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Cooper Industries
22 августа 2014, 18:36

When Workers Own Their Companies, Everyone Wins

In 1921, the Olympia Veneer Company became the first worker-owned cooperative to produce plywood. By the early 1950s, nearly all of the plywood produced in the United States was manufactured by worker-owned cooperatives. Today, however, worker-owned cooperatives seem few and far between. Say "co-op" and most people think of Park Slope foodies or strictly guarded apartment buildings. Worker ownership may seem a relic of the past, but it could actually play a significant role in reviving the union movement, bolstering the green economy, and stemming the tide of deindustrialization. Today, there are only about 30,000 cooperatives, strictly defined, employing 856,000 workers in the United States. Most of these cooperatives are consumer cooperatives, owned by consumers, rather than workers. (Technically, cooperatives are defined by incorporation, ownership, and tax-filing status.) But about 47 percent of American workers participate in profit-sharing arrangements of some sort. Employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), for instance, involve around 10 million workers and range from plans that are essentially cooperatives (in which workers have decision-making power) to plans in which workers have stock, but no ownership or decision-making power--these are essentially profit-sharing by a different name. Procter and Gamble, the twenty-seventh largest corporation in America is estimated to be10 to 20 percent employee-owned. Among the Fortune 100, many companies have employee ownership plans, including Exxon Mobile, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, GM, Ford, Intel, UPS, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Cisco, and Morgan Stanley. Against this backdrop, it's not so surprising that some are making the case for co-ops. Union leaders, in particular, argue that there is significant opportunity to expand the coop model by associating it more closely with unions. This make sense: Unions are looking for new allies and methods for increasing worker control, while cooperatives can benefit from the organizational skill and scalability of unions. Associating with coops would also allow the unions to extend their reach. While the union movement is concentrated in manufacturing, a recent study by Hilary Abell finds that 58 percent of cooperatives are in the retail and service sectors. "If you go back to the beginning of the labor movement," says activist Carl Davidson, "unions and cooperatives used to go together like bread and jelly." Leo Gerard, the President of United Steelworkers Union, has been vocal about the possibility of what he calls "union cooperatives." He has even studied this: In the wake of the recession, his union allied with Mondragon, a large federation of cooperatives based in Spain, and spent three years developing ways to build a similar movement in the states. Gerard noted that even while the Spanish economy has fared poorly in recent years, Mondragon proved resilient, maintaining steady employment. The idea is catching on in the U.S. as well. In Pittsburgh, a "union cooperative" industrial laundry called Clean and Green uses green technologies and employs 120 worker owners. The business replaces a traditionally-run laundry; if it succeeds it will be a potent proof-of-concept for the cooperative movement. Two thousand minority home health-care workers in New York City formed a cooperative that increased their wages and benefits while also giving them more control of their working conditions. They are coordinating with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU. The coop model might provide unions with just the fresh air that they need. The economist Richard Wolff tells me that, "Unions concentrated mostly on how to minimize what to give back. They very rarely think in terms of strategic alternatives." Coops are also already an important part of the emerging green economy. In Cincinnati, one cooperative is connected with local building trades, and it retrofits buildings with green energy technologies. The nascent nature of the industry makes it ideal for cooperatives, which cannot be formed in industries already dominated by large hierarchical corporations. Ohio Cooperative Solar,for instance, installs solar panels on rooftops in downtown Cleveland. Cooperatives can also supplement economic development programs in cities suffering under the weight of deindustrialization. In Cleveland, historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz has developed a cooperative model based on the idea of "anchor institutions." He aims to use institutions like hospitals, local government, and universities, which are constantly in demand, to serve as a bulwark against the vicissitudes of the business cycle. He tells me that he's had interest in his anchor-institutions model from representatives from about a hundred cities across the country. Cincinnati has experimented with the anchor-institution model, as well as Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville. Most of these areas are either deindustrialized or were hit hard by the housing crisis. And coops are not just good for unions, the environment, and struggling towns--they are good for workers, too. A meta-study by economist Chris Doucouliagos examines 43 published studies and find that profit-sharing, worker-ownership, and worker participation in decision-making are correlated with higher productivity. The effects are stronger among labor-managed firms than among those with merely worker-ownership schemes like ESOPs. This seems to be playing out in the Union Cab Cooperative in Madison, Wisconsin. The coop was formed when cab drivers--who were fed up with long hours, poor benefits, and low pay--ditched management and bought the cabs themselves. The cooperative is run by a nine-person board of directors elected by the workers who sit for terms of no more than three years. In total, about 60 workers are involved in management, with representation distributed throughout the cooperative. The highest-paid workers make a base salary that is only 2.2 times the lowest-paid workers, although drivers who spend more hours driving and those elected to management positions make more. The Union Cab Cooperative isn't going to overtake Uber any time soon, but there is no reason to believe that cooperatives have to remain small. The Spanish coop that aligned with United Steelworkers, after all, has 80,321 employees. Its revenues in 2012 were €14.081 billion. In the United States, Hy-Vee, a chain of 235 supermarkets with 62,000 employees and $8 billion in revenue is entirely employee-owned. The appeal of worker-ownership in the United States could even cross partisan lines. The two biggest supporters of ESOPs are the conservative Dana Rohrabacher and socialist Bernie Sanders. In 1999, they co-sponsored "The Employee Ownership Act of 1999" which would grant companies with a threshold of worker ownership an exemption from the federal income tax. Sadly, more recent cooperative bills have been primarily supported by liberals. But conservative policy wonks talk about an "ownership society," and cooperatives are an ideal way to promote ownership and responsibility. According to Democracy Collaborative, the world's largest 300 cooperatives together constitute the ninth largest national economy. America is a land of ownership and democracy--and yet these values are generally ignored in the workforce. Cooperatives can change that. Originally Published on The New Republic.

22 августа 2014, 18:36

When Workers Own Their Companies, Everyone Wins

In 1921, the Olympia Veneer Company became the first worker-owned cooperative to produce plywood. By the early 1950s, nearly all of the plywood produced in the United States was manufactured by worker-owned cooperatives. Today, however, worker-owned cooperatives seem few and far between. Say "co-op" and most people think of Park Slope foodies or strictly guarded apartment buildings. Worker ownership may seem a relic of the past, but it could actually play a significant role in reviving the union movement, bolstering the green economy, and stemming the tide of deindustrialization. Today, there are only about 30,000 cooperatives, strictly defined, employing 856,000 workers in the United States. Most of these cooperatives are consumer cooperatives, owned by consumers, rather than workers. (Technically, cooperatives are defined by incorporation, ownership, and tax-filing status.) But about 47 percent of American workers participate in profit-sharing arrangements of some sort. Employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), for instance, involve around 10 million workers and range from plans that are essentially cooperatives (in which workers have decision-making power) to plans in which workers have stock, but no ownership or decision-making power--these are essentially profit-sharing by a different name. Procter and Gamble, the twenty-seventh largest corporation in America is estimated to be10 to 20 percent employee-owned. Among the Fortune 100, many companies have employee ownership plans, including Exxon Mobile, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, GM, Ford, Intel, UPS, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Cisco, and Morgan Stanley. Against this backdrop, it's not so surprising that some are making the case for co-ops. Union leaders, in particular, argue that there is significant opportunity to expand the coop model by associating it more closely with unions. This make sense: Unions are looking for new allies and methods for increasing worker control, while cooperatives can benefit from the organizational skill and scalability of unions. Associating with coops would also allow the unions to extend their reach. While the union movement is concentrated in manufacturing, a recent study by Hilary Abell finds that 58 percent of cooperatives are in the retail and service sectors. "If you go back to the beginning of the labor movement," says activist Carl Davidson, "unions and cooperatives used to go together like bread and jelly." Leo Gerard, the President of United Steelworkers Union, has been vocal about the possibility of what he calls "union cooperatives." He has even studied this: In the wake of the recession, his union allied with Mondragon, a large federation of cooperatives based in Spain, and spent three years developing ways to build a similar movement in the states. Gerard noted that even while the Spanish economy has fared poorly in recent years, Mondragon proved resilient, maintaining steady employment. The idea is catching on in the U.S. as well. In Pittsburgh, a "union cooperative" industrial laundry called Clean and Green uses green technologies and employs 120 worker owners. The business replaces a traditionally-run laundry; if it succeeds it will be a potent proof-of-concept for the cooperative movement. Two thousand minority home health-care workers in New York City formed a cooperative that increased their wages and benefits while also giving them more control of their working conditions. They are coordinating with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU. The coop model might provide unions with just the fresh air that they need. The economist Richard Wolff tells me that, "Unions concentrated mostly on how to minimize what to give back. They very rarely think in terms of strategic alternatives." Coops are also already an important part of the emerging green economy. In Cincinnati, one cooperative is connected with local building trades, and it retrofits buildings with green energy technologies. The nascent nature of the industry makes it ideal for cooperatives, which cannot be formed in industries already dominated by large hierarchical corporations. Ohio Cooperative Solar,for instance, installs solar panels on rooftops in downtown Cleveland. Cooperatives can also supplement economic development programs in cities suffering under the weight of deindustrialization. In Cleveland, historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz has developed a cooperative model based on the idea of "anchor institutions." He aims to use institutions like hospitals, local government, and universities, which are constantly in demand, to serve as a bulwark against the vicissitudes of the business cycle. He tells me that he's had interest in his anchor-institutions model from representatives from about a hundred cities across the country. Cincinnati has experimented with the anchor-institution model, as well as Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville. Most of these areas are either deindustrialized or were hit hard by the housing crisis. And coops are not just good for unions, the environment, and struggling towns--they are good for workers, too. A meta-study by economist Chris Doucouliagos examines 43 published studies and find that profit-sharing, worker-ownership, and worker participation in decision-making are correlated with higher productivity. The effects are stronger among labor-managed firms than among those with merely worker-ownership schemes like ESOPs. This seems to be playing out in the Union Cab Cooperative in Madison, Wisconsin. The coop was formed when cab drivers--who were fed up with long hours, poor benefits, and low pay--ditched management and bought the cabs themselves. The cooperative is run by a nine-person board of directors elected by the workers who sit for terms of no more than three years. In total, about 60 workers are involved in management, with representation distributed throughout the cooperative. The highest-paid workers make a base salary that is only 2.2 times the lowest-paid workers, although drivers who spend more hours driving and those elected to management positions make more. The Union Cab Cooperative isn't going to overtake Uber any time soon, but there is no reason to believe that cooperatives have to remain small. The Spanish coop that aligned with United Steelworkers, after all, has 80,321 employees. Its revenues in 2012 were €14.081 billion. In the United States, Hy-Vee, a chain of 235 supermarkets with 62,000 employees and $8 billion in revenue is entirely employee-owned. The appeal of worker-ownership in the United States could even cross partisan lines. The two biggest supporters of ESOPs are the conservative Dana Rohrabacher and socialist Bernie Sanders. In 1999, they co-sponsored "The Employee Ownership Act of 1999" which would grant companies with a threshold of worker ownership an exemption from the federal income tax. Sadly, more recent cooperative bills have been primarily supported by liberals. But conservative policy wonks talk about an "ownership society," and cooperatives are an ideal way to promote ownership and responsibility. According to Democracy Collaborative, the world's largest 300 cooperatives together constitute the ninth largest national economy. America is a land of ownership and democracy--and yet these values are generally ignored in the workforce. Cooperatives can change that. Originally Published on The New Republic.

