ASB Securities Morning Brief for Saturday, 12 April 2014
Saturday, 12 April 2014

New Zealand Headlines

New Zealand Market Report: New Zealand stocks joined a global sell-off amid concerns high-growth companies may struggle to convert sales into profits, led lower by biotech firm Pacific Edge and software developer Xero.The NZX 50 Index fell 24.058 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5091.431. Within the index, 28 stocks fell, 11 rose and 11 were unchanged. Turnover was $101.8 million... Read more

The New Zealand dollar fell as weak equity markets around the world sapped demand for risk-sensitive assets, though the prospect of higher interest rates will likely give the local currency support.The kiwi dropped to 86.39 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 86.84 cents at 8am and 87.17 cents yesterday. The trade-weighted index sank to 80.02 from 80.83 yesterday... Read more

New Zealand food prices fell in March as cheaper cakes and candy drove a fall in grocery prices, and offset more expensive meat and produce.The food price index fell 0.3 percent in March following a 1 percent fall in February, according to Statistics New Zealand. Food prices rose 1.2 percent on an annual basis, the first time all five components of the index increased since September 2011.The monthly decline was led by a 1.6 percent drop in grocery prices to their lowest level since August as cakes and biscuit prices and confectionary, nuts and snacks both dropped 3.5 percent. In the year grocery prices made the smallest gains of all the subgroups, up 0.2 percent, led by an 8.8 percent gain in fresh milk and a 7.1 percent rise in cheese prices... Read more

REINZ says annual house price inflation surged to 9.2% in past month from 8.2%; national median rose $25k in month to new record $440k... Read more

NZ house sales drop 10 percent in March, loan curbs weigh on cheaper housing... Read more

There are clear signs that national house sales turnover is easing, especially among cheaper properties, the Real Estate Institute says.It has released its latest monthly statistics, showing there were 7315 sales in March, down 10% on the same month in 2013.March is often the busiest month of the year for house sales... Read more

NZ share apocalypse unlikely - analyst. Despite dire forecasts for overseas markets, the New Zealand stock exchange's recent struggles do not point to an impending crash, a fund manager says.The NZX 50 dropped by more than one per cent in early trading yesterday before recovering most of the loss to finish the day down 0.47 per cent down on 5091.43 points... Read more

Tech IPOs face skittishness as market momentum slips. Since an early March peak, the technology benchmark has dropped more than 5 per cent - and newly public shares have been hit particularly hard... Read more

Widening pay gap 'can be fixed'. The pay gap between the highest and lowest earners is getting wider. It's a trend that, says one researcher, can be traced back to the 1980s.The OECD report, Society at a Glance 2014, says the highest-paid 10 per cent of workers in New Zealand earn 32 times more than the poorest 10 per cent - a 32-to-one pay ratio.The ratio in Australia is 33-to-one, and in Switzerland it is 30-to-one. In January, the Swiss got to vote on a proposal to enforce a ratio of 12-to-one - the proposal was defeated... Read more

Solid Energy continues to forecast far higher levels of debt than sector peers and does not expect that to improve until international coal prices recover, Parliament's commerce select committee says in a report on the troubled state-owned enterprise, published today.Solid Energy came close to commercial failure in 2012 when, like other coal mining companies around the world, it was caught out by a sharp plunge in the price of coal, which saw it report a $40.2 million loss in 2012 and a further $335.4 million loss in 2013, reflecting writedowns and restructuring... Read more

Warehouse digests new businesses. Having added 11 new businesses in 18 months, the Warehouse Group is entering a consolidation stage.The listed retailer has already spent $4 million on repositioning its Warehouse Stationery stores, and group chief executive Mark Powell says a further $5.5m will be spent on refreshing its Noel Leeming stores from August.The Noel Leeming chain was bought out of private equity hands 15 month ago... Read more

Pacific Edge shares slumped to a five-month low, as the local stock market joined a global sell-off amid concerns high-growth companies may struggle to convert sales into profits.Shares in the Dunedin-based bladder cancer text developer fell as much as 15 percent to $1.04, the lowest since Oct. 23, and were recently down 6.6 percent to $1.14. The shares have dropped 25 percent in the past month... Read more

