Business Briefs

Charleston Gazette
October 28, 2005

Si Kahn to sign book copies at Taylor Books

Si Kahn, a writer, singer and community organizer for 40 years, will visit Charleston on Sunday to promote his new book.

"The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy," written with Elizabeth Minnich, argues that privatization is not the best way to run everything.

The authors are critical of the growing role that large private contractors and companies play, and hope to play, in public education, prisons, military service, Social Security, public lands and health care.

Kahn will read from his new book and sign copies of the book between 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday at Taylor Books, 226 Capitol St. in downtown Charleston.

Kahn will then appear at a live performance of Mountain Stage beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Cultural Center at the State Capitol.

AEP quarterly earnings top estimates

COLUMBUS, Ohio - American Electric Power Inc. said Thursday its third-quarter earnings dropped 27 percent from a year ago, when the company's profit was inflated by a one-time gain from the sale of property and assets.

Earnings for the quarter ended Sept. 30 were $387 million, or 99 cents per share, compared with $530 million, or $1.34 per share in 2004. Without nonrecurring items, AEP reported earnings of $370 million, or 95 cents per share, compared with $318 million, or 80 cents per share, a year ago.

The Columbus-based company said its results, which surpassed the 82-cent estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial, were driven primarily by increased electricity sales to retail customers who kept their air conditioners on during the quarter that started July 1.

"Favorable weather played an important part in the earnings improvement, but our decision to focus our strategy on our strong utility operations played an equally important role," said Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Morris.

The company has improved its "laser focus" on domestic utility operations by shedding international drains on earnings, Morris said in a conference call with analysts.

Revenue for the quarter was $3.3 billion, down from $3.8 billion last year.

AEP increased its outlook for the year, reporting that it expects earnings to be between $2.55 and $2.65 per share, up from previous expectation of $2.30 to $2.50 per share.

In the first nine months of this year, the company has earned $2.44 per share. Analysts estimate the company will earn 32 cents per share in the fourth quarter.

AEP said it expects earnings of $2.50 to $2.70 a share for 2006.

For the first three quarters, the nation's largest power generator has recorded $9.1 billion in revenue and $948 million in earnings, compared with $10.6 billion and $757 million respectively a year ago.

Last year's one-time gains included the sale of four independent power producers in Florida and Colorado, two coal-fired plants in the United Kingdom, its 50 percent interest in another U.K. company and a natural gas facility in Louisiana.

Federal judge dismisses Microsoft fees case

BALTIMORE - A federal judge said Thursday he didn't have "anything close to jurisdiction" to decide whether a group of lawyers should receive more than $24 million in legal fees for their work against Microsoft in antitrust cases.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz dismissed the case, which was brought by a group of 27 law firms that represented clients in federal court. Those firms were trying to get a share of $79 million in fees that a group of 11 law firms received for state court cases in Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

"This is a stretch too far," Motz said at a hearing, as he told the plaintiffs they would likely have to take the matter to state courts.

The 27 law firms came together as the National Plaintiffs' Council in an effort to force the lawyers in the state cases to pay them $24.5 million in compensation. For more than five years, attorneys have represented end-user plaintiffs in antitrust overcharge class- action lawsuits against Microsoft.

The lawyers in the federal case say they did significant work for the state lawyers, including funding the litigation, taking many depositions and working with experts.

From staff, wire reports

Price Gielen, an attorney representing the national group of lawyers, argued that Motz should decide the case because he is the judge who is most familiar with the large, multijurisdictional case against the software giant. Gielen said separate state court cases could lead to conflicting results, and that Motz could handle the case more efficiently as a whole.

"This is the only court that could really handle it on a national basis," Gielen said.

But Andrew Dansicker, who represented the States' Plaintiffs' Counsel, said the lawyers in the federal court cases failed to negotiate legal fees with their counterparts in state courts. Dansicker pointed out that the lawyers in the federal cases stood to reap hundreds of millions of dollars that never materialized.

"That's life as a contingency lawyer," Dansicker said, "and sometimes you lose."

Gielen countered that there was no law requiring an agreement for payment.

But Motz concluded he shouldn't order payment from state-court settlements, and granted the state lawyers' request to dismiss the case. The judge also said an agreement could have been negotiated over legal fees - but wasn't.

Gielen said the law firms in the federal case will have to review whether to pursue the fees in state courts.