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Out with the old

(AP) -- The Santa Monica City Council is scheduled to give final approval to an ordinance allowing one of the city's last modest trailer parks to be replaced with hundreds of high-end homes.

The council tentatively approved the ordinance by a 4-2 vote at its Nov. 14 meeting. A final vote was scheduled for Tuesday night.

If approved, the 49-home Village Trailer Park could be replaced with 377 condos and apartments, as well as thousands of square feet of retail and office space.

In exchange, the developer said he will provide new homes to displaced residents in the city's last remaining trailer park.

Or, if they prefer, they can live in the new apartments at reduced rents.

Opponents complain the project will overcrowd the city and price out people of modest means.
Otis wins appeal

(Bloomberg) -- United Technologies Corp.'s (NYSE: UTX) Otis Elevator unit won a U.S. appeals-court ruling that invalidates a patent owned by Schindler Holding AG, in a dispute over technology used in elevators at New York’s 7 World Trade Center.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Tuesday said the patent owned by Schindler's Inventio unit is invalid as an obvious variation of earlier know-how.

A July 2011 jury verdict that upheld the patent “lacks substantial evidentiary support,” the court said Tuesday in a decision posted on its website.

The patent covers the use of magnetic cards or similar identifying transmitters to direct a person to a specific elevator that will go to a pre-designated floor without having to use buttons.

Inventio filed suit Nov. 6 against Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corp., claiming elevators at 1 World Trade Center and 11 Times Square infringe the same patent.

Otis's system is installed at 7 World Trade Center, built by New York developer Larry Silverstein to replace a tower destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Otis elevator system, called Compass, uses pre-programmed radio frequency identification chips and was the first of its kind installed in the United States.

The trial judge threw out most of Inventio's case on damages and refused to order a broad ban on the use of the Inventio patent.

The Federal Circuit declined to address Inventio's appeal of those issues because it found the patent invalid.

Inventio sued Otis in 2006, part of a broader dispute over elevators used in high-rise buildings.

Hergiswil, Switzerland-based Schindler is challenging an Otis elevator patent in a case pending in federal court in Newark, N.J.

The case is Schindler Elevator Corp. v. Otis Elevator Co., 2011-1615 and 2012-1108, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Schindler Elevator Corp. v. Otis Elevator Co., 06cv5377, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Condo loan scam

(AP) -- A Houston-area man has been sentenced to seven years in prison and must repay more than $16 million in a condominium loan scam.

A federal judge in Houston on Monday sentenced 45-year-old Derwin Frazier and his 44-year-old wife, Veronica, of Pearland in the sham sales of Kirby Lofts.

Derwin Frazier earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Veronica Frazier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and she was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. She also must pay nearly $322,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors say the couple defrauded residential lenders.

Investigators say Derwin Frazier recruited people to apply for loans using false information and documents.

The couple then submitted invoices for payment from the bogusly secured loans and split the money with the borrowers.
Sunny zoo

(AP) -- The Smithsonian's National Zoo is opening a new solar-powered carousel with 58 hand-carved, hand-painted figures representing many endangered animals.

The Speedwell Foundation, a private family foundation based in Summit, N.J., donated $1.5 million of the $2.3 million cost to build the carousel. A zoo spokeswoman said donations covered the remainder.

The carousel is powered by 162 solar panels donated and installed by Pepco Energy Services.

The zoo said any excess energy is redirected to the zoo's electrical grid.
300 repairs/day

(AP) -- Officials say New York City's free repair program for storm-damaged homes has fixed up about 50 homes so far, while still just gearing up.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday he hopes the NYC Rapid Repairs program will complete about 300 projects per day by next week and eventually almost twice that.

Officials say about 7,500 people have signed up since the service was announced Nov. 9, after Superstorm Sandy.

The program sends contractors to do essential repairs to make homes livable.

Primarily, that's fixing electrical wiring and boilers so power, heat and hot water can be restored.

The city covers the costs. It's hoping for federal reimbursement.


(AP) -- Jones Lang LaSalle said Tuesday that its chief executive for the Americas will move to a new role and be replaced by another top executive at the commercial real estate services firm.

Peter Roberts, CEO for the Americas for the past 10 years, will become chief strategy officer and be succeeded by Lauralee Martin, the company's current chief operating and financial officer. The changes take effect Jan. 1.

