ESA, European Space Agency (Paolo Twiting from Space)

Subdivision Tips, South Australia (C: +61431138537), https://www.facebook.com/RealEstateSA5000/

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Exclusive interview: Musharraf hits back at Shahid Aziz

Exclusive interview: Musharraf hits back at Shahid Aziz Nawaz lost tactic­al victor­y in Kargil, says former army chief. By Javed ChaudhryPublished: January 31, 2013 A file photo of former preisdent of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf. PHOTO: AFP LAHORE: Former president of Pakistan, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf has responded to allegations made recently by Lt. Gen. (retd) Shahid Aziz that as army chief he was guilty of putting a “tight lid” on the Kargil war. “Telling everyone about it was not necessary at all,” said Musharraf in an interview with Express News show Kal Tak that was aired Wednesday night. He added that he felt Aziz had an imbalanced personality and has resorted to character assassination by making these accusations. “We lost the Kargil war, which was a big success militarily, because of Nawaz Sharif,” said Musharraf. “If he had not visited the US, we would have conquered 300 square miles of India.” The former president said that the Kargil operation was not a major operation but a localized one. “Kargil was just one of many sectors all under a major general stationed in Gilgit, in charge of the area. Exchange of fire was routine there,” he explained. He said that he would not go so far as to accuse Nawaz Sharif of betrayal, but his decision to withdraw from Kargil was a mistake. “Nawaz lost a political front which we had won militarily,” he added. During the Kargil conflict of 1999, Aziz ran the Inter-Services Intelligence analysis wing. “The prime consideration of such actions is security and secrecy, so the army leadership decides who is to be informed and when. As the operation progressed and the proper time arrived, a briefing of the corps commanders was also held,” he added. “I am really astonished that Lt Gen Shahid Aziz is writing about this 10 years later,” said Musharraf when asked to comment on the accusation that he did not inform other generals. He said that blaming the nation at this juncture of time, as Lt Gen (retd) Shahid has done, seems to be part of a conspiracy. “It was a tactical action that had a strategic importance in which no more than a few hundred persons were involved, but which engaged thousands on the Indian side and was of tremendous importance.” Musharraf justified Pakistani casualties in the conflict, saying that Pakistan lost only 270 men against India’s 1,600 soldiers. India has reacted badly to the comments, asking Pakistan whether it wants to maintain a friendship with India given Aziz’s revelations that army regulars took part in the 1999 conflict. Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2013.

