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NetJets

NetJets Paying Cancellation Fees as Profits Grounded

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

No one likes cancellation fees when they fly, and for Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets Inc. it’s when they don’t fly, or more specifically when they don’t buy that they incur fees.

NetJets is ponying up cancellation fees as it cuts orders for aircraft purchases and grapples with slumping earnings even as revenues grow.

Columbus, Ohio-based NetJets has run into turbulence this past quarter with its earnings down a whopping 37-percent. Earnings for the first nine months of the year were down a less dramatic but still meaningful 7-percent.

“In 2015, NetJets incurred increased non-fuel flight operation costs and increased general and administrative expenses, including fees to cancel certain aircraft purchases,” Berkshire Hathaway said in its most recent quarterly financial report.

Total revenues were up 5-percent but the company reported that the revenue growth was “partially offset by lower flight operations revenues, which were primarily due to lower fuel cost recoveries.”

Back in 2012, NetJets announced the largest private jet purchase in history, with a total of 425 aircraft scheduled to be added to its worldwide fleet. At the time, it valued the total purchase from Bombardier and Cessna at $9.6 billion.

Now, it looks like some of those orders will go unfilled.

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

© 2015 David Mazor

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

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Lubrizol

Lubrizol Building 66,000 Square-Foot Building in Texas

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s wholly-owned specialty chemical company, Lubrizol Specialty Products Inc., is planning to build a 66,000 square-foot building in Bryan, Texas.

Under the terms of the Chapter 380 agreement that was approved earlier this month by the Bryan city council, Lubrizol will receive 100 percent tax abatements in year one, 70 percent in year two, and the tax abatements would then decrease by 10 percent each year, ending at 10 percent in year eight.

Lubrizol will also be reimbursed an amount not to exceed $75,000 for development costs including site plans, platting and permit fees for the new facility. The reimbursement is eligible upon upon the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy for the facility.

In exchange for the abatements, Lubrizol agrees to construct the 66,000 square-foot building, a minimum of $25 million in real property while maintaining a minimum increase in Brazos Central Appraisal District value of $20 million.

In addition, Lubrizol must hire at least 24 new employees with an increased payroll of $1.5 million.

About Lubrizol

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

© 2015 David Mazor

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

Categories
Kraft Heinz

New York State Commits Tens of Millions to Keep Kraft Heinz Plants

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Twenty million dollars is a lot of cheddar, as the old saying goes, but it’s also a lot of cottage cheese and sour cream too.

Kraft Heinz has been busy closing plants and laying off employees, as a part of its rigorous cost cutting, but in upstate New York it is promising to keep plants open and is about to add hundreds of employees.

Under an agreement spearheaded by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo, $20 million in state funds have been committed to keep open Kraft Heinz’s plants in Walton, Avon and Lowville.

Kraft-Heinz was initially planning to close the Avon facility and layoff all 405 employees, and the agreement also reversed the planned closure of the Walton facility.

Saving jobs, Adding Jobs

An agreement was reached between New York State and Kraft-Heinz to save three of their facilities in Upstate New York, including the Walton facility in Delaware County that was initially slated for closure, as well as add additional jobs in Lowville.

Senator Schumer said this agreement will preserve a significant employment base throughout Upstate New York for years to come.

In addition, the agreement paved the way for a matching capital investment from both Kraft-Heinz and New York State that will allow for future investment in the company’s technology, facilities and operations.

The Kraft-Heinz Walton facility, which produces cottage cheese and sour cream, employs a total of 141 people in Delaware County. Kraft-Heinz was planning to close the Walton facility and layoff all 141 employees. The agreement reached between Kraft-Heinz, Senator Schumer and Governor Cuomo will save the Walton plant and all 141 jobs for at least the next 5 years, ensuring that there are no layoffs or reductions at the facility.

