ASB Securities Morning Brief for Thursday, 19 May 2016
Thursday, 19 May 2016

New Zealand Headlines

New Zealand Market Report: New Zealand shares rose, pushing the S&P/NZX 50 Index to a new record after Infratil posted a gain in full-year earnings and said it has a $1 billion war chest to make acquisitions. Heartland New Zealand advanced after reporting a gain in profit while Steel & Tube dropped after cutting its guidance. The NZX 50 rose 7.77 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6982.64. Within the index, 24 stocks gained, 20 fell and six were unchanged. Turnover was $185 million... Read more

The New Zealand dollar fell as global geopolitical uncertainties and stretched equity market valuations sapped risk appetite and demand for the currency of a country where interest rates are set to fall in coming months. The kiwi fell to 67.92 US cents as at 5pm in Wellington, from 68.07 cents late yesterday. The trade-weighted index rose to 72.81 from 72.67.... Read more

New Zealand inflation expectations rose slightly in the Reserve Bank's latest quarterly survey, after the previous survey's surprisingly weak outcome, and remained well below the mid-point of the central bank's target range. Expectations for inflation one year out rose to 1.22 per cent from 1.09 per cent in the previous survey, which was the lowest reading since 1994, while the two-year ahead figure barely budged at 1.64 per cent from 1.63 per cent... Read more

New Zealand producer input and output prices fell in the first quarter, mainly driven by lower fuel prices and weaker output prices for sheep, beef, grain and dairy farmers. Input prices fell 1 percent in the first quarter for an annual decline of 0.9 percent, while output prices declined 0.2 percent in the quarter for a 0.1 percent annual gain, Statistics New Zealand said... Read more

Business confidence in Auckland has continued its rise for the third straight quarter, according to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce’s May-quarter survey. This is the key message from a survey of business respondents undertaken electronically by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce last week... Read more

Christchurch workers have bounced back after the city's earthquakes... Read more

Auckland’s urban growth boundary has contributed to the city’s housing crisis, and needs to go to fix the problem, according to the Labour Party. The party’s housing spokesperson, Phil Twyford, said the government has to rule out inclusion of an urban growth boundary in Auckland’s Unitary Plan if it is serious about fixing the housing crisis.... Read more

Labour Party housing spokesman Phil Twyford's proposal to abolish Auckland's urban growth boundary as a way to rein in ballooning land prices in the country's biggest city has attracted the support of business lobby group BusinessNZ. Twyford today called for central government to use a national policy statement under the Resource Management Act to free up land for development by abolishing the boundary, and manage those areas in city planning, integrating land use with transport and infrastructure... Read more

A huge chunk of forestry land on Auckland's fringe is up for grabs, but rather than solving the city's housing crisis it's scheduled for affluent lifestyle blocks. Under current zoning, an Auckland Council spokesman said the massive blocks of Whitford land could house "handfuls, rather than hundreds". The two sections for sale comprise 1683 hectares of Whitford Forest, located about 30km southeast of Auckland City... Read more

Big discrepancies in meth testing results are of grave concern to landlords, but official clarification is now on the horizon. Worry over meth contamination in rental properties continues to grow, fuelled by each new report of costly remediation and disaster due to P-using, or manufacturing, tenants... Read more

SuiteBox woos Kiwi advisers. A Kiwi software provider that has had success catering for international financial advisers is making in-roads in the New Zealand market, too. SuiteBox says its product makes it easier for advisers to comply with their regulations... Read more

The majority of New Zealand investors have confidence in the nation's financial markets but the least confident are KiwiSaver members who need to be encouraged to engage with providers and question whether they're in the right mix of funds, Financial Markets Authority chief executive Rob Everett says... Read more

The head of New Zealand's investment regulator has fired a warning shot at KiwiSaver providers urging them to be more proactive in engaging with their members. Rob Everett, chief executive of the Financial Markets Authority, said KiwiSaver providers could not afford to treat members as "cash cows" raking in millions of dollars in fees a year without doing anything to communicate with them other than the minimum... Read more

The Reserve Bank has argued in favour of lower commission levels for insurance advisers. The RBNZ is responsible for insurer licensing... Read more

Hold on tight farmers, the future is bright. Leading industry speakers at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum held in Hamilton this week reaffirmed the view that while another year of low milk prices is on the horizon, the long-term outlook for dairy remains bright... Read more

NZ dairy faces real test of competitiveness over next five years: Bill English... Read more

