Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Opens Office in Dubai

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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company has received its insurance license from the Dubai Financial Services Authority and established an office in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), while naming Alessandro Cerase as its Senior Executive Officer (SEO) and Neeraj Yadvendu as deputy SEO and Head of Third Party Lines for the Middle East.

In addition, Alessandro will be leading First Party Lines for BHSI’s broader Asia Middle East region, which includes BHSI’s other regional hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore as well as its operations in Malaysia and Macau.

“We are excited to expand BHSI’s footprint in this region which will service those markets in the Middle East and beyond who seek (re)insurance support in the DIFC. The strategic location of Dubai as well as the stability and efficiency of the DIFC make it an ideal hub for BHSI to support economic growth in the region. Our operation in the DIFC will bring BHSI’s financial strength, and underwriting and claims excellence to the region.” said Marc Breuil, President of Asia Middle East, BHSI. “We are excited to be able to serve customers and brokers in the region under the experienced leadership of Alessandro and Neeraj.”

BHSI will provide a suite of specialty and commercial (re)insurance products to its network of brokers and ceding companies with a focus on construction, energy, property, marine, casualty and executive and professional lines.

Alessandro comes to BHSI with 20 years of global experience spanning both the engineering and underwriting sides of the insurance business. He was most recently Global Head of Energy and Engineered Risk at AIG. He holds a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Universita’ degli Studi di Roma.

Neeraj joins BHSI after two decades in the insurance industry, most recently as Regional Head of Casualty and Financial Lines at AXA Asia. He received his master’s degree in Business Administration from India’s University of Pune, and his bachelor’s degree from City College, Calcutta University.

2018 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 in Top Three in Wind Energy Production

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Xcel Energy, Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Alliant Energy are the top three US utilities with “wind capacity currently under construction or in advanced development,” according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Wind is playing an ever-increasing role in the US energy market.

Some 7,017 MW of new wind capacity was added in 2017, which boosted the US’s total to 89,077 MW.

Wind power has passed hydroelectric as the number one renewable energy source.

Wind energy generation is also a growing employer nationwide. At the end of 2016, the US topped 100,000 Americans employed in the wind energy industry.

According to the according to the American Wind Energy Association, “wind energy delivered over 30% of the electricity produced in Iowa and South Dakota in 2016. Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota generated over 20% of their electricity from wind, while 20 states now produce more than 5% of their electricity from wind energy.”

Berkshire Hathaway is also playing a key role in the financing of wind-power projects. The recently announced 300-MW Tahoka Wind project, which will be constructed in Lynn County, Texas, has long-term tax equity from BHE Renewables, LLC, a Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company.

© 2018 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 ADL Pure Electric Buses Continue to Conquer London

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On Saturday, February 3, a fleet of BYD ADL pure electric buses took over operation of a fourth London bus route.

Route 153, operated by Go-Ahead London on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), runs an intensive service from before 05.00 to after 23.00 six days a week (with a slightly later start on Sundays). The Route spans many of the City of London’s most congested streets between its termini at Finsbury Park in the north to Moorgate in the heart of the financial district.

The new fleet consists of 11 of the 10.8m BYD ADL Enviro200EV single deckers, similar to others operated by Go-Ahead and now a familiar sight on London roads. The well proven zero emission vehicles entered service successfully and operate from the Northumberland Park Garage in Tottenham, north London. The new buses marked the transfer of the route to Go-Ahead from CT Plus. BYD has supplied the depot with its own-designed and manufactured charging points.

The other three ADL BYD serviced London routes, all with Go-Ahead, are the 521 and 507 from Waterloo and the 360 from Camberwell. Other routes and operators will receive fleets of BYD ADL electric buses in the coming months following tender wins by the partnership.

“We are delighted to make another significant step in the electrification of London’s bus routes and to be in the vanguard of the transformation. At Go-Ahead we have developed considerable practical knowledge of electric bus operation, gained over six years, and are well positioned to contribute further to the improvement of the capital’s air quality”, said Richard Harrington, Go-Ahead Group’s Engineering Director.

