Industry Briefs

News Flash! Energy companies can be fun too. Such is the case involving Williams employees, who according to the company, will attempt to complete the largest money raising bike ride fundraiser in the United States. Some 80 cyclists will embark on a relay-style 2,000 mile journey departing from New York City on Sept. 25 and arriving at Williams Tower in Houston on Oct. 3. In the second annual "Williams' 2000 Riding The Line" fundraiser, each rider will cover approximately 60 to 70 miles a day, roughly tracing the path of the company's Transco natural gas pipeline and telecommunications network. The fundraiser hopes to raise $5 million for United Way, which if successful will be the single largest event in the charity's 110-year history. The team raised more than $2 million dollars in the ride's inaugural year.

Chesapeake Energy announced it had entered into a definitive plan of merger with Gothic Energy on Monday, taking the preliminary agreement announced on June 30 to the next stage (see Daily GPI, July 5). The cash and stock transaction estimated at $345 million is expected to be completed on or about Jan. 15, 2001, pending regulatory approvals and a Gothic shareholders vote. The company estimates that preferred stock exchanges, earnings and common stock issuance in the Gothic transaction will increase common shareholders' equity by $800 million in 2000.

On the strength of rising natural gas prices and a revenue windfall, the Alberta government is paying down its debt and has committed C$690 million to an "energy tax refund" that will go to payments of about C$300 each to every one of an estimated 2.3 million taxpayers resident in the province as of Aug. 31. Another C$240 million will be doled out to power consumers in utility rebates of $C20 each to compensate for rising electricity prices under a provincial deregulation scheme. The provincial government said that rising natural gas prices --- now forecast to average C$4.27 (US$2.94) per Mcf this year, or C$1.77 more than the treasury predicted in the spring --- account for C$2.98 billion (US$2 billion) or 68% of a C$4.4 billion windfall jump in Alberta resource royalty revenues to C$8.5 billion this year. Alberta has earmarked C$4.5 billion for debt repayments to bring the province within about two years of being debt-free if the bonanza lasts.

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