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21 posts from June 2012


First Cash buys 24-store U.S. pawn chain

 Arlington-based First Cash Financial Services, which has focused most of its recent growth in Mexico, said Monday it acquired 24 pawn stores in a deal worth $25.5 million. The stores are in Colorado (13), Kentucky (7), Wyoming (3) and Nebraska (1). First Cash described them as "all large-format, full-service pawn stores operating under the Mister Money brand."

CEO Rick Wessel in a prepared release called it "an important strategic transaction that significantly expands our store base and geographic presence in the U.S. The acquisition represents a 17% increase in the number of our large format U.S. stores and expands our domestic footprint from eight to a total of 12 states." Mister Money has an established presence and customer base in each of the respective markets. The stores' results were consolidated into First Cash on June 15, the deal's closing date.

-- Jim Fuquay



Bedford animal shelter at capacity, discounting adoptions

BEDFORD – Puppies and kittens galore inspired the Animal Shelter to reduce its adoption fee by a third to $40, with a $5 licensing fee. The shelter is holding its capacity of 40 cats and 22 dogs. Fostering volunteers are caring for another 34 cats and 10 dogs. Many of these animals are babies. “June typically sees a rise in the number of animals at the shelter due to this being the time of year when many puppies and kittens are born,” said Deputy Police Chief Les Hawkins. Police Chief Roger Gibson added: “Bedford, as with most municipal shelters, emphasizes trying to find suitable homes for adoptable animals.” Adoptions can be made at 1809 Reliance Parkway in Bedford. Call Hawkins at 817-952-2402 or email les.hawkins@bedfordtx.gov for more information.


GM open house and plant tour openings filled

For all of you hoping to reserve a spot to tour the General Motors Arlington plant this week you'll just have to wait until the next opportunity.

The web site to reserve a time to tour the plant stopped working early today and, we're told by a GM spokesperson, that was because all 2,500 tour slots over the three-day period had been filled up. 

GM spokeswoman Donna McLallen said Monday that because of the overwhelming demand from the public to see inside a modern automotive assembly plant the company is working to make arrangements to hold tours on a more regular basis.

For further information about future tours you may email McLallen at: donna.mclallen@gm.com

- Bob Cox



Is Chesapeake Energy looking to sell its downtown FW office tower?

Four years after buying the gleaming 20-story office tower near downtown Fort Worth from Pier 1 Imports, Chesapeake Energy is said to be looking to sell the property.

Local executive Julie Wilson said in an email response to questions that the now-called Chesapeake Plaza "hasn't been sold," and that "it isn't listed for sale."

Wilson did not answer questions on whether the building is being marketed even though it's not technically on the block, if anyone has looked at the building, or if any offers have been made.

Local real estate brokers say they expect offers to be made on the building in the wake of the Oklahoma City-based company saying its assets are for sale. Chesapeake's board has come under fire in recent weeks for corporate governance issues related to its CEO Aubrey McClendon's personal financial activities. In April, Reuters reported that McClendon borrowed $1 billion to buy stakes in the company's wells, including from an investment group that was negotiating to buy other assets from Chesapeake.

Chesapeake paid $104 million for the property at 100 Energy Way. Its former address was 100 Pier 1 Place. At the time of the sale, Chesapeake said it would move as many as 400 employees into the top half of the office building.

Chesapeake has a $55 million mortgage on the office building with CLG Hedge Fund in Plano, which is due June 12, 2014, according to deed records. The Tarrant Appraisal District values the property today at $62.7 million, down from $72 million in 2009, records show.

Chesapeake is no longer leasing 70,000 square feet of office space on the top floor of the parking garage that serves The Tower condominiums at Fifth and Taylor streets. That space was mostly used by Texas Midstream Gas Services, an affiliate, that is now being sold by Chesapeake.

Chesapeake does have 25 Texas properties listed for sale, including the former Bunge Oil site in the Fort Worth Stockyards, that has been demolished. Asking price $6.3 million. It's also listed for sale the Ormsby Ranch in Johnson County for $24.5 million; a site at 1800 E. 4th St. for $14 million and Greenway Berk, at Texas 114 and Carroll Street, in Southlake for $10.2 million.

_ Sandra Baker



KXAS to begin construction on new FW studios by end of June

Television station KXAS/Channel 5 said Monday it will begin construction by the end of June on a 75,000-square-foot state-of-the-art broadcast facility in the CentrePort Business Park south of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport where it will move to from Broadcast Hill in east Fort Worth.

The 8-acre site, at 4805 Amon Carter Blvd., is being developed by KDC real estate company and is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, the station said.

KXAS, owned and operated by NBC, announced a year ago it wanted to move to a location that would help it better cover the news throughout the region and announced plans for a $16 million studio. In addition to NBC 5, the new facility will house Telemundo, which broadcasts in Spanish, and several other smaller businesses associated with NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC 5. About 300 people will work at the new building.

NBC has broadcast from east Fort Worth for 64 years and later added a Dallas studio.

Tom Ehlmann, NBC 5 president and general manager, called the new facility a "first-class operation that will better serve viewers and advertisers via television, the internet, mobile and still developing technologies."

KXAS signed-on as WBAP in 1948 and was owned by Amon G. Carter Sr., longtime publisher of the Star-Telegram.
"It’s fitting that the facility will be located on a street named in honor of our founder, Amon Carter," Ehlmann said in a statement. "We worked closely with the city of Fort Worth to remain in Fort Worth, yet locate in a more centralized location to better serve all the communities of North Texas."

 _ Sandra Baker




GM offering public tours of Arlington assembly plant

General Motors is offering public tours its Arlington assembly plant for three days this week to see vehicles being produced on the assembly line.

