Tag Archives: plans

New boss plans better Port Arthur massacre explanation

Updated February 22, 2013 08:31:30

The new head of the Port Arthur Management Authority wants better recognition of the 1996 massacre at the historic site.

Sharon Sullivan has taken over the role from Barry Jones, who has stepped down after 12 years in the job.

Mr Jones oversaw the site’s elevation to World Heritage listing.

Her goals include restoring the Penitentiary which could cost up to $8 million.

Tasmania’s Heritage Minister Brian Wightman last year foreshadowed plans for greater recognition of the massacre and Ms Sullivan agrees it is important.

“There is nothing wrong with the way it’s interpreted now but ways of making it perhaps more explicit and explaining things to visitors better and we will be doing that through the community consultation forum that we have,” she said.

Topics: tourism, port-arthur-7182

First posted February 22, 2013 06:15:48

AirAsia plans Indian budget carrier

AirAsia's chief executive Tony Fernandes AirAsia’s chief executive Tony Fernandes also owns English football team QPR Asia’s largest low-cost carrier, AirAsia, plans to launch an Indian budget airline with India’s Tata and a third investor, Telestra Tradeplace.


The companies said they were looking for approval from the Indian government.


“We strongly believe that the current environment [in India] is perfect to introduce our low fares,” said AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes.


AirAsia would own 49% of the new airline.


The other two Indian companies would own the remaining stake. The new carrier would operate from Chennai in southern India.

Continue reading the main story Sameer Hashmi Mumbai business reporter

On the face of it, the Indian aviation industry seems to be in a mess. The collective debt and losses of the Indian airline industry touched the $20bn mark in the 2011-12 financial year.


But the Indian government’s decision to ease foreign investment rules has given a new impetus to the cash-deprived industry. The domestic Indian carriers desperately need funds, while international airline companies are looking for new growing markets.


India has a rising middle-aged population, with high disposable income levels, and they are likely to drive demand. In 2012, more than 58 million domestic passengers were carried by Indian airlines and this is expected to grow many times over in the next few years.


This makes India an attractive market for big international airlines seeking new emerging markets for long-term growth.

A spokesman for Tata Son – the investment arm of Tata Group – said: “The benefits to the domestic market will include: a) AirAsia’s reputed service, which will further grow aviation as a mode of transport in what is a relatively underserved market and b) employment generation.”


He added that AirAsia would manage the airline and that Tata would not have any operating role in the proposed venture.


India’s aviation industry was opened to foreign investors in September last year, allowing overseas companies to own up to 49% of local airlines.


As yet, no operators have taken advantage of the new rules, although the UAE’s Etihad Airways is in talks to buy a stake in Jet Airways.


The Indian airline industry has been battling steep losses caused by price battles and rising fuel costs. Only one of India’s six main scheduled carriers – IndiGo – made a profit last year.


The BBC’s Mumbai business reporter, Sameer Hashmi, says that AirAsia’s plan to partner with two Indian companies that do not operate in the aviation sector saves them the trouble of taking over any massive debt, which almost all Indian airlines possess.


On Twitter, Mr Fernandes re-tweeted a comment from Amit Bhatia, part of the Telestra group, and added: “Welcome to the airline business. Dump the private jet in India. AirAsia India is the way.”


In a separate development in the industry, shares in the loss-making Kingfisher Airlines rose 5% after its owner, UB Group, agreed to increase a loan to the carrier.


Kingfisher has also reportedly restarted paying wages to its staff. The airline’s fleet has been grounded since October because of the amount of money it owes to staff, lenders, suppliers and airports.

Oz Minerals reveals SA exploration plans

Updated January 25, 2013 15:23:58

Mining company Oz Minerals plans to spend $58 million on exploration in 2013, mostly in South Australia.

The company’s report for the last quarter of 2012 outlines plans to spend $25 million at Prominent Hill and $26 million allocated to Carrapateena.

The remaining $7 million of the exploration budget is for global regional exploration.

Oz Minerals has also committed to buying a remanufactured boring machine worth between $12-15 million by the end of the year.

Topics: mining-industry, company-news, port-augusta-5700

First posted January 25, 2013 14:25:23

Care plans to bring ‘peace of mind’

Plans for a £75,000 cap on the amount the elderly will have to pay for social care in England will give people “greater peace of mind”, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.


Mr Hunt told MPs the current social care system was unfair and left many families facing “ruinous” costs.


He also announced a rise from £23,250 to £123,000 in the amount of assets people have before having to contribute to the costs of basic nursing care.


Labour said progress was “modest”.


At present, up to 40,000 people every year are forced into selling their homes because they face unlimited care bills.


The health secretary said many families currently faced “limitless and often ruinous costs of their own care with little or no assistance from the state” and the proposed new framework would bring “greater certainty, fairness and peace of mind”.


While costs vary hugely, it is estimated that half of all people turning 65 in future will have to pay up to £20,000 towards their basic nursing care – such as help to get washed and dressed – while, for one in ten, the figure will be above £100,000.

Continue reading the main story

Ministers may be giving themselves a big pat on the back for their changes to the social care system.


But for many involved in the sector this is just the start of the process.


Firstly, the £75,000 cap is more than double the figure recommended by Andrew Dilnot, the independent expert asked to look at the issue by government two years ago.


While publicly it is being welcomed – campaigners have been promised reform ever since Tony Blair came to power – there is a nagging fear that it is too high to really get people engaged with planning for their old age.


And, secondly, this reform does nothing to improve the quality of services currently on offer. It is purely aimed at preventing people having to sell their own homes to pay for care.


Local government has long argued the system is dramatically under-funded and services are suffering as a result.


Of all that some say needs to be done, the introduction of a cap may well turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The government is proposing to cap the amount that anyone will have to pay in their lifetime at £75,000.


However, this figure would only cover the cost of nursing care and people would still have to pay for accommodation and food – which averages about £7,000-£10,000 a year, and which will reportedly be capped at £12,500 a year under Mr Hunt’s plan.


If the changes are approved, people are only expected to start receiving support above the £75,000 cap by 2019 at the earliest.


But the hope is that, by establishing the principle that the state will cover the really high costs, people will start planning for their future care needs in the way their do for their pensions in retirement.


There are a variety of ways in which the elderly with the means to do so can free up £75,000, but one hope is that the insurance industry will develop products that cover old-age care.

‘Desperate struggle’

The government is also proposing increasing the means-tested threshold – there to ensure the less well-off get state help towards their care costs.


Currently anyone with assets of more than £23,250 has to pay for their care. Under the plans, it is likely the threshold will rise to £123,000 for people who need to go into a care home. That reflects the fact that rising property prices over the years have effectively meant any home-owner falls outside the state system.

Mr Hunt is also confirmed that the plans, expected to cost about £1bn a year, will be part-funded by freezing the inheritance tax threshold – at £325,000 for individuals and £650,000 for couples – for three years from 2015.


That is despite Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement pledge, in December, to raise the threshold by 1% – to £329,000 for individuals and £658,000 for couples – in 2015/2016. Other funding will come from previously-announced changes to National Insurance and pensions.


Former Lib Dem care services minister Paul Burstow said the proposals would amount to the biggest change in adult social care since the existing system was conceived in 1948 and provide greater “fairness and predictability”.


Labour said the proposals were a “modest step forward” but a “faltering one”.


“The vulnerable will still face rising care costs – homes will still be sold,” said shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

‘Catastrophic risk’

Economist Andrew Dilnot, whose review into the future of social care recommended a basic care cap of between £25,000 and £50,000, said the proposals were “not perfect” but the current system was a “complete disaster” and he hoped the new framework would “radically reduce” people’s anxieties about how they would cope in their old age.


“It (the cap) is higher than I would have wanted,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme. “I regret that. But I recognise that the public finances are in a particularly tricky state.”


It was simply not “plausible” for social care to be funded out of general taxation, he added, and the proposed mixed system would ensure the state picked up the “catastrophic risk” and made sure “nobody is uninsured if they turn out to be very unfortunate”.


The National Pensioners Convention said the proposals “simply tinker at the edges” and that a £75,000 cap “will help just 10% of those needing care, whilst the majority will be left to struggle on with a third-rate service”.


“The current system is dogged by means-testing, a postcode lottery of charges, a rationing of services and poor standards and nothing in the plan looks like it will address any of these concerns,” its general secretary Dot Gibson said.


Ian Owen, chairman of social care needs specialist Partnership Insurance, welcomed the plan but warned of “an absolutely chronic lack of awareness” of how much people have to pay for care, how long they are going to need it for and what their options are.

Tie-up plans for Crown post offices

 Up to 70 Crown post offices could be affected under the plans The Post Office has announced plans to close up to 70 of its main High Street premises, otherwise known as Crown branches.


It wants to replace them with post offices that are based in other shops.


It says the overall size of the network will not be affected, and where retail partners cannot be found, the Crown office will remain.


Trade unions called the move a “partial destruction” of the Crown network.


But the Post Office insisted it is not a closure programme.


“Our overall investment will maintain the size of the network and modernise branches to meet customer needs,” said a spokesperson.

Opening hours

Crown branches (owned by the Post Office) now make up 3% of the total number of post offices. In all there are 11,500 post offices across the UK, of which 370 are Crown branches.


The Post Office insisted the changes were necessary to save money, as Crown branches are currently losing £40m a year.


“Crown branches are a fundamental part of our long term growth strategy and need to be brought into profit,” a spokesperson said.


The Post Office said franchised offices, often in retailers such as WH Smith or the Co-Op, were brighter and bigger, and had longer opening hours.

post office sign Crown post offices now represent just 3% of the total network

It has also promised that any new post offices would be in the same vicinity.


The changes will be subject to local consultation periods of six weeks. Consumers and businesses will not be allowed to object to the principle of Crown office closures, but they will be able to object to plans to partner with a specific retailer.


For example, the proposed post office may be too far away from the High Street, or there may be no parking facilities.

‘Huge impact’

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is highly critical of the plans, which it says amount to a “partial destruction of the Crown network”.


“This move will have a huge impact on the High Streets of small towns earmarked to lose their Crown post office,” said Billy Hayes, the CWU’s general secretary.


“These offices provide a dedicated specialist service to communities which will not be replicated by a window or two in a bigger shop,” he added.


A recent survey by Consumer Focus found that waiting times in franchised offices were actually shorter than in Crown post offices.


In November it reported that 25% of customers in franchised offices waited for longer than five minutes, while it was 31% of customers in a Crown post office.


However, customers in branches franchised to WH Smith queued for the longest periods, with 40% waiting for longer than five minutes.

IT firm plans 2,000 apprentices

Microsoft logo The company said it planned to recruit the apprentices over the next three years The international IT giant, Microsoft, has unveiled an ambition to recruit more than 2,000 new apprentices in Scotland.


Over the next three years, Microsoft said it would work with its Scottish partners to recruit the Modern Apprentices (MAs).


That is double the number the company would normally take on.


First Minister, Alex Salmond, described the news as terrific for young people and for the MA programme.


He added: “”Microsoft is supporting investment in Scottish skills and in its own future in Scotland.


“Recruiting 2,016 apprentices by 2016 represents a huge endorsement of Scotland’s young people from a company with operations in dozens of countries.”


Microsoft UK managing director Michel Van der Bel said: “The digital technologies industry employs over 100,000 people in Scotland and is expanding fast.


“At Microsoft we want to help ensure there are skilled people coming into the workplace to secure the future for the sector.”


He continued: “These are real jobs for young people in a vibrant, growing and exciting industry, which will help bring economic and employment opportunities.”


Recent research by Skills Development Scotland suggested that 92% of those who completed their Modern Apprenticeships were still in work six months later.

Shell plans US export of gas to Asian markets


Shell’s plan to export LNG from the United States is expected to increase competition for Australia in its traditional Asian markets.


Shell has announced it has entered an agreement with a US energy company to export LNG from Elba Island near Georgia.


The company says the total project is expected to have a capacity of 2.5 million tonnes a year and has approval to export 4 million tonnes a year to free trade agreement countries.


The U.S. has abundant supplies of shale gas and new technology, which has facilitated the process of ‘hydraulic fracking’, has revolutionised its energy industry.


The country has gone from an importer of oil and gas to near energy self-sufficiency and potential exporter.


The rise of the industry in the US has created a glut of gas, causing prices to collapse and potentially giving Asian countries access to cheaper energy.


Resource analyst Edwin Bulseco, from DJ Carmichaels, says the move suggests that future greenfield gas projects in Australia are at risk.


“It does represent a shift in strategy to a certain level compared to what the outlook probably was five years ago,” he said.


“The US has a significant amount of gas and potentially a low cost development environment compared to Australia at the moment, so I think it just shows their outlook is that there could higher rates of return with US projects.”


Mr Bulseco says Australia is a high cost LNG producer.


“The only cost advantage that Australia has over the US is the shipping cost from the US to Asia, because the distance is higher, but that can be significantly eroded given the high cost environment that Australia is operating in now,” he said.


“The global LNG market is definitely changing, obviously, the US with shale gas, East Africa has now opened up given the huge gas discoveries offshore there.”


Mr Bulseco says LNG projects where a final investment decision has been made will go ahead but others, such as Browse, will be at risk.


“The projects that have a post FID (final investment decision) and sanctioned, and future expansion of those projects will probably still be competitive because a lot of the capital expenditure has sunk and you’ve got the security of supply because the project’s de-risked,” he said.


“I think future projects, particularly by the majors, will always be ranked on a global basis and I think the higher rates of return projects will be given preference.


“The next indicator will be Woodside’s final investment decision on Browse.


“My expectation is that it won’t go ahead, and if that greenfield development doesn’t go ahead in it’s current onshore form and goes to floating LNG, I think that is another indicator that costs are getting higher.”

Topics: oil-and-gas, perth-6000, united-states

First posted January 29, 2013 11:10:09

Oz Minerals reveals SA exploration plans


Mining company Oz Minerals plans to spend $58 million on exploration in 2013, mostly in South Australia.


The company’s report for the last quarter of 2012 outlines plans to spend $25 million at Prominent Hill and $26 million allocated to Carrapateena.


The remaining $7 million of the exploration budget is for global regional exploration.


Oz Minerals has also committed to buying a remanufactured boring machine worth between $12-15 million by the end of the year.

Topics: mining-industry, company-news, port-augusta-5700

First posted January 25, 2013 14:25:23

Commerzbank plans 6,000 job cuts

Commerzbank logo outside HQ Commerzbank plans to invest more than 2bn euros as it overhauls retail banking Germany’s second-biggest lender Commerzbank is planning to cut as many as 6,000 jobs, or more than 10% of its workforce.


