Tuesday AM September 25th, 2007

Texas manufacturing activity slows...Former Iraqi oil official testifies that Wyatt planned four "front" companies to purchase Iraqi oil...Shareholder vote imminent on proposed $19.5 billion buyout of Clear Channel Communications...

Manufacturing activity in Texas slowed in September, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The production index dropped to 4.5 from 21.6 in August. The index for volume of new orders dropped to 2.7 from 14.4 in August. The index for volume shipments droppedξto 5.4 from 27 in August. But the index for number of employees rose to 3.5 after spending two months at zero.


A banker says the improved inflationary environment and rising threats to economic growth motivated the recent Federal Reserve rate cut. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher said policymakers are prepared to act again if needed. Fisher's comments came from a speech prepared for delivery before a gathering of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, in Dallas. He also spoke to reporters after the speech. Fisher says the U.S. has an otherwise healthy economy weakened to an unknown degree by a correction to excessive speculation in its housing sector and related financial instruments. Fisher isn't currently a voting member of the interest rate setting federal open market committee. He spoke after the central bank cut interest rates last week by a wider-than-expected margin.


A former Iraqi oil official testified that Oscar Wyatt, Jr., said in January 2001 that he planned to set up four "front" companies to purchase Iraqi oil. Saddam Hussein's regime was insisting that purchasers pay illegal surcharges. The 83-year-old Houston oilman is accused of funneling millions of dollars in kickbacks in the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. Wyatt doesn't dispute he purchased oil under the program, but contends all his dealings were lawful. In exchange for his testimony, the former manager with Iraq's state oil marketing organization and his family have been permitted to emigrate to the United States and he had been paid $115,000.


Halliburton is eyeing expansion in the Middle East, hoping to acquire stakes in emerging Gulf Arab oil companies, according to Reuters, quoting an Arab newspaper. The Houston-based oil services firm set up a corporate headquarters in Dubai last May, to capture a larger share of the oil and gas services market outside of the Americas.


ExxonMobil Chemical plans to expand its Rotterdam aromatic plant in The Netherlands to make it ExxonMobil's largest paraxylene production facility. The expansion will increase production by 25 percent. Paraxylene is used as a basic raw material used in the production of plastic beverage containers and other packaging, as well as fabrics and films.


A shareholder vote is imminent on a proposed $19.5 billion buyout of Clear Channel Communications. The meeting is today in San Antonio--where Clear Channel is based. The offer is from a private equity group led by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners. The deal was first announced last November, but was sweetened several times after some large shareholders signaled they would oppose earlier offers. The latest offer of $39.20 per share in cash or stock has appeased at least some of the big holdouts against what could become a privately owned company. Current shareholders also could end up with as much as 30 percent of the new company. The buyers will also assume $8 billion in debt. Two-thirds of shareholders would need to approve the buyout.


The Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority will consider $1.4 million in contracts and projects for the Bayport container and cruise terminals at its meeting this morning. The projects include a new 50-acre container yard, heavy-capacity forklift and yard tractors.


Former Ambassador Robert Strauss and his Dallas law firm have donated $7.5 million to a fledgling globalism research center at the University of Texas. The Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law officially opened at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Center Director James Lindsay says the center was created to "provide the imagination, leadership and insight needed to understand how globalization is affecting our world, and to generate workable policy solutions.'' The 88-year-old Strauss graduated from UT. His political career began with Johnson's first run for Congress in 1937. He was chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the 1970s, served as a special envoy to the Middle East under President Jimmy Carter and served as ambassador to Russia under President George Bush.


Round Rock-based Dell says it has reached a deal to have more of a presence in China. The world's second-largest seller of personal computers says its PCs and notebooks will be sold to the Chinese through Gome Group. The initial sales will start with 50 Gome stores next month and expand to more stores in the first half of next year. Until now, Dell sales in China have been done either by phone or through the Internet, the way businesses buy computers but not consumers. Lenovo Group and Hewlett-Packard have the biggest market share in China. HP is the world's largest computer seller.


Chip maker Texas Instruments announced plans to buy back another $5 billion worth of its shares. Texas Instruments says the repurchase plan brings its total stock buyback authorization since September of 2004--to $20 billion. The company says the buybacks had reduced its share count by 17 percent through June 30th.


Waste Management plans to add 60 renewable energy facilities across the nation over the next five years. The Houston-based firm currently has nearly 300 sites managing the disposal of millions of tons of waste. The new facilities will capture methane gas from decomposing landfill waste, which WM says will generate more than 700 megawatts of clean renewable energy.


Houston geophysical technology provider Input/Output has become ION Geophysical. The name change reflects evolution from seismic equipment manufacturer to provider of imaging technologies and services for the oil and gas industry.


Business professor John Stayton remembers eyes rolling at the idea of a "green MBA.'' But these days, business schools across the country are incorporating the environmental and social costs of doing business into their curricula. And few programs, like the one Stayton directs at Dominican University of California, aim for an all-green program. Stayton says the Goale is "to change the way we're doing everything and making everything.'' One expert on MBA programs with the Center for Business Education at the Aspen Institute, Rich Leimsider, says almost all business schools have "at least a beachhead'' of environmental and social awareness and some much more. He says "it matters what the senior executives of companies do, say and think,'' so including an appreciation for the social and environmental context of business can create "leaders who are really good at creating value all around.''


The Department of Housing and Urban Development, mortgage servicing companies and industry experts host a foreclosure prevention meeting this evening at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Brookhollow on the Northwest Freeway near Hollister Road. Houston-area foreclosure activity exceeded 16,000 filings for the first half of the year, ranking 52nd among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas, according to RealtyTrac. The meeting will look at methods and resources available to help consumers avoid foreclosure.


Schlumberger is giving a $1 million grant to the SEG Foundation to help establish a new Geoscientists Without Borders program. Thoughout this initiative, the SEG Foundation will award grants to projects of merit, such as pollution remediation, natural hazard mitigation, sustainable resource development and education. The SEG Foundation supports the educational mission of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. Schlumberger is the largest single employer of members of SEG.


A project aimed at giving $188 laptops to schoolchildren in the developing-world is planning to sell the rugged little computers to U.S. and Canadian residents. The one laptop per child project will offer the machines for $400 each, with the profit going to pay for a laptop for a poor country. The "give one, get one'' offer will run for only two weeks, from November 12 to November 26. The laptops' manufacturer, Quanta Computer, is beginning mass production next month, but orders are far behind the three million hoped for. The project's director says he's hoping the promotion will stimulate demand in countries that have been hesitant to join. The green-and-white low-power "XO'' computers is unlike any other laptop. It has a user interface designed for children, built-in wireless networking, uses very little power and can be recharged by hand with a pulley or a crank.


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