Shareholders in Renaissance Corp, which sold its last business unit earlier this month, are unlikely to receive any payments before June in what will probably be a two-part distribution if they decide to liquidate the company.Chairman Colin Giffney told shareholders at today's annual meeting in Auckland the board wants to wrap up existing leases and contracts before appointing a liquidator, which investors will then vote on.As at March 31, Renaissance had net assets of $7.22 million, or 16.6 cents per share, and could receive an extra $1 million, or 2.2 cents a share, if Youbee School of Design meets certain earn-out targets. It also has a contingent liability for leases it assigned if it's unable to release the premises.... Read more

Urea prices cut by fertiliser co-ops. Urea prices have been cut to $645 a tonne by both major fertiliser co-operatives as autumn rain takes the sting out of drought in many regions.Lower prices by Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients yesterday were timed to coincide with farmers applying more fertiliser to build up feed reserves over winter and early spring.Urea prices are now on the same level, with Ravensdown previously offering slightly cheaper urea at $693/t compared with Ballance's $695/t... Read more

SkyCity Entertainment Group chief executive Nigel Morrison has named his potential successor but says he intends to stay running the $2.2 billion business till around 2017 or 2018.Morrison, 55, said chief financial officer James Burrell was the best person for the job because he had the background and skills necessary to take SkyCity to another level."I think internally, he's a strong candidate but I'm not thinking of leaving, absolutely not," Morrison said... Read more

'Expensive brand beats expensive land'. Dairy farmers need to demand that dairy giant Fonterra invests heavily in brand development if increasing costs are to be offset by high-priced milk products, says a food marketing expert.Global food and drink industry international speaker Professor David Hughes said New Zealand's dairy companies had to spend more on developing patented clever dairy brands as domestic milk growth could not continue at its same rate forever... Read more

Chorus to appeal copper pricing judgment. Chorus will appeal a High Court ruling upholding the Commerce Commission’s determination setting the regulated prices on the telecommunications network operator’s copper lines.The Wellington-based company said it has sought leave to appeal Justice Stephen Kos’s judgment this week, which tossed out its attempt to set aside the regulator’s initial pricing principle (IPP), which directed the price Chorus can charge for unbundled bitstream access (UBA) services... Read more

Moyle: Steer clear of messy family situations. NZ Financial Planning founder and director Greg Moyle has been criticised by a High Court judge, and says he’s learnt one thing recently: Don’t be a trustee or the executor of an estate where there’s a second marriage involved. He been criticised in court over his handling of a $1.4 million estate.Moyle was the executor of a will left by farmer Murray Dean, who wanted to provide an income for his widow, and for the money to be distributed among his sons, from his first marriage, upon her death... Read more

A real estate agent has been fined $5000 and had her licence suspended for three years for forging a sales agreement.The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal has found an Ashburton-based agent Julie Anne McDonald had faked the signature of a client, Rata Jared Kamau, on a listing agreement for his sick father's property... Read more

Four major US record labels are suing Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his associates in an almost identical suit filed by six Hollywood movie studios earlier this week.Music labels Warner Music Group, UMG Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment and Capitol Records are suing for copyright breach of sound recordings, from which they say the defendants generated more than US$175 million in illicit profits, while causing more than US$500 million in harm to copyright owners, according to a statement by Recording Industry Association of America.Like the studio case, the record labels have named Megaupload and associated company Vestor Ltd, Dotcom, Mathias Ortman and Bram van der Kolk. The record labels are seeking a jury trial... Read more

A judge has put the hard word on trustees of a major Treaty claim funder to improve the "toxic environment" that has infected their work and could threaten the claims process.The dispute at the Crown Forestry Rental Trust has split the six trustees, who include former Maori Land Court chief judge and Waitangi Tribunal chairman Sir Edward Durie, and trust chairwoman and former Council of Trade Unions secretary Angela Foulkes.In the latest in a series of High Court decisions on the dispute, Justice Joe Williams said it was time for trustees to deploy the professionalism for which they were appointed... Read more

Analysis - Diana Clement: Serious illness can trigger financial misery. Kiwis insure lives but ignore risk of disability and the cost this entails... Read more