The bank said it wants to cut between 4,000 and 6,000 full-time employees by 2016. Commerzbank currently employs 56,000 staff, of which 49,000 are full-time.


The bank said it was planning to invest more than 2bn euros (£1.7bn; $2.7bn) as it overhauls its retail banking.


Shares in the bank fell 1.9%.


In June, Commerzbank was downgraded by ratings agency Moody’s. In addition to having its rating cut, Commerzbank was placed on negative outlook, meaning Moody’s is considering a further cut.


The agency said that was because of the bank’s exposure to the eurozone periphery, as well as its concentration of loans to single sectors and borrowers.


Some are sceptical that this latest round of job cuts will help much.


“The cuts are not very ambitious,” said analyst Guido Hoymann from Metzler Securities. “I would have expected them to be carried out faster – until 2016, that is a long way off.”

UK housebuilder plans share float

 Crest Nicholson said it was seeing a “gradual recovery” in the housing market Housebuilder Crest Nicholson plans to return to the stock market, more than five years after being taken private at the height of the financial crisis.


The firm will use the expected £50m proceeds from the listing of new shares to repay debt. Its owners also hope to sell £150m of their existing shares.


Chief executive Stephen Stone said the listing coincided with a “gradual recovery” in the housing market.


The firm also revealed it had returned to profit last year.


Crest Nicholson, reported profit before tax of £62.1m for the year to October 2012, after a £27m loss the year before.


Mr Stone said stronger rates of sales, as well as an “encouraging” pick-up in mortgage lending had driven its recovery.


The company, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, was taken taken private by Scottish entrepreneur Tom Hunter and mortgage lender HBOS in 2007 and is now majority owned by US distressed investment fund Varde Partners.


The company said its initial public offering, expected to be completed in February, would also include a sale of existing shares by some institutional shareholders, including Varde Partners and Deutsche Bank.


It said it expected the so-called free float – the number of shares available to buy – to be a minimum of 35% of the issued share capital of Crest Nicholson.

Audi says plans to double Middle East sales by 2020

Audi-Logo-1DUBAI: German luxury car maker Audi plans to double its Middle East sales to at least 20,000 vehicles a year by 2020, helped by investment in showrooms and service centres, its local chief said.


“It is the minimum target. You have to have buildings, you have to have capacity,” Trevor Hill, managing director of Audi Middle East, told Reuters on Monday following a presentation on its 2012 sales in Dubai’s sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, a symbol of the emirate’s expansion in the last decade.


“Already those investments have been signed off, most of them have been made already … So half the battle is already won (in) creating capacity and now we have to work in terms of volume improvement and in terms of quality,” he said.


Audi, a Volkswagen AG unit which booked a 16.4 percent sales jump to a record 9,155 units in the Middle East in 2012, aims to sell at least 10,000 vehicles in the region in 2013, Hill told the presentation.


Together with its local partners, Audi has seven major construction projects on the way, including showrooms and after-sales service facilities in the UAE, Oman and Qatar. The brand needs to double its workshop capacity in the region, Hill said.


Globally Audi plans to boost deliveries to more than 2 million cars and sport-utility vehicles by 2020, as it aims to snatch leadership of the luxury car market from BMW.


The Volkswagen division expects sales in the premium segment sales to surge by between 12 and 15 percent in the Middle East this year, while the overall passenger car market could see a rise of 6 to 8 percent from an estimated 1.1 to 1.2 million vehicles sold in 2012, Hill told Reuters.


MORE OPPORTUNITIES


Unrest in the Arab world since early 2011 may have helped to boost Audi’s sales in the UAE, its top market in the region, as the country benefited from its safe-haven status, drawing in businesses and expatriates.


“Dubai is growing quite rapidly so that will create a lot more opportunities for us to sell. There is a lot of wealthy people living in Dubai right now,” Hill said.


The UAE made up 41 percent of Audi’s total sales in the region, with 3,819 units sold in 2012, up 21.7 percent. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf’s biggest market for volume rather than premium passenger cars, followed with a 26 percent jump.


Audi, which has suspended operations in civil war-torn Syria, did not see sales being hit in neighbouring Lebanon, and in Jordan, which has also seen social unrest.


“We have not seen that much slowdown in Lebanon. Lebanon is hitting the targets, Jordan is hitting its targets, so there are no real spillovers for us in those markets,” Hill said. “I think it (sales) will keep growing (this year).”


Ingolstadt-based Audi expects to increase annual sales of luxury cars and sport utility vehicles to 1.5 million earlier than the planned 2015 target date, its CEO said this month.


On Sunday, US-based Ford Motor Co, which has a 7.5 percent market share in the Middle East, reported record sales of over 75,000 vehicles in the region for its Ford and Lincoln brands in 2012, a 10 percent rise. It saw sales soar 55 percent in the UAE, while Saudi Arabia and Lebanon were stable.


That is still behind Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp, which has a dominant share across the region and reported a 30 percent jump in sales to 650,000 units in 2012, local media reported.

Copyright Reuters, 2013

BASF, Petronas shelve plans for Malaysia joint venture

BASF 400FRANKFURT: BASF, the world’s biggest chemicals maker, and Malaysia oil and gas giant Petronas announced Monday they were terminating plans to set up a specialty chemicals joint venture in Malaysia.

The two companies had signed a proposal last March to develop, construct and operate production facilities for a host of specialty chemical products in Pengerang.

But “following negotiations, Petronas and BASF concluded that it would be in their mutual interest to terminate the agreement as both parties were unable to come to an agreement on the terms and conditions for the implementation of the proposed venture,” the two said in a joint statement.

The statement said that both companies nevertheless remained committed to continuing their existing long-term partnership.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2013

New workers hit by pension plans

Pensions Minister Steve Webb: “People will retire with a single, simple, decent state pension”

Plans for a “simple” flat-rate state pension have been unveiled, but many of those entering the workforce now will be worse off than under current rules.


The government’s White Paper shows that there are short-term gainers but longer-term losers from the policy.


Instead of a basic pension of £107 a week plus various means-tested top-ups, recipients will get £144 in today’s money from 2017 at the earliest.


The government said this was fairer for the self-employed and many mothers.


Figures in the White Paper, published on Monday afternoon, suggested that at least half of all people reaching state pension age before 2050 were likely to have a better outcome under the new system than they would if the current system were to continue. Of these, the majority would be better off by at least £2 per week.


However, by 2060, more than half would be worse off than if the current system continued, because they could not build up a state second pension.


After April 2017, people will also have to work longer, making 35 years’ worth of National Insurance (NI) contributions, rather than the current 30, to qualify for the full pension.

Continue reading the main story Currently 11.5 million people claim the state pension2.8 million women receive a state pension of less than £80 a week. Only 474,000 men do so3.2 million individuals receive pension credit to supplement their retirement income

Source: DWP

Anyone who has not paid NI for at least seven, or possibly even 10, years will not qualify for the new state pension at all.


The system of pension credit will continue, but only to provide those ineligible for the new pension with a safety net.

‘Complicated’

The current full state pension is £107.45 a week, but can be topped up to £142.70 with the means-tested pension credit, and a state second pension which is based on National Insurance contributions.


Anyone who qualifies for the state pension before April 2017 will continue to receive their entitlement under the current system.


For new pensioners from April 2017, the second state pension will be abolished.


The replacement – the universal flat-rate payment in England, Wales and Scotland – will be the biggest overhaul of the pension system for decades.


Pensions Minister Steve Webb said that the single payment would make it clearer for people to see how much extra they needed to save, in private or workplace pension schemes, for a comfortable retirement.


He told MPs that 10 million people were not saving enough for their pension.

Continue reading the main story

Winners include:


The self-employed, who currently do not build up a state second pension


Those who have spent time out of the workforce, such as mothers and carers of those with disabilities, will benefit in the short-term


Losers include:


Many of those entering the workforce now are likely to receive less than they would have done had the current system remained in place


Those who have fewer than seven, or possibly even 10, years of National Insurance contributions, who will get no state pension under the new rules

“The current state pension system is too complicated and leaves millions of people needing means-tested top-ups,” he said.


“Our simple, single-tier pension will provide a decent, solid foundation for new pensioners in an otherwise less certain world, ensuring it pays to save.”


But Labour said that the government had “dithered and delayed” over proposing reforms.


“We support sensible pensions reform but this government has consistently acted with secrecy and incompetence and we will study these plans very closely to ensure ministers are completely straight with the millions of hardworking people who will lose out under these plans,” said Gregg McClymont, the shadow pensions minister.

Overhaul

The change involves merging the state second pension with the basic state pension, to create one flat-rate payment.


The self-employed will benefit, as they tend to get a lower state pension. Women who have taken time out of the workplace to bring up children are also set to benefit.


“[These are] people who don’t make enough contributions throughout their working life to, in particular, the state second pension, which includes people with intermittent work patterns, periods of low earnings and the self-employed,” said Chris Curry, from the charity the Pensions Policy Institute.


Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “This reform is good news for women who for too long have been effectively punished by the current system.


“The single tier will mean that more women can get a full state pension in their own right, and stop this shameful situation where they are let down by the system when it comes to retirement because they have taken time out to care for their family.”


Under the new system, anyone who works, has been claiming benefits for being unemployed, has been looking after children aged 12 or under, or caring for sick or disabled adults for 35 years will receive a fixed pension of £144 a week when they reach state pension age.


The amount will be lower if they have fewer “qualifying years” of this kind.


However, it will be updated each year – as the state pension is now – in line with earnings, prices, or 2.5%, whichever is higher.


Under established plans, the state pension age is rising to 66 for both men and women by 2020, with further plans for this to increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028.


Mr Webb told MPs that he wanted to see a review of the state pension age every five years, starting in the next Parliament.


He also said that all current workers’ accrued second state pension rights will be recognised, so they will be paid a top-up to the new, merged, flat-rate payment.


Overall, the system will mean the cost of the state pension to the government is unlikely to change much. It will account for about 8% of GDP by 2060, the government’s figures show.

Effect on employers

The effective abolition of the separate state second pension, and its incorporation into the new enhanced single-tier version, will end the complicated system of so-called “contracting out”.

Shadow Pensions Minister Gregg McClymont warned of ”heavy losers” if the proposals go ahead


In this, members of final-salary pension schemes, in both the private and public sector, pay reduced National Insurance (NI) contributions, but receive no state second pension.


From April 2017, employees in those schemes will have to pay more NI, amounting to a further 1.4% of the relevant earnings on which NI is levied.


To reflect their lower previous NI contributions, they will only be eligible to receive a reduced version of the single-tier pension when they eventually retire.


There will be a bigger impact on employers.


They too pay lower NI contributions if their pension schemes are currently “opted-out” of the state second pension.


From 2017, these employers will also have to pay higher NI, amounting to 3.4% of their employees’ relevant earnings.


To offset this, employers will be allowed to reduce their employees’ pension benefits, or put up their members’ contributions.


The law will be changed to allow this to happen, even if pension scheme rules currently allow scheme trustees to object.


“Around 90% of those reaching state pension age in the first two decades after implementation will gain enough extra state pension over retirement to offset both the increased National Insurance contributions they will pay over the rest of their working lives and any potential adjustments to their occupational pension,” the White Paper said.

Glasgow reveals Youth Games plans

Details have been released of Glasgow’s plans to host the 2018 Youth Olympics.


The bid document, which has been submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), proposes holding athletics events at Scotstoun Stadium.


Diving and swimming would be staged at Tollcross International Aquatics Centre with a purpose-built Athletes’ Village at Sighthill, in the north of the city.


The IOC will announce the host city in July 2013, following a shortlisting process in February next year.


Glasgow’s bid builds on its status as host city for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

‘Excellent reputation’

Details of the bid were announced at the Tollcross venue on Monday, in an event attended by Sport Minister Shona Robison and young athletes from the City of Glasgow Swim Team.


Ms Robison said: “Warmth and hospitality alongside an excellent reputation for hosting world-class sport events makes Glasgow, and Scotland, the perfect stage for the Youth Olympic Games in 2018.


“Young athletes competing at the top of their field rightly expect the very best facilities and support services.

Sighthill village square (artists impression) Glasgow plans to build an Athletes’ Village in Sighthill

“Building on the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics and the forthcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games, Scotland stands ready to be an exciting, dynamic host of the Youth Olympic Games.”


It was revealed that a total of 15 out of 17 sites proposed for use in the 2018 bid will be completed before the end of 2013.


The vast majority of these venues are no more than 20 minutes travel from the Youth Olympic Village in Sighthill.


Glasgow’s bid is being supported by Lord (Sebastian) Coe, chairman of the British Olympic Association and the London 2012 Organising Committee.


He said: “The Youth Olympic Games is a fresh, exciting, young product.


“By entrusting it to Glasgow 2018, the Olympic family will have a historic opportunity to draw on the unprecedented pool of sophisticated event-hosting expertise and global youth engagement programmes in the UK right now.


“We delivered our promises and we achieved our goals at London 2012, and we’re ready to continue that partnership with the Olympic family in Glasgow in 2018, another sports city in our sporting nation.”

‘Healthier lifestyles’

In the last five years, the UK has hosted more than 120 world and European status events, and Glasgow is now ranked ninth in the SportBusiness Ultimate Sports City table.


Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said considerable investment in sports facilities could have a massive impact on young people and local communities.


“We have invested in the sporting and cultural infrastructure over recent years in order to be capable of hosting world-class events,” he said.


“These not only put Glasgow on the world map but create jobs and opportunities for Glaswegians, and crucially encourage our young people to lead healthier and more active lifestyles.”


Glasgow’s 2018′s bid team comprises the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council and the British Olympic Association.

Online travel portal Cleartrip plans US listing next year

Dubai: Middle East’s leading online travel portal Cleartrip plans to go public next year, said a top official.

“We are actively looking at going public simply because there is an appetite for high-growth companies. There haven’t been many IPO stories out of the Middle East. Different markets have pros and cons, but we look at US as a benchmark for technology companies and it makes sense for us as we are an internet company,” Jae Hyung Kim, president of Cleartrip, said in an interview with Gulf News.

“Our structure allows us to go public any time, the only thing is the timing and shareholders’ approval. Next year is under consideration,” he said.

He said the Middle East travel industry is worth $60 billion this year based on gross bookings, while the global travel market size is estimated to be approximately $1 trillion based on gross bookings. Out of which online sales will contribute $10 billion. Online sales, currently at 15 per cent, will increase to exceed 22 per cent by 2014.

