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Record estate sale

(AP) -- A newspaper is reporting a sprawling estate in the San Mateo County community of Woodside has sold for $117.5 million to an undisclosed buyer.

The San Jose Mercury News said a private sale of the mansion closed in November in an area popular with Silicon Valley power brokers like Larry Ellison.

The newspaper said the sale price eclipses the $100 million paid for a mansion in nearby Los Altos Hills in 2011.

The Woodside estate features a pool and a 1,117-square-foot pool house, while planning records show a 780-square-foot detached library and a 715-square-foot “retreat” building were also approved for the property.

Property records show the seller of the property was private equity investor Tully Friedman, a founding partner of the San Francisco private investment firm of Hellman & Friedman.
No high-speed right-of-way

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Construction of California's high-speed rail network is set to start in July, but the state still has not purchased any land along the route.

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that purchase offers are expected to be made in the next several weeks.

But experts tell the newspaper that the state faces a convoluted legal process that will drive up prices and giving farmers, businesses and homeowners leverage to delay the project by weeks or months.

One major hurdle could be valuing agricultural land in the Central Valley, where prices have spiked, raising property owners' expectations above what the state expects to pay.

Officials insist they can acquire needed property and begin the project on time. Construction on the first leg of the $68 billion project is planned for July in near Fresno.
Water weed problem

(AP) -- Weeds have become a big problem in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta waterways and harbors.

The Sacramento Bee said the fight against the waterway-clogging hyacinth, which usually begins in June, is getting an earlier start this year.

The floating water hyacinth was brought to America from the Amazon in the 1880s as an ornamental plant and it reached the Delta in the 1940s.

Government agencies and the boating industry have been battling it ever since, mainly with herbicides.

If left unchecked in summer, water hyacinth explodes and forms a solid carpet across the water surface, clogging propellers, rudders and water intakes.
Precious seconds

(AP) -- Californians would have precious seconds to prepare for a major earthquake under a new proposal to create a statewide early warning system, officials said Monday.

State Sen. Alex Padilla joined with seismologists in announcing legislation to create the system that would cost $80 million.

The U.S. has been testing warning systems for several years but lags behind countries such as Japan and Mexico in implementing the technology to warn the public.

Such systems are designed to detect the first pulses of energy from an earthquake, estimate its magnitude and send alerts before damaging seismic waves spread widely.

Warning times would range from a few seconds to tens of seconds -- enough time for people to take cover or begin shutting down systems that could be damaged by severe shaking.

Padilla's bill seeks to identify potential sources of state and federal funding.

He said he expects the legislative process to identify the sources by August.
Big Island geothermal

(AP) -- The Big Island's electric utility is asking the Public Utilities Commission for permission to generate more geothermal energy for sale to customers.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. (NYSE: HE) wants to add up to 50 megawatts of geothermal power to help lower electricity costs for customers.

The price of the energy won't be tied to the cost of oil.

The request is the final version of a draft proposal submitted to the commission in November.

The utility said the final version addresses comments interested parties submitted about the draft.
More Grand Canyon trail

(AP) -- A popular mountain biking trail that overlooks the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is being extended.

The 18-mile Rainbow Rim trail on the Kaibab National Forest is a single-track trail that passes through ponderosa pines and drops into steep-sided canyons with aspen groves and small meadows. The trail was constructed in the 1980s.

Forest spokesman Patrick Lair said it's the only trail designed for mountain bikers that follows the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, although hikers and horseback riders use it as well.

Work to extend the trail by up to 8 miles to create a loop is set to begin in June, if funding is available.
Reopening pipeline

(Bloomberg) -- Reopening the U.S. mortgage securitization pipeline is a vital step toward a housing market recovery that will boost the wider economy, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry said Monday in a Las Vegas speech.

“Underwriting standards will need to find a new equilibrium of risk and reward for a sustainable mortgage market,” Curry said in remarks prepared for an American Securitization Forum conference. “Getting the securitization pipeline flowing again is a critical component in turning this picture around.”
Sandy aid for NY

(AP) -- New York Sen. Charles Schumer said the Sandy federal aid bill provides for more than $1 billion for projects to shield the coast in the future.

