Monthly Archives: November 2016

New Online Portal Gives McLane’s Retailers Key Analytics

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Berkshire Hathaway’s McLane Co. Inc. is continuing its investment in analytics and performance tracking tools through the rollout of McLane Link, an online portal solution that provides retailers access to key performance and operational data including the ability to see order and delivery data by store and by item.

McLane Link also improves operational efficiencies by providing a web-based guide that gives retailers quick access to key metrics, the company said. Retailers can customize reports and resolve issues without needing to contact their McLane representatives, and reports can be viewed online or exported as Excel or PDF files.

Additionally, the scheduling feature allows each customized report to be emailed directly to the customer or any number of other company employees.
Other McLane Link features include:

• Service-Level Reporting. A detailed status report for all orders placed, received and en-route including the fill rate of each item as well as an overall service percentage.

• Delivery Reporting. A performance view of current and past delivery arrival times. A calendar feature allows for the review of delivery detail on a weekly, monthly or several month basis.

• Delivery Scheduling. A comprehensive directory of key account information for all retailer locations including billing cycle and mailing address. Retailers can view reroutes, load days and other scheduling information pertinent to each store location.

• Credits. An account of all credits issued by delivery drivers searchable by date range. Filtering can be applied to review specific locations, amounts or geographic details.

• Planograms. Corporate and store-level access to the latest planograms created from McLane’s Center for Category Innovation. Retailers are able to include their own store-level planograms and upload them directly into the McLane Link portal.

• Slice and Dice Report with Conditional Alerts. Each field can be reordered, removed or have column-level filtering, enhancing the user experience. Alerts can be added to notify retailers when specific conditions or thresholds have occurred.

Four retailers have already rolled out the solution and 10 more are scheduled to be in production by the end of November, the company stated. McLane Link is customized to match the look and feel of each customer’s branding strategy for a familiar user experience, and additional features requested by customers will be rolled out over the coming months.

“With McLane Link, our retailers can quickly locate the exact information they are looking for and customize a report specific to what is needed,” said McLane Vice President of Customer Technology Deon Johnson. “It’s exactly what our customers have asked for and just what they need, when they need it — a fast, simple and easy way to drive their business forward.”

© 2016 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.

Fruit of the Loom Team Mourns Death of President and CEO Rick Medlin

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Rick Medlin, President and CEO of Fruit of the Loom, Inc., passed away of natural causes on November 27, 2016. The entire Fruit of the Loom, Inc. team worldwide, with nearly 30,000 employees, is incredibly saddened by the loss of their sincere and principled leader.

“Rick was a special leader and a special person. He was extremely proud of the progress and success we have shared in the last 6 years,” said the Fruit of the Loom leadership team. “We owe it to his legacy and honor to continue taking this company forward in accordance with his vision. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Medlin family at this time of loss.”

The company will name an interim CEO in the coming days who will continue to lead the organization with the same core values and integrity established by Mr. Medlin.

© 2016 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.

Surface Transportation Board Refuses to Hear Tesoro’s Claim in Swinomish Tribe’s Dispute with BNSF

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The Surface Transportation Board has refused to hear Tesoro’s petition on a rail service dispute between the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and BNSF Railway.

BNSF Railway’s oil train service to two refineries in the state of Washington could be in jeopardy due to an ongoing Federal lawsuit.

Filed in April 2015, the lawsuit stems from the Swinomish’s assertion that the railroad is violating the terms of a Right-of-Way easement granted to allow the railroad to cross the reservation.

The Swinomish are concerned that trains carrying Bakken crude oil run over bridges spanning the Tribe’s fishing grounds in the Swinomish Channel and Padilla Bay.

The Easement Agreement enables BNSF to bring Bakken crude oil to the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington by crossing the portion of the Swinomish Indian Reservation located on Fidalgo Island in Skagit County, Washington.

Under the terms of the 1991 Easement Agreement, BNSF is allowed to run one 25-car train per day in each direction. The tribe sued in April 2015 contending that BNSF was running as many as six 100-car “unit trains” per week.

In petitioning to the Surface Transportation Board, Tesoro hoped to get the STB to declare that the dispute fell under its purview through its role in the regulation of the Interstate Commerce Act. However, the STB ruled that Tesoro is not a party to the Swinomish’s dispute with BNSF.

A ruling in favor of Tesoro would have benefitted BNSF, as the refiner claims that as a shipper it has a right to receive rail service.

