Home Sales Surging

A sudden burst of home buying in late May led to stronger-than-expected monthly sales and higher prices throughout Los Angeles County, as confident shoppers ignored early signs of economic slowing.

Monthly sales of new homes in the county were the strongest for any May in 11 years, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Overall, the number of homes sold jumped 5.6 percent from May of last year to 10,119 this year. The typical home price rose a modest 2 percent to $194,000, according to the report.

In April, sales had fallen sharply from the year-earlier month, leading real estate experts to speculate that the market might be reaching a turning point after several years of high growth. But apparently the market was only catching its breath before sprinting ahead again.

Funding Secured by eToys

In a sign of the difficulty e-commerce companies face in getting additional funding, struggling Internet retailer eToys Inc. raised about $100 million but on terms less favorable than its May 1999 initial public stock offering and a subsequent financing last December.

The cash infusion from a group of institutional investors led by Promethean Asset Management will finance Santa Monica-based eToys through fall 2001, according to company officials.

But the convertible preferred-share issue to Promethean and two other private equity funds could result in them eventually owning anywhere from 4 percent to 13 percent of the company.

Earlier in the week, eToys agreed to pay $1.6 million in stock to buy eParties, an online party-planning site that was on the verge of shutting down.

Northrop Makes Deals

Northrop Grumman Corp. agreed to sell its commercial aerostructures division, which makes fuselages and other parts mostly for Boeing Co. jets, to privately held Carlyle Group for $843 million in cash and securities.

The deal wasn't a surprise, because Century City-based Northrop Grumman had said in April that it was in talks to shed the struggling operation, and Carlyle, which has ownership stakes in several aerospace and defense companies, reportedly was one of the suitors.

Separately, Northrop Grumman agreed to buy Comptek Research Inc., a small maker of electronic warfare simulators, for about $160 million of Northrop Grumman stock. Comptek, with annual revenue of $145 million, is based in Buffalo, N.Y.

Global Reportedly Eyeing Equant

Global Crossing Ltd., France Telecom and others were reportedly in various stages of merger talks with Amsterdam-based communications firm Equant N.V.

Sources say the discussions are furthest along with France Telecom, which was exclusively negotiating with Equant until last week.

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