The young entrepreneurs trying to help South Africa's townships

Lance Petersen sits in his radio studio and chats into his microphone.

While most DJs of his age let the music do the talking, the 25-year-old very much likes to converse with his listeners.

Lance is the founder and owner of Vibe Radio SA, an internet radio station based in the Cape Town township of Athlone.

Set up in 2011, Vibe is aimed at South Africa's teenagers and young adults.

With listeners across the country, it engages with them on topics ranging from bullying, to HIV/Aids, fashion, and advice on becoming an entrepreneur.

Lance says: "The point of Vibe Radio is to provide a platform that focuses solely on the youth voice, and gives young people the opportunity to say what's on their mind, and be heard."

He adds that the radio station was born from his own frustration at the lack of support given to young people in South Africa, and the failure to make them heard on a national level.

"The scariest realisation I had was that the young didn't have a voice, or were seldom heard," says Lance.

"It was at that realisation that I knew I had to find a way to start my own radio station."

A former TV producer, Lance set up the station using his own savings, and support from a Cape Town-based social enterprise called Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs).

Vibe now has 16 employees, and makes money from advertising.

With the youth unemployment rate in South Africa standing at 37.5% (for people between the ages of 15 and 34), job opportunities are few and far between for many of Vibe's listeners.

As a result, much of the station's focus is on discussing how young people can best go about launching and running their own businesses.

Lance says the aim is for this always to be done in an interesting and entertaining way, or as he calls it - "edutainment".

So for example, in a recent discussion about becoming a concert promoter, and how the cost of each ticket breaks down, he discussed a tour by teen heartthrob Justin Bieber.

Numerous challenges

Another young entrepreneur from a Cape Town township, Andisiwe Nyavula, says that young people in her community need access to basic business services if they are to create self-sustaining companies. So since 2012 she has taken matters into her own hands.

Ms Nyavula, 25, is the founder of Nzum Nzum, a chain of three business centres cum internet cafes that offer photocopying, printing and faxing, company registration, and web access to those trying to get their start-ups off the ground.

Andisiwe Nyavula

Andisiwe Nyavula offers a range of business services

The prices range from five South African rand (35 cents; 27p) for 30 minutes of internet access, to one rand per page of photocopying, and 80 rand for 10 business cards.

About 3,000 people use the centres per month, which are located in the Cape Town townships of Nyanga, Phillipi and Gugulethu.

But as much as Ms Nyavula tries to make a difference, she admits that there are many challenges facing township entrepreneurs that also need to be addressed, such as the high crime rates, rogue landlords, and unhelpful service providers.

"It took more than three months to install a reliable connection at our new internet cafe," she says. "And if there's a problem it takes more than two weeks to fix it.

"The townships have long been shunned by big businesses."

'Incredible individuals'

The World Bank estimates that more than half of South Africa's 53 million population lives in townships and other informal settlements.

With that many potential customers, South Africa's townships should by rights be looked upon as potential economic hotspots.

But attention tends to focus on the negatives, and little notice is given to the economic success stories hiding within South Africa's sprawling townships.

"There are incredible individuals with amazing ideas and grassroots businesses that they run in the townships," says Craig Dumont, a member of the management team at RLabs.

RLabs, which receives government grants to fund its work, provides would-be township entrepreneurs with training and support.

From its main hub in a Cape Town township, since 2008 it has been an incubator for more than 50 start-up companies, and has seen thousands of entrepreneurs - including Vibe Radio's Lance Petersen - walk through its doors and receive business support.

According to Mr Dumont, not only are township entrepreneurs innovative and determined, their knowledge of local needs gives them an advantage over corporate South Africa.

"Township entrepreneurs have a deep understanding of their environment, the challenges, and their target audience," he says.

'Uplifting people'

Based in the Kayamandi township on the outskirts of the affluent Western Cape town of Stellenbosch, some 50km (30 miles) east of Cape Town, Loyiso Mbete is the type of businessman that Mr Dumont would say deserves more credit.

Mr Mbete, 36, is a beekeeper who owns more than 400 hives and employs three people.

He jokes that demand for his honey and related services - such as fruit pollination - is so high that he struggles to keep up.

"I came from a poor family so there was always a need to make it in life," says Mr Mbete. "I had no choice but to find ways and means to make ends meet."

He adds: "It is important to understand that those businesses active in township are feeding the poor and uplifting people out of poverty. They also help create employment, so they are making a big contribution to the South African economy."

While many businesses in South Africa's townships complain that they don't get enough help from the authorities, the Western Cape Government says that in recent years it has greatly increased the support on offer.

Alan Winde, its Minister for Economic Opportunities, says that over the past two years more than 2,000 small businesses based in townships across the province have been assisted by a scheme called the emerging business support programme. This provides financial management, sales and marketing training.

He adds: "Regions across the province, including townships, are vibrant spaces for innovative small businesses."

Source: bbc.com

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04/Aug/2016

Ex-airport boss admits to US holiday scam

A former New Jersey airport official has pleaded guilty to using his position to get a weekly direct flight to his holiday home.

David Samson, a mentor to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, could be sentenced to up to two years in prison.

United Airlines ended the money-losing route from Newark, New Jersey, to Columbia, South Carolina, three days after Samson resigned.

United CEO Jeff Smisek quit after an investigation into the route.

Mr Smisek has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

Samson was the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees New York City-area airports.

Two United Airlines planes parked at the terminal at San Francisco International Airport on August 24, 2012

United Airlines ended the money-losing route after Samson stepped down

At the time the route operated, United Airlines was lobbying for improvements at Newark Liberty International Airport, which the Port Authority owns.

Samson told prosecutors that he used the "chairman's flight"' 27 times between October 2011 and January 2014.

He owned a vacation home in Aiken, about 60 miles (96km) south west of Columbia.

After Samson pleaded guilty on Thursday, federal prosecutors also charged Jamie Fox, a former lobbyist for United in the scheme.

Governor Christie named Mr Fox as New Jersey's transportation commissioner in 2014. He resigned in October 2015.

Source: bbc.com

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14/Jul/2016

Ex-European Commission head Barroso under fire over Goldman Sachs job

France has called on the former head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, not to take up a job advising US bank Goldman Sachs on Brexit.

French Europe Minister Harlem Desir called the move "scandalous" and said it raised questions about the EU's conflict of interest rules.

Ex-commissioners are free to take up a new role 18 months after leaving.

Despite accepting the job after 20 months, Mr Barroso has come under fire for ignoring the spirit of the rules.

Mr Desir drew attention to the ill-timing of the job with Goldman Sachs.

"It's a mistake on the part of Mr Barroso and the worst disservice that a former Commission president could do to the European project at a moment in history when it needs to be supported and strengthened," he told the French parliament, referring to Europe's shock after Britain voted to leave the EU on 23 June.

The bank hired Mr Barroso as an adviser and non-executive chairman of its international business, with a brief of advising the bank on the consequences of Brexit.

Mr Barroso has said he hopes to bring his EU experience to bear as the bank's London operation deals with Britain's imminent negotiation of withdrawal from the EU.

In his new role, Mr Barroso will be able to draw on his intimate knowledge of the EU and have access to many officials and politicians he worked with at the European Commission.

'It doesn't surprise me'

Mr Desir's attack in the French parliament was the latest in a sustained tirade against Mr Barroso's appointment, with some calling it "shameful".

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters on Tuesday "If you have loved Europe, you shouldn't do this to it, especially not now," adding: "But this doesn't surprise me from Mr Barroso."

Who is Jose Manuel Barroso?

  • Conservative ex-premier of Portugal
  • President of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, from 2004-2014
  • As Commission head he was at heart of the banking crisis and the fallout within the Eurozone
  • Has said in the past Britain could not negotiate with the US and China "on an equal footing" on its own

The European Ombudsman has called for the EU to tighten rules on commissioners taking appointments after leaving office.

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly said adhering to technical rules did not absolve former staff of a wider duty to show integrity.

"Any suggestion that the spirit of the law is being ignored risks undermining public trust in the EU," he said.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jul/2016

1 Reason Not To Go Online If You Live In The US

If you live in the US and have a computer, tablet or smartphone connected to the internet, then this may be the most important news you read all year.

Earlier this month we saw thousands of people across the US get their hands on the latest Online ID protection from SaferWeb, after yet another increase in identity theft and web-history monitoring.

We have however been advised that because of its unexpected popularity, availability is very limited and is now on a first come first serve basis. 

Experts Are Now Calling SaferWeb, “A Game Changer For Internet Users”

As part of the special promotion due to end June 19, 2016, a group of Engineers teamed up with innovative new software provider SaferWeb, to provide the latest ID Protection thats just gone viral.

If you have a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone connected to the internet, your activities could be monitored and private information collected when you’re Internet shopping or banking. Even just browsing online is a risk in 2016.

SaferWeb had a primary objective to eliminate this by boosting security and ensure eavesdroppers cannot make sense of your encrypted communications.

Technical Lead John McBride, from SaferWeb explains; Our main objective for creating the app was pretty simple. We wanted to help users protect their Identity & Internet Connection to eliminate the risk of any online, banking or personal information being stolen, monitored or hacked”

The company SaferWeb seemed to deliver on this objective perfectly. Using their technology will give a private tunnel between you and the internet that’s invisible to hackers or any malware, letting you browse the Internet anonymously and securely. Literally anyone can use it and it only takes 5 minutes to set up.

So how can SaferWeb give this away? Apparently this promotional tactic is common among big companies with large marketing budgets. For instance, Burger King launched a similar campaign in 2013, giving away 20,000 free whoppers on Facebook.”

One user we spoke to said, “I came across SaferWeb and decided to give it a go, it’s less than a cup of coffee anyways. I noticed the difference right away and  couldn’t be happier with results. I’ve always been anxious about who watches the sites I use and how safe my information really is and heard countless stories about people having their banking information hacked. This is the perfect solution to eliminate this.

http://swl-2d38.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/saferweb1.png

So, how do you Protect Your Online Identity Today?

Here is the simple 3 click step recommended by SmarterWebLife to get yourself instant protection:

  • Step 1:Click Here to go to SaferWeb, who are market leaders in securing your ID, and internet connection to make it private
  • Step 2: Click the “Get a Safer Web” button and enter your name, email and choose a password.
  • Step 3:Select a package:  I recommend the “Pro” Plan. (Only $5) and  Not only will you be fully protected for life, but you’ll also get discounts on thousands of online purchases,by, accessing local currency rates when connecting your computer to the secure connection
  • Step 4: Your connection and Online ID are now protected for life One Account for all your devices.. It’s that simple.

SaferWeb Internet Security – Official Website

UPDATE: The promotion is due to end on  June 19, 2016  so we urge you to act fast to avoid disappointment.

Source: bbc.com

 

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18/Jun/2016

Malaysia's Islamic airline Rayani Air barred from flying

Malaysia's first Islamic-compliant airline, Rayani Air, has been barred from flying for breaching regulations.

The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) said it was revoking the airline's certification because of concerns over its safety audit and administration.

Rayani Air launched last December offering only halal food, no alcohol and crew wearing modest clothing.

It has two Boeing 737-400 planes in its fleet, each able to carry about 180 passengers, eight pilots and 50 crew.

Rayani Air: Five things about Malaysia's Islamic airline

In this 22 December 2015, photo, Rayani Air flight crew pray before departure at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang, Malaysia

Non-Muslim staff were required to "dress decently" while Muslim female staff wore hijabs

The DCA said on Monday that Rayani Air could no longer operate as a commercial airline.

It follows a three month suspension after the airline failed to follow flight regulations. A safety audit was later conducted to assess its operations.

Malaysia's aviation commission said in a statement that the airline "had breached the conditions of its Air Service Licence (ASL) and lacks the financial and management capacity to continue operating as a commercial airline".

The DCA said it had conducted a "thorough deliberation" on the airline's response to the safety audit.

In the lead up to its suspension, the airline had faced criticism including complaints about cancelled flights as pilots went on strike.

Based on the island of Langkawi, Rayani Air had been flying to the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the northern city of Kota Bahru.

It had plans to fly to more Malaysian cities and eventually schedule flights to Mecca for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, reports said.

Source: bbc.com

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14/Jun/2016

Gawker files for bankruptcy after losing $140m case

Online news site Gawker has filed for bankruptcy after losing a $140m (£97m) privacy case earlier this year.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection, which could allow it to avoid paying the damages.

In March, Gawker was ordered to pay wrestler Hulk Hogan for invading his privacy by publishing a sex tape.

Gawker told staff it still planned to appeal against the ruling and would continue to operate, but it was now accepting offers to buy the site.

Gawker said it had been forced to put itself up for sale because of "a co-ordinated barrage of lawsuits intended to put the company out of business and deter its writers from offering critical coverage".

Publisher Ziff Davis, owner of PC magazine and Geek.com, has already made an offer to buy all of Gawker's assets, reportedly for less than $100m.

In a statement Gawker's founder Nick Denton said: "We are encouraged by the agreement with Ziff Davis."

The company does, however, plan to consider other offers as it goes through the bankruptcy process.

Last year Mr Denton estimated Gawker Media, which owns the sites Jezebel and Deadspin, was worth between $250m and $300m.

In its official filing Gawker said it had $50m to $100m in assets and between $100m and $500m in liabilities.

Hogan trial

Gawker was sued by Hulk Hogan, whose real is Terry Bollea, after the website published a video from 2007 of Mr Hogan having sex with the wife of a former friend.

During the three-week trial Gawker defended its right to publish the video as part of its celebrity news coverage, while Mr Hogan argued it had been an invasion of his privacy.

The jury ruled in the former wrestler's favour and ordered Gawker to pay $115m in compensation and $25m in punitive damage.

In May a judge denied Gawker's request for a new trial.

In an interview with the BBC earlier this month Mr Denton said he was confident that the original ruling would be overturned.

"I'm confident that when this case comes before judges in a higher court that people will find again there is a place for critical journalism and it deserves to be protected.

"There are substantial protections for the free press in the United States and there's protection for criticism."

'Thicker skin'

In a twist revealed after the trial, Mr Hogan's legal bills were paid by PayPal co-founder and tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

Mr Thiel, said he wanted to curb Gawker's "bullying". In 2007 Mr Thiel clashed with Gawker after the site published an article that outed him as gay.

Mr Denton told the BBC Mr Thiel should accept that his position means he should face public scrutiny.

"If you're a billionaire and you have power and access to the media, you should expect now and then to get the occasional critical piece," said Mr Denton.

"A wiser approach to getting angry and trying to sue a media company out of existence is to ... develop a thicker skin," he added.

Source: bbc.com

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10/Jun/2016

Australia to sell £8m of seized bitcoins

A collection of bitcoins worth about £8m, which had been confiscated by police in Australia, will be auctioned off in June.

The 24,518 bitcoins will be sold mostly in blocks of 2,000 - each with a market value of about £680,000.

Ernst & Young, the firm organising the auction, said the bitcoins had been "confiscated as proceeds of crime" but did not elaborate on the case.

One expert said the authorities had chosen a "safe" time to sell.

Australian newspapers have previously reported that 24,500 bitcoins were seized by police in the state of Victoria in 2013, after a man was arrested for dealing illegal drugs online.

In 2015, Victoria's Asset Confiscation Operations department "confirmed it had recently taken possession of 24,500 coins and would try to make the most of it", according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

'Significant amount'

"This is a significant amount of Bitcoin," Dr Garrick Hileman, economic historian at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, told the BBC. "It's about a week's worth of new Bitcoin that comes onto the market through mining."

Currently about 4,000 new bitcoins are generated a day, as a reward for "miners" who offer their computer power to process Bitcoin transactions.

The seized coins are auctioned in blocks because quickly selling a large number of coins for cash at a Bitcoin exchange could negatively affect the market.

"Generally the view is that any time 10,000 bitcoins sell, the market price can be moved significantly," said Dr Hileman.

The price of Bitcoin rose to $530 (£362) on Friday, its highest level since August 2014.

Dr Hileman said the Australian authorities had chosen a "safe" time to sell because there is some uncertainty about what will happen to the value of Bitcoin in July.

"The Bitcoin protocol is designed to reduce the number of new bitcoins miners are given as a reward for processing transactions every four years.

"The reward will be halved on 14 July, so prices could go up due to the reduced supply of new bitcoins.

"But there is a question about whether security could decline, if rewards for miners are reduced significantly. So it's a safe time to sell, as there is no guarantee about what might happen in July."

'Set a precedent'

The Australian Bitcoin auction, which will be open to bidders worldwide, is the first such sale outside of the US.

In 2014, the US Marshals Service began auctioning a collection of about 175,000 bitcoins that had been confiscated from the founder of internet marketplace Silk Road.

The final auction of those bitcoins attracted 11 bidders, possibly due to the high cost of each block on sale.

Dr Hileman said the sale of Bitcoin by the Australian authorities was an acknowledgement that the cryptocurrency was not illegal.

"Any time a government sells Bitcoin, it is acknowledging that this is a different asset to drugs, for example, that would not be sold in an auction," he told the BBC.

"That was one of the big takeaways from the US Marshal Service auction - they set a precedent that Bitcoin was not illegal.

"Australia has been going through its own regulatory process - and this makes a standing that Bitcoin is legal to use in Australia."

Source: bbc.com

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30/May/2016

US consumer prices rise at fastest pace in three years

US consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in three years in April as energy prices climbed, figures show.

The Labor Department's Consumer Price Index rose 0.4% last month, the biggest one-month increase since February 2013.

A steady build-up in inflation could increase the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this year.

Other data shows housing starts rose by more than expected last month, suggesting an economy gaining strength.

Commerce Department figures showed housing starts rose by 6.6% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.17 million units.

'Picking up steam'

The Labor Department's inflation figures showed energy prices increased by 3.4% in April, the biggest rise in three years, mainly due to an 8.1% increase in petrol prices.

The annual pace of CPI inflation rose to 1.1% last month from 0.9% in March.

"We have the CPI which came in more than expected and that's going to put us again on Fed watch," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.

"We also had the housing starts come in stronger than expected, so that's another indication that the economy is picking up steam."

Investors are keenly assessing data to try to predict when the Fed will actually raise interest rates.

In December 2015, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.25 percentage points - its first increase since 2006.

At the time the Fed said it would continue to monitor a number of factors, including inflation and economic performance, to determine if and when further rises were justified.

Some Fed officials have so far suggested two increases this year, but traders are pricing in only one rise at the end of the year. The Fed's next meeting is in June.

Meanwhile, US industrial production in April rose 0.7%, its biggest increase since November 2014, as utility output surged.

That gain in factory output also supports the view that the economy is making progress.

Source: bbc.com

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17/May/2016

Chobani yogurt boss gives 10% of his shares to workers

Staff at US yoghurt maker Chobani will receive a share of a 10% stake in the yoghurt maker, the company's founder has announced.

While shares are commonly granted to staff in start-up technology firms, it is an unusual move for a food company.

The shares will be distributed among Chobani's 2,000 employees worldwide. The award will be based on how long an employee has been at the firm.

For some the shares could, reportedly, be worth millions of dollars.

Staff will not know how exactly much their shares are worth until the company is given a value, which would happen if it is sold, or sells shares on the stock market.

Chobani would not comment on whether it is considering either of those options.

However, the company is estimated to have a value of several billion dollars.

'Not a gift'

Hamdi Ulukaya, who founded the company in 2005, made the announcement at Chobani's plant in upstate New York.

"This isn't a gift. It's a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility. To continue to create something special and of lasting value," he told staff.

Investment firm TPG Capital is due to buy a 20% stake in Chobani and has loaned it $750m.

The arrangement with TPG Capital was reached in 2014 as part of a deal to prevent the company from falling into bankruptcy.

TPG's stake will be allocated after employees are given their 10% share of the company.

Source: bbc.com

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26/Apr/2016

Apple revenue falls for first time since 2003

Apple reported a 13% drop in its second quarter revenue on Tuesday as sales of iPhones slipped.

The technology giant reported quarterly sales of $50.56bn (£34.39bn) down from $58bn last year - the first fall in sales for the company since 2003.

Apple sold 51.2 million iPhones during the quarter, down from 61.2 million in the same quarter of 2015.

China was a particular weak spot - sales there fell 26%. Results were also hit by the impact of a stronger dollar.

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook said the company performed well "in the face of strong macroeconomic headwinds".

Apple's quarterly profit slipped to $10.5bn from $13.5bn.

Apple also announced it would return $50bn to shareholders through an increase in share buybacks and a 10% increase in quarterly dividends.

Investors had been expecting a slowdown in sales and were hoping for an increase in dividend payments.

Apple shares fell 8% in after hours trading. Its shares have fallen close to 20% over the last twelve months.

Apple should pay more tax, says co-founder Wozniak

China shuts Apple's film and book services

Ford: 'We assume Apple is working on a car'

Sales slowdown

Back in January the company warned that it was experiencing its slowest-ever increase in orders for iPhones and that this would cut into second quarter earnings.

Declining growth in smartphone sales has impacted the entire industry and companies are struggling to find the next area of innovation.

"The industry is in a lull between the mobile boom and what comes next in automotive, the connected home, health and industrial applications of the internet of things," said Geoff Blaber, from CCS Insight.

One bright spot for Apple was its services unit, which includes App Store downloads, Apple Pay and Apple Music. The division experienced a 20% growth compared with the same quarter in 2015.

