Tuesday AM November 28th, 2006

Economic reports due this week...ConocoPhillips to construct North Sea pipeline...Apache Corporation wins approval to build fourth processing facility in Egypt...

The Thanksgiving lull for economic reports continued Monday with nothing on the horizon. But just wait for today. First up will be October Durable Goods Orders from the Commerce Department. After a more than eight-percent rise in September, Briefing.com is forecasting a decline of six percent. The Conference Board will weigh-in with November Consumer Confidence. October's survey found job worries offsetting a drop in gas prices. Also today, we'll get another look at how bad the housing market is. The National Association of Realtors will report on October's existing home sales. September saw the slowest pace since January of 2004. On Wednesday, look for the Commerce Department to report on sales of new homes last month. And automakers report November sales on Friday.

Houston-based ConocoPhillips has signed a $60 million deal with UK-based Acergy to construct a North Sea oil pipeline. Construction begins this month, continuing through the third quarter of 2007.

ConocoPhillips is replacing Lucent Technologies on Standard & Poor's 100 listing after the close of trading on November 30th. The change is because of Lucent's pending acquisition by Alcatel. IAC/InterActiveCorp will replace Lucent on the S&P 500.

Angleton-based Benchmark Electronics has received federal antitrust approval for its $300 million purchase of Minnesota-based Pemstar. The deal will merge the customer bases of both firms. Both companies sell electronics manufacturing services worldwide.

The proposed merger of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis and Dallas-based Trammell Crow has been given the green light by the Federal Trade Commission. The $1.79 billion merger will create a company with about $4.4 billion in annual revenue. Both companies have extensive holdings in the Houston real estate market.

The U.S. Supreme Court is pressing both sides on how hard should it be to get evidence that a company might be violating antitrust laws? The case is Bell Atlantic versus Twombly. The matter stems from deregulation of the telecommunications industry in the 1980s and 1990s. The plaintiff is represented by Milberg Weiss, known for its class-action lawsuits alleging securities fraud against major corporations. The firm in 2003 sued on behalf of William Twombly and all individuals in the continental U.S. who bought local phone and Internet service between February of 1996 and the present. The suit alleged that the incumbent local telephone companies, or "Baby Bells,'' illegally conspired to prevent competition. The original seven incumbent local phone companies have been reduced to four through mergers and acquisitions: Verizon Communications, which was formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE in 2000; BellSouth; Qwest Communications International, which bought Pacific Bell; and AT&T, which was bought by San Antonio-based SBC Communications.

Houston-based Apache Corporation has won approval from Egypt's national gas and petroleum companies to build a fourth processing facility at the Salam natural gas plant. The expansions are scheduled for completion in 2008. Apache is the largest acreage holder and most active driller in Egypt's western desert.

Canada-based Gulf United Energy is relocating its headquarters to Houston from Porcupine, Ontario. Gulf United is acquiring a 24 percent interest in a joint venture with Mexicana de Gas Natural to construct and operate an open access natural gas pipeline in Mexico. The $140 million project begins construction in the first quarter of 2007, with completion expected in the first quarter of 2008.

A Morgan Stanley affiliate has acquired the East Belt Business Park on East Sam Houston Parkway in Pasadena from Eastbourne Investments, according to the Houston Business Journal. Prime Property Fund also has the option to buy an adjacent 12-acre site for future development.

Work Organization is breaking ground in December for an $8 million office condominium project in the Colonial Lakes Office Park in Missouri City. It's at Colonial Lakes Drive and Cartwright Road, north of Highway 6. The first units are to be finished by summer 2007.

Goodrich Petroleum has announced an agreement to drill wells on property it does not own in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. The move will expand the company's operations in the Cotton Valley region. Under the deal, Goodrich, which primarily has operations in Louisiana and Alabama, has the right to explore for natural gas and oil on 21,000 acres held by an undisclosed owner, who will receive lease payments and 25 percent royalties. Goodrich will have a 75 percent net revenue interest. Goodrich will also own 100 percent of the first well drilled on each 33 partitions of the acreage. The land owner gets the right to buy in for up to 50 percent of any subsequent wells. The land is in the Alabama bend field of Bienville Parish, which is in the company's portion of Cotton Valley, which stretches across east Texas and northern Louisiana. Last week, Goodrich purchased land and wells for $6.1 million in the Cotton Valley Trend in Texas.


Supporters of the Texas State Railroad are seeking emergency state funding to keep the east Texas tourist train rolling. As things now stand, the Texas State Railroad State Park train between Rusk and Palestine will close at the end of the year. The last run is set for December 30th. A task force is lobbying the state for $650,000 to keep the steam train running until the legislature can vote on long-term operating funds. If the legislature won't fund long-term operations, the task force hopes to turn running the train over to a private company. The railroad was first opened in the 1880s. In 1976, railroad enthusiasts convinced the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to preserve the line as a tourist train. However, the train has been losing money. Officials say it loses about $1 million a year and needs $40 million over the next decade for care of antique engines, cars and track. Aides for Governor Rick Perry and House Speaker Tom Craddick say they don't know if or when the state will consider emergency funding.

'Fess up--have you ever called in sick when you're feeling fine? If so, you're in good company. A new survey by CareerBuilder.com finds nearly one-third of us have done just that in the last year. Senior career adviser Jennifer Sullivan says many people are using sick days as "mental health days'' to catch-up on sleep or simply relax. According to Sullivan, many employers are honoring that. But she warns that using sick days as vacation days can get you in trouble, especially if a colleague spots you. And for those who told the teacher, "my dog ate my homework,'' it turns out there are grown-up versions. Employers have heard plenty of unusual excuses for not coming to work, including one guy claiming his mother-in-law poisoned him. Or the fellow who said he broke his leg snowboarding off the roof while drunk.

The maids-a-milking are holding the line, but the dancers, drummers and pipers are earning more this year. PNC Wealth Management is out with its annual tally of the cost of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas.'' It finds the cost of the entire collection of gifts has gone up 3.1 percent to $18,920 this year. PNC's chief investment strategist Jeff Kleintop says wages for skilled workers, including dancers and musicians, are on the rise after years of little change. Based on the pay for the Philadelphia Dance Company, PNC found the cost of nine ladies dancing was $47.59, up four percent over last year. By contrast, the eight maids-a-milking were the only service providers who didn't get a raise. That's because they'd be paid the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. That's $41.20 an hour for all eight.

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...