Schumer said Sunday that Army Corps of Engineer projects also include a $20 million study of New York harbor and repairs to navigation channels and ports.

A Senate vote on the aid package is set for Monday. The bill already passed the House.

It includes $5.4 billion in appropriations for emergency and long-term projects.

On the coast that stretches from New York City to Long Island, projects would fortify roads, rebuild beaches and raise houses.

The harbor would be dredged to make sure it stays navigable in a storm.
Renewable developer sale

(Bloomberg) -- Western Wind Energy Corp., the renewable-power developer that put itself up for sale in July, rose the most in two months after Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners LP increased its bid for the company.

Brookfield increased its offer Monday for Vancouver-based Western Wind from C$2.50 to C$2.60, calling it the “best and final offer.”

That values the renewable-energy developer at about C$183.2 million ($181.6 million).

Brookfield already owns about 11.3 million Western Wind shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Western Wind Chief Executive Officer Jeff Ciachurski will earn a C$2 million bonus if he can sell the company for at least C$3 a share.

Western Wind operates wind farms in California and a combined wind-and-solar plant in Arizona.
British high-speed

(AP) -- The British government on Monday unveiled details of new high-speed rail lines linking London to cities in northern England with trains traveling up to 225 miles an hour.

The government said the project, known as High Speed 2, will be the first new railway built north of London for more than a century, and will be an economic and environmental boon.

But opponents claim the plan is too expensive and will ruin tracts of picturesque countryside.

The first 140-mile stretch of the line, announced last year, will link London to Birmingham, England's second-largest city.

The Y-shaped section announced Monday will extend to the northern cities of Manchester and Leeds.

Construction of the first section of the line is due to start in 2017 and be completed by 2026. The second phase is to be done by 2032.

Officials say the 32.7 billion-pound ($51 billion) project will cut journey times almost in half, covering the 200 miles between London and Manchester in an hour and eight minutes.
EU getting windier

(Bloomberg) -- European nations connected 1,166 megawatts of offshore wind turbines to the electricity grid in 2012, an increase of a third on the previous year, the European Wind Energy Association said Monday.

The United Kingdom led installations with 234 of the 293 new turbines, totaling 854 megawatts, the Brussels-based lobby group, said.

Belgium, Germany and Denmark were the other three nations to install turbines at sea, connecting 185 megawatts, 80 megawatts and 47 megawatts respectively, according to EWEA.

A total of 10 European nations now have 1,662 wind turbines connected in 55 farms at sea, totaling 4,995 megawatts, according to the report.
Housing no plug

(Bloomberg) -- Australian housing construction is unlikely to plug the growth gap that will open when resource investment peaks, and manufacturing and services will see little reprieve from a strong currency, a Deloitte Access Economics report showed.

The Canberra-based research company said in a report Monday that the Reserve Bank of Australia may not cut its benchmark interest rate from the current half-century low of 3 percent.

It predicts the nation's resource investment boom will peak later this year and doesn’t see the Australian dollar “ceding” much recently gained ground until after mid-2014.

“Although interest-rate sensitive sectors such as retail and home building may lift, they won't set any land speed records, and it is less clear that dollar dependent sectors will do the same,” the Deloitte report stated.
Latest bank failure

(Bloomberg) -- Denmark's latest bank failure was caused by bad bets on commercial property, a model for insolvency that continues to dominate the nation’s financial woes, Jyske Bank A/S Chief Executive Officer Anders Dam said.

Dam, who agreed on Jan. 25 to take over Sparekassen Lolland A/S after it failed to meet regulatory solvency requirements, won't cover losses incurred by shareholders or subordinated creditors.

Jyske has yet to calculate the final cost of the deal, he said.

Denmark's state resolution agency has closed down 12 banks since the nation’s housing bubble burst in 2008, with a further dozen absorbed by stronger rivals.

The crisis has wiped out community lenders where management speculated on property prices and boards failed to stop reckless bets.

“It's commercial loans that are causing the troubles,” Dam, who runs Denmark’s second-biggest listed lender after Danske Bank A/S, said in Jan. 25. “It’s loans used to speculate in property outside Sparekassen Lolland’s geography that caused the extra writedowns. It’s the same story again.”

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