However, growth at that unit could be threatened by a new law in China passed in March. It requires all content shown to Chinese people to be stored on servers based on the Chinese mainland.

As a result Apple's iBooks and iTunes movies service were shut down in the country.

Apple said it hoped access to the services would be restored soon.

Apple vs. FBI

Apple was recently in a standoff with the US government over whether the company should help the FBI unlock an iPhone.

The FBI wanted Apple to build a program to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.

Apple refused, calling the government's order a violation of its rights. The FBI eventually turned to outside hackers to break into the phone.

Source: bbc.com

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26/Apr/2016

Support private sector to enhance agric - Kufuor

Former President John Agyekum Kufuor says the only way agricultural productivity can be increased on the African continent is for governments to support its private sector through adequate budget allocations and incentives.

According to him, agricultural production is largely vested in the private sector and supporting it would help contribute to the growth and development of the continent.

Former President Kufuor was speaking at a conference organized by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in Accra on Tuesday, April 12.

The conference, which was attended by representatives from around the African continent and elsewhere, gave participants the platform to develop ideas and policies to ensure food security around the world.

Addressing participants at the conference, the former Ghana leader said African leaders must formulate acceptable standards that would help supervise the operations of the agricultural sector.

The move, according to him, would enable the sector enter the international market and rub shoulders with its competitors.

Furthermore, he called on the ministries of agriculture to sensitize and educate local farmers on modern systems in agriculture to help enhance the quality of their produce.

Speaking more on measures to increase agricultural productivity on the continent, he urged African leaders to develop measures to clamp down on the incidences of aflatoxins and its related poisons in agricultural production.

He indicated that aflatoxins are a major contributory factor to some severe sicknesses and deaths on the African continent.

Aflatoxins are poisonous and cancer-causing chemicals that are produced by certain molds which grow in the soil, decaying vegetation, hay and grains.

They are regularly found in improperly stored staple commodities such as cassava, corn, cotton seed, peanuts, rice, and a variety of spices.

Source: TV3 Network

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12/Apr/2016

Oil price rises boost Asian markets

Markets in Japan and Australia have started higher on Wednesday, following the gains from US markets.

At the open, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 213.92 points, or 1.3%, at 16,142.71.

In Australia, the S&P ASX 200 kicked off the Wednesday session with a gain of 1.05% - or 52 points - to 5,028.

Among those stocks with the more marked movement, shares of Shinsei Bank in Japan jumped by more than 5% in Tokyo trade.

That followed reports the company will develop a smartphone payment system with a Chinese partner.

Also in Japan, Fast Retailing shares opened 2.2% higher on reports in local media the company will slash prices at its Uniqlo clothing stores. The retailer last week warned that its profit will weaken, due to slower sales.

Elsewhere in Asia, markets in South Korea are shut for a public holiday. Trading will resume on Thursday.

US markets all closed higher overnight, as market sentiment got a boost from higher oil prices. That led to a rally in energy sector shares on Wall Street.

After weeks of decline due to oversupply, oil prices rebounded overnight, on reports oil producers Russia and Saudi Arabia have reached a consensus about a freeze in output ahead of the Opec producer's meeting in Doha, Qatar on April 17.

Source: bbc.com

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12/Apr/2016

Tesla Model 3 pitched as an 'affordable' electric car

Tesla has unveiled its much-anticipated Model 3 electric car - its lowest-cost vehicle to date.

The company's chief executive Elon Musk said the five-seater would start at $35,000 (£24,423) and have a range of at least 215 miles (346km) per charge.

He added that his goal was to produce about 500,000 vehicles a year once production got up to full speed.

The California-based company needs the vehicle to prove popular if it is to stay in business.

The first deliveries of the vehicle are scheduled to start in late 2017, and it can be ordered in advance in dozens of countries, including the UK, Ireland, Brazil, India, China and New Zealand.

Tesla delivered 50,580 vehicles last year. Most of those were its Model S saloon, which overtook Nissan's Leaf to become the world's best selling pure-electric vehicle.

But the firm still posted a net loss of $889m (£620m) for 2015, partly because it spent $718m on research and development over the period.

It left Tesla with cash reserves of $1.2bn, down from $1.9bn a year earlier.

"For a long time there had been questions about the long term viability of Tesla," commented Jessica Caldwell, an industry analyst at the car research site Edmunds.

"With niche products like the Model S and the Model X, it hasn't been hitting any sales targets that would sustain its business.

"So, launching what it hopes will be high-volume vehicle is going to show if it can become a fully-fledged auto company that will succeed in the long-term rather than one that pumps out a few cool cars and then goes bust, as we've seen happen with other electric car start-ups such as Fisker."

'Roomy car'

Other details provided about the Model 3 included:

  • The base model will accelerate from zero to 60mph (97km/h) in less than six seconds, other models will go faster
  • It will include the "autopilot" safety features found in existing models, which allow the cars to steer themselves and avoid collisions
  • It will support "supercharging" as standard, allowing the cars to recharge more quickly at special power stations. Tesla aims to double the number of places offering supercharging to about 7,200 worldwide by the end of 2017
  • It provides storage room at the front and rear of the vehicle

Mr Musk added that the car should feel more spacious to passengers than similar-sized petrol-based cars because of design decisions Tesla could make by not using a combustion engine.

"You are sitting a little further forward," he explained. "That's what gives you the legroom to have five adults."

"And the rear roof area is actually one continuous pane of glass.

"The reason that that's great is because it gives you an amazing feeling of openness. So, it has by far the best roominess of any car of this size."

Pre-order excitement

In scenes more commonly associated with smartphone launches than those of vehicles, hundreds of people queued outside Tesla stores in the US to try to secure one of the first Model 3s.

They had to pay a $1,000 deposit to reserve the car before they had even seen it. The company also began taking online orders an hour before its press event had begun.

At the end of his presentation, Mr Musk said that Tesla had already received more than 115,000 orders.

Part of the incentive to commit early is that a $7,500 tax credit offered to US buyers is set to be pulled once the company has sold 200,000 vehicles in the country.

"If you look at the US auto market, the average purchase price is about $33,000, which is close to what the target for the Model 3 is," said Ms Caldwell.

"So, it becomes less of that pie-in-the-sky dream car and something that the average person can actually afford.

"That's why people are excited about it in non-traditional Tesla markets - places outside of San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles - and why we saw lines in places like Houston and Arizona."


Source: bbc.com

 

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01/Apr/2016

Apple at 40: The forgotten founder who gave it all away

Apple has just turned 40 years old - a timely reason to track down a man who helped start the firm and then walked away.

Drive out of Las Vegas for an hour into the Nevada desert. When you reach what feels like the end of civilization, carry on. That's where you'll find Pahrump.

And it's in Pahrump where you'll find the co-founder of the most valuable, perhaps most powerful company, on Earth.

Ronald G Wayne is 81. When he was 41, he worked at Atari. And it was there he met a young, impressionable Steve Jobs who would regularly turn to Wayne for all manner of advice.

Jobs asked if he should start a business making slot machines. Wayne said no.

Jobs asked if he should go to India to find himself. Wayne said, if you must. Just be careful.

One day, Jobs finally asked the question that changed history: "Could you help me talk some sense into Steve Wozniak?"

"Bring him over to the house," Wayne said. "We'll sit down, and we'll chat."

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs

The two Steves - Wozniak and Jobs - are better remembered as Apple's co-founders

Parental Woz

The charismatic, lovable Wozniak - you can call him Woz - had been working with Jobs on breaking down business computers and making them into something more personal.

The pair frequented the now infamous Homebrew Computer Club, a gathering of enthusiasts who would pick apart circuitry and build it up again in new ways with the same gusto as an imaginative six-year-old faced with a box of Lego.

Woz was the best. A circuit board he built would form the basis of the Apple 1, the company's first computer - and one that sold at an auction in 2015 for $365,000 (£254,300).

Jobs wanted Woz's brain to be an Apple exclusive. Woz was having none of it.

And so it was to Wayne's flat, in Mountain View, California, to thrash out the details.

"Jobs thought that I was somewhat more diplomatic than he was," Wayne recalls.

"He very anxious to proceed with Steve Wozniak to get this into production. But Wozniak, being the whimsical character that he was, everything he did was for the pure fun of it. Woz had no concept of business, or the rules of the game."

Over the course of around 45 minutes, Wayne turned things around.

"He bought into it. He understood," he says.

"It was at that moment Steve Jobs said: 'We're going to start a company. It will be the Apple Computer Company.'"

Wayne typed up the documents there and then, on an IBM typewriter, much to the amusement of Woz, who couldn't quite believe Wayne's talent for reeling off four pages of legalese from memory.

Slicing up the Apple pie was straight-forward: Jobs and Wozniak got 45% each, and Wayne had 10%, and a remit to be the voice of reason in any disputes.

Two nickels

Twelve days later Wayne removed himself from the contract.

"For very excellent reasons that are still sound to me today," he said, 40 years and a market cap of $600bn later.

Jobs, ever the skilful salesman, had just secured Apple's first big deal. A small computer chain, the Byte Shop, wanted 50 machines. To get the cash, Apple had to borrow $15,000.

But Wayne had heard - from what source he doesn't remember - that the Byte Shop didn't have a particularly good reputation for paying its bills.

"If the company goes poof, we are individually liable for the debts," Wayne explained.

"Jobs and Wozniak didn't have two nickels to rub together. I had a house, and a bank account, and a car… I was reachable!"

Wayne told the Steves that he wanted to help out where he could, but that he no longer could officially be part of the company.

One lasting contribution was to draw the company's first logo - an ink-drawing of Newton sitting under a tree, an apple waiting over his head. Wayne signed the image, but Jobs spotted it.

"Take that out!" Wayne recalls him saying. He obliged.

Months after severing formal ties with Apple, Wayne received a letter.

"The letter says all you gotta do is sign away every possible interest you could have in the Apple Computer Company, and the cheque is yours," he says.

In return he was given $1,500.

"As far as I was concerned, it was 'found money'. So I went ahead and I signed."

Modest

Pahrump is 500 miles (800km) and one whole universe away from Cupertino, where Apple is headquartered today.

Wayne's home is as modest as it is loved. Ornaments from the life of a curious engineer and collector are dotted throughout.

By the door, an old silver slot machine. Against one wall, a still-functioning radio from the thirties, housed in beautiful mahogany.

Ronald Wayne's home

Mr Wayne's home is a far cry from the luxury estates of Silicon Valley's billionaires

He told me about the time he made a scale replica, both interior and exterior, of the Nautilus - the colossal submarine featured in the film 22,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He didn't have any blueprint to work with, instead studying freeze-frames from the film.

When he was finished, he gave it away to a museum.

Today, a 10% share of Apple would be worth almost $60bn. If Wayne regrets his decision, he's extremely good at covering it up.

"I would've wound up heading a very large documentation department at the back of the building, shuffling papers for the next 20 years of my life. That was not the future that I saw for myself.

"If money was the only thing that I wanted, there are many ways I could've done that. But it was much more important to do what appealed to me.

"My advice to young people is always this - find something you enjoy doing so much that you'd be willing to do it for nothing… and you'll never work a day in your life."

Long-lost brother

Wayne keeps all his fan mail in a small box in the corner of his study. It's full of autograph requests, calls for advice and general messages of admiration.

One letter, from a fan called Jason, jokes about the notion of the infamously self-assured and combative Steve Jobs ever being able to take the constructive criticism Wayne was able to dish out.

"He was a fascinating man," Wayne reflects.

"Who made Apple what it is? Obviously, Jobs.

"Was Jobs a nice guy? In many ways, no. But that doesn't matter."

Wayne considered himself the "adult supervision" to the Jobs dream, even offering a supportive boost early on.

"Jobs says: 'You know, I'm having second thoughts about this. There are other things I want to do'.

Apple signed contract

Mr Wayne sold his copy of the original Apple contract, but kept a replica

"I said: 'Steve, whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it a lot more easily with money in your pocket. Go ahead and make the money, and do whatever you want to do. Just don't forget what you wanted the money for'.

"He forgot. I think he became so involved in the mechanics of running Apple that it was more like he was caught up to such an extent that nothing else mattered."

Apple-free life

While having no remorse about giving up his role in Apple, Wayne does have at least one regret: selling his copy of the original signed contract, for $500.

In 2011, that same document fetched $1.6m at auction. Just one more "what if" to add to the list.

Looking around Wayne's home, there's no Apple products to be seen. He prefers to build and customise his own technology - it's more fun that way, he said.

In 2011, someone gave him an iPad 2 as a gift. Like so much else in his life, Wayne gave it away.

Source: bbc.com

 

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01/Apr/2016

Batman v Superman takes $424m at global box office

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has taken $424m (£300m) at the box office worldwide in its first five days despite poor reviews.

The global total - the fourth-highest ever - included $170.1m in the United States, a record for a March debut and the sixth-highest US opening weekend.

Dawn of Justice took £15.5m in the UK - also a record for March.

The film bringing the two superheroes together for the first time is a welcome success for Warner Bros.

The studio has been hit by a series of expensive failures such as Jupiter Ascending and Pan in recent months.

The DC Comics adaptation, which cost more than $250m to make, was Warner Bros' second-highest international opening after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

The BBC's Mark Kermode described it as a "crushing disappointment", while Kate Muir wrote in The Times: "This superhero-smorgasbord melts into an electric soup of CGI."

Jeff Goldstein, head of distribution for Warner Bros, said: "There was a disconnect there between what critics wrote and the fan interest and the fan response."

The film had been widely praised by fans after its first screening in New York in mid-March, but received less glowing reviews from critics.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, said: "It proves that the concept is bigger than negative reviews. There was no way that if you're a comic book fan or just a movie fan that you're going to miss out on a match-up of such iconic characters. Audiences have to see the movie for themselves.''

Dawn of Justice opened on more than 40,000 screens in 66 markets, including 16,000 in China, 4,242 in the US, 1,701 in the UK and 1,696 in South Korea.

"It's the fans that speak the loudest," said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. "It proves how strong these characters are."

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The Zack Snyder-directed film, starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavil, is the first of 10 DC Comics adaptations planned by Warner Bros over the next five years, including Wonder Woman and the Flash.

The first, Suicide Squad, will hit the big screen in August.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens still holds the record for the biggest box office debut weekend globally, with ticket sales of $529m (£355m) in December, including $248m in the US.

Last weekend's top film, the animal animation Zootopia - known in the UK as Zootropolis - was pushed into second place by Batman v Superman, taking $23.1m (£16.3m) in the US.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, starring and written by Nia Vardalos, who was behind the first, hugely successful film, came in third place with a respectable $18.1m (£12.7m).

But teen sci-fi film The Divergent Series: Allegiant fell 67% in its second weekend with just $9.5m (£6.7m), tying with faith-based drama Miracles from Heaven.

Drone thriller Eye in the Sky, whose cast includes Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman, took $1m (£705,000) in its third week, while Hank Williams drama I Saw the Light, starring Tom Hiddleston, took $50,464 (£35,599) on just five screens.

Source: bbc.com

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28/Mar/2016

Valeant boss ordered to testify on drug pricing

The chief executive of Valeant Pharmaceuticals has been ordered to give evidence about rising drug prices to a Senate committee.

Michael Pearson was ordered to appear on 27 April to testify about the practice of buying the rights to old medicines and raising prices.

Valeant is facing three separate federal investigations into its business practices.

Shares fell more than 7% on Monday in New York following the announcement.

The Senate Aging Committee sent letters to the heads of several other drug makers asking them to testify as well.

In November, Senator Claire McCaskill, who is leading the investigation, said she was concerned that the practice was "price-gouging".

"Some of the recent actions we've seen in the pharmaceutical industry - with corporate acquisitions followed by dramatic increases in the prices of preexisting drugs - have looked like little more than price gouging," she said.

Valeant is not alone in the practice of buying existing drugs and raising the prices. Its focus on acquisitions rather than development of new drugs, however, has raised questions about the Canadian company's long-term viability.

John Hempton of Bronte Capital, who is betting against the stock, told the BBC: "Saying Valeant's problems are from its business model is against the point because other pharma companies are still working on that model. But raising prices so fast was never going to be acceptable in the long run."

The company's New York-listed shares have plunged more than 70% this year.

Last week, Valeant announced that Mr Pearson would step down as chief executive as soon as a replacement could be found.

Activist investor Bill Ackman, one of Valeant's largest shareholders and most outspoken supporters, has joined the company's board.

Source: bbc.com

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28/Mar/2016

US economic growth revised upward

The US economy grew at an annualised rate of 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to official figures.

The US Commerce Department revised its fourth quarter GDP to upward from an initial estimate of 0.7%.

Overall, the US economy is estimated to have grown at a rate of 2.4% for all of 2015.

One reason for the revised figure was greater consumer spending than officials initially thought, boosted by an improving labour market.

Analysts had expected the fourth quarter growth rate to remain unchanged from the last estimate of 1%.

"It's especially good that we saw a boost in consumption, however we are only talking about 1.4% growth, which is still anaemic compared to the 3.5% we would like to see," said Dan North, chief economist at Euler Hermes North America.

"The economy is still running in low gear," he said.

Increased employment has helped to slowly boost wages and housing prices, while low oil prices have increased discretionary spending by US households.

The stronger growth rate could increase the chances of an interest rate hike when the Federal Reserve meets in April. The central bank left rates unchanged at its meeting in March, saying the slowing global economy raised risks for the US market.

US corporate profits dipped 11.5% for the fourth quarter compared to the same October through December period in the previous year.

Companies were hurt by low oil prices, with some industrial and petroleum linked companies forced to cut their workforces or file for bankruptcy.

Source: bbc.com

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25/Mar/2016

Nigerian state oil firm 'withheld $25bn over five years'

Nigeria's state-owned oil company has failed to pay the government $25bn (£17.5bn) over five years, the nation's fiscal commission has said.

It includes $15bn that the nation's auditor general last week said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed to pay in 2014 alone.

Oil revenue accounts for roughly two-thirds of the government's funding.

President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to crack down on corruption since coming to office last May.

In a statement, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), an independent body, said: "Records at the Commission's disposal indicate that between January 2011 and December 2015, the total indebtedness of NNPC to the Federation Account was 4.9 trillion naira."

Previous allegations

Under the current set-up, the NNPC hands over its oil revenue and money is then paid back based on a budget approved by parliament.

The state oil giant has been mired in corruption allegations and losing money for many years.

Last month, the government announced that the NNPC would be broken up into seven different companies.

A separate audit ordered under former President Goodluck Jonathan and carried out by global accountancy firm PwC, found that the NNPC had failed to pay the government $1.48bn between January 2012 and July 2013.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer, but the economy has suffered because of the recent decline in the price of oil.

Source: bbc.com

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22/Mar/2016

US Federal Reserve holds interest rates

The US Federal Reserve has decided to keep interest rates at between 0.25% and 0.5%.

The central bank said the labour market was strengthening, but it was still looking for inflation to reach its 2% target and expected the US economy to continue to "expand at a moderate pace"

The US central bank last raised rates in December, saying it expected to raise rates four times in 2016.

It now says it expects to raise rates just twice this year.

"Proceeding cautiously will allow us to verify that the labour market is continue to strength given the economic risk from abroad," said the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, speaking at a press conference after the announcement.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Fed's Open Market Committee - which decides the level of interest rates - said that while the US economy was seeing some improvement, weaker global markets were having a dampening effect.

"Household spending has been increasing at a moderate rate, and the housing sector has improved further; however, business fixed investment and net exports have been soft," the committee said.


Analysis: Michelle Fleury, North American Business Correspondent

As one Fed watcher put it, this amounted to easing of monetary policy.

The Federal Reserve scaled back the number of times it expects to raise interest rates this year, warning that global economic and financial developments continue to pose risks.

Fed officials publish their forecasts for the central bank's key interest rate on a chart known as the "dot plot".

By pencilling in just two hikes this year - instead of the four assumed back in December - they were sending a message: they think the US needs more time to recover.

Fearing that financial markets might get ahead of themselves, Chair Janet Yellen in her new conference warned that the "dot plot" was not a promise and that policy was not on a pre-set course.

A message that may not have got through given the reaction on the S&P which closed at a high for this year.


An unexpected rise in underlying US inflation has led many investors to view June as month when the Fed will raise rates.

The Fed said its target of 2% inflation could be reached over the medium term, however, due to the effect of falling oil prices.

Labour market

Inflation and the job market have been the two key factors in the Fed's decision to raise rates.

The US labour market has been improving. The unemployment rate fell bellow 5% in January. Ms Yellen stressed that the labour market participation rate - which measures the number of people looking for work - had also improved, a further sign of a strengthening economy.

Ms Yellen stressed that "policy is not on a pre-set course" and would change "as shocks positive or negative affected [economic] forecasts".

In December, the Fed downgraded its growth expectations for the US economy from 2.4% to 2.2%.

Oil prices

Energy prices have been a significant factor in the Fed's decision.

The price of oil has risen from an 11-month low of below $30 a barrel to just under $40.

Ms Yellen said this had eased concerns about the health of some companies and foreign markets that rely on oil production.

At the same time lower oil prices have allowed US households to spend in other areas.

Source: bbc.com

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17/Mar/2016

Apple apologises for iPhone 'error 53' and issues fix

Apple has said sorry to iPhone customers whose phones were disabled after third-party repairs, and issued a fix for the problem.

Some users found that their iPhone stopped working following servicing by a non-Apple technician and saw an "error 53" message in iTunes.