18 killed as violence flares up in Karachi

Friday, February 01, 2013 More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on linkedinShare on stumbleuponShare on emailShare on print| 18 killed as violence flares up in Karachi * Three Sunni clerics ambushed * Enraged seminary students ransack emergency ward of hospital where victims were taken By Danish Rafique KARACHI: In yet another massive wave of target killings in the city on Thursday, at least 18 people, including three clerics, lost their lives. Meanwhile, armed miscreants torched a vehicle in Landhi. Three clerics of the Deoband school of thought were gunned down in an ambush in Nursery within the precincts of Tipu Sultan Police Station. Police said that three armed men on a motorcycle fired a volley of bullets at a vehicle, hitting 50-year-old Mufti Abdul Majeed Dinpuri, 40-year-old Mufti Muhammad Saleh and 29-year-old Ehsan Ali Shah. The men were taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) for treatment where the doctors pronounced them dead. Scores of seminary students reached the hospital following the bloodshed and took away the bodies without completion of legal formalities. They also ransacked the emergency ward of the hospital. Meanwhile, miscreants resorted to aerial firing in different areas of the city. Police said that the deceased were heading towards the Jamia-e-Dervaishia, located near the Baloch Colony, from Jamia Farooqia, in Shah Faisal. The funeral prayers of the slain clerics were offered at Jamshaid Road. Scores of seminary students and leaders of various religious organisations participated in the funerals and chanted slogans against the frequent incidents of target killing. The banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan condemned the incident and announced three days of mourning and protest after Friday prayers today. Separately, an ex-president of Markazi Tanzeem-e-Aza was killed near his shop situated in Landhi. Police said that the deceased, 46-year-old Iqbal Masood, was going home from his shop when two armed pillion riders shot at him multiple times, killing him instantly. The body was shifted to JPMC for medicolegal formalities. The deceased was ex-president of Markazi Tanzeem-e-Aza and was currently its office-bearer. A man belonging to the Tablighi Jamaat was killed while another was injured in an armed attack near KDA Chowrangi. Police said armed bikers fired at a rickshaw in which the deceased was travelling along with five other men. A man was shot dead in Baldia by unidentified armed men, who escaped after the shooting. Another man was killed in a cattle pen in the Bhains Colony. The deceased hailed from interior Sindh. In another killing, a man was shot dead by unidentified bikers in Landhi while standing by the roadside. Armed men shot dead a man near Bagh Korangi while he was sitting outside his house. Three bullet-riddled bodies packed in separate gunny bags were found from the Qaimkhani Colony. Police claimed that unidentified people had kidnapped the victims and tortured them before shooting them dead. The three were close friends and were abducted from Orangi Town on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, two more bodies packed in gunny bags were found from Yaro Goth. Police asserted that the victims had been missing from Balochistan and were killed there and their bodies were later dumped in Yaro Goth. Their bodies were brought to the ASH for postmortem. Similarly, tortured body of a man was found from near Askari Park in Old Sabzi Mandi. Police took it to JPMC for autopsy and said that the victim had been shot multiple times. A body wrapped in cloth was found from Rexer Bridge. Police said the victim was dumped there after being killed someplace else. He was a resident of Chakiwara, Lyari, and had been dismissed from Pakistan Rangers and was currently working as a labourer. Meanwhile, a body packed in a gunny bag was found form Ghas Mandi. Police said the victim had been abducted and later shot dead. The body was taken to CHK for autopsy. A handcuffed body of a man was found from Timber Market, Old Haji Camp. An official said that the identity of the deceased was to be ascertained. The body was shifted to CHK for autopsy and later moved to morgue for identification.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Morocco refiner Samir gets $200 mln loan from Glencore

