As Norway's biggest firm, the oil giant Statoil has always played a vital role in the country's self-image. With revenues of $34 billion a year, the state-owned company is seen as a guarantor of the country's social-welfare system. But when Statoil tried to expand its shrinking domestic business by looking for gas in Iran, it ran into trouble. In mid-September, economic-crime police raided the company's Stavanger headquarters; they believe a $15 million payment to the Swiss bank account of a consulting firm may have been a bribe destined for Iranian officials. Three top executives of Statoil chairman Leif Terje Loeddesoel, CEO Olav Fjell (inset above) and executive vice president Richard J. Hubbard have resigned under pressure because of the growing scandal. "I can see now that I operated on the ethical borderline," Fjell said with Nordic understatement at a news conference.
Statoil said it would continue its international operations,
Selling France To The French
It might be more latte than Left Bank, but Starbucks, the world's leading coffee shop, looks ready to take on France's café culture. Two years after landing elsewhere on the Continent, the Seattle-based retailer is taking France's coffee-drinking traditions either standing up at the tabac or stretched out after a long lunch head on. With its first outlet set to open early next year, the company is confident it can sell froth to the French. "France has a very special relationship with coffee," says Franck Esquerré, managing director of Starbucks Coffee France. "The country is a natural home for Starbucks." Sure. But the French café is also a natural home for the cigarette. Starbucks insists its non-smoking policy won't put off locals. But Jean-Marie Galut, a manager at Café Le Paris in the city's chic 15th arrondissement, serves up a traditional line. "Customers come for the professional man in a bow tie who puts your receipt under the ashtray," he says. But that was before the frappuccino.
Officials in Moscow ordered a finance magazine to remove its ads from public spaces after complaints that the posters featured a frisky euro and dollar symbol having sex. No word on who got the best of the exchange.
|The Bottom Line|
|I've never been lobbied in such an improper and aggressive way in nine years
|Dutch M.E.P. ELLY VAN GORSEL, on the debate prior to the European Parliament's decision to limit software patent legislation similar to that in the U.S.|