Thursday PM May 31st, 2007

Northwest Airlines emerges from bankruptcy protection...Four American hostages released in Nigeria...Dell plans layoffs...

Northwest Airlines is no longer operating under federal bankruptcy protection. The nation's fifth-largest carrier's emergence from Chapter 11 caps a 20-month reorganization aimed at making it competitive for years to come. Northwest shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange this morning, with CEO Doug Steenland ringing the opening bell. Northwest has reduced its debt by more than $4 billion, cut $400 million a year in the cost of its fleet, and jettisoned unprofitable routes.

Four American hostages have been handed over to authorities in Nigeria, weeks after they were seized in that country's southern oil heartland. A judge who mediated in the dispute escorted the four men to the governor's offices, where he handed the liberated hostages over to authorities. Some 200 foreign workers have been kidnapped since armed militants stepped up their attacks against oil companies and the government in late 2005. Most have been quickly released for ransom. U.S. embassy officials have yet to comment.

Even though it saw earnings rise eight percent in preliminary first-quarter results, Dell says it plans to cut 8,000 jobs over the next year as part of a continuing restructuring. The job cuts, which represent ten percent of Dell's global work force, come as the company struggles to regain market share. Hewlett-Packard ousted it from the top spot in worldwide computer shipments last year. Earlier this month, Dell broke from its long-standing direct-to-customer business model with a plan to sell computers at Wal-Mart beginning next month.

The private investors buying TXU said that former Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans will become non-executive chairman of the electric utility when the $32 billion buyout is completed. Other directors will include former EPA chief William Reilly and Lyndon Olson, former ambassador to Sweden. The investors previously said that former Secretary of State James A. Baker III would chair an advisory group. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Texas Pacific Group and other investors are trying to complete the largest private buyout ever, which also includes the assumption of about $12 billion in TXU debt. The deal moved closer to completion this week when the Texas legislature adjourned without passing legislation to require more regulatory review of the sale and force TXU to sell power plants. The sale still needs approval from federal regulators and TXU shareholders.

A California lawyer who has brought scores of cases on behalf of defrauded shareholders is reportedly leaving the firm he started three years ago. William Lerach collected more than $7.3 billion for victims of Enron's collapse in 2001. He recently pressed the Securities and Exchange Commission to make it easier for investors to collect money from investment banks and accounting firms that did business for Enron.

A German judge will rule next month whether to block a joint venture between German chemical giant BASF and Russian gas company Gazprom. That's after a Fort Worth-based independent oil company sued to press its claim to a stake in a vast Siberian gas field. The judge promised privately held Moncrief Oil International a ruling on July 5th, but he said the issue is a complex one. Moncrief signed deals with Gazprom for a 40 percent stake of the Yuzhno Russkoye gas field. The stake has an estimated value of $8.5 billion. District Judge Manfred Nax says Moncrief's claim to the gas field is not in question, citing a valid contract from 1999. But he warned that the deal was essentially useless. Moncrief spokesman Stephan Holzinger says the company and its lawyers would discuss Nax's comments and file new arguments in July. BASF has steadfastly maintained that Moncrief's claims "are without any merit.''

Tags: News


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