Monthly Archives: June 2017

BYD Supplies More Pure Electric Buses to Brisbane Airport

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Making further inroads in its sale of pure electric buses in Australia, Chinese battery and vehicle maker BYD has announced an expansion of its pure electric buses to Brisbane airport. The sale comes just eight months after making its commercial debut at the country’s busiest airport in Sydney.

The fleet of eleven 12-meter BYD electric buses will be fully operational in February 2018 as a shuttle service between the airport’s domestic and international terminals. The vehicles will be run by Carbridge, an Australian based world leader in aviation passenger ground transportation who operates BYD electric buses, the Electric Blu, in the Sydney Airport.

“This signifies a milestone for us in Australia, and we are heartened to have more people in Australia support the state-of-the-art electric public transport that we provide,” said Liu Xueliang, General Manager of BYD Asia Pacific Auto Sales Division.

The 12-meter BYD electric bus has a carrying capacity of 70 passengers; features purpose-designed luggage storage racks, and three full size double doors making boarding and alighting more efficient. In addition the buses have GPS next stop announcements, driver monitoring and real time tracking data, meaning issues can be immediately identified and responded to in real time.

Replacing the current fleet for electric buses will result in a reduction of 250 tons of carbon emissions each year, equivalent to taking 100 cars off the road.

Brisbane airport is the closest airport to Queensland’s Gold Coast, a popular holiday destination for visitors to Australia. Around 22.5 million passengers travelled through the airport in 2016, making the airport the third busiest in Australia by passenger traffic.

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 $1.8 billion.

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

© 2017 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.

Intero Real Estate Services Partners With Kukun

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Intero Real Estate Services, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate and wholly owned subsidiary of HomeServices of America Inc., today announces its partnership with Kukun, an online platform that helps homeowners navigate the home remodeling process.

Available now, Kukun provides all area listings with estimated home renovations costs and the return on investment (ROI) for potential buyers through their website widget on interorealestate.com.

Early results shared through data gathered from the Kukun widget show that the average monthly percentage of homebuyers that check the costs of a home upgrade is 250 percent of the overall listings on Intero’s site, with the most popular renovation estimates being for kitchen and baths, followed by windows and garages. About 12 percent of these users took the next step in searching for contractors for the renovations on Kukun.

“Kukun’s integration gives people more informed buying decisions by providing a transparent view of upgrade expenses and the ROI. With a click of a button, our integration gives the total cost of ownership with estimated renovation costs,” said Raf Howery, CEO and co-founder of Kukun. “Home buyers often want to purchase a turn-key home but can’t afford one in their desired area. Many older homes have the potential to become their dream home with a little TLC, but often fear of renovating causes potential buyers to look elsewhere or remain renters. This is especially true of millennial, first-time buyers who desire to live in big cities and high demand town centers. They often have to purchase an older home that needs work and being able to determine the ROI in real time, allows them to make more educated decisions. By integrating Kukun, homeowners can see exactly what renovation needs to be done, how much it will cost, and what their property will be worth once complete. By informing people, it allows them to make more educated choices.”

Available immediately, all of the real estate listings on Intero Real Estate Services’ website include Kukun’s solution. Future homeowners will also be able to access contractors’ permits in the neighborhood, so they can find vetted contractors who are referenced by neighbors. This eases the pain point for many homeowners of being concerned if the contractor they select is credible.

“As a forward thinking real estate company, we’re excited to continue to advance our services through technology to make the home buying and selling experience better and more transparent,” said Tom Tognoli, Intero President & CEO. “By integrating the Kukun solution into every listing on our website, we can bring extreme value to both consumers and our own agents.”

Kukun is building the bridge between the construction, real estate, loan and retail industries by creating an orchestration platform that accompanies the customer on their home renovation journey from knowing their estimated costs to completing their renovation.

© 2017 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.

MiTek Industries Acquires Mezzanine International

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Berkshire Hathaway’s MiTek Industries has acquired UK-based Mezzanine International, one of Europe’s leading mezzanine flooring suppliers.

