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BMHC sells Aspen property

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Francisco-based Building Materials Holding Corp. (BMHC) announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, BMC West, has completed the sale of real estate used by its former building materials distribution operation in Aspen, Colo., to the City of Aspen. The sale price was $18.25 million.

The deal, which closed on Dec. 17, completes BMHC’s previously announced strategic sale of three retail-oriented business units in western Colorado. The company, which provides residential construction services and building materials, said it will continue to focus on professional builders and contractors and to emphasize value-added products and services.

In conjunction with the sale, BMHC will recognize a gain of approximately $10 million for the fourth quarter of 2007.

“We continue to evaluate all of our facilities to determine if they provide the right mix of professionally-oriented products and services to drive long-term growth,” said Robert Mellor, BMHC chairman, president and CEO.

BMHC had sold its property in Austin, Texas, earlier in 2007.

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Existing-home sales on an upswing last month

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Existing-home sales rose slightly in November, an indication the market could be stabilizing, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Total existing-home sales — including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — rose 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5 million units in November, from an upwardly revised pace of 4.98 million in October. Those numbers still are 20.0 percent below the 6.25 million-unit level in November 2006.

“Near-term, existing-home sales should continue to hover in a narrow range, just as they have since September, and that’s good news because it’ll be a further sign that the housing market is stabilizing,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. Yun said disruptions in mortgage availability and pricing peaked in August, which caused sales to slow in subsequent months.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $210,200 in November, down 3.3 percent from November 2006 when the median was $217,300. However, “there remains a downward drag” on the national median home price as sales have shifted away from expensive markets, according to the NAR.

Total housing inventory declined 3.6 percent at the end of November to 4.27 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.3-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.7-month supply in October. 

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 6.21 percent in November from 6.38 percent in October; the rate was 6.24 percent in November 2006.

As for single-family homes alone, sales rose 0.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.40 million in November from 4.37 million in October, but are 19.9 percent below the 5.49 million-unit pace in November 2006.  The median existing single-family home price was $208,700 in November, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the West increased 10.3 percent in November to a level of 960,000, but are 25 percent below a year ago.  The median price in the West was $325,800, which is 6.8 percent lower than November 2006.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales were unchanged at an annual rate of 1.18 million in November, but are 16.9 percent below November 2006.  The median price in the Midwest was $163,000, down 0.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South declined 2.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.99 million in November, and are 19.4 percent below a year ago.  The median price in the South was $174,200, which is 2.5 percent below November 2006.

Existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 3.3 percent to an annual pace of 870,000 in November, and are 19.4 percent below November 2006.  The median price in the Northeast was $258,300, down 3.2 percent from a year ago.

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Lifetime Brands completes acquisition of Mexican firm

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Housewares giant Lifetime Brands, maker and marketer of products under names including KitchenAid and Cuisinart, has completed the acquisition of a 30 percent stake in Ekco, a Mexican manufacturer of housewares under names including Thermos and Presto.

Lifetime Brands paid $21.9 million for the stake. Under the agreement, Lifetime Brands would be able to acquire 100 percent ownership of Ekco or, conversely, to require Ekco to repurchase its stake.

Ekco plans to apply proceeds from the sale toward financing its earlier acquisition of Industria Mexicana del Aluminio, an aluminum smelter. The agreement also allows Lifetime to appoint four new members to Ekco’s 11-person board of directors.

Lifetime Brands, based in Garden City, N.Y., is one of the country’s largest housewares companies, with additional brands including Farberware, Pfaltzgraff, Calvin Klein, Block, CasaModa and Towle.

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