Monthly Archives: October 2015

NetJets Reaches Tentative Agreement with Pilots

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Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets is on the verge of settling its labor dispute with its pilots union, just a week after reaching agreement with its flight attendants.

The pilots have been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired in 2013.

NetJets Aviation and the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP) have reached an agreement in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement that would end the union’s picketing at seven airports.

The NJASAP Executive Board and Negotiators confirmed that the proposed agreement has enhancements consistent with their goals of “protecting, repairing and improving the previous agreement.”

NetJets and NJASAP have been engaged in contract negotiations since June 2013, and, in early May 2015, began bargaining with the assistance of a National Mediation Board-appointed mediator.

The union released this statement:

“Getting to this point has required a massive effort from top to bottom,” NJASAP President Pedro Leroux said. “We could not have succeeded without the tremendous support of our members and their families: I am extremely proud of this outstanding group of professional pilots.” The Union president added, “I would also like to thank the National Mediation Board, the new NetJets senior management and their negotiators for their commitment to the bargaining process.”

They also added:

“In our highly competitive segment of aviation, major improvements to collective bargaining agreements require that everyone do their part to ensure the highest levels of safety, customer service and reliability,” Leroux said. “The NJASAP pilots have led the industry in these categories, and, going forward, we will redouble our efforts to ensure NetJets retains its industry-leading position.”

It will be late November before the pilots actually vote on the new agreement.

Change in Leadership Brings Breakthrough

On June 1, 2015, Berkshire Hathaway, the owner of NetJets, dismissed NetJets CEO and chairman Jordan Hansell, replacing him with Adam Johnson, who had spent 22 years at NetJets. At the time, there was hope of a breakthrough with NJASAP, the labor union representing the approximately 2,700 pilots employed by NetJets.

Berkshire Hathaway purchased NetJets, the leader in fractional jet ownership, in 1998 for $725 million.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Top California Investment Sales Team Joins Berkadia

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One of the top multifamily investment sales teams in the Western U.S. has joined Berkadia. The additions include two Managing Directors, Ed Rosen and John Chu, who previously served as executive directors for Cushman & Wakefield.

Rosen and Chu will lead a team of three additional members in Berkadia’s newly expanded regional San Diego office. Combined their team has completed the sale of more than 80,000 units with a value in excess of more than $12 billion. Collectively the five–person team brings with them more than 70 years of multifamily sales experience.

The duo of Rosen and Chu are known as the dominant multifamily advisors in the San Diego marketplace, where they have been ranked as top producers for the past 20 years. Rosen and Chu specialize in the representation of large, institutional-sized deals and have completed sales in excess of $1.6 billion over the past 36 months.

“The addition of Ed and John demonstrates Berkadia’s continued commitment to bring the best advisors to its integrated mortgage banking, investment sales and servicing platform,” said Brent Long, President of Investment Sales at Berkadia. “We are thrilled to welcome them to our investment sales team in San Diego as we continue to grow our presence and service offerings in the Southern California commercial real estate market.”

Team member, Kyle Pinkalla, joins Berkadia as a Director and will concentrate on the larger institutional grade assets. He has been active in the multifamily sector for more than 10 years.

Erin Dammen, Vice President, will assist with marketing and client relations. She has been in the real estate industry for more than seven years.

Tyler Sinks, Associate Director, will assist the team on mid- to large-size private capital assets in the greater San Diego area.

About Berkadia

Berkadia is a third-party commercial mortgage servicer, as well as an approved lender for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD/FHA. The company was among the top Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae multifamily lenders for 2013. Across the company’s 70 offices, multifamily investment sales and mortgage banking production exceeded $17 billion in 2014. Sales and finance volumes are on pace to surpass this number for the current calendar year.

Berkadia was founded in 2009 as a 50/50 joint venture between Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia National Corporation.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Combining Electric Grids Could Save Berkshire Billions

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A study commissioned by PacifiCorp and conducted by Energy and Environmental Economics (E3), which looked at combining the electric grids operated by PacifiCorp
and the California Independent System Operator (ISO) to create a regional power marketplace, finds there could be billions in savings over the next 20 years.

