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Blackstone sale

(Bloomberg) -- Blackstone Group LP expects to increase sales of its property holdings in the next year, with potential buyers including real estate investment trusts and sovereign wealth funds, said Jonathan Gray, the firm's global head of real estate.

Blackstone (NYSE: BX) this year finished raising $13.3 billion for the largest-ever private-equity real estate fund.

The company, based in New York, is moving to sell investments from prior funds as it invests its new pool.

Blackstone is seeking as much as 800 million pounds ($1.27 billion) for Chiswick Park, a west London office development it bought in April 2011 for 480 million pounds.

The firm is the second-largest U.S. office landlord through its Equity Office unit, with buildings in markets including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and New York.

Its other real estate holdings include shopping centers held through its Brixmor unit, and the Hilton Worldwide Inc. hotel chain.

Blackstone has been buying office buildings in India as other investors flee that market, Gray said.

Wind tower plant

(AP) -- Valmont Industries Inc. is buying a wind tower plant that closed this fall and modify it build more of the company's steel transmission structures for utilities.

Valmont (NYSE: VMI), which also makes irrigation equipment and engineered products for infrastructure, announced the purchase of Katana Summit's 300,000-square-foot Columbus plant on Monday. Terms were not disclosed.

The Katana plant closed this fall because of uncertainty about the future of tax credits for wind power.

Valmont spokesman Jeff Laudin said he's not sure how many people the plant will employ once modifications are complete in 2014.

Omaha-based Valmont said the Columbus plant will add roughly $100 million in additional manufacturing capacity annually for its utility structures.

Joins StormHarbour

(Bloomberg) -- Brian Stoker, who fended off regulators' claims that he helped Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) mislead investors in a $1 billion deal, has joined StormHarbour Securities LP in a sales position.

Stoker, 41, will focus on the sale of structured products such as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, and mortgage-backed securities, according to Sohail Khan, a StormHarbour managing principal and former Citigroup executive.

The hire comes three months after a jury cleared Stoker of any wrongdoing in a $1 billion CDO offering Citigroup sold in 2007.

The U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission alleged that the New York-based bank failed to tell investors that it had picked about half of the CDO's underlying assets and was betting they’d decline.

Stoker, who helped to structure the deal, argued that he wasn't responsible for the way the deal was pitched to investors.

Cemex up on starts

(Bloomberg) -- Cemex SAB, the largest cement maker in the Americas, climbed the most in almost three months after U.S. housing starts rose to the highest since 2008.

New-home construction jumped 3.6 percent in October to run at an 894,000 annual rate, the fastest since July 2008.

Esteban Polidura, a Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE: DB) analyst in Mexico City has a buy rating on Cemex's (NYSE: CX) American depositary receipts.

The company's U.S. business has turned a profit before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for two straight quarters as the housing recovery has gained steam.

The U.S. housing bust battered the Monterrey, Mexico-based company after the $14.2 billion 2007 acquisition of Rinker Group Ltd., which drew most of its sales from the United States.

Sales for Cemex's U.S. unit rose 12 percent to $826 million in the third quarter.

The U.S. business earned $27 million before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, compared with an $11 million loss a year earlier.

Record high pollutant

(AP) -- The U.N. weather agency said concentrations of the main global warming pollutant in the world's air reached a record high in 2011.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the planet averaged 390 parts per million of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, up 40 percent from before the Industrial Age when levels were about 275 parts per million.

WMO officials said Tuesday there was a 30 percent increase in the warming effect on the global climate between 1990 and 2011, mainly due to carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said the 350 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere since 1750 “will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth.”

Moroccan electricity

(Bloomberg) -- A group led by Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power International signed a $1 billion deal to supply Morocco with electricity from the North African nation’s first solar-thermal power plant.

The government of Morocco will purchase power for 25 years from the 160-megawatt plant ACWA is developing with Spain's Aries Ingenieria & Sistemas SA and TSK Electronica & Electricidad SA in Ouarzazate for Morocco’s Solar Energy Agency.