Previously, Apple had said the error was a "security measure" taken to prevent fraudulent transactions.

Now, the company has released a software update to fix the error.

In a statement, Apple said that "error 53" occurs when a device fails a standard security test designed to ensure that the Touch ID fingerprint scanner is working correctly.

However, the company added: "We apologise for any inconvenience, this was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers.

"Customers who paid for an out-of-warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact AppleCare about a reimbursement."

A software update has now been released so that iPhone customers with disabled phones may restore their device via iTunes on a PC or Mac.

Apple 'prodded'

"To me, there was a lot of logic in what they said around the 'error 53' element," said mobile analyst Ben Wood at CCS Insight.

"If you're using your fingerprint to unlock sensitive data or make payments and there was the ability for someone to replace the screen and modify the module to take control of your phone - that's not a good thing at all."

Mr Wood added that Apple faced something of a backlash over the error after it appeared "retrospectively" on repaired phones following a software update, and was not something iPhone users had expected.

Apple had even faced a class action lawsuit led by a Seattle-based firm over error 53-disabled phones.

"I think it's a sensible decision by Apple," he told the BBC.

"If they've found a way to allow people to do repairs to the phone without that error occurring, that's great news."

Some customers praised the company's decision on Apple's discussion forums.

"Perhaps my sentiment of a week ago or so (that I would not buy an iPhone 6), which generated so much complaining by people with huge numbers of posts, in its small way helped to prod Apple into fixing this," wrote one user, risandy, following news of the fix.

"Glad to see Apple have back-tracked on this one," added Jay 75.

Source: bbc.com

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19/Feb/2016

Bangkok airport safety issues 'must be addressed'

The airline industry has called on the Thai government to address problems at the country's main airport in Bangkok.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) says Suvarnabhumi airport has inadequate capacity and substandard taxiways.

The criticism follows safety warnings last year from another air industry organisation about Thailand's regulation and inspection of airlines.

The government has set up two bodies to oversee airports and airlines.

However, it has asked for more time to meet international standards.

Suvarnabhumi airport was opened nearly ten years ago. It is Thailand's main international gateway but Iata says it is now operating beyond its capacity, and needs to be expanded.

Backbone of tourism

"Aviation is critical to Thailand's economic success. It is the backbone of the tourism industry and provides critical global business links," Iata's director general Tony Tyler said in Bangkok.

"It is in jeopardy, however, unless key issues of safety, capacity and costs are addressed urgently."

The organisation urged the Thai authorities to fix the problem of 'soft spots' in poor quality tarmac at Suvarnabhumi airport, where airliners sometimes got stuck and had to be pulled out.

Mr Tyler said a permanent solution was needed. "There seems to be a constant resurfacing with a temporary patchwork of asphalt reinforcements. Frankly, that is not good enough.

"The runway and gate downtime that results from constantly fixing (and re-fixing) them is unacceptable.

"Moreover the situation is a safety risk. The extraordinary power that aircraft need to use around soft spots and extra-towing expose ground personnel, ground equipment and the aircraft to safety risks.

'Deeply disappointing'

He also highlighted the issue of lack of capacity at the airport. He said the Phase Two terminal expansion was badly needed and should be fast tracked.

"For runway capacity, immediate capacity increases can be achieved through addressing the "soft spots" issue which will allow existing capacity to be used fully. But a third runway will be needed eventually. So it is important that work and preparations for a three runway system continue," he added.

Thailand is already struggling to address last year's warnings from the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), about a shortage of inspectors to check safety procedures among Thai airlines.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) subsequently downgraded its safety rating of Thailand's aviation authority, finding that Thailand did not comply with the ICAO's safety standards.

Iata said it was "deeply disappointing" that the organisations had raised safety concerns about Thailand as a country.

It said the oversight concerns raised in both the ICAO and the FAA reports should be addressed by the Thai government "thoroughly and urgently".

The airport's operator, Airports of Thailand, has said it has come up with several measures to improve the runways using concrete and expand capacity. These are awaiting government approval.

"We have prepared short- to medium- and long-term plans to solve the problems," said Sirote Duangratana, general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Source: bbc.com

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19/Feb/2016

Oil price recovery will be short-lived, says IEA

A recent rise in oil prices is a "false dawn" and the oversupply of crude is set to worsen, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA expects oil stocks to grow by two million barrels a day in the first quarter and 1.5 million barrels a day in the following three months.

In January, Brent crude hit a 13-year low of $27.67. It recovered a bit, but on Tuesday was down 7.2% at $30.50.

But that is still a long way from the $112 level reached in June 2014.

The IEA forecast that stock building could continue in the second half of 2016 at a rate of 300 million barrels a day. It said: "If these numbers prove to be accurate, and with the market already awash in oil, it is very hard to see how oil prices can rise significantly in the short term."

Meanwhile demand for oil is expected to weaken. The IEA forecasts that demand growth will fall to 1.2 million barrels a day this year, from the 1.6 million barrels a day seen in 2015, the IEA said.

The think tank also questioned whether the recent rise in prices was a "false dawn" and concluded that a number of conditions increased the risk of weak oil prices.

These included doubts that Opec, the oil cartel, was in talks with other oil producing nations to reduce supply.

It also quashed speculation that Opec nations would cut output this year, stating that output from Iraq reached a new record in January. Iran has increased production ahead of sanctions being removed and preliminary data suggested that Saudi Arabia's shipments had increased.

Source: bbc.com

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09/Feb/2016

China's currency reserves plunged in January

China's foreign currency reserves plunged by $99.5bn in January, the People's Bank of China reported.

China has been running down its vast foreign currency reserves in an attempt to boost the value of its own currency and stem a flow of funds overseas.

At $3.23 trillion, China still has the world's biggest reserve of foreign currency holdings.

But that has declined by $420bn over six months and stands at the lowest level since May 2012.

"While the remaining reserves still represent a substantial war chest, the mathematics around this rapid pace of depletion in recent months is simply unsustainable for any length of time," said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific Chief Economist, IHS Global Insight.

Investor fear

The Chinese authorities fear a rapid devaluation of their currency, as it could destabilise the economy.

Many Chinese businesses hold debt in dollars and managing those debts with a severely weakened yuan could cause problems and some companies to fail.

So China has been trying to engineer an ordered devaluation of the yuan, but that is proving hard to deliver.

Investors have been trying to pull funds out of investments priced in yuan and speculators have been betting on further falls in the currency.

To stabilise the situation China has been selling dollars and buying yuan.

And it has been using other tactics, including curbing currency speculation and ordering offshore banks to retain their reserves of yuan.

Commenting on the decline, veteran economist, George Magnus noted that there is "confusion" over China's foreign currency policy.

"Clearly this can't go on for long," he tweeted, referring to the fall in currency reserves.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Feb/2016

HSBC pays $470m for mortgage misconduct

HSBC has reached a $470m (£325m) settlement with the US government and states related to dubious mortgage lending and foreclosure practices that contributed to the financial crisis.

The agreement includes a $100m fine and $370m in consumer relief to borrowers.

Investigations began in 2010 after HSBC was found to be signing off foreclosure documents without proper review.

In a statement, the bank's chief executive Kathy Madison called the agreement a "positive result."

The consumer relief will require the bank to cut the loan amount on mortgages for homeowners close to default. HBSC will also be required to change internal practices like foreclosing on homeowners who are being considered for a loan modification.

"The agreement is part of our ongoing effort to address root causes of the financial crisis," said the head of the Justice Department's Civil Division Benjamin Mizer.

The deal settles claims with 49 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government.

HSBC's agreement is similar to deals that were given to US banks including JP Morgan and Bank of America in 2012.

Source: bbc.com

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05/Feb/2016

Aids in Zimbabwe: Making decent burials affordable

The atmosphere in John Mutau's coffin-making workshop feels sombre.

Coffins ready for the market are lined up across the room, leaving little space for his workbench.

But even in this environment, the young coffin-maker still affords an infectious smile.

Based in the city of Mutare, in eastern Zimbabwe, he is quick to say that coffin-makers are not as heartless as many people in the country think they are.

Instead, he says, with an air of importance in his voice: "We actually want to make decent burials affordable."

The 28-year-old is one of a number of young Zimbabwean entrepreneurs who in recent years have gone into coffin-making, after recognising that it remains a lucrative industry because of Zimbabwe's continuing high rate of Aids-related deaths.

While this may seem exploitative to some people, the new entrants say they are simply helping to meet a need, especially - they add - because their coffin prices are usually much cheaper than the country's established big funeral parlours.

Discarded wood

Despite Aids-related deaths having fallen by more than two thirds in Zimbabwe since 2001, as a result of education campaigns and the increased availability of free antiretroviral drugs, more than 60,000 people a year still die because of the virus, according to the country's National Aids Council.

Meanwhile, the United Nations says that Zimbabwe has the fifth highest prevalence of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, with an infection rate of 15%. This equates to 1.4 million people, and 15% of adults.

Currently only 618,000 of these infected Zimbabweans - less than one third - have access to the antiretroviral treatments.

To keep his costs down, Mr Mutau makes his coffins predominantly from wood discarded by local timber companies.

This means that his coffins can cost as little as $40, compared with between $200 and $2,000 at the large, decades-old funeral director businesses.

Still, Mr Mutau admits that he, and the other new entrants, have their critics.

Many people think we celebrate death but we don't," he says.

"We are here to provide cheap coffins to the bereaved families."

Mr Mutau ventured into coffin making in 2005, but he admits that it was his business of last resort.

"I never dreamed of becoming a coffin-maker, but I need to feed my family," he says.

"There are no jobs out there. I get up to $500 per month selling coffins."

While Mr Mutau mostly works alone, if business is busy he brings in extra workers.

Another coffin-maker plying his trade in Mutare is 30-year-old Gift Olesi.

He went into the industry back in 2005 after he lost his job at a local timber company that was scaling down its operations due to falling sales.

Despite complaints from some people that he charges too much, Mr Olesi says he made a conscious decision to target the middle class, and so only makes coffins for more than $250.

"I get at least $900 a month, and I am able to feed my family," he says.

'Good nutrition'

While the new breed of coffin-makers is assisting the bereaved families of people who have died from Aids, other businesses are trying to help people with HIV or early stage Aids while they are still alive.

Green World Zimbabwe, a Harare-based company that manufactures herbal medicines and nutrition supplements, helps people with HIV start their own businesses selling its products.

It also markets its supplements to people with HIV.

Osmond Tafadzwa Chakauya, the company's senior consultant, says: "Yes some people living with HIV are getting antiretroviral drugs, but for the drugs to work they need good nutrition. Hence we provide such supplements."

So far the business has helped train up to 3,000 independent sales people, of which 1,000 have HIV.

Yet Phyllis Muloyi, who has been living with HIV for 18 years thanks to her antiretroviral drugs, cautions that such business support schemes mean little if people with HIV cannot get funding from a bank, something she says can be very difficult indeed.

Jephias Mundondo, an independent HIV/Aids campaigner, says that due to the increased availability of the drugs, banks should only be looking at the likely strength of someone's business, and his or her ability to run and grow it, not the fact that they have the virus.

Source: bbc.com

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04/Feb/2016

Yahoo to cut its workforce by 15%

Yahoo is cutting 15% of its workforce as the company pursues an "aggressive strategic plan" to return to profitability.

The job cuts will reduce the number of its employees to about 9,000 by the end of 2016.

The announcement came as Yahoo reported a $4.3bn (£3bn) loss for the year.

In a statement, chief executive Marissa Mayer said: "This is a strong plan calling for bold shifts in products and in resources."

She added that it would "dramatically brighten our future and improve our competitiveness, and attractiveness to users, advertisers, and partners."

The head-count reduction is the latest part of Ms Mayer's attempt to turn around the troubled internet company, which is struggling to compete against the likes of Facebook and Google.

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer has been chief executive at Yahoo since 2012

Cost-cutting

In December, the company announced it was reversing a plan to sell its stake in the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, and would instead look to spin off its core internet business.

Ms Mayer was forced to change course on the Alibaba sale following pressure from several activist investors.

The focus on cutting costs and raising profits is being seen as the latest sign that the company is becoming more serious about selling its core internet business.

But some analysts are sceptical.

"They can slim down to improve profitability, but they are in an industry that is growing and they're not," said Martin Pyykkonen, managing director at Rosenblatt Securities.

"If the core business was really a valuable asset someone would have come and tried to buy it already," he added.

Under pressure

As well as shedding much of its workforce, Yahoo plans to sell of some of its product lines - such as Yahoo TV and Yahoo Games - so that it can focus on its search business, email and Tumblr blogging site.

It is also closing offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Milan.

That should lead to "modest and accelerating growth in 2017 and 2018," the company said.

Yahoo has estimated the cutting back of its product line alone could generate $1bn.

Ms Mayer has been under pressure from investors to step down as chief executive.

"We would like to see a higher stock price, and we think Marissa and her current management team have become a hindrance to that," said Eric Jackson, managing director of SpringOwl.

Yahoo's shares fell 1.4% in after hours trading.

Source: bbc.com

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02/Feb/2016

Apple warns iPhone sales set to fall for first time

Apple has reported the slowest growth in iPhone sales since the product's 2007 launch and warned sales will fall for the first time later this year.

The US tech giant sold 74.8 million iPhones in its fiscal first quarter, compared with 74.5 million a year ago.

Apple said revenue for the next quarter would be between $50bn (£34bn; €46bn) and $53bn, below the $58bn it reported for the same period a year ago.

This would mark Apple's first fall in revenues since it launched the iPhone.

Despite first-quarter iPhone sales being below the 75 million expected by analysts, it was still a record quarter for the company.

Apple revenue in the three months to 26 December was $75.9bn and net profit was $18.4bn, both of which are the highest ever recorded by the company.

Sales of iPhones accounted for 68% of the company's revenue in the period.

iPhone 6

Any other company announcing record profits and revenues might expect a warm welcome from investors. But now that Apple has scaled so many peaks the worry is that the only way is down - and there's evidence in these figures to back up those concerns.

Sales of the iPhone, surely the single most profitable product any company has produced, were basically flat. What's more, the revenue outlook for the next three months indicates we can expect the first fall in sales since the iPhone's 2007 launch.

Then there's China - still growing but far more slowly. The iPhone is still an object of desire there, but at a time when Apple says it's seeing softness in the economy, the attractions of cheaper rivals from local firms like Xiaomi may grow.

Of course, the worries about "peak iPhone" have surfaced before and evaporated with the hugely successful iPhone 6. Last year's upgrade to the 6S was a minor one, and we can expect something more radical in September.

But the pressure is now mounting on Apple to deliver another blockbuster product to keep the profit engine running.

The Apple watch will not fill that role - we've still not even heard any sales figures for the product.

Perhaps the 1,000 engineers rumoured to be working on an Apple Car will come up with the exciting innovation which Apple's fans and investors await with growing impatience.

Is the mighty iPhone in decline?


Chinese 'softness not seen before'

Apple boss Tim Cook credited "all-time record sales of iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV" for the performance.

But the firm's chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, said the company was operating in "a very difficult macroeconomic environment".

He added that "iPhone units will decline in the quarter" and that the company was not projecting beyond those three months.

Mr Maestri partly blamed the strong US dollar for Apple's flat sales, estimating it had knocked $5bn off the company's revenues.

Apple's sales in Greater China - defined by the company as China, Hong Kong and Taiwan - rose 14%, but that was much slower than the 70% increase a year ago.

Mr Maestri said the softness in China was "something that we have not seen before", Reuters reported.

'Mother of all balance sheets'

China accounts for almost a quarter of Apple's sales, more than all of Europe combined.

The profitability of Apple's business improved, with gross margin - or how much the company makes per product - increasing to 40.1%.

Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight, said Apple was "generating industry defying margins" and had cash of almost $216bn.

Speaking to analysts, Mr Cook said the company had "the mother of all balance sheets" and that its financial position had never been stronger.

Apple's shares were down 2.7% in after hours trading at $97.28.

Daniel Ives, an analyst at Capital Markets who owns shares in Apple, said given the "white knuckles fears" ahead of the results, he would "characterise the overall headline performance as better than feared".

Source: bbc.com

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27/Jan/2016

Bank of Ghana forces Public Account Committee to suspend sitting

The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) was forced to suspend its sitting, Tuesday, after Bank of Ghana (BoG) officials who are appeared before it for questioning told the Committee that they had no knowledge about the issues they’ve been summoned to respond to.

The officials, Gabriel Bokor, Deputy Chief Manager, Banking Department and Lesley Akron, Assistant Manager, Banking Department, had told the Committee that they were only notified to appear before the PAC “this morning” and pleaded that the Committee spares them from further questions.

“My Lord, we did get any direct message from the Governor to the fact that we have to be here”, calm looking Akron told the Committee after introducing himself.

Then you can’t assist us in the work that we are going to do because there are several queries against the Bank of Ghana”, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Chairman of the PAC retorted.

But Mr. Akron replied “We were actually told to come and plead with the Committee if we would have an insight into the issues and then we would get back to the authorities to get the appropriate answers so we that we get the appropriate people to go. We were actually expecting our Chief Internal Auditor and a few other people to lead us but …”.

The Bank of Ghana were billed to appear before the PAC to respond to queries raised by the Auditor-General in its reports on the Public Accounts of Ghana for the year ending December 31, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

A senior member of the Committee, Hon. Abubakar Dey who was not enthused with the response of the Bank of Ghana officials told the panel that it was better to let them (BoG officials) go since they were not prepared for the encounter.

“Chairman, I think they are not prepared. The Governor had the letter inviting him. He can forward it to the appropriate section to work on it before coming here than just come and say you will sit down and listen. No, it is not acceptable. If they are not ready, they should go back”, he noted.

After listening to some additional views from the members of the Committee, the Chairman was left with no option than to suspend the sitting to Wednesday, January 20, 2016.

Before engaging the officials from the BoG, the Committee was halfway through with their engagement with officials of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) led by their Commissioner, George Blankson and some other officers from the Controller & Accountant-General’s Department as well as the Audit Service.

Source: kasapafmonline.com

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19/Jan/2016

Shares on both sides of the Atlantic sink in investor sell-off

UK shares fell again on Friday, with mining stocks dragging the market lower as the prices of oil and commodities continued to tumble.

The FTSE 100 was down 124.9 points, or 2.1% at 5,793.3 points.

Overnight, BHP Billiton announced it was writing down the value of its US shale assets by $7.2bn amid the collapse in oil prices.

Meanwhile, US stocks were sharply lower after the drop in oil prices.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 321 points lower - 2.4% -15,987.26,

The S&P 500 was down 2.2% and the Nasdaq Composite index dropped 2.7%.

Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors in New York, said: "Investors are scared to death."

Miners decline

In the London market, BHP Billiton shares dropped 6.5%. Among the other mining stocks, Anglo American fell 11.5% and Glencore slid 7%.

After a brief recovery on Thursday, oil prices fell again to hit fresh 12-year lows. The price of Brent crude dropped to $29.01 a barrel at one point, before nudging back to $29.16 while US crude futures reached a low of $29.39 before edging up to $29.66.

The sell-off on the UK market followed another big fall in Chinese shares, with the Shanghai Composite dropping 3.5% on Friday.

Markets across Europe were lower, with Germany's Dax index down 2.5% while in France the Cac 40 also dropped 2.4%.

Sterling falls

In London, shares in telecoms group BT fell 0.8% to 463.3p, despite the Competition and Markets Authority giving final clearance to BT's takeover of mobile phone firm EE.

In the FTSE 250, shares in Moneysupermarket fell 11% after investors were rattled by a larger-than-expected fall in sales in the company's insurance unit during the fourth quarter. Revenues in the insurance business were down 10% compared with a year earlier.

On the currency markets, the pound hit fresh five-and-a-half-year lows against the dollar after the release of weak UK construction data.

Official figures showed construction output in November fell by 0.5% compared with the month before, and was down 1.1% from a year earlier.

Sterling had already weakened earlier this week after industrial production figures showed a fall in output.

The pound slid to $1.4296, a new five and a half year low. Against the euro, sterling fell by more than one euro cent to €1.3057.

Source: bbc.com

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15/Jan/2016

Cocoa Prices Off To A Bad Start In 2016

Cocoa, one of a few bright spots in the commodities world in 2015, is having a bad start to this year.

The bean behind chocolate joined this week’s global market selloff as algorithmic traders jumped on a shift in the supply outlook, brokers say.

In 2015, cocoa was one of only two commodities tracked by S&P to trade higher, posting a 13% gain in London trading as dry conditions hit the harvest. This year cocoa is trading 4% lower after dropping as much as 7% earlier in the week, a decline first triggered by expectations of increased supply.

But the size of the moves has surprised brokers, who say buying and selling is being driven by the computerized traders that are increasingly dominating this market.

“There are a lot more system funds involved in cocoa than there ever have been before,” said Jonathan Parkman, head of agricultural brokerage at Marex Spectron. “There’s been a power shift.”

Algorithmic trading systems buy or sell based on sets of rules linked to price levels and the timing of market movements.

The rising ability of algorithmic trading to influence prices has affected other markets, including U.S. Treasurys, one of the most heavily traded markets in the world. That is leading to amplified swings that often don’t reflect economic fundamentals, particularly in smaller markets like cocoa, some analysts say.

It is unclear what percentage of trade in cocoa is coming from these systems, as data from the ICE exchange, which tracks market positions, doesn't distinguish between different kinds of investors.

