Tuesday PM October 10th, 2006

Landry's to sell 120 Joe's Crab Shack restaurants...Fulbright & Jaworski surveys litigation costs for business...Employers to pay 7.6 percent more for health insurance next year...

Landry's restaurants says it has an agreement to sell 120 of its Joe's Crab Shack restaurants to private equity company J.H. Whitney Capital Partners. The remaining 23 Joe's Crab Shack restaurants could be converted, closed or sold or operate under an agreement with the private equity firm. The $192 million purchase is seen closing in the current quarter. Houston-based Landry's had hired advisers to explore options for its Joe's Crab Shack and Saltgrass Steak House chains. Landry's hopes to focus on higher-end restaurants and hotel and gaming assets. Landry's also operates Landry's Seafood House, Rainforest Caf?, Chart House and other restaurants.

A Fulbright & Jaworski survey finds that expanded government regulatory investigations have fueled an increase in internal investigations—some 63 percent report hiring outside counsel for that purpose in the past year. Billion-dollar companies carry the biggest litigation burden, with about 40 percent of them expecting the number of actions to increase in the coming year. The third annual survey finds that large corporations are fielding 556 cases on average, with almost half facing 50 new suits annually. Insurers are ithe most litigation-prone, followed by retailers and energy firms, followed by manufacturing, financial services and educational groups. More than two-thirds of U.S. companies have brought actions as plaintiffs in the past year. The survey of litigation trends pulled data from 422 in-house law departments worldwide. Large U.S. corporations commit an average of $19.8 million to litigation. The generally high cost of dispute resolution in the U.S. has not been lost on the rest of the world. High legal costs and punitive damages are cited by foreign counsel.

Nigerians overran a navy base this morning, taking several Nigerian troops hostage. Armed with assault rifles, the attackers are occupying a nearby oil facility belonging to a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell. A police commissioner says the government is trying to negotiate. There have been no injuries reported. This latest in a series of attacks and kidnappings have cut the production of Africa's largest oil producer by more than a quarter. More than two dozen foreign oil workers have been kidnapped this year, with most hostage-taking ending peacefully. Groups have also sabotaged pipelines and oil installations in Nigeria.

Employers are expected to pay 7.6 percent more for health insurance next year, after an increase of 9.1 percent this year, according to the Houston Chronicle. A study by benefits consulting company Hewitt Associates says the average total cost of buying health insurance for a Houston-area employee will rise to $9,052—more than double the average cost in 2000. Average payroll deductions for the employee is expected to be around $3,779—up from $3,512 last year. Hewitt's report notes that the overall rate of increase outpaces inflation and salary increases.

Houston-based prison operator Cornell Companies plans to go private in a $245 million deal. New York equity firm Veritas Capital is trying to acquire Cornell, also assuming about $243.6 million of Cornell's debt. Cornell operates 78 prison and juvenile detention facilities.

Houston-based Group 1 Automotive has acquired import automotive dealerships in New jersey at Maple Shade and Atlantic City. So far this year, the company has acquired one domestic franchise and 14 import franchises.

Tags: News


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