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Business briefs

Briefs and news of note.

By TIMES STAFF WRITER
Published June 21, 2006


Home, apartment building has upturn

Construction of new homes and apartments, after posting three straight months of declines, increased in May, helped by good weather. The Commerce Department reported that builders started construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.957-million units last month, an increase of 5 percent from the April pace. The better-than-expected increase came after declines of 5.5 percent in April, 7.5 percent in March and 5.9 percent in February.

CEO: Tribune stock buyback will happen

Tribune Co. is proceeding with its $2-billion stock buyback plan despite opposition from the Chandler family and expects to complete it next week, CEO Dennis FitzSimons said Tuesday. Speaking at a newspaper industry conference, FitzSimons stood firm in the media company's showdown with the Chandlers, its second-largest shareholder group, which criticized the repurchase initiative last week. "The tender offer is on track," he said.

Doctors' class-action lawsuit dismissed

A federal judge dismissed remaining claims against two managed health care companies that were sued by a class of more than 600,000 doctors who said the insurers routinely denied or underpaid claims. A U.S. District Judge decided Monday that there was not sufficient evidence to support claims against two remaining defendants in the long-running case, UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Coventry Health Care Inc. The companies were two of 10 managed care companies sued by the doctors in 1999. The others settled for an estimated $646-million.

Electronic age overtaking Lego

Lego Group, whose iconic plastic building blocks have entertained millions of children for more than 70 years, said Tuesday it will be shedding 1,200 of its worldwide jobs to remold itself in an era when kids prefer playing with electronic gadgets. The Danish company plans to close its U.S. manufacturing plant and lay off 300 in early 2007. About 900 job in Denmark will follow over the next three years.

It'll pay to be popular at Home Depot

"Service with a smile" could take on a whole new meaning under Home Depot's new cash incentive program for store employees. The bonus program offers big bucks to stores and certain sales personnel whose stores score high in the retailer's online customer surveys. Employees could earn an extra $2,000 a month - and $10,000 a quarter.