Friday AM March 21st, 2008

Federal Reserve plans another $75 billion in treasury securities for investment firms next week…Dynegy to draft report on efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions…NASA’s Constellation Program selects five companies to receive contract awards for evaluation of lunar lander design concept…

The Federal Reserve, seeking to ease a painful credit crisis, will be making $75 billion of much-in-demand treasury securities available to big investment firms next week. Investment houses will get an opportunity to bid on a slice of the securities at a Federal Reserve auction next Thursday. The new lending program was announced by the Fed last week. It will allow investment firms to borrow up to $200 billion in super-safe treasury securities by using some of their more risky investments as collateral.

The Federal Reserve says big Wall Street investment companies are taking advantage of its unprecedented offer to secure emergency loans. A Fed report says those firms averaged $13.4 billion in daily borrowing over the past week from the central bank’s new lending facility. The reports does not identify the borrowers. The offer is part of a major effort by the Fed to help a financial system in danger of freezing.

A U.S. House committee chairman has begun an investigation into the electrocutions of at least 12 service members in Iraq. California Congressman Henry Waxman has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to hand over documents relating to the management of electrical systems at facilities in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, died January 2nd of cardiac arrest after being electrocuted while showering at his barracks in Baghdad. Maseth’s parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Houston-based KBR. KBR is responsible for maintaining Maseth’s barracks. An army investigation found the death was due to improper grounding of the electric pump that supplied water to the building. KBR declined comment on the lawsuit, but said it would cooperate with agencies investigating Maseth’s death.

Dynegy is drafting a report for shareholders on its efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the North Carolina Retirement System requested the report, asking about the feasibility of adopting reduction goals for existing and proposed power plants. Dynegy operates six coal-fired generating facilities and hopes to build as many as six more. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club organized a letter-writing campaign voicing concerns about the proposed plants, delivering them to Dynegy’s office on Louisiana.

Austin-based Pondera Capital Management has filed for an air permit with state regulators to build a new power plant on Lockwood in northeast Harris County. The first phase of the 3,500-megawatt, natural gas-fired plant would consist of three gas turbines and one steam turbine, producing about 800 megawatts, by 2009.

NASA’s Constellation Program has selected five space-related companies to receive contract awards for a 210-day independent evaluation of a design concept for a lunar lander. NASA is awarding $1.5 million for the study of its in-house design. The selected companies include Boeing, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Northrop Grumman, Andrews Space and Odyssey Space Research. The Constellation Program is building NASA’s next generation fleet of spacecraft, including the Ares I and Ares V rockets, the Orion crew capsule and the Altair lunar lander. NASA plans to send humans beyond low Earth orbit and back to the moon. Four astronauts are to visit the moon by 2020.

Custom home builder Schumacher Homes has started a program to help new home buyers while they wait for their old home to sell. They are allowing up to a year without a mortgage payment. They will put a percentage of the net purchase price into an FDIC-insured account with its mortgage partners to make interest payments during construction and mortgage—principal and interest—payments for up to a year. Their program comes at a time when orders for custom homes have begun to increase, according to the Commerce Department. But consumers have been finding it takes a little longer to sell their old home.

Dell is developing models aimed at Chinese and Indian consumers to drive personal computer sales in fast-growing Asian markets. CEO Michael Dell offered details during a news conference in Beijing. Both Round Rock-based Dell and China’s Lenovo Group unveiled low-cost PCs last year for rural and novice users. Dell says the company in 2008 plans to introduce 50 percent more notebook platforms than last year–including products aimed at Chinese customer needs. Dell says its consumer sales in China grew by 54 percent last year, more than three times the industry average of 17 percent. Dell company has two factories in southeast China and a design center in Shanghai. Also, Dell says it will donate $210,000 to build six education centers in China to teach computer skills to children of migrant workers.

Texas is seeking bids from private companies for a border video camera network. It’s similar to a state pilot program that allowed the public to help spot illegal activity via the Internet. Governor Rick Perry’s Emergency Management Division calls it a “virtual border neighborhood watch.” The plan is designed to help crack down on drug running, human trafficking and other crime along the Texas border with Mexico. Proposals are due April 7th. Those watching on the Web will be able to contact law enforcement about suspicious activity they see by using the Internet or a toll-free telephone number. Perry’s office has identified $2 million in federal grants for the border video surveillance camera program on private property.

Irish building materials firm Cement Roadstone Holdings is expanding into India. The company announced it’s buying a 50 percent stake in a rapidly growing cement manufacturer, My Home Industries. CRH has signed a contract to pay $450 million to the privately-owned firm to become a joint partner running the business. The deal is expected to be completed in the second half of 2008. CRH last week announced a $540 million deal to acquire Pavestone Group of Dallas. Pavestone has 18 U.S. plants making landscaping products in concrete and stone.

A regulatory filing shows the head of Entergy received compensation valued at $9.3 million during 2007. CEO and Board Chairman J. Wayne Leonard received a base salary of $1.2 million. That’s a four percent increase from 2006. As in 2006, Leonard was not paid a bonus. He received $1.8 million from a non-equity incentive plan and stock and options awards worth $6.2 million on the dates they were awarded. That’s down from $12 million in 2006. Leonard also received financial counseling and the personal use of Entergy aircraft valued at $81,000. Entergy provides electricity in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The Associated Press calculations of total pay include executives’ salary, bonuses, perks, above-market returns on deferred compensation and the estimated value of stock options and awards granted during the year. The calculations don’t include changes in the value of pension benefits, and they can differ from the totals companies list in the summary compensation table of proxy statements.