Kodak shareholders won’t get voice, creditors back Chapter 11 exit

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal bankruptcy judge rejected a bid by Eastman Kodak Co shareholders to set up a committee to represent their interests, and the company won the backing of creditors for its reorganization plan as it prepares to seek court approval next Tuesday to emerge from Chapter 11.

UPDATE 1-Kodak shareholders won’t get voice, creditors back Chapter 11 exit

NEW YORK, Aug 15 (Reuters) – A federal bankruptcy judge rejected a bid by Eastman Kodak Co shareholders to set up a committee to represent their interests, and the company won the backing of…

Launch of ‘Automatic Link’ Smart Driving Assistant Further Delayed [iOS Blog]

Automatic today sent out an update email to customers eagerly awaiting one of its Link connected car systems, announcing that the public release date of the product has been pushed back yet again.


As we work to fulfill your pre-order, here’s an update. In short, we’re making a lot of progress towards the public launch of Automatic, but we’re pushing back that date by just a few weeks. Read on!

In the email, Automatic says that despite shipping a number of test units to customers who volunteered for a private beta, production delays have prevented them from shipping additional devices to beta customers who have yet to receive a Link.

Unfortunately, we recently experienced a production delay, which has temporarily affected our ability to ship Links to Beta customers. We’re working around the clock (literally!) to fix the issue and our hope is to ship to all remaining Beta customers by the end of the month.

Beta customers were originally supposed to receive both the Link and the accompanying app in mid-June, but the company now expects the remaining Links to ship out by late August.

The Automatic Smart Driving Assistant can currently be preordered from the Automatic website for $69.95. Automatic claims that the Link and iPhone app will begin shipping out to standard customers in September and in the meantime, MacRumors has posted a hands-on look at the device and its accompanying app.

(Thanks, John!)


Apple Could Go To $625

By Ian Wyatt:

After billionaire investor Carl Icahn announced a stake in Apple (AAPL), shares jumped nearly 5%. The 77-year old activist investor announced his position on Twitter two days ago: “We currently have a large position in Apple. We believe the company to be extremely undervalued. Spoke to Tim Cook today. More to come.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that he’s been building his $1.5 billion stake in Apple over the last month. What’s his outlook? Icahn says, “Even without earnings growth, we think it ought to be worth $625.” He’s recommending that CEO Tim Cook increase the record $60 billion share buyback program. Doing so would decrease the number of Apple shares, and raise the EPS.

This is just the latest news that helped lift Apple shares by more than 100 points. The stock is now up around 27% since its July lows of $393, marking a big comeback for

Complete Story »

Ford to slash mileage rating on C-Max hybrid

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co will lower the advertised fuel economy ratings on its C-Max hybrid by up to seven miles per gallon, the company said Thursday, following complaints from consumers and industry experts that the model’s actual mileage fell short of claims.

Warren Buffett’s Suncor stake may be ‘turning point’ for oil sands stocks

Warren Buffett’s massive stake in Suncor Energy Inc. could spark investor interest in the battered stocks of Canadian oil sands’ companies, according to analysts.

Mr. Buffett had acquired 17.7 million shares of Suncor by June 30, according to a U.S. regulatory filing by his company Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Since the last trading day of June, Suncor shares in New York have risen US$4.45, closing at US$33.94 on Thursday, netting the world’s third-richest man an estimated US$79-million on his oil sands’ investment on paper.

Analysts believe Mr. Buffett’s foray into the Alberta oil sands may prove to be a major fillip for the wider industry.

“This may be a turning point, possibly,” said Peter Tertzakian, chief energy economist at Arc Financial Corp. “Mr. Buffett is obviously recognized as a value investor, and the oil sands sector represents significant value.”

Oil sands operators have been ramping up production over the years, but lower Canadian crude price and concerns regarding market access have deflated investor sentiment.

“The market returns have been flat for two years, but in the meantime we have seen significant improvements — the whole area is attracting $20-billion a year in investment,” Mr, Tertzakian said.

While crude price discounts have eased somewhat over the past few months, investors remain fixated on lack of new pipeline capacity that has clouded the industry’s prospects.

TransCanada Corp.’s southbound Keystone XL and Enbridge Inc.’s westbound Northern Gateway are facing regulatory scrutiny and the ire of environmentalists.

The pipeline uncertainty has soured investor sentiment. An RBC Capital Markets analyst recently reported that Wall Street and other major U.S.  investors have been lukewarm on Canadian oil companies for quite some time.

“No question that the underperformance of Canadian large cap energy has weighed upon the morale of these investors,” Greg Pardy, RBC Dominion Securities Inc. analyst, said in a July note after meeting six clients including five hedge fund managers in New York.

