Monday PM September 18th, 2006

Former Enron trading and retail energy executive sentenced to 2?-year prison term...Russia revokes environmental approval of Shell-led natural gas project on Sakhalin Island...Dell reaches deal with Poland for construction of $253 million plant...

A former Enron trading and retail energy executive was sentenced today to two-and-a-half years in prison. David Delainey had pleaded guilty in October 2003 to insider trading in the investigation of Enron's financial collapse. He'd admitted participating in schemes to manipulate earnings to please Wall Street. Prosecutors say he sold $4.25 million in stock in 2001 when he knew of a wide-ranging scheme to make Enron appear financially robust and inflate its stock. Just before his sentencing, Delainey told U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt he was sorry for his conduct. In February, he testified during the fraud and conspiracy trial of Enron founder Ken Lay and former chief executive Jeff Skilling. He told jurors he reluctantly acquiesced in a Skilling-approved plan to hide $200 million in losses.

Russia's natural resources ministry says it's has revoked the environmental approval of a Shell-led natural gas project on the far east island of Sakhalin. The decision could effectively halt work on the project. Meanwhile, a state safety watchdog is criticizing an oil terminal built by Irving-based-Exxon Mobil. Analysts said the moves could be a step toward reconfiguring a handful of decade-old deals that put western companies in control of some of Russia's richest oil and gas fields. In a statement, the resources ministry said it had decided to revoke Shell's permit at its giant Sakhalin-Two project. Russian prosecutors alleged over the weekend that permission to develop the second phase of project had been granted illegally. Separately, the Itar-Tass news agency reports the far east division of the watchdog agency Rostekhnadzor says Exxon Mobil's De Kastri oil terminal on Sakhalin didn't meet environmental requirements. The terminal was due to have been commissioned October 4th as part of Exxon's Sakhalin-One project. It holds a 30 percent stale in a foreign consortium working with state-controlled Russian oil group Rosneft, which has 20 percent.

Norway's state-controlled oil company said today that it's buying three oil prospects in the Gulf of Mexico for $700 million. Statoil says the deal with Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Company is expected to close in early November. A Statoil executive says the deal further strengthens the company's deep-water position in the Gulf. The deal covers stakes in two oil finds in deep water areas of the Gulf and one in a promising offshore oil block slated for exploration. They are near fields in what is called the Greater Tahiti Area, where Statoil already has interests. Statoil is the key producer on offshore fields that make Norway the world's third-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia. The company's been expanding internationally, including in the Gulf of Mexico. Plains Exploration said proceeds from the sale will be used to buy back stock and reduce debt. It expects to book a fourth-quarter gain for the sale.

The president and CEO of Brazil'sξPetrobras will take part in a signing ceremony Tuesday to officially acquire 50 percent of the Pasadena Refinery System—an investment of about $360 million. The refinery has a processing capacity of 100,000 barrels per day, and is situated adjacent to available land where new units will be built. Technical studies are underway for capacity expansion and enhancement of its ability to refine heavier crude oils.

Dell's reached a deal with the Polish government today for construction of a $253 million plant in the Polish city of Lodz. Dell says it aims to produce computers to satisfy surging demand in Central and Eastern Europe. The plant is planned to open in the fall of next year. Dell says it'll create about a thousand new jobs in Poland, which has the European Union's highest unemployment rate at 15.6 percent. It also says the factory will produce Dell's Latitude and Inspiron notebooks. Dell cites Poland's educated labor force and the proximity to a large, growing customer base as reasons to build the factory in Poland. The company estimates demand in the Central and Eastern European computer market will rise almost 14 percent a year over the next five years. It also says the Lodz plant would cut delivery time of its computers to consumers in Scandinavia and Central Europe by two days. It would be the second plant in Europe for the company, which also has one in Limerick, Ireland.

Up and down a stretch of Harry Hines Boulevard in Northwest Dallas, signs emblazoned with Korean characters advertise clothing, linens, gift items and much more. Traffic trudges through an area transformed from a place once frequented by prostitutes into the bustling center of the city's Asian trade district. From Harry Hines in Dallas to Boston's Fields Corner, immigrant business owners are reviving older, deserted or crime-ridden neighborhoods. Nationwide, once-empty shopping centers now house stores with a distinctively international style. Many of those businesses were launched by some of the 34 million foreign-born U.S. residents. One of the largest concentrations of immigrants is in North Texas, with sizable populations from Mexico, India, Vietnam, El Salvador, China and Korea. The entrepreneurial spirit has always accompanied the immigrant population. Researchers say census figures going back to the 1880s show immigrants more likely to be self-employed than native-born Americans.

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