Archive for April, 2008

Energy firms highlight Burkenroad Conference

Monday, April 28th, 2008

With oil prices hovering around $120 a barrel, it doesn’t take much imagination to guess what the hot ticket was at this year’s Burkenroad Reports Investment Conference.

“Energy stocks were white hot,” says Peter Ricchiuti, assistant dean and organizer of the event. “Everybody was interested in energy. There were some presentations where I couldn’t even get into the room.”

Energy companies, banks, offshore service providers, a chicken processor and a manufacturer of products for infants were among the 34 regional small- and mid-cap companies to participate in this year’s conference, an annual event that brings investors together with top management at companies followed by the Freeman School’s Burkenroad Reports equities research program. More than 400 investors attended this year’s program, which took place on April 25 at the New Orleans Sheraton.

According to Ricchiuti, energy companies generating a buzz this year included Hornbeck Offshore Services, Energy Partners, Omni Energy Services, Callon Petroleum and McMoRan Exploration, a pioneer in deeper-pool exploration.

“Everybody else drills for oil at 10,000 to 12,000 feet, but McMoRan believes there’s oil at 35,000 feet,” explains Ricchiuti. “They hit a good-sized well off of Lafayette, and they have a new well just off the mouth of the river that they’re waiting to find the results on. It’s very exciting. There might be a whole other layer of dead dinosaurs under Louisiana.”

Burkenroad Reports Investment ConferenceBank stocks – including Teche Holdings, Iberia Bank and First M&F Corp. – also had an interesting story to tell. “People are running away from banks because of what happened to Citigroup, but these guys have little or no subprime lending, they were not involved in those really complicated derivative securities that blew up, and the housing market here is completely different from the rest of the country,” Ricchiuti says. “With the Fed having lowered interest rates so much, they’re in a better position to make money on loans. There just seems to be a real misperception about these stocks and these companies, and it’s probably an opportunity for investors.”

Despite the market’s poor performance in the wake of the subprime mortgage bust, local stocks have actually done relatively well. The S&P 500 is down 5 percent since January, but the Burkenroad Fund, a mutual fund that invests in many of the stocks followed by Burkenroad Reports, is up 5 percent. “I think people are starting to realize this part of the country is a good place to hide in a downturn,” Ricchiuti says. “We’re big in oil and gas, the weakness of the dollar has created a huge surge in exports coming through the port, and we’re just starting to get all this insurance money. Whereas the rest of the country has come to a screeching halt in housing, there’s still so much to do here.”

Burkenroad Reports was founded in 1993 to give students practical experience as research analysts while at the same time highlighting Louisiana companies often overlooked by Wall Street. Today, the program has grown to include 200 student analysts covering more than 40 small- and mid-cap “stocks under rocks” in six states.

Reiss and Houston honored as Entrepreneurs of the Year

Monday, April 21st, 2008

The Freeman School has named two distinguished businessmen with close ties to New Orleans as this year’s Tulane Entrepreneurs of the Year.

James J. Reiss Jr., a private investor and manager of Reiss Companies, was honored as the 2008 Tulane Most Distinguished Entrepreneur, and Allan Houston, former NBA player and founder of the Allan Houston Foundation, was honored as the 2008 Tulane Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

The awards were presented at the annual Tulane Council of Entrepreneurs Awards Gala on Friday, April 18, at the Westin New Orleans at Canal Place. The Freeman School’s Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship presents the awards each year to highlight individuals whose support of for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurial initiatives improves the community.

“Jimmy Reiss and Allan Houston each exemplify the true spirit of entrepreneurship and philanthropic generosity,” said John Elstrott, executive director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute. “Jimmy has spent his career growing businesses and creating wealth while remaining committed to the community. Allan, through his foundation, created an entrepreneurship education program to help young adults in New Orleans achieve economic empowerment.”

The Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship trains students for entrepreneurial careers through coursework, community service projects and internships. In 2007, the institute’s entrepreneurship program was ranked 15th in the nation by Entrepreneur magazine and the Princeton Review.

The Freeman School of Business was established in 1914 and is a founding member of AACSB, the premier accrediting body for collegiate schools of business. Today, Freeman is a leading, internationally recognized business school with more than 1,800 students in programs spanning three continents. The Freeman School is consistently listed among the nation’s best business schools by publications including U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek, Forbes, London’s Financial Times and Latin America’s AméricaEconomía.

Startups compete for cash in business plan competition

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Can small loans up to $250 be enough to fight global poverty? A group of students from the Freeman School and University of Texas at Dallas are banking on it. They got an endorsement from peers and faculty Friday at the 8th annual Tulane Business Plan Competition.

The Audubon Global Opportunities Fund won a first place prize of $10,000 in the social entrepreneurship track for a plan to raise $30 million to invest in stable micro-finance intuitions across the globe. These institutions provide small loans and lines of credit to those living in poverty in the hopes of spurring economic development in small communities. The fund was one of 10 businesses plans university-based entrepreneurs presented to a panel of judges assembled by the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association.

“We definitely want to pursue this,” says Edward Crawford, a second-year MBA student and one of nine people behind the business venture. “We got some hard questions (from judges), but we were able to answer them. Now we feel prepared to where we can actually send the business plan off to investors.”

Crawford said he has had inquiries from two investment groups and one hedge fund since winning the competition.

The second-place winner in the social entrepreneurship track was Shallow Crossing, a startup that plans to use renewable energy sources to provide clean water and ice for food and medical storage in developing countries. Banque Pour Tous, which plans to offer banking services to mobile users in Africa, took third place. Second place teams each received $5,000 and third-place teams received $2,500.

In the business entrepreneurship division, Just-In-Time Logistics, a technology startup servicing the waste management industry, took the $10,000 grand prize. EnviroBlinds, a company that plans to market window blinds equipped with solar panels, took second place, and, a service to deliver security-free, ad-subsidized electronic course reading materials to high school and college students, took third place.

The Tulane Business Plan Competition began in 2000 with the goal of teaching students interested in entrepreneurship the skills needed to start a new venture as well as to expose these young entrepreneurs to investors who could fund their businesses.

The competition, which is sponsored by the Freeman School’s Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship, has been held annually, with one exception following Hurricane Katrina, and has attracted for-profit and not-for-profit business plans from local, regional and national university students.

–Keith Brannon

Freeman hosts 12th annual Finance Case Competition

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

A team representing Vanderbilt University took the top prize of $5,000 at this year’s Rolanette and Berdon Lawrence Finance Case Competition. The competition took place at the Freeman School on April 4, 2008.

Emory University took second place and a prize of $3,000, and a team from Rice University won third place and a prize of $2,000.

In addition to the winning teams, the competition this year featured teams representing Tulane, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of South Carolina, Wake Forest University, and Washington University.

Serving as judges this year were Charles Carrier, partner with Johnson Rice; Curt Karges, managing director with JP Morgan Securities Inc.; and Jay Parkinson, vice president with Jefferies and Co.

The Finance Case Competition began in 1997 and has been sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence since 1998. Berdon Lawrence (BBA ’64, MBA ’65) is chairman of Kirby Corp., a Houston-based operator of inland tank barges. He is a former member of the Board of Tulane and serves on the Business School Council.

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