Tuesday AM January 8th, 2008

"Clean energy" funding increased in 2007...Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship calls for Business Plan Competition entries...Marriott Houston West Loop by the Galleria closing to undergo $15 million renovation...

New funding into "clean energy" increased by 41 percent in 2007, according to a report from UK-based New Energy Finance. Some $117 billion was spent worldwide in the sector, ranging from wind power to biofuels to waste management. That compares with $83 billion spent in 2006. Wind power dominated the market with $24.8 billion in new investments, and solar power companies raised $5.8 billion through public markets. Biofuels raised $1 billion in new funding—a drop from 2006 levels.

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship of Rice University has announced the opening of the registration period for its 2008 Rice Business Plan Competition. Registrants submitting an intent to compete by the February 1st deadline will receive a copy of Pala Alto's Business Plan Pro Premier Academic version software. The competition takes place on April 3rd through the 5th. In 2008, more than $350,000 in total cash and prizes will be announced at the awards banquet on April 5th at the Intercontinental Hotel. Since its inception in late 1999, the Rice Alliance has assisted in the launch of over 210 new technology companies.

Although the Bush administration is working on efforts to combat the country's severe housing crunch, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says there is no quick fix. In remarks prepared for a New York speech, Paulson points out that 1.8 million subprime mortgages are scheduled to reset to sharply higher rates over the next two years, raising the possibility of a market failure. He says that's why the administration brokered a deal with the mortgage industry to freeze certain subprime mortgage rates for five years to allow the housing market to recover. Excerpts of the speech show Paulson noting "there is no single or simple solution that will undo the excesses of the last few years.'' He says, however, that by preventing avoidable foreclosures, "we will safeguard neighborhoods and communities and fulfill our responsibility of protecting the broader U.S. economy.'' The housing slump has been a serious drag on the overall economy, producing fears that the country could topple into a recession.

Janiece LongoriaPort of Houston Authority Commissioner Janiece Longoria has been selected by the American Bar Association's Direct Women initiative as a recipient of the 2008 Sandra Day O'Connor Board Excellence Award. She her fellow five recipients will be recognized at a luncheon on February 22nd at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.ξ Longoria is one of a select group of women lawyers who have served with distinction as independent directors of public companies, working to advance the value of diversity in board positions.ξ Longoria has been a PHA commissioner since 2002, and chairs the International Business Development Task Force.ξ she also serves on the Board of Directors of CenterPoint Energy.

Houston-based Contango Oil & Gas is selling the remainder of its eastern core properties in the Arkansas Fayetteville Shale to Fort Worth-based XTO Energy for about $128 million, according to the Houston Business Journal.

A nearly $27 million expansion project is starting at the Paso del Norte port of entry in El Paso. A Customs and Border Protection official says that the work will lengthen the time it will take to cross the bridge. Four of the downtown El Paso port of entry's nine lanes will be closed until summer 2009. The Paso del Norte port will have 14 pedestrian inspection lanes and 11 vehicle inspection lanes when the project is complete.

Houston-based wellhead equipment maker Natco Group is acquiring Midlands-based Linco-Electromatic in a $23 million deal, according to the Houston Business Journal. Linco designs, manufactures, distributes and services oil and natural gas measurement equipment.

Computer manufacturer and seller Systemax says it has agreed to take over as many as 16 CompUSA stores from the recently sold electronics retailer. Systemax will also purchase the CompUSA brand, trademarks and e-commerce business from the struggling Dallas-based company, which was sold last year to a restructuring firm. New York-based Systemax said that it expects to spend about $30 million on the acquisition. Systemax is buying up to 16 CompUSA stores in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Systemax's CEO says the acquisition would complement New York-based Systemax's TigerDirect subsidiary, which operates 11 retail stores in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Canada.

The Marriott Houston West Loop by the Galleria, is closing to undergo a $15 million renovation over the next few years, according to the Houston Business Journal. Dallas-based RM Crowe is the new owner of the hotel near Post Oak Boulevard and San Felipe. Marriott International in Maryland will take over management of the hotel later this month.

Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel are being creative when it comes have come to trying to solve their guest booking problem: they're appearing on each other's show. Kimmel will travel to Leno's Burbank studio Thursday and in return, Kimmel will head to Hollywood. Both hosts are hurting for guests because of the writers strike. The Screen Actors Guild has encouraged its members to appear on David Letterman's "Late Show'' and Craig Ferguson's "Late Late Show,'' where writers are back at work. "Jimmy Kimmel Live'' will feature Kathy Griffin and Scott Baio tonight. Besides Kimmel, Leno's only other announced future guest is Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

There's not much scheduled this week to help guide investors as they try to figure whether the economy is headed for a prolonged period of weakness. The report on pending home sales is due today from the National Association of Realtors. Thursday, it's the weekly jobless claims. Also on Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is to speak in Washington on "financial markets, the economic outlook, and monetary policy.'' That speech will be listened to closely for clues regarding the Fed's next policy-setting meeting at the end of the month. Reports on the November trade balance and the December federal budget statement are due Friday.

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