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Builder doubles IPO

(Bloomberg) -- Taylor Morrison Home Corp., a builder of homes in the United States and Canada, doubled the amount it will seek in a U.S. initial public offering to $500 million.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company boosted the offering size in a regulatory filing Wednesday, after originally announcing plans in December for a $250 million IPO.

The figure is a placeholder used to calculate registration fees and may change.

Taylor Morrison is preparing to go public as home prices and sales recover following the worst crash since the Great Depression.

The company may also benefit from increased demand for equities after the Standard & Poor's 500 Index Tuesday reached the highest since 2007. More than three-fourths of U.S. IPOs this year are trading above their offer price.

Boise Cascade Co. (NYSE: BCC), a Boise, Idaho-based producer of wood products used in home construction, priced its U.S. IPO above an increased price range earlier this month and gained 31 percent in trading through Tuesday.

Homebuilder shares are surging. The S&P Supercomposite Homebuilding Index of 11 companies has gained 13 percent this year after an 84 percent advance in 2012.

Tri Pointe Homes Inc. (NYSE: TPH), which went public last month in the first builder IPO since 2004, has added 11 percent since the Jan. 30 offering.

Taylor Morrison will be the sixth-largest public homebuilder in North America based on 2011 revenue, according to its filings.

Proceeds from the IPO will be used to repay debt and for working capital, according to Taylor Morrison's filing.

Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE: CS) and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) are leading the offering.

Pop hit building selling

(Bloomberg) -- Manhattan's Brill Building, where songwriters such as Burt Bacharach and Neil Diamond penned pop hits, is being sold to investors led by Allied Partners Inc., who plan to redevelop its office and retail space.

The group will pay about $200 million for the property at 1619 Broadway, three blocks north of Times Square, to an Invesco Ltd. (NYSE: IVZ) fund by the end of June, said a person briefed on the deal who was not authorized to speak publicly.

New York-based Stonehenge Management LLC is Invesco's partner in the building.

The buyers intend to modernize the 175,000-square-foot property “into a premier retail and specialty office building,” New York-based Allied said.

They plan to renovate the upper floors and create offices designed to appeal to entertainment-industry tenants, the company said.

The property has housed Colony Records for about four decades.

Colony planned to close its record store in the building as a shift to digital music sales led to a decline in revenue, the New York Times reported.

The building at the corner of 49th Street, named after a clothing store that once occupied part of it, is located in an area popular with tourists and filled with retailers and restaurants.

Allied Partners, founded in 1993 by investor Eric Hadar, specializes in redeveloping properties including hotels, retail, and office and multifamily residential buildings, mostly in Manhattan.

Trump vs offshore wind

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump will fight any approval of an offshore wind farm overlooking his Scottish golf resort in the courts for years, according to George Sorial, the executive in charge of the New York billionaire's project.

Trump is deferring plans to build a five-star hotel, 500 homes and 950 rental apartments at the 750 million-pound ($1.17 billion) resort until a decision on the proposal to build 11 offshore wind turbines in Aberdeen Bay, Sorial said Tuesday.

Trump has been at loggerheads for more than a year with Alex Salmond over the Scottish First Minister's flagship policy of making the nation the hub of European wind power by generating all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Trump, who two days ago submitted plans to build a second golf course on his 1,400 acre Menie estate, said the policy will hurt Scottish tourism.

The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre -- a venture between Vattenfall AB, Technip SA and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group -- applied in 2011 to install wind turbines 1.5 miles out to sea.

They would be 651-feet high to the tip of the blades. Marine Scotland hasn't decided whether to give the go-ahead for the 230 million-pound development.

Capstone settlement

(Bloomberg) -- Financial advisers Capstone Advisory Group LLC and Robert Manzo agreed to give up almost $4 million to settle claims by the U.S. Trustee that they failed to disclose a prohibited fee-sharing arrangement in the liquidation of GSC Group Inc.

The U.S. Trustee, the Justice Department's bankruptcy watchdog, filed papers last month seeking total disgorgement of the fees the advisers earned in the GSC bankruptcy.

The filing was based on the theory that Manzo had an undisclosed fee- sharing agreement with Capstone, where he was advertised as being an executive director.

The U.S. Trustee pointed to documents showing that Manzo was an independent contractor, not an employee.

The U.S. Trustee also sought disgorgement from Kaye Scholer LLP, the law firm that represented GSC before a trustee was appointed. Court records as yet don't show a settlement with Kaye Scholer.

The settlement calls for Capstone to give up $1 million by paying back $634,500 in fees already paid and withdrawing a request for $365,500 more. In addition, Capstone will withdraw a request for a $2.75 million success fee.

Manzo, through his company, will forgo payment of $175,000 in unpaid fees.

GSC filed for bankruptcy in August 2010 and won approval of a Chapter 11 plan a year ago.

Manzo was named as trustee to handle the creditors' trust created when the plan was approved.

According to the U.S. Trustee, Kaye Scholer incurred fees of $6.13 million while Capstone's were $6.07 million, not including the success fee.

The case is In re GSC Group Inc., 10-14653, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Fraud suit upheld

(Bloomberg) -- A Massachusetts homeowner's fraud lawsuit against a mortgage lender was allowed to survive by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston because a document transferring the mortgage wasn’t signed until after foreclosure.

Acting as her own lawyer, the homeowner filed suit in state court against U.S. Bank NA, as trustee for a trust holding securitized mortgages, and Select Portfolio Servicing Inc., the servicer.

The defendants removed the lawsuit to federal court. The district judge dismissed the suit, saying the homeowner couldn't lay out a “plausible” claim.

