Monthly Archives: December 2017

Lubrizol Gets Grant to Develop Clean Energy Chemical Manufacturing

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the University of Pittsburgh Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Ohio specialty chemicals provider Lubrizol Corporation a collaborative grant for research into clean energy chemical manufacturing. The DOE grant, along with contributions from Pitt and Lubrizol, will total $7.5 million over a four-year period.

“The project will focus on applying advanced chemical engineering research to industrial-scale chemical manufacturing,” said Steven Little, William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt. “The Pitt-Lubrizol partnership aligns well with University efforts to work with businesses to translate research into industry practices and impact the region’s economy in a positive way.”

The grant is part of the DOE’s Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) initiative, a partnership between the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the DOE. Both Pitt and Lubrizol are among the 45 members of the $70 million AIChE/RAPID Initiative for improving energy efficiency and industrial productivity through process intensification and modular manufacturing–two design approaches for chemical manufacturing at industry-relevant scales.

“At Lubrizol, we are working with thousands of tons of chemicals per year,” said Cliff Kowall, Lubrizol technical fellow and corporate engineer. “The end objective is to provide the design basis to allow Lubrizol to deploy these innovative processes with sharp reductions in waste generation, utility, and energy costs, capital cost, and footprint accompanied by an improvement in quality consistency.”

Kowall was integral in establishing the initial partnership between Pitt and Lubrizol, which began in 2014 with a $1.2 million Strategic Alliance agreement. The partnership brought about opportunities for students to learn about engineering needs in an industrial environment, while at the same time benefiting Lubrizol through research projects tailored to its business operations. Last month, Pitt and Lubrizol renewed the partnership, worth roughly $1 million invested over a three-year period.

“The University of Pittsburgh was by far the best fit for us to establish a relationship with a university, largely due to the enthusiasm of the Pitt Chemical Engineering leadership team,” said Kowall. “Lubrizol made a long-term commitment initially, and now we’ve extended it for three more years with the expectation of it lasting indefinitely.”

The partnership helped Pitt’s Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department develop the course “Introduction to Chemical Product Design” (ChE 0214). Open to students in their sophomore year, the course teaches how to design products specific to a customer’s needs. In a traditional paradigm, engineering students don’t work on design projects until their senior years.

“This alliance has led to new educational programs that are first-of-their-kind in the country, exposing our students to unique opportunities to learn design principles and leading to multiple awards and even a spin-out company for our students,” said Dr. Little.

The follow-up course, “Taking Products to Market: The Next Step in Chemical Product Design” (ChE 0314), focuses on entrepreneurship and the skills necessary to successfully turn their ideas into products or companies.

“About half of the initial $1.2 million agreement went into the development of these courses and the resources to ensure our students’ success,” said Dr. Little. “Collaborating with Lubrizol directly, plus a jumpstart on product design, really gives our students a competitive advantage after graduation.”

Another feature of the partnership was the creation of the ‘University of Pittsburgh Physical Property Internship,’ which is a nine-month internship targeted at chemical engineering students who graduate in December and are intending to go to graduate school in the fall.

“This helps Lubrizol as well as the student who might have trouble finding something worthwhile to do in that rather awkward time. Three of the first four recipients became full-time employees,” said Kowall. “We have put emphasis on recruiting co-op students from Pitt. We work with the faculty to identify high potential candidates. Retention has been excellent in keeping co-op students as full-time employees.”

© 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

The Huge Hidden Asset Within Berkshire Hathaway

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Anyone that follows Berkshire Hathaway knows that it is sitting on over $100 billion in cash. They also know about the company’s over $92 billion in insurance float. But there’s another huge asset that Berkshire is sitting on and hint, it’s not Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, or any other cryptocurrency.

It’s something far more tangible, and as the old expression goes, “It’s as good as gold.” In this case it’s not gold, it’s natural gas.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s Australian subsidiary, CalEnergy Resources has the rights in Australia to what the company called a “significant gas field.”

How significant?

The gas field, which is located below the Whicher Range, is estimated to contain four trillion cubic feet of gas-in-place.

CalEnergy is the sole titleholder and operator of the exploration permit EP 408 located approximately 280 kilometers south of Perth, and covers both the Whicher Range and Wonnerup gas fields.

The Long, Very Slow History of the Whicher Range Gas Fields

The gas fields were first discovered in 1968 and 1971, respectively, and are located in ancient sandstone reservoirs nearly four kilometers underground.

The big problem since its discovery has been how to get the gas and not lose your shirt doing it.

According to CalEnergy, the field is a candidate for traditional drilling methods, and hydraulic fracking is not considered a viable option.

In 2016, Peter Youngs, the Managing Director of CalEnergy Resources Group, discussed with MazorsEdge the progress on the development of the gas field, noting that “the field represents a large in place gas resource, its characteristics are challenging and there is much work still remaining to move this resource to a commercially developable status.”

As for the initial test well, Youngs said at the time, “we are encouraged by the flow rates, as seen during the test, but that the critical commercial assessment (of the flow rates) is subject to a period of substantial subsurface data integration work (which is ongoing).

Youngs also doubted that the field could be commercialized by 2017, and that has proven true.

As to when the gas field could start to produce meaningful amounts of natural gas, it still looks to be years away.

CalEnergy recently requested and received, a variation to the permit work program from the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) to undertake reservoir pressure monitoring – this involves data gauges being placed in the Whicher Range 1 (WR-1) and Whicher Range 4 (WR-4) wells.

The company is continuing with reservoir pressure monitoring, and is focused on enhancing their understanding of reservoir behavior.

In the interim, CalEnergy has launched a Care and Maintenance Environment Plan (CMEP) to maintain the current well sites and drilling pads.

Will patience be a virtue?

For fifty years, the gas fields of the Whicher Range have both held out the promise of enormous economic benefit, and the frustration of inaccessibility.

CalEnergy notes that in the past, “feasibility studies have failed to identify an economic technical strategy for the development of commercial gas production.”

The good news is that as a result of its tests, the company now believes that gas recovery is feasible, and Berkshire’s patience will pay eventually off.

© 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.

Record Recreational Vehicle Sales Paint Bright Picture for Forest River

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Berkshire Hathaway’s recreational vehicle manufacturer Forest River is having a stellar year, and fall sales industry-wide have leapt dramatically from the already stellar 2016 levels.

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association ‘s October survey of manufacturers found RV wholesale shipments finished at 48,926, an increase of 26.2% from the 38,765 units shipped last October.

Those numbers improve on the 15.3% increase the 2016 numbers represented over 2015 levels, and the October 2017 shipments is the best October on comparable record, and is currently the highest monthly shipment total for 2017.

RV wholesale shipments have reached 426,932 through ten months of 2017, up 17.6% compared to the 363,051 units shipped over the same period last year.

All towable RVs, led by conventional travel trailers, totaled 43,294 units for the month, an increase of 27% compared to last October’s towable RV shipment total. Year-to-date totals for towable RV are 18.1% to 373,967 units.

October motorhome shipments are up 20.2% to 5,632 units over last year, paced by solid gains in all motorhome types. Year-to-date motorhome shipments have reached 52,965 units on 14.4% growth over the 46,285 units shipped during the same period last year.

As the year comes to an end, it looks to be a record year for Forest River, and the RV industry.

© 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.

Berkadia’s LA Office Arranges $156+ Million in Financing

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Berkadia, Berkshire Hathaway’s joint venture with Leucadia National Corporation, has arranged $156.56 million in Fannie Mae financing on behalf of Realty Center Management for a portfolio of four multifamily properties throughout California.

Senior Director Branden McBirney, Associate Director Garrett LaBar and Senior Analyst Vickie Wible led the team in the deal, which closed on November 30.

Three of the 10-year permanent fixed rate loans featured a 3.64 percent interest rate, a 55 percent loan-to-value ratio and full-term interest only payments. The fourth loan featured a 4.05 percent fixed rate, a 75 percent loan-to-value ratio and three years of interest only payments. The loans were placed as a portfolio but were not cross-collateralized. The proceeds were used to refinance existing debt on the properties.

“We were excited to provide another seamless execution on behalf of our client,” said McBirney. “In order to secure very advantageous pricing, we were required to close all four loans simultaneously on the same day.”

Properties financed include:

• Overlook at Blue Ravine is located at 1200 Creekside Drive in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom, California. The property, which features a basketball court, a clubhouse, a fitness center, a putting green and a tennis court, received $88.6 million in financing.

