Samsung takes aim at Japanese rivals with Android camera

Seoul: South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co is taking aim at its Japanese rivals with an Android-powered digital camera that allows users to swiftly and wirelessly upload pictures to social networking sites.

The Galaxy camera lets users connect to a mobile network or Wi-Fi to share photographs and video without having to hook up the camera to a computer.

While it’s not the first to the market, Samsung’s financial and marketing clout suggest it could be the biggest threat to Japanese domination of a digital camera industry which research firm Lucintel sees growing to $46 billion (Dh168.8 billion) by 2017 and where big brands include Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Nikon and Olympus.

“Samsung has a tough row to hoe against the likes of Canon and Nikon in the camera brand equity landscape,” said Liz Cutting, senior imaging analyst at research firm NPD Group. “Yet as a brand known more in the connected electronic device arena, Samsung has a unique opportunity to transfer strength from adjacent categories into the dedicated camera world.”

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The Korean group, battling for mobile gadget supremacy against Apple, is already a global market leader in televisions, smartphones and memory chips.

Samsung last year brought its camera and digital imaging business — one of its smallest — under the supervision of JK Shin, who heads a mobile business that generated 70 per cent of Samsung’s $7.4 billion third-quarter profit.

“Our camera business is quickly evolving … and I think it will be able to set a new landmark for Samsung,” Shin said on Thursday at a launch event in Seoul. “The product will open a new chapter in communications — visual communications,” he said, noting good reviews for the Samsung Galaxy camera which went on sale in Europe and the United States earlier this month.

The Galaxy camera, which sells in the United States for $499.99 through AT&T with various monthly data plans, features a 4.8-inch (12.2 cm) LCD touchscreen and a 21x optical zoom lens. Users can send photos instantly to other mobile devices via a 4G network, access the internet, email and social network sites, edit photos and play games.

The easy-to-use camera, and the quality of the pictures, is aimed at mid-market ‘pro-sumers’ — not quite professional photographers but those who don’t mind paying a premium for user options not yet available on a smartphone — such as an optical, rather than digital, zoom, better flash, and image stabilisation.

The appeal of high picture quality cameras with wireless connection has grown as social media services such as Facebook drive a boom in rapid shoot-and-share photos.

“At a price point higher than some entry-level interchangeable-lens cameras, the Galaxy camera should appeal to a consumer willing to pay an initial and ongoing premium for 24/7 creative interactivity,” said Cutting.

Traditional digital camera makers are responding.

Canon, considered a leader in profitability in corporate Japan with its aggressive cost cutting, saw its compact camera sales eroded in the most recent quarter by smartphones, and has just introduced its first mirrorless camera to tap into a growing market for small, interchangeable-lens cameras that rival Nikon entered last year.

Kazakhstan’s Kcell IPO to raise up to $650m

Almaty: Kcell, Kazakhstan’s largest mobile phone operator, expects its initial public offering (IPO) to raise between $525 million (Dh1.93 billion) and $650 million when 25 per cent of its shares are floated in the shadow of a bumpy debut for Russian rival MegaFon.

The price range of $10.50-$13.00 per global depositary receipt (GDR) for next month’s IPO in London and Almaty indicates a lower value for Kcell than the price paid by Nordic telecoms group TeliaSonera for a 49 per cent stake this year.

Kcell said on Thursday the indicated price range would value the company at between $2.1 billion and $2.6 billion. Bookbuilding and the IPO roadshow are expected to be completed on December 11, it said in a statement.

MegaFon , Russia’s second-largest mobile operator, priced at the bottom end of its IPO range on Wednesday and its shares fell nearly 3 per cent on their debut, showing limited demand for Russian mobile stock.

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Telia owns 25 per cent of MegaFon after selling shares through the IPO, which will net it around $1.3 billion.

Kcell, whose purple logo appears on billboards and store fronts in Kazakhstan’s main cities, hopes to attract investors by awarding generous dividends and tapping into growth in smartphone and broadband use in Central Asia’s biggest economy.

Chief Executive Veysel Aral said this month that Kcell would pay out a minimum dividend of 70 per cent of net income, while smartphone penetration in Kazakhstan was less than 10 per cent, compared with nearer 20 per cent in Russia.

Kcell said Sonera Holding BV, the TeliaSonera subsidiary which is selling the stake, would retain an option that would allow it to buy back up to 10 per cent of the GDRs on offer.

TeliaSonera President and Chief Executive Lars Nyberg said the company would retain “long-term strategic control” of Kcell, one of its “most successful” subsidiaries. TeliaSonera has previously said it plans to pay down debt with the IPO proceeds.

TeliaSonera paid $1.52 billion in February to Kazakhtelecom, the largest fixed-line operator in Kazakhstan, for a 49 per cent stake in Kcell. Based on this price, Kcell would be worth $3.1 billion and a 25 per cent stake in the firm around $775 million.

Kcell has 12.7 million subscribers in Kazakhstan, giving it a market share of nearly 48 per cent. The company generated revenues of $1.19 billion last year and net profit of $446 million, with a margin on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 59.2 per cent.

Credit Suisse, UBS and Kazakh investment bank Visor Capital have been appointed joint global coordinators and joint bookrunners for the IPO. Renaissance Capital is acting as joint bookrunner and Halyk Finance co-manager of the offer.

Greens fail to thwart Olympic Dam push

Posted November 29, 2012 09:04:37

A private member’s bill to disallow an extension of the indenture for the planned Olympic Dam mine expansion has been defeated in the South Australian Parliament.

The bill was moved by the Greens but defeated by the Government and Opposition.

Greens leader Mark Parnell argued environmental standards would change over the four years of the extension and the indenture would need changes.

“They’re proposing to come back with something different anyway and most of it will have to be re-negotiated, especially through the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement),” he said.

“The Government has said that there are a range of sweeteners if you like, benefits that BHP Billiton has promised in exchange for the extension.

“I’d like to know how many of them are locked in law the same way that the state’s commitments to the company are locked in law effectively forever.”

The motion’s defeat prompted an outburst from the visitors’ gallery.

“[You are] all a bunch of scumbags working out of the corporate pocket,” a heckler said.

BHP Billiton has committed to spending $540 million over the next four years re-designing the proposed mine expansion, but given no commitment on proceeding.

The indenture has been extended until late 2016, to give the company more time to investigate an alternative ore extraction method.

BHP is also hoping global market conditions will improve.

Topics: state-parliament, greens, political-parties, states-and-territories, parliament, federal—state-issues, government-and-politics, mining-environmental-issues, uranium-mining, mining-industry, industry, environmentally-sustainable-business, business-economics-and-finance, mining-rural, olympic-dam-5725, roxby-downs-5725, adelaide-5000, sa, port-augusta-5700, port-pirie-5540, australia

OGRA devises new CNG pricing formula

Region 1 price placed at Rs72.20 per kg and at Rs63.76 per kg for region 2. Prices for region 1 placed at Rs72.20 per kg and at Rs63.76 per kg for region 2. PHOTO: FILE


ISLAMABAD: The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) devised the new pricing formula for CNG on Thursday, with CNG in region 1 placed at Rs72.20 per kg and at Rs63.76 per kg in region 2, Express News reported.


Region-1 comprises Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and the Potohar Region (Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Gujar Khan) and Region-2 comprises Sindh and Punjab (excluding Potohar Region).


CNG Association Chairman Abid Hayat said that Ogra had informed the association yesterday that they would be sent a copy of the devised pricing formula within two days for consultation, but the association has not received a copy as yet.


Ogra officials said that after completing the hearing, the entire proposal has been forwarded to the petroleum ministry for finalising the formula after rationalising taxes in consultation with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).


Sources said that the formula prepared is just a proposed one and not final and the CNG association is expected to be sent a copy today.


If the association agrees, the formula will be finalised and a notification will be issued, added the source.


Ogra officials said the proposal includes a suggestion for rationalising and not ending production costs in the price.


Hayat said that the association had given three proposals to Ogra and expect one of them to be adopted. He said that the parameters defined by the association were after rationalising all aspects of pricing and would accept the given formula even if it left them with a no profit/ no loss situation.

Taqa picks banks for potential bond sale

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. (Taqa), the state-owned firm buying a number of BP’s North Sea assets, has hired five banks to arrange investor meetings ahead of a potential benchmark-size bond sale, the banks said in a document.

Taqa, in which the Abu Dhabi government owns a majority stake, picked BNP Paribas, Citigroup Inc, HSBC Holdings, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Standard Chartered Plc to arrange investor meetings in Asia, London and the United States.

Meetings are scheduled for December 3 and 4 and will be conducted by two separate teams in London, Singapore, New York and Hong Kong over those days.

A potential benchmark-size dollar-denominated bond may follow “subject to market conditions”, the document said.

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Taqa declined to comment on specific details of the potential bond but published a bourse statement announcing investor meeting plans.

Benchmark-size offerings are typically at least $500 million (Dh1.8 billion) in size.

On Wednesday, Taqa said it was buying some of BP’s North Sea assets for over $1.3 billion.

Taqa is a frequent bond issuer and familiar to international investors, in part due to its global profile. At the end of the third quarter, it had a cash position of Dh3.5 billion as well as Dh14.8 billion worth of unused credit facilities.

The company has $1.75 billion in bond maturities next year. It last tapped markets for a dollar-denominated issue in December last year with a $1.5 billion two-tranche bond to refinance debt, a liability management move which was appreciated by investors at the time.

The bonds have rallied strongly this year. The 10-year tranche, a $750 million, 5.875 per cent bond, was bid at 118.7 cents on the dollar to yield 3.4 per cent on Thursday.

Anglo Irish suing Ernst & Young

29 November 2012 Last updated at 14:56 GMT Anglo Irish bank It is the first time that an Irish bank has pursued legal action against a former auditor Anglo Irish Bank is taking legal action against its former auditor Ernst & Young for failing to spot the lender’s massive exposure to the Irish property bubble.

Anglo suffered the largest corporate loss in the history of the country when the bubble burst.

Ernst & Young said it would “vigorously defend” itself against the claims.

It is the first time that an Irish bank has sued an ex-auditor over its conduct in the run-up to the financial crisis.

The bank, based in the Republic of Ireland, said it took the legal action against Ernst & Young on Tuesday, in proceedings that “relate to the role of Ernst & Young as auditors to Anglo Irish Bank Plc pre-nationalisation”.

Ernst & Young audited the lender’s books in the years leading up to the financial crisis and the 2009 nationalisation, which cost Irish taxpayers more than £20bn. The bank’s affairs were taken over by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation.

Ernst & Young said it was aware of Anglo Irish’s proceedings but that it had not yet received an official statement detailing the bank’s allegations.

“Without more detail it is difficult for us to comment further. We have consistently said we stand by the quality of our work performed in the Anglo audit and will vigorously defend any such proceedings,” the auditing firm said in a statement.

Dubai index rises on Dubai Mall expansion plan

Dubai: The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) index rose 1.21 per cent to close at 1607.90 on news of expansion of the world’s largest mall – Dubai Mall- by Emaar Properties.

The Dubai Mall expansion plan comes after Dubai revealed plans to build Mohammad Bin Rashid City project.

Emaar shares gained 1.62 per cent to Dh3.76, the highest close since October 7.

Among the gainers, DP World rose 5.40 per cent to close at $12.49, followed by Emirates NBD by 4.26 per cent to Dh2.94 and Ekittitab by 3.70 per cent to Dh0.980.

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Among the losers, Depa fell 5.26 per cent to $0.360, followed by Takaful-Em by 3.64 per cent to Dh0.530 and Gulf Navigation by 0.75 per cent to Dh0.264.

Of the 27 companies traded, 17 rose, five declined and five remained unchanged.

About 97.92 million shares worth Dh111.72 million were traded on Thursday.

The index hit a low of 1590.04 during intra trade on Thursday.

The Abu Dhabi Securities market (ADX) index also rose 1.04 per cent to 2674.56 points on Thursday.

Among the gainers, Umm Al Quwain Cement Industries rose 5.41 per cent to Dh0.78, followed by Eshraq by 4.88 per cent to Dh0.44 and National Bank of Abu Dhabi by four per cent to Dh10.50.

Among the losers, Union Cement Company lost 2.25 per cent to Dh0.88, followed by Green Crescent Insurance Company by 2.22 per cent to Dh0.45 and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank by one per cent to Dh3.01.

“Our Board of Directors will review the company’s three-year strategic plan and budget for 2013 on December 5,” National Bank of Fujairah said on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange’s website.

Of the 27 companies traded, 15 rose, three declined and nine closed unchanged.

About 74.65 million shares worth Dh86.28 million were traded on Thursday.

Euro zone to seek Greek aid deal without write-off

Brussels: Euro zone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund began their third attempt in as many weeks to release emergency aid for Greece on Monday, with policymakers saying a write-down of Greek debt is off the table for now.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras voiced confidence the ministers would finally reach a deal after Greece had fulfilled its part of the deal by enacting tough austerity measures and economic reforms.

“I’m certain we will find a mutually beneficial solution today,” he said on arrival for what was set to be another marathon meeting.

Greece, where the euro zone’s debt crisis erupted in late 2009, is the currency area’s most heavily indebted country, despite a big “haircut” this year on privately-held bonds. Its economy has shrunk by nearly 25 per cent in five years.

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EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said it was vital to disburse the next 31 billion euro tranche of aid “to end the uncertainty that is still hanging over Greece.” He urged all sides to “go the last centimetre because we are so close to an agreement”.

Greece had met international lenders’ conditions and “Now it is delivery time for the Eurogroup and the IMF,” Rehn said.

Negotiations have been stalled over how Greece’s debt, forecast to peak at almost 190 per cent of gross domestic product next year, can be cut to a more sustainable 120 per cent by 2020.

Without agreement on how to reduce the debt, the IMF has held up payments to Athens because there is no guarantee of when the need for emergency financing will end.

The key question is: Can Greek debt become sustainable without the euro zone writing off some of the loans to Athens?

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on arrival that the solution must be “credible for Greece”. The IMF argues that the debt can only be made manageable if euro zone governments forgive some of their loans to Athens, but Germany and its northern European allies have so far rejected any such idea.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters on arrival that a debt cut was legally impossible, not just in Germany but for other euro zone countries, if it was linked to a new guarantee of loans.

“You cannot guarantee something if you’re cutting debt at the same time,” he said. That might not preclude debt relief at a later stage if Greece has completed its adjustment programme and no longer needs new loans.

The German banking association (BDB) said a fresh “haircut” or forced reduction in the value of Greek sovereign debt, must only happen as a last resort.

Two European Central Bank policymakers, Vice-President Vitor Constancio and executive board member Joerg Asmussen, said debt forgiveness was not on the agenda for now.

“It has been clearly stated. It is not on the table. Everything else is just rumours,” Constancio told reporters in Berlin.

Asmussen told Germany’s Bild newspaper the package of measures would include a substantial reduction of interest rates on loans to Greece and a debt buy-back by Greece, funded by loans from a euro zone rescue fund.

So far, the options under consideration include reducing interest on already extended bilateral loans to Greece from the current 150 basis points above financing costs.

How much lower is not yet decided — France and Italy would like to reduce the rate to 30 basis points (bps), while Germany and some other countries insist on a 90 bps margin.

Another option, which could cut Greek debt by almost 17 per cent of GDP, is to defer interest payments on loans to Greece from the EFSF, a temporary bailout fund, by 10 years.

The European Central Bank could forego profits on its Greek bond portfolio, bought at a deep discount, cutting the debt pile by a further 4.6 per cent by 2020, a document prepared for the ministers’ talks last week showed.

Not all euro zone central banks are willing to forego their profits, however, the German Bundesbank among them.

Greece could also buy back its privately-held bonds on the market at a deep discount, with gains from the operation depending on the scope and price.

But the preparatory document from last week said that the 120 per cent target could not be reached in 2020, only two years later, unless ministers accept losses on their loans to Athens, provide additional financing or force private creditors into selling Greek debt at a discount.

The latest analysis for the ministers showed the debt could come down to 125 per cent of GDP in 2020, one euro zone official with insight into the talks said.

JGBs futures hit 9-1/2-year high on US fiscal woes, China worries

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 09:49 Posted by Imaduddin

jgbTOKYO: Japanese government bond prices ticked higher on Wednesday, with benchmark futures prices hitting a 9-1/2-year high, helped by lack of progress in negotiations to resolve the US “fiscal cliff” budget crisis and fall in Chinese shares.

The benchmark 10-year JGB futures price rose 0.16 point to 144.78, briefly rising to 144.79, their highest level since June 2003, when they had gone to as high as 145.09.

The current 10-year cash JGB yield fell 1.0 basis point to 0.720 percent, matching its nine-year low hit in July. That level has been a strong support for the yield in the past half year.

JGBs benefited from worries over the US “fiscal cliff” as US lawmakers remained deadlocked over how to ease the likely shock from $600 billion of fiscal tightening due to kick in early next year.

The fall in Shanghai shares to a near four-year low was also a talking point among some market players, who are still not convinced of a strong recovery in the Chinese economy.

“Although recent Chinese economic data is showing signs of improvement, Shanghai share prices seem to suggest that it is still far from a full-fledged recovery,” said Takeo Okuhara, fund manager at Daiwa SB Investments.

“Given dimming hopes of a strong recovery in the US, China and Japan, bonds are likely to gain further. I expect the 10-year yield to dip below 0.7 percent by December,” Okuhara added.

The 20-year bond yield fell 0.5 basis point to 1.660 percent. The spread over the 10-year yield stood at 94 basis points, near a 13-year high of 95 basis points hit last week on speculation of more aggressive easing by the Bank of Japan.

Such speculation was sparked after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda earlier this month called an election on Dec 16. as main opposition party leader Shinzo Abe, seen as a front-runner to become prime minister after the poll, is calling for radical easing and setting a higher inflation target.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

Moody’s says India outlook stable

Mumbai: Global credit ratings agency Moody’s said on Tuesday the outlook for India’s investment grade credit rating was stable, partly thanks to high investment, sparking a jump in share prices.

Moody’s said that the country’s Baa3 ranking was underpinned by “strong economic growth” and investment in its annual credit analysis on India.

The news pushed up the Bombay Stock Exchange’s benchmark 30 leading share Sensex index by 1.34 per cent or 248.12 points to 18,785.13 points.

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Moody’s cited “credit strengths which include a large, diverse economy, strong GDP growth as well as savings, and investment rates that exceed emerging market averages”.

But it also pointed to constraints including “India’s poor social and physical infrastructure, high government deficit and debt ratios, recurrent inflationary pressures and an uncertain operating environment”.

India’s gross domestic product expanded at its slowest pace in three years in the second financial quarter, at 5.5 per cent, down from near double-digit rates through much of 2005 to 2011.

India’s Congress party-led government has since September introduced pro-market reforms to boost the investment climate and stem the fiscal deficit, but faces strong opposition in the country’s unruly parliament.

“Given the delayed timing and still modest scope of these (reform) measures, growth may remain subdued in the near term amid continued domestic political uncertainty and a global slowdown,” the report said.

The Moody’s view contrasts with the outlooks of other global ratings agencies on India’s prospects. Moody’s said its report was an update for financial markets on India and did not constitute a “ratings action”.

Last month Standard & Poor’s warned India still faced at least a “one-in-three” risk of its credit rating being cut to junk status, although it said the country’s outlook was slightly better as a result of the reforms.

Fitch also has a negative outlook on India.

India’s investment grade rating is just one notch above “junk” status.

Spearheading a retail revolution

Today, Emke Group owns 104 hypermarkets, employing 31,000 people who collectively deliver an annual turnover of $4.7 billion annually

Dubai: When French hypermarket chain Carrefour (then Continent) started operations in the Deira City Centre in the mid-1990s, it triggered a shift in the retail landscape of the UAE. It signalled a silent retail war in which supermarkets were to become the biggest victim.

Then Yousuf Ali MA, the non-resident Indian businessman from Abu Dhabi, quietly began expanding his Lulu-branded hypermarket chain, which took the competition to a different level, along with the Cooperatives. In the next 17 years, Yousuf Ali ran against time to develop 100 hypermarkets across the GCC to take a leadership role of his brand Lulu in the region’s retail business.

He was the first expatriate to be elected to Board of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Today, he owns 104 hypermarkets, employing 31,000 people that collectively deliver an annual turnover of $4.7 billion annually. In an interview with the Gulf News, he elaborated his views. Excerpts:

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Gulf News: How was business during the formative years of the UAE? What were the challenges and how did you overcome those, then?

Yousuf Ali: Obviously Abu Dhabi was a far cry from what it is today. There were no basic infrastructure available in those days, electricity was a rarity, sewerage system were still to be implemented, ACs were unheard of, we used to sleep on the terrace of our home during summers after pouring buckets of water around to make it cooler. Still those were the days which I cherish the most.

Those hard days, I think have played a key role in making me more determined and bold enough to face the future challenges. Those were the days of excitement as well as anxiety.

What was the most memorable event in your business carrier over the last four decades?

We used to have a small trading business and used to do almost all work ourselves right from loading and unloading to driving around and selling them. Slowly we got into import and distribution of frozen food products from Europe and the US. I started to distribute the supplies not only in and around Abu Dhabi but also to farther interior areas of the emirate. Slowly the business started to pick up and we expanded to include bigger range of products in both food & non-food categories.

We went on to start cold stores, meat and food processing plants, large-scale import and distribution to big hotel groups, catering companies, ships chandleries, etc. By the 1980s we had sizeable share of the wholesale and retail food market with operations that covered the entire UAE.

As business grew and the environment changed, how did you change your organisation and business to adopt to the changes?

After the success in the wholesale and distribution market we ventured into the retail sector with the opening of our first supermarket in Abu Dhabi. By this time I was independently handling the affairs of Emke Group and I saw great potential in the organised retail sector.

The economy had started to boom with the oil revenue taking the centre stage. The visionary founder of the UAE, Shaikh Zayed, was spearheading the ‘march to future’ of this great country with many significant projects and initiatives, lots of people from all over the world had started to come in. The time was right to enter into the supermarket business.

Then we diversified into department stores. This actually happened in the height of the Gulf War and people were bit sceptical of investing into new business here. I was clear in my thinking and strong determination made sure that I went ahead with my plans and by God’s grace, we never had to look back.

What are the major contributing factors to the success of your business? How did the UAE’s overall progress compliment your business’ growth?

After firmly establishing ourselves in the supermarkets and department store segment, we were quite keen to venture into the bigger format of hypermarkets and in 2000 we opened our first Lulu Hypermarket in Ghusais, Dubai.

This really was the turning point for the group and we soon expanded into new markets with bigger and better hypermarkets in all major cities of the GCC. Today we have 104 stores of different sizes catering to more than 415,000 people every day.

Now that the UAE has achieved such a huge success, do did your business – how do you see the country’s overall progress in economy?

First and paramount is the location and easy accessibility. If you get these two aspects right, half the battle is won. Of course today’s shopper is very savvy and demands much for his spend… so store layout, parking, product range, service, hygiene, promotions, etc also play a significant role in the success of business. One reason I attribute for the success of our brand of hypermarket is our eagerness to listen and learn, this helps us bring in new changes and adapt newer technologies to meet the market requirements.

Though our stores across the region have unified business model, still we try to bring in changes in some location to cater to the local demand. This approach has helped us gain instant success and customer loyalty in whichever market we have entered. One thing I keep stressing in all my staff meetings is to continuously find newer ways to add more value for both our customers as well as other stakeholders.

Where does the challenges and opportunities lie?

I have never based my plans and projection on short term goals and I have always found swimming against the tide to be more rewarding. So, now a days when people around me talk of recession and slowdown and gloom in the market, I have a very different and positive take on the present economic scenario.

These current market trends are temporary and were necessary for market correction, but the corporate houses with strong fundamentals will always emerge stronger. We have not slowed down any of our projects, not fired a single staff as part of re-alignment, in fact we are hiring new staff as ours is a high manpower requirement business with each hypermarket taking in more than 300 employees.

This year itself we will be opening 6 more stores and 5 shopping malls in the UAE and elsewhere. Our current staff strength of 31,000 plus is sure to reach around 35,000 by the end of next year.

Govt tight-lipped on Ta Ann compo

Posted November 28, 2012 08:38:57

It is unclear how much compensation the Malaysian-owned Ta Ann Tasmania will receive under the forest peace deal.