The First Circuit in Boston reinstated the lawsuit Tuesday in a 27-page opinion written by Circuit Judge Juan R. Torruella.

The opinion shows how courts sometimes require rigorous compliance with foreclosure law even when a homeowner admitted defaulting on the mortgage.

The appeal revolved around a technical point of Massachusetts real estate law requiring the foreclosing party to own the mortgage before foreclosure.

The document assigning the mortgage to the bank was dated after foreclosure, allowing the homeowner to argue that the bank didn't have the right to foreclose.

Cadwalader pays, waives

(Bloomberg) -- Ocala Funding LLC, a subsidiary of previously bankrupt Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., negotiated a settlement where law firm Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP will pay $125,000 and give up a claim for more than $1.6 million.

Lawyers from Cadwalader, based in New York, represented Taylor Bean before bankruptcy.

Ocala followed Taylor Bean by filing its own Chapter 11 petition in July.

Although listing Cadwalader as being owed $1.6 million for legal services, Ocala said it might have claims against the firm for work done before bankruptcy.

Deciding that claims against the firm “would be difficult to prove,” Ocala decided to settle.

At a hearing on March 6 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville, Florida, the judge will decide if it's sufficient for Cadwalader to waive the $1.6 million claim and pay $125,000.

Ocala filed a proposed Chapter 11 plan this month to implement an agreement reached before bankruptcy with holders of almost all of Ocala's $1.5 billion in secured and $800 million in unsecured claims.

The Ocala bankruptcy is In re Ocala Funding LLC, 12-04524, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida (Jacksonville). The parent's case is Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., 09-07047, same court.

German prices

(Bloomberg) -- German apartment prices, which have risen so sharply in some cities that the central bank warned of an overheating property market, fell in January for the first time in four years, according to the Europace EPX Index.

Europace, an online mortgage broker based in Berlin, said its apartment index declined 0.7 percent in January from a year earlier, the first annual drop since December 2009.

Europace's overall homes index, which includes houses, rose 3.4 percent.

Home prices have been climbing as Germans invest in assets that would retain their value if the euro crisis leads to higher inflation.

Foreign investors are also buying property in the country as they try to increase their returns amid low interest rates.

An appreciating euro may have contributed to the decline in apartment prices, said Michaela Reimann, a spokeswoman for Europace.

Australian banks

(Bloomberg) -- Australian banks cut fixed interest charges on home loans to the least on record after funding costs fell to levels last seen before the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (PNK: LEHMQ) froze global credit markets.

Three-year mortgage rates plummeted 85 basis points to average 5.5 percent in the 12 months ended Jan. 31, the lowest level in Reserve Bank of Australia data going back to 1990.

The extra yield investors demand to hold Australian financial debt instead of government notes shrank 161 basis points in the period and was 144 basis points on Feb. 4, the least since December 2007, Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes show.

Lenders are using cheaper fixed mortgages to spur demand for housing credit, after cutting variable rates at a slower pace than the six central-bank rate cuts since November 2011 that returned the nation's borrowing benchmark to a half-century low.

“Funding costs have fallen a lot, boosting the banks' ability to drop rates,” said Sally Auld, a Sydney-based interest-rate strategist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM). “They are trying to be a competitive to get more market share. Aggregate loan growth is not especially strong at the moment in the economy. The banks are having to work harder.”

Swiss action

(AP) -- The Swiss government took action Wednesday to stop the country's housing market from running out of control by requiring banks to hold more capital reserves.

The nation's governing Federal Council in Bern, Switzerland, which includes the president and six other ministers, announced it is “taking action against an excessive rise in prices in the real estate market and exorbitant mortgage debt” that threatens Swiss banks and the economy.

The council said it approved the Swiss National Bank's request to demand an extra 1 percent capital cushion from banks starting in October -- a move likely to further constrain Swiss banks, which are already struggling to maintain profitability.

The Swiss Bankers' Association, a Basel-based trade group, acknowledged the country is facing a potential bubble in its housing market, but said it was brought on by “structural reasons such as increased demand due to immigration.”

It called the increased capital cushion an inappropriate tool to fix the problem because it could adversely affect the economy and the banks by raising credit costs, and called on the Federal Council to relax the new requirement at the earliest opportunity.

Property execs busted

(Bloomberg) -- Buck Groenhof, former board member at SNS Reaal NV's failed property unit, and an assistant were arrested Tuesday by Dutch prosecutors for possible bribery, fraud and money laundering, said two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly.

Groenhof resigned from the board of SNS Property Finance on Oct. 1.

The Dutch government took control of SNS Reaal on Feb. 1 after losses brought the company to the brink of collapse.

The state will inject 2.2 billion euros of capital, write down 800 million euros on an earlier aid package and use 700 million euros to put the real estate portfolio at arm's length.

Traders in Brazil

(Bloomberg) -- Traders are increasing bets PDG Realty SA Empreendimentos & Participacoes, Brazil's worst-performing homebuilder in 2012, will plunge further after short positions returned more than 60 percent in the past year.

The ratio of borrowed shares -- an indication of short selling -- in Brazil's third-biggest homebuilder exceeds 16 percent, the third highest among companies on the benchmark Bovespa index and up from 9.5 percent at the start of the year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Five of the 10 most shorted stocks in Brazil are homebuilders.

Developers have been working to clear backlogs of unsold apartments since 2011 after overestimating demand in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

“Looking ahead, there is the question of oversupply and the weight of the cost of the structure of these companies, which will be supported by fewer projects given the eroded capital base and a market that has limited new projects,” said Claudio Andrade, a partner at Rio de Janeiro-based Polo Gestao de Recursos, which owns shares in the builders.

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