Cocoa soared in 2015 as dry weather and production shortages in Ghana, where about 17% of the world’s cocoa is grown, crimped supply. In early December, cocoa prices hit £2,326 ($3,397) a metric ton, their highest since March 2001 when the world’s largest producer, Ivory Coast, was in the midst of a cocoa export ban and civil war.

Those gains came as other commodities were hit by a combination of oversupply and concern about weaker demand from China. The S&P GSCI Index, a measure of 27 commodities, lost 32.9% in 2015. Only cocoa and cotton ended the year in positive territory.

Cocoa’s big climb may have been helped by buying from the algorithmic traders who are now being blamed for the downdraft.

“There was a big speculative bet on cocoa prices [in 2015],” said Carlos Mera, a senior commodities analyst at Rabobank.

In late December, a pickup in cocoa shipments sent the cocoa price lower. Early this week, the downward drift became a rout, the size of which surprised analysts.

“If you really believed the fundamentals, [investors] should have just been selling a little every week,” said Max Goettler, a cocoa trader at Rotterdam-based Cocoanect.

Analysts are mixed on whether the market will continue to fall. Some point to what could be a larger crop from West Africa that will winnow down the current deficit. Other analysts say that potentially dry weather in Ghana could hit the crop.

Some traders say the early new year fall is bringing back buyers. On Friday, the market had recovered some of its losses, with the price of cocoa rising more than 2% by midafternoon in London.

Either way, market participants believe that cocoa will continue to see volatility as trade is exaggerated by the presence of algorithmic traders.

Source: peacefmonline.com

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15/Jan/2016

Tomato Prices Shoot Up In Ghana

The price of tomatoes have increased in Ghanaian markets in the second week of January, 2016.

It increased by 4 percent. Currently a ‘medium size tomato tin’ is being sold at GHc11.68.

Another commodity which also increased is Yam (Pona) and is being sold in the market at GHc 4.50 “per medium size tuber.”

Cowpea, Groundnut and Soya beans also followed with a percentage point gain each to close the week at GHc 7.70, GHc 12.90 and GHc 5.60 per olonka respectively.

Meanwhile, checks by Esoko Ghana revealed that Cassava (fresh tubers) dropped by 2 percent to close the week at GHc 5.30 per “3-4 tubers”.

Cassava (Gari) and Rice (imported –unclesam) also dropped by a percentage point each to close the week at GHc 4.50 and GHc 28.90 per “olonka” and “1 small bag (5kg)” respectively.

The price for an “olonka” of maize on the various markets remained the same.

A “medium size tomato tin” full of fresh tomatoes gained 17 percent in Kumasi to close the week at GHS 8.90 with Techiman gaining 5 percent to close at GHS 7.00 and also with Takoradi gaining 9 percent to close the week at GHS 21.60 and in Accra it dropped by 3 percentage points to close the week at GHS 19.80.

In the other markets, the price remained the same.

Source: peacefmonline.com

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15/Jan/2016

WOW air adds new A330-300 aircraft to their fleet for Los Angeles and San Francisco routes.

WOW air, the ultra-low-cost transatlantic airline from Iceland, is to begin flying to the US West Coast in summer 2016 with Los Angeles and San Francisco confirmed as their fifth and sixth destinations in North America. 

 

The routes will be serviced by three new Airbus A330-300 aircraft, the first wide-body planes in the WOW air fleet, which will each carry 340 passengers in a single-class configuration. The routes will connect with daily flights to Keflavik from London Gatwick (and other WOW air destinations in Europe), allowing Brits to travel with the airline to Los Angeles four times per week and San Francisco five times a week, all year round. 

Cheap-flight-to-Los-Angeles

Los Angeles skyline

Skúli Mogensen, founder and CEO of WOW air, said: 

“We are thrilled to add Los Angeles and San Francisco to our fast growing network. This is a game changer for WOW air as we cement ourselves as the industry leader in the ultra-low-cost long haul category. With the addition of these long range A330-300 aircraft to our fleet, we will be able to offer fares from Europe to the US West Coast far cheaper than our competitors whilst maintaining great service with a smile, as we did with our routes to Boston, Washington DC, Toronto and Montreal. We have had a tremendously positive response to our low prices on our current transatlantic routes and this gives us confidence that passengers will take up the chance to travel even further afield. Equally, we're sure Californians will welcome our super low fares to Europe.”  

WOW air's expansion to California follows the successful launch of transatlantic services from London Gatwick to Boston and Washington, D.C. in early 2015 and the announcement that the airline would begin flying to Montréal and Toronto in May 2016, all via Iceland and with fares as low as £99.  The existing US services now operate year round and maintain consistent carrier loads of 90% plus. WOW air's entry to the market has already brought prices down industry-wide by 30% between Boston and Iceland and by 14% on flights between Boston and the UK.

Launched in November 2011, WOW air now connects twenty destinations across the US and Europe with the Icelandic capital. WOW air's annual passenger capacity will more than double in 2016 to over 1.8 million, up from approximately 840,000 in 2015.

WOW air's A330-300 aircraft will host a single-class configuration with a capacity of 342 passengers. Seat pitch will vary from 30 inches as standard to 34 inches at an additional charge.

Tickets to San Francisco and Los Angeles will go on sale in January 2016.

Source: wowair.us

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13/Jan/2016

I told you so: For just $199, this budget airline will fly you from California to almost anywhere in Europe

This week, Icelandic budget airline WOW Air unveiled a set of new flight deals from Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport: $199 one-way tickets to various destinations in Europe, and $99 straight to Iceland.

Yes, you read those numbers right.

The $199 flights have a one-hour stopover in Keflavik, Iceland, before allowing you to jump to 18 different cities in Europe, including London, Paris, and Berlin.

For a long-haul transatlantic commute, that's a steal; a quick online price check with traditional carriers shows nonstop flights for later this month going for $1,200 and up, and one-stop options hovering in the $700 range. With more than two stops on your route, you're still going to have to shell out $518.

Meanwhile, budget transatlantic air rival Norwegian Air is posting prices upwards of $275.

So what's the catch? WOW Air is a notorious budget carrier, along the lines of the Spirit, Ryanair, and Allegiant brands. They identify as part of the "ultra-low-cost long haul" category, in which they're shooting to become the industry leader.

Currently rated at 2.5 stars on Yelp, you're going to have to pony up for traditional carrier amenities. It's $25 for an aisle seat; $10 for seat assignment in advance; up to $48 for an extra five inches of legroom; a $48 fee for "overweight" carry-on luggage, which means anything over 11 lbs.; and $67 or more for checked luggage. Reviewers also mention that in-flight refreshments are not free. 

Still, since they launched Boston and Washington, DC low-cost routes in 2015, they've grown substantially, running at 90% capacity this year and expecting to double their passenger capacity this year.

"We have had a tremendously positive response to our low prices on our current transatlantic routes and this gives us confidence that passengers will take up the chance to travel even further afield," said CEO and Founder Skuli Mogenson in a statement posted on their site

You'll be flying in one of three new Airbus A330-300 aircraft that WOW purchased just for these routes, each holding up to 340 passengers. And there will be no "upgrades" to business class, as WOW flies single class only. 

Don't get too excited about making an affordable last-minute escape to Europe this winter, though. A quick search shows that their $199 deals are booked out to most destinations through the fall of 2016. But you know what they say: Paris is always a good idea. It'll be lovely next October, especially for just $199.

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13/Jan/2016

Looking for a cheap way to fly? Wow airline is your sure bet

There is WOW in everything we do!

WOW air is a happy Icelandic low-cost airline that flies to Iceland from a number of cities in Europe and North America the whole year round. The airline was founded in November 2011 and its inaugural flight was to Paris on May 31st 2012. WOW air is committed to providing the cheapest flights to and from Iceland, but doing so with a smile and providing a memorable service all the way. 

WOW history

WOW air was founded by entrepreneur Skúli Mogensen, whose extensive business background is largely in technology and telecoms in Iceland, Europe and North America. WOW air is entirely owned by Mogensen, debt free. He sits on the board of many tech companies both in North America and Europe and was selected Business Man or the Year in Iceland 2011.

In October 2012 WOW air took over the flight operations of Iceland Express. Only a year later, in October 2013 WOW air was awarded the Air Operator‘s Certificate (AOC) by the Icelandic Transport Authority. 

WOW aircraft

WOW air operates four Airbus A320 aircraft, the choice of many of the world's leading airlines and a perfect fit for our short haul flights between Europe and Iceland. For our longer flights to North America, WOW air operates the Airbus A321, the largest member of the Airbus A320 Family. We are proud to be able to say that as of spring 2014, WOW air has the newest aircraft fleet in Iceland with the lowest emission. Planes are the cars of the sky and the same rule applies; newer planes burn less fuel which is better for the environment and your wallet, and they are more comfortable!

Check the Route map:

 

Check the destinations and dates below.

*Flights from U.S. to Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Iceland (KEF) on Mondays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 11 - March 14 and April 4-26, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from U.S. to Berlin, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Berlin (SXF) on Mondays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from U.S. to Bristol, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Bristol (BRS) on Tuesdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: May or September, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.There is WOW in everything we do!

Below are some of theroutes they ply.

*Flights from U.S. to Dublin, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Dublin (DUB) on Thursdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from U.S. to Stockholm, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Stockholm (VST) on Thursdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: May or September, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from U.S. to London, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to London (LGW) on Fridays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from U.S. to Amsterdam, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) and Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Amsterdam (AMS) on Sundays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from Boston to Copenhagen, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) to Copenhagen (CPH) on Wednesdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from Washington, D.C. to Copenhagen, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Copenhagen (CPH) on Mondays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from Boston to Paris, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Boston (BOS) to Paris (CDG) on Thursdays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

*Flights from Washington, D.C. to Paris, via Iceland - Based on lowest one-way fare, per person, incl. taxes, fees and carrier charges when booked via wowair.com. Travel from Washington, D.C. (BWI) to Paris (CDG) on Sundays, subject to availability. Available for travel: January 10 - March 10, 2016. Restrictions and baggage fees may apply.

Source: wowair.us

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13/Jan/2016

General Motors shares jump after it raises profit outlook

General Motors (GM) shares have jumped after the firm said it would be more profitable and return more money to shareholders.

Shares in the biggest US car maker rose more than 2% after it raised its 2016 earnings forecast by 25 cents to between $5.25 and $5.75 per share.

GM also plans to raise its stock buyback programme by 80% to $9bn and extend it to the end of 2017.

In total it plans to give $16bn back to shareholders by the end of 2017.

GM executive Mary Barra said: "We made significant progress executing our strategic plan and the results are being demonstrated through our improved earnings."

Ford disappoints

Shares in rival car maker Ford fell more than 3.5% after it said US margins could hit a plateau of 9.5%.

Ford said on Tuesday it would give a special $1bn dividend, and that it expects pre-tax profit of between $10bn and $11bn in 2015.

But this figure was at the lower end of analyst expectations.

"Their guidance is in line or below what was expected," said Matthew Stover of Susquehanna Financial.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

Africa-China exports fall by 40% after China slowdown

African exports to China fell by almost 40% in 2015, China's customs office says.

China is Africa's biggest single trading partner and its demand for African commodities has fuelled the continent's recent economic growth.

The decline in exports reflects the recent slowdown in China's economy.

This has, in turn, put African economies under pressure and in part accounts for the falling value of many African currencies.

Is China a brake on Africa's progress?

Special report: China in Africa

Presenting China's trade figures for last year, customs spokesman Huang Songping told journalists that African exports to China totalled $67bn (£46.3bn), which was 38% down on the figure for 2014.

BBC Africa Business Report editor Matthew Davies says that as China's economy heads for what many analysts say will be a hard landing, its need for African oil, metals and minerals has fallen rapidly, taking commodity prices lower.

Chinese investment down

There is also less money coming from China to Africa, with direct investment from China into the continent falling by 40% in the first six months of 2015, he says.

Meanwhile, Africa's demand for Chinese goods is rising.

In 2015 China sent $102bn worth of goods to the continent, an increase of 3.6%.

Last year, South Africa hosted a China-Africa summit during which President Xi Jinping announced $60bn of aid and loans, symbolising the country's growing role on the continent.

Source: bbc.com

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13/Jan/2016

Oil trading remains volatile on oversupply concerns

Oil prices have been volatile again, hit by continuing oversupply, the strong dollar and weak global demand.

Some members of the Opec group of oil producers have called for an emergency meeting to discuss reducing output.

Opec president Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said an extraordinary meeting could be held in early March.

On Tuesday, Brent crude fell as low as $30.43 per barrel before recovering to trade 0.5% higher at $31.75 a barrel.

Meanwhile the US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, slipped to $30.41 before regaining some ground to $31.06 a barrel.

Oil prices have fallen about 15% since the start of the year to near-12 year lows.

North Sea Brent Crude has fallen 70% since September 2014, when it it was last at $100 per barrel.

North Sea Brent Crude

Fresh review?

Opec members are not due to meet until June, having previously met in December, but the deterioration in the oil price has prompted calls from several members for a fresh review of quotas.

"We did say that if it (the price) hits the $35 per barrel, we will begin to look (at)... an extraordinary meeting," said Mr Kachikwu, who is also Nigeria's petroleum resources minister.

He said that "a couple" of countries had been pushing for a meeting, but would not say which those were.

Much will depend on Saudi Arabia, which has resisted calls to cut production.

"Saudi Arabia has never held the position that it does not want to talk. In fact, it was very supportive of a meeting before June, at the time when we held the December meeting, if (there was a) consensus call for it," the Opec president said.

Saudi Arabia wants to maintain market share despite the sliding oil prices.

Producer pain

Lower prices are hurting smaller oil producing nations, such as Nigeria, Algeria and Venezuela, which are all suffering heavily as the price of oil is no longer high enough to cover the cost of production.

Lower oil prices have also had an impact on Saudi Arabia.

It announced a budget deficit nearing $100bn (£68bn) last year, prompting tax rises within the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia also said it was considering listing state oil company Saudi Aramco on the stock market in an effort to raise cash.

"The near-term outlook for the oil market is bleak," said analysts at Jefferies.

"Opec is producing flat-out into a market that is oversupplied by over one million barrels per day; already decelerating demand growth could further decay with slowing economic activity; and OECD inventories that are already at record levels are likely to expand through at least the middle of the year."

There is such a big oversupply globally that countries are running out of storage.

The US, which is thought to have among the largest oil storage facilities in the world, has nowhere left to store it, according to Paul Stevens, professor emeritus at Dundee University.

"Storage is pretty much full and people are already talking about buying tankers as floating storage," he said.

"But if supply continues to outstrip demand, then the only thing that you can do with the oil is sell it, which inevitably pushes the price down."

Oystein Berentsen, managing director of crude oil at trading company Strong Petroleum, said the strong US dollar was a factor, but that oversupply was mostly responsible for falling oil prices.

"Once the crude surplus turns into a product surplus and we start running out of storage capacity, there will be even more pressure on prices and an imminent collapse," he said.


Why is the oil price so low?

Oil prices have fallen by about 70% in the past 18 months as supply has outstripped demand. The demand for oil from China has fallen as its economic growth has slowed. Meanwhile supply has increased, partly due to the rise of US shale oil. In addition, the world's largest exporter of oil, Saudi Arabia, has refused to cut production - something it has done previously to support oil prices. Analysts estimate that about one million barrels of oil are being produced above demand every day.

Who benefits?

Consumers and some businesses have benefitted from lower oil prices. UK motorists have seen the price of petrol and diesel fall from about £1.40 a litre 18 months ago to about £1 now. Transport operators and airlines should also be benefitting from cheaper fuel. The lower fuel costs have also helped to keep inflation close to zero in many countries.

Who suffers?

Oil exporting nations that rely on a higher oil price to break even are suffering, such as Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela, as are oil firms generally. There have been thousands of job losses in the North Sea's oil industry. Investment in exploration has also been cut by big oil firms such as Shell, BP, Total and Exxon Mobil.

Source: bbc.com

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12/Jan/2016

BP cuts 4,000 jobs in face of falling oil prices

UK oil firm BP said it would cut 4,000 jobs globally, 600 of which will be from its North Sea operations.

It comes as profits continue to suffer as a result of a 70% collapse in oil prices leading to a big cutback in investment across the oil industry.

The North Sea job cuts are expected to take place over a two-year period.

Meanwhile, Brazil's oil giant, Petrobras, announced a massive scale back of its investment plans thanks to the lower commodity price.

Petrobras will reduce investment by $32bn, 25%, over the next four years, its third cut in six months.

The Brazilian giant said it was adapting to a new economic outlook. Its problems have been exacerbated by a fall of a third in the value of Brazil's real, which makes servicing Petrobras's mammoth dollar debts that much more expensive.

BP said all the job losses would occur in its oil exploration and drilling business.

"We want to simplify structure and reduce costs without compromising safety. Globally, we expect the headcount in upstream to be below 20,000 by the end of the year," a company spokesman said.

The job losses amount to around 5% of BP's total global workforce of 80,000. BP currently employs around 3,000 people in the UK.

'Challenging' environment

BP said it remained committed to the North Sea and would invest about $4bn (£2.7bn) there this year.

But in a statement, the oil firm said given the "challenges" of operating in the North Sea and in "toughening market conditions" it needed to "take specific steps to ensure our business remains competitive and robust".

It added: "An inevitable outcome of this will be an impact on headcount and we expect a reduction of around 600 staff and agency contractor roles by the end of 2017, with the majority of these taking place this year.

BP staff and contractors working in Aberdeen, Sullom Voe in Shetland, and Grangemouth, are expected to be affected.

The company gave no breakdown of how many jobs are expected to go in each area of its North Seas operations.

Source: bbc.com

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12/Jan/2016

Out of $23b from gold, Ghana gets 7%

The country earned $1.7 billion, roughly 7%, in taxes and royalties out of a total $23 billion, which is the value of gold produced in the country from 2016 to 2013, a study by the Africa Centre for Energy Policy has shown.

Using Newmont as a case- study, ACEP said the scant rent the country received from gold happened at a time when price of the commodity was good.

“The cost of production per ounce of gold was US$596 in 2012 and $542 in 2013. This indicates a revenue of $850 - $1050 per ounce of gold in 2012/2013,” the think-tank said in a press statement read by Dr. Ismael Ackah, a policy analyst.

Titled 'Golden Days for Newmont', the report said Newmont from 2003 to 2012 paid less than US$500million in taxes to the government of Ghana despite reporting annual revenues of $931 million in 2012, $919 million in 2011 and about $2.5 billion in three years.

“While Ghana's economic performance is declining over the years, the mining sector grew by 11.7% in 2013 (EITI, 2014),” the study indicated.

Over the years, there has been a clarion call for government to find ways of clawing back a lot more than the country currently gets from mining rents, especially as mining communities have not seen much benefit from same.

The companies have argued that developing communities is the task of government and not theirs, once they meet their tax obligations to the state.

In January 2012, government inaugurated a team of negotiators led by Prof. Akilakpa Sawyerr, to renegotiate existing mining contracts which were widely seen to have failed citizens.

On December 23, 2015, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources released a press statement to the effect that government had successfully renegotiated the contract for Newmont, the largest single investor in gold mining in Ghana.

“The proposed changes are expected to improve benefits for the Ghanaian government and economy, and increase revenues for government while assuring a fair, predictable and beneficial long-term basis for Newmont's business in Ghana,” said the statement signed by sector minister Nii Osah Mills.

At the end of the negotiations Newmont is expected to make some upfront payments of up to $27 million, which Nii Osah Mills says the company is organising to pay.

While commending government for renegotiating the Newmont contract, ACEP said the country needs a law on resource rent tax in the mining sector “to capture a share of excessive profits and introduce other exempted taxes without negatively affecting long-term mining investment”.

The country, it added, needs a mining investment law to guide how mineral revenues are collected, disbursed and spent; as well as effective transparency and accountability to track the share of royalties that goes to traditional authorities.


Source: myjoyonline.com

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12/Jan/2016

US economy adds 292,000 jobs in December

US jobs growth remained solid in December as the economy added 292,000 jobs, beating expectations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data also showed the jobless rate held at its seven-and-a-half year low of 5%.

Professional and business services, construction, health care, and food services all saw job increases.

In addition, the figures for October and November were revised up to show 50,000 more jobs created than previously reported.

However, not all sectors saw job gains in December - mining continued to decline, dropping by 8,000, and taking the total jobs lost in the sector in 2015 to 129,000.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, US economy created an average of 284,000 jobs a month, the best three-month pace in a year.

The robust figures suggest resilience in the US economy at a time of market turmoil in China, the world's second biggest economy, and global economic uncertainty.

Robust consumer spending has encouraged employers to hire staff, offsetting a drop in US exports in response to a stronger dollar.

"It is one more sign the domestic economy continues to chug along," said Kate Warne, an investment strategist at Edward Jones.

"It is not a game changer in terms of faster economic growth, but it offsets some of the other indicators that recently have suggested the economy might be slowing down."

The figures come after the first US interest rate rise in nearly 10 years in December.

The Federal Reserve raised overnight interest rates last month by a quarter of a percent to between 0.25% and 0.50%.

US stocks opened higher after the jobs figures were released. The Dow Jones Industrial Average then lost ground, closing down 167.65 points, or 1.02%, at 16,346.45.

