Tuesday PM July 24th, 2007

Comcast's conversion of Time Warner Road Runner Internet and e-mail services to be completed by week's end...Former Willbros Group executive charged with bribery in Nigerian deals...ConocoPhillips and Peabody Energy building coal-to-substitute natural gas facility...

All customers of Comcast's Internet and e-mail services in the Houston area will have been switched from the Time Warner Road Runner system to Comcast by Friday. Philadelphia-based Comcast says about 75 percent of its Houston-area customers have already been switched. Those who used Road Runner e-mail—houston.rr.com—will have to register Comcast.net addresses. The company is sending e-mail users messages providing a link to do so. Comcast can automatically notify contacts in address books of the change, and messages to the old Road Runner accounts will be forwarded to the new Comcast addresses. The switch to Comcast means a download speed increase from five megabits per second to six megabits, and speeds of 12 to 16 Mbps when there is extra capacity available on the network.

A federal grand jury in Houston is charging a former Willbros Group subsidiary executive with conspiring to bribe Nigerian officials to win a natural gas pipeline contract. Jason Edward Steph of Sunset is accused of conspiring to funnel more than $6 million in bribes to Nigerian officials. The four-count indictment accuses Steph of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering. Willbros, with administrative offices in Houston, is headquartered in Panama City, Panama.

Houston-based ConocoPhillips is teaming with Peabody Energy on plans to build a midwest coal-to-substitute natural gas facility. A specific location hasn't been determined. But the plant would be developed at the mouth of a mine at a site where St. Louis-based Peabody has access to large reserves and existing infrastructure. ConocoPhillips says construction would begin in 2009 at the earliest. Preliminary estimates are that the additional mining and the facility combined would employ about 400 workers. ConocoPhillips says demand for natural gas and synthetic natural gas has grown. The company's E-gas technology coverts coal or petroleum coke into a clean synthesis gas. When completed, the plant is expected to produce up to 70 billion cubic feet of synthetic natural gas from more than 3.5 million tons of coal.

American Airlines' Fort Worth-based parent AMR Corporation joined four OneWorld Alliance Partners in seeking antitrust immunity from the U.S. Transportation Department. AMR--whose airlines carry more passengers than any other in the world--says it's seeking immunity effective March 2008. Joining American are partners Iberia, Finnair, Malev Hungarian Airlines and Royal Jordanian Airlines. Immunity would allow the carriers to increase code sharing, route and schedule planning, frequent-flyer programs, price and yield management, cargo services, and other cooperation in other areas. American Airlines says the combined market shares of American and the other applicants are comparable or well below the Trans-Atlantic market shares of immunized members of competing star and Skyteam Alliances. OneWorld is made up of ten airlines including London-based British Airways, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways and Japan Airlines. The Skyteam Alliance includes Delta, Northwest, Air France, KLM, Alitalia and CSA Czech. Star has 17 airlines, including United and U.S. Airways.

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