“The smooth switch on of our electric buses to operate another intensive London route is a testament to the strength of our overall offering – not just the proven and reliable buses themselves but of the back up and support of our partners in planning and installing the necessary equipment to make electric bus operation successful from day one”, said Frank Thorpe, UK Country Manager for BYD UK, speaking on behalf of the ADL BYD partnership.

BYD sold over 14,000 electric buses globally in 2017 and, in partnership with ADL, single deck market leader in the UK, its fleets in London, Liverpool and Nottingham have already accumulated well over a million miles of emissions free operation on UK roads.

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.

© 2018 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.

QuickChek Re-Ups with McLane Company for the Long Haul

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Berkshire Hathaway’s McLane Company, Inc., a leading supply chain services company providing grocery and foodservice supply chain solutions, has renewed its service agreement with QuickChek Corporation.

The extended agreement, which continues a 28-year relationship, was developed to stimulate a partnership for long-term growth and will include a complete supply chain solution for grocery, beverages, candy, snacks, health and beauty care, general merchandise, cigarettes and other tobacco products to QuickChek’s 154 fresh convenience market locations throughout New Jersey, New York’s Hudson Valley and Long Island.

During the renewed agreement, QuickChek plans to test the Premium Order Management Suite Reclamation application that streamlines the reclamation process by identifying the items that can be returned for credit and sends a detailed report of scanned reclamations digitally.

Named the 2016 National Convenience Store Chain of the Year, QuickChek already takes advantage of various value-added solutions offered by McLane. These include the McLane Link customer portal that allows customers to access key information such as order activity and operational metric data from their computer or tablet and McLane’s Center for Category Innovation that combines the knowledge of McLane experienced category managers and supplier partners with McLane’s extensive data warehouse to provide customers with objective sales data down to the zip code level. The resulting market insights determine the best product mix scenarios and key selling opportunities for the stores.

“McLane and QuickChek share many of the same core values including an unwavering dedication to our customers. We are honored they chose to extend the relationship with a service agreement that promotes long-term growth. We look forward to growing together in the years to come,” said Vito Maurici, senior VP of sales of McLane Grocery.

“We look forward to continuing our relationship and utilizing McLane’s goods and services as we strive for new ways to redefine fresh convenience in meeting the needs of today’s on-the-go, fast-casual shopper,” said QuickChek CEO Dean Durling, whose family-owned company is a market leader in food services with an exceptional fresh coffee and fresh food program offering restaurant-quality food at value prices and a wide array of grocery items.

© 2018 David Mazor

Velocity Transport Joins Blockchain in Transport Alliance

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Velocity Freight Transport, Inc. has joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a forum for the development of blockchain standards and education for the freight industry.

As one of the first freight brokerage companies to join BiTA, Velocity will work closely with the organization to set new standards for the use of blockchain technology in the transportation space.

With this announcement, Velocity Transport joins a consortium of 250-plus companies that have joined BiTA within the last six months and have a vested interest in the development of blockchain technology.

McLane Company Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway-owned supply chain services company, recently launched Velocity Transport as a freight brokerage company dedicated to providing significant value to both shippers and carriers.

Velocity Transport entered the marketplace to offer comprehensive freight solutions and deliver an unparalleled level of service to both shippers and carriers. Velocity’s decision to join BiTA reinforces the leadership team’s dedication to providing significant value to their clients and leading the freight brokerage industry into a new era of cutting-edge technology and thinking.

“We believe blockchain provides great value in solving industry pain points, but there needs to be clarity and standards around its use and BiTA intends to provide that through education and promotion of the technology,” said Chris Burruss, president of BiTA. “Velocity adds a crucial voice to BiTA, and their perspective will help BiTA and its membership build the world’s first transportation industry-specific blockchain standards.”

By engaging the brightest minds from the most influential leaders in transportation, finance and technology, BiTA is focused on providing educational resources and open forums to those in the industry interested in leading the evolution of the trucking industry through the efficiencies offered in blockchain technology.

“By becoming a member of BiTA, Velocity is connecting with a group of like-minded companies that want to drive innovation and advocate for the adoption of blockchain applications in the freight industry,” said John Lower, vice president of Velocity Transport. “We are very excited about the great potential of blockchain technology and are proud to join the team that will set the standards for its use going forward.”

Other Berkshire Hathaway companies that have joined BITA include BNSF Railway.