Opinion - Mike O'Donnell: Lessons from Localist – the importance of failure... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Grant Davis: A broker's view: Nuplex... Read more

Opinion - Brian Gaynor: New rules aim to flatten out mountains of data. Act aims to provide investors with more daily information, and smaller and easier-to-understand offer documents... Read more

Australian Headlines

Australian Market Report: The Australian sharemarket has closed deep in the red today, following Wall Street's lead after soft Chinese trade data spooked investors into a move away from high-growth tech and biotech stocks.At the 4.15pm (AEST) official market close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index declined 52.2 points, or 0.95 per cent, to 5,428.6, while the broader All Ordinaries index lost 54 points, or 0.99 per cent, at 5,423.5.... Read more

The Australian dollar is half a US cent lower as traders sell the currency and take profits after Thursday's big rally.At 1700 AEST on Friday, the local unit was trading at 93.75 US cents, down from 94.38 cents on Thursday.It passed 94 US cents for the first time in five months after the local unemployment rate for March had a surprise fall of 0.3 percentage points to 5.8 per cent.Easy Forex senior dealer Francisco Solar said even though the Australian dollar has fallen a bit it's still at the high end of its recent range... Read more

Wall Street crash 'even worse' than 1987 is coming, says Marc Faber... Read more

Scrap Royalties for Regions and Keystart, says WA's economic regulator. The contentious Royalties for Regions scheme should be dumped, taxes reformed and shopping hours deregulated under a radical overhaul of the WA economy recommended by the state's economic regulator.In a wide-reaching draft report into economic reform aimed at boosting productivity, the independent Economic Regulation Authority also called for reform of the taxi industry, trialling a congestion charge for driving to the city in peak hours and scrapping both the Keystart loan scheme for homebuyers and the domestic gas reservation policy... Read more

Abbott softens stance on Chinese investment. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has abandoned his early hardline stance on Chinese state-owned enterprises in an effort to finalise a much sought-after Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China before the state visit of President Xi Jinping in November this year. Mr Abbott said that he recognised that Chinese state investors behave like "commercial enterprises" and compared them to Japanese and Korean companies that worked closely with their respective governments. (+video)... Read more

Premier Colin Barnett says WA will be exporting cattle to China within 12 months under a trial that promises to transform the industry.Speaking in Shanghai where he was attending the Australia Week in China trade expo, Mr Barnett said WA would export more than 100,000 head of cattle to China once fully established.He said a trial shipment of 1000 cattle would be sent to Zhejiang province in coming months, through the port of Ningbo... Read more

Boom puts spotlight on negative gearing. Treasury had done work on ­limiting negative gearing to new homes as part of pre­parations for the May budget, according to media reports citing ­departmental sources last week. While Treasury does not ­comment on budget speculation, rumours of cuts to ­negative gearing circulate at budget time nearly every year. And with good reason. Each year Australians enjoy about $36 billion worth of tax breaks on the family home.Along with the generous tax breaks on superannuation payouts, negative gearing is one of the biggest budget sacred cows... Read more

Gindalbie Metals managing director Dale Harris has been moved across to become chief executive at 48 per cent-owned Mid-West magnetite producer Karara Mining. Mr Harris will replace acting chief executive Paul Sims to oversee the clearing of bottlenecks and ramp up production at the Chinese-controlled Karara project... Read more

St Barbara insists it hasn't 'abandoned' Gold Ridge mine in Solomon Islands. An Australian company operating a gold mine in Solomon Islands is insisting that it hasn't pulled out of the country.Australian mining company St Barbara says it was forced to shut down operations at the Gold Ridge mine last Friday because of flood damage and subsequent security risks.St Barbara's managing director Tim Lehany has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program it doesn't mean operations have ended for good... Read more

Cassini Resources has cashed in on its purchase of a BHP nickel project by raising $10 million through a share placement.The company said it would use the funds for exploration at the West Musgrave project it has agreed to buy for an upfront cash payment of $250,000.The oversubscribed placement was priced at 18 cents a share. Cassini's stock was down 1 cent to 21.5 cents at 1.50pm.... Read more

