Budget squeeze felt by mums and business

Updated October 23, 2012 01:30:33

New mums, universities and lobby groups are among those who have criticised the Federal Government’s budget update, which yesterday revealed $4 billion worth of savings.

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook shows lower commodity prices and falling tax receipts have trimmed the projected 2012-13 budget surplus to just $1.1 billion, down from the $1.5 billion predicted in May.

The savings include cuts to the baby bonus and a change to make large businesses pay tax monthly instead of four times a year.

“We haven’t taken any of the savings that we’ve made lightly, but we’ve made sure that they don’t hurt the economy or don’t hurt the most vulnerable,” Treasurer Wayne Swan said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott does not like the changes and argues the cuts will put extra pressure on already stretched households budgets.

“Wayne Swan is hurting families’ budgets so he can patch up the Government’s budget,” he said.

The Coalition is not alone in its criticism of the mid-year economic update.

Greg Evans from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the cuts are bad news for the economy, especially for the retail sector.

“The mainstream economy is still in a fairly tepid condition and we’re seeing these budget cuts against that background,” he said.

“I think that will have an over-riding negative impact on consumer confidence.”

Mr Evans says he believes changing the way businesses pay tax will make Australia less competitive in the long run and reduce consumer confidence.

“There’s no free lunch when it comes to these issues,” he said.

He says companies are being made to pay for the Government’s surplus and spending priorities.

New mums are unhappy too and say the loss of the baby bonus is short-sighted.

Mother-of-three Bernadette Mitchell told the ABC that with each new arrival, the baby bonus helped her family make ends meet.

“I have used it on many items including a pram, basic necessities for a newborn baby including nappies, formula, wipes, singlets, all of the basic things that you tend to run through a lot of with a baby,” she said.

From July next year, for parents having a second or subsequent child, the baby bonus will be reduced from $5,000 to $3,000.

Mrs Mitchell says that will make some parents think long and hard.

“We didn’t have to worry about where that extra money was going to come from to pay for those basic necessities.

“It made it much easier for my husband and I to decide to have a third child. And it would definitely impact on our decision if we were going to have a fourth.”

We asked our audience if they would be affected by the cuts. Read their comments.

But demographer Nick Parr is expecting the birth rate will remain the same despite the reduction.

“In my opinion it’s unlikely to have any significant affect on the birth rate,” he said.

“We did see up until 2008 something of a recovery in the birth rate, but I think that was partly a catch-up effect following a sustained period of postponing births.”

Finance Minister Penny Wong said it was never popular to make decisions to find savings.

“Notwithstanding that some people think it’s very easy, it’s rarely popular,” she said. “My view is you have to think about where you want to be in the long term.

“And you want to make sure you have a sustainable health system that governments can continue to fund in the years and decades ahead and a sustainable family payment system, and these changes… contribute to that sustainability.”

Universities Australia’s chief executive Belinda Robinson is bitterly disappointed by newly-announced funding cuts and says there could be job losses.

“There’s a real danger here that governments are treating research as a short-term cost saving when quite clearly it’s a long-term gain that requires a long-term investment,” she said.

Ms Robinson says higher education will be getting $1 billion less than it expected and there are cuts to research funding, support for postgraduate degrees and other funding has been deferred.

She says major universities that are research intensive, will have to make cuts of their own to balance the books.

“They’re going to be hit the hardest and they’re going to be, I’m sure they’re reviewing their budgets as we speak to see how they’re going to accommodate the changes that are inevitably going to take place from next year on.

“And that could include staff and we’ve already seen one of our vice-chancellors coming out earlier today saying that they will be looking at their research staff levels.”

Ms Robinson adds that there is a danger of eroding some of the core policy agendas of the Federal Government.

“They have identified innovation and research as fundamentally underpinning Australia’s long-term well-being, particularly as we move away from an economy that is very vulnerable to the resources sector, to one that’s in need of diversification.”

Mid-year economic update 2012-13new projected surplus for 2012-2013amount projected surplus has shrunk by since May’s budgetsavings and extra charges included in the updatehit to tax revenue included in forward estimates

estimates savings achieved by pegging increases in the private

health rebate to inflation

amount saved by limiting baby bonusmoney saved by shutting down Medicare teen dental program

increased revenue over four years from raising visa charges for backpackers,

graduates, overseas workers and partners of people already in Australia

new forecast revenue from mining tax, over four yearsold forecast revenue from mining tax, over four years

money raised by making larger companies pay their tax instalments on a

monthly instead of a quarterly basis

blowout in cost of dealing with the rising number of asylum seekers arriving

by boat

new campaign to “improve understanding” of National Broadband NetworkTopics: budget, federal-government, business-economics-and-finance, community-and-society, university-and-further-education, australia

First posted October 22, 2012 20:41:54

Local market struggles to keep momentum

Posted October 23, 2012 17:30:24

The Australian share market struggled to maintain its momentum after a positive start to the session and ended the day flat.

The All Ordinaries index rose three points to 4,568 while the ASX 200 index ended the day two points higher at 4,543.

Miners began the day with healthy gains but softened by the close.

BHP Billiton finished a quarter of a per cent higher, while rival Rio Tinto rose a tenth of a per cent.

Fortescue Metals Group gained 1.7 per cent.

Smaller iron ore players did not fare as well though; Mount Gibson fell 2.6 per cent and Atlas 1.2 per cent.

Most finance companies finished in positive territory; Commonwealth rose three-quarters of a per cent and ANZ and Westpac each ended a fifth of a per cent higher, but NAB lost a tenth of a per cent.

Telstra gained three-quarters of a per cent.

Pacific Brands fell 4.5 per cent as its new chief told the company’s annual general meeting that sales were down this year.

The Pacific board avoided a spill though, as shareholders approved the pay deals for the company’s top executives.

The retail sector was otherwise mixed. Billabong rose 3 per cent and JB Hi-Fi by 1.9 per cent, but Harvey Norman fell 1.25 per cent.

Shares in energy company AGL fell 1.7 per cent after the company confirmed that regulated price cuts in Queensland and South Australia will cut $45 million from its profits.

AGL has responded by cutting discounts and other marketing spending in both states and also pulling back from electricity generation investment in South Australia.

Meanwhile, there was better news for the Ten Network; its shares rose 1.7 per cent after the company announced a revised offer for its outdoor advertising business Eye Corp.

About 5pm (AEDT) spot gold had weakened to around $US1,725 an ounce, West Texas crude oil was worth about $US89 a barrel and Tapis crude was fetching around $US114 a barrel.

The Australian dollar was buying around 103.18 US cents, 79.07 euro cents, 82.43 Japanese yen, 64.46 British pence and 126.37 New Zealand cents.

Topics: markets, stockmarket, currency, company-news, australia

Hydro Tas generates another profit

Updated October 23, 2012 16:09:28

Hydro Tasmania has recorded another strong operating result.

The state-owned business has posted an operating profit of more than $103 million for the past financial year.

That is up slightly on the previous year.

It is citing strong growth from its mainland retail arm Momentum Energy which delivered an $11 million profit.

Chairman Dr David Crean says the company is expecting a $140 million boost from exporting more power.

“Seventy million dollars we expect to come from increased generation and $70 million from the uplift in the carbon price,” he said.

Momentum’s profit was significantly more than expected.

The result will see Hydro Tasmania return a dividend of $50 million to the State Government.

The Resources Minister, Bryan Green, says the returns demonstrate the importance of retaining the business in public hands.

“This is excellent news and clearly demonstrates the importance of Hydro Tasmania to the state both now and on into the future,” he said.

Topics: hydro-energy, electricity-energy-and-utilities, states-and-territories

First posted October 23, 2012 11:55:25

Miners lift share market higher

Posted October 23, 2012 12:12:47

Mining stocks have led the Australian share market higher in morning trade.

The All Ordinaries index was up 20 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,584 shortly before midday (AEDT), and the ASX 200 had risen 19 points to 4,560.

Rio Tinto was 1 per cent higher and rival BHP Billiton had gained 0.6 per cent.

Fortescue Metals Group shares have jumped 3.4 per cent, while copper and gold miner Oz Minerals was up more than 3.5 per cent to $8.59 after it reaffirmed its previous full-year production guidance in its latest quarterly update.

The Ten Network was up 1.7 per cent, and Fairfax was up from recent lows, rising 3.3 per cent to 37.7 cents.

Troubled surfwear retailer Billabong had risen 1.8 per cent to 84.5 cents.

Other retailers have not fared as well, with David Jones falling 0.4 per cent and Harvey Norman by 0.75 per cent.

QBE Insurance has dropped 2.5 per cent, while energy provider AGL had fallen by 2.7 per cent after its latest earnings forecast released in conjunction with its AGM in Sydney.

The Australian dollar was trading higher against the greenback at 103.26 US cents.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, markets, currency, stockmarket, australia

Work at prison due to recommence in 2013

Posted October 23, 2012 15:23:19

Developer Brookfield Multiplex has confirmed it will take over the redevelopment of the Ararat Prison.

The redevelopment collapsed in May when the lead builder, St Hilliers Ararat, went into liquidation owing about $25 million.

A deal struck in September saw the Commonwealth and Bendigo Banks take responsibility for the project, including honouring unpaid debts.

In a statement, Brookfield Multiplex said the banks have awarded them the contract to begin preliminary works at the site, while continuing to negotiate the contract to complete the works.

It aims to restart construction early in the New Year.

The Victorian Minister for Corrections Andrew McIntosh welcomed the announcement saying he was ‘thrilled’ the recommencement of works is now imminent and thanked the council and people of Ararat for their patience.

Topics: industry, building-and-construction, prisons-and-punishment, state-parliament, ararat-3377

AGL threatens investment halt due to price regulation

Updated October 23, 2012 12:51:18

Energy provider AGL says it will halt investment in power generation, including renewables, in South Australia, and says it is also reviewing its options in New South Wales.

AGL chairman Jerry Maycock says the moves are in response to what he called called “ill-considered” pricing decisions taken by state energy regulators in South Australia and Queensland.

“It’s really ironic that the recent ill-considered reaction of some regulators, such as those in Queensland and South Australia, to simply regulate down prices, will cause significant long-term cost increases for consumers, damage competition and innovation and make the national electricity market an unviable investment proposition,” he warned.

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia released a draft decision to reduce the price of electricity by $27.20 per megawatt hour.

It says it will not invest in new South Australian generation capacity, and has also cut back marketing in Queensland in response to price cuts there.

AGL says the flow on effect from the South Australian and Queensland decisions may also result in it cutting back its marketing activity in New South Wales.

Mr Maycock says there is a real risk that overlapping state and federal regulatory structures could result in the collapse of the national electricity market.

“No-one should be surprised to see new investment in the national electricity market evaporate, with all of the consequences that would follow,” he said.

“We would in fact go so far as to say that the continued regulation of retail prices, and overlapping state and federal regulatory structures, creates a real risk of systemic failure of the national electricity market.”

The energy supplier says the regulatory decisions in South Australia and Queensland could reduce full-year underlying profit by up to $60 million.

The company expects its underlying profit to rise up to 30 per cent this financial year, to be in the range of $590-640 million.

AGL says one of the main drivers of its expected rise in profit is the acquisition of the Loy Yang A power station.

The company is holding its annual general meeting in Sydney today.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, company-news, electricity-energy-and-utilities, regulation, australia, sa, nsw, qld

First posted October 23, 2012 11:36:20

Australia losing race for Asian business

Updated October 23, 2012 10:21:57

There are some stark warnings today about Australia losing the race to stay competitive in Asia.

A survey has found Australia’s innovation, competitiveness and engagement with Asia are falling behind the regional powerhouses of India and China.

There are calls for Australian business leaders to be shaken out of their complacency.

The survey of more than 6,000 Australian and Asian business leaders from across the mining, education, transport industries, and the frank views from some of Australia’s closest neighbours and most important trading partners, make for some uncomfortable reading.

“In Asia many of those folk have been learning our language, doing business, coming to our country, learning about the culture,” said Alex Malley, the chief executive of the the Australian branch of global accounting body CPA, which commissioned the research.

“We don’t appear to have been doing that as well and so, in the medium to long term, I think that’s going to be problematic for our country, both for our business and for our communities.”

He says that lack of cultural understanding will come back to bite as a financial cost.

“Economically it would mean that increasingly we’d become isolated,” Mr Malley said.

He adds there is an outdated belief that Asia needs Australia more than Australia needs Asia.

“We had probably a comparative advantage on a range of fronts and so people came to us, if you look at the educational sector, a lot of students come to Australia and still do come to Australia to study and as time has worn on of course, with Asian markets as they are, they developed their capabilities and their knowledge very quickly,” Mr Malley explained.

“They’ve got a fire in the belly that perhaps we haven’t had since the Second World War, and so they’re developing very quickly and they’re becoming more sophisticated.

“We need to look at that seriously, we need to look at how few of our children at school are studying Chinese language or culture.”

The lack of cross cultural understanding is at times shocking, according to Mona Chung from the Australia China Business Council.

“People talk about investments into China and very often they do sound very ignorant,” she said.

“In fact I say to most of the businesspeople, you can always get away without speaking the language, but without understanding at least the basic attempts of trying to understand that the business culture is so different, especially in China, that’s usually where organisations fail badly.”

Alex Malley notes that the culture and business of innovation in Asia is far healthier than it is in Australia.

“Well they are creating it very quickly, they only need to see a process once or twice and they have this ability to drive it forward and to take full advantage of it and that’s, you know, all power to them,” he said.

“We need to get back in that habit but we don’t have a natural desire to drive as hard because we’ve been pretty comfortable for a long time.”

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, trade, australia, china, india

First posted October 23, 2012 09:46:59

New hotel, conference centre for Marysville

Updated October 23, 2012 12:58:45

The State Government has announced $19 million in funding for a major new hotel in Marysville.

A consortium, including the Vibe Hotel chain, has won the tender to build a new $28 million, four-star hotel and conference centre in the main street.

It will have 100 rooms and create about 60 ongoing jobs and is due for completion in 2014.

The residents attending the launch welcomed the announcement.

The town was virtually destroyed by the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

Topics: tourism, travel-and-tourism, rural-tourism, bushfire, marysville-3779

First posted October 23, 2012 11:56:42

Libs step up attack over economic woes

Updated October 23, 2012 12:44:29

The Tasmanian Government is under pressure to explain its analysis of the Commonwealth’s mid-year budget update.

The Commonwealth estimates the state will miss out on up to $40 million over the next four years.

In Parliament, the Opposition question the Premier’s focus on the budget update which she says will reap $40 million for the state this financial year.

Shadow Treasurer Peter Gutwein says the Federal Government’s update shows a different set of figures.

“[It's] reduced the state’s specific purpose payments by more than $100 million compared to what was in your recent state budget,” he said.

The Premier and Treasurer, Lara Giddings, says her estimate of the increase might even be too low.

“We’ve got an additional $50 million over the forward estimates as well.”

She says the Commonwealth is not factoring in other elements like the Royal Hobart Hospital funding.

The Liberals also challenged the Premier to tackle issues raised in two reports criticising the state’s economy.

Access Economics and CommSec reports show the state is struggling on several indicators compared to other states, including housing construction, retail spending and employment.

Opposition Leader Will Hodgman says the Premier is refusing to fix the state’s problems.

“Given this is the second damning criticism by economic experts over just a matter of days by your Government’s policies and mishandling of the state’s economy, will you finally accept that there are problems, here and now, with the economy that need fixing?”

Ms Giddings says the reports highlight factors outside the Government’s control.

Topics: states-and-territories, economic-trends, tas, hobart-7000, launceston-7250

First posted October 23, 2012 12:12:47

Fishers to be compensated over LNG project

Updated October 23, 2012 19:17:10

A system is to be set up to compensate commercial fishers potentially affected by the construction of the Wheatstone LNG project.

Chevron’s $29 billion project will tap into gas fields off the Pilbara coast and pipe LNG to a processing facility near Onslow.

The WA Fishing Industry Council and Chevron have been working with the Fisheries Department to set up an assessment of claims for compensation.

The process will include an independent committee that will consider claims and provide recommendations to Chevron.

The Fisheries Minister Norman Moore says any agreement will be a direct arrangement between the company and fishers.

The council’s Mark Tucek says commercial fishers are being notified about the possible compensation.

He says fishers may face temporary or permanent disruptions.

“For instance, through dredging activities during the construction phase; if they were going to dredge a channel to put a pipe in and the water became turbid and that interrupted fishing activities,” he said.

“Or, there might be some more permanent impacts, for instance restrictions on the manoeuvrability or access to fishing grounds associated with the development.”

Mr Tucek says it is good news for fishers.

“It’s really a terrifically good example of co-operation between the resource sector proponents and the fishing industry and the Department of Fisheries in this case,” he said.

“It’s a great model for us to look at for other situations like this.

“Potentially affected fishers have already been notified by WAFIC of the process and I believe the department is very shortly going to send out notices again to these affected fishers, outlining the process and seeking their responses if they feel they are going to be affected.”

Topics: oil-and-gas, fishing-aquaculture, onslow-6710, perth-6000

First posted October 23, 2012 18:21:19

Overseas markets give mixed leads

By finance reporter Justine ParkerPosted October 23, 2012 09:04:06

Stock markets in the United States and Europe have started the week with mixed results, weighed down by concerns about global growth.

On Wall Street, more weak company earnings outlooks rattled investors, after a strong start to the reporting season.

Mining and construction equipment maker Caterpillar posted solid profits, but cut its sales forecasts, and said the global economy was slowing faster than expected.

The Dow Jones was in negative territory for much of the session but reversed those loses to close 2 points higher at 13,346, the S&P 500 index closed flat at 1,434, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.4 per cent to 3,017.

In Europe, the euro gained after Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s party won a key regional election on the weekend.

The victory is believed to strengthen the chance that Mr Rajoy will formally request financial aid from the European Central Bank.

However, stocks were dragged down by the weak early results on Wall Street.

In London, the FTSE 100 eased 0.2 per cent to 5,883.

The DAX in Germany and the CAC 40 in France fell 0.7 and 0.6 per cent respectively.

In Australian futures trade, the ASX SPI 200 index was up 1 point at 4,522, indicating a flat start to trade on the domestic market.

In commodity trade, spot gold is slightly higher at around $US1,727 an ounce, and West Texas crude oil lost more than a dollar, to $US88.30 a barrel.

On currency markets, the Australian dollar has been edging higher against the greenback.

At 6:50am (AEDT) it was buying around 103.1 US cents, 79 euro cents, 82.4 Japanese yen, 64.4 British pence and more than $NZ1.262.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, markets, currency, futures, stockmarket, united-states, united-kingdom, european-union, australia

Calls to cut red tape to boost productivity

Updated October 23, 2012 15:24:54

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry says State and Federal Governments must cut red tape and encourage innovation, if they want to tackle WA’s flagging productivity levels.

The chamber’s latest study shows 30 per-cent of WA businesses surveyed reported a fall in productivity over the past 12 months.

In a policy paper released today, the chamber says although the state is performing well when compared to the rest of Australia, activity is slowing down.

The CCI’s Chief economist John Nicolaou says making WA a more competitive place to do business will help to reverse the trend.

“There certainly is a fight for market share in key products and services and we’re no exception here in WA even with the natural advantages we have,” he said.

“So we have to have a real focus on regulation; if regulation can be minimised that will certainly help business to focus its attentions on what it does best.”

Mr Nicolaou says Governments have a key role to play.

“Issues such as regulation and red tape cuts across both levels of government, but other big areas of reform such as taxation, industrial relations and education do require a collaborative effort to ensure that a better system benefits business and ultimately leads to higher productivity,” he said.

The chamber is predicting the state’s economy will remain strong for at least another two years.

Mr Nicolaou says despite global uncertainty, rising unemployment and softness in the housing sector, the outlook remains bright.

He says a great pipeline of investment in the resources sector will ensure strong growth until 2014.

“Our latest forecast suggests that our economy will grow by around six and a half per cent this financial year and next, which really puts us in a league of our own compared to other advanced economies,” he said.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, perth-6000, albany-6330, bunbury-6230, esperance-6450, kalgoorlie-6430, geraldton-6530, broome-6725, karratha-6714

First posted October 23, 2012 10:23:46

Carnarvon travel agency enters into administration

Posted October 22, 2012 21:00:34

A travel agency in Carnarvon has gone into administration affecting hundreds of people who had organised flights between Perth and the Gascoyne town.

Consumer Protection says up to 340 passengers may be affected after Travelworld went into administration.

The department’s Lanie Chopping says those who booked through Travelword for Skippers Aviation flights should contact the airline.

“Contact Skippers Aviation in the first instance to find out availability of the flight and the cost of the flights and to organise payment for those flights and then to get a form to fill in for the travel compensation fund,” she said.

“Consumers should make sure they keep all of their receipts and information and evidence to assist them with their claim for travel compensation.”

