Financial News from AFP

  • Toyota names first foreign VP in diversity push AFP - 11 hours ago
    Toyota names first foreign VP in diversity push

    Toyota said Wednesday it would appoint a foreigner to the post of executive vice-president and promote a woman into its top ranks, both firsts for the Japanese firm in its nearly 80-year history. The pair will join a handful of foreign-born executives in top posts at Japanese firms. Didier Leroy, 57, a Frenchman who now heads Toyota's European business and formerly worked for Renault, will become an executive vice president as of April 1, the company said, the first non-Japanese to take the post. The promotion will put Leroy in a group of six vice presidents below chief executive Akio Toyoda.

  • Standard Chartered net profit falls 37% AFP - 11 hours ago
    Standard Chartered net profit falls 37%

    Asia-focused Standard Chartered bank said Wednesday net profit fell 37 percent in 2014, the second consecutive year of decline, almost a week after announcing two of its top bosses would leave in a reshuffle aimed at transforming its fortunes. The bank last Thursday said chief executive Peter Sands will step down in June followed by chairman John Peace next year, in a radical management reshuffle to stem a growth slowdown. Operating income fell two percent year-on-year to $18.23 billion while profit before tax stood at $5.19 billion, down 25 percent from 2013. Former JPMorgan investment bank head Bill Winters will replace Sands, which had issued three profit warnings over the past 12 months that had sparked shareholder calls for a boardroom cull.

  • Asia markets mostly lower after Wall St losses AFP - 11 hours ago
    Asia markets mostly lower after Wall St losses

    Asia markets mostly fell Wednesday following a retreat on Wall Street fuelled by profit-taking, with Tokyo hit by a stronger yen and Sydney dipping after data showed Australia's economy grew slower than ...

  • Inflation-hit Russia sees fruit, veg prices jump 22% in January AFP - 11 hours ago
    Inflation-hit Russia sees fruit, veg prices jump 22% in January

    Inflation-weary Russians saw the price of fruit and vegetables increase by 22 percent in January, the government said Wednesday, increasing pressure on households already reeling from an economic crisis. Prices in the country have skyrocketed in recent months due to the plunging ruble and Moscow's ban on European Union and US food in retaliation for sanctions slapped on Russia over its backing of rebels in eastern Ukraine. In January, the price of fruit and vegetables increased by 22.1 percent from December, representing a spike of 40.7 percent in yearly terms, said the ministry of economic development. "This unprecedented price increase is a result of a decrease in imported products, which have nearly halved," said the report.

  • China free trade zone a bust so far: US business survey AFP - 12 hours ago
    China free trade zone a bust so far: US business survey

    Nearly three-quarters of American firms in Shanghai say China's first free trade zone (FTZ) offers them no business benefits almost 18 months after it was established, according to a survey Wednesday. "More than one year after the FTZ's opening, US companies remain sceptical about the business benefits," the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai said in its annual business climate report, released on Wednesday. A total of 73 percent of the 377 member companies answering the survey said the FTZ offers "no tangible benefits" for their business, and almost half of them reported no noticeable changes for their operations so far. Around a quarter of companies surveyed said they had already established a presence in the FTZ or planned to do so, despite the slow start, it said.

  • Areva nuclear group announces 4.8 bn euro loss AFP - 12 hours ago
    Areva nuclear group announces 4.8 bn euro loss

    French nuclear group Areva on Wednesday confirmed record net losses in 2014 of 4.8 billion euros ($5.3 billion) after it was forced, to absorb costs linked to project delays. The mostly state-owned company, which had forecast losses of 4.9 billion euros, said it would see savings worth around one billion euros over the next few years and announce a financing plan by the end of March. "The scale of the net loss for 2014 illustrates the two-fold challenge confronting Areva: continuing stagnation of the nuclear operations, lack of competitiveness and difficulties in managing the risks inherent in large projects," chief executive Philippe Knoche said in a statement. Areva has taken a particular hit in the past year from delays in building its Olkiluoto 3 nuclear plant in Finland, as well as difficulties with its renewable energy contracts.

  • British property 'safe haven' for corrupt cash: campaigners AFP - 13 hours ago
    British property 'safe haven' for corrupt cash: campaigners

    British property is a safe haven for money stolen from around the world, with tens of thousands of London properties owned by secretive companies, according to a corruption report released Wednesday. Campaign group Transparency International found 36,342 properties in London covering 3.6 square kilometres are held by companies registered in offshore secrecy havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Almost one in 10 properties in the district of Westminster, where the British government is based, are owned by a company registered in an offshore haven, the report found. In 2011 alone, the report said, £3.8 billion worth of UK property was bought by companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.

