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Business briefs: BPA seeks power, transmission rate hikes

From Wire Reports

PORTLAND – The Bonneville Power Administration has proposed rate increases averaging 6.7 percent for the power it sells largely to public utilities in its four-state Northwest area.

It’s also proposed a rate increase of 5.6 percent for the transmission it manages.

The agency said in a statement Thursday a large share of the increase for power sales is a result of previous capital spending. It said integrating wind power into the system helps push up transmission costs.

The federal utility sells power produced at 31 dams and a nuclear power plant to more than 140 utilities – more than a third of regional consumption.

Its transmission grid in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana handles three-quarters of the region’s power.

The increases would be effective Oct. 1 next year.

Stronger aluminum possible for cars

DALLAS – Alcoa Inc. is touting a breakthrough in aluminum manufacturing that it said will give the lightweight metal a better chance to replace steel in car doors and fenders.

Alcoa said the process, still in the testing phase, will create metal sheets that are stronger and more easily shaped into auto body parts than current aluminum and are lighter than steel.

Company executives said the aluminum-alloy material could show up in cars by 2018.

Alcoa said Thursday that it has conducted successful tests with automakers and has lined up one as a “strategic- development customer” for aluminum being produced at a pilot mill in San Antonio. Alcoa declined to name the companies.

Barnes & Noble ends Microsoft Nook deal

NEW YORK – Bookseller Barnes & Noble said Thursday it is ending its commercial agreement with Microsoft for its Nook e-book reader ahead of its planned Nook spinoff.

The news came as the largest U.S. traditional bookseller reported second-quarter net income that missed expectations.

Barnes & Noble, beset by tough competition from online retailers like Amazon and discount stores like Wal-Mart, said in June that it plans to split off its money-losing Nook e-reader division as it looks to boost shareholder value.

In 2012 Microsoft paid $300 million for a 17.6 percent stake in Barnes & Noble’s college bookstores and Nook business. On Thursday Barnes & Noble said it will buy out Microsoft’s stake in the business for $125 million.

Shares of Barnes & Noble fell $1.15, or 5.2 percent, to $21.09 in late afternoon trading. The stock had been up about 30 percent in 2014.

Uber raises $1.2 billion as investors ignore hits

NEW YORK – Uber raised $1.2 billion in its latest round of funding from venture capitalists, a sign investors were little fazed by the ride-hailing app’s recent spate of bad publicity over privacy violations and its corporate culture.

The latest investment put a value on Uber at $40 billion.

That’s bigger than the stock market values of companies such as American Airlines and Twitter, or the combined value of car-rental veterans Hertz and Avis Budget Group. At the same time, it is not a guarantee that Uber would receive the same valuation as a publicly traded company that it does as a venture-backed business.

In a blog post Thursday, CEO Travis Kalanick said the latest financing round will help the company make “substantial investments,” particularly in Asia.

Uber’s previous funding round also raised $1.2 billion. The company operates in more than 250 cities in 50 countries.

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