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Thursday, August 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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News and perspectives from our tech team.
Brier Dudley's blog
A critical look at tech and business issues.

Business Digest

Microsoft buyback plan boosts shares

Pacific Northwest

Since July 20, when Microsoft announced plans to buy back $20 billion worth of its stock through a modified "Dutch auction" that ends today, shares climbed 7.5 percent.

The stock gained 8 cents Wednesday to hit $24.70, a nickel below the upper end of the price range Microsoft said it would pay to repurchase its shares.

At $24.75, Microsoft could buy more than 808 million shares, reducing its float by about 8 percent and adding about 5 or 6 cents per share to forecast fiscal 2007 earnings.

Until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time tonight, shareholders may offer to sell at a price they're willing to accept in the range Microsoft specified — $22.50 and $24.75 per share. Then the company will review the offers and select the lowest purchase price that will allow it to buy 808 million shares.

Nation and world

H.J. Heinz

Dissident investors probably fall short

A group of dissident investors may have enough votes to put one or two of its nominees on the H.J. Heinz board but did not win support for all five of its candidates, according to preliminary voting results, a Heinz spokesman said Wednesday.

Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz and his Trian Group, Heinz's second-largest shareholder, hoped to win up to five seats on the company's 12-member board as part of a plan to streamline the company, invest in marketing and boost shareholder returns.

Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said, based on a preliminary review of votes, "Trian's attempt to secure a voting bloc of five seats and gain creeping control of the Heinz board has been defeated." It is possible, however, that one or two of Trian's nominees were elected to the board, he said.

Limited Brands

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Robust sales lift earnings 39%

Limited Brands said Wednesday that its second-quarter earnings rose 39 percent, helped by strong sales at its Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works chains.

The retailer posted a profit of $113.1 million, or 28 cents a share, for the quarter ended July 29 compared with earnings of $81.5 million, or 20 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose to $2.5 billion from $2.3 billion.

Sales at stores open at least a year — considered a key indicator of a retailer's strength — rose 5 percent.

The company released some detail of its report Tuesday, including its expectation that the third quarter's results would be flat with its break-even results of a year ago and that it expects to make $1.55 to $1.65 a share for the year.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff and

The Associated Press

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