The economy of Los Angeles is driven by international trade, entertainment (television, motion pictures, recorded music), aerospace, technology, petroleum, fashion, apparel and tourism. Los Angeles is also the largest manufacturing centre in the western United States. The contiguous ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together comprise the fifth busiest port in the world and the most significant port in the Western Hemisphere. They are some of the most important ports in the world, and vital to trade within the Pacific Rim. Other significant industries include media production, finance, telecommunications, law, health medicine and transportation. The University of Southern California (USC) is the city's largest private sector employer.
Until the mid-1990s, Los Angeles was home to many major financial institutions in the western United States. Mergers meant reporting to headquarters in other cities. For instance, First Interstate Bancorp merged with Wells Fargo in 1996, Great Western Bank merged with Washington Mutual in 1998, and Security Pacific Bank merged with Bank of America in 1992. Los Angeles was also home to the Pacific Exchange, until it closed in 2001.
The city has six major Fortune 500 companies, including aerospace contractor Northrop Grumman, energy company Occidental Petroleum, healthcare provider Health Net, homebuilding company KB Home, metals distributor Reliance Steel & Aluminum, and real estate group CB Richard Ellis.
Other companies headquartered in Los Angeles include 20th Century Fox, Latham & Watkins, Univision, Metro Interactive, LLC, Premier America, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, DeviantArt, Guess?, O’Melveny & Myers; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, Tokyopop, The Jim Henson Company, Paramount Pictures, Robinsons-May, Sunkist Growers, Incorporated, Fox Sports Net, Capital Group, 21st century Insurance and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Korean Air's United States passenger operations and cargo operations headquarters are located in two separate offices in Los Angeles.
The metropolitan area contains the headquarters of companies who moved outside of the city to escape its taxes but keep the benefits of proximity. For example, Los Angeles charges a gross receipts tax based on a percentage of business revenue, while many neighbouring cities charge only small flat fees.
The companies below benefit from their proximity to Los Angeles, while at the same time avoiding the city's taxes, and other problems. Some of the major companies headquartered in the cities of Los Angeles county are Shakey's Pizza (Alhambra), Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Beverly Hills), City National Bank (Beverly Hills), Hilton Hotels (Beverly Hills), DIC Entertainment (Burbank), The Walt Disney Company (Fortune 500 – Burbank), Warner Bros. (Burbank), Countrywide Financial (Fortune 500 – Calabasas), THQ (Calabasas), Belkin (Compton), Sony Pictures Entertainment (parent of Columbia Pictures, located in Culver City), DirecTV (El Segundo), Mattel (Fortune 500 – El Segundo), Unocal Corporation (Fortune 500 – El Segundo), DreamWorks (Glendale), Sea Launch (Long Beach), ICANN (Marina del Rey), Cunard Line (Santa Clarita), Princess Cruises (Santa Clarita), Activision (Santa Monica) and RAND (Santa Monica).