• Americana South Bay is a luxury apartment complex in Torrance, California. The property, which features one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, received $32.3 million in financing and is located at 20707 Anza Ave.

• Hollywood Place Apartments is located in Hollywood Hills at 7400 Hollywood Blvd. and features studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments with fireplaces, hardwood floors, granite countertops, private storage and patios and balconies. Berkadia secured $20.8 million in financing for the property.

• Regency at Sherman Oaks was recently redesigned and features many property amenities, such as a pool, a fitness center, a sauna and a barbeque area and is located at 4616 Willis Ave. in Sherman Oaks, California. The Los Angeles team secured $14.6 million for the refinancing.

About Berkadia

Founded in 2009 as a 50/50 joint venture between Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia National Corporation, Berkadia is a third-party commercial mortgage servicer, as well as an approved lender for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD/FHA.

The company is among the top Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae multifamily lenders.

Berkadia owes its origins to GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corporation, which was acquired in 2009 by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Five Mile Capital Partners LLC, and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners. Christened Capmark Financial, the company had $10 billion of originations in 2008 and a servicing portfolio of more than $360 billion before running into bankruptcy in October 2009.

In a deal approved by the bankruptcy court, Capmark sold its mortgage loan and servicing to the newly formed Berkadia in a deal worth $515 million.

The deal brought Berkshire into the heart of the commercial loan serving business, and the company has one of the largest commercial real estate servicing portfolios.

© 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.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Names Former Chubb Employee to Head New Accident & Health Insurance in New Zealand

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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company (BHSI) has appointed Jared McGrath to head its new line of Accident & Health products in New Zealand. The product line includes Corporate Travel, Group Personal Accident, and Expatriate Medical Insurance.

“Jared comes to BHSI with extensive experience in the New Zealand A&H marketplace,” said Cameron McLisky, Country Manager, New Zealand, BHSI. “We are pleased to have him aboard, forging strong partnerships with employers and brokers with A&H solutions that enhance worker wellness and benefits, while lowering employer costs.”

Jared comes to BHSI with nearly 15 years of industry experience. He was most recently New Zealand Corporate Manager, Accident & Health, Chubb Insurance. Before that, he was A&H Corporate Account Manager at the combined ACE/Chubb organization and A&H Account Manager at Ace Insurance.

According to BHSI, its A&H products are distinguished by enhancements that provide meaningful and practical support to employees when they are in need. For example, BHSI’s Corporate Travel Insurance extends emergency assistance and concierge support to employees who face emergencies while traveling or that impact their home or family when they are away. Technology is also integral to BHSI’s A&H strategy. Online claim reporting is available for all products, with SMS notifications keeping claimants up to date throughout the claims process.

© 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.

Teamster Mechanics Ratify Agreement With NetJets

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The labor troubles that long plagued NetJets are finally over. NetJets aircraft technicians and related employees have ratified a new six-year collective bargaining agreement with the Columbus, Ohio-based fractional ownership private jet company.

NetJets ongoing labor disputes, which for a number of years saw the pilot’s union stage informational picketing at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, has made steady progress since the pilot’s won a 30 percent raise at the thend of 2015.

The latest agreement is with The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Teamsters Airline Division and the Teamsters Local 284 that represent 212 aircraft mechanics, maintenance controllers, stock clerks, aircraft fuelers and aircraft cleaners at the company.

“After more than six years of negotiations, our members secured a new contract with major improvements, including an immediate 20 percent wage increase, additional pay increases every year of the contract, premium-free health insurance that can’t be cut or reduced, retirement improvements and many other benefits,” said Capt. David Bourne, Teamsters Airline Division Director. “The union and its members stand ready to work with NetJets to help ensure a successful company and the highest standards of air safety now and in the future.”

More than 94 percent of the members voted on the proposed contract which goes into effect tomorrow. NetJets will pay signing bonuses of up to $30,000 by the end of the month. NetJets workers are also eligible for employer matching contributions if they direct some or all of their bonus into their 401(k) accounts.

“The new labor agreement was made possible by membership solidarity and the support of unionized NetJets pilots, flight attendants and dispatchers, as well as the hard work and dedication of a long line of Teamsters representatives at every level of our union who pulled out all the stops for these men and women,” said Local 284 President Mark Vandak. “This contract demonstrates what strong unions can accomplish for working people across the United States.”

