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Canada port steams ahead

BY Bill Addison

The newly opened Port of Prince Rupert in British Columbia boasts an impressive advantage over any other western port in North America; it’s two days closer to China.

The port officially opened Sept. 12 of this year, and received its first shipment on Oct. 31.

The port sits 36 hours closer than Vancouver, B.C., and 68 hours closer than Los Angeles to Shanghai, China, creating faster transit times between Asian and North American markets. This translates into an express route with efficient connections to the three NAFTA countries.

“If you’re not familiar with this I guess you soon will be,” said Ron Beal, Orgill president and CEO. Orgill is just one of the many home channel distributors who will benefit from the shorter, more efficient shipments.

“If everything goes as planned, and you hope it will—we’ll see—we should be able to have our world sourcing products at our facility in about four days and have them on our shelves before it would get out of the port in Long Beach, so it’s a big deal,” said Beal, speaking at the Hardlines Conference Series in Toronto last month.

The port’s main advantages are that it is the shortest land-sea route from China to Chicago and has efficient uncongested express rail lines to Chicago and Memphis. It is the deepest port with closer access to open water creating quicker and safer navigation to the terminal for today’s largest transport ships. Since Prince Rupert is a thinly populated area, the port can be greatly expanded in the future to accommodate the growing shipping industry.

The port is a partnership between three major players, The Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA), Canadian National Railway (CN) and Maher Terminals. The trio has created a completely intermodal system for getting freight from the ship, to the container terminal and onto train cars entirely contained within the facility and without the use of trucks.

“What we’ve done is we’ve been able to build not just a new terminal but a new system from the ground up,” said Barry Bartlett, manager of corporate communications, Prince Rupert Port.

Once offloaded, the containers can be put directly onto freight cars and travel CN’s express rail to Chicago and Memphis.

“When the ship comes in, the first train will be out within 24 hours, and in Chicago before 100 hours,” said Bartlett.

CN Rail has invested over $150 million Canadian dollars (US$163.3 million) into developing the rail infrastructure for the port, including C$25 million (US$27.2 million) in rail building, another C$25 million on bridges, tunnels and sidings, and more than C$100 million (US$108.9 million) to purchase the 50 new locomotives to run on the line.

“The port combined with the Chicago station is creating seamless distribution of goods from Asia to the North American markets,” said Kelli Svendsen, a spokeswoman for CN Rail.

Svendsen added that the Oct. 31 shipment arrived in Chicago Nov. 4.

With the completion of the Fairview Container Terminal, phase one of many future terminals, the port has a 500,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) per year capacity. Phase two will up that number to 2 million TEUs, and PRPA hopes to complete that terminal by 2012.

Currently the terminal is seeing only one shipment per week. “There’s certainly discussions, and we’re expecting announcements any day now,” said Bartlett, adding, “We’re expecting to be at capacity by the end of the year.”

“Well, it ultimately has the potential to be very helpful,” said Brian Cronenwett, director of supply chain logistics for Ace Hardware. “Of course, to make that happen there will have to be a couple of big importers to make a commitment to the port before the carriers will go there, so it’s kind of a chicken and the egg thing right now.”

Cronenwett said that it’s difficult to put a number on the money saved or potentially earned by the quicker shipments but pointed out that the quicker a distributor or retailer can get products on their shelves, the sooner the consumer can purchase them.

“The minute a couple of large importers make a commitment to it, and we see multiple shipments up there per week, the lack of congestion up there and the land that they have that allows them to expand the port without some of the environmental concerns that are popping up in Los Angeles and Seattle, I think they’ll really get a head of steam behind it. My hunch is that it’ll happen sooner rather than later. I think within a few years you’ll see that port being a big player,” he said.

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Lumber Liquidators closes IPO

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Toano, Va.-based specialty hardwood flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators has closed its initial public offering.

The company offered 10 million shares of common stock at a price of $11 per share, including 3.8 million shares offered by the company and 6.2 million shares offered by selling stockholders.

The company intends to use the net proceeds of approximately $36.4 million from the offering to repay outstanding debt and support the growth of the business, which includes plans for 25 stores in 2007, followed by 30 to 40 new stores per year until 2011.

Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch acted as joint book-running managers with Lehman Brothers, Banc of America Securities and Piper Jaffray serving as co-managers for the offering.

Lumber Liquidators has seen same-store sales growth of 8.5 percent to 9 percent each quarter this year. According to the company’s S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 2006 Lumber Liquidators had sales of $332 million, up 35 percent from sales of $245 million in 2005.

The retailer currently operates 111 small-format stores in the United States. The company is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LL.”

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NKT Holdings withdraws initial public offering

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Providence, R.I.-based HVAC company NTK Holdings has canceled its initial public offering according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week.

The company said that the application was withdrawn “due to the unsettled market conditions.” The company had planned to use the IPO proceeds to repay debt.

The announcement was part of Nortek’s third-quarter earnings statement. Nortek, which reported a 4 percent increase in sales, is a subsidiary of NKT.

The company reported net earnings of $37.6 million for the period ended Sept. 29, down 44.9 percent from last year’s earnings of $67.7 million in the same period last year. Nortek also reported net sales of $602 million, up 4 percent from $579 million last year.

NTK Holdings manufactures air conditioning, heating ventilation and home environmental control technology products.

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