Friday AM October 20th, 2006

Texas Children's Hospital plans $1.5 billion expansion...Save-A-Lot to enter Houston market with three outlets...World Oil magazine honors 11 winners in 2006 World Oil awards...

Texas Children's Hospital has unveiled plans for a $1.5 billion expansion that will add between 2,500 to 3,000 employees to the Houston area. Plans include a new 96-bed hospital in West Houston, a children's neurological institute and a $575 million maternity center slated for the Texas Medical Center. The $200 million West Houston hospital will be at Barker Cypress Road and I-10. The $575 million maternity center will be across the street from Children's primary hospital. And the Texas Neurological Research Institute will cost around $215 million. TCH will begin running St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital's obstetrics division through a management contract currently being finalized.


Save-A-Lot will open three Houston stores—one near Hobby Airport and two in Southwest Houston—as the first phase of the grocery store chain's entry into the Texas Gulf Coast area. Stores will be on Bissonnet, near Beltway 8 in the Alief area, on Broadway and on Fondren. Twelve stores are to open by spring of next year. The so-called edited assortment grocery outlets will carry about 1,250 of the most frequently purchased grocery items, including fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, canned goods and packaged items, Hispanic items, frozen foods, health and beauty care products and houseware and hardware items. There are more than 30 Save-A-Lot stores in North and West Texas.


With high oil and gas price volatility, energy managers and commercial users have become more sophisticated in cutting costs and reducing exposure to market price risk. At a conference at the Hilton Americas-downtown, attendees heard from CEO Brad Anderson of software maker SolArc.

"So we manage all the logistical complexities associated with the supply chain as well as all the financial aspects of a commodity business and pull all of that together so that business managers can make more efficient decisions and adjust to the ever-increasing volatility in the marketplace. Ed: Volatility cause by... Number of different factors—supply/demand equation being tight, energy policy, concerns about hurricanes, it goes down a long slate of things that drive energy prices that we're all so familiar with, you know, in this city."

Anderson operating margins are very thin in highly competitive markets.

"If you're moving a single cargo, vessel (with) crude oil cargo, a one-day slip in the bill of lading, so a schedule or not making trading aware that the product is going to price tomorrow as opposed to today, and then they're laying on their specific hedges around the dates of the movement of that product can easily cost a half-million dollar bust. Around a single transaction, for a single cargo, over a single day. It's a very substantial impact, financial impact, to the enterprise."

More companies outside the energy industry are adopting methods pioneered by commodity trading and marketing companies, including agricultural processors, airlines and freight transportation companies.


World Oil magazine has honored 11 winners of the 2006 World Oil awards at its fifth annual black-tie gala in Houston. Marathon Oil won the "Health, Safety, Environment/Sustainable Development Award" and one other award. Weatherford International's Medhat Mickael was recognized with the "Innovative Thinkers Award." The company also picked up a second award. China National Petroleum Corporation received the "Best Production Technology Award." Other award recipients include Baker Oil Tools, Intelliserve Network, two awards for Schlumberger, M-I SWACO, GX Technology, and The Greater Houston Energy Education Collaborative.


Forty-six Texas-based technology companies are on Deloitte's Technology Fast 500, based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth over five years. Ten Houston firms are on the list, including RigNet at number 23, Tanox at 24, PreCash at 75, Webxites at 77, INX at 177, DataCert at 185, FuelQuest at 208, ObjectWin Technology at 227, Network International at 292 and Paymetric at 303.


Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners plans a $388 million expansion of its 550-mile pipeline system into Las Vegas, subject to environmental permitting and right-of-way acquisition. The line will transport gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from Los Angeles refineries and marine terminals. A start-up in late 2009 or early 2010.


An increase in consumer expectations helped boost a gauge of future economic activity in September. The Conference Board's Index of Leading Economic Indicators edged up one-tenth of one percent last month. The index had slipped three-tenths in July and two-tenths in August. The index is designed to predict economic activity three to six months in the future. The small gain in September fits with economists' expectations that growth will slow in the coming months.


Little change is seen in mortgage interest rates over the past week, according to the latest survey from finance giant Freddie Mac. The survey of 30-year fixed-rate mortgages finds the average at 6.36 percent, down from 6.37 percent last week. For 15-year fixed, Freddie Mac says the average was 6.06 percent. That's unchanged. The survey finds the average for one-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 5.57 percent. That's up from 5.56 percent last week.


South Carolina-based Drake Development plans a 38-story condominium tower on Galveston's East Beach next Spring, according to the Houston Business Journal. East Beach Resort & Spa, to be built south of Seawall Boulevard on East Beach Road, is a $300 million project that will have 366 luxury residential units.


Waste Management has opened New York's largest single-stream municipal recycling facility. The plant in Liverpool, New York, near Syracuse, opened today. Houston-based Waste Management invested $11 million to rebuild the Liverpool plant, which replaces a prior operation at the site that was severely damaged by a fire in April 2005. A company subsidiary--recycle America--says the plant will be one of the most advanced recycling operations in the nation, able to process up to 20 tons of recyclables per hour. With single-stream recycling, recyclable paper and containers can be mixed and collected together because all the materials are separated at the recycling center. When recyclables arrive at the Liverpool facility, technology including magnets, screens and scanners are used to separate, sort and process the materials.


The National Science Foundation has awarded Rice University a $3.3 million, five-year ADVANCE grant for programs to increase the opportunities for hiring and advancement of women faculty in science and engineering nationwide. Rice will use the funds to develop strategies for recruiting women faculty members.


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