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According to the report released by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the UAE accounts for 41 per cent of total investment in the travel and tourism sector in the Middle East. The report also predicted that the volume of investments in the tourism sector in the UAE will grow by seven per cent annually.

Marie de Ducla, Industry Head Travel – Gulf, Google, said: “In terms of technology adoption, customers in the Middle East are recognised as being sophisticated and technology savvy, which is evident in the high mobile and internet penetration rates. Hence, travel and tourism companies must prioritise their online marketing tools to advance their businesses and retain new customers.”

She said internet is number one inspiration for travellers and those who booked visited 26 sites for more than four hours. Mobile search is also rising fast. Mobile travel searches registered a 1,200 per cent increase

Even though air fares have gone up, lot of low-cost carriers are “filling the void now and people are looking at point-to-point travel at lower cost. We have 92 low-cost carriers on our platform today in addition to close to 250 legacy carriers. We have 70,000 hotels on our platform of which 8,000 directly contracted. We expect to increase to over 250,000 total hotels in the next couple of months,” Jae said.

Cleartrip has grown close to 150 per cent year on year in the Gulf. The portal launched its operations in the Gulf in November 2011 with an office in Dubai.

He said currently we offer hotel and flight bookings and is looking to form alliances with tour operators to offer holiday packages.

Close to 90 per cent of its revenue comes from airline ticketing.

“We are looking at Saudi Arabia as part of expansion and launch an Arabic site in January. We are looking at opportunities in Africa in the near future. Our intention is to make travelling as simple as possible without going to 10 different sites,” Jae said.

US senator presses Hyundai, Kia on compensation plans

WASHINGTON: A senior US senator is pressing Hyundai Motor Co and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp on their plans to compensate customers for inflated fuel-efficiency claims the two companies admitted earlier this month.


Hyundai and Kia have agreed in negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency to reimburse customers for additional fuel costs.


Under the plan, customers who purchased one of 13 Kia or Hyundai models from the 2011 to 2013 model years will receive a debit card to reimburse them for the difference in fuel economy and an extra 15 percent will be added to the account to acknowledge the inconvenience.


“While I believe this is a positive step, I am concerned that many affected customers may not learn about the program or may find it burdensome to participate,” Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller said in separate letters to the heads of Hyundai and Kia’s US divisions on Thursday. The letters were posted on the Commerce Committee’s website.


He pressed the executives to explain by Dec. 14 how their companies will “maximize the effectiveness and the accessibility” of the program and their plans to reach customers who might not initially take advantage of it.


Four weeks ago, Hyundai and Kia conceded that they overstated the fuel economy by at least a mile per gallon on more than 1 million recently sold vehicles.


Moody’s Investors Service has estimated the compensation campaign could cost Hyundai $100 million a year until the cars are scrapped. The automaker also faces lawsuits over the matter.


On Wednesday, at the Los Angeles auto show, John Krafcik, head of Hyundai Motor America, said the automaker has sent letters to the owners of every affected vehicle and spoken to thousands by phone, email or in person at dealerships.


He said Hyundai has sent thousands of debit cards to owners that will allow them to buy enough gasoline to make up the difference between what the mileage claims were and what they should have been.


Krafcik said Hyundai estimates 90 percent of affected owners who have come to dealerships for odometer verification are satisfied with the reimbursement program.


A Hyundai spokesman declined to comment further on Friday, while a spokesman for Kia also declined to comment.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

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.

GSK unveils expansion plans in India, Nigeria

Monday, 26 November 2012 17:10 Posted by Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui

GlaxoLONDON: British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said it intends to increase its holdings in its Indian and Nigerian divisions, as part of a long-term strategy to expand into emerging markets, in a statement on Monday.

GSK said it had offered to buy an additional stake of up to 31.8 percent of its Indian unit, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd, in a bid pitched at 3,900 rupees per share.

The proposed voluntary open offer, which would lift its holding from 43.2 percent to up to 75 percent, is worth about £591 million ($941 million, 730 million euros) or 52.2 billion rupees, funded through existing cash resources.

“GSK Consumer Healthcare is a well established business in India and its leading product, Horlicks, is an iconic household brand,” the group’s chief strategy officer David Redfern said in a statement.

“This transaction represents a further step in GSK’s strategy to invest in the world’s fastest growing markets and, we believe, offers a liquidity opportunity at an attractive premium for existing shareholders.”

In a separate statement, London-listed GSK said it has also reached a deal in principle to ramp up its stake in GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria PLC from 46.4 percent to 80 percent, in a proposed transaction worth some £62 million.

Redfern added: “This proposal to increase GSK’s ownership of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria reiterates our long term support of the company’s strategy and our confidence in the continuing growth prospects of the business.”

In morning deals, GSK’s share price dipped 0.71 percent to 1,337.50 pence on London’s FTSE 100 index of top companies, which was 0.44 percent lower at 5,793.25 points.

Keith Bowman, equities analyst at brokerage Hargreaves Landsdown, said the move was part of GSK’s wider strategy.

“The emerging markets continue to form an important growth driver for GSK,” Bowman told AFP.

“Today’s moves appear to underline management’s confidence in expected long term growth for both locations.”

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

Huawei plans to ship up to 60 million smart phones this year

Shenzhen, China: China-based Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider, which has a strategic partnership with regional telecommunications major etisalat to roll out the advanced fourth generation long-term evolution frequency-division duplexing (4G LTE-FDD) network in the UAE and to bring 85 per cent of the country under the network in 2013, says it plans to ship up to 60 million smart phones this year.

“About 35 per cent of this, would be consumed in China. We were number 4 in Android phones last year and this year, aim to be number 3 in the world,” Shao Yang, CMO, Device at Huawei told visiting reporters from the UAE at a manufacturing facility in a recent interaction. “Our smart phone shipment was 20 million in 2011 and 3 million in 2010.”

He said before 2011, Huawei was known as a low-end phone maker but since then, that perception has radically changed.

Shao said Huawei currently has over 50 per cent in the global mobile broadband market. “We are aiming to be the world’s top three phone brands by 2016,” said Shao, adding Huawei’s Gold series, Windows 8 device is set for a global launch at Las Vegas in January 2013, which would have features like longer battery life.

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“Our products are available through operators, on the open market and through e-commerce,” said Shao.

Huawei annually invests an average of 10 per cent of its revenue into research and development (R&D). It aims to be the No. 3 smartphone vendor in the world with 15 per cent market share by 2015. Huawei is currently the world’s sixth-biggest maker of mobile phones. In the Middle East, Huawei’s 2011 consumer sales revenue was $175 million, and its 2012 annual sales target is $200 million.

The Middle East is one of the fastest growing regions worldwide for Huawei with regional contract sales across the Middle East in 2011 totalling $3.22 billion, a 20 per cent increase from the previous year.

Etisalat was the first in the region to launch the 4G LTE-FDD in 2011 in collaboration with Huawei. The first phase of the project covered around 80 per cent of the populated areas in the country with close to 1,000 stations. Etisalat now plans to increase the number of stations to extend its 4G coverage in the populated areas and strengthen the internal coverage for buildings, malls and airports, in addition to other key buildings.

As for the 3G network, Etisalat currently covers around 99.8 per cent of populated areas with more than 5,500 stations.

“Etisalat will continue to expand its 3G network in conjunction with the second phase of the LTE project,” the Abu Dhabi-based company said previously.

Huawei an employee-owned private company, has established end-to-end capabilities across the carrier networks, enterprise and consumer markets by providing competitive solutions and services, which have been deployed in over 150 countries serving more than one-third of the world’s population.

Twinkies maker Hostess plans to go out of business

Says it has received a number of proposals to buy assets

ReutersPublished: 12:39 November 17, 2012Gulf News
Image Credit: APA Twinkies lover stands in line with a stack of the goodies at the Hostess Thrift Shop in Ogden, Utah, on Friday. They are swarming stores to snatch the last of the sugary snacks.

Hostess Brands, the bankrupt maker of Twinkies snack cakes and Wonder Bread, is seeking a US court’s permission to go out of business after failing to get wage and benefit cuts from thousands of its striking bakery workers.

The 82-year-old Hostess, which has about $2.5 billion (Dh9.1 billion) in sales and is one of the largest wholesale bakers and distributors of breads and snack cakes in the United States, filed the request with the US Bankruptcy Court in New York early Friday morning. A hearing on the matter is set for Monday.

The Irving, Texas-based company said the liquidation would mean that most of its 18,500 employees would lose their jobs. Hostess immediately suspended operations at all of its 33 plants across the US as it moves to start selling assets.

“We’ll be selling the brands and as much of the infrastructure as we can,” said company spokesman Lance Ignon. “There is value in the brands. But some bakeries will never open again as bakeries.”

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Ignon said the company made final deliveries on Friday of products made on Thursday night. Hostess’s top-selling products are its chocolate cupcakes, Twinkies cakes and its powdered sugar and frosted “Donettes.”

Hostess products, particularly the golden, cream-filled Twinkies cakes, are deeply ingrained in American pop culture and have long been packed in school children’s lunch boxes. Entrepreneurs on auction site eBay Inc were asking as much as $100 for a box of 10 Twinkies on Friday morning.

Raj Patel, owner of Sarah’s Market in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said he was sorry to see the company go out of business.

“It’s been around for ages,” said Patel, 40. “A lot of people are familiar with the brand and it’s going to be tough for some people to do without.”

Hostess blamed heavy debt and burdensome wage and pension obligations for its financial woes. It said a strike by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which began November 9, was part of a long series of battles between labour and management that contributed to the company’s inability to restructure its finances and produce and deliver products at several facilities.

But union officials and line workers said union workers had already agreed to a series of concessions over the years and the company had failed to invest in brand marketing and modernization of plants and trucks and had focused instead on enriching owners such as private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings and hedge funds Silver Point Capital and Monarch Alternative Capital.

Officials at the three firms declined to comment.

“Our members decided… they were not going to agree to another round of outrageous wage and benefit cuts and give up their pension only to see yet another management team fail and Wall Street vulture capitalists and ‘restructuring specialists’ walk away with untold millions of dollars,” said BCTGM International Union President Frank Hurt.

=“The people who are running this company are not interested in making bread,” said Roger Harrison, 56, who bags buns at the Hostess plant in Lenexa, Kansas, and has been with the company for 35 years.

“They are not in the baking industry; they are just interested in the money,” Harrison said.

The company had started implementing an 8 per cent pay cut, a 20 per cent increase in healthcare costs, and changes to pension and workday provisions when workers went on strike on November 9. Hostess had given employees a deadline to return to work on Thursday, but the union held firm, saying it had already given far more in concessions than workers could bear and that it would not bend further.

“The union has been the death of this company,” said a human resources manager who recently left Hostess.

Hostess’s battle with its workforce has brewed for years. Formerly known as Interstate Bakeries Corp (IBC), the company for decades was based in Kansas City, Missouri. It filed for bankruptcy in September 2004 and emerged in 2009 with a host of employee concessions from various unions.

A source with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity said the company was well positioned when it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, but the recession, a spike in commodity prices and consolidation of major competitors reshaped the landscape and forced more restructuring.

Company denies exploration plans will impact marine life

Posted November 24, 2012 13:35:55

Bight Petroleum has rejected claims its plan to explore for oil and gas off the coast of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island will impact on marine life.

Environmentalists want the Federal Government to stop the company from doing seismic surveys.

Bight Petroleum wants to explore for the resources about 100 kilometres from the island next year, using a 100-metre long ship to perform three dimensional surveys.

The Greens have moved twice in the Senate for the exploration licence to be cancelled, but both motions were defeated.

The surveys are planned for early next year.

The company’s chief operating officer Iain MacDougall says there is no documented evidence seismic testing harms marine life.

“We are as concerned as anyone about the environment, and Australia has a very, very robust regulatory regime, one of the most robust in the world,” he said.

The Member for Finniss and Kangaroo Island resident, Michael Pengilly, says he believes enough protections are in place.

“I think we need to bring balance into this, you need to have things to drive the economy forward sensibly and oil and gas search is one of those,” he said.

But Greens Senator Penny Wright says the testing will emit a loud pulse underwater, which could be damaging to marine life.

“We know particularly that whales rely on sound to communicate and seismic surveys can destroy their hearing,” she said.

“It can also cause organ damage… It can also change their behaviour which disrupts their feeding and their breeding patterns.”

Topics: environment, business-economics-and-finance, industry, oil-and-gas, adelaide-5000, port-lincoln-5606

Stockman’s Hall of Fame plans outback entertainment centre

Posted November 21, 2012 14:17:09

The Stockman’s Hall of Fame says it will apply again for federal funding to build its outback entertainment centre at Longreach in central western Queensland.

The first earthworks have started, after delays caused by concerns the site was the habitat for the endangered Julia Creek dunnart.

Hall spokesman Ben Maguire says it will be seeking $5 million for stage one of the equine facility but in the meantime it will hold the first campdraft next year.

“We will end up with the two main campdraft arenas, which will be north and south of a central mound,” he said.

“That central mound is the showpiece of the design that we want people to be able to use as a spectator mound.

He says that will give the Hall in 2013 the ability to be able to run the campdraft, which it has been trying to get going now for about six years.

“Our third application for regional development funding is open again on the 6th [of] December,” he said.

“We’ll be applying for first stage funding which is $5 million and these earthworks will allow us to showcase what that site can deliver.

“This is not an invitation only event, this is open to any campdrafter in Australia that would like to come on the back of the Paradise Lagoons event.”

Topics: regional-development, community-development, regional, activism-and-lobbying, community-and-multicultural-festivals, longreach-4730

BP plans £3.7b share buyback

London: BP Plc plans to spend up to £3.7 billion (Dh21.6 billion) buying back its shares after agreeing last week to pay record criminal penalties over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Britain’s Sunday Times said in an unsourced report.

BP said on Thursday it would pay $4.5 billion to resolve criminal and civil charges over the April 2010 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and caused the worst-ever US offshore oil spill.

The settlement means BP will face no further US federal criminal charges, but is expected to have to pay more to settle civil actions.

It could face a penalty of as much as $21 billion if found guilty of gross negligence under US clean water legislation in a trial starting in February, although the firm has earmarked only $3.5 billion for the case.

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But the British oil company believes it could safely spend up to £3.7 billion to revive its flagging shares, which are worth around a third less than before the disaster, the Sunday Times said, adding the buyback could take place early next year.

A BP spokesman declined to comment on the report.

BP will gain $12.3 billion in cash from an agreement in October to sell its stake in TNK-BP to Russia’s Rosneft, giving it headroom to return money to investors, although analysts have said that may have to wait until its oil spill litigation is settled.

At the time of the Rosneft deal, BP said it would evaluate how the cash proceeds would be used, promising to offset any consequent dilution to its earnings per share and to continue with its “progressive dividend policy.”

Dubai plans to achieve 4.5% growth by 2015

Dubai: Despite the economic and political situation worldwide, the Dubai government plans to achieve a 4.5- 5 per cent growth by 2015, Sami Al Qamzi, Director General of the Development of Economic Department in Dubai, talked to Gulf News on the sidelines of the Summit on the Global Agenda.

He said: “Conserving an average of 4.5 per cent in Dubai Gross Domestic Production is an achievable target by 2015 amid all the existing challenges.”

Moreover, Al Qamzi said that the discussions at the summit is an advantage for Dubai because of the exchange of ideas, best practices and experiences.

“The success stories of Dubai could attract a lot of investment and businesses into the emirate.”

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Dubai has committed to a progressive vision of itself, keen to diversify its economy and diminish its reliance on shrinking oil revenues, it has developed in the region a premier international business centre. Several factors have contributed to this ongoing success story.

Al Qamzi said: “Dubai has changed dramatically over the last three decades, becoming a major business centre with a more dynamic and diversified economy. Dubai enjoys a strategic location and serves as the biggest re-exporting centre in the Middle East.”

“The emirate could attract new businesses and investments by trying to create new business clusters, easing procedures, updating legislation and improving policies.”

He added that the green economy is one of the initiatives which has been created to enhance economic sustainability, create job, and attract more investment into the emirate.

However, Al Qamzi said that the openness of Dubai has put a lot of challenges in the face of achieving a steady economic growth.

“Being a gateway for the region as well as world market, Dubai is facing a lot of challenges in enhancing its infrastructure, human capital, education, health and lifestyle.”

However, he added: “There is no doubt that the flexibility of Dubai economy, policies and decision makers can left all these challenges and bars in the face of further growth.”

Adding to that, Dubai’s political and economic stability, open and free economic system, world class infrastructure and service sector and high quality of life, all enhance economic sustainability.

Dubai is developing a proper study to enhance the industrial sector and increase its contribution to the GDP, Al Qamzi said.

Dubai already achieved major gains in the profitable manufacture and export of aluminium ingots, fabricated metal products, textiles and ready-made garments, gold and jewellery, prepared foodstuffs, consumer electronics, refined petroleum, chemical and non-metallic mineral products. Supportive commercial, industrial, political and economic factors are currently in place to make possible the extension of these gains to other manufacturing sub-sectors.

Santander plans to invest in Spain’s bad bank

Madrid: Spain’s Santander plans to invest in the country’s so-called bad bank in a sign that healthy domestic lenders are willing to support the entity created to clean up the aftermath of a 2008 property crash.

“The bank plans on investing in the bad bank,” a spokesman for Santander, Spain’s biggest bank, told Reuters on Saturday.

Spain has set up the bad bank to siphon off toxic real estate assets from bank balance sheets that date from the property crash. The bad bank’s creation is a condition of receiving up to €100 billion ($127 billion) of aid in a European bail-out of the country’s financial sector.

Spain’s second biggest bank, BBVA, is considering investing in the vehicle, but has yet to make a decision, a BBVA spokesman told Reuters on Saturday.

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Sabadell is also considering investing but has not yet made a decision, a Sabadell spokesman said.

The bad bank’s managers are currently in talks with BBVA, Sabadell and Barcelona-based Caixabank about them investing in the vehicle, a banking source said. Caixabank was not immediately available for comment.

An Economy Ministry source said on Friday the bad bank could go ahead just with backing from domestic investors but foreign investors would give it credibility.

The bad bank will initially have equity of €3.9 billion. But the government needs private investors to stump up €2.2 billion, or 55 per cent of this, in December, the Economy Ministry source said on Friday.

Private sector support is key because the government wants to keep its stake in the bad bank below 50 percent to reduce the burden on state finances.

The bad bank, known as Sareb, will initially receive assets — such as soured loans to housebuilders and foreclosed property — from four state-rescued banks, including Bankia, worth €45 billion. It will have a maximum asset value of €90 billion.

The equity in the bad bank could rise to €5 billion after including assets from a further group of banks, aside from those taken from the state-rescued banks, the source said.

The government hopes eventually to capture €500 million of investment from foreign investors, or 10 per cent of the final equity tranche.

The rest of the bad bank will be financed by senior state-backed bonds.

Government sources said on Friday that Spain’s bank restructuring fund, the FROB, could use part of the European aid to invest in the bad bank, and as such, would not need to tap markets.

Uranium transport debate begins amid Qld mining plans

Updated October 31, 2012 14:54:58

Plans to get Queensland’s uranium industry up and running have sparked debate over how the ore will be exported.

The Queensland Government has established a five-person committee to determine the rules and regulations for the industry, including its transport.

The ports nearest the state’s uranium deposits sit right next to the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

Queensland’s uranium deposits are in the state’s north and the nearest ports are Townsville and Cairns.

Both are major tourism destinations and gateways to the Great Barrier Reef.

But chairman of the committee appointed to help Queensland’s uranium industry, Paul Bell, says both ports could be used to export the radioactive material.

“We haven’t seen any significant reaction to any of the options that we’ve probably started to look at in regards to ports – the way in which uranium transport would be carried out in Queensland,” he said.

“It’s still very early days and we think that all options should be certainly investigated.”

Queensland Resources Council spokesman Michael Roche says the state should follow Western Australia’s lead and ship it from Darwin or Adelaide instead.

“Given that the Adelaide-Darwin railway is not too long a reasonable haul from the north-west of Queensland, then it makes sense that uranium could be transported to that rail line and then sent north to Darwin or south to Adelaide,” he said.

In the next four-and-a-half-months the committee will visit uranium projects in the Northern Territory and South Australia to gather information.

Mr Bell says sending Queensland’s uranium interstate for shipping is an option.

“The discussion we’ll be having with governments from Northern Territory and South Australia will be about how do you feel about more tonnage coming through your place,” he said.

“Is that something that you would support or would you see some reluctance and therefore giving us, I suppose, impetus to come back and to certainly have some further discussions with ports here in Queensland?”

Conservationists have slammed the decision to reintroduce uranium mining in Queensland, arguing the environmental risks far outweigh the economic benefits.

But Mr Roche says the state’s known uranium resources are currently valued at $10 billion.

He says that could creep up to $18 billion if uranium prices improve as expected in the next three to five years.

Mr Roche says any mines are at least four years away from operation but the state should consider following the Western Australia Government and setting its uranium royalties at 5 per cent.

“That’s the sort of rate that would be competitive,” he said.

“Any higher than that, then you’re starting to discourage investment.

“Queensland at the end of the day will be competing for projects in Australia as well as in other jurisdictions such as in Canada.”

The committee is expected to report back to the Queensland Government in March.

Topics: public-sector, activism-and-lobbying, uranium-mining, state-parliament, mining-rural, mining-industry, mining-environmental-issues, trade, brisbane-4000, townsville-4810, mount-isa-4825, cairns-4870, darwin-0800

First posted October 31, 2012 08:59:29

Cruise plans left in doubt

Updated November 02, 2012 15:00:40

Several cruises planned for South Australian waters next year may be affected by a Sydney-based company Classic International Cruises going into administration.

It has taken bookings for trips on the Athena, with itineraries including Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln and Robe.

The ship is being held by authorities due to a financial dispute.

Passengers are being advised to contact the administrators, Lawler Partners.

Leah Clarke from the South Australian Tourism Commission said it hoped a replacement ship could be used.

She said there were still more than a dozen other cruise liners due to visit SA this season.

Topics: company-news, rural-tourism, travel-and-tourism, sa, kingscote-5223, adelaide-5000, port-lincoln-5606, robe-5276, port-pirie-5540

First posted November 01, 2012 15:37:01

Holiday plans of cruise passengers in disarray

Posted November 07, 2012 16:03:53

The holiday plans of hundreds of West Australians are in disarray after a replacement for the cruise ship Athena could not be found.

Sydney-based Classic International Cruises, which booked Athena for a series of Australian cruises over a four-month period, went into voluntary administration more than a week ago.

Consumer Protection has today advised more than 500 WA passengers that the cruise has been cancelled.

At least 5,000 passengers throughout Australia will be affected.

Topics: company-news, tourism, travel-and-tourism, perth-6000

Plans lodged for 300-bed Top End worker village

Posted November 02, 2012 16:35:02

The developers of one of Darwin’s worker camps has lodged its plans for the 300-bed facility.

The $23 million short-term accommodation camp on Batten Road, Marrara, includes a kitchen, dining rooms, laundries and recreational areas.

The developers, Ausco Modular, says they want to take the pressure off the wider rental market and tourist accommodation by building the camp for short-term project workers.

For several months, contractors have been removing more than 40 square metres of asbestos waste from the 7.5 hectare site.

The Northern Territory government has granted a 12-year lease on the land at a peppercorn rent.

Meanwhile, applications for another 100 two-bedroom home units in Darwin have been lodged with the Development Consent Authority.

Most of the proposed units are in the Central Business District.

Applications for more than 700 other CBD units have been lodged in the past month.

Topics: urban-development-and-planning, work, housing-industry, marrara-0812, darwin-0800

Daimler plans board member for China business

BERLIN: German auto giant Daimler plans to expand its board to include a member solely responsible for the company’s China business to help iron out management troubles, a German magazine reported Sunday.


News weekly Der Spiegel said in its issue to hit newsstands Monday that Daimler planned to fill the newly created eighth seat on its board from within and would approve the position at the next supervisory board meeting.


When asked about the report, a company spokesman told AFP: “We do not comment on speculation.”


While fellow German luxury car manufacturers Audi and BMW have raced ahead in the increasingly important Chinese auto market, Der Spiegel said Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz models had been slipping behind for a few years despite steady sales growth.


Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche will have difficulty realising his goal of selling more cars worldwide than Audi and BMW by 2020 without boosting the company’s position in China, according to the report.


Der Spiegel said a key factor holding Daimler back in China was the fact it had two separate distribution networks there that had failed to work together.


One sells cars from a German-Chinese joint venture and the other automobiles imported from Germany.


Daimler posted 11.1 billion euros in sales in China in 2011, up 22 percent from the previous year.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

-AFP

Inebriated on free publicity, Murree Brewery publicises expansion plans

Liquor compan­y’s produc­ts may hit US, Europe and Dubai next year.  A worker checks the quality of bottles at the factory in Rawalpindi. Murree Brewery is looking for business overseas to hedge against its uncertain domestic market. PHOTO: REUTERS


RAWALPINDI: It was the arrest of the daughter of two famous Hollywood stars’ in New York that propelled Murree Brewery out of obscurity and into the spotlight. The woman was arrested with a can of Murree Brewery’s beer last June. Murree Brewery, seizing on the free publicity, has now publicised its expansion plans outside Pakistan, where alcohol is banned.


Five months since the arrest, the 150-year-old company says it has lined up distributors that could see its flagship beer arrive on liquor store shelves in the United States and Dubai as early as the first quarter of next year.


Murree Brewery, established in 1860 by British colonial rulers to supply beer to their troops, is desperately looking for business overseas to hedge against its uncertain domestic market. Prohibition was imposed in Pakistan in 1977, and non-Muslims and foreigners must obtain a government permit to purchase alcohol at designated retailers, mainly upscale hotels.


It also produces a line of juices and non-alcoholic drinks, but is prohibited from advertising its beer, whisky, gin and other liquor products.


Relying on word of mouth and an influx of thirsty diplomats and foreign investors, annual alcohol sales have grown an average of 20% over the past five years, reaching $26.8 million in fiscal 2012. The company’s stock is up 175% so far this year, trading at Rs160 on November 13, far outpacing the 42% rise in the Karachi Stock Exchange benchmark 100-share index.


Despite its strong sales, the company’s net profit after taxes rose a mere 1% year-on-year to Rs525 million for the year ended June 30, due to an increase in alcohol taxes and rising labour costs.


To ensure its survival, the company has turned to a European brewery to produce its beer for overseas consumption due to a government ban on alcohol exports, which was eased just recently.


Murree Brewery said it has lined up distributors in Texas in the US, Dubai and Denmark to market and sell its lager under franchise agreements, and is looking for partners in Britain and other European countries.


But Murree beer faces a difficult road as a new player in the crowded US and European markets, dominated by the industry’s “big four” – Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller, Heineken and Carlsberg.


The company’s last attempt to break into Western markets failed after it was forced to end its partnership with an Austrian brewery due to high costs and logistical problems.


Analysts say a few tabloid headlines will not be enough to be successful and Murree will also need a multi-million-dollar promotional campaign. It is also unclear the type of consumer they are trying to sell their beer to, since most Pakistanis living abroad are Muslim and unlikely to drink alcohol.

Cancelled BHP plans a win for Qld copper miner

Posted October 31, 2012 10:36:54

A company exploring for copper in central Queensland says it has received a boost from BHP Billiton’s decision to cancel expansion plans in South Australia.

Diatreme Resources has received $8 million from Chilean company Antofagasta Minerals to explore a corridor just south of Clermont, north-west of Rockhampton.

Chairman Tony Fawdon says investment confidence has increased because BHP’s Olympic Dam expansion would have made copper prices fall.

“It would have [had] a big effect on copper,” he said.

“Since that’s happened it means that the copper supply is still in demand and will be for many, many years to come, so in that sense copper seems to be a good mineral to be in.”

Mr Fawdon says supply and demand factors in the copper industry are in its favour.

“There’s still going to be a shortage of copper overall and it’s still being used in vast amounts in Asia and later in parts of Africa and South America, so in terms of supply it’s still slightly constrained,” he said.

Topics: copper, mining-industry, mining-rural, clermont-4721, mackay-4740, rockhampton-4700

Megafon details share float plans

 Megafon is the second biggest mobile operator in Russia Megafon, the mobile phone operator controlled by Russia’s richest man, is planning the biggest flotation since Facebook listed in New York in May.


Megafon wants to raise $1.7bn-$2.3bn (£1.1bn-£1.45bn) from a planned share listing in London and Moscow.


Shares will be priced between $20-$25 per share, valuing the entire company at $11.2bn-$14bn.


Alisher Usmanov, who took control of the firm in April, will retain a stake of more than 50% following the float.


There are 227 million mobile phone subscriptions in Russia, whose population is 144 million. This is because many people own more than one sim card.


Megafon has 63 million subscriptions and is the second biggest mobile operator in Russia behind MTS.


“I believe the level of interest we have seen in the investment community since announcing our planned IPO (Initial Public Offering) sets a strong backdrop to the announcement of our price range today and the commencement of the roadshow and institutional bookbuilding,” Megafon chief executive Ivan Tavrin said in a statement.


“I now look forward to meeting prospective investors and sharing our plans to leverage our market leadership in mobile data to further drive continuing growth, cashflow and returns.”


Swedish operator Teliasonera will reduce its stake from 35.6% to 25% following the flotation.


The last significant Russian float was in May 2011 when internet search group Yandex raised $1.4bn in New York.


Facebook raised $16bn when it went public.

Govt plans to revive fertiliser industry


LAHORE: Efforts are being made to run fertiliser plants located near distribution lines on rotation in winter and it is expected that Engro’s fertiliser plant would get at least 40 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) gas from three gas fields, reported a senior official of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources.


“We have prepared a summary for the next meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet for getting approval of a short-term plan regarding resumption of gas supplies to fertiliser plants,” the official said. He was hopeful that gas would be supplied to domestic urea plants within a month.


Lack of gas supply to fertiliser plants is a source of concern for economic managers as it puts an extra burden on the economy and adversely affects the cost of production of farmers, official sources said. Economic managers have expressed concern over a bill of $1.2 billion for importing over 2.2 million tons of urea fertiliser from January 2011 to June 2012. Additionally, an imported urea subsidy would cost Rs60 billion.


The decision to cancel the plan of importing 300,000 tons of urea for the current Rabi sowing season is a reflection of increasing dissent by the ministry of finance. Moreover, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources has given a green signal for supplying gas to fertiliser plants, even in winter months.


Sources claimed that with the objections by the finance ministry and the elections around the corner, the government is all set to focus on important sectors of the economy, which are directly related to rural and urban populations. Nargis Sethi is tending to the issue of power outages while Dr. Asim Hussain has been assigned the task of solving the unending woes of the fertiliser sector as farmers constitute the largest vote bank in Pakistan, sources said.


Meanwhile, importing urea has become more expensive than importing diesel and furnace oil for power generation, according to an official. Sources claim that Hussain, Ahmed Mukhtar and Sethi are working out a comprehensive formula to solve the issue of power shortages and bring down urea prices in the country in the next three months.


Official sources have said that the Ministry of Water & Power and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural resources are working to resolve the issue of gas supplies fertiliser plants.


In the absence of locally manufactured cheap urea, farmers lose hundreds of millions of rupees every month as they have to purchase expensive urea.


The urea bag, which was available at Rs800 per 40 kg in 2010, is now being sold at Rs1,680 per bag. The government cannot afford to import urea and farmers being the biggest vote bank must also be appeased by the government. Hence, the new year could bring a substantial decrease in the urea prices.


To bring down urea prices, the government is reconsidering its policy on the fertiliser sector, and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, after much deliberation, has finally come up with a comprehensive plan to solve the current fertiliser industry crisis.


In the long term plan, fertiliser plants would be allowed to negotiate gas agreements with gas producers directly. Though the fertiliser industry has agreements with the SNGPL to provide them gas for nine months in a year, the agreements with SNGPL have not worked as it was forced by the government and powerful lobbies to provide gas even though they did not have year-long contracts.


Sources in Islamabad claimed that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources has proposed a 1000km pipeline, which will cost $300 to 400 million to build. Further, the pipeline will be laid down by gas utilities as third party and Ogra will allow this income including O&M charges to the companies.

Kuwait plans to expand production capacity

Abu Dhabi: Kuwait plans to spend $56 billion in oil and natural gas expansion over the next five years, according to Sami Al Rushaid, chairman and managing director of Kuwait Oil Company.

Adipec News, a daily newsletter published during the ongoing Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition and Conference in the capital quoted Al Rushaid as saying Kuwait intends to increase its oil production capacity to 3.65 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2020, up from the current figure of about 2 million bpd.

He said the production expansion is part of a broader plan to increase oil output to 4 million bpd by 2030 which is in response to Kuwait’s increasing power demands and maturing oil fields.

“This will require a huge increase in our production from primary and secondary sources. We aim to incorporate 750,000 bpd of this from new exploration,” said Al Rushaid. “Our growth needs reserves. We will need new reserves offshore.”

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He said the growth in Kuwait’s oil production would come from both crude and heavy oil production, with enhanced oil recovery (EOR) expected to add an extra 180,000 bpd and heavy oil to increase by 220,000 bpd.

Al Rushaid said gas will also play an important role, with production of non-associated gas set to increase ten-fold to around 1.5 billion cubic feet by 2030.

He said Kuwait Oil Company will address ecological concerns while in its pursuit of increasing its oil and gas output.

“We need a close focus on safety and environment. Our record in reducing gas flaring is testimony to creating a better environment for the employees and the community of Kuwait. KOC has a very exciting journey ahead.”

ING plans $100m IPO of US investment business

Amsterdam: Dutch bank ING is preparing an initial public offering of stock to spin off its US-based retirement, investment and insurance business.

The company said in a public filing on riday that it expects to raise $100 million (Dh367 million) by selling shares of ING US Inc.

ING has been selling off businesses to meet the conditions of a $13.5 billion bailout that it received during the global financial crisis. European policymakers had demanded that ING sell its insurance business, a mortgage division and its U.S. retail bank. ING sold its US online retail bank, ING Direct, to Capital One Financial Corp. for $9 billion earlier this year.

ING will use the proceeds of the stock offering to strengthen its balance sheet, so that it can survive as a standalone company.

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The IPO is being handled by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

EE announces its 4G price plans

22 October 2012 Last updated at 23:04 GMT  EE chief executive Olaf Swantee says his company has found the “sweet spot” over price Mobile operator EE has announced the prices for its 4G service, the first of its kind to be commercially available in the UK.


The firm’s cheapest contract will be £36 per month with no limit on domestic calls and texts.


However, customers on this plan will only have a data allowance of 500MB, at which point net access is stopped unless a data add-on is bought.


The 4G service will launch on 30 October.


Compared to uses on the slower 3G network, data usage on 4G is expected to be high – potentially leading to increased costs for users who wish to download a lot of data-intensive content such as audio or video.


The announcement follows a frustrating wait for UK consumers who have been unable use 4G capabilities thanks to repeated delays and legal wranglings over the next-gen network’s roll out.


An auction, due to take place early next year, will allocate newly-available spectrum space to other operators looking to offer 4G to their customers.


However, those operators were said to be angry at EE’s 4G headstart, with O2 and Vodafone only recently agreeing not to take legal action over the matter.

‘Months of research’ EE chief sales officer Marc Allera: “You’re paying a 10-20% premium for 4G”


Until today, EE had remained tight-lipped over how it planned to charge customers to use its new service.


Industry observers saw it as a critical announcement if EE was to pull customers away from the other networks – particularly iPhone users.


EE – which until recently was known as Everything Everywhere – told the BBC that it was confident in its pricing.


“We really think we’ve priced it at the sweet spot,” chief executive Olaf Swantee told BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.


“It’s all based on months of consumer research.”


The top tariff for standard customers will cost £56 per month, and has a data allowance of 8GB.


EE, keen to demonstrate added remote working capabilities, is making a special effort to tempt small businesses with 1GB data allowances on contracts of £35 per month.


Alongside 4G, EE has also launched an on-demand service in which customers can access content directly using 4G but without impacting on their data allowance.

BHP’s expansion plans spark concerns for reef

Updated October 21, 2012 01:21:40

Environmentalists say plans to explore for oil just five kilometres from Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef will affect the health of marine life in the region.

It is part of BHP Billiton’s efforts to expand its $1.7 billion Pyrnenees project, which began producing oil in 2010.

The Department of Environment says it is assessing the proposal to determine whether it will have a significant impact on the World Heritage-listed reef.

But World Wildlife Fund WA director Paul Gamblin says it is highly likely the exploration will affect marine life on the reef.

“It’s concerning that there’s a lack of an overarching plan or vision from government as to what will happen for places like Ningaloo and the places like Ningaloo,” he said.

“What is the future to look like? Are we going to see oil and gas encircle the reef?

“It’s very concerning, this latest development is a further indication that Ningaloo is becoming increasingly an oil and gas destination, a Mecca for oil and gas, whereas it’s one of the world’s last healthy coral reefs and it needs to be fully protected.”

Mr Gamblin seismic surveys, which are used to locate oil and gas reserves, emit high-decibel impulses which can affect the health of marine life.

“BHP is proposing to create a whole lot of very intense underwater noise, seismic activity, which can disturb blue whales, humpback whales, turtles, and other animals that use this area,” he said.

“It’s a marine superhighway.”

Topics: marine-parks, conservation, industry, mining-environmental-issues, ningaloo-6701

First posted October 20, 2012 20:14:28

Fairfax plans to axe two western newspapers

Updated October 19, 2012 13:07:07

The media giant Fairfax is considering scaling back and closing three of its newspapers in regional New South Wales.

Fairfax is planning to shut The Cobar Age and Warren Advocate which are published weekly.

The media giant says the performance of the papers has deteriorated in recent years and it’s no longer viable to continue publishing them.

Consultation is being held during the next few days with a final decision expected next Tuesday. Fairfax says three people could be affected.

The Mayor of Cobar Lillian Brady says she’s disappointed by the proposal.

She says the loss of any local media in the town is devastating.

‘It’s very important because the Cobar Age has been here long before I came and it’s just been a part of the community. 

“We do have two papers here but, it’s been great that we’ve had two and it’s been such an institution.”

Councillor Brady says while people will still be able to access local news, the competition ensured a broader range of content and fair reporting.

“I’m very disappointed, very disappointed because I just believe the more avenues you have the better the reporting will be.”

The company’s also considering reducing the publishing frequency of the Armidale Express from a tri-weekly to a bi-weekly paper, and cancelling the printing of a TV Guide.

Three people could be affected there.

If the proposal proceeds the changes at the papers will take effect in about three weeks.

Topics: media, community-and-society, cobar-2835, warren-2824

First posted October 19, 2012 11:30:48

Fears coal port plans threaten reef

Posted October 18, 2012 09:51:21

A central Queensland conservation group says there is no way a proposed coal port development south of Rockhampton could be built without damaging the Great Barrier Reef.

The Mitchell Group is due to release the environmental impact statement for its proposed Fitzroy Terminal within the next two months.

The project includes a system to transfer coal from barges onto ships with a capacity to export 22 million tonnes of coal a year.

However, Ginny Gerlach from the Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance, says it will have major consequences on the environment.

“The UNESCO report clearly indicates that the Port Alma Fitzroy Delta area is not considered an existing major port,” she said.

“It has never shipped coal – iit’s the last in tact estuarine feeding into the Great Barrier Reef.

“This is not an area we should be messing with.”

She says there are enough coal ports in the region already.

“We understand that the resources boom is critical to our region and it does provide financial security to many of our residents,” she said.

“However, we are saying be sensible about this, optimise and maximise existing port facilities before you even think building any new ones.”

Topics: great-barrier-reef, coal, activism-and-lobbying, federal—state-issues, mining-rural, mining-environmental-issues, mining-industry, sea-transport, port-alma-4699, rockhampton-4700

Plans for region’s first e-shopping mall unveiled

Dubai: The Middle East will have its first-e-Shopping Mall soon, it was revealed at the Gitex Technology Week on Tuesday, offering a major boost to the e-commerce industry.

Backed by Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED), Tejuri, the e-Shopping Mall will build on the success of Tejari FZE, the B2B online portal that pioneered supply management technologies and professional services over the past decade, Tejari said in a statement, adding that the e-Mall will empower retailers, SME businesses and consumers.

Tejari further said that the official launch date for the e-Mall would be announced soon.

Suhail Al Banna, chief executive of Tejari FZE, said in a statement that the move is a step in the direction of using technology to narrow the gap between the retailer and the consumer.

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“Tejuri will add a new dimension to the shopping experience that Dubai is famous for by building on our successful B2B platform, Tejari,” he said, adding that the initiative is in line with Dubai Government’s commitment to advance technologies geared at “simplifying interactions in the e-marketplace”.

Telefonica plans 1.5bn share sale

Madrid: Telefonica hopes to raise about 1.5 billion euros (Dh7.1 billion) by selling shares in its O2-branded German unit on the stock market, barely denting the telecom firm’s 58 billion euro debt.

Europe’s largest telecoms company by revenue has already said it could sell subsidiaries in Latin America as it tries to cut debt and hang on to its prized investment-grade rating, under pressure from the euro crisis in its Spanish home market.

Telefonica plans to list up to 23.2 per cent of its German subsidiary at between 5.25 euros and 6.50 euros per share, the company said on Tuesday, which at the mid-point values the stake at about 1.52 billion euros.

“It doesn’t really scratch the surface,” said Espirito Santo analyst Will Draper.

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“If we add this to the other disposal announced recently, Atento, they still won’t get close to their target leverage ratio of 2.35 x EBITDA. Telefonica is going to have to make another significant disposal in the two to three billion euros range.”

Telefonica agreed to sell its Atento call centre business to US private equity firm Bain Capital for around one billion euros, including debt, last week and sold a stake in China Unicom earlier this year.

Telefonica Deutschland’s initial public offering on the German stock market values the whole company around 6.6 billion euros, calculated from the mid-point of the price range.

Draper said the mid-range valuation equated to 5.6 times earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortisation, which was high compared with peers, meaning the company could struggle to achieve that kind of multiple.

In Germany, O2 is the smallest mobile operator with roughly 16.4 per cent of subscribers, trailing KPN’s E-Plus, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone.

After months of inactivity, the European IPO market has started to show signs of life. British insurer Direct Line and Germany’s Talanx are among those whose shares have risen on stock market debuts this month.

But investors are choosy, seeking good growth prospects and attractive valuations. On Monday, Russia’s Promsvyabank postponed its plans to list after failing to attract enough demand.

Telefonica Deutschland has attempted to woo investors with the prospect of a 500 million euro dividend next year, contrasting with its parent’s decision to cancel its payout for 2012.

Telefonica must raise between seven billion euros and eight billion euros a year through 2015 to cover debt repayments and risks rising refinancing costs if its credit ratings are cut.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s placed Telefonica, currently BBB, on credit watch negative on Friday, citing the firm’s exposure to “sovereign-related risks”.

Crisis-hit Spain could request financial aid from the euro zone next month, according to currency bloc officials.

Telefonica said it will set the final price for the German listing on October 29, with the shares expected to begin trading on October 30.

The company will offer 225 million shares and a greenshoe, or overallotment, option of 33.75 million shares. The offer period will last from 17-29 October.

The offering is being run by JP Morgan And UBS. ($1 = 0.7730 euros)

FMG pushes ahead with plans to ramp up production

Updated October 16, 2012 16:05:55

Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group says it is pushing ahead with plans to ramp up production.

The company says it expects to increase production to a rate of 95 million tonnes per annum by year’s end.

FMG’s chief executive Nev Power says the Pilbara miner has emerged relatively unscathed from one of its toughest periods in history.

The amount of iron ore it mined fell by 4 per cent to more than 18 million tonnes in the September quarter.

Fortescue shipped just over 16 million tonnes of iron ore during the same period, a drop of 10 per cent from the previous quarter.

A recent dive in iron ore prices forced the miner to shelve its almost-finished Kings project, slash operating costs and sack hundreds of workers.

Mr Power says market conditions are improving and plans to ramp up production are back on the agenda.

“It has been a defining quarter in Fortescue’s history,” he said.

“Most importantly we have continued to make solid progress towards are expansion goals.

“The expansion is on target for us to achieve 95 million TPA [tonnes per annum] by the end of December.”

FMG hopes to resume work on the Kings project in December, provided iron ore prices stabilise, but it says it has no plans to re-hire the workers who were let go.

It plans to eventually increase overall production to 155 tonnes per annum.

Spot iron ore prices in China bottomed below $US86.70 a tonne in early September, but have since bounced back to be trading at $US113 at the end of trade yesterday.

Topics: iron-ore, karratha-6714, perth-6000

First posted October 16, 2012 14:22:44

Uranium price keeps Angela Pamela plans on hold

Posted October 16, 2012 12:38:38

The company responsible for the proposed Angela Pamela uranium mine in Central Australia says it still sees the site as one of its key projects.

The uranium deposit 20 kilometres from Alice Springs has been earmarked for a mine but no work has been done there for two years.

Earlier this year, the Northern Territory government extended mining company Paladin’s exploration licence.

Paladin chief executive John Borshoff says the the lack of activity at the site does not mean the company has abandoned its plans.

“We regard Alice Springs as a key project for … the future,” he said.

Mr Borhoff says progress on the project has slowed because of the low price of uranium.

“The uranium price is still depressed, although we are confident about what will happen in the future now the Fukushima issue is fully behind everybody and nuclear (power) is in clear air,” he said.

Meanwhile, output from the Ranger uranium mine at Jabiru almost doubled during the September quarter.

Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) says production of uranium oxide was up by 96 per cent.

Topics: uranium-mining, regional-development, alice-springs-0870

Bernanke defends stimulus plans

14 October 2012 Last updated at 15:23 GMT Ben Bernanke Ben Bernanke said the Fed’s measures help the global economy, not just the US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has defended the central bank’s measures to bolster the US economy.

Brazil has said US monetary easing to keep interest rates low and weaken the dollar has hurt emerging economies.

And International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde warned on Sunday of consequent asset bubbles developing in emerging nations.

But Mr Bernanke said that measures taken by the Fed and other central banks boosted global growth.

The Fed has maintained a low interest rate policy for several years, pumping about $2.3 trillion into the US economy to bolster growth.

There have also been huge stimulus measures in Europe and Japan.

Critics say such moves, especially by the US, drive down the value of the dollar and spark capital flows into emerging nations.

Speaking in Tokyo, where the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are holding annual meetings, Mr Bernanke said: “The linkage between advanced-economy monetary policies and international capital flows is looser than is sometimes asserted.”

The Fed’s measures not only strengthened the US recovery, he said, “but by boosting US spending and growth, it has the effect of helping to support the global economy as well”.

On Friday, Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, warned that his country would take “whatever measures it deems necessary” to fight the problem.

“Emerging markets can’t passively endure large and volatile capital flows and currency fluctuations caused by rich countries’ policies,” Mr Mantega said in Tokyo.

‘Diverging views’

“Advanced countries cannot count on exporting their way out of the crisis at the expense of emerging-market economies,” he said. “Currency wars will only compound the world’s economic difficulties.”

In a speech at the end of the IMF meeting, Ms Lagarde said: “We have seen several bold initiatives by major central banks certainly that the IMF highly praises and values as major contributing factors to stability.”

But she acknowledged that “there are diverging views within and across countries about important issues including the management of capital flows”.

She said monetary easing “could strain the capacity of those economies to absorb the potentially large flows and could lead to overheating asset price bubbles.

“Disagreement might be unavoidable but we must not forget that we all have a stake in global financial stability,” she said.

“Given the cross-border spillover effect of monetary policy decisions, central banks may need to step up their international dialogue and co-operation.”

Qld Government plans tender process for CSG exploration

Updated October 10, 2012 08:25:31

The Queensland Government says it will introduce competitive cash bidding for coal seam gas (CSG) exploration.

The CSG industry is meeting in Brisbane this week to discuss business opportunities and environmental and community challenges.

Mines Minister Andrew Cripps says the Government is moving from controlled land releases to a tender process for coal, petroleum and gas exploration.

He says the first parcels of land will be released for tender in the next few weeks.

Mr Cripps says the change will ensure companies who gain exploration permission are determined to develop potential gas projects.

“This is just one way the Government will continue to foster exploration activity in Queensland,” he said.

“The move to a highly transparent competitive process will strengthen the stewardship of Queensland’s coal and petroleum gas resources and maximise the benefits these resources bring to the people of Queensland.”

The gas industry has welcomed red tape reduction in Queensland but not the introduction of cash bidding for exploration.

However, the CSG industry says Australia could miss out on the chance to become a world leader, if governments do not reduce regulation and costs.

The industry says it is facing continuing opposition from landholders and green groups.

With $60 billion worth of projects already approved, the industry is up-beat about its prospects.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) spokesman David Byers says gas companies have improved the way they deal with landholders and communities.

He says opposition to CSG is fading, despite continuing protests.

“This should really be seen for what it is – it’s background noise,” he said.

Meanwhile, about 50 people protested outside the conference in Brisbane today, with spokesman Drew Hutton saying those opposed to CSG are fighting back.

“We’re background noise that’s causing them immense problems,” Mr Hutton said.

Topics: public-sector, oil-and-gas, regulation, mining-rural, mining-environmental-issues, mining-industry, brisbane-4000, toowoomba-4350, bundaberg-4670

First posted October 09, 2012 13:17:08

Russia’s Gazprombank plans subordinated perpetual Eurobond

Posted by Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui


russia-flagMOSCOW: Gazprombank, Russia’s No. 3 lender by assets, has mandated banks to hold meetings with investors as it eyes a possible subordinated perpetual Eurobond offering, IFR and a banking source said on Friday.

Both said that Gazprombank, which is 35.5 percent owned by state-controlled gas company Gazprom, had hired Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Gazprombank itself to meet investors in Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland and London, starting from Oct. 16.

A subordinated perpetual bond, which in Gazprombank’s case would also be callable and non-cumulative, would allow the bank to boost its capital, strengthening its ability to absorb possible shocks.

In a first deal of its kind in Russia, No.2 lender VTB raised $1 billion via a perpetual bond issue in July this year, and is considering topping up the deal this autumn.

Gazprombank’s Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio stood at 11 percent at the end of June, up from 9.6 percent at the end of last year.

Russian banks, their balance sheets stretched by rapid lending growth this year, are using bond or equity issues along with retained profits to improve their capital positions.

Last year, Russian state development bank VEB acquired a 10.2 percent stake in Gazprombank after buying the majority of a rights issue for about $1.57 billion.

Russian issuers, including the sovereign, have raised more than $38 billion via Eurobond deals so far this year, more than in the whole of last year, with new deals boosted by positive current risk sentiment.

A banking source told Reuters that Sberbank had mandated HSBC, JP Morgan, UBS and itself for investor meetings from Oct. 16. The source did not specify whether a deal may follow the meetings in London, Boston and New York.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

EU plans to sanction states

The European Commission plans to sanction EU members to nudge them into action on efforts to create a pan-European airspace that would cut costs and delays, an EU source said on Thursday.

Members of the 27-nation European Union have been lagging at reducing airspace and airport delays towards the goal of a “Single European Sky” that would replace the current patchwork system of national airspace. EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas is due to make the announcement about sanctions Thursday at a conference in the Cypriot port city of Limassol. The commission is expected to launch infringement procedures next February against member states for non-compliance, the source said.

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AirAsia’s Fernandes plans triple IPO in 2013

Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:49 Posted by Parvez Jabri

AirAsia 400KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian tycoon Tony Fernandes plans to raise up to $550 million by listing shares in the long-haul arm and Indonesian unit of AirAsia as well as in his insurance firm, a source said Thursday.

The plan comes as Fernandes tries to tap the Kuala Lumpur exchange’s popularity as a centre to launch initial public offerings, which has seen it rise to fourth globally despite the global slowdown.

A source familiar with the deal told AFP on condition of anonymity that the three listings — the long-haul AirAsia X, the Indonesian unit and Tune Insurance — were worth between $400 million and $550 million.

AirAsia chairman Aziz Bakar told AFP that work was in progress for the triple initial public offering but declined any details.

“We are working on it. God willing we would be able to launch the three listing by early next year,” he said.

Aziz said the three companies were growing fast and needed funds to expand in a bigger marketplace.

“So we need to go listing. It is a cheaper way to raise funds,” he said.

Aziz said despite the slowdown in Europe and the United States, AirAsia X would press ahead with its expansion plans in the Asia-Pacific.

“As far as we are concerned, our market is growing and we are opening up more routes,” he said.

Tune Group is owned by Fernandes and his deputy Kamarudin Meranum who are founders of AirAsia, the region’s largest budget carrier.

Fernandes, who also owns Formula One team Caterham, could not be reached for comment.

The former record industry executive stepped down in June as chief executive officer of the Malaysian-listed AirAsia and shifted his office to Jakarta to concentrate on regional growth through Indonesia.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

BAE and EADS cancel merger plans

10 October 2012 Last updated at 19:46 GMT Submarine under construction at BAE's facility in Barrow-in-Furness BAE Systems is a major employer in the UK, with facilities at Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, and on the Clyde in Scotland Aerospace and defence firms BAE Systems and EADS have decided to cancel their planned merger, after talks were thwarted by political deadlock.

It followed days of talks between the UK, French and German governments to overcome political objections.

The UK wanted its counterparts to agree to limit their influence in the merged firm in order to maintain BAE’s strong working relations with the US Pentagon.

The BBC understands that Germany was fundamentally opposed to the deal.

“Once German intransigence became clear – as it did overnight – EADS and BAE had no option but to call the whole thing off,” said the BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston.

The move came ahead of a 17:00 BST regulatory deadline to close the deal.

“We are obviously disappointed that we were unable to reach an acceptable agreement with our various government stakeholders,” said BAE chief executive Ian King.

In a letter to employees, EADS head Tom Enders said: “I’m ready to admit that we never expected to face such opposition against the deal, in particular not in Berlin.

“We will now take the time to clearly draw a number of lessons from this experience. We will need to review our group strategy and defence activities in particular.”

Continue reading the main story
There is a whole super-jumbo airliner full of paradoxes about the way this deal was both negotiated and the way it fell apart”

End Quote BAE shares fell 2% in London trading as the news broke, while EADS shares jumped 3%.

Three-way talks

UK firm BAE and the Franco-German Airbus-owner EADS had to decide by shortly after the end of the London trading day on Wednesday whether to ask the Takeover Panel for an extension to their $45bn (£28bn) merger talks.

Only the French government has a direct stake in EADS.

Germany also exerts a high degree of control through the shareholding of German industrial group Daimler.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that, despite the failure of the merger, the government would continued talks with Daimler for the state-owned development agency KfW to buy out Daimler’s remaining 15% stake.

The British government is able to veto any deal through its ownership of a “golden share” in BAE.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond: “We wanted to see a reduction of the share holdings by governments”

The BBC’s business editor noted that BAE’s board had made it “an absolute condition for the transaction that the French and German governments should never own more than 9% each of the merged outfits, that they should not vote as a bloc and that they should not have representatives on the holding company board”.

However, the key sticking point appears to have been the insistence by the UK government and the two company heads that directors appointed by the French, German and UK governments should not sit on the top board of the merged group.

This was needed in particular to address US qualms about possible foreign government influence over BAE. The US is BAE’s biggest single customer, and the UK firm is involved in classified research and development projects for the US military.

Continue reading the main story

French President Francois Hollande: The failed merger is “neither a cause for regret nor a reason to rejoice”. The government made clear “what we could accept and what we could not allow.. All these elements were given to the companies. After all, it is their choice.”

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert: “For the German government, the priority now is that EADS continues to develop positively in all its business activities. The government supports the already broad co-operation of both companies and has complete confidence in the corporate leadership of EADS.”

British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond: “The British government has always understood the attraction of building what would be a world-leading defence company, but it had to be done on the basis it was in Britain’s national interest and we set out our requirements to make that happen and the French and German governments have done the same and obviously the company is looking at all of the facts and all of the stakeholders and has just decided it was too difficult to progress this project further.”

Takeover target? The deal would have created a European aerospace and defence giant comparable in size to Boeing of the US.

It was supposed to marry BAE’s expertise in military and defence with EADS’ aerospace juggernaut, Airbus, and was not simply aimed at cutting costs and employee numbers, according to an editorial authored by the two companies’ bosses in defence of the deal.

It would have had combined revenues of £59bn and profits of £2.4bn. Its employees would have totaled 225,000. It would have brought BAE’s strong presence in the US together with Airbus’ booming business in the growth market of Asia-Pacific.

In their joint statement on Wednesday announcing the cessation of merger talks, the two reiterated: “The merger would have produced a combined business that would have been a technology leader and a greater force for competition and growth across both the commercial aerospace and defence sectors.”

They said that full commercial details of the merger – including the legal structure, management and the logistics of combining the businesses – had already been fully worked out between the two of them before the politicians weighed in.

But the merger talks then became bogged down by wranglings between their respective governments after the deal became public on 12 September.

Continue reading the main story The UK government was thought to be broadly in favour of the deal, particularly as it would help to protect jobs at two factories in the UK, owned by EADS, that manufacture wings and other parts for Airbus planes.

It would also have helped BAE, which was suffering from defence spending cuts by the US and UK, its two main customers.

Our correspondent noted that a resurrection of the deal cannot be ruled out if France and, particularly, Germany lift their opposition in the future.

And although BAE is struggling in the face of US defence cuts, it is likely to be protected from takeover – at least by a foreign firm – by the UK government’s veto.

The EADS boss, Tom Enders, said of possible future co-operation with his BAE counterpart Ian King that he was “sure there will be other challenges we’ll tackle together in the future”.