The veneer producer has confirmed its contracted wood supply will be cut by almost 40 per cent to about 160,000 cubic metres a year, if the agreement passes the Upper House.

Executive director Evan Rolley says the company has been guaranteed compensation for the shortfall in its contracts.

The State Opposition estimates it will cost taxpayers $50 million in compensation.

The Premier, Lara Giddings, says the State and Commonwealth are still negotiating an amount.

“It does take time to work through the details and announce then what is finally agreed and where we’re going, but I can assure you Tasmanians will be told what arrangements are being put in place,” she said.

Mr Rolley will not speculate on the compensation figure.

“This company invested $84 million in two new state-of-the-art plants in 2006 based on wood supply agreements.”

“Our clear understanding is those contracts will be honoured and if not renegotiated and we’ll be treated fairly in terms of any compensation in the same way as any hardwood sawmillers.”

Greens leader Nick McKim has indicated the Greens would support the payout.

“A contract is a contract and obviously to reduce volumes there’ll need to be a renegotiated contract and that’s what the Greens have been calling for for a long period of time,” he said.

Ta Ann says it will overhaul its business and source more timber from private forests to maintain production.

A business employing Tasmanians with disabilities may also seek compensation if it cannot get timber under the forestry peace deal.

Oak Tasmania employs 41 people, including 33 with special needs, and processes 6,000-7,000 cubic metres of native forest timber a year.

Chief executive John Panton says he is concerned the business will have to close without guaranteed timber supply.

He says he may need at least $10 million in compensation from the State Government to restructure the business, re-train staff and purchase new equipment.

“Obviously we would go down the track of redeployment and look at how we could restructure to maintain our business but the probability of closing if we can’t get the resource available to us, that’s a real possibility,” he said.

Topics: timber, forestry, tas, hobart-7000, launceston-7250

Detached house prices ‘stagnate’

28 November 2012 Last updated at 13:07 GMT Detached house The average detached home in England and Wales is valued at £254,378 Detached homes have seen the smallest rise in prices of all property types in England and Wales in the last year, figures suggest.

The typical home rose in value by 1.1% in the year to the end of October, according to the Land Registry.

But the typical detached house only increased by 0.1%, the latest data suggests.

The typical detached home was valued at £254,378 compared with an average of £161,605 overall.

In the 12 months to the end of October, terraced homes increased in value by 0.6%, prices of semi-detached homes went up by 1.5%, and flats and maisonettes rose by 2.8%. Commentators say this is partially driven by demand.

“Detached houses have always attracted a premium, and in the current climate that can be seen as one luxury too far,” said Russell Quirk, director of estate agent eMoov.co.uk.

“For many buyers it ends up on their ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘need to have’ list.”

‘Stability’

The Land Registry figures, which suggested prices fell by 0.3% in October compared with September, again showed the regional differences of house price changes.

In London, there was a 7% annual increase in prices, compared with a fall of 5.8% in north-east England.

In a separate report, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said that London was affected by factors that were unique to the property market in the capital.

“Part of the resilience of London property prices is explained by the city’s global status,” the CML said.

“The political stability of the UK, combined with a 20% depreciation in the value of sterling since the credit crunch, has made the capital an attractive destination for international investors in central London property.

“Another important characteristic of the capital’s housing market is the significant variation in property prices within London. This presents flexibility for those wishing to buy but who find themselves priced out of expensive areas.

“There are often options to buy in other districts, which contributes to the process of gentrification of areas of the capital.”

The lenders’ group said first-time buyers in London were generally a couple of years older than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, they had a higher income, but the vast majority needed financial help from family members to get on the property ladder.

About 28% of first-time buyers were unassisted, compared with 34% in the rest of the UK, the CML said.

Kinnow exports to start from December

Major export destinations for Pakistani kinnow include Russia, far eastern countries and six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.


KARACHI: In a marked departure from the past practice of selling unripe fruits abroad to grab a larger market share, kinnow exports from Pakistan will start from December 1, say industry officials.


“It’ll be the first time that kinnow exports from (all over) Pakistan will begin simultaneously. It was at our request that the commerce ministry had banned kinnow exports until December 1,” said All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association Chairman Waheed Ahmed, while speaking to The Express Tribune on Tuesday.


According to data compiled by the association, Pakistan exported 225,000 tons of kinnow last year against the target of 300,000 tons. It fetched the country a total of $125 million.


The exporters lost money in the Russian market because oversupply of kinnow brought down its retail prices. With exports of 114,400 tons, Russia was the largest foreign market for Pakistani kinnow in 2011, showed the data.


Kinnow production is expected to be 1.8 million tons this year, which is likely to fetch $110 million from foreign markets if Pakistani exporters meet the supply target of 200,000 tons, Ahmed added.


Last year, Pakistani kinnow was sold at a price of $6.50 per 10 kilogrammes in foreign markets. However, its price is expected to increase to $7.50 in December, he said.


Traditionally, the kinnow export season starts in November every year and lasts until the first week of March. But as a result of the collective decision of kinnow exporters this year not to export before December, the season is going to last until April.


Major export destinations for Pakistani kinnow include Russia, far eastern countries and six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Iran and Indonesia are also big export markets for Pakistan, but their potential cannot be exploited for various reasons.


For example, Indonesia can potentially be a market of 2,000 tons, but the current export level is nowhere near that in the absence of implementation of a preferential trade agreement between the two countries.


7.5


Similarly, exports to Iran came to a halt in the middle of the season last year because banking institutions were reluctant to facilitate bilateral trade. “We exported between 80,000 and 90,000 tons of kinnow to Iran last year. The government should try to resolve issues to take full advantage of the Iranian market,” he said.


Pakistan does not export kinnow to the United States because of ongoing quarantine issues. Only three countries from Western Europe – England, the Netherlands and Norway – are major buyers of Pakistani kinnow, he said.


“People of the South Asian origin are the primary consumers there. Europeans don’t like our kinnow because it has too many seeds,” Ahmed said.


The association is going to present before the government a comprehensive proposal to set up subsidised research and development (R&D) projects, he said, emphasising Pakistan could increase its exports substantially if it focused on R&D.


According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the biggest export market of Pakistani kinnow was Afghanistan in 2011, which bought $45.3 million worth of kinnow, followed by Russia, whose purchases totalled $28.5 million in the same year.


However, Ahmed says the WTO figures are contentious, noting that Afghanistan could not possibly import that much kinnow from Pakistan because of its tiny population and weak purchasing power. “My suspicion is that Pakistani kinnow goes to central Asian states from Afghanistan,” he said, adding the WTO takes into account trade done through land routes while his association’s statistics are largely based on trade via sea routes.

Apex court questions TCCP sub-lease for Reko Diq exploration

SC notes the Baloch­istan govern­ment never approv­ed amendm­ent in Joint Ventur­e Agreem­ent to allow TCCP explor­ation. TCCP claims they were allotted a 44,000 kilometere area for exploration.


ISLAMABAD: A three-member bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned how the Tethyan Copper Company Pakistan (TCCP) been given rights by BHP unilaterally without obtaining consent from the Balochistan Government first despite having rights in the project only as a partner of the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA)  made for the project in Reko Diq.


Reko Diq is a multi-billion dollar project in the area of district Chaghi of Balochistan where millions of tonnes of copper and gold were identified in different reports prepared by world renowned companies.


The three-member bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed resumed hearing on the pending issue of grant of mining lease over exploration of gold and copper reserves in the Reko Diq area.


Khalid Anwar, counsel for TCC said that Balochistan Government had enhanced the area for exploration of minerals and awarded contract for 44,000 kilometer area instead of 13,000 kilometer in its own interest. He added that the provincial government had failed to explore gold and copper reserves in the area.


The counsel said that the foreign company has invested large amount of funds for exploration during the last ten years.


Justice Gulzar said that the Balochistan government was not a part of amendments made in the license since there was no stamp of the governor on the agreement. Anwar responded that the Balochistan Government never refused that document either.


The Chief Justice remarked that there was nothing on record that the governor had approved it and added that the governor was bound to follow the advice of the Chief Executive under PCO.


Advocate General Amanullah Kanrani informed the court that TCCP had received documents before government of Balochistan and departments concerned. He said that he himself got copies from TCCP while original documents were in TCC’s custody and added that if the documents are produced before the apex court, a separate case could be registered against the company.


The Chief Justice asked Anwar that the amendment on which he was depending should be checked for its authenticity.


Kanrani told the court that the Balochistan government had no record. Anwar said that the Chief Minister had sent a summary with amendments for approval in May 1999 and it was included in the Balochistan Government documents presented to the apex court.


The Chief Justice though observed that the summary was not approved but it was suggested that a committee should be formed to look into the matter. The Chief Justice remarked that the court knew validity of every document and added that the Balochistan government is part of this case and we could not exclude it from the case.


The bench adjourned further hearing till Wednesday by advising TCCP’s counsel to conclude his arguments on Wednesday.

Gulf Petrochemical industry facing serious challenges

Dubai: The GCC petrochemical industry is facing serious challenges due to shortage in gas supplies amid growing demand which will widen the demand-supply gap in the coming years, officials said at a conference yesterday.

In the Middle East, UAE and Iran have higher consumption than production, while Saudi Arabia meets its own demand with production at 99.23 billion cubic metres. Qatar, Algeria, Egypt and Oman are net gas exporters that provide a good balance.

The looming fiscal cliff in the US and Europe’s economic recovery is adding insult to injury.

“The economic troubles in the US complicated by the political impasse over the impending fiscal cliff coupled with the European economic recession and debt crises are dampening global recovery,” Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad, UAE Minister of Environment and Water, said at the 7th annual Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) Forum on Wednesday.

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“Moreover the rapidly growing emergent eastern economies are also exhibiting signs of slowing down. Consequently these events have precipitated significant concerns regarding the risk of deepening of economic woes. Such developments could adversely impact the global as well as the regional petrochemical producers resulting in lower revenues.

“Though in our region, the economy is more stable, the global economy’s down turn represents a key concern for all of us due to the accompanying uncertainties about future growth and the subsequent impact on our strategic hydrocarbon industries. Given that historically demand for oil and petrochemicals is influenced by interrelated factors such as the economy, population growth and government policies.”

GCC petrochemical companies third quarter earnings for 2012 have already declined by 12.6 per cent year-on-year (Y-o-Y) to $3.1 billon (Dh11.3 billion) compared to $3.57 billion in the same period last year, according to a report by Global Investment House.

“Most of the anticipated supply is already committed to existing and new projects. National oil companies are responding to the shortage of natural gas by exploring for non-associated gas, unconventional gas and shale gas,” said a latest report by research firm Booz and Company.

However, not everything is down for the industry, yet. “The industry has remained strong despite the prevailing economic climate — production capacity grew 13.5 per cent per cent last year, to nearly 116 million tonnes, up from 102 million tonnes in 2010; and sales generated by the GCC petrochemicals sector reached $100 billion in 2011,” Mohamed Al-Mady, Chairman of GPCA, said.

“These numbers reveal a GCC petrochemical industry with impressive strength and remarkable resilience. But to sustain this level of growth, we need to bring in change. This change needs to recognise future changes, driven by global megatrends, and needs to enable us to participate in this future. The only way to participate in the future is through adopting a technology-driven approach for remaining competitive in an ever-changing market place.”

Facilitation: Airlines, banks to set up counters at embassies

Reserv­ation desks to be set-up at embass­y premis­es to facili­tate repatr­iating commun­ity at compet­itive fares. Pakistani airlines operating in the UAE to develop a favourable quote for the stranded Pakistanis. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan-based airlines are ready to establish their counters at Pakistani embassies in the United Arab Emirates to offer competitive fares to various cities of Pakistan.


The arrangements with respect to granting maximum facilitation to the amnesty seekers from Pakistan descent are comprehensively being arranged at the embassy, Ambassador of Pakistan to UAE Jamil Ahmed Khan said in a meeting held in Abu Dhabi.


Khan advised them to create reservation desks at the embassy premises to facilitate the repatriating community. He requested all the Pakistani airlines operating in the UAE to develop a favourable quote for the stranded Pakistanis who shall be availing amnesty during December 4 and February 3, 2013, and requested the banks to establish counters to facilitate remittance.

South Korea tightens limit on forex forward positions

Seoul: South Korea announced on Tuesday it was lowering the ceiling on foreign exchange forward positions by foreign and local banks, to ease currency volatility after a sharp appreciation in the Korean won.

The finance ministry said local branches of foreign banks will have to limit forward deals to 150 per cent of their equity capital, down from the current 200 per cent.

The ceiling for domestic banks will be lowered to 30 per cent from 40 per cent.

The new restrictions will come into force from December 1, but with a one-month grace period, the ministry said in a joint statement with the central bank and financial regulators.

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“Korea’s relatively sound economic fundamentals and ample global liquidity are raising the chances that the volatility of cross-border capital movements will increase,” the statement said.

“Korea plans to preemptively take action, if needed, in a bid to prevent volatility of foreign capital flows from hitting the financial market,” it added.

The Korean won has gained about nine per cent against the dollar since May — a worrying trend for the country’s export-driven economy which is already struggling with the impact of the downturn in its US and European markets.

Restrictions on foreign exchange forward positions were last tightened in July 2011 as capital inflows intensified.

Seoul fears that “hot money” coming into the country could exit just as swiftly — as it did during the 1997 to 1998 East Asian financial crisis, which forced the country to seek IMF aid, and the 2008 global crisis.

BP banned from new US contracts

28 November 2012 Last updated at 15:04 GMT  BP has been temporarily suspended from new contracts with the US government, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said.


While it is unclear how long the ban will last, it follows BP’s record fine earlier this month over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


The EPA said it was taking action due to BP’s “lack of business integrity” over its handling of the blowout.


BP has pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges over the accident.


“The BP suspension will temporarily prevent the company and the named affiliates from getting new federal government contracts, grants or other covered transactions until the company can provide sufficient evidence to EPA demonstrating that it meets federal business standards,” said the EPA in a statement.


“The suspension does not affect existing agreements BP may have with the government,” it added.


The Deepwater Horizon accident in which an oil rig exploded killing 11 people, caused one of the worst oil spills in history.

Organic market sprouting well

Yesterday, one of Dubai’s more unique regional niche markets were served by the opening of the 10th edition of the annual Middle East Natural and Organic Products Expo (MENOPE). From Malaysia and the Philippines to Italy and Germany, more than 108 exhibitors from 22 countries came to the three-day trade event showcasing organic food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

A bigger number of farms were participating this time around, said the event’s organizers. “People are becoming more aware of organic food and this is growing steadily,” Abdul-Mun’im Abu-Rayah, an exhibitor from UAE-based Bufjair Trading Co. said. Their fresh organic produce caught the attention of Dr. Salem Abdul Rahman Al Darmaki, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health in the UAE, who took his time inspecting what the company was showcasing — locally-produced broccoli, cucumber and watermelon — all of which came from a chemicals-free farm in the Khawaneej area. Nadim Al Fuqha, Managing Director of the exhibition, said: “17 farms have been certified as organic and 6 are on their way in the next 2 weeks.”

The three-day event is supported by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, which aims to raise awareness of healthy eating habits and environment-friendly practices, according to Al Fuqha.

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Many of the exhibitors use the event to showcase non-edible organic products such as cosmetics made from organic ingredients. Karima Nanji from SpaDunya Club, A Dubai-based spa, displayed a colourful line of perfumes and oils that help harmonise the body, among others, by their Altearah Bio brand manufactured in France. “The essential oils come from flowers grown in organic farms,” explained Nanji.

Komo, an exhibitor from Germany was demonstrating different grain mills that grind and flake organic wheat and oats. “It preserves the nutrients within the first few hours,” Wolfgang Mock, a cofounder of Komo said. This is Komo’s second participation at the show. “We are looking for distributors here. The market is good,” he said.

According to MENOPE’s Managing Director Al Fuqha, the organic market in the UAE is developing at a slow rate, yet four years ago there were 4 to 5 organic stores and today the number have increased to 35.

In an interview last, week Sultan Abdullah Sultan Bin Al Wan, assistant undersecretary of external audit at the Ministry of Environment and Water, told Gulf News that organic farms in the UAE and imported organic foods are now being certified by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) for the first time. Sultan said the move follows new regulation initiated by the Ministry earlier this year. Organic products are getting certification logos and officials are taking random organic product samples for lab checking.

“Consumers now can trust these products more,” Al Fuqha said. The organic industry is becoming an important economic sector locally. In recent years it has been billing annually from $100 million to $150 million (Dh367.2 million-Dh550.80 million). According to Sultan, the UAE market has grown by 17 per cent from last year he expects it to grow by 20 per cent next year.

“Companies that come from abroad to the exhibition are looking for a new market in the GCC and the Middle East. The spending power is high here. Last year, the GCC has invested $300 million (in organic-related products and industry),” he added.

Al Fuqha doesn’t think the high cost of organic products should discourage buyers. “When there is high demand for a product, prices will go down,” he said.

The event opens at 10am and will run till Thursday.

Sarah Algethami is a trainee at Gulf News.

GSK to raise India unit stake in $940m deal

Mumbai: GlaxoSmithKline Plc plans to buy up to an additional 31.8 per cent stake in its Indian consumer products arm for about $940 million (Dh3.45 billion), as Britain’s biggest drugmaker deepens its emerging markets and non-prescription consumer health footprint.

The move is the latest in a series of deals by GSK to increase its presence in fast-growing economies a nd reduce its reliance on traditional pharmaceuticals in Western countries where sales are slower.

GSK aims to raise its stake in GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd to 75 per cent from 43.2 per cent, paying Rs3,900 rupees per share through an open offer, it said in a statement.

The price represents a premium of 28 per cent to the stock’s Friday close.

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The news sent shares of GSK Consumer Healthcare to a record high. The shares were locked at Rs3,659.20, up 20 per cent, their maximum daily trading limit, while the Mumbai market was up 0.2 per cent, by 0800 GMT.

“This transaction represents a further step in GSK’s strategy to invest in the world’s fastest growing markets,” said David Redfern, chief strategy officer at GSK in London.

The company, however, has “no current plans” to launch an open offer for its Indian drugs unit GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd, he added.

GSK said the transaction — to be funded through existing cash resources — would be earnings neutral for the first year and boost earnings thereafter. It will not impact expectations for the group’s long-term share buyback programme.

Tough market conditions in Europe have hampered GSK’s hopes for a return to sales growth this year, although the company’s growing business in emerging markets and its large consumer healthcare operation are both doing well.

In India, for example, sales of the consumer unit’s flagship Horlicks brand stood at £270 million in the year that ended December 2011, contributing to nearly three-quarters of its total revenues.

“A lot of the current business of Horlicks is in the south and the east of India. So there is still a great opportunity to increase the penetration to the north and the west,” Redfern told Reuters in an interview, adding that the company intended to introduce new variants of the brand in the country.

GSK does not plan to delist the unit.

Securities regulations in India require a minimum public shareholding of 25 per cent for a company to maintain a public listing.

The offer period is expected to begin in January 2013.

Italy’s 6 month yield lowest since April 2010 at auction

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 16:50 Posted by Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui

italy-flag MILAN: Italy paid the lowest yield in more than two years and a half to sell 7.5 billion euros of six-month bills at an auction on Wednesday in a market still supported by a deal to release the next aid tranche to Greece in mid-December.

Six-month borrowing costs dipped to 0.919 percent on Wednesday, reaching the lowest level since April 2010.

The treasury had paid 1.347 percent to place 8 billion euros of a similar bill just one month ago.

Since September, when the European Central Bank pledged to buy bonds of vulnerable euro zone countries that asks for help, Rome has managed to guide borrowing costs down towards pre-crisis level.

Rome will offer up to 6 billion euros of five- and 10-year bonds on Thursday in the last sale for these issues to be completed in 2012.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

Spain’s rescued banks to shrink, slash jobs

Brussels/Madrid: Spain’s four nationalised banks will more than halve their balance sheets in five years, slash jobs and impose hefty losses on bondholders, under plans approved by the European Commission on Wednesday.

The measures open the door for nearly €40 billion (Dh188 billion, $52 billion)in Eurozone bail-out funds for the state-rescued banks, offering hope for an end to Spain’s banking crisis which has pushed the country to the brink of asking for sovereign aid.

The approval sets in place one of the most far-reaching over-hauls of any European banking system ordered by the Commission since the start of a banking crisis in mid-2007 with the near collapse of German lender IKB.

“Our objective is to restore the viability of banks receiving aid so that they are able to function without public support in the future,” said European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

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Bankia, NCG Banco, Catalunya Banc and Banco de Valencia were taken over by the Spanish state after unsustainable lending during the country’s decade-long property boom left the lenders dangerously short of capital.

The smallest of the four banks, Banco de Valencia, will be sold to one of Spain’s healthiest lenders Caixabank, while the other three banks must cut their balance sheets by more than 60 per cent over the next five years.

It was cheaper to sell Banco de Valencia under a loss protection scheme than to wind it down, the Commission said. Spain will sell NCG Banco and Catalunya Banc within 5 years or liquidate them.

Almunia said the nationalised banks would have to close up to half their branches during the five-year overhaul process.

The biggest of the banks, Bankia, said it would lay off over a quarter of its workforce amounting to over 6,000 staff, reduce its branch network by around 39 per cent and aim to return to profitability by 2013.

Bankia, formed from the merger of seven savings banks in 2010, said holders of hybrid debt would contribute up to €4.8 billion to the recapitalisation, through losses incurred by swapping their holdings for shares.

The European Commission said the cost to hybrid and subordinated bondholders in the restructuring of the nationalised banks will come to about €10 billion.

Many hybrid debt holders at the nationalised banks are retail customers who say they were conned into buying complex financial instruments that buoyed banks’ capital levels instead of fixed-term savings accounts.

The Commission said it would ensure the banks use no more taxpayers’ money than necessary and that they do not go back to unsustainable business practices.

The Commissioner said he would decide on other Spanish banks with capital shortfalls on December 20.

The approval allows the Eurozone to disburse the funds from its permanent ESM bailout fund. Spain was given approval to receive up to €100 billion from the ESM in the summer.

Eurozone central banks mull rolling over Greek bonds

Brussels: Eurozone central banks may decide to roll over their holdings of Greek debt to reduce by €5.6 billion (Dh26.6 billion) the amount governments will need to provide Athens by 2016, according to an document obtained by Reuters.

Such a move would cut the amount to €2 billion from €7.6 billion, the document, which emerged from this week’s Eurozone finance minister’s meeting, showed.

International lenders — Eurozone countries, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — agreed early on Tuesday on a debt reduction plan for Athens that would bring Greek debt to 110 percent of GDP in 2022.

This would be down from almost 190 per cent expected for next year.

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According to the document, Greece would need to get €1.8 billion in extra financing in 2012-2014 and another €5.8 billion between 2015 and 2016 — a total of €7.6 billion.

But it floated the idea that if the Eurozone’s 17 national central banks, which together form the Eurosystem, decide to replace the Greek bonds they hold with new Greek paper as the debt matures, it would save Greece the need to redeem €3.7 billion in 2012-2014 and €1.9 billion in 2015-2016.

It lists the item of “roll-over of ANFA holdings” — a term to describe central banks’ investment portfolios — in parenthesis, suggesting it has yet to be agreed or in any way formalised.

Furthermore, it notes that the amounts mentioned are tentative and subject to approval by national central banks.

There is no public data on the amounts of Greek debt held by individual Eurozone central banks.

The roll-over idea is separate from the issue of the European Central Bank returning profits to Athens from the Greek bond portfolio it has acquired under its Securities Market Programme (SMP).

That will reduce the financing needs of Greece by €4.1 billion euros in 2012-2014 and another €3 billion in 2015-2016.

This return of profits — along with cutting interest on Eurozone loans to Greece, a deferral of interest payments, maturities extension, and several other measures — allowed the Eurozone to cut the amount of new money it would have to lend to Greece to €7.6 billion from €32 billion.

A roll-over of the Greek bonds in investment portfolios of central banks would increase the overall Greek public debt by 0.1 per cent of GDP in 2020 and 2022.

But this would be offset by new debt relief measures pencilled in by international lenders for the coming years that would cut Greek debt by 2.7 per cent of GDP by 2020 and 5.1 per cent of GDP by 2022, the document said.

This new debt relief could happen once Greece reaches a primary surplus — a positive budget balance before servicing debt — and if Greek reforms are on track, Eurozone finance ministers decided on Tuesday.

Taqa’s acquisition in UK to cost more than $1b

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) said on Wednesday it has agreed to buy from BP oil and natural gas assets in the UK North Sea worth more than $1 billion.

“The total consideration for the transaction is $1,058 million, plus certain potential contingent payments. The transaction is being funded from existing operating cash flow and credit lines,” Taqa said in a statement to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange where its shares are listed. Taqa’s shares closed unchanged at Dh1.30 yesterday.

“The acquisition is subject the satisfaction of pre-emption rights as well as government and certain third party approvals. It is expected to complete in Q2 2013,” said Taqa.

The acquisition consists of interests in the Harding (70 per cent), Maclure (37.03 per cent), and Devenick (88.7 per cent) fields in the Central North Sea. Taqa will also increase its non-operated interests in the Brae area and associated transport infrastructure including the SAGE system, Forties-Brae and Forties-Braemar pipelines.

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On completion, the acquisition is expected to increase Taqa’s net production by approximately 21,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and will add a second major development hub to Taqa’s UK North Sea business, which is currently centred around the Northern sector.

“This investment is a great strategic fit for Taqa, ensuring growth for our UK business and establishes Taqa as a leading operator in the UK North Sea,” said Carl Sheldon, chief executive officer of Taqa.

Taqa said their investment “follows a constructive dialogue between the oil and gas industry and the UK Treasury, that resulted in changes to the tax treatment of North Sea assets.”

Welcoming the announcement, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I’m delighted that following my recent visit to Abu Dhabi to spearhead greater commercial ties, Taqa have decided to invest in their North Sea operations. This is a vote of confidence in the UK economy and once again, highlights the North Sea’s position as a global energy hub.”

He added: “We’re committed to making Britain the investment destination of choice and today’s announcement shows how recent changes to the North Sea tax regime are helping to create and sustain thousands of jobs in Scotland and across the rest of the UK, ensuring we thrive in the global race.”

Evercore Partners acted as financial adviser to Taqa in relation to this transaction.

Expatriate workers increasingly help float domestic economy

Cheap to transfer: 2.8% is what you can expect to pay in fees on amounts you send from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, while 7.5% is the average cost of remitting money for the top 20 bilateral remittance corridors. PHOTO: FILE


KARACHI: Developing countries are expected to receive $406 billion in remittances in 2012, which is 6.5% higher than the remittances they received in 2011, according to a recent World Bank report.


The World Bank projects that remittances to developing countries will grow by 7.9%, 10.1% and 10.7% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively, to reach $534 billion in 2015.


While the international economic downturn has adversely affected remittance flows to Europe and some other regions, South Asia is expected to fare much better than previously estimated, the report says. Remittance flows to South Asia are expected to clock in at around $109 billion in 2012, up by 12.5% over 2011, it said.


According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the country received remittances of $13.2 billion in fiscal 2012, which were 17.7% higher than the preceding fiscal year.


Similarly, in the first four months of the current fiscal year, remittances to Pakistan stood at $4.9 billion, higher by 15% compared to remittances received in the corresponding four-month period last fiscal year.


“Regions and countries with large numbers of migrants in oil-exporting countries continue to see robust growth in inward remittance flows, compared with those whose migrant workers are largely concentrated in the advanced economies, especially Western Europe,” the World Bank report says.


According to the Bureau of Emigration’s Assistant Director Farrukh Jamal, more than 80% of the manpower that Pakistan has exported resides in Saudi Arabia. “Almost 90% of recent emigrants from Pakistan currently work in the Middle East,” he told The Express Tribune in an interview two weeks ago.


2.8


The largest single-country chunk of remittances that Pakistan received in fiscal 2012 – amounting to $1.1 billion – was from Saudi Arabia. It was followed closely by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with $963.1 million remitted from the country in the same period. The United States ($795.3 million) was the third biggest source of remittances during fiscal 2012.


Cost of remittances


The World Bank report says the high cost of sending money home is an “obstacle to growth of remittance flows.” It averaged 7.5% in the third quarter of calendar year 2012 for the top 20 bilateral remittance corridors, and 9% for all other countries for which cost data were available, it says.


Interestingly, the two most important bilateral remittance corridors for Pakistan – UAE-Pakistan and Saudi Arabia-Pakistan – are among the “five least costly corridors” in the world, according to World Bank’s Remittances Prices Worldwide project.


For example, sending $200 from the UAE to Pakistan costs $4.9, which translates into 2.4% and includes the transaction fee and exchange rate margin. Similarly, transferring the same amount from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan costs $5.6, or 2.8% of the remitted amount.


On the other hand, the World Bank says, the Singapore-Pakistan remittance corridor is among the “five most costly corridors” in the world: it costs almost $57 to transfer $500 from Singapore to Pakistan, which comes around 11.4% of the remitted amount.


Workers’ remittances and compensation of employees for Pakistan – which comprise current transfers by migrant workers and wages and salaries earned by non-resident workers – were 5.5% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2010, the latest year for which the relevant data is available on the World Bank’s website.

China’s banks rush to sell up to $24bn of sub-debt as new rules loom

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 10:22 Posted by Asad Naeem

china-central-bank 400BEIJING: Chinese banks including Agricultural Bank of China Ltd and China Construction Bank Corp are rushing to sell up to 150 billion yuan ($24 billion) of subordinated debt by the year-end ahead of tougher issuance rules, bank disclosures show.

That would surpass the 100 billion yuan of subordinated bonds issued year-to-date, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Under the new rules, the funds raised by banks through subordinated bonds won’t be counted as part of their capital base, unless investors are willing to write down the value of the debt entirely or allow the bonds to be converted into shares, according to regulatory and banking sources.

This means sub-debt investors – frequently domestic financial institutions and insurers who prefer to be ranked above ordinary shareholders in case of a default – will have to re-look their risk-assessment models when making such investments.

“When the difference between sub-debt and equity becomes blurred, how are the regulators going to ensure that sub-debt holders are paid before shareholders?” asked a source with the asset management arm of Aviva-Cofco Insurance.

The rules are among changes that banks in China must adhere to in accordance with the Basel III rules, which call for more stringent requirements for capital adequacy. Chinese regulators said previously that the changes will be put in place by the beginning of next year.

The rules have prompted banks including Agricultural Bank and China Construction Bank (CCB) to fast-track their debt issuance plans, with AgBank looking to sell 50 billion yuan of bonds and CCB 40 billion yuan of debt by the end of this year.

Otherwise, any new issue from 2013 onwards will be subject to the new regulations on subordinated debt, banking sources said, citing instructions from the regulators.

They declined to be identified because the China Banking Regulatory Commission was still seeking internal feedback on the new rules.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

US declines to name China currency manipulator

 Image Credit: AFPA woman walks past Chinese yuan (L) and US dollars symbols in Hong Kong on November 28, 2012.

Washington: The Obama administration said on Tuesday that China’s currency remained “significantly undervalued,” but stopped short of labelling the world’s second-biggest economy a currency manipulator.


Although Beijing controls the pace at which the yuan can rise, the US Treasury said in a congressionally mandated semi-annual report that China did not meet the legal requirements to be deemed a currency manipulator.


The label is largely symbolic, but would require Washington to open discussions with Beijing on adjusting the yuan’s value.


It has been 18 years since the US Treasury has designated any country a manipulator. China was labelled a manipulator between 1992 and 1994.

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The latest report reflected both the administration’s desire to maintain good relations with its top creditor and an attempt to keep up pressure for changes in China that could benefit the US economy and mollify domestic critics.


The report noted that the yuan, also known as the renminbi, had risen 12.6 per cent against the US dollar in inflation-adjusted terms since June 2010. An official said it was up 9.7 per cent on a nominal basis through Tuesday, when it closed at a record high.


The Treasury also said China had “substantially” reduced its intervention in foreign exchange markets since the third quarter of 2011 and had loosened capital controls.


“In light of these developments, Treasury has concluded that the standards … have not been met with respect to China,” it said.


“Nonetheless, the available evidence suggests the renminbi remains significantly undervalued,” the report added, echoing the Treasury’s last assessment in May.


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei denied the currency was undervalued.


“In recent years, the ratio between China’s GDP and the current account surplus has decreased on a daily basis. The renminbi’s exchange rate is in equilibrium. There is no so-called problem that the exchange rate is undervalued,” he told reporters in Beijing.


“We hope that the US side can appropriately deal with trade and economic issues, including the renminbi exchange rate,” Hong added.


Ted Truman, a Treasury official under former President Bill Clinton, said it was important to keep a watchful eye on China’s currency policy.


“We have the aftermath of 10 years of misbehaviour,” said Truman, who is now with the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It would probably be unwise and too soon to declare victory.”


During the US presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney pledged to label China a manipulator on his first day in office to show he would be tougher on the chief US economic competitor than President Barack Obama.


Many US businesses and lawmakers complain that Beijing keeps the value of its currency artificially low to gain an advantage in trade at the expense of American jobs.


But an international consensus is growing that the yuan is closing in on its fair value after about a decade at an artificially weak level. The International Monetary Fund softened its language on the yuan in July.?


Signs of a recovery in the Chinese economy and a new round of quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve have led traders to push the yuan higher.


But China’s central bank has kept a lid on the move. The central bank allows the yuan to rise or fall by only 1 percent from whatever rate it sets each day.


Charles Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the US Senate and a longtime critic of China’s yuan policy, said the Treasury passed up an opportunity to level the trade playing field.


“It’s time for the Obama administration to rip off the band-aid, and force China to play by the same rules as all other countries,” the New York senator said in a statement.


But the US-China Business Council, which represents US companies that do business with China, applauded the decision.


“The exchange rate has little to do with the US trade balance or employment,” council President John Frisbie said. “We need to move on to more important issues with China, such as removing market access barriers and improving intellectual property protection.”


The Treasury said further appreciation of the yuan would help China balance its economy toward consumption by giving households greater purchasing power.


It called on China to reduce its “exceptionally high” foreign exchange reserves and publish data about its intervention in currency markets.


The Obama administration also used the currency report to keep pressure on South Korea to limit its foreign exchange intervention.


South Korea says it intervenes to smooth the volatility of its won currency, but it has gone into the market throughout 2012, the Treasury report said. In July, the IMF said the won was undervalued by up to 10 percent.


“We will continue to press the Korean authorities to limit their foreign exchange interventions to the exceptional circumstances of disorderly market conditions,” the report said.

Market Watch: Stocks dullish as investors await monetary policy

Second tier stocks help market gain 33 points. Second tier stocks help market gain 33 points.


KARACHI: The stock market closed slightly up for the first day of trading for the week, led higher by second tier stocks in the cement, textile and banking sectors. The index spiked after opening, but later corrected to close with modest gains.


“Equities traded lacklustre in the absence of any major triggers,” commented Haris Ahmed Batla, analyst at Elixir Securities.


The Karachi Stock Exchange’s (KSE) benchmark 100-share index gained 0.20% or 32.89 points to end at the 16,270.48 points level. Trade volumes improved to 260 million shares compared with Friday’s tally of 252 million shares. The value of shares traded during the day was Rs3.69 billion.


“Activity remained mostly flows driven, as Maple Lead Cement topped the retail window, while the two other volume leaders – Fauji Cement and DG Khan Cement – closed nearly flat,” reported Batla. “Financials witnessed a slowdown in turnover, as the monetary policy [announcement] gets close and players remain unclear about the interest rate cut. Automobile manufactures, namely Honda Car (down 6.01%) and Pak Suzuki Motors (down 1.26%) witnessed correction after performing for two past sessions.”


Shares of 401 companies were traded on Monday. At the end of the day 248 stocks closed higher, 123 declined while 30 remained unchanged.


Summit Bank was the volume leader with 29.37 million shares gaining Rs0.02 to finish at Rs3.02. It was followed by Fauji Cement with 17.25 million shares gaining Rs0.06 to close at Rs7.03 and Maple Leaf Cement with 17.18 million shares gaining Rs0.97 to close at Rs16.44.


“Engro Foods, after consolidating for the past few sessions, ended the day up by 1.4% on interest from a Middle Eastern dairy company,” reported Shakir Padela, analyst at JS Global. “The textile sector once again remained in the limelight, with Nishat (Chunian) gaining 3.8%. The oil and gas sector was fairly dull throughout the day with no major volumes,” he added. Foreign institutional investors were net buyers of Rs91.41 million, according to data maintained by the National Clearing Company of Pakistan Limited.

Asian shares fall as focus shifts to US budget talks

Tokyo: Asian shares ended a seven-day winning streak on Wednesday and commodities eased as investors fretted that a lack of progress in talks on US budget woes risked putting the world’s largest economy into recession, dragging down global growth with it.


European shares will likely track Asian peers lower. Financial spreadbetters predicted London’s FTSE 100, Paris’s CAC-40 and Frankfurt’s DAX will open down as much as 0.5 per cent. A 0.1 per cent drop in US stock futures also hinted at a soft Wall Street open.


MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5 per cent, retreating from Tuesday’s nearly three-week highs, with materials and energy sectors leading the declines.


“The global economy, China, Europe, needs the US economy to grow, and that is why the pressure to get this deal done is greater than before,” said Carl Larry, a derivatives broker at the Houston-based Atlas Commodities. “The global economy can’t afford for America to slip back into a recession.”

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Shares in resource-reliant Australian eased 0.2 per cent, off Tuesday’s two-week highs as top miners fell on weaker gold prices.


Australia’s Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics said


committed investment in major resources and energy projects, the main driver of Australian growth, still rose to A$268.4 billion ($280.5 billion) at October 31 from A$260.8 billion at end-April, but the rise partly reflected higher project costs and masked a fall in the number of projects. A fall in commodity prices due to a drop-off in Chinese demand also weighed on shares.


“Markets don’t really provide any sort of compelling investment value here at present because the grey cloud of uncertainty still overhangs the economic climate, in particular across Europe and the US, but also filtering into this part of the world as well,” Jamie Spiteri, senior dealer at Shaw Stockbroking, said of Australian shares.


US stocks slid overnight after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed disappointment over little progress in dealing with the approaching “fiscal cliff” of deep cuts in government spending and big tax hikes early next year.


The Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.9 per cent to its lowest in nearly four years as growth-sensitive sectors sank, extending losses after closing on Tuesday below 2,000 points for the first time since January 2009.


The weak Chinese stock market, along with doubts over the US ability to resolve its fiscal crisis, strengthened demand for sovereign debt, helping to push the 10-year Japanese government bond futures price to a 9-1/2-year high of 144.79, while US Treasuries clung to gains made on Tuesday.


Japan’s Nikkei stock average slumped 1 per cent, after closing on Tuesday at a seven-month high.


The Nikkei had risen 8.8 per cent over the past two weeks since the government announced a December 16 election. Japan’s main opposition party is forecast to win power, and investors expect it will force the Bank of Japan into aggressive easing.


Europe lacks confidence


Tuesday’s agreement by international lenders to cut Greece’s debt offered relief that it has averted an imminent bankruptcy, but uncertainty remained over the lack of details on how Athens will carry out budget reforms to meet its new debt targets as analysts cited the deal as falling short of addressing medium-term financing and debt sustainability issues.


“The uncertainty brought by this approach makes European assets, including the euro, vulnerable to global growth risks. For that reason, we think the European muddle through amplifies the market’s response to the fiscal cliff discussion in the US,” Barclays Capital analysts said in a note.


The euro fell 0.2 per cent to $1.2924, after peaking at $1.3010 on the Greece news on Tuesday, its highest level since October 31.


Worries over the fiscal crisis overshadowed positive US economic data that showed improvement in durable orders, the real estate sector and consumer confidence, which hit a 4-1/2-year high in November.


The dollar dropped 0.3 per cent against the yen to 81.85 . US crude futures were steady around $87.16 a barrel while Brent edged up 0.2 per cent to $110.13. London copper dropped 0.4 per cent to $7,776 a tonne.


Spot gold inched down 0.1 percent to $1,739.40 an ounce after slipping on Tuesday for a second session.


Southeast Asia kept some hopes that the damage to their economies may be contained from global growth deterioration triggered by the prolonged euro zone debt crisis.


Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, sees annual economic growth in the fourth quarter at 5.9-6.3 per cent, while the Philippine economy picked up more than expected in the third quarter, with the government expecting the economy to surpass its 2012 full-year growth target of 5-6 per cent.


Investors were sidelined in Asian credit markets, keeping the spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index little changed from Tuesday’s levels.


PrintEmail a friend More from Markets DFM index ends lower, ADX ends marginally higher SEC’s Walter to follow ally Schapiro’s policy Asian shares fall as focus shifts to US US not to name China currency manipulator

Egypt must keep steady course for loan review-IMF

Cairo: The International Monetary Fund’s board will require there is no major change in economic outlook or policy when it considers approving a $4.8 billion loan to Egypt, an IMF spokeswoman said.

The loan deal was agreed in principle this month with an IMF team in Cairo and the board is expected to meet to finalise the facility on December 19.

Spokeswoman Wafa Amr’s remarks were made in an emailed response to questions about whether President Mohamed Mursi’s decree to extend his powers would threaten the preliminary loan deal, seen as vital to rebuilding confidence in Egypt’s economy.

His decree has set off a wave of protests and violence.

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“Consideration of the agreement by the IMF Executive Board will require that there is no major change in the economic outlook and implementation plans,” Amr said.

Egyptian officials have not indicated any shift in economic plans that include reining in the budget deficit from about 11 per cent of gross domestic product in 2011/12 to 8.5 per cent in the financial year that ends in June 2014.

When the preliminary agreement was reached, a member of the IMF team involved in the negotiations said he expected it would be approved by the board.

“The staff-level agreement on financial support from the IMF is based on the economic and social policies that the government plans to implement under its programme,” Amr said in reference to the initial loan deal that was announced on November 20.

Amr said implementing those plans included passing a revised budget for 2012/13 that reflected planned tax and spending measures.

She said it also required “assurances from Egypt’s bilateral and multilateral partners regarding their expected provision of programme financing”.

The IMF deal is expected to encourage investors and support from other nations for Egypt, whose economy has been hammered by political unrest since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.

On the budget, Egypt initially forecast a deficit of about 8 per cent of GDP for 2012/13, which economists said at the time of publication was optimistic. Since then, officials have said that target could not be met because reforms it was based on had not been implemented.

Egypt said it would issue a supplementary budget once a deal with the IMF was reached, and Planning and International Cooperation Minister Ashraf Al Araby said on Saturday the deficit for 2012/13 was now expected to be 10 per cent of GDP.

EU shaves Greek debt and doles out bailout

Image Credit: ReutersYannis Stournaras of Greece arrives for a Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday. The centrepiece of the agreement is the change in interest rates on Greek bailout loans. Bilateral loans provided to Athens under its first bailout would be cut 100 basis points, to just 50 points above interbank rates.

After two false starts in as many weeks, international lenders on Tuesday reached a deal to overhaul Greece’s faltering bailout programme and release a long-delayed €34.4 billion aid payment by agreeing to a series of measures that could relieve Greece of billions of euros in debt by the end of the decade.


The measures, which include reducing interest rates on Athens’ bailout loans to levels so low that some countries will probably take losses, are intended to cut Greek debt levels to 124 per cent of economic output by 2020, or 20 percentage points lower than Athens’ current debt path, officials said.


But several of the elements remain unfinished, including a Greek debt buyback programme whose success remains so uncertain that Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund chief, said her institution would not release its portion of the Greek bailout until the transaction was successfully completed.


Lagarde played down the delay, saying the IMF and eurozone governments had disbursed their tranches at different points in the past. But the difference highlighted tensions between Brussels and Washington that forced Monday’s late night meeting – the third Brussels gathering in two weeks on the Greek programme.

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The IMF had been holding out for a deal to get Greece’s debt levels to 120 per cent of gross domestic product by 2020, a target that would have likely forced eurozone governments to make substantial writedowns on their bailout loans — something deemed politically explosive in creditor countries like Germany and the Netherlands.


In exchange for allowing a loosening in the target to 124 per cent, Lagarde secured a commitment to get debt levels to “substantially below” 110 per cent in 2022, a promise that could force eurozone governments to provide even more debt relief in the future.


“It’s been hard work,” said Lagarde of the negotiations. Added Jean-Claude Juncker, who chaired the meeting as head of the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers: “This has been a very difficult deal.”


Equity markets in Asia were generally higher in morning trading with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up 0.4 per cent, the Hang Seng increasing 0.4 per cent in Hong Kong, and South Korea’s Kospi index moving 1 per cent higher. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.7 per cent, touching multiyear lows. The US dollar gained slightly to 1.2985 dollars per euro.


The centrepiece of the agreement is the change in interest rates on Greek bailout loans. Bilateral loans provided to Athens under its first bailout would be cut 100 basis points, to just 50 points above interbank rates, knocking about €2 billion off Greek debt levels, or 2 per cent of GDP by 2020. Some eurozone countries, including Spain and Italy, borrow money at well above interbank rates, meaning they will probably be lending to Greece at a loss.


In addition, both the bilateral loans and assistance provided under a second Greek bailout, which is financed by the eurozone’s EURO440bn bailout fund, will have their maturities delayed another 15 years. Interest payments on the second bailout will also be deferred by 10 years.


The second main element was an agreement by eurozone governments to give up about €7 billion owed to them by the European Central Bank for profits on Greek bonds the bank holds. That money will instead be passed back to Greece, and officials said that would knock another 4.6 per cent of GDP off of Greek debt levels by 2020.


That leaves a substantial amount of the debt relief to the debt buyback programme. Eurozone officials refused to disclose details of the programme, saying they feared it would lead to a run-up in Greek bond prices, thus undermining its success. The key to a debt buyback is to purchase outstanding bonds at heavily distressed prices, allowing Greece to retire the debt far more cheaply than if they had to pay the bonds off when they reached maturity.


But in a statement, finance ministers said the buyback price for bonds could be no higher than prices at Friday’s market close – meaning there will be little if any premium offered to private debtholders, raising questions about how many will participate.


Even with the uncertainty, eurozone officials said they would release their €34.4bn once national parliaments approved the changes to the bailout; Juncker said he aimed to finalise the payment by December 13. Another EURO9.3bn in delayed aid, which was also approved last night, will be disbursed in three separate “sub-tranches” in the first quarter of 2013 as long as Greece meets reform targets included in the programme.


Eurozone officials said they believed the overhauled bailout would be less subject to volatility in the future, since it includes automatic budget cuts in Greece’s fiscal accounts if Athens begins veering off track again. Since the first bailout was agreed in May 2010, eurozone officials have been forced to agree a second bailout and conduct a major overhaul of that second plan twice.

Resource contracts create 75,000 jobs: Minister

Updated November 28, 2012 17:10:01

New figures show 75,000 new jobs have been created through West Australian resources contracts.

The local content report shows contracts worth more than $30 billion have been awarded to WA companies since July last year.

The Commerce Minister, Simon O’Brien, says it shows local businesses are benefiting from the mining industry.

Labor’s Fran Logan says the report is misleading.

“The figures that the Government are bragging about, when broken down, define the amount of money being poured into this sector of the economy, are in construction, services and the supply of equipment,” he said.

“There are no long term jobs benefiting from this report.”

Meanwhile, CKJV Construction has announced a recruitment campaign for 600 additional workers for the Chevron-operated Gorgon Project in WA’s Pilbara.

The workers are required for mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and commissioning support work for the oil and gas project.

The workers will be based at Henderson, south of Perth, or Barrow Island off the Pilbara coast.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, perth-6000

First posted November 28, 2012 17:01:46

Aramex founder to advise IBA on business projects

Ghando­ur joins IBA’s Centre for Entrep­reneur­ial Develo­pment. Chief executive officer of Aramex, Fadi Ghandour to head the advisory council of IBA’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Development. PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS


KARACHI: The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) appointed the chief executive officer of Aramex, Fadi Ghandour, on Monday, to head the advisory council of its Centre for Entrepreneurial Development.


The development centre was established last week to promote entrepreneurship in Pakistan.


Appointing Ghandour to lead the centre’s advisory council is a major achievement for IBA as he has a considerable experience in leading successful businesses. A passionate social entrepreneur, Ghandour formed the Arab American Express (Aramex) in Jordon in 1982 that went on to become one of the leading logistics companies in the Middle East and South Asia. It was also the first Arab company to go public on the United States’ NASDAQ stock market.


The development centre has been set up in alliance with Babson College in Boston, United States. It has also formed partnerships with several Pakistani organisations.


The objective of the advisory council is to guide the development centre in executing its plans and outreach programmes, said IBA’s spokesperson. “Ghandour’s appointment will help the centre in enabling the next generation of Pakistani entrepreneurs to translate their innovative ideas into commercially viable enterprises,” he added.

Adelaide to get free city wi-fi network

Updated November 28, 2012 08:25:37

There is a plan to roll out free wireless internet across central Adelaide by the end of next year.

A feasibility study has been done and firm proposals are being sought from information technology businesses.

The South Australian Government will contribute $1 million for the project and Adelaide City Council will put in half as much.

SA Premier Jay Weatherill said the coverage would be in public areas such as Rundle Mall, Victoria Square and the Riverbank precinct.

“We want to project the image of Adelaide being a modern, progressive city and to do that you’ve got to have the latest technology,” he said.

“This will give us the real edge on any other capital city in the nation because we want to attract more people into the city and this is how you get public life, you give people the opportunities to do the things they need to do in public spaces.”

Mr Weatherill said there were similar public wi-fi networks in cities including Singapore, Auckland, Wellington, Prague, Chattanooga and Luxembourg.

“We are already running a 12-month trial of free wi-fi on all Adelaide Metro trams and 20 buses,” the Premier said.

Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood said the project would complement an existing network which offered free wi-fi connection at more than 100 businesses in the city’s cafe areas.

Topics: information-and-communication, internet-culture, states-and-territories, local-government, internet-technology, computers-and-technology, wireless-networking, government-and-politics, business-economics-and-finance, adelaide-5000, sa, australia

First posted November 28, 2012 08:18:32

Shaikh Mohammad receives Ukrainian president

Dubai: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, received yesterday at Zabeel Palace Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich.

Shaikh Mohammad and Yanukovich discussed ways to expand avenues of cooperation and investments between the UAE and Ukraine, especially in the field of industry and agriculture.

Shaikh Mohammad expressed hope that Victor’s visit would yield positive results that will extend new bridges of communication between the two countries at the public and private sector level.

He stressed the UAE leadership and people’s keenness to further bolster bilateral relations, which are based on mutual respect and benefit and will help enhance relations between both countries’ peoples.

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Yanukovich emphasised that both countries enjoy the availability of joint capabilities that can provide a solid foundation for setting up rewarding partnership and investment relations that will help benefit both countries’ peoples, especially in the industrial and economic sectors. He expressed his confidence that his visit and meetings with the UAE’s leadership will yield positive results in the near future.

Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and other senior officials, were present.

Mari petroleum: Mari Gas Company’s name change approved

Mari Gas Compan­y (MGCL) has change­d its name to Mari Petrol­eum Compan­y Limite­d (MPCL). The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) had granted approval and issued appropriate notification.

ISLAMABAD: 

Mari Gas Company (MGCL) has changed its name to Mari Petroleum Company Limited (MPCL) with effect from November 19, 2012. The new name was approved in the company’s annual general meeting held on October 25, 2012.


The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) had granted approval and issued appropriate notification in this respect, said a press release issued on Monday.


The company has achieved significant successes in exploring, developing and bringing into production new gas, oil and condensate discoveries, in all provinces of the country. The company is now a major player in Pakistan’s exploration and production sector, operating seven exploration and production assets and has partnership in an equal number of non-operated assets, including its overseas investment.


The change embodies the expansion and diversification of company’s business activities and symbolises its new position in the Pakistan’s exploration and production sector.

Asian trade raises prospect of new Silk Road

Updated November 28, 2012 13:13:58

The economic growth of China and shifting of US foreign policy towards Asia has raised the prospect of a new ‘Silk Road’ boosting trade in the region.

More than 2,000 years ago, the so-called Silk Road linked Ancient China to Ancient Rome, spreading cultural, religious and political exchange throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

While the original route’s importance to global trade gradually dwindled, the importance of Asian markets has seen it re-emerge.

John Pang, CEO of the CIMB ASEAN Research Institute, says while the original route was used to transport mainly silk, the new route is different – but no less significant.

“Now there are routes being carved that dare very much driven by rail and oil and gas pipelines,” he said.

“This in general will open up central Asia and then opportunities for trade will open up.”

It’s mainly the private sector that is driving the new silk road development, although there is support from the governments of China, India and ASEAN.

Countries outside the region also have interest – the United States has announced its own silk road blueprint, what it calls “The New Silk Road Strategy”.

But Ben Simpfendorfer, Managing Director of Silk Road Associates, says he’s doubtful the US strategy, focused around Afghanistan, will work.

“The US is certainly less influential then it has been – it’s no longer the dominant trade partner for most countries in the region which is a sharp change of events over the last few decades – at the end of the day commerce does matter,” he said.

“The US would really like to remain a power within the region, and it clearly recognises that China’s growing commercial might is a direct challenge to its own interests.”

Critics say Washington will need to accept the influential role countries like Iran and Pakistan will inevitably need to play.

Ben Simpfendorfer says the geography of any trade route linking China and the Middle East would have to pass through Iran.

Vali Nasr from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies says with US and other foreign troops leaving, security in Afghanistan – or a lack of it – also threatens the US strategy.

“It hasn’t gone away and will not go away,” he said.

“The future stability of Afghanistan as a transportation and energy corridor is open to question.

“The other big question marks here are Iran and Pakistan, there’s a whole different set of security dynamics, the nuclear issue with Iran and the collapse of relations between the US and Pakistan.”

Topics: trade, china, asia, afghanistan, united-states

First posted November 28, 2012 12:41:25

Next Media in $600m Taiwan sale

28 November 2012 Last updated at 09:51 GMT Protesters in Taiwan There have been protests against the Next Media deal in Taiwan Hong Kong-based Next Media has agreed to sell its Taiwan print and television units to two local consortia for 17.5bn Taiwanese dollars ($600m; £375m).

There have been protests against the deal in Taiwan amid concerns it may hurt the independence of the media.

The fears have been stoked by the involvement of Want Want China Times Group, Taiwan’s biggest media firm, in one of the consortia.

If the deal goes through Want Want will own nearly 50% of Taiwan’s news media.

The deal still requires approval by Taiwanese authorities.

China fears

There have also been concerns over the influence China may have on the news media once the deal is completed.

Continue reading the main story image of Cindy Sui Cindy Sui BBC News, Taipei

Taiwan is considered to have one of the freest and most competitive media markets in the world. There are more than a dozen major newspapers, around 100 cable TV channels and thousands of magazines.

One of the reasons the sale of Next Media is causing concern is because it stands out in the crowd. Although sometimes criticised for being sensationalist, its owner Jimmy Lai does not have any particular party affiliation. He has said he simply wants his journalists to pursue stories people want to read.

The company is also respected for muckraking journalism. Its magazine Next Magazine routinely uncovers scandals by local politicians, including corruption involving the former cabinet secretary general, who was later forced to resign.

These have in part arisen from Want Want China Times Group’s business interests in the mainland.

The group is owned by Want Want Holdings Limited, chaired by Tsai Eng-meng, one of the largest snack food makers in China.

Mr Tsai is also known for his pro-China views.

Opponents of the deal say that if it does go through, Beijing may start to play a role in editorial decisions.

“China is having more and more control over Taiwan’s politics and economy,” Chen Siao-yi, head of the Taiwan Reporters Association, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

“Now they want public opinion too, because it is the missing piece of their puzzle.”

China does not recognise Taiwan, regarding the island as a breakaway province and wants unification.

Etisalat and Ogle Middle East Bring ‘Augmented Reality’ Era

Abu Dhabi: The Etisalat Group has partnered with Ogle Middle East, to roll out the Ogle application to its 100 million+ mobile subscribers across the Middle East and Africa. This is the first deployment of its kind in the Middle East and harnesses technology from Aurasma — the world’s leading Augmented Reality platform. Augmented Reality or “AR” is an innovative technology that transforms images and objects including brochures, packaging, tickets or any form of printed media into actual videos or 3D animations. Customers within the Etisalat footprint will be able to access more information such as videos, television commercials, discover discounts or even win prizes by ‘ogling’ a voucher, or advertisement with the app on their iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

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Apple sends maps executive to the wilderness

Updated November 28, 2012 09:14:49

Apple has reportedly sacked the executive who oversaw its glitch-ridden mobile mapping software.

The Dow Jones website AllThingsD, citing a source familiar with the matter, reported that Rich Williamson was fired last week in an extension of a shakeup at the California tech giant begun a month ago.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

In September the company was forced to make a highly embarrassing apology after it dumped Google Maps from its new mobile iOS6 operating system, and replaced it with its own glitch-ridden mapping program.

But the new Apple program immediately drew scorn for omitting key landmarks and cities, failing to identify correct locations and distorting views from its images.

The tech giant was inundated with complaints and urged customers to use rival programs while improvements were made.

The report of Mr Williamson’s sacking comes a month after Apple announced the departure of its head of the mobile software unit, Scott Forstall, as well as retail chief John Browett.

AFP/ABC

Topics: mobile-phones, information-and-communication, internet-technology, business-economics-and-finance, electronics, united-states

First posted November 28, 2012 09:10:08

China ‘not currency manipulator’

27 November 2012 Last updated at 21:41 GMT A 100 yuan note Many believe that China’s currency is well below what it would be worth if it floated freely The US has decided not to declare China as having manipulated its currency to gain an unfair trade advantage.

But the Treasury did say that China’s currency, the yuan, remains “significantly undervalued” and urged China to make further progress.

In its semi-annual report, it said Beijing did not meet the criteria to be called a currency manipulator, which could have sparked US trade sanctions.

Critics of China say it keeps the yuan low to keep its exports cheap.

“The Chinese authorities have substantially reduced the level of official intervention in exchange markets since the third quarter of 2011, and China has taken a series of steps to liberalise controls on capital movements, as part of a broader plan to move to a more flexible exchange rate regime,” the Treasury said.

But it noted there was more to do and that “further appreciation” against the US dollar and other major currencies was “warranted”.

The issue of whether China manipulates its currency is an important political issue and an ongoing source of tension between the world’s two biggest economies.

Defeated US presidential candidate Mitt Romney had said he would have branded China a currency manipulator on his first day in office.

Twice a year, the Treasury gives a report to Congress on China’s yuan policy. Previous reports have also found China keeps the yuan undervalued, but have fallen short of calling China a currency manipulator.

China has, since 2005, had a managed currency, whereby the yuan is pegged against a basket of foreign currencies. It has been slowing appreciating against the US dollar.

In its report, the Treasury said that the yuan had appreciated by 9.3% against the dollar since June 2010, while China’s trade and current account surpluses have both fallen from their peaks.

Political interference in Kabul Bank prosecution

Political interference in Kabul Bank prosecution

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Political interference in Kabul Bank prosecutionWednesday, 28 November 2012 13:12Posted by Parvez JabriE-mailPrintPDF

Kabul-Bank 400KABUL: An inquiry into the theft of some $900 million which led to the near-collapse of Afghanistan’s largest bank has found there was high-level political interference over who should face prosecution.

 

“Information received during the inquiry indicates that the final decision about who to indict was made at the political level in the spring of 2011 by a high-ranking committee,” the inquiry report said Wednesday.

 

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

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Fiscal Review 2012

  Economic Indicators Market at Close Annual2011/12 Foreign Debt$65.562bn Per Cap Income$1,372 GDP Growth3.7% Average CPI10.08% MonthlyOctober Trade Balance$-1.774 bln Exports$2.016 bln Imports$3.709 bln WeeklyNovember 26, 2012 Reserves$13.814 bln  Top Traded Advancers Decliners NO_IFRAMES  Currency Converter Amount: From: Albanian Lek (ALL)Algerian Dinar (DZD)Aluminium Oz. (XAL)Argentine Peso (ARS)Aruba Florin (AWG)Australia Dollar (AUD)Bahamian Dollar (BSD)Bahraini Dinar (BHD)Bangladesh Taka (BDT)Barbados Dollar (BBD)Belarus Ruble (BYR)Belize Dollar (BZD)Bermuda Dollar (BMD)Bhutan Ngultrum (BTN)Bolivian Bol. (BOB)Botswana Pula (BWP)Brazilian Real (BRL)British Pound (GBP)Brunei Dollar (BND)Bulgarian Lev (BGN)Burundi Franc (BIF)Cambodia Riel (KHR)Canadian Dollar (CAD)Cape Ver. Escudo (CVE)Cay. Is. Dollar (KYD)CFA Franc BCEAO (XOF)CFA Franc BEAC (XAF)Chilean Peso (CLP)Chinese Yuan (CNY)Colombian Peso (COP)Comoros Franc (KMF)Copper Pounds (XCP)Costa Rica Col. (CRC)Croatian Kuna (HRK)Cuban Peso (CUP)Cyprus Pound (CYP)Czech Koruna (CZK)Danish Krone (DKK)Dijibouti Franc (DJF)Dominican Peso (DOP)E. Carib. Dollar (XCD)Ecuador Sucre (ECS)Egyptian Pound (EGP)El Salv. Colon (SVC)Eritrea Nakfa (ERN)Estonian Kroon (EEK)Ethiopian Birr (ETB)Euro (EUR)Falk. Is. Pound (FKP)Fiji Dollar (FJD)Gambian Dalasi (GMD)Ghanian Cedi (GHC)Gibraltar Pound (GIP)Gold Ounces (XAU)Guat. Quetzal (GTQ)Guinea Franc (GNF)Guyana Dollar (GYD)Haiti Gourde (HTG)Honduras Lempira (HNL)Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)Hungarian Forint (HUF)Iceland Krona (ISK)Indian Rupee (INR)Indon. Rupiah (IDR)Iran Rial (IRR)Iraqi Dinar (IQD)Israeli Shekel (ILS)Jamaican Dollar (JMD)Japanese Yen (JPY)Jordanian Dinar (JOD)Kazak. Tenge (KZT)Kenya Shilling (KES)Korean Won (KRW)Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD)Lao Kip (LAK)Latvian Lat (LVL)Lebanese Pound (LBP)Lesotho Loti (LSL)Liberian Dollar (LRD)Libyan Dinar (LYD)Lithuanian Lita (LTL)Macau Pataca (MOP)Macedonian Denar (MKD)Malawi Kwacha (MWK)Malays. 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Lilageni (SZL)Swedish Krona (SEK)Swiss Franc (CHF)Syrian Pound (SYP)Taiwan Dollar (TWD)Tanzan. Shilling (TZS)Thai Baht (THB)Tonga Paanga (TOP)Trin-Tob Dollar (TTD)Tunisian Dinar (TND)U.S. Dollar (USD)UAE Dirham (AED)Uganda Shilling (UGX)Ukraine Hryvnia (UAH)Uruguay New Peso (UYU)Vanuatu Vatu (VUV)Venez. Bolivar (VEB)Vietnam Dong (VND)Yemen Riyal (YER)Zambian Kwacha (ZMK)Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWD) To: Albanian Lek (ALL)Algerian Dinar (DZD)Aluminium Oz. (XAL)Argentine Peso (ARS)Aruba Florin (AWG)Australia Dollar (AUD)Bahamian Dollar (BSD)Bahraini Dinar (BHD)Bangladesh Taka (BDT)Barbados Dollar (BBD)Belarus Ruble (BYR)Belize Dollar (BZD)Bermuda Dollar (BMD)Bhutan Ngultrum (BTN)Bolivian Bol. (BOB)Botswana Pula (BWP)Brazilian Real (BRL)British Pound (GBP)Brunei Dollar (BND)Bulgarian Lev (BGN)Burundi Franc (BIF)Cambodia Riel (KHR)Canadian Dollar (CAD)Cape Ver. Escudo (CVE)Cay. Is. Dollar (KYD)CFA Franc BCEAO (XOF)CFA Franc BEAC (XAF)Chilean Peso (CLP)Chinese Yuan (CNY)Colombian Peso (COP)Comoros Franc (KMF)Copper Pounds (XCP)Costa Rica Col. (CRC)Croatian Kuna (HRK)Cuban Peso (CUP)Cyprus Pound (CYP)Czech Koruna (CZK)Danish Krone (DKK)Dijibouti Franc (DJF)Dominican Peso (DOP)E. Carib. Dollar (XCD)Ecuador Sucre (ECS)Egyptian Pound (EGP)El Salv. Colon (SVC)Eritrea Nakfa (ERN)Estonian Kroon (EEK)Ethiopian Birr (ETB)Euro (EUR)Falk. Is. Pound (FKP)Fiji Dollar (FJD)Gambian Dalasi (GMD)Ghanian Cedi (GHC)Gibraltar Pound (GIP)Gold Ounces (XAU)Guat. Quetzal (GTQ)Guinea Franc (GNF)Guyana Dollar (GYD)Haiti Gourde (HTG)Honduras Lempira (HNL)Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)Hungarian Forint (HUF)Iceland Krona (ISK)Indian Rupee (INR)Indon. Rupiah (IDR)Iran Rial (IRR)Iraqi Dinar (IQD)Israeli Shekel (ILS)Jamaican Dollar (JMD)Japanese Yen (JPY)Jordanian Dinar (JOD)Kazak. Tenge (KZT)Kenya Shilling (KES)Korean Won (KRW)Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD)Lao Kip (LAK)Latvian Lat (LVL)Lebanese Pound (LBP)Lesotho Loti (LSL)Liberian Dollar (LRD)Libyan Dinar (LYD)Lithuanian Lita (LTL)Macau Pataca (MOP)Macedonian Denar (MKD)Malawi Kwacha (MWK)Malays. Ringgit (MYR)Maldives Rufiyaa (MVR)Maltese Lira (MTL)Maurit. Ougulya (MRO)Mauritius Rupee (MUR)Mexican Peso (MXN)Moldovan Leu (MDL)Mongolian Tugrik (MNT)Moroccan Dirham (MAD)Myanmar Kyat (MMK)Namibian Dollar (NAD)Nepalese Rupee (NPR)N. Anti. Guilder (ANG)New Turkish Lira (TRY)N.Zealand Dollar (NZD)Nicar. Cordoba (NIO)Nigerian Naira (NGN)North Korean Won (KPW)Norwegian Krone (NOK)Omani Rial (OMR)Pacific Franc (XPF)Pakistani Rupee (PKR)Palladium Ounces (XPD)Panama Balboa (PAB)Papua N.G. Kina (PGK)Paraguay Guarani (PYG)Peru. Nuevo Sol (PEN)Philippine Peso (PHP)Platinum Ounces (XPT)Polish Zloty (PLN)Qatar Rial (QAR)Romanian New Leu (RON)Russian Rouble (RUB)Rwanda Franc (RWF)Samoa Tala (WST)Sao Tome Dobra (STD)Saudi A. Riyal (SAR)Seychel. Rupee (SCR)Sierra L. Leone (SLL)Silver Ounces (XAG)Singapore Dollar (SGD)Slovak Koruna (SKK)Slovenian Tolar (SIT)Solo. Is. Dollar (SBD)Somali Shilling (SOS)S. African Rand (ZAR)Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR)St Helena Pound (SHP)Sudanese Dinar (SDD)Swazi. Lilageni (SZL)Swedish Krona (SEK)Swiss Franc (CHF)Syrian Pound (SYP)Taiwan Dollar (TWD)Tanzan. Shilling (TZS)Thai Baht (THB)Tonga Paanga (TOP)Trin-Tob Dollar (TTD)Tunisian Dinar (TND)U.S. Dollar (USD)UAE Dirham (AED)Uganda Shilling (UGX)Ukraine Hryvnia (UAH)Uruguay New Peso (UYU)Vanuatu Vatu (VUV)Venez. 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Ties with India: Industries ministry suggests gradual opening up of trade

Says negati­ve trade list should be phased out over a period of five years.  The ministry suggests a year-wise tariff reduction plan, starting with 25% in the third year, 25% in the fourth year and remaining 50% in the fifth year. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

ISLAMABAD: 

After fierce resistance from farmers’ lobbies and the textile ministry, the Ministry of Industries is also gearing up to slow down moves to open up trade with India, believing it will hurt the infant domestic industry and has proposed a gradual phase-out of negative trade list over a period of five years.


Pakistan is planning to grant most-favoured nation (MFN) status to India by the end of December and start free trade in January. The Ministry of Textile and farmers’ lobbies like the Farmers Associates Pakistan are opposing free trade with India on fears that it will swallow up Pakistan’s economy.


According to officials, the Ministry of Industries has recommended to the government to link the opening up of trade with reciprocal measures by India to ease the non-tariff barriers that stand in the way of Pakistan’s exporters. In case, it says, India stops removing the barriers during a period of time, the phase-out of negative trade list should be stopped by Pakistan for the same period.


The ministry says the commerce ministry has identified 636 items for trade with India after consultation with the industry and a study conducted by IBA Karachi. But generally there is little to rely on predictability.


The traditional measure used is the Revealed Comparative Advantage (RCA) index, ratio of a product’s share in a country’s exports to its share in world trade, it says. “As such, the RCA index simply records a country’s current trade pattern and it cannot be used to say whether or not it will make sense to support a particular sector or tariff lines for inclusion or otherwise in the proposed negative list.”


The ministry notes the RCA index misses the loss and setback suffered by the manufacturing industry. The industry feels while trade liberalisation is welcome, it will only benefit both sides if undertaken in a structured manner, providing space to the industry in the backdrop of the energy crunch, floods, law and order situation and high interest rates. The rising unemployment also cannot be ignored, it says.


textile


According to the South Asia Free Trade Area (Safta) accord, except for the items placed in the sensitive list, the rest of the tariff lines will come down to 0-5% by January next year.


“This will not only allow a huge quantum of tariff lines to be opened up for trade, the tariff will also be reduced drastically, for example, from as high as 35% to 5% in January 2013, which may have a huge cost impact on the local industry faced with a plethora of domestic supply-side constraints,” the ministry says.


It argues it is absolutely necessary to mitigate to some extent the effects of a sudden transition that will entail huge economic implications for the industry. The Safta impact should also be factored in while assessing the actual economic impact.


The ministry suggests that the negative list should be phased out over a period of five years and the phase-out should start after three years. The exercise should be in consonance with sensitivity levels of tariff lines in order of ‘least’ to ‘highly sensitive’.


The ministry suggests a year-wise tariff reduction plan, starting with 25% in the third year, 25% in the fourth year and remaining 50% in the fifth year. However, the tariff reduction should be linked with proportionate measures taken by India for easing non-tariff barriers.

Bond reverses Pinewood’s fortunes

27 November 2012 Last updated at 19:21 GMT Revenue from Skyfall starring Daniel Craig boosted Pinewood's profit Revenue from Skyfall starring Daniel Craig boosted Pinewood’s profit A series of blockbusters, including the latest James Bond movie, has helped UK film studios Pinewood Shepperton return to profit.

The group reported a pre-tax profit of £3m in the six months to 30 September, compared to a £5.4m loss for the half year to the end of December last year.

Revenue from Skyfall as well as an upcoming Disney film made its film arm the star performer for the period.

TV production revenues, however, fell sharply.

The interim results are Pinewood’s first since it changed its reporting period to the end of March from the end of December.

Overall, film revenues for the half year to end of September were £18.8m, up 15% from £16.4m for the six months to the end of December 2011, compared to a 30% drop in TV production revenues to £2.5m from £3.6m.

The company blamed the TV slump on “tough ongoing market conditions” and said that investment in upgrading its high-definition TV galleries had also forced it to turn away three large TV productions in favour of films.

Chief executive Ivan Dunleavy added there was an “encouraging” number of film productions in the pipeline for next year, and said that in light of “continuing and future demand for its facilities” a £6.9m project to extend its studio facilities had received approval.

Pinewood’s results last year were hit by an exceptional £7.1m charge, after planning permission for its ambitious “Project Pinewood” plan to create a purpose-built film set with 1,400 permanent homes was turned down.

Privacy groups ask Facebook to withdraw proposed policy changes

Change­s raise privac­y risks for users, violat­e compan­y’s previo­us commit­ments to its roughl­y 1 billio­n member­s. Changes raise privacy risks for users, violate company’s previous commitments to its roughly 1 billion members. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


SAN FRANCISCO: Two privacy advocacy groups urged Facebook Inc on Monday to withdraw proposed changes to its terms of service that would allow the company to share user data with recently acquired photo-application Instagram, eliminate a user voting system and loosen email restrictions within the social network.


The changes, which Facebook unveiled on Wednesday, raise privacy risks for users and violate the company’s previous commitments to its roughly 1 billion members, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy.


“Facebook’s proposed changes implicate the user privacy and terms of a recent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission,” the groups said in a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg that was published on their websites on Monday.


By sharing information with Instagram, the letter said, Facebook could combine user profiles, ending its practice of keeping user information on the two services separate.


Facebook declined to comment on the letter.


In April, Facebook settled privacy charges with the US Federal Trade Commission that it had deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. Under the settlement, Facebook is required to get user consent for certain changes to its privacy settings and is subject to 20 years of independent audits.


Facebook, Google and other online companies have faced increasing scrutiny and enforcement from privacy regulators as consumers entrust ever-increasing amounts of information about their personal lives to Web services.


Facebook unveiled a variety of proposed changes to its terms of service and data use polices on Wednesday, including a move to scrap a 4-year old process that can allow the social network’s roughly 1 billion users to vote on changes to its policies.


If proposed changes generate more than 7,000 public comments during a seven-day period, Facebook’s current terms of service automatically trigger a vote by users to approve the changes. But the vote is only binding if at least 30% of users take part, and two prior votes never reached that threshold.


The latest proposed changes had garnered more than 17,000 comments by late Monday.


Facebook also said last week that it wanted to eliminate a setting for users to control who can contact them on the social network’s email system. The company said it planned to replace the “Who can send you Facebook messages” setting with new filters for managing incoming messages.


That change is likely to increase the amount of unwanted “spam” messages that users receive, the privacy groups warned on Monday.


Facebook’s potential information sharing with Instagram, a photo-sharing service for smartphone users that it bought in October, flows from proposed changes that would allow the company to share information between its own service and other businesses or affiliates it owns.


The change could open the door for Facebook to build unified profiles of its users that include people’s personal data from its social network and from Instagram, similar to recent moves by Google Inc.


In January, Google said it would combine users’ personal information from its various Web services – such as search, email and the Google+ social network – to provide a more customised experience. The unified data policy raised concerns among some privacy advocates and regulators, who said it was an invasion of people’s privacy.


“As our company grows, we acquire businesses that become a legal part of our organisation,” Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes said in an emailed statement on Monday.


“Those companies sometimes operate as affiliates. We wanted to clarify that we will share information with our affiliates and vice versa, both to help improve our services and theirs, and to take advantage of storage efficiencies,” Noyes said.

Taxi owners stage mock funeral procession

Updated November 28, 2012 16:43:07

A convoy of 200 taxis has driven through city streets as owners protest against changes to the industry.

They say they will be left bankrupt if the State Government adopts a recommendation to remove a cap on the number of taxis allowed to operate.

It’s one of several recommendations in a draft report on the industry, that the Government says it is still considering.

Taxi owner and industry spokesman, Harry Katsiabanis says new licences should be introduced gradually and current licence holders should be compensated.

“If Government wants to be noble and do the right thing, and they believe our industry is in turmoil and they want to start again, let’s compensate everybody and let’s start from scratch,” he said.

“That would be the noble thing to do.

“Not to come along and decimate people’s wealth and bankrupt three thousand Victorians.”

Mr Katsiabanis says the the unlimited release of licenses will be the death and the decimation of the taxi industry.

Topics: transport, state-parliament, melbourne-3000

First posted November 28, 2012 16:35:03

Insurance House awarded by the Insurance Authority

Abu Dhabi: Insurance House PSC (IH), was awarded by the Insurance Authority as one of the top insurance companies in the UAE, committed to Emiratisation guidelines. The awards were presented by Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister Economy, and Ebrahim Obaid Al Za’abi, Acting Director General of Insurance Authority. The honour comes in line with the campaign launched by the Insurance Authority on the occasion of the 41st UAE National Day under the theme “a flag on my desk”, to recognise the efforts of insurance companies that have more than 10 per cent Emirati employees among its staff.

Mohammad Othman, General Manager of Insurance House, said: “Since inception, we ensured to adopt Insurance Authority’s guidelines, where we made sure to recruit Emiratis and develop their skills in order to prepare them to handle the highest positions in our growing company”.

Article continues below

BP sells off assets in North Sea

28 November 2012 Last updated at 14:51 GMT The fire at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused one of the worst oil spills in history BP has sold its stakes in several North Sea oil and gas fields to a state-owned Abu Dhabi energy group for $1.06bn (£663m).

Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal highlighted the “North Sea’s position as a global energy hub”.

The proceeds from BP’s sale will help cover billions of dollars in costs from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Abu Dhabi National Energy (Taqa) will acquire stakes in the BP-operated Harding, Maclure and Devenick fields.

‘Global race’

Mr Cameron said: “This is a vote of confidence in the UK economy and once again, highlights the North Sea’s position as a global energy hub.

“Today’s announcement shows how recent changes to the North Sea tax regime are helping to create and sustain thousands of jobs in Scotland and across the rest of the UK, ensuring we thrive in the global race.”

Carl Sheldon, chief executive of Taqa, said the billion-dollar deal, which is to be completed in 2013, would add 21,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day to its output, establishing the Abu Dhabi group “as a leading operator in the UK North Sea”.

The acquisition is made up of BP’s interests in both mature and newly developed projects including Harding (70%), Maclure (37.03%) and Devenick (88.7%) fields in the central North Sea, as well as BP’s non-operated interests in the Brae fields complex and the Braemar field.

The disposed assets produce 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, or nearly a quarter of BP’s UK production, according to Peter Hutton, an energy analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Tax breaks

The latest disposal follows a sale in March of BP’s southern North Sea gas assets to France’s Perenco for $400m.

BP is trying to divest aging fields to concentrate on new projects in central UK and Norwegian waters.

“This transaction is in line with BP’s strategy to focus on a smaller number of higher-value assets with long-term growth potential and to continue the simplification of our portfolio with a further reduction of operated infrastructure and wells,” said BP chief executive Bob Dudley.

The UK government in September unveiled a tax break for oil and gas companies in a bid to reverse a decline in exploration and production in an industry which employs more than 300,000 people.

“While new tax allowances have made investment in a range of challenging fields more attractive to investors, the current wave of activity comes with the expectation that the government will deliver certainty on tax relief on decommissioning,” said Mike Tholen, Oil & Gas UK’s economics and commercial director.

“We look forward to hearing more on that front” in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 5 December, he added.

In July, China’s Sinopec bought a 49% stake in the North Sea assets of Calgary-based Talisman Energy worth $1.5bn.

Criminal fine

BP’s latest sale brings total disposals since 2010 to about $37bn, close to a $38bn target set aside by the company to pay for the total cost of the accident including fines and other liabilities.

BP earlier this month received a record $4.5bn fine relating to the fatal 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster when an oil rig exploded and killed 11 workers.

Two BP workers have been indicted on manslaughter charges and an ex-manager charged with misleading Congress.

As part of the agreement, BP will also plead guilty to 14 criminal charges.

Weaker commodities drag down market

Posted November 28, 2012 17:57:12

The share market ended the day lower, as weaker commodity prices dragged down resource stocks.

The All Ordinaries lost a quarter of 1 per cent to 4,463 while the ASX 200 retreated 10 points to 4,447.

Rio Tinto was one of the hardest hit, losing almost 2 per cent, while BHP Billiton retreated 0.5 per cent.

The major banks were mostly higher, but Commonwealth slipped 0.5 per cent.

Energy stocks were hurt by a fall in oil prices; Woodside lost 1 per cent.

Defensive sectors managed to buck the trend.

Telstra continued to find support, up another 1 per cent to $4.33.

Its rival Singtel, owner of Optus, added almost 3 per cent.

Qantas, meanwhile, has another stoush on its hands, this time with Tourism Australia.

The airline has withdrawn its financial support for the federal body because the chairman is Geoff Dixon, the same man involved in the failed Qantas takeover in 2007, and is now making rumblings of another stab at the airline.

Shares in Qantas slid 2.25 per cent, but that was in line with the losses suffered by its rival Virgin.

Gaming company Aristocrat saw a 7 per cent rise after opening up its books and revealing a strong nine-month performance, doubling profits.

In economic news, a report from the OECD expected Australia’s economic growth to slow to 3 per cent next year, down from an earlier prediction of 3.7 per cent.

It also warned the Federal Government to not push for a budget surplus this financial year if the economy weakened significantly.

But Finance Minister Penny Wong insisted the outlook confirmed the economy was strong.

About 5pm (AEDT) the Australian dollar was down slightly from the same time a day earlier, buying 104.5 US cents.

It was also buying 80.8 euro cents, 65.3 British pence and 85.4 Japanese yen.

West Texas crude was worth $US87 a barrel, Tapis dropped to $US114 and spot gold was lower at $US1,738 an ounce.

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

Thomas Cook sees losses widen

28 November 2012 Last updated at 08:28 GMT Thomas Cook Thomas Cook has been selling off some of its assets to reduce its debts Struggling travel group Thomas Cook has reported widening annual losses due to reduced capacity and higher fuel costs.

Pre-tax losses for the year to the end of September were £485.3m, up from £398.2m the previous year.

Revenue fell to £9.5bn from £9.8bn in what the company described as a “difficult trading environment”.

Despite the loss, the company said the final quarter had been a “major improvement” on a year ago and added it was “optimistic about the future”.

“These results reflect the major issues that Thomas Cook faced last year, but they mask the material improvement that we made in the fourth quarter,” said Harriet Green, who took over as chief executive in the summer.

The company also said it had reduced its debts by more than £100m over the period, to £788m from £891m.

Lower bookings

Thomas Cook said plans to stabilise the business in the UK were now complete, with the closure of 149 shops contributing to significant cost savings and an improvement in profit margins.

Bookings in the UK during the year were down 2%, however, while they fell by 9% in west Europe and by 3% in north Europe. Bookings in Germany were up by 9%.

The company has struggled with high debt and the wider downturn in the global travel sector.

It got into particular difficulty last year when the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa affected its operations in Egypt and Tunisia.

In May this year, the group secured a £1.4bn refinancing package, giving it a further three years to repay its debts.

Tablets and smart phones take a bite off Gulf PC market

Dubai: Tablets and smart phones will continue to eat further into the Gulf PC shipments in the fourth quarter as consumers are spending less on personal computers coupled with political instability in Kuwait and Bahrain.

PC shipments for the fourth quarter are expected to be 1.56 million units, a decline of 0.9 per cent compared to 1.57 million units during the same quarter last year.

“Vendors and channels were stuck with high levels of inventory from the first half of this year due to continuously sluggish demand by end users,” Fouad Rafiq Charakla, research manager at IDC, told in an exclusive with Gulf News.

The UAE is the only country in the Gulf expected to register a year-on-year growth of 10 per cent to 683,725 units in the fourth quarter.

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The market value in the fourth quarter is expected to be $1.06 million, a decline of 4.5 per cent compared to $1.11 million during the same period last year.

Average selling price for laptops in the fourth quarter is expected to be $683 compared to $669 during the same period last year while for desktops, average selling price to be $664 in fourth quarter compared to $636 during the same period last year.

“We are seeing a strong shift to tablets, especially in Saudi Arabia than UAE. We are facing tough market conditions in the Kingdom,” Amin Mortajawi, vice-president for Acer Middle East and Africa, said.

He said that despite the growth in tablets, there is still a market for computers in the region.

A lot of education deals are expected to materialise for tablets in the coming quarters. The third quarter of this year also saw a large delivery of tablets that took place in the education sector of UAE.

“The launch of Windows 8 is bringing a large number of new models and will support the emergence of new form factors,” Denzil D’Souza, Business Head for Notebooks, Samsung Gulf Electronics, said.

In the third quarter, total shipments declined by 3.8 per cent year on year to 1.51 million units compared to 1.57 million units during the same period last year.

“It was yet another slow quarter for ultra-slim notebooks which only managed a 10 per cent share of total portables in the third quarter in the Gulf,” he said.

In the third quarter, the market value stood at $1 billion compared to $1.07 billion during the same period last year.

“We are seeing a strong shift to tablets, especially in Saudi Arabia than UAE. We are facing tough market conditions in the Kingdom,” Amin Mortajawi, vice-president for Acer Middle East and Africa, said.

He said that despite the growth in tablets, there is still a market for computers in the region.

One in 10 workers underemployed

28 November 2012 Last updated at 13:21 GMT Penny Cook has asked her part-time employer for more hours but has been refused

One in 10 of all workers in the UK is now officially underemployed, according to a study from the Office For National Statistics (ONS).

It says 3.05 million workers want to work more hours each week, out of a total workforce of 29.41 million.

The number of workers in this position has shot up by 980,000 in the four years since the start of the economic recession in 2008.

Most of the underemployment is concentrated among part-time workers.

The main reason for the growth of underemployment has been the economic downturn of the past few years.

“During this period many workers moved from full-time to part-time roles and many of those returning to work after a period of unemployment could only find part-time jobs,” the statistical office said.

“Of the extra one million underemployed workers in 2012 compared with 2008, three-quarters were in part-time posts.”

The ONS said 1.9 million of the underemployed were in part-time jobs and this meant, in turn, that 24% of all part-timers wanted more work.

By contrast, only 5.5% of full-time staff said they wanted to work more hours.

Each quarter, as part of its Labour Force Survey (LFS), the ONS asks respondents a series of questions about their willingness and ability to work more hours.

Someone is counted as underemployed if they are working fewer hours than they would like.

Continue reading the main story The growth of underemployment has gone alongside a big fall in the real value of earnings, the ONS said, which have been outstripped by inflation in recent years.

Jane Tomlinson, a part-time worker from Oxford, told the BBC what it had been like to be underemployed for the past year.

“I work only 15 hours a week paid work for a charity as communications manager,” she said.

“I don’t actually want a full-time job, but I need more than 15 hours a week, so I pick up a bit of copywriting work here and there as I can find it.

“But month to month it’s really tough as I make only just enough to pay the bills. Thank goodness my husband has a job,” she added.

‘Half-time salaries’

Caroline Parre, an academic from Birmingham, said for the past three years the recession had prevented her hours being extended.

Continue reading the main story
With part-timers we can contract and expand our workforce relative to increases and decreases in orders received,”

End Quote Colin Johnson An employer from Lincoln “Recruited to set up a research centre, the expectation had always been the part-time job would convert into full-time employment. The recession has changed that hope,” she said.

“There is danger in the situation: to enable the success of the venture I have, voluntarily, worked full-time hours on a part-time salary, in the hope and belief that efforts would be rewarded.

“Efforts, of course, are not rewarded, and employers find themselves in the happy position of paying full time workers half-time salaries,” she pointed out.

But a spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the figures showed that three quarters of all part-time staff appeared to be content.

“Part-time working suits millions of people and gives others the skills and experience to find a different job or take advantage of longer hours when they are available,” she said.

“For many people it is an important step to full-time work and coming off benefits.”

This was backed up by Colin Johnson, who runs a mail order company in Lincoln and who told the BBC his staff were happy to work part-time.

“All of my employees are technically part-time. Some are working mums who work around schooling,” he said.

“With part-timers we can contract and expand our workforce relative to increases and decreases in orders received, and we can dovetail staff to deal with peaks on the phone.

“Prior to this way of working we would have out-sourced, so these are new jobs,” he added.

Self-employed

The ONS explained that most of the rise in underemployment took place between 2008 and 2009, when the recession first gripped the UK economy.

ONS statistician Jamie Jenkins: “Underemployment has gone up by one million people since the economic crisis”

Since then it has still been rising, though more slowly then before.

According to the ONS analysis, the problem is worst among the lowest paid, young workers and those in low-skilled jobs, such as labourers, cleaners and catering staff.

The shortage of work has also led to a big rise in the level of underemployment reported by the self-employed.

They are now even more likely to report being underemployed than those who work for others.

However the precise reasons for individuals being underemployed can vary.

The ONS said these reasons could include:

employers only being able to offer a few hours of work each week workers, such as bar staff, being in jobs where they are only required for a few hours a day personal circumstances changing so that someone now wants to work more hours then beforepeople settling for a part-time job as second-best when they would much rather have a full-time one

Labour market economist John Philpott said: “Approaching one in five economically active people are struggling in today’s ‘no or not enough work’ economy.

“Add in the effect of falling real take-home pay for the vast majority of people in work and it becomes clear how much distress is being suffered.”

The TUC’s general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: “Being underemployed carries a huge pay penalty that puts a real strain on people’s finances.

“Long periods of underemployment can cause longer term career damage, which is particularly worrying for the one in five young people currently trapped in it.”

Talks fail to resolve Treasury Wine pay stoush

Posted November 28, 2012 10:20:14

Negotiations between unions and Treasury Wine Estates over an industrial dispute in north-west Victoria have broken down.

Nearly 70 workers were locked out from the winery at Karadoc, near Mildura, yesterday over a disagreement about a new pay deal.

The Victorian secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Cesar Melham, says it will consider taking the dispute back to Fair Work Australia.

“That’s one of the options we are considering, so we’ll be discussing this morning with our members and look at whether or not we go back to Fair Work to address the issues,” he said.

“The difficulty is that there might be some technical hurdles we might have to overcome.”

Mr Melham says he is disappointed the talks have failed.

“I call on the management to sit down with the union and the workers to try and sort this out because we can get an outcome … but it requires a common sense approach from the company, we’ll definitely approach it in a common sense way,” he said.

Topics: industrial-relations, work, activism-and-lobbying, unions, mildura-3500, horsham-3400

China certain to hit 7.5% 2012 GDP growth target

Beijing: China is certain to hit the government’s economic growth target of 7.5 per cent for 2012 and could even exceed it, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said on Wednesday.

Chen made the comment at a conference, adding that China would likely spend more than $70 billion this year on non-financial outbound direct investment.

“In the first three quarters, China’s economy has grown 7.7 per cent from a year ago, therefore, it is for certain that we can achieve the annual GDP target of 7.5 per cent or above,” Chen said in a speech.

The minister’s remarks on growth echo those made by an official from the National Bureau of Statistics in October when economic data for the third quarter revealed annual growth had dipped to 7.4 per cent.

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China’s growth rate has slowed for seven successive quarters and is on course for its weakest full year of expansion since 1999, albeit at a pace that far outstrips the rest of the world’s major economies.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect China, the world’s second biggest economy, to grow by 7.7 per cent in 2012.

Beijing has followed a programme of fine-tuning of economic policies — cutting interest rates, freeing more cash for lending and approving a raft of infrastructure projects — for the last 12 months in an effort to underpin an economy currently caught in its slackest period of activity since the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

China’s exposure to the global trade cycle has seen growth crimped by a slow recovery in the United States and a lingering financial crisis in the European Union — the two biggest markets for goods from the country’s factories.

China’s $1.9 trillion of exports were worth about 31 percent of GDP in 2011, according to World Bank data and about 200 million Chinese jobs are estimated to be supported by the external sector.

Being levered to external demand makes Beijing particularly sensitive to the risk of protectionism — even more so as the government seeks to broaden the structure of the economy and put more of its huge $3.2 trillion stockpile of foreign reserves to work through outbound direct investment.

Chen said the trend for China to increase its outbound investment would continue for years to come.

“As you know, China has more than $3 trillion of foreign exchange reserves, which has provided (favourable) conditions for our outbound investment,” he told the conference.

“I think the non-financial outbound investment this year will be larger than last year and likely top $70 billion.”?

China’s outbound direct investment from non-financial firms in the first 10 months totalled $58.2 billion, up 25.8 per cent year-on-year, Ministry of Commerce data shows.

Outbound direct investment rose 8.5 per cent to $74.7 billion in 2011, extending a decade-long expansion streak. The government is targeting a total of $560 billion in outbound foreign direct investment in the five years to 2015.

The head of China’s $482 billion sovereign wealth fund told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that he detected a rise in protectionism in Western economies and that the fund would not invest where it was not welcome.

Tensions have risen recently between an increasingly wealthy and acquisitive China and many of its Western trading partners still struggling to recover from the effects of the global financial crisis and where companies hungry for investment capital are up for sale.

A series of trade actions against China by President Barack Obama, including his blocking of a privately owned Chinese company from building wind turbines close to a US military site, and his challenge of Chinese auto and auto-parts subsidies in a World Trade Organization case, have increased the friction.

China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd and its Canadian takeover target Nexen Inc on Tuesday withdrew and resubmitted an application for US approval of a proposed $15.1 billion tie-up, as Canada gets close to its decision on whether to approve the transaction.

A brief statement did not provide a reason for, or the timing of, the unexpected move. It was not immediately clear whether the announcement meant the process had hit a snag or signalled a delay in closing the deal, which has become a topic of heated debate in Canada.

Power projects: Officials to discuss financing strategies with US team today

Video confer­ence to help break some ground ahead of offici­al meetin­g next month. The conference will involve officials from the US Department of State in Washington and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources in Islamabad. DESIGN: JAMAL KHURSHID

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan will urge the United States (US) to play a leading role in the arrangement of financing for several multibillion dollars energy projects in a live video energy conference to be held on Tuesday (today). The projects that will come under discussion include the Diamer Bhasha Dam and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.


The US is backing the $7.5 billion TAPI gas pipeline project: “The Pakistani side will brief the US team about progress on this project, so as to seek funds from the US,” sources said.


The spokesperson of the US Embassy in Islamabad said that the embassy is facilitating a digital video conference between officials of the two countries on November 27 (today), which will involve officials from the US Department of State in Washington and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources in Islamabad. She said the conference has been designed to prepare an agenda for the upcoming Energy Working Group meeting.


The Energy Working Group is a dialogue between officials from both countries, designed to help Pakistan address its energy sector challenges, including generation, fuel, and reform priorities.


 


“The Energy Working Group will be the third in a series of bilateral working groups convened by the US and Pakistan this quarter to identify shared interests and take concrete steps to address common goals,” the spokesperson said.


“The first video conference with officials from the Ministry of Water and Power took place in October,” the spokesperson informed.


The US has already asked Pakistan to securitise the assets of the Tarbela and Mangla dams, among others, in order to obtain funds from international donors for the multibillion dollar Diamer Bhasha Dam.


Pakistan is facing difficulties in arranging funds for the $13 billion Diamer Bhasha Dam: donors have expressed reluctance to extend loans for the project, purportedly due to Indian lobbying.


Pakistani authorities expect to raise $3 billion by securitising the assets of the Tarbela and Mangla dams, but US officials insist that all the cost of the Diamer Bhasha project should be covered through the securitisation plan.


The US has assured Pakistan that it will play its role in generating the funds to meet the entire cost of the project by becoming part of a financers’ consortium led by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).


 


Pakistan has already said it wants to shift its focus to electricity generation from its coal resources, and officials have briefed the American team on plans to convert thermal plants to coal in a prior session.


The US is additionally providing assistance in various power sector projects, including the upgradation of the Tarbela power station; the Mangla Dam power house; the Jamshoro, Guddu and Muzaffargarh thermal plants; and is providing funding for the completion of the Gomal Zam Dam and Satpata Dam projects. These energy projects will add nearly 900 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by 2013.

Nintendo says more than 400,000 Wii Us sold in US

New York: Nintendo has sold more than 400,000 of its new video game console, the Wii U, in its first week on sale in the US, the company said on Monday.

The Wii U launched on November 18 in the US at a starting price of $300 Dh1,101. Nintendo said the sales figure, based on internal estimates, is through Saturday, or seven days later.

The Wii U is the first major game console to launch in six years. It comes with a new touch-screen controller that promises to change how people play games by offering different people in the same room a different experience, depending on the controller used.

Six years ago, Nintendo Co sold 475,000 of the original Wii in that console’s first seven days in stores, according to data from the NPD Group. The original Wii remains available, and Nintendo said it sold more than 300,000 of them last week, along with roughly 250,000 handheld Nintendo 3DS units and about 275,000 of the Nintendo DS.

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At this early stage, demand isn’t the only factor dictating how many consoles are sold. Supply is, too. This means it’s likely that more people wanted to buy the Wii U in the first week than those who were able to. The original Wii was in short supply more than a year after it went on sale.