The Riyadh-based ACWA said it selected Spain's Acciona SA and Sener Grupo de Ingenieria SA to design and build the project in September.

The plants use mirrors that concentrate sunlight to generate steam and power turbines.

The plant will capture 470,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide emission, it said.

ACWA said it intends to sign a project-financing agreement by the end of the year and start operating the plant in the second half of 2015.

Channel project

(AP) -- When the Georgia Assembly convenes in January, Gov. Nathan Deal will ask lawmakers to commit another $50 million toward deepening the river channel to the Port of Savannah to improve navigation for giant cargo ships.

The expected legislative approval would go toward the state's planned $231 million share of the $652 million project, which federal authorities have approved but not yet fully financed.

The governor's announcement immediately shifts the balance of the cost from Congress, where federal lawmakers remained locked in a stalemate over fiscal policy that goes well beyond a single state's wish list.

The project has been a Georgia priority for 16 years, but the Army Corps of Engineers gave its blessing only weeks ago.

President Barack Obama has included the dredging and expansion on his administration's list of top infrastructure priorities nationally.

But Congress won't deliver any federal tax dollars to it until fiscal 2014, at the earliest, and the Army Corps' budget requests are often not fully funded.

Indian watershed

(Bloomberg) -- India signed a credit accord with the World Bank Tuesday for the Himachal Pradesh Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project that raises to $97 million the funding for water harvesting tanks, catchment areas and drainage lines to help irrigate more land.

The $37 million in additional funding adds to the original $60 million project that helped increase farmers' yields in maize, wheat and milk, aided in higher availability of water and raised household incomes by 13 percent, the government said in an e-mail.

The added credit comes from the World Bank's International Development Association lending arm, it said.

Housing shortage

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia's central bank issued regulations on real estate financing, leasing and supervision of financial companies as the kingdom attempts to ease a housing shortage by opening up its mortgage market.

The mortgage law, which has been debated for more than a decade, will overhaul the kingdom's home-finance market, from registering mortgages to allowing judges to prosecute police officers who fail to carry out eviction orders.

The changes could boost residential lending to about $32 billion annually, according to estimates by Capitas Group International Ltd., a Saudi company focused on Islamic finance.

The rules will lead to the creation of licensed private mortgage providers as well as a state-run company for refinancing resembling Fannie Mae (OTC: FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) in the United States.

The Saudi Real Estate Refinancing Corp. would have minimum capital of 2 billion riyals ($533 million) and would be responsible for issuing Islamic bonds or securities backed by mortgages or real estate, according to a draft of the regulations.

Home lending in Saudi Arabia grew at the fastest pace in at least four years in the second quarter, evidence that banks in the largest Arab economy are more willing to take risk as the mortgage law progresses.

Real estate financing jumped 83 percent.

Even so, fewer than 4 percent of all home purchases in the kingdom have been funded through mortgages. The government's Real Estate Development Fund provides low-income buyers with interest-free loans.

Henderson sale

(Bloomberg) -- Henderson Group Plc's Caspar Property Fund sold its real estate to two buyout firms to repay about 167 million pounds ($265 million) of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS).

Mountgrange Investment Management LLP and Patron Capital Ltd. agreed to buy the fund's 24 remaining buildings for 184 million pounds, according to a statement Tuesday.

The proceeds will pay off CMBS sold in 2004 by Epic (Caspar) Plc.

Henderson has been selling the Caspar fund's real estate as its high level of leverage compounded the effect of a slide in U.K. property prices.

The asset manager hired Drivers Jonas Deloitte LLP in April to sell the last 24 buildings, comprising offices, stores and warehouses, in a single transaction.

The Caspar fund bought 61 properties in 2004 and financed the transaction with CMBS.

The bonds and mezzanine loans totaled about 600 million pounds, more than 80 percent of the estimated value of the properties at the time of the bond sale, according to the 2004 securitized-loan prospectus.

Most of the properties sold are in London and southeast England.

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