it plans to grow its international business to parity with its U.S. business. In 2007, Expedia’s international revenue made up 32 percent of its total, up from 28 percent in 2006.

The latest addition is Expedia’s 17th company-branded site. Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi called India a burgeoning travel market that gives Expedia another foothold in Asia.

Costco

Crocs says it won’t sell clogs at Costco

Crocs, the maker of colorful clogs of the same name, said it has no plans to sell its products through Costco Wholesale, refuting speculation triggered by the retailer’s conference call Wednesday.

Crocs stock fell 8.2 percent Wednesday after Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said on the call that there was “huge availability” of branded apparel such as Crocs, jeans and women’s clothing. Colorado-based Crocs reiterated it deals with specialty retailers, department and sporting-goods stores.

“Their product’s position is to be sold at a full price,” said Reed Anderson, an analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co. in Minneapolis. “They don’t have a product they’re selling through discount channels.”

Speculation that the brand is dealing with Costco is “untrue,” Crocs said. “However, we have discovered instances where we believe our products were being sold indirectly to Costco, and we promptly terminated those relationships.”

Galanti didn’t immediately return a call seeking more comment. He said Wednesday he wasn’t suggesting whether Costco had a relationship with Crocs.

Weyerhaeuser

Toutle sawmill to close May 1

Weyerhaeuser said it accelerated plans to shut its Green Mountain Sawmill in Toutle, Cowlitz County, because of weak demand for wood products. The closure affects 100 employees.

The mill, originally set to close at the end of August, will now close May 1, the Federal Way-based company said Thursday. Weyerhaeuser said it will “adjust production internally” to meet orders.

Peet’s Coffee

Bowker leaving board May 21

Gordon Bowker, who co-founded Seattle-based Starbucks and Redhook Ale Brewery, is resigning from the board of Peet’s Coffee & Tea, effective May 21, the gourmet-coffee retailer announced Thursday.

Bowker has been on the Peet’s board since 1994. Starbucks bought Peet’s in 1984 when Bowker and another co-founder, Jerry Baldwin, were majority owners of Starbucks. They sold the Starbucks portion to Howard Schultz and another group of investors in 1987.

Peet’s is based in Emeryville, Calif., and has 170 stores nationwide, including five in Seattle.

Aerospace

China to make own jumbo jets

China plans to set up its own company to make passenger jumbo jets, making it less dependent on Boeing and Airbus, the official Xinhua news agency said Thursday.

China’s two main aircraft-manufacturing and -servicing companies were discussing cooperation plans for the project, Xinhua said.

The Shanghai government, aviation companies and other state-owned companies will invest in the project, Xinhua said, citing Jin Xingming, director of the aviation administration of Shanghai.

The companies involved are China Aviation Industry Corp. I, and China Aviation Industry Corp. II, which were split off from state-owned China Aviation Industry Corp. in 1999.

The plan marks a step forward in China’s long-term quest to design and build large aircraft.

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