The combined grids would not only reduce energy costs, but would also help states meet tough environmental goals, including California’s 50 percent renewable energy mark.

The Savings Are Already Happening

In 2014, when Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s PacifiCorp agreed to become the first participant in the new Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), it was touted as a way to balance electricity in-flows and out-flows on a regional basis that would bring millions of dollars in benefits to participating utilities.

The predicted benefits for PacifiCorp have proven to be true, and the California Independent Service Operator (CAISO) has been able to quantify the benefits from the April, May, and June 2015 to be $10.18 million. Annual benefits will be around $30 million.

The EIM improves the integration of renewable resources and increases reliability by sharing information between balancing authorities on electricity delivery conditions across the entire EIM region. The only real-time energy market in the Western U.S., advanced ISO market systems automatically balance supply and demand for electricity every fifteen minutes, dispatching the least-cost resources every five minutes.

Creating a regional ISO

The new study finds that integrating the two largest high-voltage transmission grids in the West to create a regional ISO could produce between $3.4 billion and $9.1 billion in shared cost reductions in the first 20 years through better grid management and efficiencies gained by planning for the resource needs of a single, rather than multiple systems.

Environmental Benefits Too

The study also projects that development of a regional ISO is likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through coordinated planning, reduced curtailment of renewable energy, and lower overall costs to build new renewable resources.

“The study clearly highlights the benefits of a regional grid for all customers,” said Steve Berberich, President and CEO of the ISO. “It shows that a regional grid creates the opportunity to integrate higher levels of renewables more efficiently and effectively across a more diverse area. This regional approach is foundational to support the historic California SB 350 legislation and carbon reduction goals of nearby states.”

Another of Berkshire Hathaway’s utilities, NV Energy, which serves the Nevada market, will save millions a year when it enters the Energy Imbalance Market on Nov. 1, 2015.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Special Report: Improvements to LA to Chicago Transcon Corridor Key to BNSF’s Future

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With BNSF Railway’s coal and crude oil transport business sure to decline, where does BNSF look for future growth?

The answer is the long-distance freight hauling currently provided by the trucking industry.

BNSF is about to complete a new 2,200-mile parallel line to its Transcon Corridor along the Los Angeles to Chicago route that will allow it to greatly increase the amount of intermodal freight it can carry.

The challenge in competing with the trucking industry is improving shipping times, which often suffer from delays as trains sit on sidings in order to allow other trains to pass.

The new second line will eliminate those bottlenecks, and reduce the LA to Chicago run by a total of three hours down to 61 hours from the current 64 hours.

Building for the Future

System-wide, BNSF is working to increase capacity. In 2015 alone, BNSF is spending $1.5 billion on terminal, line and intermodal expansion and efficiency projects, which also includes the completion of more than 65 miles of new second main track on the busiest segments of their Northern Corridor.

Rails Efficiency Over Trucks

According to the Association of American Railroads, trains are four times more fuel efficient than trucks. And that efficiency has been growing over the past three dacades, with railroads now able to move a ton of freight an average of 479 miles per gallon of fuel. This is up more than double from the 235 miles per gallon of fuel in 1980. One of the keys is the efficiency of modern hybrid diesel-electric locomotives that capture braking energy and store it in batteries.

The Association of American Railroads also notes that the average tonnage of freight that a train can haul has been dramatically increasing, due in part to improvements in rail car design. In creased double-stacking of cargo containers has helped the average freight train hauled 3,606 tons of freight in 2014, which was up from just 2,222 tons in 1980.

The Window of Opportunity

While the window of opportunity may be closing for coal and oil, freight hauling of consumer goods offers plenty of opportunities for growth. Of the 71 million trailer loads that travel 550 miles or more, currently only 19-percent are moving by rail. Increased track capacity offers massive growth potential in regards to intermodal shipments.

The total amount of business that railroads could convert to rail from trucking is estimated to be as much as $100 billion.

Rising Intermodal Freight Volumes

Total intermodal shipments were up 2 percent over last year’s first quarter volumes, according to the Intermodal Association of North America, the industry trade association
representing the combined interests of the intermodal freight industry. This was despite port congestion issues that impacted international container traffic. Even stronger were domestic intermodal loads, which grew 4.5 percent, led by domestic containers, which rose 6.5 percent in a quarter-over-quarter comparison.