Only a few weeks after officially opening its new UHT milk and cream plant at its premises in Rolleston (April 15), Westland Milk Products has launched its whipping cream product into the Chinese market.... Read more

Dairy product prices increased at the Global Dairy Trade auction, with gains in the price for whole milk powder exceeding expectations amid the lowest amount on offer in three years. The GDT price index rose 2.6% to $US2283, up from $US2203 at the previous auction two weeks ago. Some 18,113 tonnes of product was sold, down from 20,615 tonnes at the previous auction two weeks ago. Whole milk powder increased 3.0% to $US2252 a tonne... Read more

An Australian teen has launched an online petition taking aim at the "greedy" milk companies she says are destroying farming families. After 21 years the Scott dairy farm business in rural Victoria is on the brink of collapse under the weight of increasing debts from its milk payment contract with New Zealand co-operative Fonterra... Read more

Fonterra Cooperative Group is expected to lift its farmgate milk price payout to farmers next season, although it's likely to mark the third year of prices below the level required by most farmers to break even. New Zealand's dominant milk processor is scheduled to hold a board meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, and may release its opening milk price forecast for the 2016/17 season early Thursday morning.... Read more

Millions of dollars worth of dairy products at a Fonterra plant were tested after being stored at the wrong temperature. Federated Farmers Waikato vice-president Andrew McGiven said the mistake would be another blow to cash-strapped farmers. It is understood that the procedure error happened at Fonterra's Crawford St plant in Hamilton and may mean some products will have to be destroyed... Read more

Comvita expands product range to chase earnings goal... Read more

New Zealand’s $700 million apple industry has again been named the world’s most competitive performer. The World Apple Report, out this week, ranks New Zealand first over 33 major apple producing countries... Read more

The Ministry for Primary Industries and Te Puni Kokiri welcomed the announcement of Te Taitokerau Maori Forestry Collective Incorporated's Action Plan to 2020 launched today at the He Kai Kei Aku Ringa Regional Hui in Kerikeri. The Collective is made up of 10 Māori land entities, and together they plan to replant more than 32,000 hectares of their land in forest – an initiative that offers business, education and employment opportunities. The Action Plan to 2020 will pave the way for the Collective’s future... Read more

Government funding of $7.85 million for Canterbury irrigation projects will help lift the water quality of polluted Lake Ellesmere and look at flushing out nitrates in the Hinds area. The Central Plains Water scheme has been injected with $6.64m, nearly $900,000 will go to the Sheffield Water Scheme and $312,000 towards a pilot study for aquifer recharge in the Hinds area which aims to restore spring-fed flows and loosen nitrates... Read more

Trilogy International, the skincare and home fragrance company, says it continues to comply with its market obligations after being asked to explain a 50 cent rise in its share price in four days of trading. The shares have more than quadrupled in value since July 2015 when they traded at 91 cents. A short while ago they were trading at $3.95... Read more

Pushpay Holdings, whose mobile payment app allows churches to raise money from parishioners, posted a wider annual loss as it chased sales growth ahead of profit, reiterating its forecast to break even in 2017. The loss widened to $19.4 million, or 8.6c per share, in the year ended March 31, from a loss of $7.5 million, or 4.05cps , a year earlier, the Auckland-domiciled, US-headquartered company said in a statement. Revenue from continuing operations rose to $15 million from $1.8 million. Its shares fell 3.1% to $2.20 today and have gained 30% so far this year.... Read more

Infratil investors watch $1b war chest... Read more

Infratil lifted annual underlying earnings by 2.5 percent, meeting guidance, as its Metlifecare and RetireAustralia investments delivered bigger contributions. The listed investment firm said it is still looking for assets to buy. Underlying earnings from continuing operations before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and financial derivative movements (ebitdaf) rose to $462.1 million in the 12 months ended March 31 from $450.87 million a year earlier, the Wellington-based company said in a statement... Read more

Palmerston North car dealerships were the first in the country to benefit from a new deal that should cut delivery times for Toyota customers. Toyota NZ and CentrePort have reached an agreement to ship cars through the Wellington port in an effort to meet growing demand for their vehicles in the central North Island. ... Read more

Steel & Tube Holdings, the NZX-listed steel products distributor under fire for sales of seismic steel mesh that wasn't independently tested, cut its full-year guidance and said underlying earnings may fall 10-15% as margins contracted and it incurred costs related to quality issues for the mesh. The updated guidance is a downgrade from the forecast it gave in February for underlying net profit to be unchanged from last year's $21.4 million but doesn't include a $6 million gain on the sale of its Bowden Road property. Steel & Tube shares last traded at $2.25 and have dropped 23% so far this year.... Read more

