Halliburton operations not dependent on Cheney, analysts say

Tuesday, July 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Halliburton Co. will miss chairman and chief executive Dick Cheney more as a company diplomat than as an everyday decision-maker should he step down to become Gov. George W. Bush's running mate, business analysts said Monday.

"If Dick Cheney leaves, it should not have an impact on Halliburton's day-to-day operations," said Southwest Securities Inc. analyst Fred Mutalibov.

Halliburton shares moved little Monday as news reports pointed to Mr. Cheney as Mr. Bush's choice for vice president. Shares closed at $41.69, down 56 cents.

Most operational decisions at the Dallas-based oil-field services company already are made by Halliburton's president and chief operating officer, David Lesar, Mr. Mutalibov said.

Mr. Cheney, a former U.S. defense secretary who joined Halliburton in 1995, is the company's visionary and international emissary, analysts said.

"Dick Cheney was behind the strategic decisions at Halliburton. But operations were pretty much run by David Lesar, I think," Mr. Mutalibov said.

Other analysts agreed.

"What Cheney has been able to do is open doors in international markets. Before Dick Cheney, Halliburton had a hard time getting in to see anybody higher up than [Saudi] King Fahd's third cousin twice removed," said Robert Trace, an analyst with Hibernia Southwest Capital Inc. "Now they see the king."

Analysts also said a Cheney departure would not hurt Halliburton's financial performance because oil prices are more important than management matters in the cyclical industry.

"It's a business where industry economics are more important than company specifics," Mr. Mutalibov said. "The industry is either doing well as a whole or everyone is suffering."

Political pressure may force Mr. Cheney to place his Halliburton shares in a blind trust immediately or to sell his stake, said Dr. Bruce Buchanan, a professor of government studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Mr. Cheney sold 100,000 shares of Halliburton stock for $5.1 million earlier this year, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on May 31.

Bloomberg News says that sale left him with 229,000 shares, which had a market value of about $9.5 million Monday.

Dr. Buchanan said Mr. Cheney would be the first person in 60 years to move directly from the private sector to a national ticket.

"The last time I can remember anyone on the ticket from the private sector was [Wall Street utilities executive] Wendell Wilkie in 1940. He ran a suicide mission against FDR," Dr. Buchanan said.

"This is just unprecedented in modern times."

Although Mr. Cheney has headed Mr. Bush's vice presidential search effort since the spring, he previously indicated he wasn't interested in the post.

"I made a long-term commitment to the company, and I have absolutely no desire to go back to government," Mr. Cheney told shareholders at Halliburton's annual meeting in May. "I've done that. I am set in my ways at my stage."