Latest News Today – Rs 238 Crore Spent So Far For Construction Of New

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Rs 238 Crore Spent So Far For Construction Of New Parliament Building: Government

The redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue will cost Rs 608 crore (File)

New Delhi:

The government has so far spent Rs 238 crore and Rs 63 crore for the construction of a new Parliament building and the redevelopment of Centre Vista Avenue, respectively, Lok Sabha was informed on Thursday.

In a written reply to a question, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Kaushal Kishore said that construction of a new Parliament building at an estimated cost of Rs 971 crore is being undertaken and is targeted to be completed by October next year.

Also, the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue stretching from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate will cost Rs 608 crore and the project is expected to be completed by November this year, he said.

According to the government, the estimated costs to be incurred on these two projects for the financial year 2021-22 is Rs 1,289 crore.

Replying to another question, the minister said that the details of rental premises or area-wise hired by various establishments of the government and expenditure incurred on those private rental premises or area-wise since their origin of lease agreement is not centrally maintained.

Earlier, the government had said the ongoing Central Vista redevelopment project, which includes the construction of 10 new Secretariat buildings, would lead to a saving of Rs 1,000 crore in the form of rent for government offices.

The redevelopment project of the Central Vista — the nation’s power corridor — envisages a new triangular Parliament building, a common central secretariat, revamping of the three-km-long Rajpath, from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, new prime minister residence and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and new Vice President Enclave.

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Latest News Today – Bids Open For Construction Of Sabarmati Rolling Stock

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Bullet Train: Bids Open For Construction Of Sabarmati Depot On High-Speed Rail

Sabarmati Depot: The last date for the submission of bids for is December 2, 2021.

The National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) – delegated for implementing the country’s first 508 km long bullet train corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, opened bids for the construction of Sabarmati depot for the upcoming high-speed railway line. (Also Read: Bullet Train Project: Financial Bids Open For Construction Of Bridges On High-Speed Rail )

On Thursday, July 29, the organisation invited bids for the construction, design, installation, as well as testing and commissioning of the Sabarmati rolling stock depot. It also consists of a workshop, inspection sheds, buildings, maintenance facilities, and associated works, according to a statement shared by NHSRCL.

The last date for the submission of bids is December 2, 2021. The upcoming Sabarmati maintenance depot will be the largest depot among three depots planned for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed railway corridor. The two other depots will be situated at Surat (Gujarat) and Thane (Maharashtra).

Recently, the implementing agency opened financial bids for the construction of 11 special bridges — including seven steel truss bridges and four prestressed concrete or PSC bridges between the Zaroli Village at the Maharashtra-Gujarat Border and Vadodara, in Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. 

(Also Read: Bullet Train Project: ₹ 1,390 Crore Contract Signed With L&T For Procuring Steel Bridges )

The country’s first bullet train will operate at a speed of 320 km per hour, once completely ready for passenger services. Along the route, the high-speed railway line will pass through 12 stations, covering certain regions in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The bullet train will cover the entire distance between the two states in two-three hours with halts at all stations. 

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Latest News Today – Micro-Tunnelling Technique For Construction Work Begins

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Micro-Tunnelling For Utility Diversion Work Begins On Delhi-Meerut Rapid Rail

Delhi-Meerut rapid rail will reduce travel time between Delhi and Meerut to 55 minutes

The National Capital Regional Transport Corporation (NCRTC) – responsible for implementing the country’s first semi-high speed regional rapid transit system (RRTS) network, began micro-tunneling technique for utility diversion work at the under-construction Anand Vihar station on the upcoming 82.5 km long Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut regional rapid rail corridor. (Also Read: Alstom Begins Manufacturing Of Trains For India’s 1st Rapid Rail Corridor )

Micro-tunnelling is an underground tunnel construction technique used for constructing smaller tunnels for utility diversion such as drainage pipelines, to minimise the public inconvenience caused during the construction work, according to the National Capital Regional Transport Corporation.

The technique allows free public movement in the area and is mostly adopted in places where footfall is high and trenching is not advisable as the extraction of debris causes the blockage of passages restricting movement. It is also useful for preserving the existing infrastructure from any physical damage or alteration.

The Anand Vihar station area on the upcoming RRTS corridor is one of the busiest commuter transit hubs surrounded by a metro station serving two metro lines, a railway station, as well as two interstate bus terminals (ISBT) – one at Delhi side and the other one at the Kaushambi, Uttar Pradesh side.

The Delhi-Meerut rapid rail – the country’s first regional rapid corridor, will have a total of 22 RRTS stations, out of which four will be in the national capital, including the one at Anand Vihar. Once completely ready for services, the Delhi-Meerut rapid rail will reduce the travel time between Delhi and Meerut to just 55 minutes.

In the first phase of the regional rapid transit system network in the national capital region, three priority corridors will be implemented – Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut, Delhi-Gururgram-Rewari-Alwar, and Delhi-Sonipat-Panipat. These corridors will converge at Delhi’s Sarai Kale Khan RRTS station. 

Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut will be India’s first regional rapid rail which is targeted for completion by 20215. Its priority section – the 17 km long Sahibabad-Duhai is likely to open for commuters by 2023.

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The Bonds That Cried Major Default Risk | Sidnaz Blog

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The villagers in “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” bored of their shepherd boy’s constant false alarms, refuse to come to his aid when a wolf finally does appear. There may be a lesson in the fable for investors in Chinese property giant Evergrande and the country’s real-estate market more broadly.

Heavily leveraged Evergrande is in the midst of yet another financial squeeze. The company announced Sunday and Monday that it has recently sold almost $1 billion of holdings in two companies—internet services firm HengTen Networks and smaller real-estate developer China Calxon. Fitch Ratings cut Evergrande’s credit rating Tuesday from B+ to B, noting the company’s seemingly limited access to capital markets and growing dependence on less stable shadow-banking loans.

The current wobble has been unfolding for three weeks: It began when regulators started examining the relationship between Evergrande and Shengjing Bank, a regional lender in which the property developer has built a large stake.

Evergrande’s March 2022 bond currently yields a little over 20%, up from as low as 8.6% in late May. And the company’s share price is down almost 30% year-to-date, making it one of the few companies anywhere trading at the depressed levels of March 2020.

An Evergrande building in Huai’an, Jiangsu province.



Photo:

SIPA Asia via ZUMA Press

Close watchers of Evergrande can rightly say that it is not the company’s first financial tremor. Nor is it its second or third. Spikes in the company’s bond yields are relatively common. Optimists note that after a $1.5 billion bond maturing on June 28, it has no offshore bonds due for the rest of the year.

But there are many risks for Evergrande outside of what is technically recognized as debt. This month the company said it would repay a small amount of overdue commercial acceptance bills, a form of short-term IOUs on which the firm is heavily reliant. The company’s accounts payable, the balance sheet category that covers those liabilities, ran to about $95 billion at the end of 2020. That has more than tripled in five years.

The company’s 2020 results also make clear that the amount it owes to home buyers who’ve paid large deposits for unbuilt apartments rose rapidly in 2020. Fitch notes that while contracted sales have been rising, average selling prices have fallen, dropping 13% in 2020 and 7% in 2021 so far. That boosts cash inflows in the short term, but means even greater obligations and less money to pay for them in the long term.

And unlike the company’s September 2020 squeeze, when bond yields surged over concerns regarding its relationship with a handful of strategic investors, debts owed to thousands of small businesses and households can’t be so easily extended.

The bond market has told many tall tales of imminent defaults for Evergrande, and none have materialized. Perhaps these latest rumblings will come to nothing—but that doesn’t mean the wolf won’t eventually get his dinner.

Write to Mike Bird at [email protected]

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Whatever Their CEOs Say, Banks Are Wary About the Office | Sidnaz Blog

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Some bank chiefs, like JPMorgan’s

Jamie Dimon,

talk as if the office will soon look more or less as it did before. Their real estate lending teams seem less sure.

Banks on both sides of the Atlantic are becoming more selective about which offices they will lend against. Pockets of the market have been resilient during the pandemic: The rate banks charge for mortgages on the best central London offices was 1.65% in the first quarter of 2021, more or less where it was before the crisis, data from real-estate company CBRE shows. But U.K. lending margins for older, less central offices are close to historic highs, based on the Cass Business School’s commercial real estate lending report.

In the U.S., the value of new office loans issued by banks in the first quarter of this year was just 35% of levels in the same period of 2019, according to Trepp data—a sharper pullback than for unloved retail assets such as malls. The spread between office mortgage rates and 10-year Treasurys also has widened from precrisis levels.

The value of new office loans issued by banks in the first quarter was just 35% of levels in the same period of 2019.



Photo:

Amir Hamja/Bloomberg News

The rise in debt costs is notable because default rates on existing office loans are currently below 1%. Corporate tenants locked into leases are continuing to pay the rent, so landlords have met their mortgage payments. But that could change once existing contracts roll off and white-collar employees spend more time at home. Companies ranging from tech giant

Facebook

to global bank

HSBC

plan to let some staff work remotely on a permanent basis.

Oversupply is already an issue in San Francisco, leading to big falls in rent and high vacancy rates. Lenders are also watching New York closely. In the mid-Atlantic region, which includes the troubled Manhattan market, almost one-third of banks’ outstanding office loans now fall into the riskier “criticized” category, up from 6% before the pandemic, survey data gathered by Trepp shows.

The pandemic also has accelerated the pre-Covid trend toward more energy-efficient offices with strong communal areas, good ventilation and natural light. Expensive improvements are needed both to entice workers back and to meet growing expectations for businesses to disclose and reduce their carbon footprints. Unfortunately for landlords, green credentials seem set to become a requirement to let rather than the basis for charging tenants a premium.

All of these factors make it tough to predict where office valuations are headed and therefore to underwrite loans. In central London, the best offices are still changing hands at high valuations that give rental yields of just 4%, buoyed by rock-bottom interest rates and strong demand from overseas buyers. Shareholders are more bearish. The discount to book value at which U.K. and U.S. office real-estate investment trusts now trade imply 15% and 10% falls in the value of the properties they own, respectively, according to real-estate research firm Green Street.

