ASB Securities Morning Brief for Friday, 11 April 2014
Friday, 11 April 2014

New Zealand Headlines

New Zealand Market Report: New Zealand stocks rose in a broad-based rally. Xero extended its gains, leading the benchmark index higher, while investors also returned to companies offering reasonable dividends, such as Telecom and property trusts.The NZX 50 Index rose 48.082 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5115.489. Within the index, 31 stocks rose, nine fell and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $137 million... Read more

The New Zealand dollar held near the three-year high it charted after the Federal Reserve signalled US interest rates will remain at a record low for longer, driving down the greenback.The kiwi traded at 87.17 US cents at 5pm in Wellington, having gained to as high as 87.25 US cents at the start of the day after the Fed minutes were released, and from 87.01 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index edged lower to 80.73 from 80.83 yesterday... Read more

NZ manufacturing grows for 19th month, employment surges to 7-year high... Read more

Middle-sized businesses are sharing the rock-star economy's benefits, enjoying big growth and taking an increasingly rosy view of their future.Angela Hunter, managing director of GE Capital which today released the 38-page New Zealand Mid-Market Report 2014, said middle-sized firms were only 6.6 per cent of national businesses yet they accounted for 27.8 per cent of total sales and almost a third of employment opportunities.In 2012, the mid-market sector contributed $66.2 billion to the nation's economy, up from $61.5 billion in 2011 and $60.1 billion in 2010."New Zealand's mid-market sector makes a significant contribution to our country's economy, yet as a sector it is often overlooked," she said... Read more

Economist has his doubts about soaring confidence. A recent spate of surveys shows New Zealand business confidence soaring but one leading economist says real economic activity remains to be seen.Two separate surveys released today reinforce the sentiment that New Zealand businesses are feeling bullish about the year ahead... Read more

New Zealanders spend about 14 per cent of their household income on food at home - higher than many developed countries, with United States householders only spending half that amount.The Kiwi spend per person is the fifth highest in the world.Switzerland, Norway and Japan, in order, take the first three positions, followed by Australia and then New Zealand.The first three affluent countries have the highest level of farm subsidies and support for food production and their cost of food is high... Read more

Region's average house-sale price reaches a record $697,454. First-home buyers may be squeezed out but property prices in Auckland remain high as one agency reports record average sale prices.March residential data from Harcourts for Auckland and Northland shows its average sales price now sits at a record high of $697,454.That is up 12 per cent on the same time last year and 9 per cent on February's figures... Read more

New Zealand timber companies, who have closed more than 40 sawmills in the past decade, are likely to face more pain as plants tied to the export trade face lower-cost Chinese mills, rising competition and a high kiwi dollar shrinking margins.Sawmills supplying timber to the New Zealand market, including Graeme Hart's Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts (NZ) and the Verry family's Red Stag Timber are benefiting from a revival in housing construction in Auckland and Christchurch but the outlook for exporters remains shaky, according to Rotorua-based forestry consultancy DANA... Read more

Government to undertake Northland growth study. A new programme aims to increase investment, employment and incomes in the Northland region.The Government will work alongside regional stakeholders such as the local and regional councils and the economic development agency to deliver a broad study of the region's economic potential."Regions across New Zealand have been leading our recovery out of the GFC," Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says."The findings will inform work by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to attract investment into the region to support development and ultimately to provide employment."... Read more

Fate of KiwiSaver balances in a bankruptcy unclear. Chapman Tripp highlight the problems KiwiSaver members have if they become bankrupt, and recently muddied by a High Court ruling... Read more

BurgerFuel takes a bigger bite. It's a long way from Ponsonby Rd to Cairo, but the New Zealand fast-food chain reckons it can go further yet - to 1000 new outlets in eight years... Read more

A New Zealand consultancy firm has found a lucrative niche taking Kiwi intellectual property to the Middle East.Wellington-based Maven won its first contract in the region last year, leading a consortium of local education providers on a 12-month review of Oman's primary and secondary education systems.The firm has an office in Muscat, Oman's capital, and services the Persian Gulf from there... Read more

