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Originally published July 6, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 6, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Business Digest

B.C. development center planned by Microsoft

Pacific Northwest Microsoft said Thursday it's planning a new software-development center that will employ 200 people in Vancouver, B. C C. The Canada...

Pacific Northwest

Microsoft

Microsoft said Thursday it's planning a new software-development center that will employ 200 people in Vancouver, B.C.

The Canada Development Centre, set to open this fall with room to expand, will be one of a handful like it outside of the company's Redmond campus. Others are in North Carolina, Ireland, Denmark and Israel.

Part of the reason Microsoft chose Canada for the new development center is the country's more open policies toward highly skilled immigrants. Technology companies, including Microsoft, lobbied Congress to loosen immigration restrictions on highly skilled foreign nationals during recent debate over the immigration bill in the Senate.

Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said immigration policies were one of several reasons Microsoft chose Vancouver.

Other reasons include the "burgeoning tech sector" and the fact that Microsoft already recruits heavily from area universities, Gellos said.

CB Richard Ellis

Wall St. Tower apartments sold

Archstone-Smith of Englewood, Colo., has paid $82 million for the 356-unit Wall Street Tower apartment complex in Seattle's Denny Triangle neighborhood, according to brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis.

The seller was Denver-based Simpson Housing, which renovated the 58-year-old complex in 2001 after buying it in early 2000 for $38 million.

The complex's location near the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's new headquarters and a massive redevelopment opportunity for much of the Denny Triangle were key factors in Archstone-Smith's decision to buy, said Jon Hallgrimson, a broker with CB Richard Ellis who represented Simpson Housing in the sale.

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Nation and World

Barneys

$900 million offer received

Japan's Fast Retailing has offered $900 million in cash for Barneys New York, upping an earlier bid from a Dubai-based investment group, owner Jones Apparel Group said Thursday.

On June 22, Jones announced it had agreed to sell the luxury retailer to an affiliate of Istithmar for $825 million. That offer was more than double what the New York-based apparel maker paid in December 2004 in its first foray into luxury brands.

The deal had been expected to close during the third quarter of 2007.

Nielsen SoundScan

iTunes drastically outpacing CD sales

U.S. sales of digital music albums grew by 60 percent in the first six months of 2007 but failed to offset the rapid sales decline of compact discs, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan.

Total sales of albums were down by 15 percent for both digital and CDs, with CDs alone falling 19.3 percent to 205.7 million units. Meanwhile, digital album sales jumped about 60 percent to 23.5 million units.

The recorded-music industry is struggling in the early stages of a transition to digital formats, such as MP3, from the dominant CD format. CD sales are declining faster than industry executives and analysts have expected.

Digital music sales are currently dominated by Apple's iTunes music site, which by some estimates has more than 70 percent of the market.

eBay

Kijiji.com classifieds launched in U.S.

eBay, the world's largest online auctioneer, started a U.S. version of its free classified-advertising Web site, similar to the craigslist.org site it partly owns.

Kijiji.com, which gets its name from the Swahili word for "village," has sites in more than 300 cities worldwide and includes category listings for items such as jobs, housing and services, according to the Kijiji Web site. In 2005, eBay started Kijiji in seven countries, including Canada and China.

eBay is trying to boost sales from businesses such as online payments and Internet phone services as its auctions revenue growth slows. It bought a 25 percent stake in San Francisco-based craigslist in August 2004 for an undisclosed price.

Incisive Media

British firm to buy American Lawyer

Incisive Media, a British business-news provider, said Thursday it will pay about $630 million to buy the publisher of The American Lawyer and other titles as it seeks to boost its product range and strengthen its foothold in North America.

Incisive's all-cash purchase of American Lawyer Media (ALM), expected to close in the third quarter, ends a decade of control by New York-based financier and buyout specialist Bruce Wasserstein's private equity firm, Wasserstein & Co.

ALM President and Chief Executive William Pollak said the deal follows a "very robust auction" that drew attention from multiple bidders. He said Incisive's strength on the Web and its expertise in the areas of financial services and risk management complement ALM's existing operations.

Bank of England

Interest rates hit six-year high

The Bank of England raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 5.75 percent on Thursday, the fifth increase in less than a year as it attempts to put a lid on persistent inflation.

The widely expected move confirmed Britain's place at the top of the interest-rate table of the world's seven wealthiest nations, as the European Central Bank held its own main refinancing rate unchanged at 4 percent.

British interest rates are now at a six-year high as the Bank of England struggles to contain rising prices and a booming housing market.

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

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