U.S. oil services firm Halliburton Co. is shifting its corporate headquarters and chief executive from Houston to Dubai in a move that immediately sparked criticism from U.S. members of Congress.
Halliburton Chief Executive Dave Lesar, speaking at an energy conference in nearby Bahrain, said he will relocate to Dubai from Texas to oversee Halliburton's intensified focus on business in the Mideast and energy-hungry Asia, home to some of the world's most important oil and gas markets.
"Halliburton is opening its corporate headquarters in Dubai while maintaining a corporate office in Houston," spokeswoman Cathy Mann said. "The chairman, president and CEO will office from and be based in Dubai to run the company from the UAE."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called the decision to move as "an example of corporate greed at its worst."
"This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years," Leahy said in a statement.
"At the same time they'll be avoiding U.S. taxes, I'm sure they won't stop insisting on taking their profits in cold hard U.S. cash," Leahy said.
Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is already planning a hearing on Halliburton's move, Time Magazine reports online.
Lesar's announcement appears to signal one of the highest-profile moves by a U.S. corporate leader to Dubai.
"As the CEO, I'm responsible for the global business of Halliburton in both hemispheres, and I will continue to spend quite a bit of time in an airplane as I remain attentive to our customers, shareholders and employees around the world," Lesar said. "Yes, I will spend the majority of my time in Dubai."
Dubai is an Arab boomtown, where free-market capitalism has been paired with some of the world's most liberal tax, investment and residency laws.
"The Eastern Hemisphere is a market that is more heavily weighted toward oil exploration and production opportunities and growing our business here will bring more balance to Halliburton's overall portfolio," Lesar said.
In 2006, Halliburton — once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney — earned profits of $2.3 billion on revenues of $22.6 billion.
More than 38 percent of Halliburton's $13 billion oil field services revenue last year stemmed from sources in the Eastern Hemisphere, where the firm has 16,000 of its 45,000 employees.
Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive from 1995-2000, and the Bush administration has been accused of favoring the conglomerate with lucrative no-bid contracts in Iraq.
Federal investigators last month alleged Halliburton was responsible for $2.7 billion of the $10 billion in contractor waste and overcharging in Iraq.
Halliburton last month announced a 40-percent decline in fourth-quarter profit, despite heavy demand for its oil field equipment and personnel.