Warehouse Group, New Zealand's largest listed retailer, has completed a $115 million capital-raising, although the final $15 million tranche offered to shareholders was not fully taken up.Underwriters Deutsche Craigs took $4.2 million of the $15 million of shares offered in a share purchase plan that tops up a March 6 placement of $100 million in new shares. The share purchase plan was made up largely by eligible investors, who all up spent $10.8 million while the balance of $4.2 million taken up by the underwriter, Deutsche Craigs Limited, the retailer said in a statement. Last month the company halted trading as it raised $100 million from selling shares at a then discounted rate of 10 percent at $3.23 per share.Shares in the retailer rose 0.3 percent to $3.21, and have declined 14 percent this year, underperforming the NZX 50 Index's 8 percent gain. The stock has an average recommendation of "hold" according to seven analysts surveyed by Reuters... Read more

Cosmetics and candle company Trilogy International expects to post a higher before-tax profit than last year.In an earnings update, the listed company expected before-tax profit would be greater than $1.1 million, well up on the previous year's $88,000.Revenue and operating profit were expected to be in line with the previous full-year guidance for the year to March 31. Shares in Trilogy were flat at 46c in mid-afternoon trading.... Read more

Jilted Abano suitors turn guns on chairman. A rebel shareholder group that attempted an unsuccessful takeover bid for Abano Healthcare has launched a campaign to unseat its chairman, Trevor Janes, in a coordinated attack that also questions decisions by NZX Regulation and a valuation by investment house Grant Samuel.Healthcare Industry and Steamboat Capital, which jointly hold some 19 percent of Abano shares, have also launched a website to publicise their call for a shareholders' meeting on May 27 to re-run the part of the Nov 26 annual meeting at which Janes, a director since 2005, was re-elected as chairman... Read more

Abano board hits back at dissident shareholders. Abano Healthcare chairman Trevor Janes has hit back at rebel shareholders calling for his resignation, rubbishing claims he was not independent and accusing his attackers of a campaign of "selective, deceptive, and misleading" comments.Healthcare Industry and Steamboat Capital, which jointly hold some 19 percent of Abano shares, are behind the attempt to oust Janes by re-running part of the Nov 26 annual meeting, claiming Janes was not an "independent" director as claimed. Abano shares were trading at $7.20 on the day of last year's annual meeting and had fallen as low as $5.90 by Feb. 4 before recovering to a high in 2014 of $6.80 at the end of March. In the first 10 days of April, they have fallen to trade this afternoon at $6.45, a 0.5 percent recovery on yesterday's close.... Read more

Enable targets 8pc after-tax gain. Christchurch broadband company Enable Services, owned by the Christchurch City Council, says it needs an average of $50.50 a month per connection for a decent profit.Enable is investing in a $450 million joint venture with the Crown to build a fibre network in Christchurch over eight years.It is more than two years into that and expects to complete the network by the end of 2019... Read more

Xero adds new Australian Director. Xero Limited announces that it has further strengthened its Board of Directors with the appointment of Sydney based Lee Hatton as an independent non-executive director, effective today.Hatton is General Manager, Regulatory Strategy and Affairs at National Australia Bank, and an Executive Director at BNZ Investment Services Limited. With over 17 years in the industry, Hatton has an extensive breadth of international banking and finance experience. A well-rounded banking executive, Hatton has held senior positions across marketing, risk, payments and strategy and led large client teams across retail, agriculture, and business banking in the USA... Read more

The New Zealand screen industry's revenue dropped 4 percent in 2013, from a record high in 2012, as decline in production of feature films more than offset gains from local television and movie theatres.Total revenue for the sector was $3.15 billion in 2013, down from $3.29 billion a year earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand. The screen industry includes feature films, production, television broadcasting, distribution and movie screenings... Read more

Farmers back major Local Government NZ funding review. Federated Farmers is fully behind a fundamental review by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) into the way local government and local roads are funded.“LGNZ deserves praise for tackling a ticking time bomb made up of demographics and an ever narrowing funding base for council services and our local roads,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Local Government spokesperson.“This affects everyone but it is especially pronounced in our rural districts... Read more

Wellington International Airport is planning a $62 million extension which it hopes will increase the amount terminal visitors spend in retail outlets.The terminal extension - part of a $250 million capital investment plan which includes building a hotel - will increase the terminal's size from 2000 square metres to 3600 square metres.Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said both the investment and reconfiguring the existing space should help encourage more spending... Read more

Sand mining end of world for activist... Read more

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch has revised and strengthened its health and safety strategy after two port deaths and a serious injury.Chief executive Peter Davie said that, after the deaths and accident within the port, management and the board had refreshed the strategy to take "a stronger leadership role right across the port with the variety of port users".In response, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union said there had been some welcome health and safety initiatives by the listed port company in recent months, but the port industry was a high-risk one for workers... Read more

Changes for landlords chasing debt. Court processes for landlords chasing debts should be streamlined from next week.The Courts and Criminal Matters BIll amends 20 statutes to enhance courts’ powers and processes for the collection fines and debts. It is being called the biggest change to civil enforcement since the District Courts Act in 1947... Read more

Brewer bankruptcy breach sentence appeal dismissed. A Crown appeal against the sentence of a businessman who avoided home detention for breaching the conditions of his second bankruptcy has been dismissed by a High Court judge.Mark Raymond Brewer was bankrupted for a second time in March 2010 and one of the Official Assignee bankruptcy conditions is no involvement in the direct management of a company.Brewer year admitted breaching those conditions by taking part in the control or management of a computer software company, Intervest Global (NZ), which sold horse race betting software and was placed in liquidation in 2011... Read more

A restraint of trade clause in a former Spicers financial adviser’s contract has been called draconian by a High Court judge.... Read more

Millions at stake in asset row. Former business partner seeking half of fortune built up before parting ways in 1991. Wealthy businessman Alex van Heeren, owner of the luxury Huka Lodge, is due to file a defence in a month's time to a 17-year-old court claim brought by his former business partner who is seeking half of the assets they built up together.Van Heeren and his former business partner Michael Kidd worked together in the international steel trade for about 15 years and acquired an empire of assets before parting ways in 1991... Read more

Feltex defence lawyers argue 'rigorous' due diligence went into 2004 prospectus... Read more

Opinion - John Bolton: 'Banks will compete away their margins'. John Bolton argues interest rates will track below what the market is pricing in, and says we're a long way from seeing mortgage rates above 8%... Read more

Opinion - Pattrick Smellie: The name may say Chorus, but it's singing alone... Read more

Opinion - David Skegg: We must choose: riches or water? Expanding dairying is certainly good for the economy, but will come at a cost, writes Sir David Skegg... Read more





Australian Headlines

Australian Market Report: Australian stocks have closed at a near six-year high, buoyed by a strong lead from Wall Street and an unexpected drop in Australia's unemployment rate.The All Ordinaries Index gained 0.3 per cent to close at 5,478 and the ASX 200 added 17 points to finish on 5,481.Travel website wotif.com was the best performer on an already strong day, increasing by 6.6 per cent to $2.73.... Read more

The Australian dollar has drifted away from a five-month high overnight, but remains within striking distance of US95c despite weak data in China and a strong read on the US labour market.At 330am (AEST), the local currency was trading at US94.24c, down from US94.38c yesterday.The local currency has seen a high of US94.63c, its highest peak since November 7, and a low of US93.70c over the past 24 hours in a day of wild gyrations... Read more

Another bout of strong jobs figures should keep any discussion of an interest rate cut off the Reserve Bank of Australia's agenda for a long while.The reduction in any chance of lower rates, and the increased prospect of a hike, will enhance the appeal of the Australian dollar.BT Financial Group chief economist Dr Chris Caton said it in 140 characters or less."Another strong labour-market report. Sayonara rate cuts; hello more upward pressure on the $A," he tweeted.The jobs figures showed 18,100 more people in work in March, after seasonal adjustment... Read more

Unemployment has surprisingly fallen from 6.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent, as an estimated 18,100 jobs were added last month.The move caught most economists off guard, as the average prediction was for unemployment to be at 6.1 per cent in March.In further good news, the amount of hours Australians work also rose by 0.5 per cent last month to 1.62 billion... Read more

Recruiting company Hays plans to increase its consultant staff by about 3 per cent in the current quarter, confident that the improving conditions in its core markets will continue... Read more

Tony Abbott in China: PM tells Boao Forum 'Team Australia' will help build Asian century... Read more

