Halliburton Cleans Up

Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) , led by Vice President Dick Cheney in the not-so-distant past, is under a bit of scrutiny these days, as the public learns how much money the firm will be making in Iraq.

Remember that $87 billion price tag for the war's continuing operations that President Bush mentioned in a recent speech? Well, while $87 billion is coughed up by taxpayers, Halliburton is heading to the bank to deposit some $2 billion (and likely more) after winning contracts to restore oil production and support troops in that country.

A Dow Jones report notes that at least one contract, worth nearly $1 billion, doesn't seem to have been competitively bid -- and that contract includes a provision for importing oil to the oil-producing nation at a cost of several million dollars per day.

Keep in mind that, with a shadow of a war still waging in Iraq, there are unavoidable costs associated with it. Halliburton is legitimately one of many companies that provide the kinds of services needed there. We should simply expect that it not be given unfair preferences.

What does all this mean for current or would-be investors in Halliburton? It's not entirely clear. On the one hand, increased scrutiny by lawmakers (particularly Democratic ones) and any negative findings could put pressure on the stock price. On the other hand, Halliburton is currently generating a lot of revenue in Iraq, which will boost its bottom line and is likely to reward shareholders. The company's stock has nearly doubled in price in the past 12 months, though it's still half of what it was three years ago.

Meanwhile, in the undisclosed Cheney bunker, while there must have been rejoicing over the dismissal of a lawsuit against Cheney and Halliburton, there's likely some hand-wringing over another court's decision to permit a lawsuit over the role that energy companies played in the vice president's energy policies.

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