Weyerhaeuser says it may sell its shipping line and four regional short-line railroads. The Westwood Shipping Line subsidiary has four ships...

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Weyerhaeuser

Shipping line may be sold

Weyerhaeuser says it may sell its shipping line and four regional short-line railroads.

The Westwood Shipping Line subsidiary has four ships that carry forest products and containers to 20 ports in Japan, South Korea, China and North America.

The railroads serve mills in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Washington. They are the DeQueen & Eastern, Columbia & Cowlitz, MSV and Golden Triangle railroads.

In Thursday’s statement the Federal Way forest-products company said it has not confirmed a timetable for completing what it calls an exploration of strategic alternatives as part of its asset restructuring.

Boeing

Order total rises to 408 jets

Boeing won orders valued at about $2.03 billion at list prices for 30 of its 737 jets.

The planes, listed on the jet maker’s Web site Thursday as having come from unnamed customers in the past week, bring the total orders for this year through Tuesday to 408. Boeing has said it doesn’t expect this year to surpass the 2007 record of 1,423 orders for planes.

Boeing also identified Air France as the customer for four long-range 777 jets that had previously been listed in the “unidentified” column.

Expedia

Company may buy back stock

Expedia stock rose 5.7 percent Thursday as two analysts said the company may buy back as much as 20 percent of its stock, a day after Chairman Barry Diller denied speculation about a leveraged buyout.

Bellevue-based Expedia, the largest Web travel agency, rose $1.30 to $24.05. The stock has declined 24 percent this year.

Expedia could repurchase as much as 20 percent of its shares, New York-based Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Jake Fuller said in a note to clients Thursday. That would cost $1.38 billion based on Expedia’s current market value.

Separately, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst George Askew recommended buying the stock, saying Diller may be considering a buyback.

Expedia jumped almost 5 percent Wednesday on speculation that Diller might attempt a buyout of Expedia, which spun off from IAC/InterActiveCorp in 2005. Diller denied the speculation in an interview on Fox Business Network.

Starbucks

First store in Argentina opens

Starbucks will open its first store in Argentina today at a shopping center in Buenos Aires, part of the company’s plan to expand faster overseas than in the U.S.

Starbucks stores in Argentina will have a menu similar to its shops elsewhere, but with the addition of a yerba mate infused latte, crustless finger sandwiches and chocolate cookies filled with dulce de leche.

Many of the coffee company’s foreign stores are run in partnership with other corporations. A subsidiary of the company Alsea will run Starbucks’ stores in Argentina.

Starbucks has nearly 16,000 stores in 44 countries.

Alternative energy

Companies to look at algae as fuel

Boeing and other corporate and nonprofit groups said Thursday that they would form the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO), a trade group fostering the commercial utilization of algae. The organization will host a summit in Seattle in late October.

Algae, which can be used to manufacture biofuels and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, could help address “some of the world’s most pressing issues,” the group said in a statement.

“Given the social, economic and environmental possibilities for algae, and the growing number of companies, technologies and products being developed to address them, it is becoming increasingly important to harness their potential for use across multiple industries now,” said Billy Glover, managing director of environmental strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and ABO steering-committee co-chairman.

Glover and other Boeing executives have previously expressed hopes for an algae-based biofuel to supply the airline industry.

CFTC

Crude-oil market is being watched

Amid continued volatility in oil prices, federal regulators said Thursday that they have been investigating crude-oil trading, storage and transportation for the past six months with a focus on possible “futures-market manipulation.”

The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which normally keeps investigations confidential, said in a statement that it was “taking the extraordinary step of disclosing this investigation because of today’s unprecedented market conditions.”

Gregory Mocek, director of enforcement at CFTC, said that five senior trial attorneys, “some of the most experienced prosecutors that we have,” and other investigators were engaged in the inquiry.

“The scope is quite broad,” Mocek said, adding that it was looking at the “national crude market,” including trades on regulated exchanges, cash trades, storage, pipeline operations and shipping.

Energy Department

Oil prices drop on supply report

Oil prices fell sharply Thursday after the Energy Department reported unexpected declines in crude-oil supplies last week but said the drop was due to temporary delays in unloading oil tankers along the Gulf Coast.

The decline of more than $4 came as a stronger dollar and concerns about gas demand also weighed on prices.

Retail gas prices, meanwhile, rose to a new record above $3.95 a gallon.

Light, sweet crude for July delivery fell $4.41 to settle at $126.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

EADS

Former executive charged in probe

The lawyer for a former co-chief of Airbus parent EADS says judges have filed preliminary insider-trading charges against the executive.

Lawyer Jean-Alain Michel says the investigating judges filed the charges after questioning Noël Forgeard for two days.

Michel says Forgeard was freed from police custody pending further investigation.

Investigators are looking into the sale of EADS shares by top executives and shareholders before a June 2006 announcement of delays for the A380 superjumbo that made EADS shares crash 26 percent in one day.

Preliminary charges under French law mean the investigating judges have strong reason to suspect involvement in a crime. Judges decide later whether there is enough evidence for a trial.

GM

Workers may shift from trucks to cars

General Motors will furlough entire shifts of workers at some truck factories and may move them to nearby car plants as it restructures to adjust to a rapidly changing U.S. market brought on by $4 per gallon gasoline.

GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner and top managers are finalizing additional restructuring moves and likely will announce details at the automaker’s annual meeting on Tuesday in Wilmington, Del., two people familiar with the plan told The Associated Press. The people requested anonymity because the plan is not finished.

Key to the plan are the 19,000 hourly workers who signed up to leave the company by July 1 through buyout and early retirement offers. GM on Thursday announced the number of takers in the latest round of offers, which amounts to a quarter of the company’s U.S. hourly work force.

Dell

Turnaround efforts may be paying off

Dell said Thursday that its profit and sales grew in its fiscal first quarter, beating Wall Street expectations and signaling that the computer maker’s turnaround efforts may be paying off.

For the three months ended May 2, Dell earned $784 million, or 38 cents per share, up from $756 million, or 34 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Dell says its revenue jumped 9 percent to $16.08 billion from $14.72 billion.

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