Explaining Southern California's economy

United Technologies is selling very-cool-named Rocketdyne

Mercer 10129

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

This Feb. 12, 2009 photo shows buildings at the old Rocketdyne facility, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, in the Simi Valley area near Los Angeles.

You'd have to work pretty hard to find a company with a cooler name and cooler history than Rocketdyne, located in Canoga Park, Calif. The firm makes rocket engines and has, under its own (cool) name since the mid-1950s. Now it's being sold by parent United Technologies, so that UT can spend $16.5 billion to buy Goodrich Corp.

Rocketdyne is currently part of Pratt & Whitney and is no stranger to getting passed around. The sale is also a good example of how even relatively sold companies like United Technologies (market cap: around $78 billion) need to go through some gyrations to grow. 

According to Businessweek, UT wanted to sell $4 billion in new stock to fund its purchase of Goodrich, but it's now going to sell assets, including Rocketdyne, and issue a pile of new debt. Given that the assets sales are likely to raise only about $3 billion, UT might have had to take on new debt anyway. But there's no mention in press reports of using stock for the transaction, so this is looking pretty much like a cash-and-debt deal.


Say goodbye to Arco in Southern California

Mercer 20324

David McNew/Getty Images

An Arco gas station in Pasadena. It won't be around for much longer.

This just in — really! BP has informed operators of its Arco stations in Southern California that it won't be renewing leases with Thrifty Oil, which owns the current Arco sites, according to the OC Register. Arco has been in SoCal for 46 years and currently occupies 257 locations, so this is no small deal. USA Gasoline will take their place.

USA Gasoline is owned by Tesoro, which is more of a refiner that sells its gas at its own locations, along the lines of Valero. BP of course is a vast multinational energy company whose core business is oil extraction.

There's another wrinkle to the story, in this period of steep gas prices in our region. From the OC Register:

The move by BP has set off a firestorm of protest among the 106 Arco franchisees, many of whom own multiple stations and stand to lose their entire investment. About 2,000 Arco workers also will lose their jobs

It also raises questions about what will happen to gasoline prices when Arco, known as the low-price leader, is no longer in the market.


New iPad reveals Apple's customers-last sales strategy

Ipad Fanatic

Ashley Bailey/KPCC

Laverne Mirley of Monrovia was one of the first to get her hands on a new iPad in Pasadena. Her grandson held her a spot in line all night outside the Apple Store on Colorado Blvd.

Just in case you've spent the last 24 hours sleeping under an old iBook G4, the NEW Apple iPad hit Apple Stores today. One man reportedly waited in line for week, presumably to pick up the 4G-enabled 64GB tablet with the awesome retina display screen (price: $829).

Classic Apple, in the Greatest Company on Earth Era. The entry level iPad 2 (WiFi only) even went on sale for $399. But unless you're a completely blinkered Apple devotee, you have to ask yourself why Apple waited until now to launch what we're not supposed to call the iPad 2S or the iPad 3, because Apple wants us to henceforth refer to the iPad only as an iPad, better to avoid the generation-creep that plagues the iPhone, version 5 of which is expected to arrive this summer. 

The iPad, old and wizened as the device is since its appearance in 2010, traditionally sees a new model in March. This provides Apple with a nine-month period in which to sell the device, capping what has up to this point been a veritable frenzy with the holiday season. It then holds on for a year and squeezes every last sale is can out of the current generation of the device before pulling the trigger on the upgrade following holiday season number two.


Did Goldman Sachs get a back-door bailout during the financial crisis?

Goldman Sachs has been much in the news the past few days, what with Greg Smith's Muppets op-ed and the passing of the Fed's stress tests. Now Hank Greenberg, the former head of AIG who saw the firm he built completely destroyed during the financial crisis, comes pretty close to accusing Goldman of fraud, in the above clip from Bloomberg TV. He also says Goldman got a back-door bailout during the financial crisis — at the terminal expense of AIG. 

Worth watching, just to see what an old Wall Street hand — one no stranger to controversy himself — thinks of the new Wall Street.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.


Sorry, small business — liquor stores can increase crime

Boyle Heights

Grant Slater/KPCC

A group of activists say there are too many liquor stores in Boyle Heights.

KPCC's Ruxandra Guidi did a story on Tuesday about Boyle Heights and its liquor store problem. To summarize, a group of activists believes that the concentration of liquor stores in the neighborhood is far too high, that this leads to crime, and that the issuance of new liquor licenses should be limited.

Initially I thought this was a good example of the vice league standing in the way of market forces — and small business, to boot! There may be a lot of liquor stores in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood east of Downtown L.A., but they pay taxes and probably employ one or several people in addition to the owner. True, they may be preying on the area. But then again, if you want to open a liquor store or establishment that serves alcohol, you want to go where the customers are.

However, this is one of those cases where the public good trumps the free market. Some undated research done by Kathryn Stewart of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation demonstrates that there's a link between alcohol outlet density and violence: