Romney offers personal tax details, Democrats want moreSeeking to put an end to questions about his personal finances, Republican US presi-dential candidate Mitt Romney said he paid at least a 13 per cent tax rate every year over the last 10 years. Democrats have criticised Romney for not releasing more than two years of tax information and openly asked whether the millionaire former private equity executive has something to hide about his wealth. “I did go back and look at my taxes, and over the last 10 years, I never paid less than 13 per cent,” Romney told journalists in Greer, South Carolina. “I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that,” he added. A campaign aide said the rate Romney was referring to was for his federal income tax.
White House studying potential oil reserve releaseThe White House is dusting off old plans for a potential release of oil reserves to dampen
rising gasoline prices and prevent high energy costs from undermining the success of Iran sanctions, a source with knowledge of the situation said. US officials will monitor market conditions over the coming weeks, watching whether gasoline prices fall after the
September 3 Labour Day holiday, as they historically do, the source said. It was too early to say how big a drawdown would be from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and, potentially, other international reserves if a decision to proceed was taken, the source said.
UN monitors quit, saying Syrians choose ‘path of war’Syria’s government and rebels have ‘chosen the path of war’, a UN peacekeeping chief said as the world body ended its doomed monitoring mission to Damascus and deadlock persists among world powers over how to contain the spreading conflict. Two weeks after former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan quit as mediator in frustration with the failure of a four-month-old truce, military observers have no peace on the ground to monitor and UN officials said the last of the few dozen
remaining team members would quit Damascus by August 24. “It is clear that both sides have chosen the path of war, open conflict, and the space for political dialogue and cessation of hostilities and mediation is very, very reduced at this point,” said Deputy Chief of UN Peacekeeping, Edmond Mulet.
Israel ‘will disappear’, Iran says ahead of ralliesIsrael is an artificial ‘outgrowth’ in the Middle East that ‘will disappear’, Iran’s supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said ahead of rallies against the Jewish state and supporting the Palestinians. The annual Quds Day marches were started in 1979 after the founding of the Islamic republic. The protests use the word Quds, derived from Arabic, to designate the city of Jerusalem. Khamenei, in a speech, said the ‘star of hope’ that shined on Iran during its Islamic revolution, and in its 1980-88 war with Iraq ‘will also shine for Palestine and its Islamic land will definitely be returned to the Palestinian nation’. He railed against Israel, saying, “This bogus and fake Zionist outgrowth will disappear off the landscape of geography.”
For the first time in history, the value of Australian banks is worth more than the Euro Zone. The Commonwealth Bank made a net profit of almost USD 7.1 billion, the biggest ever reported by an Australian bank. That boils down to a daily profit of almost USD 19.5 million or more than USD 13,000 a minute. While ANZ has posted a USD 4.4 billion profit for the nine months to June — an increase of 10 per cent — CBA Chief Executive Ian Narev told the Adelaide Advertiser that he is proud and not embarrassed by the massive profit surge. He said, “The results boil down to strong Australian economy and the confidence of their shareholders. The people who own this group...60 per cent of them are Australian households directly, that’s 800,000 Australian families. Another 20 per cent of our shareholders are Australians who own them directly through their pension funds.”
Global miner BHP Billiton has flagged potential job losses at some of its Australian operations as it reins in costs amid falling commodity prices. Speculation is mounting that jobs could be cut at some of the BHP’s joint venture coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin and at its Brisbane office as the company faces a slowdown in industrial activity in China. BHP, which is in a blackout period prior to reporting its full year results, is unable to say whether job losses would occur in Queensland or Western Australia. “Against a backdrop of increasing costs and falling commodity prices, we continue to focus on reducing our overheads and operating costs across the business,” said BHP. “We don’t intend to provide any detail about specific adjustments, but clearly there may be some impact on jobs insome areas,” added BHP.
The country’s overall import orders felt drastically in July, the first month of fiscal year 2012-13, mainly due to lower import of fertiliser and petroleum products, said officials. Opening of letters of credit (LoCs) against imports, generally known as import orders, decreased by over 17 per cent to USD 2.812 billion in July from USD 3.403 billion of the previous month, according to the central bank statistics. The trend of import orders in July was a continuation of that in the last fiscal when the opening of LoCs registered negative growth by 4.01 per cent against a 34.04 per cent growth in the previous fiscal. “Such a declining trend may continue until December this year as the central bank is working to curb inflation through discouraging credit flow to the unproductive sectors,” said a senior official of the Bangladesh Bank.
