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Idaho eminent domain

(AP) -- Landowners in Idaho dealing with eminent domain claims could soon be protected from the steep costs that can accompany those deals.

The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to introduce a measure designed to make sure landowners can recoup legal and other expenses incurred during the complex negotiations that take place with agencies.

Landowners engaged in eminent domain talks often hire lawyers and property evaluation experts.

In some cases, bills for those services can increase significantly especially if agencies repeatedly change plans on access roads or storm water drainage.

The bill has early bipartisan support.

$100M to haul NJ debris

(AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is defending a $100 million contract his administration gave a Florida company to haul away debris from Superstorm Sandy.

Christie said the contract with AshBritt was not awarded without competitive bidding, as critics have charged.

The governor said New Jersey has a cooperative agreement with the state of Connecticut that allows it to piggyback off an earlier contract with that state.

Christie said Connecticut contracted with AshBritt in 2010 in a $100 million deal that was competitively bid.

He said New Jersey needed to hire a contractor quickly after Sandy to begin picking up mounds of debris left by the storm.

And AshBritt was selected in part because the firm had experience dealing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and was able to get full reimbursement.

Cemex profits

(Bloomberg) -- Cemex Latam Holdings SA, a cement maker with operations in Central and South America, said a measure of profit surged 38 percent in the fourth quarter as revenue climbed 23 percent.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization from operations rose to $141 million in the last three months of 2012 as net sales increased to $404 million, the Bogota-based company said Wednesday in a filing.

Net income was $88 million, the company said without giving the amount for a year earlier.

The earnings report was Cemex Latam's first as a publicly traded company, after its Monterrey, Mexico-based parent Cemex SAB (NYSE: CX) sold shares in Cemex Latam in November.

The shares, which were added to the benchmark Colcap index last week, have climbed 17 percent this year.

Pipeline approval

(Bloomberg) – The chief executive officer of TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP), Russ Girling, expects approval “very soon” for the $5.3 billion portion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that crosses the U.S.-Canada border.

“I suspect we're looking at anything from a few weeks to a couple of months,” Girling said Wednesday.

The United States, which rejected a permit last year, is reviewing the project again after the route through Nebraska was changed.

Keystone XL would deliver 830,000 barrels a day from Canadian oil sands and North Dakota shale fields to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

Last month, Nebraska's governor signed off on a revised route through his state.

Federal officials are completing a supplemental environmental impact statement, a step toward presidential approval, Girling said.

Spanish prices

(Bloomberg) -- Existing home prices in Spain were little changed in January, the first month without a decline in three years, according to Fotocasa.es and IESE Business School.

The average asking price was 1,890 euros ($2,550) a square meter compared with 1,891 euros in December, Fotocasa, a Spanish real estate website, said in a survey published Wednesday. The annual decline was 9.9 percent.

Homes in Madrid, Spain's capital and financial center, rose in January 0.3 percent to 2,965 euros a square meter, 57 percent more than the national mean.

Average home prices had fallen for 36 consecutive months, losing more than a third of value from an April 2007 peak, Fotocasa said.

“The real price, where sales can happen and that would be reflected in official valuations, is still about 20 to 25 percent below these levels,” said Hugo Navarro, a money manager at BPA Global in Madrid.

Sumitomo may sell bonds

(Bloomberg) -- Sumitomo Realty & Development Co. is weighing abandoning a perpetual loan and selling bonds, highlighting the balancing act for Japanese companies seeking to protect debt ratings while cutting borrowing costs.

The company has said it may sell bonds to refinance a 120 billion yen ($1.3 billion) facility signed during the credit crunch in February 2008.

Under the loan agreement, the interest paid by the developer will increase to the equivalent of 2.4 percent starting Feb. 22, based on Tuesday's Tokyo interbank offered rate.

That compares with the about 0.6 percent it would pay to sell five-year bonds, according to JS Price.

A rally in stocks has bolstered balance sheets at Japanese companies giving them leeway to reduce exposure to perpetual securities, which are considered less of a burden by ratings companies because they are a hybrid between debt and equity.

“Sumitomo Realty would chose cheaper financing via straight bonds or bank loans if breaking the promise didn't carry the risk of a ratings cut,” Mitsuyoshi Takahashi, a Tokyo-based analyst at Mizuho Securities Co., said Tuesday. “Their case is attracting attention because it sets a precedent.”

Vestas' 4Q rises

(Bloomberg) -- Vestas Wind Systems A/S gained the most in more than a month in Copenhagen after sales beat estimates and the world's biggest wind turbine maker generated cash in the fourth quarter after three quarters of outflows.

Sales rose 25 percent to 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) from 2 billion euros in the fourth quarter of 2011, Vestas said Wednesday in its annual report.

Vestas generated 416 million euros of free cash in the period, allowing it to cut net debt by 387 million euros.

The wind turbine maker is halfway through a two-year push to cut its workforce by about 30 percent to 16,000 as it seeks to return to profitability following two years of losses.

It's reduced its cost base by more than 250 million euros of the target for 400 million euros of cuts by the end of 2013.

Kenya lender jumps

(Bloomberg) -- Housing Finance Ltd., Kenya's only publicly traded mortgage lender, jumped to the highest in more than 17 months on bets earnings in the year to December grew.

Shares climbed in Nairobi to the highest level since Aug. 23, 2011. About 80,000 shares traded, 68 percent of the three-month daily average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It is generally driven by expectations of earnings,” Faith Atiti, a research analyst at Nairobi-based NIC Securities Ltd., said.

A 1.7 billion-shilling ($19.4 million) loan the company signed with the International Finance Corp. on Tuesday will enable Housing Finance to give borrowers cheaper loans, while demand for houses remains high, Atiti said.

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