Business briefs

From The Associated Press.

New shrimper aid program announced
HOUMA (AP) — There’s a new program to help Louisiana shrimpers upgrade or purchase equipment.
The shrimp refrigeration cost-share program provides eligible shrimp-vessel owners, docks and processors half the cost of refrigeration equipment for their businesses.
The program is part of the Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Program, which aims to produce higher quality products by bolstering handling practices and other professional development.
Jason Froeba, biologist director for Louisiana’s Wildlife and Fisheries, says the program began in October 2012 and now has more than 100 participants.
He says the goal is to certify seafood origin and improve the quality and production of Louisiana shrimp

Home Bancorp reports 4th
quarter decline
LAFAYETTE (AP) — Lafayette-based Home Bancorp Inc. reported fourth-quarter net income dropped to $1.7 million, or 25 cents per share, compared to $2.5 million, or 37 cents per share, a year ago.
The parent company of Home Bank said its results included $307,000 of pre-tax expenses, or 3 cents per share, related to the acquisition of Britton & Koontz Capital Corp.
For the year, Home Bancorp’s 2013 earnings fell to $7.3 million, or $1.06 per share, compared to $9.2 million, or $1.28 per share, a year earlier.
The company’s total interest income dipped by 6 percent for the fourth quarter and 5 percent for the year.

Uganda finalizes oil company talks
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda’s government says it has finalized negotiations with foreign oil companies exploring in the country, clearing the way for to start commercial crude production.
The office of Energy Minister Irene Muloni said Monday that the government is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with the companies: Britain’s Tullow Oil, France’s Total, and state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. It remains unclear when that will happen.
Uganda has confirmed oil reserves of 3.5 billion barrels but production is not expected to start until 2016.

Design firm expanding
in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — By summer, event and exhibit design firm The Solomon Group plans to nearly quadruple the size of its offices in the New Orleans Warehouse District.
Founding partner Gary Solomon Jr. said the company has been working to renovate a 10,000-square-foot building at 819 Girod St. that will be its new home office. The business is currently based at 900 S. Peters St.
Renovation of the two-story Girod Street property began in August.
Solomon is working with Ryan Gootee General Contractors and Eskew+Dumez+Ripple Architects.
Solomon said he bought the building about two years ago with the intent of converting it into new offices.
According to New Orleans conveyance records, Solomon Group Ventures purchased the building for $1.134 million from the Dr. G.H. Tichenor Antiseptic Co. The building was the original New Orleans office for the mouthwash and toothpaste company, which opened in 1905.

Axiall considers La. for $3 billion ethane plant
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Axiall Corp. is considering building a $3 billion ethane cracker and chemical plant somewhere in Louisiana.
The Atlanta-based chemical manufacturer said it could make a decision sometime early next year. Axiall would invest $1 billion of its own money, while an unnamed partner would put in $2 billion.
The plant could open in 2018, creating 225 permanent jobs. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 construction would be created over four to five years.
Louisiana Economic Development officials said they’ve offered Axiall a “competitive, performance-based incentive package,” but did not provide details.
Axiall says it wants to make at least half its own ethane-based chemicals that it uses to make vinyls instead of buying them from others.
The company currently has Louisiana plants in Lake Charles and Plaquemines where it employs 1,600. Axiall was formed earlier this year when Georgia Gulf merged with part of PPG’s chemicals business.
“While we are still considering a number of options and potential partners for the project, and we have not yet received final investment approval from our board of directors, we have narrowed our siting choices to Louisiana,” CEO Paul Carrico said in a statement. “We are excited about the prospect of expanding our footprint in the state and continuing to invest in Louisiana and its talented workforce.”
If built, the plant would be another in a wave of tens of billions of dollars in chemical investments in Louisiana, driven largely by the cheap and abundant natural gas that’s being drilled out of formations including the Haynesville Shale by hydraulic fracturing.
Sasol North America, for example, plans a similar ethane cracker and derivatives plant in Lake Charles, with plans to spend more than $5 billion. Westlake Chemical Corp. plans an expansion of its own ethane cracker in Lake Charles. And Dow Chemicals restarted its shuttered ethane cracker in Hahnville late last year.

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