20 августа 2014, 23:19

Curbing Corporate Inversions Through Public Pressure for Economic Patriotism

Citing a feared negative public reaction, Walgreens announced it would remain a U.S. company with headquarters in Chicago after its $5.29 billion merger with the British pharmacy chain, Alliance Boots. Walgreens' announcement stands out among recent transactions sending U.S. corporations overseas, particularly in the health care and pharmaceutical industries. So far this year, there have been more than a dozen tax-motivated foreign mergers announced including drug companies Pfizer, AbbVie and Mylan. Two structural features of the U.S. tax code encourage corporations to discard their U.S. "citizenship" and become foreign corporations. The U.S. corporate tax rate, at 35 percent, is high compared to the average Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rate of 25 percent, the average European Union rate of 21 percent and the zero tax rate available in select locations like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Many corporations effectively pay much less than 35 percent, after factoring in loopholes and deductions, policies that cost approximately $150 billion in untaxed revenue last year. But the reported tax rate is high compared to other jurisdictions and the complexity required to reduce that rate in practice also is a deterrent. Second, other countries like the United Kingdom become attractive foreign tax locations because they operate under a territorial system that does not tax profits earned outside of the home country. Under the U.S. system, however, returning foreign-earned corporate profits home is a taxable event at high corporate tax rates. As a result, it is estimated that $2 trillion in foreign-earned profits of U.S. corporations sit in foreign bank accounts unavailable for use absent paying taxes. For a corporation to move overseas, it may be less disruptive and difficult than it sounds. To begin, a corporate home is a legal concept, and it may or may not coincide with the physical presence of that company. There are two main ways to achieve an overseas move. A transaction called an inversion where a U.S. company reincorporates overseas becoming, say, a Bermuda corporation was popular in the 2000s. Inversions also can happen when a U.S. company forms an overseas affiliate and the original company becomes a subsidiary of the foreign affiliate. The 2004 American Jobs Creation Act prevented companies pursuing inversions from reaping tax benefits of the transactions if the original stockholders retained 80 percent or more of the new company or if there was not substantial business operation in the new location. Treasury regulations have defined "substantial business operations" as meaning 25 percent of corporate activity thus effectively stopping inversions as a means to transfer corporate profits overseas. Another vehicle to move a U.S. company overseas is through a merger with a foreign company, and this is where the recent uptick has occurred. If a larger foreign company buys the U.S. one then both profits and control effectively move overseas in the newly combined company. If, however, a larger U.S. company buys a smaller overseas one, then control may stay effectively in the U.S., with only the profits moved overseas. For example, in 2012 Cleveland-based Eaton purchased Cooper Industries PLC in an $11.8 billion merger. After the merger, the new company Eaton Corporation PLC, incorporated in Ireland and headquartered in Cleveland, projected savings of $160 million a year as a result of not being subject to U.S. corporate taxes. This potential to save money from avoided taxes fueled the relocation motivation. For months, Walgreen investors, including hedge funds, pressured the company to relocate to the United Kingdom. After news broke that the U.S drugstore would retain its stars and stripes, its stock fell 14 percent. Recently President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew called for tax reform to deter corporate defectors, calling the overseas moves legal, but immoral and calling on companies to engage in economic patriotism. Proposals by congressional Democrats have not gained bi-partisan support. Not to be deterred, however, President Obama included proposals in his 2015 budget to decrease the corporate tax rate, decrease the ownership threshold for inversions and close some corporate tax loopholes. Congressional action before the end of the year is unlikely, but the strong rhetoric of economic patriotism and corporate defectors will likely have a place in the 2014 election debates. Tax policy alone isn't the solution, or only factor to consider. Two other important pieces of the puzzle are public reaction and market pressure -- both of which were at play in the Walgreens/Boots negotiations. Feared negative public reaction tipped the scales in favor of remaining a U.S. company for Walgreens, with market pressure nearly causing the opposite result. Public pressure for economic patriotism and corporate stewardship must be a part of any permanent solution. It will mitigate market-based profit maximization pressures. Brand identity and consumer loyalty are not subject to the kind of loopholes that riddle the tax code or the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C.

18 августа 2014, 17:27

The Bottom Line To Investors From Tax Inversions: No Above Average Returns

While it remains to be seen if Obama can put an end to what has been the hottest M&A trend in 2014, namely engaging in tax redomiciling "inversion" deals, it is clear that the C-suite is delighted to continue pursuing deals which minimize the cash outflows to the US Treasury, with some 52 redomiciling deals done since 1983, 22 taking place since 2009 and another 10 being finalized and many more in the works. But what is the track record of tax inversions when it comes to the bottom line, namely investor returns.  According to a Reuters calculation, "companies that have done such "inversion" deals have failed to produce above-average returns for investors." The details, from looking back three decades at 52 completed transactions, the review showed: 19 of the companies have subsequently outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 index; 19 have underperformed; 10 have been bought by rivals; 3 have gone out of business; 1 has reincorporated back in the United States. More from Reuters: Among the poorest performers in the review were oilfield services and engineering firms, all from Texas. Among them was the first of these companies to invert, McDermott International Inc (MDR.N), which moved its tax home-base to Panama in 1983.   Drugmakers are dominating the latest wave of inversions and most of them have outperformed the benchmark index. So far in 2014, five U.S. pharmaceutical firms have agreed to redomicile to Ireland, Canada or the Netherlands. Deals that have not been completed were excluded from the review.   It is impossible to know how the companies might have fared in the market had they not inverted. Innumerable factors other than taxes influence a stock's performance, and no two of these deals are identical, complicating simple comparisons.   But the analysis makes one thing clear: inversions, on their own, despite largely providing the tax savings that companies seek, are no guarantee of superior returns for investors. ... "For some companies, these inversions are really smart business moves. For others, they're less smart ... You don't always know if it's going to work," said James Hines, professor of law and economics at the University of Michigan and one of a handful of academics who have closely studied these deals. Drilling down on case study #1: Foster Wheeler: The analysis, using Reuters data and analytics, measured simple share price performance against the S&P 500 index using two benchmarks - the date when each company completed its inversion deal, and the date when each deal was announced. With only four exceptions, the inverted companies that were still in business since doing their deals either uniformly underperformed or outperformed on both benchmarks.   For instance, U.S. engineering and construction group Foster Wheeler AG announced in November 2000 - when its stock was worth about $45 per share - that it was inverting to Bermuda. The deal, a statement said, was "expected to benefit Foster Wheeler and its stockholders for several reasons."   Since the announcement, the company's stock has lagged the S&P 500 by 50 percent; since the deal was concluded in May 2001, it has trailed the index by 83 percent. Foster Wheeler agreed in January 2014 to be acquired by UK rival Amec Plc for about $32.69 per share in Amec stock and cash at the time. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Case #2: Eaton: Ohio's Eaton Corp Plc, a maker of power management products, in 2012 moved its tax domicile to low-tax Ireland by acquiring Cooper Industries, itself an inverted company that reincorporated from the United States to Bermuda in 2002 and then Dublin in 2009. "The acquisition of Cooper was a strategic decision to add scale and breadth to our global electrical business ... The acquisition of Cooper was transformational for our business," said Eaton spokesman Scott Schroeder in emailed comments.   When the deal was announced, Eaton Chief Executive Sandy Cutler said it would shave about $160 million off Eaton's annual tax bill. He said business motivations, not tax reductions, were the key reasons for the transaction. Eaton's effective tax rate in 2013 was only 0.6 percent, down from 2.5 percent in 2012 and from 12.9 percent in 2011, said Eaton's 2013 annual report to federal regulators.   "The lower effective tax rate for 2013, compared to 2012, was primarily attributable to the effects associated with the acquisition of Cooper, along with greater levels of income in lower tax jurisdictions and additional foreign tax credit utilization," Eaton said in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing.   Despite the tax savings, Eaton has underperformed the S&P 500 by 5 percent since completing the Cooper deal in November 2012. But, measuring from the day when the deal was announced in May 2012, Eaton's share price has outperformed the index by 9 percent, Reuters data showed. Case #3, biotech Xoma, fared so badly it un-inverted 13 years after rushing to expatriate: The first U.S. drug company in the 52 to complete an inversion was biotechnology group Xoma Corp, which shifted to Bermuda in 1998. Thirteen years later, the company returned its tax domicile to the United States, saying in a statement it wanted to reduce exposure to possibly adverse tax legislation and to come back to a more familiar legal system.   Xoma has posted losses since 2010 and, despite returning to California, has underperformed the S&P500 by 95 percent since it went to Bermuda. A spokeswoman said Xoma had no comment. So with a spotty track record, what is the impetus behind the M&A surge, aside for eager bankers and lawyers happy to collect this advisory fees? Perhaps for once the president is right and it really is just "herd mentality" and doing what is the faddy corporate transaction du jour: Concern is growing in Washington about inversions. President Barack Obama has criticized a "herd mentality" by companies seeking deals to escape U.S. corporate taxes.   Of the 52 inversions and similar redomiciling deals done since 1983, 22 have occurred since 2008, with 10 more being finalized and many more said to be in the works.   Following recent deals by major companies such as Medtronic Inc (MDT.N), bankers and analysts have said that another burst of deals is waiting to be unveiled in September. In any event, if the president has his way, it seems that inversions won't be a hot topic for much longer, and instead yet another government intervention will simply unleash yet another and far more direct way of avoiding paying US corporate taxes: foreign companies buying US-domiciled corporations outright, something which China is surely quite eager to pursue.    