For now, mortgage writers too are erring on the side of caution. Seen through the lens of their lending activity, banks’ efforts to big up the office to staff appear halfhearted.

Plexiglass dividers and floor decals might not be permanent, but the pandemic will bring lasting change to offices. Experts from the architecture and real-estate industries share how they are getting back to work and what offices will look like in the future. Photo: Cesare Salerno for The Wall Street Journal

Write to Carol Ryan at [email protected] and Rochelle Toplensky at [email protected]

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J.P. Morgan Asset Management Acquires Timberland Investment Firm | Sidnaz Blog

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One of the biggest names on Wall Street is getting into the timber business, and a big part of its plan to make money involves less logging.

J.P. Morgan Asset Management said Monday that it has acquired Campbell Global LLC, a Portland, Ore., firm that manages $5.3 billion worth of timberland on behalf of institutional investors, such as pensions and insurance companies.

The deal gives the $2.5 trillion asset manager a position in the booming market for forest-carbon offsets, tradable assets that are created by paying landowners to not cut down trees and leave them standing to sponge carbon from the atmosphere. Offsets are used by companies to scrub emissions from their internal carbon ledgers, which track progress toward pollution-reduction goals.

Terms of the deal with Campbell’s seller,

BrightSphere Investment Group Inc.,

weren’t disclosed.

Many of the world’s largest companies, including

Apple Inc.,

Microsoft Corp.

and

Royal Dutch Shell

PLC, have promised investors they will reduce their carbon footprints. Many emissions are unavoidable for global businesses, which has made standing timber a hot commodity.

J.P. Morgan


JPM 1.51%

is betting that carbon markets will add value to timberlands beyond the income they generate as a source for building products, said

Anton Pil,

the firm’s head of alternatives.

“We wanted to play an active role in carbon-offset markets as they’re developed,” Mr. Pil said. “We want to be viewed as a global leader in the carbon-sequestration market.”

Other big names are angling for similar status.

BP

PLC last year bought a controlling stake in Finite Carbon, the country’s largest forest-offset producer.

Salesforce.com Inc.

Chief Executive

Marc Benioff,

Microsoft and others recently invested in NCX, a firm that matches offset buyers with timberland owners willing to defer harvests for a fee.

Campbell Global oversees about 1.7 million acres of forestland in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Chile. About two-thirds of its 150 employees are involved in managing the forests, while the others are investment professionals, said

John Gilleland,

the firm’s chief executive.

Campbell Global for more than three decades has managed timberland to produce logs for lumber and pulp mills, but has moved into carbon markets in recent years.



Photo:

Campbell Global

Campbell for more than three decades has managed timberland to produce logs for lumber and pulp mills. In recent years, it has moved into carbon markets, selling offsets in California’s regulated cap-and-trade market as well as in the unregulated voluntary markets that have boomed with the rise of green investing.

“We do believe this is the future for this asset,” Mr. Gilleland said.

Timberland investing became popular in the 1980s after the tax code was made more favorable to owners of income-producing real estate, Congress allowed pensions to diversify beyond stocks and bonds and Wall Street analysts convinced forest-products companies to sell off their timberlands.

Investors reasoned that trees would grow, and thus gain value, no matter what the stock market did. Timberland was viewed as a good hedge against inflation.

Demand for lumber has skyrocketed during the pandemic, sending prices to all-time highs. This video explains what’s driving the lumber boom, who’s profiting, and why those growing the trees aren’t reaping the benefits. Illustration: Liz Ornitz/WSJ

But it hasn’t always been a good investment: At the same time timberland investing was gaining momentum, the federal government was paying landowners in the South to plant pine trees on worn-out farmland to boost crop prices. Decades later, the resulting surfeit of pine has pushed log prices to their lowest levels in decades even as the resurgent housing market has lifted prices for lumber and other wood products to records.

Investors such as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System have suffered big losses on southern timberland in recent years. Though log prices in the West still move in unison with those of lumber, timberland there is threatened by fires and wood-boring beetles. In the North, mills have closed and rendered many wood lots uneconomical to log and worth more leased to companies as carbon sinks.

Write to Ryan Dezember at [email protected]

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PE-Backed Hospital Chain Got Help From Major Landlord as Losses | Sidnaz Blog

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Medical Properties Trust Inc.


MPW -1.44%

is a little-known real-estate investor that helps private-equity firms cash in on their hospital investments. Recent financial documents provide fresh details on the close relationship and deal-making between the firm and its biggest tenant.

The documents show Medical Properties Trust’s exposure to Dallas-based Steward Health Care, a hospital chain until last year controlled by Cerberus Capital Management LP. When Steward ran into financial trouble, Medical Properties Trust provided it more than $700 million through a series of complex deals, the documents show. It provided $200 million to buy Steward assets valued at $27 million. Then it refinanced debts Steward owed Cerberus.

