Around the World December 2, 2001

PHOTO/Courtesy John Immel
aroundworld.jpg STATE

Ferry builder’s lawsuit settled for $500,000

JUNEAU -- What once was a $53 million lawsuit against the state over construction of Alaska’s newest state ferry has been settled. The state will pay a subcontractor for Halter Marine Inc. $500,000 and an insurance company will chip in $750,000.

Halter Marine had sought $46 million, claiming the state did too many inspections and ordered too many changes while the Kennicott was being built. That hurt other projects, the company claimed. In addition, subcontractor Jamestown Metal Marine Systems sought $7.2 million.

Halter went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings last spring, and the bankruptcy trustees decided the lawsuit was not going anywhere. Jamestown then settled for the $1.25 million.

The 382-foot Kennicott was built at Halter’s Mississippi shipyard for just under $75 million.

Park Service gets few Glacier Bay applications

JUNEAU -- Fewer than two dozen people have applied for compensation over commercial fishing closures in Glacier Bay, according to the National Park Service. The application period for a share of $23 million in federal funds began in September and closes Jan. 28.

Incomplete or late applications won’t be accepted, park service officials have said. Program Manager Ronald Dick said he expected up to 400 applications, and he urged those who qualify to get the paperwork in early so officials can contact then to fill in missing areas if needed.

A federal law closed part of Glacier Bay to commercial fishing in 1999, and by 2000 other sections only were open to certain fishermen in selected fisheries until they retire.

Applicants must show a history of earnings derived from the bay’s fisheries in order to be eligible for part of the $23 million Congress appropriated to compensate people for lost future earnings.

Halibut season ends with some quota left

PETERSBURG -- Ripples from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks weakened prices at the end of Alaska’s eight-month halibut season, which closed Nov. 15 with about three million pounds of the quota remaining.

Statewide totals show season landings at 95 percent of the 58.5 million pound allocation.

"We had some pretty poor weather the last month and a half or so. Some people felt they couldn’t get out there to finish fishing their allocations," said Jessie Garrett of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Season-end prices were in the rage of $1.60 to $1.80 a pound in Kodiak for freezer-bound halibut, while payments ranged up to $2 a pound for fresh sales, according to Alaska Fresh Seafoods owner Dave Woodruff.

The Sept. 11 attacks hurt the price as the season was coming to an end.

"With the events of September, halibut, like other seafood products, especially high-end products , took a dive in prices," said Norquest Seafood President Terry Gardiner.

In recent years, halibut prices have reached as much as $2.75 a pound.


FBI issues warning to natural gas industry

WASHINGTON -- The FBI has warned energy companies that Osama bin Laden may have approved plans to attack North American natural gas pipelines and facilities if he’s captured or killed, a warning that prompted a tightening of security.

The warning was sent in a memo to industry security officials late last month.

Attorney General John Ashcroft confirmed the warning, though he expressed some doubt that attacks would be conditioned on bin Laden’s capture or death.

The alert did not single out a specific target, but referred to natural gas supplies including the more than 260,000 miles of gas pipelines and hundreds of pumping stations and other facilities.

The FBI alert said the information came "from a source of undetermined reliability" and that "no additional details on how such an attack would be carried out, or which facilities would be targeted" could be learned.

Trade group predicts modest holiday sales

DALLAS -- The trunk of Diana Flores’ car could be a roadmap to this year’s holiday shopping season. The Dallas woman’s trunk is stuffed with Wal-Mart shopping bags.

Discount stores are expected to be among the season’s strongest retailers, while department stores are expected to compete for shoppers by slashing prices.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will rise 2.5 percent to 3 percent, to $206 billion, the smallest increase since 1990. But some analysts consider the trade group’s forecast too rosy considering the weak economy and a reluctance by Americans to celebrate while the country is worried about terrorism and war.


Casual Corner buys Brooks Brothers chain

LONDON -- British retailer Marks & Spencer is selling the venerable Brooks Brothers men’s clothing chain for $225 million in cash to the owner of women’s apparel seller Casual Corner.

"We think it is one of the best brands, and that was the reason we wanted it,’’ said Mark Shulman, chief operating officer of Enfield, Conn.-based Retail Brand Alliance, which hammered out the deal Nov. 22.

"This puts us in the men’s wear business and it is very exciting,’’ he added.

The price is less than one-third of the $750 million Marks & Spencer paid for Brooks Brothers back in 1988.

Brooks Brothers, whose business has been challenged by the relaxation of dress codes in the workplace, operates about 160 stores in the United States and through partnerships abroad, operates approximately 75 stores in Japan, Hong Kong, Italy and Taiwan.

-- Compiled from business wire services.

12/02/2001 - 8:00pm