17 июня 2014, 12:15

Налоговая оптимизация ценой в $43 млрд

Американский производитель медицинского оборудования Medtronic договорился о приобретении своего конкурента Covidien, базирующегося в Ирландии. Эту сделку называют крупнейшим бегством от налоговой системы США, способным спровоцировать и других гигантов «перепрыгнуть» через океан. Фото: medtronic.com Глобализация ускоряется. Если ранее крупные слияния и поглощения осуществлялись ради получения экономии от масштаба, расширения рынков сбыта или построения полного цикла производства, то теперь на переднем плане новый тренд. Гигантские корпорации принялись выкупать плохо совместимые бизнесы с целью переместиться в более благоприятные юрисдикции. Размеры «налогово-мотивированных» сделок достигли умопомрачительных масштабов. Вчера $60-миллиардная корпорация Medtronic из американского Миннеаполиса объявила, что потратит $42,9 млрд наличными и акциями, чтобы купить компанию Covidien со штаб-квартирой в ирландском Дублине. Сумма сделки на 29% превысила рыночную стоимость поглощаемой компании. Примечательно, что половина производств и львиная доля продаж Covidien находятся на территории США, и она по факту тоже является американской, но в 2009 году ей удалось юридически зарегистрироваться в Ирландии. Хотя обе компании производят медицинские приборы, их бизнесы плохо совместимы. Medtronic специализируется на сердечных имплантатах, генерируя $17 млрд выручки в год, а $10-миллиардный доход Covidien получается за счет продаж хирургических инструментов, катетеров и осциллографов. Заманчивой представляется лишь перспектива совмещения штаб-квартир этих компаний на территории Ирландии, где налог на корпоративную прибыль составляет лишь 12,5%, в то время как Штаты требуют уплаты 35%. США – одна из немногих стран, заставляющих свои корпорации сдавать налоги со всех прибылей, даже тех, что были сгенерированы филиалами, зарегистрированными в другой стране и не ведущими бизнес на американской территории. Чтобы вывернуться из этих налоговых тисков, корпорациям приходится покупать за рубежом не дочерние компании, а родительские. $20-миллиардный мотив Medtronic Презентуя сделку, глава Medtronic Омар Ишрак попытался доказать, что поглощение Covidien сулит и другие выгоды, такие как расширение глобального охвата компании и усиление ее позиций в переговорах с госпиталями и правительствами. Объединенные Medtronic и Covidien сравняются по размерам с крупнейшим в мире производителем медицинского оборудования Johnson&Johnson. Однако аналитики указывают, что затратное поглощение непрофильной компании потеряло бы всякий смысл, если бы карманы Medtronic не жали припрятанные запасы наличности. Информагентство Bloomberg, ссылаясь на независимого налогового консультанта Роберта Вилленса, сообщило, что Medtronic за последние годы накопила в офшорах $20,5 млрд. Ирландская «прописка» позволит ей записать эти средства себе в прибыль и вложить их в свое развитие с уплатой 12,5% налога, а не 35%. $2-триллионая проблема США С 1982 года около 40 американских компаний переместились из США в более дружелюбные юрисдикции, в том числе 11 сделали это за последние два года. Перелет в «теплые налоговые края» такой крупной птицы, как Medtronic, может подать пример другим гигантам, накопившим горы наличности. Последние поглощения родительских компаний Год Компания США Поглощенная компания Индустрия Сумма сделки Целевая страна 2014 Medtronic Coviden медоборудование $42,9 млрд. Ирландия 2014 Chiquita Brands Fyffes бананы $526 млн Ирландия 2014 Horizon Pharma Vidara Therapeutics биофармацевтика $660 млн Ирландия 2014 Applied Materials Tokyo Electron полупроводники $9,3 млрд Нидерланды 2014 Endo International Paladin Labs фармацевтика $1,6 млрд Ирландия 2013 Perrigo Elan фармацевтика $8,6 млрд Ирландия 2013 Actavis Warner Chilcott фармацевтика $8,5 млрд Ирландия 2013 Liberty Global Virgin Media кабельный интернет $23,3 млрд Британия 2013 Tower Group Canopius Holdings Bermuda страхование $217 млн Бермуды 2012 Eaton Cooper Industries электрооборудование $11,8 млрд Ирландия 2012 Tronox Exxaro Resources титановые белила $1,3 млрд Австралия 2012 Jazz Pharmaceuticals Azur Pharma фармацевтика $525 млн Ирландия 2011 Alkermes Elan Drug Technologies фармацевтика $960 млн Ирладния 2010 Valeant Biovail фармацевтика $3,3 млрд Канада 2007 Argonat Group PXRe страхование $430 млн Бермуды Источник: Forbes Согласно оценке Bloomberg, американские компании держат в офшорах почти $2 трлн прибылей. Причем половина этого объема приходится на 22 крупнейших из них. Больше всего офшорных накоплений у производителя техники General Electric ($110 млрд), у софтверного гиганта Microsoft ($76 млрд), у фармацевтических компаний Pfizer ($69 млрд) и Merck ($57 млрд), а также у лидера в сфере потребительской электроники Apple ($54 млрд). Pfizer уже попытался сменить гражданство в апреле 2014 года. Четыре раза он посылал предложения о поглощении шведско-британскому конкуренту AstraZeneca, выставляя все более высокую цену, вплоть до $117 млрд. Однако, получив четыре отказа, фармацевтический гигант вышел из переговоров, оставив свое предложение в силе. Попытка побега Pfizer заставила американских сенаторов нервничать. Нынешние законы США позволяют корпорации прописаться в другой стране путем поглощения зарубежной структуры при условии, что иностранные акционеры получат в объединенной компании не менее 20% акций. В прошлом месяце 14 сенаторов во главе с демократом Карлом Левиным предложили поднять этот порог до 50%, чтобы перекрыть американским бизнесам возможность покупки «родителей» в налоговых оазисах. Не исключено, что эта инициатива законодателей напугала гиганта Medtronic и побудила его поспешно сбежать из США, пока путь в Ирландию не перекрыт.

17 июня 2014, 12:15

Сделка за $43 млрд ради оптимизации налогов

Американский производитель медицинского оборудования Medtronic договорился о приобретении своего конкурента Covidien, базирующегося в Ирландии. Эту сделку называют крупнейшим бегством от налоговой системы США, способным спровоцировать и других гигантов «перепрыгнуть» через океан. Фото: medtronic.com Глобализация ускоряется. Если ранее крупные слияния и поглощения осуществлялись ради получения экономии от масштаба, расширения рынков сбыта или построения полного цикла производства, то теперь на переднем плане новый тренд. Гигантские корпорации принялись выкупать плохо совместимые бизнесы с целью переместиться в более благоприятные юрисдикции. Размеры «налогово-мотивированных» сделок достигли умопомрачительных масштабов. Вчера $60-миллиардная корпорация Medtronic из американского Миннеаполиса объявила, что потратит $42,9 млрд наличными и акциями, чтобы купить компанию Covidien со штаб-квартирой в ирландском Дублине. Сумма сделки на 29% превысила рыночную стоимость поглощаемой компании. Примечательно, что половина производств и львиная доля продаж Covidien находятся на территории США, и она по факту тоже является американской, но в 2009 году ей удалось юридически зарегистрироваться в Ирландии. Хотя обе компании производят медицинские приборы, их бизнесы плохо совместимы. Medtronic специализируется на сердечных имплантатах, генерируя $17 млрд выручки в год, а $10-миллиардный доход Covidien получается за счет продаж хирургических инструментов, катетеров и осциллографов. Заманчивой представляется лишь перспектива совмещения штаб-квартир этих компаний на территории Ирландии, где налог на корпоративную прибыль составляет лишь 12,5%, в то время как Штаты требуют уплаты 35%. США – одна из немногих стран, заставляющих свои корпорации сдавать налоги со всех прибылей, даже тех, что были сгенерированы филиалами, зарегистрированными в другой стране и не ведущими бизнес на американской территории. Чтобы вывернуться из этих налоговых тисков, корпорациям приходится покупать за рубежом не дочерние компании, а родительские. $20-миллиардный мотив Medtronic Презентуя сделку, глава Medtronic Омар Ишрак попытался доказать, что поглощение Covidien сулит и другие выгоды, такие как расширение глобального охвата компании и усиление ее позиций в переговорах с госпиталями и правительствами. Объединенные Medtronic и Covidien сравняются по размерам с крупнейшим в мире производителем медицинского оборудования Johnson&Johnson. Однако аналитики указывают, что затратное поглощение непрофильной компании потеряло бы всякий смысл, если бы карманы Medtronic не жали припрятанные запасы наличности. Информагентство Bloomberg, ссылаясь на независимого налогового консультанта Роберта Вилленса, сообщило, что Medtronic за последние годы накопила в офшорах $20,5 млрд. Ирландская «прописка» позволит ей записать эти средства себе в прибыль и вложить их в свое развитие с уплатой 12,5% налога, а не 35%. $2-триллионая проблема США С 1982 года около 40 американских компаний переместились из США в более дружелюбные юрисдикции, в том числе 11 сделали это за последние два года. Перелет в «теплые налоговые края» такой крупной птицы, как Medtronic, может подать пример другим гигантам, накопившим горы наличности. Последние поглощения родительских компаний Год Компания США Поглощенная компания Индустрия Сумма сделки Целевая страна 2014 Medtronic Coviden медоборудование $42,9 млрд. Ирландия 2014 Chiquita Brands Fyffes бананы $526 млн Ирландия 2014 Horizon Pharma Vidara Therapeutics биофармацевтика $660 млн Ирландия 2014 Applied Materials Tokyo Electron полупроводники $9,3 млрд Нидерланды 2014 Endo International Paladin Labs фармацевтика $1,6 млрд Ирландия 2013 Perrigo Elan фармацевтика $8,6 млрд Ирландия 2013 Actavis Warner Chilcott фармацевтика $8,5 млрд Ирландия 2013 Liberty Global Virgin Media кабельный интернет $23,3 млрд Британия 2013 Tower Group Canopius Holdings Bermuda страхование $217 млн Бермуды 2012 Eaton Cooper Industries электрооборудование $11,8 млрд Ирландия 2012 Tronox Exxaro Resources титановые белила $1,3 млрд Австралия 2012 Jazz Pharmaceuticals Azur Pharma фармацевтика $525 млн Ирландия 2011 Alkermes Elan Drug Technologies фармацевтика $960 млн Ирладния 2010 Valeant Biovail фармацевтика $3,3 млрд Канада 2007 Argonat Group PXRe страхование $430 млн Бермуды Источник: Forbes Согласно оценке Bloomberg, американские компании держат в офшорах почти $2 трлн прибылей. Причем половина этого объема приходится на 22 крупнейших из них. Больше всего офшорных накоплений у производителя техники General Electric ($110 млрд), у софтверного гиганта Microsoft ($76 млрд), у фармацевтических компаний Pfizer ($69 млрд) и Merck ($57 млрд), а также у лидера в сфере потребительской электроники Apple ($54 млрд). Pfizer уже попытался сменить гражданство в апреле 2014 года. Четыре раза он посылал предложения о поглощении шведско-британскому конкуренту AstraZeneca, выставляя все более высокую цену, вплоть до $117 млрд. Однако, получив четыре отказа, фармацевтический гигант вышел из переговоров, оставив свое предложение в силе. Попытка побега Pfizer заставила американских сенаторов нервничать. Нынешние законы США позволяют корпорации прописаться в другой стране путем поглощения зарубежной структуры при условии, что иностранные акционеры получат в объединенной компании не менее 20% акций. В прошлом месяце 14 сенаторов во главе с демократом Карлом Левиным предложили поднять этот порог до 50%, чтобы перекрыть американским бизнесам возможность покупки «родителей» в налоговых оазисах. Не исключено, что эта инициатива законодателей напугала гиганта Medtronic и побудила его поспешно сбежать из США, пока путь в Ирландию не перекрыт.

