Financial News from AFP

  • Gibraltar fire stops global online betting AFP - 12 hours ago
    Gibraltar fire stops global online betting

    An explosion and fire at a Gibraltar power station Sunday blacked out much of the British outpost and halted international online betting operations with giants including William Hill and Ladbrokes. A power station generator exploded because of mechanical problems, said police and government officials on the Rock, a tiny British-held peninsula on the southern tip of Spain. No one was harmed, police and a spokesman for the Gibraltar government said. But the blaze interrupted Gibtelecom services, bringing down worldwide betting services such as Ladbrokes, William Hill and Betfred.

  • Saudi chemical giant SABIC Q1 profit drops 1.8 pct AFP - 16 hours ago
    Saudi chemical giant SABIC Q1 profit drops 1.8 pct

    Saudi petrochemicals giant SABIC said Sunday its net profit for the first quarter of 2014 dropped by 1.8 percent year-on-year due to lower prices and higher expenses. The company said in a statement that it earned a net income of $1.72 billion in the first three months of 2014 compared with $1.75 billion in the same period of last year. "The decrease in net income is attributable to lower sales prices for certain products and higher selling and administrative expenses," it said. But SABIC's net income in the first quarter was up 4.55 percent on the profit posted in the fourth quarter of last year of $1.64 billion, it said.

  • India govt asks Toyota, union to restore factory operations AFP - 17 hours ago
    India govt asks Toyota, union to restore factory operations

    An Indian state government has ordered Japan's Toyota and its union to restore operations at its two Indian factories after a protracted pay dispute halted work, the company said. Workers and the company's management have been at loggerheads over pay issues at the factories in Karnataka state, which they have been negotiating for 10 months.

  • China auto show opens amid environmental, growth concerns AFP - 17 hours ago
    China auto show opens amid environmental, growth concerns

    Leading automakers gathered in Beijing Sunday for China's biggest car show, expressing confidence in the world's largest car market even though lacklustre economic growth and environmental restrictions have generated uncertainty. Spectators and journalists crowded around displays at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, which features more than 1,100 vehicles and opens to the public on Monday, while female models drew the attention of photographers. General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen and Hyundai are among the global manufacturers on the list of attendees, along with SAIC and Dongfeng, China's number one and two domestic automakers. "This is obviously an incredibly important market for General Motors," its president Dan Ammann told reporters, saying China since 2010 had been the US automaker's largest market which now accounted for a third of total volume.

  • Europe's gas supplies not at risk: EU commissioner AFP - Sun, Apr 20, 2014 8:57 AM AEST
    Europe's gas supplies not at risk: EU commissioner

    EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Sunday that he sees no danger of Europe's access to Russian gas falling victim to possible economic sanctions in the standoff over Ukraine. "From my many talks with Gazprom, my impression is that our Russian partners will fulfill their contractual obligations and want to supply the gas," Oettinger told the Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag. "We are agreed that, in the case of possible economic sanctions -- whether from the European or Russian side -- the gas sector should not have any priority," the commissioner said. Russian gas giant Gazprom accounted for around 25 percent of the European gas market, Oettinger said.

  • Russia stares at recession as Ukraine crisis scars economy AFP - Sun, Apr 20, 2014 5:36 AM AEST
    Russia stares at recession as Ukraine crisis scars economy

    Russia looks increasingly likely to sink into recession in 2014 as the knock-on effects of its standoff with the West over Ukraine hurt an economy already beset by structural problems. Data released over the last week showed that Russian is beginning to suffer the effects of the worst East-West political crisis since the Cold War. The threat of economic sanctions from the European Union and the United States has already prompted a massive capital outflow from Russia in the first three months of the year. But even before the crisis erupted, Russian growth was starting to slow due to internal problems, such as slowing consumer spending, sagging investment and weakening demand for its energy exports.

  • Europe's mergers and acquisitions market heats up AFP - Sun, Apr 20, 2014 5:28 AM AEST
    Europe's mergers and acquisitions market heats up

    Europe's mergers and acquisitions market is rebounding after years in the doldrums, as improving market sentiment is prompting companies to spend cash built up during the financial crisis. A flurry of new deals have been announced in the past month alone, including Numericable's purchase of Vivendi's SFR mobile phone unit in France, the merger of Swiss cement group Holcim and French rival Lafarge and the tie-up of Sopra and Steria to create a new French technology services giant. British companies have also been on the move, with mobile phone giant Vodafone launching a 7.2-billion-euro purchase of Spanish cable operator Ono and private equity firm CVC capital taking a controlling stake in Spanish olive oil producer Deoleo. And German private equity group Triton bought French engineering giant Alstom's boiler and heat transfer equipment unit for 730 million euros ($1 billion).

