Dow pulls back: So much for that 14,000 stuff. Disappointing earnings from Google, Caterpillar and Ericsson are seen as a factor. In early trading, the Dow was off more than 125 points.
Tribune could miss payments: It's hard to conceive that the much-maligned deal to go private might fall apart at this late date - and yet bond investors who must help finance the sale are spooked out. The company that Sam Zell took over is now considered the fourth-riskiest debt issuer among the almost 1,200 worldwide, according to the arcane world of credit-default swaps. As reported by Bloomberg News, those are financial contracts used to speculate on a company' ability to repay debt - and which serve as a safety valve to protect bondholders against default. Put another way, investors believe Tribune is more likely to default on its bonds than Ford, which is pretty bad. Tribune is in the midst of going private and taking on $13 billion in debt, but the company's financials in recent months have been awful.
Another blow for mass transit: Welfare payments to the elderly and disabled should not have to compete with badly needed transportation improvements, but that's apparently what it's coming down to as the state legislature tries to end its budget impasse. The upshot is that $1 billion will be diverted mass transit, forcing L.A. to put off plans for extending parts of the Expo light rail line and widening some freeways. (LAT)
Potter day: Actually it's not until 12:01 a.m. on Saturday when the seventh and final Harry Potter book officially goes on sale, but they'll be lining up outside bookstores all over the world. It was only 13 years ago when author J.K. Rowling was an unemployed single mother without a publisher or agent, and now she's the first dollar billionaire writer. By the way, she's ticked off that several U.S. newspapers have run reviews based on copies they obtained ahead of publication. (Reuters)
L.A. crime wave: It's not a reality series - but give it time. More than $7 million in cash, rare books and jewelry have been stolen from some of the city's wealthiest and most prominent residents, including former Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing and her Oscar-winning director husband, William Friedkin, Duran Duran guitarist John Taylor and his wife, Juicy Couture president Gela Nash-Taylor, country music stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and a high-ranking executive at the Disney-ABC Television Group. From the LAT:
The two — possibly three — men, clad in black and wearing ski masks and gloves, have hit more than 70 homes in areas such as Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and the hills above Encino, usually at night and often on weekends. They evade security systems and surveillance cameras, taking advantage of the fact that many of the estates are walled off from street view and their owners are frequently out of town, Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Garner said. The team often enters houses by using bricks to break through backyard sliding glass doors or climbing through second-floor windows.
Despite the dozens of burglaries, police have relatively little to go on. A security camera at an Encino estate caught a brief image of two muscular, 200-pound-plus men without their masks, police said. "These guys are a two-man hillside crime wave. They are quick-hit artists," said Councilman Jack Weiss, a former federal prosecutor who has arranged a $50,000 city reward for information leading to their prosecution. "They are clearly knowledgeable and sophisticated. They are not hot prowlers, and they focus exclusively on homes that aren't occupied."
Pesticide trial begins: This is the one that has Westlake Village-based Dole Food and Dow Chemical being accused of knowingly exposing Nicaraguan banana workers three decades ago to a pesticide that caused permanent sterility. Attorneys for Dow and Dole say that they used the chemical responsibly. The case, being heard in L.A. Superior Court, marks the first time that an American company has gone before an American jury on charges of pesticide poisoning in another country. From the LAT:
Since the 1980s, attorneys have filed civil lawsuits on behalf of more than 30,000 workers on plantations in Africa, Latin America and the Philippines. Although some of those lawsuits have settled, none has been presented to jurors. Twelve workers have alleged sterilization in Thursday's case, though thousands of additional workers in Nicaragua are preparing to sue. The case is also one of the few in which an American company has been sued in the U.S. for alleged damages occurring overseas. Typically, such lawsuits are referred back to their country of origin.
IndyMac lays off 400: That's about 4 percent of the workforce at the Pasadena-based mortgage lender - and it comes in the midst of a tough housing market. CEO Michael W. Perry said loan volumes and profit margins continue to be under pressure. The IndyMac mouthpiece insists that "this is not a subprime story," which is nonsense. Of course, it’s a subprime story - why do you think mortgage lenders are under such pressure? (Star-News)
Port workers talks continue: No settlement yet, but they seem to be close. And no recent strike threats, which is a sign that both sides are ready to cut a deal. (Press-Telegram)
Biggest deal ever?: A batch of oceanfront properties in Santa Barbara County has been bought by trusts and partnerships linked to billionaire hedge-fund manager Bruce Kovner for $70 million. This includes $35 million for a three-acre lot - including an 8,000-square-foot Tuscan-farmhouse-style home - $20 million for a four-bedroom house on three acres, and six acres for $15 million. The most expensive home deals in the U.S. was investor Ron Baron's $103 million purchase earlier this year of 40 acres in East Hampton, N.Y. (WSJ)
Ladd still duking it out: Hollywood accounting battles just never die. Veteran producer Alan Ladd took the stand in his accounting suit against Warner Bros., claiming that he hadn't received his fair share for TV licensing deals for the 1981 movie "Chariots of Fire" - not to mention a credit. Of course, Ladd didn't fare poorly in his deal with Warners - he received $21 million over a 20-year stretch. From Variety:
The most emotional claim is that his credit was dropped on DVD packages including "Chariots of Fire," "Night Shift," "The Right Stuff" and "Once Upon a Time in America." Warners has said that the omission was inadvertent. On the stand, Ladd described it as "embarrassing and humiliating. ... It's like 'It's a Wonderful Life' -- it's like I never existed." Asked to put a monetary value on the credit omission, Ladd said several million dollars.