Thursday AM May 3rd, 2007

Offshore Technology Conference brings international visitors to Houston...Blockbuster's first-quarter loss widens amid tough in-store rental market and investment in online rental program...

OTC exhibit floorThis is the final day of the Offshore Technology Conference at Reliant Park. The exhibition of the latest products and services is always a large part of OTC, with companies from countries around the world participating.

"My name is Tatiana Campos. I'm the press from the IBP which is the Barzilaian Oil and Gas Institute. This is our sixth time at OTC and we are increasing our area every year and companies are satisfied and happy to be here." Ed: "It's such an international business, I mean, and there are a lot of ties, Brazil to Houston." "We have like 25 companies over here and they are trying to expand their business over here. And we have a lot of exhibitors who come year after year and they are increasing their businesses through this participation at OTC." "Bernardo Cuellar, market advisor. We've got about 60 Norwegian companies, all the way from having a local presence in the stand or through delegations. Most of them are service providers. We also have bigger companies like Hydril. They have a stand here with us." Ed: "Some of them do have Houston outlets already." "That's correct. We have about over 100 Norwegian companies already established here in Houston." "It's the German pavilion, and I'm from the Federal Ministry of Economics. Anna Litzbarski is my name. We organize, like there are 30 companies here in the OTC, and we organize everything for them. So if they are having talks with their business partners they can come here to our lobby and have a drink."

Oilfield service companies are represented, including German firms.

"Georg Philoxenidis. You come to OTC, you find, you find everybody here. I did, like, two good deals yesterday, one this morning already and on Monday I met with three new customers." Ed: "So deals do happen here, I mean it's not just..." "Of course! You just have to, no, you just have to know how to sell, you know? That's, if you don't sell something at OTC, you're not a salesperson." "Johan Jooste, director of Kwikspace Modular Buildings, based in South Africa. There are several companies represented here, from all different industries. It's from prefabricated accommodation to engineering to staff supply on oil rigs, marine equipment—that's the type of companies being represented here." Ed: "There's not actually oil blocks off South Africa, right? It's mostly to the west of the continent." "There's one gas field which is situated off the southern coast of Africa, which is called Muscle Bay. But all of the remaining of your oil fields are up on the west coast, from Angola into Africa on the west coast, that is, yeah." "Tom Lamb, head of energy at Scottish Development International. It's the biggest show for us worldwide and Aberdeen, in particular, has got a great profile in America, but particularly in Houston. So we've got a huge number of companies coming through. I mean, we've 40 companies on this stand every year. We have about 80 percent of them come back again. So they're all doing good business, getting good business, and they're getting pull-through of new companies, as well."

OTCξattracted as many as 60,000 professionals in the energy business, from drilling and exploration to production and environmental protection.


Blockbuster says its first-quarter loss widened amid a tough in-store rental market and an investment in its online rental program Total Access. The Dallas-based video rental chain reports a loss attributable to common shareholders of $49.2 million. That's more than ten times the first-quarter loss for the prior year. Quarterly revenue rose five percent to $1.47 billion. That beat Wall Street estimates of $1.37 billion. Operating expenses rose three percent to $780.4 million, and cost of sales climbed 17 percent to $711 million. Separately, Blockbuster said it sold British specialty games retailer Games Station Limited to European game retailer the game group for about $150 million in cash. The chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Blockbuster, John Antioco, says the sale underscores the company's intent to focus Blockbuster-branded assets in North America. Blockbuster says it plans to use most of the proceeds from the sale to pay down outstanding debt. It bought Games Station, which offers new and pre-owned video games, in October 2002.


An Arizona mining company moved closer to obtaining a permit to resume operations at an El Paso copper smelter that's been closed since 1999. A report released by the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommends renewing Asarco's air quality permit--but only if the Tucson-based company ensures that it "maintains effective pollution control equipment and practices.'' Among the measures recommended are development of a plan for repairs to its acid plants and thorough inspection of certain electric systems. Asarco attorney Doug McAllister says the conditions laid out in the 30-page report are what Asarco would expect to face before restarting the plant. The report must be approved by the TCEQ commissioners. Public comment will be accepted on the findings through June 18th and a public meeting on the permit renewal will be held. Environmentalists and some civic leaders have urged the state to reject Asarco's permit because of possible environmental hazards.


Most of us would agree that a mother's job is priceless. But the salary.com Web site takes time every year to figure out how much the actual work is worth. This year, they say the work of a stay-at-home mom would command an annual salary of more than $138,000. That's up about three percent from last year. For working mothers, the amount is put at more than $85,000 this year. That is on top of any money earned in the workplace. By the way, Mother's Day is May 13th this year.


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