“Given that the district court has already denied a motion to refer the preemption issue to the board, that courts as well as the board can decide issues involving … preemption in the first instance, and that the court has clearly expressed its preference to decide the preemption issue itself, the board will decline to issue a declaratory order in this matter,” the STB said in its ruling.

Contentious History of Rail

Train travel across the tribe’s land has a long contentious history, with the original track having been laid in the late 1800s without consent from the Swinomish or the U.S government. The tracks cross the northern edge of the reservation, and the Swinomish, as the present day political successor-in-interest to certain of the tribes and bands that signed the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, first sued the railroad in 1976, alleging a century of trespassing on tribal land. The resulting settlement led to the 1991 Easement Agreement that allowed only the 25-car train limit without the Tribe’s permission.

The Tribe contend in its lawsuit that “BNSF never notified the Tribe that it intended to exceed the limitation of one train of 25 cars or less, nor did it request permission from the Tribe before it began to do so.”

A Deal is a Deal

“A deal is a deal,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “Our signatures were on the agreement with BNSF, so were theirs, and so was the United States. But despite all that, BNSF began running its Bakken oil trains across the Reservation without asking, and without even telling us. This was exactly what they did for decades starting in the 1800s.”

“We told BNSF to stop, again and again,” said Cladoosby. “We also told BNSF: convince us why we should allow these oil trains to cross the Reservation. And we listened for two years, even while the trains kept rolling. But experiences across the country have now shown us all the dangers of Bakken Crude. It’s unacceptable for BNSF to put our people and our way of life at risk without regard to the agreement we established in good faith.”
Under the terms of the Easement Agreement, the Tribe agreed not to “arbitrarily withhold permission” for BNSF’s request to increase the number of trains or cars.

Arbitrary or Not?

The Tribe contends that its refusal to grant permission is not arbitrary and is “Based on the demonstrated hazards of shipping Bakken Crude by rail, paired with the proximity of the Right-of-Way to the Tribe’s critical economic and environmental resources and facilities — and the substantial numbers of people who use those resources and facilities on a daily basis — the Tribe is justifiably and gravely concerned with BNSF’s shipment of Bakken Crude across the Right-of-Way in a manner and in quantities at odds with the explicit terms of the Easement Agreement.”

In addition to Swinomish’s concerns to possible environmental impacts on the Tribe’s fishing grounds, hey also note that the track runs across the “heart of the Tribe’s economic development enterprises,” which includes the Tribe’s Swinomish Casino and Lodge, a Chevron station and convenience store, and an RV Park, as well as a Tribal waste treatment plant.

The Tribe noted that these enterprises are the “primary financial source for funding of the Tribe’s essential governmental functions and programs.”

The 1991 Easement Agreement granted the Right-of-Way for an initial 40-year term, along with two 20-year option periods. The current agreement will expire no later than 2071.

The tribe is seeking a “permanent injunction prohibiting BNSF from (1) running more than one train of twenty-five cars or less in each direction over the Right-of-Way per day and (2) shipping Bakken Crude across the Reservation.”

The Swinomish are also seeking monetary damages for the prior trespasses and breach of contract in an amount to be determined at trial.

© 2016 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.

BYD Inks Major Deal for Pure Electric Buses in S. Korea

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BYD Korea Co. Ltd., along with South Korean firm Ezwelfare Co. Ltd, has sold 21 units of its 7m pure electric coaches to Jeju Island, a popular South Korean vacation spot.

The deal is the largest order ever placed by South Korea for electric buses and the largest ever won by an electric coach manufacturer in the developed countries in East Asia.

The local government of Jeju Island aims to make all vehicles electric by 2030 as a way of protecting the environment, which is its main drawing card for the tourism sector on which it depends.

The province also plans to complete an extensive network of charging stations as part of the initiative.

The local government’s landmark deal with BYD is a step towards realizing its vision.

“Jeju Island’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030 is in line with BYD’s aims of full transport electrification,” said Liu Xueliang, General Manager of BYD’s Asia Pacific Auto Sales Division. “We are honored to introduce BYD electric vehicles to South Korean market along with the BYD SkyRail, our straddle monorail. These will enable residents of both Jeju Island and the rest of South Korea to reap the benefits of new energy products.”

The deal comes just weeks before BYD’s 12m pure electric bus make their commercial debut in South Korea after being used as an official vehicle at the 3rd International Electric Vehicle Expo in March 2016. The delivery of the 12m electric bus will add to the list of BYD electric vehicles already in the market including forklifts.

