HSBC’s profit plunges on ‘risky’ year

Europe’s biggest bank said net profit for last year tumbled 82 percent to US$2.5 billion from US$13.5 billion a year ago as annual revenue fell 18.5 percent to US$48 billion. In the most recent quarter, HSBC’s net loss widened to US$4.2 billion from US$1.3 billion in the same period the previous year. The write-off accounted for part of the US$6.8 billion pre-tax loss at its European business last year. Business at its Asian unit, meanwhile, remained fairly steady, with pretax profit dipping 12.5 percent to US$13.8 billion pre-tax, mainly because of the effect of one-time items. The bank said it would buy back an additional US$1 billion worth of shares in the first half of the year, following a US$2.5 billion buyback last year.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Restaurant Brands in advanced talks to buy Popeyes

BloombergRestaurant Brands International Inc, the owner of Burger King, is in advanced talks with Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc about a takeover of the fried chicken chain, according to people familiar with the matter. Popeyes has a market value of about US$1.37 billion, while Restaurant Brands is worth US$25 billion. A representative for Restaurant Brands did not immediately respond to a request outside of regular business hours. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc was brought in by 3G to provide financing for the deal and still holds a stake in Restaurant Brands. Reuters on Feb. 13 reported that Restaurant Brands had approached Popeyes about a possible acquisition, citing people familiar with the talks.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Taiwan Business Bank looks abroad

By Crystal Hsu / Staff reporterState-run Taiwan Business Bank (台灣企銀) is seeking to enhance its earnings ability this year through growth in its overseas and offshore operations, as well as lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), top executives said yesterday. “With a long-standing focus on SME financing, Taiwan Business Bank is in a better position than its peers to reach out to and forge relationships with firms in the specific sectors,” bank chairman Robert Chu (朱潤逢) told a news conference. Overseas and offshore business generated 30 percent of the bank’s profits in 2015, but the contribution shrank last year due to asset impairments, Chu said. However, the bank posted net income of NT$5.25 billion last year, an increase of 2.68 percent from the previous year, according to Taiwan Stock Exchange data. Faster growth in savings than in loans meant the bank had more idle money with which to pursue investment gains, Yang said.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Greece, lenders agree to work on new reforms

The IMF believes that the pension system in Greece should undergo a deeper overhaul than so far, while Greece has flatly refused to have the reform reopened. However, the IMF has said the current reforms would only produce a 1.5 percent surplus and that income and labor market reforms were needed too. The IMF now believes Greece needs substantial debt relief, while the eurozone thinks it does not. “The issue of sustainable debt will come back when the whole package of reforms is agreed,” Dijsselbloem said. The talks now appear set to continue during election campaigns in the Netherlands and France, which eurozone officials have said may make a final deal more difficult.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Berlin encouraged by PSA-GM talks, but Britain worried

Two sources close to PSA told reporters last week that job and plant cuts were part of the tie-up talks, with the two Vauxhall sites in Britain in the front line. Of GM Europe’s roughly 38,000 staff, about half are in Germany and about 4,500 in Britain. “This is why speculation is premature at this point,” Machnig told German television station ARD. In evidence to lawmakers, he added PSA was not in a position to give guarantees as it was still in talks with GM. British Prime Minister Theresa May also plans to speak with Tavares, her spokesman said.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Water rationing to start in some northern districts

By Lauly Li / Staff reporterThe first phase of water rationing measures in areas supplied by the Shihmen Reservoir (石門水庫) is to begin on Wednesday next week, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday. “Lower than average rainfall since December last year and the reduction in water storage levels in reservoirs nationwide required us to make this decision,” the Water Resources Agency said. The water storage level at the reservoir in Taoyuan has dropped to 54.28 percent as of yesterday, according to the agency’s data. Phase-one rationing measures, indicated by a “yellow” on the government’s color-coded monitoring system, involves lowering the water pressure between 11pm and 5am. The affected areas include New Taipei City’s Banciao (板橋), Sinjhuang (新莊) and Linkou (林口) districts and Hsinchu.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Sinochem mulling sale of stake in Brazilian oil field

The oil and chemicals firm agreed to buy the stake from Norway’s Statoil ASA for US$3.07 billion in 2010 — beating out a raft of Chinese rivals chasing high-quality assets. The Norwegian giant owns the other 60 percent of Peregrino, the largest heavy oil field it operates outside its home patch. With that in mind, Sinochem was pitching the sale at a big discount compared with its purchase price, one person said. Two sources said Sinochem’s intent to sell the stake has been shared with India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp, which did not respond to requests for comments. For its part, Sinochem has seen growth in its key oil trading business stagnate, with increasing domestic competition from the likes of state oil traders China International United Petroleum & Chemical Corp (中國國際石化聯合) and China National United Oil Corp (中國聯合石油), while overseas oil and gas assets have struggled amid the prolonged low oil prices.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Citigroup to settle rand case with US$5.4m fine

BloombergCitigroup Inc has agreed to pay a penalty of almost 70 million rand (US$5.4 million) to settle a South African antitrust investigation that said the US bank participated in an alleged cartel to manipulate the value of the rand. Citigroup will make available witnesses to help prosecute other banks that participated in price fixing and market allocation in the trading of foreign-currency pairs involving the rand, the Pretoria-based Competition Commission said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. Former Citigroup trader Christopher Cummins and ex-BNP Paribas SA employee Jason Katz have pleaded guilty to allegations in the US for rigging emerging-market currencies; both were identified in the Competition Commission investigation. Citigroup and Barclays were named as part of the rand-rigging probe when it first started in 2015. The administrative penalty paid by Citigroup does not exceed 10 percent of the lender’s annual turnover, the commission said.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Qualcomm ties Samsung scandal to antitrust fine