NBAD plans massive international expansion

Abu Dhabi: Giving a massive push to its business expansion plans, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) said on Monday it is aiming to expand its operations to 41 countries from 14 currently, in the next decade.

In a statement, NBAD said it has identified Indonesia, Singapore, India, South Korea and Vietnam as its new potential growth markets, while making Malaysia its regional hub to lead expansion in that country and across Southeast Asia.

NBAD said it inaugurated its wholly-owned subsidiary National Bank of Abu Dhabi Malaysia Berhad (NBAD – Malaysia) in Kuala Lumpur with an investment of RM310 million (Dh372.1 million). NBAD’s plans in Southeast Asia include expanding to 30 branches in Malaysia in the next decade.

“Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the world with strong commercial links to UAE. Malaysia is the region’s largest trading partner with the Gulf region and in the UAE in particular, making it a natural choice for us to establish a subsidiary here,” said Michael H. Tomalin, the Group Chief Executive of NBAD.

Article continues below

Qamber Ali Al Mulla, senior general manager at NBAD’s International Banking Division said: “In the short to medium term, our new destinations will be Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, India, South Sudan, Turkey, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, Canada, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam.”

“NBAD’s goal is to diversify its revenue stream away from the UAE market, but it’s going to be a slow and gradual process. Initially, they would probably set up a representative office in the targeted country and start growing from there,” Shabbir Malik, banking analyst at EFG-Hermes told Gulf News by telephone, reacting to the development.

The stock of NBAD closed 0.11 per cent higher on Monday at Dh9.60 on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in a flat market.

Chinese major plans 3D set-top boxes

ZTE Corp, China’s second-largest maker of telephone equipment, plans to release digital set-top boxes for 3D television services that will run Google Inc’s Android operating system.

The boxes to be sold “in the near future” will allow video-calling functions, and support the HTML5 language for displaying Internet content, Shenzhen-based ZTE said in a statement.

The announcement comes after ZTE reached agreement allowing the company access to the digital-TV systems of Kudelski SA’s Nagra division, according to the statement. The agreement enables the Chinese company to sell intelligent set-top boxes to customers of Nagra, which has a 70 per cent share of Europe’s market for cable-TV devices, and 18 per cent globally, ZTE said.

Article continues below

ZTE plans to release a new mobile operating system for smartphones with Mozilla Corp, developer of the Firefox web browser, to reduce reliance on Android, the Chinese company had said on September 19. Android now accounts for about 90 per cent of ZTE’s smartphone operating systems.

LinkedIn denies plans to enter Pakistan

Though mainta­ins it is explor­ing opport­unitie­s in the countr­y. “While we are exploring some commercial opportunities in Pakistan, we currently have no plans to open a local office,” says LinkedIn spokesperson. PHOTO: cpl.ie

KARACHI: International professional social networking website – LinkedIn – denied on Wednesday that it was planning open a local office in Pakistan.

LinkedIn refuted the claims of a story filed by the state-owned wire service Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), which quoted the Board of Investment (BOI) Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla saying that Linkedin was planning to establish its offices in Pakistan and invest $10 million by the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013.

“While we are exploring some commercial opportunities in Pakistan, we currently have no plans to open a local office,” LinkedIn spokesperson Darain Faraz told The Express Tribune.

While the firm that handles global public relations activities for the professional networking website, Edelman also denied the head of the BOI’s claims, saying that Linkedin’s plans are stated inaccurately in the APP story.

However, Mandviwalla reaffirmed his earlier statement about the arrival of LinkedIn in Pakistan. “I strongly disagree with the view that LinkedIn is not going to establish its offices in Pakistan,” Mandviwalla said while speaking to The Express Tribune.

“Maybe the LinkedIn management did not want to make the news public as yet. But it does not mean it is not coming to Pakistan,” he added.

Mandviwalla also claimed that LinkedIn had issued an official statement announcing its plan to open its office in Pakistan. However, the section titled ‘Press releases’ on the LinkedIn website showed no such statement.

In a subsequent SMS, Mandviwalla informed The Express Tribune that the said LinkedIn statement was issued directly to newspapers, and not through the BOI. However, he later said it was possible that LinkedIn might not have issued the statement at all.

LinkedIn has 1.3 million members in Pakistan and 175 million members worldwide.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2012.

Renault has no current plans to cut jobs: report

Saturday, 22 September 2012 03:28 Posted by Abdul Ahad

renault 2004PARIS: Renault does not intend to cut jobs or plants “at this stage”, but domestic factories must improve productivity to match sites in Spain and Britain, Chief Operating Officer Carlos Tavares said in an interview published on Friday.

European automakers are struggling to cope with a glut of excess capacity amid a sustained market decline. Renault’s larger domestic rival PSA Peugeot Citroen is cutting more than 10,000 domestic jobs, closing its Aulnay assembly plant near Paris and shrinking another.

“At this stage, there is no plan to cut jobs or close a site,” Renault’s no.2 executive was quoted as saying by La Tribune. “Our plants are in a difficult situation, which we are managing with temporary layoffs … But the slump in Europe is likely to last.”

Renault plans talks with unions to bring the competitiveness of its French plants into line with its “benchmark” factory in Palencia, Spain and with Japanese affiliate Nissan’s Sunderland site in Britain, Tavares said.

“I don’t see any reason why our performance should be lower in France than in Spain,” he added.

Renault employs about 50,000 workers in France.

Asian markets rise, dealers digest stimulus plans

HONG KONG: Asian markets rose Friday, rebounding from the previous day’s losses, as stimulus moves by the central banks of the United States, Europe and Japan outweighed another round of weak economic data.


Shares looked set to see a positive end to a week that saw the Bank of Japan follow the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank (ECB) in unveiling plans to boost growth, but also showed manufacturing in China continues to shrink.


Tokyo rose 0.61 percent by the break, Hong Kong climbed 0.93 percent, Sydney added 0.46 percent, Shanghai was 0.60 percent higher and Seoul advanced 0.57 percent.


Buying sentiment has been lifted since the ECB said it would buy unlimited amounts of debt from under-pressure eurozone nations to keep their borrowing costs down, followed a week later by the Fed move to buy huge amounts of US bonds.


The Bank of Japan (BoJ) said Wednesday it would extend its own asset-purchasing scheme.


“We are in the aftermath of some pretty big announcements, with moves by the European Central Bank and the (Fed), and investors are still digesting that, while economic data is still on the soft side,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital in Sydney.


While the banks’ moves provided hope to the markets, reality hit home with a string of weak data, including an HSBC survey that found China’s manufacturing activity contracted for an 11th straight month in September.


Wall Street provided an anaemic lead following a batch of numbers including disappointing jobless claims figures.


The Dow rose 0.14 percent, the S&P 500 was flat and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 0.21 percent.


On currency markets the euro picked up slightly after retreating from multi-month highs fuelled by the BoJ announcement.

Samsung plans to add iPhone 5 to patent war

SEOUL: South Korea’s Samsung Electronics said Friday it was considering adding Apple’s new iPhone 5 to a patent infringement case as part of a long-running global legal battle between the rival smartphone giants.


Samsung officials said the company would look into amending its side of an ongoing patent lawsuit in a US court to include the latest Apple gadget, which went on sale across Asia Friday and is due to hit US stores later in the day.


“Our company considers adding Apple’s iPhone 5 to the (patent infringement) case but we cannot say when,” a Samsung spokesman told.


“Our decision will be made after our company has analysed the iPhone 5 to see what aspects of its device constitutes patent infringement.”


South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted market watchers as saying Samsung may use its long-term evolution (LTE) patent portfolio to attack the iPhone 5 — the first Apple phone to use the fourth-generation telecom network.


Samsung and Apple — respectively the world’s number one and two smartphone makers — have been at loggerheads over dozens of patent lawsuits in 10 nations, accusing each other of copying technologies and designs.


Last month, a California court ordered Samsung to pay $1.05 billion for patent infringement. The South Korean firm has appealed the decision.


Samsung, in a statement late Thursday, accused Apple of continuing to take “aggressive legal measures that will limit market competition”.


It added: “Under these circumstances, we have little choice but to take the steps necessary to protect our innovations and intellectual property rights.”

Doha Bank plans share sale to fund expansion

Wednesday, 19 September 2012 20:49 Posted by Asad Naeem

Doha-BankDOHA: Doha Bank, Qatar’s fifth-largest lender by market value, is planning a share issue which could raise a further $1.6 million to ride an economic boom in the gas-rich Gulf state.

The bank, which raised $500 million from a bond sale in March, said on Wednesday in a statement to the Qatar bourse that it planned to increase its share capital by 50 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

The bank has a market value of around $3.2 billion

“We want to set a clear expansion model in terms of growth, commensurate with the region and the local economy … aligning ourselves with Qatar’s development strategy,” Chief Executive R. Seetharaman told reporters on the sidelines of a conference.

He said growth projects would “create opportunities for contract finance, trade finance and corporate and commercial lending. So we’re getting ready for the boom phase.”

“Now we are paving the way for an equity issue.”

Qatar banks are expected to benefit from the country’s breakneck expansion plans and many have already tapped capital markets this year.

Jaap Meijer, a director for equity research at Dubai-based Arqaam Capital Ltd., which has a “hold” rating on the stock, said the bank’s capital level was “very tight”.

He said some of the proceeds will be used to boost capital while the remainder would go for mergers and acquisitions outside Qatar.

Meijer expects the bank to raise between 4.1 billion Qatari riyals to 5.8 billion riyals, depending on whether the shares are sold at par or at a discount.

The bank said details of the capital raising would be disclosed after necessary studies and approvals were in place.

Doha Bank shares rose 0.4 percent on the Qatar bourse Wednesday. They have fallen 12.6 percent year-to-date, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Meijer said he expected the capital increase to boost the bank’s core tier-one capital to 19.2 percent.

Qatar National Bank (QNB), the largest lender in the country, has been on an acquisition spree recently snapping up stakes in regional lenders.

It is also in talks with France’s Societe Generale to buy its controlling stake in Egyptian unit National Societe Generale Bank.

QNB raised $3.5 billion from a rights issue last year.

A senior Standard & Poor’s executive said in July that Qatari lenders should rely less on deposits and issue more debt and Islamic bonds to raise capital to fuel the country’s growth.

Emirates plans bond sale to finance aircraft: executive

Monday, 17 September 2012 17:33 Posted by Asad Naeem

EmiratesDUBAI: Emirates, Dubai’s flagship carrier and one of the world’s biggest by passenger numbers, plans to issue bonds as part of a broader financing strategy for its aircraft orders worth billions of dollars.

“We have a fleet order to buy planes worth $62 billion, and for sure we will go to the markets to finance these orders, through various financial instruments,” President Tim Clark said in an interview on Dubai television late on Sunday.

“Yes, we will issue more bonds in the coming period.”

Clark did not provide a specific time frame for bond sales or the amount that the airline was looking to raise.

The airline, part of a matrix of state-owned firms referred to as Dubai Inc, last tapped global debt markets with a five-year $1 billion bond in 2011 with a coupon of 5.125 percent.

Returning investor confidence in Dubai and global demand for safe-haven debt have significantly tightened spreads since then, meaning a new bond issue under current market conditions would allow Emirates to lower its borrowing costs.

Its existing 2016 bond was yielding about 3.8 percent on Monday, according to Thomson Reuters data.

“We tell all the investors who plan to buy the bonds that it will be the right decision based on the company’s financial position,” Clark said.

Emirates’ cash balance stood at 15.6 billion dirhams ($4.25 billion) as of March 31, 2012. In June, the company reported a 72 percent drop in 2011 net profit following a steep rise in fuel costs.

Emirates has issued Enhanced Equipment Trust Certificates (EETCs) this year, targeting mainly U. S. investors, as part of its aircraft financing strategy. The transactions are similar to a form of secured debt financing, like mortgages.

Fibre optic connection: NTC plans new submarine cable

The source of fundin­g will also be sought in the study. The estimated cost of the project will be worked out by a consultant in the proposed techno-commercial study and feasibility report.

ISLAMABAD: 

The National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) plans to lay a new submarine cable between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to an official source.

The estimated cost of the project will be worked out by a consultant in the proposed techno-commercial study and feasibility report, while the source of funding will also be sought in the study, the source said on Friday.

He said Pakistan is already connected with three international fibre-optic cables, but carrying out a feasibility study for a new fibre-optic cable connection will help examine the technical and commercial viability of the proposal.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.

Old is gold: High prices force people to defer plans for new cars

Car owners hang on to old vehicl­es.  “The car resale business has shrunk markedly when compared with boom enjoyed in 2005,” said Zafar Iqbal Goraya, a Lahore-based showroom owner. PHOT:FILE

LAHORE: 

A hefty increase in prices of new vehicles, coupled with persistently high inflation, has forced car lovers to have second thoughts about their purchase plans for new four-wheelers and hang on to the vehicle they currently have for a much longer period.


In the face of this, car owners will change their vehicles “only when they find it necessary”, say market people while talking to The Express Tribune.


According to the survey, currently around 65% of cars on roads of Pakistan have been repurchased by the owners. In the previous three years, about 40% of cars purchased around the country were used cars.


“This high percentage of used cars indicates the change in preference of people from brand new to a second hand car,” an expert associated with the automobile industry commented.


The survey shows that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa leads other provinces in usage of second hand cars. In the province, around 73% of residents own a second hand car, followed by Sindh with 69%, Gilgit Baltistan 63% and Punjab and Balochistan 62% and 57% respectively. In Islamabad, used cars have a share of 65% in total cars running in the capital city.


According to industry stakeholders, majority of people, who were earlier changing their used cars within one year of purchase, have now extended the period and are
keeping the vehicles for over two years in most cases.


Affordability factor is behind this change as the buyers need to add a substantial amount for exchanging their used car for a better one. In most cases, this is out of reach for most customers. Instead, the car lovers are now giving more attention to regular maintenance.


The industry people say cars bought in the previous century are being held for longer periods compared to those purchased in the running century. The reason for this once again is unaffordable prices of used vehicles, which go up in line with prices of new vehicles.


The survey reveals some interesting facts about four most popular brands of car. Thirty three per cent of Daihatsu, currently owned by people, comprises previous century models while Honda models of that period have a share of 13%. Suzuki and Toyota models enjoy a share of 23% and 18% respectively in this category.


According to industry, a huge influx of imported used cars has hurt the domestic automobile market, but at the same time it has given people a wider choice with reasonable prices. But once purchased, they point out, these reconditioned cars are hard to sell again as the markets and ports are flooded with imported brands.