Topics: tourism, carnarvon-6701, perth-6000

Aussie lawyer questioned over Mongolian corruption

Updated October 23, 2012 22:04:08

An Australian lawyer working in Mongolia for a company controlled by Rio Tinto is facing a corruption investigation.

Sarah Armstrong had her passport taken away after being detained at the airport in the capital, Ulaanbaatar.

The 32-year-old has been questioned by anti-corruption officials in relation to activities at a coal mine in the country’s south.

As chief legal counsel to SouthGobi Resources, she has been asked about any knowledge she has of bribery and tax evasion.

But some in her company, which is ultimately controlled by Rio Tinto, say Ms Armstrong is being harassed in the form of payback for corruption allegations she made earlier regarding Mongolian officials.

She is not in custody but cannot leave Mongolia.

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, mining-industry, mongolia

First posted October 23, 2012 19:48:26

Ten continues talks over lower EyeCorp bid

Updated October 23, 2012 13:27:49

The Ten Network has confirmed that it has received a lower offer of around $110 million for its outdoor advertising business.

Private Equity firm CHAMP, through its Outdoor Media Operations (OMO) subsidiary, originally agreed to buy Ten’s EyeCorp business in a deal worth up to $145 million.

However, last week, OMO pulled that deal and sought to renegotiate a lower price.

Ten says it is still in negotiations with OMO about raising the price of the deal, and it expects the final sale price will be subject to these negotiations.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, company-news, takeovers, media, australia

First posted October 23, 2012 13:26:02

Tinkler close to Mirvac settlement

Updated October 23, 2012 15:11:14

A judge has congratulated mining magnate Nathan Tinkler and property giant Mirvac for almost reaching a settlement over a failed multi-million-dollar land deal in New South Wales.

Mirvac subsidiary Domain Steel sued Mr Tinkler’s company Ocean Street Holdings after it failed to complete the purchase of land for a new coal terminal near Newcastle.

The Supreme Court previously ordered Mr Tinkler’s company to complete the purchase by September 1, but the deadline was missed so a contempt of court order was lodged to try to seize his assets.

In the Supreme Court on Tuesday, lawyers for the parties told Justice Michael Slattery they had almost reached a settlement on the case.

Justice Slattery congratulated them on their progress.

“I congratulate the parties on being able to almost resolve the proceedings,” he said.

“In the matter of Domain Steel River and Ocean Street Holdings… I make orders by consent.”

Mirvac sued Mr Tinkler’s company for around $17 million after the land deal fell through.

In a statement, a Mirvac spokesman said the parties had agreed to complete the contract next Monday.

“If they fail to complete, they have consented to the appointment of a sequestrator,” he said.

The matter will return to court next Tuesday when it is expected to be finalised.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, coal, mining-industry, building-and-construction, fraud-and-corporate-crime, courts-and-trials, australia, sydney-2000, newcastle-2300

First posted October 23, 2012 13:53:11

Letter shows Campbell Newman’s uranium backflip

Updated October 23, 2012 01:30:33

The Australian Conservation Foundation says it received a letter from Queensland Premier Campbell Newman just days ago that stated the Queensland Government had no plans to approve uranium mining.

The State Government yesterday lifted a decades-old ban on uranium mining and a three-member panel is set to make recommendations on how the change will be implemented.

But in a letter dated October 11, 2012, and sent to the head of the ACF, Don Henry, the Premier reaffirmed statements he made before the Queensland election saying there were no plans to lift the uranium ban.

ACF spokesman Dave Sweeney says it is hard to understand how Mr Newman’s view reversed in less than a fortnight.

“The Premier announces that the door is now open for uranium mining in Queensland so it is deeply disappointing and deeply disturbing,” he said.

But Mr Newman says he only changed his mind after Prime Minister Julia Gillard began negotiating uranium sales to India last week.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Sweeney said the LNP had broken an election promise on the issue.

“They said that they were crystal clear that they had no plans or desire to approve or facilitate the development of uranium in Queensland,” he said.

“This is a massive and deeply disappointing about-face that completely lacks a basis in evidence and also runs against community promises and expectation.”

Uranium has not been mined in Queensland since the closure of the Mary Kathleen mine in the state’s north-west in 1982.

State Cabinet announced the decision while meeting today in the southern border town of Goondiwindi.

The Queensland Resources Council says the state holds about $18 billion worth of known uranium reserves, mostly in the north-west.

Mr Newman says the resumption of mining will be overseen by a three-member committee that will report to Parliament in three months.

The State Government says it has no plans to develop nuclear power or allow the disposal of nuclear waste in Queensland.

Topics: uranium-mining, states-and-territories, qld

First posted October 22, 2012 23:04:49

Skippers out of pocket as travel agency collapses

Updated October 23, 2012 15:23:19

Skippers Aviation says it has been left about $250,000 out of pocket after a Carnarvon travel agency went into administration.

More than 300 passengers who have booked flights between Perth and Carnarvon through the town’s Travelworld branch may be affected.

They are being urged to apply for reimbursement from Consumer Protection’s Travel Compensation Fund before re-booking flights.

Skippers’ CEO Stan Quinlivan says the situation is disruptive to everyone involved.

“People in the community are getting together to try and get another agent up and running there,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people that have booked on other airlines that will probably lose money, and there’s a lot of people that have booked overseas trips so it’s a bit of a mess.”

Mr Quinlivan says passengers will lose their money and have to re-book.

“We can’t refund the money because we never got the money,” he said.

“And, if they’re having some hardship, well, please talk to us in our reservations.”

Topics: small-business, travel-and-tourism, carnarvon-6701, geraldton-6530, perth-6000

First posted October 23, 2012 10:56:15

Pac Brands directors avoid second strike

Updated October 23, 2012 13:44:26

The board of Pacific Brands has avoided a spill after shareholders backed pay packages for the struggling clothing manufacturer’s leadership.

More than 75 per cent of investors voted to approve the company’s remuneration report at its annual general meeting today, after last year rejecting the pay deals.

Under the two strikes rule on executive pay, a board must stand for re-election if more than 25 per cent of investors reject the pay deals for two years in a row.

Pacific Brands chairman Peter Bush says the company has reduced the base and committee fees for non-executive directors by 25 per cent, imposed a salary freeze on most senior management, and a introduced a 50 per cent reduction in short term incentives for executives.

Mr Bush says the cuts to pay and bonuses reflect the reduced size and market value of the company, as well as the difficult trading conditions.

The maker of Bonds, Dunlop, and Hard Yakka clothing says retail conditions remain volatile, with no noticeable improvement so far this year.

In comments released to the market today, the new Pacific Brands chief executive John Pollaers said sales were down for the year, particularly in workwear and some underwear brands.

However, the company says its key Bonds brand is performing well, despite suffering a fall in sales when Kmart stopped stocking it in favour of generic underwear.

In August, the company announced an annual loss of nearly $451 million last financial year – more than triple the previous year’s loss – due to large writedowns in the value of many of its brands.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, company-news, textiles, retail, corporate-governance, australia

First posted October 23, 2012 10:58:47

Tinkler creditors at wits’ end

Posted October 23, 2012 21:11:00

In just two years, mining magnate Nathan Tinkler has gone from hometown hero to the focus of growing anger from businesses furious at unpaid bills.

At the height of Mr Tinkler’s remarkable rise from electrician to billionaire, his adopted home Newcastle was christened Tinkler Town with the entrepreneur buying the sports-mad city’s two major clubs and a swag of other local businesses.

Tinkler made his fortune in record time, turning a $1 million punt on a coal mine into a $1 billion fortune and topping the young rich list in 2010.

Fast forward to today and he is living in Singapore, with his empire under threat as creditors across the country chase money.

This year his wealth was estimated at $400 million – a spending spree the likes of which Newcastle has never seen and falling coal prices to blame for the losses.

He purchased A-League team the Newcastle Jets in 2010 before bailing out the struggling Newcastle Knights in 2011.

And it is estimated between $200m and $300m were spent on horses, with a fire sale of Tinkler horses looming at this year’s Magic Millions sales.

Mr Tinkler still has his supporters in town, particularly among the sporting community, but many business owners are speaking out, saying non-payment of bills by Tinkler-controlled companies is pushing them to the brink.

Property giant Mirvac has been trying to enforce a court order that Mr Tinkler pay it $17 million he owes.

On Tuesday, his lawyers averted a potential contempt of court finding, coming close to settling with Mirvac, but he still faces another legal brawl with coal company Blackwood seeking a court order to force him to pay $28.4 million.

Other smaller creditors are also demanding their money.

Bob Jeffkins has run a building company in Newcastle for 48 years and says he was owed $400,000 by a Tinkler company for sub-contracting work on a Newcastle school.

“We had to get a bit heavy-handed, not that you want to do that, but you’ve got to do that when you’re talking about big money being owed for a period of time and all your phone calls seem to fall on deaf ears and nobody wants to talk to you,” he said.

It was a Building the Education Revolution project, and after months of not being paid, that Mr Jeffkins eventually got his money by complaining directly to the school.

Mr Jeffkins says his story is one of many across Newcastle.

“A lot of people saw him as the great white knight, with the Jets and the Knights, but I don’t think there’s too many people who think that now,” he said.

“I don’t care if I do another job for them… after a while you get sick of it, you get sick of chasing them and being told stories that aren’t true.”

Tim and Bruce Curry installed power to a Tinkler horse farm, and two years later are still waiting to be paid more than $40,000.

“It has been very difficult, we’ve obviously gone times when we haven’t been able to pay ourselves, but make sure our staff and suppliers get paid, and we’ve been trying to work our way through it,” Tim Curry said.

They say a solicitor advised them pursuing legal action would be pointless as the Tinkler company they billed is only worth $2,000.

“Yes, we are resigned to the fact that we probably won’t get any money, but we’re not going to die not trying because we worked damn hard for that. To see it go out the window – it’s wrong,” Bruce Curry said.

Tim Curry says Mr Tinkler needs to come home and face the music.

“I’d say come back to Australia and fix this mess up because we’re not the only ones,” he said.

7.30 approached Mr Tinkler for an interview but he declined.

Topics: mining-industry, industry, business-economics-and-finance, newcastle-2300, nsw, australia

BMA workers accept enterprise deal

Updated October 23, 2012 11:42:57

The mining union says the latest enterprise agreement (EA) for BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) workers in Queensland’s Bowen Basin would have been voted down if coal prices were higher.

About 60 per cent of union members voted in favour of BMA’s latest offer, ending the two-year industrial dispute over pay and conditions.

Under the agreement, workers will get a 15 per cent pay rise over the next three years, have greater flexibility over rosters and get additional safety provisions.

Andrew Vickers from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union says workers are aware of the economic conditions.

“The agreement is, I think, the best we could have expected under the circumstances,” he said.

“It’s not as good as what we set out to achieve and had prices stayed where they were when the negotiation process started we would have had a better outcome and we wouldn’t have had 40 per cent opposition to the agreement.

“They’ve accepted that times have moved and clearly they’ve said this is an acceptable outcome in all the circumstances.

“The key issues were the issues of the safety officers, the rostering, the accommodation arrangements and we think we’ve done all right out of that and clearly our membership have endorsed that view.

“I mean 60-40 is not what we’re used to but either Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard would be happy with a 60-40 result.”

The president of the Moranbah Traders Association, Peter Finlay, says it is a relief for local businesses.

“I think it’s going to give everyone a lot of confidence,” he said.

“We’ve been waiting for this EA to be signed for some time and it’ll certainly get rid of a lot of tension in the community knowing that there’s now something in place for the next couple of years.

“You can never really say well people aren’t spending money because [of it] but … people aren’t spending money … it’s a simple reason, I mean a lot of the workers and their families haven’t been confident about the future because the agreement hasn’t been signed.

“Now just logically that’s got to hold the bank balances back a bit.”

Topics: industrial-relations, mining-industry, work, coal, unions, activism-and-lobbying, moranbah-4744, mackay-4740, rockhampton-4700

First posted October 23, 2012 10:21:57

Tourism rescue for Beaconsfield mine

Updated October 23, 2012 10:38:30

There are plans to allow tourists into the abandoned Beaconsfield mine yard where Todd Russell and Brant Webb were rescued six years ago.

The scene of Beaconsfield’s rockfall disaster has always been off-limits to visitors.

Now that BCD Resources has closed the unprofitable operation the West Tamar mayor, Barry Easther, says that may change.

“We are very keen to come to an agreement with them that we take over the lease of most of the yard area,” he said.

Sharon Sikkema from the mine’s heritage centre hopes people will be able to climb the mine’s headframe and see how workers accessed the shaft.

“People are really interested in, well because it was the site of the rescue, in what goes on there, how they do things, what it’s like being inside the mine yard,” she said.

If BCD approves the plan, the new attractions are expected to open next year.

Topics: tourism, human-interest, rural-tourism, travel-and-tourism, beaconsfield-7270, tas

First posted October 23, 2012 09:22:08

Dubai braces for Eid tourist arrival

 Image Credit: SuppliedSulaiman Al Muhaimad with his kids from Saudi Arabia loves visiting Dubai with his family every year, he said: “The distance from Saudi Arabia to Dubai is not long and driving all the way here is even more fun.”

Dubai: It may be a full house in Dubai this weekend. The emirate is expected to receive 1.5 million visitors from otherGCC countries during Eid, with one million tourists expected from Saudi Arabia alone, according to a government official.

Ebrahim Saleh, festival co-ordinator general at the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE), said that based on feedback from tour operators, hotels and shopping malls, he estimates Dubai could receive 1.5 million visitors from across the Gulf region during the Eid break.

Hotels in Dubai are expecting 90 to 100 per cent occupancy and rising room rates due to demand from Gulf visitors, especially Saudi nationals, in addition to Eastern European guests, they say.

Emirates Grand Hotel is already fully booked for Eid, mostly with GCC visitors, said Frank Owens, hotel general manager and area director for business development.

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With the surge in demand, hotel room rates are going up.

Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa has increased its average daily rate this year compared to the Eid Al Adha period last year and expects a full house during the holiday, said hotel general manager Habib Khan. About a quarter of the guests are from the GCC, 20 per cent are local residents, 20 per cent from Europe, 10 per cent from the subcontinent, 10 per cent from Australia and 15 per cent from others countries, he said.

Ramada Downtown Dubai expects 90 per cent occupancy during Eid and is currently 85 per cent full, said Wael Al Behi, the hotel’s general manager.

“The majority of the guests booking at Ramada Downtown for Eid are from the different parts of the GCC region. More than 70 per cent of our guests will be from GCC and this is with the purpose of spending their week-long holidays in Dubai, which is more vibrant during this season,” he said adding that the trend of malls opening 24 hours has been a big draw for most guests. The cost of booking suites starts from Dh1,200, he added.

At Al Bustan Centre and Residence, about 75 to 80 per cent of guests are from GCC countries, said hotel chief executive Mousa Al Hayek.

The fifth edition of Eid in Dubai was launched on October 18 and runs until November 2.

Sulaiman Al Muhaimad from Saudi Arabia loves visiting Dubai with his family every year, he said: “The distance from Saudi Arabia to Dubai is not long and driving all the way here is even more fun.

“My kids love ‘Eid in Dubai’ and keep asking me when we will return every time we leave the UAE,” he said, referring to his 12-year old son Ali and 7-year old twins Hoor and Fajr.

Mashail Abdul Aziz, her husband Mohammad Nasser and children, Hamad, Mira and Latifa are also among the thousands of people from the GCC who have flocked to Dubai. “I usually travel a lot to Europe but have heard a lot of people talk about Dubai and its attractions. Now that I am in Dubai, it has become my favourite place. This is a great place to be, especially because you can pick up some amazing offers,” said Mashail.

Ten-year-old Abdullah Fahd and Mohammad Fahd, also from Saudi Arabia, are in Dubai with their families and plan to spend most of their holidays going to the movies. They are also looking forward to ‘Dubai Water Bash Day’, a water-based fun event that will be held on October 27 at Zabeel Park, and visits to Wild Wadi Water Park.

Singapore tops World Bank’s Doing Business chart

Entrepreneurs in developing countries are finding it easier to do business than at any time in the last 10 years, World Bank’s Doing Business Report shows

Dubai: Local entrepreneurs in developing countries are finding it easier to do business than at any time in the last 10 years, highlighting the significant progress that has been made in improving business regulatory practices across the globe, according to a new report released by the World Bank and IFC.

The report, Doing Business 2013: Smarter Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises, marks the 10th edition of the Doing Business series. Over the past decade, these reports have recorded nearly 2,000 regulatory reforms implemented by 180 economies.

Singapore topped the global ranking on the ease of doing business for the seventh consecutive year. Hong Kong SAR, China; New Zealand; the United States; Denmark; Norway; the United Kingdom; the Republic of Korea; Georgia; and Australia joined the list of the top 10 economies with the most business-friendly regulations.

The reforms have yielded major benefits for local entrepreneurs across the globe, it says. For example: Since 2005, the average time to start a business has fallen from 50 days to 30—and in low-income economies the average has been reduced by half.

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“In the past eight years, the average time to transfer property fell by 35 days, from 90 to 55, and the average cost by 1.2 percentage points—from 7.1 percent of the property value to 5.9 per cent,” it says.

“In the past eight years, improvements to simplify tax compliance have reduced the time required annually to comply with the three major taxes measured (profit, labor, and consumption taxes) by 54 hours on average.”

In the past year alone, 108 economies implemented 201 regulatory reforms that made it easier for local entrepreneurs to do business, the report found. Eastern Europe and Central Asia had the largest share of economies implementing regulatory reforms—with 88 per cent reforming in at least one of the areas measured by Doing Business.

European economies in fiscal distress are working to improve business regulation as part of an effort to establish a stronger foundation for long-term growth, the report found.

“Over the years, governments have made important strides to improve their business regulatory environment and to narrow the gap with global best practices,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director, Global Indicators and Analysis, World Bank Group.

“While the reforms we measure provide only a partial picture of an economy’s business climate, they are crucial for key economic outcomes such as faster job growth and new business creation.”

Topping the list of economies that registered the biggest improvements in the ease of doing business over the last year were Poland, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Burundi, Costa Rica, Mongolia, Greece, Serbia, and Kazakhstan.

“Our research shows it is possible to make huge strides in addressing critical challenges, even without resolution of the many ideological and policy dilemmas. From government spending to tax collection, education improvement to health outcomes, and welfare reform to job creation, we see the potential for meaningful improvement, to do more and better with less,” Diana Farrell, director at McKinsey’s and cofounder of the McKinsey Center for Government.

“What is needed is government management by design, built to fit these difficult times: government that identifies the most critical, solvable problems, reorganizes where necessary to deliver the right solutions, and abandons the tools and approaches that no longer work.”

World Energy Forum charts new energy roadmap

Dubai: The World Energy Forum 2012 officially opened on Monday by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, under the theme of “A Forum for World Leaders”.

Leaders from member states of the United Nations, international organisations, more than 2,000 delegates, scores of national energy ministers and top leaders from the industry and corporations participated in the forum.

Shaikh Mohammad signed an agreement to declare October 22 of every year as the World Energy Day, to form a roadmap for a new paradigm for sustainable energy that will benefit all people and promote a global adoption of safe and sustainable sources of energy that are accessible to all.

In his keynote speech, Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, said the World Energy Forum 2012 is an ideal platform to share the world’s best practices in the field of energy.

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“The forum will increase the mutual cooperation, as well as knowledge and expertise exchange, among world countries seeking tangible progress towards cleaner, safer, and more sustainable energy that enhance the social development,” he said.

For the first time the World Energy Forum has been organised outside the headquarters of the United Nation in New York. It be held in Dubai between October 22 and October 24 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Shaikh Maktoum said: “The whole world is facing a lot of challenges in the energy sector. We have to find solutions to enhance sustainable economic development for the whole world.”

Among the world’s seven billion people there are 1.5 billion who are deprived of electricity while three another billion are relying on natural resources in their daily lives, he said.

“The UAE is an oil-producing country but has to face the world challenges by providing a sustainable energy that fuels the overall development.

“The UAE has become a global centre of sustainability by its available initiatives of creating a green economy, solar energy and others that strengthen its competitiveness, and the growth which is preserving its environment for future generations.”

He added that the forum will be achieving universal access to modern energy services to share with the world leaders and decision makers, the country’s vision for peace, stability and sustainable development.

Shaikh Maktoum welcomed the hosting of Africa Leaders Forum on the sidelines of the energy forum aimed at sustainable energy solutions helpful in reserving and conserving precious resources, and providing a sustainable future for all nations.

Siemens to pull out of solar business

Frankfurt: German engineering giant Siemens said on Monday it plans to pull out of solar energy where business expectations have not been met and is currently negotiating to sell its activities in this area.

“The company plans to divest its solar business activities and is currently holding talks with potential buyers on this subject. Siemens intends to focus its renewable energy activities on wind and hydro power,” the group said in a statement.

“The Siemens to pull out of solar business and the Solar and Hydro Division will be discontinued,” it said, adding that the Solar and Hydro Division generated revenue “in the low triple-digit millions” in the business year ended on September 30, 2012 and has “roughly 800 employees.”

