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Tuesday, March 7, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Maffei leaving Starbucks' board

Starbucks said Greg Maffei is leaving the board with his promotion to chief executive officer of Liberty Media.

Maffei is also resigning as chairman of the company's audit and compliance committee, Starbucks said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday.

Maffei joined Liberty after resigning as Oracle's chief financial officer in November.

Boeing

Brazilian airline increases order

Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, Brazil's third-biggest airline, has increased its order for Boeing 737-800 aircraft by $136 million, the fifth addition in a year.

São Paulo-based Gol said that it boosted the Boeing order to 67 planes from 65 planes by exercising two options. The aircraft are scheduled for delivery between 2006 and 2012, the statement said.

Nation / World

General Motors

Company to trim stake in Suzuki

Struggling General Motors will sell a 17.4 percent stake in Japan's Suzuki for $2 billion, scaling down its share in an effort to gain much-needed cash, but the partnership between the automakers will continue, both sides said Monday.

GM — which is embarking on a massive turnaround effort after losing $8.6 billion last year — will maintain a 3 percent stake in Suzuki, dropping to seventh-largest shareholder from top shareholder.

NBC Universal

"Old media" firm buys Web's iVillage

NBC Universal on Monday became the latest "old media" company to make a further foray into the fast-growing world of online advertising, announcing plans to acquire women's Web-site company iVillage for about $600 million.

The agreement signals an expanding strategy for NBC Universal, home to television network NBC, Universal Pictures and cable channels Bravo and USA Network. It also reflects the larger push among traditional media companies to not get left behind as more consumers shift to the Internet for news, entertainment and shopping.

NBC says iVillage will form the base of its longer-term strategy to meet consumers wherever they go for information. With iVillage, NBC expects to grow its digital revenue to about $200 million this year, and it is aiming for a 20 percent growth rate going forward.

Labor Department

U.S. factory orders post sharp decline

Orders to U.S. factories plunged by the largest amount in 5 ½ years in January, reflecting a big drop in demand for airplanes.

The Labor Department reported that orders for manufactured goods fell 4.5 percent, the first decline after three consecutive gains, and the biggest drop since an 8.7 percent plunge in July 2000.

The weakness came from a plunge in orders for commercial and military airplanes. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, factory orders posted a solid 1.6 percent increase, the best showing in five months. Analysts said this advance showed that manufacturing was doing well at the start of the new year.

Enron

"They're on to us" remark questioned

With a pivotal government witness waiting in the wings, a defense lawyer in the Enron fraud trial sought Monday to cast doubt on a former executive's dramatic claim that CEO Jeffrey Skilling fretted in 2001 that "they're on to us."

Kevin Hannon, a former Enron broadband unit executive, testified last week that Skilling made the remark when analysts criticized sales Enron made to partnerships run by its own chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow.

But under cross-examination Monday by Skilling lawyer Mark Holscher, Hannon conceded it was possible Skilling was just being sarcastic because he was miffed that the boutique firm catered to short-sellers — people betting that Enron stock would fall.

The cross-examination took place as prosecutors prepared to call Fastow to the stand. The testimony of Fastow, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to two counts of conspiracy and has agreed to serve up to 10 years in prison for his crimes, is among the most highly anticipated of the Enron trial.

Linde

Germany company buys BOC Group

Germany's Linde said Monday that directors of British gases company BOC Group have accepted a takeover offer worth $14.9 billion in a deal that would create the world's biggest industrial-gases company.

Linde Chief Executive Wolfgang Reitzle told reporters his company could pay as much as $18 billion to complete the deal.

Kroger

Grocery chain to restate results

Grocery chain Kroger, which owns QFC and Fred Meyer stores, said it is restating its annual results from fiscal 2002 to fiscal 2004 and the first three fiscal quarters of 2005 because of a deficiency related to its deferred tax accounts.

In a filing Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Kroger said that because of an increase in goodwill-impairment charges, net income decreased by $4 million in fiscal 2004 ended Jan. 29, 2005, but there was no effect on per-share net income.

Also, as a result of the cumulative effect of the adjustments, the balance sheet as of Jan. 29, 2005, will reflect lower net deferred income-tax liabilities of $79 million and a corresponding increase in accumulated earnings.

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

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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