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Economic Roundup: Inventor Gets Rich, Inadvertently, From Bombs

  • Robert Lyle



Washington, August 1 (RFE/RL) -- The bomb that blew up in the Atlanta Olympic park and the explosion of the TWA airliner near New York have refocused the world's attention on terrorism--and the explosions have suddenly made the inventor who created machines to detect explosives a rich man.

Dr. Anthony Barringer, who founded and directed Barringer Technologies until his retirement four years ago, holds 55,000 shares of the firm's stock. Until this week, each share was worth about 25 cents for a total value of $13,750.

Now, however, the stock is selling for as much as $14 a share, making Barringer's stocks valued at nearly three quarters of a million dollars.

Barringer, 70, sold the company in 1992 and retired after developing machines that could locate mineral deposits by analyzing airborne particles. He also developed equipment that could detect explosives by "sniffing" trace amounts of explosive materials that typically remain on the outside packages of bombs.

The company's stocks had begun to improve earlier in the year as several transportation firms, including Delta Airlines, several other U.S. carriers, and European Passenger Services, the channel tunnel railway, began testing the machines for possible purchase.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are among the U.S. government agencies already using the equipment. But this month's events sent the company's stock soaring.

Stock experts say that whether the company experiences a boom in sales--as investors buying the stock obviously believe will happen--remains to be seen. At the moment the firm's prospects look very promising.

Barringer, although retired, hasn't stopped working on new equipment. He told the "Wall Street Journal" he has recently licensed some of his new technology for mineral exploration from the air to a large mining company and has some new ideas on bomb detection that he wants to talk about with the current owners of Barringer Technologies.

UZBEKISTAN: U.S. COMPANIES TO HELP CONVERT VEHICLES TO NATURAL GAS

Two U.S. companies have signed an agreement with Uzbekistan to help convert 200,000 gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles to cleaner-burning natural gas.

The companies, ExproFuels of San Antonio, Texas, and American Engineering of Brunswick, Tennessee, say they have signed an agreement to form a joint venture with the government's fleet management firm, Uzavtotrans Corp., to be named Gasmotors.

The Journal of Commerce quotes ExproFuels President Tom Gose as saying it is a "logical" move because although domestic crude oil production in Uzbekistan grew to over 40 million barrels a year in 1994, natural gas is still far more economical. "Uzbekistan will be able to rechannel its hard currency away from the purchase of leaded gasoline to other needs," he said.

Uzbekistan has huge reserves of natural gas, which will be made available in refueling stations to be constructed around the country by another joint venture between the U.S. companies and the former oil and gas ministry, Uzgosnefteprodukt.

The vehicle conversion venture will enjoy a five year tax holiday and be able to repatriate profits in dollars. The conversion will cost around 1,700 dollars per vehicle, but will reduce solid pollution by about two pounds per vehicle. The gas-powered vehicles will displace about 4,500 million litres of gasoline over the first five years.

RUSSIA: KOREAN COMPANY TO BUILD CARS IN FORMER DEFENSE CENTER IN KALININGRAD

Kia Motors Corporation, a South Korean automobile company, says it has agreed to invest at least $1 billion long term in the former Russian defense center of Kaliningrad to build motor vehicles.

The converted facility will make as many as 55,000 cars, sport-utility vehicles and minivans per year in the Baltic Sea port city, a large portion to be exported to western Europe.

The company says it will spend about $180 million dollars this year to start production at the facility.

LATVIA: FIRST CREDIT UNION A BIG SUCCESS, AND OTHERS MAY FOLLOW

Latvia's first--and so far only--legal financial institution making small personal loans is a big success, says the World Council of Credit Unions in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Railroad Credit Union has 526 members and assets of over $109,000.

"That's small potatoes for us, but for Latvians it's a good start," says Bill Dalrymple, a council official.

At least three other credit unions are in the works in the country, supported by studies which show that workers have found the organizations to be very helpful.

Credit unions are special financial institutions which raise money by holding the savings of its members and using the funds to make affordable loans to those members. Borrowers pay interest and members collect interest on their savings on deposit.

GORE-CHERNOMYRDIN COMMISSION BEING COPIED FOR IMPROVED U.S.-CHINA TIES

The Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, an official U.S.-Russian commission on economic and technological cooperation, has done such a good job of encouraging and developing government-to-government activities and private sector investment and business that it is being copied by the United States and China.

U.S. officials say the American-Chinese commission will be established early next year to focus particularly on promoting closer business relations.

They say the Russian-American commission, co-chaired by U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, has played a tremendous role in ironing out bilateral difficulties, opening up economic and trade opportunities, and promoting cooperation in the public and private sectors.

RUSSIA: PRIVATE AIRLINE SEEKS OFFERS FROM WORLD MANUFACTURERS

Transaero Airlines, the privately operated Russian airline, has told jet aircraft manufacturers in the United States, Europe and Russia, that it plans to add 40 planes to its fleet over the next decade at an estimated cost of $1.2 million.

The Boeing Company, in Seattle, Washington, and the McDonnell Douglas company in Long Beach, California, say they plan to bid to supply the planes.

Transaero runs flights from Moscow to Los Angeles and will this October expand with a weekly nonstop service between Moscow and Orlando, Florida. Early next year, Transaero plans to begin flights to Chicago.

Gregory Gurtovoy, company deputy chairman and co-founder, told the "Journal of Commerce" recently that it hopes to start taking delivery of planes, either through purchase or lease, in 1997 and 1998. Transaero flies a fleet of 10 leased Boeing jets, one Ilyushin and one McDonnell Douglas jet.

Europe's Airbus Industries and Russian aircraft makers Ilyushin and Tupolev will also compete for the orders, Transaero officials say.

CANADA: LAWMAKERS TWEAK UNITED STATES OVER U.S. LAW ABOUT CONFISCATED PROPERTY

The United States created quite a stir recently when President Bill Clinton signed into law--but suspended its effectiveness for six months--the Helms-Burton act.

The measure allows Americans whose property was confiscated by the Communist government in Cuba over the past 30 years to sue current owners in U.S. courts, wherever they live or do business, for monetary damages that could go into the hundreds of millions of dollars. It describes any use or ownership of confiscated property as "trafficking," a term usually reserved for drug sellers and smugglers.

The European Union (EU) has warned it will retaliate if its companies or nationals are caught up in U.S. courts over the issue, as have Mexico and Canada, Washington's two partners in NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

At least one major Canadian company, Sherrit International, has been officially notified by the United States that it is subject to suit and civil damages in American courts and that its company officials and their families will soon be barred from entering the United States. Canadian and company officials say it is no laughing matter. They have submitted the question into the NAFTA dispute resolution procedure.

But one Canadian legislator decided to tweak the giant neighbor to the south by introducing in Parliament a bill to mobilize Ottawa against companies or individuals "trafficking" in land seized during the American revolution in 1779. Canada was a British colony at the time and many loyalists to the British crown fled the United States during the revolution, leaving homes and other property behind.

John Godfrey, a member of parliament, says his ancestors fled from Virginia out of loyalty to King George III. He said he would like his family lands back--320 hectares of some of the most prime land south of Washington, including a huge historically significant mansion.

Despite provisions of the 1783 Treaty of Paris promising reparation for the property of loyalists that had been confiscated, "not one claim was paid," he said.

Godfrey and another parliamentarian named Peter Milliken, whose family owned large tracts of land in New York state, are only half-joking. They acknowledge the bill, called the "American Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act," has little chance of passage when Parliament reconvenes this fall, but says it is important to show the "absurd" extra-territoriality of the U.S. law.

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