Morocco refiner Samir gets $200 mln loan from Glencore Thu, Dec 27 11:48 AM EST RABAT, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Morocco's sole oil refiner Samir has obtained a 24-month loan of $200 million via an agreement with Glencore Energy, the company said in a statement on Thursday. The company mandated Natixis and Arab Petroleum Investments Corp to arrange the deal, which includes exporting part of its production to Glencore Energy during the agreement period. "The success of the arrangement is a sign of international investor and banks' confidence in Samir, and its capacity to provide petroleum conforming to international standards," the statement added. Samir started in November to use a $180 million syndicated structured murabaha framework agreement signed in April with the International Islamic Trade Finance Corp. In August, it began commercial use of a new crude distillation unit with a processing capacity of 80,000 barrels per day. The expansion brought Samir's total processing capacity to 200,000 bpd. Morocco is a net energy importer. ============ Qatar's Gulf International signs $170 mln loan to fund buy Mon, Jun 04 02:52 AM EDT DUBAI, June 4 (Reuters) - Qatar's Gulf International Services (GIS) has signed a $170 million sharia-compliant loan mainly to fund its purchase of Qatar Petroleum's fully-owned subsidiary Amwaj Catering Services, according to a bourse filing on Monday. GIS, which has interests in several sectors, including transport, insurance and oil services, said in April it was buying the unit for a provisional price of 353.1 million riyals ($97 million). The Islamic loan will be used to fund the purchase of Amwaj and to subscribe to a capital increase by GIS' majority-owned subsidiary Gulf Drilling International Co, the company said. GIS owns 70 percent in Gulf Drilling, according to the drilling service provider's website. Qatar Islamic Bank, BARWA Bank, Qatar International Islamic Bank and Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (Apicorp) provided the financing, the statement added. ($1 = 3.6407 Qatar riyals) (Reporting by David French; Editing by Dinesh Nair) ================ Bahrain set to open $600 mln LNG terminal tender Mon, Oct 25 06:41 AM EDT * Bahrain about to tender LNG terminal * Costs at least $600 mln * Bahrain needs to import gas to meet rising demand MANAMA, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Non-OPEC producer Bahrain has almost finalised a tender inviting companies to build a $600 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, an executive from the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) said on Monday. "The RFP (request for proposals) will be out today or tomorrow," Essa al-Ansari, general manager at Bapco for major engineering projects told reporters on the sidelines of a conference. He said it would take the 14 international oil firms that are qualified to bid around 16 weeks to submit their final offers. The terminal would cost at least $600 million, Ansari said, with a capacity of 400 million cubic feet per day (cfd), which may be expanded to 800 million cfd. Bahrain, like its Gulf Arab neighbours, has seen a rapid increase in natural gas consumption as its economy has grown with a petrodollar-fuelled boom in the region. It consumed 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas per day in 2007 and expects consumption to rise to 2 billion cubic feet per day in about 10 years, a gap the country needs to partially close through imports. Bapco acts as a consultant for the project and monitors engineering work, said Ansari. "We have to move fast, by 2014," he said. "If all decisions are taken promptly according to the plan then this is achievable," he said when asked about the proposed timeframe. A project to build an estimated $200 million oil storage facilities at Bahrain's Sitra island was cancelled as it was not viable economically, Ansari added. The project, which was called Independent Terminal Bahrain (ITB) was to be a joint-venture between Bahrain's National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA), Kuwait's Independent Petroleum Group (IPG) and Arab Petroluem Investments Corporation (APICORP). (Reporting by Reem Shamseddine; editing by Keiron Henderson) ===========
Judge approves BP agreement for Gulf oil spill Tue, Jan 29 14:57 PM EST 1 of 2 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has accepted an agreement by BP Plc to plead guilty for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster and pay $4.0 billion in penalties for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, a court official said on Tuesday. The company had said previously it would plead guilty to 11 felony counts related to the workers' deaths, a felony related to obstruction of Congress and two misdemeanors. It also faces five years' probation and the imposition of two monitors who will oversee its safety and ethics for the next four years. "The judge has accepted the plea," a court official said on Tuesday. The April 2010 explosion on a rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers. The mile-deep Macondo oil well then spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over 87 days, fouling shorelines from Texas to Florida. With the plea agreement approved, BP has 60 days to send a remedial plan to the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency laying out how it plans to meet all of its stipulations. The agencies will then review the plan and likely send it back to BP with proposed changes. The plan could go back and forth among all three parties before a final plan agreed to by all sides is reached. The plea agreement stipulates that nearly $2.4 billion be used for projects to address damage to the environment from the Macondo oil spill. Distribution of those funds will be overseen by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF.) "We are going to be diligent in making certain the funds are used effectively, efficiently and transparently," Don McGrath, chairman of the NFWF's board, said in a statement following the judge's approval of the agreement. BP's payments will be spread over six years, which the company has said it believes it can handle after selling off $35 billion worth of assets. As of November, when it agreed to the plea deal, BP had paid $23 billion in clean-up costs and claims, and had $12 billion more earmarked for payment in a spill trust fund. BP is now working towards settling civil claims related to the spill, for which negligence is a key issue. A gross negligence finding could nearly quadruple civil damages owed by BP under the Clean Water Act to $21 billion. The British company has already announced an uncapped class-action settlement with private plaintiffs that the company estimates will cost $7.8 billion to resolve. The litigation was brought by over 100,000 individuals and businesses claiming economic and medical damages from the spill. The U.S. government in November banned BP from new federal contracts over its "lack of business integrity" in the 2010 spill, which could threaten its role as a leading U.S. offshore oil and gas producer. (Reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco and Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Nick Zieminski and Alden Bentley)

