• News
  • Real Estate
Industry Briefs

Thirsty plans

(AP) -- Federal officials say rising demand and falling supply pose a risk of water shortages over the next 50 years for some 40 million people, including Native Americans, businesses, ranchers and farmers in seven Western states dependent on the Colorado River.

However, the two-year study released Wednesday by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar with members of a Colorado River Water Users Association conference in Las Vegas is already being criticized by advocacy groups who say the report is flawed.

Water administrators and state officials from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming have been considering a range of outside-the-box ideas such as piping water from the nation's heartland and towing Arctic icebergs south.

They're trying to find ways to make sure U.S. cities such as Denver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix don’t run out of water.

Camp demolition

(AP) -- Demolition crews have begun to tear apart the environmentally unsound barracks and other buildings at Camp Roberts that were World War II-era homes to hundreds of soldiers.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports the 658 structures along Highway 101 north of San Miguel have stood unused for more than 30 years because changes to an environmental law halted demolition plans.

The homes were built using lead-based paint, and also have asbestos and disease risk from rodent droppings.

Camp Roberts built its own 85-acre hazardous waste landfill after a decade-long permitting process that ended this year.

The structures will be torn down in phases over three years.

Hotel joint venture

(Bloomberg) -- MetLife Inc., the largest U.S. life insurer, formed a joint venture with Loews Corp. for ownership of the Loews Hollywood Hotel in California, the companies said Wednesday.

Loews Hotels & Resorts purchased the 632-room property earlier this year. The venture extends the company's partnership with New York-based MetLife, which owns the Loews Atlanta Hotel.

Solar IPO

(Bloomberg) -- SolarCity Corp., the solar power provider led by billionaire Elon Musk, cut the proposed pricing of its initial public offering while increasing the number of shares offered.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based company sees a price of $8 each after increasing the size of the offering to 11.4 million shares from 10.1 million, according to a regulatory filing. The IPO had been scheduled to price Tuesday in a range of $13 to $15 apiece.

Buyers in SolarCity's IPO commanded a discount even as the company is poised for growth after completing the most equipment installations in California, the U.S.’s biggest solar-power market.

The offering is contending with a market that has pummeled public solar stocks and a pending U.S. government inquiry into its accounting practices that may raise costs.

SolarCity, which booked a $95 million net loss in the 12 months through September, is one of a handful of companies that lease solar panels to customers, install them on their property, and charge them below-market rates for the electricity they generate.

Colorado foreclosures

(AP) -- The number of homes going into foreclosure in Colorado metro areas has dipped to the lowest level in nearly six years, according to the Colorado Division of Housing.

The division's monthly foreclosure report for 12 metropolitan areas in Colorado released Wednesday shows there were 1,450 new filings in November.

That's down 37 percent from last November’s 2,296 and the lowest since the division began collecting monthly totals in 2007.

Ryan McMaken, an economist with the division, says the decline is greater than expected.

The number of homes sold at foreclosure auctions also declined, falling from 1,290 last November to 880 last month.

Washington package

(AP) -- Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday she is preparing a new transportation package that would rival the multi-billion-dollar deal she helped approve in 2005.

On Tuesday, Gregoire said that she will detail her plan during a budget proposal next week. The 2005 package included a 9.5-cent gas tax increase and other revenues that were slated to total $7 billion over the span of 16 years.

Gregoire says there are great needs to fund basic maintenance of Washington's transportation infrastructure. The state is also looking to pay for major projects such as the Columbia River Crossing in Vancouver, the 520 bridge in Seattle and the North Spokane Corridor.

The Democrat hadn't settled on how the projects will be funded.

Improper REIT sales

(Bloomberg) -- LPL Financial LLC, the largest independent U.S. broker-dealer by revenue, was accused by Massachusetts regulators Wednesday of dishonest and unethical business practices and failure to supervise agents who made improper sales.

The complaint relates to sales of seven non-traded real estate investment trusts in violation of state and company rules, according to a statement from the state's senior securities watchdog, Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin.

Boston-based LPL earned at least $1.8 million in commissions on the sales, the state said.

“At their core, non-traded REIT products operate through an immensely complex affiliated and subsidiary structure rife with conflict,” Galvin's complaint said. “LPL’s lack of adequate training and supervision only exacerbated problems.”

LPL provides brokerage, advisory and technology services to more than 13,000 financial advisers, according to its website.

Lone Star in Germany

(Bloomberg) -- The German government agreed to sell TLG Immobilien, a company that owns about 800 buildings in the country's eastern states, to Lone Star Funds for 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) including debt. It’s the country’s biggest commercial-property deal of the year.

Lone Star, a private equity firm based in Dallas, will acquire TLG Immobilien's stores, offices, warehouses and hotels, the Berlin-based Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

Lone Star will pay 594 million euros in cash and assume about 500 million euros of debt, a government official said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, in an effort to reduce its budget deficit, is taking advantage of an increase in German property prices fueled in part by low interest rates and a lack of investment alternatives.

Cemex buyback

(Bloomberg) -- Cemex Latam Holdings SA, a Madrid-based cement maker that is listed in Colombia, will buy back about $150 million in shares from brokerage firms that acquired shares in its November initial public offering.

