Roundup: Gas rigs near 14-year low; PNC shareholder wants "climate risk" study; more

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Gas rigs near fewest in 14 years with price at 20-month high

The natural gas rig count nationwide dropped to the lowest level in almost 14 years even as future prices for gas settled at a 20-month high. Gas rigs declined by 14 to 375, the fewest since May 14, 1999, according to Baker Hughes Inc. Oil rigs gained three to 1,357, the most since December. Total rigs dropped 10 to 1,738, the fewest in a year, said the field-services company in Houston. Gas rigs have fallen for six straight quarters as shale drilling drove stockpiles of the fuel to record highs, depressing prices and turning energy producers toward oil and liquids-rich plays. This week's drop in gas rigs reflects energy producers' response to futures prices from earlier this year, when “it really still wasn't economic for most people to drill,” said James Williams, president of WTRG Economics in London, Ark. “It takes between two and three months for the gas rig count to reflect a change in prices, and if you go back three months, we hadn't reached $4 gas.” Natural gas futures have risen 23 percent in 2013 and settled above $4 per thousand cubic feet last week for the first time since 2011. Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Oklahoma lost 13 rigs, Pennsylvania dropped six, West Virginia lost two and North Dakota decreased by one.

PNC shareholder wants bank to assess ‘climate risk' because of lending practices

A PNC Financial Services Group's shareholder, Boston Common Asset Management LLC, claims that the Pittsburgh bank is “exceptionally exposed to climate risk,” because of its lending and investing practices and wants the bank to better assess that risk, according to a securities filing on Friday. The asset management firm's proposal asks PNC holders to have the board produce by September an assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from loans, investments and “other financing activities.” PNC board opposes the proposal, saying the bank monitors its emissions and carbon footprint already and that a report “would require considerable resources without conveying useful information.” The Boston firm cited a half-dozen examples of PNC loans and investments involving coal companies in the last two years and claimed they represent a risk to the bank. PNC will hold its annual meeting Downtown on April 23.

FNB Corp.'s CEO paid $2M last year

FNB Corp. CEO Vincent Delie Jr. received total compensation worth $2 million last year, up from $1.1 million a year earlier, said proxy materials filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. His salary increased to $521,323 from $443,778, and the value of his stock awards jumped to $939,827 from $275,002. Delie, who became CEO in January 2012, also saw his non-equity incentive pay increase to $432,372 from $303,806. The parent of First National Bank will hold its annual meeting on May 15.

Boeing makes final test flight for 787 battery fix, calls it ‘uneventful'

Boeing put its 787 battery fix through a “final” flight test on Friday and will soon submit the data to regulators, who the aircraft maker hopes will sign off on the new system and allow the 787 back in the air. The Dreamliner has been grounded since mid-January because of smoldering batteries that, in one case, caused a serious fire on the tarmac in Boston. Boeing's fix includes more heat insulation and a battery box designed so that any meltdown of the lithium-ion battery will vent hot gases outside of the plane. Friday's flight took off from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., and returned one hour and 49 minutes later. “The crew reported that the certification demonstration plan was straightforward and the flight was uneventful,” Boeing said. The flight was to “demonstrate that the new battery system performs as intended during normal and non-normal flight conditions.”

Blue Belt settles lawsuit by rival

Blue Belt Technologies Inc. said it settled a lawsuit filed by Mako Surgical Corp. of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Mako alleged breach of contract and unfair competition claims, which East Liberty-based medical device firm Blue Belt denied. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Separately, Mako said it won a permanent injunction preventing Blue Belt from hiring a former Mako employee and requiring the destruction of all proprietary Mako business information in Blue Belt's possession. Both companies make robotic systems used in knee-replacement surgeries.

Other business news

• To mark National Financial Literacy Month, Citizens Bank will donate about $100,000 in grants to local nonprofit organizations for their financial education programs in Western Pennsylvania, which also includes the Erie and State College markets. The bank will announce the grants Downtown on Tuesday at a financial literacy workshop.

— Staff and wire reports

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