Trustpower could be among the biggest losers under the Electricity Authority's proposed changes to charges for the national grid and is likely to "vigorously" fight changes to distributed generation pricing changes that could slash $25 million of annual revenue... Read more

Heartland Bank posted a 10% gain in nine-month profit while delaying a planned return to shareholders, saying market volatility had created opportunities for acquisitions that may be a better use of its capital. Heartland affirmed its guidance for profit of $51-55 million for the year ending June 30, up from $36 million in 2015... Read more

Insurer Cigna has unveiled a direct-to-the-public "Rent Safe" insurance aimed at the growing number of people who will be renters, perhaps for their entire lives. Traditionally insurers have focused on selling insurance to homeowners and landlords, but a rise in long-term renting is prompting the industry to develop better policies for renters... Read more

The Domain Name Commission (DNCL) is seeking comment on the proposed introduction of a new WHOIS privacy option for .nz domain name registrants. The WHOIS is the publicly available search service that lets people find registration information for a .nz domain name. Using the WHOIS is commonly known as a ‘domain name search’... Read more

Stubbs reappears on financial sector radar. Former Tower Investments boss Sam Stubbs is staying tight-lipped about his latest venture. He is the sole shareholder of a new company, Simplicity NZ, which has been given a managed investment scheme licence by the Financial Markets Authority. Stubbs has been away from the financial services industry for three years... Read more

Former NZX chief Mark Weldon has denied he kept material information from his board before the Clear Grain Exchange acquisition and says he stopped trusting the vendors when it became clear they had misrepresented the likelihood of winning Graincorp, Australia's largest bulk grain handler, as a customer... Read more

Directors of Intueri Education Group have cut their base director fee in half as the listed training provider seeks to cut costs, has laid off 70 staff, put dividends on hold, and seen its share price tank after ongoing reviews by the Tertiary Education Commission and Serious Fraud Office. The savings from the director fee cut will only amount to around $200,000 a year but chairman Chris Kelly told shareholders at the annual meeting in Auckland it was a case of “all shoulders to the wheel at a particularly difficult time”... Read more

Martin Victor Lyttelton – the former head of Calan Healthcare – could spend another 13 months in prison after being sentenced again for the shotgun and knife attack on his ex-business partner and his wife in 2008. Lyttelton, 57, was in March found guilty of the attempted murder of Richard Ord, causing grievous bodily harm to Colleen Fenton, and aggravated burglary of their North Shore home, reports say... Read more

Opinion - Pattrick Smellie: Auckland's housing crisis red letter day looms in August... Read more

Australian Headlines

Australian Market Report: The Australian sharemarket has once again failed to reach the 5400-point level, retreating on Wednesday despite increased expectations of an interest-rate cut and strong commodity-price leads. At the 4.15pm (AEST) official market close, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was off 39.7 points, or 0.74 per cent, to 5356.2, while the broader All Ordinaries index weakened 38 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 5420.5.... Read more

The Australian dollar has faltered after wages fell to a new record low. At 1200 AEST on Wednesday, the currency was trading at 72.88 US cents, down from 73.51 cents on Tuesday. Total hourly rates of pay, excluding bonuses, rose 0.4 per cent in the March quarter, the weakest rise in at least 19 years... Read more

A ten-fold increase in fines alongside a $20 million funding boost and new powers for the workplace watchdog are at the heart of a Coalition election policy to clamp down on wage fraud across the country. The pledge follows a series of exposes of Australia's working underclass, most notably at the 7-Eleven convenience store giant... Read more

New figures have challenged the Reserve Bank’s confidence that businesses are reluctant to offer annual wage rise of less than two per cent. Private sector wage rates rose by just 1.9 per cent over the year to March, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday... Read more

Wages are barely rising but the average Australian can still afford to buy more stuff. In the year to March, wages rose 2.1 per cent, new figures show, meaning the average Australian earning $74,724 a year got paid about $30 extra per week. Total hourly rates of pay, excluding bonuses, rose by 0.4 per cent in the March quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday... Read more

University boffins are arguing that if the real estate market properly evaluated rental yields then a potential property bubble could be avoided. Researchers from the University of Melbourne have compared residential values and rents to gain insight into the performance of rental yields. These yields, which are the rate of income return on investment over and above the cost associated with an investment property (typically expressed as a percentage) are an import metric that can be used by buyers, sellers, investors and renters to make informed choices... Read more