Corridors of Commerce

BNSF has three “Corridors of Commerce” — TransCon, Great Northern, and Mid Continent (MidCon) — that cover more than 11,000 miles of the nation’s rail network.

The TransCon, which includes the portion that runs from Los Angeles to Chicago, has 4,647 route miles running through 13 states. Much of the international freight that is heading east on TransCon comes in the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California, and the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California.

In September, the Port of Long Beach announced its overall cargo volume had jumped 22.8-percent in August 2015, which broke an all-time record for cargo volume in its 104-year history.

The Port of Los Angeles, the number one port in the U.S., saw its imports rise 6.3-percent from a year ago to 407,804 TEUs. A twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) is a standard measure of a ship’s or shipping terminal’s cargo handling capacity.

Of benefit to BNSF and other railroads has been larger cargo ships that delivering higher container volumes per call.

Strong Environmental Benefits

With environmental concerns increasingly in the forefront, rail transport has another appeal, as moving freight by trains instead of by trucks lowers greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent.

A conversion of 50-percent of truck transport to rail would save 8 billion gallons of fuel per year, and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced approximately 90 million tons. The reduction is the equivalent of taking 18 million cars off the road. It also lowers damage to roadways, which costs billions a year in road repairs, and reduces highway congestion due to construction delays.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NetJets & Flight Attendants Reach Tentative Agreement

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NetJets’ ongoing labor issues took a big step forward as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 284 and NetJets Aviation reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for the 278 flight attendants represented by the union.

The agreement is being hailed as containing “substantial” pay increases and is being called “mutually beneficial.” The union said the terms include:

• A $2.8 million ratification bonus that will equal approximately $80 per month of service for all flight attendants.
• Substantial pay increases for all flight attendants at all seniority levels.
• New 18-year pay scales, increasing from prior 10-year scales.
• The ability to use sick days as personal days.
• New schedule choices.
• Increased flight attendant basing opportunities.

Work on a final agreement will begin during the week of October 12.

Change in Leadership Brings Progress

On June 1, 2015, Berkshire Hathaway, the owner of NetJets, dismissed NetJets CEO and chairman Jordan Hansell, replacing him with Adam Johnson, who had spent 22 years at NetJets. At the time, there was hope of a breakthrough with NJASAP, the labor union representing the approximately 2,700 pilots employed by NetJets.

While some progress was made during a 90-day summer ceasefire that included an expedited bargaining schedule with the intent of reaching a tentative agreement, the two sides were still at loggerheads over wages, retirement and health care benefits. NJASAP resumed its picketing, noting that the union and management were still far apart.

In September, 800 pilots and their family members picketed at seven picket sites across the country.

Now, with the breakthrough agreement with the flight attendants’ union, there is at least a glimmer of hope that NetJets might settle its contract dispute with its pilots. NetJets and NJASAP have been engaged in contract negotiations since June 2013, and, in early May 2015, began bargaining with the assistance of a National Mediation Board-appointed mediator.

Berkshire Hathaway purchased NetJets, the leader in fractional jet ownership, in 1998 for $725 million.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Lubrizol Opens CPVC Manufacturing Facility in Thailand

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The Lubrizol Corporation has opened a chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) resin manufacturing facility in Rayong, Thailand. The new facility is part of a joint investment with Sekisui Chemical Company, Ltd. Construction on the 25,600-square-meter-site began in April 2014.

The plant opening is the latest in Lubrizol’s efforts to increase global CPVC capacity that it previously announced in 2013.

CPVC resin manufactured at this site will be a key ingredient in Lubrizol’s proprietary Flowguard®, Blazemaster® and Corzan® compounds that are used by its customers to provide quality piping systems for the global building and construction industry.

CPVC is a high heat and corrosion resistant chlorinated polyvinyl chloride material. It can be used up to 180º F, and its excellent corrosion resistance at elevated temperatures makes it well-suited for self-supporting constructions where high temperatures are involved.

