TOY DEAL: Mattel Inc. has announced it would buy HIT Entertainment, the company behind Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder, for $680 million in cash. The El Segundo toymaker is buying London-based HIT from a consortium led by private-equity firm Apax Partners. The deal is Mattel’s biggest acquisition in about a decade. The company already markets die-cast and plastic toys of Thomas & Friends characters under a license that has produced global sales of more than $150 million.

DOUR OUTLOOK: Optimism about the future among business owners and executives in Los Angeles County has plunged in the past eight months, according to a new BizPulse survey by the Los Angeles County Business Federation. The poll found that less than one-third of the respondents believe the economy will get better in the next six months, a significant drop from the beginning of the year. A rare bright spot in the survey is that only 10 percent of respondents plan to lay off workers in the near future, down from 20 percent earlier this year. But only 21 percent believe they’ll be able to increase their work force in the next few months.

JOBLESS RATE: L.A. County’s unemployment rate dropped slightly last month to 12.4 percent as teachers and other school personnel returned to work and local governments increased hiring. September’s seasonally adjusted rate compared with a year-earlier rate of 12.9 percent and August’s 12.5 percent. Educational and health services led all industries with a year-over-year job gain of 14,500. Construction saw the largest decline, down 3,900 jobs.

IPO: Rentech Nitrogen Partners LP announced the launch of an initial public offering that could raise roughly $300 million. The Rentech Inc. spinoff was formed in July by the L.A. alternative energy developer to own, operate and expand its companion nitrogen fertilizer business in the Midwest, while Rentech Inc. continues to commercialize its technology for creating cleaner-burning jet fuel from plant-based biomass. The offering will be for 15 million common units, with an anticipated share price of between $19 and $21. After the IPO, Rentech Inc. will indirectly own common units that represent about 60 percent ownership of Rentech Nitrogen.

IRISH CLOUD: J 2 Global Communications Inc. has acquired the online backup business of C Infinity, a Dublin, Ireland, provider of online data backup and hosting services for businesses. It’s the third such deal in the past 12 months for the L.A. provider of outsourced Internet fax, voice and e-mail services. J2 said the deal moves it toward the goal of becoming a one-stop shop for cloud services for business. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

GENETIC ACQUISITION: Arrowhead Research Corp. has expanded its genetic medicine business by acquiring the U.S.-based gene-silencing unit of Swiss drugmaker Roche. The Pasadena nanotech health care holding company said the deal gives it three drug-delivery technologies and all of Roche’s RNA interference operations and facilities in Madison, Wis. As part of the deal, Roche took a stake in Arrowhead, and also has the right to negotiate products, milestone payments and royalties on sales. Other terms were not disclosed.

TELECOM MERGER: U.S. TelePacific Corp. has completed its acquisition of Austin, Texas, communications company Tel West Network Services Corp. The L.A. communications and network services company, which does business as TelePacific Communications, said the deal allows it to enter the enterprise market in Texas. Tel West provides Internet, data and voice communications services to businesses in six metro areas in the Lone Star State. Terms were not disclosed. The combined company’s headquarters will be in TelePacific’s L.A. office.

IRISH PROPERTIES: Kennedy Wilson Holdings Inc. is purchasing a distressed commercial loan portfolio from Bank of Ireland for $1.8 billion with the aid of institutional partners that reportedly include Toronto insurer Fairfax Financial Holdings and L.A. investment management firm Capital Group Cos. The Beverly Hills real estate company, which in June acquired the bank’s real estate investment unit, said the portfolio is secured by high-quality London-based office, multifamily and retail properties. The deal will increase the estimated value of assets under Kennedy Wilson’s management to $12 billion.

EARNINGS: Occidental Petroleum Corp. reported third quarter net income of $1.77 billion, 50 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 26 percent to $6 billion. … Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. reported third quarter net income of $84.9 million, 74 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 29 percent to $2.14 billion. … Amgen Inc. reported third quarter income of $454 million, 60 percent lower than in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 3 percent to $3.9 billion. … Avery Dennison Corp. reported third quarter net income of $51.5 million, 22 percent lower than in the same period a year earlier. Revenue sales rose 3.6 percent to $1.7 billion. … DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. reported third quarter net income of $19.7 million, 51 percent lower than in the same period a year earlier. Revenue fell 15 percent to less than $161 million. … OSI Systems Inc. reported fiscal first quarter net income of $4.76 million, 40 percent higher than the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 25 percent to more than $161 million. … Skechers USA Inc. reported third quarter net income of $8.3 million, 77 percent lower than in the same period a year earlier. Sales fell 25 percent to $412 million. (See story, page 5.) … Staar Surgical Co. reported third quarter net income of $77,000, compared with a net loss of $1.2 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 16 percent to $15.3 million. … Teledyne Technologies Inc. reported third quarter net income of $34.1 million, 13 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 21 percent to more than $496 million. … CBRE Group Inc. reported third quarter net income rose of $63.8 million, 12 percent higher than in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose 21 percent to $1.53 billion.

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