The Buzz On Business

GOTTSCHALKS SELLS ONE OF TWO LA-AREA STORES: Fresno-based Gottschalks Inc. announced Thursday that it had signed an agreement to sell a store it owns in Palmdale's Antelope Valley Mall, but it will continue to operate another store it leases in the same mall. Gottschalks will sell the store to Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises, which owns the mall. The sale will leave Gottschalks with 57 stores in six Western states, including eight in the San Joaquin Valley. In Palmdale, Gottschalks will consolidate operations from the 105,000-square-foot store it is selling into its other 92,000-square-foot store in the mall, said Jim Famalette, Gottschalks chairman and chief executive. He would not disclose the price of the sale. Gottschalks reported a $14.4 million loss for fiscal year 2007, its first annual loss in five years, and lost $5.1 million in the first quarter of this year. Gottschalks has attributed those losses to the slowing economy.

FEDS ACCUSE COMPANY OF FIXING OIL PRICES: Federal regulators accused a Dutch trading firm, its chief executive and two other top employees Thursday of manipulating energy futures contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission alleged Optiver Holding BV attempted to manipulate light sweet crude oil, New York Harbor heating oil and New York Harbor gasoline futures contracts during March 2007. The defendants tried to manipulate prices 19 times and succeeded in causing artificial prices on five occasions, earning about $1 million in profit, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New York. Regulators asked a judge to impose monetary penalties, restitution and other restrictions.

McCLATCHY QUARTERLY REVENUE, EARNINGS DROP: Newspaper publisher McClatchy Co.'s second-quarter earnings tumbled 44 percent as ad revenue continued to shrink in its key markets. McClatchy, whose papers include the Miami Herald and The Sacramento Bee, said Thursday that the market for ad spending will not improve until the current economic slump abates. In the latest quarter, the Sacramento-based company, which also owns The Modesto Bee and Merced-Sun Star, said net income fell to $19.7 million, or 24 cents per share, from $35.2 million, or 43 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue dropped 16 percent to $489.7 million, McClatchy reported.

SATELLITE RADIO MERGER IMMINENT: Approval of a merger of the nation's two satellite radio companies was imminent Thursday after the pair agreed to pay $19.7 million to settle charges they violated federal rules. Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.'s proposed $3.6 billion buyout of rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. has been before the Federal Communications Commission for 16 months. The five-member commission is deadlocked at 2-2, but Republican Deborah Taylor Tate was expected to cast the deciding vote approving the deal once a consent decree is circulated for a vote. The FCC reached an agreement late Wednesday in which XM will pay $17.5 million and Sirius will pay $2.2 million to resolve interference complaints and violations related to land-based signal repeaters operated by the companies. The Justice Department approved the deal in March without conditions, saying the companies don't compete because customers must buy equipment that is exclusive to either XM or Sirius, and subscribers rarely switch providers.

ALLSTATE PROFIT LOSSES CAUSING WORRY: After a 98 percent drop in Allstate Corp.'s second-quarter profit, analysts expressed concern over the future of the insurer's life insurance segment and the inherent risk in its investment portfolio. Late Tuesday, the Northbrook, Ill.-based company reported net income below Wall Street's estimates because of a record level of second-quarter catastrophe losses. Also, the company said its net investment income declined 14 percent because of exposure to certain real estate and financial services-related assets, and operating income from its life insurance segment declined as well.


Figuratively Speaking

28: Percentage of Americans who say they will be able to retire comfortably, according to a study released by Bankrate Inc.

33: Percentage who say they'll have just enough finances to get by when retired

70: Percentage who say they have set low expectations about their retirement prospects