Thursday October 13th, 2005

Hurricane-related job losses approach half-million...Forbes includes 22 Texas and seven Houston companies in "Best Small Companies for 2005" list...

The Labor Department says the number of people who have lost their jobs because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita jumped to 438,000 last week. That's as the economic shockwaves from the nation's costliest natural disasters continue to be felt six weeks after Katrina careened across the Gulf Coast. The Labor Department reported that an additional 75,000 hurricane-related claims were filed last week. That's out of a nationwide total of 389,000 new claims for unemployment benefits. Government analysts say Katrina, which hit near New Orleans on August 29th, was still accounting for more layoffs than Rita, which came ashore near the Texas-Louisiana border on September 24th.


American Eagle has canceled 558 scheduled flights this month in the face of rising jet fuel costs. In canceling the flights, the regional affiliate of American Airlines looked at markets where there were several daily flights. The airline didn't eliminate service to any cities. American Eagle spokesman Dave Jackson says the airline's action mirrors that of American, which announced it was temporarily cutting 15 round trips in markets it serves from its two largest hubs, Chicago O'Hare and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airports. Jackson says the move is the latest in fuel-conservation efforts by American Eagle. The cancellations cover a period from October 5th through October 29th.


Prosecutors say two Duke Energy traders falsely recorded $50 million in trades to generate multimillion-dollar bonuses in 2001, but defense lawyers say the defendants were scapegoats. Timothy Kramer and Todd Reid are accused of recording profitable natural gas and electricity trades in Duke's mark-to-market book while recording unprofitable trades in the accrual book. Assistant U. S. Attorney James Powers says that allowed for profits to be recognized immediately while deferring losses for the future. But defense attorney Jack Zimmerman says company policy and accounting guidelines allowed Kramer and Reid to do what they did for business reasons that did not violate any laws.


The Forbes magazine "Best Small Companies for 2005" includes 22 Texas companies. Seven companies on the list are in the Houston area. Cal Dive International ranks 27th on the list, and Southwestern Energy is number 49. East Houston-based Hydril comes in at number 52, and Houston Exploration is 79th on the list. Woodlands-based Tetra Technologies ranks 123rd. Placing at number 128 is US Physical Therapy, and Kirby is at number 190. The magazine says the ranking features solid and consistent companies that have performed well and are poised for another growth spurt. Members must have revenue between $5 million and $750 million, net profit margins greater than 5% and share prices above $5 as of the end of September.


Texas ranks 11th among the states for being friendly to entrepreneurs, according to the Houston Business Journal. The index, created by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, analyzes 26 major government-imposed or government-related costs affecting small businesses and entrepreneurs, including an assortment of taxes.


Sterling Construction has won the bidding to reconstruct the shoulders and rehabilitate the existing main lanes on Loop 410 from FM 1346 to the I-35 corridor in San Antonio. The year-long project begins in January 2006. Sterling specializes in municipal and state highway contracts for paving, bridge, water and sewer and light rail projects.


Apache and Amerada Hess have agreed to $817 million in deals involving acquisitions and sales of assets in the Mediterranean Sea and the Permian Basin. Apache is selling its 55 percent stake in the deepwater section of an Egyptian concession to New York-based Amerada Hess in a $413 million deal. Amerada is selling its stakes in eight fields in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico for $404 million.


Offshore drilling contractor Transocean says two of its drilling rigs have been awarded multimillion-dollar contracts from Statoil and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Limited of India. Statoil has a one-year, $133 million contract for operations offshore Norway. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation has a three-year, $345 million contract for operations offshore India.

Transocean is repairing two drilling rigs damaged during recent hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. The mooring system of its Marianas rig was damaged during Hurricane Rita, and will be repaired at a Brownsville shipyard. The Deepwater Nautilus also sustained mooring system damage and lost about 3,200 feet of marine riser and a portion of its subsea well control system during Hurricane Katrina.


Revolution Health Group, led by American Online co-founder Steve Case, has purchased a minority stake in Houston-based InterFit Health, which provides health screenings and immunizations in retail outlets and at employer worksites. The Washington, D.C.-based company's board of directors includes former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. This fall, InterFit is offering flu shots to shoppers in every Wal-Mart and Sam's Club in the United States.


Fans of Martha Stewart can now live in one of her homes. Los Angeles-based homebuilder KB Home has reached a deal with Stewart's company to build 650 homes in suburban Raleigh, North Carolina, that are designed by the home decor maven. KB Home Chairman and CEO Bruce Karatz says the company and Stewart also plan to build similar developments in Houston and Atlanta. The deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed, allows both Stewart and KB to expand into new areas. Stewart's touch, beyond design and architecture, is to be found in a variety of appointments, including flooring, cabinetry and countertops. Los Angeles-based KB Homes and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia hope to expand the concept if this development goes well. In a statement, the companies say single-family homes will be priced from around $200,000 to more than $400,000. The home designs are to be inspired by Stewart's own homes in New York and Maine. Model homes are scheduled to be completed early next year.


The University of Houston-Downtown ranks at number 35 among the Top 50 campuses for wireless Internet capability, according to a new Intel survey. Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana is the nation's "most unwired campus." Intel's study shows nearly three-quarters of schools in the Top 50 have 100 percent wireless coverage on campus--up from 14 percent last year.


The Baylor College of Medicine nanomedicine center has been awarded part of a $42 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. Baylor's Center for Protein Folding Machinery is one of four nanomedicine development centers to share in the grant. The Institute says the centers will gather information on the operations of molecular structures, processes and networks used by living cells. The data will aid in the building of synthetic biological tools at the nano scale to correct defects in unhealthy cells.


Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...