Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire




Susie and Hagoth Hanneman, both from Dallas, Texas, looked at job opportunities and picked up a back scratcher from State Farm at the job fair put on yesterday by the Organization of Chinese Americans.

The Gas Co. purchase closes

A Singapore investment firm has completed its $115 million cash purchase of The Gas Co. from Citizens Communications Co., and says it will keep current management and all employees.

The Gas Co. will adopt a new logo, but no other major changes are in store for the utility, which has 70,000 residential and commercial customers in Hawaii, said President Jim Yates.

K1 Ventures Ltd., the venture capital arm of Singapore's Keppel Corp., is the new owner. Citizens, a Stamford, Conn., firm that is selling off $1.9 billion in utilities, previously bought The Gas Co. for $100 million in 1997.

K1 Ventures has said it plans to invest as much as $200 million in the United States and Asia. A unit recently bought a 20 percent stake in a U.S. education company for $29.6 million in cash.

Funding for the Hawaii deal was provided in part by a bank credit facility made available by a group led by Bank of America that includes Honolulu's First Hawaiian Bank, Central Pacific Bank and City Bank.

State auto insurance rates tumble

Hawaii drivers paid $77.6 million less for automobile insurance in 2001 than they did in 1997, a reduction of 13.9 percent to a total of $480.2 million from $557.8 million, according to J.P. Schmidt, state insurance commissioner.

The average Hawaii motorist's annual expenditure on automobile insurance dropped by more than $200 in five years, said Schmidt, citing a new study by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Schmidt said the average Hawaii motorist paid $705.10 for insurance in 2001, down from $912.36 in 1997.

He said that a lot of the decline resulted from insurance reform measures proposed by the state insurance division and enacted in 1997.

The reduction means the state's rates have gone from being the second highest in the nation in 1995 to the 21st highest in 2001.

Mold price tag holds steady

Alleged construction defects in the spa commercial areas of Hilton Hawaiian Village's Kalia Tower will not add to the $55 million cost of fixing the tower's mold-growth problem, an official said yesterday.

Hilton and its parent company sued several companies on Thursday that were involved in the planning, design and construction of the air conditioning systems in tower's commercial space, the second lawsuit over mold at Waikiki's largest hotel. The hotel said the commercial areas have remained open, including the Mandara Spa and the Holistica Hawaii Health Center.

The tower, opened in 2001 at a cost of $95 million, closed all guest rooms in July 2002 and is scheduled to reopen them next month after extensive renovation.

Outrigger teams up with Cousteau

Outrigger Hotels & Resorts plans to develop a "Friends of the Reef" adventure guide in partnership with explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau's nonprofit Ocean Futures Society.

The hotel company said it has formed an association with the society to find ways to educate guests and school children of the importance of protecting the ocean.


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