Monday morning headlines

Travel tremors: Europeans are being urged by the EU's health commissioner to avoid going to the United States or Mexico - not great news for a travel industry that is reeling from the recession. From the NYT:

Britain and other European Union nations had already issued travel advisories for those traveling to Mexico, but the European Union's health commissioner went a step further on Monday in urging Europeans to avoid nonessential trips. Europeans, she told reporters in Luxembourg, "should avoid traveling to Mexico or the United States of America unless it is very urgent for them." But Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., called that advisory unwarranted, saying that only 20 cases had been diagnosed in the United States, just one of which required hospitalization.

Scrubbing at LAX: Airport officials say they're taking "reasonable precautions," which includes cleaning the rest rooms more frequently and posting flu advisories. Several airlines are waiving penalty fees for travelers changing their plans to travel to Mexico at this time. (NBC Los Angeles)

No more Pontiac: Desperately trying to avoid bankruptcy, GM also announced it will cut 21,000 hourly jobs and reduce its dealer count by more than 40 percent. GM is racing to restructure by June 1. From Bloomberg:

The Pontiac brand will be eliminated, also by the end of 2010, and talks are under way on a sale of the Saturn unit to dealers, GM said. The goal is to phase out Saturn in 2009, instead of 2011 as previously discussed. With Hummer and Saab already targeted for disposal, Detroit-based GM's remaining U.S. brands will be Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. "We allocate too many resources over too many things," [CEO Fritz] Henderson said at a briefing for reporters in Detroit. "I'm in favor of getting great results instead of being big."

Market hunkers down: Lots of not-so-wonderful news this morning, plus that scare involving a commercial plane circling Lower Manhattan and escorted by two fighter jets (it was part of a photo op that obviously not many people were aware of). At that check, the Dow was up about 30 points.

No more Countrywide: Bank of America has officially dropped the Countrywide Home Loans name as part of its takeover of the Calabasas-based mortgage lender. The rebranding is being completed Monday to coincide with the beginning of the traditionally busy home buying season. (AP)

Portfolio shuts down: The glossy business monthly from Condé Nast will cease publication immediately. The recession was a killer for the magazine, which could never gain traction with advertisers and readers. (NYT)

Next phase for Newhall: A 60-day public comment period begins today on state environmental impact reports for the 21,000-home mini-city between the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys. From the Daily News:

Although the project was originally slated to break ground in 2006, lawsuits and regulatory approvals delayed its development. In the meantime, the nation plunged into recession, the real-estate market languished and Landsource, the company that bought Newhall Land, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Officials said the bankruptcy filing will not impact funding for several essential elements, including improvements to the Interstate5-Magic Mountain interchange. And local economists predict the housing market will be back on track by the time Newhall Ranch is built.

Regulators seize bank: First Bank of Beverly Hills (actually based in Calabasas) had been battered by losses on condominium construction loans. (Business Journal)

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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
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