Source: bbc.com

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08/Jan/2016

Volkswagen branded sales drop for first time in 11 years

German carmaker Volkswagen has posted its first drop in VW brand sales in 11 years as the company continues to cope with its emissions scandal.

Sales of VW brand cars fell 4.8% in 2015 to 5.82 million cars from 6.12 million a year earlier.

Falling demand in China and US added to the losses as orders fell in December.

VW has promised it will have a fix in the coming weeks for the millions of US cars with defeat devices that disguised emission levels in diesel cars.

Sales began declining after the scandal came to light in September. Deliveries fell 5.3% in October, 2.4% in November and 7.9% in December compared with those months the previous year.

The underperformance at VW's largest division by sales and revenue pulled down annual group deliveries by 2% to 9.93 million cars, the first drop in 13 years, VW said.

However, speaking on Wednesday, Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess said he was "optimistic" the company would find a solution soon.

"We will bring a package together which satisfies our customers first and foremost and then also the regulators," said Mr Diess.

Regulators appear been less confident. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which uncovered the scandal, said on Monday that VW had not yet "not produced an acceptable way forward".

The company will meet US regulators in Washington next week to discuss its plan.

US charges

On Monday, the US Justice Department filed a lawsuit against VW for the use of the emissions devices, which involve computer software that can detect when cars are being tested.

The Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said on Friday that the company was not cooperating with the investigation.

Volkswagen has been withholding corporate emails between executive related to the emissions scandal, using German law as the basis for the refusal.

"I find it frustrating that, despite public statements professing cooperation and an expressed desire to resolve the various investigations that it faces following its calculated deception, Volkswagen is, in fact, resisting cooperation by citing German law," Mr Jepsen said in a statement.

Car industry record year

In 2015, a record 17.47 million cars were sold, according to Autodata. The car data firm has been keeping records since 1980.

General Motors, one of the biggest US car firms, had an 8% increase in sales.

Mercedes-Benz USA had its most successful year since entering the country, with sales rising 3.8%.

The UK also had a record year for car sales. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, 2.63 million cars were registered, beating the previous record from 2003.

Source: bbc.com

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08/Jan/2016

Standard Life says it will vote against Shell BG tie-up

Standard Life Investment - a major investor in Royal Dutch Shell - has said it will oppose the oil company's proposed takeover of BG Group.

It said a weak outlook for oil prices plus risks for BG in Brazil could make the deal "value destructive for Shell shareholders."

Few investors or analysts have openly challenged the deal's strategic benefits for the firm.

Shell said it remained confident of winning the vote.

A Shell spokesman said: "We continue to believe we have the broad base of shareholder support we need for the deal to complete."

Shell has also won the support of Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), an influential advisory firm, which recommended that Shell shareholders support the deal.

Deal opposition

The firm announced its intention to buy BG - an oil and gas exploration company - in April 2015 for £47bn.

But Standard Life said on Friday that the risk of further oil price falls and tax and operational risks connected to BG's Brazilian assets make the deal undesirable.

"We have concluded that the proposed terms of the acquisition of BG are value destructive for Shell shareholders," said David Cumming, head of equities at Standard Life Investments.

Standard Life is the 11th largest holder of Shell's B shares, with a 1.7% stake.

Shell B shares make up the share component in the cash-and-share deal that is expected to be completed on 15 February.

Standard Life is also the 16th biggest shareholder in BG, according to data from Bloomberg.

ISS, which advises around 5% of Shell's medium and small shareholders, said it supported the deal "given the compelling strategic rationale, and the significant positive economics to be realised within a relatively short time frame."

Shell will become the world's top liquefied natural gas trader after the deal.

In December Shell said it would cut 2,800 jobs as a result of restructuring the companies into one unit.

Source: bbc.com

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08/Jan/2016

Ghana’s first bond for 2016 slightly undersubscribed

Ghana failed to obtain the 500 million cedis it was expecting to raise in its first bond issued yesterday, January 7, 2016.

The Bank of Ghana on behalf of government yesterday issued a three year 500 million cedi bond.

Proceeds from the bond will be used to restructure government debt and also for maturity settlement.

But government failed to obtain the expected amount.

Total bids received amounted to 426.23 million cedis.

The auction which was open to both foreign and local investors saw international bids totaling only 20 million cedis.

Meanwhile Ghana will pay  a slightly higher yield of 24.75 percent on the bond than the last 3 year bond it issued.

A three-year bond issued in October last year had a 24.5 percent yield.

Source: citifmonline.com

Industry players had earlier warned the country’s economic woes as well as the implementation of the new income tax law which will see the bond being subjected to the 1 percent tax on interest earned by individuals will lead to a low subscription of the bond and others to be issued later.

Meanwhile government has announced it intends to borrow about 30. 4 billion cedis, in the first half of this year, through bonds, treasury bills and notes.

The move will see government borrow 4 .72 billion cedis in January 2016 alone.

- See more at: http://business.citifmonline.com/2016/01/08/ghanas-first-bond-for-2016-slightly-undersubscribed/#sthash.Bsciya57.dpuf

 

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08/Jan/2016

Oil price tumbles to below $33

The oil price tumbled to $32.62 a barrel on Thursday morning as a result of rising US energy stockpiles and China's weakening currency, before recovering later in the day.

Brent crude fell 4.7%, hitting fresh 11-year lows, while US crude was down 3.9% at its lowest level since 2008.

Brent recovered to $33.95, down less than 1% on the day, while US crude climbed back to $33.42, down 1.6%.

Oversupply has hit oil prices, which are now 70% lower than in June 2014.

Companies and governments that rely heavily on oil revenues have been suffering as a result.

Adding to the continuing fall in oil prices, China depreciated the yuan on Thursday, sending regional currencies and stock markets tumbling.

Demand for crude tends to fall when the US dollar is stronger against currencies of purchasing countries, and China remains the world's biggest energy consumer.

China's stock markets were suspended less than half an hour into trading on Thursday, after falling 7% and triggering a new circuit-breaking mechanism for the second time this week.

Overnight, the US Department of Energy's weekly report showed a sharp drop in US commercial crude inventories of 5.1 million barrels to 482.3 million.

The government data also showed a gain in US crude production of 17,000 barrels a day, taking it to 9.22 million barrels a day, the fourth consecutive week of increases. There was also a rise in stockpiles at the Cushing oil hub in Oklahoma.

Oil is so oversupplied globally that countries are running out of storage.

The US, which is thought to have among the largest storage facilities in the world, has nowhere left to keep it, according to Paul Stevens, professor emeritus at the University of Dundee and a Middle East specialist.

"Storage is pretty much full and people are already talking about buying tankers as floating storage," he said.

"But if supply continues to outstrip demand, then the only thing that you can do with the oil is sell it, which inevitably pushes the price down."

The huge storage overhang means that even if US production falls this year, as oil companies halt production, it will take several months to get rid of excess supplies.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Jan/2016

China market turmoil hits global shares

Global shares have fallen sharply after trading was suspended on Chinese markets for the second time this week.

Wall Street followed the downward trend, with indexes sliding about 1%, while European shares closed down about 2%.

Circuit-breakers triggered the Chinese share suspension following a 7% fall in the country's main index.

Later on Thursday, the Chinese authorities said they were suspending the circuit-breaker system.

The mechanism was brought in late last year to reduce volatility on China's markets and had not been triggered until this week. It will be lifted from Friday.

The slump on Chinese markets prompted renewed panic on global markets. Share dealing was halted in the first 30 minutes, making it China's shortest trading day on record.

The FTSE 100 share index in London closed down 2% at 5,954.08.

Germany's Dax, down 2.3% at 9,979.85, while France's Cac 40 fell 1.7% to 4,403.58.

Nerves

Amid the uncertainty, the euro gained nearly a cent against the dollar, rising to $1.0870.

What does this mean for the rest of the world?

The direct financial impact of lower share prices in China is moderate. There is not enough foreign investment in the Chinese market for it to be a major problem. The London consultancy Capital Economics has said foreigners own just 2% of shares.

The issue is more about whether the financial turbulence shines a light on wider issues about the economic slowdown in China: is the economy heading for what's called a "hard landing", too sharp a slowdown?

China is now such a big force in the global economy that it would inevitably affect the rest of the world. It is the second largest economy and the second largest importer of both goods and commercial services.

Read more from Andrew Walker, BBC World Service Economics Correspondent

The pound fell against the euro by more than a cent and a half, to €1.3408.

Investors are nervous after the Chinese central bank moved to weaken the country's currency, the yuan, for the eighth day running, sparking fears of a currency war.

This move is designed to boost exports by making Chinese goods cheaper outside the country, analysts have speculated.

It is also being interpreted as an indication that consumer demand in China may be slowing more sharply than feared.

Official economic growth in China is still running at just below 7%.

But moves to devalue the yuan suggest attempts to shift the economy from an export-led one to a consumer and services-led one are running into problems.

Soros warning

Legendary US billionaire investor George Soros has warned that 2016 could see a global financial crisis on as big a scale as that seen just eight years ago.

Giving a speech to an economic forum in Sri Lanka, Mr Soros said China faced a " major adjustment problem."

He added: "I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008, according to Bloomberg.

It is not the first time the billionaire hedge fund manager has warned of impending doom on the financial markets. In 2011 he warned the Greek debt crisis that consumed Europe was more serious than the 2008 financial crisis.

Analysis: Karishma Vaswani, Asia business correspondent

If at first you don't succeed - try and try again.

Or maybe you don't. Especially if panic breaks out on your stock markets for a second day this week.

The decision by China's regulators to suspend the brand new circuit-breaker mechanism - which only came into effect this week - tells you just how difficult it is to manage or control financial markets.

But perhaps that's the point.

Meddling in markets can only lead to misery - at least, that's certainly what many in China's financial circles may now be thinking.

Read more from Karishma here

China turmoil set to continue

After the trading halt, the China Securities Regulatory Commission announced that major shareholders could not sell more than 1% of a company's shares within three months as of 9 January.

It comes as a previous six-month ban of stock sales by major shareholders is set to expire on Friday.

Why is this happening now?

China's central bank devalued the yuan last Thursday, then announced the biggest month-on-month drop in its foreign exchange reserves. A World Bank report has highlighted weaknesses in China's economy. Buffeted by events in China, world stock markets are also being hit by oil prices falling to a 14-year-low.

Should we be worried?

China is responsible for 17% of all the world's economic activity, so any downturn in spending there affects the rest of the world.

Exporters to China could be hit hard as China is a key buyer of industrial commodities such as oil, copper and iron ore.

What happens next?

There is now a lot more pressure on other Asian countries to depreciate their currencies in response to China's move.

China's attempts to impose circuit breakers with a 7% threshold appear to have only added to the panic. On Wall Street, circuit breakers kick in at 20%.

Amy Zhuang, a China analyst with Nordea Bank, told the BBC she expected "a rush selling" as soon as Chinese markets opened on Friday.

Bernard Aw, market strategist at trading firm IG, said the negative sentiment was because of the perception that China may further weaken the yuan, igniting concerns over what that might mean for other economies.

A weakening of the currency is often seen by investors as an indication that that the economy is not doing well and needs to be propped up by boosting exports.

A lower yuan makes the cost of exporting goods for Chinese companies cheaper, giving the slowing factory sector a boost.

What are China's 'circuit-breakers'?

  • The measures were announced in December after a summer of dramatic market losses - used for the first time time on Monday and again on Thursday
  • They automatically stop trading in stock markets that drop or appreciate too sharply - a 15-minute break if the CSI 300 Index moves 5% from the market's previous close, or a whole-day halt if it moves 7% or more.
  • Supposedly introduced to limit panic buying and selling - which is more likely in small investor-dominated markets like China's - but critics say they only add to selling pressure the next day.

After disappointing manufacturing data on Monday, the mainland benchmark index plunged 7%, triggering a global equities sell-off.

The negative sentiment spilled over the border to Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng index also lost 3%, closing at 20,333.34 points.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index finished down 2.3% to 17,767.34, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index lost 2.2% to 5,010.30 as energy shares dragged down the market.

Source: bbc.com

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07/Jan/2016

Fuel prices in Ghana shooting up as oil price falls below $35 a barrel to fresh 11-year low

Oil has continued its rollercoaster ride into the new year, with Brent crude falling below $35 a barrel for the first time in 11 years.

Brent crude sank by 4.2% to $34.88 a barrel, surpassing its late December fall, and taking the price to its lowest level since 1 July 2004.

The price of US crude dropped 3.3% to $34.77 a barrel.

The sharp falls followed a short-lived rally on Monday after Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic ties with Iran.

Analysts said fears over the worsening relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which had initially raised concerns about possible supply disruptions and boosted the oil price, had now been overtaken by pessimism over oil cartel Opec ever agreeing on a production ceiling.

How low?

Historically, Opec has cut production to support prices. But led by Saudi Arabia, by far the group's most powerful member, the group has resolutely refused to trim supply this time.

Rising tensions over Saudi Arabia's execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr mean that any agreement is now deemed less likely than ever.

"With relations between Opec kingpins Saudi Arabia and Iran at a historic low point, it solidifies an already unlikely scenario that Opec might cut output," said Barclays analyst Alia Moubayed.

Since mid-2014, oil prices have slumped 70% mainly because of oversupply. This in turn is largely due to US shale oil flooding the market.

At the same time, demand has fallen because of a slowdown in economic growth in China and Europe.

Iranian oil exports are also expected to rise later this year once Western sanctions against Tehran for its nuclear programme are lifted, increasing the oversupply of oil.

Opec is hoping that refusing to cut production will help to drive US shale producers out of business, believing that they will fall victim to lower prices long before its own members, and has forecast that prices will recover to $70 a barrel by 2020.

Goldman Sachs has warned that oil prices could go as low a $20 a barrel, but most analysts are expecting the price to stabilise in the second half of the year as supply from non-Opec nations slows and demand remains relatively robust.

Source: bbc.com

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06/Jan/2016

Gun sales rise in US as Obama unveils control plans

Sales of guns in the US are rising, just as President Barack Obama unveils control measures designed to limit the availability of weapons.

Shares in gunmaker Smith & Wesson rose to their highest value since 1999 ahead of the President's announcement.

On Monday, Smith & Wesson raised its sales estimate, saying the market was "stronger than originally anticipated".

The number of background checks on potential buyers - a guide to future sales - has also risen.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System said that checks were up by about 38% last month compared with December 2014.

Smith & Wesson's trading update said that for the three months ending 31 January it expected sales to be about $175m-$180m. Earlier guidance put the likely figure at between $150m and $155m.

The company said that "the sell-through rate of its products at distribution has been stronger than originally anticipated, resulting in reduced distributor inventories of its firearms". That means guns are being bought faster than Smith & Wesson is supplying them.

The firm said its net profit was $14.2m (£9.46m) for the period, compared with $5.2m for the same period last year.

In December, the company reported that profits had nearly tripled for the three months to October and net sales have increased 38% over the last five years.

On Monday, the White House unveiled proposals for gun control measures that require more sellers to get licences and more gun buyers to undergo background checks.

The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will require that people who sell guns at stores, at gun shows or over the internet be licensed and conduct checks,

The bureau is also finalising a rule requiring background checks for buyers of dangerous weapons from a trust, corporation or other legal entity. President Obama is due to disclose further details about the plans on Tuesday.

The president has said he will curb gun violence and unregulated sales after a series of mass shootings, which included last month's attack in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people.

James Hardiman, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said the increase in gun sales was probably due to buyers fearing tougher controls.

News of the stronger gun market saw Smith & Wesson's shares up 11% on Tuesday, despite stock markets in general falling sharply. Competitor Sturm Ruger's share rose 7.28% to a 52-week high.

Source: bbc.com

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05/Jan/2016

French telecom firms Orange and Bouygues in merger talks

French telecoms operators Orange and Bouygues have confirmed that they are in talks over a possible merger.

In separate statements, Orange said that the talks were "preliminary" while Bouygues said that "no decisions have been taken".

If the deal did go ahead it would reduce the number of French telecoms operators to three from four.

The combined group would have a near-50% share of the French mobile and fixed telecoms market.

As a result, any deal is likely to be scrutinised by both domestic and European competition authorities.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron opposed a previous bid by European telecoms group Altice to buy Bouygues, saying in June it risked creating a French operator that was "too big to fail".

But he has since said that he is not opposed in principle to further deals in the sector.

French newspaper reports have suggested that the deal could be worth €10bn (£7.3bn) in a combination of cash and shares.

In its statement, Bouygues said there was "no guarantee that there will be an outcome to these preliminary discussions".

Bouygues said it had signed a confidentiality agreement with Orange as "it is interested in opportunities that would enable it to bolster its long-term presence in the telecoms sector".

Orange said that the talks were not "limited by any particular calendar" and said there was "no commitment to any particular outcome".

Source: bbc.com

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05/Jan/2016

VW sued by US justice department

The US justice department is suing Volkswagen over the emissions scandal that saw the German car giant fit software in millions of cars to cheat emissions tests.

In September last year, following an investigation by US regulators, VW admitted fitting the so-called defeat device on 11 million vehicles globally.

The scandal has hit sales of VWs worldwide.

The company has put aside billions of euros to deal with the fallout.

The lawsuit, on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was filed on Monday in a federal court in Detroit, Michigan.

"The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA's standards, resulting in harmful air pollution," the filing said.

It also alleges that VW "violated" clean air laws by selling cars that were different in design from those originally cleared for sale by the EPA.

"With today's filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution," said assistant administrator Cynthia Giles for the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

"So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action."

The department said the filing was just the first step in "bringing Volkswagen to justice".

The carmaker is also facing separate criminal charges, and a raft of class-action lawsuits filed by VW owners.

'Screwed up'

The EPA says that VW fitted many of its cars with a device that was able to recognise test conditions and adjust the engine settings accordingly, with the express purpose of giving distorted readings on nitrogen oxide emissions.

The company admitted to "totally screwing up", and there has been a shake-up in the management structure and personnel as a result. Martin Winterkorn resigned as chief executive and was replaced with Matthias Mueller, the former boss of Porsche.

The carmaker is currently conducting an internal investigation that it says will "leave no stone unturned".

The scandal has hit VW hard. It will begin recalling millions of cars worldwide soon, and has set aside €6.7bn (£4.6bn) to cover costs. That resulted in the company posting its first quarterly loss for 15 years, of €2.5bn in late October.

With the lawsuits piling up, experts say the final costs are likely to be much higher than that.

Source: bbc.com

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04/Jan/2016

Mark Zuckerberg to build AI to help at home and work

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he plans to build artificial intelligence (AI) to help him around the house and with his work.

In a Facebook post, he said his personal challenge this year would be to build a "simple AI" like Jarvis from Hollywood blockbuster film Iron Man, referring to the AI butler.

Mr Zuckerberg plans to share his progress over the course of the year.

Last month, he made headlines for plans to donate 99% of his stake in Facebook.

He had to defend his philanthropic venture -launched to celebrate the birth of his daughter- after critics argued that it could provide a way for the founder to avoid paying tax on the sale of his shares.

'Control everything'

On Monday, Mr Zuckerberg said he would start to build the AI with technology that is already out there and teach it to understand his voice to control everything in his home from music and lights to temperature.

"This should be a fun intellectual challenge to code this for myself," Mr Zuckerberg said.

"I'll teach it to let friends in by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell," he said. "I'll teach it to let me know if anything is going on in Max's (his daughter's) room that I need to check on when I'm not with her."

For Facebook, he added that the system would help him visualize data in virtual reality and help him build better services, as well as lead his company.

His announcement comes as Facebook is in the midst of AI initiatives such as building an assistant through its Messenger app for users.

The tech billionaire said a part of the motivation behind this year's challenge was the reward of building things yourself.

His previous personal challenges have included learning Mandarin, reading two books a month and meeting a new person everyday, he said.

Source: bbc.com

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04/Jan/2016

Oil drags Wall Street to 2015 losses

(Closed): Wall Street finished its final day of 2015 down, marking its worst annual performance in seven years.

Oil prices suffered a second year of steep losses and are expected to take at least another year to clear as the international surplus continues.

The Dow Jones was down 178.84 points or 1.03%, at 17,425.03.

The S&P 500 was down 0.95% at 2,043.86, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was 1.15% lower at 5,007.41.

The oil price collapse sent global markets reeling throughout 2015.

Shares of US oil giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil were down 0.17% and 0.22% respectively for the day.

Energy stocks have taken a beating this year, with the S&P energy sector losing nearly 24% in the last twelve months.

For the year the S&P 500 was down 0.7% while the Dow Jones ended 2.2% lower.

The Nasdaq, however was a bright spot closing 5.7% higher for 2015.

Trading volumes were thin on the last day of the year.

Apple was down 1.92% weighing on the Nasdaq.

McDonald's was down 1.08% at $118 and weighed on the Dow the most.

Stocks were led lower as US jobless claims increased by 20,000 to 287,000 last week, wildly missing forecasts of 270,000.

Brent crude oil was up 3% at $37.60 per barrel for the day but down 35% over the year. US light crude was 1.2% higher at $37.04 but down 30% for the year.

Source: bbc.com

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31/Dec/2015

Piracy Still Affecting Textile Business

Despite government’s efforts to stop piracy in the country, textile companies are still lamenting the impact on their operations of pirated textiles smuggled into the country.

The Managing Director of Ghana Textile Prints (GTP) Kofi Boateng said: "It is true that government has set up an anti-piracy task force, but the problem is so large -- to an extent that the efforts of government are not having any meaningful impact, though they have scared a few people.

