Business news in brief

Posted: November 11, 2017 at 1:41 a.m.

U.S. oil, gas rigs increase by 9 for week

HOUSTON -- The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by nine this week to 907.

That's up from the 568 rigs that were active a year ago.

Houston oil field services company Baker Hughes said Friday that 738 rigs sought oil and 169 explored for natural gas this week.

Among major oil- and gas-producing states, Oklahoma gained six rigs, New Mexico increased by four, and Alaska and Utah each gained one.

Texas lost two rigs, and West Virginia lost.

Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May of 2016 at 404.

-- The Associated Press

Maine sees dip in wild blueberry crop

PORTLAND, Maine -- A trade group says Maine's wild blueberry crop fell sharply this summer to land below 100 million pounds for the first time in four years.

Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine executive director Nancy McBrady says preliminary industry figures show the crop coming in at about 65 million pounds. It's more than enough for Maine to remain far and away the wild blueberry capital of the country, but a sharp drop from recent years.

McBrady said the crop is down because of bad growing conditions and lack of farming effort. Surplus supplies of blueberries from recent years have motivated some growers to scale back. Prices are also down.

The industry is looking for new buyers to help improve prices. Oakhurst Dairy plans to issue wild blueberry milk in the spring.

-- The Associated Press

Man awarded $7.5M for Wal-Mart injury

U.S. Army veteran Henry Walker was trying to buy a watermelon at a Wal-Mart store in Phenix City, Ala., on June 25, 2015, when his foot got stuck in a wooden pallet. When he turned, the 59-year-old fell, breaking his hip.

Walker sued Wal-Mart over the 2015 injury, and an Alabama jury ruled Thursday that he should be awarded $7.5 million.

"You don't expect to go into a grocery store walking fine on your two feet and come out on a stretcher," Walker's attorney Shaun O'Hara told AL.com.

A Wal-Mart spokesman said the company plans to appeal.

"We are disappointed in the verdict," said the spokesman, Randy Hargrove. "We appreciate the jury's service, however we believe that the damages awarded were excessive in light of the facts of this case."

-- The Washington Post

Hertz CEO: Ride-share firms not enemy

The rental-car business isn't dead, and working with ride-hailing companies will actually offset any market share lost to them, Hertz Global Holdings Inc.'s chief executive officer said Friday.

"We don't see ride hailing as an enemy," Chief Executive Officer Kathy Marinello said during a conference call with analysts. "It is profitable for us and I see it being a growth area for the next several years."

Hertz already makes money providing older cars in its fleet to drivers working for ride-hailing services such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., Marinello said. It has also been opening new locations catering specifically to ride-share drivers and working with auto-repair shop Pep Boys to inspect, certify and repair their vehicles. Pep Boys, Lyft and Hertz share an investor in billionaire activist Carl Icahn.

Meanwhile, short-term rentals vulnerable to competition from Uber or Lyft make up just 5 percent to 7 percent of Hertz's rental volume, Marinello said.

"As the saying goes, hold your friends close and your enemies closer," she said. "We want to work with them, meet those needs and take advantage of getting more out of an asset that I think we've turned too quickly in this business."

-- Bloomberg News

Business on 11/11/2017