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Originally published Friday, February 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

GlobalScholar lands $27 million in VC plus new purchase

Pacific Northwest Bellevue-based GlobalScholar.com has landed $27 million in more venture funding and is buying an educational software...

Pacific Northwest

Bellevue-based GlobalScholar.com has landed $27 million in more venture funding and is buying an educational software maker.

The company hopes to expand its reach with the purchase of Excelsior Software, which has more than 1,000 school-district customers for its student assessment products. Excelsior has about 60 employees who will continue to be based at its headquarters in Greeley, Colo.

The new funding brings the total invested in GlobalScholar to $42.5 million.

Existing investors Knowledge Universe Education and Ignition Partners participated, along with board member Peter Neupert, a Microsoft vice president heading its health-care efforts. Neupert and Kal Raman, GlobalScholar's CEO, were both executives at drugstore.com.

Tesoro

Maintenance time at refinery in state

Tesoro's Anacortes refinery is undergoing maintenance, William Finnerty, the company's chief operating officer, said Thursday.

The Anacortes refinery has a crude-oil processing capacity of 121,000 barrels a day, according to U.S. Energy Department and company data. Natalie Silva, a company spokeswoman, did not reveal which unit or units at that plant are being repaired.

Nation / World

Sprint Nextel

Wireless woes may spur big write-off

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Sprint Nextel, the nation's third-largest wireless provider, said Thursday it will have to write off a significant chunk of the remaining value of its 2005 purchase of Nextel and several affiliates, reflecting the continued struggles of its wireless operations.

In a securities filing, the company said it is taking a hard look at the $30.7 billion carried on its books for goodwill, which, if written off, would be among the biggest in corporate history.

The media company then known as AOL Time Warner took a $45.5 billion charge in the fourth quarter of 2002.

A Sprint goodwill write-down won't affect day-to-day operations, said Sprint Nextel spokesman James Fisher.

FCC

Airwave bidding reaches $4.7 billion

A bid on the largest portion of public wireless airwaves, now being auctioned by the federal government, reached $4.7 billion on Thursday, triggering a provision to allow any device or software to work on that spectrum.

While bidding is anonymous, analysts speculate that Google and Verizon Wireless are the likely bidders on that swath, which is about one-third of the total spectrum currently being auctioned.

However, winners won't be known until the entire Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction ends, a process that could take several more weeks. The auction began Jan. 24.

To retain the open-access conditions on that spectrum, a minimum $4.6 billion bid was required.

The FCC is selling off the spectrum that's being freed as part of the switch to digital television in February 2009. The airwaves are considered especially valuable because the frequencies travel long distances and can easily pass through walls.

GM

Big production run seen for Volt hybrid

General Motors, vying with Toyota for the global sales lead, plans to build "tens of thousands" of Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric cars within a year of starting production in 2010.

"We're not doing the Volt to sell 500 or 1,000" cars, Jon Lauckner, GM's vice president for global program management, said Thursday. "We're talking about tens of thousands and more than that within the year."

But GM won't meet its goal of selling the Volt for less than $30,000, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said in an interview published Thursday.

The Volt is being designed as a plug-in hybrid vehicle that can go 40 miles without recharging.

Unlike current hybrids such as the Prius, a plug-in Volt would be able to recharge from household electrical outlets.

Isuzu

Maker tells why it's exiting market

Financial problems in the early part of this decade and the intensely competitive U.S. automobile market led to the downfall of Isuzu's passenger vehicle business in North America, a top executive said Thursday.

Isuzu, famous for developing one of the first midsize sport-utility vehicles and an ad campaign that featured a salesman telling lies, announced Wednesday that it will stop selling new pickups and SUVs in North America on Jan. 31, 2009.

The Japanese company had financial problems and restructured to become profitable again earlier this decade, but in doing so had to reduce investments and expenses, said Terry Maloney, president and chief operating officer of Isuzu Motors America.

Commerce Department

Jobless, spending data hint at trouble

Buffeted by soaring fuel prices and tighter credit, consumers increased their spending at the weakest pace in six months. In other signs of trouble, applications for unemployment benefits last week soared by the largest number since Hurricane Katrina.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that consumer spending edged up just 0.2 percent in December — the year's peak shopping season. That was down sharply from a 1 percent gain in November. It was the weakest performance in this area since a similar 0.2 percent rise in June of last year.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that the number of laid-off workers filing applications for unemployment benefits increased by 69,000 to 375,000 last week. That was the highest level for jobless claims since the week of Oct. 8, 2005, when the economy was dealing with the disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina and other Gulf Coast hurricanes.

TiVo

Patent claim stands; stock soars

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld TiVo's claims that Dish Network infringed on one of its patents, skyrocketing TiVo's shares more than 30 percent.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with a lower court that digital video recorders distributed by Dish violated the software elements of TiVo's patent.

The three-judge appeals court panel said the violation of the software claims was sufficient to uphold the $74 million in damages the lower court awarded TiVo. That has increased to $94 million due to interest accruals, a Dish Network spokeswoman said.

Shares of TiVo soared $1.97 to close at $8.77, setting a 52-week high during the session. Dish shares rose 19 cents to $28.58.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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