Pacific Northwest Washington Mutual said Monday it replaced the president of its retail banking division, James Corcoran. Stephen Rotella, WaMu's chief...

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Banking

Washington Mutual said Monday it replaced the president of its retail banking division, James Corcoran.

Stephen Rotella, WaMu’s chief operating officer and president, took over Corcoran’s job of overseeing the Seattle-based thrift’s 2,500 or so branches and its online-banking operations on an interim basis as of Friday.

WaMu, battered by crises in the mortgage and credit markets, has cut back on making loans to people with questionable credit and turned its focus to promoting the checking and savings accounts that are the staples of its profitable retail-banking business.

Hotels

Takeover offer boosts Red Lion

Red Lion Hotels has received an unsolicited takeover offer valued at about $173 million, the Spokane-based hospitality chain announced Monday.

Columbia Pacific Opportunity Fund, a Seattle investment group with a 12.7 percent stake in Red Lion, is offering $9.50 in cash for the rest of Red Lion’s 18.2 million shares, a 35 percent premium over Friday’s closing price of $7.05.

News of the offer pushed Red Lion’s stock up 92 cents, or 13 percent, to $7.97 Monday.

The bid follows a round of buyout talks, initiated by Columbia in April, that Red Lion had turned down.

Red Lion, which owns and operates 53 hotels in nine states and one Canadian province, said its board would evaluate the proposed deal.

Forest products

Plum Creek to sell 320,000 acres

Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber has agreed to sell 320,000 acres of prized land in Montana to two conservation groups with the backing of the federal government, for $510 million.

The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land say the land will be managed as a working forest with harvestable timber. The government is expected to eventually take ownership of a majority of the land.

Supporters say the deal guarantees key forest land in the Swan Valley and around Missoula will remain protected from development.

Technology

Virage purchases memory business

Seattle-based chip designer Impinj sold its computer-memory business to Virage Logic for $5.2 million.

The deal leaves Impinj solely as a provider of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which store data and transfer it wirelessly, and are used to track consumer goods.

The RFID tags rely on a kind of memory that can store data even without a power source — the same technology Impinj just sold. So Impinj said it will count on Virage, a Fremont, Calif.-based computer-memory developer, to supply that component.

Along with the transfer of 50 patents to Virage, 30 former Impinj employees who worked on the memory technology will also switch companies.

Software

Microsoft releases connecting data

Microsoft, heeding European regulators’ demands to open up its software, published thousands of pages of technical documentation showing developers how to make outside programs work with the company’s applications.

Microsoft has released about 50,000 pages in three batches, detailing the protocols needed to connect programs to its Office business applications and other software.

The documents make it easier to tap into Microsoft’s flagship software, increasing competition. The world’s biggest software maker had come under fire from the European Commission because its products shared information more effectively with one another, giving Microsoft an advantage over other developers.

The latest batch of information, 5,000 pages’ worth, will help developers create products that work with the Office 2007 and Office SharePoint Server 2007 software.

Nation and World

USDA

Floods may not add much to food prices

Midwest floods may not contribute as much to food inflation as was feared.

Corn prices fell Monday after the government surprised traders, reporting farmers tried to cash in on soaring corn demand for ethanol by planting more acres of the crop than the market expected.

That could be good news for shoppers, although food prices still have to contend with rising costs for distribution and for fuel.

Farmers will harvest nearly 9 percent fewer acres of corn this year than last year, in part because of Midwest flooding that has damaged a portion of the crop, the government reported.

But the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture figures also showed that farmers had planted more than a million additional acres of corn than they had expected to plant in March, which may remove some of the inflation potential out of the floods. Corn futures prices fell in the wake of Monday’s report.

The USDA said farmers expect to harvest 78.9 million acres of corn, down 8.7 percent from the 86.5 million harvested last year.

Tesla Motors

Electric car to be built in Bay Area

In a surprise move, Tesla Motors will build its electric-car factory in the San Francisco Bay Area, not New Mexico as previously announced, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday.

Schwarzenegger, along with state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, said the state was able to provide Tesla with incentives, including the waiving of state sales tax on $100 million worth of manufacturing equipment, to entice the company to build its assembly plant there.

“We want these cutting-edge companies not just to start in California and do their research and development here. We want them to build in California,” said Schwarzenegger, who toured the Tesla headquarters with Lockyer Monday before his announcement.

The exact site has not been selected, but a decision between two locations should come soon, said Darryl Siry, a Tesla vice president.

The company will seek a location not too far from its San Carlos headquarters so that its engineers can travel back and forth.

Bank of Japan

Confidence wanes at manufacturers

Confidence at major Japanese manufacturers fell for the third straight quarter as soaring oil prices and fears of a U.S. economic slowdown weighed on the economy, a central bank survey said Tuesday.

The central bank’s closely watched “Tankan Survey” showed that the index for large manufacturers’ business sentiment fell to five in June, down from 11 in the March survey. The figure represents the percentage of companies saying business conditions are good minus those saying conditions are unfavorable.

The Bank of Japan surveyed 10,579 companies between May 28 and June 30.

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