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FRANKFURT, Dec 21 (Reuters) - German chemicals group BASF (BASF.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to continue cost cuts in 2010 as it expects another difficult year, the chief executive of the world's largest chemical maker told a newspaper.
"We are determined to continue our measures to cut costs and improve efficiency in 2010," CEO Juergen Hambrecht said in an interview with the Leipziger Volkszeitung published on Monday.
He said 2010 could see a transition to normality but added that unemployment and insolvencies still posed a risk to the economic recovery.
Ongoing restructuring measures would add about 1 billion euros ($1.43 billion) to annual earnings from 2012, he reiterated.
Hambrecht told another newspaper this month that the company would earn more than expected in the fourth quarter due to an increase in orders. The company's third-quarter operating profit had also been above analyst estimates.
Asked about plans by German utility EnBW (EBKG.DE: Quote, Profile,Research) to gain a majority stake in eastern German natural gas distributor VNG, in which BASF also holds shares, the CEO told Leipziger Volkszeitung that VNG needed a well-balanced shareholder structure to develop successfully.
BASF, through its Wintershall oil and gas unit, owns 15.8 percent in VNG.
EWE [LANDWE.UL], a regional utility 26 percent owned by EnBW, holds a 48 percent stake in VNG. ($1=.6978 Euro) (Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)
Kansas City, MO (PRWEB) December 23, 2009 -- The aging of America’s 590,000 bridges has led to increased maintenance and rehabilitation funding in recent years, with even higher levels of future spending anticipated to sustain their health and safety. “While 50 years ago the nation faced a historic period of bridge construction, today it faces a historic period of bridge repair and reconstruction,” according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in its report titled Bridging the Gap.
The report credited state departments of transportation with keeping the nation’s network of bridges safe through ongoing inspections, the use of improved materials, and “ingenious repairs.” At the same time, the report acknowledged, “A significant new investment and national commitment is necessary to protect these invaluable assets.”
Special attention is being given to structures that are more than 50 years old and heavily traveled, which AASHTO has labeled, “Baby Boomer Bridges.” Falling into this category is the Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge, which stretches across the Mystic River to connect the Charlestown section of Boston with Chelsea. Currently operated by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the three-span, cantilevered truss bridge first opened to traffic in 1950.
At approximately 2 1/4-miles long, the bridge is the largest in New England and the first in Massachusetts to use a new, high-tech structural monitoring system that uses wireless sensors attached to various areas of the bridge. A continuous flow of data from these sensors will provide engineers with real-time information on loads, stresses, environmental conditions, and corrosion on the bridge. When fully operational, this “smart bridge technology” will enable engineers to address any issues immediately.
Engineers also follow a proactive schedule of bridge inspections and a carefully phased recoating and redecking program to keep the bridge in good condition. Bridge maintenance has been an ongoing priority since the late 1970s, when the first lead abatement project in the country was initiated by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) engineering department, which operated the bridge at that time. “I started my career on that bridge as a paint inspector,” recalled Larry Mitkus, who is currently a coating consultant with Tnemec Company. “I was on that bridge for three straight years, which is why I know it so well.”
Over the years, Mitkus has continued his involvement with the Tobin Bridge, specifying high-performance coating systems for major renovation projects, including an on-ramp for a toll plaza that was recoated in 2000. “They can’t recoat the entire bridge at once because of its size, so projects are divided under different contracts,” Mitkus explained. “The specified color is a federal standard green, which is a government specification.”
The three-coat system used on the on-ramp and other sections of the bridge consists of Series 90-97 Tneme-Zinc, a zinc-rich urethane primer, followed by an intermediate coat of Series 27 F.C. Typoxy, a polyamide epoxy. The finish coat, Series 73 Endura-Shield, an aliphatic acrylic polyurethane, provided protection from exterior weathering, abrasion and corrosive fumes. Overall, nearly 16,000 gallons of coatings have been used, representing 15 percent of the entire bridge. “The coating system provides the sacrificial corrosion performance of the zinc primer, the barrier protection of the epoxy intermediate coat and the UV resistance of the Series 73,” Mitkus said. “We have done a number of overpasses and bridge structures over the past 20 years that use a very similar coating system, including work for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.”