Standard & Poor’s has cut Origin Energy’s credit rating outlook to negative due to its anticipated weaker financial position in the 2015-16 financial year.... Read more

Junior mining company Padbury says it has secured the finance necessary to build a $6 billion port and rail project at Oakajee, in WA's Mid West.In a statement, Padbury said the funding would be provided by private Australian equity partners.Padbury, which had been in a trading halt up until releasing the statement to the ASX on Friday morning, went into another trading halt pending information about the investors.It was due to release details of the shareholder agreement, including the name of the parties involved, by or before the market opening on Tuesday.... Read more

ASX asks Padbury to explain $6b Oakajee mystery deal... Read more

The independent expert called in to assess the merits of Hochtief's bid to increase its control of Leighton Holdings has warned the contracting giant may have to forfeit $300 million in outstanding receipts from high-profile construction jobs.The warning, by KPMG, coincided with Leighton's board admitting to investors yesterday it had made no "material" progress to cut the size of receivables that at December 31 stood at $5.1 billion.In its report, commissioned to asses Hochtief's $22.50 a share proportional takeover bid, KPMG said it had applied a $200 million to $300 million discount to the carrying value of Leighton's receivables because of "inherent uncertainty associated with achieving negotiated settlements" on a raft of outstanding contracts.... Read more

Bank of Queensland (BoQ) has posted a strong lift in first-half cash earnings and says it remains well positioned to benefit from any recovery in the Queensland economy.In the six months to February 28, Bank of Queensland posted cash earnings of $140.2 million, a 17.2 per cent increase on the $119.9m recorded in the previous corresponding half.Statutory net profit in the period rose 34 per cent to $134.7m, from $100.5m in the first half of 2013.Revenue from ordinary activities in the period was $447.1m, an 8 per cent increase on the previous corresponding half.The bank said the result was driven by a strong improvement in net interest margins, which were up 11 basis points to 1.77 per cent.The group will pay a fully-franked interim dividend of 32 cents, a 14 per cent increase on the previous interim dividend of 28c.... Read more

Bank of Queensland announces profit jump and acquisition... Read more

BoQ says loan competition becoming abattoir, posts higher profits and buys Investec book... Read more

Snowball attacks big four over mortgage broker market power. The big four banks have come under attack from Suncorp chief executive Patrick Snowball over their “increasing influence” in the mortgage broker market.According to The Australian, Mr Snowball targeted the major banks in a speech to an Australian Banking and Finance event in Brisbane... Read more

Challanger Life has made an offer for the 41.3 per cent of shares it doesn’t already own in the $560 million listed property trust Challenger Diversified Property Group.Challenger Life, which already owns 58.7 per cent of Challenger Diversified, has offered $2.74 per cent for the remaining shares in the company.The all-cash offer for the trust that owns retail, office and industrial property, is unconditional... Read more

Beverages supplier Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) is reviewing all its operations after flagging a 15 per cent fall in first half earnings due to weakness in its Australian operations and higher costs in Indonesia.New group managing director Alison Watkins, who joined CCA from agribusiness GrainCorp in early March, says CCA would review its assets, cost base, marketing strategies, spending priorities, product mix and productivity."There are clearly some structural issues impacting our business which will require us to challenge our model thoroughly if we are to continue to deliver long-term sustainable growth," Ms Watkins said on Friday."So, we have commenced a strategic review."CCA will provide details at its annual general meeting in May.... Read more

Fund managers still bullish on broadcasting, despite Ten's $8 million half-year loss... Read more

James Packer has teamed up with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in a major branding campaign to attract Chinese high rollers to a future Crown Casino in Sydney.Mr Packer’s exclusive six figure deal to sponsor the orchestra, which is highly regarded in China, will kick off with a national tour for the 96 musicians in June.Crown is trying to tap in to the growing VIP market in China which it considers critical to the success of the high roller casino at Barrangaroo in Sydney... Read more

James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch could reportedly settle the battle over their conduct as directors of One.Tel as early as next week.Fairfax Media believes settlement discussions have focused on the size of the payment Mr Packer and Mr Murdoch will make to end the dispute. Apparently the range being discussed is $40 million to $50m.... Read more