The terms of the acquisition were not announced.

With a focus on European markets, Mezzanine International is a highly regarded leader in the design, prefabrication, and installation of custom work platforms and structural mezzanine systems. In addition to serving the largest global e-commerce providers, the Company’s many customers include leading companies in distribution, processing, aerospace, manufacturing, retail, and entertainment. In order to support the Company’s tremendous growth, in early 2017, Mezzanine International opened a new location in Cologne, Germany.

Established in 1991, Mezzanine International is Europe’s leading mezzanine flooring supplier. Mezzanine International delivers bespoke performance structures, mezzanine decking, and ancillary products to clients across all industry sectors.

The acquisition of Mezzanine International follows another recent acquisition by MiTek in this same sector, Cubic Designs, Inc., a US-based leader in custom work platforms and structural mezzanine systems. Together, Mezzanine International and Cubic Designs can now offer mezzanine platform solutions to their customers on a global scale.

“I am so pleased that Mezzanine International has joined the ranks of a storied company, MiTek Industries, Inc. A vital aspect of this acquisition was the remarkable alignment of our core values with MiTek’s, which is essential to executing our long-range growth plans,” said Scott Chambers, managing director of Mezzanine International. “Given our current design and manufacturing capabilities in Europe, combined with the momentum we are sure to experience with MiTek’s global footprint, formidable brand and resources, we expect growth rates and technology developments that far outpace our competitors.”

“The acquisition of Mezzanine International furthers our strategy for global diversification. Scott and his team have built a growing business that is recognized as a leader in the markets where they compete, while building and maintaining a trust-based culture,” said Mark Thom, MiTek’s CEO. “This is an incredible addition to the MiTek family, and I’m truly excited about the future growth opportunities that we will create together.”

© 2017 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 Touts Results of its Fully Sustainable Power Solutions

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BYD is touting the results of its initial pilot project in its Fully Sustainable Power Solutions initiative, which combines BYD’s battery storage technology with photovoltaic panels.

Results from the first year of BYD’s 60MWh UK project show that BYD’s energy storage system has operated smoothly over the 12 month period. The system responds quickly to the grid’s demand, matching over 99% of aggregate demand with five to six cycles every day. This frequency regulation project is the biggest of its kind in the UK to date.

BYD’s “Fully Sustainable Power Solutions” has the energy generated through PV going directly into energy storage equipment in order to curb instabilities in energy flow and improve distribution.

The idea of combining PV generation with energy storage is not new, but what grants BYD an edge is that not only is the company the world’s largest Iron-Phosphate battery manufacturer, it is also one of the few companies to make both photovoltaic and energy storage products.

TESLA recently acquired Solar City in order to combine its battery storage capability with Solar City’s new photovoltaic roof shingles.

Tom Zhao, Managing Director of BYD Solar Division said the success of the project is proof that the revolutionary business model works. “We want to pave the way for more projects to follow suit so that the new energy market becomes bigger and better,” he said. “There is a potential demand of 100MWh in a similar project in the UK alone, and over 200MWh worldwide.”

BYD also announced its ambition to integrate its energy storage systems with wind power this year, before eventually merging the system with all types of renewable energy generation. BYD notes that this will give consumers and businesses a more stable supply of clean energy and increase the functionality of renewable power generation stations.

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 $1.8 billion.

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

© 2017 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.

Particle Science to Begin Commercial Drug Manufacturing

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Commercial drug product manufacturing will be added at the Lubrizol’s Particle Sciences facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The move to become a commercial drug product manufacturer, rather than just a producer of trial supplies used in testing, will enable Particle Science to produce pharmaceutical products for commercial sale by its customers.

Particle Science already has several customers lined up for its new service, and plans to hire an additional 30 employees to its existing workforce of 85 employees.

The roughly $10 million expansion of its facility will be adjacent to the existing development and clinical trial manufacturing site, offering customers a seamless flow from development through manufacturing.