"Our designs, labels and copyrights are being imitated by some people from the Far East. They then print and bring them back onto the Ghanaian market. So we now have to employ more young but experienced creative people so that we can have thousands of designs and colours on a monthly basis in order to survive and compete well," he said.

The once-vibrant Ghanaian textile industry is at a cross-road due to importation of cheap, pirated textiles that make original textile designs manufactured in Ghana relatively expensive.

There were about 20 textile companies which employed about 25,000 in the 1980s. But currently there is a remnant of just four textile companies employing under 2,000 people, battling to stay in business amid a myriad of challenges.

Even surviving companies Akosombo Textile Limited (ATL), Tex Style Ghana Limited (GTP), Printex and Ghana Textile Manufacturing Company (GTMC) are struggling in the face of competition from cheap, pirated imports.

The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has said it is not against the importation of fabrics so far as they are not fake in terms of design, brand-name and other characteristics.

The illegal business has in recent years led to the retrenchment of many textile workers, while some local manufacturers have had to diversify their businesses.

The task force team since its establishment in 2010 has undertaken many different destruction exercises, with a total 6,000 pieces of Ghanaian-designed fake textiles destroyed.

The textile designs were seized during operations by the task force at various outlets across the country.
John Kwesi Amoah, Assistant Manager Brand Protection ATL, noted that: “We want fair competition; we are not saying that government should ban people from importing textiles, but we want fair competition. People should come with their own design and brand”.

Source: peacefmonline.com

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31/Dec/2015

Apple 'to pay €318m' to settle Italy tax fraud case

Apple's Italian subsidiary has agreed to pay €318m (£235m; $348m) following an investigation into tax fraud allegations, Italy's tax office says.

Italy's tax authorities say the company failed to pay €880m in tax between 2008 and 2013, according to La Repubblica.

The settlement follows an investigation by prosecutors in Milan.

The US tech giant has not commented on the deal. It has previously denied attempting to escape paying tax owed on profits made around the world.

Apple Italia is part of the company's European operation which is headquartered in Ireland, a country with one of the lowest levels of corporation tax in the EU.

A spokesman for the tax agency confirmed the newspaper's report was accurate but would not divulge further details.

Ireland taxes corporate earnings from normal business activities at a rate of 12.5% compared with 27.5% in Italy.

Investigators in Italy say they found a huge gap between the company's revenues in Italy of over €1bn between 2008 and 2013 and the €30m that was paid in tax in the country.

The settlement comes amid a European Commission investigation into the tax arrangements of numerous multinational companies accused of using cross-border structures to reduce their tax bills, sometimes with the help of secret and potentially illegal "sweetheart" deals.

The issue of Apple's Irish arrangements is separate from but related to the broader one of multinational companies "parking" revenues and profits in low-tax countries.

Apple's activities in the Republic of Ireland are currently subject to that investigation, which is due to announce soon whether tax breaks designed to secure the company's extensive investment in Ireland amounted to illegal state aid.

Apple's European operations have been headquartered in Cork since 1980.

The company is expanding its workforce there to 6,000 and it has been joined in Ireland by other US tech firms including Twitter, Microsoft and Google.

The company's chief executive, Tim Cook, has rejected accusations that the firm has been sidestepping US taxes by stashing cash overseas, insisting: "We pay every tax dollar we owe."

Mr Cook said on a visit to Ireland in November that he was confident the Dublin government and his company would be found to have done nothing wrong.

Source: bbc.com

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30/Dec/2015

Facebook class action lawsuits to go ahead

Two US class action lawsuits against Facebook by shareholders alleging it hid growth concerns ahead of its 2012 public listing can now go ahead.

A federal judge certified the legal proceedings, Reuters reports, saying investors who claim they lost money could pursue their claims as groups.

Facebook told the BBC that it was disappointed with the decision and it has launched an appeal against it.

The firm's initial public offering (IPO) in May 2012 raised $16bn (£10bn).

The investors say that by purchasing the firm's shares at inflated prices they lost money.

That year, its shares began trading on 18 May in New York at $38 per share, but the price fell to almost half the amount of $17.55 on 4 September.

The price stayed below the IPO price for more than a year, but shares ultimately rebounded and closed up at $107.26 on the Nasdaq index on Tuesday.

District judge Robert Sweet gave the lawsuits class action certification on 11 December, but the order was made public on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Concerns over revenue

Investors claim that Facebook omitted information about revised revenue projections and the impact that increased mobile usage, at a time when there was little advertising on mobile devices, would have on its revenues.

But Mr Sweet said Facebook provided "an impressive amount of evidence" to indicate that shareholders knew how mobile usage would affect the firm's revenue.

However, he rejected the tech giant's argument that shareholders should pursue their claims individually.

In a 55-page decision, Mr. Sweet said that given the extraordinary size of the case, allowing two subclasses "in fact adds more weight to the predominance of common questions and answers, practically negating the individualized questions raised".

Facebook told the BBC that it believes the class certification is "without merit".

The tech giant also said the decision "conflicts with well-settled Supreme Court and Second Circuit law", and it has already filed an appeal seen by the BBC.

"The suggestion that class members' knowledge might be inferred on a class-wide basis flouts due process," the appeal said.

Source: bbc.com

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30/Dec/2015

Brazil's deficit jumps sharply as recession bites

Brazil's deficit jumped in November to one of the highest levels on record as state finances came under increasing strain amid a deep recession.

The public sector deficit - the difference between what the government spends and what it receives in revenues - rose to 19.6bn reais ($5.1bn).

This was worse than expected and much higher than October's 11.5bn reais.

The government is struggling to increase tax revenues as the economy continues to shrink.

Between July and September, the economy contracted by 1.7% compared with the previous quarter, deepening the country's worst recession in 25 years.

The economy has shrunk in all but one of the last six quarters.

Unemployment has risen sharply this year and now stands at 7.5%, putting a further strain on government finances.

Inflation is also running at more than 10%, undermining the value of Brazilians' savings and their ability to spend.

Brazil's economy has been hit hard by a slowdown in global demand - particularly in China - for its commodities, while a corruption scandal centred on state oil giant Petrobras has severely damaged investor confidence.

Source: bbc.com

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29/Dec/2015

Asian markets subdued by falling oil prices

Asian shares traded mixed, following a lacklustre lead from global markets dragged down by oil prices.

The price of US crude oil dropped more than 3% overnight, while Brent crude was back near 11-year lows on reports that Iran plans to increase exports once sanctions are removed, which would add to the global supply glut.

Lower energy shares across Asia weighed on benchmark indexes.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was down 0.1% to 18,850.17 in morning trade.

"Oil prices look likely to continue in their depressed state if Iran is able to ramp up its exports at such a rapid rate," said market analyst Angus Nicholson at trading firm IG in a note on Tuesday.

Iran intends to increase exports by 500,000 barrels per day once the economic sanctions are removed, according to reports.

Toshiba's restructuring

Meanwhile, shares of Toshiba rose by 0.6% on a local report that the struggling electronics giant planned to ask for an additional $2.5bn (£1.7bn) in credit to fund its large-scale restructuring.

The company is reeling from a $1.3bn accounting scandal earlier this year.

Chinese shares headed higher in early trade with the Shanghai Composite up 0.4% to 3,546.38, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was higher by 0.1% to 21,945.33.

In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.6% to 5,238.80 after reopening from public holiday on Monday.

Bucking the trend were shares of Woodside Petroleum, up 0.1% despite the drop in oil prices.

South Korea's Kospi index was down 0.7% to 1,949.56, following the previous session's losses.

Source: bbc.com

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28/Dec/2015

BoG urges RCBs to pay extra attention to good corporate governance

The Bank of Ghana has asked rural and community banks (RCBs) to put in place corporate governance and effective risk management best practices that help banks to clearly identify, measure, control and mitigate the risks associated with their operations.

It observed that good corporate governance and risk management systems lie at the heart of any successful business, and further advised rural banks to adopt adequate measures that deal with the associated challenges of operational and credit risks which often come along with their operations.

Head of Other Financial Institutions Supervision, Bank of Ghana, Mr. Raymond Amanfu, made these remarks at the shareholders’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Atwima Mponua Rural Bank at Toase.

He said RCBs should give serious consideration to human capital as part of their attempts to grow.

He insisted that RCBs should endeavour to appoint competent and reliable persons of high integrity to manage their institutions, and also deal with issues of unethical banking practices promptly and appropriately.

He indicated that the BoG does not countenance such practices. “We require due diligence be carried out on all prospective RCB staff before they are employed”.

Mr. Amanfu said impacts from the rural banking industry continue to be felt in the economy. He noted that after four decades of operations, the RCB sector has evolved significantly in response to phenomenal challenges posed by changing dynamics in the industry and among other actors.

It is important to note that the total assets of rural and community banks (RCBs) grew from a year-on-year total figure of GH?1.8billion in October 2014 to GH?2.40billion in October 2015, marking a 17.8 percent increase.

This noteworthy performance of RCBs accounted for 3.4 percent of the total assets in a banking industry with GH?70.39billion as at October 2015.

The total assets of RCBs were funded mainly by deposits, 76.22 percent; borrowings and other liabilities, 10.36 percent; and reserves of 9.45 percent.

Notwithstanding the steady performance recorded by the RCB sub-sector, the BoG expressed concern at some major lapses which continue to occur in the operations of RCBs despite several initiatives taken to address them.

It said it will ensure that all licenced institutions operate within the rules and laws governing their operations, and not tolerate any violations of laws -- as offenders will be appropriately sanctioned.

This warning comes with the knowledge that some RCBs have been operating agencies in the urban centres without the BoG’s approval.

The central bank has noted that these agencies are mostly established without due consideration as to the financial and supervisory capabilities of the RCBs, which often leads to misuse of depositors’ funds with attendant effects of flouting prudential requirements.

Source: bbc.com

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27/Dec/2015

Gov’t completes investment deal with Newmont

Government has negotiated its Investment Agreement with mining giant Newmont, guaranteeing improved benefits for Ghana.

A statement from the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry says the new deal will also ensure long term sustainability of the mining industry.

The objective of the re-negotiation is to ensure that all major stakeholders, including Ghanaians, mining companies and their investors equitably share in the benefits that mining brings.

The proposed changes are expected to improve benefits for Government and economy and increase revenues while assuring a fair, predictable and beneficial long term basis for Newmont’s business in Ghana.

The re-negotiated Investment Agreements, now consisting of two separate agreements, one for each Newmont Ghana entity operating in Ghana, were submitted to Parliament for ratification in June and ratified by Parliament this week.

Newmont’s original Investment Agreement with the Government of Ghana was ratified by Parliament in December 2003.

Newmont has since invested more than US$2.7 billion in Ghana to date; making the company the largest single investor in gold mining in Ghana.

Newmont Ghana has affirmed its long-term commitment to Ghana and says it will continue partnering with the government and people to bring sustainable value and opportunity for all stakeholders.

The Newmont deal with government has in the past been criticized for being too lopsided in favor of the mining firm.

The Government of Ghana set up the Government Mining Review & Negotiating Committee (MRC) in 2012 to review the country’s mining regime and to re-negotiate existing stability agreements taking into account changes in the national economy and the mining industry over the past few years.

Source: ghanaweb.com

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26/Dec/2015

Ghana is 8th best country for business in Africa - Forbes

On the Forbes 2015 ranking of 144 Best Countries for Business in the world, Ghana ranks 79th and 8th in Africa.
Ghana is ahead of countries like Senegal, Tunisia, Namibia and the Seychelles. Some of the other countries that Ghana is ahead of include Mozambique, Lesotho, Madagascar, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire which is ranked at 106th in the world and 17th in Africa.
The countries ahead of Ghana are, Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco, Botswana, Cape Verde, Rwanda and Zambia.
Forbes posts indicators like population, GDP growth rates, GDP per capita and trade balance to GDP.
Ghana’s GDP growth is put at 4 per cent, GDP per capita is $4,100, trade balance to GDP, -10.4 per cent and the population is 26.3 million.
Nigeria is ranked at 122nd in the world and 27th in Africa with a population of 181.6 million. The country’s GDP growth is put at 6.3 per cent, its GDP per capita is $6,100 and trade balance to GDP is 0.2 per cent.
The ranking has Denmark with a population of 5.6 million at number one, with 1.1 per cent GDP growth, $44,600 GDP per capita and trade balance to GDP of 6.3 per cent.
At the bottom of the ranking is Chad. Having a population of 11. 6 million, Chad has a GDP growth of 6.9 per cent, a GDP per capita of $2,600 and trade balance to GDP of -7.8 per cent.
With a population of 1.3 million, Mauritius is the number one country in Africa on the ranking. It has a GDP per capita of $18, 700, a trade balance to GDP of -5.5 per cent and GDP growth of 3.6 per cent.
The ranking covers 40 countries in Africa. 

Source: myjoyonline.com

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26/Dec/2015

Beware: Takata airbag fault claims eighth victim in the US

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has linked an eighth US death to a faulty airbag inflator made by Japan's Takata.

The NHTSA said a teenager was killed in July after an airbag in a 2001 Honda Accord ruptured.

A total of 19 million cars, containing 23 million airbag inflators, made by 12 car companies have been recalled.

In November, Takata agreed to pay a $70m fine for safety violations and may face deferred penalties of up to $130m.

The airbag fault has claimed nine lives globally.

The airbag inflators explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into the car. All nine deaths, eight in the US and one in Malaysia, have all been in Honda cars. More than 100 people have been injured.

Honda said that the car involved in the crash had been included in a February 2010 national safety recall campaign and claimed that it had made "numerous attempts" to contact the previous owner of the vehicle.

It said it sent a new recall notice to the current owner of the car on 21 July this year, one day before the crash.

A spokesman for the NHTSA said that Honda, as well as Subaru and Mazda, have added a "few hundred thousand" more cars to the recall in the US, adding that other car companies may follow suit.

The NHTSA said about a quarter of affected cars have been fixed, the majority of which are in areas of high humidity which can react adversely to ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound which is used to deploy the airbags.

In a statement, Takata said: "Our heartfelt condolences go out to the driver's family.

"We are working in close collaboration with Honda and NHTSA to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding this tragic situation. Takata's number one priority is the safety of the driving public."

Shares in Takata closed down nearly 5%.

Source: bbc.com

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25/Dec/2015

Ghana Proposes a Pan African Trade Hub System

The Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, has presented in Nairobi to the international community an innovative project dubbed the Pan African Trade Hub System (PATHS). 

The Minister’s presentation was at a forum organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) attended by top officials of the African Union, the World Trade Organisation, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Trade Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. 

Also present were several African Ministers, CEOs of some major multinational corporations, business associations and chambers of commerce, heads of think tanks, academics, research firms and NGOs.

According to the Ghana Minister, PATHS aims, among other goals, to increase the values of Intra-African trade from the current approximately 5% of Africa’s total trade to some 25% in two decades, in order to promote greater African development, to create wealth, and to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The Minister of Trade and Industry was one of the main speakers at the high level forum of UNCTAD  on the topic “The African Continental Free Trade Area—Making it Work”  as one of the side events at the  just concluded tenth WTO Ministerial Conference which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 15th to 18th December, 2015. 

Dr. Spio-Garbrah described PATHS as continental public-private partnership of African international organisations, member governments, financial institutions, and the private sector which would be an aggregated e-commerce/m-commerce, e-procurement, and e-payments platform and portal. It is intended to converge and facilitate the work of a range of institutions and actors in the African trade ecosystem, from governments, customs and revenue agencies, commodity producers and traders, importers and exporters and other trade facilitation entities.

The Ghana Minister further stated some of the other benefits of the PATHS to include increasing African's percentage of  total world trade  from 2% to 10%; and to increase Intra-African Investment and Foreign Direct Investment, In addition, PATHS would improve the quality, standards and competitiveness of African goods and services in international trade; enable African SMEs to compete more effectively globally; as well as enable Africa to raise the service delivery and integration of banking and payments service infrastructure to international standards.

 The PATHS is intended to be a  public-private commercial partnership supported by the African Union, African Governments, African Chambers of Commerce and Industry and public-private investors as well as a profit making commercial enterprises. It is to be registered as a private company initially in Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius and Tunisia.

The Minister listed the PATHS stakeholders as the African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African governments and public agencies, industrialists, manufacturers, commodity producers, warehousing companies, traders/brokers, financial institutions, banks, insurance companies, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, clearing agencies and online shoppers.

Elaborating on the Road Map to achieving the establishment of the PATHS, the Minister explained the steps to adopt in the bid to establishing the PATHS as continuing with the ICT architectural design and development, equity capital mobilisation, and obtaining the formal support of the AU and other African regional and national bodies for the initial platforms, products and services of PATHs  to be finally launched to coincide with the proposed  declaration of a Continental Free Trade Area for Africa in 2017 or whenever that agreement may be signed by African member states.

Following the Ghana Minister’s presentation to UNCTAD, the Government of Kenya, acting through its Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, immediately associated itself with the Ghanaian initiative and offered at a press conference in Nairobi to co-sponsor a resolution of support for PATHs for consideration by member states of the AU at a forthcoming summit meeting of Heads of State in 2016. The Ghana delegation to the WTO conference included two members of Parliament, the Acting High Commissioner of Ghana to Kenya, and senior officials of the Ministry of Trade and Industry based in Accra, Geneva and Brussels.

Source: peacefmonline.com

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23/Dec/2015

Kumasi Rattray Park costs KMA $4.4M

It has emerged the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly spent a whopping 4.4 million Dollars to construct the city’s modern amusement center, the Rattray Park.

The Rattray Park is named after Captain Rattray, a Scottish who was the Assistant Colonial Secretary in the Gold Coast and clerk to the Legislative Assembly of Accra in 1919.

He was a special commissioner and the colonial government anthropologist in Ashanti in 1920, who did a lot of research work on the Ashanti Kingdom and the people of the Gold Coast in a bid to help the government understand the people.

Captain Rattray is believed to be the first man to fly an aircraft (glider) to West Africa, and crash-landed at the site where the ultramodern recreational centre stands.

The Rattray Park, Kumasi City which was commissioned on June 1, 2015 by President John Dramani Mahama with the support of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has become the preferred choice for outdoor relaxation for many residents.

Believed to be the biggest and most beautiful amusement park in West Africa, it comes with an artificial lake and a restaurant. But project cost remains unknown until now with some assembly members agitating over City Mayor’s refusal to furnish them with how much the assembly has spent on it.

K.M.A Chief Executive, Kojo Bonsu, has revealed the project cost the assembly a whooping 4.4 million US Dollars.

He promised to make public details of the cost in due course after delay caused by unavoidable factors. Mr. Kojo Bonsu who made the revelations on Nhyira Fm’s ‘Kuro yi mu Nsem’ program Monday is however happy at the gains made so far with revenue realized from the project.

He says the facility is generating some revenue to support the Assemblies operations, touting it as one of the assembly’s success.

According to Mayor Bonsu, the assembly is able to make at least 17,000 cedis on some weekends from the park.

 

Meanwhile, the Assembly has also commenced the renovation of Prempeh Assembly Hall and walling of the Komfo Anokye sword site on the premises of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

He added that the Assembly is embarking on these projects with Internally Generated Funds and support from the World Bank’s Urban Development Grant
In another development, Mr. Bonsu has assured traders in the central market and various satellite markets the assembly will ensure these projects are completed in time.

Source: Nhyira Fm

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23/Dec/2015

World Trade Organization strikes 'historic' farming subsidy deal

Countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed to abolish subsidies on farming exports.

Developed countries agreed to stop the subsidies immediately and developing nations must follow by the end of 2018.

The WTO, which represents 162 countries, called it "the most significant outcome on agriculture" since the body's foundation in 1995.

But longstanding talks on other trade barriers were left unresolved at the end of the summit in Kenya.

Removing agriculture export subsidies is intended to help farmers in poorer countries to compete more fairly.

"The decision you have taken today on export competition is truly extraordinary," WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said at the closing session in Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The summit of ministers, which finished on Saturday after five days of talks, was the first to be held in Africa.

Doha deadlock

The WTO called the farming agreement "historic", while the European Commission said it would be "good for fairer trade".

"For those who had doubts, it proves the relevance of the WTO and its capacity to deliver results," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said.

Kenya's Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said the summit would be "remembered as having made that leap" from a time when the WTO was divided along a "developed and developing divide".

It follows a WTO deal in July to cut tariffs on $1.3trn (£833bn) worth of technology products.

But the body had been under pressure in Nairobi to remove other trade barriers after discussions had stalled in recent years.

The lack of progress in the ongoing Doha Round of talks, which first started in the Qatari capital in 2001, had led some countries to seek agreements among smaller groups.

Doha's goals included increased duty-free access for developing countries; lower tariffs on agricultural products, textiles and clothing; and the reduction of trade-distorting subsidies from developed countries.

The final declaration adopted in Nairobi said "many members" reaffirmed their "full commitment to conclude" the Doha Development Agenda goals.

But it added: "Other members do not reaffirm the Doha mandates, as they believe new approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes in multilateral negotiations."

Two new countries, Afghanistan and Liberia, were accepted into the WTO at the summit and will formally join in the coming weeks.

Source: bbc.com

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20/Dec/2015

US spending bill lifts 40-year ban on crude oil exports

US politicians have approved a measure to lift the 40-year ban on crude oil exports.

