Drilling in the Deep
Two energy exploration giants are shifting the focus of their Texas operations. On Wednesday, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. sold $3.1 billion worth of assets in the Eagle Ford Shale. The next day, it used the proceeds from that sale to buy several deepwater oil production development projects and leases in the Gulf of Mexico from Houston-based Apache Corp. in a deal worth $1.4 billion, the Houston Business Journal reports.
While Freeport-McMoRan is transitioning from land-based drilling projects to deeper offshore sites, Apache is moving away from deepwater and ramping up its investments in projects at shallower depths—which “have quicker cycle times, require less capital and provide more options to bring oil and gas to market,” according to Apache executive vice president and COO Thomas E. Voytovich.
The Bottom Line: The Apache deal is in line with the company’s newfound strategy of “streamlining and focusing on low-risk endeavors,” the HBJ reports. It recently unloaded large blocks of assets in the Gulf, Canada, and Argentina, and Voytovich says the company “continues to pursue joint venture and/or monetization opportunities for its deepwater prospects.”
Lyft and Let Drive
San Antonio is getting closer to becoming one of Texas’ few early adopters of ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber. On Wednesday the City Council directed transportation officials and city staff to collaborate on a revised set of rules that would give the providers a green light to pick up passengers, the San Antonio Business Journal reports. (Dallas appears to be heading down a similar road.)
Lyft and Uber are in murky legal territory in several cities around the country—including Houston and Austin—because they don’t adhere to the local transportation code regulations imposed on taxi companies. And San Antonio Police Chief William McManus wants to make it clear that their services still aren’t legal just yet: His department has issued a cease-and-desist order for ride-sharing companies in general, and at this week’s meeting he threatened to impound the vehicles of drivers who operate before the city approves the rule changes, according to the Business Journal.
The Bottom Line: The San Antonio working group’s members include “representatives from Lyft and Uber plus taxi- and limo-company officials and city staff,” who now have two months to work out a compromise and propose it to the Council, the SABJ reports.
Winners of the Week: Impatient Online Shoppers
Residents of six Texas cities no longer have to wait in agony all weekend for their Amazon orders to reach their doorsteps on Monday. Starting this week, the online retailer is expanding its Sunday delivery service to Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, College Station, and Waco, as well as eight other cities, the Houston Chronicle reports. Amazon began offering Sunday shipments at no extra charge in L.A. and New York last November in partnership with the U.S. Postal Service.
Retail experts predict the week-round deliveries will encourage more customers to patronize the site toward the end of the week—a time when shoppers tend to visit brick-and-mortar stores rather than wait that extra day for their urgent packages of Xbox games and Game of Thrones DVDs.
Losers of the Week: Strip Club Owners
The state “pole tax” on strip clubs survived another legal challenge this week, as a Texas appeals court ruled Friday that the $5-per-patron tax does not violate the establishments’ First Amendment rights, the Houston Chronicle reports. State officials had expected the fee, which was first introduced in the 2007 Sexually Oriented Business Fee Act, to generate $44 million to fund programs and services for victims of sexual assault. But thus far the tax has only brought in about $17 million, largely because the law has been tangled up in court since its adoption.
Earlier this week, Businessweek reported on Texas Comptroller Susan Combs’ efforts to shake down club owners to make up the difference. Her office sent a letter to more than 200 businesses in April, in which Combs argued that “any claim that ongoing litigation is a basis for nonpayment of the Sexually Oriented Business Fee is not valid,” according to the Chronicle.