Orange prices jump: Wholesale prices anyway. LAT reports that naval oranges are now about $35 per bushel basket, almost double the price since the freezing temps settled into California. One citrus broker expected retail prices to triple once the current inventories are gone. And it's not just oranges. Wholesale broccoli is going for $20 to $24 a carton, up from $16 to $18 last Friday. Iceberg lettuce is $5 to $7 higher. From the LAT:
To meet the national need for fresh winter fruit and vegetables, distributors said, they have begun negotiations with growers in Chile and other food-exporting countries. But though such imports mean that American grocery stores and restaurants will remain stocked, prices will still be affected, and profits will go south of the border instead of to the Central Valley and other affected parts of California.
Meanwhile, no rain: Forget about the El Niño talk. Rainfall is just 25 percent of normal and weather forecasters say this could be the driest winter on record. Instead of rain, we're getting an endless pattern of offshore Santa Anas. There's only a 30 percent chance of showers tonight and then it's sunny weather - and warmer temperatures - for the next 10 days. It will probably hit 70 by the weekend.
Tribune sale: Ever had any interest in owning a media conglomerate? This might be your chance to get a really good deal. It's deadline day to bid on Tribune Co. (3 p.m. L.A. time) and interest appears to be waning by the moment. The Chicago Tribune reported that the private equity group topping the list of potential suitors - Madison Dearborn Partners, Apollo Management and Providence Equity Partners - might not follow up with a bid. It's also unclear whether the Broad/Burkle team will push the button. Then there's the Chandler family, which is now leaning against an offer, at least for now, according to the LAT. From the Tribune:
One source with knowledge of the process said Tribune management, led by Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis FitzSimons, likely will present the board with a series of options that could serve as a fallback plan to boost the company's stock price in the case that acceptable bids fail to materialize. These options could include buying back additional shares or paying a big dividend, both of which would require taking on more debt. Or management could propose a tax-free spinoff of properties like Tribune's broadcast assets, a transaction that would create a separate public company distributed to current Tribune shareholders. Whether such moves would placate shareholders is a matter of debate. Analysts at Lehman Bros. and Merrill Lynch issued reports in recent days saying that Tribune's stock is unlikely to go higher. The Lehman report was especially bleak, saying newspapers are generally overvalued and likely will plunge if Tribune fails to attract any bids.
Telecommuting bad for career: A survey by L.A.-based Korn/Ferry finds that folks working at home are less likely to get promoted than peers who go into the office every day - even though executives consider telecommuters to be at least as productive. The survey confirms what many in the workplace have long suspected: just being seen - no matter how well or poorly you do the job - can be a career builder. LAT
Roth sale called off: That's as in movie producer Joe Roth, whose Revolution Studios has been the subject of takeover rumors. Well, Revolution has completed a $750 million recapitalization that will allow Roth & Co. to get a better price. It also gives him a chance to complete a slate of six films. The recapitalization plan was arranged by the L.A. office of JPMorgan Securities, which is headed by long-time dealmaker John Miller. Roth and other Revolution execs control a majority stake in the company, with minority interests from Starz Encore, Sony and Fox. THR
St. John's donation: Billionaire pharmaceutical executive Patrick Soon-Shiong and his wife are giving St. John's Health Center $35 million to complete its reconstruction and establish the Chan Soon-Shiong Center for Translational Sciences. Soon-Shiong sees the center as a research hub that works closely with treating physicians to speed the translation of scientific breakthroughs from the lab to the patient. It's the largest individual donation ever received by St. John's. Soon-Shiong's wealth is largely tied to his majority stake in Abraxis BioScience. LAT
MySpace gets personal: The Bev Hills-based social network plans to offer software that will alert parents to the name, age and location their children use to represent themselves. But it won't allow parents to read their children's e-mail or see their profile pages, and it would alert children that their information was being shared. MySpace is getting hassled by a group of 33 state attorneys general who have pushed the News Corp.-owned site to raise the age limit to 16 from 14 and begin verifying members' ages. The WSJ broke the story this morning. Reuters WSJ