MMG chairman Wang Lixin has called for Australia to remain open to foreign investment to fund and drive its economic growth prospects.In a speech to the Oriental Mining Club in Shanghai, as part of Australia Week in China, the mining boss said he believed some foreign companies, especially resource players, had the wrong perception of the investment landscape in Australia.But he said Australia should recognise there were ways it could increase its attractiveness as a foreign investment location... Read more

Visa rules a hurdle for China. A Chinese conglomerate which controls a big slice of WA farmland wants visa restrictions lifted to make it easier to run its operations using foreign labour.Heilongjiang Feng Agricultural vice-president Gao Zhigang said yesterday difficulties in getting working visa approvals was the "most annoying" aspect of doing business in Australia.Mr Gao said HFA wanted visas for farm managers, livestock workers, mechanics, technicians and trade experts to run its farms and growing operations in WA.... Read more

Muja power station will return to profit despite cost blowout, WA Government says. The State Government has defended its claim that the cost of the Muja power station refurbishment can be recouped over the 15-year expected life of the plant.The Government moved to refurbish the power station in 2009, promising the project would not cost taxpayers any money.However, a botched joint-venture deal and corrosion problems contributed to a $308 million blowout.... Read more

Plan to pipe gas from Cooper Basin to expanded Abbot Point coal terminal. A Hong Kong-based company wants to spend about $100 million so it can pipe gas from the Cooper Basin to a north Queensland port for export to Asian markets.It plans to build a 1,000 kilometre-long pipeline from the Basin to an LNG plant at Abbot Point near Bowen.From there about two million tonnes of gas per year would be exported to Asia.But Energy World Corporation admits the construction of the $100 million project could affect the Great Barrier Reef.... Read more

Mining services reject chance to present at annual Diggers & Dealers talkfest... Read more

Perseus Mining's gold mine in Ghana will be out of action for up to a week after a fire broke out in the processing plant.The incident occurred yesterday afternoon at the Edikan mine while the plant was shut down for maintenance. Perseus' shares were unchanged at 43.5 cents at 9.28am.... Read more

MZI Resources has secured $US64 million ($68 million) financing for its Keysbrook mineral sands project south of Perth, paving the way for construction to begin.The company said work would start in late June, with production scheduled to begin in mid-2015.The debt funding underwritten by RMB Australia Holdings comes on top of a $US41.5 million funding package provided by Resource Capital Fund last year. MZI's shares were up 0.2 cents, or 18 per cent, to 1.3 cents at 10.14am. GR Engineering was up 0.5 cents, or 8 per cent, to 70 cents.... Read more

The competition watchdog is proposing to reduce regulation governing access to GrainCorp's export terminal at the port of Newcastle in NSW.The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has formed a preliminary view that there is a sufficient level of competition and capacity at the port, and up-country, to alter the current level of regulation of access to the terminal."The variation would provide GrainCorp with greater flexibility to compete against the two bulk wheat export operations at the Port of Newcastle," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said... Read more

Woolies' offer attractive, but DJs' investors keep options open. David Jones' major shareholders say Woolworths' $2.15 billion takeover offer looks attractive but they are waiting to see if higher bids emerge now that the board has revealed its asking price.BT Investment Management's head of equities, Crispin Murray, said Woolworths had offered a ''reasonable'' premium and welcomed the all-cash nature of the bid, saying it was less risky for shareholders than Myer's all-scrip offer, which has been withdrawn... Read more

Australia's NAB cuts ties with virtual currencies. One of Australia's biggest banks confirmed Thursday it was distancing itself from digital currencies after reviewing its risk profile.The National Australia Bank, one of the country's four main banks, has reportedly sent letters to business customers whose primary business is trading in Bitcoins and other crypto-currencies, saying their accounts will be closed on May 2.... Read more

Australian banks will be prepared to meet nearly all upcoming regulatory capital requirements two years ahead of schedule, ratings agency Moody's says.Moody's assistant vice president Daniel Yu said the capital positions of Australian banks are strong, but noted they will be required to hold larger capital buffers when the Basel III regulations take effect... Read more

