Thursday AM March 29th, 2007

TXU cutting electric rates by six percent; judge extends freeze on assets in TXU insider trading case...Foreign Trade Corporation of Costa Rica and Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sign economic cooperation agreement...

TXU announced it's cutting electric rates by six percent as part of its pending $32 billion acquisition by private investors. The rate reduction will affect about 1.3 million TXU energy customers--beginning with their next monthly bill. TXU Energy is a subsidiary of Dallas-based TXU Corporation--the biggest electric utility in Texas. In February, a holding company formed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Texas Pacific Group and other investors announced a bid for TXU. The deal, which includes assuming $13 billion in debt, would be the largest private buyout ever. If the acquisition goes through, TXU Energy customers would see an additional four percent electric price reduction. The company also promised to pay its customers two "customer appreciation'' bonus payments of $25 each in 2007.

A judge has approved a longer freeze on assets in an insider-trading case involving the takeover of TXU Corporation. Some private-equity buyers are trying to buy the Dallas-based utility for $32 billion, plus debt. The federal judge in Chicago granted the prosecution's motion to extend the freeze on assets of accounts at Credit Suisse and Fimat for an unspecified term. The judge also approved a deal between the prosecution and the individual of the account at UBS to extend the freeze on assets for 60 days. Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission has learned of two new individuals who allegedly engaged in suspicious options activity before the announced takeover.

The Foreign Trade Corporation of Costa Rica and the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce have signed an economic cooperation agreement. The initiative, signed at the Hilton Americas, is designed to encourage business between Houston and Costa Rica. The agreement facilitates trade missions, investment seminars and opportunities, promotional activities, production capabilities, exhibitions, exports and other activities between Costa Rica and Houston.

Houston-based Whittier Energy stockholders have approved a proposed merger with Sterling Energy, according to the Houston Business Journal. Sterling is an independent oil and gas exploration and production company.

Parker Drilling subsidiaries have been awarded contracts for six of the company's international land rigs, according to the Houston Business Journal, for work in Libya, Mexico and Kazakhstan. The Houston-based firm says five of the rigs will be mobilized from inactive status.

Alaska's Department of Natural Resources has given ExxonMobil more time to appeal the loss of it leases in the North Slope's Point Thomson oil and gas field. The Irving-based company had until Tuesday to complete its appeal. Now, it has until April 26th provide the state agency with its argument to retain the leases. An agency spokesman says Department of Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin can then take as long as he needs to review the company's materials. Point Thomson is the North Slope's second largest natural gas field after Prudhoe Bay. Alaska state lawmakers and industry executives have said it's vital to a prospective gas pipeline. It's estimated to hold about nine trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, more than a quarter of the known gas in all North Slope fields. ExxonMobil is Point Thomson's field operator for 45 gas and oil leases shared largely by BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. Alaska officials ruled in 2005 that ExxonMobil was in default for delaying development by submitting a plan without any sure date for production to begin. In December, the agency reviewed the case and upheld a decision from former Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski's administration the prior month to strip Exxon of the leases. That set off numerous lawsuits and court filings from several oil and gas companies and the state.

Houston-based Mattress Firm has completed the acquisition of Bedtime Mattress in Las Vegas, according to the Houston Business Journal. The Nevada company has 15 locations, brining Mattress Firm's store count to nearly 370 stores in 20 states.

The Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, in collaboration with San Jacinto College, has received $1.4 million from the Texas Workforce Commission for aerospace engineering education opportunities. The emphasis is on aerospace career pathways, with science, technology, engineering and math, in graduate and undergraduate classes that support NASA Johnson Space Center employers and the aerospace industry. The grant is part of $4 million earmarked for the energy, aerospace and defense industries as part of the Meeting Industries' Critical workforce Needs program. The aerospace industry faces specific skills shortages, technological changes and an aging workforce. Three major programs are being run from the Johnson Space Center—the space shuttle, the International Space Station and Constellation. NASA's newest space vehicle Orion is under development.

El Paso Corporation's CEO received 2006 compensation valued by the Houston-based company at $5.2 million. Douglas L. Foshee is president as well as chief executive of the nation's largest natural gas pipeline company. His compensation came as the company posted its first full-year profit in six years. A company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Foshee received $950,000 in salary. He also got $1.4 million in incentives. Foshee also was awarded shares and options that had an estimated value of $2.7 million on the day they were granted.

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