- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

DUNCAN, Okla. (AP) — Sixteen persons protesting Halliburton Co.’s role as a military contractor were arrested yesterday outside a building in which shareholders discussed spinning off the subsidiary that provides meals, clean laundry and other services to U.S. troops in Iraq.

One man was accused of vandalism as a plastic fence holding back protesters was torn off, and the rest were accused of trespassing as they left an enclosure and headed toward the meeting.

Halliburton announced plans last month to sell 20 percent of KBR, which has diluted the company’s financial results and drawn criticism for its multibillion-dollar contracts in Iraq.

Dave Lesar, Halliburton’s chairman and chief executive officer, said yesterday that the company planned to follow up the initial offering with either additional public offerings or a sale to a competitor of the remaining 80 percent.

As a stand-alone company, KBR would have a better opportunity to prosper, Chief Financial Officer Christopher Gaut told about 200 shareholders. He described KBR as Halliburton’s nearly lowest-margin business and one that has seen contract activity in Iraq decrease.

A spin-off “would unlock the value of KBR for shareholders,” Mr. Gaut said.

Shareholders of the world’s largest provider of products and services to the petroleum and energy industries looked back on a year of record earnings. Halliburton, founded in 1919, earned $2.4 billion last year.

Shareholders approved a company request to increase its authorized share count to 2 billion from 1 billion. Mr. Lesar said a stock split was planned in the next two months.

Shareholders rejected a request by a group of Texas and Kansas shareholders to adopt a policy based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Halliburton directors, noting that the company does business in more than 100 countries and refrains from doing business where prohibited by the U.S. government, did not support the proposal.

About 100 people protested outside the site of the meeting. A masked man beat on a large empty jug, and protesters chanted, “The whole world is watching” and “Shame on you,” while police made the arrests. A designated area had been set up for the protest, and police had told protesters not to leave that area.

One of those arrested was wearing a Dick Cheney mask. The vice president formerly led Halliburton, which has drawn criticism for its big government contracts, some awarded without competitive bidding. Its KBR unit provides support services for troops stationed in the Middle East.

Mr. Lesar said the protest did not bother him. “I cannot change the fact that my predecessor is the vice president,” he said.

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