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04 февраля 2014, 18:02

More on Eaton Q4: Cooper acquisition lifts earnings

Eaton (ETN -1.8%) net income surged to $479M from $179M, boosted by the acquisition of Cooper Industries. Core sales growth 4%. Sales breakdown: Electrical Products +57%; Electrical Systems & Services segment +38%, although combined Eaton and Cooper bookings -4%, due to a slowdown in U.S. government orders and continued weak utility demand. Outlook: Q1 adjusted operating EPS $0.95-1.05 vs consensus of $1.03; FY EPS $4.50-4.90 vs $4.88 - the midpoint of the guidance would represent growth of 14%. (PR)Previous Post your comment!

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28 октября 2013, 12:33

Операционная прибыль компании Eaton выросла на 48% в третьем квартале

Компания Eaton (Eaton Corporation plc (NYSE:ETN)) объявила о рекордных результатах продаж и показателях операционной прибыли, обусловленных приобретением компании Cooper Industries. Операционная прибыль за третий квартал 2013 года, без учёта издержек на интеграцию недавних приобретений в размере $38 млн., составила $536 млн., что на 48% выше показателя за аналогичный период 2012 года. Операционная прибыль на акцию по сравнению с прошлым годом выросла на 5% и составила $1,12. При подведении итогов были учтены акции, выпущенные в процессе приобретения Cooper Industries, и стоимость приобретения с учетом расходов на сделку. Объем продаж в третьем квартале составил $5,6 млрд., что на 42% выше показателя за аналогичный период 2012 года. Объем продаж сегмента "Электротехническая продукция" после приобретения компании Cooper Industries составил $1,8 млрд., что на 98% превышает показатель за аналогичный период 2012 года.

19 сентября 2013, 04:05

A British-Polish Shale Alliance in Europe? A Driver, Not a Bulwark

Shale gas has become one of the most polarizing issues in Europe-wide debates on energy policy. Technology and its impact on the environment are at the heart of controversy. Compatibility with the policy of de-carbonisation is another sticking point. In effect, some EU members, like France and Bulgaria, decided to ban so-called fracking, the principal method to access low-permeable shale deposits. France introduced a moratorium in 2011, Bulgaria followed suit in 2012. Europe’s economic powerhouse, Germany, did not say “no” to shale gas in principle, so far choosing to tread lightly and largely defer the issue to regional governments. Others are hesitating, as if waiting for the issue to play out by itself. Against this patchwork of positions and policies, Poland and the United Kingdom clearly stand out. Both countries are indeed becoming a European shale avant-garde, or rather the first members of a coalition of those willing to go after shale-trapped natural gas (Lithuania and Romania are believed to be the next possible signings). In recent weeks, Polish authorities heeded the calls of the drilling companies and expedited some of the more time-consuming environmental procedures. In the UK, the government not only began a serious media campaign in favor of shale gas, but tabled fiscal measures to incentivize exploration (to be fair, officials in Warsaw went pretty much the same way last Spring when they announced tax breaks for shale drillers that would last until 2020). Hence, it came as no surprise when, following a meeting between Owen Paterson, the British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Marcin Korolec, head of the Polish Ministry of Environment, numerous media reports heralded the emergence of an alleged pro-shale gas front in the EU, spearheaded by Poland and the United Kingdom. Indeed, purposely elevating shale gas onto the EU-level could serve both countries’ interests, though for vastly different reasons. Britain’s relationship with the EU these days can be described as “it’s complicated” at best. Positioning itself as a champion of both responsibly developing the potential locked in the shale rock, and maintaining Europe’s competitiveness on industrial and energy fronts, would serve London well at a time when Britain’s European bona fides is repeatedly put into question. Poland is vocal about these pro-shale arguments, too, and would no doubt welcome an opportunity to press on with them as part of a team effort. Perhaps crucially, while it would be difficult to question Warsaw’s support for European integration in general, it’s credentials with respect to EU climate policy are hardly a thing to boast about, therefore making it harder to claim that shale gas is in fact a bridge fuel towards a decarbonized energy policy. But this is exactly where Britain’s strong record with tackling climate change would prove to be an invaluable asset. With a clearly discernible overlap of interests, what agenda should this tandem pursue? What should be the building blocks of a convincing, politically appealing and therefore sellable strategy for engaging in the European debate on shale gas? For starters, Poland and UK should clearly distance themselves from the idea that their cooperation is solely about torpedoing any attempts to tighten the screw of environmental regulations, or to otherwise discourage exploration of shale deposits. Granted, judging by the degree to which the debate has been distorted by shale skeptics, playing defense might be advisable, if not indispensable. Thus if the push were come to shove and new regulation would make it onto the EU legislative agenda, wielding a veto will most probably remain part and parcel of a concerted British-Polish approach. However, obstructionism cannot become the essence of this alliance. It would mean adding fuel to the fire of the European shale gas debate, and exacerbating the existing tensions. Instead, London and Warsaw should aim at adding substance to the discussion. Events on the ground in both countries ought to be their principal instruments in making the case for a fact based European approach to shale gas, as opposed to the current one, which often fails to adequately reflect the dynamics of this industry, including the continued evolution of technology and growing ability to assuage public concerns about water management, noise, or seismicity. To be sure, in terms of the scale of operations, the record in either Poland or the United Kingdom remains unimpressive. This could make their case of being sufficiently advanced on the issue to set the tone of the European debate somewhat challenging. It is still early days for the industry in Poland. The first producing well has been reported only recently. And it will take some time before the current euphoria within British the government circles translates into activities on the ground. Only five shale gas wells have been drilled in the United Kingdom so far, all in the period between April 2011 and December 2012. And still, Poland and Britain can contribute positively to the way in which shale gas is debated in Europe. Highlighting their record with the first test wells, especially in terms of the robustness of environmental safety procedures applied during the process, ought to be the first building block of this approach. Working towards best standards for communication and cooperation between key stakeholders—state authorities, independent regulators, the industry and the public, including local communities—should be another. Finally, Polish and British geological surveys need to team up to share their experience with resource base assessment, which quite naturally cannot rely on North American record alone, and thus diffuse some of the confusion that lingers with the public opinion as to what could be the actual potential of European shale deposits. As the pace of exploration accelerates, the wealth of data on which to make such estimates would grow, too. This is how London and Warsaw could put themselves in the driver’s seat of the EU-wide debate about shale gas. The alternative would be to see it land in the ditch of wasted chances and bad decisions. Bartosz Wiśniewski is research fellow with the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw

18 сентября 2013, 21:00

Tale of Two Countries: the Two Koreas

 Follow ZeroHedge in Real-Time on FinancialJuice There are dates that go down in history and some will be remembered as landmark signals of changing times. Russia has the upper hand in Syria. The USA is not as gung-ho as they might have led the rest of the world to believe about starting another war. Russia and China have both given lessons of a preaching-tone on the way that theNational Security Agency has eavesdropped on the world and the Obama administration has gone haywire on giving secret information to the Israelis so that they too can exploit it. What has happened to the world? Now, one other date will probably go down in memory as a historic change of our times. That date will be today, Monday September 16thand the reopening of the joint North and South Korean industrial zone that has reopened its operations in Kaesongfive months after been closed down due to military tensions between both sides. In 2010 the sinking of a naval vessel that belonged to the South (that the latter blamed on its arch rival the North) created issues between both parties. The military tensions came to a head when a South Korean tourist was shot dead. At one time, it was the common belief that crushing your enemies was the only way in a dog-eat-dog world to do business. Reduce them to jittering rubble and pound them into dust to be scattered and forgotten was how business used to get done in the past. That was before the world realized that enemies are a good source of business themselves and if we want to be global rather than selling in our back-yard, you have to wear the smile of hypocrisy sometimes to sell to the people you hate. The two Koreas’ tale is one such story; living in each other’s backyard and for decades keeping them at bay. Now they have got their acts together and are almost moving in with each other. Oscar Wilde once said ‘always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much’. How very true. I am certain there are a few people we would all like to annoy just as much.  Kaesong Industrial Complex: the Two Koreas Kaesong So, maybe the re-opening of the border and the industrial zone inKaesong is the forgiveness to the other side that will crush the opponent or it’s a world gone mad in which North Korea has come to realize that it needs its neighbor and vice-versa. Since April Kaesong has been a ghost town, devoid of the hordes of Koreans working there. There were 53, 000 North Korean workers back then until they were pulled out. Today, 820 South Koreans (businessmen and workers) crossed over the border again and it’s a clear sign of thawing in the relations in the on-going tale between the two countries. There are 123 companies from South Korea that manufacture in Kaesong, making household goods and appliances. That brings in about $2 billion per year in terms of trade for the North. It also pays roughly $80 million in wages for North Koreans too. Wages But, it should be remembered that wages are paid to the North Korean state and in good organized and centralized fashion, it’s the state that pays the workers after taking its hefty cut. Statistics on minimum wages or average salaries are not issued by the North-Korean state, but analysts have made estimates (based upon reports of foreign visitors, for example). Wages in North Korean stood at between 50 and 100 won per month in the 1980s. Most people earned about 70 wan on average. By 2000, that had reached an average of 100 wan per month. 100 wan works out to roughly 0.0924 US Dollars. 100 wan is the average salary of an unskilled worker in North Korea. A party official would earn two to three times that amount. This is the official estimated salary that the state provides the people with along with rations to live on. But, many North Koreans work outside of the state sector in order to earn more than the basic subsistence amount that is provided. It is possible (according to reports) that some may earn today about $30 per month if they have influence in North Korea. Just having a small shop will bring in some $100 per month. Businessmen that are involved in manufacturing and that won workshops may have incomes of up to $500 per month. However this is only true for a very small percentage of the population. It is also impossible to obtain anything more than an estimate and the figures cannot be proved for certain.    Unification or Unity After the opening of Kaesong today once again, North Korea stated via the state-run news agency KCNA: “The Korean peninsula's peace and peaceful reunification is our republic's consistent and firm stance”. Kaesong has long been seen as a showcase for the perfect reason to reunite the two Koreas. The South provides its know-how and its technological prowess, while the North provides the slave labor to manufacture that. Kaesong has existed for a decade now and was launched in 2003. It was South Korea that provided the financing. The South Korean Ministry of Unification has been attempting to bring both sides into a close dialogue since 1998, promoting trade exchanges and negotiations for cooperation. The Ministry was downsized in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008. The target would be the unification of the two nations, which might seem highly unlikely both in the past and still today. But, if the two parties actually work more closely together, then that would be a step in the right direction. Unite them perhaps not; become more liberal in their reactions towards and trade with each other is a different matter. Working together and tying the two countries in a common project such as Kaesong will inevitably lead to greater trust, which will in turn open North Korea to the rest of the world. Cutting off trade between the two countries would mean forgoing $230 million imports that are ordered by the South from the North. The North also provides $50-million worth of textiles for the South. Being stopped from using South Korean waters would also mean that merchant and cargo ships from North Korea would have to make detours, involving increased use of fuel and therefore would result in greater costs that the poverty-stricken North already wouldn’t be able to put up with. Both sides have everything to gain. Just last spring North Korea made threats that it would attack South Korea and also the USA (preemptive nuclear attacks). But, the North has been out of business for so long and isolated economically that it has no idea of how to do business. It is hardly known for its skills in diplomacy. Threatening trade partners and then backing down and carrying on as usual means that people are wary of the volatility of the North and that’s bad for business. Kaesong should have held a fair to attract foreign investors inOctober this year. Some are doubtful of wishing to invest in a country that has a high-rate of volatility and for which it is almost impossible to determine what road they will be taking in the next few months and years. But, there are some, the most adventurous perhaps, that have taken the plunge into North Korea (notably the Netherlands). The scene of the two Koreas is straight out of the Charles Dickens novel, a Tale of Two Cities. North Korea and South Korea have spent the past decades living a life of antagonistic difference that has unfurled an acrimonious and until-now ceaseless hatred between the two countries, where there has been an illusionary belief that each side was better than the other: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”. Both have believed that they had the best of times in their own country. Both believed that it was the worst of times over the border for the others. Today that has changed and the epoch of belief is the idea that working together can only be beneficial to both North and South Korea. It may certainly be an epoch of incredulity not only for the Koreans but for the rest of the world. What on earth will the world think of two arch-enemies that will be working together in a like-minded route to prosperity together?  Septaper Will Open Floodgates | How Sinister is the State? | Food: Walking the Breadline | Obama NOT Worst President in reply to Obama: Worst President in US History?  Obama's Corporate Grand Bargain Death of the Dollar | Joseph Stiglitz was Right: Suicide | China Injects Cash in Bid to Improve Liquidity Technical Analysis: Bear Expanding Triangle | Bull Expanding Triangle | Bull Falling Wedge | Bear Rising Wedge | High & Tight Flag           

16 сентября 2013, 08:00

Tales from the development frontier

Tales from the development frontier is an important publication that presents analytical reviews and case studies that show how selected developing countries have developed light manufacturing to create jobs and foster prosperity. China's emergence as a powerhouse in light manufacturing is a major focus of this volume, but other countries in Africa and Asia are also included. Mindful of the adage that there is as much to learn from success as failure, the case studies examined in this book cover both triumphs and disappointments, eliciting from them lessons on the development of light manufacturing and how this sector can be leveraged to accelerate growth in poor countries where the initial conditions may not be quite ideal. The book brings out the role of focused, targeted initiatives that can help break the poverty trap and ignite growth that begins small but can eventually lift broader segments of the economy. Each successful enterprise or industry described in this book began as a family workshop, a microenterprise, or a group of small entrepreneurs meeting a limited demand in a small area. Although these fledgling ventures confronted market, institutional, and regulatory environments loaded with daunting obstacles, they managed to find room for organic growth, supported by focused government policy interventions to ease the binding constraints. At some point, though not necessarily at first, cooperation and even partnership with government policy makers helped to power a gradual transformation that turned small informal firms into modern corporations capable of establishing national and, eventually, international distribution networks. The book argues that this sequence of ground-level entry and gradual organic growth to a larger scale represents a common element in the growth of light manufacturing in the United Kingdom and other early developers, as well as the recent successes such as China. China's emergence as a powerhouse in light manufacturing is a major focus of this volume, but other countries in Africa and Asia are also included. Mindful of the adage that there is as much to learn from success as failure, the case studies examined in this book cover both triumphs and disappointments, eliciting from them lessons on the development of light manufacturing and how this sector can be leveraged to accelerate growth in poor countries where the initial conditions may not be quite ideal.

13 сентября 2013, 12:28

Brussels drops the call on Europe's single digital market

Authors: Mario Mariniello This article was first published in the Wall Street Journal. If Europe had a genuine single digital market, every citizen and company could subscribe to any telecom operator active on the Continent. Pan-European operators could compete across different countries. New technologies would be profitable and rapidly deployed. High-speed access to the Internet would be available to all. Unfortunately, the long-awaited telecom package unveiled Wednesday evening by Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes will not get Europe there—or at least not as quickly as some hoped. Achieving a single market for digital services requires a bold and coherent strategy. The European Commission should make clear that it prioritizes end-customers, whether they are citizens or businesses, for whom telecommunications is a primary means of fostering social cohesion within Europe and enhancing economic growth. More clarity on telecom policy would also spur investment and competition, to the benefit of European consumers. Such clarity is absent in this week's reform package. The legislation was adopted without prior public consultation, creating speculation that the text was shaped by behind-the-scenes political pressure. The result can hardly be called a milestone in the path to a single digital market. The Commission proposal only mildly addresses the issue of market segmentation, for instance. The creation of a single European regulator and the EU-level allocation of wireless spectrum would be the most straightforward way to overcome national fragmentation and promote the establishment of truly pan-European telecom operators. Instead, the Commission's proposal mostly relies on an "authorization system" under which operators doing business abroad would be regulated by their home regulator. This is no guarantee of enhanced competition, particularly if regulators are subject to home-country political pressure to back national champions at the expense of customers in host countries. Likewise, the Commission is merely attempting to coordinate national spectrum auctions instead of encouraging EU-level auctions. Under this week's proposal, the Commission will retain a veto right if a licensing process creates barriers to the internal market. Yet this is still far inferior to pan-European auctions, which would encourage mobile operators to compete at a continental level rather than merely at a national one. One of the Commission's flagship initiatives—to cap wholesale roaming fees—falls similarly short in this week's package. Earlier drafts proposed cutting roaming fees by up to 90% through the introduction of a €0.03 per minute cap on voice calls and €0.015 per megabyte for data transmission. Roaming fees are high in Europe because customers cannot "punish" a foreign operator that is charging too much for accessing its network. They can only subscribe—or not subscribe—to telecom operators in their home country. So regulating roaming fees makes sense if competition in the wholesale roaming market cannot be guaranteed. In the Commission's final proposal, however, these limits have been dropped. Instead, the proposal promotes the creation of "multilateral roaming agreements": Two operators in such an arrangement would treat each others' customers largely as their own, and charge roaming fees accordingly. But cooperation agreements may be viewed with suspicion by antitrust authorities, which could make operators less eager to participate. The Commission's approach will also affect so-called "alternative roaming operators," which are operators to which mobile customers can separately subscribe when using their devices outside their home country. Brussels previously endorsed this business model as a way to contain roaming costs, but under this week's proposal, operators in multilateral roaming arrangements would not be forced to give alternative roaming operators access to their networks. This would make it risky for such operators to enter the market, which could open further possibilities for anticompetitive abuses. The Commission, in other words, recognizes the existence of a market failure and announces that excessive roaming fees will be slashed. But in the final proposal, it has introduced more uncertainty than there was before. The proposal's approach to net neutrality does not provide for much more certainty, either. The Commission proposes harmonization of the relevant European legislation, leaving open the possibility for operators to offer different levels of service quality at different prices, provided the principle of an Internet open to all is preserved. Economic theory suggests that price or quality discrimination are not necessarily bad for customers. Varying the price of Internet services in line with their burden on network capacity might enable more efficient allocation of Web traffic. So the Commission's proposal is probably correct on substance. Yet price discrimination could lead to antitrust abuses: Operators could, for instance, charge mobile users more for using services, such as Skype or Google Talk, that represent a competitive threat. The success of the net-neutrality regulation will therefore depend on national regulators' and antitrust authorities' ability to identify anticompetitive behavior and enforce competition law in a timely manner. The Commission's proposal introduces some positive changes, but it is too coy. Above all, it fails to foster the development of a new digital era in Europe, which would bring certainty and confidence to consumers and to the industry. Read more...

