Natural Gas's Hottest Spot

When Enron Corp.'s shares topped 50 recently, Chairman Kenneth L. Lay gave each of his 7,800 employees a crisp new $50 bill. Lay was celebrating a yearlong burst in the stock--and much more than that, he hopes. Most pipeline shares are soaring as investors bet that President Clinton will promote use of clean, plentiful natural gas. And Enron is leading the pack, based partly on belief in Lay's dream of building the natural gas equivalent of an Exxon, Mobil, or Texaco. Enron already has the largest gas-pipeline system in the U.S. and a big oil-and-gas exploration unit. Now, it is moving aggressively to exploit deregulation at home and privatization of all sorts of energy companies abroad. "Rather than resisting change," says Lay, "we're trying to lead it and prosper from it."

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