Pacific Northwest Washington Federal was the best-performing savings-and-loan in the country last year, according to an analysis of the...

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Pacific Northwest

Financial services

Washington Federal was the best-performing savings-and-loan in the country last year, according to an analysis of the 100 largest thrifts by research firm SNL Financial.

Seattle-based Washington Federal, which has about $10.6 billion in assets, has the nation’s highest return on average assets (1.35 percent) and the strongest efficiency ratio (23.6 percent), according to SNL.

Timberland Bancorp of Hoquiam placed seventh in the SNL ranking, and Riverview Bancorp of Vancouver, Wash., came in 13th.

Washington Mutual, which SNL rated the 26th best-performing thrift in 2006, fell to 94th place last year, weighed down by its heavy exposure to subprime mortgages and other troubled home loans.

Pope & Talbot

Company may sell mills separately

Pope & Talbot, the bankrupt 150-year-old wood-products maker, may sell its pulp and paper mills to multiple buyers as a $68 million loan to continue operations in bankruptcy expired.

The Portland company continues to negotiate with Indonesian company Sinar Mas Group and other potential buyers after Sinar Mas said it wants to terminate a planned $105.3 million purchase of three pulp and paper mills, Pope & Talbot spokesman Mark Rossolo said Tuesday. Rossolo said that with no loan, the company had to shut two of the mills in Canada.

The company could sell its mills to multiple buyers or renegotiate a deal with Pindo Deli Pulp & Paper Mills, the Jakarta, Indonesia-based unit of Sinar Mas that backed away from a purchase agreement.

Precision Castparts

Plane makers give earnings a boost

Precision Castparts, the Portland maker of metal forgings for jet engines, said fourth-quarter earnings rose 36 percent on increased demand for fasteners and turbine blades.

Net income climbed to $279 million, or $1.98 a share, from $204.5 million, or $1.47, a year earlier. Excluding discontinued operations, profit matched analysts’ estimates. Revenue in the three months ended March 30 increased 17 percent to $1.79 billion, the company said in a statement.

The company supplies about $5 million worth of parts per plane for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, a figure which is increasing “as parts have been redesigned,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Donegan said on a conference call Tuesday.

He called the 787 “by far the most significant platform we’ve ever had.”

Walt Disney Co.

Revenue, profit up for quarter

The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday that a weak U.S. dollar kept domestic vacationers closer to home, boosting theme-park revenue while growth in the company’s film studios and media networks also helped push second-quarter net profit 22 percent higher.

Disney said it earned $1.13 billion, or 58 cents per share, in the quarter ended March 29, compared with $931 million, or 44 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue for the period grew 10 percent to $8.71 billion.

The results beat analysts’ estimates.

Tourists from abroad also took advantage of the weak dollar, increasing park attendance and spending.

Airlines

American, United lead drops in traffic

American Airlines and United Airlines led drops in April air traffic by four of the five largest U.S. carriers, a sign that the cooling economy and higher ticket prices are restraining air travel.

American and United, the world’s two biggest airlines, had declines of 6.6 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively. American’s domestic traffic plunged 8.4 percent after it was ordered to ground its Boeing MD-80 fleet for wiring inspections.

Cisco Systems

Profit falls but beats expectations

Cisco Systems’ profit fell 5 percent in its fiscal third quarter but beat Wall Street’s expectations, a sign the turbulent U.S. economy didn’t rattle the world’s largest networking equipment maker as hard as expected.

The San Jose-based company earned $1.77 billion, or 29 cents per share, during the three months ended April 26. That represents a drop of 5.4 percent from the $1.87 billion, or 30 cents per share, that Cisco earned during the same period a year ago.

Medtronic

Heart-device maker to cut 1,100 jobs

Medtronic, the world’s biggest maker of electronic heart devices, plans to cut about 1,100 jobs worldwide this fiscal year as it moves some operations.

The cuts will occur in units “no longer growing at previous rates,” Medtronic said Tuesday in an e-mail. Some jobs will be added where there are “opportunities for growth,” spokeswoman Marybeth Thorsgaard said

The Minneapolis company said previously it’s cutting manufacturing costs 25 percent over five years and boosting overseas sales as it faces pressure in the U.S. to lower prices.

UBS

Bank loses $10.97B, will cut work force

Swiss bank UBS, hard hit by the U.S. subprime crisis, reported a first-quarter loss of $10.97 billion and said Tuesday it will slash almost 7 percent of its work force.

The 11.5 billion Swiss franc loss compares with a net profit of 3 billion francs in the same period last year. The company also said it would unload $15 billion in subprime and other mortgage-based securities from its portfolio.

UBS shares tumbled 4.5 percent to close at 35.22 francs ($33.41).

The bank warned investors last month to expect net losses of $11.42 billion from the first three months of the year after writing down about $19 billion on U.S. real estate and related credit positions.

General Electric

$3 million for ad during Super Bowl

General Electric’s NBC Universal plans to charge advertisers $3 million for a 30-second spot during next year’s Super Bowl.

The price exceeds the average $2.7 million News Corp.’s Fox got for a 30-second ad in this year’s football championship game. Brian Walker, a spokesman for NBC, confirmed the rate, which was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

The Feb. 3 Super Bowl, where the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots, attracted a record 97.5 million viewers.

Airbus

Aircraft production is under review

Airbus, two years behind schedule on delivery of the 525-seat A380 superjumbo passenger plane, has told airlines that it’s reviewing the production of the aircraft.

Airbus informed A380 customers about the review in a letter, the company said. Emirates, the biggest customer for the plane, said the letter indicated the possibility of further delays.

The A380 program had difficulties with cabin wiring. Singapore Airlines, the first user of the plane, has received four A380s. Airbus plans a total of 13 deliveries this year, 25 next, and 45 in 2010, with Emirates set to get its first A380 in the third quarter this year.

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