Robert Bedin, director of energy research at ITG Investment Research, also noticed that investors evinced little interest in oil sands during his trip to New York two weeks ago.

“So, clearly an alarm clock went off as Warren Buffett took a position like that,” Mr. Bedin said.


HandoutIn July, Suncor produced a record 390,000 barrels per day, and the company's 'new normal' would see output shoot up to the 420,000-bpd range, estimates Michael Dunn, vice-president of institutional research, at First Energy Capital Corp.

While Mr. Buffett has beaten fund managers to the punch once again, Wall Street remains divided on Suncor’s stock price. About 47% of the analysts tracking the stock have a buy rating on the company, while another 47% recommend holding the stock, according to Bloomberg data.

But improved company guidance and movement on TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline has buoyed sentiment in recent weeks.

In July, Suncor produced a record 390,000 barrels per day, and the company’s ‘new normal’ would see output shoot up to the 420,000-bpd range, estimates Michael Dunn, vice-president of institutional research, at First Energy Capital Corp.

“It’s been one of our more favoured names over the last while and a big part of our thesis was that operations are set to improve significantly. We felt that may be the market wasn’t going to believe it until it saw it. Now we have seen one of the first evidence with the July results,” according to Mr. Dunn, who has a $40 price target for the stock.

The company is trading at some of the lowest cash flow multiples and has one of the longest reserve life of 80 years in its peer group.

“Even on other typical metrics, it’s at kind of an all-time low,” Mr. Dunn said.

Mr. Buffett’s history of taking a long-term macroeconomic and sector view also bodes well for the wider industry.

“We think it is a positive for the sector,” Mr Bedin said. “Suncor is probably a pretty good proxy for Canadian oil price and if Mr. Buffett is bullish on the oil price, it’s good across-the-board for Canadian names.”

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc. and Imperial Oil Ltd. may get a second look from investors as Wall Street reviews oil and gas plays beyond prolific shale plays in their own backyard.

“These companies have scale and access to market and cost discipline — those are the companies that get a second look,” Mr. Tertzakian said.

Another strategic piece of the puzzle is Mr. Buffett’s ownership of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway company, which has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the crude-by-rail phenomenon.

The Oracle of Omaha also has a stake in Union Tank Car, which is among the few companies in North American building oil tank cars.

With the Suncor stake, Mr. Buffett wins if Keystone XL is approved, and he may still be on to a winner if his railway company fills in Keystone’s void.

“He might win more with all the new rail capacity being installed, including his own,” Mr. Tertzakian said. “When oil prices are rising, they are no bigger plays of scale in the free world other than the oil sands. Mr. Buffett as usual just recognized that there is value that may be is overlooked and neglected — and it fits with his greater strategic purposes.”

Gas marketers see opportunity in Western Canada LNG exports to Asia

CALGARY • Gas marketers are setting their sights on the Far East as the U.S. shale bonanza replaces Canadian exports to the Lower 48.

“There’s still a wide spread discount between Western Canadian gas and Asian prices,” Kristen Gould, vice-president with Tenaska Marketing Canada, said in Calgary. “To the extent that we can add value to our producers by increasing their netback prices, that’s really our goal.”

Omaha, Neb.-based Tenaska and EDF Trading North America plan to supply a small-scale liquefied natural gas plant about an hour north of Vancouver by aggregating production from market hubs in Western Canada. If it goes ahead, the venture could ship 2.1 million tonnes of liquefied fuel per year, or roughly 280 million cubic feet a day, to Asian markets beginning around 2021, proponent Woodfibre Export LNG Pte. Ltd. says.

Export proponent BG Group Plc has proposed doing much the same thing, skipping the gritty work of sinking thousands of expensive wells in the Western Canadian wilderness in favour of securing gas via purchases, swaps and bi-lateral supply contracts.

New rules introduced by the federal government in last year’s budget have made it easier to obtain coveted export licences. Environmental and social impacts no longer factor into the permitting process, and would-be exporters are free to apply without first demonstrating they have a dedicated supply of gas.

That has cleared the way for small projects and broad supply arrangements that could stoke demand for a wider group of producers with no direct stakes in export schemes, said Ed Kallio, director of gas services at Calgary-based Ziff Energy Group.

BG’s strategy echoes plans by LNG players ExxonMobil Corp. and Shell to top-up corporate gas reserves with purchases from the market.

“Some of the guys with existing [export] licences might want to conceivably pull out from the market if the market price is lower than their full-cycle costs in the plays that they have lands in,” Mr. Kallio said.