  • Carlyle launches sub-Saharan Africa fund AFP - Sun, Apr 20, 2014 4:32 AM AEST
    Carlyle launches sub-Saharan Africa fund

    Carlyle this week became one of the first major private equity players to launch a dedicated sub-Saharan Africa fund, underscoring the growing investor interest in the continent's growing middle class. The US-listed alternative investment manager has raised $698 million (505 million euros) -- almost $200 million above its initial target -- from both African and international investors wanting to profit from the region's expanding pool of consumers with extra cash to spend. Marlon Chigwende, co-head of the firm's sub-Saharan Africa buyout advisory team, said the fund would focus on investments in the consumer, logistics, financial services and telecommunications sectors. So far it has made two investments: the Export Trading Group, a supply chain manager headquartered in Tanzania and J&J Africa, a logistics business based in Mozambique.

  • Nintendo's trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary AFP - Sun, Apr 20, 2014 3:06 AM AEST
    Nintendo's trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary

    Nintendo's trailblazing Game Boy marks its 25th anniversary on Monday with the portable device's legacy living on in cutting-edge smartphone games and among legions of nostalgic fans. The Japanese firm released its 8-bit Game Boy on April 21, 1989 -- the same year Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan, the Chinese army violently cracked down on protesters in Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall fell. Kyoto-based Nintendo, which started life as a games card maker that morphed into a global videogame giant, did not invent portable gaming. But Game Boy's discount price and popular software blew away the competition at the time and pushed mobile gaming into the mainstream.

  • Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India AFP - Sat, Apr 19, 2014 3:02 PM AEST
    Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

    Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped smartphone market. Inflexionpoint, an information technology supply company co-founded by Sculley, will start selling the smartphones next month in India under the new Obi Mobiles brand, the Singapore-based firm said in a statement emailed to AFP Saturday. "The smartphone share in India is only 20 percent, leaving the larger part of the ground with opportunities yet to be tapped," said Sculley, 75. Sculley, who served as chief executive of Apple from 1983 to 1993, famously clashed with technical visionary Steve Jobs over strategy, leading to the Apple co-founder's exit from the company.

  • VW aims for double-digit growth in China AFP - Sat, Apr 19, 2014 2:03 PM AEST
    VW aims for double-digit growth in China

    German carmaker Volkswagen is targeting double digit sales growth in China this year and will launch two new hybrid cars in the world's leading auto market, the group's chief said on Saturday. "For 2014 we have once again set our sights on double-digit growth in China and are aiming to deliver more than 3.5 million vehicles to customers for the first time in a calendar year," Martin Winterkorn, said in a statement released in Beijing. Volkswagen sales already jumped 16.2 percent in China in 2013. Winterkorn also announced the launch of two rechargeable hybrid cars specifically for the Chinese market from 2016 -- an Audi A6 and a mid-size VW limousine -- to be produced as part of a joint venture with Chinese partners.

  • Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015 AFP - Sat, Apr 19, 2014 5:58 AM AEST
    Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015

    Automaker Fiat-Chrysler said on Saturday that it would begin producing the iconic American brand Jeep in China from 2015 to meet demand in the world's largest car market. Fiat-Chrysler -- created by Italy's Fiat acquiring Chrysler of the United States -- will produce three Jeep sport utility vehicle (SUV) models in China, including one specifically designed for the Chinese market, the company said in a statement. The announcement came ahead of the Beijing auto show, which opens to the public on Monday, as global automakers flock to China to show off their latest models. Jeeps are currently available to Chinese consumers as imports, the statement said, adding nearly 60,000 Jeeps were sold in China last year, making the country the largest market for the brand outside of the United States.

  • Ukraine sanctions aside, US carmakers eye Russia market AFP - Sat, Apr 19, 2014 2:00 AM AEST
    Ukraine sanctions aside, US carmakers eye Russia market

    Nevermind the Ukraine crisis and Washington's sanctions against Moscow: US automakers say the Russian market is their next big frontier. Russia is simply too large and too important for carmakers to ignore, experts said this week. "The Russian market is going to be larger than Germany," said John Branch, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Branch was speaking at a conference at the University of Michigan focusing on the opportunities and hurdles for US carmakers to sell to and in Russia.