Ten Network boss Hamish McLennan still believes he can turn the struggling broadcaster around, but says he needs more time.Ten made an $8 million loss in the six months to February 28, which was a better result than the $243 million loss it announced 12 months earlier, due chiefly to one-off costs.Mr McLennan says the network is working to improve its profitability and performance, despite poor ratings and a difficult advertising market. Ten shares were up one cent at 27 cents at 1546 AEST.... Read more

Ten earnings slump, posts $8 million net loss... Read more

Transurban has increased its toll revenue on both a statutory and proportional basis in the March quarter, buoyed by the continued strength of its Sydney network.Total toll revenue in the quarter on a statutory basis was $221.7 million, a 12.9 per cent increase on the $196.4m posted in the previous corresponding quarter.On a proportional basis, which Transurban believes is the most accurate reflection of the portfolio’s performance, total toll revenue was $273.8m, a 12.7 per cent lift on the $243m recorded in the March 2013 quarter... Read more

ASIC admits lack of action in CBA probe... Read more

ASIC rejects corruption allegation. Australia's investment watchdog has hit back at claims of corruption within its ranks.Australian Securities and Investment Commission chairman Greg Medcraft has rejected, in a Senate hearing, suggestions staff acted inappropriately when authorising the use of online superannuation calculators in 2005.The accusations stem from lawyer James Wheeldon, who was engaged by ASIC as part of a team tasked with granting permission to superannuation funds to offer customers the online tool to tally their super savings.... Read more

Agribusiness, mining among five industries where insolvency is on the rise. Farmers and mining services companies have been warned they could be on the cusp of bankruptcy through a combination of factors beyond their control.For farmers, the issue is weather. A devastating flood in 2012 followed by crippling drought in 2013-14 and incomes bordering on the poverty level have put many farmers in a dire financial position.Data from the Federal Government also shows that many farmers are living at the poverty level of $40,000 for a family of four... Read more

Australia's future prosperity is inextricably tied to Asia but Brisbane-based company Cardno doesn't seem particularly interested.The fast growing infrastructure and environment services group has hitched its wagon to the North and Latin American economies and predicts a shift in global manufacturing from China to Mexico.New chief executive Michael Renshaw told AAP this week he hopes it takes Cardno to global powerhouse status.So far it's working.... Read more

Senior executives leave NBN Co. The executive shuffle at NBN Co has claimed its latest victims, with NBN Co’s chief financial officer, Robin Payne, the head of corporate and commercial affairs, Kevin Brown, and chief technology officer Gary McLaren all leaving the company.The departure of the three executives coincides with the official start of NBN Co’s new chief executive Bill Morrow, and effectively removes the last vestiges of the management set up under the Labor government... Read more

Potato king Paul Rennie has told a court he is unable to explain why he sent millions of dollars to tax havens in transactions revealed by a Project Wickenby investigation.The Federal Court heard Mr Rennie had been raided by federal police, who seized documents related to his Griffith-area potato farm, and there was ''a real prospect'' he would be charged with criminal offences.Last year Rennie Produce was sold to a consortium led by Hong Kong's Chevalier International as a package with NSW fruit and vegetable heavyweight Moraitis Group.No allegations are made against Moraitis Group, which was founded by prominent racehorse owner Nick Moraitis... Read more

Opinion - Callam Pickering: The truth about unemployment in Australia... Read more

Opinion - Alan Kohler: Following Keating's lead on reform (finally). The world stands on the threshold of something only Australia and China have achieved over the past few decades: a long period of genuine, sustained productivity-based growth, writes Alan Kohler... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Ian Verrender: Billionaires taken along for the ride in Ten's slow train wreck... Read more





International Headlines

U.S. Market Report: Red is the color of the day on trading screens as investors once again dump technology and biotechnology stocks.The Dow and S&P 500 are sharply lower (over 1%), but the Nasdaq is once again the biggest loser with a rare triple-digit drop (down over 2.5%).... Read more

North/South Americas Market Report: Markets were lower as at the most recent closing prices... Read more

European Market Report: European markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The FTSE 100 gained 0.10%, while the CAC 40 led the DAX lower. They fell 0.66% and 0.55% respectively... Read more

Asian Market Report: Asian markets finished mixed as of their recent closing prices. The Hang Seng gained 1.51% while the Shanghai Composite was higher by 1.38%. The Nikkei 225 was even... Read more

