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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Weed-killer prompts angry divide among US farmers AFP Juliette MICHEL ,AFP•November 13, 2017 Beekeeper Richard Coy, whose hives are affected by the weed-killer, speaks at a public hearing of the Arkansas Plant Board in Little Rock, Arkansas Beekeeper Richard Coy, whose hives are affected by the weed-killer, speaks at a public hearing of the Arkansas Plant Board in Little Rock, Arkansas (AFP Photo/NICHOLAS KAMM) More Little Rock (United States) (AFP) - When it comes to the herbicide dicamba, farmers in the southern state of Arkansas are not lacking for strong opinions. "Farmers need it desperately," said Perry Galloway. "If I get dicamba on (my products), I can't sell anything," responded Shawn Peebles. The two men know each other well, living just miles apart in the towns of Gregory and Augusta, in a corner of the state where cotton and soybean fields reach to the horizon and homes are often miles from the nearest neighbor. But they disagree profoundly on the use of dicamba. Last year the agro-chemical giant Monsanto began selling soy and cotton seeds genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide. The chemical product has been used to great effect against a weed that plagues the region, Palmer amaranth, or pigweed -- especially since it became resistant to another herbicide, glyphosate, which has become highly controversial in Europe over its effects on human health. The problem with dicamba is that it vaporizes easily and is carried by the wind, often spreading to nearby farm fields -- with varying effects. Facing a surge in complaints, authorities in Arkansas early this summer imposed an urgent ban on the product's sale. The state is now poised to ban its use between April 16 and October 31, covering the period after plants have emerged from the soil and when climatic conditions favor dicamba's dispersal. - A bitter dispute - "Dicamba has affected my whole family," said Kerin Hawkins, her voice trembling. Her brother, Mike Wallace, died last year during an altercation with a worker from a neighboring farm whom he had met to discuss his concerns over the herbicide. A jury is set to rule on whether Wallace's fatal shooting constituted homicide or self-defense. This year, the family says, drifting dicamba has affected some 75 acres (30 hectares) of peanuts and 10 acres of new varieties of vegetables planted on their farm, sharply reducing profits. To protect themselves against the product's impact, the family has decided to plant cotton seeds genetically modified to resist dicamba. "This is not just a dicamba issue, this is not just a Monsanto issue, this is about how we as human beings treat other people," Kerin Hawkins said. She was testifying Wednesday at a public hearing in Little Rock, the state capitol, organized by the agency that regulates pesticide and herbicide use in Arkansas. Immediately afterward the agency called for curbs on the use of dicamba, a decision subject to legislative approval. So large was the turnout for the hearing that the agency had to move it from its own offices to a meeting room in a hotel. In all, 37 people stepped up to the microphone to explain -- often in voices shaking with emotion -- why they favored or strongly opposed the product. - Dealing with diversity - "I'm here to tell you we used dicamba and we had a wonderful year," said Harry Stephens, who with his son grows soybeans in Phillips County. At a time when some younger farmers are struggling to make ends meet, he said, banning dicamba could "put them out of business." Richard Coy, who raises bees, said dicamba has had a devastating impact on hives located near farm fields where dicamba is in use. "I lost $500,000 in honey production and $200,000 worth of pollination contracts to California farms due to the poor health of my beehives," he said. On the edge of his farm field, Perry Galloway points out some of the weeds -- dead but still standing, many of them head-high -- that ruined several of his past crops. He has since sprayed dicamba twice over an area of 4,000 acres, and says that "we had the cleanest fields we had in a long time." He favors a compromise, allowing the herbicide to be applied only once, after plants have sprouted. But Shawn Peebles, who grows organic vegetables, was able to deal with pigweed by hiring workers to pull them up by hand. "It is known for a fact dicamba will move," he said. If he gets any in his fields -- which has not happened this year -- "I have to destroy the crop." "Diversity is what made agriculture what it is today," he said. "It is not just dicamba (and) soybeans; there is organic farms such as myself, there is vineyards in Arkansas, and we all need to work together."

Monday, November 06, 2017

Greg Medcraft makes the most of his final week at ASIC.