  • Questions on bubble as tech momentum fades AFP - Sat, Apr 19, 2014 1:43 AM AEST
    Questions on bubble as tech momentum fades

    "There are some astronomical valuations out there," says Roger Kay, an analyst who follows tech companies at Endpoint Technologies. Facebook's market value is close to $150 billion, despite its spending spree including an eye-popping $19 billion for messaging service WhatsApp and $2 billion for the virtual reality company Oculus Rift. Twitter shares have tumbled some 40 percent since peaking last year, but the popular messaging platform still carries a valuation of $25 billion, despite never having posted a profit. Some firms have been eager to get listed, including food delivery startup GrubHub, raising $200 million with a $2.6 billion valuation, and Candy Crush maker King Digital, raising $500 million and a valuation of more than $5 billion.

  • Progress but no deal in US-Japan TPP trade talks AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 10:07 PM AEST
    Progress but no deal in US-Japan TPP trade talks

    The United States said Friday there had been progress but no final deal in talks with Japan that are crucial to advancing the ambitious 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Negotiations failed to achieve a significant breakthrough just days before US President Barack Obama, who has made the TPP a key goal of his administration, arrives in Tokyo on a state visit. Intense negotiations this week narrowed the gap between the two sides, but "considerable differences remain," US Trade Representative Michael Froman said after his meetings with Japanese Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Akira Amari. The two sides have been wrestling in particular over Japan's barriers to importing US autos and farm products.

  • Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 8:08 PM AEST
    Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct

    The Google Android platform grabbed the majority of mobile phones in the US market in early 2014, as consumers all but abandoned non-smartphone handsets, a survey showed Friday. The poll by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners found 53 percent of new mobile phones activated by US customers were Android devices in the January-March period. Apple's iOS, the platform used by the iPhone, accounted for 42 percent, the survey found. Late last year 20 percent bought a "basic" mobile phone.

  • Armani settles Italy tax row with 270m euros AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 6:51 PM AEST
    Armani settles Italy tax row with 270m euros

    Giorgio Armani settled a tax dispute in Italy by paying 270 million euros ($373 million) this week, Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Friday. The payment is linked to taxes owed by three foreign subsidiaries of the luxury company, which is 100-percent owned by fashion king Armani, it said. The report said there were no more tax claims against the company, whose overall tax burden it said went up from 28.5 percent in 2010 to 44.8 percent in 2012. Giorgio Armani, now 79, founded the company in 1974.

  • Italy cabinet moves to trim perks, help low earners AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 6:46 PM AEST
    Italy cabinet moves to trim perks, help low earners

    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Friday hailed a "structural revolution" after his cabinet approved a round of tax and spending cuts including a limit of five chauffeured cars per government ministry. The draft bill would also ease income tax for some 10 million people who earn between 8,000 and 26,000 euros a year, reduce the amount of government office space and force local authorities to publish all expenses online. Renzi explained the 80-euro monthly "bonus" for the lowest band of taxpayers would start in May, although experts had also expected some provisions for people who pay no income tax because they earn too little. Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said the draft bill heralded a "structural adjustment" for the country that will "put gross domestic product (GDP) into a higher growth level than it has been for the past 20 years".

  • Malls empty in Venezuela as economic woes bite AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 6:40 PM AEST
    Malls empty in Venezuela as economic woes bite

    Venezuelans, already struggling to find basics like milk and toilet paper at the supermarket, are now confronted with empty appliance store windows and clothes racks at shopping centers. But in many shopping centers, stores are closing and the shelves are nearly empty in those that remain open. "Shopping centers are like a window onto the country, and whoever comes to Venezuela will realize that from 2013 to how we are today, the sector has deteriorated. It is chaos," said Claudia Itriago, director of the Venezuelan Chamber of Shopping Centers, or Cavececo.

  • Turkey to seek price reduction for Russian gas AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 6:07 PM AEST
    Turkey to seek price reduction for Russian gas

    Energy-dependent Turkey will ask for a discount on the price of the gas it buys from Russia, its energy minister said on Friday, with tension over Ukraine a background factor. "The negotiations and agreements we concluded with Russia give us the right for a price revision in the coming months," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters in Ankara. "We will convey our demands on this to Russia and Gazprom officials," he added. Gazprom deputy head Alexander Medvedev will hold a meeting with Turkish government officials on Monday for further discussions, according to the minister.

  • Strike-hit South Africa platinum miners unveil new pay offer AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 5:38 PM AEST
    Strike-hit South Africa platinum miners unveil new pay offer

    The new terms would raise the total pay and benefits for an underground miner at the Implats, Amplats and Lonmin companies by 7.5-10.0 percent a year on average. The total remuneration package would rise to 12,500 rand ($1,188, 860 euros) a month by July 2017, marking a significantly bigger increase than the rate of inflation. "The offer was made by all three producers," Lonmin spokeswoman Charmane Russell told AFP.