Holden closure: Early-exit workers finding job search tough. Former Holden workers who took early redundancy packages and started looking for new jobs are warning those yet to leave the carmaker to prepare for the possible shock of hard times ahead.It is almost nine months since 400 workers left the Elizabeth manufacturing plant in northern Adelaide, many of them confident an early exit would give them an advantage in finding new work... Read more

Wilston HTM Investment Group acting boss Alexander Grant will become the stockbroker’s chief executive on a permanent basis.The company made the announcement to the ASX late on Friday... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Darryl Daté-Shappard: Pocket these 2 utilities companies now to power future returns... Read more

Opinion - Ryan Newman: Would a BHP Billiton Limited spin-off call Australia home? With growing speculation that management of mining heavyweight BHP Billiton Limited is considering a demerger of its non-core assets, analysts are divided as to which stock exchange the demerged entity would be best fit for... Read more

Opinion - Rob Burgess: Hockey must work an economic miracle... Read more

Opinion - Michael Pascoe: Hold your horses: Sharemarket crash talk overblown... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Brian Soh: Value Investor: Light ahead for New Hope? While conditions remain challenging for thermal coal producers, New Hope Corp Ltd is well positioned to ride out the downturn due to its productive efficiency, strong management team, a diversified and quality asset portfolio and strong balance sheet.For the first half of fiscal 2014, NHC reported a 67 per cent fall in net profit after tax to $22.7 million, in line with company guidance provided in February... Read more

International Headlines

U.S. Market Report: Markets are finally closed for the week after a truly bumpy ride that ended with investors running for the exits Thursday and Friday.The weakness in the technology sector appears to be spreading to the broader stock market. The Nasdaq was the biggest loser. The tech-heavy index fell more than 1.3% to end below 4,000 for the first time since early February. It lost 3.1% for the week.The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 143 points after JPMorgan (JPM, Fortune 500) reported weaker-than-expected earnings growth. The blue-chip average sank 2.3% for the week, falling after three weeks of gains.The S&P 500 was down nearly 1% today with selling in all sectors. Information technology was the hardest hit, but more defensive sectors such as utilities and telecoms were also under pressure. For the week, the S&P 500 fell 2.6%.... Read more

North/South Americas Market Report: North and South American markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Bovespa gained 1.45%, while the S&P 500 led the IPC lower. They fell 0.95% and 0.17% respectively... Read more

European Market Report: European markets finished sharply lower today with shares in Germany leading the region. The DAX is down 1.47% while London's FTSE 100 is off 1.21% and France's CAC 40 is lower by 1.08%... Read more

Asian Market Report: Asian markets finished broadly lower today with shares in Japan leading the region. The Nikkei 225 is down 2.38% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng is off 0.79% and China's Shanghai Composite is lower by 0.18%... Read more

OPEC chief sees output bouncing back. OPEC's output is set to rebound after tumbling in March, the secretary-general of the oil producers' group said Friday.Production from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries fell in March to its lowest level this year amid Iraqi and Libyan disruptions.Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Petrostrategies energy conference, Abdalla Salem el-Badri said that "in the third and fourth quarter, we will increase production."... Read more

Amazon buys digital comics app comiXology. Amazon is targeting a new corner of the media world.The company announced plans Thursday to buy comiXology, which offers a digital platform for buying and reading comics and graphic novels. The New York Times has called comiXology "the iTunes of comic books."... Read more

Amazon offers employees $5,000 to quit. Amazon is offering its warehouse employees up to $5,000 to quit their jobs, even as the company is in the process of adding workers and locations.The "Pay to Quit" program, which was announced by CEO Jeff Bezos in his letter to shareholders late Thursday, is an effort to make sure that the Internet retailer's employees really want to be there... Read more

Herbalife Ltd., the company that hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has accused of being a pyramid scheme, is being probed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.Federal authorities are looking into the company’s marketing practices, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the investigation is private. The Financial Times reported the probe earlier, saying the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice were involved... Read more

