Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Business briefs: Avista, Clearwater Paper plan to buy back stock

From Staff And Wire Reports

Avista Corp. and Clearwater Paper Corp. both announced stock buyback programs this week.

Avista will repurchase up to 800,000 shares of the company’s common stock through a program that starts in January and continues through the end of March.

The Spokane-based utility has repurchased 2.5 million shares of stock at a cost of $79.9 million since July. The new plan approved by the board of directors extends the buyback program through the first quarter of 2015.

Two large transactions – the purchase of a Juneau electric utility and the sale of Avista subsidiary Ecova – left the company “over-equitized,” said Mark Thies, the company’s senior vice president and chief financial officer. The plan allows Avista to maintain a “prudent capital structure” through the opportunity to repurchase shares, he said.

Clearwater Paper, which is also based in Spokane, announced plans to repurchase up to $100 million worth of the company’s common stock.

The company previously repurchased $100 million of common stock through a program authorized by its board of directors in February.

T-Mobile to pay $90M in FTC settlement

WASHINGTON – T-Mobile US will pay at least $90 million, mostly in refunds, for billing customers for cellphone text services they didn’t order, under a settlement with federal regulators.

The Federal Trade Commission announced the agreement Friday with T-Mobile over billing for unauthorized charges, a practice known as “cramming.” Bellevue, Washington-based T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. cellphone company, is paying at least $67.5 million in refunds to affected customers plus $18 million in fines to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and $4.5 million in fines to the FCC.

The FTC sued T-Mobile in July, accusing it of billing customers for subscriptions to text services like $9.99-per-month horoscopes, ringtones, “flirting tips” or celebrity gossip updates that they didn’t want or authorize.

In October, AT&T Mobility agreed to a $105 million settlement with the FTC. Officials said that with the two settlements, about half of all U.S. cellphone users now will be protected from abusive third-party charges.

The refund site for T-Mobile customers is:

Thai food company bids for Bumble Bee

BANGKOK – A Thai food company may be landing another whopper in the U.S. with its $1.5 billion bid for Bumble Bee Seafoods.

Thai Union Frozen Products, which already owns Chicken of the Sea, another major seller of tuna and other seafoods, has now hooked the largest canned seafood company in North America.

That would put two of the big three in the U.S., the other being Starkist, in its basket.

The deal must still be approved by U.S. regulators, which could block the takeover or require the company to divest some of its holdings for competitive reasons.

Bumble Bee was acquired by the British investment firm Lion Capital LLP in late 2010. If approved, Thai Union expects to take ownership in the second half of next year.