Today in the Fortune 500: Exxon expands gas assets over oil, Apple’s app subscription plan miffs publishers and Mexican freeze hurts Supervalu

February 16, 2011, 5:06 PM UTC
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The Fortune 500 comes out just once a year, but the companies on it make headlines every day. Here then are today’s highlights of news and happenings coming from the biggest names in business.

By Shelley DuBois, reporter

EXXON’S OIL SQUEEZE The company released a financial report recently that highlighted an ongoing trend in the oil industry. Namely, major companies are having trouble finding untapped oil fields that aren’t politically or technically difficult to access. Exxon (XOM), for its part, has stocked up on natural gas instead. [Wall Street Journal]

APPLE’S APP PLAN left many companies looking forward to sell their publications on the iPad a little nonplussed. Apple (APPL) announced that it would take 30% of the cost of subscriptions to iPad apps sold through its iTunes store. It would also own the valuable data about subscribers. [New York Times]

A CHILL SOUTH OF THE BORDER has disrupted the U.S. produce supply chain. Mexico’s worst freeze in 50 years has damaged crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, causing major food retailer Supervalu (SVU) to prepare for lower produce availability. Cold weather in Florida and Texas has meant that the U.S. can’t pick up Mexico’s slack, meaning produce shortage could last until April. [Wall Street Journal]

STARBUCKS’ ROOM SERVICE The coffee company wants to bust into the “single-serve” coffee market via hotel rooms. Starbucks (SBUX) partnered with Courtesy Products, maker of an  in-room coffee brewing system. Soon, the coffee company  will caffeinate guests in some 500,000 luxury hotel rooms across the country. [CNNMoney]

BUFFETT SHUFFLE Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) is dropping stakes in multiple Fortune 500 companies. One of the most notable to go is Bank of America, part of which Berkshire Hathaway purchased in 2007. The company is also selling stakes in Nike (NKE), Comcast (CMCSA) and Lowe’s (LOW) among others. [Bloomberg]

BRACE FOR IMPACT Big Pharma faces a significant patent cliff this fall, as two of the ten top best-selling drugs will face competition from cheaper generic versions. One of them is Pfizer’s (PFE) cholesterol drug Lipitor, which will go generic in November. Lipitor and Eli Lilly’s (LLY) anti-depression drug Zyprexa accounted for $15.7 billion in global sales during 2010. Generics could cost patients up to 90% less than brand versions. [Wall Street Journal]