Nightclub fire kills at least 232 in Brazil

Nightclub fire kills at least 232 in Brazil Sun, Jan 27 12:36 PM EST 1 of 11 By Ana Flor SANTA MARIA, Brazil (Reuters) - A fire in a nightclub killed at least 232 people in southern Brazil on Sunday when a band's pyrotechnics show set the building ablaze and fleeing partygoers stampeded toward blocked and overcrowded exits in the ensuing panic, officials said. The blaze in the university town of Santa Maria was started by a band member or someone from its production team igniting a flare, which then set fire to the ceiling, said Luiza Sousa, a civil police official. The fire spread "in seconds," she said. Local fire officials said at least one exit was locked and that bouncers, who at first thought those fleeing were trying to skip out on bar tabs, initially blocked patrons from leaving. The security staff relented only when they saw flames engulfing the ceiling. The vast majority of the victims, most of them university students, died from asphyxiation, officials said. Others were crushed in the stampede. "We ran into a barrier of the dead at the building's exit," Colonel Guido Pedroso de Melo, commander of the Santa Maria fire squad, said of the scene firefighters found on arrival. "We had to clear a path to get to the rest of those that were inside." An estimated 500 people were in the Boate Kiss nightclub when the fire broke out at around 2:30 a.m., police said. Witnesses said the club, which has a 2,000-person capacity, was always busy on weekends but wasn't any more crowded than usual. The death tally was lowered slightly, with police saying at midafternoon that 232 people had been killed, down from an initial figure of 245. When the fire began, many revelers were unable to find their way out amid the chaos, confusing restroom doors for exits and finding resistance from bouncers when they did find an exit door. "It all happened so fast," survivor Taynne Vendrusculo told GloboNews TV. "Both the panic and the fire spread rapidly, in seconds." Once security guards realized the building was on fire, they tried in vain to control the blaze with a fire extinguisher, according to a televised interview with one of the guards, Rodrigo Moura. He said patrons were getting trampled as they rushed for the doors, describing it as "a horror film." Television footage showed people sobbing outside the club before dawn, while shirtless firefighters used sledge hammers and axes to knock down an exterior wall to open up an exit. SAFETY STANDARDS IN SPOTLIGHT Rescue officials moved the bodies to a local gymnasium, where the deceased were segregated by gender. Male victims were easier to identify, they said, because most of them, unlike the women, whose purses were left scattered in the devastated nightclub, had identification on them. One of the club's owners had already surrendered to police for questioning, GloboNews reported. President Dilma Rousseff, who started her political career in the Rio Grande do Sul state where the fire happened, cut short a visit to Chile to return to visit the scene. Before leaving Chile, she broke out in tears as she pledged government help for the victims and their families. "We are trying to mobilize all possible resources to help in the rescue efforts," Rousseff said. "All I can say at the moment is that my feelings are of deep sorrow." The disaster recalls other incidents including a 2003 fire at a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that killed 100, and a Buenos Aires nightclub blaze in 2004 that killed nearly 200. In both incidents, a band or members of the audience ignited fires that set the establishment ablaze. Brazil's safety standards and emergency response capabilities are under particular scrutiny as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics. Santa Maria, with a population of more than 275,000, is about 186 miles west of the state capital of Porto Alegre. Rio Grande do Sul state's health secretary, Ciro Simoni, said emergency medical supplies from all over the state were being sent to the scene. (Additional reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal, Gustavo Bonato, Jeferson Ribeiro, Eduardo Simões and Brian Winter; Writing by Paulo Prada; Editing by Todd Benson, Kieran Murray and Eric Beech)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

