Explosion at bullring injures dozens

BOGOTA -- An explosion injured at least 26 people in the Colombian capital Sunday, most of them police guarding a bullring that had been targeted by protests on reopening last month, officials said. The explosion struck near the Plaza Santamaria bullring in the Macarena district. Bullfighting ProtestsClosed in 2012 by the city's former leftist mayor Gustavo Petro, the bullring was ordered to reopen by Colombia's Constitutional Court. City Mayor Enrique Penalosa, who overflew the scene in a helicopter, said the area had been secured. The authorities have not said who was behind the explosion or whether anti-bullfight activists were suspected.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Netanyahu 'had secret Arab peace meeting'

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with Arab rulers last year to hear then U.S. secretary of state John Kerry pitch a regional peace plan, an Israeli newspaper reported Sunday. It said Kerry wanted the sides to endorse six principles, which he laid out publicly in a December speech. Kerry's parameters envisioned a Palestinian state, with Palestinians recognizing Israel as a "Jewish state." "Netanyahu did not accept Kerry's proposal and said he would have difficulty getting it approved by his governing coalition," Haaretz wrote on Sunday. Netanyahu's spokesman and Jordanian officials refused to comment on the report.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

South Sudan suffering 'man-made' famine

JUBA -- South Sudan's government said Monday that more than three years of war have led to famine in parts of the nation, a tragedy aid agencies criticized as "man-made." Isaiah Chol Aruai, the chairman of South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics, said some parts of the northern Greater Unity region "are classified in famine, or... risk of famine." A joint press statement from aid agencies said 100,000 people were affected by the famine, which threatened another one million people in the coming months. South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, was engulfed by civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him. The famine classification is according to an internationally recognized sliding scale of hunger in which an extreme lack of food has led to starvation and death.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

President says Sweden comments referred to something he saw on TV

HELSINKI -- Swedes have been scratching their heads and ridiculing President Donald Trump's remarks that suggested a major incident had happened in the Scandinavian country. The American president now says he was referring to something he saw on television. During a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump said "look what's happening last night in Sweden" as he alluded to past terror attacks in Europe. It wasn't clear what he was referring to and there were no high-profile situations reported in Sweden on Friday night. On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to explain: "My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden."

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Kazakh tenge rides on the advance in crude oil prices

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is also a fan, saying earlier this month that the tenge could climb 15 percent this year, thanks to elevated crude prices. Following a seven-day rally, the tenge closed at 318.80 per US dollar on Friday, close to its highest level since the end of 2015. Given that oil prices probably will not rise much in the near term, the scope for further gains in the tenge could be circumscribed, BMI said. Last month, Kazakhstan produced 1.67 million barrels of oil a day. The tenge could appreciate toward 310 per US dollar by the end of this year, before averaging 302.50 next year and 290 in 2019, BMI forecasts.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC



Mega Financial eyeing stable growth

“We will give top priority to reversing the company’s tarnished image and shun bold moves in the pursuit of profit,” Mega Financial chairman Michael Chang (張兆順) told a news conference on Saturday. Mega Financial posted a net income of NT$22.39 billion (US$826.9 million) last year, compared with NT$29.27 billion a year earlier, company data showed. Mega Financial president Bruce Yang (楊豐彥) said offshore and overseas operations would continue to drive business growth, but there would be much less emphasis on unreliable arbitrage opportunities. Mega Bank senior executive vice president Fu Ruey-yuan (傅瑞媛) said it is unrealistic to set aggressive loan growth targets if major local firms demonstrate a low appetite for investment. Mega Bank vice president in charge of foreign-exchange trade Sandy Lee (李春香) declined to comment, saying the currency markets have evolved in directions at odds with earlier expectations.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Container shipping industry recovering: Evergreen

By Ted Chen / Staff reporterEvergreen Marine Corp (長榮海運) yesterday gave an upbeat outlook for this year as the global container shipping industry begins to recover from a downturn. “We are anticipating a turnaround this year, as the industry is bottoming out,” Evergreen Marine chairman Anchor Chang (張正鏞) told a news conference in Taipei. US west coast freight rates average about US$1,700, up from US$800 a year ago, while those for the east coast have improved from US$2,000 to US$3,200, Evergreen Marine president Lee Mong-jye (李孟傑) said. “There has been a seachange across the container shipping industry, and carriers are beginning to realize that cutthroat price competition is unsustainable,” Chang said, adding that clients have learned that the financial strain on shippers have impacted service quality. He added that the Ocean Alliance, of which Evergreen Marine is a member, would commence operations in April.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Singaporean restaurants outperform global peers

BloombergAs Singapore’s stock market continues to rally, an often overlooked sector is getting a boost. The city-state’s listed restaurants have outperformed regional and global peers as dining out drives shares higher. An equal-weighted index of Singaporean companies that derive at least 70 percent of their revenue from restaurants has climbed a similar 7.5 percent. “Franchises will be our new growth path,” group chief executive officer Ang Kiam Meng said in an interview in Singapore. “My strategy is to place importance on profit,” Japan Foods chief executive officer Kenichi Takahashi said in an interview in Singapore.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Rise in export orders outpaces official forecast