The documents give a window into the finances of a company at the heart of private equity’s push into healthcare in recent years. They show how the financial turbulence at these firms can have ripple effects elsewhere in the financial system.

Steward accounted for 30% of Medical Properties Trust’s revenue last year. Steward lost more than $400 million in 2020 and reported nearly $1 billion of unpaid supplier expenses and other bills, the documents show. The company also faces audits by the Internal Revenue Service and state authorities.

Medical Properties Trust says it is one of the world’s largest nongovernmental hospital owners, with more than 400 properties world-wide and assets of nearly $19 billion. Steward is a large for-profit operator, with 34 hospitals nationally and more than $5 billion of revenue last year.

The property of this hospital in Riverton, Wyo., was sold to Medical Properties Trust.



Photo:

Cayla Nimmo for The Wall Street Journal

Steward said in response to questions that it was “on solid financial footing.” It attributed a rise in accounts payable to a surge of Covid-19 cases late last year and information-technology investments the company had made. It declined to comment on the audits, as did the IRS.

Medical Properties Trust has publicly described some of the recent deal-making as an effort to align itself with Steward’s strategy and take advantage of its potential growth. Cerberus declined to comment for this article.

The hospital landlord has previously received written inquiries from the Securities and Exchange Commission, including about its relationship with Steward. As a private company, Steward doesn’t have to publish its financial results. Medical Properties Trust filed Steward’s financials with the SEC last week because it said the information might be relevant to investors.

The SEC declined to comment.

The close relationship between Steward and Medical Properties Trust is partly a result of deal making by Cerberus. Under the private-equity firm’s control, Steward sold significant hospital real estate to Medical Properties Trust, which in turn leased the real estate back to Steward. Medical Properties Trust also has a roughly 10% stake in Steward, documents show.

Steward, like many hospital operators, struggled in the pandemic and says it received more than $400 million in government relief last year. The company says it lost more than $400 million last year, compared with an $82 million net profit in 2019.

While company financial statements show it had around $400 million of cash and equivalents at the end of last year, its short-term liabilities significantly exceeded its current assets.

Medical Properties Trust operates in a niche of real-estate investing. It buys hospital real estate—the physical buildings and land—and then leases it back to the companies that run the hospitals. Many of its deals have been with private-equity firms, which can use the cash from the sales to lock in profits or pay down debt incurred in the takeover of hospital operators. The playbook turns hospitals into renters of property they previously owned.

Rhode Island officials recently restricted the owners of two hospitals from doing sale-leaseback transactions to raise funds. The ruling stemmed from a state probe of hospital chain Prospect Medical Holdings Inc., which until recently was backed by Leonard Green & Partners LP.

Prospect had earlier used proceeds from real-estate sales to Medical Properties Trust to pay down debt, including money borrowed to fund hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends.

Rhode Island officials, including Attorney General Peter Neronha, recently restricted the owners of two hospitals from doing sale-leaseback transactions.



Photo:

David DelPoio/Providence Journal/Reuters

“We’d all rather own our home than rent it or lease it. Why? Because there’s value in it. There’s value in it I can use on a rainy day to raise capital,” said

Peter Neronha,

Rhode Island’s attorney general.

Prospect declined to comment.

In Wyoming, hospital operator LifePoint Health Inc. sold the property of a small city’s only hospital to Medical Properties Trust. The community is trying to build a new nonprofit hospital to displace LifePoint. The hospital operator, owned by

Apollo Global Management Inc.,

has said a new hospital would duplicate services it is already offering. Apollo has declined to comment.

Michael Carroll, who covers Medical Properties Trust for RBC Capital Markets, said the firm has achieved strong returns in recent years, in part by doing debt and equity deals to support its tenants.

“They do have a flexibility to solve their operators’ problems,” he said.

Steward sought government cash as the pandemic hit, threatening to close a hospital in Easton, Pa., unless it received $40 million in cash to keep its doors open.

The Easton Hospital was ultimately saved after a nonprofit operator agreed to buy it from Steward. Cerberus has said it is happy the Easton community’s needs were met.

As losses mounted, Medical Properties Trust proved to be a key source of cash for Steward, financial filings show. In 2017, Steward acquired two hospitals in Utah as part of a broader transaction involving Medical Properties Trust. Under the deal, Medical Properties Trust issued Steward roughly $700 million of mortgages for the properties.

Steward Health Care ended up selling Easton Hospital in Pennsylvania.



Photo:

Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

Then, in July 2020, Medical Properties Trust agreed to acquire the Utah properties from Steward. Under the deal, Medical Properties Trust erased Steward’s mortgages and paid Steward an extra $200 million for what Medical Properties Trust said was the real estate’s “relative fair value.” Steward leased the properties back from Medical Properties Trust in exchange.

“All of our sale-leaseback transactions are subject to independent valuation and analysis,” Steward said.

Cerberus sold its 90% stake in Steward last year to a management group led by Chief Executive Officer

Ralph de la Torre

in exchange for a note from Cerberus, Steward said at the time.

