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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Supply problem likely to hike summer gas prices

Gasoline prices may rise above $4 a gallon next summer as refineries along the U.S. East Coast close, reducing fuel supply, said Edward Morse, New York-based head of commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets Inc.

Sunoco Inc. and ConocoPhillips have idled two plants and plan to shut a third that together can process more than 700,000 barrels of oil a day, or about 46 percent of the region's refining capacity. That will increase the dependence on imports to meet fuel demand in the region that includes the delivery point for New York Mercantile Exchange futures contracts, the basis for national prices at the pump.

Cargoes arriving from abroad accounted for 19 percent of demand in the East Coast, or Padd 1 region, in September, Energy Department data shows. Shipments from the Gulf Coast and Midwest met another 51 percent of consumption, with local refineries supplying the rest.

"We have a real supply problem ahead this summer because these refineries have not made money and they are shutting down," Morse said last week. "Summer gasoline is harder to make than winter gasoline, and we could see $4 as a floor price rather than a ceiling limiting demand."

-- Bloomberg News

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Newspaper deal completed

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has completed the purchase of company Chairman Warren Buffett's hometown newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald.

The deal announced Nov. 30, for $150 million and the assumption of $50 million in debt, ended one of the newspaper industry's last sizable employee-ownership plans.

World-Herald spokesman Joel Long said Monday that the deal closed Friday. World-Herald shareholders -- about 275 employees and retirees and the Peter Kiewit Foundation -- approved the sale by an overwhelming vote, Long said. The amount employees received for each of their shares, which are not publicly traded, wasn't disclosed.

Under the agreement, Berkshire acquires the flagship World-Herald and daily newspapers in Kearney, Grand Island, York, North Platte and Scottsbluff in Nebraska; the Council Bluffs Nonpareil in Iowa; a number of weekly newspapers in the region; and World Marketing, a direct-mail company with operations in Omaha, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Berkshire owns The Buffalo News, and Buffett is its chairman. Berkshire also has a sizable investment in the Washington Post Co.

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National Grid sill audited

ALBANY -- A state audit of National Grid's accounting practices expected to be completed a month ago is still in progress.

Overland Consulting of Leawood, Kan., which was hired by the State Public Service Commission in February to undertake the $1.76 million study, was supposed to submit a draft report to the commission by Sept. 30, with a final report due at the end of last month, according to the contract signed by National Grid, which has to pay for the study.

But the PSC, which will receive the report before sharing it with National Grid, says the audit is still being worked on as Overland seeks "transactional data" from the British utility company, which has its U.S. headquarters outside Boston.

"It's a comprehensive study," said PSC spokeswoman Anne Dalton. "When it's done, it's done."

Under the terms of the audit contract, neither Overland nor National Grid is allowed to comment on the audit before its completion, except to confirm that it is under way.

"We're still working on it," said National Grid spokesman Steve Brady.

-- Albany Times Union

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Business round table

The Clarence Chamber of Commerce will host a business round table featuring Jean Fasanello, a human resource consultant, speaking on the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act. The free event will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 in the Clarence Public Library.

Fasanello will present a summary of the newly enacted law's requirements and recommendations for compliance.

RSVPs are appreciated by calling the Chamber office at 631-3888.

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