  • Standard Chartered net profit falls 37% to $2.51 bn in 2014 AFP - 13 hours ago
    Standard Chartered net profit falls 37% to $2.51 bn in 2014

    Asia-focused Standard Chartered bank said Wednesday net profit fell 37 percent in 2014, the second consecutive year of decline, almost a week after announcing two of its top bosses would leave in a reshuffle aimed at transforming its fortunes. The bank said Thursday chief executive Peter Sands will step down in June followed by chairman John Peace next year, in a radical management reshuffle to stem a growth slowdown.

  • Japan slams brakes on Uber taxi service AFP - 15 hours ago
    Japan slams brakes on Uber taxi service

    Japan has slammed the brakes on a pilot project by taxi service Uber less than a month after it was launched, with a government official saying Wednesday it probably violates transport laws. The development marked another blow for the web-based taxi app, which has incurred the hostility of traditional taxi companies in many countries. "Last Friday, we met with Uber Japan officials and told them to stop the pilot project immediately because we suspect it breaches Japanese transport law," a transport ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Responding to the move, Uber said it would continue to talk with officials and said the service would be a plus for urban transport in rapidly ageing Japan.

  • Greeks bearing grudges rip up Brussels diplomatic rulebook AFP - 15 hours ago
    Greeks bearing grudges rip up Brussels diplomatic rulebook

    Strapped for cash and under pressure to deliver on reforms, Greece's new radical government has ruffled feathers in Brussels by not respecting the diplomatic niceties of the negotiating table. From 40-year-old Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras downwards, Greek officials have gone into EU meetings in fighting mood, their hard talk taking many by surprise and leaving some aghast. Tsipras startled fellow European leaders on Saturday when he spoke of a "trap by aggressive conservative forces" led by an "axis" of Spain and Portugal to undermine the month-old Greek government by cutting off EU funds. Maverick Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and bullish Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias have also been involved in clashes as they insisted on Greece's right to be treated as an equal partner despite its debts to the other members of the eurozone.

  • India makes another surprise interest rate cut to 7.5% AFP - 19 hours ago
    India makes another surprise interest rate cut to 7.5%

    India's central bank announced on Wednesday a second surprise cut in interest rates in two months as it forecast a further easing of inflation, triggering a surge in share prices. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) lowered the benchmark repo rate -- the level at which it lends to commercial banks -- by 25 basis points to 7.5 percent with immediate effect. "Softer readings on inflation are expected to come in through the first half of 2015-16 before firming up to below six percent in the second half," RBI governor Raghuram Rajan said in a statement. The Bombay Stock Exchange's key benchmark index -- the Sensex -- jumped 1.46 percent to a record high of 30,024.74 points following the announcement.

  • India makes surprise interest rate cut to 7.5% AFP - 19 hours ago
    India makes surprise interest rate cut to 7.5%

    India's central bank cut interest rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday in a surprise announcement, days after the new right-wing government's first full-year budget. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said the benchmark repo rate -- the level at which it lends to commercial banks -- would fall to 7.5 percent as it forecast a slowdown in inflation in the coming financial year. "Softer readings on inflation are expected to come in through the first half of 2015-16 before firming up to below six percent in the second half," RBI governor Raghuram Rajan said in a statement.

  • Government sells stake in Eurostar AFP - 21 hours ago
    Government sells stake in Eurostar

    The government has reached an agreement to sell its entire stake in the Eurostar train service between London, Brussels and Paris, the treasury said in a statement on Wednesday. The stake is to be sold for a total of £757.1 million, part of a push to raise £20 billion in privatisation sales to reduce Britain's debt. Canadian institutional fund manager Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) and Britain-based fund Hermes Infrastructure have agreed to purchase the government's 40 percent stake for £585.1 million. "It's great that we have reached an agreement to sell the UK's shareholding in Eurostar that delivers a fantastic deal for UK taxpayers that exceeds expectations," Chancellor George Osborne said in a statement.

