Oberto Sausage settles bias suit with Muslim employees

Oberto Sausage settled a discrimination complaint brought by six Somali Muslim women who said their employer refused to accommodate their religious practices.

The Kent company agreed to pay $362,000 and change its policies regarding religious accommodation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced yesterday.

The federal agency filed a lawsuit against the specialty meat company in January, alleging that it discriminated against the workers by not allowing them to take an evening prayer break during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

The women were fired when they walked off the assembly line anyway.

Under the terms of the settlement, Oberto agreed to revise its policies, translate its rules into Somali and conduct anti-discrimination training. It also will give the EEOC an annual update on its progress for five years.


McDermott opposes CAFTA agreement

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle said yesterday he opposes the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), ending months of indecision over the trade treaty.

The agreement has not been formally introduced in Congress.

"The Republican majority intends only to divide and conquer, removing any hint at protecting workers and retaining protectionist policies to benefit U.S. textile interests," McDermott said in a statement.

McDermott is the fourth member of the state's 11-member congressional delegation to oppose the treaty with Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Democratic House members Adam Smith of Tacoma, Brian Baird of Vancouver, Wash., and Rick Larsen of Lake Stevens oppose CAFTA. Democrat Norm Dicks of Bremerton and Republicans Dave Reichert of Auburn and Doc Hastings of Pasco support it. The other members, including both senators, haven't declared positions.

Nation / World

Adobe Systems

Profit jumps 37% on software sales

Adobe Systems said yesterday that its second-quarter profit rose 37 percent as the maker of Acrobat and Photoshop reported strong sales of its most popular software.

Adobe announced a fiscal second-quarter profit of $149.8 million, or 29 cents per share, compared with a profit of $109.4 million, or 22 cents per share, in the same period of 2004.

Excluding special items, the software company earned $142.9 million, or 28 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected Adobe to earn an average of 27 cents per share on revenue of $491.7 million.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff and The Associated Press



Giant drug maker to acquire biotech

In the latest foray by a pharmaceutical behemoth outside its research labs for biotech drugs, Pfizer said yesterday it would pay $1.9 billion in cash for a tiny company that makes a new breed of antibiotics.

Pfizer is offering to shareholders of Vicuron Pharmaceuticals $29.10 a share, a 74 percent premium over the biotech's average stock price the past 90 days.

Such a hefty premium underscores the industry's need to bolster lackluster research programs and replace lucrative drugs soon to be threatened by generic competition because of expiring patents.

Vicuron is based in King of Prussia, Pa., and employs about 200 workers.

Goldman Sachs

Earnings less than analysts predicted

Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs yesterday reported a sharp drop in second-quarter earnings, missing analysts' estimates, but said the outlook for the third quarter was improving. Investors appeared encouraged by the comments about the current quarter and pushed its shares nearly 3.5 percent higher.

Goldman Sachs said that net income in the second quarter totaled $865 million, or $1.71 a share, down 27 percent from $1.19 billion, or $2.31 a share, a year earlier.

Net revenue for the quarter totaled $4.81 billion, down 13 percent from $5.51 billion a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had projected second-quarter earnings of $1.87 a share on $4.96 billion in revenue.

Goldman Sachs shares rose $3.46 to close at $102.65.

The firm's competitors were less affected by the difficult trading environment. On Wednesday, Bear Stearns reported a 5 percent increase in second-quarter earnings on the strength of its institutional stock-trading business. Lehman Brothers reported similarly strong earnings a day earlier.

KB Homes

Homebuilder's profit goes through the roof

Homebuilder KB Home reported a 78 percent jump in profit yesterday for the second quarter — beating Wall Street estimates — on strong increases in sales and average selling price.

The company, one of the largest homebuilders and land developers in the nation, also raised its earnings projection for the year.

Net income was $181.5 million, or $2.06 per share, for the three months ended May 31, compared with $102.1 million, or $1.20 per share, in the same quarter last year, the company said.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected $1.78 per share.

Shares of KB Home closed up $1.29 at $72.25 before the earnings report was released. In after-hours trading, the shares jumped $4.25.

Bank of America

$3 billion may bring stake in China bank

Bank of America, the second-biggest U.S. bank, may spend as much as $3 billion for a stake in China Construction Bank, the largest acquisition by a foreign lender in the world's fastest-growing major economy, according to bankers involved in the transaction.

Bank of America will invest $2.5 billion now and buy $500 million of shares later this year in the Beijing-based bank's initial public offering, said the bankers, who declined to be identified. China Construction, the nation's No. 3 lender, aims to raise as much as $5 billion in its share sale.

Bank of America's investment surpasses China purchases by HSBC Holdings, Europe's biggest bank by market value, and by Citigroup, the world's largest financial-services company. They are buying stakes in lenders and credit-card ventures in China, where savings accounts total more than $1.5 trillion.

"We don't have anything to announce at the moment," said Bank of America spokesman Bob Stickler. Cai Xiang, a spokesman for Beijing-based Construction Bank, declined to comment.

Bank of America will get a 9 percent stake in Construction Bank for its $2.5 billion investment, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported the transaction earlier. The agreement also allows the U.S. bank to increase its holdings to 19.9 percent during the next 5 ½ years by buying shares at the IPO price, the newspaper said, citing a person familiar with the transaction.


IDT to buy rival ICS in $1.7 billion deal

Integrated Device Technology has agreed to buy rival chip maker Integrated Circuit Systems in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $1.7 billion.

The agreement will form a company that supplies relatively obscure but essential chips to makers of communications gear, computers and other electronic devices. The merger, announced Wednesday, is expected to close in the fall, after shareholder and regulatory approval.

ICS shares rose $2.03, or 10.3 percent, to close at $21.77 yesterday, while IDT stock fell $1.02, or 8.14 percent, to close at $11.51.

Tyco International

Jurors conclude 10th day of deliberations

Jurors in the grand-larceny trial of two former top executives of Tyco International finished their 10th day of deliberations yesterday without issuing verdicts.

The jurors heard the rereading of testimony about multimillion-dollar bonuses the defendants received in 2001. They were scheduled to resume deliberations today.

Last week, jurors indicated they had reached verdicts on an unspecified number of charges in a 31-count indictment, but were seeking direction from the court on how to proceed on the unresolved charges.

They are trying to decide whether L. Dennis Kozlowski, 58, Tyco's former chief executive, and Mark Swartz, 44, the former finance chief, enriched themselves by nearly $600 million by accepting unauthorized pay and bonuses, abusing loan programs and selling their company stock at inflated prices after lying about Tyco's finances.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News