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Pacific Northwest

Nextel Partners

Kirkland-based Nextel Partners said yesterday that more than 20 percent of its class A shareholders have requested a meeting to vote on whether to sell the company. A date for the meeting has not yet been set.

When Nextel Communications merged with Sprint earlier this month, it granted Nextel Partners the right to sell shares not already owned by Nextel Communications to the new company.

The shareholders will vote on two proposals. If the first one passes, Nextel Partners would agree to sell the company to Sprint Nextel, which already owns 32 percent. The price would be determined through an appraisal process. If the first proposal fails, and the second proposal passes, Nextel Partners would adjourn the meeting until Feb. 8, 2007, when shareholders would be able to vote again on whether to sell the company.

Washington Mutual

Providian merger likely, advisor says

Greg Taxin, CEO of a proxy advisory firm recommending that Providian Financial shareholders vote against the company’s acquisition by Washington Mutual, said yesterday he thinks the deal will be approved. “It would be an unfortunate outcome, but it likely will be the outcome,” he said.

The big question, he said, is how many Providian shareholders will forgo the cash and WaMu stock being offered, and instead ask a court to determine how much money they will receive for their Providian shares.

It is rare for shareholders to exercise their rights to such an appraisal, but Taxin’s firm, Glass, Lewis & Co., recommends that Providian shareholders consider it.

A special shareholders meeting to tally the merger vote is scheduled for Wednesday, when investors who want an appraisal must notify Providian.


Software firm gets new president

Bellevue-based MessageGate, which develops software for managing e-mail, appointed Shaun Wolfe president and chief executive. He replaces MessageGate founder David Weld.

Wolfe had been president and CEO of Seattle-based WRQ, acquired by Bellevue-based Attachmate in June. After the merger, Wolfe was senior vice president of marketing and products at AttachmateWRQ.

Both Wolfe and Weld will be on MessageGate’s board.

Coldwater Creek

Stock up after good earnings report

Shares of Coldwater Creek rose 18 percent yesterday after the upscale classic-clothing company reported better-than-expected earnings. The stock closed up $4.77 at $30.92.

Sandpoint, Idaho-based Coldwater earned $7 million, or 11 cents a share, in the second quarter, up 109 percent from the year-earlier period, the company reported Wednesday. Revenue rose 39 percent to $154.6 million.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff and Dow Jones/The Associated Press

United Airlines

Bankruptcy exit might be in sight

United Airlines said yesterday it has secured new commitments from banks for up to $3 billion in debt financing that should enable it to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy by late 2005 or early 2006.

While the financing is not yet final, United hailed the revised proposals as a strong endorsement of the new business plan it formulated this summer even as the steep increase in fuel prices continues to squeeze carriers’ bottom lines.

The commitments from the four financiers — Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and GE Commercial Finance — were disclosed as United updated its status in a filing with bankruptcy court.

The latest evidence of the industry’s financial hemorrhaging came in a separate announcement yesterday when United said it registered a $274 million net loss for July.

That pushed its losses to $2.8 billion this year and more than $7 billion since it entered bankruptcy in December 2002.

General Motors

Employee discounts extended to Sept. 30

General Motors, looking to maintain the momentum of its popular employee-pricing discount plan, has extended the promotion until Sept. 30.

The world’s largest automaker said yesterday the plan now includes select 2006 full-size trucks and sport-utility vehicles, including Chevrolet’s Avalanche and Tahoe and the Cadillac Escalade.

GM was the first of Detroit’s Big Three automakers to offer employee prices for all consumers in June. Its sales shot up 41 percent that month and 19 percent in July. Ford and DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group followed in July.

Northwest Airlines

Ground workers to clean aircraft

Northwest Airlines will hand some of its aircraft-cleaning work to ground workers, the workers’ union said yesterday.

With aircraft cleaners joining mechanics on strike, Minneapolis-based Northwest has followed through on its strike plan to give baggage handlers in Minneapolis and Detroit so-called “turn cleaning” — the quick cleaning done between flights.

Those ground workers already perform that work at other locations, said Bobby De Pace, president of District 143 of the International Association of Machinists, which represents Northwest baggage handlers, ticket agents and other ground workers.

That union used to represent mechanics and airplane cleaners, too, before those workers bolted for their current union in 1998.

About 4,400 Northwest mechanics and cleaners entered the sixth day of their strike yesterday, and no new talks were scheduled.

Johnson & Johnson

Guidant purchase nears final hurdles

The European Union cleared Johnson & Johnson’s planned purchase of heart-device maker Guidant yesterday, provided some operations are sold, but J&J said the deal closing will be delayed because key regulators have yet to sign off.

Johnson & Johnson spokesman Jeffrey Leebaw said the $25.4 billion cash and stock deal could not be finished until after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission rules. “We’re now focusing on obtaining the FTC clearance,” he said. “We expect that in October.”

In a regulatory filing yesterday, J&J said it hoped to complete the deal in the fourth quarter.

The New Brunswick, N.J.-based maker of medicines, skin and baby-care products, contact lenses and medical devices had been aiming to wrap up the deal by the end of September. That timetable became questionable when Indianapolis-based Guidant, which makes pacemakers and defibrillators, this summer had to issue several recalls covering tens of thousands of the devices, which are implanted in patients’ chests.


Reports: Company is going public

Vonage, the biggest provider of Internet-based telephone service, is planning to go public, according to published reports. The Edison, N.J.-based company is looking to raise $400 million to $600 million and plans to register its deal with the SEC within the next six weeks, according to The Daily Deal. Details of the plan were also reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Vonage declined to comment about the reports.

Vonage provides service to 800,000 consumers and smaller businesses using a technology known as “VoIP,” for Voice over Internet Protocol.

Prudential Securities

Former broker charged in fraud

Federal prosecutors criminally charged a former Prudential Securities broker in a fraudulent mutual fund trading scheme yesterday, two weeks after one of his former colleagues pleaded guilty in an operation that allegedly netted participants millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains.

Martin Druffner is accused of making “market timing” trades that generated at least $1 million for himself in net commissions, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan’s office said.

Investigators allege Druffner and other brokers used false identities and changed account numbers to continue executing market-timing trades after certain mutual funds had blocked them or their customers from such trading.

Market timing is the use of quick trades that skim profits from longer-term shareholders, often taking advantage of different closing times for markets around the world.

Compiled from The Associated Press