As of Monday afternoon, the website of Best Buy Co was sold out of the Wii U. Video game retailer GameStop Corp. said there was at least a three day wait for a deluxe Wii U, which costs $350, has more memory and comes with a game called “Nintendo Land.” GameStop still had the basic, $300 version available.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter estimates that Nintendo will ship 1 million to 1.5 million Wii Us in the US through the end of January.

Market watch :Market rallies led by high-cap, blue-chip stocks

Benchm­ark KSE-100 index jumps 94 points. Trade volumes climbed to 318 million shares compared with Monday’s tally of 260 million shares.


KARACHI: The local bourse managed to buck the trend with Index-heavyweights oil and gas sector, cement sector and blue-chip stocks making their mark, pushing the market to an unprecedented high above the 16,350-point barrier.


The Karachi Stock Exchange’s (KSE) benchmark 100-share index jumped 0.58% or 94.29 points to end at the 16,364.77 point level. Trade volumes climbed to 318 million shares compared with Monday’s tally of 260 million shares.


“Renewed buying was seen in cement stocks amid expectations that their next quarterly results will be better than their last quarter,” said Samar Iqbal, analyst at Topline Securities.


DG Khan Cement remained in the spotlight in anticipation of bottom-line growth due to expected lower effective taxation and better fuel efficiency on the back of Tyre Derived Fuel plant, to be operational in December 2012. As for Maple Leaf Cement, according to a statement by officials earlier, the company may record the highest profit in six years as cement prices rise and slashed interest rates reduce loan payments.


Shares of 411 companies were traded on Tuesday. The value of shares traded during the day was Rs6.9 billion.


“Index heavy names Oil and Gas Development Company and Pakistan State Oil attracted attention and closed in black on institutional interest with the former hitting its upper circuit despite earlier reports that government will not likely approve increase in gas prices of one of its key fields – Qadirpur gas field,” said Faisal Bilwani, analyst at Elixir Securities.


Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) led the gainers after news of increase in electricity tariffs brought significant interest from retail investors who jumped aboard the bandwagon of the company which actually gains nothing from the tariff increase, added Bilwani.


Fauji Cement was the volume leader with 31.71 million shares shedding Rs0.13 to finish at Rs6.90. It was followed by KESC with 28.26 million shares gaining Rs0.73 to close at Rs6.56 and DG Khan Cement with 19.8 million shares rising Rs1.96 to close at Rs55.40.


Foreign institutional investors were net buyers of Rs75.85 million, according to data maintained by the National Clearing Company of Pakistan Limited.

Swedish central bank more likely to cut rates next than raise

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:01 Posted by Asad Naeem

swedish central STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s central bank is more likely to cut interest rates in the coming months than to raise them, central bank Deputy Governor Barbro Wickman-Parak said on Wednesday.

“There is a bigger possibility of a cut than a hike this winter,” Wickman-Parak said in a speech at a bank conference.

The Riksbank has cut its key repo rate twice this year, the last time in September, but left it at 1.25 percent in October. It is widely expected to cut again at its next meeting in December due to a slowdown in the economy.

Wickman-Parak also told the bankers she was worried about Swedish household debt levels but it was difficult to say what level was dangerous.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

Goal-line technology battle goes to shoot-out

28 November 2012 Last updated at 00:07 GMT By Will Smale Business reporter, BBC News, Soccerex, Rio Germany goalkeeper dives as Frank Lampard shot bounces behind the line. A shot by England’s Frank Lampard against Germany at the 2010 World Cup reignited the goal-line debate A multi-million pound competition to provide world football with game-changing new technology is about to go to a penalty shoot-out.

The change in question is the introduction of goal-line technology (GLT), which was approved by world governing body Fifa and the International Football Association Board – the body that determines the laws of the game – back in the summer.

The aim of GLT is to tell whether the ball has crossed the goal-line in incidents where the referee and his assistants are unable to see for sure.

From a shortlist of 11 different companies and technologies, Fifa has given licences to two separate firms, the UK-based but Sony-owned Hawk-Eye, and Germany’s GoalRef.

With Fifa yet to decide which system it will use for the 2014 World Cup, and national football leagues across the world also yet to choose between the two, the stakes are very high.

Especially when you consider the level of money involved. While the two companies are reluctant to provide exact figures, the cost of installing their systems in a football stadium have been estimated at about £250,000 for Hawk-Eye and £150,000 for GoalRef.

Japan tournament

When you multiply those figures by the number of professional football teams around the world, you are reaching rather large amounts of money. And that is before you add the follow-on annual servicing costs.

Marko Devic of Ukraine appeals to the officials after his shot appeared to cross the line against England There was controversy as Ukraine were refused what appeared to be a goal against England at Euro 2012

This week GLT has been discussed at Soccerex, the global convention of football business and finance, which is being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

With the panel including senior figures from both Hawk-Eye and GoalRef, and senior Fifa official Christoph Schmidt, it was confirmed that Fifa would be testing both systems at the 2012 World Club Cup tournament, which starts next week in Japan.

Mr Schmidt said that after evaluating their performance in Japan, Fifa would then make its choice. Many national football authorities are then expected to follow its lead.

With the two firms said to be neck-and-neck, Japan will be their equivalent of a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out.

Rapid response

But before exploring what was said at Soccerex, it is worth pausing to take a closer look at the two rival systems.

Hawk-Eye uses seven cameras focused on each goal. With the cameras fixed to the stadium roof, they give a 3D picture of the ball’s exact location.

Goalref wristwatch demo The GoalRef system works by using magnetic sensors

It is a system that has been used by both the sports of tennis and cricket for a number of years.

GoalRef by contrast, uses a system of electro-magnetism, with sensors both inside the goal posts and the match-day balls.

Each system connects to wrist bands worn by the match officials, and can alert them in under a second whether the ball crossed the goal-line.

It is important to stress that Fifa will not require any league around the world to install GLT – it will remain voluntary.

However, the top professional leagues in each country are all expected to bring in the technology, such has been the desire to eradicate incorrect goal decisions, both from fans, and clubs concerned by the potential financial implication of losing vital games – such as relegation deciders – because of refereeing mistakes.

‘Fair fight’

Speaking at Soccerex, Hawk-Eye inventor Paul Hawkins said he relished the battle with GoalRef.

“Football is a great game because of the competition, and all businesses face competition,” he said.

Hawk-Eye goal-line system The Hawk-Eye system uses a number of cameras

“We have different technological approaches, and both of us have been working slowly and steadily.

“If both of us keep our heels clean, it should be a fair fight.”

Thomas Pellkofer, operational manager at GoalRef, also said that his company welcomed the healthy competition, and he highlighted the effective simplicity of its system.

“There is a sensor in the balls, but no electricity, it is completely passive,” he said.

“The ball is exactly the same for the players, it is seamless integration.”

Other entrants

Yet while GoalRef and Hawk-Eye have been chosen by Fifa from an initial short-list of 11, the remaining nine companies, and other competitors, could still have their systems approved by Fifa in the future, Mr Schmidt confirmed.

He said: “The market is open to any technical companies if others come to the market.”

England are convinced the ball has crossed the goal-line in the World Cup final of 1966 There have been arguments about balls crossing the line for a number of decades

Mr Schmidt added that this would only be a good thing, because further competition would bring down prices.

So even with Fifa set to shortly choose either GoalRef or Hawk-Eye, it could end up then switching to a different provider of GLT in the future.

With each company only getting an initial licence for two years, this level of uncertainty is said to be putting off some football leagues from making their choice.

One official at the English Premier League told the BBC on condition of anonymity that it didn’t want to be in a position where its clubs install one system at significant expense, only to then have to change it a number of years down the line.

The question of which company triumphs in the GLT marketplace could ultimately prove as controversial as the simple issue of whether the ball crossed the line has been until now.

Bankia, Banco de Valencia trading suspended

Bankia, Banco de Valencia trading suspended

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Bankia, Banco de Valencia trading suspendedWednesday, 28 November 2012 13:04Posted by Parvez JabriE-mailPrintPDF

SPAIN1 400 copyMADRID: Trading in two Spanish banks, Bankia and Banco De Valencia, already nationalised because of their financial difficulties, has been suspended, banking regulators CNMV announced Wednesday.

 

The announcement came the day after the news that Banco de Valencia was to be taken over by Caixabank, the third largest in Spain. In Bankia’s case, the CNMV referred to what it described as circumstances that could disturb trading in its stocks.

 

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

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Fiscal Review 2012

  Economic Indicators Market at Close Annual2011/12 Foreign Debt$65.562bn Per Cap Income$1,372 GDP Growth3.7% Average CPI10.08% MonthlyOctober Trade Balance$-1.774 bln Exports$2.016 bln Imports$3.709 bln WeeklyNovember 26, 2012 Reserves$13.814 bln  Top Traded Advancers Decliners NO_IFRAMES  Currency Converter Amount: From: Albanian Lek (ALL)Algerian Dinar (DZD)Aluminium Oz. (XAL)Argentine Peso (ARS)Aruba Florin (AWG)Australia Dollar (AUD)Bahamian Dollar (BSD)Bahraini Dinar (BHD)Bangladesh Taka (BDT)Barbados Dollar (BBD)Belarus Ruble (BYR)Belize Dollar (BZD)Bermuda Dollar (BMD)Bhutan Ngultrum (BTN)Bolivian Bol. (BOB)Botswana Pula (BWP)Brazilian Real (BRL)British Pound (GBP)Brunei Dollar (BND)Bulgarian Lev (BGN)Burundi Franc (BIF)Cambodia Riel (KHR)Canadian Dollar (CAD)Cape Ver. Escudo (CVE)Cay. Is. Dollar (KYD)CFA Franc BCEAO (XOF)CFA Franc BEAC (XAF)Chilean Peso (CLP)Chinese Yuan (CNY)Colombian Peso (COP)Comoros Franc (KMF)Copper Pounds (XCP)Costa Rica Col. (CRC)Croatian Kuna (HRK)Cuban Peso (CUP)Cyprus Pound (CYP)Czech Koruna (CZK)Danish Krone (DKK)Dijibouti Franc (DJF)Dominican Peso (DOP)E. Carib. Dollar (XCD)Ecuador Sucre (ECS)Egyptian Pound (EGP)El Salv. Colon (SVC)Eritrea Nakfa (ERN)Estonian Kroon (EEK)Ethiopian Birr (ETB)Euro (EUR)Falk. Is. Pound (FKP)Fiji Dollar (FJD)Gambian Dalasi (GMD)Ghanian Cedi (GHC)Gibraltar Pound (GIP)Gold Ounces (XAU)Guat. Quetzal (GTQ)Guinea Franc (GNF)Guyana Dollar (GYD)Haiti Gourde (HTG)Honduras Lempira (HNL)Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)Hungarian Forint (HUF)Iceland Krona (ISK)Indian Rupee (INR)Indon. Rupiah (IDR)Iran Rial (IRR)Iraqi Dinar (IQD)Israeli Shekel (ILS)Jamaican Dollar (JMD)Japanese Yen (JPY)Jordanian Dinar (JOD)Kazak. Tenge (KZT)Kenya Shilling (KES)Korean Won (KRW)Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD)Lao Kip (LAK)Latvian Lat (LVL)Lebanese Pound (LBP)Lesotho Loti (LSL)Liberian Dollar (LRD)Libyan Dinar (LYD)Lithuanian Lita (LTL)Macau Pataca (MOP)Macedonian Denar (MKD)Malawi Kwacha (MWK)Malays. Ringgit (MYR)Maldives Rufiyaa (MVR)Maltese Lira (MTL)Maurit. Ougulya (MRO)Mauritius Rupee (MUR)Mexican Peso (MXN)Moldovan Leu (MDL)Mongolian Tugrik (MNT)Moroccan Dirham (MAD)Myanmar Kyat (MMK)Namibian Dollar (NAD)Nepalese Rupee (NPR)N. Anti. Guilder (ANG)New Turkish Lira (TRY)N.Zealand Dollar (NZD)Nicar. Cordoba (NIO)Nigerian Naira (NGN)North Korean Won (KPW)Norwegian Krone (NOK)Omani Rial (OMR)Pacific Franc (XPF)Pakistani Rupee (PKR)Palladium Ounces (XPD)Panama Balboa (PAB)Papua N.G. Kina (PGK)Paraguay Guarani (PYG)Peru. Nuevo Sol (PEN)Philippine Peso (PHP)Platinum Ounces (XPT)Polish Zloty (PLN)Qatar Rial (QAR)Romanian New Leu (RON)Russian Rouble (RUB)Rwanda Franc (RWF)Samoa Tala (WST)Sao Tome Dobra (STD)Saudi A. Riyal (SAR)Seychel. Rupee (SCR)Sierra L. Leone (SLL)Silver Ounces (XAG)Singapore Dollar (SGD)Slovak Koruna (SKK)Slovenian Tolar (SIT)Solo. Is. Dollar (SBD)Somali Shilling (SOS)S. African Rand (ZAR)Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR)St Helena Pound (SHP)Sudanese Dinar (SDD)Swazi. Lilageni (SZL)Swedish Krona (SEK)Swiss Franc (CHF)Syrian Pound (SYP)Taiwan Dollar (TWD)Tanzan. Shilling (TZS)Thai Baht (THB)Tonga Paanga (TOP)Trin-Tob Dollar (TTD)Tunisian Dinar (TND)U.S. Dollar (USD)UAE Dirham (AED)Uganda Shilling (UGX)Ukraine Hryvnia (UAH)Uruguay New Peso (UYU)Vanuatu Vatu (VUV)Venez. Bolivar (VEB)Vietnam Dong (VND)Yemen Riyal (YER)Zambian Kwacha (ZMK)Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWD) To: Albanian Lek (ALL)Algerian Dinar (DZD)Aluminium Oz. (XAL)Argentine Peso (ARS)Aruba Florin (AWG)Australia Dollar (AUD)Bahamian Dollar (BSD)Bahraini Dinar (BHD)Bangladesh Taka (BDT)Barbados Dollar (BBD)Belarus Ruble (BYR)Belize Dollar (BZD)Bermuda Dollar (BMD)Bhutan Ngultrum (BTN)Bolivian Bol. (BOB)Botswana Pula (BWP)Brazilian Real (BRL)British Pound (GBP)Brunei Dollar (BND)Bulgarian Lev (BGN)Burundi Franc (BIF)Cambodia Riel (KHR)Canadian Dollar (CAD)Cape Ver. Escudo (CVE)Cay. Is. Dollar (KYD)CFA Franc BCEAO (XOF)CFA Franc BEAC (XAF)Chilean Peso (CLP)Chinese Yuan (CNY)Colombian Peso (COP)Comoros Franc (KMF)Copper Pounds (XCP)Costa Rica Col. (CRC)Croatian Kuna (HRK)Cuban Peso (CUP)Cyprus Pound (CYP)Czech Koruna (CZK)Danish Krone (DKK)Dijibouti Franc (DJF)Dominican Peso (DOP)E. Carib. Dollar (XCD)Ecuador Sucre (ECS)Egyptian Pound (EGP)El Salv. Colon (SVC)Eritrea Nakfa (ERN)Estonian Kroon (EEK)Ethiopian Birr (ETB)Euro (EUR)Falk. Is. Pound (FKP)Fiji Dollar (FJD)Gambian Dalasi (GMD)Ghanian Cedi (GHC)Gibraltar Pound (GIP)Gold Ounces (XAU)Guat. Quetzal (GTQ)Guinea Franc (GNF)Guyana Dollar (GYD)Haiti Gourde (HTG)Honduras Lempira (HNL)Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)Hungarian Forint (HUF)Iceland Krona (ISK)Indian Rupee (INR)Indon. Rupiah (IDR)Iran Rial (IRR)Iraqi Dinar (IQD)Israeli Shekel (ILS)Jamaican Dollar (JMD)Japanese Yen (JPY)Jordanian Dinar (JOD)Kazak. Tenge (KZT)Kenya Shilling (KES)Korean Won (KRW)Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD)Lao Kip (LAK)Latvian Lat (LVL)Lebanese Pound (LBP)Lesotho Loti (LSL)Liberian Dollar (LRD)Libyan Dinar (LYD)Lithuanian Lita (LTL)Macau Pataca (MOP)Macedonian Denar (MKD)Malawi Kwacha (MWK)Malays. Ringgit (MYR)Maldives Rufiyaa (MVR)Maltese Lira (MTL)Maurit. Ougulya (MRO)Mauritius Rupee (MUR)Mexican Peso (MXN)Moldovan Leu (MDL)Mongolian Tugrik (MNT)Moroccan Dirham (MAD)Myanmar Kyat (MMK)Namibian Dollar (NAD)Nepalese Rupee (NPR)N. Anti. Guilder (ANG)New Turkish Lira (TRY)N.Zealand Dollar (NZD)Nicar. Cordoba (NIO)Nigerian Naira (NGN)North Korean Won (KPW)Norwegian Krone (NOK)Omani Rial (OMR)Pacific Franc (XPF)Pakistani Rupee (PKR)Palladium Ounces (XPD)Panama Balboa (PAB)Papua N.G. Kina (PGK)Paraguay Guarani (PYG)Peru. Nuevo Sol (PEN)Philippine Peso (PHP)Platinum Ounces (XPT)Polish Zloty (PLN)Qatar Rial (QAR)Romanian New Leu (RON)Russian Rouble (RUB)Rwanda Franc (RWF)Samoa Tala (WST)Sao Tome Dobra (STD)Saudi A. Riyal (SAR)Seychel. Rupee (SCR)Sierra L. Leone (SLL)Silver Ounces (XAG)Singapore Dollar (SGD)Slovak Koruna (SKK)Slovenian Tolar (SIT)Solo. Is. Dollar (SBD)Somali Shilling (SOS)S. African Rand (ZAR)Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR)St Helena Pound (SHP)Sudanese Dinar (SDD)Swazi. Lilageni (SZL)Swedish Krona (SEK)Swiss Franc (CHF)Syrian Pound (SYP)Taiwan Dollar (TWD)Tanzan. Shilling (TZS)Thai Baht (THB)Tonga Paanga (TOP)Trin-Tob Dollar (TTD)Tunisian Dinar (TND)U.S. Dollar (USD)UAE Dirham (AED)Uganda Shilling (UGX)Ukraine Hryvnia (UAH)Uruguay New Peso (UYU)Vanuatu Vatu (VUV)Venez. 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Dubai, Abu Dhabi markets trade in opposite directions

Abu Dhabi: The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) index retrieved some of its lost ground and returned to trade in the positive territory on Tuesday, rising 0.15 per cent as Greece looked set to receive a fresh tranche of bailout funds from fellow Eurozone members. However, the volume of trade continued to be lacklustre amid lack of local catalysts.

The DFM index had dropped by more than three quarters of a per cent on Monday. In yesterday’s trading, real estate major Emaar led the gainers, although shares of construction company Arabtec and Drake & Scull Int fell.

Market participants are now looking at how the US on how it’s going to avoid a fiscal cliff next year that would set in next year, if the Congress doesn’t act.

The DFM index yesterday again closed below its critical 1,600 support level, an indication the market may be prone to more downside risks in the days ahead if the global macro-economic indicators worsen.

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Around 71.89 million shares, cumulatively worth only about Dh82.45 million were traded on the Dubai market yesterday. As many as 7.56 million shares of Emaar, cumulatively valued at around Dh28.13 million were traded, its stock closing 0.81 per cent higher at Dh3.73. Arabtec’s shares closed 0.44 per cent lower to close at Dh2.26.

Of the 27 company stocks traded yesterday, 11 rose, while 12 fell and 4 closed unchanged. The day’s top gainer was GGICO, its stock rising 7.08 per cent to close at Dh0.348. Ekttitab was the day’s main loser, its shares fell 2.04 per cent to close at Dh0.960. The shares of Emaar were the most traded by value while GGICO’s shares were the most traded by volume.

The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) general index yesterday closed in the negative territory as major buyers stayed away due to the absence of strong local cues. The volume of trade on the market, however, rose compared to Monday.

The stock market index closed yesterday at 2,643.44, down 0.12 per cent and below the critical support level of 2,650. The investors yesterday sold banking and telecommunication shares, but bought energy and real estate stocks, which limited the index’s decline.

The market at present is range-bound though it’s being supported by high global crude oil prices that are trading still well above the $110 a barrel mark. Oil is the mainstay of Abu Dhabi’s exports.

Around 57.98 million shares were traded yesterday valued at about Dh90.37 million. Of the 24 company stocks which traded, only 6 advanced, while 11 fell and 7 closed unchanged.

The stock of Abu Dhabi’s real estate major Aldar Properties closed 0.81 per cent higher at Dh1.23. About 13.25 million shares of Aldar, cumulatively worth about Dh16.50 million changed hands on the market. Sorouh Real Estate’s shares also rose, by 0.81 per cent, to close at Dh1.25.

The top gainer on the Abu Dhabi market yesterday was Union Cement Co., its shares closing 7.23 per cent higher at Dh0.89. Gulf Medical Projects Company was the day’s top loser, its stock falling 2.88 per cent to close at Dh1.35. The shares of Sorouh were the most traded in terms of value and volume.

All hands in the cookie jar: Billions of rupees of taxpayer money untraceable

Fiscal books show Rs88.7 billio­n unacco­unted-for; questi­ons raised over authen­ticity of fiscal operat­ions. Fiscal books show Rs88.7 billion unaccounted-for; questions raised over authenticity of fiscal operations. DESIGN: TARIQ GILANI

ISLAMABAD: 

A huge sum of Rs88.7 billion is untraceable in the official books, as the federal government does not have any clue about roughly one-tenth of the total expenditures that it incurred during the first three months of the current financial year.


This also puts a question mark over authenticity of the entire fiscal operations since the numbers reported in the ‘Summary of Consolidated Federal and Provincial Budgetary Operations’ are understated. The finance ministry, on Monday, released the summary of fiscal operations for the period July-September of the fiscal year 2012-13.


In the summary, a sum of Rs88.7 billion has been described as “statistical discrepancy” – a euphemism that the finance ministry uses for untraceable chunks. The untraceable amount makes 9.1% of the total expenditures of Rs975.9 billion that were incurred during the first quarter, according to the official documents.


This is not for the first time that big amounts are untraceable in the official books; however, the figure is alarming this time. In the fiscal year 2010-11, Rs32.4 billion was reported as untraceable, whereas by end of the last fiscal year it swelled to Rs69.9 billion. The government’s budget is based on cash accounts and previous transactions are not reported in the new fiscal year.


The reported figures also undermine the authenticity of the entire budget. The summary shows that government’s development spending during the first quarter remained at Rs30.3 billion. Contrary to this figure, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf spent his entire annual discretionary budget of Rs22 billion in just three and half months.


The finance ministry’s own reports suggested that the federal development spending was over Rs60 billion.


The discrepancies, giving rise to doubts of irregularities, are despite the fact that the Rs5.6 billion Project to Improve Financial Reporting and Auditing (PIFRA) has in place for the last many years. PIFRA’s objective is to ensure accuracy, completeness, reliability, and timeliness of intra-year and year-end government financial reports at the national, provincial, and district levels.


9.1


Both, spokesperson of the Ministry of Finance Rana Assad Amin and PIFRA Project Director Asif Usman, were not available to defend the discrepancies. In the past, officials used to say that discrepancies are addressed at close of every fiscal year but so far neither the finance ministry nor PIFRA had given any update about discrepancies over the last couple of years.


Though the numbers appear understated, the summary shows, that in three months the federal government spent Rs299.4 billion on domestic debt servicing and Rs13.4 billion on foreign debt servicing, which is Rs131.8 billion or 73% higher than the preceding period. On defence, Rs117.5 billion was spent – higher by Rs10 billion or one-tenth.


Total revenues, both federal and provincial, remained at Rs692 billion. The budget deficit – gap between income and expenditures – during the period under review remained at Rs283.8 billion or 1.2% of the gross domestic product.


The deficit is in line with annual target of 4.7%, but the trend is unlikely to be sustained in the coming months. Total revenues ballooned due to the Rs113.8 billion one-off payment by the United States on account of Coalition Support Fund.


Moreover, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has already informed the finance ministry that it cannot achieve this year’s tax collection target of Rs2.381 trillion. It has estimated an Rs187 billion shortfall that will widen the annual budget deficit by the same amount.


Asrar Raouf, member of Inland Revenue of FBR recently said that the Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was in the loop regarding declining revenues.

