Wednesday PM January 17th, 2007

Katy Mills developer to be acquired by Canadian investment firm...Enron litigants differ on whether to drop certain ex-Enron executives from class-action suit...Texas Alliance of Energy Producers critical of increased use of coal supported by Texas Association of Business...

Mall developer Mills Corporation is being acquired by Canadian investment firm Brookfield Asset Management in a $1.35 billion deal. Mills owns 38 properties nationwide, including Katy Mills Mall. Mills will merge into a new Brookfield unit. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2007. Mills recently told the Securities and Exchange Commission it may lack enough funds to keep operating past March 31st and may have to sell all or part of the company to pay off a $1 billion loan due on that date.

Plaintiffs representing Enron shareholders in civil litigation are dumping some defendants so only deep pocket defendants remain to bear the brunt of the financial fight, according to the Houston Chronicle. In a court filing, attorneys representing several banks in the litigation accuse the lead plaintiff, the University of California Board of Regents, of paring down the list of defendants. The filing follows the university's request last week that U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon dismiss former Enron Chairman Ken Lay, four other ex-Enron executives and the Vinson & Elkins law firm from the class-action lawsuit, to streamline the case. Plaintiffs have recovered $7.3 billion in settlements so far, mainly from banks.

The Texas Alliance of Energy Producers is critical of an energy policy proposed by the Texas Association of Business that supports the increased use of coal. TXU wants to build a dozen new coal-fired, electric-generation plants in Texas, and the alliance says TXU stands to profit, since the coal used in the proposed plants would come from TXU-owned mines in Wyoming. TAEP supports using fossil fuels like natural gas from Texas for generating electricity.

More than $100,000 is missing from the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association. An auditors' review indicates the money may have been used for unauthorized purposes. The disclosure follows the recent resignation of Don L. King, the Fort Worth-based association's chief executive. King declined to comment. He has been replaced by an interim CEO, Larry Barker. Chairman Ben Gravett has said the board was negotiating restitution and had contacted the Tarrant County District Attorney's office. The problem would not have been discovered without the help of Somerville breeder Darlene Aldridge, a retired veterinarian who asked some pointed questions. Aldridge said the report indicated that more than $270,000 was missing, and that some of the funds were used to buy prescriptions, cover house rent for a year and keep a ranch manager and his girlfriend on the association's payroll even though they were not employees.

A lawyer for a former Interior Department auditor says Kerr-McGee cheated the United States by selling oil at below-market prices to Texon, which then absorbed many of Kerr-McGee's marketing costs, according to Bloomberg. Texon provided marketing services and paid above-market prices for other crude oil, according to the auditor. Bobby Maxwell was formerly an auditor with the department's Minerals Management Service. Auditors for the MMS have filed at least three similar lawsuits over payments to the government. The MMS collects royalties on oil and natural gas leases on federal lands. The Woodlands-based Anadarko Petroleum bought Kerr-McGee and Western Gas Resources last August.

Anadarko Petroleum said it's agreed to sell its interests in Wyoming's Elk Basin and Gooseberry oil fields. The $400 million cash sale to encore acquisition company is the latest of a number of deals to reduce the oil and gas producer's debt. Anadarko says the fields produce about 4,300 barrels of oil equivalent a day from 614 wells. The deal includes the Elk Basin gas plant and the Clear Fork Pipeline Oil and Natural Gas Gathering System. The sale to Fort Worth-based encore is expected to close by the end of the first quarter. Encore develops onshore oil and natural gas reserves. It estimates the Elk Basin and Gooseberry properties have total proved reserves of about 20 million barrels.

The general information meeting about the Houston Independent School District's Alternative Certification Program was rescheduled because of weather. It's now set for Thursday evening at Stephen Waltrip High School on West 34th at 5:30 p.m. The meeting is for non-certified professionals interested in teaching.

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