March 12 -18

Oil Talk: Occidental Petroleum Corp. CEO Ray Irani met with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to discuss resuming oil production in the North African country after an 18-year absence. Los Angeles-based Occidental produced as much as 100,000 barrels a day in Libya before leaving in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. oil companies to halt activities there. President Bush last month lifted a ban on travel to Libya, permitting companies with holdings in the country to enter talks on resuming operations.

Gas Update: L.A. prices took a slight dip last week, according to the weekly survey by the Energy Information Administration, but with oil prices reaching 13-year highs, analysts are projecting even higher prices as the summer driving season nears. For the period ended March 15, the average price of a gallon of self-serve regular was $2.150, down from $2.175 the week before. The national average was $1.724; because of special refinery needs, California gasoline prices are routinely the most expensive in the United States.

KB Earnings: KB Home reported first-quarter net income of $74.2 million, or $1.75 a share, compared with $52.8 million for the like period a year earlier. Revenue for the Los Angeles-based homebuilder rose 24 percent, to $1.35 billion.

MGM Dividend: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. shares rose as much as 10 percent after the movie company said it was considering a "significant one-time dividend" or other plans to return money to shareholders. Several news services reported that MGM was considering a dividend of $6 to $9 a share. That would cost the company $1.4 billion to $2.1 billion, based on about 235 million shares outstanding. About 75 percent of MGM's shares are owned by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.

Buying Insurance: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger contributed more than $1 million from a political committee to help create a ballot measure seeking to revise the state's workers' compensation insurance system. The sum was described as a "down payment" on the expense of gathering the almost 600,000 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot. Supporters are collecting signatures for two measures that would seek to pare insurance costs by limiting what workers can collect for injuries and disabilities. Schwarzenegger has said he wants lawmakers to overhaul the system and save businesses as much as $11 billion on their insurance bills. He's threatened to bypass them and take the issue directly to voters if legislators don't pass his proposals.

Name Change: Hughes Electronics Corp., which is now controlled by Fox Entertainment Group, announced that its name would be changed to DirecTV Group Inc. In addition, the El Segundo-based company has changed its ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange to "DTV," from the current "HS" symbol. Fox is 82-percent owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Prices Steady: The median price of new and existing home sales in L.A. County was $352,000 in February, unchanged from January's level, though still up 24 percent from the year ago period. Sales, meanwhile, fell 3.8 percent from January and were up 2 percent from a year earlier. While analysts generally expect home prices to drop in the coming months, the decline is not expected to be severe because supply is so tight.

Tower Emerges: Tower Records has come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with its creditors, led by London-based Barclays Bank, owning 85 percent of the company.


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