Skip to navigationSkip to contentSkip to footerHelp using this website - Accessibility statement Financial Review - afr.com Menu Home News Politics Policy Economy World Special Reports RBA Interview Series Investigations Business Banking & Finance Mining Energy Telecommunications Retail Transport Media & Marketing Accounting Legal Small Business Insurance Infrastructure Health Construction Tourism Manufacturing Agriculture Environmental Services Sport Markets Equity Markets Debt Markets Currencies Commodities Derivatives Market Data Street Talk Real Estate Commercial Residential Opinion Editorials Letters to the Editor Columnists Technology Mobiles & Tablets Gadgets Apps Web Social Media Gaming Cloud Computing Enterprise IT Technology Companies Personal Finance Shares Managed Funds Fixed Income Trusts Banking Budgeting Tax Insurance Specialist Investments Superannuation & SMSFs Portfolio Management Leadership Management Careers Innovation Entrepreneur Workplace AFR Lists Boss Lifestyle Travel Food & Wine Fashion Watches & Jewellery Arts & Entertainment Cars Bikes & Boats Health Home Design All News Politics Policy Economy World Special Reports Rear Window Business Banking & Finance Mining Energy Telecommunications Retail Transport Media & Marketing Accounting Legal Small Business Insurance Infrastructure Health Construction Tourism Manufacturing Agriculture Environmental Services Sport Gambling Markets Equity Markets Debt Markets Currencies Commodities Derivatives Market Data Street Talk Real Estate Commercial Residential Opinion Columnists Editorials Letters to the Editor Technology Mobiles & Tablets Gadgets Apps Web Social Media Gaming Cloud Computing Enterprise IT Technology Companies Personal Finance Shares Managed Funds Fixed Income Trusts Banking Budgeting Tax Insurance Specialist Investments Superannuation & SMSFs Leadership Management Careers Company Culture Innovation Entrepreneur Boss Lifestyle Travel Food & Wine Fashion Watches & Jewellery Arts & Entertainment Cars, Bikes & Boats Health Home Design The Australian Financial Review Magazine Luxury The Sophisticated Traveller TOGGLE THE AFR SEARCH BOX Search AFR Submit your searchSearchReset your searchreset Home Rear Window REAR WINDOW Nov 6 2017 at 11:28 PM Updated Nov 6 2017 at 11:28 PM Save Article Print License Article Greg Medcraft bemoans 'appalling' audits he's meant to regulate Share via Email Share on Google Plus Post on facebook wall Share on twitter Post to Linkedin Share on Reddit Greg Medcraft makes the most of his final week at ASIC. David Rowe Joe Aston AFR Woodcut Share on Facebook Share on twitter by Joe Aston So, in the dying days of his stewardship of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Greg Medcraft has made the astonishing observation that Australia's corporate auditors are producing work of "appalling" quality. "What level of trust can you put in the financial statements if you're getting results like that?" he told this newspaper last week, ahead of his retirement this Friday. "One of the risks is that we will have a major collapse and it will turn out that the financial statements were materially misstated." While the big four accounting firms have taken high-pitched exception to his appraisal – including his claim that Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers had "privately acknowledged" their quality issue, "but publicly wanted to keep a lid on questions" – we couldn't agree with it more! But it is ASIC and ASIC alone that is responsible for regulating auditors. Medcraft is effectively conceding that the corporate cop on his watch has utterly failed at that task. And again, we wholly agree with him. Talk about an irony bypass, casting this entirely fair aspersion on the very same day Medcraft's top financial reporting executive Doug Niven had meekly closed his investigation into the labyrinthine FY16 accounts of retail franchisor Harvey Norman, signed off by EY partner Katrina Zdrillic, since replaced by colleague "Sugar" Renay Robinson. ASIC chair Greg Medcraft circulated this photo to media of himself watching the AFL Grand Final on September 30. As you do. ASIC chair Greg Medcraft circulated this photo to media of himself watching the AFL Grand Final on September 30. As you do. Supplied "We do not intend to make further inquiries with [Harvey Norman] in relation to [the FY16 Financial Report], in particular whether franchise stores should be consolidated by Harvey Norman." Niven did add the caveat that the accounts' compliance with the Corporations Act shouldn't be inferred (or otherwise), and that he might review subsequent accounts, including, presumably, the FY17 books just endorsed by Sugar Renay. Related Quotes HVN SGH 5 YEARS 1 DAY Last updated: Updating... View full quote Company Profile ASX Announcements View all announcements This follows ASIC's stellar work on the FY15 accounts of market disaster Slater & Gordon. It began probing the listed law firm in June 2015 (when the shares were trading north of $6) and closed the book without action in March, after nearly two years, by which time the shares were 13¢. Those shares were rendered completely worthless by the company's recent recapitalisation. After a tediously public