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Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Tuesday, March 25, 2003



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IN HAWAII

Retail gas prices fall, but not in Hawaii

While gas prices nationwide fell nearly 4 cents per gallon at the pump last week, Hawaii gas prices hit a record high Saturday and returned to that level yesterday.

The federal Energy Information Administration reported that regular unleaded gasoline declined 3.8 cents, on average, to $1.69 per gallon.

It was the first national decline in three weeks as cheaper fuel at the wholesale level appeared to make its way to retail outlets, analysts said.

However, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, the average price at the pump in Hawaii yesterday was $2.06, a record high first set on Saturday. The average was 43 cents higher than the price of $1.63 in Hawaii a year ago.

Gas prices are highest on Maui, which recorded a record high $2.29 a gallon first on Saturday and again yesterday.

Honolulu also experienced record high prices, with an average of $1.97 a gallon at the pump first on Saturday and again yesterday. Hilo checked in at $2.08 a gallon, 21 cents below the record of $2.29 set in July 2001.

HealthSouth says isle clinics OK

HealthSouth Corp., the Birmingham, Ala.-based company accused by federal regulators of accounting fraud, will continue operating its 11 rehabilitation and surgical centers in Hawaii, a company spokesman said yesterday.

HealthSouth spokesman Ernie Knewitz said he expected the company's Hawaii facilities to conduct business as usual. The company has facilities on all the major islands.

"We are committed to patient care. That is our primary focus, our core business. As of right now things are continuing to move in that direction," he said.

HealthSouth employs more than 50,000 employees nationwide at its 1,700 facilities.

Banks froze the company's $1.25 billion credit facility last week after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy and others in the company of inflating earnings by $1.4 billion since 1999 and overstating $800 million in assets. The company's stock last traded at $3.91 on March 18. The New York Stock Exchange is seeking to have the shares delisted.

Tesoro refinery to get maintenance

Tesoro Petroleum Corp., operator of one of Hawaii's two oil refineries, plans to spend $13 million on scheduled maintenance at the Kapolei refinery in the first quarter of next year.

The San Antonio company has said it will temporarily close the refinery for an unspecified number of days to complete the routine maintenance, known as a turnaround. Tesoro last closed the refinery for maintenance in 2000.

No disruptions in supply are expected.

Also next year, Tesoro plans to spend $43 million on maintenance on its California refinery and $8 million on its Washington refinery. This year, Tesoro is spending a total of $42 million on refinery maintenance, according to a filing Friday with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

ChevronTexaco Corp., operator of Hawaii's other refinery, is temporarily closing part of its Kapolei refinery in April for scheduled maintenance, for about 36 days.

State awards high-tech grants

The state High Technology Development Corp. has awarded $104,500 to seven local technology companies. The awards are part of the Small Business Innovation Research matching grant program created in 1989 to increase research and development in Hawaii.

Hawaii Biotech Inc. received a matching grant of $12,500; Hokupa'a Technologies, $12,500; InkiTiki Corp., $10,000; Innovative Technical Solutions, two grants totaling $25,000; Oceanit Laboratories, $25,000; Makai Ocean Engineering, $10,000; OCEES International, $10,000.



ON THE MAINLAND

Consumer confidence drops

NEW YORK >> Consumer confidence declined for a fourth consecutive month in March, dragged down by worries about the economy and tensions in Iraq.

The Consumer Confidence Index fell to 62.5 from a revised 64.8 in February, the New York-based Conference Board said. The decline was not as deep as expected and not nearly as drastic as the 14-point drop experienced in February.

Analysts had expected a reading of 62.0 in March.

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