Siemens explained that the solar business had not been as profitable as hoped.

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“Due to the changed framework conditions, lower growth and strong price pressure in the solar markets, the company’s expectations for its solar energy activities have not been met,” it said.

The global market for concentrated solar power had shrunk from four gigawatts to slightly more than one gigawatt, it explained.

In future, the renewable energy business would focus on hydro power and wind energy and the overall energy sector “will comprise the divisions of fossil power generation; wind power; oil and gas and power transmission,” Siemens said.

Far East still a popular destination for UAE travellers, but many expats are exploring new spots

 Image Credit: Gulf News archivesPassengers wait to check in their luggage for Emirates Airlines flights at Dubai International Airport terminal 3.

It is a shorter Eid holiday this year and the occasion of animal sacrifice, but UAE residents are gearing up to travel abroad to popular destinations including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand or new spots such as Fiji and Seychelles, travel agents say.

Travel agencies are seeing an increase of up to 20 percent in sales before Eid but are still battling it out with online booking portals, they said.

“It’s been a difficult year because online [portals] and low-cost airlines have taken great support this year, more than the past and they have been more successful. Our sales have increased as well. Overall, it’s positive. People are getting more confident and they are booking and travelling,” said William Horsley, general manager of the travel division at Al Futtaim Group.

Far East Asia is proving to be the most popular destination for UAE residents travelling abroad during Eid this year but they are exploring new destinations within it.

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“There has been a lot of demand for Indonesia, it’s a booming destination. Indonesia and Hong Kong were not traditional destinations but now more people are going,” said Ghassan Aridi, chief executive of Alpha Tours.

Vietnam and Cambodia are also doing better than before and Sri Lanka remains a constant choice, said Horsley.

“The trend this year has been to seek out newer destinations like Nepal or Seychelles and the south west pacific region like Fiji. This is mainly coming from expatriates, locals are sticking to tried and tested locations,” said Sunil D’Souza, regional travel director with Kanoo Travel.

Most bookings are for short or mid-haul flights this year to Oman or Far East Asian countries, he said. “Sixty per cent are booked to travel to India, mainly Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, or the Fair East like Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur… most people stick to well-known destinations, it’s a very short Eid break, that could be one of the reasons,” he said.

Some clients are opting for Europe, but it has become less attractive because of the Eurozone crisis, Horsley said.

A five-night stay in Bali, Indonesia including tickets and hotel costs Dh3,600 and the same package for Hong Kong is about Dh6500, Aridi said.

Airfare and three nights hotel stay in Kuala Lumpur sets you back Dh1,700 onwards per person and the same package for Singapore costs Dh 2,250 onwards, said D’Souza.

“Prices are coming down. Airlines are bringing their prices down so sales appear to be up because the fares are significantly cheaper,” noted Horsley.

The top-selling outbound destinations for Etihad Airways during Eid include Oman, Jordan, Turkey, Seychelles, Thailand and Maldives, a company spokesman said. The airlines is running a “Hot World Deals” campaign, with savings of up to 40 per cent for early bird bookings.

Some UAE residents are opting for staycations instead, choosing to stay here and head to the local attractions and hotels rather than travelling abroad.

“Outbound travel is not like five years ago. It’s one of people’s needs to relax and recharge so they are trying to spare money to travel and there is ease of funding through banks. But staycations are more popular than before. There’s a good product in the UAE: In Dubai and the Northern Emirates like Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, they all offer a good alternative to vacations,” said D’Souza.

Abu Dhabi a big tourist attraction this Eid

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi is growing to become a popular holiday destination.

There are increasing numbers of inbound travellers coming from across the GCC and further afield, from Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany, according to an Etihad Airways spokesman.

“Visitors usually opt for desert safaris, sightseeing tours around Abu Dhabi, and Ferrari World on Yas Island is always a big favourite for families. A round of golf on one of the city’s many golf courses is also proving to be a major attraction and is one of the fastest growing tourism activities,” the spokesman said.

Hotels in Abu Dhabi are also expecting to run at high occupancies during the Eid holiday as they believe visitors will be coming from within the UAE and outside it as well.

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“We’re in a high season anyway, so the Eid is just a compliment,” said Kamal Fakhoury, cluster general manager for the Cristal Hotels in UAE.

“Normally Abu Dhabi is not as busy as Dubai but we also get some action,” he said, adding that their projects are to be running at an occupancy rate that is in the 80s during Eid.

Paul Simmons, director of sales and marketing at Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News that they expect to see late bookings from the GCC which should make for a busy period. “We can say we are forecasting 70 to 80 per cent [occupancy rate] during Eid,” he said.

“Due to Eid this year being very close to the build up for F1 we already have a large number of bookings in place which are mainly from Europe and the UK in general,” he added.

David Garner, regional director of sales and marketing at Anantara, said that their two properties, Qasr Al Sarab and Desert Islands Resort and Spa, are expected to be fully booked the first two days of Eid.

“We have some limited rooms available at the moment, but were forecasting to be at 100 per cent,” he said.

“These guests are coming from the domestic market, the GCC and the international market because it [Eid] coincides with some half term holiday dates in Europe as well,” he added.

When it comes to Anantara’s new Eastern Mangroves Hotel and Spa, business is still in the build-up. “We’ve got some promotions in place to attract people,” he said. “Generally the city hotels fill in on a later period than the resort properties.”

“However, we’re very delighted with the booking pace for Eid,” he said.

Gulf countries urged to diversify energy sources

Dubai: Despite the fact that oil and gas will remain the main energy resource in the near future, Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa, deputy of Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa, called for finding alternative sources of energy.

In his address at the World Energy Forum, Shaikh Nasser said: “As long as most of the countries rely on oil and gas to power utilities, the Gulf region will play an essential dominating role in the energy sector.

“However, there is a persistent need to diversify the sources of energy to power the utilities sector in order to make it more sustainable. And the Gulf countries are working to achieve this goal.”

The UAE is now looking at renewable energy, coal-fired plants as well as solar power to support future electricity demands.

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“It is very important to have a forward-looking vision of the needs of future generations. In the kingdom of Bahrain, this vision has resulted in initiatives to seek out and develop renewable and alternative energy sources to secure a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy future for our coming generations,” he said, adding that energy sustainability is the “lifeblood of the economy”.

“The control of oil prices across GCC countries would be considered one of the effective indicators of economic stability,” he added.

While the world has come a long way in finding new ways to diversify energy sources, Shaikh Nasser said that authorities have to enhance awareness about the importance of the energy sector through education, an environment-friendly economy and green buildings.

Pointing to the significant role that the private sector can play in this regard, he said: “We have to create a level playing field for the private sector and allow private companies to bring in new technologies in renewable energy and solar power to create joint ventures.”

Shaikh Nasser highlighted the importance of the energy forum to exchange experiences, ideas as well as to come out with a clear vision about the best investment that could be made in energy.

UAE jumps seven spots in global competitiveness ranking

Dubai: The UAE has moved up seven ranks in this year’s edition of The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2013, moving from the 33rd to become 26th globally, making it one of only three countries in the Middle East and North Africa region that have had positive improvements in global competitiveness ranking.

“Real competitive economies drive economic prosperity to its people,” said Abdullah Lootah, Secretary General of Emirates Competitive Council. “Federal and local government entities in the UAE have been exerting a great amount of effort to enhance processes and boost productivity and efficacy for the purpose of offering better service to the public.”

“This acknowledgement by the global community is a recognition that the UAE is on the right path to achieve UAE Vision 2021 which is to be among the best countries in the world by 2021.” Lootah added.   

“We are delighted with the advanced rank the UAE has achieved in the Ease of Doing Business Report. This accomplishment is a reflection of our ongoing efforts to create a supportive environment that encourages growth, attracts investments, and therefore become more profitable and successful,” said Abdulla Al Shaibani, Secretary-General of the Dubai Executive Council.  “We work very closely with all our partners in both public and private sectors to achieve our strategic objectives in making Dubai and the UAE a global hub for business.”

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This year, 10 indicators are used by the Ease of Doing Business Report to analyze economic outcomes and identify what reforms of business regulation have worked, where and why.  Regulations affecting areas of the life of a business covered areas such as Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity and Registering Property.

The Ease of Doing Business Report 2013 states that many decision makers —particularly in policy-making circles and in the private sector, who use the data in the report, associate better performance on the indicators used in the reports with greater inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Since the launch of last year’s report nearly 2,000 articles in the international press have drawn a connection between FDI and Ease of Doing Business Report. Such articles often suggest that higher rankings will be associated with more foreign investment, which is believed to create jobs, bring in new technologies and processes and have other beneficial collateral effects on the real economy.

First published in 2003 with 5 indicator sets measuring business regulation in 133 economies, this year marks the 10th edition of the Ease of Doing Business report.  Today, the report has grown into an annual publication covering 185 economies around the world.

FDI pours into Indonesia

 Image Credit: AFPThis picture taken on October 21, 2012 shows Indonesian workers work at a workshop in a small entreprise village in Jakarta.

Jakarta: Indonesia attracted a record $5.9 billion in foreign direct investment in the third quarter, signalling that Southeast Asia’s biggest economy remains a hot favourite despite a bleak global outlook and worries about corruption and corporate governance.

In rupiah terms, total FDI in July to September rose 22.00 percent year-on-year to 56.6 trillion rupiah ($5.90 billion), after 30.2 per cent annual growth in the second quarter. The third quarter number is a record for any quarter.

Although the increase is less dramatic in dollar terms, and the number is dwarfed by China’s $24.34 billion FDI in the same period, it signals that Indonesia’s spotty reputation in protecting foreign investors and other worries are being seen as an acceptable risk.

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And analysts warned that investment could taper off unless the government itself invests heavily in basic infrastructure.

Earlier this month, British-born financier Nat Rothschild resigned from the board of Bumi Plc, one of the world’s biggest coal exporters formed with Indonesian shareholders two years ago in a $3 billion deal. He had earlier pressed for investigations into financial irregularities at the company’s Indonesian subsidiaries.

“The vast majority of Indonesian business people are shocked by the appalling impression Bumi PLC has given to potential foreign investors in Indonesia,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

“They recognise that Indonesia needs massive FDI in order to sustain its economic growth. The Bumi PLC story is a small but high-profile impediment to ensuring that growth.”

Bumi is controlled by the powerful Bakrie family, one of the most wealthy in Indonesia, and partner Samin Tan.

Indonesia’s vast mineral wealth, and growing domestic market remain powerful attractions for investors.

According to the country’s foreign investment board, base chemicals, mining and transportation-telecommunication industries were the main recipients of investment in the third quarter.

“There will be no impact from Bumi cases on investment in Indonesia,” Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan told reporters last week.

“That’s because our investors see Indonesia as a long-term investment, while Bumi is just a corporate issue which has no relation with our investment climate.”

The country has drawn strong portfolio funds and FDI in recent months after it regained investment grade status from two rating agencies.

Indonesia recorded total FDI of 175.3 trillion rupiah in 2011, rising 18 per cent from a year earlier. FDI was 107.6 trillion rupiah in the first half of this year.

“Investments in Indonesia are still rather low and FDI has room to grow if the government invests more in basic infrastructure,” said Royal Bank of Scotland economist Enrico Tanuwidjaja in Singapore.

“The road density hasn’t been growing that much. It’s the same for rail, ports and other infrastructure.”

Indonesia receives persistently bad scores in Transparency International’s corruption index. Labour unrest is also a problem.

Last year, workers at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold’s unit in Indonesia staged a three-month strike at the company’s Grasberg mine in Papua in the biggest industrial dispute in the country.

Hundreds of thousands of factory workers went on strike and rallied on October 3, demanding improvement in contracts and better pay for 16 million outsourced workers in the world’s fourth most populous nation.

But increasing wealth of its 220 million people makes for a huge domestic market, while the relatively low average age of its population offers great potential for labour supply.

“Despite the recent strikes and all, and there are labour law issues that need to be resolved, wages in Indonesia are still pretty low compared to say China,” said Aninda Mitra, head of economics for Southeast Asia at ANZ Bank in Singapore.

“Moreover, a lot of the investments will be catering to local demand. Indonesia is seen as a sizeable economy with a growing middle class and there is great potential for manufacturing to cater to this demand.”

Domestic consumption makes up more than 50 percent of gross domestic product, supported by a rising middle class and low interest rates.

Indonesia’s economy is projected to grow 6.1-6.5 per cent in 2012, one of the fastest growth rates in Asia after China and India.

Emirates NBD’s January-September net profit at Dh1.9b

Abu Dhabi: Emirates NBD, one of region’s largest banks by assets, said Monday its fiscal third quarter net profit rose 267 per cent on year to Dh640 million while the profit for the nine-month period ended September jumped to Dh1.9 billion, compared with Dh0.5 billion in the same period of 2011 after excluding the Dh1.8 billion non-recurring gain on subsidiaries.

Commenting on the bank’s financial performance, Emirates NBD’s Chief Executive Officer, Rick Pudner said: “During the first nine months of 2012 we have delivered a strong set of financial results with operating profits for the period up 87 per cent. This performance demonstrates our ability to take advantage of gradually improving economic conditions and to deliver on a clear strategic course.”

“While the outlook continues to be cautious and uncertain, our strong levels of capitalisation and liquidity offer both resilience and flexibility for the future and an ability to take advantage of selected growth opportunities,” said Pudner.

EFG-Hermes’ banking analyst, Shabbir Malik told Gulf News by telephone that Emirates NBD’s third quarter net profit was well below their expectations.

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“We were expecting Emirates NBD to report a net profit of Dh699 million. The lower profit was due to provisions, which were higher than expected. The loan growth was decent, about 2 per cent, quarter-on-quarter. The non-interest income was lower because of seasonal factors. The net interest income rose on the back of wider spreads and loan growth,” said Malik.

He added: “The provisions of Emirates NBD are likely to stay high over the next 12 months because the bank is targeting a higher NPL (non-performing loan) coverage ratio and this may weigh on the bank’s profitability.”

In the first nine months of 2012, Emirates NBD said the total income of was up 4 per cent on year to Dh7.7 billion, while there was a net impairment loss on financial assets of Dh3.1 billion, an improvement of 22 per cent, year-on-year.

The shares of Emirates NBD yesterday closed unchanged at Dh2.94 on the Dubai Financial Market.

The bank’s total assets in the nine-month period grew 7 per cent to Dh305.4 billion from Dh284.6 billion at the end of 2011. The customer loans in January-September period were up 5 per cent on year to Dh212.5 billion, while the customer deposits in the same period rose 11 per cent, year-on-year, to Dh214.2 billion, Emirates NBD added.

Tiny island nations struggle with little money

Dubai: Tiny island countries are at a crossroads in their histories as they strive on limited budgets to meet energy demands fuelled by outside diesel imports critical to electricity generation.

But the answers to finding a more sustainable future energy solution lie within each of the island country’s borders, not without, said several heads of state in their addresses to delegates at the World Energy Forum in Dubai on Monday.

The opening marks the first time the energy forum has been held outside of its host country of the United States where it is organized by the United Nations.

Top leaders from around the world are attending.

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A very frank Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said his 32-island country can no longer carry on the status quo of depending on fossil fuels to keep the lights on, appliances running and government buildings humming.

On the contrary, the country’s legislators are looking to alternative means of reducing energy consumption while seeking new renewable sources of energy such as geothermal power as well as public education campaigns to lighten the load on island power-generating plants.

“The real game changer is geothermal — we have enough of a geothermal resource, about five times our current peak consumption,” he said. “The problem is we need the money to get it. We have to get to source points.”

Drilling on the side of a volcano to get the underground heat sources will be expensive.

Gonsalves said that he hopes the World Energy Forum will give him a venue for advice as to how his country can raise the start-up capital needed to fund the geothermal venture.

Currently, his country meets 20 per cent of energy demand through hydroelectric power generation with the remainder through diesel-powered electricity generation.

Maldives President Mohammad Waheed Hassan Manik echoed the hopes and aspirations of other presidents in the hunt for alternative energy sources to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

“Today we spend the equivalent of 20 per cent on our GDP on the importation of diesel fuel for our electricity and transportation.”

He pointed out that the Maldives’ electrical generating cost is a whopping 75 cents per kilowatt hour, a burden that “is unaffordable, especially in rural communities. Our country is providing heavy fuel subsidies, we have no option but to move to smart fuel policies.”

Manik said his country has no other option than to pursue low carbon policies to stave off higher and higher fossil fuel costs.

His country is working on developing capacity of its utilities, promoting strong business models to attach and integrate private investment into the energy sector and is strengthening legislation for stonger investment frameworks for energy projects, he said.

Ultimately, if current efforts in Maldives move in the direction that leaders propose, Manik said he believed that the country will save 22 million litres of diesel per year and reduce its carbon footprint by 65,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

Microsoft offers peek at new Windows, tablet

Shanghai: US computing giant Microsoft on Tuesday gave an early peek to the key Chinese market of its new tablet computer and Windows 8 software, promising a “fast and fluid” operating system.

Microsoft will launch Windows 8 and the Surface tablet computer, designed to compete with Apple’s popular iPad, in the United States on Friday. The launch of the two products in China is the same day.

Windows remains the dominant platform for personal computers, but it has lost ground to Apple and Google in newer devices which use rival operating systems.

“With Windows 8, we introduced this fast and fluid experience that works across a broad range of different types of PCs (personal computers),” said Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows division. “Windows 8 seamlessly moves between a world of touch-only tablets to laptops that have touch screens to desktops and to portable computers without touch screens,” he said in a speech to the media in Shanghai.

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Microsoft’s new tablet computer was designed to be a platform for Windows, Sinofsky said, as he compared the challenger to Apple’s iPad. “Even though it’s bigger than an iPad, it’s actually lighter in your hand because of the way the physics of the design work,” he said.

The Surface has a full-sized USB port unlike the iPad, a built-in stand and a cover which doubles as a keyboard, he said, ticking off the features. The tablet runs the new Windows RT, a form of Windows 8, and comes with Microsoft Office 2013, he added.

It is not Microsoft’s first foray into the tablet market. In 2000 the company unveiled a prototype tablet PC and shortly after began licensing its specifications to various manufacturers. Some who have tested Windows 8 complain about the change from earlier versions of Windows, which could force users to relearn how to operate their computers, the New York Times reported Sunday.

Sinofsky acknowledged the difference with older versions but said Windows 8 was designed for the “modern world”. “It’s a completely different feel. It’s clean. It’s beautiful. It’s intuitive,” he said.

Sinofsky said Microsoft hoped to add a billion new customers with Windows 8, which aims to replace earlier versions of its dominant operating system. “It’s (Windows) used by over a billion people around the world and with Widows 8 we’re aiming towards the next billion,” he said.

Mohammad attends Forbes banquet at Burj Khalifa

Dubai: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday attended a dinner banquet hosted by Dubai government at Armani Restaurant in Burj Khalifa in honour of 500 Global Forbes CEOs who are taking part in the Forbes Global CEO Conference, held for the first time in the Middle East.

Shaikh Mohammad welcomed Global Forbes CEOS and expressed his delight at meeting this elite group of world businessmen in the UAE, specifically in Dubai. He wished them success in their conference and that they would reach the desired goals of their company which selected Dubai to host such a major conference for the first time.

Shaikh Mohammad spoke about the UAE’s story of success with a focus on Dubai’s success. He confirmed that the UAE has weathered the global financial crisis and its economy is now on the recovery path to regain its position and growth.

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Emirates NBD third quarter net profit more than triples

Dubai: Emirates NBD, Dubai’s largest bank by market value, on Monday said third-quarter net profit more than tripled on the back of lower provisioning for bad loans and higher non-interest income, beating analysts’ forecasts.

The lender, 55.6 per cent owned by state fund Investment Corporation of Dubai, made a net profit of Dh640 million ($174.2 million) in the three months to September 30, compared with Dh175 million in the same period last year, a statement from the bank said.

An average of four analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a net profit of Dh514.4 million.

Impairment allowances, the amount set aside to meet bad loans, stood at Dh1.01 billion for the third quarter, down 36 per cent from the Dh1.57 billion which the bank recorded in the same three months of 2011.

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The lender was hit hard by impairment allowances in the previous four quarters, dragging down profits at the bank. Exposure to indebted Dubai state-linked entities was one of the main reasons.

ENBD made just over Dh2 billion of provisions in the first six months of this year.

Non-interest income climbed 21 per cent in the third quarter to Dh790 million, driven by higher investment securities income and a 5 per cent improvement in core fee income across most areas, the bank said.

Loans and advances have gained 5 per cent since the start of 2012, while deposits increased 11 per cent over the first nine months of this year. The former had grown 2 per cent and the latter 8 per cent in the first six months.

For all banks in the UAE, combined lending was flat at the end of August compared to the end of the second quarter, according to the latest central bank figures. System-wide deposits rose 1.1 per cent month-on-month in August after a gain of 0.7 per cent in July.