The new space, which is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2017, will accommodate both sterile and non-sterile products, highly potent compounds, and organic solvent processing.

The expansion id part of Lubrizol’s $60 million investment that will focus on new product solutions, capacity expansion and additional cGMP manufacturing.

© 2017 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.

Swinomish Tribe Gets Big Win Against BNSF

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A federal judge’s ruling in favor of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community gives the tribe a major victory against BNSF Railway in their dispute over oil trains crossing tribal land.

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community initially filed their lawsuit in March 2015. In September 2015, a federal judge ruled affirming the Native American tribe’s right to sue the railroad for violating the terms of a Right-of-Way easement granted to allow the railroad to cross the reservation.

The Easement Agreement enables BNSF to bring Bakken crude oil to the Tesoro refinery by crossing a 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 contending that BNSF was running as many as six 100-car “unit trains” per week.

On Thursday, June 8, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik granted the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s motion for reconsideration.The ruling reverses the court’s prior ruling that the case should be decided under state law, noting that ”the Court incorrectly analyzed the breach of contract and trespass claims as if they arose under state law. Issues pertaining to tribes, including actions for trespass on tribal lands, are the exclusive province of federal law.”

In its decision, the court decided that the tribe’s treaty rights trumped any interstate commerce laws.

“The correct analysis when considering the Tribe’s treaty-based federal common law claim is not whether the requested relief would interfere with rail transportation, but whether Congress intended to repeal the Treaty of Point Elliott when it enacted the ICCTA. The Court finds that it did not,” Judge Lasnik ruled.

The History of the Dispute

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.

Is it Arbitrary?

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.”

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. They also noted 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.

Unfortunate Words for BNSF

In its ruling, the court also made clear that the tribe’s claims of a breach of contract were valid, noting that “the Court found that there was no genuine issue of fact regarding the existence of a breach.”

© 2017 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.

Gen Re Founding Member of InsurLab Germany

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Gen Re is one of the founding members of InsurLab Germany, as the insurance industry is embracing digitalization at an ever-faster pace, both in Germany and elsewhere.

InsurLab Germany is open to companies in the insurance industry along with start-ups and related service providers. Gen Re is one of eight founding members with an insurance background; other co-founders include the Cologne Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the University of Cologne and TH Köln University of Applied Sciences. Ulrich Pasdika, Head of Region Germany and Research & Development Life & Health at Gen Re, was elected to the association’s board along with two other representatives from the insurance industry.

Dr Winfried Heinen, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors at General Reinsurance AG, said: “We are delighted about this initiative and are happy to actively support it. We believe it strengthens Cologne as an insurance hub and we can make a significant contribution to the discussions with our international expertise. As a top ten reinsurer with a global network, we have a strong interest in promoting collaboration between start-ups and the insurance industry – to the benefit of both sides.”

Gen Re has been involved in various initiatives dedicated to the digital future of the industry for some time now. One of the fields it focuses on within this area is data science. In addition to this, Gen Re is working with external partners to find practical solutions to the highly dynamic pace of change affecting the insurance industry as it tackles rapid technological progress and changing consumer behaviour.

Ulrich Pasdika commented: “We firmly believe that cooperation between insurers and reinsurers on the one hand and a wide range of InsurTechs on the other, offers huge potential for innovative approaches. Provided the industry maintains this collaboration in a smart, consistent way, digitalization represents a massive opportunity for it.

Cologne’s InsurLab is the latest in a long line of international initiatives and projects relating to technology and innovation which we have established around the world, and it offers us another outstanding opportunity to help shape these major changes.”

© 2017 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 Delivers First 60-Foot Pure Electric Bus in North America

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Chinese battery and vehicle maker BYD, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles, has delivered North America’s first 60-foot articulated battery-electric transit bus to the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) in Los Angeles County, California.