“We are dedicated to providing our customers with high quality compounds to support the global building and construction market,” said Eric Schnur, president of Lubrizol Advanced Materials. “This facility is an important part of our expanded global manufacturing and supply infrastructure that enables Lubrizol to be a more valuable supplier to our customers, helping them to achieve their growth targets in new and existing markets and geographies.”

According to Lubrizol, the Thailand facility, combined with its other recent investments in Louisville, Kentucky and Dahej, India, as well as its existing CPVC operations around the globe, better positions the organization to support its future business growth. The resin Lubrizol will ship from the Thailand plant will be further processed at these other Lubrizol facilities using proprietary processes developed through more than 50 years of compounding expertise.

To commemorate the plant opening, Lubrizol and Sekisui hosted an opening ceremony at the plant. Schnur, along with several other members of Lubrizol’s management team, were in Thailand for the opening, as were members of Sekisui’s management team and officials with the Thai government.

About Lubrizol

Based in Wickliffe, Ohio, Lubrizol owns and operates manufacturing facilities in 17 countries, as well as sales and technical offices around the world. Founded in 1928, Lubrizol has approximately 7,500 employees worldwide. It sells its specialty chemical products in over 100 countries.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Special Report: Oil Volatility and the NTSB

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Shipments of Bakken Formation crude oil have brought billions in revenues to BNSF Railway, and new opportunities to Berkshire Hathaway’s tank car manufacturer UTLX. It has also put Berkshire and BNSF in the middle of disputes over the safety of these shipments and the source of various hazards.

On one side are environmentalists and communities along rail lines that have cited volatility concerns as to the flash point of Bakken Formation crude oil, claiming it is a special hazard as compared to the transportation of other crude oils. On the other side is the AFPM, a trade association representing 400 refining and petrochemical companies, which is suing over BNSF Railway’s $1,000 per tank car surcharge in a battle to keep costs low in producing crude oil from the Bakken Formation.

BNSF’s surcharge is designed to incentivize shippers to move to tank cars that meet new Department of Transportation standards. Technically, BNSF is not calling its $1,000 per tank car charge a surcharge, rather it says it has raised its rates and is discounting rates for shippers using new DOT 117/TC-117 tank cars. A court will decide whether that holds up and certainly key to that may be whether Bakken crude is more hazardous than other cargo.

The AFPM has disputed that Bakken crude oil is more hazardous a cargo than other crude oil, or other chemicals hauled by railroads. AFPM’s position is that the surcharge on tank cars ignores the root cause of derailments, which they assert is tied to poor track conditions and human error.

Will the Surcharge Stand Up?

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, AFPM stated that “Any effort to enhance rail safety must begin with addressing track integrity and human factors, which account for sixty percent of derailments. Investment in accident prevention would result in the greatest reduction in the risk of rail incidents.”

Now, the head of the National Transit Safety Board has weighed in on the issue.

NTSB’s Christopher Hart Dismisses Volatility Concerns

Concerns that the oil from the Bakken Formation are of higher volatility and create a greater risk in the case of accidents were downplayed in recent statements by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Christopher Hart.

Hart, in a radio appearance on radio station KFGO-AM in Fargo, North Dakota, stated that the NTSB’s accident investigations of rail accidents found that Bakken crude volatility isn’t a significant issue.

“The biggest contributor to a large explosion or fire is how much product is released, rather than the volatility of the product,” Hart said.

The Department of Transportation is working to reduce the amount of product of all types released in a rail accident by mandating new tank car standards that  require jacketed and thermally insulated shells of 9/16-inch steel, full-height half-inch-thick head shields, and re-closeable pressure relief valves and rollover protection for top fittings.

The Department of Energy Report

A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report in March 2015 looked at the volatility of light sweet crude from the Bakken Formation in comparison to other crude oils in the same category. The report was prepared by Sandia National Laboratories with the assistance of a technical team that included the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center.

In its report, the DOE found no link between crude oil properties and the chance or severity of a fire caused by a derailment. Instead, the report found that the kinetic energy created by the derailment was a larger factor in the size of a fire than the volatility of the crude being transported, the researchers said.

Is Bakken Crude More Volatile?

