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17 posts from October 2012


Classic car buffs, especially those with lots of money to spend, may want to head to the Gaylord Texan next Saturday.

A collection of 175 automobiles, owned by longtime Texas car dealer and Houston Rockets basketball team owner Charlie Thomas, will be auctioned.

The collection includes many classic convertibles, muscle cars from the `60s and premier names from the glory days of the American auto industry.

Thumbing through the catalog, here’s a sample of what will be on sale: a 1953 Ford Crestline Sunliner convertible and a 1965 Mustang convertible; a 1956 Chevy Bel Air Nomad station wagon and a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 Coupe; a 1946 Chrysler Town & Country roadster and a 1953 Mercury Monterey station wagon.

Preview of the vehicles is Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and again at 8 a.m. Saturday. The auction will begin at 10 a.m.

For more information on the auction, to preview the collection and to register to bid go online at: http://www.rmauctions.com/Default.cfm?SaleCode=CT12

- Bob Cox

Trinity Bank declares special dividend

Fort Worth-based Trinity Bank said this week it will pay shareholders a special $1-a-share dividend, citing surplus capital and a lack of other growth opportunities. "In short, we are accumulating capital through retained earnings at a greater rate than is necessary to fund internal growth," President Jeff Harp told shareholders in a release. Trinity Bank,  which reported total assets of $164.9 million as of June 30 and net profit of $1.265 million in the year's first six months, said the year's second quarter marked its 31st consecutive quarter of higher earnings. The bank was founded in 2003. The one-time dividend is in addition to a scheduled 20-cents-a-share dividend. Both are payable Nov. 15 to shareholders of record Oct. 31. The bank's shares, which are thinly traded over-the-counter (ticker: TYBT) are trading at $31.11 after taking a jump Thursday, the day the special dividend was announced.

-- Jim Fuquay


Cash America to add 34 pawn shops with two acquisitions

Fort Worth-based Cash America International said today it agreed to buy 34 pawn shops in Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Arizona in two separate acquisitions, boosting its outstanding pawn loans by $11 million, or about 5 percent. The combined price is between $68 million and $72 million in cash, funded by long-term lines of credit. The company already has 82 locations in the states affected, and operates 1,086 total locations in the United States and Mexico offering pawn loans and other consumer loans.

-- Jim Fuquay


DFW home starts surged in third quarter

New home construction jumped 34.5 percent in the year's third quarter compared to a year ago, the fifth straight quarter of gains and the best since the second quarter of 2010, Residential Strategies said Thursday. There were 5,173 new home starts in the quarter, and for the first time since 2007, starts outpaced sales, the Dallas real estate research firm said. "The confluence of solid area job growth, ultra-low mortgage rates, tight existing home inventory and improving buyer confidence is propelling the DFW housing market forward with a solid recovery," said partner Ted Wilson. On an annual basis, the third-quarter starts equated to 16,431 starts for the year, which is just short of the rate seen during 2010's second quarter, when the government's homebuyer incentive program was in effect. That  tax-driven activity was not sustainable, Wilson said, and "meeting that previous interim high with organic growth represents a milestone in the recovery process."

Builders ended the quarter with 8,921 homes for sale or under construction, with 2,759 in the Tarrant area and 6,162 in the Dallas area. Both are up from a year earlier, although only narrowly in Tarrant. Builders are also whittling down the supply of vacant lots, the company said, ending the quarter with 57,787, or a 42-month supply. That's still much higher than the 24-month supply that's considered healthy, but about 15,000 of those lots are considered unusable by builders, Residential Strategies said.

-- Jim Fuquay

Calpine bets again on Texas electricity

Houston-based Calpine Corp. announced its second expansion in Texas this year on Thursday when it said it will buy a natural gas-fired power plant for $432 million. In April, Calpine said it would add 520 megawatts of capacity at two Texas facilities it owns. In both cases it has cited its expectation of tightening supplies amid continued demand growth, with the likelihood of higher prices for producers. In its latest move, Calpine is buying an 800-megawatt plant near Laguna Park, about 70 miles south of Fort Worth, from Bosque Power Co. LLC. The deal's expected to close next month.

In a news release, CEO Jack Fusco said acquiring the plant is "consistent with our strategy to boost capacity in Texas as electric demand rises and reserve margins tighten." The 280-acre facility includes a 250-megawatt unit with one natural-gas turbine that went into operation in 2001, and a 550-megawatt unit with two gas turbines that started running in 2000. The state's largest power grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has warned that the state's electricity capacity could be uncomfortably close to projected demand by 2014 and thereafter. ERCOT aims for a 13.75 percent margin of capacity over anticipated peak demand. State regulators have recently raised the cap on wholesale power prices to encourage more investment in new power supply.

-- Jim Fuquay



Test drive an electric car and help plant trees in North Texas

Want to plant some new trees in North Texas? Take a test drive in a Nissan Leaf or a Mitsubishi “i” electric vehicle and the participating dealerships will donate $25 to the Texas Trees Foundation in North Texas.

The effort aimed at getting more drivers to take a spin in an electric auto is being promoted by eVgo, the electric vehicles charging system company that is a division of NRG Energy in Houston.

If the driver is a Green Mountain Energy or Reliant customer, these companies will donate an extra $25.

Each driver’s participation could result in as much as a $75 donation to their local tree organization if both EVs featured in the program are test driven, with the money going to care for distressed trees and plant new trees in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

To participate, go to the group's website. Download a voucher for a test drive and go to a listed participating dealer. The promotion applies only to the Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles, which are purely electric and do ont have backup gasoline engines.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price has endorsed the program in a video.

- Bob Cox


LaGrave Field sold to Cats ownership group for $4.5 million

LaGrave Field, home to the Fort Worth Cats minor league baseball team, was sold to an affiliate of the team’s ownership group Tuesday morning for $4.5 million. The transaction, conducted outside the Tarrant County courthouse during a foreclosure auction, will give the team a home “for a long, long time,” said John Bryant, managing partner of FW Stadium Group LLC, which bought the property. Bryant said he is also managing partner of the Cats. The 13.2-acre parcel sold includes the stadium and land immediately around the facility extending to Sixth Street on the south.

Former Cats owner Carl Bell built the stadium in 2002 and went on to accumulate 58 acres in the area, on which he planned a mixed-use development of residential, retail and office space. But after the economy weakened, Bell defaulted on a $12.5 million loan from Houston-based Amegy Bank earlier this year. Amegy had posted the facility twice previously but the foreclosure was withdrawn after talks were extended both times. Bryant said the ownership group, which bought the team from Bell in December 2011, wasn’t certain what the stadium’s ultimate sales price would be, but he said the $4.5 million was about what they expected “it might reasonably be because of previous negotiations.”

-- Jim Fuquay


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