12 сентября 2013, 16:00

The End of Banks as We Know Them?

Last week my father received a phone call from the branch director of his long-standing bank to offer him a new product. My father, instead of listening with confidence to the advice of a trustworthy agent, was immediately suspicious. He dreaded another 30-page prospectus full of small print — and another potential trap. My father's experience is mirrored all over the world. Millions of people have lost confidence in banks. But the dissatisfaction and disappointment with our banks runs deeper. The last bank in my hometown closed a year ago. After serving the community for more than thirty years, it was no longer seen as economically viable. Another casualty of cost cutting, it simply closed its doors — even though local people and businesses that had used that bank all their lives still relied upon it. Again, this story is repeated around the world. This, we are told (in expensive TV ads), is progress. A global world needs global banks — whether we as their local customers like it or not. But something has been lost along the way. Even before the banking crisis of 2008, something was gradually, but undeniably, in decline. Trust. Millions of savers and borrowers listened (and still listen) to reports of record profits at their bank — even as they are told their local branch is closing to save costs. The two facts do not add up. Today, the belief among ordinary account holders that banks are there to serve us has all but disappeared. Where once they were regarded as pillars of the community, banks are increasingly seen as the unpalatable face of big business. In many cases, banks have sacrificed the needs of the local community — and indeed the belief in the community ideal — in the scramble to go global. That globalization has come at the cost of local service. What the banks seem to have forgotten is that the global village is made up of millions of local communities. (The banking sector is not alone in this. In industry after industry, companies have gone global with something approaching abandon, often with little regard for the local communities that gave them life.) So, why is this and does it matter? And, perhaps more importantly, can anything be done to fill the yawning gap in local communities all over the world? My research suggests that there is a viable alternative to local banks. It is something I call community financing. Community financing refers to a form of cash-flow that channels the financial resources of the savers of a community into the well-being of that community via economic activities, which members of the community believe should be undertaken and therefore willingly supports with their savings. There are many examples of Community Finance initiatives around the world, some large some small. Think of Kiva, Kickstarter, or microlending. But it's not all about internet startups or social enterprise. One of my favorites is the story of the JAK Members Bank (or JAK Medlemsbank), a co-operative member-owned financial institution based in Skovde, Sweden. The bank does not participate in capital markets; all of its loans are raised solely from member savings. In 2011, JAK had assets (savings) of 131 million Euros and 38,000 members, who are each allowed one share in the bank and determine its policies and direction. JAK relies on the "saving points" system — members accrue points for saving and use them to apply for a loan. The idea is that you are allowed to take out a loan for yourself to the same extent that you allow other people to receive loans. The bank uses a simple accounting rule to ensure its own sustainability: overall, earned savings points must equal spent savings point. JAK does not charge or pay interest on any of its loans (a principle it shares with Islamic banking). To see how this works in practice, consider a true story. An entrepreneur in the small community of Skatteungby, some 300 kilometers from Stockholm, asked the JAK Bank for a loan to develop a shop. Although he remained ultimately responsible for paying back the loan, the project was able to go ahead because he enjoyed the support of individuals within the community who wanted the shop. Enough people in his local community made a deposit from their personal savings into the account to finance the shop, fulfilling the saving schema that JAK requires for granting a loan. In this scheme, the risk stays at the bank, the responsibility of repayment to goes to the entrepreneur, and the community foregoes the potential gain in interest in their deposits in exchange for having a local activity in the town desirable by many of their members. This is one of the sharing risks schemes that characterize community finance. Such initiatives are now on the increase around the world, not just in emerging economies but in the developed economies of the West. They offer a fresh approach to financing local businesses and providing local banking services. They also offer a chance of redemption for the traditional banking system. Let me explain. Since modern banking began in the 17th century to offer a channel from people's deposits to people's needs, the number of people using the banking system has grown steadily reaching percentages of more than 90 percent of bank users in countries such as the U.S. or the UK, making it difficult for citizens to believe that we could do without them. But, since the beginning of the 20th century, different crises of liquidity and debt have given banks a bad reputation.The growing distrust of conventional banks is provoking an outflow of deposits to entities outside the conventional banks and even some outside the regulated system in different crowd-finance platforms, peer-to-peer lending systems and cooperative lending entities. These initiatives are suddenly becoming popular. They provide micro lending services to local community businesses. Some such as Accion in the USA , or Fondo de Solidaridad de Granada, have been around for years. Others, such as "Bank on Dave" in the UK are newer. Elsewhere, other alternative community financing initiatives are underway. For example, new technologies have made it possible to develop crowd sourcing lending platforms, such as Kickstarter in the USA, or or Goteo in Spain , for peer-to-peer financial services. Some of these initiatives are regulated by financial authorities, some leave on the margins as private associations, but all are becoming increasingly popular to fill the gap left by traditional banking. In parallel financial inclusion, through financial literacy or providing banking services to financial excluded communities are part of the new landscape such as Kenya Post Office Savings Bank. The fact that people may trust more an unknown virtual platform in the web than its neighboring bank is not as crazy as we might think, if we consider that default rates of some of these systems are estimated to be less than two percent when the banking system might get as high as eight percent or even 10 percent in the case of credit cards. And yet can we seriously envision that the next level of finance, at least for the personal loans or small business, will leave the banks? And do we really want it to? If this happens, the long process to provide the financial system with regulation and security controls will be undermined, and we would lose centuries of banking expertise in analyzing loans and risks. If banks are perceived to be providing loans to the governments and large corporations ignoring the personal loans and/or small business, alternative systems will grow provoking serious consequences for depositors as well as for the system itself, unless there is a way to re-gain the lost confidence. My generation (and my mother's before me) grew up watching It's a Wonderful Life in tears every Christmas eve. The classic film offers an eloquent lesson in how much good a bank can do for a community. For decades it has been the most avidly watched Christmas film. Deep down many of us believe that, as James Stewart puts it, "A good bank is the one that does good to its community and a bad Bank is the one that feeds the avarice of corrupt individuals." Simple but powerful. For traditional banks, the clock is ticking. But it's not too late.

12 сентября 2013, 13:53

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts: Cynthia H. Akuetteh – Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, Department of State Eric T. Schultz – Ambassador to the Republic of Zambia, Department of State David J. Arroyo – Member, Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Camilla C. Feibelman – Member, Board of Trustees of the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation  President Obama also announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts: Leslie Greene Bowman – Member, Committee for the Preservation of the White House Wendy A. Cooper – Member, Committee for the Preservation of the White House  President Obama said, “These dedicated and accomplished individuals will be valued additions to my Administration as we tackle the important challenges facing America. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.” President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts: Cynthia H. Akuetteh, Nominee for Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, Department of State Cynthia H. Akuetteh, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State (DOS), a position she has held since 2012.  From 2011 to 2012, Ms. Akuetteh was the Director in the Office of Europe, Middle East and Africa in the Bureau of Energy Resources at DOS.  From 2009 to 2011, she was the Director in the Office of Central African Affairs at DOS.  Ms. Akuetteh served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 2007 to 2009 and the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 2005 to 2007.  Prior to this, from 2004 to 2005, Ms. Akuetteh was the Deputy Director in the Office of Economic Policy Staff for the Bureau of African Affairs at DOS.  Other notable positions held by Ms. Akuetteh include: Deputy Division Chief and Economic/Commercial Officer in the Bureau of Economic Affairs; Senior Venezuela Desk Officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; and Trade Policy Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada.  Prior to serving at DOS, Ms. Akuetteh was the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps program in Ghana.  Ms. Akuetteh received a B.A. from C.W. Post College of Long Island University and an M.A. from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University.  Eric T. Schultz, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Zambia, Department of State Eric T. Schultz, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, most recently served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, from 2010 to 2013.  Previously, Mr. Schultz was the Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia from 2007 to 2009.  From 2004 to 2007, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe.  Prior to this, from 2002 to 2004, Mr. Schultz was the Deputy Director in the Office of European Security Policy at the Department of State.  From 2000 to 2002, Mr. Schultz served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.  He was the Deputy Director for Ukrainian, Moldovan, and Belarusian Affairs from 1998 to 2000 and the Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia from 1996 to 1998.  Mr. Schultz received a B.A. from Macalester College and an M.A. from the University of Denver. David J. Arroyo, Nominee for Member, Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting David J. Arroyo is Senior Vice President for Legal Affairs at Scripps Networks Interactive, where he has worked since 2004.  Previously, from 2000 to 2004, Mr. Arroyo was an associate at the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.  He served as Chairman of the Board of Latino Justice (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund) from 2008 to 2012.  He was recognized in 2012 by the Imagen Foundation as among the most influential Latinos in entertainment, and in 2010, he received the Luminary Award from the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications.  Mr. Arroyo received a B.A. from Duke University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. Camilla C. Feibelman, Nominee for Member, Board of Trustees of the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Camilla C. Feibelman is Director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, a position she has held since May 2013.  Since first joining the Sierra Club in 2001, she has held various positions including Field Organizer in the Puerto Rico Office, Deputy Press Secretary for Diversity Programs, and Spanish Language/Environmental Justice Media Coordinator.  From 2000 to 2001, she was the National Director of the Sierra Club’s Sierra Student Coalition.  She was a Fulbright Scholar in 1998 and a Morris K. Udall Scholar in 1997.  Ms. Feibelman received a B.A. in Environmental Biology from Columbia University and an M.P. in Urban Planning from the University of Puerto Rico.    President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts: Leslie Greene Bowman, Appointee for Member, Committee for the Preservation of the White House Leslie Greene Bowman is President and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, a position she has held since 2008.  Previously, she was Director and CEO of the Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, DE.  From 1981 to 1997, she served in various curatorial and management positions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Ms. Bowman is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  She previously served on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House from 1995 to 2009, and from 2002 to 2008 she served on the Board of the Association of Art Museum Directors.  She was awarded the Gold Good Citizenship Medal from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in 2012.  Ms. Bowman received a B.Phil. from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and an M.A. from the Winterthur Program of the University of Delaware. Wendy A. Cooper, Appointee for Member, Committee for the Preservation of the White House Wendy A. Cooper is Curator Emerita of Furniture at the Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Delaware, and was Curator of Furniture there from 1995 to 1999, and the Lois F. and Henry S. McNeil Senior Curator of Furniture from 1999 to 2013.  Previously, she was Curator of Decorative Arts at The Baltimore Museum of Art from 1987 to 1995.  She was a guest curator for the permanent installation of Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection at the National Gallery of Art.  She previously served as a Member of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House from 1990 to 2009.  She has also held positions at The Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Colonial Williamsburg.  Ms. Cooper received a B.A. from Pembroke College in Brown University and an M.A. from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture at the University of Delaware.

