Tuesday AM April 17th, 2007

ConocoPhillips partners with Tyson to make diesel from animal fat...AT&T pulls out of talks to buy stake in Telecom Italia SPA...Google and Clear Channel announce long-term Internet-related deal...

Houston-based ConocoPhillips has a new pact with meat producer Tyson Foods to make diesel fuel from animal fat. The two companies will use beef, pork and poultry by-product fat to manufacture the fuel. ConocoPhillips chairman and CEO Jim Mulva says they plan to make as much as 175 million gallons per year of renewable diesel. He says there's been an evolution of understanding about climate change.

"We certainly ramped up our awareness and understanding as well as the science of climate change, and we've incorporated into our plans as a company--our operating plans, as well as our capital spending plans--how we address climate change. And that's the reason we came forth this past week, last week, to anno0unce a very pro-active approach by ConocoPhillips joining U.S. CAP as well as indicating that our belief that we need to go beyond voluntary measures to address climate change. We need to have a national mandatory framework."

ConocoPhillips and several other corporations are now urging Congress to require limits on greenhouse gases tied to global warming.

"And the reason we, we like the approach to a national mandatory framework, there's some very fundamental principles at stake. One is that we think we don't want to have something like boutique fuels, where you have, in our industry we make the better part of a hundred different fuels meeting specifications in different regions of the country from one season of time to the other. We don't think it's necessarily the best thing to have 50 different states come up with an approach to climate change.ξWe think it's a serious and important challenge."

ConocoPhillips says Tyson will make capital improvements this summer so that it can start preprocessing animal fat from some of its North American rendering facilities later in the year. ConocoPhillips itself will also invest in facilities so that it can produce the fuel in several of its refineries. Production is slated to begin late this year.

The ongoing global rush to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons is fueled by higher prices. That's contributed to hectic activity at companies that make high-tech geological maps of geological formations that can hold crude oil and natural gas. In an instant, dynamite blasts can send seismic waves below ground--as sensors record their activity. Companies like Dawson Geophysical, Schlumberger and Petroleum Geo-Services that do such high-tech geological mapping. Finding and gaining access to new reservoirs is an increasingly difficult task, taking oil companies into deeper waters and rugged, more intricate terrain. Houston-based Schlumberger says advancements in its seismic technology allow it to provide more detailed images in a shorter period. That, in turn, allows oil companies to develop more difficult, and sometimes smaller, reservoirs. Experts better technology has opened areas for exploration in places like West Texas that previously, because of complicated formations, weren't always conducive to seismic searches.

Retail sales rose in March at the fastest clip in three months as warmer weather and an early Easter put consumers in a buying mood. These sales increased seven-tenths of one percent in March, up from an upwardly revised five-tenths gain in February. Easter came eight days earlier than last year, and the weather in March was an improvement from February, which had been colder than usual. In another report, the Commerce Department says that businesses boosted their inventories on shelves and back lots by three-tenths percent in February, the biggest gain in five months. The increase came after an extended period when businesses have tried to trim their overhang of unsold items in the face of weaker-than-expected sales.

The nation's largest student lender, Sallie Mae, has agreed to be sold to a group of private investors for roughly $25 billion. The deal comes as the college loan industry faces increased scrutiny from regulators. The group, led by private-equity firm J.S. Flowers and Company, will pay $60 a share for the Reston, Virginia-based SLM Corporation, commonly referred to as Sallie Mae. The sale price represents a nearly 50 percent premium for Sallie Mae's previously sagging stock before takeover rumors emerged late last week. SLM shares are surging on the New York Stock Exchange on the buyout news. Sallie Mae is by far the largest school lender, originating more than $23 billion in student loans last year, many of them federally subsidized. Last week, Sallie Mae settled with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over the company's business practices, agreeing to pay $2 million to a student loan education fund. It will also no longer pay travel and entertainment expenses for university officials or send its employees to work for free in campus financial aid offices.

San Antonio-based AT&T says it is pulling out of talks to buy a one-third stake in the holding company that controls Telecom Italia SPA. The news came as Telecom Italia shareholders met to elect a new board. The negotiations had raised concerns in Rome about a strategic national asset falling into the hands of foreigners.

Developers and state legislators announced a $1.5 billion development in Austin. The Villa Muse Studio Project will help the film, television and music industry will be complete with residential neighborhoods. Plans for the complex were unveiled as lawmakers attempt this legislative session to pass financial incentives to lure more movies to Texas. Lawmakers say the Villa Muse development will further Texas' movie production efforts.

Dell has hired a former Oracle executive to fill the computer maker's new job of chief marketing officer. Mark Jarvis is Dell's first chief marketing officer and will be responsible for reorganizing and maximizing the company's global marketing operations. Company officials say the hiring completes an executive shuffle that began last year and included the return of Michael Dell as Chief Executive Officer in January.

There's a lot going on this week in terms of economic reports. Tuesday, we'll get reports on consumer inflation and housing starts, with figures on oil inventories and first-time jobless claims later in the week.

Google and San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications have announced a long-term Internet-related deal. The agreement will allow the Internet search leader to place advertising for its online customers on more than 675 Clear Channel radio stations. The deal will give Google advertisers that had not relied on radio direct access to Clear Channel's national distribution system through an easy-to-use interface. It will also allow those customers to target their campaigns, reaching particular audiences in targeted locations at specific times. Clear Channel's John Hogan says it's a "true win-win.'' Hogan says the broadcast company gets access to an entirely new group of advertisers within a new and complementary sales channel. Financial terms weren't disclosed. Clear Channel is the nation's largest radio station owner.

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