Exxon sues over storm-related delay

ExxonMobil is suing Australia’s Macquarie Energy in a Texas court to avoid paying $11.7 million for missed deliveries during last month’s winter freeze in the central United States.

The lawsuit, filed by Exxon’s natural gas business, said the massive storm and state declarations of emergencies prevented it from fulfilling its supply commitment to Macquarie Energy, the second-largest U.S. gas marketer.

Exxon is asking the Texas court to rule that the massive storm, caused when an Arctic air mass swept the central United States, was a natural disaster.

Such a ruling would allow Exxon to break its contract with Macquarie without a penalty, overriding a demand from the Australian company that Exxon cover the wholesaler’s $11.7 million in damages for missed deliveries.

U.S. gas demand and prices soared last month when freezing temperatures hit as far south as Texas, where 4.3 million homes lost power.

A Macquarie spokesperson in Australia declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Australia’s Macquarie was one of the largest winners in the cold snap, benefiting from record U.S. natural gas prices. It could collect a $317 million profit from the weather-related gas binge, analysts said.

— Reuters


U.S. suspends tariffs on British exports

The United States agreed on Thursday to suspend millions of dollars’ worth of tariffs on British exports including Scotch whisky as part of an effort to resolve a long-running trans-Atlantic trade dispute over aerospace subsidies.

The U.S. government will suspend tariffs for four months on a range of goods, the two countries said in a joint statement, in the latest move to de-escalate trade tensions centered around aid for Boeing and Airbus.

President Donald Trump’s administration had slapped tariffs in 2019 on $7.5 billion worth of European goods in retaliation for state support given to Airbus.

Britain was targeted along with the other three stakeholders in Airbus — Spain, France and Germany — for more tariffs than other countries.

The European Union retaliated with tariffs on up to $4 billion of U.S. goods over subsidies to Boeing, but the United Kingdom offered an olive branch to the United States by announcing it would suspend tariffs from January, an offer that President Biden’s administration has now moved to reciprocate.

Distillers of Scotch whisky — the Britain’s largest food and drink export last year — cheered the news that the 25 percent tariff would be cut to zero.

Scotch exports to the United States fell by a third since the tariffs were imposed 16 months earlier, costing the industry more than half a billion pounds, the Scotch Whisky Association said.

Scottish cashmere producers, pig farmers and Stilton cheese makers will also benefit from the suspension of tariffs, the U.K. Department for International Trade said.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

Financial technology company Square said Thursday that it has reached an agreement to acquire majority ownership of Tidal, the music streaming service partly owned by rapper Jay-Z. Under the deal, Square will pay $297 million in cash and stock for Tidal, Jay-Z will be named to Square’s board of directors, and he and other artists who own shares in Tidal will remain stakeholders.

Applications for U.S. state unemployment insurance rose slightly last week, underscoring the pandemic’s lingering restraint on the labor market recovery. Initial jobless claims in regular state programs totaled 745,000 in the week ending Feb. 27, up 9,000 from the prior week, Labor Department data showed Thursday.

Hotel operator Marriott International said on Thursday that its employees in the United States and Canada will receive four hours of pay for getting the coronavirus vaccine. Marriott said it was encouraging employees at its managed properties to get vaccinated but has not made it mandatory. Some North American companies are offering incentives to workers to get a vaccine when it is available.

— From news services

Coming today

8:30 a.m.: Labor Department releases employment data for February.