As for the volatility of crude oil from the Bakken Formation, Turner, Mason & Company conducted a study in 2014 for the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) which found that Bakken crude “appears to be generally similar in vapor pressure and light ends content to most light crude oils, and there are certainly crudes, particularly those produced from tight oil formations, which are higher in those parameters.”

Congress Looks at Bakken Crude

The U.S. Congress took up the issue of the safety of transporting crude oil from the Bakken Formation last year.

In September 2014, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held an energy and oversight hearing with experts from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Department of Energy, ND Petroleum Council, Turner, Mason & Company, and the Syracuse Fire Department. The hearing examined the characteristics and behavior of crude oil from the Bakken region.

At the hearing, officials testified that the increased risk of an incident has to do with the increased volume of product being transported and not the volatility characteristics of Bakken crude.

BNSF’s Role as a Common Carrier

As a common carrier, BNSF Railway can’t refuse under most circumstances to carry cargo, despite the potential loss or damage presented by the cargo.

And, while BNSF’s growing role as a mobile crude oil pipeline has meant billions in new revenue, it also has presented new risks in regards to fire in the event of derailment, collision, or other accidents.

BNSF has responded by pushing for safer tank cars, and has boosted training for both its crews and emergency responders in communities along its routes.

New Tank Cars and Retrofitting Existing Fleets

Under Enhanced Standards for New and Existing Tank Cars for use in an HHFT—New tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015, are required to meet the new DOT Specification 117 design or performance criteria.

The standards will require replacing the entire fleet of DOT-111 tank cars for Packing Group I, which covers most crude shipped by rail, within three years and all non-jacketed CPC-1232s, in the same service, within approximately five years.

An HHFT (high-hazard flammable trains) is defined as a train carrying 20 or more tank carloads of flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol.

The need for replacement and retrofitted tank cars impacts a wide-range of shippers that transport by rail. Those shippers include shippers of LPG, oil producers and refiners, and ethanol producers that own their own tank cars or lease them from leasing companies. It also impacts BNSF Railway’s own fleet of tank cars.

Retrofitting existing tank cars is an important bridge to safer shipping of flammable liquids, as the current backlog of new tank car orders sits at a record 52,000 units.

A Significant Portion of BNSF’s Revenue

One thing that’s not in dispute is how significant the transportation of volatile liquids is to BNSF. Petroleum, Ethanol and LPG make up roughly 7-percent of BNSF’s freight hauling. In 2014, BNSF moved enough petroleum to fill the gas tanks of 350 million vehicles.

Another thing that’s not in dispute is that the move for safer tank cars benefits Berkshire’s UTLX, a manufacturer and retrofitter of tank cars that has been hiring and opening new facilities due to the unprecedented demand.

Berkshire has also been expanding the number of tank cars that it owns.

Berkshire’s Marmon Holdings, Inc., the unit of Berkshire Hathaway that owns UTLX, acquired substantially all of GE Railcar Services’ owned fleet of railroad tank cars as of September 30, 2015. Roughly 25,000 full-service and net-leased tank cars are covered by the transaction.

Still One More Dispute in the Wings

With NTSB’s Christopher Hart dismissing the volatility issue of Bakken crude as an extraordinary hazard, BNSF’s dispute with the AFPM may mean it is now in a weaker position to justify its tank car surcharge, which is something that could potentially cost Berkshire and BNSF millions down the road.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Offers Professional Liability and Network Security & Privacy Policies in the U.S.

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Information technology security is constantly in the news, so it’s a natural area for increased insurance coverage as consumers and businesses look to protect themselves from the damaging consequences of getting hacked. As Target Stores and other retailers have discovered, cyber fraud can bring liability for third party exposures to data security and privacy breaches.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (BHSI) is now offering two new policies providing cyber liability and breach response coverage with risk management resources, the Professional First™ Network Security & Privacy Policy and the Professional First™ Professional Liability and Network Security & Privacy Policy. The latter also includes customizable errors and omissions (E&O) liability coverage.

“Our experienced professional liability team is providing solutions to simplify for customers the complex work of managing professional liability and cyber exposures,” said Danielle Librizzi, Senior Vice President, Head of Professional Liability. “We are pleased to bring to market comprehensive, flexible coverage, backed by BHSI’s commitment to service and financial strength.”

