ASB Securities Morning Brief for Thursday, 10 April 2014
Thursday, 10 April 2014

New Zealand Headlines

New Zealand Market Report: New Zealand stocks snapped a two-day decline as a rally in the US saw tech stocks regain some lost ground. Xero, Wynyard Group, GeoOp and SLI Systems rose. Kathmandu Holdings jumped as a takeover of Australia's David Jones lifted sentiment for retailers across the Tasman.The NZX 50 Index rose 35.851 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5067.407. Within the index, 29 shares rose, 11 fell and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $111 million... Read more

The New Zealand dollar rose from a two-week low against the yen, tracking the Australian dollar higher after stronger-than-expected home loan data across the Tasman lifted confidence about the Australian economy.The kiwi rose to 88.81 yen as at 5 pm in Wellington, having fallen as low as 88 yen at the start of the day and from 88.86 yen late yesterday. The local currency edged up to 87.02 US cents from 86.71 cents at 8am and 86.31 cents yesterday... Read more

New Zealand spending growth on credit and debit cards stalled in March, as a decline in expenditure on fuel and clothing offset gains for food and liquor.The value of retail spending on electronic cards was unchanged, seasonally adjusted, at $4.6 billion last month, after gaining 0.8 percent in February, according to Statistics New Zealand. Core retailing, which excludes spending on fuel and auto-related items, gained 0.1 percent to $3.7 billion, while the value of total electronic card purchases, including services, fell 0.2 percent to $6 billion... Read more

City jobless at six-year low. Auckland's unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in six years, buoyed by economic growth and the associated demand for workers to the point where 48,000 new jobs were created in the city last year.Geoff Cooper, Auckland Council's chief economist, said the unemployment rate was 6.3 per cent in the December quarter and 760,000 Aucklanders were in either full or part-time work in the city of 1.4 million people. Residential construction was driving job growth in building, real estate agencies, rental services, manufacturing, finance and insurance services, he said... Read more

Mayor's plea: Give youth a chance. Auckland employers will be challenged today to give young people a chance by hiring a young unemployed person.A business "summit" hosted by Mayor Len Brown will hear The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall pledge $1.85 million from his Tindall Foundation over the next three years to continue a Youth Connections scheme he helped start two years ago... Read more

KiwiSaver 'needs reform'. A High Court ruling has found that a bankrupt's KiwiSaver funds can be used to pay their debts, but only if trustees of the account grant access.Law firm Chapman Tripp said the decision showed the law required "a legislative fix".In a judgment released on March 21, Justice Ronald Young ruled that a bankrupt member's KiwiSaver account was "property" and therefore belonged to an Official Assignee - an officer of the court who administers a bankruptcy... Read more

Proportion of new house buyers has dropped in wake of bank restrictions, survey says. The proportion of first-home buyers in the market has declined in most of the main centres since mortgage-lending restrictions came in six months ago, a report says.Of the 22 areas surveyed by property data company CoreLogic, just four had increased slightly.... Read more

Key cites Tony Alexander's research in saying net buying of homes by foreigners may be "zero"; Cunliffe points to Chinese home buyers by phone... Read more

Low-geared local authorities mull new ways to raise funds in addition to property taxes. New Zealand's local authorities are to review the options they have to raise funds, saying their reliance on property tax as their main tool is becoming less sustainable as populations grow and change.Local Government New Zealand announced today it will establish a working party this month to conduct a funding review, saying the high reliance of its members on property tax is unusual compared to counterparts overseas, which often have "a multiple taxing power."... Read more

PM defends new oil and gas exploration permits... Read more

New Zealand's stock exchange operator, NZX, is expecting to reap moderate growth from recent investments over the next two to three years, and to seek greater involvement in passive managed funds, where the local market has lagged Australia and the US.Slides prepared for an NZX investor day presentation give no guidance on future earnings, but say "the focus remains on organic growth" and small acquisitions, particularly for new streams of saleable agricultural data... Read more

Restaurant Brands New Zealand, the nation's largest fast food operator, posted a 23 percent rise in annual profit after it boosted sales and margins even as increased rivalry forced it to cut prices. The company expects to increase earnings further this year.Net income rose to $19.9 million in the 52 weeks ended Feb. 24, from $16.2 million a year earlier, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. Excluding the sale and leaseback of stores, earnings rose 6.8 percent to $18.9 million, at the top end of the company's October forecast of $18 million to $19 million. The company said today that profit on that measure will rise to more than $20 million in the coming year... Read more