The bus, part of AVTA’s plan to fully electrify its fleet by 2018, was also built with local labor in BYD’s factory in Lancaster, just miles from the AVTA office. It is the first delivery from AVTA’s order of thirteen 60’ BYD buses.

“The Antelope Valley Transit Authority is leading the North American transit market with its electrification commitment, and so it’s only fitting that they should have the first bus of its kind in North America,” said Macy Neshati, Senior Vice President of BYD Heavy Industries. “This bus runs longer and holds more passengers than any other commercially available battery-electric bus, and I know it will serve the people of the Antelope Valley well.”

Len Engel, Executive Director of the Antelope Valley Transit Authority, added, “We’ve been proud to be at the forefront of the smart business of electrification, protecting our air, saving money, and creating local jobs here in the Antelope Valley. Having the first 60-foot articulated electric transit bus on the continent is a feather in the cap of the people of Lancaster, Palmdale, and the other communities we serve.”

The 60-foot BYD bus seats up to 60 people and provides a range of 200 miles on a single charge with full charging completed in two to three hours. It will join the rest of the AVTA fleet in serving the half million residents of northern Los Angeles County.

Nearly 600 Californians are employed at the BYD factory in Lancaster. Workers there recently completed a card-check vote, an important step towards unionization.

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 $1.8 billion.

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

© 2017 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.

Benjamin Moore Introduces First Scuff-Resistant Paint

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Benjamin Moore has introduced Ultra Spec SCUFF-X – the first-of-its-kind, one-component interior latex paint engineered specifically to resist scuffmarks in high-traffic, commercial environments.

According to the company, SCUFF-X provides superior scuff-resistance to two-component coatings, without the strong odor, pre-mixing, short pot-life and application difficulties associated with similar products.

“Our proprietary scuff-resistant technology minimizes repainting, retouching and cleaning, while offering easy application, low odor and quick dry-time,” said Alfredo Valiente, Benjamin Moore Brand Manager. “The Ultra Spec line of coatings is the trusted solution for commercial contractors and introducing SCUFF-X to the portfolio will dramatically improve how professionals maintain the busiest areas of their facilities.”

Recommended areas for use include high-traffic, commercial spaces such as hallways, stairwells, lobbies, offices, gymnasiums, locker rooms, public restrooms, retail fitting rooms and much more. The cutting-edge formulation enables the coating to be low-VOC, eligible for LEED® v4 credit, and CHPS certified.

© 2017 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 Investing $60 Million to Expand Particle Sciences, Vesta and Other Facilities in 2017

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The Lubrizol Corporation’s LifeSciences business is continuing to invest in its key capabilities through a variety of planned expansions.

During this latest phase, a $60 million investment will focus on new product solutions, capacity expansion and additional cGMP manufacturing. These investments will strengthen the excipients, polymers, drug formulation and manufacturing, and medical device contract manufacturing capabilities at Lubrizol LifeSciences’ global facilities.

Commercial drug product manufacturing will be added at the company’s Particle Sciences facility in Bethlehem, PA. Leveraging the company’s knowledge in complex formulations and production, the facility will be adjacent to the existing development and clinical trial manufacturing site, offering customers a seamless flow from development through manufacturing. This new space, which is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2017, will accommodate both sterile and non-sterile products, highly potent compounds, and organic solvent processing.

Additionally, LifeSciences is investing to expand its global facilities for excipients, polymers and contract manufacturing, with a focus on quality and efficiency. This capital investment will impact multiple sites to increase in-house engineering capacity across the LifeSciences portfolio of medical and pharmaceutical applications. This includes new investments in design, manufacturing and sterilization technologies for the production of interventional catheters and long-term implantable devices, an area of strategic importance to the medical device segment.

“We have significantly enhanced our capabilities through the combination of strong polymer technology, application know-how and world-class manufacturing,” states Deb Langer, vice president, Lubrizol Personal Home and Health Care.

“As healthcare companies look for total solution providers, we continue to invest in the right areas to provide valuable offerings where our customers are experiencing the most growth.”

© 2017 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.