Commission poised to reject bid to review gas rate decision

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada is poised to deny a petition asking the agency to reconsider its recent decision in the Southwest Gas rate case.

The commission decided Oct. 28 to reduce by 2.5 percent the rates local utility Southwest Gas charges for natural gas. But Eric Witkoski, the state consumer advocate assigned to protect the interests of utility ratepayers, said the commission could have lowered rates even more, by as much as 8.3 percent. His argument: The commission could have considered additional natural-gas pricing data that would have given consumers significantly more relief. Witkoski filed a petition on Nov. 13 asking the commission to reconsider its decision and cut rates additionally.

Southwest Gas, which offered the extra pricing statistics, filed statements supporting Witkoski’s position.

In a draft order, the commission calls for Witkoski’s petition to be denied because staffers haven’t had the opportunity to evaluate the newest figures for their “reasonableness and prudence.” The commission’s order states that setting rates based on gas costs that they’ll investigate later violates Nevada law, because it could result in imposing unreasonable rates on consumers.

The draft order isn’t final. The commission will discuss the order and issue a final decision Wednesday.

Pinnacle Entertainment pushes up River City casino opening

Pinnacle Entertainment has pushed up the opening of its River City casino in suburban St. Louis to early March. The casino and entertainment complex, Pinnacle’s second in St. Louis, had originally been planning a spring opening.

The opening of the $357 project is subject to final regulatory approval by the Missouri Gaming Commission.

River City, in the south St. Louis County community of Lemay, will include a 90,000-square-foot casino with more than 2,000 slot machines and approximately 55 table games. Several restaurants are planned, including the award-winning Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. River City is expected to create 1,000 jobs.

Las Vegas-based Pinnacle operates Lumiere Place in downtown St. Louis near the Gateway Arch.

Capitol Bancorp agrees to sell stake in Ohio Commerce Bank

Capitol Bancorp, the holding company for five Southern Nevada banks, on Tuesday said it agreed to sell its 51 percent interest in Ohio Commerce Bank.

The holding company on Monday said it received regulatory approval to consolidate its six banks in Arizona into Sunrise Bank of Arizona.

In Southern Nevada, Capitol Bancorp owns 1st Commerce Bank, Bank of Las Vegas, Black Mountain Community Bank, Desert Community Bank and Red Rock Community Bank. Western Liberty Bancorp in November and Capitol Bancorp agreed to terminate Western’s planned acquisition of 1st Commerce. However, Capitol Bancorp completed its sale of the Bank of Santa Barbara to investors the same month.

The $5.4 billion bank holding company in September disclosed a written agreement with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago designed to maintain its financial soundness.


Holiday shoppers help boost quarterly results for Best Buy

Customers snapping up electronics and gift cards for the holidays boosted Best Buy’s third-quarter profit, but the nation’s largest electronics retailer said Tuesday that shoppers are focused on prices, particularly of TVs and computers.

Net income for the third quarter ended Nov. 28, rose to $227 million, or 53 cents per share, from $52 million, or 13 cents per share, last year when it wrote down the value of its British retailer Carphone Warehouse.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, predicted a profit of 43 cents per share.

Revenue rose 5 percent to $12.02 billion, topping analysts’ forecast of $11.98 billion.

Sales at Best Buy stores that have been open at least one year — a key retail measure — rose more than 10 percent Thanksgiving weekend, CEO Brian Dunn said in a conference call with analysts. Half the gain came from higher traffic and half from customers spending more.

Best Buy expects improved revenue for the fourth quarter, but said it would be driven by lower-margin products like notebook computers and lower-priced flat-screen televisions.


Market for high-speed trains emerges in U.S., luring Japan

On a desolate stretch of track just before midnight, when all passenger lines have been put to bed, a juiced-up Japanese bullet train goes online and accelerates to more than 200 miles per hour and then glides to a stop at a deserted Kyoto Station.

That feat last month was an accelerated sales pitch aimed squarely at the United States, where Japan is competing with European train makers for a new high-speed train network that could deliver contracts worth hundreds of billions.

While the majority of services to date have been built in Europe, where makers such as France’s Alstom and Germany’s Siemens dominate, governments around the world are looking to upgrade as existing lines age.

A diverse group of countries is at various stages of introducing super trains, including Russia, Britain, Vietnam and Brazil, but the United States is the ultimate prize.

President Barack Obama’s stimulus package included an $8 billion provision for high-speed trains, and some say eventually $600 billion will be needed for a nationwide network. Japan’s exports to the United States last year totaled about $140 billion.


Hey, want free Wi-Fi with that Big Mac? You’ll soon have it

McDonald’s Corp. said Monday that it will soon offer free wireless Internet access at most of its U.S. fast-food restaurants as it tries to broaden its appeal still further.

The fast-food chain has offered Internet access for about five years.

In mid-January, it will lift the $2.95 fee it has charged for two hours of Internet access at 11,000 of its 14,000 U.S. locations. There will be no time limit after the fee is lifted.

Dave Grooms, chief information officer for McDonald’s USA, said McDonald’s, traditionally known as a quick stop, has become more of a destination with new products and a new look and feel at many of its restaurants.

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