Dubai Bank, which ENBD was obliged to take over last year after the Islamic bank buckled under the weight of its bad loans, will be fully integrated by year-end, with branches rebranded as ENBD’s own Islamic arm, Emirates Islamic Bank.

Shares in ENBD closed on Sunday flat compared to their level at the start of this year. The main Dubai stock index has gained 21.9 per cent year-to-date.

Dewa seeks companies to retrofit old buildings with smart grid

 Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf NewsSaeed Al Tayer, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, DEWA, signing an agreemnt with Dr. Leonard Birnbaum, CCO and Member of the Executive Board RWE AG. Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive Emirates Airline & Group are seen.

Dubai: Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will commence power generation in the third quarter of 2013 with a capacity of 13MW, Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, Vice Chairman of Dubai Supreme Energy Council, told reporters on the sidelines of the World Energy Forum on Monday.

He said: “The first phase of Dubai’s $3.3 billion (Dh12.12 billion) solar park will be in operation by the end of 2013.”

The Solar Park will have a 1,000MW capacity by 2030, and, upon completion, will be one of the biggest solar parks in the region.

Al Tayer said the solar park plan was part of a vision “to make Dubai a role model to the world in energy security and efficiency”.

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“By 2030, Dubai’s average energy growth is projected to be in the range of 4-5 per cent per annum and our target under the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030, is to reduce energy consumption by 30 per cent,” he added.

By 2030, Dubai aims to have diversified its fuel mix by adding new energy sources such as 12 per cent from clean coal, five per cent from renewable energy including solar power, 12 per cent from nuclear power and 71 per cent from gas.

Meanwhile, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) is looking at hiring companies to retrofit the existing and old buildings in Dubai with new technologies that will help them to become part of the smart grid that is under development in Dubai.

“We are looking at companies that could install new technologies and retrofit the old buildings with those so that they could become part of the smart grid,” said Al Tayer, who is also the Managing Director and CEO of Dewa, responding to a question by Gulf News. He was talking about Dewa’s success in energy efficiency.

He said that Dewa’s plant utilisation is one of the highest in the world. “Customer minutes loss in Dubai is 5.8 minutes per customer per year, compared to 16.4 minutes in Europe while power transmission and distribution losses in Dubai is the lowest in the world — at 3.49 per cent, compared to 4.30 per cent in Western Europe,” he pointed out.

“However, despite our successes at Dewa, if the customers do not use utility smartly, then power will still be wasted. So, we need to use utilities smartly and make the grid smart.”

Dewa, the sole provider of power and water that serves more than the emirate’s two million population, is currently in the process of implementing a number of initiatives as part of a 20-year energy strategy that will raise the level of energy efficiency in the emirate.

One of them is the smart grid. [A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviours of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.]

Roll-out of smart grid technology also implies a fundamental re-engineering of the electricity services industry, although typical usage of the term is focused on the technical infrastructure.

Since a large number of buildings in Dubai have been constructed within the last 10-12 years, it would be easy to implement smart grid technology to enhance energy efficiency. However, Dubai also has a large number of old buildings fitted with wiring systems that do not conform to the latest technologies.

Al Tayer said, in a few weeks’ time a 100 per cent green building will be inaugurated in Dubai’s Al Quoz area. This will source up to 600 kilowatt power by capturing solar energy.

“This will be the first of its kind building in the Middle East and North Africa. By 2014, we expect all new buildings to become energy efficient as they will be built as per the new green building codes,” Al Tayer said.

RWE Technology and Dewa establish JV in Dubai

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) has signed a joint venture with RWE Technology GmbH, that specialises in building power plants. The agreement was signed on Monday alongside World Energy Forum by member of the RWE Executive Board, Leonhard Birnbaum; RWE Technology Managing Director, Michael Fübi, and Dewa CEO and MD, Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer.

The deal is aimed at the two partners intending to develop the leading service company for energy consulting in the region. RWE Technology GmbH will provide its expertise as an international project and engineering specialist in the power plant sector.

Saeed Al Tayer said in a statement that business potential between Dewa and RWE has “endless possibilities”.

DP World sells stake in Russian terminal

Dubai/Moscow: Dubai port operator DP World sold its quarter stake in a Russian container terminal to Global Ports Investment for $230 million (Dh844.58 million), as part of efforts to dispose of non-core assets.

Dubai Ports said on Monday its minority ownership in Vostochnaya Stevedoring Co was a legacy investment with limited management involvement.

Global Ports already holds 75 per cent of Vostochnaya and will now take full control of the terminal following the sale. The transaction is expected to close this week, the Dubai-based firm said in a statement to Nasdaq Dubai.

The Vostochnaya Stevedoring Co, based in the port of Vostochny, is the largest container terminal in the Far East of Russia and one of the key gateways for Russian container transport, Global Ports said in a separate statement.

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Nikita Mishin, the chairman of Global Ports said the acquisition is part of the company’s plans to pursue further growth in Russia and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries.

The sale by DP World, one of the more profitable assets of debt-laden Dubai World, is the latest in a series of disposals of non-core assets in different countries. The firm announced sale of its operations in Belgium a month ago and also quit its venture in Yemen.

DP World has a net debt of $3.5 billion (Dh12.85 billion), according to its half-year earnings report released in August.

The ports operator, which makes the bulk of its money from regional operations, has been selling assets in developed markets, including the $1.5 billion (Dh5.51 billion) sale of its Australian operations to private equity firm Citi Infrastructure Investors last year.

In July, DP said it was forced to hand over its 60 per cent holding in Adelaide’s container terminal to Flinders Port after the Australian firm exercised its right to buy the stake. The company also sold its 34 per cent stake in UK-based Tilbury Container Services Ltd for $75.48 million in January.

DP World shares were up 0.5 percent by 0715 GMT on the Nasdaq Dubai bourse.

Cost of imported diesel hurts growth

Dubai: The rising cost of imported diesel fuels for electricity generation in smaller countries not blessed with an abundance of fossil fuels is hurting social and economic growth potential, said several heads of state in addresses to delegates at the World Energy Forum in Dubai on Monday.

Exploring and capitalising on domestic green energy sources may be the best way forward to countering imported oil dependency leading to stronger economies and more enriched communities through lower electricity bills per household.

“The current energy situation in Granada is typical of many island states,” said Prime Minister of Grenada Tillman Thomas, noting that the country has “little ability to cushion the shock of world energy prices”.

With a population of 107,000 people, the country burns 1,800 barrels a day to meet a 31 megawatt (MW) peak demand, Thomas said.

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As much as “99.7 per cent of electricity is produced using imported diesel,” he said, adding that “the cost of electricity is around 40 cents per kilowatt per hour (and) is among the highest in the world”.

To reduce the island country’s footprint, Grenada’s national energy policy is seeking a 20 per cent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020 and to be carbon neutral by 2030.

To get there, the country is prepping within the next two years to sink exploratory wells in the hunt for sources of geothermal energy which can be harnessed to produce clean, renewable energy, he said.

If exploration yields positive results, the country is planning to build a 10MW and a 20MW plant to boost domestic electrical production.

“Wind power also has the potential to reduce 60 to 70 per cent of our diesel use in electricity generation,” he said.

On the solar front, Grenada has also installed 200 solar systems on households across the island to help reduce energy bills as well as reliance on the national grid.

Rwanda President Paul Kagame said his country is facing similar pressures to meet energy demands domestically by importing fuels for electricity production.

He said: “Our economic development really has stalled by our importing of costly imported fuel.”

To find a balance, Rwanda officials are seeking alternative fuel resources such as thermal and hydroelectric to create cheaper domestic energy that can be relied upon and is not subject to fluctuating international oil prices.

“This way we can benefit from an economic situation that is sustainable and is not harmful to the environment,” said Kagame.

New green energy projects have provided new electricity to 90,000 households in Rwanda in the last three years, Kagame said, and another 100,000 households are expected to go on the grid within the next year.

King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Swaziland said his country welcomes all new green initiatives in the push to make the kingdom less reliant on fossil fuels.

He said Swaziland is also making great strides in solar power projects to the point where some residents “have realized a huge reduction in their electricity bill”.

Dubai braced for an Eid tourist invasion

 Image Credit: SuppliedSulaiman Al Muhaimad with his kids from Saudi Arabia loves visiting Dubai with his family every year, he said: “The distance from Saudi Arabia to Dubai is not long and driving all the way here is even more fun.”

Dubai: It may be a full house in Dubai this weekend. The emirate is expected to receive 1.5 million visitors from otherGCC countries during Eid, with one million tourists expected from Saudi Arabia alone, according to a government official.

Ebrahim Saleh, festival co-ordinator general at the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE), said that based on feedback from tour operators, hotels and shopping malls, he estimates Dubai could receive 1.5 million visitors from across the Gulf region during the Eid break.

Hotels in Dubai are expecting 90 to 100 per cent occupancy and rising room rates due to demand from Gulf visitors, especially Saudi nationals, in addition to Eastern European guests, they say.

Emirates Grand Hotel is already fully booked for Eid, mostly with GCC visitors, said Frank Owens, hotel general manager and area director for business development.

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With the surge in demand, hotel room rates are going up.

Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa has increased its average daily rate this year compared to the Eid Al Adha period last year and expects a full house during the holiday, said hotel general manager Habib Khan. About a quarter of the guests are from the GCC, 20 per cent are local residents, 20 per cent from Europe, 10 per cent from the subcontinent, 10 per cent from Australia and 15 per cent from others countries, he said.

Ramada Downtown Dubai expects 90 per cent occupancy during Eid and is currently 85 per cent full, said Wael Al Behi, the hotel’s general manager.

“The majority of the guests booking at Ramada Downtown for Eid are from the different parts of the GCC region. More than 70 per cent of our guests will be from GCC and this is with the purpose of spending their week-long holidays in Dubai, which is more vibrant during this season,” he said adding that the trend of malls opening 24 hours has been a big draw for most guests. The cost of booking suites starts from Dh1,200, he added.

At Al Bustan Centre and Residence, about 75 to 80 per cent of guests are from GCC countries, said hotel chief executive Mousa Al Hayek.

The fifth edition of Eid in Dubai was launched on October 18 and runs until November 2.

Sulaiman Al Muhaimad from Saudi Arabia loves visiting Dubai with his family every year, he said: “The distance from Saudi Arabia to Dubai is not long and driving all the way here is even more fun.

“My kids love ‘Eid in Dubai’ and keep asking me when we will return every time we leave the UAE,” he said, referring to his 12-year old son Ali and 7-year old twins Hoor and Fajr.

Mashail Abdul Aziz, her husband Mohammad Nasser and children, Hamad, Mira and Latifa are also among the thousands of people from the GCC who have flocked to Dubai. “I usually travel a lot to Europe but have heard a lot of people talk about Dubai and its attractions. Now that I am in Dubai, it has become my favourite place. This is a great place to be, especially because you can pick up some amazing offers,” said Mashail.

Ten-year-old Abdullah Fahd and Mohammad Fahd, also from Saudi Arabia, are in Dubai with their families and plan to spend most of their holidays going to the movies. They are also looking forward to ‘Dubai Water Bash Day’, a water-based fun event that will be held on October 27 at Zabeel Park, and visits to Wild Wadi Water Park.

Christie’s sale of Egypt art piece poised to generate $4.5m

Dubai: A rare masterpiece by the father of modern Egyptian art Mahmoud Saeed is expected to break another record at Christie’s Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art sale that takes place on Monday and Tuesday at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai.

Titled Pecheurs a Rashid and depicting a busy river scene showing fishermen unloading their catch on the banks of the river Nile, the art piece carries a pre-sale price tag of between $400,000 (Dh1.46 million) and $600,000.

Egypt’s iconic painter (1897-1964) is known for his works depicting images of dervishes, dancers, nudes and aristocrats. He made headlines in 2010 when one of his masterpieces, The Whirling Dervishes (1929), fetched $2.54 million, a far cry from the pre-sale estimate of $400,000.

Hala Khayat, specialist in Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, said the artist’s Pecheurs a Rashid is “undeniably the most representative of Saeed’s art because of the beauty of the Egyptian character captured through the artist’s harmonious composition.”

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Part 1 of the auction that takes place tonight also showcases another rare painting by Saeed, titled El Zar, with a pre-sale estimate of $150,000 to $200,000, as well as three works by Iranian Farhad Moshiri.

Part 2 of the sale, which kicks off tomorrow, will feature over 100 lots spanning the work of modern and young artists, with lower price points from around $2,000.

Michael Jeha, managing director at Christie’s Middle East, said the sales are expected to generate around $4.5 million and attract not only regular collectors and investors, but first-time buyers as well.

“We have works across the two sales with estimates from as low as $2,000 up to $600,000. With such a range of values, the sales attract a diverse group of buyers. We will see many established collectors who regularly attend the sales but, as in past sale seasons, hope to see and meet a new group of art enthusiasts many of whom have come to look for the first time,” Jeha told Gulf News.

Christie’s is also offering a free public viewing of the art works from Sunday to Wednesday this week. “The viewing is open to everyone and we would encourage anyone interested to come down and enjoy. It really is a mini pop-up museum, for a few day only,” Jeha added.

People are the problem with the Internet

The future just isn’t what it used to be. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to catch up with episodes of a Discovery series called Prophets of Technology. It’s a good series, littered with immortality-seeking androids, psychotic A.I., and an Empire ruled by a pair of rejects from a mystic order of knights who wield an “elegant weapon for a more civilised age.”

It’s a good series, but it’s getting harder and harder to reconcile the dystopian futures (even if they happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) I grew up with and the real world. In science fiction books, and even more so in the movies, evil often wears something stylishly sinister and spews edgy dialogue.

In the real world, it’s usually personified by some low-level mook who wears a bad goatee.

At least, that’s the image we get these days following the Reddit and Amanda Todd/Anonymous debacles. Reddit’s story is fairly straight forward. One of the site’s most notorious trolls, known for posting all kinds of vile stuff on the site, was outed by Gawker.com, a rival site. Michael Brutsch, who has admitted to being the troll Violentacrez and even allowed himself to be interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, has since lost his job and become one of the most vilified people in US media (Brutsch not Cooper, although I wish Cooper would give up his reporting job and go back to the Amazing Race). He’ll probably get a book deal (again, Brutsch not Cooper). There is no indication yet over whether Brutsch could face criminal charges. However, the Reddit case is clean and simple when compared to the Amanda Todd/Anonymous scandal.

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Sexual blackmail

For those who missed the news, the online collective Anonymous out-ed a Canadian man they say was responsible for the suicide of 15-year-old Todd, who left an online video of the bullying and sexual blackmail she faced online, and later, in the real world.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police cleared the man, who was being held on other charges involving issues with another underage girl, but Anonymous then pointed the finger at a Wisconsin-based man who goes by the online name of “Viper.”

Police have yet to make an arrest on either side of the border, but then again, a spokesperson for the RCMP sound that as many as 12 people are assigned to a case such as this. That may seem a lot until you consider the actual number of people committing sex crimes online, provided you can actually find any. None of the stats I found offered any insight into just how often this type of activity occurs.

However, www.enough.org, a site that offers information on combating online sexual predators, says that in 2010, there where over 644,865 sexual offenders in the US, or about 0.002 per cent of the population.

There are by some estimates over a billion people online. If the numbers are any indication, that means about 2 million sexual predators are online around the world. Twelve cops per case doesn’t really start to even scratch the surface of what is becoming a global problem.

This has spurred hacktivist groups like Anonymous to intervene. Twenty years from now Anonymous is going to be a case study in every Ethics class that gets taught. Is it ethical to use technology to invade someone’s privacy in the hopes of exposing a crime? Ethics aside, it certainly isn’t legal, but I would rather see tax dollars being used to catch paedophiles instead of Anonymous hackers.

Ethics and legal questions

However, even that may change, as reaction to Anonymous’ antics was equally chilling. A Facebook page was quickly created calling for the death of the first man outed, and included what was supposedly his phone number. In typical online fashion, no one involved in the cybermob actually did anything that involved them getting out of a chair, but the potential for real violence was there.

Anonymous aren’t the only one raising ethics and legal questions.

Following Anonymous’ outings, most news organisations did not run the names of either of the men accused, presumably for legal (libel) reasons. A Google search, however, offered those names up in about 0.24 second.

Exactly what’s the use of having news organisations if social media, which lacks any real gatekeeping function, provides that information instead? I’d like to say the answer to that is credibility, but let’s not kid ourselves. Scandal and sex sell. In terms of value, credibility ranks down there with Zip Disks.

This is where we are: teenage suicides, vigilante groups, understaffed police organisations, general public mayhem, and media organisations that do little more than respond instead of actually investigate. This is what technology for the masses has actually delivered. Sadly, it doesn’t sound much different from life before the Internet, does it?

Frankly, I’d have much rather lived in a world overrun by androids.

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Sweden: Despite world class innovation and investments in R&D, challenges remain

Stockholm: Braving the October chill, Magnus Bergman cycles 10km to his office in Stockholm’s high-end commercial district of Stureplan. Internet expert Bergman and his colleague telecom entrepreneur Pandelis Eliopoulos run a tiny VOIP start-up and dream of turning it into a profitable mobile communication venture with a global footprint. With a team of just 25 youngsters from 11 different countries, plingm has presence in China, US, India, Japan and Singapore.

Having registered a whopping 5,000 per cent growth since January, plingm is eyeing a sizeable slice of the global mobile VOIP market that is growing at a compound rate of over 63 per cent and is expected touch $29.98 billion by 2016. Unlike market leader Skype that was co-founded by Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennström in 2003 and offers VOIP solutions on multiple platforms, plingm focusses only on mobile-to-mobile cheap calls. With over a million downloads, Bergman claims, plingm is among the top three in 14 markets, including 12 in Middle East and North Africa region.

In the nearby high-street shopping hub of Biblioteksgatan, colonies of potentially deadly bacteria are grown in petri dish to test new products that will cut antibiotic-resistant infections in hospitals worldwide. Heading a small team of lab technicians in medical technology firm Bactiguard, Christian Kinch early this month was in the middle of a sales pitch with Iraqi healthcare chiefs to supply gold-coated catheters that, he claims, significantly cut hospital-acquired deadly infections. Dr Hassan Al Kazzaz is Kinch’s potential customer and a deal with the Iraqi public health boss would have been critical for Bactiguard ahead of the product’s formal launch in Abu Dhabi last week. Having secured an order for Chinese government hospitals, Bactiguard is now heading towards emerging markets of Gulf and Middle East.

A short walk from the Bactiguard office, Sweden’s second largest hamburger chain Max is getting ready for a Dubai launch in November. Named after founder Curt Bergfors’ nickname, Max specialises on low-fat burgers and is the only food firm in Sweden with a fully carbon-labelled menu. With low-carb and vegetarian choices, Max seems to be a popular choice of environment conscious customers looking for carbon-smart alternatives. Par Larshans, Max’s full-time chief sustainability officer, believes his company will eventually become carbon-neutral, a distinction that will help drive business in markets in the MENA region.

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Spurred by excellent Swedish workmanship, world-class innovations and huge investments in R&D, the country’s robust economy stands apart amidst failing European nations of Greece and Spain. Stockholm’s bustling downtown markets, busy ICT, commercial and industrial clusters, efficient public transport and low inflation indicate that the economy is healthy and vibrant. But dig a little deeper and the narrative begins to change. Beggars in downtown Stockholm, posters warning travellers of pick pockets inside Arlanda airport and Swedes rummaging garbage bins outside five-star hotels are possible indicators of the challenges this wealthy nation of nine million people may face in future.

Sweden is one of the most export dependent economies in the world and a few large companies make up for country’s 80 per cent of exports. Policy-makers in Sweden, one of the poorest European nation 100 years ago, are well aware that this is a recipe for disaster and they are hoping that small and medium enterprises like Max, plingm and Bactiguard will drive Swedish exports that make up for half of the Nordic country’s GDP of $538,13 billion.

So far, Swedish companies have successfully applied a time-tested formula to expand their business – — invent, develop, produce and distribute. But this formula is increasingly coming under close scrutiny.

“Swedish trade shares are declining and we must rely on SMEs to stop this,” economist Professor Pontus Braunerhjelm of Royal Institute of Technology told Gulf News. “We are paying too much attention to macro issues and ignoring micro issues, this is the reason of my pessimism,” he said, adding that, “when Roman Empire fell we found out only after 500 years.” Another word of caution comes from Swedish Trade Council, a joint venture of Swedish government and business. “Almost 80 per cent of our exports are going to markets that are not growing,” says Mat Paulson, the council’s vice-president, Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and Balkan. “We want more SMEs to be export oriented and that’s what preoccupies us,” Paulson says adding that Gulf and the Mena region are priority regions for Swedish trade.

Professor Braunerhjelm is not sure whether huge investments in new technology will continue to translate into bigger profits. Large investments in research and development increase production cost, making Swedish products unattractive in many markets. Bactigaurd’s Kinch admits that catheters made by his company are two-times expensive than those made in China and India. He is aware of the challenges Bactiguard will face when it begins supplying gold-plated catheters to Chinese hospitals. It is anybody’s guess how long it will take the Chinese manufacturers to come up with cheap copies of this Swedish product.