Brazil donated 7,000 tonnes of rice worth USD 3.3 million to Bangladesh to help climate vulnerable people cope with the
adverse impacts of natural disasters and climate change. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with the government will distribute the rice among about 400,000 climate vulnerable people to prepare for and cope with the impact of
natural disasters and climate change, said a WFP statement on Thursday. The ultra-poor in the country will participate in communal
infrastructure projects and training schemes in coastal and flood-prone areas.
Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd replaced its chief executive officer on Wednesday as China’s largest solar maker struggled to shore up finances amid a growing cash shortfall. Suntech said Founder and CEO Zhengrong Shi had been replaced by David King, the company’s chief financial officer. Shi’s chairman title will also be changed to executive chairman and he will take the position of chief strategy officer. Shi, who founded Suntech in 2001, has been the most prominent of China’s solar entrepreneurs, building the company into the world’s largest panel maker by manufacturing capacity. Its disclosure at the end of July that it had likely been defrauded by a partner raised new fears that it may struggle to cover a convertible bond due in early 2013.
China’s trade outlook for 2012 is worsening, darkened especially by growing problems in Europe, the Commerce Ministry said as it revealed the longest run of falling inward investment growth in the economy since the 2008-09 global crisis. The ministry singled out problems in the European Union — China’s biggest overseas market — as the core difficulty for exporters to overcome as it published data showing foreign direct investment (FDI) from the European Union (EU) fell 2.7 per cent year on year to USD four billion in the first seven months of 2012. “Right now, the sharp drop of exports to EU countries is the biggest important factor weighing on China’s export growth,” Commerce Ministry Spokesman Shen Danyang told a news conference held alongside the publication of FDI data.
The economy of the Euro Zone shrank 0.2 per cent in the three months from April to June compared with the previous quarter. The figures from Eurostat covering the 17 countries that use the euro followed zero growth in the previous quarter. Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, grew by 0.3 per cent in the second quarter, helped by exports and domestic consumption. France announced its economy had recorded zero growth in the period, which was better than had been expected. The French economy had also posted zero growth in the previous two quarters. GDP measures the total amount of goods and services produced by an economy. “Germany has asserted itself thanks to growing exports to countries outside the Euro Zone,” said Christian Schulz of Berenberg Bank.
Better-than-expected retail sales figures have helped to raise hopes that the UK’s recession may not be as deep as initially thought. The Office for National Statistics said sales volumes in July rose by 0.3 per cent, and were up 2.8 per cent from a year earlier. It also revised June’s monthly sales increase up to 0.8 per cent from 0.1 per cent. Analysts now believe that initial estimates that the economy shrank by 0.7 per cent in the April to June quarter are overly pessimistic. Stronger rises in factory output and the construction sector, together with continued falls in unemployment, could mean national income as measured by gross domestic product is not shrinking as quickly as first estimated. Figures released showed that the number of people out of work in the UK fell by 46,000 to 2.56 million in the three months to June, with the unemployment rate dropping to eight per cent.
Market regulator Sebi made several changes to the rules governing MFs, IPOs and fund distributors that would make mutual fund investments more expensive but at the same time give a guaranteed minimum number of shares to retail investors during an IPO. The measures announced by Sebi, which is aimed at arresting the slide in sales of mutual funds and expanding the retail
investor base, also included relief for companies struggling to meet the minimum public holding norms of 25 per cent when it allowed them to issue bonus and rights shares to meet the requirements. Besides, the regulator also cleared the ground for e-IPOs, which could cut down the time taken between close of an offer and listing from 12 days to five days. The government had mandated that by June 2013, promoters of listed companies should not hold more than 75 per cent stake.