  • India's RIL posts marginal quarterly profit rise AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 5:33 PM AEST
    India's RIL posts marginal quarterly profit rise

    Energy giant Reliance Industries Ltd reported a marginal rise in quarterly profit Friday, with billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani saying his company had turned in a "satisfying" full-year performance. Reliance, which operates the world's biggest refining complex, said net profit for its fourth quarter ended March 31 rose 0.8 percent to 56.3 billion rupees ($933 million) from a year earlier.

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 4:39 PM AEST
    Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay

    Italy's government on Friday said it had raised 371,400 euros ($513,200) so far in an eBay auction of luxury official cars in a symbolic effort to cut outrageous spending by ministries that has sparked public anger. A total of 151 chauffeured cars will be auctioned off by May 16 in an initiative that has gained broad public support and was launched by centre-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi shortly after coming to power in February. As Italy struggles to recover from a painful two-year recession, national and local authorities have been forced to cut down on thousands of official cars known as "auto blu" (blue cars) that have been for decades one of the many perks for the political class.

  • Italian lender backs 5 bn-euro share sale AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 4:37 PM AEST
    Italian lender backs 5 bn-euro share sale

    Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena gave the go-ahead on Friday to a 5.0 billion euro equity raising that will boost its capital and allow it to repay a government bailout this year. The bank had initially planned a 3.0-billion euro boost, but the amount was changed this week. The Tuscan bank has to pay back by the end of the year some 4.0 billion euros ($5.5 billion) in credit it received from the Italian government last year to stave off bankruptcy. Chief executive Fabrizio Viola told Italian news channel SkyTG24 that the share sale would be carried out "starting in mid-June until mid-July".

  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 4:19 PM AEST
    Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade

    Asian markets mostly rose while the dollar edged up in holiday-narrowed trade on Friday following a mixed lead from Wall Street and news of a deal between Russia and the West to ease Ukraine tensions. The Nasdaq was also boosted by Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese micro-blogging site, which soared 19.1 percent on its debut after its initial public offering raised less than the company had hoped for.

  • Shell head tells Putin wants to expand Russia operations AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 3:07 PM AEST
    Shell head tells Putin wants to expand Russia operations

    The chief executive of Anglo-Dutch energy giant Royal Dutch Shell Ben van Beurden met President Vladimir Putin at his private residence on Friday, telling the Russian strongman that the company wanted to expand its operations in Russia. The meeting between the Shell chief and Putin was the latest signal from the Kremlin that it is keen to keep ties with European big business despite the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine. Putin had held a similar meeting on March 26 with the chief executive of Siemens, Joe Kaeser, who reassured the Russian president that the German industrial giant planned a long-term investment in Russia.

  • Iran oil exports rise to 1.2 mn barrels per day AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 8:40 AM AEST
    Iran oil exports rise to 1.2 mn barrels per day

    Iran's crude oil exports have hit 1.2 million barrels per day, almost doubling from eight months ago when the country elected a new president, a top government official said Friday. Mansour Moazami, who holds the planning brief among the Islamic republic's five deputy oil ministers, said the numbers were 20 percent above forecasts and they would rise further. "When the government took office, exports were around 700,000 barrels per day," Moazimi was cited as saying by Mehr, a semi-official government news agency. He said the updated figure of 1.2 million was supplemented by 200,000 barrels per day of derivative gas products from crude.

  • Microsoft reports strong sales of XBox One AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 7:25 AM AEST
    Microsoft reports strong sales of XBox One

    Microsoft said it has sold more than five million XBox One consoles since they were launched in November. The news came a day after video game competitor Sony said it had sold more than seven million PlayStation 4 consoles since mid-November. Sony's numbers refer to sales to consumers while Microsoft's involve sales to retailers. Sales of XBox One were 60 percent higher than those of Microsoft's earlier iteration XBox 360 during the same length of time after it hit the market, Yusuf Medhi, vice president of marketing, strategy and business, wrote on the Microsoft blog in announcing the figures.

  • US orange production hit by disease, juice prices soar AFP - Fri, Apr 18, 2014 4:19 AM AEST
    US orange production hit by disease, juice prices soar

    A citrus disease spread by a tiny insect has devastated Florida's orange crop, which is expected to be the worst in nearly 30 years, and sent juice prices soaring on New York markets. The gnat-sized Asian citrus psyllid, which is infecting citrus trees across the Sunshine State with huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease, which causes fruit to taste bitter and fall from trees too soon. "It feels we are losing the fight," said Ellis Hunt, the head of a family-run citrus farm spread over about 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) in the central Florida town of Lake Wales. Citrus greening disease has become such a problem this year that the US government has lowered its forecast for the upcoming harvest four times.

