Tuesday PM September 25th, 2007

Clear Channel shareholders approve buyout...First application for new nuclear plant in near 30 years filed for Texas expansion...General Motors and United Auto Workers continue discussions...

Clear Channel Communications shareholders have approved a buyout worth nearly $20 billion. The radio giant's announcement comes more than ten months after the deal was proposed. The offer had been sweetened several times by a private equity group led by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners. The winning offer was $39.20 per share in cash or stock. Current shareholders could end up with as much as 30 percent of the new, privately-held company. Clear Channel says of the shares voted, about 98 percent were in favor of the buyout of the San Antonio-based company. The deal is seen closing before the end of the year.

A New Jersey company has asked the federal government for permission to double the size of the nuclear plant in Bay City. It's part of a big push by the nuclear industry to expand nationwide--with some help from Congress. Eric Niiler has the story from Washington.

Niiler report

It's the first application for a new nuclear plant in nearly thirty years. NRG Energy filed papers with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The company estimates that the two additional reactors will supply enough electricity for over two million households in south central Texas, and cost nearly $7 billion. David Crane is President of NRG. At a Capitol Hill press conference, he said nuclear power is the best option to meet the state's soaring power demand.

"In Texas earlier this year, we faced a prospect of 18 traditional coal plants, which if built would have had as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as the entire country of Argentina."

Crane predicts that Texas will lead the nation into a nuclear renaissance, as he called it. He expects another dozen applications for nuclear plants will soon follow. Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald welcomed the Bay City projects, and said the area's economy will get a boost.

"The construction of these two new units, they are going to put four to six thousand construction workers to work over a period of six to eight years. Once these units are on line, there are eight-hundred to a thousand new employees that'll come to our county. Many of them will be housed in our county. Many of them will be residents of our county."

If federal officials approve its application, the new units would start in about 7 years. For Houston Public Radio, I'm Eric Niiler on Capitol Hill.

A federal judge in New York has rejected a bid for an early appeal of a ruling in Enron's bankruptcy case that some in the distressed debt sector say has unsettled the market. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin says an appeal could delay a long-awaited trial of lawsuits by Enron creditors against the company's banks, set to start in March.

The Financial Times reports that BP's CEO plans a shake-up of the company's structure after its worst financial performance in 15 years. Tony Hayward reportedly told staffers in Houston that third-quarter results on October 23rd will be "dreadful," and BP needs to streamline its overly complicated structure. He says there is massive duplication and lack of clarity about job expectations. Hayward succeeded John Browne as BP's chief executive on May 1st.

Jurors who heard testimony in the trials resulting from the BP Texas City refinery explosion are not being allowed to speak about their views on the cases they didn't get to deliberate. That's because there are still 1,200 still-pending lawsuits, according to state District Judge Susan Criss.

The Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority has approved $1.4 million in contracts and projects for the Bayport container and cruise terminals. A new 50-acre container yard was approved, as were the heavy-capacity forklift and yard tractors.

A General Motors spokesman say negotiators for the auto maker and the United Auto Workers have returned for their 22nd straight day of bargaining. Workers walked off the job yesterday morning after talks between the two sides bogged down. The president of the union says job security remains the primary concern as the union seeks guarantees of new vehicles for U.S. plants that would preserve jobs. The UAW's Web site says striking workers will receive $200 a week plus medical benefits from the UAW's strike fund, which had more than $800 million as of last November.

Southwest Airlines said that it'll take a $25 million charge in the third quarter to cover early retirement payments to employees. The Dallas-based low-fare air carrier also says its third-quarter costs would rise four to five percent compared to a year earlier. JP Morgan analyst Jamie Baker says the prediction suggests that Southwest's third-quarter profit would fall short of Wall Street expectations. Baker said the good news is that the shortfall appeared limited to Southwest, not broader airline industry stocks. Those shares took a beating after American Airlines' Fort Worth-based parent, AMR Corporation, issued a disappointing outlook for third-quarter revenue.

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