Subway, the sandwich giant and world’s biggest restaurant chain with 37,000 outlets across the globe, is now ready to roll out its first all-vegetarian outlet. A private university in Jalandhar has convinced the US-based foot-long franchisor on the benefits of vegetarianism. This would be the second global restaurant chain to have turned vegetarian after Pizza Hut in Gujarat. Jalandhar-based Lovely Professional University (LPU), run by a Hindu Mittal family known for promoting vegetarian meals on the campus, inked the deal with Subway in November last year. The all-veg outlet will open on Tuesday (September 4), when most Hindus avoid eating meat. “Our university promotes healthy eating for its students and we as a brand are known for our fresh and low-fat sandwiches and salads. It was a natural fit for Subway to be present here,” said LPU Vice-Chancellor Ashok Mittal.
Japan’s government approved budget guidelines for the next fiscal year from April 2013 with a focus on promotion of its growth strategy as Tokyo aims to strike a balance between efforts to prop up the economy and rein in snowballing debt. The government pledged to keep general spending, excluding debt servicing, at this year’s level of around 71 trillion yen. New borrowing will also remain capped at 44 trillion yen, in line with Japan’s medium-term fiscal plan. But the spending and borrowing caps will not prevent Japan’s debt — already worth twice its annual economic output — from growing, with the OECD estimating next year’s budget deficit at nine per cent of GDP. The government’s plan to spur economic growth focuses on green energy, medical and farm sectors.
Sharp Corp may sell its copier and air-conditioner businesses, Japanese media including the Nikkei business daily reported, as shrinking piles of cash prompt the company to consider restructuring its non-core assets. Sharp, which makes screens for Apple Inc’s iPad and iPhone, needs to refinance as much as 360 billion yen of short-term commercial paper and will need a further 200 billion yen in September next year to cover a maturing convertible bond. Desperate for funds to refinance looming debt rollovers, Sharp is seeking more than 100 billion yen for its key solar panel plant in Sakai, western Japan, as part of an asset sale, said local media. Sharp may also sell its buildings in Tokyo as well as television assembly plants in Poland Malaysia, Mexico and Poland, a company source told Reuters this week.
The selling price of properties in Penang will soon surge by five per cent to 10 per cent following the recent move by Lafarge Malayan Cement to raise cement prices by about six per cent, according to housing developers. Following Lafarge’s announcement, a 50 kilogram bag of cement is now priced at 17.50 ringgit, compared to 16.50 ringgit before the hike. Penang Master Builders and Building Materials Dealers Association President Lim Kai Seng said 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the materials used for a building comprised cement and cement-related materials. “This is why an increase in cement price will have a significant impact on property prices. The other cement manufacturers in the country have sent signals that they will raise prices very soon,” Lim said.
Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (SYABAS) is ready with a preparedness and standby operation plan during the Aidilfitri holidays. It is for a period of nine days from August 18 to 26. “Measures are being taken to ensure continuous supply of sufficient clean water for the residents in Selangor and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya,” said SYABAS in a statement. The company said the plan incorporates effective and efficient contingency guidelines to all parties involved in the eventuality of water supply disruption or emergency during the festive holidays.
With the prospect of one billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas shortage looming large in the upcoming winter, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources is working on a plan to introduce winter tariff, which will send prices up by 25 per cent to 50 per cent after gas utilities start supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) through their system. The plan was unveiled in a high-level meeting held at the Prime Minister’s House and chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, which reviewed the overall gas situation in the country. “Representatives of the Ministry of Petroleum told the meeting that the country will be facing a shortage of one bcfd of gas in upcoming winter season and LNG import under a short-term plan is the only option available to bridge this shortfall,” a senior official of the ministry told The Express Tribune.
The government has approved another 45 development projects worth 681.8 billion Pakistani rupees in total; putting further strain on already scarce resources. The new approvals are expected to not only delay completion of the entire development portfolio of over 1,100 schemes, but also result in cost overruns. Presided over by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the executive committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) gave the go-ahead to the projects — despite acknowledging that the existing portfolio will take another six years to reach completion due to shortage of funds. According to officials, Ecnec had met to consider 49 new projects in total — worth almost 710.7 billion Pakistani rupees — but deferred four schemes valued at 29 billion Pakistani rupees due to issues with funding commitments.
