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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 22:40 GMT 23:40 UK
Energy shares fall after executive dies
Houston skyline
Investors are nervous about Houston's energy firms
Shares in the Houston based energy company El Paso fell sharply on Monday after it said a senior vice president had died in an apparent suicide.

The body of Charles Dana Rice, who was the treasurer at El Paso, was found at his home on Sunday.

This is a tragic event for our company; however, the market reaction is unwarranted

William Wise, El Paso chief executive

The cause of death was an "apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," according to Joe Laud, a spokesman for the Houston Police Department.

It was not known if Mr Rice's death was linked to the company's recent financial problems.

A source close to the company said he had serious health problems.

Investors are nervous

In a statement, El Paso said it was "deeply saddened" by Mr Rice's death.

"Dana was a tireless worker, a valued contributor and will be missed both as a business associate and as a friend," the chief executive William Wise said.

"This is a tragic event for our company; however, the market reaction is unwarranted," he added.

Mr Rice's death follows the suicide of former Enron vice chairman J. Clifford Baxter, who shot himself in the head while parked in his Mercedes.

The bankruptcy of the giant Enron energy company has investors nervous about the finances of other energy firms.

Lower earnings

El Paso's stock fell more than 23% in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange, before recovering some ground to close $3.70, or more than 14%, lower at $21.95

El Paso said last week that earnings for this year and next would be below expectations, and that it would slash energy trading activities in half by cutting 300 jobs.

Mr Rice joined El Paso in 1977, became director of the company's planning department in 1992, director of the accounting department in 1996 and vice president and treasurer in 1998.

He was appointed senior vice president in 1999.

See also:

28 May 02 | Business
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