12 сентября 2013, 12:00

The End of Banks as We Know Them?

Last week my father received a phone call from the branch director of his long-standing bank to offer him a new product. My father, instead of listening with confidence to the advice of a trustworthy agent, was immediately suspicious. He dreaded another 30-page prospectus full of small print — and another potential trap. My father’s experience is mirrored all over the world. Millions of people have lost confidence in banks. But the dissatisfaction and disappointment with our banks runs deeper. The last bank in my hometown closed a year ago. After serving the community for more than thirty years, it was no longer seen as economically viable. Another casualty of cost cutting, it simply closed its doors — even though local people and businesses that had used that bank all their lives still relied upon it. Again, this story is repeated around the world. This, we are told (in expensive TV ads), is progress. A global world needs global banks — whether we as their local customers like it or not. But something has been lost along the way. Even before the banking crisis of 2008, something was gradually, but undeniably, in decline. Trust. Millions of savers and borrowers listened (and still listen) to reports of record profits at their bank — even as they are told their local branch is closing to save costs. The two facts do not add up. Today, the belief among ordinary account holders that banks are there to serve us has all but disappeared. Where once they were regarded as pillars of the community, banks are increasingly seen as the unpalatable face of big business. In many cases, banks have sacrificed the needs of the local community — and indeed the belief in the community ideal — in the scramble to go global. That globalization has come at the cost of local service. What the banks seem to have forgotten is that the global village is made up of millions of local communities. (The banking sector is not alone in this. In industry after industry, companies have gone global with something approaching abandon, often with little regard for the local communities that gave them life.) So, why is this and does it matter? And, perhaps more importantly, can anything be done to fill the yawning gap in local communities all over the world? My research suggests that there is a viable alternative to local banks. It is something I call community financing. Community financing refers to a form of cash-flow that channels the financial resources of the savers of a community into the well-being of that community via economic activities, which members of the community believe should be undertaken and therefore willingly supports with their savings. There are many examples of Community Finance initiatives around the world, some large some small. Think of Kiva, Kickstarter, or microlending. But it’s not all about internet startups or social enterprise. One of my favorites is the story of the JAK Members Bank (or JAK Medlemsbank), a co-operative member-owned financial institution based in Skovde, Sweden. The bank does not participate in capital markets; all of its loans are raised solely from member savings. In 2011, JAK had assets (savings) of 131 million Euros and 38,000 members, who are each allowed one share in the bank and determine its policies and direction. JAK relies on the “saving points” system — members accrue points for saving and use them to apply for a loan. The idea is that you are allowed to take out a loan for yourself to the same extent that you allow other people to receive loans. The bank uses a simple accounting rule to ensure its own sustainability: overall, earned savings points must equal spent savings point. JAK does not charge or pay interest on any of its loans (a principle it shares with Islamic banking). To see how this works in practice, consider a true story. An entrepreneur in the small community of Skatteungby, some 300 kilometers from Stockholm, asked the JAK Bank for a loan to develop a shop. Although he remained ultimately responsible for paying back the loan, the project was able to go ahead because he enjoyed the support of individuals within the community who wanted the shop. Enough people in his local community made a deposit from their personal savings into the account to finance the shop, fulfilling the saving schema that JAK requires for granting a loan. In this scheme, the risk stays at the bank, the responsibility of repayment to goes to the entrepreneur, and the community foregoes the potential gain in interest in their deposits in exchange for having a local activity in the town desirable by many of their members. This is one of the sharing risks schemes that characterize community finance. Such initiatives are now on the increase around the world, not just in emerging economies but in the developed economies of the West. They offer a fresh approach to financing local businesses and providing local banking services. They also offer a chance of redemption for the traditional banking system. Let me explain. Since modern banking began in the 17th century to offer a channel from people’s deposits to people’s needs, the number of people using the banking system has grown steadily reaching percentages of more than 90 percent of bank users in countries such as the U.S. or the UK, making it difficult for citizens to believe that we could do without them. But, since the beginning of the 20th century, different crises of liquidity and debt have given banks a bad reputation.The growing distrust of conventional banks is provoking an outflow of deposits to entities outside the conventional banks and even some outside the regulated system in different crowd-finance platforms, peer-to-peer lending systems and cooperative lending entities. These initiatives are suddenly becoming popular. They provide micro lending services to local community businesses. Some such as Accion in the USA , or Fondo de Solidaridad de Granada, have been around for years. Others, such as “Bank on Dave” in the UK are newer. Elsewhere, other alternative community financing initiatives are underway. For example, new technologies have made it possible to develop crowd sourcing lending platforms, such as Kickstarter in the USA, or or Goteo in Spain , for peer-to-peer financial services. Some of these initiatives are regulated by financial authorities, some leave on the margins as private associations, but all are becoming increasingly popular to fill the gap left by traditional banking. In parallel financial inclusion, through financial literacy or providing banking services to financial excluded communities are part of the new landscape such as Kenya Post Office Savings Bank. The fact that people may trust more an unknown virtual platform in the web than its neighboring bank is not as crazy as we might think, if we consider that default rates of some of these systems are estimated to be less than two percent when the banking system might get as high as eight percent or even 10 percent in the case of credit cards. And yet can we seriously envision that the next level of finance, at least for the personal loans or small business, will leave the banks? And do we really want it to? If this happens, the long process to provide the financial system with regulation and security controls will be undermined, and we would lose centuries of banking expertise in analyzing loans and risks. If banks are perceived to be providing loans to the governments and large corporations ignoring the personal loans and/or small business, alternative systems will grow provoking serious consequences for depositors as well as for the system itself, unless there is a way to re-gain the lost confidence. My generation (and my mother’s before me) grew up watching It’s a Wonderful Life in tears every Christmas eve. The classic film offers an eloquent lesson in how much good a bank can do for a community. For decades it has been the most avidly watched Christmas film. Deep down many of us believe that, as James Stewart puts it, “A good bank is the one that does good to its community and a bad Bank is the one that feeds the avarice of corrupt individuals.” Simple but powerful. For traditional banks, the clock is ticking. But it’s not too late. 

12 сентября 2013, 02:32

Senators Want U.S. to Help Israel Tap its Giant Reserves

Three senators with significant energy policy portfolios introduced legislation yesterday that would encourage more U.S.-Israel collaboration on developing Israel's large offshore natural gas reserves. The bill rolled out by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) would encourage U.S.-sponsored research programs such as the National Science Foundation, academic institutions and U.S. energy companies to work with Israel on the development of gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Israel has an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that, if developed, could supply Israel's expanding energy needs and help supply Jordan and Turkey. Two large gas fields are being explored and developed by Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. and its Israeli partners, Delek Drilling Ltd. Partnership, Avner Oil Exploration LP and Isramco Negev 2 LP. The largest of the offshore formations is called Leviathan and is estimated to hold 16 trillion cubic feet of gas. To put that into perspective, the U.S. economy consumes about 25 trillion cubic feet a year of gas. For the far smaller nation of Israel, analysts say further development of its offshore gas bounty would be an economic boon and a geopolitical gain. "If the Israelis can pull it off, there would be huge security benefits for Israel and its neighbors," said David Goldwyn, a former U.S. State Department global energy affairs coordinator. Still, the prospect of exporting Israeli gas throughout the region or to Asia has been hotly debated within Israel. Mirroring aspects of a similar debate taking place in the United States, Israel's top court and government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are considering how much gas should remain in Israel to ensure its energy security and boost domestic industries. Noble has encouraged the government to agree to liquefied natural gas exports.The mid-sized Houston oil and gas explorer has said exporting some of the gas at a higher global price is needed for Leviathan's development to be economical for project investors. If the gas stays in Israel, the state-run utility could be the project's sole supply contract, a prospect that tends to discourage large-scale investments in risky oil and gas exploration. With ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, Israel has had trouble attracting investors among multinational oil and gas companies. A 'new layer of risk ' "The reality is that offshore drilling is the most dangerous sector in oil and gas, and doing it in the Middle East, offshore Israel, adds a whole layer of risk," said Gal Luft, co-director of the Potomac, Md.-based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. "The big multinationals are not interested in getting into this game at this stage." Goldwyn said that up to this point, the U.S. government has remained at arm's length, offering Israel insights into the potential pros and cons of exporting gas but steering clear of domestic politics. Noble and its Israeli partners are awaiting an Israeli court's decision about gas exports but have continued to press ahead with exploration. Yesterday, the partnership announced it would start drilling in a third field, called Eran, which is off Israel's northern coast. Israel is already getting gas from its offshore Tamar field, after the Israel Electric Corp. signed a 15-year contract last year to buy gas from the Noble-led producers. In statements accompanying the proposal on Capitol Hill, Landrieu talked about the potential for Israel to "achieve energy independence" and her state of Louisiana's potential role in advancing Israel's gas reserves. "The Gulf Coast arguably has the most advanced offshore oil and gas industry in the world, and we are uniquely qualified to lead the effort to help Israel develop this source," she said. The legislation "recognizes energy cooperation between the two countries as a strategic interest of the United States," according to the bill summary. Further, it encourages collaboration on "energy innovation technology, technology transfer, and analysis of geopolitical implications of new natural resource development." The Landrieu-Wyden-Murkowski bid for U.S.-Israel energy cooperation also encourages government-to-government collaboration on developing Israel's environmental management and regulatory best practices. It also allows cooperative agreements between the U.S. Energy Department and Israel and expands existing grant programs such as the Binational Industrial Research and Development Program (BIRD) to include natural gas-focused projects. Joel Kirkland, E&E reporter Republished from EnergyWire with permission. EnergyWire covers the politics and business of unconventional energy. Click here for a free trial Copyright E&E Publishing    

