Wednesday AM July 25th, 2007

CSB chair releases video message on eve of retirement, commenting on BP Texas City refinery explosion...BP's second-quarter profit rises 1.5 percent from last year's quarter...Venture capital investments increase nationwide, but dip in Houston during second quarter...

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a ten-minute videotaped interview with the outgoing chairman on its Web site. Carolyn Merritt ends her term August 2nd, after five years with the agency. Merritt discusses the significance of the BP Texas City accident, saying there's a moral obligation for companies who say they value people to value people more than they value equipment or facilities. The CSB is an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents, with board members appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. It does not issue citations or fines, but makes safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups and regulatory agencies like OSHA and EPA.


The British oil major BP said its second-quarter profit rose one-and-a-half percent from last year's quarter. It credits the sale of its Coryton refinery in Britain to Switzerland's Petroplus Holdings and its west Texas pipeline in the United States to Occidental Petroleum. The quarterly report is BP's first since Tony Hayward succeeded John Browne as chief executive on May 1st. It reports a net profit of $7.38 billion. Revenue fell a fraction of a point to $73.1 billion. Profit, excluding exceptional items and changes in inventories, fell 12 percent to $5.35 billion. First-half profit fell 6.6 percent to just over $12 billion. But analyst Richard Hunter of Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers says BP had warned of the decline. He says BP's outlook for the rest of the year "looks upbeat'' with oil prices stable and the resumption of projects such those in the Gulf of Mexico.


Better health and safety for construction employees is the goal of a new partnership uniting the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Anslow Bryant Construction and the Houston chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. The OSHA/AGC Exemplary Partnership has grown to 13 Houston-area general contractors and three subcontractors. OSHA has been forming cooperative relationships with trade associations, labor organizations and employers in is Strategic Partnership Program.


Venture capital investments reached $7.4 billion nationwide in the second quarter—an eight percent increase over the same period last year—according to Ernst & Young and Dow Jones VentureOne. The Houston Business Journal reports that Houston saw three deals totaling $16.8 million, in information technology, health care and business services. But that's down from nine deals worth $35 million in the same period last year. Twelve million dollars in funding has been earmarked for Seismic Micro-Technology, which develops geophysical interpretation software for the oil and gas industry. Investors were JMI Equity Fund and Technology Crossover Ventures.


AT&T says 146,000 of Apple's new iPhones were activated in the last two days of the San Antonio-based phone company's second quarter. More than 40 percent of those phones went to new AT&T wireless subscribers. AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the new Apple wireless device, which combines phone, media player and Web-surfing capabilities. It didn't go on sale until two days before the end of AT&T's April-through-June quarter. AT&T says iPhone sales remain strong this month.

San Antonio-based AT&T posted a 61 percent increase in second-quarter earnings. It largely credits its buyout of Atlanta-based BellSouth for the boost. It also credits help from faster growth in its internet protocol services and by a gain in wireless subscribers. AT&T is the nation's largest provider of broadband Internet and land and wireless phone services. It says net income rose to $2.9 billion. The company also gained 1.5 million wireless subscribers, bringing their number to 63.7 million. AT&T has rebranded the wireless segment from Cingular since it completed the BellSouth buyout. It's now the sole carrier for Apple's iPhone. It's also agreed at the end of the second quarter to acquire rural wireless provider Dobson Communications for $2.8 billion in cash.


Ingenero has relocated its North American headquarters to Houston from Boston, according to the Houston Business Journal. The engineering and applied technology company continues keeping its technical offices in Mumbai, India, and has relocated its administrative offices from Boston to India. The firm has 120 engineers in India, and currently a staff of five works in Houston on Louisiana in customer support, engineering and sales.


Houston-based Lodestar Logistics is partnering with RMI to offer rail shipping services, according to the Houston Business Journal. Houston is one of the nation's busiest rail centers, with more than 70,000 rail cars arriving or departing each year, according to the Greater Houston Partnership. Houston has more than 100,000 shipper-controlled railcars.


Fort Worth-based railroad operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe said its second-quarter earnings fell 8 percent, missing Wall Street's estimates. Burlington Northern blames flat coal volumes and rising fuel expenses for the decreased earnings of $433 million. Revenue rose four percent to $3.84 billion. BNSF says coal volumes were virtually flat for the quarter due to mine production and weather-related issues.


Kimberly-Clark said its second-quarter profit grew 22 percent amid strong sales in its personal care and consumer tissue segments. The Irving-based maker of Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers also lifted its full-year earnings outlook and raised its 2007 share repurchase target to $2.8 billion. Net income rose for the quarter to $461.8 million. Sales climbed eight percent from last year's period, driven by growth in the company's personal care, consumer tissue and KC professional businesses. It also reports double-digit sales gains in developing and emerging markets. The weaker dollar added three percent to sales growth.


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