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Duke Energy is outsourcing its human resources (HR) operations and information technology to Hewitt Associates, a global human resources services firm, under a new seven-and-a-half-year contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. About 100 Duke Energy employees, out of a total of 21,500 in the U.S. and Canada, will lose their jobs because of the move, but Duke said some may still be retained by Hewitt. Most of the affected employees are located at Duke's Charlotte headquarters. Hewitt will provide comprehensive back-office administrative human resources services, including payroll, active employee and retiree health and insurance enrollment and status, retirement plan administration, staffing and training enrollment and status, work force event and salary administration, and performance management administration, to the company's U.S. and Canadian employees and retirees. The company said that all of its U.S. and Canadian employees and benefit plan participants will see changes in the manner in which they access some HR information and/or how they perform certain HR-related functions.

The two parent companies of oil major Royal Dutch/Shell Group have announced that they will unify as a single company, Royal Dutch Shell plc, beginning July 20. The two European companies have been listed independently for nearly a century. Under the unification plan, the company will create a management board with a U.S.-style CEO and nonexecutive chairman. Royal Dutch, based in The Hague, and Shell Transport and Trading, based in London, will become subsidiaries of the new company. The companies also said that under the plan, the unified company will increase dividends in line with inflation and continue to buy back shares. The merger, which was announced last October, followed months of scandal for the conglomerate following several downgrades to its oil and natural gas reserves (see NGI, Nov. 1, 2004). Royal Dutch/Shell said the merger would eliminate some of the accounting failures that led it to overestimate its reserves by 23%, or 4.47 billion boe.

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