Each coating project was complicated by the need for full containment to prevent abrasives and paint from damaging automotive and truck traffic. “This is a major artery from the north coming into Boston, so there’s no way to shut down the bridge for recoating,” Mitkus noted. “In addition to protecting traffic, there’s the lead issue. A dense urban population is in proximity to the bridge, so there cannot be any abrasives or dust containing lead paint drifting onto surrounding properties. That was a major concern for Massport.”
Mitkus expects an increase in major bridge maintenance and repair projects during the next five to 10 years. “You’re going to see a definite increase in bridge coating because of the growing need,” he predicted. “There are bridges all over the country that are in disrepair, so we’re seeing more federal stimulus funding being allocated toward fixing the infrastructure.”
Loans at 0.57% to Family Members Could Save Millions on TaxesShare Business ExchangeTwitterFacebook| Email | Print | A A A
By Alexis Leondis and Margaret Collins
Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Estate planner Richard Behrendt helped his client make $5 million loans to each of his children this year, avoiding gift taxes of 45 percent and saving the kids as much as $837,000 apiece in interest.
Rates for so-called intra-family loans have declined as much as 53 percent since 2008. “The timing of it was clearly tied to the rock bottom of these rates,” said Behrendt, who works for Robert W. Baird & Co., based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The loans may be the perfect holiday gift to help relatives this year, according to Carol Kroch, head of wealth and financial planning at Wilmington, Delaware-based Wilmington Trust. For wealthy taxpayers, they can be used for estate planning purposes, since gains earned will be free of estate and gift taxes.
That’s because low interest rates and depressed asset values mean there’s a greater possibility that investments purchased with an intra-family loan, such as stock, will appreciate more than the loan’s cost, Kroch said.
The rate for an intra-family loan made in January 2010 for less than three years is 0.57 percent. The rate is 2.45 percent for a loan of three years to nine years and 4.11 percent for a loan of nine years or more, according to the Internal Revenue Service, which sets the rates monthly. That compares with an average rate of 10.55 percent for a personal bank loan in the New York metro area and 12.51 percent for a credit-union loan, based on data from Bankrate.com.
“The chances are they are going to go up, the only question is how fast or how soon,” said Bill Fleming, managing director of New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Private Company Services Group, referring to rates for intra-family loans.
Behrendt’s client, who has a net worth of $100 million, loaned each of his three children $5 million for nine years. The children invested the money in a balanced portfolio seeking at least a 5 percent return, said Behrendt, a former estate tax attorney for the IRS.
Any amount above the 1.65 interest rate, which was the February rate, should pass to the client’s children free of estate and gift taxes, he said. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has increased 36 percent since February as of yesterday.
The borrowers also saved on interest costs because of the low rates. Each will owe $82,500 in interest annually, compared with $175,500 if the loan had been made in February 2008 when the rate was 3.51 percent.
Current federal law taxes estates exceeding $3.5 million for an individual or $7 million for a married couple at as much as 45 percent. Any gift to an individual of more than $13,000 annually may also be taxed as much as 45 percent with a $1 million lifetime exclusion per donor, according to the IRS.
The estate tax is scheduled to expire for a year on Jan. 1 under the provisions of a tax-cut bill enacted in 2001. It comes back in 2011, taxing estates valued at more than $1 million as much as 55 percent. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, has vowed to extend the estate tax in 2010 retroactively.
Lenders who are subject to the estate tax can use the loans to reduce the value of their estates because the appreciation of any investment made with the loan above the IRS rate accrues outside of the lender’s estate, said Larry Richman, chair of private wealth services at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP in Chicago.
Taxpayers with family businesses may also want to consider intra-family loans to help with the sale of the business to family members, according to David Kron, a partner in the Fort Lauderdale office of law firm Ruden McClosky.
Parents can loan their children money to buy the business and the children can repay using profits from the firm. The future appreciation and any income of the business beyond the loan amount are then considered part of the children’s, not the parents’, estate, Kron said.
Intra-family loans are a “low-tech” way to give money to family members because they’re easy to set up and are appropriate for anyone regardless of net worth, saidDeborah L. Jacobs, author of “Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User- Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide,” which was published this month.
Family members should be aware the loans must be repaid in full with interest at the rate specified by the IRS. If the borrower doesn’t repay, it may be considered a gift subject to the gift tax, said Jacobs, who is based in New York.
Lenders should also consider the income tax they’ll owe on the interest received with repayment of the loan, said Kron.
Loaning money to family members may create relationship issues, said Dan Deighan of Melbourne, Florida-based Deighan Financial Advisors Inc.
