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Originally published Tuesday, March 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Investment fund seeks Coinstar changes

Pacific Northwest Bellevue-based Coinstar disclosed in a regulatory filing Monday that the Shamrock Activist Value Fund of Burbank, Calif...

Bellevue-based Coinstar disclosed in a regulatory filing Monday that the Shamrock Activist Value Fund of Burbank, Calif., met with its nominating and governance committee Thursday and asked that it "promptly" consider several changes.

Shamrock, which is controlled by Roy Disney, nephew of the late Walt Disney, and former entertainment lawyer Stanley Gold, owns 13.4 percent of Coinstar's shares.

Coinstar, an owner and operator of self-service coin-counting machines, disclosed that Shamrock believes the company could increase shareholder value by having each member of its board stand for re-election every year, adopting a majority rather than a plurality voting standard for board elections and increasing stock ownership requirements for board members.

Shamrock also wants Coinstar to cancel its "poison pill," something generally used by companies to avoid a hostile takeover.

Coinstar shares rose 51 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $28.55 Monday

Boeing

GE reportedly in talks for 737s

General Electric is in talks with Boeing to buy 40 to 50 of its 737 jetliners to meet demand from airlines upgrading their fleets, a person familiar with the negotiations said.

The order may be valued at as much as $3.53 billion, based on a list price of $70.5 million for a next-generation 737-800 model posted on Boeing's Web site.

List prices don't include discounts traditionally given to large customers such as Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric.

GE spokesman Mark Tender and Boeing spokesman Ken Mercer both declined to comment.

Real estate

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U.S. home sales up in February

Nationwide sales of existing homes increased unexpectedly in February after six months of decline, but private economists said it was too soon to say the prolonged slide in housing is coming to an end.

The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes rose 2.9 percent in February.

It marked the first sales increase since July, but even with the gain, sales were still 23.8 percent below where they were a year ago.

PennyMac

Ex-Countrywide exec at new firm

Stanford Kurland spent nearly three decades helping build Countrywide Financial into the nation's largest mortgage lender.

Now, the former president of the troubled company and several key colleagues hope to cash in as the housing market collapses.

Kurland, 55, will serve as chairman and chief executive officer of a new company unveiled Monday that will acquire and restructure distressed mortgages.

Private National Mortgage Acceptance, also known as PennyMac, intends to help borrowers restructure loans so they can avoid foreclosure and maintain payments.

Backed by prominent investment-management firms BlackRock and Highfields Capital Management, PennyMac has set up shop in Calabasas, Calif., about six miles from the offices of Countrywide.

Countrywide, the nation's largest mortgage lender and servicer, lost about $1.6 billion in the last six months of 2007 as higher defaults forced the lender to boost its provisions for anticipated losses.

Earlier this year, Bank of America agreed to acquire Countrywide for about $4 billion in stock.

Motorola

Icahn files suit for board records

Motorola on Monday dismissed as an "unnecessary distraction" billionaire investor Carl Icahn's legal efforts to force it to turn over documents about its executives and its cellphone business.

Icahn plans to use the material in his battle to win four seats on the Schaumburg-based company's board. Motorola prevailed in a similar proxy battle with Icahn a year ago.

Icahn sued the company for the documents Monday afternoon in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware.

Motorola said it rejected Icahn's "demand for extensive access to its books and records" earlier this month on the belief that he does not have a credible basis to request such an inspection.

Walgreen

Cost controls help drive chain's profits

Walgreen posted a 5 percent increase in second-quarter profits that just beat Wall Street's expectations, but investors greeted the news Monday with enthusiasm, driving the share price sharply higher.

Shares of Walgreen advanced $1.83 Monday to close at $38.61.

The drugstore chain said improved cost controls helped offset sluggish holiday sales.

Walgreen reported earnings of $685.9 million, or 69 cents per share, up from $651.9 million, or 65 cents, a year ago.

Sales rose 11 percent to $15.39 billion, from $13.93 billion. Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, gained 4.7 percent.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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