JPMorgan Chase & Co's first-quarter earnings tumbled 19 per cent as the bank grappled with weak fixed-income trading results, while mortgage revenue also suffered.Results fell short of Wall Street analysts estimates, sending shares down 2.4 per cent in recent pre-market trading.JPMorgan reported a profit of $US5.27 billion ($A5.60bn), or $US1.28 a share, versus a profit of $US6.53bn, or $US1.59 a share, a year earlier. Revenue was down 7.7 per cent to $US23.86bn... Read more

Wells Fargo & Co., the most profitable U.S. bank in 2013, posted a 14 percent rise in first-quarter earnings as fewer customers missed loan payments.Net income advanced to $5.89 billion, or $1.05 a share, from $5.17 billion, or 92 cents, a year earlier, the San Francisco-based company said today in a statement, marking the 12th consecutive record quarter. While the results beat Wall Street estimates, revenue fell 3 percent and profit was down 2 percent before changes in taxes and reserve levels... Read more

Wells Fargo & Co on Friday posted a 14 per cent rise in net income, as cost cutting and a drop in set-asides for bad loans offset a sharp falloff in its mortgage business.It was the bank's 15th straight quarter of year-over-year earnings-per-share growth, according to data from FactSet. Wells Fargo shares rose almost 2 per cent as the broader market fell... Read more

Marijuana stocks favoured by investors in emerging ‘dot bong boom’. It's been dubbed the ‘green rush’ or ‘dot bong boom’.Speculative investors looking for the next big thing are piling their money into marijuana stocks, creating a blooming industry described by one analyst as the “single best investment idea of the next decade”... Read more

Investors hire lawyers to fight Ruia brothers over 'low-ball' Essar Energy offer. Special committee of the Association of British Insurers hires Skadden Arps to pursue legal fight... Read more

Nestle says chairman has curable illness, will stay on in role... Read more

G20 leaders worry Ukraine crisis could lead to economic instability... Read more

Russia mustn't use gas supplies to Europe as a "political tool," a spokeswoman for the European Union's executive said Friday.Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a letter Thursday to 18 European Union leaders repeating his threat that Russia may have to take the "extreme measure" of making Ukraine pay in advance for the gas it uses. He warned this could increase the risk of gas supplies being "siphoned off" and not reaching EU consumers."Our message has been clear: it is in everyone's interest that energy is not used a political tool," said Pia-Ahrenkilde-Hansen, a spokeswoman for the European Commission.... Read more

Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s biggest bond manager, sees opportunities in Russia after investors sold out of the country during the standoff with Europe and the U.S. over Crimea. It’s throwing in the towel on Turkey.Russia is “a beaten-up market and there is some value there,” Andrew Bosomworth, Pimco’s Munich-based managing director and head of portfolio management in Germany, said in an interview. “It’s a question of return and risk. Five or six percent total yields relative to the risks I think are OK, and it’s hard-currency yields with euro and mainly dollar securities.”The Micex Index (INDEXCF), Russia’s benchmark equity gauge, headed for its first weekly drop since mid-March as the U.S. threatened tougher sanctions over Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in March. Escalating tension in Ukraine’s east in the past week triggered a sell-off in Russian assets... Read more

Ratings agency Fitch has upgraded its outlook for Portugal to "positive" and maintained the country's credit rating at BB+.Fitch justified its move on Friday by citing budgetary efforts agreed by Lisbon as well as the overall recovering economy of the country three years after its bailout."Portugal is making good progress in reducing its budget deficit," the ratings agency said in a statement... Read more

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was to visit Greece on Friday to applaud reform efforts, a day after the eurozone laggard made a triumphant return to bond markets.In her second visit to Athens in two years, Merkel was expected to discuss Germany's contribution to a 500-million-euro ($690-million) investment fund to help the Greek economy shake off a six-year recession.On Thursday, Greece ended a four-year exile from bond markets with a five-year debt issue that raised 3.0 billion euros.... Read more

Finland losing credit cred as S&P downgrades the country from AAA. Finland's top-notch AAA credit rating has been downgraded by another agency, a blow to a country considered the most creditworthy in Europe.... Read more