“The car resale business has shrunk markedly when compared with the boom enjoyed in 2005,” said Zafar Iqbal Goraya, a Lahore-based showroom owner. “This shows that people prefer to keep their existing vehicles until some major breakdown happens.”


Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2012.

Thai group plans foray into agriculture research

It will help increa­se qualit­y and quanti­ty of food in Pakist­an.  The Charoen Pokphand group is bringing investment considering the country’s vast potential in agriculture and livestock sectors. PHOTO: FILE/REUTERS


LAHORE: The Charoen Pokphand (CP) group of Thailand is planning to enter Pakistan’s market, the group’s vice president, Natthakrit, announced here on Tuesday.


Accompanying a high-level delegation, he was speaking during a visit to the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) where opportunities for investment in Punjab were discussed.


“CP group plans to enter Pakistan, not just to sell, but to serve the farming community, generate employment opportunities and invest in agriculture research to improve the quality and quantity of food in the region,” Natthakrit said.


The group is bringing investment considering the country’s vast potential in agriculture and livestock sectors. Earlier, the PBIT and Pakistan’s embassy in Thailand had been highlighting investment opportunities, government connectivity, corporate law and related information.


The CP group is a leading agro-industrial and food conglomerate in Thailand and Asia with annual turnover of $7 billion in the food sector and $17 billion overall.


Besides the agri-food business, other main businesses of the group include telecommunications, e-commerce, international trading, marketing and distribution, petrochemicals, property and land development, insurance, automotive, crop integration and pet food.


Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Thailand Sohail Mahmood underlined the significance of Thailand’s investment in Pakistan for bilateral relations and assured the group of government’s support for their investment plans.


Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2012.

Diamer Bhasha dam: Japanese aid keeps plans afloat

Tokyo agrees to financ­e power houses of the 4,500MW projec­t.  Tokyo agrees to finance power houses of the 4,500MW project. DESIGN: ESSA MALIK

ISLAMABAD: 

Japan has agreed in principle to finance the power houses of the Diamer Bhasha dam, renewing hopes that the project will not be suspended. The dam has been designed to generate 4,500 megawatts of electricity, which Pakistan direly needs, besides storing water for agriculture purposes.


According to a senior government official, Japan has agreed to finance the construction of the power houses of the dam through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). He said the move, if it materialises, will create a win-win situation for both parties: it will provide much-needed funding for the project and an opportunity to JICA to sell its equipment.


However, the exact amount of the funding has not yet been worked out as modalities will be finalised later on, the official added. Meanwhile, the authorities have informed the premier about this development.


The project was originally meant to be completed by 2017, but suffered setbacks after its lead financer reportedly backtracked from commitments. It is currently facing delays of up to three to four years. Officials say Japan’s decision is good news for the country: the $11.2 billion project can still be kept alive, after the Asian Development Bank (ADB) recently reportedly refused to fund the dam.


The ADB had committed $4.5 billion to $5 billion for construction of the project. The bank had also pledged that it would act as the government’s investment banker in raising the money from international capital markets to meet funding requirements.


According to media reports, the ADB has now refused to provide financing for the dam. According to a senior government functionary, the ADB has reiterated an old stance: it will be difficult for the lending agency to arrange the entire funding on its own, and it needs collaboration from other international lending agencies as well. The ADB itself has not clarified the news reports


Officials say that talks with the ADB continue, to convince the lending agency not to withdraw its support even if there are problems in arranging funds from other international lending agencies.


In its efforts to keep the ADB on board, the government has increased the land acquisition compensation cost to more than twice the original. The ADB had suggested the government increase the cost – in order to appease the affected population and avoid future litigation. The cost of the land acquisition project was less than Rs48 billion originally, but has since soared to Rs116.6 billion, according to the Planning Commission.


The World Bank has already refused to provide funds for the initiative, fearing a backlash from India as New Delhi considers Gilgit-Baltistan a disputed territory. However, the United States has assured up to $500 million in assistance for the project; to be paid out of the $7.5 billion Kerry Lugar aid package.


Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2012.

Govt plans to withdraw taxes, duties on import of LPG cylinders, kits

Move will encour­age LPG consum­ption, discou­rage CNG demand.  The use of LPG in the auto sector can be possible only if the country has long-term supply contracts with different countries. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

The government is planning to withdraw all duties and taxes on import of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders, kits and related equipment to encourage the setting up of LPG stations in the country and discourage demand for compressed natural gas (CNG) in the face of natural gas shortage.


“The LPG industry is being opened for investors by giving incentives on import of gas cylinders and kits,” a senior official of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources told The Express Tribune.


According to sources, the commerce ministry has submitted a summary proposing withdrawal of all taxes on import of LPG cylinders and kits to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet for its consideration. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the petroleum ministry have backed this proposal, which will encourage consumption of LPG in automobiles.


The taxes on import of LPG cylinders and kits include general sales tax, withholding tax and federal excise duty.


In the summary, the commerce ministry recalled that the government has already imposed a ban on import of CNG cylinders and kits due to the energy crisis, but this has upset foreign investors.


Foreign firms dealing in CNG cylinders and kits and car manufacturers are still asking the government to lift the ban on import of cylinders and kits, but the government has turned down their request.


“The Ministry of Petroleum wants to encourage import of LPG that currently stands at 10% of total LPG consumption in Pakistan,” the commerce ministry said.


The government intends to phase out CNG stations by placing restrictions. At present, a proposal is under study to close 15-year-old filling stations and not grant extension for five more years. Other proposal being considered is that CNG outlets operating in residential areas should also be shut down.


In order to curb demand, the government has made a massive hike in CNG prices over the last few months and imposed gas infrastructure development cess.


There are also plans to convert CNG stations into LPG outlets to ease pressure on gas supply and divert the gas allocated to CNG stations to the industry and power companies.


However, officials of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) cautioned that the country had not secured LPG supplies and, therefore, its prices were not stable in the domestic market.


“The use of LPG in the auto sector can be possible only if the country has long-term supply contracts with different countries,” the petroleum ministry official said, adding if there were no supply contracts, the domestic market would face LPG shortage following its consumption in automobiles.


Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012.

Sweet deal: Pakistan plans sale of cheap sugar to Tajikistan

ECC eases ban to pave the way for export of 30,000 tons at $597.90 per ton.  Tajikistan PM sent letter to Pakistan expressing desire to purchase 30,000 tons of sugar. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

The government has decided to strike a deal with Tajikistan for export of sugar from the reserves of Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) at $597.90 per ton, a price which is less than the rate prevailing in the international market.


The decision came after the Tajikistan prime minister sent a letter to Pakistan’s premier, expressing the desire to purchase 30,000 tons of sugar in a government-to-government deal, documents show.


The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet, in a meeting held on August 7, considered the request and eased the ban on sugar export to pave the way for an agreement with Tajikistan on sale of 30,000 tons. The restriction on export had been in place since 2009.


As a goodwill gesture, the committee approved a price of $597.90 per ton, which was about $20 per ton lower than the price in the international market these days. However, the export price was better than rates in the domestic market.


During the meeting, the Ministry of Industries told the ECC that in the domestic market sugar was being sold for $535.50 (Rs50,510) per ton while in the international market the price stood at $617.90 (Rs58,336) per ton. The ministry proposed a price of $597.90 (Rs56,448) per ton for export to Tajikistan with a discount of $20 (Rs1,888) per ton. However, Tajikistan will bear the entire transportation cost.


In a summary submitted with the ECC, the ministry recalled that a meeting, held on July 16, discussed the proposal of sugar export to Tajikistan on a government-to-government basis. All stakeholders, who were present during the deliberations, supported the export programme.


“Therefore, the ban on export should be relaxed in order to export 30,000 tons of sugar to Tajikistan on a government-to-government basis from the reserves of Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) at price differential of $20 per ton from the international market as a gesture of goodwill,” said the summary.


According to estimates of the ministry, the TCP will have sugar reserves of 332,057 tons on December 1 this year and 2.71 million tons will be available in the domestic market with the arrival of fresh production.


“Total stocks at hand will be 3.04 million tons, which will be sufficient to meet the country’s requirements until April 8, 2013,” it said, adding the country’s consumption stood at 350,000 tons per month.


Later, agreeing with the ministry’s plan, the ECC gave the go-ahead for export of 30,000 tons of sugar to Tajikistan at $597.90 per ton.


Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2012.

LNG import plans: Consumers may soon face doubled gas prices

Projec­t to result in inflat­ed gas prices; Dutch firm may sue govt if implem­ented.  The Planning Commission wants the impact of the price hike to be passed on to the power sector, which it says will be the real beneficiary of the plan. DESIGN: ESSA MALIK

ISLAMABAD: 

Gas consumers may face over a 100% rise in natural gas prices if a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import plan proposed by the petroleum ministry is implemented. The ministry wants to import 500 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of LNG through the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) under a short-term plan, and additional imports through the private sector in the long run. The imported LNG will be injected into the gas distribution network, in order to improve the overall supply of the fuel.


The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has already approved a summary for the setting up of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)-air mix plants. The implementation of the plan will result in a hike in natural gas prices by 29% of current prices through the injection of 150 mmcfd of LPG in the gas distribution system.


The disclosure – worrying for domestic consumers – came in a meeting of the ECC held on August 7. In the meeting, Planning Commission authorities pointed out that consumers would be paying up to $10 per dollars per Million British Thermal Units (MMBTU), against the existing tariff of $2-4 per MMBTU.


The ECC has approved the short and long-term LNG import framework proposed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources: however, the ECC has formed a technical group comprising the secretaries of the petroleum, finance, water and power ministries; the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission; the chairman of the Board of Investment; and the chairman of the State Bank of Pakistan to work further on the mechanism, bidding details, guarantee matters and legal issues regarding the plan.


One of the participants of the meeting told The Express Tribune that the petroleum ministry had proposed taking a weighted average of gas locally produced and the LNG in the system to determine its price. The ministry further insisted that all consumers; including domestic, commercial and industrial; should face the hike in price.


However, sources said the Planning Commission has strongly opposed the move to pass on the impact of higher prices to consumers.


“The Planning Commission is of the view that the impact of the price hike should be passed on to the power sector, which will be the real beneficiary of the LNG import plan,” sources said. Planning Commission authorities had said that LNG is being imported essentially as an alternative to furnace oil, and therefore the power sector should bear the additional costs.


The Planning Commission has also proposed to the ECC that LNG be imported at 80% parity of furnace oil prices, so that cheaper electricity could be produced by the power sector.


“The government claims that the country will save billions of dollars through the replacement of furnace oil with LNG, as the latter is a far cheaper fuel. It is, therefore, strange that the petroleum ministry wants all sectors to bear the dint of the hike,” a senior official within the petroleum ministry said.


He said the petroleum ministry contends that the domestic sector is already subsidised, and would benefit from an additional subsidy if it is exempted from the gas price hike. Petroleum ministry authorities further said that electricity rates would jump if the impact was passed on to the power sector only.


Sources also revealed that during the meeting, the finance minister, finance secretary, Planning Commission deputy chairman and the law minister opposed the LNG import plan on one other ground: they fear that Netherlands-based firm ‘4Gas’ will move international courts if the project is reinitiated.


In a letter written to ECC Chairman Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, 4Gas – which had earlier been involved as the developer of the Mashal LNG import project – warned litigation if the project was retendered. 4Gas has reiterated its readiness to implement the Mashal LNG project within the framework of a Supreme Court decision in this regard.  The company’s CEO had said in the letter that 4Gas has vested legal rights as a duly qualified successful bidder, and the contract remains intact as it was neither revoked by the Supreme Court nor cancelled by the ECC.


Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.

Spreading its wing: PSO plans to acquire stake in UAE-based refinery

Countr­y’s larges­t OMC to also buy two ships for crude oil transp­ort and set up a storag­e unit in Baloch­istan.  Country’s largest OMC to also buy two ships for crude oil transport and set up a storage unit in Balochistan. DESIGN: TARIQ GILANI

ISLAMABAD: 

Just a month after announcing plans to build a refinery in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the country’s largest oil marketing company Pakistan State Oil (PSO) has planned to acquire a stake in UAE-based Fujairah Refinery.


“The joint venture acquisition of the Middle East refinery project is in its initial stages,” PSO Managing Director Naeem Yahya Mir told the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources on Tuesday.


PSO’s two-year old plan to enter the refining business has finally made some headway. The company’s first attempt was to enter the refining business by increasing its share in Pakistan Refinery, however, after analysing the deal for a year the management decided not to go forward with it.


In June, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) allotted 400 acres to PSO for establishing a refinery. The proposed refinery will produce 40,000 barrels per day, only 7,000 barrels less than one of the largest local players, Pakistan Refinery Limited.


Oil marketing companies across the globe have entered the refining business to increase profits, a model PSO wants to emulate, said Mir.


The refining sector is relatively more profitable than the selling part in the energy chain, according to experts. The energy sector includes four main units; exploration, production, refining and selling.


Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources was briefed by PSO management on its future plan at the Parliament House on Tuesday.


PSO also plans to establish a regional joint venture aviation company in the Middle East with Pakistan National Shipping Corporation.


“PSO will procure two large ships to import crude oil,” he said adding that Pakistan is currently facing huge cost on account of import of crude oil through small ships. He said that Port Qasim was congested and blockage of only one ship at the port can freeze the entire supply to Pakistan.


“We will have an alternate route of oil supply other than the port in Karachi,” he said. “With the inception of K-P refinery, PSO will also have the option to export oil to Afghanistan,” he said.


In addition to this, PSO also plans to build a storage unit and lay an oil pipeline for $350 million in a joint venture with Kuwait Petroleum Corporation at Hub, Balochistan. The move will enhance the country’s oil storage by 12 to 14 days.


He said that Pakistan and Kuwait had entered into initial agreement and formal agreement would be inked soon to establish the project in Balochistan.


The two refineries will help cut back costly oil imports, according to an expert.


Costly imports and the circular debt has resulted in the oil marketing company reach its credit limit with banks who are not willing to extend any extra credit.


“We don’t have any capacity to arrange fuel due to circular debt issue,” he said adding that PSO receivables had reached Rs243 billion.


Power generation companies have to pay Rs228.7 billion while PSO has to pay refineries Rs93.3 billion.


Adviser to Prime Minister on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain said that the power sector was producing thermal power and oil prices had gone up.


“PSO and OGDCL are facing the most burden of the circular debt,” said Petroleum Secretary Dr Waqar Masood. PSO’s profits dropped net dropped 36% to Rs4.58 billion in the first half of 2012.


Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.