  • Sina Weibo shares jump 19% in US debut AFP - Thu, Apr 17, 2014 9:28 PM AEST
    Sina Weibo shares jump 19% in US debut

    Sina Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, debuted on the Nasdaq exchange Thursday with a 19.1 percent jump despite an IPO that went out undersubscribed and lower priced than hoped. In a spate of buying that suggested that Wall Street's waters are still welcoming to loss-making technology high flyers, and to Chinese firms as well, Weibo shares rose from the subscription price of $17 to as high as $24.28, before settling the day at $20.24. Charles Chao, the chief executive of Chinese online power Sina Corp, Weibo's parent, shrugged off the undersubscription, saying it was mainly important to achieve the listing and establish Weibo's separate identity. Weibo, launched in August 2009, is China's largest social media service with 144 million active monthly users.

  • Portugal gets another IMF bailout payment AFP - Thu, Apr 17, 2014 9:02 PM AEST
    Portugal gets another IMF bailout payment

    The International Monetary Fund released a bailout payment of 851 million euros ($1.18 billion) to Portugal on Thursday as the debt-riddled country gets close to exiting its three-year IMF-European Union rescue. The IMF executive board approved the payment, which brings the total amount disbursed under the program to 25.7 billion euros. The so-called "troika" of international lenders -- the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank -- opened a 78-billion-euro credit lifeline to Portugal on May 20, 2011 that was to end this May 17. But the IMF said Thursday it had accepted a request to extend the program to June 20 to allow for a 12th and final review of Portugal's progress in implementing economic reforms required by the bailout.

  • Eurostar services cancelled due to technical fault AFP - Thu, Apr 17, 2014 8:13 PM AEST
    Eurostar services cancelled due to technical fault

    Hundreds of Eurostar commuters had their Easter travel plans disrupted on Thursday as a technical fault inside the tunnel held trains up for five hours and forced the cancellation of later services. Customers on the French side of the tunnel were told there had been a fatality on the line, and then that a freight train had broken down inside the tunnel. A later message sent at around 1900 GMT confirmed that "all Eurostar services are closed now" but those travelling on Friday should check in as usual. Commuters using the cross-Channel service were affected last month when a lightning strike sparked a fire on the English side, forcing one train to turn back.

  • Mattel reports loss as Barbie sales plummet AFP - Thu, Apr 17, 2014 7:47 PM AEST
    Mattel reports loss as Barbie sales plummet

    Toymaker Mattel has a problem: Barbie's performance has not been very pretty of late. Barbie's slump comes as Mattel and other toymakers contend with bloated product inventories and a cut-throat retail environment that has pinched profits and pushed toymakers into cost-cutting mode. Mattel, reporting a quarterly loss of $11.2 million on lower sales, has slashed its inventory of toys, downsized its staff of 28,000 by 1.5 percent and employed strict data analysis to determine marketing priorities, company officials said. Some of Mattel's other products have made up for the sag in Barbie's sales.

  • Canteen catering giant Sodexo says 1H profit up 18% AFP - Thu, Apr 17, 2014 6:51 PM AEST
    Canteen catering giant Sodexo says 1H profit up 18%

    Catering giant Sodexo, providing canteen services from government departments to oil rigs, reported a 17.8-percent jump in first-half profits on Thursday, helped by cost-cutting and strong emerging markets growth in its benefits and services business. The benefits and services business, which deals with employee rewards cards or meal tickets, posted strong growth, with organic revenue up 15.1 percent thanks to momentum in its South American, Asian and European businesses. We had good results, especially the 11.4 percent rise in operating income, excluding foreign exchange impacts and before exceptional charges," Chief executive Michael Lande said on a conference call.

  • France gives Nespresso competition jolt AFP - Thu, Apr 17, 2014 6:06 PM AEST
    France gives Nespresso competition jolt

    Under pressure from anti-trust authorities, Nespresso France has agreed to a series of measures designed to make it easier for rival companies to produce coffee capsules which can be used in its machines. Nespresso also undertook to stop attempts to persuade its customers to shun other capsules through advertising and statements on its packaging, and to modify certain aspects of its machine warranty conditions. France's Competition Authority will now monitor the market to see if the steps promised by Nespresso prove sufficient to remove what it sees as obstacles to other companies entering the market. France is one of Nespresso's biggest markets, accounting for 25 percent of global sales of its own capsules, famously advertised by George Clooney.