Wednesday AM May 7th, 2008

Offshore Technology Conference into third day of panels, conferences and exhibits…Yahoo! and McAfee to offer alerts about potentially dangerous Web sites alongside search results…Chrysler offers to help pay some gasoline costs for car and truck buyers…

The Offshore Technology Conference continues at Reliant Park. The Minerals Management Service is part of the Department of the Interior and regulates offshore oil and gas development. Carol Fagot with MMS explains the agency holds periodic lease sales for blocks of offshore assets.

“Usually three miles by three miles in the Gulf of Mexico. Off of the Texas coast, it’s about ten miles off. The other coasts, it’s about three miles off their coastline. West coast of Florida, it’s also ten. So it’s state waters, and then it goes into the federal. Well before we hold a lease sale, we have a very large environmental staff, and we do environmental impact statements to determine whether we should be leasing a certain area or not. When we have all that settled we have a five-year leasing program that starts out. And it’s open to public comment—all along the way, we’re very transparent. And we take all those comments into consideration before we sign off on the leasing area. Generally in the Gulf of Mexico, we have two sales a year.”

Fagot says a lot of industry folks drop by the MMS booth at OTC.

“They’re looking for our new deepwater report. Every year we issue another deepwater report and it’ll be available on our Web site and it gives all the information on the latest deepwater development trends, and what we see going on—all the historical facts. So it’s a very big report for us and people are looking for it already. But they’ll also come looking for the latest information, perhaps, on new regulations that we’re instituting on platforms since the hurricanes, or new safety information or some environmental information. So we get a variety of questions here.”

The Offshore Technology Conference shows the latest equipment and technology for drilling miles below the ocean. The conference theme this year is “Waves of Change.” Some 2,400 companies are exhibiting at OTC, with some 67,000 attendees expected from 110 countries.

Yahoo! and McAfee are joining to offer alerts about potentially dangerous Web sites alongside search
results generated at With the new security feature, people who search the Internet using Yahoo! will see a red exclamation point and a warning next to links McAfee has identified as serving dangerous downloads or using visitors’ e-mail addresses to send out spam. Dangerous downloads can include “adware,” which shows unwanted advertisements; “spyware,” which secretly tracks users’ keystrokes and other actions; and other malicious programs that can give criminals control over users’ computers. Yahoo! and McAfee hope the move will quell users’ anxiety about accidentally clicking on malicious links. The companies decline to reveal the financial terms of the partnership.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates says that “key decisions” following the company’s withdrawal of a takeover bid for Yahoo! will be made by CEY Steve Ballmer. Gates, on a brief trip to South Korea, was asked about the software maker’s plans after the Yahoo! bid fell apart, including whether Microsoft would pursue another deal of the same size elsewhere. Possibilities are seen including large Internet companies like Time Warner’s AOL and News Corp.’s MySpace and promising startups like Facebook and LinkedIn. Microsoft already owns a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook, the second-largest social network behind MySpace.

Members of Illinois’ Congressional delegation are looking for a way to keep the FutureGen clean-coal project alive. Senator Dick Durbin says he’ll hold up White house nominations to fill positions in the Energy Department. That agency earlier this year pulled the plug on plans to build the FutureGen plant in Mattoon. Energy Department spokeswoman Megan Barnett would say only that the agency continues to work with Congress. Durbin’s an Illinois Democrat. He also hopes to craft legislation that will keep the plant in the works until a new president takes office in January. The Energy Department has said it killed the project over rising costs. But skeptics believe FutureGen died because it was going to be built in central Illinois rather than Texas, President Bush’s home state.

Target says it will sell nearly half its credit card receivables to JPMorgan Chase for $3.6 billion, a move the retailer had long resisted. Target will still run its credit card business, which includes a Target visa card and a store card, and says customers won’t notice any change. In effect, target gets the cash and JPMorgan gets the right to a chunk of the future profits from the credit card business. The Minneapolis-based discounter said the interest represents about 47 percent of what target credit card customers owe. The deal is expected to close before the end of the month. Target said in March it expected to get about $4 billion for half its credit card receivables. The retailer says it will use the money for capital investments—generally stores–and share repurchases. The credit card business has been a major profit contributor in recent years–13 percent of target’s 2007 profit.

Chrysler is offering to help pay the cost of gasoline for car and truck buyers. Rivals General Motors, Toyota and Ford say they have no plans to follow its lead. The Auburn Hills, Michigan-based maker of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles has announced an offer that caps the price of gasoline at $2.99 a gallon for three years for people who buy or lease new vehicles beginning Wednesday through June 2nd. The offer covers most of its models and is based on 12,000 miles of driving per year and the vehicle’s government fuel economy rating. Chrysler says customers will get a card for buying gas that is linked to their own charge account. The customer will be billed $2.99 a gallon, and Chrysler will pay the rest. Actual savings depend on what happens to gas prices during the next three years.

Anadarko Petroleum says its first-quarter profit fell 83 percent from a year ago, when the company’s results included nearly $1.7 billion in asset sales gains. Anadarko, one of the nation’s largest independent exploration and production companies, says its profit for the quarter ended March 31st totaled $286 million, compared with $1.7 billion a year earlier. Revenue fell to $2.9 billion from $5.2 billion. Net income in the most-recent quarter was reduced by about $440
Million by one-time items.

D.R. Horton says it’s swung to a loss for its fiscal second quarter. That’s as a sustained housing slump forced the nation’s largest homebuilder to take hefty charges to write down the value of its inventory. The Fort Worth-based homebuilder posted a loss of $1.31 billion. That’s compared with year-ago profit of $51.7 million. The latest period includes pretax write-down charges of $834.1 million. Revenue plunged to $1.62 billion from $2.62 billion a year ago. On average, analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected revenue of $1.36 billion. Wall Street estimates typically exclude one-time charges or gains.

Hospital operator Tenet Healthcare says it swung to a first-quarter loss from year-ago profit. That’s as it was hurt by a loss from divested operations and a hefty litigation charge. The Dallas-based company lost $31 million on sales of $2.37 billion. It earned 75 million dollars on revenue of $2.22 billion in the first quarter of last year. The latest quarter includes losses from discontinued operations of $21 million. It also includes a litigation charge of $30 million. Excluding items, the company would have earned 4 cents per share in the latest period.

Liverpool Football Club’s plans for a new stadium
have been approved by legislators in the northern England city. The Liverpool Council tells the Associated Press that a planning committee unanimously approved construction of a 60,000-seat venue to replace the 115-year-old Anfield Stadium. The club’s plans were for a 71,000-capacity stadium, but the council said “future proofing” had been built into the decision. However, the stadium will be limited to 45,000 seats if traffic management issues aren’t resolved. Two previous plans had been granted approval. The initial designs were revised when Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks of Dallas and George Gillett, Jr., of Vail, Colorado, bought the club last year. In January, rising costs forced them to scale back plans for a sleek, asymmetrical design.

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