Hostess to sell most of breads
NEW YORK — Hostess said Friday it has a deal to selling most of its bread business, including the Wonder and Nature's Pride, to Flowers Foods Inc. for $390 million. The deal also includes 20 bakeries and 38 depots. Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, announced in November that it was shutting down its business and selling its breads and snack cakes. The sales of the Twinkies, Ding Dongs and other brands of snack cakes are expected to be made separately in coming weeks. The deal with Flower Foods includes $360 million for the Wonder, Nature's Pride, Butternut, Home Pride and Merita brands, along with the bakeries and depots.
Taco Bell tests new value menu
NEW YORK — Taco Bell is testing a new value menu that could put it in more direct competition with the Dollar Menu at McDonald's. The Mexican-fast-food chain is testing a “$1 Cravings Menu” in two markets that lists nine items, including three new offerings. If successful, it would replace the chain's current value menu, called “Why Pay More,” with items priced at 89 cents and 99 cents. The $2 “meal deals” on “Why Pay More” are not offered on the new menu. Chris Brandt, vice president of marketing for Taco Bell, said the tests began in October in Fresno, Calif., and Knoxville, Tenn., and will continue for at least another couple of months before a decision is made on whether to roll out the menu more widely. He said the idea for “$1 Cravings” came about after consumer research showed diners felt like they were “forced to eat off the value menu,” rather than wanting the items it offered. So Taco Bell decided to split the “$1 Cravings” menu into what it considers to be five universal cravings: beefy, cheesy, spicy, crunchy and sweet.
Merck pulls cholesterol drug
Drugmaker Merck & Co. is suspending its sale of the cholesterol drug Tredaptive after initial results from a study showed that it wasn't effective and could raise the risk of some serious side effects. The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company said Friday it is telling doctors to quit prescribing the tablets, which are not approved in the United States, and it also is advising patients to stop taking the medication only after talking to a physician. The drug is sold in about 40 countries, including Europe. A company spokeswoman said Friday it will take a few months to implement the suspension worldwide. Merck said last month initial results from a big, late-stage study showed that adding Tredaptive to traditional statin therapy failed to lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and related problems.
Active rig count declines slightly
HOUSTON — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. dropped by one for a second consecutive week to settle at 1,761. The Houston-based company said in its weekly report Friday that 1,323 rigs were exploring for oil and 434 for gas. Four were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, Baker Hughes counted 1,987 working rigs. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Louisiana gained five rigs, Oklahoma increased by four, Alaska added two and California, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming each gained one rig. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania lost six rigs while Colorado and Texas each dropped two. Arkansas and New Mexico remained unchanged.
Shale gas drilling ban may end
ALBANY, N.Y. — As Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration nears completion of regulations that could lift a 4.5-year-old ban on shale gas drilling in New York, opposition groups have ramped up efforts to persuade the governor to say no to fracking. Environmental, health and community groups opposed to shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” say they collected more than 200,000 comments during an intense 30-day effort featuring online coaching and comment-writing workshops at churches, community centers, food co-ops, coffee shops and holiday house parties from New York City to Buffalo. They gave cases of comments to regulators on Friday, the last day to comment on proposed drilling rules. Adding star power to the opposition were Yoko Ono and her son, Sean Lennon, who urged Cuomo to reject fracking. Industry representatives also delivered comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation, arguing that the proposed rules are so strict they'll effectively prevent drilling in New York's part of the Marcellus Shale formation. DEC must read and respond to the comments.
BP seeks penalty adjustment
NEW ORLEANS — BP urged a federal judge Friday to rule the company can't be penalized for millions of gallons of oil that spewed from its blown-out well but was captured before it could spill into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. A court filing by London-based BP PLC says workers captured more than 34 million gallons — 810,000 barrels — of crude and either burned it or shipped it to shore before it could enter the Gulf waters. The company asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to rule that the collected oil can't be counted in calculating the company's Clean Water Act penalties, which could amount to billions of dollars.
Poland plans rules for shale gas
WARSAW, Poland — Poland will likely adopt a much-awaited law to regulate shale gas production this year, opening the way for the potentially lucrative sector to kick into gear, Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski said Friday. Poland has been the most aggressive country in Europe in pursuing shale gas, a form of natural gas that is trapped in porous shale rock and requires new technologies to extract. It has been produced in the United States since late 1990s, but environmental activists say the extraction process — called hydraulic rock fracturing — is highly polluting. International and Polish companies are exploring for the gas in Poland but are waiting for the new law — which will regulate taxes on production, terms for starting business and distribution of gas — before they commit to a longer-term strategy.