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Business in brief: Company expects revenue catch-up

Northwest Bancorporation Inc., parent of Inland Northwest Bank, reported Friday first quarter net income of $495,000, down 19 percent from $609,000 for the first quarter of 2007.

Per-share earnings were 21 cents and 26 cents, respectively.

Assets as of March 31 were $296.8 million, a 6 percent increase from Dec. 31 and a 14 percent increase year-over-year. Deposits, at $235.5 million, grew by double-digits compared with year-end and year-ago numbers, but loans were up just 1.5 percent during the quarter, but 11.5 percent over the past 12 months.

The return on average assets for the quarter was 0.69 percent compared with 0.94 percent a year ago. Return on average equity was 7.91 percent, compared with 10.90 percent.

Nonperforming assets increased to $570,000 from $411,000 a year ago.

Northwest President Randall Fewel said loan growth was below expectations, but he added that full-year revenue is expected to catch up with additional expenses as production from four new lending officers improves.

Northwest operates 10 branches in Washington and Idaho, with two more expected to open this year in North Idaho.

Trenton, N.J.

FDA rejects Vioxx successor

The Food and Drug Administration rejected Merck & Co.’s request to market a successor to its withdrawn arthritis drug Vioxx in the United States, the drugmaker said Friday.

The decision was widely expected, after a panel of FDA advisers two weeks ago voted 20-1 against approving the drug, Arcoxia.

Arcoxia is in the class of anti-inflammatory drugs called Cox-2 inhibitors, which are touted as less likely to cause stomach bleeding or have other dangers, but they have been linked to heart risks. It is the same class of drugs as Vioxx, which has become a poster child for drug safety problems.

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after research showed it doubled risk of heart attacks and strokes. That triggered an avalanche of lawsuits – more than 27,000 so far – and a nosedive for Merck’s stock price, which has since rebounded.


Work suspended at two GM plants

General Motors Corp. has suspended development activities on vehicles at two major U.S. assembly plants as the United Auto Workers union has backed out of negotiations on cost cuts at the factories, labor and company sources said Thursday.

GM, scrambling to trim labor costs to better compete in the United States with Asian automakers, has requested so-called Competitive Operating Agreements at its Fairfax, Kan., and Lordstown, Ohio, plants. However, the UAW’s senior leadership team has abruptly ended the COA negotiations at the two plants owing to disagreements with GM, according to people familiar with those talks.

The automaker in recent days has informed the UAW that it is suspending work related to two new-vehicle programs – the Epsilon midsize car program and Delta compact-car program. From staff and wire reports

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