2011-12-23 / Business


by John Temple Ligon

Public power

Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned utility, has approved a $2.9 billion budget for 2012. The $2.9 billion carries more tham $900 million for capital projects. A rate increase of 3-4% is possible soon enough, pending the results of a rate study. Construction on two new nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville is expected to begin in 2012, where Santee Cooper is responsible for 45% of the costs, and SCE&G, 55%. All told, the two new reactors are estimated to cost a little less than $10 billion upon completion. For 2012, Santee Cooper figures on $705 million as its share. Also, the utility plans on $76 million for transmission improvements.

Another $100 million

Hartsville-based Sonoco Products Company, a global producer of packaging products, recently announced a $100 million investment in its Darlington County plant. Sonoco will put $75 million of the investment into a new biomass boiler for the plant, replacing two aging coal-fired boilers. During construction, employment will peak at about 200. Another 10 new jobs will be added to the 1,600 employees already working for Sonoco in Hartsville. Sonoco has more than 19,000 employees working in 340 operations in 34 countries. For more information: www.sonoco.com

Not a good 2012

The Richmond Federal Reserve, which covers South Carolina, put together a panel with its head and Charlotte business executives for the Charlotte Chamber’s annual economic forecast luncheon. The panelists included Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Wells Fargo wealth and brokerage head David Carroll, Nucor CEO Dan DiMicco, SPX CEO Chris Kearney, and Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. Moynihan, CEO of BofA, predicted economic growth of 2.1%, while he said, according to the Charlotte Business Journal, “2012 will be another year of grind in the economy... Employment is not going to grow a lot.” Wells Fargo’s Carroll held his prediction of growth for the coming year to a flat 2%. Jeff Lacker, president of the Richmond Fed, predicted next year’s growth of the U. S. economy at only 1.75%.

But the end of 2011 is picking up

The S.C. Board of Economic Advisors have reported general fund revenues for the state gained 6% in November, when compared with the same month a year ago.

What was once Dixie Food Stores...

Mauldin-based Bi-Lo grocery store chain has announced its planned acquisition of Winn-Dixie of Jacksonville. Bi-Lo will triple its store count to 690 in eight states and will likely move its headquarters to Jacksonville. Both brands and names will remain. In May 2010, Bi-Lo emerged from bankruptcy. The merger is costing Bi-Lo $560 million. Winn-Dixie shareholders must approve the merger, and if they do, they will receive $9.50 in cash for each share. That’s a 75% premium over Winn-Dixie’s share price on Friday, December 16, just before the announcement. Winn- Dixie is becoming a privately held subsidiary of Bi-Lo. Winn-Dixie’s stock will halt trading on the Nasdaq. Bi- Lo employs 17,000 people, and Winn-Dixie, 46,000 people. No stores are expected to close.

Getting selective down South

Across the South, 340 colleges and their admissions statistics were analyzed by the On Numbers section of The Business Journals. The top five most selective: (1) Vanderbilt, (2) Duke, (3) Rice, (4) Washington & Lee, (5) Emory.

Slow down, Duke

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently rejected the $26 billion merger proposal by Charlotte-based Duke Energy and Raleigh-based Progress Energy. According to the Charlotte Business Journal, the ruling appears to push the final approval into next year and likely past the first quarter.

Unemployment down

South Carolina’s unemployment rate for November was down to 9.9 percent, according to the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce. Georgia’s unemployment rate was also down to 9.9 percent in November. The City of Houston, with about the same number of people as South Carolina, reported an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent in November.

Production up

At its Spartanburg plant in the coming year, BMW plans to produce more than 270,000 units. Outpacing any other car and truck manufacturer in North America, BMW has increased production by 80 percent through all of 2011 so far. BMW employs about 7,000 workers at Spartanburg. BMW exports about 70 percent of production to 130 global markets through the Port of Charleston. The annual export products are worth about $4 billion.

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