Thursday PM October 11th, 2007

Government investigators raid EGL offices in surcharge probe...BP plans organizational changes...Waste Management announces "green" initiative...

The FBI raided the Houston and London offices of EGL on Wednesday in an industry-wide antitrust investigation. An EGL spokesperson says the investigation is related to surcharge practices in the global freight industry for fuel costs and customs handling. The Justice Department says there is an international probe of the freight-forwarding business involving the European Union and other foreign authorities. EGL, formerly Eagle Global Logistics, says it is cooperating with the investigation.

BP plans to divide into two business segments—one for exploration and production and another for refining and marketing. BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward says the company has grown too complex. Hayward announced earlier this year that BP would cut its head office workforce by 25 percent.

The Bush administration is reporting that the federal budget deficit fell to less than $163 billion in the just-completed budget year. That's the lowest amount of red ink in five years. The administration credits the president's tax cuts for helping generate record-breaking revenues. But it warns of an approaching "fiscal train wreck'' unless Congress deals with unsustainable growth in social security, Medicare and Medicaid. Administration officials say the new figures show the government is on track to accomplish President Bush's goal of eliminating the deficit by 2012. Democrats say the improvement in the deficit this year does not mask the fact that Bush's economic policies transformed the budget surpluses of the Clinton years into record deficits.

Hot weather and worries about the economy are blamed for restraining retail sales last month. Chains reported monthly sales figures Thursday morning, and in many cases, they were disappointing. Among those falling short were Limited Brands, Mothers Work, Target, J.C. Penney and Nordstrom. By contrast, Wal-Mart posted a modest sales gain that was slightly below analysts' expectations. Even so, the world's largest retailer raised its third-quarter profit outlook because of cost-cutting. Stores typically look to move fall clothing in September. But warmer-than-usual weather in some parts of the country was seen crimping that demand.

The United Auto Workers union has approved a historic four-year contract with General Motors. The UAW says 66 percent of production workers voted for the deal, while 64 percent of skilled trades workers approved it. Negotiators reached the deal late last month after a two-day nationwide strike. It establishes lower pay for some workers and puts GM's massive retiree health care debt into a UAW-run trust. In exchange, GM promises future work for employees at U.S. plants. The UAW president says the agreement protects jobs, wages and benefits for active and retired workers.

The UAW president says the new contract the union struck with Chrysler is similar to the General Motors agreement. Ron Gettelfinger hasn't released the details--the union still needs to vote to ratify the contract. He did tell a Detroit radio station that the union makes adjustments based on the company it's negotiating with, but that the contract is "basically a pattern agreement.'' Workers have already ratified the four-year contract with GM. It took two short-lived strikes by the union to get the tentative deals. Next up for the UAW is financially hobbled Ford. Last year, Ford hemorrhaged more than $12.5 billion. The automaker could prove the toughest bargainer yet.

Houston-based Waste Management plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next dozen years to make its operations more environmentally friendly. The firm also plans to increase its energy production from waste, buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and more than double the amount of recyclable material it processes, according to Waste Management's Wes Muir.

"Well, there are four goals. One is increasing our waste-based energy. The second is increasing the volume of recycled materials we manage. The third is increasing our fuel efficiency and lowering our emissions of our fleet. And the fourth is quadrupling the amount of land that we set aside for wildlife habitat conservation areas in relation to our landfills."

Waste Management Chief Executive David Steiner announced the initiative at the World Business Forum in New York. In an interview with the Associated Press, Steiner said the "green'' strategy will also boost Waste Management's bottom line. The company reported $13.4 billion in revenue in 2006. Steiner says he doesn't look at it as how much it's going to cost--he's looking at how much it's going to return.
Tags: News


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