Oil prices fell on Thursday after weak Chinese trada data, but losses were curbed by upbeat US demand and lingering doubts about the full resumption of Libyan exports, analysts said.New York's main contract West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for May delivery dipped nine cents to $103.51 a barrel.Brent North Sea crude for May slid 42 cents to stand at $107.56 a barrel in London late morning trade... Read more

TPP trade deal uncertain. Intensive talks between Japan and the US aimed at breaking the deadlock over a huge pan-Pacific trade deal has ended without agreement, as hopes faded of progress before Barack Obama arrives in Tokyo this month.US Trade Representative Michael Froman and his Japanese counterpart Akira Amari said 18 hours of discussions had done little to reduce the distance between them, especially on farm and auto products... Read more

SAC Capital Advisors LP’s landmark $1.8 billion settlement of a U.S. government insider-trading probe stretching back to 2007 was approved by a federal judge, bringing to an end the hedge fund’s role as a money manager and capping a decade of insider-trading cases.SAC Capital, which this week changed its name to Point72 Asset Management LP, pleaded guilty to reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal profits and fostering a culture of criminality that encouraged brazen insider trading by its employees.Though never able to charge or even sue founder Steven A. Cohen, the government managed to snare eight current or former employees through guilty pleas and trial convictions. Cohen, 57, who has consistently denied wrongdoing, is the subject of an administrative proceeding by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which claims the billionaire failed to supervise employees to ensure they complied with securities laws.... Read more

Websites are racing to patch the Heartbleed bug, the worst security hole the Internet has ever seen.As sites fix the bug on their end, it's time for you to change your passwords. The Heartbleed bug allowed information leaks from a key safety feature that is supposed to keep your online communication private -- email, banking, shopping, and passwords... Read more

Google, Yahoo and Facebook say they've patched their systems against Heartbleed, a newly-discovered vulnerability that allows hackers to steal sensitive data.LinkedIn says it has never used the OpenSSL encryption technology that has been compromised by Heartbleed... Read more

GM to take $1.3 billion charge in first quarter due ignition switch recall... Read more

TiVo Tries to Keep Remote Interest Over Cable Lobbying... Read more

Ally Financial CEO Mike Carpenter describes how his company's IPO brings TARP money back to the American taxpayer. (video only)... Read more

Biotech hammered as ETFs down 5%, while some stocks fall 10%... Read more

Activist investor Carl Icahn has dropped his call for eBay Inc to split off its fast-growing PayPal payments unit but has suggested he would keep pressure on the e-commerce company.EBay said on Thursday that it had settled its proxy fight with the billionaire, who also withdrew his two nominees for the eBay board ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting next month.In a concession to Icahn, eBay said it would add David Dorman, a founding partner of investment firm Centerview Capital Technology, as an independent director on its board... Read more

Bed Bath & Below? Retailer's stock sinks. Home retailer Bed Bath & Beyond had a stellar run in 2013, rising almost 45%. But its tumbling share price so far this year reminds investors that momentum stocks can't go up forever. (video only)... Read more

AlixPartners, a leading business turnaround advisory firm, sued two former managing directors for breaching employment contracts and stealing trade secrets after they jumped to consulting firm McKinsey & Co.Eric Thompson of Singapore and Ivo Naumann of Shanghai allegedly took to McKinsey confidential marketing materials, client information and even contacts of Lisa Donahue, the global leader of Alix's restructuring practice.The pair violated their employment agreements and their duties to AlixPartners, according to the complaint filed late Wednesday in Delaware's Court of Chancery... Read more

UK interest rates held at 0.5% by Bank of England... Read more

Zendesk Inc, a maker of customer service software, filed with U.S. regulators on Thursday for an initial public offering of up to $150 million (89 million pounds).The company, founded in Denmark in 2007, is the latest in a string of cloud-based technology firms that have gone public or are preparing to list amid strong investor interest in such companies... Read more

M&S clothing sales show 'encouraging' signs of recovery... Read more

Former City minister Lord Myners has vowed to continue with his reforms of the Co-operative Group, despite quitting the troubled company's board amid growing opposition to his plans.He said the mutual would have a "good future" if it did "the right things on governance and leadership".News of his departure came a month after the resignation of the Group's chief executive, Euan Sutherland.Lord Myners' plans have been criticised by some of the Group's biggest members... Read more