campaign for his next taxpayer-funded sinecure, originally the UK's Financial Conduct Authority, now confirmed to be the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, and a foreign travel schedule (including the ludicrous World Economic Forum in Davos, two consecutive January trips for which we paid tens of thousands of dollars). There were moments we feared Medcraft's final week would never come. HVN SGH Share via Email Share on Google Plus Post on facebook wall Share on twitter Post to Linkedin Share on Reddit Commercial Real Estate Related Articles Stefanovic won't turn up, Craigie couldn't get in Crestone's accounts show good financial advice doesn't come cheap Bizoids bid Medcraft adieu Big four hit back at Medcraft Medcraft slams audit quality of big four Latest Stories Wilbur Ross: "We have no business ties to those Russian individuals who are under sanction." 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Broadcom offers $103 billion for Qualcomm, sets up takeover battle

Supantha Mukherjee, Greg Roumeliotis (Reuters) - Chip maker Broadcom Ltd made an unsolicited $103 billion bid for Qualcomm Inc on Monday, setting the stage for a major takeover battle as it looks to dominate the fast-growing market for semiconductors used in mobile phones. Qualcomm said it would review the proposal. The San Diego-based company is inclined to reject the bid as too low and fraught with risk that regulators may reject it or take too long to approve it, people familiar with the matter told Reuters. A Broadcom-Qualcomm deal would create a dominant company in the market for supplying chips used in the 1.5 billion or so smartphones expected to be sold around the world this year. It would raise the stakes for Intel Corp, which has been diversifying from its stronghold in computers into smartphone technology by supplying modem chips to Apple Inc. Qualcomm shareholders would get $60 in cash and $10 per share in Broadcom shares in a deal, according to Broadcom’s proposal. Including debt, the transaction is worth $130 billion. GBH Insight analyst Daniel Ives said bullish investors were hoping for $75 to $80 per share. “Now it’s a game of high-stakes poker for both sides,” he said. Shares of Qualcomm, whose chips allow phones to connect to wireless data networks, traded above $70 as recently as December 2016 and topped $80 in 2014. Qualcomm’s shares were up 2 percent at $63.09 at mid-afternoon, suggesting investors were skeptical a deal would happen. Broadcom shares fell 0.3 after hitting a record high of $281.80. REGULATORY SCRUTINY Qualcomm’s largest market is the so-called modem chips that allow phones to use mobile data plans, but it also sells connectivity chips for automobiles that handle “infotainment” systems and wireless electric vehicle charging. Qualcomm provides chips to carrier networks to deliver broadband and mobile data. Any deal struck between the two companies would face intense regulatory scrutiny. A big hurdle would be getting regulatory approval in China, on which both Qualcomm and Broadcom rely on to make money. China is set to look at any deal closely after U.S. regulators blocked a flurry of chip deals by Chinese firms due to security concerns, thwarting the Asian country’s attempt to become self-reliant in chip manufacturing. Broadcom could spin out Qualcomm’s licensing arm, QTL, to get regulatory approval and funding for the deal, raising as much at $25 billion from a sale, Nomura Instinet analyst Romit Shah suggested. Broadcom had $5.25 billion in cash and cash equivalent as of July 30. Qualcomm had $35.03 billion as of Sept. 24. A building on the Qualcomm campus is seen, as chip maker Broadcom Ltd announced an unsolicited bid to buy peer Qualcomm Inc for $103 billion, in San Diego, California, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake Broadcom said BofA Merrill Lynch, Citi, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley have advised it they are highly confident that they will be able to arrange the necessary debt financing for the proposed transaction. The company has also got a commitment letter for $5 billion in financing from private equity Silver Lake Partners, an existing Broadcom investor. VULNERABLE QUALCOMM Broadcom approached Qualcomm last year to discuss a potential combination, but did not contact Qualcomm prior to unveiling its $70 per share offer on Monday, according to sources. Qualcomm is more vulnerable to a takeover now because its shares have been held down by a patent dispute with key customer Apple, as well as concerns that it may have to raise a $38 billion bid for NXP Semiconductors NV that it made last year. Slideshow (2 Images) Broadcom, Qualcomm and NXP together would have control over modems, Wi-Fi, GPS and near-field communications chips, a strong position that could concern customers such as Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd because of the bargaining power such a combined company could have to raise prices. However, a combined company would also likely have a lower cost base and the flexibility to cut prices. Broadcom said its proposal stands irrespective of whether Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP goes through or not. Qualcomm’s entire 10-member