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They gave us the Beatles, so we're giving them . . .

Another slice of American popular culture now appears ready for export, and it seems Home Shopping Network Inc. has missed the boat _ at least for now.

QVC Network Inc. reached an agreement in principle last week with British Sky Broadcasting to start an electronic retailing program for the United Kingdom and much of Europe.

British Sky Broadcasting had also been talking with St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping.

"It's true, we did lose the deal at the last minute, and we don't know how that developed," said Louise Cleary, Home Shopping's spokeswoman. "It doesn't mean we're giving up on that part of the world."

QVC is the primary rival to Home Shopping, though both companies share Denver-based Liberty Media Corp. as a large shareholder.

The European deal reunites media magnate Rupert Murdoch with Barry Diller, who left the Fox Inc. unit of Murdoch's News Corp. last year, then resurfaced as QVC's chairman. News Corp. owns half of British Sky Broadcasting.

The new service would be transmitted from London and would be similar to the programs West Chester, Pa.-based QVC now shows in the United States, selling clothes, jewelry and other consumer goods.

The agreement follows QVC's announcement last month that it would join forces with Grupo Televisa SA to provide home shopping for much of Latin America and Spain in Spanish and for Brazil and Portugal in Portuguese.

Home Shopping said last month in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it was discussing with an affiliate of Liberty the possible expansion of video retailing into international markets.

But even with the QVC news, the European market is "not something we feel we've been totally put out of," Cleary said.


That was some tail wind

on the trip back to Utah

Five small insurance companies have gotten the nod from state regulators to pull out of Florida despite a recently imposed moratorium on insurers by the state.

All five of these insurers argued they must pull out of the state or face insolvency, and the state agreed.

One of the five, Utah Home Fire Insurance Co. of Salt Lake City, did not have a large number of customers in Florida. But it happened to have most of its customers clustered right in the path of Hurricane Andrew.

After the storm, the company faced claims approaching $100-million _ no small sum for the insurer.

Fortunately, the parent of Utah Home stepped in and made good on its losses before asking the state permission to leave.

Its parent? The Mormon Church.


It's this nagging pain

that just won't go away

Business people have many concerns, but foremost among them is workers' compensation.

So says Rep. Peter Wallace, who spoke to business people last week at a breakfast in Tampa hosted by the law firm Trenam Simmons Kemker Scharf Barkin Frye & O'Neill.

Wallace, D-St. Petersburg, who will be the next speaker of the state House, said he hears frequently from business owners and employers. While they express concern over a number of issues, such as health care, taxes and government regulation, workers' compensation leads the list.

He said that if the Legislature returns for a special session in September _ which appears likely _ it will scrutinize Florida's growing insurance problem.

But he indicated property and casualty insurance _ which Wallace said is near a state of collapse _ will be the top priority. There may not be time for workers' comp.

The enormously complex system has been torn apart and rebuilt more than once by state lawmakers. Each time costs have started spiraling out of control shortly after the reform.

"Workers' comp has been one of those systems where we've tried reform but still have a long way to go," Wallace said.

Lawmakers may address the issue at the end of the special session, he said.


Yeah, but their burgers

must taste like cardboard

If you're looking for a great stock, you might want to try hunting in your own backyard _ but then again, you might not.

Office Depot Inc., the office supply chain based in Delray Beach, wins a ringing endorsement from Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. "The deep-discount office superstore business is in its infancy, ripe to capture more trade from smaller stores," says the July issue, which features a state-by-state investment tour.

However, two other Florida stocks had the distinction of making a Wall Street Journal list of "super-pricey" stocks. Outback Steakhouse Inc. and Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. were included in last week's report on stocks trading at "sky-high multiples" of earnings, sales and book value. The stocks could be vulnerable if spectacular earnings gains taper off, the newspaper said.