At least 26 die in Egyptian clashes over death sentences

At least 22 die in Egyptian clashes over death sentences Sat, Jan 26 09:02 AM EST 1 of 15 By Yusri Mohamed and Yasmine Saleh PORT SAID, Egypt/CAIRO (Reuters) - At least 22 people died on Saturday when Egyptians rampaged in protest at the sentencing of 21 people to death over a soccer stadium disaster, adding to bloody street turmoil confronting Islamist President Mohamed Mursi. Armored vehicles and military police fanned through the streets of Port Said after the violence. The state news agency quoted a general as saying the military aimed to "establish calm and stability in Port Said and to protect public institutions". The unrest began with nationwide rallies on Friday to mark the second anniversary of the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, a democratic uprising that protesters now accuse Mursi of betraying by ramming through an Islamist-hued constitution. While anniversary-related violence subsided, a new flare-up hit Port Said after a court sentenced 21 men to die for involvement in the deaths of 74 people after a local soccer match on February 1, 2012, many of them fans of the visiting team. Residents ran wildly through the streets of Port Said in rage that men from their city had been blamed for the stadium disaster, and gunshots were reported near the prison where most of the defendants were being held. State television, citing the Health Ministry, said 22 people were killed and more than 200 wounded. Security sources said at least two of the dead were policemen. A witness said some men stormed a police station in Port Said, where protesters lit tires in the street, sending black smoke funneling into the air. At least nine people were killed in clashes with police on Friday, mainly in the port of Suez where the army has also deployed. Hundreds were injured as police rained down tear gas on protesters armed with stones and some with petrol bombs. The schism between Islamists and secular Egyptians is hurting efforts by Mursi, freely elected in June, to revive an economy in crisis and reverse a slide in Egypt's currency. The political strife and lack of security that has blighted the Arab world's most populous country over much of the post-Mubarak era is casting a chilling shadow over a parliamentary election expected to start in April. Highlighting tensions, the opposition National Salvation Front coalition called for a government of national unity and an early presidential vote among other demands. It said it would call for more protests next Friday and could boycott the parliamentary election if its demands are not met. Mursi's opponents say he has failed to deliver on economic pledges or be a president representing the full political and communal diversity of Egyptians, as he pledged. His supporters say his critics do not respect the democracy that has given Egypt its first freely elected leader. VICTIMS' RELATIVES CHEER At the Port Said soccer stadium a year ago, many spectators were crushed and witnesses saw some thrown off balconies after the match between Cairo's Al Ahly and local team al-Masri. Families of victims in court cheered and wept for joy when Judge Sobhy Abdel Maguid read a list of 21 names "referred to the Mufti", a phrase used to denote execution, as all death sentences must be reviewed by Egypt's top religious authority. A total of 73 people have been standing trial. Other rulings will be issued on March 9, the judge said. One relative in the court shouted: "God is greatest." Outside the Al Ahly club in Cairo, fans also cheered. They had threatened more violence unless the death penalty was meted out. Thousands took to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities on Friday to protest against what they call the authoritarianism of Mursi's rule. Protesters in Cairo were again hurling stones at police lines in Cairo on Saturday. "We want to change the president and the government. We are tired of this regime. Nothing has changed," said Mahmoud Suleiman, 22, in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the cauldron of the 2011 anti-Mubarak revolt and near where youths stoned police. "PURSUING CRIMINALS" Ahmed Salama, 28, a protester camped out with dozens of others in Tahrir, said: "The protests will continue until we realize all the demands of the revolution - bread, freedom and social justice." In a statement in response to Friday's violence, Mursi said the state would not hesitate in "pursuing the criminals and delivering them to justice". He urged Egyptians to respect the principles of the revolution by expressing views peacefully. The president met on Saturday with the National Defence Council, which includes senior ministers and security officials, to discuss the spate of violence. In a televised statement, the National Salvation Front said it was holding Mursi responsible. The Front was formed from disparate groups last year when Mursi awarded himself extra powers and fast-tracked an Islamist-flavored constitution to a referendum, opposed by the Front although the document was passed in the popular vote. "Egypt will not regain its balance except by a political solution that is transparent and credible, by a government of national salvation to restore order and heal the economy and with a constitution for all Egyptians," prominent opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on his Twitter account. Until the Front was formed, the opposition had struggled to unite and their vote had been split at presidential and parliamentary polls, helping Islamists. The last parliament was dissolved based on court order, demanding a new vote this year. Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said the latest violence reflected the frustration of many liberal-minded Egyptians and others. "The state of polarization between Islamists and others is most likely to continue and will have a very negative impact on the state's politics, security and economy," he said. Inspired by the popular uprising in Tunisia, Egypt's revolution spurred further revolts across the Arab world. But the sense of common purpose among Egyptians two years ago has unraveled, triggering bloody street battles last month. (Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

PAC orders removal of NESPAK chief: “An architect cannot be the chief executive of an engineering consultancy company.”