Superannuation budget changes still leave most retirement savings tax free, says accountant... Read more

Workplace innovation, including the Airtasker and Uber business models, risk the loss of hard-won protections for workers and the creation a new "hungry mile" in Australia, a leading law professor warns. Joellen Riley, dean of the University of Sydney law school and professor of labour law, said she welcomed innovation in workplace but warned it came with risks... Read more

Azure Minerals Ltd holds an extensive silver and gold-silver footprint in Mexico. Azure recently acquired the San Agustin Project, which is located in the country's premier silver producing region... Read more

Cazaly Resources Ltd gets ready to raise... Read more

Clive Palmer and his nephew have been ordered to face court to answer allegations about their management of Queensland Nickel before it collapsed. The Federal Court has granted a request by liquidators FTI Consulting to question the federal MP after FTI earlier said there was evidence he'd acted as a shadow director and used Queensland Nickel to bankroll his other business interests... Read more

Shares in Queste Communications Ltd have been halted after a request was granted by the ASX, pending details of an acquisition... Read more

Outgoing Iluka Resources managing director David Robb has farewelled shareholders at his last annual meeting by detailing signs of recovery in mineral sands markets. Mr Robb, who will finish up with Iluka in the second half after 10 years at the helm, told the meeting in Perth’s central business district this morning the company had noted strengthening demand for zircon and rutile. Iluka shares were 5¢ lower at $5.93 at the close.... Read more

Cohiba Minerals Ltd has been granted a trading halt by the ASX pending a material capital raising and project update... Read more

Sri Lanka focused First Graphite Ltd is heading to market with a capital raising, and the ASX has granted the company a trading halt to prepare.... Read more

Morgan Ball has stepped down from the top job at BC Iron, making way for former Iron Ore Holdings boss Alwyn Vorster. The executive shuffle comes as BC Iron looks towards its future as an exploration and development company, after mothballing its Nullagine iron ore mine earlier this year as iron ore prices crumbled... Read more

Shares in Australian Vanadium surged after the company announced the sale of the first commercial vanadium flow battery in WA. The battery, built by German company GILDEMEISTER in Vienna, will be installed at an agricultural property near Busselton as part of a 15-kilowatt (kW) photo-voltaic (PV) installation... Read more

The co-CEO of Westfield, one of the world’s largest mall operators, said that shopping centres have to act more like technology companies in order to be relevant to the fast-changing consumer. “Clearly, there’s a shake-up going on,” said Steven M. Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield, which operates 34 shopping centres worldwide in key cities like London and New York. “Amazon is having a massive impact ... We understand the need to change and adapt.” But Lowy noted the largest online leader can’t do “all things,” such as create “beautiful spaces” for shopping... Read more

The war between Australia’s supermarket giants has heated up, with Coles banking on the success of the “ready-made” meal industry, and launching 40 “healthy takeaway-style cuisines” across its stores. In a move similar to what Woolworths introduced last year, Coles will expand its range of gourmet ready-meals, taking inspiration from the success of UK retailers such as Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Asda... Read more

China's Chevalier burns $148m in mashed potato play. How could a company with 23 per cent of Australia's $625 million potato market go bust? Experts point to razor thin margins and the enormous power of supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles as a large part of the problem for a business which three years ago was making $36 million in profits when Chinese conglomerate Chevalier Group bought a 70 per cent stake. The transaction valued the business at $212 million, making Chevalier's investment about $148 million... Read more

Retailer Beacon Lighting has been pummelled on the market after warning recent sales have fallen short of expectations. The earlier timing of the Easter break - an "important home renovation period" - took a toll on sales, along with weak consumer confidence, tough competition and reduced advertising, the company said. Beacon shares dropped 34 cents, or 21.3 per cent, to $1.26.... Read more

Tox Free Solutions’ share price has fallen after disclosing its waste management services for Chevron’s WA operations are being re-tendered. The contractor said it had been informed an expression of interest process was under way for waste management of the operational phase of the energy giant’s WA assets. Toxfree said it had a contract until 2020 to provide waste services to Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project... Read more

Coke boss Alison Watkins blames Malcolm Turnbull for lack of fizz. Malcolm Turnbull has not had an easy time of it in this election campaign, and now the trouble has hit the corporate front. On Wednesday, Asciano said the election has put its $9 billion takeover on ice, and then Coca-Cola Amatil boss, Alison Watkins said Malcolm's prolonged campaign his putting Australians off the beverage group's lolly water.... Read more