The signs of cut-throat competition from the Chinese are clearly visible in the Swedish capital. Chinese goods and hand-made Swedish Viking souvenirs jostle for shelf space in shops dotting downtown Stockholm. Inside Swedish Academy’s Nobel Museum, cheap Chinese products are displayed alongside expensive toys and stationary made by the Swedes. “This is not made by us, it came from China or some such place,” quipped a salesgirl inside the Nobel Museum.

Competition from China is not limited to Viking souvenirs. Sweden’s telecom and electrical sector that accounts for 14 per cent of Swedish exports is also facing challenges of globalisation. A 20-minute drive towards north-west of Stockholm leads to the telecom and information technology hub of Kista where more than 20,000 workers are employed in dozens of companies. The centerpiece of this ICT hub is telecom giant Ericsson, Sweden’s largest exporter and, many believe, source of world’s current and future inventions in telecom and information technology. After ending their mobile phone venture with Japanese giant Sony early this year, Sweden’s telecom major Ericsson is focusing on telecom infrastructure and back-end operations. A cluster of large buildings make up the headquarters and research facilities of Ericsson that proudly claims it has deployed 20 per cent of its workforce in R&D. They are busy developing digital highways, highly-efficient telecom infrastructure, smart mobile masts and much more.

At Ericsson Studio, the company has proudly displayed its history since 1876 when Lars Magnus Ericsson founded Ericsson as a telegraph equipment repair shop in central Stockholm. A dumbbell-shaped telephone and bulky wireless telephone equipment displayed on the reception table tell the glorious history of Ericsson, the world’s largest manufacturer of telecom equipment with a market share of 38 per cent. Another section of the studio showcases future technologies: a talking tree, voice and picture data transfer through human bodies, smart and efficient mobile masts and many more. With a planned R&D investment of $5 billion in the coming years, Ericsson is focusing on setting industry standards in GSM and WCDMA. Today, more than 40 per cent of the world’s mobile traffic goes through Ericsson networks covering 2.5 billion mobile subscribers.

In the Middle East, Ericsson is working with 36 telecom operators including, Etisalat, du, OmanTel, Turkcell in developing mobile networks. In Saudi Arabia, it is developing 4G services with STC or Saudi Telecom Company. With a history of 120 years, Ericsson has 6,000 employees in 20 countries in the Middle East and gets 17 per cent of its business from the region. But the company is aware that all this might change in view of stiff competition from Chinese and Indian companies who are eager to supply telecom platforms and equipment at a cheaper price. “The politicians must take the present situation seriously,” says Professor Braunerhjelm.

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October 22 to be observed as World Energy Day

Dubai: October 22 will now be observed as the World Energy Day every year, it was announced at the World Energy Forum on Monday. With this, Dubai has once again created history, officials at the World Energy Forum said.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, led the signing ceremony of the International Declaration for the World Energy Day along with 24 heads of states and governments participating at the three-day World Energy Forum, which started in Dubai on Monday.

Announcing the initiative, Dr Harold Harold Hyunsuk Oh, President and Chairman of World Energy Forum, said: “On July 22 this year, when we met His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid in Dubai he announced that the first day of World Energy Forum of this year, which is October 22, will be marked as the World Energy Day, every year, following its endorsement. Today we are witnessing a new beginning in the move for a new energy civilisation.”

The initiative, launched by World Energy Forum, has secured instant support from 24 countries, and if endorsed by others, could become World Energy Day every year.

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October 22 joins April 22 – that is celebrated globally as Earth Day and June 5 – observed as the World Environment Day.

Earth Day is an annual day on which events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment. Earth Day is coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year.

World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated every year on June 5 to raise global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action. It is run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

It was the day that United Nations Conference on the Human Environment began — it ran from June 5 to 16, 1972 — and the day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972. The first World Environment Day was in 1973. World Environment Day is hosted every year by a different city with a different theme and is commemorated with an international exposition in the week of June 5.

The event marks the beginning of a new era marking a third day – October 22 – as the World Energy Day.

“The signing of this declaration is a testimony to our movement for energy efficiency and will strengthen the movement for smart energy and our call for the governments to initiate stronger public policies to ensure sustainability,” Dr Hyunsuk Oh said.

China economy in feeble recovery

BEIJING: China could stage a tepid economic rebound in the fourth quarter as higher public infrastructure spending nudges the world’s growth engine out of seven consecutive quarters of cooldown, but growth will remain lethargic through 2013 a Reuters poll showed.

The listless recovery leaves the world’s second-largest economy on course for its slowest annual expansion in 13 years, though analysts say policymakers will welcome the cooling effect it brings to prices and refrain from fresh measures to stimulate growth in the year ahead for fear of reigniting inflation.

The consensus call is for no interest rate cuts or dramatic pump-priming moves in the coming year, though cuts to the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for banks are seen in store.

“We think the latest data suggests that the economy has bottomed,” said Wang Tao, an economist at UBS in Hong Kong. “This means that there is a diminished need for another round of stimulus.”

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The median forecast of a Reuters poll of 19 economists showed China’s economic growth should perk up to 7.7 per cent in the fourth quarter, up a shade from a 7.4 per cent expansion in the previous three months.

For all of 2012, China’s economy is forecast by 27 analysts to grow 7.7 per cent, just ahead of the government’s 7.5 per cent target but nonetheless the slackest pace since 1999, when growth hit 7.6 per cent.

The latest estimate for China’s 2012 economic growth is down from a previous 8 per cent forecast in a similar Reuters poll in July, and underscores how the length and breadth of the downturn has caught many by surprise.

China’s lethargic growth is echoed throughout Asia, where economies are likely to struggle with another year of weak growth in 2013 as central banks keep policy loose.

That is typified in the 2013 growth call for China, which economists have raked back to 7.8 per cent from the 8.4 per cent forecast three months ago in the previous poll in this quarterly series.

Nevertheless, many believe the worst may have passed.

A surprisingly strong bounce in China’s exports last month, alongside factory output, investment and retail sales which all pulled slightly ahead of expectations suggested the economy may be turning the corner.

Analysts say investment spending has been boosted by the government’s fast-tracking of infrastructure project approvals, including $157 billion worth of investment plans in September.

Given that pro-growth policies appeared to be gaining traction, analysts said China’s central bank would likely hold lending rates steady at 6 per cent until the end of 2013, while keeping deposit rates unchanged at 3 per cent.

The RRR, the portion of deposits that commercial banks must keep at the central bank, is expected to be reduced once this quarter by 50 basis points to 19.5 per cent, an d lowered another 100 basis points to 18.5 per cent by the end of next year.

“We believe China’s economic growth is bottoming out, although the magnitude of the rebound in September investment and quarter-on-quarter economic growth suggested by the official numbers seem too good to be true,” said Stephen Green, an economist from Standard Chartered.


It has been a rough year for China investors and analysts.

Economists have repeatedly pushed out calls for an economic recovery from the first quarter to the fourth as anaemic demand at home and abroad thwart any hope of a rebound.

And it was not just the scale of the downturn that has wrong-footed economists. Their expectations for how Beijing would respond to the slowdown were off the mark too.

The central bank’s unforeseen decision to cut interest rates twice in the space of four weeks in June and July led many analysts to predict China was embarking on an aggressive policy loosening cycle to put a floor beneath growth.

But the central bank’s policy inaction since July forced many economists to pare expectations for more policy easing, especially after forecasts for a rate cut in the third quarter did not materialise.

While, the poll showed economists expect one more cut in banks’ RRR this year to 19.5 per cent, their forecasts in the Reuters poll in July had been for an RRR of 19 per cent.

With Beijing relying more on open market operations lately to manage liquidity, Zhang Zhiwei, an economist at Nomura, said adjustments to reserve requirements — or the lack of — would not have too big an impact on China’s growth prospects.

Instead, he argued the biggest risk to China’s economic rebound is its housing market, which is the focus of Beijing’s campaign to stamp out any asset price bubble.

Of 15 economists who responded to a question about property restrictions, 13 said they do not expect Beijing to relax property controls — the most stringent of which are purchase caps — even after its leadership handover, which begins in November and finishes in March.

China’s property sector is a crucial pillar of its economy, accounting for at least 13 per cent of gross domestic product and affecting 40 other industries.

“Housing investment stabilised in recent months, but it is not clear how fast investment in this sector can pick up,” said Zhang. “We believe housing investment is more important than exports for China’s fourth-quarter growth outlook.”

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Du third quarter net profit rises 33.8%

Dubai: Telecom operator du recorded a 33.8 per cent year-on-year increase in net profit before royalty to Dh654 million in the third quarter compared to Dh489 million in the corresponding period last year, mainly fuelled by robust growth in mobile data usage.

“Financial performance during the third quarter was stable, with a solid improvement in data usage. This reflects the global trend which indicates a shift of some voice revenues to data. Du is well positioned to take advantage of this shift as we continue to bring relevant and strong data products to the market such as the roaming data bundles we introduced during the third quarter and other value-added services,” Osman Sultan, du’s chief executive officer, said.

Du, formally known as Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, made a revenue of Dh2.52 billion, an increase of 12.9 per cent over the Dh2.23 billion during the same period last year.

The operator added 227,800 active mobile customers during the quarter, bringing its total mobile operator base to 5.96 million.

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The operator also added 26,300 post-paid mobile customers and the total fixed line customers reached 554,900  in the quarter.

The company’s quarter-on-quarter overheads rose to Dh752 million from Dh733 million.

“Operationally, we maintained control on overheads although we saw certain costs increase due to seasonality and with the initialisation of outsourcing arrangements. Our focus on efficiency continues as our company continues to mature. As always, our sights remain focused on delivering value to our shareholders,” he said.

Synergy Aerospace bids for TAP Air Portugal

Lisbon: Portugal’s government says Latin American company Synergy Aerospace is the only candidate in the running to buy state airline TAP Air Portugal.

The government announced on Thursday that the company was the only one out of 13 initial interested companies that passed to the second phase of the privatisation process.

The government has set a number of conditions on the sale, including maintaining the flag carrier’s hub in Lisbon.

Secretary of state for transport Sergio Monteiro declined to discuss the possible sale price, which will be negotiated.

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TAP recorded losses of $101 million (Dh370.9 million) in 2011. The airline’s main appeal is its more than 70 weekly flights from Portugal to Brazil and about the same number to Africa.

Synergy Aerospace owns Colombia’s Avianca.

The alliance map

One of the nice things about the air transport industry is it never stands still. It is not only aircraft that defy gravity moving around the globe. Airline logic and rhetoric also breaks a number of the rules of physics. The rules they do not break are the rules of economics.

You might argue the law of gravity is quite strict, unlike the laws of economics. However, it is JM Keynes that wrote the definitive rule of economics. ‘When circumstances change, I change my mind. What do you do?’ he once asked. It is a fair question, and valid for airline economics.

Circumstances are changing, and they are changing rapidly. You only need to look at the way the airline alliance map has changed in the last week or so to see that. Last month, if you believed the talk, the Gulf’s airlines all thought that alliances were of no value and that they were better off without them.

Since then three really fundamental things have happened. Emirates, with its deal with Qantas, has shaken the oneworld alliance; Qatar has joined the oneworld alliance; and Etihad has signed a deal with Air France-KLM, the key player in the skyteam alliance. Mr Keynes, please step forward.

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As I have previously noted, we have alliances because we also have an outdated, restrictive set of rules that make it very hard for airlines to behave like normal companies. Alliances were developed to find ways for airlines to share operation costs and passengers.

But to do so is risky. From the passengers’ perspective, the airline with which your preferred airline is aligned needs to share a number of things. Commitment to service levels, for a start. Recognition of frequent flyer priorities is another big issue. Whether silver level frequent flyers get access to lounges is a big question when you are the silver level frequent flyer in question. Does the other airline have as many cashews in its mixed nuts?

It is hard to think of another service industry that outsources the very production of its service at the point of delivery the way that airline alliances do.

From the airlines’ perspective there are other issues that matter nearly as much. These include whether the airline can save money by outsourcing the flying and whether there is some way to ensure that there is no price competition between the carriers in the alliance.

Strictly, under the usual anti-trust, pro-competition laws, the fact that two airlines are in an alliance is not, of itself, reason for them not to be competitors. Take code sharing for example. Code sharing is when two (or more) airlines with rights to operate a particular route do so on an aircraft operated by only one of those airlines. Seats sold on a code share flight are sold by each airline, independent of the other, so should be sold competitively. Two passengers sitting side by side may have paid wildly different fares.

To stop that state of affairs the airlines seek ‘metal neutral’ alliances, with cooperative pricing, done once for all. These are alliances with anti-trust immunity. It is not for nothing that Tim Clark (CEO) from Emirates has called alliances “a fraud on the passenger”. It is worth noting that with normal commercial rules, these complex structures would not be necessary.

So what has happened? Let’s look first at Emirates-Qantas. That deal means that the oneworld offering involving BA and Qantas between Europe and Australasia is now dead. For Qantas, it has been replaced by linking with Emirates to offer services from Australia to the entire EK network.

Oneworld moved quickly to announce Qatar Airways’ joining. That gives it competing services to match those of Qantas-Emirates. Speaking in Geneva last week, Keith Williams, the CEO of BA said that Qantas was still “very much part of oneworld”. What that Delphic comment meant only time will tell.

Etihad moving alongside skyteam is also interesting. Etihad has been clear in its intention to gather unto itself as many passengers as it can. Its announcement of a deal with Garuda is also consistent with both parts of this narrative. Garuda can deliver passengers. Skyteam notes Garuda is a ‘future skyteam member’.

Skyteam is strong in China and in Latin America, information Etihad frequent fliers might find interesting when planning their next holiday.

It is the frequent flier schemes that ultimately provide the glue for alliances. You will note that the first thing mentioned in announcing an airline’s joining of an alliance is that the frequent flier scheme is to be merged, aligned or otherwise tinkered with. Airlines know that they cannot afford to upset their best, most frequent, passengers. They also know that alliances are not as good as the alternative, but until we can change that, we are stuck with what we have.

Andrew Charlton is managing director of the Europe-based strategic advisory, government and public affairs firm, Aviation Advocacy

Emirates expected to buzz with tourists this Eid holiday

Dubai: Expect bumper-to-bumper traffic and shoulder-rubbing crowds around Dubai as tourists from the Gulf countries descend on the UAE for the Eid holidays, which falls on a long weekend.

Hotels are anticipating 80 to 100 per cent occupancy during Eid and some are already fully booked, hotel managers said. Travel agents are seeing an increase of up to 20 per cent in inbound travel bookings compared to last Eid Al Adha.

The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is expecting a 10 per cent increase in the number of hotel guests to Dubai this Eid compared to the same season last year, Eyad Ali Abdul Rahman, executive director of media relations and business development at DTCM, told Gulf News.

For tourists visiting the UAE this Eid, Dubai seems to be the number one destination, but some visiting families prefer the quiet ambience of areas around the Northern Emirates, especially Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, according to travel agents, hoteliers and analysts.

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The Dubai 24-Hour Shopping initiative is also expected to draw more crowds from the GCC this year as trawling the malls and staying up late into the early hours of the morning is part of the culture, they said.

They said the majority of visitors to the UAE this Eid are coming from Saudi Arabia, followed by Qatar and Kuwait.

Related Links Capital emerges as big tourist attraction

In Dubai, Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa is expecting 100 per cent occupancy during Eid and a higher average daily rate than last year, said general manager Habib Khan.

The Ramada Downtown in Dubai is forecasting 90 per cent occupancy during Eid and is currently at 85 per cent of bookings, said general manager Wael Al Behi.

Al Bustan Centre and Residence in Dubai is anticipating 75 to 85 per cent occupancy in its 640 units with 80 per cent of visitors from GCC countries, said hotel chief executive Mousa Al Hayek.

Dubai will be getting the lion’s share of the visitors, said Peter Goddard, managing director of TRI Hospitality Consulting.

“It’s going to be exceptionally busy… Dubai is a market now in its own right, it has its own critical mass and unique selling propositions that people like: shopping, nice hotels, beaches and it is seen as a safe destination,” he said, adding that until the political problems in Egypt and Lebanon subside, Dubai will continue to benefit from the visitors coming here.

The Northern Emirates will be attracting some Eastern European visitors, hoteliers and travel agents have said.

The Iberotel Miramar Al Aqah beach resort and Concorde Hotel Fujairah are expecting 100 per cent occupancy during Eid from expats, GCC nationals and CIS states, hotel managers said.

“Dubai remains number one, but when you look at the investments made by Ras Al Khaimah it is quite progressive because they have resorts and their own airport. It’s very much a secret weapon for RAK. They’re there for the future. People are always looking for something away from the city,” said William Horsley, general manager of the travel division in Al Futtaim Group.

Though popular with GCC visitors, the number of Saudi visitors to Dubai reached 900,000, according to Gassan Aridi, chief executive of Alpha Tours. However, the UAE is also drawing more visitors from India.

“There are a lot of bookings from Indians this year in the five-star hotel segment… Discretionary incomes have gone up big time and Dubai is close to India,” said Sunil D’souza, regional travel director of Kanoo Travel.

Travel agents reported brisk business this Eid, with Kanoo Travel reporting 20 per cent increased bookings and Alpha Tours seeing 21 per cent, they said.

The long weekend and the 24-hour shopping opportunity are clear draws for GCC visitors, according to the DTCM.

“It’s part of the mentality, some people sleep by day, are awake all night and their morning starts late. They go to the malls,” Aridi said.

UAE residents wishing to take staycations might find it difficult as hotels fill up quickly and raise their prices during Eid, Horsley said.

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UN pledges to fight energy poverty

Dubai: Energy poverty is holding back the potential of people and economies across the globe but concerted efforts by countries can plug impoverished communities into the future, said officials at the World Energy Forum on Monday.

Wu Hongbo, the UN’s Under Secretary General of Economic and Social Affairs, on behalf of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, pledged in his opening keynote address at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre on Monday to fight energy poverty.

“One in five people lack access to electricity and some 2.7 billion people depend on wood or animal waste for cooking at a great cost to human and environmental health,” Hongbo told delegates.

With climate change looming as a growing threat across the planet, Hongbo said: “Sustainability energy is the golden threat naturally for these challenges. We believe it can support economic growth, social equality and healthier environment.”

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The promise of sustainable energy is critical, delegates heard, given that the world is expected to see its energy consumption grow by 70 per cent over the next 25 years.

Despite increasing electricity generating projects being constructed around the world, people do not have the luxury of lighted homes or electric cooking, leading to abject poverty and reduced.

In addition to marking October 22 every year as World Energy Day, Hongpo said other conferences and advisory board efforts by the UN and member countries are making a difference.

Dr Harold Hyunsuk Oh, President and Chairman of the World Energy Forum, told delegates that no one should be without electricity.

He proposed that “energy access should be a fundamental right for every person… and should be made a priority by highest authorities in every land”.

Hyunsuk said the “world is going through an unprecedented energy transformation” from fossil fuels to all kinds of new renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

Despite the evolution, he noted that “almost half of the population relies on biomass for its daily energy needs… to light up the world, we need more than business as usual.”

Hyunsuk said the world needs a “new paradigm” and introduced his concept of what he called the formation of a new smart energy movement, a new initiative taken up by World Energy Forum.

Just such a movement is being urged of all energy producers and consumers to re-examine how we produce and use energy in an environment that can no longer afford the daily consumerism demands of seven billion people in the ways of yesteryear.

Hyunsuk said the world needs to begin smart energy practices and work on a number of fronts ranging from energy conservation, efficiency, reducing environmental impact and encouraging investment in the energy sector.

“Everyone is invited to participate in the smart energy movement,” he said.

To properly gauge the success of the new movement proposed by the WEF, he said that a new smart energy index that will record key points, global progress and make recommendations for the future, he said.

The new index will be guided by a committee comprised of scientists and experts.

Private sector should be allowed to invest in energy sector, says Kuwait’s finance minister

Dubai: Private sector should be allowed to invest in the energy sector to achieve sustainability and economic prosperity, Naif Al Hajraf, Kuwait Minister of Finance, said in a keynote speech at the World Energy Forum on behalf of the Emir of the State of Kuwait.

“Government should pave the way for the private sector to enter the power generation and utility businesses through private-public partnerships,” he said, adding that it will create a “healthy environment to encourage private-public sector partnerships” in future through research.

This partnership will create a competitive atmosphere among them as well as protect the rights of the investors and enhance their confidence, Al Hajraf said.

He further said that the private sector should be “motivated” to provide finance to the scientific and technical energy-related researches and experiments. “In addition to this, there should be research centres to serve the developments in the energy sector.”

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Technology development and implementation are the main two factors in enhancing energy efficiency and diversification and environment-friendly future, Al Hajraf said.

Pointing to Fukushima, he stressed on the importance of developing the best safety measures to eliminate any risk or danger that could affect mankind or environment.

