POSSIBLE MERGER: Live Nation Inc. and Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. were said to be in merger talks. The combined company would be called Live Nation Ticketmaster, according to one report, and would be able to offer management of everything from recorded music to ticket sales and tour sponsorships. The deal, which likely would face antitrust scrutiny, would create a music industry powerhouse with a combined market value of more than $700 million. Live Nation is based in Beverly Hills. Ticketmaster is based in West Hollywood.

NEW PARTNERSHIP: Ryland Group Inc. and Oaktree Capital Management LLC have formed a limited liability company to acquire and develop distressed residential real estate projects. The new company will take advantage of the Calabasas-based homebuilder's real estate development expertise, but has struggled since the end of the boom. An L.A.-based hedge fund, Oaktree Capital has more than $55 billion in assets under management and is known for investing in distressed sectors.

JOB CUTS: THQ Inc. said it plans to cut nearly one-quarter of its work force in response to a slowing market for its video games. The Agoura Hills company said it would reduce staff by 600 people by fiscal 2010 and trim spending by $220 million. THQ also reported a third quarter net loss of nearly $192 million, compared with net income of $15.5 million a year ago. Revenue fell 30 percent to $357 million.

STRIKE AVERTED: Southern California Gas Co. reached a tentative contract accord with union negotiators, averting a strike by most of its 7,600 employees. SoCal Gas, the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, and Local 132 of the Utility Workers Union of America agreed on a new three-year labor contract, which still must be approved by the membership later this month.

MERGER TROUBLES: Image Entertainment Inc. said Nyx Acquisitions Inc. was in breach of a merger agreement between the two companies because it failed to make a required $1.3 million payment by Jan. 20. The Chatsworth-based home entertainment distributor said it was considering options, including terminating the deal, because San Francisco-based Nyx didn't make the deadline payment. Image agreed to sell itself to Nyx for $60.2 million in cash, plus assumption of debt, in November.

CHECKING IN: Hilton Hotels Corp., which last month announced it was leaving Beverly Hills, said it had chosen Fairfax County, Va., as its new corporate home. Hilton, which wants to lower its cost of doing business, said the state and county offered incentives valued at $4.6 million in cash grants and other incentives. Hilton said it plans to spend at least $17 million in the move and create more than 300 full-time jobs in Fairfax County within the next 36 months.

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