Battle Looms For Coastal Wetland In Southern California

Duke Energy Corp. has agreed to pay shareholders about $146 million in settlements following allegations that it failed to disclose details of its 2012 merger with Progress Energy Inc. “The lawsuit accused Duke and several directors and executives of planning in secret to overthrow Progress Chief Executive Bill Johnson as head of the new company. His ouster sparked a drop in the combined company’s stock price that harmed stockholders, according to the suit, filed in North Carolina federal court.

Duke said in a statement that the settlement “would avoid the cost of prolonged litigation and eliminate uncertainty.” The company and its executives and directors continue to deny any wrongdoing.” [WSJ]

A rallying dollar pushed the price of oil down on Tuesday as the market took profit on recent highs in the spread between Brent and U.S. crude. “In New York, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude closed down $1.71, or 3.4 percent, at $48.29 a barrel, weighed by the dollar and expectations that U.S. crude inventories had swelled to another record high last week from new supply builds.

Brent, the London-traded global oil benchmark, slumped about 4 percent as expectations of a mid-year U.S. rate hike sent the dollar soaring to multi-year highs, making commodities denominated in the greenback costlier for holders of other currencies.” [CNBC]

The private chemical giant Ineos stated yesterday that it was acquiring a package of stakes in licenses held by Igas Energy, a British onshore oil and gas company. “Ineos said that it would pay 30 million pounds, or about $45 million, in cash for the shares in the sites, mainly in northwest England and central Scotland, and that it would agree to fund up to £138 million in drilling and other exploration work in the license areas.

While these would be small sums if spent in the North Sea, the site of most British oil and gas production, they are huge commitments in the context of the British shale gas industry, which so far has been led by minnow-size companies with small budgets.

Ineos, based in Rolle, Switzerland, is a big fish in the global petrochemical industry with over $50 billion in annual sales, and the company could put significant funds into shale exploration. Jim Ratcliffe, founder of Ineos, wants to use natural gas extracted from shale rock as feedstock for his petrochemical plants in Britain, which are enormous consumers of energy. [NY Times]