© 2018 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.

BNSF Joins the Blockchain in Transport Alliance

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BNSF Railway Company has became the first Class I railroad to join the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA).

BiTA is comprised of more than 200 freight transportation companies working to develop blockchain standards for the logistics industry and the supply chain as a whole.

“Blockchain technology has the potential to change several aspects of the transportation industry and it is important that the industry comes together to align around a set of standards,” said Muru Murugappan, BNSF vice president of technology services and chief information officer. “We are excited to help drive those standards forward as a member of BiTA.”

BNSF along with the other members of BiTA will work to define what data goes into the freight transportation blockchain, how that data is formatted, how the data is structured and in what cases blockchain would be used.

Blockchain functions as a distributed ledger, wherein all members of a particular blockchain have access to all the data within it. By housing information with each member, altering the information within a blockchain is difficult – requiring 51 percent of the blockchain’s participants to approve the change.

“BNSF is one of the most important members of the North American transportation network, providing the backbone of American commerce. Their embracement of technology standards for the future of the industry will have a profound impact on the future of customer supply chains,” said Craig Fuller, chief executive officer, BiTA.

© 2018 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 Utilities Have $13+ Million in Benefits from Western Energy Imbalance Market in 4th Qtr 2017

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The California Independent System Operator (ISO) has released its western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) 2017 fourth quarter benefits report that shows the real-time energy imbalance market produced $33.46 million benefits for its six participating members.

During the fourth quarter of 2017 two Berkshire Hathaway Energy companies had over $13 million in benefits. PacifiCorp realized benefits of $6.83 million and NV Energy saved $6.45 million.

The total benefits since the western regional market was launched in 2014 now total $288.44 million for all six members.

Western EIM participants helped reduce carbon emissions in the region by 7,730 metric tons by using 18,060 megawatt-hours of excess renewable energy that otherwise would have been turned off; this translates into removing 1,655 passenger cars from the highways for a year.

“The ISO’s western EIM continues its positive uptick in benefits, accruing savings as it promotes a greener and more reliable energy grid,” said ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich. “We are very pleased with the results for all participants in this growing market.”

The EIM’s state-of-art technology automatically finds and delivers low-cost energy to serve consumers in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.

In addition to leveraging the diverse resources from a larger pool, the effective use of carbon-free generation provides added environmental benefits. Besides using low-cost energy, EIM utilities reduce their costs by being able to join together to decrease the amount of energy reserves that individual utilities must carry in real time to manage load.

© 2018 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.

BNSF Plans $3.3 Billion Capital Investment in 2018

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BNSF Railway Company has announced its 2018 capital investment plan of $3.3 billion. This year’s capital plan reflects BNSF’s continued focus on maintaining its network as well as expansion projects aimed at meeting customer demands.

“Every year we work to ensure our capital investment plan enables us to continue to operate a safe and reliable rail network as well as anticipates the needs of our customers,” said Carl Ice, BNSF president and chief executive officer. “Our attention to safety and service, along with our investments in our network, provide a solid foundation for our ability to grow with our customers today and in the future.”

Since 2000 BNSF has invested more than $60 billion in its network all while remaining focused on its commitment to safety, maximizing efficiency and continuing to meet customers’ expectations. Like last year’s $3.3 billion capital program, the largest component of the plan will be to replace and maintain BNSF’s core network and related assets. Keeping the railroad well maintained ensures trains can run safely and helps limit the need for unscheduled service outages that can slow down the rail network and reduce capacity.

This year’s maintenance component is projected to be $2.4 billion. The projects included in this part of the plan will primarily be for replacing and upgrading rail, rail ties and ballast (which are the main components for the tracks on which BNSF trains operate) and maintaining its rolling stock. It will include approximately 13,000 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work and the replacement of more than 500 miles of rail and nearly 3 million rail ties.

“Our infrastructure is strong and robust. Our efforts to normalize our maintenance investment have positioned us to replace the right assets at the right locations at the right time,” Ice said. “This allows our maintenance investment to be at similar levels year-to-year.”

Approximately $500 million of this year’s capital plan is for expansion and efficiency projects. The majority of those projects are focused on key growth areas along BNSF’s Southern and Northern Transcon routes, connecting Southern California with Chicago and the Pacific Northwest to Upper Midwest respectively.