  • British government sells stake in Eurostar AFP - 21 hours ago
    British government sells stake in Eurostar

    The British government has reached an agreement to sell its entire stake in the Eurostar train service between London, Brussels and Paris, the treasury said in a statement on Wednesday. The stake is to be sold for a total of £757.1 million ($1.2 billion, 1 billion euros), part of a push to raise £20 billion in privatisation sales to reduce Britain's debt. Canadian institutional fund manager Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) and Britain-based fund Hermes Infrastructure have agreed to purchase the government's 40 percent stake for £585.1 million ($900 million, 804 million euros). Eurostar has also agreed to redeem the government's preference share for a further £172 million ($264 million, 236 million euros).

  • Brazil seeks to investigate 54 politicians in Petrobras scandal AFP - 22 hours ago
    Brazil seeks to investigate 54 politicians in Petrobras scandal

    A prosecutor in Brazil has asked the Supreme Court to investigate 54 politicians over a massive graft case that has rocked Petrobras, the South American nation's largest corporation. "There have been 28 requests for new investigation files... which involve 54 politicians who have immunity," a spokesman for the top prosecutor told AFP Tuesday, referring to the growing scandal which has touched President Dilma Rousseff's government. The names of those who will be placed under investigation if the court gives the go-ahead will not be revealed for the time being as the politicians have immunity -- although prosecutor general Rodrigo Janot has asked for that to be lifted. The scandal, which investigators have dubbed Operation Car Wash, concerns a huge kickbacks scandal estimated at some $3.8 billion at state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

  • Brazil politicians dragged into growing Petrobras scandal AFP - 22 hours ago
    Brazil politicians dragged into growing Petrobras scandal

    A Brazilian prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to investigate 54 people, including a clutch of politicians, over a deepening graft case that has rocked Petrobras, the nation's largest corporation. The growing scandal, which investigators have dubbed Operation Car Wash, concerns kickbacks estimated at $3.8 billion at Petrobras, a state-owned oil giant. The crisis has become a major headache for President Dilma Rousseff -- who chaired the Petrobras board from 2003 to 2010, much of the period when the scheme allegedly operated -- and her increasingly embattled government. "There have been 28 requests for new investigation files... which involve 54 people," a spokesman for prosecutor general Rodrigo Janot told AFP.

  • ING says to end stake in former insurance arm Voya AFP - 23 hours ago
    ING says to end stake in former insurance arm Voya

    Leading Dutch bank ING on Tuesday said it will sell 45.6 million shares in the Voya group, ending its stake in its former US-based insurance arm. "ING... agreed to sell shares of common stock of Voya Financial Inc. in an underwritten public offering," ING said in a statement, issued late Tuesday night. Voya has also entered into a deal with ING to buy back shares of common stock for $600 million (536.8 million euros) from the ING Group, the statement added. "The offering and the repurchase will result in the sale of the total of 45.6 million shares which will reduce ING Group's stake in Voya at the completion of the transactions to zero from the 18.9 percent currently held," Amsterdam-based ING said.

  • Target to cut thousands of jobs over next 2 years AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 11:23 PM AEDT
    Target to cut thousands of jobs over next 2 years

    US retail chain Target said Tuesday it would slash thousands of jobs as it restructures to save $2 billion over the next two years. The company made the announcement during an investors meeting, without specifying the number of jobs that will be eliminated. "The restructuring will be concentrated at Target's headquarters locations," said the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company in a statement. Target Corp., which bills itself as an "upscale" discount retailer, has nearly 1,800 stores across the United States.

  • US stocks retreat from records AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 10:35 PM AEDT
    US stocks retreat from records

    Wall Street stocks retreated from record peaks Tuesday, losing ground after lackluster US auto sales. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 85.26 points (0.47 percent) to 18,203.37. The broad-based S&P ...

  • Weather chills US auto sales in February AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 10:16 PM AEDT
    Weather chills US auto sales in February

    Harsh winter storms chilled US auto sales in February, with Ford especially taking a hit with a surprise 1.9 percent fall while Toyota grabbed the number-two spot after GM. Overall, automakers' figures showed more steady growth in the industry, with low gasoline prices continuing to enhance shopping for pickup trucks and especially small and mid-sized sport utility vehicles. Total sales came in at 1.26 million units, up 5.3 percent from February, indicating a pace for the year of 16.2 million units, according to Autodata Corp. Sales by General Motors, the US market leader, rose 4.2 percent from February 2013 to 231,378 cars and trucks.

