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Originally published Friday, October 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Nonprofit group files complaint against Zillow.com

A nonprofit group said Thursday it has filed a complaint against Seattle-based Zillow.com with the Federal Trade Commission...

A nonprofit group said Thursday it has filed a complaint against Seattle-based Zillow.com with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing it of misleading consumers, lenders and real-estate professionals.

Zillow.com provides online data on the value of 68 million U.S. homes.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition in Washington, D.C., alleges that Zillow is accurate less than 30 percent of the time, causing "substantial injury to consumers nationwide when they consider selling their home." What's more, the Web site is more likely to underestimate the value of homes in low- and moderate-income communities than in high-end neighborhoods, the group said.

Zillow in a statement called the allegations groundless. The company said its Web site is designed as a "starting point for consumers who want to learn about the value of homes."

The coalition describes itself as an advocacy group for responsible lending and equal access to credit.

Boeing

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CIT Group buying 5 Dreamliners

Boeing won an order from CIT Group for five 787-8 Dreamliners.

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2012, Boeing said Thursday. The order was previously listed on Boeing's Web site as from an unidentified customer.

Sotto Wireless

Trial run planned in Charlotte, N.C.

Sotto Wireless, an early-stage wireless company in Bellevue, plans to announce today that it has started a trial run of its service in Charlotte, N.C.

The service allows companies to have one telecommunications provider by providing a cellphone to employees that switches from a cellular network outdoors to a Wi-Fi network in the office.

Three companies are expected to be begin testing the service soon. Sotto said it is using SunCom as its wireless operator in Charlotte, but has yet to say which carrier it will be using when it commercially launches in select markets in early 2007.

Ste. Michelle

Operating profit dips from last year

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville recorded an operating profit of $9.4 million in the third quarter, down nearly 1 percent from a year ago, according to a filing from its parent company, Greenwich, Conn.-based UST. Net sales climbed 10.1 percent to $69.5 million.

UST also markets smokeless tobacco, including Copenhagen and Skoal.

Nation and World

Airbus

Airline to defer A380 jet deliveries

Virgin Atlantic Airways will defer the delivery of the first of its six Airbus A380 superjumbo jets until 2013, the company said Thursday, allowing the European aircraft maker to escape the blow that canceling the order would have brought.

Airbus and Virgin agreed in principle to the postponement, the airline said in a statement.

Virgin had expressed dissatisfaction earlier this month over delays to the A380 project and said cancellation was one of the options it was considering.

Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht declined to comment Thursday on whether there had been any change to the financial terms with Virgin.

Deferring the order will allow Toulouse, France-based Airbus to "prioritize production and deliveries for its launch customers such as Singapore Airlines," Virgin said — and by the time it takes delivery of its superjumbos, the aircraft will have "proven its innovative design over several years in commercial service."

Virgin said it had extended the leases on "several" of its Boeing 747s to meet its fleet needs.

Nintendo

Earnings soar 48% on handheld sales

Nintendo said Thursday its profit jumped 48 percent in the first half of its fiscal year on booming sales of its Nintendo DS handheld game machine.

Nintendo posted a profit of $457 million in the six months ended Sept. 30, up from $308 million a year earlier, the Kyoto-based game maker said.

Sales soared 70 percent to $2.51 billion from $1.48 billion the same period last year. The company did not release quarterly figures.

For the full year ending in March, the company left unchanged its forecast for a profit of $840 million and group sales at $6.2 billion.

Nintendo said it hopes its new Wii game console will buoy earnings in the second half.

Wii (pronounced "wee") is the successor to Nintendo's GameCube, which lost out in the home console market to Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox.

Red Hat

Move by Oracle imperils company

One move by rival Oracle has turned Red Hat from a celebrated leader in open-source software to a fragile underdog.

Shares of Red Hat tumbled 24 percent Thursday on Wednesday's news that Oracle will move aggressively onto Red Hat's turf by selling maintenance services for Red Hat products at a roughly 50 percent discount.

Oracle's brawn threatens an undersized Red Hat, which has benefited from a relative shortage of competition in the Linux sector — until now.

"Red Hat needs a new business model fast," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group tech consulting firm.

Unlike Microsoft's market-dominating Windows operating system, Red Hat distributes the open-source Linux system for free. The company makes money by selling service and support.

Before Red Hat's stock plummeted $4.68 to $14.83 in trading Thursday, the shares were already well off their May high of $32.48.

Sun Microsystems

Popular system shrinks losses

Server and software maker Sun Microsystems beat Wall Street's tepid expectations Thursday, reporting a narrower-than-expected loss for the first quarter, thanks to the growing popularity of its newest operating system for corporate computers.

Losses for the three months ended Oct. 1 shrank by more than half. Excluding restructuring and other one-time costs, the company lost $42 million, or 1 cent per share.

On that basis analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected the company to post a loss of 4 cents per share on $3.2 billion in revenue.

Sun has lost more than $5 billion since 2002. But in fiscal 2006, Sun seemed to turn a corner, with revenue up 18 percent from the previous year.

Before the results were released, Sun shares gained 6 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $5.36. In extended trading, they were unchanged.

Comcast

Bundling services boosts earnings

Fueled by rapid growth in sales of its cable, telephone and Internet bundle, Comcast on Thursday reported third-quarter earnings that easily beat Wall Street expectations — sending its shares to a 52-week high.

The company earned 26 cents per share, adjusted for systems Comcast added or disposed of in connection with its acquisition of cable systems from Adelphia. Investment analysts on average had predicted 19 cents per share.

Comcast shares closed up $1.24 at $40.

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

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