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Originally published May 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 25, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Air France-KLM splits order for jets

Air France-KLM Group, Europe's biggest airline, plans multibillion-dollar orders of Boeing and Airbus planes to reduce fuel costs and CO2 emissions...

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Boeing

Air France-KLM splits order for jets

Air France-KLM Group, Europe's biggest airline, plans multibillion-dollar orders of Boeing and Airbus planes to reduce fuel costs and CO2 emissions, Chief Executive Officer Jean-Cyril Spinetta said Thursday.

Boeing will get an order for 18 of its 777 planes. They're worth $4.4 billion at list prices, but once negotiated discounts are figured in, the order is worth an estimated $2.6 billion, according to aircraft-valuation firm Avitas.

Airbus will get an order for two additional A380 superjumbo jets, bringing to 12 the number of A380s Air France has on order. Air France will also buy 30 Airbus A320 planes. That gives the Airbus order a value of $2.8 billion at list prices but an Avitas-estimated value of $1.6 billion.

The orders will be signed at the Paris Air Show next month.

Boeing shares rose $1.85 Thursday, or 1.9 percent, to a record $97.42 after Banc of America Securities raised its share-price forecast.

Micron Technology

Options surge on takeover talk

Trading in options to buy Micron Technology surged to the highest since September 2005 amid speculation that the Boise, Idaho-based maker of computer memory chips may be acquired by a private equity firm.

Contracts to buy Micron stock for $12 by June 16 more than doubled to 55 cents and were the third-most-actively traded options on a company stock Thursday. A total of 121,196 Micron call contracts were traded, more than eight times the average of the previous 20 days.

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Micron shares rose 28 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $11.81 Thursday.

"There's a whole bunch of activity in Micron that suggests somebody really likes it," said Jon Najarian, co-founder of optionmonster.com, a Chicago provider of financial data on unusual trading. "It's got the earmarks of someone who thinks they know something."

Micron spokesman Daniel Francisco said the company doesn't comment on speculation.

StanCorp Financial

Buyback may hit 6 million shares

StanCorp Financial Group, a Portland-based disability insurer, said it plans to buy back as many as 6 million common shares.

The buyback represents about 11 percent of the 53.4 million shares outstanding and would cost $294 million based on Thursday's closing price.

The repurchase program will last through Dec. 31, 2008, StanCorp said late Wednesday.

Stancorp shares climbed 52 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $49.03 Thursday.

The buyback replaces an existing program with about 1.2 million shares remaining. The company bought back 1.8 million shares from December 2005 through May 2007, at an average volume-weighted price of $46.46.

Best Buy

Connecticut says buyers overcharged

Connecticut's attorney general announced a lawsuit Thursday against Best Buy Co. Inc., accusing the nation's largest consumer-electronics retailer of deceiving customers with in-store computer kiosks and overcharging them.

The lawsuit accuses Best Buy of denying deals found at the company's Web site, www.BestBuy.com. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said store employees charged customers higher prices found on a look-alike internal Web site.

Calls seeking comment were placed to the company.

The complaint was dated May 18 to be served on the company, which must return a response by June 13. The lawsuit, which seeks refunds for consumers, civil penalties, court costs, a ban on the practice and other remedies, would then be filed in Hartford Superior Court.

Adelphia

Convictions upheld for founder, son

A federal appeals court Thursday upheld the fraud conviction of Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas, a onetime movie-theater projectionist who built one of the nation's largest cable-television companies and then looted it.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of the 82-year-old Rigas and his son, Timothy J. Rigas, on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud. The court did reverse their conviction on one lesser count.

Lawyers for the men had argued that fraud charges should be thrown out because accounting terms were not explained to the jury.

"Defendants are wrong," the Manhattan appeals court wrote bluntly. It added that the government was not required to present expert testimony about accounting requirements because the requirements are not essential to the securities fraud.

The prosecutor had no comment on the decision; lawyers for the Rigases did not immediately return calls.

Upper Deck / Topps

Takeover may be in the sports cards

Upper Deck has made a pitch to buy Topps, a bid that would join two iconic baseball-card makers that have sold sports memorabilia to generations of fans young and old.

The offer price of $10.75 a share trumps a bid earlier this year from a group of investors led by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Topps, maker of baseball cards and Bazooka bubble gum, said Thursday it was not sure Upper Deck's bid is a superior offer.

Eisner's Tornante and the private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners had agreed to pay $9.75 a share, which represented a premium of 9.4 percent when they first made the offer in early March. That deal received regulatory approval on April 3 and has been scheduled for a shareholder vote on June 28.

The group led by Eisner agreed to let Topps negotiate with Upper Deck.

Topps, founded in 1938, makes trading cards that feature athletes of Major League Baseball, the NFL and NBA. In addition to Bazooka, it owns the Ring Pop and Push Pop brands and makes sticker album collections.

Barnes & Noble

Quarterly revenues up, but loss noted

Barnes & Noble, the largest U.S. bookseller, said Thursday it lost money in its first quarter, hurt by increased discounts for its members. But strong sales of new releases pushed revenue upward.

The loss for the quarter ended May 5 totaled $1.6 million, or 3 cents per share, versus a profit of $10 million, or 14 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding a 6-cent-per-share charge related to closing an Internet distribution center and 7 cents per share in expenses associated with a review of its stock-option practices, income was 10 cents per share.

Revenue rose 3.6 percent to $1.15 billion from $1.11 billion last year.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected earnings of a penny per share on revenue of $1.14 billion.

Gap

Profits fall, as do same-store sales

Gap's profit shrank by another 26 percent during the first quarter as a new management team scrambled to recapture the downtrodden clothing retailer's fashion sense.

The San Francisco-based company said Thursday that it earned $178 million, or 22 cents per share, for the 13 weeks ended May 5. That compared with net income of $242 million, or 28 cents per share, at the same time last year.

Sales edged up 3 percent to $3.56 billion. In a more telling measure of a merchant's health, Gap's same-store sales declined by 4 percent. It marked Gap's 11th consecutive quarter of sales erosion, measured by the yardstick that tracks the performance of stores open for at least year.

With its sales shriveling, Gap is shedding some of its expenses — a process that will result a still-unspecified number of layoffs within the company's work force of 154,000 employees.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News

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