Cereal and snacks maker Freedom Foods is expanding its international operations with a move into the Vietnamese UHT milk market. The Sydney-based company says its Pactum Dairy Group business is partnering with International Dairy Products to launch a range of Australian products... Read more

iiNet email, voice calls down throughout Australia... Read more

Telstra has moved closer to the full closure of its long-running BigPond brand after announcing a new Telstra Mail email service that will swallow up BigPond webmail. The telco has been in the process of shutting down the BigPond brand since late 2013, when it changed its BigPond homepage to Telstra Media branding... Read more

Superjet technology nears reality after Australia test. A two-hour flight from Sydney to London is a step closer to reality after the latest successful test Wednesday of hypersonic technology in the Australian desert. A joint US-Australian military research team is running a series of 10 trials at the world's largest land testing range, Woomera in South Australia, and at Norway's Andoya Rocket Range... Read more

Music industry representatives have successfully delayed an application asking Australian internet service providers to block access to torrent directory Kickass Torrents so they can wait for the outcome of another case involving film studios. Mid last month a group of the world's largest record companies filed a motion demanding that Australia's internet service providers block access to Kickass Torrents and related proxy sites, claiming they exploited the creativity of musicians... Read more

WA Premier Colin Barnett has defended his Government's pursuit of a $1.75 billion carve up of the collapsed Bell Group, as he warned the case was a "carcass" speculators and lawyers would feed on for another decade. The collapse of Alan Bond's Bell Group in the 1990s sparked a prolonged legal battle as creditors including state and federal governments tried to claim their share... Read more

It takes just five days to become a qualified real estate agent in NSW, Victoria. Imagine putting your property dream in the hands of a real estate agent who’s had less training than a person making a cup of coffee. That’s what’s happening in New South Wales and Victoria and it’s putting property owners and investors at risk of dodgy deals as some agents brag about being about to speed through training programs faster than it takes to become a qualified barista... Read more

The West Australian egg producer behind a host of popular brands including Swan Valley Egg Co and Eggs by Ellah has been found guilty of falsely claiming free-range status. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took action against Snowdale Holdings, the company behind six WA egg labels and one of the biggest supermarket suppliers in the state, for making misleading and deceptive statements... Read more

Opinion - Malcolm Maiden: The banks hate Labor's royal commission idea because it might work. The banks hate Labor's banking royal commission proposal.They know that if it is well briefed, it will ask uncomfortable questions... Read more

International Headlines

U.S. Market Report: U.S. stocks retreated a second day, the dollar rallied and Treasuries plunged after the Federal Reserve signaled a willingness to raise interest rates as soon as June. The S&P 500 Index lost a rally of 0.7 percent, as investors sold stocks that provide high dividend yields after the 10-year Treasury yield spiked nine basis points to the highest in two weeks... Read more

North/South Americas Market Report: North and South American markets are lower today with shares in Mexico off the most. The IPC is down 0.74% while Brazil's Bovespa is off 0.66% and U.S.'s S&P 500 is lower by 0.27%... Read more

European Market Report: European markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The DAX gained 0.54% and the CAC 40 rose 0.51%. The FTSE 100 lost 0.03%... Read more

Asian Market Report: Asian markets finished broadly lower today with shares in Hong Kong leading the region. The Hang Seng is down 1.45% while China's Shanghai Composite is off 1.27% and Japan's Nikkei 225 is lower by 0.05%... Read more

Saudi Oil Stockpiles Hit 18-Month Low in March as Output Capped... Read more

A new report into the financial impact of the McMurray fires says some $760m (C$985m; £528m) in oil sands production has been lost. The analysis says the blaze has meant the loss of 1.2 million barrels of oil a day over two weeks. The sum is equivalent to 0.33% of the province of Alberta's projected GDP this year, as well as representing 0.06% of the country's projected GDP... Read more

Most Fed Officials Saw June Hike Likely If Economy Warrants... Read more

The US has raised its import duties on Chinese steelmakers by more than fivefold after accusing them of selling their products below market prices. The taxes of 522% specifically apply to Chinese-made cold-rolled flat steel, which is used in car manufacturing, shipping containers and construction... Read more

The US Federal Reserve is likely to increase interest rates next month if the economic data supports such a move, the central bank's latest minutes show. It will look for signs the economy and employment is strengthening and inflation firming before taking action... Read more

