Pacific Northwest Wilcox Family Farms will close its 47-employee dairy in Cheney, Spokane County, on April 30. Last month, it closed a 130-employee...

Share story

Pacific Northwest

Wilcox Family Farms will close its 47-employee dairy in Cheney, Spokane County, on April 30. Last month, it closed a 130-employee dairy in Roy, Pierce County.

The company said the dairy-processing business is dominated by big business and has not been profitable at Wilcox for several years.

The 99-year-old, family-run company will focus on the egg business now, including expanding its natural, organic and cage-free production in Aurora, Ore., and Roy.

Wilcox opened the Cheney milk plant in 1997 and produces more than 230,000 gallons of milk there a week.

Amazon.com

Kentucky centers to add employees

Amazon.com, the world’s biggest Internet retailer, plans to hire more than 500 full-time employees for three distribution centers in Kentucky to meet rising demand as more people shop online.

The increase in staff at the centers in Hebron, Ky., would boost the Seattle-based company’s workforce by at least 2.9 percent, up from 17,000 at the end of 2007.

Google

Google also offers program storage

Google has started a service that lets outside developers of Web software store their programs on its computers for free, seeking to compete with similar offerings from rivals such as Amazon.com.

The trial service, begun Monday, reached its limit of 10,000 developers Tuesday, Google said in an e-mail. Each application will get a restricted amount of storage on Google’s servers and enough processing power for up to 5 million page views.

Google, the most popular search engine, is seeking new sources of revenue as growth in the number of people clicking on its Internet ads slows.

Seattle-based online retailer Amazon is building its Web-services unit to increase sales beyond books, DVDs and general merchandise. The division lets users rent storage space or computing power rather than having to purchase the hardware themselves.

Microsoft

Network-security product on its way

Microsoft has released a test version of a product to help companies manage security across entire networks.

Microsoft’s Stirling, which is set for full release in the first half of 2009, is designed to save businesses money and time by letting system managers monitor servers, individual computers and employees with network access through a single console, the company said Tuesday.

The management software may be packaged with new versions of Microsoft’s other Forefront security products and will help the company take market share from competitors such as Symantec, Forrester Research analyst Natalie Lambert said.

Citigroup

Bank nears deal to sell $12B in debt

Citigroup is close to a deal to unload $12 billion of leveraged loans and bonds to a group of private-equity firms, The Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site late Tuesday.

Citigroup would sell the debt to the firms — including Apollo Management, TPG and Blackstone Group — for an average price slightly below 90 cents on the dollar, the Journal reported, citing unnamed people who were briefed on the deal. The bank hopes to complete the deal by the time it reports first-quarter results April 18, the report said.

Citigroup representatives did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment. The Journal said a Citigroup spokesman declined to comment, and officials from the buyout firms weren’t immediately available.

Citigroup reported holding about $43 billion of the leveraged loans as of Dec. 31.

Home sales

Real-estate index falls to lowest level

Homeowners and investors hunting for any indication that the housing market has bottomed out didn’t get it Tuesday, as the latest U.S. home-sales data from a real-estate trade group moved that sign further down the road to recovery.

The National Association of Realtors said pending U.S. home sales fell in February to the lowest reading since the index began in 2001. The trade group’s seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes fell to 84.6 from January’s upwardly revised reading of 86.2. A year earlier, the index stood at 107.6.

Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR had predicted the index would inch up to a reading of 86.3.

A reading of 100 is equal to the average level of sales when the index started. The previous low was August’s reading of 85.8, recorded at the height of the credit crunch.

Yahoo

Flickr photo site now hosting video

Yahoo has begun showing homemade videos on its online photo-sharing site, Flickr, in a long-anticipated move that may be too late to lure most people away from the Internet’s dominant video channel, Google’s YouTube.

Yahoo already operates one of the Web’s largest video platforms, but most of its content is provided by media outlets and other outside professionals.

Flickr’s new technology, which debuted late Tuesday, is aimed at amateurs and hobbyists looking for a better way to share short video clips with family and friends.

Only Flickr’s “pro” members — those who pay for a $24.95 annual subscription — will be allowed to transfer video clips of up to 90 seconds to the site, but anyone will be able to watch them.

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