Additionally, in an effort to help save the 393 jobs at the Campbell facility in Steuben County, Schumer and Cuomo secured a commitment from Kraft-Heinz to delay the closure and continue to operate the facility for at least the next 12 to 24 months, and to work with state, federal and local officials to help find a strategic buyer for the facility that would keep the plant open and retain the 393 jobs.

The company has also agreed to offer any employees leaving the Campbell facility first choice for the new positions at the Avon and Lowville plants.

Lastly, the Lowville Kraft-Heinz facility in Lewis County will retain all of its existing 340 employees and will add scores of additional jobs at the Lowell facility over the next five years.

A $50 million Investment

In return for the state funds, Kraft Heinz will invest $20 million over that same amount of time as a part of this deal. If after those five years, Kraft-Heinz has not decreased their aggregate employment in New York State, and has invested at least $25 million in its Upstate operations, New York State will then invest an additional $5 million, bringing the combined matching total investment to at least $50 million in Upstate New York.

© 2015 David Mazor

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

Categories
BNSF

BNSF’s Proposed Intermodal Facility Awaits Court Ruling

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

The fate of BNSF Railway’s proposed near-dock intermodal rail facility, known as the Southern California International Gateway Project (SCIG), is hanging in the balance until a California judge rules on civil rights and environmental issues.

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit in June in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Harbor residents living near the proposed development that would be built on Port of Los Angeles property.

The Plaintiffs contend the proposed Southern California International Gateway rail yard project violates the California Environmental Quality Act and the state and federal Civil Rights Acts.

Specifically, they assert that the facility will increase cancer rates, chances of children developing asthma, and add to chronic air pollution plaguing the region.

Last week, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry Goode heard arguments and set Jan. 28, 2016 as the date to hear additional arguments involving CEQA’s fair-hearing provision.

He is expected to rule by February whether the project can move forward.

Gateway to the Nation

Some 40-percent of imported goods sold across the country are shipped through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The intermodal rail facility would be near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Ports are located approximately 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The port complex is composed of approximately 80 miles of waterfront and 7,500 acres of land and water, with approximately 500 commercial berths. The Ports include: automobile, container, omni, lumber, and cruise ship terminals; liquid and dry bulk terminals; and extensive transportation infrastructure for cargo movement by truck and rail.

Environmental Hazard or Asset?

While environmental groups, the City of Long Beach, and the local school district decry the project, BNSF claims the project will actually bring environmental benefits, as it will be cleaning up an existing truck yard and investing over $100 million in green technology.

The Port of LA’s draft environmental review found that SCIG will have a positive impact on traffic, both locally and regionally, by eliminating millions of truck trips from the 710, reducing congestion near the ports and along the 710 corridor.

NRDC attorneys and scientists have suggested several solutions to reduce the anticipated pollution associated with the project:

1.) Utilization of cleaner Tier 3 and Tier 4 locomotives instead of older, more polluting locomotives;

2.) Expand on-dock rail to eliminate the need for thousands of additional short-haul truck trips;

3.) Use zero-emission container movement systems.

Whatever the case, it won’t be resolved until Judge Goode’s ruling, and even that may be just the first round of a protracted legal battle.

© 2015 David Mazor

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

Categories
Berkshire Hathaway Energy

NV Energy Can Join Energy Imbalance Market with Conditions

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted Berkshire Hathaway’s NV Energy permission to enter the western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), a move that will save NV Energy millions a year.

However, the authorization comes with conditions.

FERC wrote in their November 19, 2015 order, “…we will allow the Berkshire EIM Sellers to participate in the EIM at market-based rates on the condition that: (1) the Berkshire EIM Sellers offer their units that are participating in the EIM into the EIM at or below each unit’s Default Energy Bid, as defined below; and (2) the Berkshire EIM Sellers facilitate CAISO’s enforcement of all internal transmission constraints in the PacifiCorp and NV Energy balancing authority areas.”

Financially binding participation in the real-time market will commence on December 1, 2015.