Nokia seeks Blackberry sales bans

28 November 2012 Last updated at 13:41 GMT Blackberry handsets Blackberry devices could be forced off shop shelves if it does not agree to pay licence fees Nokia has asked courts in the US, UK and Canada to block sales of rival Blackberry smartphones.

It follows a patent dispute between the Finnish company and Blackberry’s parent, Research In Motion (RIM).

Nokia says an earlier ruling means RIM is not allowed to produce devices that offer a common type of wi-fi connectivity until it agrees to pay licence fees.

All current Blackberries would be affected. RIM had no comment.

It is the latest legal distraction for the Canadian company as it prepares to launch an operating system that could determine its survival.

Share drop

Nokia’s action comes two months after an arbitration ruling by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce in Sweden.

The organisation had been asked to act as an arbitrator in a dispute over RIM’s use of handsets and tablets featuring wireless active network (WLAN) connections to the internet.

Nokia phone Nokia says more than 40 companies license its mobile-phone patents

RIM had argued that an earlier licensing deal with Nokia meant it should not have to pay a separate fee for the technologies. However, the tribunal disagreed.

After news of Nokia’s latest action was revealed by Computerworld magazine, RIM’s shares fell more than 10% in after-hours trading in New York.

When contacted by the BBC, Nokia confirmed it had taken action “with the aim of ending RIM’s breach of contract”, adding it would also continue to pursue a separate case against RIM in Germany involving antenna, email and navigation technologies.

Nokia noted it had licensed its intellectual property rights to more than 40 other companies. The revenue from such deals helps justify its current $11.8bn (£7.4bn) market valuation.

Patent wars

RIM is also fighting several other patent lawsuits at this time.

They include a dispute with Washington-based patent portfolio owner SoftVault Systems, which alleges RIM has infringed its anti-piracy DRM (digital rights management) technologies.

RIM is also involved in a case against California-based Lochner, which is suing a number of big-name tech firms over the way their devices play videos streamed over the internet.

RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins talks through the Blackberry 10 system

RIM has itself sued others in the past over patents, including Motorola – before the handset division was bought by Google – and the instant message software Kik,

However, the timing of the clash with a big-player like Nokia could be particularly troubling as it comes less than three months before RIM plans to release its first Blackberry 10 handsets.

“RIM has had a tough time losing market segment to other smartphones. And the future of the business is now going to be based on the success of its new operating system, which itself has been delayed,” said UK-based patent attorney Andrew Alton, from Urquhart-Dykes & Lord, who has previously acted for Apple.

“Anything else that diverts attention from getting that out there and products shipped and bought is going to be detrimental for the business.”

Jobs allure outweighs Spain’s preservation need

Southern Spain’s rare unspoiled beaches in Valdevaqueros to get massive new tourist complex in a bid to generate new jobs

Valdevaqueros is a surfers’ paradise and a haven for rare wildlife, but the council has approved a huge new tourist complex in an attempt to bring jobs to the crisis-hit area Valdevaqueros is one of the last remaining unspoiled beaches in southern SpainFor decades it has been a world apart from the concrete-lined beaches of Torremolinos and Marbella along the coast, yet on May 29 the local council in Tarifa approved plans to build a tourist complex right next to the beach, with 1,400 hotel rooms and 350 flats.

Environmental and conservation groups have protested that the project will harm the habitats of protected species, but for most councillors here the issue is simple: jobs. In this town of 18,000 inhabitants, 2,600 are out of work as Spain faces its worst economic crisis in at least half a century, and one that has cast doubt on the future of the euro. “Traditional sources of income such as fishing are dying out, now that fleets are being dismantled and fish stocks are depleted, so tourism is the only way out, as long as it is sustainable,” said Sebastin Galindo, a councillor from the Socialist party, which is in opposition in Tarifa but voted with the governing People’s party to give the project the green light.

Tarifa’s mayor, Juan Andrs Gil, declined to comment on the project, but Galindo said it complies with environmental standards. The complex would be 800 metres from the coast, comfortably beyond the minimum of 200 metres stipulated in the landmark 1988 Coastal Law, drawn up to prevent more ugly developments springing up of the sort that blighted much of Spain’s coastline when mass tourism first descended on its shores in the 1960s and 1970s. He vowed to check developments closely, but admitted that the project may not get off the drawing board “in the current economic climate”.

Just yards from the corner cafe where Galindo spoke, idle cranes loom over blocks of flats that have lain unfinished or empty since a property bubble burst in 2008, swiftly turning Spain from the eurozone’s fastest-growing economy into one that may soon need a European bailout to help rescue its parlous public finances.

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Opponents of the complex say the last thing anyone needs is more housing in a country that already has a million empty homes, although the central government last week proposed a sell-off by granting non-Spaniards residency permits in return for buying property worth at least 160,000 (129,460).

The Socialist opposition in Madrid slammed the proposal, and Galindo said it discriminated against migrant workers who flocked to Spain during the boom years, many of them from Morocco, whose coastline is just 14km away and can be seen from Tarifa. “It favours moneyed classes rather than those who came here to help Spain get ahead,” he said.

“Money is once again being put before urban laws and European environmental directives,” said Ral Romeva, a member of the European Parliament who is vice-president of the Greens group. “European public interest in the Natura 2000 network is neither being applied nor safeguarded.”

In Romeva’s view, the project is also at fault because the proposed site has too little water in a town that already suffers from shortages in the summer weather that scorches the southern Spanish region of Andalusa.

Lack of water led the Andalusa supreme court last month to uphold an appeal filed by Ecologistas en Accin in 2005 against plans to build a complex called Merinos Norte elsewhere in the region which would have included golf courses, hotels and luxury homes.

Many locals are also wondering why a resort should be built 10km away, rather than on wasteland near Tarifa’s picturesque old centre, with its typically Andalusian whitewashed walls and winding streets, dominated by a 10th-century Moorish castle.

“My opinion and that of catering workers is that we agree [with the complex] as long as it creates jobs in the town, which is what is needed, but we are against it being for the benefit of a few,” said Cristbal Lobato, 45, who has waited on tables at the same beachside bar in Tarifa for 30 years.

“Anywhere else in Europe, this place would have the utmost protection, but here they want to get rid of it all and cover it with buildings,” he said, while peering through binoculars. “What they want to do is turn this into Benidorm, but what draws people here is wildlife and the wind.

“But by taking advantage of the current crisis and unemployment, builders and mayors who agree with them can justify any amount of destruction.”

Union concern over possible Fiji sugar role

Posted November 28, 2012 08:33:24

The International Union of Food and Agriculture says it will oppose Fiji’s bid to chair the governing body of the world’s sugar industry.

The International Sugar Organisation, which represents most of the world’s sugar producing countries, is holding a key meeting in London this week, to elect a new chairman.

Among those vying for the position is Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

But the IUF’s coordinator for Agriculture and Plantation, Sue Longley, told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat Commodore Bainimarama’s appointment would legitimise a military dictatorship.

“We’re concerned that his is having a dictatorship,a military dictatorship in Fiji, and during his regime, we’ve seen substantial erosion of trade unions and human rights in Fiji,” she said.

“These have been well documented and recognised by the EU, by the organisations of Pacific States, by the International Labor Organisation.”

The International Sugar Organization is an intergovernmental organization which seeks to promote the trade in and consumption of sugar.

Fiji produces two million tonnes of cane a year, most of it still cut by hand.

Ms Longley says the governments involved have criticised Fiji in other forums, and what it is calling for is a consistent approach.

“The ISO itself has a commitment…that its member must respect fair labour standards,

“We feel very strongly that Fiji is in breach of this agreement and certainly should not be received the chairmanship…it gives the regime a legitimacy we don’t think it deserves.”

Topics: sugar, trade, fiji, pacific, united-kingdom

Car dealers expect growth in sales in 2013

Dubai: Local car dealerships are expecting up to 30 per cent growth in auto sales next year as new models enter the market and increasing interest in used cars, they said.

Customers who enter a leasing deal on a new car, end up opting for used cars at the end of their lease term, dealerships say.

The used car business has grown so dramatically. The financial crisis has caused lots of people to opt for used cars,” said Stathis I. Stathis, managing director of Al Batha Automative Group, the parent company of AGMC.

It projects about 15 per cent sales growth for used cars next year, he said.

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AGMC is targeting 10 to 15 per cent sales growth in 2013 as it introduces new models to the market including the BMW M6 sports car, added.

It is set a sales target of 700 MINI cars in 2013 compared to the 500 units a year it has achieved this year, he noted.

“It’s become a lot tougher to sell units, so there’s a focus on after-sales satisfaction,” Stathis said.

Liberty Automobiles, which sells Chevrolet and Cadillac models, is aiming for 12 to 15 per cent growth next year — almost double its expectations of the overall auto market growth, said Rajesh Krishnan, general manager of sales and marketing at the company.

“We want to capitalise on our new products,” he said, referring to the Cadillac XTS and ATS models as well as the Chevrolet Trail Blazer and Camaro ZL1 2013 models that were introduced to the UAE at the International Automobile show on Wednesday.

The announcement of the Mohammad Bin Rashid City earlier this week signals to traders a “return of the market” that encourages investment and the auto market is likely to see about 20 to 30 per cent growth next year said Adel Al Khajeh, government and VIP relations manager at Gargash Enterprises.

Elgin fined £25,000 over call-off

Elgin City have been fined £25,000 by the Scottish Football League following the postponement of the match against Rangers at Borough Briggs.

The Third Division game was due to be played on Sunday but was called off on Friday after what the SFL described as “a substantial oversale of tickets”.

One fifth of the fine imposed will be donated to a charity chosen by Rangers.

And the Ibrox club will also be reimbursed by Elgin for any costs they incurred relating to the match.

A reported 1,100 extra tickets were sold on top of the 4,520 capacity of Elgin’s ground.

A statement from the SFL read: “The board of the SFL have found Elgin City FC to have breached Rule 98.4 and Rule 44.5 of the organisation’s Constitution and Rules.

“The club have been ordered to pay a fine of £25,000 to the Scottish Football League, £5,000 of which will be donated to a charity chosen by Rangers FC.

“Elgin City FC have also been ordered to pay compensation to Rangers FC of an amount no less than the actual costs incurred by that club in the preparation and planning of this match, these expenses to be satisfactorily vouched to the board of the SFL.

“The Scottish Football League would like to stress in the strongest terms that safety of fans is our number one priority, and that all clubs must adhere to the officially sanctioned ground capacity as agreed with the authorities.

“The date of the rearranged match will be announced later this week.”

Elgin chairman Graham Tatters admitted to a sense of relief that the punishment was financial.

“My instant reaction is one of relief that we have not incurred a points deduction,” he told BBC Scotland.

“The players have done very well this season and I’m glad they won’t be punished as a result of this situation.”

Tatters also said that the club’s board would meet to decide whether to appeal the SFL’s decision.

“We will have a board meeting tomorrow evening, when the two directors who attended the SFL hearing will provide an update as to how the things at Hampden unfolded.

“After that we will make a decision on whether or not we have grounds to appeal the SFL’s decision.

“But we know that if we appeal and it is not upheld the club could be hit with further punishment,” he said.

Airbus, Boeing launch airliner ad war as rivalry heats up

Paris: Airbus and Boeing have clashed over the performance of their latest revamped models as the aerospace companies battle for market share by offering fuel savings to cash-starved airlines.

The dispute is being splashed across the columns of specialist industry magazines in a series of negative ads as the world’s dominant aircraft makers battle to maintain their share of the $100 billion (Dh 3.67 billion) a year commercial airliner market.

In the latest exchange, Airbus ran an advertisement in Aviation Week on Monday accusing its rival of “exaggerating the capabilities” of both the 737 and the latest 747 models.

The ad featured a Boeing aircraft with an elongated nose in the style of Pinocchio under the headline: “Why is our competitor stretching the truth?”

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Airbus sales chief John Leahy said the European aircraft maker had chosen the Pinocchio theme in response to recent Boeing advertisements claiming a massive advantage for Boeing aircraft.

“They are blatantly misrepresenting the truth by orders of magnitude,” Leahy told Reuters. “What is going on is just over the top.”

Boeing defended its advertising.

“We believe in — and history has shown — the superior performance of our products and services. We stand behind our performance claims,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokesman Marc Birtel.

“Ultimately, our customers will decide based on their experience and analysis relative to their needs.”

The exchange is the latest evidence of tensions that have escalated steadily since both companies took a gamble by tweaking their most popular models to offer fuel savings.

The decisions triggered an avalanche of orders, first for the revamped Airbus A320neo and then the Boeing 737 MAX. But industry sources say that has not prevented prices from coming under pressure as each side fights for market share.

With oil prices representing about 40 per cent of airline operating costs, every litre of fuel saved represents potentially valuable business for aircraft and engine makers.

“This is an industry that thrives on producing incremental products, where just a couple of per centage points in performance can make a dramatic difference,” said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia of Virginia-based Teal Group.

“There is no prize for being second.”

The Boeing 737 is the US company’s most popular aircraft and competes with the Airbus A320 in the largest segment of the aircraft market, estimated at $2 trillion over 20 years.

Both planemakers are bringing out revamped versions of these roughly 150-seat jets from around the middle of the decade.

Boeing says its 737 MAX 8 will cost 8 per cent less to operate per seat than the revamped A320neo. Airbus says the Airbus aircraft has a 3.3 per cent cost advantage per seat.

Much of that discrepancy is due to a basic disagreement over the relative merits of the existing generation of aircraft.

Boeing says its 737 is already 8 per cent more efficient per seat than the current A320. Airbus says the roughly 50/50 market split in recent years indicates the aircraft are comparable.

“I will claim an extra couple of per cent better for mine and they should be claiming a couple of per cent better for theirs, and if you talk to most airlines, they say they come out about equal,” Leahy said in a telephone interview.

Such contradictory claims are also being made for some of their largest aircraft.

Boeing’s 747-8 is a stretched 467-seat version of its legendary jumbo jet and is designed to compete with the 525-seat Airbus A380 superjumbo, the world’s largest airliner.

In ads, Boeing says the total trip costs of the 747-8 are 26 per cent less than an A380. Airbus says the 747-8 has 10 per cent lower trip costs, but that the A380 is 30 per cent bigger, allowing airlines to gain by filling up the extra seats.

Rivalry between Airbus and Boeing comes as no surprise, but rhetoric has sharpened as Boeing looks set to recover the top spot in the industry by out selling Airbus this year. Airbus says its rival is merely catching up after a record European year in 2011.

Industry analysts and executives say competition has also intensified since Ray Conner stepped up from being Boeing sales chief to become president of the commercial division in June.

Rivalries in aerospace are fierce and Leahy has himself been accused by Boeing executives of overstepping boundaries at airshow appearances, but detailed attacks are rare.

Monday’s Airbus advertisement is not Pinocchio’s first appearance in the take no-prisoners world of aviation.

At the Farnborough Airshow in 1994, the head of Boeing’s jetliner unit compared an Airbus executive to Pinocchio in a spat over market share, according to Flight International.

In 2010, Ryanair Holdings chief executive Michael O’Leary apologised and paid damages to top European rival Stelios Haji-Iouannou for depicting the easyJet

founder as Pinocchio and suggesting he was lying about on-time performance.

AMD plans to sell Texas campus to raise cash

San Francisco: Advanced Micro Devices Inc plans to sell and lease back its campus in Austin, Texas, to raise cash and fund its chipmaking business as it diversifies beyond the struggling PC industry into new markets.

AMD expects to sell the 58-acre site for between $150 million and $200 million (Dh550.9 million and Dh734.6 million) and close a deal in the second quarter, company spokesman Drew Prairie told Reuters on Tuesday.

The chipmaker’s move to sell its campus, reported earlier by the Austin American-Statesman, comes as the company and its larger rival Intel Corp struggle with slowing personal computer sales.

“There are favourable economic conditions in the part of Austin where the campus is located,” Prairie said. “Contingent on finding an investor who wants to do a multiyear lease-back, it’s a good opportunity for us to unlock the value of the real estate to fund operations.”

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AMD’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, and a building near Toronto were sold and leased back in the past, Prairie said.

The growing popularity of Apple’s iPad and other tablets have sapped demand for PCs. With China’s economic growth slowing while Europe’s economy falters and the US economic recovery is tepid, global shipments are expected to decline slightly this year — the first annual drop since 2001.

AMD, one of Silicon Valley’s oldest chipmakers, has been laying off engineers while looking for new markets for its chips as it faces depleting cash reserves.

Earlier on Tuesday, AMD chief executive Rory Read told investors at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, that results from the US Thanksgiving weekend look encouraging for PC sales although it is too early to make predictions about the entire holiday shopping season, and the PC industry still faces long-term problems.

“We’ve seen some positive news out of Black Friday over the past several days,” Read said. “Our performance over that period looked reasonably well, but I think it’s a little early to call the holiday season.”

Sales over the Thanksgiving weekend and the holidays in general are closely watched by investors. US retailers can generate a third of their sales and up to half of their annual profit in November and December.

Read reiterated that he does not expect the PC market, which accounts for about 85 per cent of AMD’s business, to recover for several quarters.

AMD has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co to explore its options, although an outright sale of the company is not the main option, according to sources.

Like Intel, AMD was caught flat-footed in recent years with the emergence and fast growth of mobile devices.

With the company burning through cash, analysts have become concerned about future liquidity. They say AMD needs to turn its business around sooner rather than later.

Research firm Gimme Credit on Tuesday downgraded its rating on AMD, which has long-term debt and capital lease obligations of about $2 billion, to “deteriorating” from “stable.”

“The downturn in the PC market, along with market share losses, have led to substantially lower revenue and margins,” Gimme Credit said in its report. “Free cash flow is also decreasing, despite modest capital expenditure requirements.”

AMD’s cash declined $279 million in the third quarter to $1.48 billion. AMD said it was reducing its “optimal” cash target to $1.1 billion from $1.5 billion due to the business’ now smaller size.

Shares of AMD rose 0.5 per cent on Tuesday to close at $1.88.

Turkish Airlines eyes possible $500m lease deal

Istanbul: Turkey’s national carrier Turkish Airlines is in talks with banks about a leasing arrangement worth around $500 million to help fund its plane orders from 2014, bankers familiar with the negotiations said on Friday.

The airline is considering using Enhanced Equipment Trust Certificates (EETCs) for the first time — financial securities issued by banks under which the airline gets ownership of the planes when the certificates mature, the bankers said.

Turkish Airlines was also considering issuing sukuk — Islamic bonds — or eurobonds next year to finance its aircraft acquisition plans from 2014, they said.

Officials at the airline could not be reached for comment.

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“Turkish Airlines is seeking various financing opportunities abroad. Sukuk or eurobond issuances might be also on the agenda, but EETC is outweighing them, which would be used for the first time for financing aircraft orders,” said one banker.

“Turkish Airlines’ borrowing would not be small in size, around at least $300 to $500 million for each transaction.”

Turkish Airlines said last month it had decided to buy 15 Boeing B777-300ERs by 2017, with an option to buy five more, and 15 Airbus A330-300 planes between 2014-2016.

EETC transactions, effectively a form of secured debt financing like mortgages, are often used by airlines in Europe and the United States, but are rarer elsewhere.

Aircraft leasing firm Doric Nimrod Air Finance Alpha said in June it would use EETCs worth almost $590 million to help finance the sale of four Airbus A380 planes to Emirates airline.

Total Kenya reports wider 9-month pretax loss

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 13:20 Posted by Asad Naeem

total-400NAIROBI: Total Kenya posted a pretax loss of 219.6 million shillings ($2.55 million) for the nine months ended in September, wider than a loss of 195 million shillings a year ago, it said on Wednesday.

The oil marketer, part of French oil firm Total SA , blamed the bigger loss on higher financing costs after interest rates rose.

Turnover increased 18 percent to 87 billion shillings while net finance costs rose to 1.4 billion shillings from 900 million shillings in the year-ago period.

Total Kenya said it expects improved performance in the future, adding that it had made a profit of 16 million shillings in the third quarter, the first positive quarter in six.

“The management is therefore confident that the company is back on track,” it said in a statement.

It fell into a loss-making position last year after the government started controlling retail prices of fuel, angering firms such as Total, which say the formula used to set the prices is flawed.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

Motor mouth

Formula One legend Nelson Piquet said after the Brazilian Grand Prix that he had just witnessed: “the best, most exciting race I ever saw in Formula One”. He should know.

I will say that in my thirty-something years of being an aficionado, I too have never witnessed as dramatic and nerve wrecking a race as we did on Sunday at Interlagos. It was an amazing race and an amazing season, with an amazing champion. But, I’m glad it’s over.

By now it is old news that Sebastian Vettel clinched his third consecutive Formula 1 world title, on a soggy afternoon which saw him survive a first lap incident that resulted in him facing the wrong direction and stone last. He then proceeded to carve his way through the field to finish sixth in the race, scoring enough points to become F1 world champion for the third time in as many years – and the happiest man on the planet for the next few hours.

For his chief championship rival, Fernando Alonso, and his Ferrari team it was heartache of the highest order. Twice in three years they have been defeated with victory almost in their grasp, by the same bloke and the same team: Vettel and Red Bull.

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Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali lamented on Sunday after the race: “That’s sport and that’s how it goes. To have lost the drivers’ title twice in the last three years by the tiniest of margins, hurts. It hurts a lot, I can assure you of that.”

But, what more can be said of the kid they call ‘Baby Schumi’? A prodigy throughout his junior career, he became the youngest driver to take part in a grand prix weekend when he drove for BMW-Sauber in a Friday practice for the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix. He made his F1 race debut with BMW-Sauber at Indianapolis in 2007, where he finished eighth and became the youngest driver to score a point in F1, aged 19 years and 349 days.

Since then, 101 grand prix starts later, 36 of which were from pole position, he has notched up 26 wins, finished on the podium 46 times and now is only the third driver to win three F1 world titles in a row. He joins Michael Schumacher (2000-04) and Juan-Manuel Fangio (1954-57) in the record books.

And now, with the final chequered of the F1 season waved, I for one am relieved that it is all over for the next few months. A twenty race season over eight months is a marathon, perhaps two races too long even for die-hards like myself. It equals 60 days, usually on weekends, of practice sessions, qualifying and race days.

As much as teams relish the off season so do my family and I, as it is a welcome break from the rigid race weekend routine. Thankfully my son is a fan and has his place on the couch beside me, My daughter hangs around and occasionally pops in with pearls of wisdom. “There Papa is a Ferrari,” she says pointing enthusiastically to the red car on the screen. Thanks sweetee needed to know that…

However, the true hero in our household is my wife, Anja, who tolerates these weekends of a sport of which she is no fan and has no interest in, whatsoever. But, she never moans or criticises and indulges the whoops of joy, yelps of agony and non-stop couch commentary, while delivering bowls of fresh buttered popcorn for the fans in the family room. A true world champion in our books.

There is a break now until late March, so its time to get off the couch and make the most of the glorious weather we are so fortunate to have in Dubai right now.

Developing an international hospitality brand

Jumeirah is a hospitality brand that embodies the traditional rich Arab hospitality and delivers it in a modern environment

Dubai: In the age of globalisation, businesses should be global as well as local — global in outlook and local in culture.

Jumeirah, Dubai’s answer to the Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons, is a hospitality brand that embodies the traditional rich Arab hospitality and delivers it in a modern environment.

In Jumeirah, service does not only comes with a smile, but in a five-course platter. However, despite Jumeirah’s success, Gerald Lawless, the man who instilled the Arabian culture in a cosmopolitan setting to create the right fusion, remains a humble man.

Lawless has been part of the UAE’s success, from the day he landed in this country in the late 1970s. He now heads the most successful luxury hospitality group, Jumeirah, which operates among others the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel.

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Under his able guidance, Jumeirah has grown from a single-hotel business to more than 30, covering a diverse geographical stretch from the United Kingdom to China.

In an interview with the Gulf News, he elaborated his views. Excerpts:

Could you recollect the formative days of the UAE — the 1970s? How was business then? What were the challenges and how did you overcome those, then?

My wife Naesa and I arrived in Dubai in the middle of August 1978. At that time we were young, in our mid 20s, and ready for the great new exciting challenge of working overseas for the first time.

