Tuesday PM November 7th, 2006
by: Ed Mayberry, November 7, 2006 5:11:00 am
An American and a British citizen who were seized by gunmen in Nigeria have been set free. A government official says kidnappers who snatched the men in speedboats along the country's oil-rich coastline last week released them today. The two were taken Thursday from a boat belonging to a Norwegian firm that was working with Chevron to map the seabed for petroleum deposits. The kidnappings were the latest in dozens of seizures targeting Nigeria's troubled oil industry. They've generally ended peacefully, with the hostages released unharmed.
A judge has scolded BP's legal team over letters sent by a company manager to Texas City business leaders. State District Judge Susan Criss said the letters could taint potential jurors in a civil trial the company faces over a deadly explosion at its Texas City plant. The judge said she would check a list of 900 members of the Texas City Chamber of Commerce who received the mailing against residents chosen as potential jurors. Criss said she would fine BP for any potential jurors who received the letter. She also said she would charge BP for the cost of assembling a new jury pool if enough names show up on both lists. The October 31st letter highlighted the company's effort to improve safety and rebuild equipment at the plant. BP spokesman Neil Chapman said the letter was not an attempt to influence jurors. BP's legal team was in court as proceedings got under way in a trial stemming from a civil lawsuit filed by Eva Rowe against the company. Rowe's parents were killed in the 2005 explosion.
A South Korean court again rejected a prosecution request for the arrests of three Lone Star Funds officials. The Seoul Central District Court today said "there's no reason for arrest'' of the three officials of the Dallas-based private equity firm. Last week, the same court rejected a previous prosecution request for arrest warrants for the officials over alleged stock price manipulation. Prosecutors immediately resubmitted the request, which was heard by a different judge. But the result was the same. The court added that the three prosecutors want to detain are unlikely to destroy evidence. Lone Star's been under investigation since March over allegations the fund acted with the former Korean Exchange Bank and government officials to misrepresent the bank's financial health. The alleged aim was to cut Lone Star's purchase price for the lender. Lone Star has consistently denied any wrongdoing and claims the investigations are "politically motivated.'' In May, Lone Star signed a deal to sell its stake in the KEB to South Korea's top lender, Kookmin Bank. But the investigations have prevented the deal from closing.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld U.S. District Judge Sim Lake's October ruling clearing Enron founder Ken Lay's name because of his death before sentencing or appeals. The decision had been challenged by Enron shareholder Russell Butler, who says he will appeal the panel's decision to the Supreme Court. The Justice Department has a civil forfeiture claim against Lay's estate that is pending. The Securities and Exchange Commission also has a civil case against Lay and convicted former CEO Jeff Skilling that has been pending since their indictment in 2004.
Marathon Oil said it will spend $3.2 billion to expand the crude oil refining capacity of its Garyville, Louisiana, refinery that will almost double its refining capacity by late 2007. The refinery is the last one constructed in the United States, completed in 1976. The company says the expansion will add an additional 7.5 million gallons of fuels to the market each day. The expansion will mean 180 to 200 new full-time employees and 50 to 70 new full-time contract employees.
Suburban Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum has posted third-quarter net income up sharply on increased sales and gains from recent acquisitions. Anadarko says net income grew almost 2.5 times to $1.46 billion. That's on 3.5 billion in sales for the period July-to-September period. Anadarko had one of the most active third quarters this year for the oil and gas industry, featuring a mix of growth and major acquisitions and sales.