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Pinnacles' birthday

(AP) -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other government officials are hosting a birthday party for America's newest national park, a 26,000-acre expanse of volcanic rock and chaparral in Central California.

Pinnacles National Monument was upgraded to national park status last month when President Barack Obama signed a bill making it the 59th national park in the United States and the ninth located in California.

Congressman Sam Farr (D-Calif.) co-sponsored the bill bestowing the national park designation in part to promote Pinnacles and help boost its attendance.

As a monument, Pinnacles has had about 343,000 visitors a year, many of them rock climbers drawn by its eponymous cliffs and rock spires. The park also is home to endangered California condors.

Venice storage

(AP) -- The Venice Beach homeless fearing seizure of belongings during Los Angeles clean street sweeps now have a place to stash their stuff.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl and the social services agency Venice Community Housing Corp. have launched the pilot Check-in Storage program, which allows the homeless to store belongings in trailer for a week at a time.

Shelters only allow the homeless to bring items they can carry on their laps and some were reluctant to leave their possessions for fear they would be seized.

The Los Angeles Times said that meant many of the shelter's 160 beds went unused.

To publicize the service, fliers are circulating telling the homeless to bring possessions to the storage trailer.

Medicine, identification, weapons or illegal items aren't allowed.

Copper thieves

(AP) -- Motorists are quick to blame solo drivers, out-of-sync traffic lights and an improving economy for San Francisco Bay area traffic gridlock.

But copper thieves are a hidden culprit in the commuting mess.

They tear out copper wiring powering metering lights, traffic signals and freeway electronic signs. Copper can fetch up to $4 a pound at recycling facilities.

The San Jose Mercury News said 59 meters have been vandalized in the bay area in the past year.

The California Department of Transportation has replaced wiring for 18 of those meters at a typical cost of $35,000 each. And it can take up to four months to make repairs.

Brookfield acquisitions

(AP) -- Brookfield Asset Management Inc. is buying 19 apartment buildings in three states for $414 million.

The asset management company said Monday that the purchase from Babcock & Brown Residential is for apartment complexes located in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Brookfield (NYSE: BAM) said the buildings are mostly in the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham markets, which are expected to see strong economic growth and population increases.

The Toronto-based company anticipates if economic and population growth occur that the buildings will be able to increase their rents and boost their occupancy.

The buildings will be managed by Fairfield Residential, a Brookfield affiliate.

Stadium referendum

(AP) -- The Miami Dolphins have agreed to a local referendum on their plan seeking tax money for an upgrade of their stadium, a person familiar with the discussions said Sunday.

The Dolphins believe passage by Miami-Dade County voters would help the chance of the plan's approval by the Florida Legislature, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team declined to comment.

Upgrades to the Dolphins' stadium are expected to cost about $400 million, and Ross has agreed to pay at least $201 million.

The team said upgrades are needed to keep their stadium attractive for major events such as Super Bowls -- such as the 50th title game in two years, which Miami hopes to host -- and college football's championship game.

They say the deal would keep them in South Florida through at least 2034.

The plan includes adding about 3,600 new seats close to the field, improved amenities and a canopy roof.

Public money would come from a $3 million state subsidy and an increase in Miami-Dade County's tax on hotels. The Dolphins hope to hold the vote before May 22.

Radian loss widens

(AP) -- Mortgage insurer Radian Group's fourth-quarter loss widened, hindered in part by a smaller gain on investments and lower revenue.

But it wrote substantially more insurance and delinquent loans and paid claims fell.

Philadelphia-based Radian lost $177.3 million, or $1.34 per share, for the period ended Dec. 31.

That compares with a loss of $121.5 million, or 92 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue fell 38 percent to $226.1 million from $364.6 million.

Radian's (NYSE: RDN) gain on investments was $6.4 million in the current quarter, compared with $38.9 million in the prior-year period.

New mortgage insurance written climbed to $11.7 billion from $6.5 billion a year ago, while the total number of primary delinquent loans declined by 16 percent.

Total mortgage insurance claims paid fell to $263.4 million from $291.6 million.

For the year, Radian lost $451.5 million, or $3.41 per share. The company posted a profit of $302.2 million, or $2.26 per share, in the prior year. Annual revenue dropped to $825.4 million from $1.95 billion.

