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Sterling Financial deal falls through

Sterling Financial Corp.’s plans to buy North Valley Bancorp of Redding, Calif., have fallen through, the Spokane-based company announced in a news release Monday.

Sterling received notice that North Valley had decided to terminate the agreement for the merger, the release said. Either party had the right to do so if the proposed merger had not been completed by Friday.

Terms of the agreement had been unanimously approved by the board of directors of each company, and had also been approved by North Valley’s shareholders, the release said. The merger remained subject to regulatory approval and satisfaction of closing conditions.

In October, Sterling announced that it had revised its expectations regarding the expected closing date for the deal because the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. had told Sterling it could not advise when or if the pending application for the merger would be approved.

“We had hoped to complete this transaction, but we recognize that the delay in receiving requisite regulatory approval created challenges for North Valley’s ability to plan for the future and we understand their need to be able to give their stakeholders guidance with regard to expectations for day-to-day operations,” said Harold Gilkey, Sterling’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.


2007 a great year for grapes

Washington state’s wine grape crop, second only to California nationwide, was a record 127,150 tons this year, an industry group reported.

Favorable weather and an increase in plantings brought a 5.5 percent increase in the harvest of cabernet, merlot, riesling and other varietals, said Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.

“Mother Nature smiled on Washington state once again this year and provided an ideal climate for grapes,” Scharlau said. “She provided us with a fast start, a slow middle and a long finish to produce a vintage to remember.”

The quality of the grapes also was strong, growers said.

“The grapes got as ripe as we wanted and the color was really good for the reds. The wines are going to be really good,” said Scott Williams, winemaker at Kiona Vineyards & Winery on Red Mountain near Benton City.

Final reports on new plantings from the state Department of Agriculture won’t be available until next year, but the area devoted to premium wine grapes has grown about 11,000 acres in 1993 to 31,000 last year.

According to the Washington Wine Commission, the state’s wine industry provides about 14,000 full-time jobs and contributes more than $3 billion annually to the state’s economy. In 2006, more than 7 million cases of wine were made in Washington, worth about $685 million in retail sales.

California growers expect to harvest 3.2 million tons of wine grapes this year.

From staff and wire reports

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