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Trade Sempra gets green light from Mexico to build power plant



San Diego-Based IdeaEDGE, Satyam Strike Up Working Accord

San Diego-based Sempra Energy, the parent firm of San Diego Gas & Electric Co., recently received approvals from the Mexican government to construct a $350 million power plant near Mexicali in Baja California.

The new plant doesn’t have a firm date for beginning construction, but the company hopes it will be up and running by summer of 2003, said Sempra spokesman Michael Clark.

Clark noted Sempra’s latest binational energy project adds to a track record of working with Mexico on regional infrastructure dating back to the mid-1980s.

Since then, Sempra has invested some $260 million in Mexican energy projects, primarily three natural gas distribution systems. It also built two power lines that connect Baja to California’s power grid system.

The power plant approval follows on the heels of an earlier approval Sempra received from Mexico to build a 215-mile natural gas pipeline from Arizona to Tijuana. The project will cost about $230 million and be completed by 2002.

The gas pipeline will provide the source of fuel for the plant, and together with already existing high-voltage transmission lines, the 600 megawatt plant could supply sufficient power for about 600,000 homes, and be distributed to the southwestern power grid, which includes California, Arizona and Baja.

Clark said Sempra was able to secure the permits for the plant much quicker than if the plant was built on this side of the border. The permits were acquired in about six months, compared to a year to 18 months if the project had been sited in this country, he said.

And, no, the plant isn’t being built in Mexico to escape tougher environmental laws, Clark said. “This plant will be built to California’s air emission standards, which are among the most stringent in the world.”

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IdeaEDGE Partners With India Firm: San Diego-based ideaEDGE, a high-tech incubator firm, said it has entered into a joint venture with Satyam Computer Services, a global information technology firm based in Hyderabad, India, near Calcutta.

The newly created firm, called Satyam ideaEDGE Technologies, or SIT, has already hired some 30 staffers, mostly engineers, and expects to grow to about 500 people over the next three years, said ideaEDGE spokeswoman Liya Sharif.

Satyam is a recognized global IT company with some 9,000 employees working in 35 countries for a list of customers that include hundreds of Fortune 500 and other multinational corporations, she said.

SIT will harness India’s best software talent to develop technology solutions for ideaEDGE’s backed companies. The joint venture and its entire staff will be located in India, Sharif said.

Currently, ideaEDGE has some 40 employees, with another 20 who are working for start-ups that are receiving funding and assistance, she said.

The incubator firm’s primary focus is on technology companies providing products or services to mobile Internet applications. Among its investors are Qualcomm Inc., Enterprise Partners, Sienna Holdings, Investor AB, and Silicon Valley Bank.

PriceSmart Expands Again: PriceSmart Inc., the San Diego-based operator of warehouse club stores, primarily in the Caribbean and Central America, said it will open two new stores over the next few months, in Aruba on March 22 and in St. Thomas, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, on May 3.

Those additions bring the total PriceSmart stores to 17 in the Caribbean region. It also has another five licensed stores in China and one in Micronesia.

Besides this expansion, PriceSmart is planning to open a second warehouse store in Manila, in the Philippines this fall.

The company reported the earthquakes that hit El Salvador last month and once again just recently did not damage its two warehouse stores, which are built to U.S. standards.

PriceSmart CEO Gil Partida accompanied a plane trip shortly after the earthquake first hit that delivered medical supplies and cash to purchase other supplies.

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BreezeCom Opens Frankfurt Office: BreezeCom, an Israeli-based designer and maker of wireless access products with an office in Carlsbad, said it opened a sales office in Frankfurt, Germany, this month.

Germany is the ideal marketplace for broadband wireless access products because market conditions and regulatory framework are well ahead of other countries in Europe, BreezeCom said.

Nasdaq-traded BreezeCom has eight offices in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. It has about 450 total employees including about 100 at its Carlsbad office, said a spokeswoman.

Proflowers Attracts Investment: Proflowers.com, the San Diego-based direct flower e-tailer, said it received a venture capital investment of 150 million yen for its majority owned Japanese subsidiary, Flowerfarm Kabushiki Kaisha.

At current rates, the investment equals about $1.4 million. The funding was led by SB Investments, the venture capital arm of Sumitomo Bank, and also included Nippon Life, the largest insurance company in Japan.

Like its parent company, the Japanese subsidiary delivers flowers to consumers direct from the nation’s top flower auction in Tokyo.

Japan, the second largest flower market in the world behind the United States, does about $6 billion in sales annually, Proflowers said.

Send international trade news to mallen@ sdbj.com.

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