Business briefs: Stein-Mart key Nov. revenue metric up 3.1 pct

December 6, 2013 

JACKSONVILLE -- Stein Mart's revenue at stores open at least a year rose 3.1 percent in November.

The metric is an important measure of a retailer's health, because it excludes revenue from stores that recently opened or closed.

Total sales increased 7.7 percent to $119.9 million from $111.4 million in the same month a year ago.

The company said it saw the strongest demand for linens, dresses, ladies' boutique, and ladies' career and casual sportswear. But demand for ladies' accessories, men's furnishings and men's sportswear was weak.

Geographically, sales were strongest in Texas, while sales at Midwest stores lagged.

Year-to-date revenue at stores open at least a year increased 3.9 percent, while total sales rose 4.9 percent to $1.02 billion.

Stein Mart had 264 stores at the end of November, up from 263 at the same time last year.

Its shares fell 21 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $14.06 in morning trading. Its shares are up nearly 90 percent so far this year.

Shell will not build Gulf Coast plant

Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that it would not build an immense gas-to-liquids plant on the Gulf Coast because of concerns over its cost. Shell had been studying the possibility of building a plant to take advantage of cheap U.S. shale gas for at least two years.

The plant would have cost more than $20 billion, the company said.

The decision would appear to be a blow to Shell's ambitions both in natural gas technology and in the United States, where it is a major investor. The news could also be a sign of overheating in the U.S. oil and petrochemical industries.

Shell, Europe's largest oil company by market capitalization, has spent decades perfecting the technology that converts natural gas to fuels like diesel and jet fuel. The process is tricky and expensive, but it has the advantages of producing fuels that are free of pollutants like sulfur. These fuels also sell at prices linked to oil, which is much more valuable than gas in North America. In Shell's statement, the company referred to "uncertainties" about whether these differentials would remain over the long term.

Shell has long operated a gas-to-liquids facility in Malaysia and recently completed a much larger installation called the Pearl in Qatar that produces 140,000 barrels of liquids each day.

Pearl cost about $19 billion.

AT&T to reduce fees for non-subsidized phones

AT&T is joining T-Mobile in reducing monthly fees for people who pay for their own devices.

It's the latest break from a longstanding practice of offering subsidies on devices to lock customers into two-year service agreements. Many cus

tomers have been forgoing those subsidies anyway as they choose plans that allow frequent phone upgrades. But until now, AT&T and Verizon have still factored in the costs of those subsidies in the monthly service fees for voice, text and data, whether or not the customer uses the subsidies.

Beginning Sunday, customers will be able to switch to the cheaper plans if they buy or bring their own phone. That includes paying for the device in installments through the frequent-upgrade Next plan. Those whose contracts have run out also qualify.

Most customers will save at least $15 a month under the new AT&T plans.

-- Herald wire reports

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