Tuesday January 17th, 2006

Continental Airlines posts narrower fourth-quarter loss...Lay and Skilling file more papers to move Enron trial out of Houston...Enron movie released on DVD...

Continental Airlines today posted a narrower fourth-quarter loss as higher revenue and cost-cutting efforts offset sharply higher fuel costs. Losses totaled $43 million. That's against a year-earlier loss of $208 million. Fuel expenses spiked nearly 58 percent in the quarter, driving its operating costs up 13 percent. For the full year 2005, Continental posted a loss of $68 million. Excluding one-time items, losses totaled $205 million. That's a big improvement over the 2004 loss of $409 million. Chairman and CEO Larry Kellner says 2005 was a challenging year, with the hurricanes and higher fuel costs.

"Throughout the year, my co-workers did a tremendous job working together to overcome operational challenges, posed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, record high load factors, the closure of one of the main departure runways at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, and severe weather at our New York, Houston and Cleveland hubs. I'm proud to say that despite these extraordinary difficulties, our team ran an excellent operation. And I think equally important, in addition to running an excellent operation, when the hurricanes occurred, our team was always there for the co-workers and the community."

The company said the loss was the result of increased competition from low-cost carriers and the inability to recover, through fare increases, the higher cost of fuel. Full-year revenue grew 13 percent to $11.21 billion. The latest results included a gain of $106 million related to the sale of stock in Copa Airlines' holding company and other special charges of $21 million. Excluding these special items, the nation's fifth-largest airline recorded a loss of $128 million. Revenue increased 17 percent to $2.85 billion.

Votes are being cast on a new contract with Continental through January 29th by the International Association of Machinists, which includes flight attendants.


Ex-Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling have filed more court papers with U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake asking that their trial be moved from Houston or that they get more time to ask questions of potential jurors. Their trial is slated to begin January 30th. Jury responses have been received from 280 potential jurors. Judge Lake in the past has said that since Lay, Skilling and the Enron story are so well-known around the country, moving the trial makes little sense.

The DVD version of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room has been released, and comes packed with extras and deleted material. When the 110-minute film premiered here in Houston last year, writer-director Alex Gibney said it was the book by Fortune magazine writers Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind that led the way.

"There are lot of interesting business books, but ultimately I had to make the decision on whether or not to make a film. And it was because Peter and Bethany had such a clear sense of character and also such a clear sense of moral outrage. The two of those things really connected me to the book."

Writer Bethany McLean attended a special Houston showing of the film.

"The reactions we heard here were more extreme than we've heard elsewhere. Either, the reactions in most place(s) tend to be either they're not, they tend to be very supportive of the film. Here, it was a mixture of comments that were very supportive and very, very tough, and very much contradicting everything about the film. And it's really interesting to see the extent to which people still want to believe in Enron."

Added special features to the DVD include commentary by writer-director Gibney, as well as deleted scenes, "The Making of Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room," video of Enron company skits, a gallery of Enron cartoons, the original Fortune magazine article and a "Where Are They Now?" section.


Families or individuals who suffered damage from Hurricane Rita have been approved to receive more than $605.5 million in assistance to date, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency says 478,460 people have registered for Individual Assistance. Some 338, 391 home inspections have been requested, and 99 percent of those have been completed by a group of 48 field inspectors. FEMA says 92 percent of the debris from Hurricane Rita has been removed.

The Labor Department has awarded a $99,000 non-competitive grant to help veterans uprooted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita find jobs. The National Veterans Outreach Program of the American GI Forum in San Antonio will receive the emergency funding to service Beaumont, Port Arthur and Houston.


State Attorney General Greg Abbott today issued a reminder to state retailers that they're now required by law to conceal customer credit information. As of the first of the year, all retailers and other businesses must provide receipts and invoices that conceal all but the final four digits of customer's credit card numbers. Abbott urged all consumers to check their receipts and notify his office if they see any noncompliance. Complaints can be filed at the AG's office Web site or by phone at 1-800-252-8011.


