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List/netherby/15 inches/dt1st/mike2nd By JENNIFER NETHERBY Staff Reporter The Valley’s largest public companies turned in a fairly mediocre performance last year. Though nine of the top 15 reported better earnings than in 1997, the biggest company in the Valley, Walt Disney Co., turned in its worst performance in years, and two of the 15 posted a net loss. Disney’s net income in 1998 was down 5.9 percent from the previous year. The Mouse House is by far the biggest company in the Valley. With nearly $23 billion in revenues, it towers over No. 2 Foundation Health Systems, with $8.9 billion. There was no single economic factor causing the lackluster financial performance of some of the Valley’s bigger companies. Disney was hit by poorly performing films and losses from its ABC television network, while Foundation Health, which reported a net loss of $165 million last year, is among many health maintenance organizations struggling through an environment of rising health care costs. For Dole Food Co., the biggest culprit was the weather. El Nino conditions resulted in a glut in banana supply worldwide, plus its plantations in Honduras were devastated by a hurricane. The result was a 92.5 percent decline in net income, from $160 million in 1997 to $12 million in 1998. Despite such problems, the very diversity of these companies from entertainment to health care to agriculture speaks well for the future of the Valley’s economy. “There’s diversity and strength in a couple key sectors,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. “People kill for this type of economic base.” Indeed, the 15 biggest companies in the Valley represent a very wide range of industries, from defense contractors like Litton Industries Inc. to retail chains like Guitar Center Inc. Kyser points to the growing importance of biomedical companies such as Amgen Inc. (No. 6) and Syncor International Corp. (No. 12) as evidence of the growing importance of biotechnology to the Valley economy as well. And of course, despite the companies that did worse than last year, nine fared better. The most impressive performer on the earnings side was Newhall Land & Farming Co., a real estate developer with huge land holdings in the Santa Clarita Valley. Newhall’s net income shot to $64 million last year, up 42.2 percent from 1997. The company benefited from a strong real estate market in 1998, particularly in its home base. The Santa Clarita area has some of the last large developable parcels for new homes, and as more businesses move into the area, more people are opting to live there. Newhall’s main earnings driver was the sale of parcels on the company’s massive Valencia project, which is about three-fourths of the way to total build-out of 23,000 homes on 15,000 acres of land. The company also sold several major properties last year, including its 720,000-square-foot retail center Valencia Marketplace for $111 million in cash. Newhall and Guitar Center, an Agoura Hills-based musical-instrument retailer, also reported the largest jumps in revenue. Newhall reported a 46 percent increase in revenues, from $208 million in 1997 to $305 million in 1998. The Guitar Center saw a 32 percent jump, from $296.7 million in 1997 to $392 million last year. Two companies from last year’s list dropped off. Golden State Bancorp Inc. and Pinkerton’s Inc. were purchased or merged with other companies in the last year. This year’s list was compiled with information supplied by Market Guide Inc., along with online resources and information supplied by company officials. Among the newcomers to the top 15 are E4L, an Encino-based infomercial producer, and Newhall Land, which moved up to No. 14 from No. 20 last year. Said Kyser, “It’s a very impressive roster.”

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