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Originally published Friday, September 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

More apartments for Columbia City

HAL Real Estate Investments has filed an application with Seattle planners to build a six-story, 306-unit apartment building in Columbia City.

Real estate

HAL Real Estate Investments has filed an application with Seattle planners to build a six-story, 306-unit apartment building in Columbia City.

The project, at Rainier Avenue South and South Edmunds Street, would include 8,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and 319 underground-parking stalls.

But HAL President Dana Behar said the development could change significantly before construction begins. "This is a long process," he said.

The site is in a historic district, and the project's design needs the approval of the city Landmarks Preservation Board. HAL already has met with landmarks officials six times, Behar said.

Columbia Plaza, a retail mall built as a supermarket in the 1950s, would be demolished to make way for the apartments. The mall's parking lot is the site of the Columbia City Farmers' Market.

HAL bought the property for $6.6 million in June 2007.

Energy

PSE buying plant to boost capacity

Puget Sound Energy said Thursday it has agreed to buy a new 310-megawatt natural-gas-fired power facility in Longview for $240 million as part of a plan to increase its electrical output.

The transaction is expected to close by year's end, pending approval from federal regulators, the Bellevue-based utility said.

The plant, known as Mint Farm, is owned by the Minnesota-based Wayzata Opportunities Fund.

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Including Mint Farm, the utility has purchased power facilities with a capacity of more than 1,300 megawatts over the past three years.

Washington's largest utility is awaiting state regulatory approval to be sold to an international investor consortium that the company says will be able to finance its need for massive growth.

Pushed by population increases in its service area, Puget Sound Energy aims to add 4,400 megawatts of new power capacity by 2027.

Aerospace

Boeing snags orders for 24 jets

Boeing won orders for 24 jets in the past week with a total value of about $3.02 billion at list prices.

The planes, listed on Boeing's Web site Thursday, include 10 of its 737s purchased by unnamed customers and one from Boeing Business Jet.

Boeing also won orders for nine 767s and four 777s, all from unidentified customers. Total airliner orders stand at 610 for the year through Tuesday.

Software

Microsoft favored in patent appeal

Microsoft convinced a federal appeals court that it shouldn't have to pay $1.5 billion in damages to Alcatel-Lucent, after a lower court threw out the jury's record verdict over the MP3 digital-music standard.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Thursday affirmed the lower court's decision that one of the two patents wasn't infringed and that Microsoft had a valid license for the second one.

In February 2007, a San Diego jury ruled that Microsoft's Windows Media Player infringed Lucent patents and awarded the damages. U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster threw out the verdict in August 2007.

Alcatel-Lucent, based in Paris, is reviewing its options, spokeswoman Mary Ward said in an e-mailed statement.

Nation / World

Telecommunications

RIM shares drop over smartphones

The stock of Research in Motion (RIM) plunged in extended trading Thursday after the BlackBerry maker said the cost of launching new smartphones would eat into near-term profits.

The company is launching three major new models in the current quarter, and the cost of ramping up production will trim the company's gross profit margin.

RIM's U.S.-listed shares were down $20.39, or 21 percent, at $77.14, in after-hours trading. If that price lasts into today's trading, the stock will set a new 52-week low.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM said it earned $495.5 million, or 86 cents per share, in the fiscal second quarter, which ended Aug. 30. That was a 72 percent rise from net income of $287.7 million, 50 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

Revenue was $2.58 billion, up 15 percent from a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 87 cents a share, excluding items, on revenue of $2.6 billion for the quarter.

Aviation

Shareholders OK Delta-NWA plan

Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines shareholders gave the go-ahead Thursday to a combination that would create the world's biggest carrier, deciding that in their volatile industry they like their chances better together than on their own.

The stock-swap deal announced April 14 still requires Justice Department approval. One other potential hurdle is a federal lawsuit seeking to block the deal that is set for trial Nov. 5 in San Francisco.

Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson, who will keep his position after the combination, would not discuss the lawsuit, but he indicated the carrier maintains its goal of completing the deal by the end of the year.

"We are still focused on that timeline and believe we can accomplish the timeline as stated," Anderson told reporters after the Delta shareholder vote.

Industrial

GE cuts forecast over financing unit

General Electric, the industrial powerhouse that makes everything from jet engines to light bulbs, cut its earnings forecast for the year Thursday, blaming volatile financial markets that have damaged the profitability of its loan and lease business, which accounts for almost half its income.

GE, a bellwether of the U.S. economy, warned that its GE Capital unit would face "difficult conditions in the financial-services markets that are not likely to improve in the near future."

Thursday's announcement came as Wall Street grappled with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the government takeover of insurer AIG, and fierce debate over a $700 billion plan for Washington to bail out banks weakened by risky mortgage-backed securities.

Shares of GE, a Dow Jones industrial component, closed Thursday up 4.4 percent, or $1.09, to $25.68 amid a broad rally on Wall Street.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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