This will be the first public tours since the Super Bowl week 20111, when bad weather and ice forced GM to cancel planned tours.  Tour times are 11:30 to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 7:40 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Pre-registration is required and can only be done online at: http://arlington.gmplantnews.com

GM will allow visitors touring the plant during the open house events to bring cameras and take pictures.

Visitors must wear closed-toe shoes. No open-toed, open-heeled shoes or high heels, sandals, crocs or flip flops are allowed in the  manufacturing area.

The GM assembly plant in Arlington began production in January of 1954 and currently employs more than 2,500 people producing GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, and Cadillac Escalade sport utility vehicles. The plant produces approximately 1,162 vehicles daily.

- Bob Cox


Fort Worth's RadioShack not saying yet how many stores new Asian venture could develop

Here’s more on today's RadioShack-Cybermart announcement from Eric Bruner, a RadioShack spokesman:

Is RadioShack saying how many stores may be developed by the joint venture with Cybermart? Bruner: “Not at this time. We’re focused on testing the business model in Shanghai this year. We’re in the early stages, and the pace of future expansions will be based iin part on available real estate and some other factors.”

How large will the stores be? “The typical footprint will be smaller than the U.S. RadioShack, less than 1,000 square feet vs. an average (U.S.) RadioShack of about 2,500 square feet.”

What products will be highlighted in the Asian stores, and what will you see less of compared to the U.S. RadioShacks? The chain “will focus on everyday needs and consumer elec tronics. (They) will feature a key emphasis on wireless and mobility., accessories, music and entertainment, computing, power and accessories and other devices.” The stores will offer services such as installation; smartphone setup, app installation and synching; mobile phone repairs; and “education services” that include tutorials on how to use various devices.

What will the stores be called? “Stores will be named and branded with a Chinese version of RadioShack that includes the Circle R brand and the name RadioShack, as well Chinese language characters (that) will be translated...Smart Super Hero and Wise Knight.” The signage will also carry the “Computers, Communications and Consumer Electroncs”tagline.

How will the venture’s results (49 percent owned by RadioShack) be booked by RadioShack? “They will appear on the income statement under the category of ‘minority interest in joint ventures.’ We’re not expecting a meaningful impact in 2012. In these early stages, we’ll be focused on testing the business model in Shanghai.”

- Scott Nishimura

RadioShack in joint venture to open stores in China

RadioShack is forming a joint venture with a Chinese company to open consumer electronics stores in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

According to an SEC filing, the Fort Worth-based retailer will invest $2.94 million and own 49 percent of the venture, with Cybermart owning 51 percent. Cybermart is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SMS Marketing Service.

RadioShack said it will enter into a licensing agreement giving the venture the exclusive right to use the RadioShack brand. The first store is set to open in Shanghai in July.

The move continues a push into Asia for RadioShack. In March, RadioShack announced a deal with a Malaysian company to open at least 1,000 stores in 10 southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. That company, Berjaya Retail Berhad, is controlled by Vincent Tan, one of Malaysia's richest men. 

-- Steve Kaskovich





Arlington Cracker Barrel gets electric vehicle charging station

Electric vehicle owners can now recharge both their car and their own batteries at an Arlington Cracker Barrel restaurant.

NRG Energy took the wraps off of four new electric vehicle charging stations in the Dallas-fort Worth area Tuesday, including one at the Cracker Barrel located at 1251 North Watson Road, adjacent to Texas 360 in north Arlington.

Officials of NRG and Cracker Barrel caravanned in electric-powered cars from one site to another to mark the opening of the "eVgocharging stations. Each of the stations, which are available for use only to NRG customers, has a 240 volt charging outlet and a DC charging outlet. The latter "pumps" 350 volts of electricity directly into the battery of compatible vehicles and a 15 minute charge is good for about 50 miles of driving range.

NRG now has six charging stations installed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with plans for at least 70. It has installed 11 of a planned 50 in the Houston market.

Customer usage of the charging facilities is picking up a bit faster than expected, said Arun Banskota, president of NRG EV Services division. "We've got people that use them quite a lot, depending on their commute."

Only about 18,000 electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2011, but Banskota said that compares favorably with the 6,000 annual sales rate that hybrids like the Toyota Prius enjoyed the first few years in the market.

Banskota said new studies show that while electric cars have high price tags their operating costs are much lower than conventional gasoline and diesel engine powered vehicles.

The other NRG charging stations opened Tuesday are at Cracker Barrel locations in Burleson, DeSoto and Mesquite.

For information on NRG's eVgo network and charging plans go the company's website.

- Bob Cox



Fort Worth-Arlington home prices rise in April says CoreLogic

Prices of homes in Fort Worth-Arlington increased in April, according to the latest CoreLogic’s Home Price Index.

Including the sale of distressed properties, which tend to sell at lower costs, area prices increased by 1.3 percent compared to April 2011. Excluding distressed sales, year-over-year prices increased by 4 in April 2012 from a year ago.

Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 1.1 percent in April. This was the second consecutive year-over-year increase this year, and the first time two consecutive increases have occurred since June 2010, CoreLogic said.

Excluding distressed sales, year-over-year prices, excluding distressed sales, rose by 1.9 percent in April. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned transactions.

"Excluding distressed sales, home prices in March and April are improving at a rate not seen since late 2006 and appreciating at a faster rate than during the tax-credit boomlet in 2010," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. "Nationally, the supply of homes in current inventory is down to 6.5 months, a level not seen in more than five years, in part driven by the 'locked in' position of so many homeowners in negative equity."

Added Anand Nallathambi, CoreLogic’s president and CEO, "Home prices are responding to a restricted supply that will likely exist for some time to come, an optimistic sign for the future of our industry."

_ Sandra Baker


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