“Energy today is the backbone of all communities. It is a pre-requisite for achieving sustainable development and prosperity. As such, this forum emphasises our willingness to work with the entire world to achieve our common vision to develop a sustainable, environment-friendly planet that leads to the well-being of all mankind,” he added.

Al Hajraf called upon participants to share the best practices to promote sustainable development and preserve the environment and natural resources from pollution.

He also remarked that the sunny nature of the GCC countries around the year would enable solar energy to be an alternative source for power.

The Kuwaiti government is looking to diversify its sources of energy, targeting renewable energy and creating an incentive-based mechanism to reduce carbon emissions which will establish a regional benchmark for sustainable development and help finance new investment in clean energy infrastructure, further supporting the growth of Kuwait, said Al Hajraf.

Switched on

Logitech’s new keyboard’s got a touchpad

Available from this month, Logitech’s new K400 keyboard comes with a 10-metre wireless range, built-in multi-touch touchpad and plug-and-play setup, perfect for those who hook up their computers to their flatscreens. With easy setup, simply by plugging the wireless receiver into a USB port, the large 3.5-inch, built-in touchpad makes vertical scrolling intuitive while its multi-touch navigation makes your web browsing a joy —all without getting up from the couch.

The K400 also available with Arabic layout keyboards. Dh169 at retailers.

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The San Jose wireless experts recently showcased their first product line to join the 802.11ac enabled WiFi range, one of its fastest ever. The EA6500 comes with speeds of up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1300Mbps on 5GHz and is supposed to help to improve power consumption of mobile devices.

The Chinese telecommunications provider has been slowly making its move towards consumer goods as it prepares the UAE launch of two of its star offerings – the Ascend D1 quad XL (Dh1,699) and the MediaPad 10 FHD, both powered by Android. Both products will be on UAE shop shelves November 1.

WeMo Baby available for pre-orders

Californian Connectivity experts Belkin are really driving their range of home automation-style products. The latest, the WeMo Baby, turns your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch into a baby monitor so you don’t have to carry an extra device to keep in touch with your baby. Using your Wi-Fi router, it wirelessly streams audio from your baby’s room to your mobile device. All you have to do is download the free WeMo Baby app and listen to your baby while getting more done around the house. WeMo Baby can work with multiple mobile devices simultaneously, allowing multiple caretakers to listen in. Dh330 (Converted from US $). To pre-order, go to belkin.com

The Dutch company has unveiled its new range of premium audio devices including docks, headphones, home cinema and speakers. The Fidelio range, available at all Virgin Megastore outlets in the UAE, are designed to play sound as it was always meant to be, says the company.

First Gulf Bank’s January-September 2012 net profit up 12% to Dh3.01b

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi-listed First Gulf Bank (FGB) said on Monday its fiscal third quarter net profit rose 15 per cent on year to Dh1.05 billion, while the profit for the first nine months of 2012 rose 12 per cent, year-on-year, to Dh3.01 billion.

Commenting on FGB’s financial results, its Chief executive Officer Andre’ Sayegh said: “The solid financial performance during the first half of 2012 and throughout the third quarter is a reflection of the UAE’s growing economy as well as our consistent and balanced internal business strategy, which revolves around balance sheet strength, adequate liquidity and business diversification locally and overseas. From this angle, we continue to target and focus on selective new businesses which fit our criteria, whilst ensuring that we continue to develop our existing operations locally and in selective international locations.”

Naveed Ahmad, Senior Financial Analyst at Kuwait-based Global Investment House, commenting on the FGB’s quarterly results said: “Top-line showed modest improvement. Non-interest income was eye-catching with a jump of 52 per cent, year-on-year. Asset quality remained unchanged with a slight improvement of 10 bps over the previous quarter; provisions increased only marginally by 5 per cent year-on-year but coverage ratio declined from 92 per cent in 2Q 2012 to 89 per cent. Since net income growth was driven largely by non-interest income, we await detailed financials to evaluate the sustainability of the revenue sources.”

FGB said in its statement that one of the most notable areas of growth during Q3 2012 was the increased rate of loans, which rose by 3 per cent, further adding to the growth of 6 per cent, which was achieved in the first half of this year. The bank said its clientele base came from diverse sources, mainly UAE government-related entities, retail clients, in addition to clients in the bank’s international locations.

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Shares of FGB on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange closed 0.1 per cent higher on Monday at Dh10.05.

FGB said its net interest margin stood at 3.71 per cent by end of the quarter ended September, compared to 3.75 per cent during the same period last year. The core banking businesses of FGB contributed 97 per cent to net profit, while the remaining 3 per cent were contributed by the subsidiaries and associated companies of the group. The FGB group’s expenses totalled Dh1,025 million for the first nine months of 2012, 16 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Tamweel posts Dh45m net profit

Dubai: Tamweel PJSC, the UAE Islamic home finance provider, on Monday reported an operating income of Dh452 million in the first nine months of 2012, compared with Dh446 million in the corresponding period for 2011. Operating income was higher than recorded in the corresponding period despite competition on profit rates.

Net profit stood at Dh45 million, compared with Dh71 million in the same period last year. Net profit was lower in the current reporting period mainly due to provisions and higher funding costs.

“During the third quarter of 2012, Tamweel continued to implement its prudent approach to provisioning, ensuring the long-term profitability of the company and its ability to capitalise on the upturn in the UAE property market,” Abdullah Ali Al Hamli, chairman of Tamweel, said. “As the company moves forward, we are uniquely positioned to play a full and active role in supporting the home finance needs of people looking to purchase property in the UAE.”

Varun Sood, acting chief executive officer of Tamweel, said: “Tamweel’s proven business model and focus on service excellence continues to serve the company well. As the recovery of the UAE property sector gathers pace — with average home prices increasing between 10 per cent to 15 per cent over an 18 month period — Tamweel’s innovative, customer-centric solutions will keep us at the forefront of the country’s home finance market.”

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During 2012, the company successfully secured funding of $300 million (Dh1.1 billion) by placing USD denominated sukuk, while Fitch Ratings has upgraded Tamweel’s Long Term IDR by two notches to ‘BBB+’ from ‘BBB-‘ with a stable outlook.

Take responsibility for your actions

If you think the world is against you, it probably is. If you think the world is conspiring against you, then maybe that also. But if you believe that you are the one who is in control of your own destiny, then you probably are.

Mary makes an appointment to see me in my counselling rooms. She sees herself as a victim. Nothing ever goes right for her. She feels her job is not up to her expectations, her family is unsupportive and her friends can never be relied upon.

There are those who complain the whole time about things never going right for them and who even choose the wrong check-out line in the supermarket. These are the very people who will not take responsibility for how their life develops. They just fall into a pattern of acceptance and blame others for what is not going right in their lives. They often use the excuse of an unhappy childhood for what happens to them 40 years later when it is time to take responsibility for what is happening now and not to blame a parent, a sibling or a friend going back to those teenage years.

But some individuals do get trapped in a futile attempt to find reasons for failure, which is one of the reasons that many clients come to see me. Something happens in their life and they know in their heart of hearts that they need to move on but they just don’t know how to do it.

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However, the fact that they have come to see me, means they acknowledge their negative mindset and behaviour, and that is certainly a step in the right direction.

So let me set out here some of my strategies for helping Mary on her way to taking a greater responsibility for herself.

Firstly, be brutally honest with yourself. Admit what it is that does not work in your life and ask what it is that stops you from changing things. Take all the excuses out of the picture, remove blaming others and what are you left with? Accountability. Accountability for your actions and your own deeds: for what you do well and for what you don’t.

Secondly, put your words into actions!

When you say you say you are going to do something, then make sure that you do it. If you spend all your time procrastinating and delaying decision and action, think about how frustrating it is for others as well as for yourself, and your own family and friends.

Thirdly, see the world how it really is.

Is it fact or fantasy that the world is really against you? Well, we all see the world in a different way — we all use different filters through which we look at things and at people. These filters are what comprise our belief system and our entrenched negative thinking. The problem is that many people start to see their mindset as something that cannot be altered and because of this, they don’t open their minds to new thoughts or new ideas. They convince themselves that their mindset is ‘set in concrete’ and cannot be altered otherwise it could undermine their own thinking and hence make them feel insecure or unstable.

Fourthly, construct a life management plan.

Now, I don’t mean that you know exactly what is going to happen each and every day — of course not. But effective life management is about having a plan and having the commitment and courage to follow it through. If you ask little of yourself, then ‘little’ is probably only what you will deliver and what you will achieve.

So be clear and focused about what you want and what is going to give you fulfilment and satisfaction. If your job doesn’t do this for you, then ask yourself why? But far better to accept your job for what it does give you, appreciate and value your time during the day and when you get home in the evening, do something else that will give you pleasure, fulfilment and joy.

Read your children a story. Go to see a friend. Make a phone call to someone who is maybe alone.

And then watch how your mind, mood and focus changes.

1. Negativity breeds negativity.

2. Mindsets can be changed, if we will it.

3. We all need a life management plan.

Abu Dhabi-led group submits lowest price for Saudi power station

Abu Dhabi/Khobar: An Abu Dhabi-led group submitted the lowest price to build a power station in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi statement said, and a source said the group will go into exclusive talks on the project.

The consortium led by Abu Dhabi National Energy Co (TAQA) and also comprising Samsung Engineering and Qatar Electricity & Water Co (QEWC) had made the lowest bid for the Rabigh 2 project, a statement from the Kingdom’s sole utility Saudi Electricity Co (SEC) said on Monday.

The bidding consortium will enter into exclusive talks with SEC and, if selected, will jointly own 50 per cent of the project company along with SEC, a second source said.

TAQA’s bid ranked ahead of four other consortiums that bid for the plant, included groups headed by Saudi-based ACWA Power, South Korea’s Kepco and Japan’s Marubeni.

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Rabigh 2 is a green-field heavy fuel oil power plant, the fourth project in SEC’s IPP programme. It is located 175 km north of Jeddah on the west coast of the Kingdom.

Samsung and Alstom are the selected engineering, procurement and construction contractors, while the electricity generated by the plant will be sold via a 25-year power purchase agreement to SEC.

TAQA, whose controlling shareholder is the Abu Dhabi government, owns an interest in the 250 MW Jubail power plant in Saudi Arabia. The financial close for the project is scheduled for before March 31, 2013, the statement added.

Dubai, Abu Dhabi markets trade in opposite directions

The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) index pulled back into the positive territory on Monday, but the gains were muted as the market traded low volumes with no directional support coming from the international markets.

The market index, however, managed a close above 1,650, which means a key support level is being protected and if the third quarter corporate earnings come out better than investors’ expectations, the market may well rally in the days ahead.

On Monday, the investors bought shares in real estate major Emaar and construction firm Arabtec which drove the index towards the positive territory.

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The DFM index closed t 1,652, up 0.14 per cent. Around 69.49 million shares, cumulatively worth about Dh87.97 million were traded on the Dubai stock market. About 8.79 million Emaar shares cumulatively valued at around Dh32.65 million were traded, its stock closing 0.27 per cent higher at Dh3.71 on value-buying by investors.

Of the 27 company stocks traded, 13 rose, while 11 fell and 3 closed unchanged. The day’s top gainer was Ajman Bank, its stock rising 3.6 per cent to close at Dh0.920. DEPA was the day’s main loser, its shares fell 8.03 per cent to close at $0.229. The shares of Emaar were the most traded by value while Gulf Finance House’s stock was the most traded by volume.

The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) general index closed on Monday in the negative territory amid low trading activity as the market participants largely remained on the sidelines. However, the market broke a key support level, which could mean increased volatility and more downside risks in the days ahead.

The stock market index closed at 2,648.24, down 0.16 per cent, breaking the support level of 2,650. The overall value of share transactions remained well below Dh61 million. The investors were net sellers on the market in most of the stocks, including bluechip shares.

Around 46.93 million shares, cumulatively valued at about Dh60.85 million were traded. Of the 27 company stocks which traded, only 6 advanced, while 9 fell and 12 closed unchanged.

The stock of Abu Dhabi’s real estate major Aldar Properties closed unchanged at Dh1.36 as investors booked profits. About 5.37 million shares of Aldar, cumulatively worth about Dh7.32 million changed hands on the market. Sorouh Real Estate’s shares, also closed unchanged at Dh1.32.

The top gainer on the Abu Dhabi market was National Bank of Umm AlQuwain, its shares closing 1.8 per cent higher at Dh1.70. Abu Dhabi National Hotels was the day’s top loser, its stock falling 9.95 per cent to close at Dh1.81. The shares of telecommunications major etisalat were the most traded in terms of value while RAK Properties’ shares were the most traded by volume.

Singapore tops World Bank’s Doing Business chart

Entrepreneurs in developing countries are finding it easier to do business than at any time in the last 10 years, World Bank’s Doing Business Report shows

Dubai: Local entrepreneurs in developing countries are finding it easier to do business than at any time in the last 10 years, highlighting the significant progress that has been made in improving business regulatory practices across the globe, according to a new report released by the World Bank and IFC.

The report, Doing Business 2013: Smarter Regulations for Small and Medium-Size Enterprises, marks the 10th edition of the Doing Business series. Over the past decade, these reports have recorded nearly 2,000 regulatory reforms implemented by 180 economies.

Singapore topped the global ranking on the ease of doing business for the seventh consecutive year. Hong Kong SAR, China; New Zealand; the United States; Denmark; Norway; the United Kingdom; the Republic of Korea; Georgia; and Australia joined the list of the top 10 economies with the most business-friendly regulations.

The reforms have yielded major benefits for local entrepreneurs across the globe, it says. For example: Since 2005, the average time to start a business has fallen from 50 days to 30—and in low-income economies the average has been reduced by half.

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“In the past eight years, the average time to transfer property fell by 35 days, from 90 to 55, and the average cost by 1.2 percentage points—from 7.1 percent of the property value to 5.9 per cent,” it says.

“In the past eight years, improvements to simplify tax compliance have reduced the time required annually to comply with the three major taxes measured (profit, labor, and consumption taxes) by 54 hours on average.”

In the past year alone, 108 economies implemented 201 regulatory reforms that made it easier for local entrepreneurs to do business, the report found. Eastern Europe and Central Asia had the largest share of economies implementing regulatory reforms—with 88 per cent reforming in at least one of the areas measured by Doing Business.

European economies in fiscal distress are working to improve business regulation as part of an effort to establish a stronger foundation for long-term growth, the report found.

“Over the years, governments have made important strides to improve their business regulatory environment and to narrow the gap with global best practices,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director, Global Indicators and Analysis, World Bank Group.

“While the reforms we measure provide only a partial picture of an economy’s business climate, they are crucial for key economic outcomes such as faster job growth and new business creation.”

Topping the list of economies that registered the biggest improvements in the ease of doing business over the last year were Poland, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Burundi, Costa Rica, Mongolia, Greece, Serbia, and Kazakhstan.

“Our research shows it is possible to make huge strides in addressing critical challenges, even without resolution of the many ideological and policy dilemmas. From government spending to tax collection, education improvement to health outcomes, and welfare reform to job creation, we see the potential for meaningful improvement, to do more and better with less,” Diana Farrell, director at McKinsey’s and cofounder of the McKinsey Center for Government.

“What is needed is government management by design, built to fit these difficult times: government that identifies the most critical, solvable problems, reorganizes where necessary to deliver the right solutions, and abandons the tools and approaches that no longer work.”

Gold rebounds from one-month low

Singapore: Gold slipped to its weakest in a month on Monday before recovering slightly as prices became more attractive, but speculators unwinding long positions and worries about the health of the global economy could curb gains.

Falling equities could force speculators to cash in gold to cover losses and to turn to the safety of the dollar, although the metal could find support at around $1,700, a level which may spark more buying from jewellery makers ahead of the year-end festive season.

Gold was standing at $1,724.46 an ounce by 0639 GMT, up $4.47, but still down from an 11-month peak of $1,795.69 marked in early October. It hit a low of around $1,713 an ounce earlier on Monday.

“There is still a chance that we’ll see more selling, but just like this morning, it is evident that there’s likely to be some good buying if gold gets closer to $1,700. Personally, I think $1,700 will be held,” said Yuichi Ikemizu, branch manager for Standard Bank in Tokyo.

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“In the other metals as well, I think we’re coming closer to the bottom of the current range,” he said, referring to industrial metals.

US gold for December was steady at $1,725.70 an ounce after falling to its lowest in more than a month in early trade.

Hedge funds and other big speculators have cut their bullish bets on US commodities to the lowest levels since the end of August, with funds mostly bailing out of gold after its repeated failure to breach the $1,800-an-ounce mark.

Cash gold powered to a record of about $1,920 in 2011, when investors turned to the metal as a safe haven during the debt crisis in Europe.

European Union leaders face two months of tough bargaining on money, power and the future governance of the euro zone before they can boost confidence that the existential threat to the single currency has faded.

Investors are turning their attention to the US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday after the central bank announced its third round of aggressive economic stimulus last month, which eventually sent gold prices to a peak in October.

While investors welcomed the Fed’s plan for more economic stimulus, known as quantitative easing, the move underscored worries that the US economy may be in worse shape than feared.

In other markets, shares in Asia fell on Monday as lacklustre earnings from leading US companies and a sharp drop in Japan’s exports, a key driver of the world’s third-biggest economy, dented risk appetites and prompted investors to take profits on recent gains.

The euro crept up after Spain’s prime minister won a boost for his austerity drive with a regional election victory while yen slid to a two-month low against the dollar on expectations of more stimulus from the Bank of Japan.

The physical gold market saw light buying from jewellery makers in Asia, with top consumer India likely to step up purchases because of the festive season there, which will peak with Diwali and Dhanteras next month.

Weddings also take place during this period, with gold jewellery is an essential part of the dowry Indian parents give to their daughters.

“There are very good orders from India. I guess there will be more buying as prices come off,” said a dealer in Singapore.

Asia: New potential for palace hotels

Paris: Asia is the most dynamic market for luxury products and services and is the next target for palace hotels under the brand of Dorchester Collection, company chief executive Christopher Cowdray told AFP in an interview about strategy.

“We have now nine hotels, they are all iconic. We own all of them except the Richemond [in Geneva]. The aim is to have 15 hotels by 2015, it’s ambitious but that’s the plan,” Cowdray said.

The Dorchester Collection is owned by the Brunei Investment agency, the sovereign wealth fund of Brunei.

Cowdray ran through a list of cities which the group targets as suitable for its palace hotels, widely regarded in the world of luxury hotels as being in a class of their own.

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“We’re looking at key cities in Europe, in the Far East and in America,” Cowdray said.

“To be precise, one in each of these cities, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney. We’re also looking at the Middle East as well, Dubai, Doha and probably Abu Dhabi, but also in New York or Washington.

“It depends where the opportunities arrive. It’s not a science, it’s all about opportunity.”

Cowdray, a 56-year-old Zimbabwean who ran the Dorchester hotel in London before becoming head of the London-based Dorchester Collection in 2007, said that several projects were under review and it was hoped that an announcement could be made by the end of the year.

Chinese demand

The focus was on Asia because that was where the future development of the business lay, and with the Chinese in particular because “the Chinese will be the biggest travel group in the future. They’re looking for luxury and the very wealthy are discerning, they know what true luxury is.”

In Paris, the Chinese were still hesitant to stay in palace hotels but growth of the world market for luxury products and services was already being driven largely by demand from the Chinese.

In 2015 they would represent the biggest group of customers for luxury industries, whether they spent their money within China or as tourists abroad, a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group suggests.

The Dorchester Collection might look at building a hotel in Shanghai because “in Shanghai, it’s going to be very difficult to find a hotel that fits our standards,” Cowdray said.

However, the group was not interested in buying two palace hotels for sale in Switzerland, the Hotel des Trois Rois in Basel and the Bellevue in the mountain resort of Gstaad because the locations were not “main cities”.

The origins of the Dorchester Collection lie in the purchase of the Dorchester hotel by the Sultan of Brunei in 1986.

Palace by palace, the business was expanded with the acquisition of the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1995, the Meurice and Plaza Athenee hotels in Paris in 1997, the Principe di Savoia in Milan in 2003, the Bel-Air in Los Angeles in 2008, Coworth Park, Ascot, England in 2010 and with a management contract for the Richemond in Geneva in 2011.

The last addition was the 45 Park Lane in London last year. This is the only hotel to have been built by the business.

Initially there had not been a strategy to build a group, and additions had been made as opportunities arose, but now the aim was to form a group of up to possibly 20 exclusive hotels, each with its own facet of prestige to stand apart from an ordinary five-star establishment.

Cowdray said that from a financial perspective, the ideal size for palace hotels in the collection was between 200 and 250 rooms.

The nine hotels offer a wider range, from 45 rooms in 45 Park Lane to 301 in Principe di Savoia.

All of the hotels acquired had been refurbished with the exception of Le Richmond where work will begin April and last for a year although the hotel will continue to operate.

However the renovation and extension of the Plaza Athenee might eventually require temporary closure of the hotel, Cowdray said.

