Wellpoint Bids for Aetna Thousand Oaks-based Wellpoint Health Networks Inc. made an offer to buy out Aetna Inc. in a $10.3 billion stock and cash deal. Aetna, which has been on a downturn recently, said it would consider the buyout, which was made by a partnership between Wellpoint and Dutch insurance company ING Groep. If the companies merge, the resulting health care company would be the largest in the nation, with 28.3 million members. Aetna has been under criticism from consumers and investors in recent years. The proposed deal would pay a significant premium to shareholders over Aetna’s current market value. With 21 million customers, Aetna, the nation’s largest health care provider, is a much bigger company than Wellpoint, with just 7.3 million customers. Aetna had $26.5 billion in revenues in 1999, more than three times the revenue of Wellpoint, which was $7.5 billion. A Santa Monica consumers’ group has already condemned the proposal, saying it would mean higher premiums and fewer services for customers. School Split Criticized A proposal to break off Valley schools from the Los Angeles Unified School District was criticized at a public meeting held by the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Reorganization. The 150 people at the meeting were evenly divided over the split. But some parents questioned the proposed district border, saying it would divide the Valley into upper- and lower-class areas and along racial lines. The citizens group Finally Restoring Excellence in Education, or FREE, brought forward the break-up plan to divide the Valley along Roscoe Boulevard into separate north and south districts. Each district would have about 100,000 students. The LAUSD has not taken a position on the secession and Supt. Ramon Cortines is expected to unveil his own reorganization plan for the LAUSD on March 15. The Los Angeles Committee on School District Reorganization must recommend whether a school breakup election should be held. The California Board of Education will make the final decision on such a vote. Judge Urged to Nix Newhall In the first hearings in a lawsuit against Los Angeles County over the proposed Newhall Ranch development, opponents asked the judge to overturn the approval of the project due to alleged flaws in the environmental studies. Ventura County officials and environmentalists sued Newhall Land & Farming Co. in April, claiming that the proposed 21,600-home development will threaten the groundwater supply and wildlife habitats and that environmental studies were inadequate. Attorney for developer Newhall Land, Mark Dillon, argued that the company did a detailed study of the area and possible environmental threats. The two-day hearing on the case was held in Kern County on March 2 and 3, and the judge is expected to issue a ruling in the coming weeks. In an earlier move that angered opponents of the project, officials in the Ventura County city of Fillmore agreed to withdraw the city’s name from the lawsuit in exchange for $300,000 the developer will pay for traffic improvements. Radford Scales Back Project Developer J. Allen Radford scaled back plans for his North Hollywood sound stage and office revitalization project. Radford has dropped sound stages from his plan and cut the project size in half, from 43 to 22 acres. Radford originally proposed in 1998 a $1 billion development with 4.2 million square feet of offices, stores, restaurants and movie theaters; a 300-room hotel; and 10 sound stages. The new plan calls for 1.8 million square feet of office, retail, restaurants and movie theaters; a 250-room hotel; and a health club. The development is planned for land surrounding the North Hollywood subway station on Lankershim and Chandler boulevards. Business and community leaders had asked Radford to scale back the project. Radford said his marketing research convinced him to scale back the plans. Superior Gets New Contract Van Nuys-based Superior Industries International Inc. won a multimillion-dollar contract from Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America Inc. to produce aluminum wheels for two of the carmaker’s models in 2001. The deal could be worth up to $10 million and pave the way for future deals with Mitsubishi. Superior, a maker of aluminum wheels and other vehicle components, already has DaimlerChrysler, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. as customers.