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COLUMN: BUSINESS BRIEFS

Chinese firm plans buyout

WALTHAM -- A123 Systems, which develops and manufactures lithium ion batteries and systems, announced last week it will potentially sell 80 percent of its shares to one of China's largest automotive components manufacturer, Wanxiang Group Corp.

Wanxiang Group and A123 Systems said the companies have inked a deal for Wanxiang to invest up to $465 million in A123 Systems by purchasing its debt.

According to A123 Systems, Wanxiang's investment is expected to provide A123 "with the capital necessary to strengthen the company's competitive position in the global vehicle electrification and grid energy storage markets." A123 Systems expects to receive an initial credit extension of $25 million.

In essence, Wanxiang is purchasing $200 million worth of A123 Systems' debt in the form of 8 percent senior secured convertible notes, with the potential to purchase $190 million more. If the deal is approved by A123 Systems' shareholders and passes the termination of the required waiting period, Wanxiang would own 80 percent of A123 Systems' shares.

Headquartered in Waltham, A123 Systems has a manufacturing facility in Westboro, a research and development facility in Hopkinton and another facility in Michigan. The company has experienced some serious financial problems, including a 53 percent drop in revenue for the second quarter, and losses of $89 million.

A123 Systems has received $250 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. Some critics of the deal have expressed concern that the money will be used to send the company's manufacturing jobs and intellectual property to China.

Walmart opens expanded store

OXFORD -- Walmart held a grand opening for its expanded store at 174 Main St. in North Oxford last week.

The store was redesigned and about 10,000 square feet was added, bringing the total square footage to 143,000, according to a company press release. The expansion also involves hiring 85 employees, raising the workforce to 300 people.

The store's new skylights help to reduce the amount of energy required for lighting by up to 75 percent daily. New LED lighting in the store operates 70 percent more efficiently than traditional fluorescent lighting.

Also, low-flow toilets and faucets will help reduce water use in the bathrooms. The store also operates a recycling program and will promote sustainable product purchases.

Rollstone starts on new branch

LEOMINSTER -- Rollstone Bank & Trust broke ground last week on a project to convert the former Friendly's restaurant at 24 Monument Square into a new bank branch.

The new location will be a full-service branch and house the bank's Wealth Management Division, which focuses on trusts, investments, financial planning and insurance. The branch will be 18,500 square feet.

Rollstone Bank & Trust is a full-service bank with branches in Fitchburg, Leominster, Harvard and Townsend. It also has a professional services office in Worcester, which is focused on mortgages, commercial lending and wealth management.

The bank awarded the contract for the project to R.P. Masiello, which handled the renovations of the bank's main office. The company is working with Patrick McCarty of Leominster's McCarty Engineering and Patrick J. Slattery Architects of Lunenburg to plan the space. Local contractors will be used for other phases of the project as well.

Wachusett to offer new ale

WESTMINSTER -- Wachusett Brewing Co. has begun brewing a new seasonal ale that will be available this month.

Pumpkan Ale, with an evil-looking carved pumpkin leering at potential customers from a black background, is an amber ale, orange in color, that uses pumpkin puree as one of its ingredients. It will be sold in cans, according to a company press release, the third beer from the company to be sold in cans. Imperial Pumpkin Ale, introduced last year, will be released again this year, according to the company.

Business alliance plans directory

WEBSTER -- The Webster Dudley Business Alliance was recently awarded a $500 "shop local" grant to help create a "Support Your Local Businesses" directory, to be distributed at town halls, libraries, realtors, banks and other local businesses. Students at Bartlett High School will be assisting with layout and design.

There are several options for local businesses, including a free basic listing for WDBA members and local nonprofit groups and display ads or coupons at various rates. The directories will be distributed in early October. Deadline to send in information and payment is Aug. 25.

Local businesses and organizations are invited to participate by calling (508) 949-6232 or emailing contact@thewdba.org . Forms can also be downloaded at www.thewdba.org.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS MATTERS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 19, 2012
Words:745
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