The result beat the ministry’s forecast of 3.8 percent annual growth and represented the sixth consecutive month of annual expansion, the ministry’s data showed. On an annual basis, orders for ICT and electronics products — the pillar of export orders — rose 6.7 percent and 1.4 percent to US$10.55 billion and US$9.46 billion respectively, the data showed. Toshiba last year also left the consumer notebook market, cutting its consumer notebook orders to Pegatron Corp (和碩), Compal, Quanta Computer Inc (廣達) and Wistron Corp (緯創). Toshiba’s moves affected export orders from Japan, leading to 28 consecutive months of annual decline in orders, an official at the ministry, who declined to be named, told the Taipei Times. Lin said the ministry expects export orders to increase between 12 percent and 15.7 percent annually to US$31 billion and 32 billion respectively.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Chung Hwa Pulp plans price hikes

By Kuo Chia-erh / Staff reporterPapermaker Chung Hwa Pulp Co (中華紙漿) yesterday said it plans to increase product prices by between 5 and 10 percent to reflect soaring material costs. Chung Hwa Pulp, a major subsidiary of papermaking conglomerate YFY Inc (永豐餘控股), manufactures pulp and paper products used in magazines, books and advertising posters. “The price hikes were mainly due to increasing material costs,” a Chung Hwa Pulp official said by telephone, citing soaring global prices of wastepaper and coal. The significant increase in global wastepaper prices has spurred Chung Hwa Pulp’s local peers to raise their product prices. Chung Hwa Pulp shares advan ced 0.4 percent to close at NT$9.97 in Taipei trading yesterday, outperforming the TAIEX, which slid 0.27 percent to 9,753.2 points.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Alibaba deepens retail foray with supermarket tie-up

In its biggest old-economy deal, Alibaba is leading a bid to buy department store chain Intime Retail Group Co (銀泰商業) for as much as US$2.6 billion. Like Alibaba, the US e-commerce titan has extensive experience working with reams of valuable customer and supply chain data and shopping patterns. With Bailian, Alibaba will be tapping a network of 4,700 stores across 25 Chinese provinces. Apart from Intime, the Hangzhou, China-based company has already invested in retail operators, including Suning and Sanjiang Shopping Club Co (三江購物俱樂部), to further its so-called new retail experiment. Alibaba’s online payments system, Alipay, will be available at all Bailian stores.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

LCD panel price growth slows as TV makers mull cuts

This month, prices for 49-inch and 55-inch TV panels rose just 1 percent — or US$2 — from last month to US$180 and US$215 per unit respectively, while smaller-sized panel prices remained flat after months-long increases, it said. TV makers said that skyrocketing panel prices have eroded their bottom lines and it would be unacceptable to see a further price uptrend, the researcher said. “Just recently, some leading Chinese TVs were forced to cut panel orders for the first quarter as TV set inventories rose,” IHS Markit said. Meanwhile, global TV makers are reporting an overall balanced-to-tight panel supply for the current quarter, it said. This year is expected to be stable and healthy for the LCD panel industry, IEK analyst James Lin (林澤民) told reporters.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

A quiet revolution may be under way in Japan stocks

BloombergAfter years of disappointment, a quiet revolution may be under way in the Japanese stock market. Japanese companies have for years sat on record piles of cash — the equivalent of US$2.4 trillion in September last year, the most in the world. ‘The US$1.3 trillion fund last year said it would favor managers who actively engage. Even so, 824 companies announced buyback programs last year, a 16 percent increase from the prior year, UBS data show. The purchases were worth more than ¥6 trillion, UBS said.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Tough UK line on rare-disease drugs stirs concern over impact after Brexit

BloombergA tougher stance in the UK on funding expensive medicines for rare diseases is raising questions about the government’s pledges to support a life-sciences industry that is already rattled by Brexit. The drug treats a rare and deadly disease called lysosomal acid lipase deficiency, which mostly afflicts children. Alexion is still seeking to reach an agreement with the health system after the “sizable” discount it proposed was rejected, Wagner said. Last week, it said that UK health authorities were disregarding expert medical opinion. Earlier this month, the firm suffered another blow from a separate UK judgement that is likely to restrict access of its drug Strensiq to some patients.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC

Thai Q4 growth slowed to 3%

BloombergThailand’s economy last quarter grew at the slowest pace in a year, as private consumption moderated. The economy grew 0.4 percent from the previous three months, compared with the 0.7 percent median estimate. For the full year, the economy grew 3.2 percent from 2.9 percent in 2015. The death last year of the Thai king and a crackdown on illegal Chinese tourists hurt the economy, with private consumption weakening. “Supporting factors for the Thai economy this year are recovering exports, improving agricultural sector, government investment and spending, as well as tourism revenue,” National Economic and Social Development Board secretary-general Porametee Vimolsiri told reporters.

February 20, 2017 16:03 UTC



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