BMW recalls 156,000 vehicles in US after bolt defect... Read more

FuelCell Energy Inc., the company that built the world’s biggest fuel-cell power plant, expects to sign its first contract for a megawatt-scale project in Europe this year.FuelCell built a 250-kilowatt plant in central London to showcase the technology and will complete another one of comparable size within a few months, said Chief Executive Officer Chip Bottone. The company is talking to potential customers there and in Germany and Italy.FuelCell completed a 59-megawatt project in South Korea in February, the world’s largest facility making electricity with fuel cells. It also built last year a 14.9-megawatt plant in the U.S. for Dominion Resources Inc. The deals suggest growing acceptance of using the technology to generate electricity on a large scale... Read more

Scotch whisky exports stagnated last year, as sales were hit by slowing demand in China and other emerging markets.... Read more

UK construction output shrinks 2.8% in February. Output in the construction industry fell sharply in February as extreme weather halted work on building sites, official figures have shown.Output fell by 2.8% - £270m - compared with a month earlier, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.But in the three months to the end of February, construction output grew 0.3% compared with the previous quarter.Despite signs of improvement, the construction industry remains 13.2% below its pre recession peak... Read more

Next to axe bonus scheme that boss shared among staff. Retailer's annual report reveals that Lord Wolfson received £4.6m this year. Next is to dump the executive bonus scheme that produced multimillion-pound payouts that the chief executive, Lord Wolfson, has shared among staff – although the existing pot could continue to pay out for nine more years.The retailer's annual report, published on Friday, also reveals that after handing nearly £4m to staff – one of his three bonuses – Wolfson earned £4.6m this year... Read more

Brazil's energy giant Petrobras is mired in controversy... Read more

Growth in auto sales in China -- the world's biggest car market -- slowed sharply in March, an industry group said Friday as the economy weakens.Sales of all types of vehicles rose 6.6 percent year-on-year to 2.17 million units in the month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said in a statement. Growth decelerated from a 17.8 percent surge in February... Read more

Chinese digital mapping and navigation company AutoNavi Holdings Ltd. has agreed to be acquired by e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in a deal valued at $1.5 billion.Alibaba will pay $5.25 per share to AutoNavi stockholders, or $21 per American depositary share. That is a 27 percent premium over the company's closing price on Feb. 7, the last day of trading before its talks with Alibaba became public.Alibaba already owns approximately 28 percent of AutoNavi's outstanding stock.The deal, which was announced Friday, is expected to close in the third quarter of 2014... Read more

Tokyo investors frustrated by BoJ inaction. Disappointment over the Bank of Japan's decision not to expand its stimulus drive is likely to hang over the Japanese market next week, dealers say, as the benchmark Nikkei 225 index tumbled to its lowest level in six months on Friday.Tokyo stocks took a pounding after a rout on Wall Street with the Nikkei tumbling 2.38 per cent to its worst close since October, and leading a broader decline in Asian markets.The Nikkei shed 340.07 points to finish at 13,960.05, with the headline index losing a whopping 7.33 per cent since Monday.... Read more

Japan approves energy plan backing nuclear power... Read more

The Biggest Losers: Indian Car Makers Hit Wall in FY14. The fiscal year that just ended was tough on all automakers in India, but Indian brands were hardest hit.Sales at Tata Motors Ltd., the maker of India’s most famous car—the Nano—plunged 37% and Hindustan Motors Ltd., maker of the iconic Ambassador, sold 33% fewer cars in the year ended March 31 than the year before.Car sales by all makers have been hit as slower economic expansion, rising interest rates and climbing prices have left India’s middle class consumers with fewer rupees to buy a new family car. India’s gross domestic expansion has been stuck below 5% for seven quarters in a row... Read more

Higher food prices may have lifted India’s inflation rate last month, a poll of economists showed Friday.The wholesale price index, which has traditionally been used as the main measure of price rises in the country, likely rose 5.30% in March from a year earlier, according to a poll of 15 economists by The Wall Street Journal.Wholesale inflation has eased for three months in a row, touching a nine-month low of 4.68% in February.Inflation at the retail level is also expected to have accelerated to 8.20% in March from 8.10% in February, the poll showed. The government will announce both the wholesale and retail inflation rates on Tuesday... Read more

Opinion - Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: End may be in sight for fossil fuels... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Jamie Gray: Chinese currency moves into big league... Read more

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