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New-to-Houston construction tech company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

After relocating its headquarters to Houston, Katerra has filed for bankruptcy. Photo via Getty Images

Construction startup Katerra, which only recently moved its North American headquarters from Silicon Valley to Houston, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy June 6 — five days after news reports indicated the company was shutting down most of its U.S. operations.

Katerra's filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston show the company and various affiliates have between $1 billion and $10 billion in liabilities and only $500 million to $1 billion in assets. In a June 6 news release, Katerra says it lined up $35 million in financing from a unit of Japan's SoftBank Group, the startup's largest investor.

Katerra recently notified its key stakeholders that many of its U.S. projects will be "demobilizing," according to the news release.

In an email sent June 1 to employees, Katerra said it would be winding down the majority of its U.S. operations and would lay off most of its U.S. employees. News website The Information first reported about the email. Globally, Katerra employs about 7,500 people.

Aside from letting go thousands of employees, Katerra is likely to walk away from dozens of construction projects it had agreed to build, The Information reported. As part of the bankruptcy case, Katerra plans to sell its renovation and Lord Aeck Sargent architecture businesses to unidentified buyers.

Katerra has been hemorrhaging money for months. In December, SoftBank pumped $200 million into Katerra, in addition to its previous investment of roughly $2 billion. Five months after Katerra received that cash infusion, Paal Kibsgaard stepped down as CEO, a role he'd held since July 2020. Kibsgaard is former chairman and CEO of Houston-based Schlumberger.

"The rapid deterioration of the company's financial position is the result of the macroeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction industry, inability to procure bonding for construction projects following the unexpected insolvency proceedings of Katerra's former lender, and unsuccessful attempts to secure additional capital and business," according to the news release announcing the bankruptcy proceedings.

Greensill Capital, the lender referenced in the news release, filed for insolvency protection in March. Like Katerra, Greensill is backed by SoftBank.

Katerra was founded in 2015 with the intent to capitalize on technology — such as automation and robotics — in order to streamline construction. Its projects have included hotels and apartment buildings. Last year, it posted nearly $2 billion in revenue.

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Rice once again is named the best collegiate value in Texas. Photo courtesy of Rice University

By one measure, earning a degree at Rice University is the smartest move in the Lone Star State.

In its eighth annual ranking of colleges and university that give students the best return on their educational investment, personal finance website SmartAsset places Rice at No. 1 in Texas and No. 10 in the U.S. It’s the only Texas school to break into the national top 10.

To determine the best-value colleges and universities in each state, SmartAsset crunched data in these categories: scholarships and grants, starting salary for new graduates, tuition, living costs, and retention rate.

While the tuition ($47,350) and student living costs ($17,800) at Rice are the highest among the top 10 Texas schools on the list, the average amount of scholarships and grants ($43,615), average starting salary ($77,900), and retention rate (97 percent) also are among the highest.

According to Rice, tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, and personal expenses for the 2022-23 academic year add up to $74,110. That figure, which excludes financial aid, applies to a full-time, degree-seeking student living on campus.

“Rice University is consistently ranked as a best value in higher education and is one of America’s leading teaching and research universities,” the school’s Office of Financial Aid says. “By attending Rice, you will not only receive a superior education at a reasonable cost, you also will benefit from having a Rice degree long after graduation.”

Three other schools in or near the Houston metro area appear on SmartAsset’s list of the biggest-bang-for-your-buck schools in Texas:

  • Prairie View A&M University, No. 4. The university posted the lowest retention rate (74 percent) among the 10 schools. The remaining figures sit roughly in the middle of the pack.
  • University of Houston, No. 5. The university’s tuition ($8,913) was the lowest in the top 10, as was the average amount of scholarships and grants ($6,544).
  • Texas A&M University-College Station, No. 6. The university’s living costs are the second highest among the top 10 ($17,636), while its average starting salary for new grads lands at No. 3 ($64,400).

Other schools in the state’s top 10 are:

  • University of Texas at Austin, No. 2.
  • University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson), No. 3.
  • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 7.
  • LeTourneau University in Longview, No. 8.
  • University of North Texas in Denton, No. 9.
  • Texas State University in San Marcos, No. 10.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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