With the entry of NV Energy, the EIM will cover almost all of Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, along with California and some of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The Savings Add Up

NV Energy will save millions annually. The company’s attributed share of gross benefits is estimated to range from $6 million to $10 million in 2017, and from $8 million to $12 million by 2022.

Berkshire’s PacifiCorp Already Saving Millions

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

The predicted benefits for PacifiCorp have proven to be true, and the California Independent Service Operator (CAISO) has been able to quantify the benefits for the year so far were over $33 million.

About the Energy Imbalance Market

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

© 2015 David Mazor

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

Categories
MiTek

MiTek Expands Its Houston, TX Warehouse

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s MiTek has expanded its Houston, Texas, warehouse to 50,000 square feet to offer more product variety, more inventory, and faster order fulfillment rates.

The expanded warehouse will contain USP Structural Connectors, USP Epoxy, MiTek truss plates, and Hardy Frame® Shear Wall product lines. MiTek chose to expand the Houston warehouse to address the needs of local contractor and DIY markets, where MiTek has seen increased demand for its products to address coastal wind codes and general building requirements.

Already operational today, the expanded warehouse will reach its new full capacity in January of 2016, allowing reduced “ship times” and heightened customer responsiveness. MiTek projects that it will be able to ship most products for same-day or next-day delivery. For even faster responsiveness, the warehouse will also offer local customers the convenience of “will call” capability.

“MiTek has seen growing demand for its products in the Texas markets, and this expanded warehouse will allow us to be much more responsive to order fulfillment for this larger customer base,” said Todd Asche, Senior Vice President of Operations. “The warehouse will feature the latest in inventory monitoring and processing systems, offering the utmost assurance to customers of product availability across our expanded product lines.”

About MiTek

MiTek is a diversified global supplier of software, engineered products, services, and equipment to the residential, commercial, and industrial, construction sectors. MiTek Industries’ passion for its associates’ well-being and its customers’ success is the company’s hallmark.

A Berkshire Hathaway company since 2001, MiTek has operations in more than 40 countries on six continents.

© 2015 David Mazor

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

Categories
Berkshire Hathaway Energy

NV Energy Set to Save Millions Beginning December 1st

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

It’s going to be a very nice Christmas indeed for Berkshire Hathaway’s NV Energy.

After a month-long delay, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authorized NV Energy to enter the western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), a move that will save NV Energy millions a year.

The California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) and NV Energy have begun implementing the final steps needed to begin full and financially binding participation in the real-time market on December 1, 2015.

NV Energy was originally scheduled to join the western Energy Imbalance Market on November 1.

Millions in Projected Savings

NV Energy will save millions annually, with its attributed share of gross benefits estimated to range from $6 million to $10 million in 2017, and from $8 million to $12 million by 2022.

Berkshire’s PacifiCorp Already Saving Millions

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

The predicted benefits for PacifiCorp have proven to be true, and the California Independent Service Operator (CAISO) has been able to quantify the benefits for the year so far were over $33 million.

About the Energy Imbalance Market

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

© 2015 David Mazor

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

Categories
GEICO Insurance

GEICO Debuts Electronic ID Cards

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

GEICO, New York’s largest auto insurer, is providing New York drivers with electronic proof of insurance on their smartphones and other electronic devices. The GEICO digital ID cards are featured through the GEICO Mobile App.

GEICO is the first insurer in the state to do so.

Earlier this year, New York’s DMV amended its regulation dealing with insurance identification cards so that now New York motorists are able to provide proof of auto liability coverage with electronic ID cards.

Since then, the state set up certification testing for insurers who want to provide the digital service.

GEICO is the first company to complete the certification process with the New York DMV in order to satisfy the state’s regulatory requirements.

“We are happy to have worked with the N.Y. DMV and others to be able to offer this added convenience to consumers in New York,” said John Pham, vice president of GEICO’s New York operations. “Electronic ID cards are another example of how we make things easier for our customers. Less paper means less hassle, and also helps the environment.”

