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Today in the Fortune 500: Chesapeake sheds gas assets, Ford increases production while slimming down cars and the EPA bugs big business

February 8, 2011: 7:42 AM ET
1961 Ford H-Series trucks

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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

OUT OF GAS Chesapeake Energy, traditionally an aggressive natural gas developer, has announced that it's selling all of its stakes in natural gas fields. The sales are expected to net the company $5 billion pre-tax, which Chesapeake (CHK) will use to get rid of about $3 billion in debt that it racked up by what many analysts and investors have caled over-spending. The company has said it has set its sights on a more immediately lucrative asset: oil. [Wall Street Journal]

SHELL SINGS A DIFFERENT TUNE and may offer its Russian partner, national energy company Gazprom, assets in Asia in exchange for expanding a liquefied gas export plant in Russia. Shell (RDSA) plans to boost its liquefied natural gas production at one of its ventures north of Japan by building a third plant there. [Bloomberg]

FORD LIGHTENS UP after CEO Alan Mulally introduced a new strategy to keep its SUVs and trucks on the road while still meeting fuel economy standards. Mulally, who employed a similar strategy for aircraft at Boeing (BA), is pushing lightweight vehicle design to improve the gas mileage of Ford's (F) car lineup. [Bloomberg]

AND GEARS UP to produce more cars. Ford announced at the National Automobile Dealers Association's annual convention in Detroit that U.S. production will increase by 13% more than the company had originally planned for the first three months of the year. That shakes out to about 555,000 vehicles. Ford may have to tack on more shifts to churn out enough autos to meet demand. [Detroit News]

DEFENSE CUTS HIT BIG BUSINESS including defense giants Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Northrop Grumman (NOC), both of which merged during a previous period of low defense spending in the 90s. This time around, defense contractors of all sizes are merging, spinning off, or divesting portions of their businesses to deal with the fact that fewer government contracts will be available. [Washington Post]

THE EPA IS CRAMPING OUR STYLE Companies including Boeing and ConocoPhillips (COP) have beef with 57 EPA regulations, some of which deal with ozone standards and greenhouse gas emissions. They're voicing their displeasure via a report that California Republican Darrell Issa, leader of the U.S. House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, is compiling after asking corporations how the government was getting in the way of business. [Bloomberg]

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