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Business news in brief

September 20, 2016 at 2:11 a.m.

LR startup's CEO wins Delta Challenge

Corey Boelkens, the chief executive officer of a Little Rock-based social network for boaters, was the overall winner last week of the Delta Regional Authority's Delta Challenge.

The challenge, a competition in which entrepreneurs pitch their businesses, was held at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock.

Boelkens founded RaftUp in Little Rock last year. The company's mobile app lists marine locations and events, and it allows boaters to find one another on the water.

Other winners included Tracy Simpson with Clinic Pass of Searcy; Nathan Bailey of Poly Patch in Monticello; and Carmen Portillo of Little Rock's Cocoa Belle Chocolates.

The alternate was Eyona Mitchell of My Color of Beauty in North Little Rock.

The winners receive a Delta Entrepreneurship Network fellowship that includes training workshops and participation in the 2017 New Orleans Entrepreneur week.

-- David Smith

Kohl's to hire 69,000 seasonal workers

NEW YORK -- Kohl's plans to hire more than 69,000 more workers for the Christmas season to meet demand at more than 1,100 stores nationwide.

The department store operator said it started seasonal hiring in August and expects most jobs to be filled by the middle of November.

Several other retailers and businesses have already started ramping up hiring for the Christmas shopping season.

Nationwide, UPS will hire about 95,000 people to help meet shipping demands. Target has said it will hire more than 70,000 seasonal store workers, about the same as it hired last year.

Toys R Us has not given an overall hiring figure, but it expects to add at least 10,900 workers in five of its biggest markets.

-- The Associated Press

Gauge shows U.S. homebuilders upbeat

WASHINGTON -- Confidence among U.S. homebuilders rose to an 11-month high in September, indicating that the housing market will continue to advance, according to data Monday from the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.

The builder sentiment gauge increased to 65, up from a revised 59 in August. Readings greater than 50 indicate more respondents reported good market conditions.

Mortgage rates near historic lows and steady job gains are providing firm support for housing demand, stimulating economic growth in all but two quarters since the start of 2014. The report indicated that builders are confident they will be able to sell more homes, but shortages of buildable land and experienced workers are keeping the market from making greater strides.

"With the inventory of new and existing homes remaining tight, builders are confident that if they can build more homes, they can sell them," National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert Dietz said in a statement. "Though solid job creation and low interest rates are also fueling demand, builders continue to be hampered by supply-side constraints that include shortages of labor and lots."

-- Bloomberg News

Nucor will buy tube-maker for $435M

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nucor Corp., the largest U.S. steelmaker, agreed to acquire Independence Tube Corp. for $435 million as metal producers benefit from a recovery in prices.

Independence Tube makes hollow structural section steel tubing from plants in Illinois and Alabama, close to Nucor's sheet mills, the Charlotte, N.C.-based company said Monday in a statement. The purchase price represents six times average earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization over the 2013-2015 period, it said.

"This acquisition is another important step in our long-term strategy to increase the number of value-added products we can offer our customers," Nucor Chief Executive Officer John Ferriola said in the statement. "It also adds to our portfolio another growth platform for our team to use to grow our company."

Nucor is among domestic steelmakers that are benefiting after the U.S. handed down anti-dumping measures on imports from countries including China. Capacity utilization, which measures the amount of a plant that is in use, has climbed this year as those companies regain market share from overseas producers.

-- The Associated Press

Value of Texas oil, gas fields booming

NEW YORK -- Oil prices are depressed, but Texas shale has never been more valuable.

A recent spate of land deals in the sprawling Permian Basin illustrates a counterintuitive trend: Real estate in the country's most active oil field is even more expensive today than it was before commodity prices crashed.

QEP Resources Inc., formerly a division of Questar Corp., agreed to pay a price that works out to close to $60,000 per acre in June for a slice of the Permian, in the basin's priciest land deal on record.

That's more than double the average $30,000 per acre explorers paid for Permian land during the first nine months of 2014, when oil topped $100 a barrel, according to data from Citigroup Inc. Oil has been hovering at $45 to $50 per barrel since mid-August.

Over the past few months, at least four other explorers agreed to pay more than $30,000 per acre to expand in the Permian: Concho Resources Inc., Parsley Energy Inc., SM Energy Co., and Silver Run Acquisition Corp., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

"The valuations are pretty lofty," said Bryan Lastrapes, managing director at Moelis & Co. "When you look at the prices being paid for a flowing barrel, they are higher than when oil was at $100."

The Permian is one of the few places in the U.S. where drilling remains profitable because of its unusual geography, in which different layers of oil- and gas-soaked rock are stacked like layers in a cake, Lastrapes said. An explorer can drill multiple horizontal wells after digging straight down.

-- Bloomberg News

Business on 09/20/2016

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