Michael Hill 9-month sales rose 10.5 percent, led by Canadian, Australian growth. Sales rose to A$372 million in the nine months ended March 31, from A$336.8 million a year earlier, the Brisbane-based retailer said in a statement. Same-store sales rose 5.4 percent to A$338.6 million. The shares last traded at $1.33 on the NZX and have slipped 0.8 percent in the past 12 months. The stock is rated a 'buy' based on the consensus of three analysts polled by Reuters.... Read more

Summerset Group, the retirement village operator asking shareholders to boost directors' fees 50 percent, lifted occupation rights in the first quarter from a year earlier.The Wellington-based company increased sales of occupation rights by 3.4 percent to 92 in the three months ended March 31, from 89 a year earlier, it said in a statement. Of that, 48 were new sales, and 44 were resales, compared to 64 and 25 respectively a year earlier.Late last month the group said it wanted to lift the pool for directors' fees from $400,000 to $600,000 to compensate the directors who replaced representatives of former cornerstone shareholder Quadrant Private Equity and add one board member. Earlier this year the company reported a profit of $34 million in calendar 2013, as sales of occupation rights to its retirement units reach an all-time high.Shareholders will vote on the pool increase at its annual meeting in Wellington on April 30.... Read more

Seeka looks for growth outside of kiwifruit with acquisition. Seeka Kiwifruit Industries, the fruit grower and coolstore and packhouse operator, has agreed to buy Glassfields (NZ), the fruit ripening and delivery services business, for as much as $6.25 million as it looks for growth away from the stricken kiwifruit industry.The price paid for the private company is confidential, but Seeka chief executive Michael Franks told BusinessDesk the Te-Puke company will pay a fixed price of between $3.75 million and $6.25 million on April 17. The range is based on five times expected 2015 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of between $750,000 and $1.25 million. The company's share price was unchanged at $2.60 and the tightly held stock has traded just 23 times this year. The shares have advanced 24 percent the past year, outpacing a 3.1 percent decline in the NZX SmallCap Index.... Read more

Goodman Fielder eyes joint venture. Goodman Fielder's review of its New Zealand dairy business is most likely to result in a joint-venture partner who can help it increase exports to Asia taking a stake in the business, an analyst says.The dairy business is one of the two big dairy players in New Zealand supermarkets and its brands include Meadow Lea, Naturlea, Chesdale and Tararua.Citi Investment Research analyst Gino Rossi said he did not believe the trans-Tasman food giant would have much difficulty finding a joint-venture partner, and that that was a more likely option than selling outright... Read more

The Central Plains Water Scheme is the first to receive a Crown leg up.Crown Irrigation Investments yesterday agreed the draft terms of a $6.5 million loan for the Canterbury scheme that will run between the Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers.It is the first investment by Crown Irrigation, set up to to help establish regional -scale irrigation schemes that will speed up New Zealand's economic development... Read more

Alternative Investment Report discussed. The Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme remains the most economic alternative and a viable investment for Hawke’s Bay, according to an independent report commissioned by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.Nimmo-Bell & Company Ltd was commissioned to prepare a report identifying and evaluating alternative investments for the region. That report was presented to today’s HBRC Environment & Services Committee meeting... Read more

Fonterra names Dutch dairyman Henk Bles to new role of head of international farming ventures... Read more

New tourism boss for Ngai Tahu. Ngai Tahu Tourism has appointed an experienced tourism executive to lead the company.Ngai Tahu Tourism chairman Ross Keenan announced the appointment of Quinton Hall as the new chief executive. He will take up the job in July."He brings with him extensive operational experience from the tourism sector and the wider business community, including project management, human resources, asset management, property and information technology experience", Keenan said.Hall is replacing John Thorburn who led the company for eight years and is moving to head bus company Intercity.... Read more

NZ affected by global Toyota vehicle recall.... Read more

Banks need time to win back trust: expert. The world is still rebuilding after the global financial crisis, but it will take time before public confidence in the banking and finance sector is fully restored, says Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, global head of citizenship at KPMG International.Lord Hastings, who was in Auckland to speak to KPMG's annual partners conference, said business had re-emerged from the "brokenness" of the 2007-9 financial crisis but the future of capitalism was about responsible corporate behaviour... Read more