  • Apple edges Samsung, retakes smartphone throne: survey AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 8:44 PM AEDT
    Apple edges Samsung, retakes smartphone throne: survey

    Apple overtook Samsung to regain the top position in global smartphone sales in the fourth quarter, a market tracker said Tuesday. The survey by Gartner found Apple grabbed a 20.4 percent share of smartphone sales to end users, boosted by the introduction of its large-screen iPhones. South Korea's Samsung saw its share tumble to 19.9 percent, as its smartphone sales dropped to 73 million units. Other surveys showed Apple and Samsung in a virtual tie, but Gartner showed a clear lead for the US firm.

  • Phone firms and the quest for the 5G Holy Grail AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 8:44 PM AEDT
    Phone firms and the quest for the 5G Holy Grail

    Lightning-quick downloads, driverless cars and remote surgery: telecom firms are racing to develop a new generation of "5G" mobile networks that could start to change the world in five years. Executives and regulators from Asia, Europe and the United States jousted to define their quest for the 5G Holy Grail on Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a mega-trade show for telecom innovations. Korea Telecom on Monday said it hoped to roll out its first 5G technology even sooner, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Later, extra fast and secure 5G connections will enable self-driven cars guided by automatic connections to traffic systems, said Korea Telecom's chief executive, Chang-Gyu Hwang.

  • European police nab VAT fraud gang AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 8:36 PM AEDT
    European police nab VAT fraud gang

    European police arrested nine suspects in a continent-wide crackdown on a gang of suspected VAT fraudsters who robbed countries of hundreds of millions of euros, Europol said on Tuesday. Operation Vertigo, run in conjunction with Europe's prosecuting authority Eurojust, saw police to swooping down on suspects in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland and other EU countries in the largest operation of its kind. The apprehended gang is suspected of so-called "carousel fraud," also called missing trader or VAT fraud, which cost states hundreds of millions of euros in missing revenue every year. The same goods are then resold and exported, with the gang then reclaiming VAT on it to which it was not entitled, at the taxpayers' expense.

  • Optimism roars back as Geneva Motor Show opens AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 7:50 PM AEDT
    Optimism roars back as Geneva Motor Show opens

    Out with the gloom, in with the boom: Sleek luxury sports cars, high-end SUVs and nifty little city cars were bumper-to-bumper when the Geneva Motor Show opened to the media Tuesday. The some 220 manufacturers showcasing their new beauties in Geneva are expected to be in high spirits as the long-suffering European car industry looks poised to swerve into the fast lane. After being dogged by malaise since crashing into the economic crisis in 2008, European car makers finally emerged from the red last year. "We saw some growth last year, we?re forecasting more growth this year... The mood here is positive," Paul Willcox, head of Nissan's European division, told AFP.

  • Sweden moves to scrap budget surplus goal AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 7:18 PM AEDT
    Sweden moves to scrap budget surplus goal

    Sweden's left-wing government said Tuesday it wants to scrap the country's budget-surplus target, aiming to axe a policy that critics consider outdated. After Sweden earned a reputation of solid fiscal management, the ruling coalition said it was time to reconsider the surplus target. "The idea was never that the public sector should run a budget surplus for eternity," Prime Minister Stefan Loefven and Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson wrote in the daily Dagens Nyheter. They ordered a financial authority to consider a target of balancing the budget and other alternatives.

  • Talk of third Greek bailout gains ground in Europe AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 7:12 PM AEDT
    Talk of third Greek bailout gains ground in Europe

    Fresh talk of a third international bailout for debt-hit Greece spread through European capitals on Tuesday, despite Brussels insisting it was far too soon to start discussing any new rescue package. Speculation mounted on Monday when Spain's finance minister Luis de Guindos said EU officials estimated a third bailout of up to 50 billion euros ($55 billion) would be needed to keep Greece afloat and avoid a painful exit from the euro. A fresh rescue package would be a major U-turn for Greece's new hard-left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who swept to power in January on the promise that Athens would leave the era of bailouts and their associated austerity measures.

  • Ryanair says open to offer for Aer Lingus stake AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 6:37 PM AEDT
    Ryanair says open to offer for Aer Lingus stake

    Ryanair said Tuesday it will consider any offer for its stake in Aer Lingus, which is currently being pursued for a takeover by British Airways owner IAG. London-listed International Airlines Group is drumming up support for its 1.35-billion-euro ($1.51-billion) bid for Aer Lingus but needs the support of Ryanair, which holds almost 30 percent of the former Irish national carrier. IAG is also looking to convince the Irish government to sell its 25.1 percent stake, with Dublin stating it needs further commitments on connectivity and employment. Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said Tuesday that the group had not been approached directly by IAG about selling its stake -- but indicated it was open to an offer.

