19 September 2008

* Profits in pipes: Infrastructure gains

"We see flowing profits from companies in the water sector involved with pipes, pumps, regulators and other equipment," notes Neil George.

In his industry-leading Personal Finance newsletter, the advisor offers a fascinating overview of three companies that help "utilities and other industries provide quality water service."
"Aging pipes are one of the most pressing challenges in the US and beyond. Studies show that in some municipalities, loss from leaky pipes accounts for as much as 10% of water consumption.

"Ameron International (NYSE: AMN) is a pipe manufacturer with operations on every continent. Earnings per share don't show smooth-line growth on a quarterly basis given the cyclical nature of construction. But it does show solid, year-over-year growth.

"There's some price volatility as investors are jarred with increasingly pessimistic domestic construction outlooks, but overseas earnings will continue to bolster the balance sheet.
"Watts Water Technologies (NYSE: WTS) manufactures pumps, valves and controls for a broad array of both consumer and industrial applications.

"Used to control the pressure and direction of water moving through piping and other systems, as well the volume, you'll find Watts products installed in homes and municipal water systems, as well as factories and commercial buildings.

"The multiple applications for Watts' products also make the company resistant to the economic downturn, given the broad exposure to both consumer and governmental markets. It also positions the company to benefit from any future rebound in residential construction.

"Corrosion and failure are rampant problems in the global water delivery system, giving rise to enormous opportunities for companies able to combat contamination.

"Nalco Holdings (NYSE: NLC) offers a line of chemical treatments and related service products that keep older water systems safe and operating.

"Revenues are climbing at double-digit rates, in its water business as well as its energy-related and chemical industry businesses."


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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.