Houston-based Globeleq is purchasing a majority of El Paso Corporation's power generation assets in Central America. The emerging markets power company is gaining interests in six power generation projects in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Globeleq owns over 700 megawatts of generating capacity in the Americas. Globeleg agreed to purchase El Paso's generating assets in Southeast and South Asia last August. The company, which focuses on the emerging markets of Africa, the Americas and Asia, has more than 3,000 megawatts of generation capacity around the world, with 20 projects in 15 countries.


Houston-based Apache Corporation is purchasing the oil and gas operations of Dallas-based Pioneer Natural Resources in Argentina for $675 million. Apache says it views the purchase as a platform from which to pursue further growth.


Kinder Morgan's Terasen subsidiary has agreed to sell Terasen Water and Utility Services and its affiliated companies to a consortium for $125 million in Canadian dollars, according to the Houston Business Journal. Terasen Water and Utility provides water, wastewater and utility services in western Canada.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners is investing $57 million into a major expansion project and an acquisition that it says will provide additional infrastructure for terminal services along the East Coast. The plans include the construction of new liquids storage tanks at its Perth Amboy terminal in New York Harbor and the purchase of a bulk facility adjacent to the company's Shipyard River terminal in Charleston, South Carolina from Allied Terminals.


Internet America is moving its headquarters to Houston from Dallas, consolidating some of its operations here. the company has been restructuring its financial management and reporting systems to support a focus on its wireless Internet access business, according to the Houston Chronicle.


Berkshire Hathaway is announcing an agreement to acquire Business Wire, a distributor of global business news, multimedia and regulatory filings. Business Wire will operate as a subsidiary of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway. The company plans to expand in overseas markets, and its management team and day-to-day operations will remain in place. Business Wire has access to some 60 international and national news agencies, financial information providers and Web-based news services throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. The company electronically disseminates around 1,000 full-text news releases daily to media, the Internet, databases and the global investment community in 45 languages in 150 countries.


The Houston Independent School District plans an informational meeting Wednesday evening at its administration building on Richmond for degreed professionals interested in becoming a teacher. Houstonians are invited to apply for an HISD program which allows people from professional fields to teach while they earn their certification. Through the district's Alternative Certification Program, trainees learn about child development and classroom management strategies. The program annually recruits and trains about 800 college graduates without education degrees to become teachers while obtaining certification.


Group 1 Automotive has relocated its Fort Bend Toyota franchise into a new facility at Highway 59 and the Grand Parkway exit in Fort Bend County. The new facility has 42 service bays, doubling the service and parts capacity from the previous location. the Houston-based company owns 96 automotive dealerships comprised of 142 franchises, 31 brands and 31 collision service centers in Texas and 11 other states.


El Paso Natural Gas and the Navajo nation have reached an interim one-year deal on right-of-way access for a pipeline that crosses the reservation. El Paso operates an east-west gas pipeline that crosses about 900 miles of the reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. It delivers gas from Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma to western markets. Houston-based El Paso says terms for the extension period are confidential. A statement by the tribe and El Paso acknowledges that a "substantial controversy exists'' between the tribe and the company on terms for a long-term lease. A 20-year lease expired in October and the two sides have been unable to come to terms on a new agreement. The interim deal will give them more time to negotiate. El Paso had offered more than $200 million for a two-decade deal, while the tribe asked for $440 million. A 20-year lease that expired in October paid the Navajo nation $29 million.


Investigators say unclearly worded procedures contributed to the 2005 death of a contract worker in an accident in Baytown. Authorities say 57-year-old maintenance worker Salvador Barba Sr., was doused with a corrosive chemical at a plastics plant. Barba died June 18th after the accident at the Bayer Material Sciences manufacturing facility. Occupational Safety and Health Administration documents were obtained by the Baytown Sun. The documents indicate Barba was bathing in a decontamination shower when a pressure build-up caused a gasket to fail--releasing phenol, also known as carbolic acid. OSHA in November issued two citations and levied a $5,000 fine against Bayer, which the company last month paid. The company has made changes to address OSHA's concerns. Barba was an employee of Halliburton subsidiary KBR.


Enron DVD
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