The Christchurch City Council-owned World Buskers Festival ran at a $14,000 loss this year.The loss is the first recorded since the council bought the festival in 2009 amid concerns it might shift to another city... Read more

Feltex investors can join court case. The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal which could have resulted in thousands of investors claiming $185 million in damages from the failure of carpet-maker Feltex time-barred from the proceedings.A representative action began in the High Court in Wellington last month, nearly 10 years after thousands of investors put more than $250m into Feltex's mid-2004 public listing.Feltex had offered shares to the public for $1.70 each, but the company collapsed just two years later and went into receivership... Read more

Carter Holt pursued over leaky schools. The New Zealand Ministry of Education will continue to pursue a leaky schools lawsuit against Carter Holt Harvey after the wood company owned by Graeme Hart's Rank Group failed in an attempt to have the claim quashed.The claim concerns CHH's supply of faulty wall cladding material used in New Zealand schools. CHH failed to have the ministry's product liability claim struck off in the High Court last week, associate education minister Nikki Kaye said in a statement.The ministry filed the proceedings last year as it embarked on a remediation programme on 800 buildings across more than 300 schools, with an estimated cost of some $1.5 billion.... Read more

Piping contractor, Canadian Pacific Limited, has today been fined $55,250 over a 2011 explosion in an Onehunga water pipe that killed one worker and left another a double amputee.Philomen Gulland died on June 4 2011 and Ian Winson lost both his legs from above the knee in a gas explosion which left another five workers suffering injuries including fractures, head injuries, lacerations, puncture wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder.Canadian Pacific was found guilty in the Auckland District Court last December, and was today sentenced on charges of failing to take all practicable steps to protect employees and failing to take all practicable steps to protect others.... Read more

The ex-wife of a businessman who made a fortune in health and sport supplements has lost a Court of Appeal fight attempting to get a share of $8 million from her ex-husband.After Michael and Christine Thompson divorced in 2005 they agreed on how to split up their family home, a holiday home and $72 million from the sale of Nutra-Life Health and Fitness, a business which they established in 1984.But the former husband and wife - who married in 1971 - were unable to agree on how to deal with an $8 million restraint-of-trade payment made to Michael Thompson in 2006 by the company that bought Nutra-Life... Read more

FMA invites Sheppard to share Hanover report. The Financial Markets Authority wants to see any relevant information shareholders advocate Bruce Sheppard has about Hanover Finance... Read more

Owners of strife-hit Warriors set to split. Warriors owners Sir Owen Glenn and Eric Watson have fallen out and a split between the two multimillionaires is imminent.Speaking from Paris last night, Sir Owen confirmed he was considering how to cut his ties with the club... Read more

Annual car sales are on track to overtake 200,000 for the first time in nearly a decade but one high-profile Wellington car dealership has gone into receivership, owing an estimated $5 million.King Toyota has two sites in Lower Hutt and one in Upper Hutt. However, owner David Clarke called in receivers this month after a quiet February.Ten of the 51 staff have been laid off but the business continued to run as normal... Read more

Opinion - David Hargreaves: John Key might have just unintentionally made houses a crucial election battleground... Read more

Analysis - David Chaplin: Macquarie loses patience with $22.5m NZ experiment. The closure of the Macquarie Bank-owned Brook Asset Management last week was a surprise to some - not because it was unexpected but because many thought it had already happened.Brook, once the biggest boutique manager in the land, had been limping on, trying to reinvent itself after the Australian investment bank Macquarie completed its two-phase buyout of the firm in 2008... Read more

Opinion - Gareth Vaughan: What does Australasia's biggest bank want from a government financial system inquiry?... Read more

Australian Headlines

Australian Market Report: The local share market has enjoyed a strong performance with the retail sector benefiting from a South African takeover bid for department store David Jones.The All Ordinaries Index gained 51 points to 5,460 and the ASX 200 closed 1 per cent higher at 5,464... Read more

The Australian dollar has drifted lower in overnight trade, losing some momentum in its steady push towards US94c.At 330am (AEST), the local unit was trading at US93.56c, down marginally from US93.62c at the close of local trade yesterday.Over the past 24 hours the currency has seen a high of US93.88c and a low of US93.34c. The US93.88c level was the highest for the local unit since November last year... Read more

