Newsletter: California Inc.: Anyone in the market for a slightly used search engine?

Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.

Expect financial markets to face headwinds today after the Federal Reserve reported Friday that U.S. industrial production fell more than expected in March. This is the latest sign that economic growth slowed significantly in the first quarter. On the plus side, though, many economists still forecast a rebound in growth as the year plods ahead.



Tax deadline: Monday is the deadline for most Americans to submit their tax returns. Don’t complain — you got three extra days this year. The normal deadline, April 15, was a holiday — Emancipation Day — in the District of Columbia (Emancipation Day is actually April 16, but because that fell on a Saturday, the holiday was observed Friday). That bumped the tax deadline to Monday. And, if you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you get even one more day, since Monday is Patriots’ Day, a legal holiday in those states that has nothing to do with Tom Brady.

Immigrants: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments over President Obama’s controversial plan to offer temporary relief and work permits to as many as 5 million immigrants who have been living in the U.S. illegally. California business leaders told the court in a brief that those illegally in the country, many of them farm and manufacturing workers, are key components of the state’s economy. Texas officials, however, have complained of the burden imposed by immigrants on that state.

One to watch: Netflix, the popular movie-streaming and DVD-by-mail service, releases its first-quarter earnings Monday. Wall Street will be watching closely to see whether the Los Gatos company can continue growing its subscriber base in the face of intensifying competition from the likes of Hulu and Amazon Prime. Netflix currently boasts 75 million customers worldwide.

Emissions scandal: Volkswagen and environmental regulators face a Thursday deadline to present a plan for fixing nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the United States involved in the carmaker’s emissions-cheating scandal. The parties must present the plan to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco. Breyer is presiding over hundreds of class-action lawsuits filed against Volkswagen, which also faces fines and penalties from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board and other agencies.


Climate change: Representatives of about 130 countries, including the United States and China, will gather at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday to sign the so-called Paris Agreement, which contains pledges to reduce environment-damaging emissions. The participation of the U.S. and China is considered critical as they are the world’s biggest carbon emitters. The long-term goal of the accord is to limit the average global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius.


Monday’s Business section looks at how there’s no whoopee for Yahoo. After a rough decade that saw the Sunnyvale company lose the battle for search to Google, churn through half a dozen CEOs and largely miss out on tech’s move to mobile, the company finally sought “strategic alternatives” earlier this year — corporate-speak that meant it was looking for a buyer. Bids are due today.


Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:

Shell game: Central Valley nut growers are being hit by thieves disguised as legitimate truckers. Thirty-one heists were reported last year, a $9-million rural crime wave that has caught California’s lucrative nut industry and its cargo shippers off guard. “We basically handed the load over to the driver,” one grower said. “It wasn’t a robbery. It was a legitimate pickup by a fictitious trucking company. It’s fraud. There was no violence; there was nothing.” Farmers, processors and shippers are now holding emergency meetings to address the problem.

Aiming to organize: As fast-food and other low-wage workers continue pushing for a $15 minimum wage, the Fight for $15 campaign in California will be shifting its focus to another goal: unionizing. “I have three children, and I want them to do better than me,” said Albina Ardon, 28, a Los Angeles resident who has worked as a cashier at a McDonald’s in Jefferson Park for 10 years. In a statement, the National Restaurant Assn. said unions are unnecessary because the jobs typically are just a starting point in the industry.

Sew sad: American Apparel is laying off hundreds of workers and retooling its production process — and it may start making some of its clothing outside Los Angeles. So far, about 500 local employees have lost their jobs, said Nativo Lopez, a senior advisor with Hermandad Mexicana, which is helping workers in unionizing efforts. The company has about 4,600 employees in Southern California. American Apparel emerged from bankruptcy in February and has been trying to move past a tumultuous two years that saw the ouster of founder Dov Charney, store closures and massive fire sales to clear unsold merchandise.


Cable merger: Charter Communications’ blockbuster deal to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks cleared a major hurdle when a California administrative judge recommended approval of the deal. The proposed $67-billion plan would make Charter the dominant pay-TV and Internet service provider in Southern California, with more than 2 million customer homes. The Public Utilities Commission is tentatively scheduled to vote on the matter May 12. Federal approval also is needed.

Hoop dreams: In the hours before Kobe Bryant’s last game, they dined with Rick Fox, shot jumpers with D’Angelo Russell and posed for photos with Bryant himself. For the Chinese tourists who paid as much as $10,000 for the privilege, the vacation package provided exclusive access to current and former Lakers they’ve come to idolize. For the talent agents who put together the junket and the athletes who offered their time, it was a chance to develop relationships — and build a brand — with some of China’s biggest spenders.


And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

Falling apart: The New Yorker examines the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. “Today, we spend significantly less, as a share of G.D.P., on infrastructure than we did 50 years ago — less, even, than 15 years ago,” it points out.

Same old song: Just as Napster once devastated the record industry, Bloomberg says, “Many asset managers are now facing a similar situation as more investors make the switch from high-priced, actively managed mutual funds to passive, low-cost, exchange-traded funds and index funds.”

Urban inequality: Quartz runs down a ranking of the U.S. cities that offer the best opportunities for women, based on factors such as the number of women in managerial positions and technical jobs. L.A., sadly, isn’t anywhere near the top of the list, which is led by Sacramento.

Raw deal: The Tampa Bay Times hits one out of the park as the paper’s food critic exposes the deceit behind the farm-to-table movement. “More often than not,” the paper said of restaurants claiming local suppliers, “those things are fairy tales.”


Don’t go changing: Do opposites truly attract? Not so much, says Priceonomics. “People generally date and marry partners who are like them in terms of social class, educational background, race, personality and, of course, attractiveness,” it says. Online dating just reinforces this.


At this point, I could serve up Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” and be done with it. But as a public service, here instead is that 1950 instructional classic, “What To Do On A Date.” Join Nick as he learns how to show Kay a good time.

For the latest money news, go to Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.

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