Dubai was a very interesting place already; it was a vibrant “go ahead” city. In fact at that time, the government, under the leadership of His Highness Shaikh Rashid Bin Zayed Al Maktoum, had already initiated the construction of Jebel Ali Port, the largest man-made port in the world. They were building the dry docks, the Dubai aluminium smelter plant and of course the World Trade Centre, the tower which at that time was the tallest building in the Middle East.

So Dubai was always a great place in which to do business, always welcoming foreigners to come and work there. Of course, I’d spent a lot of time around the Creekside area especially as we’ve stayed in the first few months in Astoria Hotel in Bur Dubai and we used to cross the creek regularly by abra. I also worked in that stage in what is now the Le Meridien Hotel at the airport, but was then known as the Dubai International Hotel.

The tourism was barely heard of, it was just about starting. I think most of the European tourists were coming from Scandinavia, people who wanted to feel the nice weather of the United Arab Emirates but it was really only when Emirates started their regular services to the UK that tourism really began to develop in the mid 1980s and early 90s.

What was the most memorable event in your business career over the last four decades?

For me personally, the most memorable event in my career was definitely joining Jumeirah and setting up what is now the Jumeirah Group and, of course, the opening of the Dubai-based properties such as Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Burj Al Arab, Wild Wadi Waterpark and subsequently the Emirates Towers complex and Madinat Jumeirah in 2004. They will always remain in my memory. I am very proud of what was achieved by Jumeirah during that period.

As business grew and the environment changed, how did you change your organisation and business to adapt to the changes?

I think any successful organisation as it grows has to be able to adapt to change and needs to remain entirely flexible. We have developed significantly our corporate structure and organisational structure over the years. Since we joined Dubai Holdings, we have been encouraged by them — as it is one of their policies — to have our own board of directors. I am very pleased to say that we now have a board which is led by an independent non-executive chairman, Stephen Murphy, with a majority of non-executive directors on the board. I think it has greatly helped Jumeirah and my own management team to continue to evolve, to develop and to bring in new skills and new talent into the company as we needed to be able to cope with the growth patterns that we have experience over the last several years.

What are the major contributing factors to the success of your business? How did the UAE’s overall progress compliment your business growth?

I think the major contributing factor to the success of Jumeirah as a business is the leadership that we receive from the Government of Dubai though His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum [Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai], and our parent company Dubai Holding. All of the Dubai leadership has committed to the success of this great city and indeed of the United Arab Emirates.

Now that the UAE has achieved such a huge success, so did your business — how do you see the country’s overall progress in economy?

I think this country will continue to thrive and to succeed and to provide great opportunities for its citizens and for the residents who live within the UAE. The leadership is certainly enlightened in its approach to business and social affairs. It is also extremely encouraging to see the dedication and the interest that the leadership has in providing superb education for everybody within the United Arab Emirates. To me the secret of success of any country is strong and relevant education system that will prepare young people to be able to find and work in good jobs; it will also develop a great entrepreneurial spirit amongst the population.

It is extremely encouraging to see more and more Emiratis interested in coming into our business as they begin to appreciate and understand that this is an incredible career opportunity for them. The young Emiratis who have now joined us realise that working within the hotel industry does not necessarily cut across their Islamic values. We have so many different types of disciplines and positions within the hotel industry such as sales and marketing, human resources, technical services, guest relations… Many of these positions lead to senior opportunities within Jumeirah. At the moment four of our seven chief officers are Emiratis.

Where do the challenges and opportunities lie?

Travel and tourism has proven to the global community that it is one of the most important industries in the world. After all it provides almost 10 per cent of the world’s GDP and up to 8 per cent of the world’s labour forces are involved directly or indirectly within the travel and tourism and hospitality, and the United Arab Emirates is extremely well placed to be able to take advantage of the growth in this industry. We will continue to see the evolution of the tourism business in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

I see many that more GCC citizens are beginning to discover or rediscover Dubai; most of the GCC guests that we speak to tells us that they are delighted to have come to the UAE and to Dubai and they will continue to do so because they have not realised just how much the city and indeed the country has to offer them as tourists.

I also see that as Emirates Airlines continues its expansion and will soon become the world’s largest airline, we in the industry are very confident that we will continue to welcome guests from many different parts of the world, such as from the Americas, also all of Asia including South East Asia and in particular India. We expect continuing developments in that area.

We are also very excited about the possibility of Dubai and the UAE being chosen as the location for the 2020 World Expo, which will be decided in November of next year.

Greece uncompetitive despite plunging wages

Image Credit: REUTERSA beggar sits in front of a closed shop in Athens. The burden of austerity and reform has fallen disproportionately on the man in the street, and his patience is all but exhausted.

Athens: Signs across Athens advertise property for rent or sale. One in three shops has closed. At those still open for business, turnover has slumped.


So it is one of the mysteries of Greece’s economic depression that prices of some things — milk and the new iPhone, for example — are among the highest in Europe.


The riddle matters hugely. If costs and prices were lower, exporters would be more competitive and people’s shrinking pay packets and pensions would stretch farther, cushioning a sharp drop in consumption.


Increases in value added tax and other indirect levies are part of the answer. Greece is also hostage to the cost of imported oil and food.

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But another set of reasons goes to the heart of Greece’s political and economic malaise: collusion among producers, the state’s complicity in shielding protected professions and businesses, and a thorough lack of competition that allows a favoured few to extract economically unjustified profits from a long-suffering populace.


Much of the economy, in a word, is diseased. And until the disease is cured, sustainable growth cannot resume even if euro zone finance ministers finally agree — after two failed meetings in successive weeks — how to lighten Greece’s unsustainable debt burden.


The good news is that Athens is implementing some deep-seated administrative reforms and its trade deficit is receding.


But the clock is ticking: the burden of austerity and reform has fallen disproportionately on the man in the street, and his patience is all but exhausted. Protests over inequality and austerity are proliferating, fomenting political radicalism.


“Greece is on the edge right now. That’s why 2013 will be a crunch year for the economy and society,” said Dimitris Asimakopoulos, who owns one of the oldest pastry shops in Athens.


Asimakopoulos, who also heads the GSEVEE small business confederation, said his turnover had fallen 35 per cent since the crisis struck. Profits were one-fifth of what they were then.


“The economy here is not an advanced capitalist economy,” he said. “But you can’t change an economy by pressing a button. You need time, and right now we don’t have time.”


One button that a country living beyond its means has to press is marked ‘cost cutting’. Greece has done that. Wages are plunging at the behest of international creditors who are keeping the country alive on a drip-feed of aid.


By the end of this year, the entire surge in the average cost of labour per unit of output from 2001 to 2009 will have been unwound, according to a draft European Commission paper.


The drop in nominal unit labour costs this year alone is projected to be 8.7 per cent — not surprising given that the unemployment rate is 25 per cent.


But wages are only one input among many that determine prices. The most comprehensive gauge of a country’s cost competitiveness is its real, or inflation-adjusted, effective exchange rate (REER) relative to its main trading partners.


And in 2011, Greece’s REER was still 18 to 20 per cent above its 2000 level, according to Eurostat, the EU statistics agency.


“Of course the issue of prices concerns us. There’s a problem, and we’re aware of it,” Athanasios Skordas, deputy minister for economic development and competitiveness, said.


Inflation is falling — it was 0.9 per cent in the year to September — and economists expect it to come down further.


But to thoroughly convert wage to price competitiveness will entail a daunting array of reforms, such as making it easier to start a business and removing barriers to competition in key markets such as energy.


Platon Monokroussos, head of financial markets research at Eurobank in Athens, said these market rigidities were one reason why falling wages had not translated into a quicker drop in inflation.


Another reason, Monokroussos said, is rent-seeking — making excessive profits.


Eurostat figures show average food prices in Greece are higher than in the rest of the EU except for meat, fruit and vegetables. Milk, cheese and eggs are 31 per cent more expensive than the EU average; cereals and oils cost 16 per cent more.


The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says profit margins exceed the EU average in many key sectors, especially retailing, due to a lack of competition.


“This is a structure as old as the Greek state,” said George Zombanakis, an economist with the Bank of Greece, the central bank. He stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity.


“This is something that can only be tackled by structural reforms, and everybody tries to do anything and everything except structural reform because then it becomes a political matter,” said Zombanakis.


Firms across the EU are frequently fined for price-fixing. But in the case of Greece, ending what the Commission calls “price rigidity and collusion in prices” means breaking a particularly strong nexus between politics and business.


“They’ve cut wages but haven’t touched monopolies,” said Costas Lapavitsas, an economics professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.


“And the reason they haven’t intervened is because of the strength of the incumbents. The strength of big business is paramount, and it will take profound political change to alter this,” he said.


Dimitris Kiritsakis, the head of Greece’s Competition Commission, acknowledged the lack of competition and said his watchdog, with just 120 professional staff, was probing 30 sectors to see if cartels operated.


“You can’t just make cartels disappear,” Kiritsakis told Reuters. “People think I can say ‘Come out, cartel, so I can catch you’. But you need to be lucky. It’s like fishing: you need to be in luck for the shoal to swim past in front of you.”


Other nefarious practices keep prices high.


Since March, doctors have been required to prescribe, and pharmacies to dispense, generic drugs instead of expensive brand names. But, as is often the case in Greece, the regulation has not been fully implemented.


This is costing patients money and leaving room “for wrong incentives to doctors, over-prescription and outright fraudulent prescription behaviour”, according to the European Commission.


What’s more, as part of their strategy to minimise taxation, multi-national companies export goods to their Greek subsidiaries at inflated prices, said Vassilis Korkidis, president of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce.


Skordas, the deputy development minister, said he had filed an official complaint with the local representative of Apple, charging that the company’s new iPhone 5 sells for more in Greece than anywhere else in the EU.


Addressing all the reasons for Greece’s high price levels and lack of competitiveness will take a decade or more, the International Monetary Fund reckons.


But Greece does not have that time. Korkidis said one in five of the 300,000 small trading firms that he represents might not make it through the winter.


Companies are starved of credit, but, just as importantly, they and their customers are unnerved by the spectre that Greece might yet be forced out of the euro.


Why invest and spend hard euros if they might suddenly be converted into devalued drachmas?


“If this drachma nightmare goes away, the situation will probably be much better,” Korkidis said.


Asimakopoulos, the cake shop owner, agreed. Every quarterly inspection by Greece’s international lenders is the harbinger of more austerity and fresh doubts whether the country will stay in the euro, he said. Uncertainty is asphyxiating the economy.


“The most crucial thing is that there is no hope,” he said. “If we had light at the end of the tunnel, we could invest in our businesses.”


Which is why, though reforms to tame prices are imperative, it is more urgent to agree on a plan to put Greece’s massive debt on a stable long-term footing and banish the threat of ‘Grexit’, or exit from the euro.


“Greece is making big adjustments, but without a credible solution to the issue of debt sustainability, all that effort is going to be undermined. We need to end the uncertainty,” said George Pagoulatos, a professor of European politics and economy at Athens University.

Cameron handed Leveson phone-hacking report

Posted November 29, 2012 01:29:31

British prime minister David Cameron has warned that Britain’s current newspaper regulation system is unacceptable, as he received a landmark judicial report into the phone-hacking scandal.

Mr Cameron’s comments came a day before senior judge Brian Leveson is due to publish his findings from a year-long inquiry into press ethics, which are widely expected to include recommendations for statutory regulation.

The prime minister told lawmakers that he hoped the process would lead to “an independent regulatory system” for the press and called for a cross-party consensus, but did not say if he supported new laws.

Mr Cameron set up the Leveson inquiry in July 2011 after the discovery of widespread hacking of voicemails and other illegal practices at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid, which the Australian-born tycoon then closed down.

“The status quo, I would argue, does not just need updating – the status quo is unacceptable and needs to change,” Mr Cameron told parliament.

“This government set up Leveson because of unacceptable practices in parts of the media and a failed regulatory system.”

The British press is currently self-regulated by the Press Complaints Commission, a body staffed by editors, which critics say is toothless.

Mr Cameron called for lawmakers to work across party lines on the issue.

“What matters most is that we end up with an independent regulatory system that can deliver and in which the public will have confidence.”

The leader of the main opposition Labour party, Ed Miliband, described the inquiry as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity for real change and I hope that this House can make it happen”.

Mr Cameron will give a statement to parliament on Thursday (local time) following the publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report and there will be a parliamentary debate next week on its recommendations.

The prime minister’s Downing Street office received “half a dozen” advance copies of the 1,000-page report on Wednesday so that Mr Cameron can prepare his statement, a spokesman told AFP.

He is not obliged to follow the report’s recommendations but they are likely to present him with a dilemma amid splits in his Conservative party over the need for statutory regulation.

More than 80 lawmakers from the three major parties said in a letter published Wednesday that any introduction of statutory regulation would be the biggest blow to media freedom in Britain for 300 years.

“As parliamentarians, we believe in free speech and are opposed to the imposition of any form of statutory control even if it is dressed up as underpinning,” said the letter published in the Guardian and Daily Telegraph newspapers.

It added: “No form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing – abolished in Britain in 1695.”

London 2012 Olympics chief Sebastian Coe was among the senior Conservatives who signed the letter, as well as former defence minister Liam Fox and former Europe minister David Davis.

Hollywood actor Hugh Grant, who has spoken out on behalf of victims of phone hacking, also called for new laws.

“What people are campaigning for is an end to newspapers being able to regulate themselves, marking their own homework,” he told BBC television.

The Leveson inquiry heard eight months of testimony from hacking victims, politicians and media figures.

Mr Cameron set up the inquiry after it emerged that the News of the World had hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, a murdered schoolgirl, as well as targeting dozens of crime victims, celebrities and politicians.

British police have launched three linked investigations into misdeeds by newspapers, while Mr Cameron’s former spokesman Andy Coulson and ex-Murdoch aide Rebekah Brooks have both been charged with phone hacking and bribery.

AFP

Topics: journalism, print-media, information-and-communication, media, industry, law-crime-and-justice, world-politics, england, united-kingdom

Spam text message pair are fined

28 November 2012 Last updated at 13:06 GMT By Tom Symonds Home Affairs correspondent, BBC News Spam text message The information commissioner is trying to stem the flood of spam texts Two men who sent millions of spam text messages have been fined £440,000 as the authorities step up the fight against the trade.

Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish were part of a growing industry that sends texts to promote compensation claims for personal injury or payment protection mis-selling.

The information commissioner is trying to stop spammers and blaggers.

It says they are fuelling the trade by selling information without permission.

It is the first time the watchdog has used its powers to levy fines for this sort of case.

‘Distressed and annoyed’

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: “The public have told us that they are distressed and annoyed by the constant bombardment of illegal texts and calls and we are currently cracking down on the companies responsible, using the full force of the law.

“The two individuals we have served penalties on today made a substantial profit from the sale of personal information. They knew they were breaking the law and the trail of evidence uncovered by my office highlights the scale of their operations.”

The case centres on Tetrus Telecoms, based in Greater Manchester, which offered to send out more than 800,000 texts a day on behalf of its clients, who are claims management companies looking for compensation cases to pass on to lawyers.

The messages, or variations of them, will be familiar to mobile phone users across Britain: “CLAIM TODAY, you may be entitled to £3500 for the accident you had. To CLAIM free reply CLAIM to this message. To opt out text STOP”.

The information commissioner’s office (ICO) says handwritten notes found in one of the company’s offices suggested Tetrus had been using 70 mobile phone sim cards a day.

These would be inserted in a card reader connected to a computer, and SMS messages would be sent until each card’s text message limit had been reached.

The company’s directors, Mr Niebel and Mr Neish, have been fined £440,000 between them for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

These require that marketing companies sending SMS messages must identify themselves and offer a way for recipients to opt out.

Records seized by the ICO suggest the company was making sales of more than £7,000 a day and its directors were earning tens of thousands of pounds.

‘We had consent’

Mr Niebel told the BBC the company had permission to send out texts because the users on the lists they were using had given their “consent” to be contacted.

In a statement, Mr Niebel said he had not been provided with evidence from the ICO to support the allegations against him and they had not been examined in a court. He said intended to challenge the fine.

He also said he was a minor shareholder in the company and he said the majority was owned by Mr McNeish, who now lives in Thailand.

Mr Niebel claimed the ICO was concentrating on him because it had no legal jurisdiction over his partner.

The case has thrown a rare spotlight on the trade in potential clients for compensation claims, and the private data that enables them to be contacted.

Spammers sometimes send out messages to random numbers in the hope that they link to active mobile phones. They also buy black market lists of numbers on the internet.

For those receiving unwanted messages, replying can lead to the number being marked as active, making it more valuable to so-called ‘list brokers’. Each proven number can be worth £5.

The ICO recommends the messages are deleted.

Mr Graham said: “Our message to the public is, if you don’t know who sent you a text message then do not respond, otherwise your details may be used to generate profits for these unscrupulous individuals.”

Rising premiums

However should a phone-user respond positively to a message offering compensation for a road accident or mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) they will be passed to a claims management company which can then sell their case to a solicitor for a commission of around £500.

Critics says the process drives a “compensation culture” which the insurance industry says is pushing up premiums for everyone.

The ICO is also actively investigating cases of so called ‘blagging’ where the private details of potential insurance claimants are illegally collected and passed to claim management companies.

The details of those involved road accidents are often passed on by insurance companies, courtesy car providers, or even medical staff.

The ICO is considering taking action against three other companies believed to be acting in breach of the privacy and electronic communications regulations.

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 140: It still works

Tested: 1,395cc four-cylinder petrol engine, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive

Price/on sale: £22,705/now

Power/torque: 138bhp @ 4,500-6,000rpm/184lb ft @ 1,500-3,500rpm

Top speed: 132mph

Acceleration: 0-62mph in 8.4sec

Fuel economy: 58.9mpg (EU Combined)

CO2 emissions: 112g/km

Verdict: It might not break the mould, but the a winning combination of classy looks, efficient engines and good build quality will mean the new Golf will no doubt find many happy owners.

China October industrial profits jump 20.5%

Beijing: Profits earned by industrial companies leaped 20.5 per cent in October over the previous year to 500 billion yuan, accelerating from September’s 7.8 per cent year-on-year increase, China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Tuesday.

It said China’s industrial enterprises made 4 trillion yuan in profits in the first 10 months of 2012, with earnings at power generation, technology and food processing companies seeing double digit rises in October — putting them firmly back on the path of profit growth, following a 1.8 per cent fall in profits in the first nine months of 2012 versus 2011.

The data on the NBS website, www.stats.gov.cn, is the latest sign of a gathering rebound in activity in the world’s second biggest economy after seven successive quarters of slowing growth, that has left China on course for its weakest year of expansion since 1999.

Profits in power and heating supply firms led the way higher, surging 57.5 per cent in the first 10 months of the year versus the same period in 2011. Food processing firms saw the next strongest growth at 16.1 per cent, followed by firms in the computing and telecommunications sector, which saw profits grow 10 per cent, the NBS said.

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On the downside, profits of ferrous metal miners slumped 60.3 per cent on the year, while those in chemical industries fell 14.3 per cent.

Petroleum refiners, coking and nuclear fuel processors swung into loss in the first 10 months, compared with gains in the same period of 2011, the NBS added.

The Chinese economy is expected to gather momentum in the fourth quarter after an uptick in key economic activity indicators in October, following encouraging signs in September, thanks to new pro-growth policies rolled out by the government over recent months.

The HSBC flash purchasing managers index, the earliest indicator of China’s industrial activity, saw expansion accelerate in November for the first time in 13 months when the index was published last week.

Plan for 45p minimum alcohol cost

28 November 2012 Last updated at 10:34 GMT By Nick Triggle Health correspondent, BBC News Woman drinking wine The minimum pricing plan is aimed at heavily-discounted drinks sold in shops and supermarkets Ministers are proposing a minimum price of 45p a unit for the sale of alcohol in England and Wales as part of a drive to tackle problem drinking.

The Home Office has launched a 10-week consultation on the plan, arguing it will help reduce the levels of ill-health and crime related to alcohol.

It is also considering banning multi-buy promotions, such as two-for-the-price-of-one.

The 45p proposal is 5p higher than the figure suggested by ministers in March.

It comes after pressure has been mounting on the government to follow Scotland’s lead, where 50p has been proposed.

The aim of a minimum price would be to alter the cost of heavily-discounted drinks sold in shops and supermarkets. It is not expected to affect the price of drinks in many pubs.

The Home Office said the consultation was targeted at “harmful drinkers and irresponsible shops”.

A spokesman added: “Those who enjoy a quiet drink or two have nothing to fear from our proposals.”

The 45p minimum would mean a can of strong lager could not be sold for less than £1.56 and a bottle of wine below £4.22.

Research carried out by Sheffield University for the government shows a 45p minimum would reduce the consumption of alcohol by 4.3%, leading to 2,000 fewer deaths and 66,000 hospital admissions after 10 years.

The number of crimes would drop by 24,000 a year as well, researchers suggested.

Alcohol priced at 45p per unit

There has been evidence of some outlets selling alcohol at a loss to encourage customers through the doors, with cans of lager going for 20p and two-litre bottles of cider available for under £2.

‘Pre-loading’

Ministers have been particularly critical of such practices, blaming them for what has been dubbed “pre-loading”, where people binge-drink before going out.

They have linked this phenomenon to the rising levels of alcohol-related violence and hospital admissions, of which there are more than a million a year.

But the idea of introducing a minimum price – first proposed at 40p in the government’s alcohol strategy published in March – has been met with opposition by the industry.

The Scottish government plan, which is not due to start until April 2013, was challenged on legal grounds by the Scotch Whisky Association and the European Spirits Organisation.

Continue reading the main story Half a pint of standard strength (4%) beer, cider or lagerA single pub measure of spirit (25ml)Half a standard 175ml glass of wine They claimed it was up to Westminster, rather than Holyrood, to decide such an issue and they said it was also incompatible with the EU’s “general principles of free trade and undistorted competition”.

The legal challenges were heard in the Court of Session in Edinburgh last month and a judgement is expected before the end of the year.

Separately the European Commission is looking into the legality of the Scottish government’s actions.

In Northern Ireland, consideration is also being given to minimum pricing, although no final decision has been taken yet.

Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Most major retailers believe minimum pricing and controls on promotions are unfair to most customers. They simply penalise the vast majority, who are perfectly responsible drinkers, while doing nothing to reduce irresponsible drinking.

“The government should recognise the role of personal responsibility. It should not allow interfering in the market to regulate prices and promotions to become the default approach for public health policy.”

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, agreed, saying there was “no evidence” minimum alcohol pricing would be effective in tackling alcohol misuse.

Continue reading the main story

On the face of it, there seems to be little difference between the 45p minimum unit price for alcohol now being proposed and the 40p figure put forward earlier this year.

But in terms of consumption levels – and the subsequent criminal and health costs – the shift is significant.

Research by Sheffield University shows that at 45p consumption drops by 4.3% – a 75% greater effect than would be seen at 40p.

In terms of deaths over a 10-year period, the impact is nearly double. A 45p minimum will save over 2,000 lives compared to under 1,200 for 40p. The effect on crime is also two-fold.

But what the research also shows is that another 5p on the minimum price to bring it to 50p – as Scotland has done – would see a similar increase in impact, which is why campaigners have been pushing for more.

Another area of interest – and possible controversy – is the effect this will have on moderate drinkers.

The research shows a 45p minimum price also affects their buying habits, reducing consumption by 2.3%. That is greater than the reduction likely to be seen in young hazardous drinkers – the so-called binge drinkers.

But health campaigners believe a minimum price is an important step in tackling problem drinking.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, from the British Medical Association, said the changes in pricing could help to stop young people binge drinking.

She told the BBC: “Alcohol is a dose-related poison, in other words the more you drink the more harm it causes, so by reducing the amount they are drinking over the safe limit you are helping to save them.

“It isn’t a small minority of the population who are drinking excessively, it’s nearly a quarter. That’s a huge number of people who are drinking at levels that are hazardous to their health and we really have to throw everything we can (at it) to save lives.”

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “We’re paying a heavy price for alcohol misuse and setting a minimum unit price will help us on the road to changing this.

“But we cannot cut the misery caused by excessive drinking, whether it’s crime or hospitalisation, through price alone.

“We need tighter controls around licensing, giving local authorities and police forces all the tools they need to get a firm grip on the way alcohol is being sold in their area. We have an opportunity to make an enormous difference to the lives of thousands of people – we must seize it.”