Cemex Latam will repurchase 22.2 million shares at $6.75 each, or about 13 percent of the shares sold in the IPO, according to a statement Wednesday. The initial buyers had a put on the shares, according to the statement.

The buyers included Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Santander Investment Securities Inc., according to a regulatory filing in Colombia.

Cemex Latam issued 170.4 million shares at 12,250 pesos each in the IPO, within the marketed range of 11,000 to 13,500 pesos.

The shares have dropped 5 percent in Bogota from the IPO price.

Swiss boom risky

(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland's residential-property boom is the biggest risk facing the country’s economy, according to Daniel Kalt, UBS AG’s chief Swiss economist

UBS's Swiss Real Estate Bubble Index entered the “risk zone” for the first time in more than two decades in the third quarter as investors were attracted to one of Europe’s most stable and prosperous countries during the sovereign debt crisis.

“The real estate price situation in Switzerland, especially in Geneva, Zurich and Zug, is dramatic,” Kalt said in Zurich Wednesday. “This poses the biggest macro risk for the Swiss economy.”

“The situation will go on like this for another one to three years,” Kalt said. “Then it will depend on interest rates and we'll have to see whether the real estate market will stabilize or not. If it were to go on like this, we’d see a doubling of real-estate prices every eight years.”

Water treatment

(Bloomberg) -- Drake & Scull International PJSC said its German subsidiary won water-treatment contracts in Romania that include building a plant in Sibiu to produce drinking water for as many as 200,000 people.

Passavant-Roediger GmbH's contracts were worth almost $25 million for the river treatment award, for pipes to supply water to Cisnadie and to replenish reservoirs in Romania, which is striving to comply with the European Union’s water framework directive.

A wastewater project in the eastern town of Roman that was earlier announced made up the balance of orders. Drake, the Dubai-based supplier of engineering services to the construction industry, acquired Passavant in 2009 to expand in the water and wastewater sector.

Liability negotiator

(Bloomberg) -- LDK Solar Co., a Chinese photovoltaic manufacturer with more than $3.1 billion in debt, hired Citigroup Inc. to help renegotiate its liabilities.

The company has “entered into discussions with certain creditors to obtain additional flexibility,” Xinyu, China-based LDK said Wednesday.

The Chinese government is offering support to selected solar manufacturers, and LDK may be seeking access to that financial lifeline, Edwin Mok, an analyst at Needham & Co. in San Francisco, said Wednesday.

LDK is the biggest maker of wafers for solar cells after GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd.

Selling subprime

(Bloomberg) -- ING Groep NV CEO Jan Hommen said the Netherlands could sell U.S. mortgage bonds for which it assumed risks when it bailed out the bank and insurer during the financial crisis without taking losses as the value of the debt recovers.

“We are very close to the break-even point, at which the government, if it were to exit, could do so without a loss,” Hommen, 69, said Wednesday. “We are very close, possibly even beyond that. So this will be another transaction on which the state won't have a loss.”

ING received 10 billion euros ($13 billion) in aid from the Dutch government in October 2008 after mortgages held at its U.S. banking and insurance units plunged in value after the real estate market crashed. In January 2009, the Dutch state assumed the risk on 80 percent of so-called Alt-A loans -- a type of mortgage that typically didn't require documentation such as proof of income -- with a value of 27.7 billion euros to stem credit losses on the assets.

Water company formed

(Bloomberg) -- The Leighton Group, involved in the construction of three of Australia's largest desalination plants, has helped form a water and environmental contracting company in Dubai to tap demand in the Gulf region.

The Habtoor Leighton Group joined last month with John Holland to create Advance Water and Environment. Leighton companies including John Holland were involved in Australia's Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast seawater desalination plants.

Brazilian infrastructure

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil's biggest infrastructure companies from Santos Brasil Participacoes SA to EcoRodovias Infraestrutura & Logistica SA are settling for lower returns from government contracts, betting that a rebounding economy will make new projects viable.

EcoRodovias, Brazil's largest toll-road operator, expects returns of about 9 percent, CEO Marcelino Rafart de Seras said Tuesday.

That's down from at least 15 percent for toll roads auctioned to private investors in the 1990s, said Banco Itau BBA SA. TPI Triunfo Participacoes & Investimentos SA CEO Carlo Alberto Bottarelli sees lower rates “near double digits,” while port operator Santos Brasil CEO Antonio Sepulveda expects returns “slightly above” 10 percent.

“The trend is for the rate of return to fall, but there's going to be more competition among infrastructure assets -- there’s going to be a ports package, a road package, a rail package,” Bottarelli said at the event. “For us, what’s important is the contract. And if the contract is stable, then we’ll take a look.”

Kyrgyzstan water

(Bloomberg) -- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is seeking project managers and water experts in the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan to improve supplies so unreliable there may not be potable water for more than a couple hours every other day.

The situation is such that Kyrgyz families store water in bathtubs and buckets when supply is available and water-borne disease outbreaks can occur, the bank said, adding that it's trying to address the problems through “a number of relatively small but well-designed projects.”

The U.S. military has an air base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, that's used to supply troops to Afghanistan.

User Response
0 UserComments