Health costs increase for small businesses
Nearly two-thirds of small-business owners paid more for their workers’ health insurance in 2013 than in 2012, according to a survey released Thursday by the National Federation of Independent Business.
The business group surveyed 921 small-business owners and operators from around the country. Some 64 percent reported the cost per employee rose in 2013.
The survey also showed the median cost for health insurance coverage — the amounts employers and employees paid — is about $3,500 every 30 days.
Renee Amar, state director of NFIB/Louisiana, said the results of the survey were disappointing if not surprising. “Our members say that the cost of health insurance is a big problem for them, and I think it’s clear from the survey that things are only getting worse,” she said.
Exxon Mobil profit slips during third quarter
DALLAS — Exxon Mobil Corp. earned nearly $8 billion in the third quarter, but that was 18 percent less than a year ago, largely because oil refining profits fell.
Although Exxon increased oil and gas production slightly, it wasn’t enough to offset weakness in refining, which also hurt results at other major oil companies.
Refining margins have collapsed this year. An easing of transportation bottlenecks has boosted the price of some North American crude oil. Meanwhile, gasoline prices have fallen because of ample supply and moderate demand.
Exxon reported third-quarter earnings of $7.87 billion, or $1.79 per share, down from $9.57 billion, or $2.09 per share, a year earlier.
Earnings at Exxon’s so-called upstream business of finding and drilling for oil and gas improved, rising $740 million to $6.7 billion. Production increased 1.5 percent because of new projects and fewer maintenance interruptions.
But profits plunged in the “downstream” business of refining oil and selling the finished products such as gasoline and diesel fuel. That segment earned $592 million, down $2.6 billion from its record third quarter of 2012. Exxon said overcapacity in the refining industry has cut into margins.
Methanex plant’s move to Geismar on track
Methanex Corp. said the relocation of two methanol plants from Chile to Geismar remains on track, with the first plant expected to begin operating by the end of 2014 and the second by early 2016.
The Geismar update was included in the Vancouver, British Columbia, company’s third-quarter earnings report.
Methanex said it spent $67 million on the Geismar projects during the third quarter and will spend an estimated $780 million to complete the plant relocations.
The company said it has also begun building a manufacturing organization in Geismar and spent $3 million to do so during the three months ending Sept. 30. The company expects to spend around $25 million more to complete its organizational build-up. Methanex is already taking applications for jobs at the plants.
On Oct. 23, Entergy Gulf States Louisiana LLC announced it would supply power to both plants under a long-term contract.
The plants will each be capable of producing 1.1 million tons of methanol a year. Methanol can be found in everything from windshield washer fluid and recyclable plastic bottles to plywood floors and paint.
Compiled from Advocate staff and wire reports