Mothercare shares soar 16% after trade boost in UK and abroad. Retailer says better spring clothing ranges, more exclusive products and improved weather helped pull back sales decline... Read more

Bailed-out Greece has returned to bond markets with a bang, ending a four-year exclusion by raising €3.0 billion ($4.46bn), sending a major signal that the eurozone debt crisis is fading."A sum in the order of €3.0bn will probably be raised," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told To Vima radio, adding that the interest rate was "below 5.0 per cent".The bonds have a life of five years and this return to the medium-term debt market is a milestone for Greece which is in recession and suffering deeply from the effects of crisis and reforms... Read more

Huge investor demand for Greek five year bond... Read more

Retired soccer megastar David Beckham is teaming with drinks giant Diageo to launch Haig Club, a single grain Scotch that will cost around $65 a bottle.Beckham will serve as “brand ambassador,” helping lure new drinkers to an old category that is undergoing a renaissance... Read more

This year's Florida orange crop is approaching the fruit's lowest harvest in decades, and experts say a deadly bacteria that's infecting the trees is to blame.The US Department of Agriculture's citrus production forecast isn't good. The 2013-2014 orange forecast is 110 million boxes, down 4 percent from last month, and 18 percent less than last season's final production figure. (A box can hold anywhere from 64 to 100 or so oranges, depending on size).Orange harvesting ends in June, and if the crop doesn't decline further, it will barely exceed the 110.2 million orange boxes harvested in 1989-90 following the worst freeze in Florida citrus history... Read more

World banana supply at risk as disease spreads... Read more

Why giving up Russian gas is not an option for the EU. Despite talk in Europe of reducing dependence on Russian fuel and promises of help from the U.S., for the foreseeable future Russia remains the only country that can supply the EU with an increasing supply of cheap gas.... Read more

Burger King to open in Crimea as McDonalds pulls out. While the world’s cartographers puzzle over which country the Crimean peninsula should be included in, fast food chain Burger King has swiftly taken advantage of its greatest rival’s unexpected retreat from the peninsula... Read more

China's exports and imports fell sharply in March, adding to recent indicators pointing to a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.The country's exports fell by 6.6% in March when compared with the previous year.Imports dropped by 11.3% in the same month, when compared with the same time last year.This is the second straight month of falling exports for China. In February, exports dropped by 18.1%.... Read more

China is boosting stock market ties with Hong Kong with new measures allowing cross-border stock investment between Hong Kong and Shanghai.China's regulator said it would allow mainland investors to trade shares in designated HK-listed firms.At the same time, Hong Kong investors will be allowed to buy shares in companies listed in Shanghai... Read more

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has ruled out a major fiscal stimulus program to cover short-term economic volatility, despite the nation recording a dramatic trade slump.In a speech to the Boao Forum for Asia, Mr Li said China was performing well compared with the rest of the world, and was on track to achieve its 7.5 per cent official growth target this year.China’s economy, the second-largest in the world, grew by 7.7 per cent last year but the expansion rate was the slowest in 14 years... Read more

Japanese consumers are keeping their wallets firmly closed after the first sales tax rise in 17 years, with luxury items and appliances suffering as one major department store reported a 25 percent drop in sales.The precipitous plunge comes after millions of shoppers made a last-minute dash to stores before the national levy rose to 8.0 percent from 5.0 percent on April 1, a rise that sparked fears of a drop in consumer spending in turn derailing Japan's nascent economic recovery.Like many retailers, department store Takashimaya had seen a big jump in sales last month, with demand particularly brisk for handbags and other luxury items ahead of the rate hike -- seen as critical for containing Japan's spiralling national debt... Read more

Toyota has developed an efficient gasoline engine using technology fine-tuned with gas-electric hybrids, in which the Japanese carmaker is an industry leader.Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday the engine will be rolled out in 14 models this year and next year... Read more

Analysis - Peter Cai: Is China really the second most powerful economy in the world?... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Oliver Marc Hartwich: Miracles and mirages in the eurozone wonderland... Read more

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