BloombergThe corruption scandal rocking South Korea has given Qualcomm Inc another way to challenge a big antitrust fine threatening its most profitable business. Qualcomm highlighted that Kim also signed off on a record 1.03 trillion won (US$898 million) fine against the US chipmaker in December last year for violating antitrust laws. Samsung Electronics Co, a major customer of Qualcomm, stands to benefit greatly from the decision by cutting the fees it pays Qualcomm. KFTC spokesman Shin Yeong-ho said the penalty imposed on Qualcomm has nothing to do with the recent scandal. The US company was fined for violating antitrust laws in South Korea, he said.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Xiaomi eyes more products, stores in Taiwan this year

By Lauly Li / Staff reporterXiaomi Corp (小米) plans to introduce more “smart” home products and increase the number of direct-sales stores and Mi Home showrooms in Taiwan this year, executives said yesterday. “Our goal is to strengthen our brand image in the market through efforts on ‘offline’ stores and events,” Xiaomi Taiwan general manager Henman Lee told reporters after a Taipei launch event for the Mi Note 2 and Redmi Note 4X smartphones. The Chinese smartphone vendor entered the Taiwan market in 2013 and mainly sells products through e-commerce platforms and its online store in this nation. The company plans to open five Mi Home and direct-sales stores nationwide this year, after the brick-and-mortar stores received better-than-expected responses, Lee said. The 5.7-inch curved-screen Mi Note 2 is priced at NT$16,999 and the 5.5-inch Redmi Note 4X is priced at NT$4,999, Xiaomi said.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

Meet the women combating fat shaming in Taiwan

The two plus-sized friends started the Facebook page Lady Bom Bom Power, or Roudan Tianxin (肉彈甜心), in 2015 to combat stereotypes of fat women, a problem they believe is deeply ingrained and widespread. As to the inquiry on poop size, Hsieh says: “I’m not sure if fat people’s stool is bigger. In addition to making videos, Lin and Hsieh regularly give talks at universities around Taiwan. The movement also encompasses the idea of “fat acceptance” — remedying anti-fat sentiment and reclaiming the word “fat” from its negative connotation. “There are a lot of plus-sized YouTubers and bloggers in the West seeking to change negative perceptions of fat women,” she says.

February 21, 2017 16:01 UTC

‘High-risk’ one-day tours taken off the market

Tour operators must stop offering such tours or face fines of between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000. The Travel Quality Assurance Association should quickly make public a reasonable price range for various one-day tours, Chang said. Tour operators would be given guidelines for the design of domestic tours, which include giving tour bus drivers adequate time to rest, he said. According to the bureau, only 20 high-risk domestic tours are still on the market. Tour operators should offer consumers full refunds for one-day tours purchased for the 228 Memorial Day holiday if their tours are deemed high-risk and then canceled, Consumer Protection Committee senior ombudsman Wang Te-ming (王德明) said.

February 21, 2017 15:56 UTC

Avian flu mutation detected: CDC

By Lee I-chia / Staff reporterIn the nation’s first case of H7N9 avian influenza, diagnosed in a 69-year-old Taiwanese man who returned from China with flu symptoms late last month, the virus has developed mutation and a resistance to antiviral drugs, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said. It is highly pathogenic to birds, but does not show an increased ability to transmit from bird to human, or human to human, the agency said on Monday. “The mutated virus might be more lethal to birds, so disease prevention must be enhanced to prevent cases being imported from China,” CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said yesterday. The CDC has urged people to cook poultry and eggs thoroughly, wash their hands with soap, wear surgical masks, seek medical attention and tell the doctor about their profession or contact with birds if flu symptoms occur. People working in close proximity to birds should get a flu vaccination, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, the agency said.

February 21, 2017 15:56 UTC

Jewish Community, President Tsai Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In 2005, the United Nations designated Jan. 27, the day on which Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. International Holocaust Remembrance Day comes amid an increase in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial throughout the world. In Taiwan, International Holocaust Remembrance Day comes in the aftermath of last December's student parade at Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School, in which students wore Nazi uniforms, waved Nazi flags and used Nazi greetings and salutes. Taipei Jewish Center Chairman Ross Darrell Feingold said: "Taiwan's Jewish community is grateful that the government recognizes the importance of Holocaust remembrance and education. We hope International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Taiwan helps educators and the public better understand the tragedy of the Holocaust and that there is a growing community of Jewish people who live long term in Taiwan who are able to share their knowledge about the Holocaust and the Jewish religion."

February 21, 2017 10:34 UTC

Cross-strait ties 'not ideal enough': premier

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Tsai Ing-wen administration has hoped for positive interactions between Taiwan and China since it took office on May 20 last year, but the situation has not been "ideal enough," Premier Lin Chuan said Tuesday. In the 2017 Business Climate Survey, the executives at American companies in Taiwan who responded to the survey identified government regulations, cross-strait relations, trade/economy and labor/employment as the major factors affecting their companies. In terms of cross-strait ties, Lin said the government will continue to push for friendly interactions with China. Lin contended, however, that the revisions represented progress in improving the Labor Standards Act and said they will definitely benefit workers who are entitled to work fewer hours and have more time to rest. The government will continue to assess and adjust the new work rules to allow their smooth implementation and reduce their short-term impact on businesses, Lin said.

February 21, 2017 06:22 UTC

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