Halliburton Co., Houston, has said it is nearing an agreement in principle to settle the more than 300,000 asbestos-related claims filed against it. Some of those claims involve its construction unit, Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. But in making the announcement on Dec. 11, Halliburton also said the deal isn't wrapped up, and even if it does become final, still would have to be financed and also require approval by the company's board and the courts. But Halliburton did say tentative terms would include up to $2.8 billion in cash payments and as much as 60 million shares of the company's stock.
The company also said that the proposed plan wouldn't include a Halliburton bankruptcy filing. It added that it would keep the rights to the first $2.3 billion of proceeds from insurance and any sums exceeding $3 billion.
Dave Lesar, Halliburton chairman, CEO and president, said, "If this is completed, it's important to note that it would be business-as-usual for customers, employees, vendors and financial creditors."
In its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Halliburton said that since 1976, about 546,000 asbestos claims had been filed against the company and about 328,000 of those were open claims as of Sept. 30. It also said there are an estimated 1 million total claims through 2017, including the currently open ones.
The company said that its reserves for the claims were $2.2 billion as of Sept. 30., including $1.6 billion in estimated insurance recoveries.
The claims fall into three broad categories. Some deal with refractory products made or sold by Harbison-Walker Refractories Co., a former unit of Dresser Industries Inc. Halliburton acquired Dresser, later renamed DII Industries, in 1998. Other asbestos claims involve products formerly made by DII Industries, including gaskets and packing materials used in pumps and other items. The third category comprises about 45,000 claims involving asbestos used in construction and maintenance projects, mostly done by Brown & Root Inc., and a smaller number done by M.W. Kellogg Co. The two companies are part of Halliburton and now merged as Kellogg Brown & Root Inc.
In its 10-Q SEC filing, Halliburton says, "We believe that Kellogg Brown & Root has a good defense to these claims, and a prior owner of the M.W. Kellogg Co. provides Kellogg Brown & Root a contractual indemnification for clams against the M.W. Kellogg Co."