In January, Medical Properties Trust stepped in to provide Steward a new $335 million loan that it said would extinguish the debt Steward owed Cerberus. Medical Properties Trust’s chief financial officer told analysts that the loan would be “nominally profitable.”

“The goal of the investment is not necessarily to earn a high-profit interest rate,” he said, but the deal would help better align Medical Properties Trust with Steward’s growth.

Steward declined to disclose loan terms but said the deal allowed it to sever ties to Cerberus.

The most complex deal involved Steward’s international business, which had been running hospitals on the island nation of Malta. Under the deal, Medical Properties Trust formed a new joint venture with Dr. de la Torre and other executives that is separate from Steward.

Medical Properties Trust then agreed to provide financing. It lent the joint venture $205 million so it could acquire the international assets from Steward. The hospital company’s financial statements said the assets sold were worth $27 million.

Asked about the price tag on an analyst call, Medical Properties Trust CEO

Edward K. Aldag Jr.

said it reflected work done by Dr. de la Torre’s team to secure opportunities for a venture in Colombia. “They put an awful lot of time and effort and infrastructure in place,” he said.

Steward said the price for the assets was fair and determined by arm’s length negotiations.

Despite the losses and government financial support, Steward said it returned cash to owners of the business this year. Steward said the payment wasn’t a dividend but a return of shareholder capital. The total payout likely totaled more than $100 million.

Write to Brian Spegele at [email protected] and Laura Cooper at [email protected]

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End of Keystone XL Shows Hard Road for New Pipelines | Sidnaz Blog

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The failure of the Keystone XL project demonstrated the challenges of building new pipelines in the U.S. and Canada amid galvanized environmental groups and delivered a blow to oil-and-gas companies that now must rely on aging infrastructure.

Protesters targeted Keystone XL, which Canada’s

TC Energy Corp.


TRP -0.26%

abandoned Wednesday, and other pipelines for more than a decade, hoping to choke off fossil-fuel usage by making it harder to transport. The success with Keystone XL already has emboldened environmentalists, who in recent weeks have turned their attention to other pipelines in the U.S. and Canada.

But the U.S. and Canada still rely on pipelines to transport fossil fuels that underpin commerce, transportation and heating and cooling. As pipelines become increasingly difficult to build, the countries will become more dependent on older infrastructure that is vulnerable to disruptions. The shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline last month after it was attacked by hackers highlights the potential impact caused by unexpected disruptions to the current network.

“Clearly, we’re relying on the infrastructure we currently have. The question becomes, as we think about filling future demand, and we need to repair or replace old infrastructure, how are we going to handle it?” said

Amy Myers Jaffe,

a research professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School.

Global oil demand is projected to peak in coming years, which could mean projects like Keystone could eventually outlive their utility, Ms. Jaffe said. “We’re not building for the 1950s, we’re building for the 2030s.”

In the past two years, at least four multibillion-dollar pipeline projects that drew protests have been canceled or delayed after encountering regulatory and political roadblocks, and environmental groups are looking to capitalize on the momentum. Some producers also have resorted to transporting oil by rail, a more expensive and potentially more dangerous alternative.

On Monday, Calgary-based

Enbridge Inc.

evacuated 44 workers in Minnesota, working on replacing a crude-oil pipeline there, after a group of protesters descended on a pump station in the middle of the state. Native American tribes and environmental groups continue to challenge the Dakota Access Pipeline in a long-running effort that has entangled the company in court for years.

The death of Keystone XL is the latest setback for the oil-and-gas industry. In May, a Dutch court found that

Royal Shell

PLC is partially responsible for climate change and ordered the company to sharply reduce its carbon emissions in an unprecedented ruling. Meanwhile, an activist investor won three seats on

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s

board, a historic defeat for the oil giant that may force it to alter its fossil-fuel-focused strategy.

Activists in Washington, D.C., in April called for the shutdown of pipelines in the northern U.S.



Photo:

daniel slim/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The trio of defeats demonstrates how dramatically the landscape is shifting for oil-and-gas companies as campaigns directed by environmentalists have spread to investors, lenders, politicians and regulators who are increasingly calling for a transition to cleaner forms of energy.

Last year,

Dominion Energy Inc.

and

Duke Energy Corp.

abandoned the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, meant to move West Virginia natural gas to East Coast markets, and

Williams

Cos. dropped its Constitution natural gas pipeline after failing to gain a water permit from New York state.

President

Biden,

who made canceling Keystone XL a central plank of his election campaign, has remained mostly mum about other pipeline projects under construction.

Environmental and indigenous groups have sued to stop construction on Enbridge’s project to replace its Line 3 crude-oil pipeline with a larger conduit that will carry oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Superior, Wis., arguing that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider the environmental impacts of the pipeline when it granted a water-quality permit.

The company already has replaced sections in other states but has encountered obstacles in Minnesota, where it hopes to complete construction by the end of the year. After Enbridge evacuated workers Monday, the Hubbard County Sheriff’s department arrested 179 people for damaging equipment and dumping garbage on the site.