board is up for re-election this spring, and Broadcom could seize on the Dec. 7 nomination deadline to put forward its own slate. Broadcom Chief Executive Hock Tan, who turned a small, scrappy chipmaker into a $100-billion company based in Singapore and the United States, told Reuters he would not rule out a proxy fight. “We are well advised and know what our options are, and we have not eliminated any of those options,” said Tan, who has pulled off a string of deals over the past decade. “We have a very strong desire to work with Qualcomm to reach a mutually beneficial deal.” Tan added that if Broadcom acquires Qualcomm which in turn has acquired NXP, the combined company’s net debt could be in the range of $90 billion. Two Qualcomm directors, Anthony Vinciquerra and Mark McLaughlin, have been aligned with activist hedge fund Jana Partners LLC, which pushed for a shakeup of the company two years ago. Jeffrey Henderson, another Qualcomm board director, was added last year as a compromise candidate. Apple, as a key customer, could pose a risk to the deal, said Karl Ackerman, an analyst at Cowen. Tan told Reuters that Broadcom taking over Qualcomm would improve relations with Apple: “We believe we can be very constructive in resolving these issues and resetting relationships.” Broadcom plans to move its headquarters solely to the United States, which would allow it to avoid review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews foreign ownership of U.S. assets. Broadcom’s offer represents a premium of 27.6 percent to Qualcomm’s closing price of $54.84 on Thursday, a day before media reports of a potential deal pushed up the company’s shares. Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in New York and Arjun Panchadar and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Bernard Orr and Bill Rigby

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Future Saudi king tightens grip on power with arrests including Prince Alwaleed

Future Saudi king tightens grip on power with arrests including Prince Alwaleed Stephen Kalin, Katie Paul RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s future king has tightened his grip on power through an anti-corruption purge by arresting royals, ministers and investors including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal who is one of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen. Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of the king and owner of investment firm Kingdom Holding 4280.SE, invests in firms such as Citigroup (C.N) and Twitter (TWTR.N). He was among 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers detained, three senior officials told Reuters on Sunday. The purge against the kingdom’s political and business elite also targeted the head of the National Guard Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was detained and replaced as minister of the powerful National Guard by Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf. The allegations against Prince Alwaleed include money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, one official told Reuters, while Prince Miteb is accused of embezzlement, hiring ghost employees and awarding contracts to his own companies including a $10 billion deal for walkie talkies and bulletproof military gear worth billions of Saudi riyals. Sponsored News of the purge came soon after King Salman decreed late on Saturday the creation of an anti-corruption committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his 32-year-old favorite son who has amassed power since rising from obscurity three years ago. The new body was given broad powers to investigate cases, issue arrest warrants and travel restrictions, and seize assets. “The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable,” the royal decree said. Analysts said the arrests were another pre-emptive measure by the crown prince to remove powerful figures as he exerts control over the world’s leading oil exporter. The roundup recalls the palace coup in June through which he ousted his elder cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne and interior minister. MbS, as he is known, was expected to follow at least by removing Prince Miteb from leadership of the National Guard, a pivotal power base rooted in the kingdom’s tribes. Over the past year, MbS has become the ultimate decision-maker for the kingdom’s military, foreign, economic and social policies, causing resentment among parts of the Al Saud dynasty frustrated by his meteoric rise. Saudi Arabia’s stock index .TASI was dragged down briefly but recovered to close higher as some investors bet the crackdown could bolster reforms in the long run. The royal decree said the arrests were in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money.” REFORM AGENDA The line between public funds and royal money is not always clear in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy ruled by an Islamic system in which most law is not systematically codified and no elected parliament exists. WikiLeaks cables have detailed the huge monthly stipends that every Saudi royal receives as well as various money-making schemes some have used to finance lavish lifestyles. Analysts said the