Another Trump course

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump, the New York real estate billionaire, submitted preliminary plans for a second course at his 750 million-pound ($1.17 billion) Scottish golf resort seven months after the first one opened.

Trump's proposals for the course, which will be named after his Scottish-born mother Mary MacLeod, were presented to Aberdeenshire Council, the developer said Monday.

The 18-hole course, which will vary between 5,630 yards to 7,540 yards in length, will be on the southern end of Trump's 1,400-acre Menie Estate 10 miles north of Aberdeen.

Trump, whose mother was born on the island of Lewis, spent more than 100 million pounds building the first course, restoring the estate and carrying out infrastructure work. He has built a 22-acre driving range, a 3,000-square-meter putting green and a 10,000 square-meter short-game practice area.

A dispute with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond over plans to build an offshore wind farm overlooking the resort had led Trump to delay plans to build the second golf course, a 450-bed five-star hotel, 500 homes and 950 short-term rental apartments.

Right-to-work law

(Bloomberg) -- Michigan's new right-to-work law, which bars unions from forcing workers to pay dues, violates the U.S. Constitution and federal labor statutes, the Michigan AFL-CIO said in a lawsuit.

The law interferes with the rights of workers and Michigan officials should be barred from enforcing it, the union said in the complaint filed in federal court in Detroit Monday.

The new Michigan law will subject unions and their members in the state to “substantive and remedial regulations that supplant or conflict with” federal labor laws, the AFL-CIO said in its lawsuit.

The right-to-work law was passed by the Michigan Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December. Under the new law, an individual can't be forced, as a condition of employment, to become or remain a member of a union, or pay any dues or other fees to a labor organization.
Norwegian wealth

(Bloomberg) -- Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, agreed to purchase a 49.9 percent stake in five U.S. office properties from TIAA-CREF, its first real estate investment in the world’s largest economy.

The fund agreed to pay $1.2 billion for the assets in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Boston, the Oslo-based fund said Monday.

TIAA-CREF, the seller, kept 50.1 percent of each property and will manage the buildings.

“As the world's largest real estate market, the U.S. will be an important part of the fund’s long-term property portfolio,” said Karsten Kallevig, chief investment officer for real estate at Norges Bank Investment Management, the fund’s manager.

The $700 billion fund is expanding into real estate and is seeking to have 5 percent of its assets invested in properties. It has bought commercial real estate in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, Zurich as well in Sheffield, England.

Solar rose in '12

(Bloomberg) -- Global solar-power capacity rose to at least 101 gigawatts last year as growth in China, the United States and Japan outstripped some markets in Europe.

About 30 to 32 gigawatts were completed worldwide, compared with almost 30 gigawatts in 2011, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association said Monday.

Solar photovoltaic plants can now generate as much electricity as about 16 mid-sized nuclear power stations, the lobby group said.

Governments from India to Chile are promoting sun-based power to satisfy growing energy demand while meeting emission targets.

Global installations expanded last year after an equipment glut drove down solar-panel prices, even as European markets slowed following a reduction in state subsidies.

“No one would have predicted even 10 years ago that we would see more than 100 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity in the world by 2012,” EPIA President Winfred Hoffman said.

Smart grids

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey will spend $5 billion on smart power grids by 2015 to boost network efficiency, allowing North American companies to expand, the U.S. government said.

Turkey, forecasting annual power-demand growth of 6.3 percent in the next two decades, has already lured investors including General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) as its energy industry expands.

The jump in demand increases the need for smart grids, which allow power generators and users to monitor consumption and reduce costs by saving energy in transmission.

Turkey is seeking to boost efficiency of supply after demand grew 5.1 percent last year, while generation expanded only 4.2 percent, according to data from Turkish Electricity Transmission Co.

Vestas now second

(Bloomberg) -- Vestas Wind Systems A/S lost its leadership of the global wind turbine market to General Electric Co. in 2012 after 12 years with the biggest share, Navigant Consulting Inc.'s (NYSE: NCI) BTM Consult unit said.

The ranking is a blow to Aarhus, Denmark-based Vestas, which first took the top spot in 2000, when it supplanted NEG Micon A/S, a Danish rival that it later bought.

Vestas last week posted its second consecutive annual net loss and said it's in the middle of two “extremely difficult years,” during which it’s cutting about 30 percent of its workforce.

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