Friday November 4th, 2005

Gas prices continue to drop in Texas...Texas regulatory board seeks disciplinary hearings against seven CPA's who worked on Enron books...Deliberations continue in suit claiming board and executives of Pennzoil-Quaker State failed to get best price when it was acquired by Royal Dutch Shell...

Gasoline prices continue to plummet across Texas. The weekly AAA Texas gas price survey released today found retail prices for regular, self-serve unleaded averaged $2.38 per gallon in Texas. That's down 14 cents from last week. The costliest gas was in the Galveston-Texas City area, where pump prices averaged about $2.50. That was still down almost 17 cents from last week. The cheapest gas was in Corpus Christi, where gas prices fell 16 cents to $2.17 a gallon. The national average gas price for regular self-serve is $2.45 per gallon--or 12 cents less than last week. The auto club says the average gas price has fallen 53 cents per gallon in Texas over the past four weeks. AAA Texas spokeswoman Rose credits falling fuel demand after the end of the summer driving season and increasing crude and gasoline inventories. She says prices at the pump should continue to fall for the next few weeks.


A Texas board that regulates accountants filed a complaint today seeking disciplinary hearings against seven CPA's who worked on Enron books. The accountants worked for nearly defunct Arthur Andersen. All were involved in audits for Enron and its subsidiaries before the company's 2001 bankruptcy filing. The complaint says the accountants audited part of Enron's 1997 financial statements and did not consolidate the statements of two subsidiaries--as required. The complaint says the firm later changed the documents after being notified by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The CPA's are Thomas Bauer, Carl Bass, Patricia Grutzmacher, James Brown, Jr., Jennifer Stevenson, Derek B. Claybrook and Andrew Schuleman. They can contest the charges.


Deliberations have been underway in a suit claiming the board of directors and top executives of Pennzoil-Quaker State failed to get the best price for the company when it was acquired by Royal Dutch Shell in 2002. Shell paid $22 per share in the $1.8 billion deal, when the stock was trading around $15 at the time. Shareholders who filed suit seeking damages say the company was worth as much as $30 per share. Former board members say the merger price was significantly higher than the Pennzoil stock price at the time. Deliberations began Thursday afternoon in the court of Judge Tracy Christopher in the 295th District Court.


The Society of Petroleum Geophysicists is hosting its 75th annual meeting and international exposition at the George R. Brown Convention Center through Wednesday. SEG President Craig Beasley says the organization is composed of some 23,000 members worldwide.

Craig Beasley audio 1

The event includes technical meetings, exhibitors, a global forum on regulations as drivers for international energy business and the energy supply challenge.

Craig Beasley audio 2

Beasley, who is a musician, is taking part in a "presidential jam session" on Tuesday evening.


Twenty-one companies have been named finalists for outstanding achievements by the annual Offshore Energy Achievement Awards 2005 selection committee from more than 100 nominations. The awards are in eight categories: Health Safety & Environmental, Industry Champion, Project of the Year, Emerging Innovation/Technology, Well Construction, Facilities/Production, Geoscience and Contribution to the Community. Industry leaders will gather at the Hilton Americas' Houston Hotel December 8th to honor the eight winners.


The nation's payrolls expanded by 56,000 jobs last month. Today's report from the Labor Department is being seen as an indication that the national economy is recovering from the beating suffered because of Hurricane Katrina. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell to five percent. Job losses in September were just 8,000, under a revision. It had been put at a decline of 35,000 a month ago. The government has also said that more than 500,000 people have filed claims for unemployment benefits because of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Economy.com chief economist Mark Zandi says the economy has weathered the storms "as gracefully as could be expected.'' Speaking in Argentina, where the Summit of the Americas is being held, President Bush said the U. S. economy is "healthy.''


The merger between phone giants AT&T and San Antonio-based SBC Communications is closer to completion. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio today approved the $16 billion deal--clearing one of its final regulatory roadblocks. The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday gave its blessing to the merger. California regulators are scheduled to vote on it November 18th.


Zale Corporation warns it'll post a larger loss than expected for its most recent quarter. JP Morgan downgraded the stock to "underweight''--or sell--from "neutral.'' Zale says it expects a loss of 46 cents to 49 cents per share in the three months ended October 31st. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial predicted a loss of 25 cents per share. Zale cites falling same-store sales and the cost of closing some of its Bailey Banks and Biddle Stores. Same-store sales at locations open at least a year fell 1.2 percent in the period after company officials had originally forecast an increase of one to three percent. Zale says sales were hurt by delays in receiving new merchandise, which left some items out of stock. Zale also says recent hurricanes hurt sales. Zale is scheduled to report results for the August-October quarter on November 16th.


Baker Hughes in Houston today reports the number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. jumped by 16 this week--to reach 1,496. One year ago the rig count was 1,268. Texas gained eleven rigs this week.


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