The Professional First™ Professional Liability and Network Security & Privacy Policy provides E&O coverage for technology and specified miscellaneous services. Both policies include multi-faceted network security and privacy liability insurance and risk management resources, which can be tailored for professional services firms of all types, from technology enterprises, to financial institutions, to law firms.

Highlights for both policies include:

• Coverage for third party exposures resulting from data security and privacy breaches, including regulatory investigations, fines and penalties.
• Breach expense and extortion threat coverage, addressing the wide range of direct expenses an Insured incurs to effectively respond to a breach or extortion threat.
• Media liability coverage, which responds to traditional media exposures (e.g. through a company’s website) arising from electronic content.
• Business interruption coverage to pay lost income and related expenses incurred as a result of the Insured’s business’ partial or full interruption due to a network security failure.
• Online access to eRiskHub®, which provides state-of-the-market tools and resources to help policyholders understand cyber exposures, establish a breach response plan, and prepare to mitigate the impact of a breach on their organization. eRiskHub is provided via NetDiligence, a leading cyber security and e-risk assessment firm.

About Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance provides commercial property, casualty, healthcare professional liability, executive and professional lines, surety, travel, programs, and homeowners insurance. It underwrites on the paper of Berkshire Hathaway’s National Indemnity group of insurance companies, which hold financial strength ratings of A++ from AM Best and AA+ from Standard & Poor’s. Based in Boston, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance has offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, San Ramon, Stevens Point, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Singapore, Sydney and Toronto.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Need Your Cellphone Repaired? Head to Nebraska Furniture Mart

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People in Omaha, Kansas City and Dallas have been packing Nebraska Furniture Mart’s stores to buy everything from couches to washing machines, and now they can get their cellphone and tablets repaired while they shop.

Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) has brought Phone Surgeons, a nationwide network of mobile device technicians, into its stores to do in-store repairs on smartphones and tablets.

Phone Surgeons repairs smartphones and tablets in branded walk-in service centers (Emergency Rooms) and in store-inside-store kiosks (Urgent Cares) in partnerships with big box retailers. Additionally, the company has a fleet of certified Emergency Mobile Techs (E.M.T.’s) serves clients.

Founded in 2011 by wireless store owner Chris Jourdan, the company has more than 50 franchised and company-owned walk-in clinics and big-box in-store kiosks, along with a fleet of over 100 service-call techs.

NFM has set up mobile repair stations, “Urgent Cares,” in or near its wireless departments at its Omaha, Kansas City and new Dallas stores.

Phone Surgeons technicians can replace screens, batteries, charging ports, jacks, buttons and sensors; backup and data recovery; and repair water-damaged devices for all makes, models, operating systems and carriers.

Phone Surgeons boasts that it can do same-day repairs, with most performed in under an hour, and offers a free diagnosis and estimate.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway Borrows $275 Million for Texas Wind Farm

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Berkshire Hathaway Energy has borrowed $275 Million for its Jumbo Road wind farm, according to Bloomberg News.

Mizuho Financial Group Inc. led the 10-year financing with CoBank Financial Corp., Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. also participating.

Bloomberg reports that pricing started at 162.5 basis points over the London interbank offered rate.

Located in the Texas Panhandle, the Jumbo Road wind farm began commercial operation in April 2015. The wind farm has 162 wind turbines with the capacity to generate approximately 300 megawatts of power, and can power up to 600,000 homes when fully operative.

Built by Lincoln Clean Energy, LLC, and owned and operated by TX Jumbo Road Wind, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway’s BHE Renewables, Jumbo Road supplies electricity to Austin Energy. The utility is the nation’s eighth largest publicly-owned electric utility, and is a department of the City of Austin.

The state of Texas leads the nation in wind power, with 10% of its energy needs met by wind-generation. The growth in wind energy was fueled in part by the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which was signed into law by then governor George W. Bush in 1999, and later expanded in 2005.

Texas quickly surpassed its goal of developing 5,880 megawatts of renewable energy by 2015, and has now exceeded its nonbinding target of 10,000 megawatts by 2025. A key component in the Renewable Portfolio Standard is a renewable energy credit trading program.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.