Industry Briefs

With natural gas costs expected to be higher in the next few months, Naperville, IL-based Nicor Gas has announced a new Customer Payment Support Plan, which will enable its 1.9 million customers who fall behind in their bills to spread monthly payments into smaller amounts through the summer. If a customer receives a bill in January or February and cannot make the total payment, the customer contacts Nicor, which will then estimate costs in future months and arrange a payment plan to spread the amount in regular increments over warmer months. Fixed monthly payments would continue until Sept. 2001. The plan joins two other programs, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, and Sharing, an assistance program administered by the Salvation Army and funded by Nicor. For information about the programs, call (888) 642-6748.

The New York Mercantile Exchange announced a target date of Nov. 15 for its demutualization, which will make it the first exchange in New York to convert from not-for-profit membership structure to a for-profit structure. Pending certain legal notifications by November 15, the Exchange, a not-for-profit membership corporation under New York law, will be reorganized on that date as a for-profit membership corporation under Delaware law and will be renamed New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. A new stock-holding company named NYMEX Holdings, Inc., will be formed to own all of the economic interests and most of the voting control in the for-profit membership corporation. Each existing NYMEX Division membership will be converted into one share of common stock in NYMEX Holdings, representing equity in the overall organization, and one membership in the exchange representing trading privileges. The common stock and trading privileges will not be separable until a majority of stockholders vote to permit separate trading of the common stock and trading rights. The exchange is the largest physical commodity exchange in the world. On average, $14 billion worth of transactions occur on the exchange on a daily basis, with $3.3 trillion changing hands last year.

Pennaco Energy announced yesterday that it has posted record net income of $3.6 million ($0.17 per share) for the third quarter 2000, compared to last year's third quarter net loss of one million dollars ($0.07 per share). The coal-bed methane E&P company which holds approximately 400,000 net acres in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana had net gas sales of 47 Bcf or 51 MMcf/d. The net gas sales represent a 13% increase over the company's second quarter figure, and over six times its sales for the third quarter of 1999.

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