ENERGY

PUC approves plan to expand natural gas capacity

Following more than two years of study, the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday gave conditional approval to a plan in which electric consumers would underwrite a contract through their power rates that would help pay for expanded natural gas capacity in New England. The vote – which ran counter to a PUC staff recommendation – was unanimous. However, one of the three commissioners dissented on which of two eligible pipeline projects to endorse. And they all agreed that four other New England states that are considering similar plans would have to follow suit before Maine would participate. That could be a tall order, in light of the lack of consensus over whether the region’s energy future should maintain a strong role for fossil fuels or make a quicker transition to renewable sources and high efficiency. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE AND CONSTRUCTION

Home sales and prices increase

Real estate agents across Maine reported 1,960 sales of existing, single-family homes in June, an increase of 9.6 percent compared with a year earlier. The median price for those homes rose 5.5 percent to $198,000, according to a report issued Thursday by the Maine Association of Realtors. The median indicates that half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less. For the three-month period ending June 30, home sales in Maine were up 18.3 percent from the same period of 2015, and the median price increased by 3.3 percent to $190,000, according to the report. Read the story.

Old Orchard Beach restaurant purchases building

Duffy’s Tavern & Grill has purchased the Old Orchard Beach restaurant building in which it operates, along with two adjacent structures, for $1.7 million. Duffy’s, which also operates a restaurant in Kennebunk, closed on the restaurant property at 168 Saco Ave. on Wednesday, according to Mark Sandler of Cardente Real Estate, who brokered the transaction. The sale included the 11,750-square-foot restaurant, formerly known as The Captain’s Galley, a two-unit, 1,900-square-foot apartment building and a 2,550-square-foot home, all sitting on about 5.2 acres, according to a Cardente news release. Read the story.

INSURANCE

Lawmaker submits amendment to prevent age-based auto rate hike

The House chairman of the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee has submitted legislation Tuesday that would prohibit insurance companies from charging older Mainers higher premiums based solely on their age. Rep. Henry Beck, a Democrat who represents parts of Waterville and Oakland, has submitted to the Revisor’s Office a proposed amendment to the Maine Insurance Code in response to insurance provider Progressive Corp. seeking permission from the state Bureau of Insurance to impose age-based increases on older drivers. Current Maine law prohibits insurers from boosting existing customers’ premiums as they age, but Beck said it isn’t clear whether the existing statute applies to new insurance consumers. Read the story.

Cross acquires Bangor competitor

Cross Insurance has expanded its reach in Maine with the acquisition of a nearby rival agency. Cross, which is one of New England’s largest insurance agencies, acquired Bangor-based Sargent, Tyler & West, according to a release from Cross. For nearly 200 years, Sargent, Tyler & West provided insurance for homes, autos, boats, motorcycles, businesses, life and health. The acquisition involves the agency’s Bangor office and its Bucksport branch, Roland Grindle Insurance Agency. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Read the story.

LEGAL

DeLorme seeks review by U.S. Supreme Court

DeLorme Publishing wants the U.S. Supreme Court to review a $6.2 million penalty levied against it related to a patent infringement lawsuit. The Yarmouth-based mapmaker filed its request for a review by the nation’s top court last week. The court must now decide whether to hear the appeal. The review involves a patent infringement case that was filed nearly four years ago against DeLorme by rival BriarTek, a Virginia company that alleged DeLorme’s inReach handheld satellite communications devices infringed on BriarTek’s patent for a similar device. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

June Fitzpatrick Gallery to close

June Fitzpatrick, who has operated art galleries in Portland since the early 1990s, will close her Congress Street gallery in August, marking the third major change to the Portland gallery scene this summer. On Monday, Peggy Golden announced she had sold Greenhut Galleries, Portland’s oldest gallery, to a couple from California. In June, Susan Maasch Fine Arts also closed. Maine College of Art owns the Fitzpatrick gallery space at 522 Congress St. and is considering its options, said Raffi Der Simonian, a MECA spokesman. Fitzpatrick exhibits a range of contemporary art, including paintings, ceramics and other three-dimensional pieces. She is planning a farewell exhibition in August, a group show with longtime gallery artists. Read the story.

Parent of Barber Foods closes IPO

AdvancePierre, the parent company of Portland-based Barber Foods, raised nearly $219 million from its initial public offering, the company reported. The company said it sold 11,090,000 shares of stock at $21 a share. The $218,916,600 is what the company received after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions. As of late Friday morning, the stock was trading at $23.84 a share. Cincinnati-based AdvancePierre said it planned to use the money to repay part of its debt. Read the story.

Verso stock trades on NYSE post-bankruptcy

Verso Corp.’s stock was trading once again Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange following the paper company’s emergence from bankruptcy. While the stock was officially relisted on Monday, it did not begin trading until Tuesday. The stock opened at $12.23 a share, and its value rose briefly as high as $13.59 before settling to around $12 for most of the day. It ended the day at $12 a share, down about 1.9 percent from the opening price. During the day’s trading, 47,769 Verso shares changed hands. The Memphis-based papermaker, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday, had been delisted from the exchange in September after its stock price fell far below the required $1 average over a 30-day trading period. The stock was moved to the Over the Counter Bulletin Board exchange, where its price fluctuated between 1 and 16 cents a share prior to the company’s Jan. 26 bankruptcy filing. Read the story.

TOURISM

Saddleback’s future in question

Ski industry experts say Saddleback Mountain ski resort will have a difficult time restoring its business the longer it remains closed. The owners, Bill and Irene Berry of Farmington, announced on July 20, 2015, that unless they could secure $3 million for a new chairlift, they would be forced to close Saddleback. The Berrys failed to get the financing, but by September announced they were in negotiations to sell the ski area. As winter arrived, the Berrys announced they were close to a sale. Saddleback would open by late January, they said, and anxious season-pass holders were offered perks to keep from seeking refunds. But Saddleback never opened last winter, and details of a sale never materialized. Les Otten, the former CEO of American Skiing Co., which operated several resorts, including Sugarloaf and Sunday River, in the 1980s and ’90s, and Andy Shepard, president and CEO of the Maine-based nonprofit Outdoor Sport Institute, say the longer the resort stays closed, the more difficult it will be to either regain former customers, or entice a new owner to buy the complex. Read the story.