Noble Group Selling Off US Energy Business to Calpine Corp.

power-supply-919016_640In order to generate cash and improve liquidity, commodity trader Noble Group Ltd. Inked a deal to purchase its American energy business to US power generation company Calpine Corporation for $1.05 billion.

The deal is the latest action in a series of undertakings designed to lower its debt as well as improve its reputation. Shares of Noble have staggered badly since February 2015, when an anonymous research group accused it of questionable accounting methods. Noble insists it did nothing wrong, and even accelerated disclosures. Poor showing of commodity prices did not help the poor earnings experienced by the company.

Therefore, in order to create cash and ease liquidity, Noble announced a series of sales of assets and reduced expenditures.

In a statement released to the Singapore Exchange, Noble announced that it will receive $800 million for Noble Americas Energy Solutions. It will be paid an additional $248 million for the US unit’s working capital.

Calpine describes itself as America’s largest generator of electricity from natural gas and geothermal resources. In July it its third quarterly loss in a row.

Barry Zyskind Explains How AmTrust Sets Itself Apart

It’s fascinating to look at how a new company grows to make its mark, and establish itself apart from competitors. One great start-up story is specialty property and casualty insurer AmTrust Financial Services, founded during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. In a recent interview with A.M. Best magazine, President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Zyskind explains how AmTrust has come up the ranks of the insurance industry.

“Early on, we recognized that we could differentiate ourselves through technology,” Zyskind said. “Every application we use, from underwriting to claims management, is built internally to maximize our productivity and data mining capabilities. When we acquire a business, we quickly integrate it on our technology platforms. Our digital strategy has absolutely set us apart in a highly competitive industry.

He continued, “We use our proprietary technology and extensive database of loss history to help appropriately price and structure policies, maintain lower levels of loss, enhance our ability to accurately predict losses and maintain lower claims costs than the industry as a whole.”

One of AmTrust’s areas of focus is warranty insurance, the first product it offered. As Barry Zyskind explained, “Our warranty program is on a rapid growth trajectory. Today, our automotive and powersports vehicle service contract division is a world leader, while our retail and consumer products extended service plan division ranks among the world’s top three.”

Zyskind emphasized that AmTrust will continue investing in technology as part of its growth strategy. “We will continue to invest in our technology platforms and look for new ways to target our most desired classes of business. We are optimistic about the organic growth prospects of our small-commercial business segment, which for the year 2015 produced over $3.3 billion of premiums, as well as the potential for growth in our other segments. We continue to look at acquisitions throughout the world and believe we are well-positioned to address opportunities that arise.”

Small Businesses Also Included in Wells Fargo Scandal

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart.
Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart.

Louisiana’s Republican Senator David Vitter sent a letter on September 29, which was viewed by Reuters, to John Stumpf, chief executive of Wells Fargo, asking him to provide a “full accounting” of customers affected by their improper sales practices.

As a member of the US Senate’s banking committee and the head of its small business committee, Vitter wrote that discussions between congressional staffers and Wells Fargo representatives “have indicated that the fraudulent activity of your employees was not limited to Wells Fargo’s consumer banking operations. Thousands of small business owners were impacted by this fraud.”

Investigations by Vitter’s committee can point to Wells Fargo’s fraudulent practices being directed to about 10,000 small businesses in addition to the possible 2 million consumer accounts which Wells Fargo opened fraudulently. This new revelation comes about one month after the bank reached a settlement of $190 million with its customers for opening accounts for them without their knowledge.

The news of the bank’s behavior caused a sensation among consumers, resulting in the firing of about 5,300 employees for opening up accounts improperly.

Stumpf appeared before two congressional committees, and other oversite governmental authorities such as the Justice and Labor Departments, which led to investigations into the bank’s sales practices.

“While the vast majority of accounts in the settlement were consumer accounts, to the extent there were small business accounts included, all were previously reported in the total number of potentially impacted accounts,” said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Jennifer Langan. “As stated earlier, Wells Fargo has already refunded 115,000 accounts. The impacted accounts, including Small Business, were part of our Retail Bank business.”

But a Consumer Financial Protection Board spokesman said Langan’s words were incorrect. The two million accounts in the settlement did not included any small business accounts.

A Fascinating Move in the Aerospace Industry

In a fascinating move, the aerospace industry have been looking to 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing. What has typically required welding together 20 parts, for instance, can now require the use of printing just one. Many industry giants like Lockheed Martin and Honeywell are using additively manufactured components into their designs. GE Aviation has recently invested $70 million in their Auburn, Alabama factory to make 3D printed fuel nozzles for their LEAP jet engine.

As Greg Morris, who is leading the additive manufacturing team for GE Aviation in Cincinnati Ohio explained to Business Insider about their situation, “We get five times the durability. We have a lighter-weight fuel nozzle. And we frankly have a fuel nozzle that operates in an environment more effectively and more efficiently than previous fuel nozzles.”

As a leading expert in the aerospace industry, Elio Moti Sonnenfeld, explained, “These technologies are transforming what we have always known was possible and making the impossible seem possible.”

In another example, Belgian aerospace company Sonaca has accounted that they are creating a partnership with France based Fives-Michelin Additive Solutions (FMAS) to both develop and produce 3D printing titanium parts that would be used for the aerospace industry.

For this specific situation, the goal for Sonaca and FMAS is to combine Sonaca’s aerospace experience with the additive manufacturing skills that Fives-Michelin has. As Bernard Delvaux, the CEO of Sonaca said “We are extremely happy to work with Fives Michelin Additive Solutions. Their reputation in AM and the performance of their machines, backed up by several years of industrial practical application, is a remarkable asset.”

Experts in the aerospace industry have explained the impact of these partnerships. As Elio Moti Sonnenfeld explains, “With the ability to create certified 3D printed titanium aerospace parts, the companies hope that they can offer clients a location where they can design, manufacture, engineer and certify production parts.”

Additive manufacturing technologies have become a location of great interest for aerospace companies. Elio Moti Sonnenfeld explains that 3D printing can offer aerospace companies a way to produce end-use parts that is both cost effective and time efficient.

In total, additive manufacturing now represents a $3 billion slice of overall manufacturing output. Greg Morris is predicting that the number will soar as high as $100 billion in the coming years.



Unilever Buying Seventh Generation Green Products Brand

Unilever PLC, the European consumer products powerhouse, agreed to purchase Seventh Generation Inc, maker of environment-friendly detergents and household cleansers, for $700 million.

The London-based giant, known for its popular brands such as Dove soaps and Axe deodorants, is looking to gain a toe hold into the growing market for “natural” cleaning products. Unilever had been in preliminary talks with a different company, Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. Actress Alba’s company claims to avoid any harsh chemicals in its cleaning products. Honest Co’s asking price was $1 billion, but the deal seems to have fallen through and is unlikely to happen.

Seventh Generation was founded in 1988 and is based in Vermont. The company has been growing steadily, and had sales of over $200 million last year. In 2007 an investment deal valued the company at $100 million.

“We look at this as having a multiplier effect for our business,” said Seventh Generation Chief Executive John Replogle, who will stay on to run the company. “We always aspired to be a billion-dollar brand. We see this as a springboard as opposed to throwing in the towel.”