2011-10-21 / Business


by John Temple Ligon

House sales

Foreclosures in South Carolina dropped 18 percent during the third quarter of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010. In Georgia foreclosures were down 18 percent for the third quarter compared with the same time in 2010. Still, Georgia ranked No. 3 in overall foreclosure activity total for the country. In Greenville, house sales rose 17 percent in September from a year earlier. In Charleston house sales increased 17 percent in September compared with the same month a year ago, and Charleston house prices fell 3 percent. Nationally in the third quarter of 2011, 610,337 properties were reported in foreclosure, a decrease of 4 percent from the third quarter of 2010.

Tourist destinations

Condé Nast Traveler magazine readers voted the Ritz- Carlton Charlotte No. 5 among the country’s top hotels. Ritz Carlton is part of Marriott. In the same poll of eight million readers, Charleston won the distinction as the No. 1 tourist destination city in the United States, jumping ahead of last year’s winner, San Francisco.

Big-time refinancing

Columbia-based Edens & Avant recently closed on $350 million in an unsecured revolving credit facility coupled with a $30 million unsecured working capital line. Edens & Avant, besides Columbia, has regional headquarters in Boston; New York; Washington D.C.; Atlanta; and Miami. Edens & Avant develops neighborhood shopping centers. To date, the company has built 126 retail centers, which it continues to own and operate.

Savannah aviation

Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace, part of General Dynamics, has an $18 billion order backlog for its executive jets, including the new G650 and G280. Both jets are in the certification phase and are expected to enter into service in 2012.

Nuclear reactors get a hearing

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Rockville, Maryland, held a hearing with SCANA officials on Wednesday and Thursday, October 12 and 13. SCANA has applied for approval of its plans, which include a combined construction and operating license to build two 1,100-megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 reactor units in Jenkinsville. The project is expected to cost $9.8 billion, and 55 percent is carried by SCANA while the other 45 percent is the responsibility of Santee Cooper. On the same site, called V.C. Summer, is an existing 966-megawatt nuclear reactor that began operations in 1984. Atlanta-based Southern Company has already applied to the NRC for a similar license for another two of the same reactor units to be built near Waynesboro, Georgia. Southern had its hearing last month. SCANA expects to have its license by January 2012. In the near future, Duke Energy should be running through the same process at the NRC to gain final approval for its two new Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors to be built near Gaffney, South Carolina.

Merger under way

Duke Energy’s $26 billion merger with Raleigh-based Progress Energy appears to be facing completion come December. One stumbling block, however, is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s observation that the merger could potentially harm competition in wholesale electric power markets in North and South Carolina. Rock Hill, for example, runs a municipal system. The city buys its electric power wholesale and provides its citizens with cut-rate electricity while plowing any margin over costs into the city coffers, holding down property taxes. The merger between Duke and Progress arguably denies Rock Hill the choice in where to purchase electric power wholesale. Duke and Progress publicly hope for a merger goahead from FERC in December.

The French way

Areva Inc., a huge French energy firm that has a 700- person engineering center in Charlotte, delegated its CEO Jacques Besnainou to speak before Charlotte’s World Affairs Council in early October. Besnainou, according to the Charlotte Business Journal, said competitive economies need “cheap fuel, cheap labor and cheap energy.” Fuel comes at a world price over which locals have little control, and cheap labor lowers the community standard of living; so cheap energy is the only one of the three that can be delivered to the advantage of the community. Besnainou declared the U.S.A.’s existing installation of nuclear power plants cranks out the cheapest electric power on the planet, maybe 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt hour. But the existing plants are aging, and replacement costs over the next 20 years come to more than $2 trillion. Besnainou pushed for both nuclear and renewable energy development, such as wind and solar, to raise the supply of cheap electric power and to lower carbon emissions.

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