The Abbott government is getting all the right signs from China that they're keen to fast-track talks on a free trade deal with Australia.Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been personally assured by Premier Li Keqiang that China is determined to conclude negotiations on a deal as soon as possible.That's good news for Mr Abbott, who arrives in China having clinched agreements with South Korea and Japan and wants to redouble efforts to get Beijing across the line... Read more

Andrew Robb says he 'set straight' George Christensen over Japan free trade concerns... Read more

A widely-watched survey shows Australian households are pessimistic about the economy's long-term outlook.The Index of Consumer Sentiment by Westpac and the Melbourne Institute rose by just 0.3 per cent in April to 99.7.That is below the key 100-point-level which indicates optimists outnumber pessimists.Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan says he was expecting a better rebound than the fairly flat result for April... Read more

The unemployment rate is expected to have hit a near 11-year high in March, but there are signs the employment market is starting to improve.Official labour force figures to be released on Thursday are expected to show the number of people with jobs fell by 5,000 in March, an AAP survey of 11 economists shows, after a surprise rise of 47,300 in February.The unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 6.1 per cent, its highest level since July 2003, up from 6.0 per cent in January and February.Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens has recently said he expects the unemployment rate to peak a little above six per cent in 2014, then fall back.... Read more

Official housing finance figures show buyers are still active, with investors back in the market with a vengeance.Bureau of Statistics figures show the value of new home loans approved rose 2.9 per cent in February, to $27.6 billion, seasonally adjusted.Investors continued to dominate the market - after a brief 3.7 per cent dip last month, the value of investment loans rose 4.4 per cent to $10.7 billion in February.The number of owner-occupied home loans rose 2.3 per cent, which was stronger than average economist forecasts of 1.5 per cent... Read more

Treasurer Joe Hockey has rejected a foreign purchase of a house in Sydney in what some experts say could be a new direction in government policy.The knockback comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott leads a large delegation to North Asia to show Australia is "open for business" when it comes to investment and trade.The purchase of the established four-bedroom house in Strathfield by Zhixiong Hua was rejected under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act because it would have been "contrary to the national interest".It is understood the purchase was screened by Treasury, under the foreign investment review process, and the buyer declined to provide further information when it was sought.In 2012-13, a total of $51.9 billion of foreign investment in real estate was approved, including $5.42 billion in existing residential property.... Read more

Australia will be pushing leaders from the world's biggest economies to advance a commitment to boost global growth at a G20 meeting in Washington on Thursday.Treasurer Joe Hockey and Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens will chair the meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, which follows the successful February meeting in Sydney that kicked off Australia's presidency of the world's most important economic forum.... Read more

ERA told: Clean up Ranger uranium mine site and clear out rather than shifting underground. Public health experts have joined traditional owners and environmentalists in calling for Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) to focus on land rehabilitation rather than expansion of its Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory.The company's latest report shows that despite operations being suspended at the site since a toxic leak last year, plans to mine uranium underground continue.ERA is holding its annual general meeting in Darwin today... Read more

Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has cast doubt on whether there will be an expansion of an existing LNG plant in the next 10 years because of cost pressures in Australia.And he warned construction workers and their unions enjoying high wages and conditions they would soon realise they had priced themselves out of a market, to the advantage of the floating LNG revolution... Read more

Moly Mines' shares have plunged after saying it expects be suspended from trading later this month.The company said it would be unable to meet an April 22 deadline imposed by the Australian Securities Exchange to show it had sufficient operations to justify continued quotation. It shares were down 3.2 cents, or 34 per cent, to 6.2 cents at 11.41am... Read more

Green light for Sirius-Creasy deal. An independent expert report has come down in favour of Sirius Resources' $200 million cash-and-scrip deal with Mark Creasy to mop up ownership of its Nova-Bollinger product.Mr Creasy will be paid about $28 million in cash and 70.6 million Sirius shares in exchange for his 30 per cent interest in the tenements underlying Sirius' major nickel discovery in the Fraser Ranges east of Norseman. Shares in Sirius were up 10¢, or 4 per cent, to $2.42 at 11.45am.... Read more

Landholders get conditions but Indian joint venture with Gina Rinehart gets approval. The $6 billion Alpha mega mine in central Queensland is back in the hands of the State Government after the Land Court yesterday said the project should be either rejected or approved with conditions over groundwater.And in making the recommendation, judge Paul Smith said he had little confidence in the evidence on groundwater... Read more

Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting has been accused of "vexatious nitpicking" over its failure to hand over to the Wright family its interest in the giant Rhodes Ridge iron ore project after losing its last avenue of appeal seven months ago.The return bout is the latest move in an ongoing brawl between descendants of the State's most influential prospectors, Lang Hancock and Peter Wright. The two families having spent tens of millions of dollars over the past 17 years fighting over the spoils of the Pilbara discoveries made by the lifelong friends... Read more

The David Jones board is recommending a $4 per share takeover offer from South Africa's Woolworths.The DJs board says it is recommending shareholders vote for the takeover in the absence of a superior offer and subject to an independent report.The offer from Woolworths, which is unrelated to the Australian retailer of the same name, values David Jones at $2.15 billion... Read more

DJs shares soar on takeover bid... Read more

South African retail giant Woolworths has unveiled ambitious plans to turn around the flagging fortunes of David Jones, creating the “best department store in the southern hemisphere”.The Cape Town-based group — which is not associated with the Australian Woolworths retail giant — looks set to seize control of David Jones after swooping in with a $2.1 billion buyout bid.David Jones investors embraced the offer, sending the retailers’ shares soaring 22.6 per cent to $3.91.... Read more

Woolworths' David Jones takeover turns Myer from hunter to hunted... Read more

The importance of a department store as an anchor tenant in a shopping centre is diminishing to the extent that malls being built or redeveloped now devote more space to food than Myer or David Jones.Westfield managers told the company's investor day last week that the plans for the new Miranda redevelopment in Sydney show a continued shift in Westfield's design towards fresh food, with a market-style area for produce, as well as catered food.The centre will add 10 new "mini majors", as stores like JB Hi-Fi and Priceline are known in the industry, with a focus on international "fast" fashion, exemplified by the likes of Spain's Zara, as well as a zone for premium brands... Read more

WorleyParsons is expected to axe more jobs on top of the 500 it cut last year in a cost-slashing restructure.The costs of the restructure will eat into this year's profit result by $35 million.The company's culture also had to improve as there had been a decline away from customer care and shareholder outcomes, chief executive Andrew Wood said.The global and engineering group has been under market pressure since last November's abrupt profit warning, when 2014 guidance was cut from a forecast increase of more than $322 million to between $260 million and $300 million.The share price sunk nearly 30 per cent to $15.72 in less than a week and a shareholder class action was launched.... Read more

The Federal Government says it is working as quickly as possible to provide $16 million in funding to Hobart's Cadbury factory.During last year's federal election campaign, the then opposition leader Tony Abbott promised the money to help reinstate Cadbury's famous factory tours.The Prime Minister was criticised for the election sweetener months down the track, when he refused to give assistance to the fruit processing company SPC Ardmona.Eight months on, Cadbury's funding still has not been forthcoming.... Read more

Austal has been commissioned to build two ferries for a Middle East oil and gas company for $30 million.The 45-metre high speed catamaran ferries will be designed and constructed at Austal's Philippines shipyard.Construction will begin this quarter, with both vessels expected to be delivered in 2015. The customer is Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)... Read more

Toyota to recall 6.39 million vehicles worldwide; 300,000 of them in Australia... Read more

ACTU labels inquiry a witch-hunt. A royal commission into trade union governance, slush funds and corruption is nothing more than a witch-hunt and taxpayers will be better served if more money went to enforcing existing laws, unions say.The royal commission into trade union governance started in Sydney on Wednesday, with commissioner Dyson Heydon saying the inquiry's both broad and restrictive terms of reference will probe the facts behind a range of union practices.... Read more

Former New South Wales Labor minister Eddie Obeid has denied giving false evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).ICAC has been investigating if the Obeid family had a 30 per cent secret stake in infrastructure company Australian Water Holdings (AWH), and if the company corruptly obtained money from Sydney Water.Mr Obeid today told ICAC he did not lobby former premiers and ministers about AWH out of greed.... Read more

Questions emerge over business relationship of two Australians caught up in $14 million Dubai fraud allegations... Read more

Opinion - Rob Burgess: Japan FTA merits are lost in translation... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Tim McArthur: 4 high yielding dividend stocks that investors are overlooking... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Michael West: Myer dejected as South African suitor wins DJ's heart... Read more