purge aimed to go beyond corruption and aimed to remove potential opposition to Prince Mohammed’s ambitious reform agenda, which is widely popular with Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning youth population but faces resistance from some of the old guard more comfortable with the kingdom’s traditions of incremental change and rule by consensus. In September, the king announced that a ban on women driving would be lifted, while Prince Mohammed is trying to break decades of conservative tradition by promoting public entertainment and visits by foreign tourists. The crown prince has also slashed state spending in some areas and plans a big sale of state assets, including floating part of state oil giant Saudi Aramco [IPO-ARMO.SE] on international markets. FILE PHOTO - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed Prince Mohammed has also led Saudi Arabia into a two-year-old war in Yemen, where the government says it is fighting Iran-aligned militants, and a row with neighboring Qatar, which it accuses of backing terrorists, a charge Doha denies. Detractors of the crown prince say both moves are dangerous adventurism. The most recent crackdown breaks with the tradition of consensus within the ruling family, wrote James Dorsey, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “Prince Mohammed, rather than forging alliances, is extending his iron grip to the ruling family, the military, and the National Guard to counter what appears to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war,” he said. Scholar Joseph Kechichian said the interests of the Al Saud, however, would remain protected. “Both King Salman and heir apparent Mohammed bin Salman are fully committed to them. What they wish to instill, and seem determined to execute, is to modernize the ruling establishment, not just for the 2030 horizon but beyond it too,” he said. Many ordinary Saudis praised the crackdown as long-awaited. OPULENT HOTEL Slideshow (6 Images) A Saudi official said former Riyadh Governor Prince Turki bin Abdullah was detained on accusations of corruption in the Riyadh Metro project and taking advantage of his influence to award contracts to his own companies. Former Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, a board member of national oil giant Saudi Aramco, was also detained, accused of embezzlement related to the expansion of Mecca’s Grand Mosque and taking advantage of his position and inside information to purchase lands, the official added. Other detainees include ousted Economy Minister Adel Fakieh, who once played a major role in drafting MbS’ reforms, and Khalid al-Tuwaijiri, who headed the Royal Court under the late King Abdullah. People on Twitter applauded the arrests of certain ministers, with some comparing them to “the night of the long knives”, a violent purge of political leaders in Nazi Germany in 1934. Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the big Saudi Binladin construction group, and Alwaleed al-Ibrahim, owner of the MBC television network, were also detained. At least some of the detainees were held at the opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh, said sources in contact with the government and guests whose plans had been disrupted The hotel’s exterior gate was shuttered on Sunday morning and guards turned away a Reuters reporter, saying it had been closed for security reasons, although private cars and ambulances were seen entering through a rear entrance. The hotel and an adjacent facility were the site of an international conference promoting Saudi Arabia as an investment destination just 10 days ago attended by at least one of those now being held for questioning. The detentions follow a crackdown in September on political opponents of Saudi Arabia’s rulers that saw some 30 clerics, intellectuals and activists detained. Prince Alwaleed, a flamboyant character, has sometimes used his prominence as an investor to aim barbs at the kingdom’s rulers. In December 2015, he called then-U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump a “disgrace to all America” and demanded on Twitter that he withdraw from the election. Trump responded by tweeting: “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected.” His father, Prince Talal, is considered one of the most vocal supporters of reform in the ruling Al Saud family, having pressed for a constitutional monarchy decades ago. Additional reporting by Reem Shamseddine in Khobar and Rania El Gamal and Tom Arnold and Sylvia Westall in Dubai; Editing by Edmund Blair and Peter Cooney ========================= GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia shares stumble from decade highs, oil hits 2-year top on Saudi purge SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian shares stepped away from recent decade highs on Monday while the U.S. dollar staged a broad-based rally and oil jumped to a more than two-year peak as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince cemented his power through an anti-corruption crackdown. FILE PHOTO: An investor looks at an electronic screen at a brokerage house in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, January 26, 2016. REUTERS/China Daily Oil prices hit