“The project is already providing significant economic benefits for counties, small businesses, Native American communities, and union members—including creating 5,200 family-sustaining construction jobs, and millions of dollars in local spending and tax revenues,” said the company in a statement on Thursday.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals is expected to make a ruling on a case that challenged the state’s Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the project.

Michigan state officials in November revoked a permit that allowed another Enbridge pipeline to run along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, citing the risk of damage to the region’s ecosystem. Gov.

Gretchen Whitmer

gave Enbridge a May 12 deadline to shut down the pipeline, but the company hasn’t complied, claiming the governor lacks the authority to do so.

The 645-mile conduit carries more than half a million barrels of oil and natural-gas liquids each day from Superior to refineries in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario and Quebec.

“Does the Keystone XL cancellation embolden fights against other pipelines? That’s a resounding yes,” said

Mike Shriberg,

Great Lakes region executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, which opposes the operation of Enbridge’s pipeline through Michigan.

“We’re very pleased,” said

Michael Brune,

executive director of the Sierra Club, which opposes both Enbridge pipelines in Minnesota and Michigan. He said the successful Keystone XL effort has taught them important lessons on how to oppose other projects. “It has taught us to never give up,” he said.

Enbridge pointed to the dramatic impact of the Colonial Pipeline’s six-day closure last month as an example of the consequences of scuttling energy infrastructure. The shutdown of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline, caused by a May 7 ransomware attack, spurred a run on gasoline across the Southeast, leaving thousands of gas stations without fuel for days.

During a Senate committee testimony Tuesday, Colonial Chief Executive

Joseph Blount

emphasized the scale of the pipeline, noting 50 million Americans rely on it to carry fuel to gas stations, as it provides almost half of the fuel consumed on the East Coast.

“Not only do everyday Americans rely on our pipeline operations to get fuel at the pump, but so do cities and local governments, to whom we supply fuel for critical operations, such as airports, ambulances and first responders,” Mr. Blount said in written testimony.

Write to Vipal Monga at [email protected] and Collin Eaton at [email protected]

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Hedge Fund Behind Amazon-MGM Deal Amasses Big Bet on Uranium | Sidnaz Blog

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The hedge fund behind the

Amazon.com Inc.

-MGM Holdings Inc. deal has another trade up its sleeve: going big on uranium.

New York hedge fund Anchorage Capital Group LLC has amassed a holding of a few million pounds of uranium, people familiar with the matter say, in a bet that prices of the nuclear fuel will recover after a decade in the doldrums. It is buying and selling uranium alongside mining companies, specialist traders and utility firms with nuclear-power plants, turning the fund into a significant player in the market.

Venturing into the uranium market, which is much smaller than oil or gold markets, is unusual for a firm that typically invests in corporate debt. It is another example of money managers straying into esoteric markets in search of returns after a yearslong run-up in stocks and slide in a bond yields.

Anchorage was recently in the spotlight after scoring about $2 billion in paper profits from Amazon’s deal to buy MGM in May. The hedge fund became MGM’s biggest shareholder after the Hollywood studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010.

Anchorage’s physical uranium holdings are also a rarity because Wall Street firms don’t typically own physical uranium. Most investors bet on uranium prices by buying shares of mining firms, or through companies like

Yellow Cake

PLC., which acts as an exchange-traded fund.

In the 2000s, investors piled into uranium trades, helping to power a run-up in prices that peaked in 2007. Most funds exited either during the 2008-09 financial crisis or after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster sapped demand.

Goldman Sachs Group

has pared back its uranium trading book and

Deutsche Bank AG

has quit the market, leaving

Macquarie Group Ltd.

as the financial institution with the biggest presence.

The uranium that is usually traded takes the form of U3O8, a lightly processed ore. Prices for U3O8 have sagged since Fukushima knocked demand, leading to a glut that traders say has yet to be whittled down.

The material this week traded at $32.05 a pound, according to UxC LLC, a nuclear-fuel data and research company. Prices reached an all-time high of $136 a pound in 2007, according to records going back to 1987.

Anchorage is wagering on a reversal. Spearheaded by trader Jason Siegel, the fund began acquiring uranium a few years ago, because its analysis showed most miners were booking losses at prevailing prices, a person familiar with the fund’s thinking said. The fund bet that uranium prices would rise to encourage miners to produce enough material.

Mr. Siegel didn’t respond to requests seeking comment.

The entry of a financial firm has caused a stir in the uranium market. Anchorage buys and sells infrequently, but in large quantities that put it in the same league as big uranium merchants such as Traxys Group, participants say.

A Honeywell Specialty Materials plant in Metropolis, Ill.



Photo:

Steve Jahnke/Associated Press

Anchorage hasn’t publicly disclosed its interest in the uranium market, the size of its holdings or the terms of any specific transactions. The exact size of Anchorage’s position—a topic of speculation in the market—couldn’t be learned. The person familiar with the fund’s thinking said it owned fewer than five million pounds of uranium. The overall spot market for the nuclear fuel turns over 60 million to 80 million pounds each year, according to UxC.