  • Google in talks on phone network in US: executive AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 5:22 PM AEDT
    Google in talks on phone network in US: executive

    US Internet giant Google says it is in talks with telecom companies about operating its own mobile phone services in the United States. You will see us announce it in the coming months," Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice-president for products, said on Monday. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Google had made agreements with leading telecom companies in the United States such as Sprint and T-Mobile to access their networks. Google currently does not have its own mobile phone services, but its Android operating system can be used on more than 80 percent of the world's smartphones.

  • Canadian economy grew 0.6% in 4th quarter of 2014 AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 4:20 PM AEDT
    Canadian economy grew 0.6% in 4th quarter of 2014

    Canada's economy grew 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 as households boosted expenditure, the government statistical agency said Tuesday. Gross domestic product (GDP) beat analysts' expectations but was still down from the previous quarter's 0.8 percent growth. Expressed at an annualized rate, GDP expanded 2.4 percent, said Statistics Canada.

  • US stocks retreat; Best Buy lifts dividend AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 3:45 PM AEDT
    US stocks retreat; Best Buy lifts dividend

    Wall Street stocks Tuesday retreated a day after the Nasdaq topped 5,000 for the first time in 15 years, as electronics retailer Best Buy announced big shareholder payouts. About 35 minutes into trade, ...

  • Turkish lira slides to new low on inflation concerns AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 3:38 PM AEDT
    Turkish lira slides to new low on inflation concerns

    The Turkish lira hit a new all-time low in value against the dollar on Tuesday, extending recent losses after accelerating inflation stoked concerns about the emerging economy. The lira peaked at 2.5360, exceeding a previous low of 2.5275 after official data released Tuesday showed that annual inflation remained well above the central bank's target in February. The annual rate was significantly above the central bank's target of 5 percent. Turkey's currency has sunk to a series of historic lows during the past month as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressures the central bank to ease monetary policy to boost growth ahead of a parliamentary election in June.

  • Japan's Sharp drops on bank aid report AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 2:44 PM AEDT
    Japan's Sharp drops on bank aid report

    Investors were spooked after Japan's leading Nikkei business daily, without citing sources, said Sharp wanted to enhance its capital base as it tries to restructure, and may enter into a 150 billion yen ($1.24 billion) debt-for-equity swap. The company plans to request aid from Mizuho Bank and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, the paper said.

  • European stocks decline awaiting central bank stimulus AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 2:24 PM AEDT
    European stocks decline awaiting central bank stimulus

    Europe's main stock markets slipped on Tuesday after recent strong gains, with traders sitting tight as the eurozone awaits fresh central bank stimulus. London's benchmark FTSE 100 index dropped 0.74 percent to close at 6,889.13 points after reaching a record intra-day high on Monday. "Equities have surged higher in recent weeks on hopes central banks? The European Central Bank will unveil Thursday the details of the bond purchase programme it is embarking on later this month.

  • European stocks decline AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 2:24 PM AEDT
    European stocks decline

    Europe's main stock markets slipped on Tuesday after recent strong gains, with traders sitting tight as the eurozone awaits fresh central bank stimulus. London's benchmark FTSE 100 index dipped 0.16 percent to stand at 6,928 points in midday deals after reaching an intra-day high on Monday. The European Central Bank will Thursday unveil the details of the bond purchase programme it is embarking on later this month. The EBRD said the programme would cover the next five years until 2020 but declined to give a figure for its potential investment after reports it could be as much as 1.0 billion euros.

  • Oil prices rise on Libya unrest AFP - Tue, Mar 3, 2015 1:26 PM AEDT
    Oil prices rise on Libya unrest

    Oil prices turned higher Tuesday on unrest in exporter Libya and as the market expected another rise in US inventories. In New York trade, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for April delivery rose 93 cents to $50.52 a barrel. European benchmark Brent North Sea crude for April leaped $1.48 to $61.02 a barrel in London. "Geopolitical tension returns to the fore to support oil prices today, as Libya experiences fresh attacks on its oil fields by militants," said Matt Smith of Schneider Electric.