“It’s like throwing a firecracker on the Thanksgiving dinner table when you bring money issues into the family dynamic,” Deighan said.
Borrowers can get “sloppy with repayments,” which is why setting up an automatic bank transfer for payments is recommended, said Fleming of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Don Albritton, a 61-year-old executive in Longwood, Florida, gave his son $260,000 to buy a house through a 30-year intra-family loan four years ago. Albritton ended up taking the house back after his son was unable to sell it without taking a loss. Home prices have declined 17 percent since January 2005, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index for 20 metropolitan areas.
“I’m not discouraged,” Albritton said. “I’m getting ready to make him another loan now.”
You may not realize how much this tax credit extension will affect the PU market in 2010. This $1.00/gallon credit is subsidizing the biodiesel market in the U.S., which would probably be uncompetitive otherwise. A by product of the biodiesel industry is crude glycerine. Crude glycerine can be used to make refined glycerine, which in turn can produce propylene glycol. PG is the second largest PO derivative after polyol, composing about 1/3 of the total market for PO. ADM and others have large bio-PG units starting up next year, with ADM's alone (at around 200MM lbs/yr) equaling probably 20-25% of the total US market for PG.
So with a government subsidy, the bio-PG market will be after market share. As it displaces conventional PG, the demand for propylene oxide will diminish (you don't need PO to make the bio-PG). As PG demand for PO drops, supply of PO increases, and all things being equal, there is more PO for polyol production. With more PO available, it is likely that there will be a battle for polyol market share.
So thank the U.S. government's green policies if your polyol prices don't rise much next year, even though propylene (80% of the cost of most polyols) goes up over time.
Remember this when you pay your taxes because at the end of the day, we pay for everything!
Of course, what the government giveth, it can taketh away, so I wouldn't advise PG consumers to be all dependent on this subsidy, either. At least have options . . .
BY PHILIP BRASHER • PBRASHER@DMREG.COM • DECEMBER 22, 2009
Senators pledge to extend biodiesel tax credit
Updated 1:26 pm
BY PHILIP BRASHER • PBRASHER@DMREG.COM • DECEMBER 22, 2009
Washington, D.C. — Hoping to reassure beleaguered biodiesel producers, leaders of a key Senate committee are pledging to resurrect the federal subsidy for the fuel additive early next year.
The $1-a-gallon tax credit is due to expire Dec. 31 after the Senate failed to agree on an extension of the subsidy.
“These provisions are important to our economy — not only because they help create jobs, but also because they are used to address pressing national concerns,” the senators wrote.
Grassley said taxpayers “need notice that these tax provisions” will be extended next year.
The House recently approved legislation extending the biodiesel subsidy and other expiring tax credits but the Senate took no action on the measures. Republicans objected to including the extensions in a defense bill because it also would have included an estate tax measure to which GOP senators objected, said Grassley.
The biodiesel industry has been saying that a lapse in the tax credit could force some producers to shut down. Officials with a leading biodiesel producer, Ames-based Renewable Energy Group Inc., said plants it owns or manages will stay in operation after Dec. 31 but may reduce production.
“We expect some limited biodiesel demand to remain in the marketplace, despite the tax credit lapse,” said Daniel Oh, the company’s president and chief operating officer.
He said the lapse in the credit will create a “high degree of uncertainty in the biodiesel marketplace.”
REG owns plants at Ralston, Ia., and Seabrook, Texas, and manages five other plants in Iowa and one each in Minnesota and Illinois.
The biodiesel industry already has been struggling economically because of relatively high feedstock costs, slumping fuel demand and new tariffs on exports to the European Union. The industry operating at about 15 percent of capacity and production is down 30 percent this year from 2008.
Reliance ’ (RIL) bid fails to factor in the potential turnaround gains of the bankrupt petrochemicals-maker, said a top official of the part-owner of the firm, signalling that RIL may have to revisit its offer, if it has to realise its dream of becoming one of the world’s biggest petrochem players.
The official from Access Industries, promoted by Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, said the $12 billion at which RIL has reportedly valued LyondellBasell was “too low”. “We don’t think RIL’s initial bid has any merit,” the official told ET NOW, requesting anonymity.
“Secured creditors like Apollo will be making a loss if the were to happen at that price. This is why there is resistance from the present management and stakeholders,” the official said, adding that any reasonable bid will have to go beyond the present value of the company.
