Archive for March, 2011

WTO says Boeing got subsidies

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Finance News

The aerospace giant received at least $5.3 bil in banned U.S. gov't subsidies, including support in the form of NASA R&D payments, said the trade organization, which determined last year that European rival Airbus also got illegal gov't aid. The U.S. Trade Representative said Airbus, a unit of EADS, received substantially more support than Boeing (NYSE:BA - News) did and is considering an appeal of the WTO ruling. Shares edged up 0.2% to 73.93.

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Russian billionaire buys $100M Silicon Valley home

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Finance News

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. housing market may be struggling to regain its footing, but the $100 million sale of a single-family home in the heart of Silicon Valley shows that luxury properties are still in demand.

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, a big investor in Facebook, daily deal website Groupon and "Farmville" game maker Zynga, bought the lavish, 25,500-square-foot mansion in Los Altos Hills, Calif. The sale is believed to be one of the largest in U.S. history for a single-family home.

Donald Trump sold his Palm Beach mansion for $100 million in 2008 to Russian fertilizer billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Trump told The Associated Press at the time that it was the largest estate sale ever in the U.S.

Milner, the 49-year-old founder of Internet investment firm Digital Sky Technologies and chairman of Mail.ru Group, has no immediate plans to move into the mansion, spokesman Leonid Solovyev told The AP. Solovyev and another spokesman for the billionaire declined any further comment.

The mansion is a French-style chateau in the Loire style set on 18 acres in hills overlooking San Francisco Bay, the architect, William Hablinski, told The AP. Hablinski said the cost of the project, which took about six years to complete, was not a big concern during the building process. He would not comment on how much the seller, Fred Chan and his wife Annie, paid to build it.

"It did have a budget, it just went far beyond," he said.

The estate has a ballroom, screening room, wine cellar, gym, spa and pools inside and out.

"It has a beautiful rotunda in the entryway, flanked by stairs up both sides," Hablinski said. "And a motor court that ensures security and privacy."

The $100 million price is based on the documented transfer tax of $110,000, which was provided to the AP by the Santa Clara County Assessor's Office.

The Wall Street Journal reported the sale price Thursday. That followed a report on the deal last week in technology blog TechCrunch.

The mansion's price tag dwarfs the $50 million paid for the three-story, 48,000-square-foot Le Belvedere mansion in Bel Air last year, said Betty Graham, president of Coldwell Banker Previews International, which listed that property. Graham said the number of homes that sold for more than $20 million last year in the Los Angeles area tripled from 2009, a sign that the luxury market has been strengthening.

"The smart money is back in real estate," Graham said.

Still, at the highest end of the ultra-high price range, some homes remain unsold going on well more than a year.

At the top of the list is the 56,500-square-foot estate owned by the widow of the late TV producer Aaron Spelling. The French chateau-style mansion set in the exclusive Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles was placed on the market two years ago for a jaw-dropping $150 million. A Beverly Hills, Calif., property known as Fleur de Lys has been on the market more than a year for $125 million.

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AP Real Estate Writer Alex Veiga in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Conservative loss wouldn’t kill pipeline: Enbridge

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Finance News

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Enbridge Inc's C$5.5 billion ($5.7 billion) oil pipeline to Canada's West Coast from Alberta would likely not be killed off if the Conservatives lose the upcoming election, as its economic importance is too great, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel said he believes the Northern Gateway project is key to helping the country expand its energy markets beyond the United States. The message comes amid fears that opposition parties, if elected, would block increased coastal tanker traffic and scupper the proposal.

"I think that this project is so important to security from a movement of crude oil perspective that it won't matter which party's in power," he told reporters after a speech in Toronto. "I think it's too important for Canada."

The pipeline would move 525,000 barrels a day of crude derived from the Alberta oil sands to Kitimat, British Columbia, where it could be loaded on to tankers bound for markets in Asia and along the U.S. West Coast.

It already faces opposition from several native groups as well as environmentalists.

Daniel pointed out his company, which moves most of Canada's oil exports to the United States, has letters of support from the premiers of British Columbia and Alberta.

In December, the federal Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois all voted in favor of a motion calling for a ban on oil tankers in waters off the coast of northwestern British Columbia.

Although the motion was not binding on the minority Conservative government, its backers said at the time it was designed to demonstrate the amount of political opposition to increased tanker traffic along the Pacific Coast.

The motion, in effect, would have formalized a nebulous moratorium that has kept tankers out of the coastal waters since the early 1970s, and would block the ships from loading crude from the pipeline at the port in Kitimat.

Canadians go to the polls on May 2. Opinion surveys show the Conservatives leading.

The pipeline is aimed at allowing Canadian oil to be priced against more valuable world benchmark Brent crude, giving producers a higher return than what they receive in North America.

Meanwhile, Asian energy markets are growing at a much quicker clip than those in the United States, Daniel said in his speech to the Empire Club.

"Our unparalleled integration with the U.S. market is also a problem: it makes us complacent, and it makes us a captive supplier," he said. "When you have one customer, by definition you are a price taker, not a price setter."

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that he will strive to cut oil imports by one-third over the next decade, although analysts said Canada is not likely the target of such a move.

"It's certainly a positive in terms of Canadian crude oil moving to the U.S., but it's also a flag for Canadians that we don't want that to be our only market," Daniel said.

($1=$0.97 Canadian)

(Additional reporting by Cameron French in Toronto and Allan Dowd in Vancouver; editing by Rob Wilson)

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