their highest since July 2015 as Mohammed bin Salman’s purge led to arrests of royals, ministers and investors including prominent business billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal. [O/R] The dollar climbed against the yen to an eight-month peak after a string of U.S. data bolstered views the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates next month and tighten further in 2018. JPY= Near-term sentiment will be directed by news related to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Asian tour this week. In his second day in Japan, Trump ramped up his tough rhetoric against North Korea, saying the United States and its allies are prepared to defend freedom. The U.S. President wants a united front with the leaders of Japan and South Korea before he visits Beijing to make the case to Chinese President Xi Jinping that more needs to be done to rein in Pyongyang. Trump also plans to meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his 12-day trip. With traders on edge about the outcome of these high-stake meetings, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS slipped 0.7 percent to 552.8 from Friday’s top of 557.9 which was the highest since Nov. 2007. South Korea's KOSPI .KS11 fell 0.5 percent. Australian shares were off 0.1 percent but stayed within striking distance of a more than two-year peak set on Friday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index .HSI skidded 1 percent. Japan's Nikkei .N225 was a tad softer too but hovered around a 21-year peak. The losses in Asian shares came despite gains in Wall Street on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI up 0.1 percent, the S&P 500 .SPX gaining 0.31 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC adding 0.74 percent. Investors now awaited progress on U.S. tax reforms which, if passed in its current form, will add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. budget deficit over the next ten years, said Elias Haddad, currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank. “While this pro-growth tax package is dollar supportive, it is still unclear if the package will have enough Republican support to pass through Congress by year-end or Q1 2018,” Haddad added. But for now, sentiment towards the greenback was still positive with leveraged funds paring bearish bets to be net long for the first time since late July. Dollar buying was broad-based against all the major currencies. [IMM/FX] Strong economic data has helped boost the outlook for the greenback. U.S. non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to its highest since 2005, figures out on Friday showed. New orders for U.S.-made goods gained for the second straight month in September and orders for core capital goods surpassed expectations. The dollar index .DXY held near four-month highs against a basket of currencies, while the euro EUR= trod water to loiter around its lowest since July. In energy markets, Brent futures LCOc1 were up 23 cents at $62.30 a barrel, the highest since July 2015. U.S. crude CLc1 added 17 cents to 55.81. Bin Salman’s reforms include a plan to list parts of giant state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco next year, and a higher oil price is seen as beneficial for the market capitalization of the future listed company. Spot gold XAU= was a touch soft at $1,268.34 an ounce. ===================== Oil hits two-year high on Saudi purge, world shares retreat Ritvik Carvalho 5 Min Read LONDON (Reuters) - Oil jumped to its highest in over two years on Monday as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince cemented his power through a crackdown on corruption, while world shares eased a notch and major currencies traded in tight ranges. FILE PHOTO: An investor looks at an electronic screen at a brokerage house in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, January 26, 2016. REUTERS/China Daily Oil prices reached their highest since July 2015 as Mohammed bin Salman’s purge led to arrests of royals, ministers and investors including prominent billionaire investor Alwaleed bin Talal. [O/R] The news stirred concerns of Middle Eastern money pulling out of global financial markets. A weekend call by China’s central bank governor for tougher financial regulation also hit investor sentiment. Brent futures LCOc1 were up 32 cents at $62.39 a barrel, the highest since July 2015. U.S. crude CLc1 added 20 cents to 55.91, both up half a percent. The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries was 0.1 percent lower. .MIWO00000PUS European shares fell in early deals following weaker trading in Asia and earnings disappointments weighed. The pan-European STOXX 600 was 0.1 percent lower by 0843 GMT. For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets Shares in French hotel group Accor (ACCP.PA) fell 1.7 percent at the open, the biggest of the CAC 40 fallers, after its third biggest shareholder Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was arrested in the Saudi Arabian crackdown. Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of the king and owner of investment firm Kingdom Holding 4280.SE, invests in firms such as Citigroup (C.N) and Twitter (TWTR.N). He was among 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers detained, three senior officials told Reuters on Sunday. RBC Capital Markets said in a note that although the “purge represents a stunning political development in Saudi Arabia,” it expected “no immediate changes” in the oil policy of Saudi Arabia, which is the world’s biggest exporter of crude oil. “(Mohammed bin Salman) seems strongly committed to anchoring the OPEC agreement deep into 2018 and moving ahead with the Aramco sale,” RBC said. Prince Mohammed’s reforms include a plan to list parts of giant state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco next year, and a higher oil prices is seen as beneficial for the market capitalization of the future listed company. Earlier in Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS slipped 0.2 percent to drift away from Friday’s top of 557.9, the highest since November 2007. South Korea's KOSPI .KS11, which hit a record high last week, skidded 0.6 percent early on before paring losses to 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index .HSI fell 0.2 percent. The Hong Kong China Enterprises Index .HSCE lost 0.9 percent. Japan's Nikkei .N225 eked out a small gain to hover around a 21-year peak. CURRENCIES TIGHT The dollar was little changed after investors took profits on its best weekly performance this year, with wariness about the status of the U.S. economy and tax reform plans setting the tone. It briefly popped to a eight-month high against the Japanese yen JPY=EBS in Asian trades but, with last week's U.S. jobs data having been relatively underwhelming, London-based traders were a bit more cautious. The index that measures the greenback against a basket of currencies was less than 0.1 percent lower in morning European trading. .DXY Sentiment towards the greenback was still positive with leveraged funds paring bearish bets to be net long for the first time since late July. [IMM/FX] Related Video “The only reason why investors are not selling the dollar aggressively is because (of) uncertainty around the tax plan progress even though the bond market is flashing a warning sign,” said Viraj Patel, an FX strategist at ING in London. The euro was flat at $1.16100. EUR=EBS The spread between two-year and ten-year U.S. yields at their narrowest in more than a decade. US2YT=TWEB US10YT=TWEB Spot gold XAU= was steady at $1,271.50 an ounce.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Hasm claims embassy bombing in Cairo, may be looking to expand

READ IN:    العربية Ahmad Abd Alhaleim October 15, 2017 0 1 3 5 6 Article Summary The Hasm movement in Egypt has been behind attacks against figures close to the regime, but since it said it perpetrated the Myanmar Embassy attack in Cairo, authorities are looking at the group's potential to grow. REUTERS/Beawiharta Muslims demonstrated outside the embassies of Myanmar around the world last month to protest the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority by the Myanmar government; this protest took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 15, 2017. Two weeks later, on Sept. 30, an explosion went off outside Myanmar's Embassy in Cairo. Since the Hasm militant movement claimed responsibility for the Sept. 30 explosion at Myanmar's Embassy in Cairo, officials are wondering if the group plans to expand beyond its mainstay target of Egyptian authorities. The movement so far has been a relative minor league player among jihadi ranks, but could be looking to move up alongside international terrorism groups. Hasm has claimed responsibility for several assassinations and bombings targeting Egyptian authorities since its rise. In August 2016, the movement carried out a failed assassination attempt against Egypt's former grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, wounding his bodyguard. Hasm’s first known operation was the July 2016 assassination of Maj. Mahmoud Abdel Hamid, chief of investigations in Tamya. There are reasons to suspect the movement is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hasm planted a car bomb in November 2016 against Ahmad Abu al-Fotouh, a judge in the 2015 trial of Brotherhood member and ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Fotouh survived, but two of his bodyguards and a deliveryman were killed. Egypt is investigating 17 incidents for which Hasm is blamed, including the assassination of army and police officers, judges and public prosecutors. Egyptian authorities say the group's central command is headed by Ahmed Abdul Hafiz, who lives in Turkey. They believe the group is being aided by three Brotherhood leaders — Ali Bateekh, Magdy Shalash and Mohammed Abdul Hadi — but there is no conclusive evidence proving ties between Hasm and the Brotherhood. However, as both groups' approaches and philosophies are similar, there is speculation that Hasm was formed by rebels who defected from the Brotherhood organizationally but who retain its influence. Before its Twitter account was blocked, Hasm posted a statement comparing the practices of the Myanmar government against the Rohingya Muslims with measures Egyptian authorities take against government opponents, especially in Sinai, which the movement describes as home