US Airways files request for federal loan guarantee

PHILADELPHIA — US Airways yesterday filed a formal request for the federal government to back $900 million of a $1 billion loan, although it is still negotiating with its unions over pay cuts and other labor reductions that would help the struggling airline return to profitability.

Meanwhile, the airline's pilots reached an agreement about US Airways' plan to use more regional jets to boost revenue. Under the agreement, US Airways pilots will fly regional jets used by PSA Airlines, which operates under the US Airways Express banner.

The airline faced a June 28 deadline to apply for the loan guarantee, which US Airways would use to cover operating costs as it revamps finances. The airline has until then to revise its application to reflect deals it might reach with its unions.

The decision to approve the loan will be made by the Air Transportation Stabilization Board.

Red Robin IPO seeks to raise $54.7 million

WASHINGTON — Red Robin Gourmet Burgers plans to sell 4 million shares for $14 to $16 in an initial public offering for the chain of casual restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.

The company, based in Greenwood Village, Colo., expects to raise $54.7 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Selling shareholders intend to sell 1.04 million more shares in the offering. Skylark, a Japanese operator of family restaurants, has a 21.6 percent stake in Red Robin before the IPO.

Red Robin, which opened its first restaurant in 1969 in Seattle, owns 90 restaurants and has 98 franchise restaurants.

The company has applied to list its common stock on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the ticker RRGB. Banc of America Securities, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray and Wachovia Securities have been tapped as IPO underwriters.

State regulators probe U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray

ST. PAUL, Minn. — U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray is a target of a multistate investigation of Wall Street securities firms and their analysts, Washington state officials said.

Securities regulators from 40 states, led by Washington, want to know whether a dozen of the nation's biggest securities firms, among them Piper Jaffray, defrauded average investors with overly bullish recommendations for stocks that later lost most or all of their value.

Critics allege analysts give companies favorable coverage because it helps their firms land investment-banking business and puts fat bonuses in their wallets.

The probe is an offshoot of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's successful investigation of Merrill Lynch, which agreed last month to pay a $100 million fine and to adopt policies to insulate analysts from investment banking.

Washington is working with regulators in Missouri, Iowa and New York, which is co-chairing the task force and pursuing its own investigation.

Hewlett cuts stake in HP after proxy-fight defeat

WASHINGTON — Walter Hewlett, son of Hewlett-Packard's co-founder, is cutting his stake in the computer manufacturer after waging an unsuccessful attempt to block its acquisition of Compaq Computer.

Hewlett-Packard tossed Hewlett off its board after surviving his efforts to thwart the Compaq acquisition. Stripped of his voice at the company, Hewlett has begun selling some of his holdings, according to regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Hewlett raised $3.9 million by selling 202,743 shares during May, according to a Form 144. That works out to an average price of $19.29 a share, the lowest at which Hewlett has sold company shares in the last 10 years, adjusting for stock splits, according to SEC data compiled by the Washington Service.

His most recent prior sales came in December 1999, when Hewlett sold 80,000 shares at $52.63 each.

EU ministers back sanctions on U.S. over steel tariffs

LUXEMBOURG — European Union ministers backed plans yesterday to slap trade sanctions worth $300 million on the United States in a row over steel tariffs but gave the U.S. government more time to reach a compromise.

Foreign ministers from the 15-nation bloc agreed to support a European Commission plan to raise tariffs on sensitive U.S. goods that include steel, textiles and orange juice in retaliation for U.S. duties on steel imports.

The sanctions will kick in if President Bush fails to adequately compensate the EU through exemptions for European exports and lower tariffs.

The commission is to report by July 19 on the progress of talks with Washington. If there is no progress by then, EU ministers will decide by Aug. 1 whether to go ahead with sanctions.

If there is progress, the deadline for a decision on sanctions will be delayed until Oct. 12.

Pacific Northwest

Wizards of the Coast

sues former executive

SEATTLE — Wizards of the Coast is suing a former executive for allegedly aiding an outside bidder for print work on Harry Potter trading cards.

The Renton gaming company, best known for the trading-card game "Magic: The Gathering," sued Charles T. (Tom) Federline, former senior vice president of operations, on May 23. The company cited improper purchasing practices, said Wayne Charness, a spokesman for Hasbro, which owns Wizards of the Coast.

The lawsuit alleges Federline gave information to PGM Graphics on two occasions, undermining the bidding process and costing Wizards of the Coast $93,000. Federline was fired two weeks ago.

In a separate case, Wizards of the Coast filed suit against outside contractor Jeanne Maddox for allegedly falsifying expense reports for cellphone use, hotels and a trip to Disneyland.

Netstock's ShareBuilder hits 500,000 accounts

SEATTLE — Bellevue-based Netstock has reached a milestone 500,000 accounts in its ShareBuilder service, which allows consumers to invest in stocks and index funds online in dollar increments.

Since its December 1999 start, the company has relied on U.S. banks and credit unions to offer ShareBuilder to small investors. Recently it created partnerships outside those intermediaries, last month adding Costco Wholesale and British banking giant Halifax to its roster.

Financed by $60 million from investors, most recently with a fourth-round financing of $20 million led by Madrona Venture Group, the company became cash-flow positive in June.

Comerica grants DigiMine $2.9 million credit facility

SEATTLE — DigiMine, a Bellevue data-mining services company, received a $2.9 million credit facility from the technology and life-sciences division of Comerica, a financial-services company based in Detroit. DigiMine closed a $20.3 million round of funding in May.

4thpass inks reseller deals with big equipment makers

SEATTLE — Wireless software developer 4thpass has signed reseller agreements with Nokia, Ericsson and Siemens. The three European equipment vendors will resell to carriers Seattle-based 4thpass' server software, which delivers Java services to wireless phones.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff and news services.