The move is part of a $1.1 trillion (£738bn) spending bill approved by the Senate on Friday that will fund the US government until 2016.

Oil prices rose on Friday following several weeks of falls, as the markets cope with a glut of crude.

US West Texas Crude gained 1.1% to $36.38 a barrel, while Brent rose 0.7% to $37.32 a barrel.

US oil producers will now be able to sell crude to the already saturated international market.

The bulk of US oil comes from shale producers. Production and exploration companies argued the ban - imposed during the Arab oil embargo in the mid-1970s - was outdated and unnecessary.

Opponents claimed that lifting the ban would lead to the loss of oil refining jobs and would be bad for the environment.

As a trade-off for lifting the ban, the spending bill includes tax breaks for solar and wind power and a pledge by Republicans not to block a $500m payment to the UN Green Climate Fund.

President Obama signed the bill into law on Friday.

The global glut meant that lifting the ban was not expected to lead to significant US exports for months or even years, but could give producers extra flexibility.

George Baker, head of Producers for American Crude Oil Exports, said: "Now that we have levelled the playing field, the United States finally has an opportunity to compete and realise our nation's full potential as a global energy superpower."

Tom O'Malley, executive chairman of refiner PBF Energy, claimed that lifting the ban would lead at least one oil refinery on the US east coast to close.

"This is a crazy thing to do. Once you lift it, it's hard to reverse it," he said.

Source: bbc.com

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18/Dec/2015

Sub-Saharan Africa’s commodity export gains declining – Moody’s

Despite efforts by Sub-Saharan Africa countries to diversify economies and accumulate buffers, their commodity exporters remain vulnerable to commodity price shocks, according to a Moody’s report .

“The most recent collapse in the prices of oil, copper and iron ore, amongst others, has slowed growth significantly, increased fiscal and external imbalances, and weakened currencies,” the ratings agency said in a report released December 11.

Other highlights in the report are:

In general, the region’s oil exporters have been affected more than metals and mining exporters. Among Moody’s rated SSA commodity exporters, Angola, the Republic of the Congo and Gabon have the most oil-reliant economies.

Despite diversification efforts, the region’s economies are less diversified than it was two decades ago. Export diversification and economic complexity are lower among SSA oil exporters than among peers in developing Asia or Latin America.

 Fiscal and current account balances bear the brunt of the commodity shock. In several African frontier markets, the share of foreign-currency denominated debt has risen and there has been an increase in international bond issuance. Angola, Ghana and Zambia are among the most affected countries.

Recent sovereign rating actions in SSA reflect weakening trend growth, widening twin deficits and rising uncertainty about the capacity of the governments to consolidate their finances.

Source: myjoyonline.com

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17/Dec/2015

IMF chief Lagarde to stand negligence trial in France

IMF chief Christine Lagarde is to stand trial in France for alleged negligence over a €404m ($438m; £294m); payment to a businessman in 2008.

She was finance minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government at the time of the compensation award to Bernard Tapie for the sale of a firm.

Mr Tapie supported Mr Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.

Ms Lagarde's lawyer described the court's decision as "incomprehensible", and said the IMF boss would appeal.

In a statement she said she had "always acted in this affair in the interest of the state and in respect of the law", according to AP.

Mr Tapie was once a majority shareholder in sports goods company Adidas but sold it in 1993 in order to become a cabinet minister in Francois Mitterrand's Socialist government.

He sued the Credit Lyonnais bank over its handling of the sale, alleging that the partly state-owned bank had defrauded him by deliberately undervaluing the company.

His case was later referred by Ms Lagarde to a three-member arbitration panel which awarded the compensation, causing a public outcry.

Investigators suspect he was granted a deal in return for his support of Mr Sarkozy.

Earlier this month, a French court ruled that Mr Tapie was not entitled to any compensation for that sale and should pay back the €404m with interest.

Five-day deadline

France's Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) decided that Ms Lagarde, 59, should be tried on the charge of "negligence by a person in position of public authority" over the compensation case, iTele TV channel and the Mediapart website reported on Thursday.

A court spokesman later confirmed the decision.

French media said the CJR investigation magistrates declined to follow the recommendation of another court which last year decided not to pursue the case.

"It's incomprehensible," Ms Lagarde's lawyer Yves Repiquet told iTele. "I will recommend Mrs Lagarde appeal against this decision."

A spokesman for France's attorney general said Ms Lagarde would have five days to appeal, once the court decision is made public on Friday or Monday.

Meanwhile, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said the organisation - which represents 188 member nations - "continues to express its confidence in the managing director's ability to effectively carry out her duties".

Bernard Tapie: A French saga

1993: Credit Lyonnais bank handles sale of Adidas, in which Bernard Tapie is a majority stakeholder, to enable tycoon to pursue ministerial career under then Socialist President Francois Mitterrand

1993-2007: Mr Tapie claims Credit Lyonnais undervalued Adidas and that he was cheated; lengthy court battle ensues

1994: Bernard Tapie's highly indebted group collapses and is wound up by Credit Lyonnais

2007: Mr Tapie switches support to conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in presidential election. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde intervenes in Tapie case to order binding arbitration

2008: Special judicial panel rules Mr Tapie should receive damages of €404m; Ms Lagarde decides not to challenge ruling, prompting public outcry

2011: Public prosecutor recommends judicial investigation into Ms Lagarde's decision to order arbitration

2013: Ms Lagarde is questioned by magistrate and her Paris apartment searched. Mr Tapie is placed under investigation by prosecutors investigating corruption claims

2014: French prosecutors open formal investigation of negligence into Ms Lagarde

3 December 2015: A court orders Mr Tapie to pay back €404m with interest


Ms Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF managing director in 2011.

Mr Strauss-Kahn - also a former French minister - resigned following his arrest in New York on charges of sexual assault that were later dropped.

Source: bbc.co.uk

 

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17/Dec/2015

Ghana’s Economic Growth Depends On The Private Sector- Dr Joseph Siaw Agyepong

2015 has been a prosperous year fir the Jospong Group of Companies and to show appreciation, the group held its annual thanks-giving service to thank the Lord for successes they have chalked.

The event which was held at the Group’s headquarters at Nmai Djorn in Accra brought together representatives from several other companies outside Jospong Group, including state officials.

This years’ service was on the theme: “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far”.

In an address, Dr Joseph Siaw Agyepong, Chairman of Zoomlion and Jospong Group of Companies, urged government to put the private sector on top of its priority list, to ensure sound economic growth.

To the renowned business magnate, Ghanaian entrepreneurs, if offered the needed support, would achieve tremendous success both locally and internationally.

“Our experiences have convinced us that the Ghanaian entrepreneur is capable of achieving world-class success across all sectors when adequately supported,”
Dr. Siaw Agyepong said.

He said the success of Zoomlion and Jospong Group shows that the private sector is capable of ensuring the socio-economic development of the country if given the space to operate.

He said “as Americans build America so will Ghanaians build Ghana….if we are one, with one language and one mindset, nothing we imagine will be impossible. With the right mindset, the private sector can team up to build a Better Ghana.”
Given the current economic conditions, Dr. Siaw Agyepong said it was imperative for the private sector to work towards drawing synergies in the sector for the development of the nation.

He said a healthy collaboration between the private and public sector is also imperative to the economic development process.

“It is worth mentioning at this point that we have so far enjoyed great support and cooperation from the public sector in general, especially from Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, MMDAs and other government agencies,” the chairman said.

Dr. Siaw Agyepong commended management and staff for their commitment to meeting the company’s goals.

Julius Debrah, Chief of Staff, who was the guest speaker, heaped praises on the Jospong Group of Companies for its good works in the country.

He said the thanksgiving service held by the company was appropriate, urging the management of the company to continue the annually event.

Mr Debrah commended former President Kufour for supporting Zoomlion since its inception in Ghana, urging politicians to support the private sector to grow in the country.

“We should make sure that the private sector becomes the engine of growth irrespective of the political party in power. Let’s celebrate our own and support it to grow for the good of the nation,” he said.
Joseph Siaw Agyempong said in 2016, two million waste bins would be distributed to homes in a bid to curb littering and enhance quick waste collection efforts.

The company hopes to distribute two million waste bins every year from 2016.

Source: peacefmonline.com

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16/Dec/2015

Economy Has Shrunk

For the first time in 14 years, Ghana’s economy has shrunk and growth has declined from 8.4 percent in 2009 to 4.2 percent currently, Prof Gyan-Baffour, Member of Parliament (MP) for Wenchi has indicated.

He disclosed this on the floor of Parliament during a debate on the 2016 Budget.

Prof Gyan-Baffour said such negative growth in the wake of oil resources had significantly affected the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income.

“Mr Speaker, according to the Bank of Ghana data on page 213 of this budget, the economy is shrinking. The GDP was $39.517 billion in 2011; it went up to $41.459 billion in 2012 and $48.678 billion in 2013 and has since started falling to $38.775 billion in 2014 and further down to $36.068 billion in 2015,” he emphasised.

He also pointed out that with an increased population and shrinking GDP, the per capita income has reduced from $1,884 in 2013 to $1,346 in 2015, stressing that the budget’s theme of ‘Consolidating Progress towards brighter medium term’ should change to ‘Consolidating mediocrity and incompetence.”

He said government has mastered the art of borrowing such that the country’s total debt has ballooned from GH¢9.5 billion to GH¢93 billion in seven years with most of the borrowed money going into consumption instead of investment as indicated by the IMF.

The MP said industries had suffered greatly under this government, especially in the wake of the current power crisis.

“Mr Speaker, positively transforming the economy will mean adding value to our raw materials that is converting bauxite into aluminum, gold into trinklets, producing more chocolate from cocoa and the rest.”

He also added that government could also increase the fiscal space by revisiting the Oil Revenue Management Act and re-organizing EDAIF into a commercially viable bank to support manufacturing and export.

Source: Daily Guide

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16/Dec/2015

Facebook amends 'real name' policy after protests

After passionate and at times angry pleas from various vulnerable communities, Facebook has announced it is to amend its controversial "real name" policy.

On Tuesday the site said it was to test new tools that allowed people to share any special circumstances they felt meant they could not use their real name.

The tool is intended to help people who may have suffered domestic abuse, or in cases where their sexuality could put them in danger.

However, Facebook stood firm on insisting people use "real names" in all but the most unusual situations.

"We require people to use the name their friends and family know them by," the company said.

"When people use the names they are known by, their actions and words carry more weight because they are more accountable for what they say.

"We're firmly committed to this policy, and it is not changing.

"However, after hearing feedback from our community, we recognise that it's also important that this policy works for everyone, especially for communities who are marginalised or face discrimination."

Intense pressure

The company is also adding a new tool for reporting fake names, requiring anyone who is reporting another user to provide more context for their complaint.

Facebook said it received hundreds of thousands of reports of fake names every week.

"In the past, people were able to simply report a 'fake name' but now they will be required to go through several new steps that provide us more specifics about the report," the company said.

"This additional context will help our review teams better understand why someone is reporting a name, giving them more information about a specific situation."

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was criticised for his remarks on the policy

The social network had faced intense pressure from rights groups over its hard-line stance on real names.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg was heavily criticised after he suggested that people that use two names, or have an alias, showed a "lack of integrity".

Drag queens

Last year, prominent drag queens in San Francisco had their Facebook accounts deleted as they were deemed to be violating the real name policy.

After considerable uproar, including a planned protest outside Facebook's headquarters, the company acknowledged that it had been a mistake to delete the accounts, but said it faced a challenge in verifying people on the network.

It argued that insisting on real names played a role in preventing bad actors on the site and had made people more accountable for what they posted.

"The stories of mass impersonation, trolling, domestic abuse, and higher rates of bullying and intolerance are oftentimes the result of people hiding behind fake names, and it's both terrifying and sad," the site said.

"Our ability to successfully protect against them with this policy has borne out the reality that this policy, on balance, and when applied carefully, is a very powerful force for good."

A group of civil liberties organisations and rights groups formed the Nameless Coalition which has been leaning on Facebook to change its policies.

The new tools announced on Tuesday fall short of the group's complete suggestions, but representatives from Facebook met members of the Nameless Coalition at a public event in San Francisco.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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16/Dec/2015

Petroleum Commission confident bridging skills gap in oil and gas industry

The Petroleum Commission is confident the launched Ghana Upstream Sector Internship Program (GUSIP) would help bridge the skills gap in the oil and gas industry to the benefit of the economy.

Many industry players have expressed concerns about the lack of personnel with the requisite technical skills set for the development of the industry.

Human Capital Manager for the Petroleum Commission Edward Appiah-Brafo explains to JOY BUSINESS the Internship Program should boost job-creation opportunities in the sector.

According to him, the commission also has some concerns regarding number of people taking management courses and said “it is infact a big concern for the commission and the commission has stepped up its communication efforts in educating Ghanaians that the alacrity with which they go and pursue oil and gas management courses or anything management with oil and gas attached to it is not the antidote to the shortage of skills in the industry.”

Mr. Appiah-Brafo spoke with JOY BUSINESS at the maiden application assessment of candidates for the Ghana Upstream Sector Internship Program where about 200 successful graduates are to be selected for internship in the upstream oil and gas sector after the assessment.

To emphasise his point that the industry needs a lot more technical personnel as opposed to those with management backgrounds, he indicated that “the people that are here are not writing for management positions. They are writing for technical and entry level positions like supply chain, procurement, logistics, petroleum engineering, geoscience, oil and gas accounting, etc. and these are all at the entry level.”

About 200 successful candidates would be given first-hand training in oil companies in the country and beef up their training and capacity building efforts. The programme is aimed at creating and boosting employment opportunities in the oil and gas sector.
Source: myjoyonline.com

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16/Dec/2015

Ghana Revenue Authority launches New Income Tax law

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has launched a new income tax law to replace the Internal Revenue Act.

The implementation of the new tax, Act 896, 2015, would take effect from January 2016 and would seek to address the narrow and distorted tax base of the old Act.

Mr George Blankson, Director-General of the GRA, said sensitisation and education programmes would be carried out after the launch to enhance public understanding of the Act.

He explained that the integration of the revenue agencies in 2010 necessitated the need for the harmonisation of administrative and new tax laws.

“The Income Tax Act is therefore part of the process of the reorganisation of the tax laws known as the tax law projects,” he said.

While some provisions in the old Act were maintained in the new law, other sections have been modified and new provisions introduced to make compliance easy for taxpayers.

In the new act, specific provisions that guide the different methods and time for payment, including tax payable by withholding, tax payable by instalment and tax payable by assessment have been spelt out to improve and facilitate tax compliance.

Mrs Mona Quartey, Deputy Minister of Finance who launched the new income Tax law said it is complex and user-unfriendly, necessitating the need to replace it with a new Act, which encapsulates international best practices.

“The new act has reorganised the residual provisions in Act 592, simplified it and made it user-friendly, while retaining provisions that are peculiar to income tax administration,” she said.

Mr Quartey said the growth in the business environment calls for a tax administration that is abreast of changing trends.

The acting Deputy Commissioner of the Policy and Programme Unit of the Domestic Tax and Revenue Division of the GRA, Mr Edward Gyamerah, said provisions have been made for income tax exemptions.

“As part of the policy to broaden the tax base; interest paid to an individual is excluded from income that is exempted from tax. This is taxed at a concessionary rate of one per cent as a final tax,” he said.

Pension, he indicated is now included as an exempt income.

A Board Member of the GRA, Mr Ralph Tufour, said Ghanaians must attach urgency to taxation and urged potential and regular income earners to fulfil their tax obligations.
 
 
 
 
Source: Peacefmonline.com
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15/Dec/2015

Disturbances delay commercial salt refining in Volta Region

Mr Mahendra Nuthalapatin, Managing Director of Kensington Industries Limited, has lamented about delays in commencing commercial salt refining by his Company in the Kpedzakope-Adina salt enclave in the Volta region, due to problems with the local people.

The latest problem took place on Wednesday December 2, during which a group of people torched the company’s excavator and tipper truck, accusing the company of destroying their heaps of salt and salt winning areas

The Company has ceded 300 metres each of its concession to the people of Kpedzakope and Adina, but the people of Kpedzakope say they need a bigger area because salt winning is their mainstay.

The Company, with 7,000 hectares salt concession in the Kpedzakope and Adina salt enclave in the Volta Region, has its 200 metric tons a day capacity refinery to produce food grade salt for export and domestic markets   standing idle.

“For two years the huge potential of the refinery has been idle, Mr Nathalapatin told a meeting of the Volta Regional Security Council (REGSEC) whose members led by Helen Adjoa Ntoso, Regional Minister, were at Kpedzakope following the latest skirmishes.

A total of 15 people were said to have been arrested in connection with the disturbances in which the Keta Divisional Police Commander was said to have narrowly escaped being killed but with a head injury.

The Company was said to have lost six of the 15 years for which it was to operate the concession.

The REGSEC meeting with management of the company was to assure them of the commitment to create a peaceful atmosphere for the company to operate in.

“We are bringing foreign direct investment and 500 direct employment opportunities including a transport Company,” Mr Nathalapatin said.     

He said the Company which was operating in Nigeria and several African countries, was attracted to Ghana because of the peaceful atmosphere and the immeasurable potentials for commercial salt production.

“We want to do peaceful business, and not fight the people,” Mr Nathalapatin said.

He said some African countries, including Ivory Coast, were ready to provide a competitive atmosphere for the Company to operate in.

Mr Nathalapatin said Nigeria provided a huge market for Ghana’s salt.

“As Dankote brings cement to Ghana so we also take salt to Nigeria,” where he said local production of food grade salt could meet only half of the demand which had to be made up with imports.

He said his company planned to build a jetty from where salt could be shipped to Nigeria.

Mr Nathalapatin took the REGSEC members round its refinery and machines, and assured them that the Company would co-operate with and transform the lives of people in the area.

Ms Ntoso assured the Company of the government’s commitment to create a peaceful atmosphere for the Company to operate in.

Addressing the people of Kpedzakope, she said the government would be tough on rising violent tendencies in the Ketu South Municipality.

Ms Ntoso said the Volta Region had been craving for foreign direct investments, and must therefore,   encourage rather than frustrate investors who had decided to locate in the region.

She, therefore, advised communities in the enclave to use dialogue and lawful means in resolving their differences with the only investor in the area.

Source: myjoyonline.com

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15/Dec/2015

Be part of the governance process of our oil resource

Natural resources are neither manufactured in the laboratory or grown on some specialized soil(s). If there is, then it will not qualify as a Natural Resource. The struggle to obtain natural resource is Global.

This is because of the value it has and it’s ability to transform the socio economic aspiration of most countries. But in the quest to make the most out of our resources, we the citizens together with all stakeholders must play our role diligently.

Oil is one of Ghana’s natural resources that must be better governed. We all need to be part of the governance process to ensure our oil changes our lives and generations to come.

The question is, how do we get involved? You and I may not be in positions to directly oversee to the optimum utilization of our oil money. But one thing is for sure. Our collective oversight and advocacy is a necessary platform to enhance the future transparency and accountability we seek in our oil governance.

Civil Society participation at different level in shaping frameworks and policies of specific industries are usually as a result of available information and how it impacts on society.   

Do you want to know where our oil money comes from? And do you want to know where it is spent?

Visit the most comprehensive premier data website www.ouroilmoney.org; which gives an in depth information on oil receipts, revenues, contracts, proposals and reports from 2011 to date.

The website www.ouroilmoney.org, is interactive, gives a quick feedback, shares views with users and provides data from sources such as Ministry of Finance, Bank of Ghana, PIAC and other Governmental Institutions.

Ouroilmoney.org is an initiative of Africa Centre for Energy Policy and Supported by UKaid.

Ghana's oil is our oil, don’t sit on the fence. Let’s get interactive on www.ouroilmoney.org.
 

Source: myjoyonline.com

Natural resources are neither manufactured in the laboratory or grown on some specialized soil(s). If there is, then it will not qualify as a Natural Resource. The struggle to obtain natural resource is Global.

This is because of the value it has and it’s ability to transform the socio economic aspiration of most countries. But in the quest to make the most out of our resources, we the citizens together with all stakeholders must play our role diligently.

Oil is one of Ghana’s natural resources that must be better governed. We all need to be part of the governance process to ensure our oil changes our lives and generations to come.

The question is, how do we get involved? You and I may not be in positions to directly oversee to the optimum utilization of our oil money. But one thing is for sure. Our collective oversight and advocacy is a necessary platform to enhance the future transparency and accountability we seek in our oil governance.

Civil Society participation at different level in shaping frameworks and policies of specific industries are usually as a result of available information and how it impacts on society.   

Do you want to know where our oil money comes from? And do you want to know where it is spent?

Visit the most comprehensive premier data website www.ouroilmoney.org; which gives an in depth information on oil receipts, revenues, contracts, proposals and reports from 2011 to date.

The website www.ouroilmoney.org, is interactive, gives a quick feedback, shares views with users and provides data from sources such as Ministry of Finance, Bank of Ghana, PIAC and other Governmental Institutions.

Ouroilmoney.org is an initiative of Africa Centre for Energy Policy and Supported by UKaid.

Ghana's oil is our oil, don’t sit on the fence. Let’s get interactive on www.ouroilmoney.org.

