Monday PM March 12th, 2007

Halliburton to open corporate office in Dubai...Gas fires burn north of Weatherford...Lundberg Survey says gasoline prices have gone up about 20 cents per gallon nationwide in the past two weeks...

Halliburton's decision to open a corporate headquarters office in the United Arab Emirates does not mean the loss of jobs in Houston, according to the company. But Halliburton Chairman, President and C-E-O Dave Lesar will move to Dubai, as the company strengthens its presence in the Middle East. Barbara Shook with Energy Intelligence Group says Halliburton's move to open a corporate presence in the Middle East is not a first.

"Schlumberger, you know, has its headquarters in Paris. Now, North American headquarters is in Houston, but the corporate headquarters is still in Paris. And they're slightly larger than Halliburton on a revenue basis. It earns two-thirds of its income from places outside the U.S. even though it has a huge presence in the U.S. The Halliburton move, to me, simply reflects the direction of the international oil and gas industry. It's going more to the countries that have the undeveloped oil and gas resources. The U.S. is the most heavily-drilled oil and gas province in the world, with more wells drilled in the United States than the entire rest of the world combined. The oil doesn't flow forever, so Halliburton is moving to an area where the oil and gas will be flowing more in the future."

Halliburton will maintain a corporate office in Houston, where the firm employs around 4,000.

The owners of Dresser say they've agreed to sell the former Halliburton unit to private equity firm Riverstone Holdings for an undisclosed price. First Reserve and Odyssey Investment Partners announced the sale, but First Reserve said it would maintain an investment in Dresser through a recently formed fund. In 2001, First Reserve and Odyssey paid $1.1 billion to Halliburton for controlling interest in Dresser. Halliburton had paid $7.7 billion for Dresser in 1998, when Vice President Dick Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive. Dallas-based Dresser makes equipment and provides services to energy companies and water and wastewater utilities. The unit proved a problem for Halliburton, which inherited Dresser's exposure to massive asbestos claims. Halliburton paid about $4 billion in cash and stock to settle more than 300,000 asbestos-related lawsuits and it put Dresser into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

All workers have been accounted for in today's fiery gas line accident in north Texas. Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler also says fuel has been shut off to the lines and the fires in a rural area north of Weatherford will be allowed to burn themselves out. Several fires were burning in a spread-out, rural area about 30 miles west of Fort Worth. Fowler says the accident happened as some workers were laying a pipeline. He says it appears a backhoe operator struck another pipeline that was buried--and ruptured it. There were no immediately confirmed injuries, but live TV coverage showed at least half-a dozen smaller vehicles--such as pickups--totally burned. Several pieces of heavy equipment were in flames or had been scorched. Nearby power lines also were burned. The area is west of Lake Weatherford.

Motorists are feeling more pain at the pump. Gasoline prices have gone up an average of 20 cents per gallon nationwide in the past two weeks. According to the Lundberg Survey, the average retail price of self-serve regular gas is $2.55 a gallon. Nationwide, the highest average price for regular gas was $3.10 per gallon in San Francisco. The lowest was $2.22, in Anchorage, Alaska. Analyst Trilby Lundberg says concerns over falling gasoline inventories from decreased refinery production and fewer imports have boosted oil and gasoline prices lately. The Texas average is around $2.38 for a gallon, according to AAAS Texas. Houston's average is around $2.37 per gallon. On Wednesday, the government reported that total U.S. motor gasoline inventories fell by 3.8 million barrels to 216.4 million barrels. That's a sharper decline than the 1.4 million-barrel drop that analysts had expected.

Enron investors have won final approval of a $72.5 million settlement resolving claims against the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, after a Houston federal judge's action. U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon approved the accord after lawyers for the investors says it's the most they could get from what's left of the accounting firm. Investors claimed Andersen helped ex-Enron officials perpetrate frauds costing them as much as $40 billion. Andersen's 85,000-employee workforce has shrunk to about 200 lawyers and administrators overseeing litigation.

AT&T took another step in its re-branding of Cingular Wireless when it opened its first re-branded Cingular retail store in San Antonio. The newly re-branded AT&T Experience store is part of the San Antonio-based telecom's strategy to showcase its services in old Cingular retail territory. The 5,000-square foot stand-alone store will be the flagship store, with others planned in San Antonio and Atlanta in May. The company expects to open ten stores this year. The other Cingular stores will also adopt the AT&T name but won't include all the service offerings. AT&T gained full ownership of Cingular after acquiring Atlanta-based BellSouth, which had been its partner in the wireless venture.

Only minor problems are being reported after this weekend's early switch to daylight saving time. The early switch meant computers had to adapt to being told that daylight saving time no longer begins the first weekend in April. But for the most part, the software patches and other tweaks applied by technology administrators worked as planned. If corporate tech administrators had done nothing, computers programmed before the 2005 law change would have kept standard time until April 1st. Among the problems reported from the early switch: some customer-service call centers struggled to open at the proper hour, and calendar software inconsistently displayed meeting times.

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...