BYD and Berkshire Hathaway

In 2008, Berkshire Hathaway bet on BYD’s potential, purchasing 225 million shares. It’s an investment that has paid off handsomely. Berkshire’s original investment of $230 million is now worth roughly $1.77 billion.

For More on BYD, read the Special Report: BYD, Berkshire’s Tesla.

© 2016 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.

Johns Manville to Benefit from Robust Global Market for Acoustic Insulation

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Insulation manufacturer Johns Manville will benefit from a growing market for acoustic insulation according to a new report by analysts at Research and Markets.

In their report “Global Acoustic Insulation Market – Segmented by Type, Application and Geography – Trends and Forecasts (2016 – 2021),” they forecast a robust market that will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.32%, during the forecast period 2016-2021.

The global acoustic insulation market was valued at USD 12.48 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach USD 17.03 billion by 2021.

The acoustic insulation market is mainly driven by factors such as government regulations for controlling noise pollution and the growing interest of consumers towards acoustic insulation for commercial and residential purposes. Rise in construction activities in North America is another factor that is currently driving the market. However, the slow paced construction market in Europe, owing to a feeble economic condition in the region, may act as a roadblock to the growth of the market.

Demand for aesthetic and fire resistant insulation products would serve as an opportunity for the future growth of the acoustic insulation market. Apart from this, increasing usage of stainless steel wool and aerogel for soundproofing applications is expected to boost the growth in future.

About Johns Manville

Acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2001, Johns Manville has annual sales of approximately $2.6 billion, and employs approximately 7,000 people. The company has 44 manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe and China.

© 2016 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.

After Berkshire Acquisition, Silpada Launches Revamped E-commerce Site

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Richline Group’s acquisition of the assets of jewelry designer Silpada has brought a new launch of the Silpada e-commerce site will come in time for Black Friday.

Richline Group announced the purchase of Silpada’s assets in late October.

The new website focuses on Silpada’s sterling silver jewelry, including never-before-seen pieces and best-selling legacy styles, in a direct-to-consumer model.

“We could not be more excited about this launch,” said Matt Nichols, Senior Vice President of Richline’s Digital division. “We’ve worked hard to craft a digital shopping experience that is worthy of Silpada’s dedicated fanbase and its beloved sterling silver designs. These fresh styles, as well as a new digital presence for Silpada are just the beginning. We look forward to building upon the extraordinary brand that the Kelly and Walsh families created.”

At launch, Silpada will unveil 40 entirely new designs. In addition to these new styles, silpada.com will bring back hundreds of customer favorites at permanently reduced prices. As the team at Richline Group develops the next line of Silpada jewelry, the site will host “The Sale Shop”, which offers exceptional last-chance values on legacy designs.

“Since acquiring Silpada in October, we’ve spent considerable time taking in feedback from passionate customers and representatives. Their insights have been invaluable as we work towards a new and inclusive direction for Silpada. We believe the new silpada.com is the right first step forward,” said Richline Group Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Hanna.

© 2016 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

BYD’s SkyRail Monorail Coming to S. Korea

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BYD Company is ready to spread its SkyRail monorail system across the globe, and S. Korea looks like the first market for its new mass transportation system.

Things are happening quickly. On October 13, 2016, debuted its SkyRail monorail system in Shenzhen, China. The monorail was developed out of BYD’s five-year RMB 5 billion R&D project.

BYD’s initial 4.4 kilometer monorail line runs to its Shenzhen Headquarters, alleviates the traffic problems of 50,000 factory and management employees.

Strategically, SkyRail marks the company’s entry into the multi-trillion yuan mass transit market. BYD believes its monorails can counter traffic congestion in cities around the world while also offering more convenient mobility to urban residents.

Now, it looks like BYD’s SkyRail will be heading to S. Korea.

While commenting on the sale of 21 units of BYD’s 7m pure electric buses to Jeju Island, a popular South Korean vacation spot, Liu Xueliang, General Manager of BYD’s Asia Pacific Auto Sales Division, also mentioned SkyRail.

“We are honored to introduce BYD electric vehicles to South Korean market along with the BYD SkyRail, our straddle monorail. These will enable residents of both Jeju Island and the rest of South Korea to reap the benefits of new energy products.”