PAC orders removal of NESPAK chief By Shahbaz Rana Published: January 25, 2013 The PAC has also directed the government to recover all costs of perks and facilities Khan received as head of Nespak. ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has ordered the removal of Asad Khan, the managing director of National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak), after investigations showed that Khan may have been appointed illegally as the head of the state-owned entity. The PAC has also directed the government to recover all costs of perks and facilities Khan received as head of Nespak. The PAC, with Pakistan Peoples Party’s Nadeem Afzal Chan in the chair, directed the water and power secretary to implement the orders within a month, or the PAC will hold the secretary responsible. The PAC says it has taken the decision on the basis of its subcommittee’s report. A PAC subcommittee had investigated the matter under Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The subcommittee says its findings have been backed by the Auditor General of Pakistan’s reports, and the legal opinion of Shahid Hamid, a former governor of Punjab. The opinion was provided by Hamid Law – Shahid Hamid’s law firm – which said that: “An architect cannot be the chief executive of an engineering consultancy company.” According to the bylaws of the Pakistan Engineering Council, only professional engineers can be appointed as head of Nespak. Asad Khan is an architect by profession, which, although an allied profession, renders him unqualified for appointment as head of the company. The PAC has also ordered the reversal of all promotions made to vice presidents’ posts in violation of prescribed rules, from the period between 2009 and 2012. The subcommittee’s findings had showed that the managing director finalised such promotions on a pick-and-choose basis, bypassing prescribed criteria. The PAC additionally ordered that all benefits extended to the vice presidents promoted illegally be revoked and accounted for. The posts of vice presidents had been doubled to 30 and every vice president cost the kitty Rs799,400 per month, the report stated. The PAC also nullified all direct appointments made to Grade 12, which is equivalent to BPS 20, and sought recoveries of benefits extended to such inductees. While presenting the report, Sadiq also alleged during his presentation that Ombudsman of Pakistan Salman Farooqi tried to steer the investigation through pressures tactics. Farooqi has allegedly been backing Khan due to his close relations with him. Sadiq also claimed Khan was so powerful that he had successfully created obstacles in investigations on many different occasions. During one of the subcommittee’s meetings, held in Lahore, Khan had purportedly disrupted proceedings for 45 minutes and barred four Nespak vice presidents from recording their statements. Water and Power Special Secretary Hamayuttallah Khan claimed the ministry had sought an explanation from Khan for disrupting the committee’s proceedings, but he never responded. The subcommittee said that rules and regulations had been flouted during Khan’s tenure and the the company seemed to be running on the whims of one man, on self-created rules of businesses. In an interesting case of alleged nepotism, the subcommittee’s findings showed that Tahir Shamshad was made vice president in 2010 from the back date of 2008 – a period during which he had been serving in the Capital Development Authority on deputation. Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2013. Like Business on Facebook to stay informed and join in the conversation. ===============