Use of Apps Goes Back Six Years

The GEICO app first appeared in 2009 to offer policyholders with immediate access to their current insurance information. It has added features regularly since then and now customers can complete their insurance needs on their smartphones. You can make changes in coverage, report and track claims, get roadside assistance and chat directly with GEICO on the mobile app.

The latest national study on insurance mobile apps ranked the GEICO app number one in the industry for its overall functionality to meet customer needs, and Forrester Research dubbed it one of “the pocket auto insurers” in its 2015 US Mobile Auto Insurance Functionality Benchmark, released by Forrester Research Inc. on Oct. 19, 2015.

© 2015 David Mazor

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

Categories
Berkshire Hathaway Energy

MidAmerican Energy to Build Tallest Land-Based Wind Turbine in U.S.

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy Company is building the tallest land-based wind turbine ever built in the United States.

The new wind farm in Adams County, Iowa, will include a first for the company – a concrete wind turbine tower.

“Advancements in turbine design and construction techniques are opening up new opportunities for development of renewable resources,” Mike Gehringer, vice president, renewable energy, said. “We want to continue to lead in bringing innovative energy solutions to our customers and the state of Iowa.”

Siemens has been hired for the supply and construction of the new concrete tower design.
Gehringer noted that both companies view this tower as a prototype that could serve as the model for other concrete turbine towers at future wind farms and could open up low-to-medium wind resource areas of Iowa for future wind development.

“The process of building a concrete tower is quite different from the process we use to construct turbines with steel towers,” Gehringer said. “Instead of building the tower sections in a factory and transporting them to the site to be fitted together, crews pour the concrete in segments and manufacture the tower onsite.”

Using concrete in place of steel provides the option to install a taller wind turbine that can capture more wind energy. “Generally speaking, the higher the altitude, the greater the wind resource available,” Gehringer said.

The 2.3-megawatt concrete tower turbine at the Adams wind farm will measure 377 feet from ground to hub, compared to 263 feet for most of the turbines in use at other MidAmerican Energy wind farms. With blades extended, the turbine will reach a height of 554 feet, making it about as tall as the Washington Monument.

The concrete turbine is one of 64 wind turbines planned for the Adams wind farm.

Construction is underway on the 154-megawatt project, and all turbines are scheduled to be erected by the end of 2015.

About MidAmerican Energy Company

A wholly-owned unit of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, MidAmerican Energy Company provides electric service to 746,000 customers and natural gas service to 726,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota.

© 2015 David Mazor

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

Categories
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Insurance

Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection Jumps into Vacation Rental Insurance

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you don’t need insurance coverage according to Berkshire Hathaway’.

Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (BHTP) is teaming up with VacationGuard, one of the top providers of vacation rental insurance, to create customized travel insurance products for timeshares, travel clubs, resorts and vacationers.

The travel insurance products help protect property owners and vacation renters from trip cancellation, delays, injuries and accidental damage to rental units.

VacationGuard products have been approved in 45 jurisdictions, with filings pending in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

VacationGuard was one of the pioneers of developing benefits and plan designs for vacation rental insurance more than 20 years ago. The ability to align with BHTP allows VacationGuard to offer new technologies and innovative products backed by the security of one of the biggest brands in travel insurance.

“We’ve always sought a vertically integrated carrier with world-class services, and BHTP has proven themselves to be leaders in embracing innovation, technology, and a culture that will protect the brand-sensitive companies we work with,” said Brian Rock, Vice President of VacationGuard. “We are very excited for the long-term stability and innovations this will bring to our program. This further illustrates we will deliver peace-of-mind to our plan holders and business clients.”

About Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection

In January 2014, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance acquired the assets of the Noel Group’s MyAssist and Insure America in order to move into an area of travel insurance that is different than traditional trip cancellation policies.

The company launched its innovative AirCare Travel Insurance product, which is sold for only $25 a domestic flight, and its key feature is real-time monitoring of your flight status and direct deposits into your bank account.

© 2015 David Mazor

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