“LyondellBasell is not a badly-performing asset, it isn’t a distress sale. It has inherent value and can see a complete turnaround in 2-3 years, and any bid has to take that into account,” the official said.
An RIL spokesman refused to comment on the development. Stan Neve, the official spokesperson for Access, replied this to an ET questionnaire: “Unfortunately, there will be no comment from Access on these questions, as this is an ongoing restructuring process.”
The views expressed by the Access official comes at a time when RIL is working on a formal financial bid for the Dutch-headquartered company, which it plans to submit since the has now been completed.
The current management is making every effort to retain control of the petrochemical giant and a “compelling” bid by any financially-sound rival bidder may only make its job tougher, an energy analyst said. The resistance by the current management against any competing offer is either to stall any other bid or to get a higher value for the stake, he felt.
The restructuring plan submitted by the current management, including Mr Blavatnik’s Access Industries, has proposed a $2.8-billion rights offer to infuse funds into the cash-strapped company. Led by Mr Blavatnik, Access bought Basell Polyolefins from Shell and BASF four years ago, and in 2007, Basell acquired Lyondell, then valuing it around $19 billion.
ET NOW has learnt that at RIL the due diligence is over and a final call has to be made by chairman Mukesh Ambani himself. The teams from its specialised business units like refinery and petrochemicals are back and have submitted their report to the Corporate M&A group, the focused group working on the deal.
In an official statement on November 21, LyondellBasell had confirmed a preliminary non-binding offer from RIL. This was confirmed by RIL, and a company team went to the US for due diligence.
However, as reported earlier by ET NOW, the new disclosure statement and the revised restructuring plan submitted by LyondellBasell talks of a rights offering besides fresh equity to senior secured creditors. Access Industries along with Apollo Management and Ares are sponsors of the rights offering.
Consumers Echo Complaints about Earphone Comfort and Fit
Posted on 12/21/09 at 5:54pm by Benzinga Staff
OAKDALE, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--
A recent survey conducted by Hearing Components, the manufacturer of Comply™ Foam products for earphones and hearing devices, found that comfort and fit continue to top consumer’s earphone complaints.
Research indicates that on average consumers use earphones one to two hours per day. Used in the office, at the gym, on the plane and everywhere in between, earphones connected to iPods, MP3 players, laptops and cell phones have become an indispensable — albeit oftentimes uncomfortable — part of our daily lives.
The survey distributed through social networks found that while respondents were generally satisfied with their in-ear headphones, comfort and stay-in-ear fit were areas where improvements could be made. When asked what they would improve about their current earphones, 34 percent stated comfort and another 24 percent stated fit.
“Comfort and fit go hand-in-hand; you can’t have one without the other,” explained Steve Thompson, director of sales and marketing for Hearing Components. “The study reiterates what we’ve been hearing from consumers for years: ‘the earphones’ often detract from the overall listening experience.”
These findings ring true with similar studies conducted by University of Minnesota students in which a majority of respondents felt that earphones sometimes gave them discomfort.
“I hate all my in-ear earphones,” shared an anonymous respondent. “I can’t get any of them to stay in my ears.”
Caused by earphones not staying in place, this frustration resonated across surveys. College students in particular voiced frustration that earphones either always or sometimes fell out during physical activity.
“For many, finding the perfect earphone fit is impossible since the hard plastic or rubber tips used in the major brands do not conform to the individual characteristics of the listener’s ear,” said Thompson. “Issues of comfort and fit can be solved by using soft foam tips that reduce irritation and fatigue, while remaining comfortable during extended use.”
Hearing Components’ Comply™ Foam Tips are made of high-tech, viscoelastic polyurethane foam and conform to the individual shape of each ear canal, expanding to comfortably stay in place. The foam creates passive noise reduction by sending sound directly into the ear canal while sealing out unwanted noise.
About Hearing Components
Comply™ Foam Tips, Noise Reduction Earphones, and Whoomp! ™ Earbud Enhancers are manufactured and sold by Hearing Components, a 3M spin-off founded in 1990 by Dr. Robert Oliveira. The patented technology was developed through several grants by the National Institutes of Health to improve and protect hearing. In addition to applications in consumer electronics, the technology is currently used in hearing aids, military communications, commercial aviation, and in industrial high-noise environments. Hearing Components is located in the Twin Cities suburb of Oakdale, Minnesota. For more information visit www.complyfoam.com