Monday PM May 7th, 2007

Gasoline prices may have peaked...FutureGen bill approved by Texas House; back to the Senate...Chief minister of state of Maharashtra in India blames failed Enron Dabhol power project for power crisis...

There could be some good news on the horizon when it comes to gas prices. Analysts say there are signs the rising prices may be peaking. The Lundberg Survey says recent increases are due mostly to refinery problems, with at least a dozen partial shutdowns in the U.S. and internationally, cutting refining capacity. The price for a gallon of gas last week surged to a record nationwide average of $3.07 per gallon. AAA and the Oil Price Information Service say that is up more than two cents since Friday. Gas prices have risen sharply in recent weeks on concerns that refineries aren't making enough to meet peak summer demand. The summer driving season begins on Memorial Day weekend. But retail prices lag oil and gasoline futures prices. And while both futures contracts have also risen in recent weeks, they were trading lower Monday.

The Texas House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate bill 1461—the Omnibus 2007 FutureGen bill—to enhance the state's two site proposals. The bill is now back with the Senate. FutureGen is a $1 billion initiative to build the world's first near-zero emissions fossil fuel energy facility. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the FutureGen Alliance, the facility would gasify coal to generate electricity and produce hydrogen and capture and store carbon dioxide. Two Texas sites are among four finalists for the prototype plant—Odessa and the Heart of the Brazos proposal near Jewett in east Texas. A final site is expected to be announced later this year.

The chief minister of the state of Maharashtra in India blames the failed Enron Dabhol power project for its acute power crisis. Vilasrao Deshmukh says there are projects being discussed to resolve the crisis by 2009-2010. The state faces a power deficit of 6,000 megawatts. Deshmukh told the Maharastra Economic Development Council that the state will adopt a "red tapism to red carpet" approach by setting up a single window clearance system. India's experience with Enron is spooking investors away from power generation in Maharashtra, even as consumers and industries face more blackouts. The Independent Power Producers Association of India says power producers are reluctant to put money into projects where the returns are not assured.

New York-based Patina Restaurant Group has beaten Houston-based Landry's Restaurants in a bid to purchase the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. New York-based Smith & Wollensky accepted Patina's bid of $94.6 million—13 percent more than Landry's last offer.

An Eagle Global Logistics board committee has determined that a $2 billion buyout offer from Apollo Management is superior to the $1.7 billion bid by the Houston freight company's chief executive. James Crane has until Friday to match the offer or make a better offer for EGL. If no further bid is tendered, the board could consider whether to terminate the existing merger agreement with Crane and accept the Apollo bid. Crane initially announced he was taking the company private.

Clear Channel Communications delayed a vote on a proposed more than $19 billion buyout of the radio and billboard company. San Antonio-based Clear Channel says it's talking to the potential buyers about a revised offer. The company had already received enough proxies to defeat the proposed buyout, which would require a two-thirds vote for approval. The shareholder meeting scheduled for tomorrow is postponed until May 22nd. Clear Channel's board is talking with private equity firms Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners about increasing the price by about 20 cents--to $39.20 per share.

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