Friday AM October 5th, 2007

CERA report says engineer shortage will affect oil and natural gas industry in coming years...National Society of Hispanic MBAs Conference and Career Expo promotes educational excellence for Hispanics...Sysco to build new storage warehouse at Beltway 8 and I-45...

A new report out says that the global production of oil and natural gas will be hampered in the coming years because of a shortage of engineers and project managers. Researchers say that by 2010, companies trying to produce hydrocarbons can expect to find between 10 percent and 15 percent fewer engineers than they need. The report was put together by Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Engineers are vital to the search for and production of oil and gas. According to the report, more than 55,000 engineers will be needed to meet the requirements of the 400 projects studied. Petroleum executives say things aren't so bleak. College enrollment numbers are improving, and starting annual salaries for engineers usually begin at $70,000 or higher, making it a lucrative field.


Former Department of Education Assistant Secretary Tom Luce joined business leaders at the 18th annual National Society of Hispanic MBAs Conference and Career Expo at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Luce talked about how businesses can play a vital role in promoting educational excellence for Hispanics. According to the Department of Labor, Hispanics represented 13.1 percent of the labor force in 2005, and are projected to provide one of every two new workers by 2025. But the Hispanic Associate of Colleges and Universities reports that Hispanics have the lowest high school and college graduation rates of any group. Only four percent of master's degrees and three percent of doctoral degrees are earned by Hispanics. The National Society of Hispanic MBAs event continues through Saturday.


Orders to U.S. factories fell in August by the largest amount in seven months, reflecting weakness across a wide swath of manufacturing. The Commerce Department says orders dropped by 3.3 percent, worse than expected. It is the biggest setback since January. The fall-off was led by a huge plunge in demand for commercial aircraft, which fell by about 40 percent. However, orders were also weak in a number of other industries, from autos to industrial machinery and home appliances.


Iraq's self-governing Kurdish region finalized a handful of new oil deals. The Kurdistan regional government says it's approved four new production sharing contracts with international companies and had sanctioned the construction of two new refineries. Kurdish officials said the four contracts are worth about $500 million, while the new refineries are worth about $300 million. If exploration leads to oil production, 85 percent of the profits would go to the government and the remainder would go to the companies. Among the international oil companies to reach agreement with the Kurds is Dallas-based Hunt Oil. That's further straining relations with Baghdad which wants to centralize control of the country's oil resources. A spokesman for Iraq's oil ministry denounced the agreements, saying the government has "made it clear not to sign any contract until the new oil law is passed.'' New oil legislation in Iraq is among 18 benchmark laws pushed by the U.S. government to encourage reconciliation among Iraq's ethnic and sectarian factions.


The local subsidiary of food distributor Sysco is building a new 585,000-square-foot storage warehouse at Beltway 8 and I-45. The firm will sell its old 350,000-square-foot storage warehouse near the Anheuser-Busch plant just inside the northeast corner of the 610 Loop near I-10 to the Houston Food Bank. The food bank will sell its property at U.S. 59 and Cavalcade. Construction on Sysco's new facility near Greenspoint is expected to start in the next few months. Sysco serves more than 6,000 customers in this region and employs 700.


Chase and Money Management International are offering a financial literacy program at inner city Houston YMCAs, funded by a $40,000 gift from Chase. The program teaches adults about fraud and debt and educates teens about how to save for college. There are 12 YMCAs that serve predominantly low-income and underserved communities, including Aldine-Greenspoint, Cossaboom, International Services, MD Anderson, San Jacinto, South Central, the Success by Six Program, Texas Medical Center Child Care Center, West Orem, Westland, Alief and Northeast centers. In parts of the inner city, according to the organizers, the average household income is only $18,308—half the city's average of $36,616.


Houston energy technology firm Warrior Technology Service is allowing students to obtain licenses for its UnRiskIT risk analysis software. The program allows exploration and production professionals to analyze and manage risks, deliver cost estimates and avoid costly drilling problems.


A three-judge federal appeals court panel is signaling that it's likely to rule at least partly in favor of TiVo in its patent dispute with Echostar Communications. Echostar is trying to overturn a decision by a federal jury in Marshall last year that the Colorado-based satellite broadcaster had infringed on patented TiVo technology. That technology allows viewers to record one program while watching another. U.S. District Judge David Folsom awarded TiVo almost $90 million in damages. California-based TiVo sued Echostar in 2004, alleging that its digital video recorders infringed on TiVo's pioneering digital video recorder technology. That technology allows viewers to pause, rewind and fast forward live television shows. Echostar owns the satellite TV provider Dish Network. It argues that the trial court construed TiVo's patent too broadly. But Appeals Court Judges S. Jay Plager and William Bryson in Washington asked the effects if they upheld only part of the lower court ruling, related to TiVo's software. A ruling isn't expected for about six months. TiVo already licenses its technology to Comcast and Echostar's satellite rival, DirecTV.


Private equity companies TPG Capital and Affinity Equity Partners are reportedly likely to succeed in their bid for Singapore chip tester United Test and Assembly Center. TPG is based in Fort Worth. Dow Jones Newswires reports shareholders previously opposed to the $11/2 billion deal have recently signaled approval through proxy votes to be counted after a shareholder meeting. That's when the deal will be considered. Dow Jones reports the about-turn comes in the absence of a competing bid, probably because of tighter credit and financing terms following the recent subprime mortgage crisis. Voters holding 75 percent of the shares must approve the deal. Half of the people attending the meeting must also vote for the deal.


The Houston Business Journal hosts its 2007 Best Corporate Counsel awards ceremony this evening at the Hilton Americas-Downtown. Six finalists are being honored. Finalists work for DataCert, Frank's International, Baker Hughes, Nabors Corporate Services, the Offshore Drilling Company, Plains All American Pipeline, Group 1 Automotive, Sterling Bancshares, U.S. Physical Therapy, Hercules Offshore, Quanta Services, Anadarko Petroleum, Marathon Oil, Direct Energy, Lyondell Chemical and Hilcorp Energy.


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