Martin joined Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL) in 2002 as CFO and was named to the additional position of COO in 2005. The real estate company said it will conduct a search for a new CFO.
Coaster won't remain

(AP) -- A roller coaster swept off a New Jersey amusement pier by Superstorm Sandy won't remain as a tourist attraction partially submerged in the ocean.

Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers told the Asbury Park Press the town and the owners of the Casino Pier are in talks to remove what remains of the Jet Star Roller Coaster.

The mayor last week told a TV station that the coaster would make a “great tourist attraction.” But the mayor now said that “was not the brightest comment.”

The mayor said construction of a new boardwalk should begin in January and be ready by Memorial Day.
SolarCity IPO

(Bloomberg) -- SolarCity Corp., the developer of rooftop solar-power systems whose chairman is billionaire Elon Musk, is seeking as much as $151 million in an initial public offering.

The company and its existing shareholders plan to sell about 10.1 million shares at $13 to $15 each, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday.

SolarCity plans to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol SCTY, and may price the offering on Dec. 11, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company is seeking to go public amid a global oversupply of solar components that's driven down the price of photovoltaic panels 19 percent in the past year.

That's pummeled the share price of manufacturers and will aid SolarCity, the company said.

“While these developments have adversely impacted panel manufacturers and the overall upstream market, we and other downstream companies have benefited significantly,” SolarCity said in the filing.

SolarCity will have 71.7 million shares of common stock outstanding, and the float will be 14 percent.

At the midpoint of the proposed range, SolarCity's market value will be about $1 billion.

SolarCity is offering 10 million shares, while existing owners plan to sell 65,000.
Olympic renovation

(Bloomberg) -- The London Olympic Park will undergo a 292 million pounds ($469 million) refurbishment before reopening to the public next year.

Temporary venues, walkways and stands used during this year's Olympics will be cleared over the next 18 months while the park is connected to the surrounding area in east London with new roads and pathways, the London Legacy Development Corp. said Tuesday.

The park will re-open in phases, starting July 27, exactly a year after the opening ceremony. The work is scheduled to be completed by spring 2014.
Malaysian REIT

(Bloomberg) -- Petroliam Nasional Bhd., Malaysia's state oil and gas company, said it plans to combine all its stakes in Kuala Lumpur’s 88-floor Petronas Twin Towers into a real estate investment trust to be formed by KLCC Property Holdings Bhd.

KLCC Property will buy the remaining 49.5 percent stake in the towers it doesn't already own from Petroliam Nasional, also known as Petronas, for 2.86 billion ringgit ($938 million), according to a Kuala Lumpur stock exchange filing Monday.

The developer then plans to fold the office and shopping complex and two other Kuala Lumpur buildings into a trust called KLCC REIT, it said.

KLCC Property, which owns more than 7 million square feet of office, shopping malls and hotels in Malaysia's capital, is 52.6 percent owned by Petronas, according to data compiled Bloomberg.
Deforestation slowdown

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil's deforestation rate in the 12 months through July was the lowest on record, said Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira.

Deforestation over that period was 4,656 square kilometers, a 27 percent fall from the previous period and the lowest amount since the series began in 1988, Teixeira said to reporters in Brasilia.
Iceland mortgage bank

(Bloomberg) -- Iceland's biggest mortgage bank needs a capital infusion from the state and should work to improve the payment terms on its debt, a lawmaker overseeing the parliamentary committee in charge of home loans said.

The Housing Finance Fund (HFF) will need 10 billion kronur ($79 million) in capital from the government, Sigridur Ingibjorg Ingadottir, who heads the parliament's welfare committee, said.

“What HFF needs to do is renegotiate the terms of its debt and get the owners of its bonds to agree to the debt being callable,” she said. “That way the fund can pay up some of its outstanding debt using the available funds it has.” The fund subsequently said in a statement to the stock exchange that any change in repayment terms will be “in full cooperation with HFF's bond owners.”

The lender, which has fallen short of a 5 percent minimum capital requirement set by its regulator, is losing market share to Iceland's commercial banks. HFF, unlike the banks, can only issue mortgages indexed to inflation.
No Four Seasons sale

(Bloomberg) -- Four Seasons Hotel New York owner H. Ty Warner decided not to sell the luxury Manhattan property after receiving an unsolicited bid of about $900 million.

“Due to the continued strength in the New York real estate market and impending fiscal cliff, he does not feel that this is an advantageous time to sell this iconic property,” Donna Snopek, chief financial officer of Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts LLC, said Monday.

The fiscal cliff refers to federal spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect if Congress doesn't act by the end of the year.