“By extension then, if you’re going to go to the pool and you’re a producer with lands in those plays, and you’re not a participant in these projects, you can participate via the markets.”

The strategy reflects a departure from LNG supply arrangements that prevailed before the advent of shale gas, which has cut prices for the heating fuel and eroded Alberta’s share of the U.S. export market.

Alberta natural gas prices averaged $2.30 per gigajoule in 2012, according to the National Energy Board. The Henry Hub price, the U.S. benchmark, averaged US$2.80 per million British thermal units, or 31% below the 2011 average of US$4.04, NEB data show.

Canadian gas exports in 2012 averaged 8.6 billion cubic feet per day, down 1% from the previous year. Production fell to 13.9 bcf/d, declining everywhere except in B.C., where continued development of Montney tight gas boosted output to 1.6 bcf/d, the NEB said.

“The shift is entirely because of the technology that’s made these huge unconventional plays accessible,” Mr. Kallio said.

Resources underpinning the moribund Mackenzie Valley pipeline to bring Arctic gas south to Alberta totaled 6 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable gas, “and we’re now talking 600,” he said. “We’ve demonstrated that we’re not resource-constrained.”

Woodfibre is one of several upstart projects that could soon dot the B.C. coastline.

London-based EDF, which moves more than two billion cubic feet a day of Western Canadian gas production, has partnered with Antwerp, Belgium-based Exmar NV to look for barge-based liquefaction opportunities on North American shores, Jeff Welch, senior vice-president and head of North American gas at EDF, said from Houston.

Robin Rowland for National Post

Robin Rowland for National PostThe LNG site at Bish Cove, Douglas Channel, Kitimat.

A floating plant being built by Douglas Channel Energy Partnership near Kitimat, B.C. is on track to deliver its first cargo of Canadian gas across the Pacific by mid-2015, long before its much bigger land-based rivals.

“They’re very cost-effective and they’re very timely and perhaps most importantly, they’re somewhat portable, in terms of being able to relocate as market conditions change,” Mr. Welch said.

The Woodfibre project, although modest, is already connected to B.C.’s pipeline network, giving it an edge over bigger projects that must lay thousands of kilometres of jumbo pipe through aboriginal lands and over two mountain ranges farther North.

Infrastructure required to support the massive coastal plants over the next decade could total $50-billion, according to Ernst & Young.

“Transportation is key,” said Ms. Gould at Tenaska, which bills itself as one of the largest exporters of gas from B.C. and Alberta.

“There’s a lot of pipe infrastructure that’s going to be required for some of the larger projects, and the fact that there’s already existing pipe in the ground, it’s a really important piece of the equation.”

Smaller LNG projects may also be more responsive to demands by Japanese utilities for prices tied to depressed North American gas prices, said Tom Valentine, partner in the Calgary office Norton Rose Fulbright.

“On the one hand that makes more sense, to go small and flexible,” he said.

But change will be slow, he said. “It’s going to take some time, in my view, before those Japanese-based utilities are comfortable moving away from what they know to what they hope to achieve.”

For its part, Kitimat LNG developer Chevron Corp. has said it won’t peg sales from the five-million-tonne-per-year plant to the Henry Hub benchmark.

Instead, the company will offer prospective buyers equity positions in the project, George Kirkland, head of Chevron’s upstream business, said last week.

The size and timing of West Coast exports are open to debate.

The fundamentals for Canadian exports are “very strong,” Talisman Energy Inc. chief executive Hal Kvisle said on a July 31 earnings call.

“The issue is about deliverability and about the amount of drilling required to maintain production rates as you go forward with a one or two bcf-a-day project over 25 years,” he said.

Russian meteor left a dusty mess in the stratosphere

Thanks to the ubiquitous dashboard cameras in Russia, we were treated to a number of amazing views of the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk back on February 15. And thanks to one of the instruments aboard the Suomi NPP weather satellite launched by NASA in the fall of 2011, we can now enjoy a view of the microscopic rubble it left behind, which drifted through the stratosphere for more than three months.

That instrument is the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS), which, obviously, is designed to measure atmospheric ozone. It also monitors aerosols in the stratosphere, enabling it to detect the dust from the Chelyabinsk meteor.

When the 18-meter-wide (roughly 60 feet) meteor exploded, it was about 23 kilometers (roughly 14 miles) above the surface. The heavier bits fell to the Earth, but the dust rose to heights of up to 45 kilometers (nearly 28 miles). Although that represents a heck of a lot less material than is ejected by an erupting volcano, like the mouth-exercising Eyjafjallajökull, it still got dragged around by the circulating atmosphere. After four days, the Suomi sensors had watched that dust plume wrap all the way around the Earth.

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