11 сентября 2013, 23:06

Grants Shapps accuses United Nations housing rapporteur of political bias

Conservative party chairman's letter to UN lambasts Raquel Rolnik for her recommendation that bedroom tax should be axedA government minister has made a formal complaint to the UN, accusing the its special rapporteur on housing of political bias and calling for her to withdraw her report on UK housing conditions, in which she calls on the government to suspend its bedroom tax.In a letter to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, the Conservative party chairman and minister without portfolio Grant Shapps demanded an investigation into the actions of the UN's rapporteur on housing Raquel Rolnik, complaining that she had not met the relevant ministers or officials to discuss the policy.Rolnik said there were no grounds for a complaint, and that she had received the full cooperation of the UK government throughout her visit. She gave details of meetings on welfare reform she had with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as meetings with two DCLG ministers.She was puzzled by the formal letter of complaint, remarking: "Maybe the comments came from someone who is not well informed about UN human rights mechanisms and is not informed about his own government."Shapps's unusual intervention was the culmination of a furious response from the government to Rolnik's preliminary report on housing conditions in Britain, in which she detailed her concerns at the impact of welfare reform on "the most vulnerable" in UK society. She called for the bedroom tax (whereby council tenants are lose benefit for under-occupying homes deemed too large for their needs) to be suspended pending a full re-evaluation of its "impact on the right to adequate housing and general well-being of many vulnerable individuals".In a letter on Conservative party-headed paper, addressed to Ban, Shapps said the UK's legal system had already ruled that the policy ending the spare room subsidy was lawful."I am therefore extremely surprised and disappointed to learn that the UN has directly contradicted the decisions of our courts", he wrote, suggesting "the UN withdrew Rolnik's claims on the bedroom tax pending a full investigation."In broadcast interviews Shapps described the report as "an absolute disgrace", said that Rolnik had not been invited by the government, and had not researched her subject adequately. He questioned "how it is that a woman from Brazil has come over, a country that has 50 million in inadequate housing" to report on housing conditions in Britain.Rolnik had not sought to meet work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, or officials responsible for the policy on the spare room subsidy, he claimed.Rolnik responded that she had requested meetings with DWP ministers, but said her agenda had been organised by the UK government, which had organised meetings both with Eric Pickles, communities secretary, and Don Foster, DCLG the under secretary. "The whole mission was organised by the government. It was not only that I was invited but also the UK government was completely involved in the organisation. More than half of the meetings here, [were] meetings with government officials. They also facilitated me to meet with local councils," she said, adding that the DWP had also sent her information and had been helpful in responding to her questions.Shapps demanded to know the process leading to the commissioning of the report and said her use of the term "bedroom tax", (rather than the government's policy description – "ending the spare room subsidy") revealed political bias. She later apologised for using the shorthand, saying: "Since I arrived here everybody was saying that … I didn't have any agenda before coming here."Her trip had been organised according to strict UN protocol, as had fact-finding missions to the US, Spain, Rwanda, and Indonesia, she said. "What we have done here is exactly the same thing that we have done in 11 countries. All special rapporteurs do exactly the same thing. This was a very good mission, [with] very good relations with the UK government, so there is nothing to complain about."In her preliminary report, Rolnik broadened her attack on the bedroom tax first revealed by the Guardian, to other concerns, including the effect of benefit caps and fears that decentralisation of planning laws in Northern Ireland might lead to "increased sectarianism and discrimination". She warned that housing benefit caps would make moving to the private rented sector increasingly difficult for those on low incomes, and complained that homes were now allowed to stand empty in London and elsewhere because they had been sold to international buyers as financial assets.The system for helping the poor in Britain had been weakened by "a series of measures over the years, notably by having privileged home-ownership over other forms of tenure", said Rolnik.She cited the government's "help to buy" scheme and failure to replace homes removed from social housing by two decades of tenants' right to buy their council homes. "It is possible to stimulate the economy and construction industry if you provide more social housing and affordable housing," Rolnik said, adding that such a recommendation would be made in her final report.She also warned over increasing stigma being shown toward Gypsies, Travellers and Roma struggling to find accommodation. She had concerns too about provision for refugees and asylum seekers. Rolnik did say Britain had set an example in the way it had renovated old social housing estates and praised its mixed communities and lack of segregation.The housing charity Shelter welcomed Rolnik's initial findings: "Shelter sees in its services each day how the bedroom tax is a deeply damaging policy. With the shortage of social homes of the right size in the right places, we know that it will be very difficult for many families to downsize, and none more so than the disabled and others with special needs. This is something the government's own Impact Assessment notes, but they have yet to make sure many vulnerable families are properly protected."Bedroom taxHousing benefitBenefitsHousingCommunitiesBan Ki-moonGrant ShappsWelfareUnited NationsHuman rightsJames MeikleAmelia Gentleman theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. 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11 сентября 2013, 20:43

Market Watch: Ukrainian Naftogaz and RWE sign new agreement

A new agreement between German electric utilities company RWE and Ukrainian state oil and gas managing company Naftogaz has been signed on September 5, 2013, informed Eduard Stavytskyi, Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine, as quoted by rbc.ua. The newly signed document regulates both gas supply to Ukraine and gas storage in the Ukrainian underground facilities, reports Unian. The cooperation with a German partner is part of Ukraine's effort to diversify its gas import and strengthen national and European energy security as Ukraine is not only buying the majority of its imported gas from Russia, but is also the transit country for Russian gas traveling to Europe.  MORE

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09 сентября 2013, 18:34

TGS Commences Multi-Client 2D Survey in Chukchi Sea

TGS has commenced acquisition of 2D data in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coat of Alaska, reads a note released on Monday.  “TGS is very pleased to be back in the Chukchi Sea,” said Rod Starr, Senior Vice President Western Hemisphere for TGS, referring to two surveys acquired in 2006 and 2008. The Chukchi Sea 2D 2013 survey, supported by industry funding, maps out a section of the Chukchi Sea covering approximately 8,000 km. The data will be available in the second quarter of 2014. “This project was implemented following productive cooperation with local, state and federal agencies as well as local community stakeholders. The data will provide critical subsurface information for the scheduled BOEMRE lease rounds beginning in 2016,” said Starr of the Oslo-listed firm. 

09 сентября 2013, 14:00

What Do Startups Mean for Japan's Future?

Much is being made of Japan's resurgent economy, and the phenomenon of "Abenomics".  In addition to the much-ballyhooed monetary and fiscal policies of Shinzo Abe, he is also promising structural reforms within the economy that may have a significant benefit for Japanese startups. As onlookers speculate about what is coming for Japan's economy, many question the role that startups will play in the economic future of the country. A look at the last 20 years of stagnation and the rigid cultural focus on large established corporations would have us keenly unoptimistic that startups will play any role in a Japanese economic recovery. Entrepreneurship brought Japan out of the post-war period and propelled it to 'first-world' status well within living memory, yet those lessons appear to be forgotten. More recent decades have seen entrepreneurship activity on a downward trend. The GEM 2012 (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) survey published this year shows Japan in last place among developed nations for entrepreneurial activity, with only 6% of Japanese believing that there is opportunity for new startups in the economy. While the picture is grim, and has been so for years, there is hope. Particularly with the current government's promises to make entrepreneurship more approachable, change may be on the way. Among the promises is to make  it easier for would-be entrepreneurs to secure traditional loans without having to endure very tightly constructed personal guarantees - putting all of their personal assets on the line to start a business. On another front, the powerful industry ministry is promising to infuse capital at unprecedented levels for startups.  These changes are not guaranteed, but would certainly be welcomed by those observers that can see the opportunity and economic vitality that Japan sacrifices for want of a more startup-friendly environment. Ultimately, would startups really make a difference in an economy such as Japan's? To hope that startups could make a much needed change to the Japanese economy is to put the cart before the horse. Startups themselves are simply an expression of the often hidden dynamics at work beneath the covers, deep in the depths of an economy. When we see startups flourishing they are the output and signal that the economy itself is structured in such a way that a number of vital processes are at work: Trust, cooperation, capital flow, and most of all, innovation. Startups are an emergent property of a society that is ‘getting it right’ in a number of economic and sociodynamic regimes. That being the case, Startups in and of themselves are not as important as fostering the critical elements that lead to them: Trust, a cultural tolerance for failure, fluid access to capital, a pool of willing technical talent, enforceable intellectual property laws, and feedback mechanisms through markets to reward innovation come together to create a dynamic system which can be the engine of tremendous value creation. (Among these attributes, Japan struggles most with the first 3.) A dramatic increase of startup activity in Japan may indeed herald a long-term turnaround for the Japanese economy - but will not be the cause of it. As emergent phenomena dependent on the environment, a sharp increase in the number of successful Japanese startups will be a key economic  indicator of the real turnaround that Shinzo Abe has promised.