Warner, the Beanie Babies creator, received the offer from an unidentified Asian buyer, a person close to the situation said three weeks ago.

Warner bought the 368-room hotel, located on East 57th Street in Midtown, for $275 million in 1999.

A deal for $900 million would have been one of the priciest in Manhattan.

A recent hotel transaction in the area was Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc.'s (NYSE: BEE) September purchase of the luxury Essex House, on Central Park South, for $362.3 million.

Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts also owns the San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos, Mexico, according to the company's website.
Nebraska bank honored

(AP) -- A Kearney, Neb. bank has been honored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its support of rural home ownership.

The USDA's Rural Development office called Farmers & Merchants Bank one of its top 10 lenders in 2012.

The bank provided nearly $3.5 million for 35 home loans through the USDA program.

This year, 71 Nebraska lenders participated in the rural development housing programs.

More than $115.7 million was lent to 1,206 rural Nebraska households.

The federal government guarantees loans in the program to encourage home ownership in rural areas with populations of less than 20,000.
MBIA foils BofA

(Bloomberg) -- MBIA Inc. bought back $170 million of notes and got enough support from other bondholders to complete a debt amendment that shields itself from being dragged into bankruptcy by a cash-strapped unit.

MBIA (NYSE: MBI) said a majority of investors holding almost $900 million of bonds approved changes to indentures that would have accelerated payments if its MBIA Insurance Corp. subsidiary were to be seized by regulators.

To gain enough bondholder support, MBIA repurchased about 52 percent of its outstanding 5.7 percent bonds due in December 2034, which Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) had offered to buy on Nov. 13 in an effort to block the changes.

BofA, which bought products from the MBIA Insurance unit protecting the lender from losses on more than $6 billion of debt, sued the insurer over a 2009 restructuring that it claims was based on misleading information.

Armonk, N.Y.-based MBIA is separately suing the bank, seeking to force it to buy back faulty loans in insured mortgage-backed securities, and claims the bank is delaying that case to starve it of cash.
Dominican water deal

(Bloomberg) -- About 330,000 residents of the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic will gain improved drinking water and reduce leak losses with a $25 million Inter-American Development Bank project loan.

The Santiago de los Caballeros project is expected to provide water service for at least 12 continuous hours a day for more than 200,000 people, the development bank said in a statement.

The funds will help finance improvements in service for 60 percent of the households in the Santiago metropolitan area, the IDB said.

The 25-year loan with an interest rate based on Libor will replace pipes and renovate pumping systems.
Selling bureaucrat housing

(Bloomberg) -- Japan's government plans to raise 170 billion yen ($2.1 billion) by selling 56,000 houses and units that are currently lent cheaply to officials.

The proceeds from the sale will be spent on reconstruction after last year's earthquake and tsunami, Vice Finance Minister Koichi Takemasa said Monday.

The sale will be completed over the next four years and covers about 26 percent of the government's housing stock for civil servants, according to a statement from the Ministry of Finance.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government is selling assets and cutting administrative spending as it plans to double the sales tax.

The sale was originally announced last December as Japan struggles with the world's largest public debt.

The government would also double the rent that bureaucrats pay for the remaining housing, starting in April 2014, according to the statement.

An unmarried official living in central Tokyo would pay as much as 19,000 yen a month after the increase, up from the current 9,000 yen to 13,000 yen.
Living near the Tower

(Bloomberg) -- CPC Group, the developer owned by Christian Candy, asked for planning permission to build 165 apartments near the Tower of London.

CPC bought the Sugar Quay site in the City of London financial district in February and is seeking to develop an 11-story building with apartments and a shop on the bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge, the closely-held company said Monday.

Developers are turning obsolete commercial buildings into apartments in the City of London as non-prime offices on the fringes of the financial district become difficult to lease.

Architects Foster + Partners have been working with CPC on the development proposal, according to the statement.

The site already had planning permission for an office building when it was bought by Guernsey, Channel Islands-based CPC, according to the company.
Irish prices fall

(Bloomberg) -- Irish residential property prices fell for the first time in four months in October, as home prices declined by 0.2 percent in Dublin, the Irish capital, the country's Central Statistics Office (CSO) said.

Home prices nationally declined 0.6 percent in October compared with a gain of 0.9 percent in September, according to the CSO Monday.

Prices nationally fell 8.1 percent compared to the same month a year earlier.

Residential property prices in Dublin are 56 percent lower than their peak in 2007, while nationally prices are down 50 percent.

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