Wednesday morning headlines

Tesco is coming: That's the British grocery chain preparing to expand later this year into Los Angeles and other U.S. locales – and making more than a few waves among the major supermarkets and the United Food and Commercial Workers union. These Tesco stores, to be called Fresh and Easy, will be more in the neighborhood convenience store mold (only 10,000-15,000 square feet). They’ll offer a limited line of meats, produce, wine, packaged goods, dairy items and prepared meals. Tesco's local presence is already being felt: It's building an 800,000-square-foot distribution center (the size of 14 football fields) on a former Air Force base near Riverside and has moved 150 employees to its regional headquarters in El Segundo. There's also a prototype store in a Hawthorne warehouse. LAT NYT

Laker tickets going up: So what if the team is imploding and Kobe may be itching to get out? Bidness is bidness, right? It's roughly a 5 percent bump for next season, with courtside seats now at $2,300 a game, up $100 from last year. Oh, and they'll still have those league-mandated 500 seats that sell for $10 - y'know, the folding chairs they set up on the Harbor Freeway. LAT

Amgen buys another company: This time, it's Alantos Pharmaceuticals, a privately held Cambridge, Mass., drug development company, for $300 million. The deal was just announced this morning. Alantos' lead drug candidate, ALS 2-0426, would treat type II diabetes. Earlier this week, the Thousand Oaks drug company, looking to expand its medicine chest, announced plans to buy Ilypsa Inc., a biotech company developing drugs for the treatment of renal disorders.

All in the family: HBO's new executive lineup are all home-grown folks, starting with new chairman and CEO, Bill Nelson. He and the three other executives who were bumped up have a combined 83 years experience at HBO (in television terms, that practically goes back to the stone age). All these musical chairs, of course, are the result of Chris Albrecht's meltdown in Las Vegas some weeks ago. NY Post

Meyer the survivor: It's a new five-year contract for Universal Studios President and COO Ron Meyer, who has been running the place since 1995 (that's when Katherine Pope, the day-to-day head of NBC Universal Television Studio, was just getting out of college). They're all smiles over at Universal this week, what with the strong showing of the comedy "Knocked Up." The rest of the summer lineup also looks good. Last year, "The Break-Up" was the studio's lone summer hit. Daily News

Corruption inquiry widens?: This involves the $6 billion-a-year state-run State Compensation Insurance Fund. CHP investigators are now looking into whether any money is unaccounted for. There's also a separate probe by the California Department of Insurance and all kinds of civil litigation. Already, the president and vice president have been forced out and the fund's top lawyer has been demoted. It's pretty damning stuff and it would be getting lots more attention if this were a movie studio and not a state-run insurance company. LAT

Upfront standoff: Nielsen's new minute-by-minute ratings system that tracks how many viewers are watching the ads has gotten everybody thoroughly confused and left the TV sales market stalled for next fall. Buyers and sellers are talking and bickering but no deals are yet in place, according to the NY Post.

When Nielsen rolled out the new ratings last week, both buyers and sellers knew commercial viewership would be lower than traditional program ratings because some viewers fast forward through the ads or channel surf. Despite the drop-off, the broadcast networks, such as ABC, CBS and NBC, are eager to make the switch because it will help them recapture a slice of DVR viewers that don't skip past the ads. The current program ratings don't include any DVR playback. While everyone seems to agree that commercial ratings are inevitable, not everyone agrees that they should be used to negotiate upfront deals this year.

Port plan applauded: It's the proposal to overhaul the port business, so that older, polluting vehicles can be replaced with cleaner burning trucks (part of the landmark Clean Air Action Plan). That would mean the independent operators would become employees of trucking companies. At a public hearing yesterday, a number of independents said the new business model was a good idea, although the California Trucking Association questions the ports' authority under federal and state law to change things so drastically. One byproduct of the plan would allow the Teamsters union to organize port truckers for the first time since deregulation in 1980. Daily Breeze

Mobile dating: Yeah, it's become a thing, with several services that let mobile phone users make a connection on the spot (and more cellphone-related car crashes for everybody else - yay!) Apparently, the services allow you to search for a date in a location you can update as you move around. Of course, there are concerns about being stalked by creeps, so the services are coming up with safeguards, such as not handing out a number until you're ready (I can hear those hormones churning already). From the WSJ:

While consumers who would rather flirt from afar are skittish, the new features are starting to gain steam among a new generation of mobile daters who want to do everything on the go. The services are already driving strong growth for the mobile dating market -- and helping to entice consumers to sign up for the mobile data plans that are necessary to browse the Web from their phones. An average of 3.6 million U.S. cellphone users accessed a dating service from their mobile phone in March, according to Seattle-based M:Metrics, a mobile research firm, up from 2.8 million in March 2006. Dating is in many ways made for mobile phones, says Mark Donovan, an analyst with M:Metrics, because people are often most eager for a date when they are "out and about." But the services, particularly those based on location, are likely to appeal most to users in dense urban areas, where the dating pool is likely to be larger and more concentrated.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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