Monday PM April 9th, 2007

Halliburton completes work in Iran...Gasoline prices continue rising...Katy Mills Mall gets new owners...

Halliburton announced it has completed its business in Iran, having finished all of its contractual commitments. The Houston-based company announced in 2005 that it would wind down its work in that country. Halliburton's operations in Iran were done through a foreign-owned subsidiary. It had been contracted for between $30 and $40 million annually in oilfield service work in Iran—mostly cementing, completions work, drilling bits, coring bits and providing drilling fluids.ξThe company has said the services provided were legal. Still, a federal grand jury has looked into whether the company or its executives knowingly violated a U.S. ban on trade with Iran. In a separate statement, Halliburton said it's cooperating with the U.S. government's "ongoing investigation'' of its business in Iran. Halliburton, since responding to a Grand Jury subpoena seeking documents in 2004, has said it had no further inquiries from the Justice Department.


Motorists are paying more at the gas pumps again. The average cost of self-serve regular gasoline rose about 18 cents per gallon nationwide over the past two weeks. According to the latest Lundberg Survey that translated to an average price of $2.78 a gallon. On April 6th, a gallon of mid-grade gasoline averaged about $2.89 and premium nearly $3. Nationwide, the lowest price for regular fuel was $2.54 in Charleston, South Carolina. The highest was in San Francisco at $3.30 a gallon.


Katy Mills Mall has new owners, according to the Houston Business Journal. Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group and San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management have completed their $1.64 billion purchase of The Mills Group. Simon Property has assumed management of the 20 regional malls and 17 mega-malls in the portfolio. The mega-malls will operate as a separate retail unit, while the regional malls will be integrated into Simon's portfolio of 172 regional malls.


The 404-room Four Seasons Hotel on Lamar is getting a $20-million renovation, according to the Houston Business Journal. Most of the renovation work will be on the five levels of condominiums and five levels of corporate apartments.


The Texas Workforce Commission says the agency recovered $32 million in unpaid employer unemployment insurance taxes in 2006—a 12.4 percent increase over 2005 collections. The commission collects unemployment taxes from employers for the Unemployment Compensation Trust fund, which provides benefits to workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. They must be actively seeking work to collect. Texas law requires employers to pay unemployment insurance taxes for those who make at least $1,500 per quarter, or if they have at least one employee during 20 weeks in a calendar year.


Hoover is closing its main manufacturing plant in Ohio. That means more work for its facilities in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Hoover's new owner said last week it will close the main campus and some manufacturing operations of the vacuum cleaner business by fall. Some 750 jobs will be cut in North Canton, the northeast Ohio city where Hoover has been based for nearly 100 years.


Houston-based Copano Energy is buying Gainesville-based Cimmarron Gathering in a $95 million deal. That increases Copano's network of pipelines in Oklahoma and north Texas.


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