to “the authorities of the military coup” against Morsi. So does Hasm’s claimed targeting of the embassy indicate that it's entering a new phase and becoming a transnational organization like al-Qaeda and the Islamic Jihad? Does Hasm have the ability and public base to go through with such a shift? Officials have yet to even acknowledge Hasm was involved in the explosion. An Interior Ministry security source told Egypt's El-Watan newspaper Sept. 30 that the embassy explosion was due to some combination of a cigarette, volatile fumes from old construction materials and a nearby gas pipe. However, two security sources told Reuters that traces of explosives were found at the scene. Hasm said in a statement that it had used "utmost caution to ensure that there were no civilian casualties or innocent people [hurt] during the operation, or else you would have seen a burning hell you could not have stopped." Salah al-Din Hassan, a researcher on Islamist movements and former editor-in-chief of Al-Bawaba newspaper, told Al-Monitor, “Despite the significance of Hasm's claiming responsibility for the Myanmar embassy attack, it does not forecast the movement’s ability to execute operations abroad. But the [group's] development might be in attacking the interests of states that Hasm believes oppose Egypt. This new development heralds globalized operations in a message whose main aim is to show the movement as a force of solidarity with Muslims around the world, amid injustice to the Brotherhood.” Anas al-Kassass, a strategic and international affairs analyst, told Al-Monitor, “Talk about armed shifts within the Brotherhood must be dealt with seriously for objective reasons related to the [Brotherhood's] fluctuating ideological and religious authority since its establishment in 1928.” He added, “These groups … did not exist in themselves, but were born as a reaction [against the regime], leaving limited repercussions because of their lack of vision. Besides, they do not have an organizational culture allowing them to cope with the variables around them, be they political, economic, ideological or technological. … The Hasm movement cannot turn into a transnational group." Regarding the prospect of confrontations between Hasm and Egyptian security, Hassan said, “The security forces in Egypt succeeded in eliminating organizations like the [now-defunct] Soldiers of Egypt and the Popular Resistance, which were fruits of jihadism, and they are now up against groups branched from the Brotherhood. These groups have more stamina because they are affiliated with the Brotherhood, which has a wide popular and social base, and it is generally a large Islamist current. Historically, organizations emanating from the mother Brotherhood group split from it and form separate groups that have their own distinct character.” The Soldiers of Egypt (Ajnad Misr) disbanded after Egyptian security killed its leader, Hamam Mohammad Atiya, in April 2015. Many members are now on trial, and 13 were sentenced to death this month. The Popular Resistance was formed in August 2014. The movement claimed responsibility for several operations, and Egyptian security still arrests some members from time to time. Hasm has taken steps that might push the United States and other countries to designate it as a terrorist group, given that its operations could be going global, even if on a small scale. Hasm will either disintegrate under pressure or expand within the circle of violence, presenting a greater security challenge and more violence in the Nile Valley and Delta in Egypt. Abdelrahman Youssef contributed to this story. Found in: Armed militias Ahmad Abd Alhaleim is an Egyptian journalist who worked as an editor for judicial and political affairs for Al-Shorouk newspaper. He specializes in political Islam movements and social investigations. Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/10/egypt-hasm-movement-attacks-local-figures-myanmar-embassy.html#ixzz4vfOGz5fm

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Violence as federal forces move further toward Kirkuk

Iraqi security forces have been ordered to retake control of oil assets and military bases that have been under KRG protection since 2014. Iraqi forces drive toward Kurdish Peshmerga positions on Oct. 15, 2017, on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk. [AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images] By Kamaran al-Najar, Rawaz Tahir and Mohammed Hussein of Iraq Oil Report Published Monday, October 16th, 2017 KIRKUK - Iraqi federal forces and Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers began shelling each other on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk city early Monday, after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally announced that he had ordered an operation to retake military bases and other "federal installations" in Kirkuk province. "Commander-in-Chief Haider al-Abadi has instructed Iraqi Army, Federal Police, CTS to secure bases and federal installations in Kirkuk province," the Iraqi Government said on its official Twitter account. CTS refers to the Iraqi Army's elite Counter-Terrorism Service.

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