News In Brief

BP Amoco bumped up oil prices on the West Coast by exporting Alaskan crude to Asia instead of US refiners, experts' reports and court records obtained by The Oregonian, a Portland newspaper, alleged. In a 1995 e-mail exchange described by The Oregonian, two BP managers discussed "shorting the West Coast market" to achieve "price uplift scenarios." The documents were part of a Federal Trade Commission analysis of BP's proposed $26.8 billion buyout of Atlantic Richfield Co. The agency approved the merger last April after BP agreed to sell off Atlantic Richfield's Alaskan holdings. BP officials disputed the documents' conclusions and denied the company engaged in anticompetitive acts. Gasoline prices on the West Coast, however, are among the highest in the nation, with Oregon motorists paying about 20 cents above the national average.

A $4.67 billion merger is expected to be announced as soon as today between two of the world's largest cement producers, Blue Circle Industries PLC and Lafarge SA, published reports said. Lafarge, based in Paris, already owns 29 percent of Blue Circle and failed last year to acquire majority interest through a hostile takeover bid. Blue Circle's headquarters are in London.

Street violence of the type seen at earlier conferences in Seattle; Geneva; Prague, Czech Republic; and last month in Nice, France, is a distinct "possibility" at the high-profile World Economic Forum in Switzerland 2-1/2 weeks from now, opponents of freer global trade warned. The "Anti-WTO Coordination," a Swiss-based militant group involved in at least one of the aforementioned demonstrations that turned violent, said it aims to shut down the Jan. 25-31 forum because of the latter's "liberal ideas" on trade. The annual meeting at the resort city of Davos is attended by many of the world's top business, financial, and political leaders. Swiss authorities are vowing to provide heavy security for the event.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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