The Love Belo

Shareholders of Dallas-based TV broadcasting company Belo Corp. voted this week to approve the company’s sale to Gannett in a deal worth $1.5 billion. If the deal closes by the end of the year as expected, Gannett will be one of the nation’s largest TV-station owners, the Wall Street Journal reports. The addition of Belo’s twenty stations brings its total portfolio up to 43. The only remaining hurdle in finalizing the acquisition is securing approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, which have requested further information from the companies.

The Bottom Line: Seventy-three percent of shareholders voted in favor of the sale, despite some recent speculation that Belo could have gotten a better deal if it had put itself up for auction, according to the Journal. The June announcement of the sale sparked a bump in the company’s stock price as hedge funds jumped on the bandwagon, “expecting either another buyer to swoop in or for Gannett to sweeten its bid.”

Frackin’ in a Land Down Under

Houston-based energy giant Apache Corp. has begun operations at a $1.5 billion natural gas project in Western Australia, the Houston Business Journal reported this week. Apache is partnering with Australia’s largest oil producer, BHP Billiton Ltd., on the Macedon domestic gas project, which the companies expect to produce about 35 million cubic feet of shale gas per day—or about twenty percent of the region’s natural gas supply for the next twenty years, according to Zacks Equity Research.

The Macedon venture consists of four offshore production wells and an onshore gas treatment plant, Zacks reports. Apache owns a 28.6 percent stake in the operation.

The Bottom Line: Although Australia is in the midst of a natural gas shortage, several energy firms—including Houston-based ConocoPhillips—have begun exploration in the remote western regions of the country. Macedon is the fourth-largest operation there.

The Softer Side of AT&T

Stepping up its efforts to cut costs and address slowdowns in its data network, AT&T announced this week that it “plans to shift its spending away from equipment purchases and toward software,” Businessweek reports. The Dallas-based telecom monolith also rolled out the second phase of an initiative to trim down the number of suppliers it works with, a campaign it calls Domain 2.0. 

AT&T is at the forefront of an industry-wide shift toward mobile virtualization, a technology that “uses software to allow hardware to handle more tasks at once,” according to Businessweek. 

The Bottom Line: By reducing hardware costs, the company will be able to invest more in building up its data network, which has been slammed by bandwidth-hogging smartphones in recent years.

Winner of the Week: Four Seasons Houston

Bill Gates will always have a place to stay in Houston. This week his company Cascade Investment LLC agreed to buy the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown H-Town to “capitalize on rising lodging demand tied to the region’s energy business,” Bloomberg reports. While the price tag hasn’t been publicly disclosed, insiders are saying the 404-room luxury hotel went for about $140 million. The sale is expected to go through by October 1.

Loser of the Week: Prada Marfa

The Texas Department of Transportation is cracking down on illegal roadside advertisements, meaning a well-known art installation outside Marfa could soon be sent packing, Businessweek reports. Prada Marfa, a miniature mock-up of the designer clothing store, sits on a lonely stretch of desert highway near the tiny West Texas town. But TxDOT says that despite having no actual business connection to the retailer (or any business connections at all), the “store” is an ad because it bears Prada’s logo. The agency argues that violates a federal law requiring permits for all commercial signs displayed along U.S. highways. 

The announcement comes on the heels of TxDOT’s decision to evict another sign in the area, a 40-foot neon sculpture of the Playboy bunny.