Due to strict rules about where uranium can be held, trading typically doesn’t involve moving the fuel around the world. Firms instead take ownership of U3O8 stored in drums at three processing facilities in France, Canada and the U.S. When they sell, buyers take ownership on the spot. The transactions aren’t reported publicly.

Anchorage’s wager relies on buying uranium and selling it to utility companies and others at a higher price for delivery several years in the future, in what is known as a carry trade. Doing so could generate annualized returns of roughly 5% for Anchorage, according to people familiar with the matter.

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The hedge fund embeds options into sale agreements with utilities and other firms, people familiar with the matter say. This can involve selling fuel to a utility company at a discount in return for the right to deliver more uranium at a set price at a later date.

Anchorage isn’t alone in betting that prices are primed to rebound.

Investment firms including Segra Capital Management LLC, Sachem Cove Partners LLC and Azarias Capital Management LP expect that efforts to wean the world off fossil fuels will require new nuclear-power stations, according to executives at the funds. They are seeking to profit by buying shares of uranium miners or firms like Yellow Cake, which is up 31% in London trading over the past year.

Some investors hesitate to own uranium outright because of the perception that it can cause dangerous accidents, according to Joe Kelly, chief executive of brokerage Uranium Markets LLC.

“There’s a deterrent that does not exist in other commodities,” said Mr. Kelly.

Write to Joe Wallace at [email protected]

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How to Hire a Contractor Without Getting Hosed | Sidnaz Blog

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We love a good DIY project around here, but even the most seasoned DIY-ers still need to call a professional from time to time. When that happens, you’ll want to hire someone who’ll get the work done without too much hassle.

Contractor stories seem to fall into one of two categories: It’s either “Look at what a great job they did!” or “Let me tell you about the time this guy put a backhoe through my garage—and I paid him for it.” Avoiding the second category is always the goal, and usually all it takes is some legwork on your part. Here are our best tips for hiring the best contractor for the job, every time.

Get a home inspection

You don’t want to be forced to pick a contractor hastily because an emergency repair is breathing down your neck, so your best defense is to check for problems before they crop up. Make a list of all the systems in your house and how old they are: When was your roof installed? How old is your furnace? What about the wiring? When was your HVAC last serviced? Then, have a qualified home inspector come check things out so you know which repairs to prioritize.

How to find a reliable contractor

Once you’ve identified your home’s biggest problem areas, the real work begins: Research. This will take some time and effort, but will be well worth it in the end.

Get word-of-mouth recommendations

Word of mouth is king, so personal recommendations should always be your first step. Ask family members if they know a good contractor in the area. Ask your neighbors, too—they likely have similarly constructed homes of a similar age and are probably dealing with the same problems you’re facing. Stop by local businesses and ask for recommendations. (If you need an electrician, for example, head to the local electrical supply shop and ask around.) Don’t ask who to avoid—although some people may volunteer that information willingly—ask who they’d love to work with again.

Check for complaints

A list of recommendations is just a starting point. Your next move is to see if any of the businesses you’re circling have complaints lodged against them. The best way to do this is to by searching complaint databases via your state’s Department of Consumer Affairs or Consumer Protection. If you’re not sure where to start, this website has a list of consumer rights offices in all 50 U.S. states. Some city and county Chambers of Commerce will have complain registries, but you may have to email or call someone at the office for assistance. Whatever you do, don’t look up a contractor’s Better Business Bureau rating and call it a day—while BBB complaints can provide useful information, ratings alone rarely tell the whole story.

Look up licensing and permit requirements in your area  

Before you start calling contractors, you should be familiar with what credentials a contractor needs to perform work in your area. This one is kind of a doozy: Some U.S. states require all contractors and construction workers to be licensed by the state’s construction board, while others only require state-level accreditation for certain types of work. Some counties and even cities have their own licensing requirements, too.

HomeAdvisor.com has a quick-and-dirty guide to contractor licensing practices in every state, and it’s a good place to start—but you may still be confused. In that case, find the contact section of your state, county, or city construction licensing board’s website and ask them questions. Keep it simple and direct; the person minding the construction board’s email inbox probably gets the same four questions over and over.

Make some calls and get some quotes

If you’ve done your research, you should now have a shortlist of contractors who have passed the recommendation and checkup stages. Now’s the time to start calling. Don’t be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions—most of the issues that could blow up in your face later in the game can be prevented altogether by asking lots of questions early on.

Get proof of insurance

You can’t afford to let an uninsured contractor work on your home. If they get injured—or put a backhoe through your garage—and they aren’t insured, the bill comes to you.

Don’t feel bad being firm with your request for proof of insurance. Ask how many employees they have and who will be doing the work. (Depending on the field and the kind of work being done, it’s possible the supervisor is credentialed but the workers aren’t.) You should be able to verify a contractor’s insurance policy with your state licensing board—and if you get stuck, someone at the board should be able to help.

Meet contractors in person

Have multiple contractors come out to see where the work will be done and what you expect. Communicate what you need as clearly as possible to decrease any chance of miscommunication and wasted time and money.

