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Housing hits the road, Asia’s oil race
The housing slump is giving a boost to mobile homes, along with a small assist from fashion. India’s ONGC is hoping to out-duel China for Russian oil fields. And the Rust Belt is being repainted green.
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EWS AT A GLANCE

The mobile home rolls on

The housing boom was hard on the mobile home industry, as rising property values led landlords to sell plots from underneath the prefab houses and cities froze or quashed the growth of mobile home parks. But with the collapse of the housing bubble, the mobile home industry could be making a comeback, as the demand for affordable housing rises. Mobile homes are also benefiting from a trend toward small, energy efficient homes, and an increase in quality and cachet, as shown in a recent showcase at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. “The hardest thing is going to be changing that negative feeling you get when you say you live in a mobile home park,” said Carol Konkel, property manager for Leesburg Mobile Park in Virginia. (The Washington Post)

Indian oil firm ONGC makes a bid on Russia

India’s state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) Videsh offered to buy Britain’s Imperial Energy PLC for $2.58 billion, to tap Imperial’s Siberian oil deposits. Imperial said earlier this month that it was entertaining a rival offer from a second firm, reportedly China’s Sinopec, but the ONGC deal has the blessing of the Russian and Indian governments, according to sources. (Reuters) Chinese firms have recently outbid Indian ones as both nations compete for energy to fuel their booming economies. India imports more than 75 percent of its oil. “ONGC seems to be in a reasonable position in this deal,” said consultant Tony Regan with Nexant Inc. “But the Chinese can move very quickly when they have to.” (Bloomberg)

Rio Tinto profit jumps on aluminum

Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto reported a 113 percent rise in first-half profit, to $6.91 billion, beating Wall Street estimates. The earnings were boosted by increased aluminum production, record iron ore prices, and Rio’s 2007 acquisition of Alcan. (MarketWatch) Iron ore prices are up 97 percent from April, and fivefold from 2001; Rio Tinto is the world’s No. 2 iron ore producer. The firm raised its dividend by 31 percent, to 68 cents a share. (Bloomberg) “The headline profit number is certainly well ahead of expectations and the commentary associated with numbers appears very positive at this point in time,” said analyst Adam Dixon at Ausbil Dexia in Australia. (Reuters)

The Rust Belt’s green revival

The shuttered SUV and steel plants of the industrial Midwest are slowly being replaced by a wave of new manufacturing in solar energy technology. First Solar announced the expansion of a plant in Ohio this week, and Germany’s Flabeg is breaking ground on a factory outside Pittsburgh; Energy Conversion Devices has three plants in Michigan, and is doubling capacity in one of them. In fact, outside of a factory in Las Vegas and one being built in California, all of the U.S. solar manufacturing activity is in the Rust Belt. Solar power won’t revive the Midwest’s industrial economy by itself. (Fortune in CNNMoney.com) Luckily, two separate Gulf Arab investors have expressed interest in buying GM’s flagging Hummer brand. (Reuters in Yahoo! Finance)

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