Arco Selling Alaskan Fields

Atlantic Richfield Co. agreed to sell its Alaskan oil fields to Phillips Petroleum Co., prompting federal antitrust regulators to postpone a lawsuit blocking the $27 billion merger of Arco and BP Amoco.

Sale of the fields by Los Angeles-based Arco could generate up to $7 billion.

The FTC had argued that the combined ownership by BP Amoco and Arco of about 70 percent of Alaskan North Slope production would hurt competition and boost oil and gasoline prices on the West Coast.

Alaska supplies about 40 percent of the crude oil used by refineries on the West Coast, where gasoline prices are the highest in the country.

LAUSD Shakeup Proposed

Interim Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines unveiled a reorganization plan that significantly reduces the district's huge central office and shifts power over budget and instruction to 11 new sub-districts.

The plan calls for the 2,000-employee central office to shrink by 843 positions, or about 40 percent. Department heads and many mid-level bureaucrats would be forced to compete for new administrative jobs and those who don't make the cut would be sent back to schools as teachers, principals and deans.

If approved by the Board of Education, the plan would take effect July 1, the same day a new superintendent is due to take over.

Tobacco Money Won't Be Spent

The L.A. City Council rejected Mayor Richard Riordan's proposal to use $300 million in tobacco settlement money to compensate victims in the Rampart corruption scandal.

The council voting 10 to 1 decided instead to set up a special savings account and use judgment obligation bonds to pay for legal settlements, which are expected to top $125 million.

Council members argued that using tobacco settlement money to pay off Rampart claims would be fiscally irresponsible, and could end up costing more than using a special fund or floating judgment bonds.

Terminal Agreement Reached

The Port of Long Beach signed an agreement with a major South Korean shipping line to operate a 375-acre cargo terminal on the site of the former Long Beach Naval Station.

That site was the focus of a bitter fight two years ago when the port tried to lease the historic base to a firm owned by the Chinese government.

The deal with the Hanjin Shipping Co. will create the largest cargo terminal at the port. Within five years, port officials said, Long Beach Harbor will have five huge container terminals, ranging in size from 200 acres to 400 acres. It now has eight container terminals of 60 to 170 acres.

Mall Facelift Proposed

A developer has proposed a $140 million expansion and refurbishing of Valley Plaza in North Hollywood, one of the San Fernando Valley's oldest outdoor shopping centers, with 828,000 square feet of new stores, theaters and office buildings.

The plan by J.H. Snyder Co. is aimed at reviving the 47-acre center, parts of which were heavily damaged in the Northridge quake, and which, aside from a popular Sears store, has had trouble keeping many of its storefronts filled.

The development company, selected by the Community Redevelopment Agency, proposed leaving the Sears store and a historic Wells Fargo Bank clock tower and expanding an existing Ralphs supermarket, but demolishing some of the other buildings before constructing new stores and offices.

Housing Affordability Declines

The percentage of Californians who can afford to buy homes fell last year to its lowest level since 1992, after holding steady for three years, the California Association of Realtors said.

In Los Angeles County, only 39 of 100 households could afford to pay the median price, the point at which half of home sale prices are higher and half lower.

Elsewhere in Southern California, the survey found rates either stagnant or worsening. They ranged from Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where the affordability index fell to 53 percent, to Orange County, where it dropped to 34 percent its lowest level since 1991.

Occidental Buying Exploratory Unit

Occidental Petroleum Corp. agreed to buy Altura Energy Ltd., a U.S. oil exploration joint venture of BP Amoco and Shell Oil Co., for $3.6 billion as part of a strategy to acquire older U.S. fields and boost their production.

Altura is the largest oil and natural gas producer in the Permian Basin of western Texas and eastern New Mexico, and has proven reserves of about 850 million barrels of oil and gas, though the fields' production is falling.

Westwood-based Occidental will develop reservoirs that BP Amoco and Shell have neglected.

Rocket Launch Fails

A Sea Launch rocket carrying a $100 million British telecommunications satellite failed moments after being launched from a floating platform near the equator.

It was only the third launch for the Boeing Co.-led venture based in Long Beach that uses a converted ocean-going oil rig as a launch pad. It successfully launched a dummy satellite a year ago and a DirecTV satellite in October.

The firm is competing in the growing commercial space business using its floating platform instead of a traditional land-based launch site. The lost satellite was built by Hughes Space and Communications in El Segundo.

Jacobs Settles Lawsuit

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. will pay $35 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the Pasadena firm improperly billed the U.S. government on contracts involving mostly environmental cleanup, the U.S. attorney said.

The suit claimed Jacobs made unallowable charges on cost reimbursement contracts with the military, Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency and NASA. Although it settled, Jacobs denies the allegations.

The action was filed under seal in 1997 as a "whistle-blower" suit by former Jacobs worker Edwin Bond. The U.S. Attorney's Office later joined the suit.

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