This is also the time to do a thorough vibe check. If you get a bad feeling about any part of the meeting, don’t move forward. I once told a contractor I needed a quote for my insurance company, and his immediate reply was, “So are you actually going to get the work done or what?” If he’d had let me finish, I would have said that I wanted the quote today so the work could get started. That comment cost him the job.

Get quotes in writing—and keep track of them

Always get quotes in writing, with as much detail as possible. Never accept anything like, “It should run you about [insert price here].” Should things go terribly wrong, verbal contracts are worthless in court. In some fields it’s impossible to perfectly estimate cost, especially if the contractor won’t be able to get a better look at the problem until work has started. But it’s not unreasonable to get an over-run percentage in writing, which basically states that if the job does run over, it won’t be more than 15% of the estimate you’ve been given.

Spreadsheets are enormously helpful during the quote-gathering stage of the game. The larger the job, the more costs you’ll have to track, and different styles of quoting can be confusing. A simple spreadsheet that lists things like parts, labor, and time estimates can help you easily compare apples to apples when you’re reviewing quotes, and help you ask important questions—like “Why are you using 50% less materials than the other three contractors I’ve gotten quotes from?” On your end, be consistent when describing the job to each contractor so they’re all working with the same information.

Ask for references

If a contractor can’t give you at least three people who can vouch for the quality of their work, you’re in trouble. Photos of past work can also be helpful for things like landscaping and large-scale remodels, so ask to see some. Be sure to actually contact the references; if the size and cost of the job merits it, you can even ask if they’ll let you see the work in person.

Avoid the biggest red flags

At this point, you’ve done all the research, checked up on the licenses and permits, gotten—and checked—references, which means the chances of you getting scammed are nearly zero. Still, it pays to be aware of the big danger signs when it comes to home-repair scams:

  • If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is: Either you’re about to get ripped off, or they’re using such sub-par materials that you’ll wish they’d just taken the money instead.
  • Beware high-pressure sales techniques, like insisting that a price on new siding is only good for the next 24 hours.
  • No contract, no deal: Never hire anyone who won’t sign a contract.
  • Never take out a permit for a contractor: Generally speaking, the person who takes out the permit is the one responsible for compliance. If your name is on the permit and the work crew totally screws up, you’re the one who will be slapped with all the fines.

What to do while the work is in progress

Once you’ve found a contractor that checks out and you feel good about, it’s time to get the work started. There are several key things you can do during the actual getting-things-done phase to make life easier and protect yourself if things go wrong.

Check in early and often

You know when the wrong time to tell the construction crew that the stone is the wrong color is? Right after they’ve tapped in the keystone and handed you the final bill. Stay on top of the project: If something doesn’t look right, bring it up as soon as you notice it. There isn’t a construction process around that is easier to fix later rather than sooner. Frequent check-ins will ensure the work is done just the way you want it.

Track the progress

Every day, make note of the work that’s been done—and not done—and take some photos. Not only is it fun to have pictures of a big project as it unfolds, but should things sour between you and the contractor, a clear photographic record is invaluable.

Get proposed changes in writing

If any major changes are made to your project, ask to get them in writing. Little things like moving some outlets or changing the type of sealant used usually don’t merit a new contract—but if you decide to add a new level to a deck halfway through, definitely get the new plan in writing.

Pay as you go

Reputable contractors do not demand all the money up front. If a contractor insists that you pay a large deposit or even the total bill before the work starts, then she or he is not a good contractor. A 10–15% deposit to start the job is reasonable, but you should never be asked to pay for raw materials. A reputable contractor will have good credit and an account with his suppliers.

Don’t be afraid to shut it down

People have a strong aversion to firing contractors, but they really shouldn’t. If your contractor is violating the terms of the deal, you can and should fire them—in writing, of course.

This isn’t necessarily an easy process because it involves contract law, which varies by state. According to Bankrate.com, you’ll want to make sure there’s a “material breach of contract” before terminating a contractor mid-job. Basically, you need to be able to prove that the contractor violated the terms you agreed upon when you hired them. (This is where those photos and written changes come in handy.) It’s much better to cut your losses when things are still salvageable so you can get someone else to finish the job.

Be a dream client

The golden rule definitely applies to the contractor-client relationship. This means you should be courteous, ask plenty of questions—while respecting their wisdom and expertise—and generally treat the people working on your house like people.

When I had a new roof put on my house in searing 90-degree Fahrenheit heat a few years ago, I made sure there was a cooler with water and sports drinks out on the driveway every day, packed to the top. The guys on the roofing crew said I was the first homeowner who had ever even asked if they were thirsty, let alone made sure they had anything to drink. Sure, you could argue that staying hydrated is their responsibility, but the cooler and the sports drinks cost me next to nothing and showed I cared about providing them a safer work environment.

Once you’ve made it this far, you’re as ready as you’ll ever be to sit back while someone else takes care of your home improvement troubles. Remember to keep logging and photographing the work, stay in communication with your contractor, and be nice—your efforts will no doubt be rewarded.

This article was originally published on July 2, 2010. It was updated on June 8, 2021 to reflect Lifehacker’s current style guidelines, and to add updated information, new links, and a new photo.

  

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