“We have to consider what would be the impact on the business and our guests. Beginning next year we’ll be able to make the final decision,” he said.

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Airbus opens A350 factory

Toulouse: European plane-maker Airbus inaugurated a factory for its A350 jetliner on Tuesday, sparking a new phase in the race for fuel efficiency and profits with US rival Boeing.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault fought through fog and an air traffic control strike to fly to Toulouse, south-west France, to name the plant after “Father of Airbus” Roger Beteille, a pioneer of twin-engined long haul passenger jets.

Built in response to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the A350 is Europe’s first contribution to a new generation of jets designed to cut airline fuel bills by using mainly lightweight carbon-composite materials instead of the heavier aluminium.

Airbus and Boeing expect total demand for more than 6,000 such mid-sized, long-range jets over the next 20 years and their arrival is leading to new routes bypassing crowded hub airports.

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It is a market worth several hundreds of billions of dollars and is set to upstage the largest jetliners such as the Airbus A380 superjumbo and the latest version of Boeing’s 747.

But both firms face huge construction challenges for the revolutionary jets, woven and baked out of carbon fibre that is stronger and lighter than metal but costlier to produce. Neither the A350 nor the 787 is expected to make a profit for years.

Airbus says the A350 will take to the skies in the summer of 2013 and enter service in the second half of 2014, a year later than originally scheduled. Three different models of the aircraft will seat between 270 and 350 people.

The competing 787 went into service in Japan a year ago after complications with a groundbreaking production system and global supply chain delayed its first deliveries by three years.

Even before Tuesday’s inauguration, the 74,000-square metre Toulouse plant has been building the first A350 that will never fly but will be shaken apart in stress tests.

Full production will now begin in earnest ahead of next year’s maiden flight, rising to 10 planes a month by late 2018.

The factory ceremony comes as competition intensifies for the sales of jets to Asia and other fast-growing markets.

The largest model, the A350-1000, will also compete against Boeing’s 777 mini-jumbo, which boasts the world’s largest jet engines and dominates a lucrative market just below 400 seats.

Boeing lifted production of the 777 overnight in the wake of record sales and analysts say it is poised to launch a new stretched Dreamliner, to be called the 787-10.

That could slow a rally in sales of the older Airbus A330 which soared as airlines scrambled for capacity to cope with growing traffic, as 787 delays left them short of seats.

Boeing is due to publish third-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

Airbus is also involved in disputes with the United States and even one of its founder nations, Germany, over the funding for the A350, whose development is estimated at $15 billion (Dh55 billion).

The United States has accused Europe of ignoring recent World Trade Organisation rulings by subsidizing the aircraft through development loans, while Germany has withheld part of its share of the loans in a row with Airbus over jobs.

22% increase in Gitex visitor numbers

Dubai: Power retailers and the leading brands reported a 23 per cent increase in sales to Dh237 million at Gitex Shopper, the largest and most influential consumer IT and electronics sales extravaganza in the Middle East.

The show’s move to the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) location was a contributing factor, according to organisers.

“Year after year, Gitex Shopper has continued to provide unmatched opportunities for global technology brands and regional retailers, reaching new levels this year, thanks in part to the relocation of the show to its new central DWTC venue. With the latest technology products on display and excellent sales growth reported almost unanimously by our exhibitors, Gitex Shopper 2012 has delivered record results,” Helal Saeed Al Marri, CEO, DWTC, said.

Contributing a sizeable 10 per cent of the annual revenues for retailers in the UAE, the show plays a key role in meeting the growing demand across the Middle East and neighbouring markets for the latest technology, gadgets and consumer electronics.

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Visitor numbers also swelled to 206,201, a 22 per cent increase over last year.

“This year’s edition was the best ever for Sharaf DG. Not only did we achieve phenomenal sales both at the show and across all our stores in the UAE, it also gave us a chance to increase brand awareness for Sharaf DG,” said Nilesh Khalkho, CEO of Sharaf DG.

Vishesh Bhatia, CEO of Jumbo Electronics, confirmed that growth has been in-line with the company’s expectations. “We are excited to record double-digit growth in sales from last year. Tablets have been a significant contributor, with 100 per cent growth over last year. Sales of smartphones also recorded growth of 80 per cent over last year. We believe Jumbo was the largest retailer in this category as well.”

Jacky’s recorded a 11 per cent increase in sales.

Ashish Panjabi, COO of Jacky’s, said: “ Not only did the exhibition attract returning customers but the new and more accessible venue helped to bring many new visitors to the show, which translated into more sales for us.”

Acording to Neleesh Bhatnagar, CEO, Emax, the eight-day shopping extravaganza contributed more than 8 per cent of our annual budget and an impressive 30 per cent of our third-quarter forecast. We look forward to the next show, which we believe is an opportunity to keep our customers enthusiastic about the latest trends and innovations in technology.”

Green energy slowly making inroads

Dubai: While oil will remain the dominant energy force for decades to come, the new reality of green energy is slowly making inroads toward what some are estimating to be a $10 trillion (Dh36.7 trillion) industry that could someday outpace fossil fuels, say world foreign ministers gathered for World Energy Forum in Dubai.

With energy demands rising by 70 per cent within the next two decades globally, countries are scrambling to find not only green energy sources to balance the rising cost of petroleum but to also welcome green energies that generate sustainable economic growth.

Wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric, geothermal – carbon neutral practices have an entirely new realm of economic fortunes to be had, say energy ministers as the world moves through one of the largest energy revolutions in human history.

Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of Productive Recovery, told delegates on Tuesday that France — and indeed the globe — are in the middle of a third energy revolution, followed by the original coal days of industrial revolution followed by a second revolution spurred on by oil and the automobile.

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This third revolution is all about harnessing the tremendous potential of renewable energies and finding new economic paths that will generate newfound economic benefits and also create jobs, he said.

He said that France will someday be forced to deep-six its nuclear electrical generation as the country moves to more low-carbon footprint technologies.

“Such a revolution can’t take place on its own,” he said, noting that all players from producers to consumers will have to subscribe to the new future.

Thailand’s Minister of Energy, Arak Chonlatanon, said ensuring a “robust recovery depends on energy security” in the future, a mantra that requires a deep understanding of the current energy transitions now taking place as oil prospects become less attractive.

“Last year, my country spent $40 billion – or about 10 per cent of GDP — on energy,” Chonlatanon said, adding that his government is reaching toward a goal of implementing 25 per cent of energy production from renewable sources within the next decade.

Citing an example, he said that Thailand is hoping to work toward a target of the country using 39 million litres of gasohol (ethanol fuel) per day to reduce its reliance on traditional petroleum products.

Fatmir Mediu, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Water Administration, said, his country is working on ushering in new technologies to balance environmental and economic concerns.

“Challenges of today are to reconcile economic development with environmental protection,” he said.

One of the bigger challenges for Albania, said Mediu, is moving the country away from its traditional dependence on petroleum materials used to power generators that produce electricity for the country.

Currently, “over 95 per cent of electricity in our country comes from hydrocarbons,” he said.

Despite burning fossil fuels to keep the country turned on, he said that Albania ranks very well compared to its neighbours for its carbon emissions.

“Albania CO2 emissions are five times lower than the EU average,” he said.

The country is also pursuing other measures to recycle its waste to recapture lost revenues going into landfills, he said.

Australia cuts growth, surplus forecasts

Sydney: Australia on Monday cut its growth and budget surplus forecasts as worsening global conditions hurt revenues in the mining-driven economy.

In a mid-year economic review, Treasurer Wayne Swan said real GDP growth was forecast at 3 per cent this fiscal year — from 3.25 per cent predicted in May — while the surplus will shrink to Aus$1.1 billion (Dh4.15 billion).

“It’s pretty obvious to all that…this mid-year review has been put together amid storm clouds which are hanging over the global economy,” Swan told reporters.

“This lower global growth outlook has had another very big whack at government tax revenues and has made it harder to deliver a surplus.”

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Swan said Australia, which avoided recession during the global financial crisis, remained on track to return a modest surplus ahead of all other major advanced economies, thanks in part to more spending cuts.

The centre-left Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pledged to drag the books back to the black while the mining boom remains in flight, clawing back the Aus$43.7 billion deficit from fiscal 2011-12.

Swan announced some Aus$16.4 billion in savings over four years would be made to protect the 2012-13 surplus, which is forecast to grow in subsequent years, reaching Aus$2.2 billion in fiscal 2013-14.

“This puts us on a responsible middle course between those who say we should cut hard in the budget and don’t worry about the impact on growth and jobs, and… those who say don’t cut at all, don’t worry about the surplus,” he said.

Decisions taken to balance the books were “difficult but critical at a time of falling revenues and ongoing global headwinds”, Swan added in a statement on the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

“Global volatility and substantial revenue writedowns have made returning the budget to surplus in 2012-13 much harder but the government remains on track to deliver a surplus,” he said.

Swan said global growth had slowed in recent months, with the recession in the euro area and a subdued recovery in the United States weighing on growth in Australia and the region.

“The weaker global outlook and lower-than-expected commodity prices, along with the general easing of price pressures in the economy, are again slowing the recovery in tax revenue,” he said.

Australia has lost Aus$160 billion in tax revenues over the five years since the start of the global financial crisis, and a further writedown in tax receipts of close to Aus$22 billion over the next four years would occur.

This will include an Aus$4 billion writedown for the financial year ending June 30, 2013, Swan said, with the budget surplus now forecast to be well down on the Aus$1.5 billion estimated in the May budget.

Unemployment was forecast to remain at 5.5 per cent over the next two years.

But the Treasurer insisted Australia’s public finances were in good health, with net debt peaking at 10 per cent of GDP in 2011-12 and now falling.

“With Australia’s strong set of economic fundamentals, it is hard to find a country that is better placed to deal with uncertain times in the global economy,” he said.

Developing nations blame problems on first world

Dubai: Leaders of developing countries have launched a veiled attack against the developed countries for “not doing enough” for energy efficiency, sustainability and promoting renewable energy.

They laid the blame for the current level of the greenhouse emissions and environment degradation solely on developed nations.

“The paths undertaken by the developed countries during the days of their economic and industrial development, were not environmentally sustainable, and in some case, unethical and mostly harmful. Today we all carry the burden of their past activities,” Mahindra Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, said in his speech at the World Energy Forum on Monday.

“Today, rising Asian countries that are leading global development are pulling more people out of poverty than anyone in the past.”

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Praising the Dubai government for its green energy policy, Esmail Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti, said energy has long been neglected by the developed world.

Africa, home to a billion people, 15 per cent of the world’s population, represents only 3 per cent of global trade and 3 per cent of global power consumption.

“Per capita electricity consumption in Africa is about 60 kilowatt hours (KWh), compared to 8,000KWh in the US. For us – the people in Africa – this is a matter of survival,” he said.

Blaming the West for not doing enough to promote green and sustainable energy, Omar Guelleh, said, due to this, “the black continent remains in darkness. Half of Djibouti’s population does not have access to electricity today. However, renewable energy could help alleviate poverty.”

However, both leaders said this is not the time to engage in a blame game, but to work hard to diversify the global energy mix.

“Today we should not blame each other but undertake actions to develop sustainable energy in an equitable manner,” Rajapaksa said.

Giving a lowdown of power consumption and the challenges faced by Sri Lanka in ensuring uninterrupted power supply, he said a quarter of the country’s national income is spent on importing fossil fuel to power homes while hydropower, formerly the main power source, has declined to 30 per cent from 95 per cent in 1995.

“For a country that does not produce oil, it is a huge burden. That’s why we created a sustainable energy authority in 2007 to develop a new policy that will help us to reduce dependence on fossil fuel. We have set a target to generate 10 per cent of our power from renewable energy,” Rajapaksa said.

However, he cautioned against using agricultural land and output for energy – that would deprive the world’s poor of food.

“The policy imbalance that do not address these issues will not be accepted by the people,” he warned.

Omar Guelleh, meanwhile, shared his government’s plan to attain self reliance in power and utilities by investing in renewable energy. He said his country is developing a 1 gigawatt (GW) geo-thermal power plant that will be commissioned by 2018 and a 20GW solar power plant by 2020.

“By 2020, our country will become a complete green energy producer, and the first country in Africa to do so,” he said.

PC demand in MEA falls 1.9% despite strong Gitex Shopper

Dubai: Despite Gitex Shopper taking place towards the end of the third quarter, the Middle East and Africa (MEA) PC market experienced a slowdown of 1.9 per cent year on year in third quarter, said an industry expert.

“One of the primary reasons for the slowdown was the anticipated launch of the new Microsoft Windows 8 operating system,” said Fouad Rafiq Charakla, a research manager at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey.

According to IDC’s preliminary results, a total of 4.9 million computers were shipped into the region during the quarter, with desktop shipments declining 8.8 per cent year on year to total 1.9 million units, while notebook shipments increased 2.9 per cent year on year to reach three million units.

“The imminent arrival [Windows 8] has encouraged a number of vendors to minimise their inventory levels leading up to the launch of this new operating system. This factor, combined with the ongoing cannibalisation of PC share by tablets, has hindered growth in the region’s PC market.”

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Looking at the region’s key markets, both Saudi Arabia and Turkey experienced a minor slowdown in shipments year on year. South Africa and the UAE managed only small growth year on year, with South Africa witnessing healthy uptake from commercial segments and Gitex helping the UAE market remain buoyant.

“We will be launching news notebooks and tablets based on Windows 8 next month which we expect to fuel demand in the region,” Amin Mortazavi, vice-president for Acer Middle East and Africa, said.

“The third quarter was very challenging for everybody because of summer vacations and Ramadan but we see a rebound in the fourth quarter,” he said.

While this year’s Gitex event successfully attracted a large number of visitors from across the region, it did not witness a significant number of new product launches.

In fact, the ‘Shopper’ event was mainly used as a platform by most vendors to liquidate existing inventory as they sought to clear room for higher volumes of devices with Windows 8 during the final quarter of this year.

Despite suffering a drastic slowdown of 21.6 per cent year on year, HP continued to dominate the market , followed by Dell with 8.9 per cent downturn. After suffering a slowdown in the second quarter of 2012, Toshiba was able to recover in the third quarter, attaining growth of 17.1 per cent to climb to third place.

In a continuation from the previous quarter, Lenovo experienced the highest rate of growth among the leading vendors, increasing its shipments 44.5 per cent while Acer dropped to number five despite posting an 8.9 per cent increase in its shipments.

Workers’ maths to be challenged

 By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News  National Numeracy wants employers to help staff improve their maths skills Employers are being asked to help workers boost their numeracy skills amid fears that poor maths is blighting Britain’s economic performance.

The charity, National Numeracy, plans to reach a million adults over a five-year period, starting in the workplace.

Government figures show 17 million working age people in England have only primary school level maths skills.

Chris Humphries of National Numeracy said action was “urgently needed if the UK is not to sink further behind”.

The campaigners say they want to raise the skills of all employees to at least the standard expected of 14-year-olds though some firms may decide that the equivalent of a good GCSE might be a better target.

‘Radical move’

Mr Humphreys said: “All employers know what a massive problem we have with numeracy in this country.

“We are asking them and their employees to commit time and effort to doing something about it. This is a radical move… poor numeracy is a blight on an individual’s life chances and we believe that employees will be as keen as their employers to improve their skills.”

The charity was set up in March to combat the UK’s low levels of numeracy and negative attitudes to maths. It highlighted government figures showing that more than eight million adults had only the skills expected of seven to nine-year-olds or younger.

From next spring employers will be asked to sign up to the National Numeracy Challenge. The charity is working on developing a cheap, online tool to give each employee a personal numeracy diagnosis.

A spokeswoman for National Numeracy said she expected the test to cost no more than a couple of pounds for each employee. She added that the bigger challenge would be to persuade some smaller firms to give their staff time off to take maths courses: “Some get it, some don’t.”

‘Economic necessity’

She pointed out that a more numerate workforce was in the interests of both workers and bosses and should not be related to performance review.

The scheme has drawn support from both business organisations and unions with the Confederation of British Industry, Unionlearn, and Business in the Community all involved in its development.

Speaking at the launch of the scheme shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said it was crucial that employers signed up: “I know many businesses are already doing so, it is important that we all – employers, trade unions, government and individual adults take the responsibility to meet this challenge.

“Poor numeracy isn’t just a moral imperative, it is an economic necessity.”

Dr Susan Pember, an official with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, called the launch a timely initiative and said it was vital to get to adults in the workplace who often did not realise how poor their numeracy skills were.

National Numeracy plans ultimately to extend the scheme to improve maths standards among people not in employment or education.

Virgin Media sees cable use grow

23 October 2012 Last updated at 10:59 GMT  Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Media offers TV, telephone, broadband and mobile phone services An advertising campaign featuring Olympic stars Mo Farah and Usain Bolt helped Virgin Media boost the number of new cable customers.

The pay-TV and broadband firm said it added 39,500 customers in the three months to end-September, compared with 6,300 for the same quarter last year.

Revenue was up 2.8% to £1.03bn for the three months.

Virgin said the percentage of people dropping the service during the quarter fell from 1.7% to 1.4%.

It said the lower churn rate was due to improved broadband speeds and the popularity of its TiVo digital service.

The average spend per user was also up 1.8%, the company said in a statement.

Neil Berkett, chief executive, said: “This has been a quarter where continued strong demand for superfast broadband and TiVo has led to lower churn and meaningful cable customer growth.

“Combined with progress in our business division, we have again delivered solid financial progress.”

Virgin said that the number of customers taking its broadband speeds of 30mb or more increased by 452,900 to 1.8 million – or 42% of its total base. More than 40% of new broadband customers chose speeds of 60MB or faster, the company said.

The group grew its TV subscriber base by just 10,700 new customers, which was up on the same period last year when the company lost TV customers. The total number of TV customers stood at 3.78 million at the end of the quarter.

The battle for the online TV market has gathered pace this year after BT joined forces with other big names in the industry such as BBC to develop YouView, an internet connected set-top box.

And Sky has launched pay-as-you-go internet TV service Now TV to help it compete with the likes of Netflix and LoveFilm.

Brit to end England sponsorship

England will search for a new shirt sponsor after Brit Insurance announced it would not extend its current deal when it ends in early 2014.

The company, whose name appears on all England’s training and playing kit, made the decision after selling many of its British operations this year.

Brit’s contract, which includes the 2013-14 Ashes, is due to finish in April 2014 after the World Twenty20.

A change may be made sooner if a new sponsor and Brit reach an agreement.

“We hope to find someone before spring 2014,” said England and Wales Cricket Board commercial director John Perera.

“If the logistics work and someone came in early we could do something in time for the 2013-14 Ashes down under,” he added.

Perera estimates that Brit’s deal is worth up to £18m.

Brit’s sponsorship of the Oval came to an end in January 2011 when it was replaced by car manufacturer Kia.

Eurotunnel sees revenues increase

23 October 2012 Last updated at 09:30 GMT  Eurotunnel’s Le Shuttle transports tourist vehicles and freight between Britain and France Eurotunnel has reported a rise in passenger numbers over summer, the period that included the Olympic Games.

The company, which operates the Channel Tunnel and runs Le Shuttle vehicle train, said revenue rose 13% to 274.6m euros ($358m; £224m) in the third quarter from the same period last year.

People using cars to cross the Tunnel rose by 10% to 820,484 people, but the number of coach passengers fell.

Eurostar traffic also fell during the period of the Olympics.

Passenger numbers on the high-speed train between London, Brussels and Paris fell 1% to 2.6 million between July and September, which the train operator said was because “tourists who were not going to the Games were encouraged to avoid London”.

But a new daily record was also set on 11 August, when a combined total of 15,152 cars were carried across the Tunnel. The numbers of trucks crossing also grew by 17% from last year.

“This summer, on the back of a dynamic first half year, Eurotunnel again set new traffic records,” said Jacques Gounon, chairman and chief executive of Groupe Eurotunnel.

The company also said that its 300 millionth passenger had travelled through the Tunnel on 18 October since its commercial opening in June 1994.

The passenger, Chris McCairns, from the south-west of England, has been given free travel for a year on Le Shuttle.

Over 1.5m have second addresses

 Second addresses were recorded for the first time in the 2011 Census Just over 1.57 million people living in England and Wales have a second address in another local authority, the Census 2011 has shown.

Cornwall was the local authority area where the greatest number of people recorded a second address.

Almost 23,000 people had a second address in the region, and used it for 30 days or more each year.

The data was recorded for the first time in the Census 2011, so there are no comparisons with previous years.

As with other census data, recording of second addresses can help local authorities plan the delivery of services.

The overall number of people with second addresses – 1,570,224 – represents 2.8% of the usual resident population in England and Wales.

The majority of those – 77% or 1.2 million – said their second address was for a purpose other than work or holiday. They were mainly the home addresses of students, but also included the second addresses of children of separated parents.

Some 12% (188,837) of people with second addresses recorded that they were for work and 11% (165,095) that they were for holiday reasons.

The Office for National Statistics said the estimates of the number of people with second addresses used for holidays were “not equivalent to an estimate of holiday homes”.