The new contract runs through December 2023. NetJets has the right to extend the contract for an additional two years if it provides additional wage increases, hires additional aircraft technicians at its Columbus maintenance facility and satisfies other negotiated requirements.

© 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’s Particle Sciences Signs Manufacturing Deal with PixarBio Corporation

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Lubrizol’s Particle Sciences division has signed an agreement to manufacture PixarBio’s NR14 product for clinical trials.

In 2018, PixarBio will be able to apply to the US FDA for fast track approval through the CDER Breakthrough Therapy designation.

“Although the agreement covers our 14 day treatment, we also have a 7 and 3 day product in our pipeline that are not part of this agreement. We worked for over 3 years with PSI to put this agreement in place and look forward to a long term collaboration. I am confident that with the FDA’s fast track approval we can receive FDA clearance to market NR14 in late 2019,” said CEO Frank Reynolds.

According to PixarBio, NeuroRelease™ is a morphine replacement, and non-addictive pain platform for post-surgical pain. First product FDA approval for the platform will be for a 14-day post-surgical pain treatment and it is expected in late 2019.

The platform can be formulated for acute and chronic pain treatments.

© 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.

Fruit of the Loom Brand Debuts in India

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Fruit of the Loom has hit the retail shelves in India thanks to a licensing agreement with Rupa and Company, the number one knitwear maker in India.

Rupa, which has the capacity to make over 700,000 pieces of knitwear a day, is paying a fixed royalty for the right to manufacture Fruit of the Loom branded products.

“We aim to achieve sales of Rs 500 crore from Fruit of the Loom in next two-three years,” said Ramesh Agarwal, Whole Time Director of Rupa & Co., in an appearance on CNBC-TV18.

Agarwal is hopeful that the Fruit of the Loom brand will enable it to gain a 20 percent share of India’s premium underwear market.

Rupa has received broad recognition for its success in the knitwear industry, including receiving the Best Corporate Brand Award by The Economic Times at ‘The Economic Times Best Corporate Brands Summit 2015’ held in Mumbai.

© 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.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company Offers Professional First Financial Institution Professional Indemnity Insurance in Asia

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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company (BHSI) has introduced Professional First Financial Institution Professional Indemnity (FIPI) Insurance in Asia.

“Financial institutions are seeing an increase in both the frequency and severity of professional indemnity claims.” said Scotland Walsh-Riddle, Head of Executive & Professional Lines at BHSI Hong Kong. “To respond to their needs, we’re introducing comprehensive and customizable protection to address the exposures FI professionals face now.”

The new BHSI policy is designed to cover a range of claims, from allegations of failure to disclose information, to misleading financial advice and breach of contracts. It combines coverage for civil liability, pre-investigations, mitigation expenses, bail bond costs, court attendance, loss of documents, and more.

“Financial institutions deliver diverse services to their customers,” said Edwin Sim, Assistant Vice President of Executive & Professional Lines at BHSI Singapore. “Hence, we have set out to provide them with the peace of mind that comes with broad FIPI coverage. Through clearly articulated wording, BHSI Asia’s FIPI insurance policy will provide our customers with the security of coverage backed by unmatched financial strength.”

The policy is designed for medium to large financial institutions, including securities dealers, regional banks, insurance companies, reinsurance companies, diversified institutions, and financial technology (FinTech) and corporate advisory firms.

© 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.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty Acquires Attorneys Title

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Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty has acquired North Carolina-based Attorneys Title, the company recently announced.

The acquisitions adds expertise, resources and a seamless customer experience to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty.

Attorneys Title President Kimberly Rosenberg and Vice President of Operations Bryan Rosenberg will continue on in their respective roles.

“The Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty family of companies is committed to redefining home-buying, home-selling, and homeownership by integrating all the elements of the real estate transaction into a seamless experience,” says Tommy Camp, president and CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty family of companies. “The merger of Attorneys Title into our organization reinforces and strengthens this commitment and our ability to provide the highest level of service to our clients and sales associates.”

“The longstanding commitment by Attorneys Title to our customers and our employees will not change,” says Kimberly Rosenberg. “Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty and Attorneys Title have a shared vision of providing superior customer service. In Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty we have found a business partner with an impeccable reputation and one that provides us with exciting opportunities for growth as we continue to serve the needs of our new and existing clients.”

Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue to Power Berkshire’s 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.