The company has also allocated $100 million for positive train control as it moves toward meeting the Dec. 31, 2018 implementation deadline. BNSF is the only Class I freight railroad to have completed the installation of PTC on all its federally mandated subdivisions and is currently running hundreds of trains daily with PTC as it tests revenue service across its mandated territory.

Another element of its capital plan will be $300 million for freight cars and other equipment acquisitions.

© 2018 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.

Egypt Chooses BYD’s Electric Buses

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Egypt’s first pure electric bus will begin plying the streets of its second largest city Alexandria in the first half of the year under a new deal signed with BYD. Under the agreement, BYD will deliver 15 units of K9 12-meter pure electric buses and 18 charging poles, to accelerate the transition of local public transportation electrification.

The company won a competitive tender to provide its K9 pure electric buses after a call for submissions was made in April 2017. Countries such as Australia, the USA, UK, Japan and Italy operate the K9 in various scenarios. Powered by BYD’s proprietary battery technology, the K9 has a range of 250 kilometers.

BYD is ramping up its expansion across global markets as cities around the world shift towards more sustainable practices. In the Egyptian capital of Cairo, BYD’s sedan accounts for 40 percent of the city’s taxi fleet; its sports utility vehicle S5 is scheduled for a local launch in March.

Also in the pipeline are plans to assemble electric buses and electric cars in Egypt, construct a BYD SkyRail monorail through Alexandria’s congested city center and possibly develop the country’s solar energy sector.

“The tide is turning towards a greener way of living. We need to give ourselves a fighting chance if we are to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said AD Huang, General Manager of BYD Middle East and Africa Auto Sales Division.

BYD’s new energy vehicles span private, public and industrial use. The footprint has landed in more than 200 cities across 50 countries and regions.

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.

© 2018 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 Acquires 50% Interest in Riverside Capital

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Berkadia, Berkshire Hathaway’s joint venture with Leucadia National Corporation, has acquired a 50 percent ownership interest in Riverside Capital, a full-service tax credit investment company offering capital solutions to developers of high-quality affordable housing across the country.

Riverside has guided the financing and syndication for more than 7,500 affordable units across the country, representing $900 million of equity capital.

“This acquisition gives Berkadia the opportunity to expand our presence in the affordable housing space by enabling access to a deep network of developers and investor relationships,” said Berkadia CEO Justin Wheeler. “Riverside’s reputation as an established tax credit syndication platform, with its proven track record of providing capital solutions to the affordable housing industry’s leading development companies, appealed to our desire to grow within this increasingly important asset class.”

The acquisition creates a joint venture between Berkadia and The Michaels Organization, the nation’s largest privately-held owner and developer of affordable housing. Riverside, which is national in scope, has provided tax credit syndication services for top-tier affordable housing developments across the country, including for Michaels.

“We are proud to partner with Berkadia, one of the multifamily housing industry’s most respected and successful full-service mortgage banking, loan servicing and investment sales firms,” said John J. O’Donnell, president of The Michaels Organization. “This partnership propels Riverside into a position ripe for growth as an industry-leading capital provider and tax credit syndicator for much-needed affordable housing.”

“The partnership allows us to expand Riverside Capital’s capacity while continuing to offer our clients best-in-class opportunities and services,” said Sebastian Corradino, president of Riverside Capital. During Corradino’s tenure with Riverside, the firm more than doubled its volume and expanded its originating, underwriting and asset management teams.

Consistent with this strategy of growth in the affordable housing market, Berkadia has named Steve Ervin as the head of its prominent affordable housing group, charged with growing this platform. Mr. Ervin will lead the coordination of Berkadia’s affordable debt products including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD. In his time at Berkadia, Mr. Ervin launched the Seniors Housing and Healthcare group and is currently the head of Berkadia’s HUD production team, who was ranked #1 for volume in fiscal 2017. He will draw upon that experience to manage Berkadia’s expansion in the affordable housing industry.

In 2017, Berkadia’s loan origination volume surpassed $24 billion while its investment sales platform totaled nearly $8 billion.

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.

© 2018 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.