The head of a leading Russian rocket-maker has resigned, the country’s space agency chief said on Thursday, after two satellites were lost in a botched launch in the latest failure to dog the once-pioneering space industry. Vladimir Nesterov, 63, is leaving the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, which produces Russia’s workhorse Proton rockets, after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev harshly criticised the industry. The failure of part of a Proton rocket caused the multi-million dollar loss of Indonesia’s Telkom-3 and Russia’s Express-MD2 satellites last week, according to Russia’s space agency. Telkom-3 was the first satellite Jakarta had bought from Moscow. “We are losing our authority and billions of roubles,” Medvedev told officials last week.
Norway’s Telenor and Russian Billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group moved a step closer to settling their long dispute over controlling mobile operator Vimpelcom when both agreed to lift their stakes. Alfa has raised its voting stake in Vimpelcom to 40.5 per cent from 25 per cent with USD 3.6 billion worth of shares from Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris’ Weather company while Telenor said it would raise its stake to 43 per cent from 39.5 per cent with Weather shares. Alfa’s Altimo unit also agreed to drop a challenge to Telenor’s earlier stake increase, a move that could allow Vimpelcom to resume dividend payments after Russian anti-monopoly authorities halted payouts pending the dispute. For many overseas investors, the dispute has typified the challenges they face in Russia’s oligarch-dominated business world.
The Yingluck Shinawatra administration’s ‘one tablet per child’ scheme has shaken up the country’s information technology industry, stimulating tablet computer sales to record growth, say industry veterans. Sales are expected to increase by 177 per cent to 1.3 million devices this year, with the rapid growth expected to continue. But the experts caution that for some schools with large student populations, it cannot yet be ‘one tablet per child’ as envisioned. They are generally pessimistic about the scheme’s implementation, with many doubting the project is alive with challenges and opportunities as promised. Furthermore, what skills will teachers need, especially if they now lack expertise with the devices themselves and cannot use them to engage with the students?
Thaicom says it expects to settle a deal to sell its loss-ridden mobile phone unit Mfone to a foreign operator by the end of this year. The sale of Mfone will help the country’s sole satellite service provider bolster its
finances. Ken Streutker, Thaicom’s assistant vice-president for investor relations, said
the company is in talks with two prospective foreign operators about a possible takeover of the mobile firm. Mfone is Number three in
the Cambodian mobile market, with a 14 per cent share of 400,000 users. Metfone and
Mobitel have 39 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively. “We expect to exit the Cambo-dian market through the sale,” he said. Thaicom expects to maintain its revenue growth target of eight to nine per cent this year, driven by satellite success.
Top officials at two of the Federal Reserve’s most hawkish regional banks weighed in against further monetary policy easing, and a third suggested the Fed may not need to wait until late 2014 before raising interest rates. The remarks, from Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, Kansas City Fed President Esther George and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, underscore the divide that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke faces if he pushes for a new round of stimulus as soon as next month. But they do not suggest that Bernanke will necessarily face a barrage of dissents — none of the three have a vote this year on the Fed’s policy-setting committee.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s full-year profit may miss analysts’ expectations as growth slows in its international markets, pressuring the company even as its US discount stores continue to prosper. The world’s largest
retailer, viewed as a barometer of economic activity, said on Thursday its cash-strapped customers tend to spend more at the beginning of the month when they get their paycheques. That paycheque cycle has extended its reach to the company’s markets beyond the United States. “It became more pronounced across the globe,” Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley told reporters, without naming any specific markets where he sees the shift. Wal-Mart’s higher second-quarter profit narrowly beat the average estimate of analysts polled by Reuters.
A trend measure of Americans signing up for new jobless benefits fell close to a four-year low last week, but weakness in a regional factory gauge showed US recovery still faces an uphill climb. Other data gave mixed signals about the strength of an incipient housing recovery, with groundbreaking on new homes falling slightly in July even as building permits rose. Taken together, the data reinforced the view that economic growth might pick up in the second half of the year but would still be lacklustre. Growth and hiring were disappointing in the spring and expectations that the Federal Reserve could unleash more economic stimulus have grown, although the likelihood of action at its next meeting may be dimming. “For the Fed, the issue was whether the economy was sliding toward the abyss and it doesn’t seem to be. But it’s certainly not improving,” said Pierre Ellis, economist at Decision Economics in New York.