“These estimates could include, for example, addresses that are used over the course of the year, by more than one person,” it said.

Map The census also revealed:

that 47,733 residents of England and Wales had a second address in either Scotland or Northern Irelandthat 820,814 people (1.5% of the usual resident population) had a second address outside of the UK

London boroughs and areas with an armed forces presence had the highest rate of people with a second address for work.

Gwynedd had the highest rate of people with second addresses used for holidays, with 64 people from outside of Gwynedd having such an address for every 1,000 usual residents.

Men accounted for more than half of all people with a second address in England and Wales. This was most evident for second addresses for work, where there were 2.6 males with a second address to every female with a second address.

EE announces its 4G price plans

22 October 2012 Last updated at 23:04 GMT  EE chief executive Olaf Swantee says his company has found the “sweet spot” over price Mobile operator EE has announced the prices for its 4G service, the first of its kind to be commercially available in the UK.

The firm’s cheapest contract will be £36 per month with no limit on domestic calls and texts.

However, customers on this plan will only have a data allowance of 500MB, at which point net access is stopped unless a data add-on is bought.

The 4G service will launch on 30 October.

Compared to uses on the slower 3G network, data usage on 4G is expected to be high – potentially leading to increased costs for users who wish to download a lot of data-intensive content such as audio or video.

The announcement follows a frustrating wait for UK consumers who have been unable use 4G capabilities thanks to repeated delays and legal wranglings over the next-gen network’s roll out.

An auction, due to take place early next year, will allocate newly-available spectrum space to other operators looking to offer 4G to their customers.

However, those operators were said to be angry at EE’s 4G headstart, with O2 and Vodafone only recently agreeing not to take legal action over the matter.

‘Months of research’ EE chief sales officer Marc Allera: “You’re paying a 10-20% premium for 4G”

Until today, EE had remained tight-lipped over how it planned to charge customers to use its new service.

Industry observers saw it as a critical announcement if EE was to pull customers away from the other networks – particularly iPhone users.

EE – which until recently was known as Everything Everywhere – told the BBC that it was confident in its pricing.

“We really think we’ve priced it at the sweet spot,” chief executive Olaf Swantee told BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

“It’s all based on months of consumer research.”

The top tariff for standard customers will cost £56 per month, and has a data allowance of 8GB.

EE, keen to demonstrate added remote working capabilities, is making a special effort to tempt small businesses with 1GB data allowances on contracts of £35 per month.

Alongside 4G, EE has also launched an on-demand service in which customers can access content directly using 4G but without impacting on their data allowance.

Millar calls for Rabobank rethink

British rider David Millar is urging Rabobank to reconsider the decision to stop sponsoring its professional cycling team.

The Dutch bank’s move came in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

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“Rabobank, you were part of the problem. How dare you walk away from the young clean guys who are part of the solution. Sickening”

David Millar’s original tweet Millar has written a long open letter to Rabobank in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant,  insisting it should support the sport’s battle to clean up.

His letter states: “Those of us who make up the past have to take responsibility for the future.”

After 17 years in the sport, Rabobank is set to end its deal on 31 December.

Rabobank’s Bert Bruggink said: “We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport.”

Millar’s initial response to last Friday’s announcement was an angry tweet, calling the move “sickening”  .

The 35-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider’s open letter is more considered but still equally impassioned in its insistence that Rabobank can do more good within the sport by staying than by walking away.

Millar, who was himself banned for two years for doping in 2004, wrote: “We have made a huge difference these past few years. I KNOW it is now possible to win the biggest races in the world clean.

“I can empathise with your disillusionment with the sport, but please do not belittle all the work we’ve done and difference we have made. You are throwing away the chance to be part of the future of what is, in your own words, a beautiful sport.”

The Rabobank cycling team said in a statement it regretted but understood the bank’s decision.

Connecting Mogadishu to the world

23 October 2012 Last updated at 10:00 GMT By Jonathan Kalan Mogadishu, Somalia  Charcoal-powered coffee machine – living in a recovering failed state like Somalia means being innovative At The Village Restaurant, a popular open-air hangout for Mogadishu’s returning diaspora community, a charcoal-powered Italian espresso machine brews Somalia’s best cappuccino.

Wi-fi internet beams throughout the cafe, as patrons check email, download music videos, and keep tabs on Somalia’s latest news.

As Mogadishu shifts from two decades of civil war to a quivering democracy, opportunities for business – from hotels to off-grid espresso makers to cafes like the Village – are flourishing. And so too are the opportunities for bringing them online.

Perched between the tattered ruins of a flattened landscape, the glow of wireless receiver antennas has gradually replaced the orange glow of stray bullets, bringing a new era of global connectivity and freedom of information to the city’s estimated one million residents.

In 2000, Somalia was one of the last African nations to get online. Since then, the internet industry here has seen as much turbulence and turnover as the country itself.

Many Somalis and people of Somali descent who have been living outside the country as part of the global diaspora community are returning to the troubled state to open new businesses

According to Abdulkadir Hassan Ahmed, general manager of Global Internet Company, Somalia’s largest internet provider, at least 17 internet companies in Somalia have gone under in the past decade.

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It’s a tough job. All the time, companies are coming in and going out”

End Quote Abdulkadir Hassan Ahmed Global Internet Company “It’s a tough job,” Mr Ahmed says. “All the time, companies are coming in and going out.”

Global Internet Company, founded in 2003 by a consortium of Somalia’s leading telecom companies including Hormuud and NationLink, provides dial-up, DSL and some point-to-point wireless.

Yet even Mr Ahmed admits his own company’s connections can be slow and expensive. After nearly 10 years in business, Global Internet is almost profitable, he says, but is more of a loss leader for telecoms.

Unlike Somalia’s thriving telecoms sector, where two decades of lawlessness, lack of regulation, and cut-throat competition for an increasingly mobile market have driven services up and prices to rock bottom (less than one cent per minute), internet in Mogadishu has been archaic.

Dial-up is the cheapest option, at around $30 (£18) a month per computer, but is painfully slow – less than 56kbs – and highly oversubscribed, according to many.

Internet penetration in Somalia still stands at just 1.14% of the population – but as the infrastructure improves that is expected to rise sharply

Direct satellite subscriptions cost as much as USD$3,000 per month for one-megabyte connections, and can be unreliable.

‘Top dollar’

Yet with increased security, things are turning around.

“People used to complain that ‘Mogadishu has no internet’,” says Liban Egal, an American-Somali and founder of Somalia Wireless, Mogadishu’s newest wireless internet provider.

“It’s not that there wasn’t internet,” Mr Egal explains, “It’s that you couldn’t get what you wanted out of it.”

Somalia Wireless, which launched in April, hopes to find the middle ground in this Mogadishu market, by offering both pooled (shared) and dedicated connections.

“We are trying to build an infrastructure for internet connectivity in Mogadishu,” says Omar Osman, Somalia Wireless’ chief executive, by first “focusing on organisations and institutions that can pay top dollar” and eventually moving down the pyramid to offer a broader base of customers cheaper, faster and better internet.

Mustafa Yare and his brother Ali Hassan’s business is doing well – welcoming around 40 customers per day

According to Mr Osman, Somalia Wireless’ hotspots now cover nearly 40% of the city, connecting universities, NGOs, hotels, news agencies and cafes. The company broke even last month.

Internet penetration in Somalia still stands at just 1.14% of the population – on par with Afghanistan – but demand in Mogadishu is growing rapidly.

“Demand is increasing by the day,” says Mr Ahmed. In today’s Mogadishu, he says you need internet “like you need food”.

For the burgeoning private sector and a youth finding themselves free from the social constraints of al-Shabaab, connecting the city is key for growth. Local entrepreneurs are already taking advantage of Mogadishu’s new broadband access.

A report by Somali Telecommunication Association (STA), in 2006, stated that the country had more than 234 cyber cafes, growing at a rate of 15.6% per year. One can only guess the number in Mogadishu today.

Computer Science students at Benadir University use the web to work on learning assignments

In September, brothers Ali Hassan, 20, and Mustafa Yare, 22, opened Kobciye Internet Coffee, a sweltering tin-roofed internet cafe with eight computers, and a deal from Somalia Wireless.

They are part of a shared wireless “pool” with nearby offices, and their bandwidth increases in the afternoon when offices close.

“I wanted a business,” Mr Hassan says, “and this is something that I’m good at, I have skills in computers and IT.”

Youth unemployment stands at 75% in Somalia, so any job is a good job.

The cafe costs around $600 (£373) a month to run, with electricity accounting for nearly half of expenditure. Still, the brothers managed to eek out just under $1,000 (£624) from their 40 or so daily customers – enough to keep things running for another month.

Most people, Mr Hassan says, “come for Facebook”.

Facebook has taken off in Somalia since Islamic militants al-Shabaab fled the city several months ago, loosening social restrictions and making the streets safer.

New accounts have grown by 50% in the past six months, and there are now more Facebook users than estimated internet users in Somalia, thanks to mobile phones and computer sharing.

Safia Yasin Farah, a young Somali-Canadian who now works with the Centre for Research and Dialogue (CRD) in Mogadishu, says Facebook allows Somalia’s youth to express their opinions freely, without being afraid.

“Many are illiterate, but are actually learning through Facebook,” she adds.

As in much of the world, Facebook is one of the most popular destinations for Somali web surfers visiting the Kobciye Internet Coffee cafe. Young ambition

Dr Abdirizak Ahmed Dalmar, president of Benadir University, one of dozens of private universities in the capital, recalls his first day teaching in Mogadishu a few years ago.

“When I finished my first lecture, one student came to me and said ‘can you give me your email’, another one said ‘which website can I go on’.

“And then I saw them playing with their mobiles, Facebook pages, etc. I know these youth have the same aspirations as any youth anywhere in the world. They just need the opportunity.”

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I know these youth have the same aspirations as any youth anywhere in the world. They just need the opportunity”

End Quote Dr Abdirizak Ahmed Dalmar President, Benadir University With donor funding Benadir University set up its own satellite system, with facilities for video-conferencing with partner universities abroad.

But six months on, that funding has run out, and Benadir cannot pay the $3,000 per month fee. So a deal was struck with Somalia Wireless, who have installed a receiver antenna on their roof.

‘We are ready’

For Mogadishu, wireless broadband is just the beginning.

A few hundred kilometres off the coast three fibre optic cables, already fuelling Kenya’s tech boom, lie waiting to be connected.

But security has been an enormous challenge. With pirates still controlling the seas, no one has been willing to cover the cost of insurance to bring the cables to Mogadishu.

Many of Somalia’s telecom companies are hedging their bets on the future of fibre in Mogadishu.

“In the next six months, we’ll start building the local loop for fibre,” says Mr Egal. According to him, it will cost around $1,500 (£936) per kilometre in Mogadishu, an investment he’s willing to make.

Mr Ahmed, of Global Internet, says his company’s involvement in fibre depends on how the government regulates it.

“If there’s room for private sector,” he says, “we are ready.”

Sam, an Kenyan engineer with Somalia Wireless, installs a wireless receiver antenna on top of Benadir University

Yet it is a risky investment.

Somalia’s first real government in 22 years is now being tested, and though Mogadishu’s long-time residents and returning members of the Somali diaspora alike are incredibly optimistic, the city has virtually no infrastructure, and still very little regulation.

Even without government support, however, Somali innovation, like an espresso maker designed to foil the city’s power outages, will help the city lurch forward.

“The more peace we get”, Somalia Wireless’s Omar Osman explains, “The bigger and more advanced technology we can offer to our people.”

And high-speed internet, even more than espresso, will help stimulate Mogadishu’s recovery.

Facebook exec joins Tech City UK

 By Dave Lee Technology reporter, BBC News  Joanna Shields will be expected to continue efforts to get a UK technology company to go public Facebook’s European boss Joanna Shields is to leave the social network to lead the UK government’s investment group for technology start-ups.

The Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) supports firms based near the Silicon Roundabout area of east London.

Ms Shields will replace current head Eric Van Der Kleij in January 2013.

“Joanna’s experience will be hugely valuable in supporting Tech City as it goes from strength to strength,” Prime Minister David Cameron said.

“The success of Tech City shows just what can happen when we back some of our most innovative and aspiring companies to grow, helping the UK compete and thrive in the global race.”

Ms Shields has been Facebook’s vice-president and managing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa since 2010.

Prior to that she worked at Google and teenage-focused social network Bebo.

Relaxed rules

“Working in the UK for the past decade has proven to me that this country has the potential to become a major force in digital innovation,” she said.

“The seeds have been sown in east London for a dynamic and successful cluster: we have the infrastructure, the technology and the talent, now we need to accelerate the growth. I am looking forward to leading the Tech City Investment Organisation in the next phase of its development.

“With the right boost now, there is no reason why we can’t make London the number one location for tech in the world.”

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Now I’m sure that Joanna Shields is relishing the challenge of her new job as a standard-bearer for British technology firms. But it must be easier to leave Facebook now than it was just a few months ago when the social network was the hottest, fastest growing, most exciting company on the planet. And if more of its top talent decides that there are now more interesting challenges elsewhere, that could be a big problem.

Ms Shields will be seen as a key component if the UK is to encourage successful start-ups to begin trading on the stock market.

Unlike the US’s Silicon Valley – with the likes of Google and Facebook among its success stories – similarly aspiring companies in Britain have been reluctant to go public.

To aid in this, government adviser for technology Rohan Silva is leading efforts to relax the rules for financial listing and reporting. It is hoped making it easier for UK companies to go public will entice a greater number of foreign investors.

Companies such as Mind Candy, which runs children’s social network Moshi Monsters, and gig recommendation site Songkick are tipped as potential candidates to list on the London Stock Exchange.

The BBC understands that music-streaming service Spotify – which was founded in Sweden – is also among the firms the government is keen to encourage to begin trading in the UK.

‘Potentially counterproductive’

TCIO was set up in April 2011 with the intent of raising the profile of UK technology companies, particularly the start-up scene.

Its role includes promoting the UK as a place for prospective entrepreneurs to move to in order to set up their own businesses.

However, the quango was criticised in June for operating in a way that was “potentially counterproductive”.

Think tank Centre for London raised concerns over skill shortages and rising costs of working in the area.

At social gatherings in the area, TCIO was regularly criticised for not publicising its events or services well enough.

To counteract this, the organisation hired Benjamin Southworth as deputy chief executive in July. Mr Southworth had previously been part of 3Beards, the group behind several key industry social events.

Facebook has not yet named a successor for Ms Shields.

Kingfisher woos striking workers

23 October 2012 Last updated at 05:43 GMT  Kingfisher employees went on strike forcing the airline to halt operations India’s Kingfisher Airlines has offered to pay three months of salary to its striking employees in an effort to restart its operations.

The staff, who have not been paid for seven months, went on a strike three weeks ago, grounding aircraft.

Since then, the government has suspended Kingfisher’s license because of concerns about finances and safety.

Regardless of any deal with staff, it will only be allowed to fly again if it outlines plans to secure its future.

“The intention is everyone should be back at work in a day or two,” Sanjay Aggarwal, the airline’s chief executive was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

Capital infusion?

The airline has never made a profit since it was launched in 2005 and has a debt of $1.4bn (£870m).

Amid its financial problems, Kingfisher has not been able to pay its dues to airports, tax authorities and its lenders.

To make matters more difficult for the airline, banks have refused to extend any fresh loans to the carrier, raising doubts about how it will be able to finance its operations going forward.

However, the airline said that it has been talks with various parties about fresh capital infusion.

“We are continuing discussions on recapitalisation. Those discussions slowed down but they are not stalled,” Mr Aggarwal said.

Last month, the government allowed foreign investment of up to 49% in domestic airlines, a move that Kingfisher had been lobbying for.

The airline has said previously that it was in talks with foreign investors, including airlines, to acquire a stake in the carrier.

Firms and households ‘shun debt’

23 October 2012 Last updated at 10:30 GMT  A number of households are paying off debt at times of low interest rates Households and businesses have “no appetite” to take on new debts as the UK economic outlook remains uncertain, a banking body has said.

Unsecured borrowing through loans and overdrafts has dropped by 7.7% in the year to September, the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) said.

Firms were waiting for trade prospects to improve before borrowing, it added.

However, many small businesses have argued that banks are restricting access to credit.

“The continuing economic uncertainties both in the UK and in the Euro area are having a dampening effect on activity within firms and households,” said BBA statistics director, David Dooks.

“Households are reducing borrowing requirements and have no appetite to take on more and new debt. Where they can individuals are putting money aside for household expenditure. Firms are holding back on borrowing for investment until trade prospects improve.”

Retail demand

Falling levels of unsecured debt over the last year was driven by the slowdown in borrowing through loans and overdrafts.

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One of the fault lines in the coalition has for some time been over the extent to which banks should be compelled to lend, especially to small businesses, rather than just being encourage to do so”

End Quote Total overdrafts held by consumers have fallen to just over £8.3bn, the lowest in cash terms for eight years, while outstanding personal loans have dropped to £35.6bn, the lowest since the turn of the century, the BBA figures show.

Personal loans tend to be used for buying cars, improving homes and buying kitchen equipment. New borrowing, at £1.1bn in September, is running at barely a third of its level before the financial crisis.

The BBA figures show that unsecured borrowing from the major banks was down 2.5% over the year to September. However, within this, credit card debts rose by 4.8%.

Spending on plastic was higher in September than in recent months, at £7.3bn, owing to a pick-up in consumer spending in the shops.

However, the figures suggest that individuals are looking to pay off debts, especially as they see little return on savings at a time of low rates.

Some people have looked to put their money in Individual Savings Accounts (Isas) in the search for better returns, the BBA said.

Business borrowing levels continued to contract as firms waited for better trading conditions and for more activity through the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending scheme, the banking body added.

This scheme is aimed at stimulating the economy by making cheaper loans available to firms and individuals from banks which get cheap funding from the Bank.

Mortgage slowdown

The BBA figures show that the mortgage market is similarly lacking in activity.

The number of mortgage approvals for house purchases stood at 31,175 in September, up slightly on the previous month but down 6% on a year earlier.

The drop in remortgaging was even greater, with approvals 15% lower than in September 2011, the figures show.

“Lack of demand and people’s struggle to find deposits, rather than prohibitively high rates, are now holding the industry back,” said Ashley Brown, director of mortgage broker Moneysprite.

“The cause may have changed, but the symptoms, and the pain, are the same.”

Separate figures from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) show that the number of homes sold fell after a lift during the summer.

There were an estimated 76,000 homes sold in September, down from 92,000 the previous month. This was a similar level to May, the HMRC figures show.

Administrators in at taxi firm

22 October 2012 Last updated at 20:09 GMT  Manganese Bronze had to recall 400 of its TX4 models after discovering steering problems Manganese Bronze, the maker of London’s black cabs, has called in administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers after failing to secure new funding.

The appointment follows the suspension of its shares earlier this month, after a fault with the vehicle’s steering box led to over 400 of them being recalled.

Manganese Bronze, which is based in Coventry, had been trying to secure a loan from Chinese shareholder Geely.

The company has made losses for the past four years.

Manganese Bronze, which employs 300 people, earlier this month also stopped sales of its new TX4 model.

The problem affects the vehicles’ power steering and arose in a new design for the box, sourced from an unnamed new supplier since February.

The company said it had not put anyone in danger but “in extreme cases, it could affect the ability to steer the steering wheel”.

It said in a statement that “the board remains hopeful that the fundamental strengths of the company, the TX4 model and its global reputation will provide the platform for a successful business in the future”.

Chinese partner

The supplier of the part was a Chinese firm introduced by Geely.

Manganese and Geely signed a joint venture agreement in 2006 and own a factory in Shanghai that produces taxis for the international market.

The company was already in some financial difficulty before the latest problem emerged.

Sales have been in decline – the Coventry-based firm sold 1,502 taxis in the UK last year, compared with 1,653 in 2010, a fall of 9.1%.

In January, Manganese Bronze had to issue a profit warning, saying that it had made no profit in 2011 and could fall short of expectations this year.

The group blamed the weak UK economy, uncertainty over the global economic outlook and a delay in fulfilling an order for 1,000 taxis from Azerbaijan.

For the first six months of 2012, Manganese Bronze recorded an operating loss of £3.1m on revenues of £34.3m.

Then in August, it discovered an accounting error had caused it to understate past losses by a total £4.25m.

The company’s shares were last quoted on the stock exchange at 10 pence each, down from 35p a year ago.

Much of the company’s shares are closely held: Geely owns 20%, while another quarter is owned by UK asset manager Toscafund.

Peter Coulson, West Midlands’s regional officer for the Unite union, said: “This is one of the last remaining car manufacturers in the Coventry area and it’s an iconic vehicle.

“So it’s absolutely paramount that the company is actually continued as a going concern and it’s Unite the union’s responsibility as well as company’s responsibility to make sure that it goes on as a going concern.”

He added the Manganese Bronze board met last week to try to resolve the situation but was unable to do so.