Opinion - Callam Pickering: Prepare for a sharp house price punishment.... Read more

Analysis - Sydney Morning Herald: Is it a bubble? 16 key housing market questions... Read more

International Headlines

U.S. Market Report: Investors had some bounce in their step Wednesday as first quarter earnings season kicks off and the Fed sounded a dovish tone.The Dow jumped almost 160 points in afternoon trading, while gained more than Nasdaq 1%. The S&P 500 also moved higher.... Read more

North/South Americas Market Report: North and South American markets are mixed today. The S&P 500 is up 0.88% while the IPC gains 0.08%. The Bovespa is off 0.46%.... Read more

European Market Report: European markets finished higher today with shares in London leading the region. The FTSE 100 is up 0.68% while France's CAC 40 is up 0.40% and Germany's DAX is up 0.16%.... Read more

Asian Market Report: Asian markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Hang Seng gained 1.09% and the Shanghai Composite rose 0.33%. The Nikkei 225 lost 2.10%.... Read more

Oil prices steady before U.S. data. Oil prices steadied on Wednesday following a surge the day before, as traders awaited energy inventory data from the United States for demand clues regarding the world's biggest crude consumer.New York's main contract West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in May fell 16 cents to $102.40 a barrel ahead of the stockpiles figures due 1430 GMT.Brent North Sea crude for May edged up five cents to stand at $107.72.... Read more

Houston and the rest of the U.S. Gulf Coast have more oil than the region can handle.Stockpiles in the region centered on Houston and stretching to New Mexico in the west from Alabama in the east rose to 202 million barrels in the week ended April 4, the most on record, Energy Information Administration data released today show.Storage tanks are filling as new pipelines carry light, sweet oil found in shale formations to the coast and U.S. law keeps companies from moving it out. Most crude exports are banned and the 13 ships that can legally move oil between U.S. ports are booked solid. The federal Jones Act restricts domestic seaborne trade to vessels owned, flagged and built in the U.S. and crewed by citizens.... Read more

Rich countries' unemployment rose in Feb: OECD. Unemployment in advanced countries rose slightly in February, the OECD said on Wednesday, a setback after recent falls.Despite improvement in the general economic outlook for rich countries, the unemployment rate edged up by 0.1 percentage points to 7.6 percent from the January level, said the OECD.The increase -- due largely to rises in the United States and some eurozone countries -- came after three months of falls in the overall rate of unemployment in the 34 countries the OECD covers.... Read more

Several Federal Reserve policy makers said a rise in their median projection for the main interest rate exaggerated the likely speed of tightening, according to minutes of their March meeting.“Several participants noted that the increase in the median projection overstated the shift in the projections,” the minutes of the March 18-19 Federal Open Market Committee meeting showed. Some expressed concern the rate forecasts “could be misconstrued as indicating a move by the committee to a less accommodative reaction function.”... Read more

Minutes show Fed officials unanimous in changing rates guidance... Read more

Hewlett-Packard will pay $108 million and one of its subsidiaries will plead guilty to bribery charges over its role in a scheme to secure a contract with a Russian government office, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.HP units in Poland and Mexico also resolved criminal charges related to contracts in those two countries, the department said.The Securities and Exchange Commission entered into a related settlement with the computing giant over allegations that its subsidiaries made improper payments to government officials in order to obtain contracts, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.HP's Russia subsidiary paid more than $2 million in bribes to obtain a contract with the federal prosecutor's office, the SEC said.... Read more

Mars claims pet food brands for $US2.9bn. Procter & Gamble agreed to sell three pet food brands in major markets to Mars for $US2.9 billion ($3.1bn) in cash as the consumer products company looks to exit the pet care segment and focus on its core brands.Mars, known primarily as a candy company, will acquire the Iams, Eukanuba and Natura brands, boosting its portfolio, which already includes Pedigree, Whiskas, Banfield and Royal Canin.... Read more

P&G changes policy on palm oil after Greenpeace protests. The Procter & Gamble Co. has updated its policy on palm oil following high-profile protests by Greenpeace at its Cincinnati headquarters.The world's largest consumer products company said Tuesday that it has adopted a “no-deforestation” policy for its palm oil supply. The new goals go beyond its existing policy and aim to ensure its products do not contribute to deforestation. The company said it will work with suppliers and others to ensure it meets this goal by 2020. It will also establish traceability of its palm oil related supply by 2015... Read more

