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W.Va. utility property assessments hit $8.9B

Oct. 03, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- The assessed value of public utility properties in West Virginia is at a record $8.9 billion, pending appeals.

State Property Tax Division director Jeff Amburgy said the assessed property values have increased about $515 million, or 6 percent, compared to a 3.6 percent increase in the previous fiscal year.

Amburgy said about $238 million of the increase is due to completion of the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line. The 500-kilovolt power line from Pennsylvania to northern Virginia that runs through parts of Monongalia, Preston Tucker, Grant, Hardy and Hampshire counties.

The total assessed value also rose because of natural gas pipeline companies expanding operations and acquiring property.

The Charleston Gazette says Amburgy presented the figures Monday to the state Board of Public Works.

The board must approve annual property valuations for all utilities operating in the state, including water, natural gas, electric and telephone companies, and railroads.

T-Mobile USA in talks to buy MetroPCS

NEW YORK -- The parent of cellphone company T-Mobile USA on Tuesday said it's in talks to buy smaller MetroPCS Communications Inc., a deal that could shore up two struggling smaller players in the U.S. wireless industry.

Deutsche Telekom AG, the German company that owns T-Mobile USA, said "significant issues have not yet been finalized" and no decision has been made on a deal. MetroPCS also confirmed the talks.

T-Mobile USA is the country's fourth-largest cellphone company, with 33.2 million subscribers. Adding the 9.3 million subscribers of Dallas-based MetroPCS, the industry's No. 5, would still leave T-Mobile trailing No. 3 Sprint Nextel Corp.

However, the deal would give T-Mobile access to more space on the airwaves, a critical factor as cellphone carriers try to expand their capacity for wireless broadband. Last year, AT&T struck a deal to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion for much the same reason. That deal was shot down by regulators, who believed competition would suffer if the second-largest cellphone company were to gobble up the fourth-largest.

Red Lobster to offer more non-seafood options

NEW YORK -- Red Lobster isn't just for the seafood lover in you. It's also for that eater in every group who just wants a chicken dish.

The chain that brought seafood to the masses is hoping to broaden its appeal by revamping its menu on Oct. 15 to boost the number of dishes that cater to diners who don't want seafood, including lighter options such as salads. Red Lobster also is increasing the number of dishes that cost less than $15 to attract customers who have cut back on spending.

The chain, which is owned by Darden Restaurants Inc., says a quarter of the items on its menu will be non-seafood dishes, up from 8 percent. And the number of lower-cost entrees will rise to about 60 percent from 40 percent.

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