- See more at: http://myjoyonline.com/opinion/2015/December-15th/be-part-of-the-governance-process-of-our-oil-resource.php#sthash.hLHBmXSc.dpuf
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15/Dec/2015

South Africa's Pravin Gordhan named third finance minister in week

South Africa's president has appointed the experienced Pravin Gordhan as his third finance minister within a week.

He replaces the little-known David van Rooyen who had only been in the job since Thursday.

Last week, President Jacob Zuma sacked previous Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in a widely-criticised move that sent the rand to record lows and caused the stock market to tumble.

The developments come amid concern over South Africa's struggling economy.

Mr Gordhan was widely respected when he served as South Africa's finance minister from 2009 until 2014.

BBC Africa business reporter Lerato Mbele says his re-appointment is designed to quell market discontent and restore some confidence.

It appeared to have an immediate effect with the currency rising, recovering from just over 16 rand to the dollar to about 15 by Monday morning, according to currency site xe.com.

The Johannesburg stock exchange also recovered some of last week's losses.
Who is Pravin Gordhan?

    Trained and worked as a pharmacist in Durban
    One of the main negotiators in the drafting of South Africa's democratic constitution from 1991-1994
    Ran South Africa's revenue service from 1999-2009
    Served as finance minister from 2009-2014
    Re-appointed finance minister in 2015

But the new finance minister has a hard job with unemployment currently above 25%, growth sluggish and credit rating agency Fitch recently downgrading South Africa to one notch above "junk" status.

The brief tenure of Mr van Rooyen and the uncertainty it caused may have damaged South Africa's reputation further, analysts say.

Mohammed Nalla, head of research at Nedbank Capital, said having a finance minister serve just a few days did not bode well.

"International investors are probably thinking: 'Why didn't the president make a much more considered decision in the first place?'" he said.

President Jacob Zuma's decision to fire two finance ministers in the space of a week has been a colossal blunder.

Not only has it been recognised by opposition parties, who are calling for his resignation, but also by the general public, the financial markets and, by the weekend, the president himself, hence the change in mind.

But what is happening with the governing African National Congress?

The ANC leadership was not consulted and seemed to be hearing about the dramatic appointments at the same time as the rest of us.

There is no doubt that the continent's oldest liberation movement is in disarray.

President Zuma will emerge weaker but the party will not lose votes in the medium term - as people remain loyal to the movement if not the individual.

Mr Nene's reluctance to approve a plan to build several nuclear power stations at a cost of up to $100bn is thought to have contributed to his removal as finance minister.

But President Zuma's move to get rid of him drew a lot of criticism from within the governing ANC.

Former Health Minister Barbara Hogan on Friday called on Mr Zuma to resign. The highest-profile ANC member to oppose Mr Nene's removal, she said that the president had crossed a line and needed to be held to account.

Razia Khan, an analyst with Standard Chartered bank, said the turmoil was "perhaps the first instance since 2007 that Zuma has come under severe pressure within the party".

A statement from Mr Zuma's office said he had "received many representations" to reconsider his decision to appoint Mr van Rooyen.

"As a democratic government, we emphasise the importance of listening to the people and to respond to their views," it added.

Fitch said on Thursday that Mr Nene's sacking "raised more negative than positive questions".

 

Source: bbc.co.uk

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14/Dec/2015

Volkswagen admits 'chain of errors'

The chairman of embattled carmaker Volkswagen says a chain of errors led to the emissions scandal and that its top priority is winning back trust.

Speaking at a news conference, Hans Dieter Poetsch said: "We are talking here not about a one-off mistake but a chain of errors."

He said VW would be "relentless in seeking to establish who was responsible" for the scandal.

VW's chief executive said it was "fighting for every customer".

But Matthias Mueller said a massive slump in sales had not occurred in the wake of the scandal.

In September, US regulators found some VW diesel cars had a "defeat device" - or software - to cheat emissions tests.

The company said the problem began when it decided to launch a large-scale promotion of diesel vehicles in the US in 2005, but found it impossible to meet strict emissions limits in force in that country in time.

VW said it had agreed steps to improve supervision of engine software development to prevent future manipulation.

Mr Mueller said it was relatively simple and inexpensive to fix the millions of affected cars, but this had not been possible before, as the technology for the fixes was not available when the cars were built. In any case, the company was unaware at the time that there was a problem.

Volkswagen will in future undertake "real-life" tests, which will be checked by both internal and external third parties.


'Good progress'

Mr Poetsch said: "No business justifies crossing legal and ethical boundaries."

He said it was likely that only a limited number of people took part in the deception and said they would not be named as yet, adding that it was impossible to stop misconduct by individuals.

However, he added that the actions taken by the company would make such actions that much more difficult in future.

US law firm Jones Day is conducting an investigation into what happened. That, Mr Poetsch said, was making good progress, but would take some time to conclude.

The cheat device affects up to 11 million cars worldwide.

The damage to VW prompted its chief executive to resign and wiped billions off the company's value on the stock markets.

Shares in VW closed down 0.3% at €139.10 in Frankfurt on Thursday.


Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35060201

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10/Dec/2015

Africa's business tycoons highly corrupt, Transparency says

Business executives are the most corrupt group in Africa after police officers, a new survey indicates.

This is the first time its annual survey ranked businessmen as highly corrupt, Transparency International said.

Abuses of power increase poverty and deprive people of basic needs, the anti-corruption watchdog warned.

Poor people were hardest hit as they were almost twice as likely to pay a bribe compared with the more affluent.

More than people 43,000 were interviewed in 28 states in sub-Saharan Africa for the People and Corruption: African Survey 2015.

 

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34974328

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02/Dec/2015

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to give away 99% of shares

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan say they will give away 99% of their shares in the company to good causes as they announce the birth of their daughter Max.

Mr Zuckerberg made the announcement in a letter to Max on his Facebook page.

He said they were donating their fortune to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to make the world a better place for Max to grow up in.

The donation amounts to $45bn (£30bn) at Facebook's current value.

However the shares will not be donated to charity immediately, but over the course of the couple's lives.

Were Mr Zuckerberg to give away 99% of his shares immediately, he would still possess hundreds of millions of dollars. Ms Chan's worth has not been documented.

Max was born last week, although her birth was only made public on Tuesday.

In his letter Mr Zuckerberg said the aim of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is "to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation".

Its initial areas of focus will be personalised learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.

 

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34978249

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02/Dec/2015

Four telcos go head-to-head for 800MHz spectrum today

All is set for the auction of the 800MHz spectrum band for 4G LTE  as the four bidders ready themselves to battle for the licence between today, Wednesday December 2 and 6.

The winner of the bid would be announced on December 7.

The four companies are running for a pair of 2x10MHz spectrum blocks within the 800MHz band, which has become available for broadband telecom services because of the global migration from analogue to digital television systems.

The four bidders are Ghanaian companies Surfline Communications, Goldkey Telecoms and Migson Communications, and South African telecoms giant, MTN Ghana (Scancom Ghana Limited).

They have all paid their non-refundable GHC200, 000 registration fees and the initial deposit of US$6.75 million each, which is 10 per cent of the US$67.5 million floor price of each of the two spectra blocks.

The highest bidder will win at the end of the day, and that company gets to pay the difference between the winner price and the 10 per cent initial deposit in 60 days. But the losers will be given back the 10 per cent deposit they made.

The four bidders have also completed engagements and an orientation process with the selected auctioneer, KPGM, how has assured to deliver a transparent, objective and professional exercise.

Indeed, KPMG has brought in some of its expert international staff to ensure the highest quality of professionalism in the auction process.

Background

This process started way back May 14, 2015, when the telecoms regulator, National Communications Authority called for public consultation prior to announcing the dates of the actual auction.

The public consultation process ended on June 11, 2015, by which time nine entities had put in their comments, contributions and concerns about the process.

The nine were MTN Ghana, Airtel Ghana, Vodafone Ghana, Tigo Ghana, Ghana Telecoms Chamber, Qualcomm International Incorporated, GSM Association, Ing. Dr. Adam Icarus Imoro and team made up of Surfline Communications, Goldkey Telecoms, Blu Telecoms and Broadband Home.

They each raised issues that led to some adjustments in the initial proposal by the NCA regarding the spectra auction. For instance, the initial floor price was $92 million plus, but it was reduced to $67.5 million based on respondents request for a reduction.

The deadline for the submission of bids was set at November 9, 2015 and by the close of that date only four had paid the mandatory non-refundable GHC200,000.

ICT Chamber

But after this rather long process, there emerged the Ghana ICT Chamber allegedly comprising of a 10-member Ghanaian consortium seeking to quash the open auction and offering to pay the $83 million required for the digital migration in Ghana, in exchange for the entire 800MHz spectrum.

Interestingly, the ICT Chamber included Surfline and Goldkey, who already have a Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licenses in the 2600MHz band for 4G LTE services; and the two are also in the run for the 800MHz band.

In their submissions, the ICT Chamber directly attacked MTN Ghana's involvement in the open auction simply because MTN is a South Africa company. They insisted that Ghana's most priced asset cannot be given to a South African company so it must be indigenized.

They also sought for protection against the entry of the six 3G telcos into the 4G space, insisting that the locally-owned 4G players need more time to "recoup their $200 million investment and make a handsome profit".

NCA

But the NCA has explained that it had already taken care of local content in the telecom industry by awarding the first three blocks of the 2600MHz spectra strictly to local companies Surfline, Blu and Goldkey.

Moreover, winners of the new 800MHz spectrum would also be required to offload at least 35 per cent shares to Ghanaians.

MTN

MTN, which was attacked directly by the ICT Chamber, has also said that Ghanaians need to be given the chance to enjoy affordable and easily accessible 4G service before the technology becomes obsolete.

The company believes, with its 15 million customers and counting, it is in the best position to make this happen on a faster scale than any industry player.

It has therefore expressed the commitment and its readiness to deploy 4G LTE within six months after it gets access to the spectrum.

MTN Ghana CEO, Ebenezer Twum Asante said "we are ready, our equipment are ready, our expert staff are ready and our customers are ready with the 4G compliant devices waiting for us to rollout the service, and we can't wait any longer."

When the 800MHz spectrum is deployed on a larger scale, it will help to improve the performance of 3G networks and also provide 4G access to many more Ghanaians at affordable rates. It will also enable the rollout of more innovative products and services like mobile health, mobile agriculture, mobile education and more.
 

Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/business/2015/December-2nd/four-telcos-go-head-to-head-in-800mhz-spectrum-auction-today.php

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02/Dec/2015

ACEP predicts bleak future for Ghana’s oil industry

Think tank, African Center for Energy Policy, has forecasted a bleak future for Ghana’s oil industry due to what he says is refusal by companies granted production licences to explore for more oil.

ACEP Executive Director, Dr. Amin Adam, says the situation has arisen because there is an absence of proper due diligence on the companies’ capacity to explore oil before they are awarded licences.

Although Ghana is in its fifth year of oil production, Dr Amin Adam says the country may soon witness a decline in production unless companies with strong capacity are engaged to explore.

“When it comes to contract we still have very serious issues relating to how companies are evaluated. We have issues relating to open and competitive bidding process which other countries are using but we are not using," Dr Amin Adam said.

He has urged Parliament to push for full contract disclosure by government agencies that award exploration licences.

Dr. Amin Adam was speaking to Joy News on the sidelines of an international oil and gas training programme for journalist.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fears it may lose its highly trained staff to oil production companies operating in the country.

Although the EPA lacks adequate human resource to fully monitor activities of oil companies especially on the FPSO, the company says it is losing key staff multinational companies who offer better job opportunities.

EPA’s Deputy Director in charge of oil and gas, Kojo Agbenor Efunam, told Joy News the agency is under constant pressure to find ways to keep its staff.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Amin Adams said the problem at EPA must not be taken lightly.
 

Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2015/December-2nd/acep-predicts-bleak-future-for-ghanas-oil-industry.php

 

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02/Dec/2015

Zambian businesses pummelled by power cuts

During an afternoon power cut in the Lusaka township of Bauleni, 52-year-old Stanford Mwanza does what work he can in his carpentry workshop by varnishing a wardrobe.
Among Bauleni's 15,000 residents little stirs on streets full of normally active welders, mechanics and tyre menders during business hours, as workers wait for power to return.
Elsewhere across the Zambian capital of 1.4 million, and throughout this hydroelectric-dependent country, businesses are suffering after an erratic rainy season from last October to March this year left reservoir water levels too low, resulting in load shedding - or planned power-cuts - lasting eight to 14 hours a day.
Not everyone, however, accepts the government's blaming of rains for the energy crisis that began shortly afterwards, but has worsened since August. Everyone agrees on the outcome, though.
"It is a hell of a problem," Mr Mwanza says. "The power went at 10 this morning and now we just have to wait. Normally it takes me three weeks to finish a wardrobe but this one has taken two months."
Poor rains
Zambia had one of Africa's fastest growing economies - expanding on average 7% annually over the past five years - driven by mining of its huge copper and cobalt reserves.

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29/Nov/2015

Local businesses must exploit Instant Messaging to build their brands

It’s about time local businesses took advantage of the growing use of Instant Messaging (IM) to promote and build their brands.
Instant messaging involves real time exchange of text messages between individuals through a software application over the Internet.  The popularity of IM has soared over the past year, with a 12 percentage point uplift in daily usage as more Ghanaians opt for closed messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber. In Ghana, daily instant messaging has seen impressive growth, from 74% of Ghanaian internet users, to 86% in 2015.
Globally, over half of internet users (55%) are now using instant messaging every day, while three quarters are using it on a weekly basis, according to Connected Life, a study of over 60,000 internet users worldwide from global research consultancy TNS.
According to Adewale Obaseki, the Managing Director of leading Marketing Research firm,              TNS RMS, IM offers significant opportunities for brands that successfully move to a content model. He said this when he delivered a lecture on the topic –Integrated Marketing Strategy in a digital world - organized by the Chartered Institute of Marketing – CIMG as part of its monthly series.
“Digital has come to stay, there has been more innovations in this in the last ten years than in the last seventy years and for Ghana we need to move to digital because our consumers are also changing their habits on a daily basis as well as their technology habits. Thus as marketers reaching them, it is actually important and the platform to reach them is digital.
“You need to understand your consumer and your target group. If your target group are the younger generation, they probably do not watch television as much as we do and so reaching them through digital is probably your only option. Now we have the average young digital user putting on his ear-piece  and then playing with his mobile all-day and so now companies whose targets are these consumers really need to connect with them through digital” he said.
Instant Messaging is particularly dominant in emerging ‘mobile-first’ markets, with daily usage rising even higher in markets such as Ghana, South Africa, China, Brazil, and Malaysia. By contrast, some Western markets are lagging behind in daily IM usage, including the UK and the US.
Despite this, social networking platforms are still rising in popularity on a global level with a 6% uplift in daily usage. Facebook has maintained its position as the world’s favourite social platform; almost one third of global internet users say they use it every day. In Ghana, however, daily usage of Facebook has plateaued, with a slight decrease in daily usage (from 66% in 2014 to 63% in 2015). Instagram and Twitter, however, have seen dramatic growth in Ghana over the past year, as social media behaviour starts to fragment over an increased number of social networking platforms.
This data shows that consumers are even more connected to each other, and across multiple platforms. While IM popularity is rising, traditional social media platforms are still holding strong, allowing content to go viral more quickly. The challenge for brands is to create content that consumers actually want to share.
Mr. Obaseki added “The mobile-centric nature of African markets presents enormous opportunity for marketers. Connected Ghanaians spend an average of over three hours per day on social platforms, with WhatsApp and Facebook the dominant platforms, but with newer platforms such as Instagram seeing rapid growth in popularity. The constantly connected status of digital users, and their appetite for relevant, engaging branded content is fertile ground for marketers to make a meaningful connection with their consumers”.
 Joseph Webb, Global Director of Connected Life, also noted “Apps like Snapchat, and WhatsApp are sweeping up new users every day, particularly amongst younger consumers who want to share experiences with a smaller, specific group, rather than using public, mainstream platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
“As people’s online habits become ever more fragmented, brands need to tap into the growing popularity of IM and other emerging platforms. The need for a content-driven approach across IM, social and traditional channels has never been clearer. Yet at the same time brands need to be very careful. Instant messaging is a more closed medium, meaning it is essential to share limited content that is genuinely relevant and valuable”
- Source:http://www.myjoyonline.com/business/2015/november-27th/local-businesses-must-exploit-instant-messaging-to-build-their-brands.php

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29/Nov/2015

'As We Await Karpower Barge'

As Ghana welcomes the highly anticipated 225MW Karpower barge, a lot of Ghanaians have expressed their thoughts, pleasures and displeasures relating to its adoption and use in Ghana per our recurrent energy crisis.

Apart from the fact that power barge is not a sustainable answer to Ghana’s current energy crisis, it is need for us to know some operational history of the Karpower.
 
To start with, the key operational challenge of the Karpower barge has being the fuel quality. This is one of its main setback in the history of its operations in other countries.  

In April 2013, the Fatmagul Sultan, the electricity-generating barge stationed off the Lebanese coast, stopped producing electricity for over a month, yet Karpower had to demand 8 million dollars of back pay from the Lebanese state for this downtime.  

Interestingly, the Karadeniz Company, maintained that reason behind the stoppage was low-quality fuel. This same clause of paying for non-performance is found in Ghana’s contractual agreement with Karpower.   

Since the key challenge for Karpower’s continuous operation is the quality of fuel, the question then is between Karpower and Ghana, who is responsible for the fuel standards according to the contract agreement?

If Ghana is responsible for the supply of the Fuel, do we have the adequate fuel specification or standards for the Power barge not to breakdown?

Again, it is imperative that such key issues are resolved timely within contractual frameworks between the Ghana and the Karadeniz Company, since this has been one of the reasons for the power barge’s breakdown in some other countries previously.

Despite the fact that the $700million USD to be spent on this Karpower could have been used to build a 450MW solar power plant which equally could have supported our peak load demands, it is still need that we have value for money for this Karpower project.  

In concluding, let me re-emphasize the need for Ghana to pay attention to the mistakes others have made concerning their agreement on this power barge so Ghanaians do not suffer its ramifications.
 
 
 
 
Source:http://business.peacefmonline.com/pages/economy/201511/262211.php

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29/Nov/2015

Tonaton.com Launches Two New Services

Tonaton.com, Ghana's largest marketplace, has launched two new services to enable it meet the dynamic needs of its customers.

The two services, launched on Thursday 19th November, 2015, are Tonaton Delivers, a safe and efficient delivery service for Tonaton.com users to get the products they buy to be delivered to their front door and Tonaton Memberships, a value-added service to help businesses extend their footprints to increase their sales.

Speaking to the press, Managing Director of Tonaton.com, Sandra Abrokwa Owusu-Kyerematen said,Tonaton Deliversis focused on building confidence and trust of online marketplaces in Ghana.

“Quality of service and goods is one aspect we do not compromise on Tonaton.com. It is important to us that, our customers are pleased with the products they receive from their orders and that it also matches   exactly with what they viewed on the website and were expecting,” Sandra said. “As the online market industry still evolves in Ghana, it is important to us that customer trust is established and maintained, this can only be achieved by adding more valued services to our existing ones. The Tonaton Delivers service we are offering now clearly sets us apart from competition,” she added.

The pay-on-delivery service, the first for any e-marketplace in Ghana, will strive to eliminate certain burdens off both buyers and sellers.

“We are always looking to innovate on behalf of our customers and find ways to save them time and money. With Tonaton Delivers, we're relieving buyers and sellers of the inconvenience of traffic and the physical distance that exists between them. This is just another example of the value that Tonaton.com strives to provide its users,” Sandra added.

The service, being offered in Tema and Accra, is expected to be expanded to other areas in the coming weeks. With charges of GHs10 for Accra and GHs15 for Tema, Frederick Owusu, Head of Business Development and Category Management of Tonaton.com added that users of this service will see the value in time saved, not to mention the relief.

“This delivery service is a great service for people who are busy and don’t want to take the time to drive or meet buyers.  This represents the fastest, cheapest and most convenient way for customers to purchase items online.” he said.

How Tonaton Delivers Works
Once a seller posts a product ad on Tonaton.com and a buyer decides to purchase the item, the seller can book delivery by calling Tonaton Delivers. Tonaton Delivers will then pick up the item from the seller and deliver it to the buyer. After the buyer has inspected the item and shown satisfaction, they will proceed to pay Tonaton Delivers for the item.

Depending on the contentment of the buyer, Tonaton Delivers settles seller or returns unsold item to seller. Tonaton Delivers, “Fast, safe & convenient deliveries to you!” Call 0501509132 now.

The other service, Tonaton.com Memberships a value-added service to help businesses extend their footprint to increase their sales. The service comes with unmatched additional benefits for business ad posters depending the package subscribed on such as, a page dedicated entirely to one’s business- microsite, free featured listings, free customized shop stickers, free professional product photos, heavy discounts on banner advertising and free deliveries from Tonaton Delivers.

Speaking to the media, Frederick Fiifii Owusu, Head of Business Development and Category Management of Tonaton.com, said Tonaton.com Memberships comes in two packages. "The first package is "Business Unlimited", where users have full benefits and no limits on ads they can post on the site in a month. The second, "Business Plus", where users have the opportunity to tell the world about their business and products with limited ads."

Tonaton.com, Ghana’s largest market place looks forward to helping businesses grow as well making transactions easier and faster on the site through their initiatives

source:http://business.peacefmonline.com/pages/news/201511/261993.php

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29/Nov/2015