Thursday PM July 5th, 2007

Gasoline supplies and crude oil stockpiles rise...Apollo Management tops bid by Basell to buy Huntsman Corporation...Dell expects shipments of computers in Asia--excluding China, Japan and South Korea--to grow almost 20 percent in 2007...

Oil prices are higher but off the peaks they hit earlier, as traders react to a bigger-than-expected increase in gasoline inventories. The Energy Department reports gasoline supplies rose by 1.8 million barrels last week--better than twice the increase analysts had been forecasting. Inventories had fallen two weeks ago. Crude oil stockpiles surged 3.1 million barrels and distillates, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, added 1.2 million barrels. Refineries kicked their operations up a few notes, running at 90 percent of capacity, compared with 89.4 percent the week before. Oil futures jumped to a ten-month high Tuesday as traders fretted about such things as terror plots in Britain and violence in Nigeria. Officials Say gunmen in Nigeria's southern oil heartland attacked an oil rig Wednesday and seized five expatriate workers. And flooding over the weekend caused the closure of a refinery in Coffeyville, Kansas.


New York-based Apollo Management has topped a bid by Dutch chemical company Basell to buy Utah-based Huntsman Corporation, which has an administrative office in The Woodlands. Hexion Specialty Chemicals is offering $2 more per share, offering nearly $6.35 billion for Huntsman, the world's largest maker of epoxy adhesives.


A German court has rejected a lawsuit by Fort Worth-based Moncrief Oil International against a German chemical company. The suit sought to void a joint venture between BASF and Gazprom--a Russian state-controlled company--to develop a Siberian gas field. Moncrief sued BASF, contending that a deal between Gazprom and BASF's Wintershall unit should not have been permitted. Moncrief claims it already signed a deal with Gazprom in the late 1990s. The U.S. company said BASF induced Gazprom to breach its contractual obligations to Moncrief, leaving it out in the cold and devoid of any chance to explore, exploit and profit from the natural gas field. BASF says Moncrief's claims were without merit. Moncrief says it will review the decision before deciding its next step. It can appeal the decision to a regional court.


Rejecting an appeal by U.S. private equity group Lone Star Funds, South Korea's National Tax Tribunal ordered the Dallas-based company to pay $110 million in back taxes on profits from the sale of a Seoul office building. Lone Star filed complaints in March last year against the tax authority's decision to impose back taxes on the fund's $975.5 million sale of the building in 2004 via its Belgium-based affiliate Star Holdings. A Lone Star official said that the company will appeal the decision. The tribunal said the purchase of the Star Tower building was regarded as "a treaty purchase'' to avoid paying tax. The tribunal ruled that a treaty with Belgium aimed at protecting against double taxation does not apply in the case and, as the ultimate beneficiary of the sale, Lone Star should pay the tax.


Dell expects shipments of personal computers, notebooks and servers in Asia--excluding China, Japan and South Korea--to grow almost 20 percent in 2007, according to a company executive. Dell's president for Asia Pacific South--Paul-Henri Ferrand--did not give a figure for the 2006 shipments for the same market but said shipments for the whole of Asia--including China, Japan and South Korea--reached 3.5 million units per quarter last year. Round Rock-based Dell was recently displaced by Hewlett Packard as the world's largest PC maker. Ferrand said at a media briefing that Dell plans to change the way it sells its products to help boost sales in the region. Ferrand says Dell--which has long relied on a direct-to-consumer business model in which buyers place orders online or by telephone--was exploring opportunities to sell its products to consumers through retailers and distributors in the region. Last month the company started selling a few systems at Wal-Mart stores in the United States.

A Nasdaq stock market panel has extended Dell's listing on the exchange for two more weeks, but the computer maker plans to ask for more time to finish delinquent financial reports. Dell said that Nasdaq's Listing Review Council told the company last week it would extend its conditional listing until July 16th. Dell had made an open-ended request for more time and will renew that bid with Nasdaq directors. Round Rock-based Dell said it was committed to regain compliance with all of Nasdaq's requirements for listing on the stock exchange.


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