A federal judge could rule Thursday on whether she'll accept the insider trading guilty plea from the hedge fund firm formerly known as SAC Capital Advisors, as well as the proposed $1.2 billion in penalties.In a letter she sent Tuesday to prosecutors and defense lawyers, Judge Laura Swain of U.S. District Court in New York said she wants to discuss whether the proposed penalties "take into account the activities of all culpable persons ... or only the activities of the eight identified employees."... Read more

Bank of America Corp., the second-biggest U.S. credit-card lender, reached a $783 million accord with regulators who said the firm deceptively sold debt cancellation and identity theft-protection products to millions of consumers.The deal with agencies including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau calls for $738 million in refunds and $45 million in penalties, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank said today in a statement. The accord will have little impact on first-quarter results because the company has been reimbursing customers for the past two years, said a person with direct knowledge of the process. The person asked for anonymity because earnings haven’t been released yet... Read more

Costa Rica stunned as BofA, Intel fire 3,000 workers... Read more

Time Inc., the magazine publisher that will be spun off as a separate company by the end of June, askedHoward Stringer to become a board member, according to people with knowledge of the matter.Stringer, who retired as chief executive officer of Sony Corp. in 2012, is still deciding whether to accept the post, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.Teri Everett, a spokeswoman for Time Inc., said the company doesn’t comment on speculation. Stringer, 72, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment... Read more

The misty world of marijuana stocks. The investors flocking to cash in on cannabis stocks... Read more

Heartbleed Bug: Public urged to reset all passwords... Read more

EU proposes new shareholder powers over executive pay. Firms will have to put their remuneration policy to a binding shareholder vote if a European Commission proposal gets approval.The proposal is part of a mooted commission package to boost shareholder power and control executive pay.But there would be no EU-wide pay cap and the so-called "say on pay" policy would only apply to publicly traded firms in the 28-nation bloc.The move is the latest by European lawmakers to control executive awards.... Read more

Wonga advert banned for implying 5,853% APR was 'irrelevant'... Read more

UK goods trade deficit narrows to £9.1bn in February... Read more

Tesco under pressure to win back customers with price cuts. In the latest blow to chief executive Philip Clarke, City analysts say the supermarket chain needs a radical new strategy... Read more

Greece to issue first long-term bond since 2010... Read more

The dark side of the Greek rescue... Read more

Significance of implementing South Stream up amid Ukrainian crisis - Russian diplomat. Another round of consultations on the South Stream pipeline between Russian and European Commission experts took place in Brussels on April 8, Russia's Permanent Representative to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, told reporters on Wednesday.... Read more

Toyota Recall Comes Amid Safety Clampdown. More Aggressive Regulators in U.S., Japan, China Pressure Car Makers to Act... Read more

Facebook hits 100 million India users, largest after US... Read more

How no toilets and deadly squalor may spell victory for India's Hindu Nationalists... Read more

The expansion of India’s industrial output likely remained at worryingly weak levels in February as investment failed to pick up and exports shrank.Industrial production, which includes the output of factories, mines and utilities companies, likely expanded 0.9% from a year earlier, according to the median estimate of a poll of 16 economists by The Wall Street Journal.In January it grew 0.1% after declining for three months in a row. The government is scheduled to issue the data on Friday.India has been struggling through a sharp slowdown in growth. In the last quarter of 2013, India’s economy clocked the seventh successive month of sub-5% growth compared to the 9% expansion seen as recently as the fiscal year ended March 2011... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Felix Salmon: The narrative fallacy of 'Flash Boys'. Reuters writer Felix Salmon takes a hard look at Michael Lewis’ latest book Flash Boys – and argues that the general public is not being ripped off and the stock market isn’t the scam that Lewis claims it is... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - John Addis: Seeds being sown for the next GFC... Read more

Opinion/Analysis - Tom Randall: Now is the time to invest in wind and solar. Global investment in renewable energy last year declined for the second year in a row. Even worse: For the first time since renewables became plausible, growth in new capacity slowed."Is this the clean-tech crash?" asked Michael Liebreich, chairman of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, to start his keynote at the group's annual summit in New York... Read more

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