BYD and Berkshire Hathaway

In 2008, Berkshire Hathaway bet on BYD’s potential, purchasing 225 million shares. It’s an investment that has paid off handsomely. Berkshire’s original investment of $230 million is now worth roughly $1.77 billion.

For More on BYD, read the Special Report: BYD, Berkshire’s Tesla.

© 2016 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 Employment Practices Liability Insurance

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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (BHSI) is now offering Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), the latest addition to its Executive First suite of policies.

This new policy provides broad, modern coverage for companies facing harassment, discrimination and other claims initiated by employees, regulators, customers, and others.

“Our EPLI policy is a clear and concise solution for complex risks,” said Dan Fortin, SVP, Head of Executive & Professional Lines, BHSI. “It comes with BHSI’s trusted underwriting and claims expertise and proven services to help our customers instill employment best practices and ensure regulatory compliance.”

The policy is designed to protect companies and executives in the full spectrum of claims that arise in today’s employment terrain, including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and failure to employ or promote.

The policy clearly articulates coverage for contemporary exposures, including those arising from genetic information, military status, sexual orientation or preference, and improper internet activity. Harassment is broadly stated as sexual or workplace harassment of any kind. Coverage extends to allegations brought by employees as well as third parties, such as customers. Limits of up to $25 million are available.

BHSI’s EPLI policyholders have access to EPL First, an online repository of HR training and compliance resources as well as attorney-client privileged “help line” services from an employment attorney. These services are provided by Littler Mendelson, the world’s largest employment and labor law firm.

EPLI is the newest addition to BHSI’s Executive First suite of products, all of which provide clear, current and customizable executive liability coverage for commercial and financial firms, including those with the most complex risk-transfer needs. Along with EPLI, the suite includes D&O Liability Insurance, Side A DIC Liability Insurance, Fiduciary Liability Insurance, and Private and Nonprofit Organization Portfolios.

© 2016 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.

Illinois Sugar Storage Facility a Sweet Opportunity for BNSF

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American Crystal Sugar’s new bulk-sugar storage facility will mean plenty of business for BNSF Railway.

The $40 million facility in Montgomery, Illinois features a 26,000-square-foot storage dome and a 17,000 square-foot transfer facility.

Key to the facility is 5,500 feet of track space for BNSF trains hauling sugar to and from the facility.

The new facility enables American Crystal Sugar to store product closer to its customers in the Midwest, and according to BNSF, has the capacity to store 60,000 metric tons of sugar, and nearly twice that much will be transferred to customers each year.

© 2016 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 Travel Protection Joins InsureMyTrip

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Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, which offers its AirCare and ExactCare travel insurance coverage to travelers, will now be available through the InsureMyTrip website and mobile platform.

Founded in 2000, InIsureMyTrip.com was the world’s first major travel insurance comparison website, and today enables consumers the ability compare and buy plans from 29 top travel insurance providers; the largest network of travel insurance plans and providers in the U.S. marketplace.

When Berkshire Hathaway purchased AirCare insurance in 2014, it immediately jumped to the head of the pack in the ability to offer travel insurance that can be purchased with your smartphone or mobile device at a moment’s notice.

It is coverage that brings strong profits to Berkshire, and there are times when it has paid off big for travelers.

For example, an August 8, 2016 Delta Airlines system-wide computer failure had AirCare purchasers feeling like they had won the lottery. As flights were grounded for hours, delayed travelers that had AirCare had $1,000 claims automatically credited to their bank accounts.

There is no telling how many travelers spent the money at airport retailers and lounges, but it was probably easy to tell who they were, as they must have been the ones with smiles on their faces as others fumed.

“Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection is redefining the way claims are processed and paid,” stated Jim Grace, CEO of InsureMyTrip. “Their innovative real-time claims settlement capabilities combined with their robust suite of products offer great flexibility and value for our customers. We are very pleased and excited to be working with them.”

BHTP offers advanced mobile claims processing services for travelers, enabling “pic and a click” filing for many claims with speedy payments. Emergency medical coverage is also available with coverage for many pre-existing medical conditions (if eligible) and options for trip cancellation and interruption protection. Customers will also have access to BHTP’s Emergency Assistance service.

“InsureMyTrip shares our passion for bringing innovation to traveler insurance,” said Dean Sivley, President of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. “We’re looking forward to bringing our advanced claim processing platform and real-time claim payments solutions to InsureMyTrip customers.”

© 2016 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.