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has become the latest bank to turn more bearish on stocks. Goldman analysts led by Christian Mueller-Glissmann have downgraded global equities to 'neutral' over the next 12 months, recommending investors turn to cash instead. The firm also upgraded commodities to neutral as it sees oil demand rising, while sticking with an 'overweight' on corporate debt and 'underweight' on bonds... Read more

Charter Communications Inc said Wednesday it has completed its acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc and Bright House Networks LLC, creating the second-largest U.S. broadband provider and third-largest pay TV provider. The combination of Charter, TWC and Bright House will serve over 25 million customers in 41 states... Read more

Microsoft sells Nokia feature phones business. Microsoft is pulling out of the "feature" phones business. But its Nokia-branded handsets - which are powered by the Series 30+ operating system, making them less powerful than its Lumia Windows phones - will continue to live on... Read more

Target shares plunge after sales miss estimates... Read more

The cash of millions of pension savers will be better protected, under plans announced alongside the Queen's Speech. Fears had been expressed that people who pay into some auto-enrolment pensions could lose their money, should their scheme collapse. The Pensions Bill will provide for stricter supervision of so-called master trust schemes by the regulator... Read more

MPs investigating the collapse of BHS have written to the Pensions Regulator, demanding more information about plans to restructure the pension scheme - first revealed on the BBC's Newsnight. The plans, "Project Thor" were put forward by the company two years ago in an attempt to build up the scheme. At the time, BHS was owned by Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group... Read more

A former London-based JPMorgan foreign exchange sales person is suing the Wall Street bank for unfair dismissal, according to a court filing released on Wednesday. Patrice Ktorza is scheduled to appear at the Stratford Employment Tribunal on June 1... Read more

The UK unemployment total has fallen slightly, but the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said the jobs market could be "cooling off". Unemployment fell to 1.69 million between January and March, down 2,000 from the previous quarter. The jobless rate remained at 5.1%, the ONS said... Read more

Four traders charged in the U.K. and investigated in Germany for rigging interest-rate benchmarks at Deutsche Bank AG may avoid courts in both countries as Frankfurt prosecutors cleared them a month after the U.K. sought their extradition. German prosecutors said the traders’ actions in relation to the Euribor benchmark didn’t violate local laws at the time, prompting them to drop the probe in April, Nadja Niesen, a spokeswoman for the investigators, said this week... Read more

Hungarian prosecutors have started an investigation into spending at the central bank’s network of foundations. The probe will cover all six of the foundations based on an inquiry that alleged violations of procurement rules, prosecutor Bettina Bagoly said by e-mail on Wednesday. Bertalan Toth, a lawmaker for the opposition Socialist Party, said that he had requested the investigation... Read more

Volkswagen AG responded to criticism from activist investor Chris Hohn with promises to improve profitability and review management pay, seeking to avoid a confrontation as criticism mounts in the wake of the emissions-cheating scandal. The German carmaker agrees with much of the investor’s analysis and is working on a strategy, including financial targets, that will be presented this summer, Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter wrote in a letter to Hohn that was obtained by Bloomberg... Read more

Saudi Arabia is considering using IOUs to pay outstanding bills with contractors and conserve cash, according to people briefed on the discussions. As payment from the state, contractors would receive bond-like instruments which they could hold until maturity or sell on to banks, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private... Read more

Uber's newly launched motorcycle taxi service in Bangkok, Thailand, has come to a screeching halt. The company introduced the service in the Thai capital in late February but was forced to suspend it on Wednesday. "We have decided to temporarily suspend our Bangkok pilot program ... while we work on creating modern regulations for app-based motorbike services with the government," the company said in a written statement... Read more

Mitsubishi Motors president quitting amid fuel economy scandal... Read more

Mitsubishi Motors’ Scandal Was an Accident Waiting to Happen... Read more

Japan's economy suddenly doesn't look quite so gloomy. It bounced back from a bad end to 2015 with growth of 1.7% in the first quarter of this year, the government said Wednesday. That's stronger than what many economists were predicting and ensured the country avoided slipping into recession... Read more

Hotel Lotte Co., the key lodgings and duty-free unit of South Korea’s Lotte Group, is planning for its initial public offering to raise as much as 5.7 trillion won ($4.8 billion) in what could be the largest IPO in the country, Korea Economic Daily reported, citing unidentified investment bankers... Read more

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