Curiouser and curiouser

Apple on Jan. 23 reported revenue of $54.5 billion for the quarter ending Dec. 29, an increase of 18 percent from the same period a year earlier. Net income was flat at $13.1 billion. The company sold 47.8 million iPhones, 22.9 million iPads and 4.1 million Mac computers. In the same quarter for 2011, Apple sold 37 million iPhones, 15.4 million iPads and 5.2 million Macs. Apple reported $137 billion of cash and investments on its balance sheet at the end of the quarter. Apple finally succumbs to uncreative destruction 23 January 2013 | By Robert Cyran Apple has finally succumbed to uncreative destruction. A five-year run with the iPhone and iPad catapulted the company to investment royalty, but it’s coming to an end. Over $50 billion of market value - nearly the equivalent of HP and Dell combined - vaporized in the hours after Apple reported flat fourth-quarter profit. Copycats are gaining and margins are shrinking. Chief Executive Tim Cook needs a real innovation to escape this Red Queen’s race. A collection of evolutionary upgrades is helping Apple compete with rising rival Samsung, but only up to a point. The top line grew 18 percent from a year earlier, with almost 48 million iPhones and 23 million iPads sold in the quarter. Unfortunately, the bottom line isn’t keeping pace. The new iPad mini is in hot demand, but isn’t as profitable as its bigger brother. And while the iPhone 5 is also attracting plenty of customers, it’s proving expensive to produce. Apple’s operating margin fell nearly six percentage points to 31.6 percent. Essentially, Apple is running faster and faster simply to stand still. The danger, of course, is that the treadmill accelerates faster than Apple can run and rivals catch up. Or Apple slips, and introduces a real dud beyond just a wonky maps app. Investors are obviously bracing for it. Including the 10 percent after-hours decline on Wednesday, the shares trade at about 10 times last year’s earnings. Apple’s $137 billion of cash and investments provides a nice cushion against any fall. The sum accounts for nearly a third of its market capitalization. Apple’s best hope, however, isn’t from dividends, share buybacks or the introduction of another slightly modified and cheaper iPhone. It is to do what it has done best: run in a different direction. The company’s phenomenal growth has come from introducing devices people didn’t even know they wanted. Whether it’s in payments, TV or some other secret project, Apple will have to pick up the pace. ======= Exxon Mobil regains market-value crown from slumping Apple Fri, Jan 25 17:37 PM EST By Rodrigo Campos NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp has reclaimed its place as the largest U.S. publicly traded company by market value one year after losing it to Apple Inc, as shares of the technology giant extended their recent fall on Friday. Apple's market capitalization has fallen by about $250 billion - roughly the total market value of Google Inc - since hitting a high last September, when the stock traded above $700. Apple shares traded as low as $435 before closing down 2.4 percent on Friday at $439.88, for a market value of roughly $413 billion. Exxon shares, up 0.4 percent on the day to $91.73, added to a market value of about $418.2 billion. Apple "was clearly a momentum stock. Whenever the numbers behind momentum stocks stop, the momentum players are out and the stock tumbles," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst, Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh. There was heavy volume in Apple shares as they hit the session low shortly before the closing bell. The stock dropped by as much as $7, to $435 from $442, within the span of 1 second during the last minute of trading. More than 50 orders were executed on NYSE Arca at $435 a share, according to Thomson Reuters time-and-sales data, in blocks as small as 100 shares and as large as 10,494 shares. No other exchange executed orders at a price lower than $438 a share prior to the day's close. After those trades went through, the stock resumed its earlier levels around $442 a share before closing at $439.88. Apple shares slid 12.4 percent on Thursday - their biggest percentage drop since late September 2008 - as disappointing holiday-period iPhone sales reinforced fears the company is losing its dominance in smartphones. Apple shipped a record 47.8 million iPhones in the December quarter, up 29 percent from a year earlier. But that lagged the 50 million that analysts on average had projected. "They make great products, expensive products, but as a value investor I'm interested in the unloved stocks, just not the recently unloved ones," Forrest said. Apple's reign as largest company by market value began in the last week of January 2012, when it surpassed Exxon. (Editing by James Dalgleish, Sofina Mirza-Reid and Matthew Lewis)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

14 Pakistani equity funds among world’s top 100

14 Pakistani equity funds among world’s top 100 By Reuters Published: January 19, 2013 Nearly 7,300 equity funds investing in Asia and tracked by Lipper returned an average 17.9% in 2012. HONG KONG: Fourteen Pakistani mutual funds stormed into the list of the world’s top 100 best performing equity funds in 2012 as Asian regional markets rallied. In total, 42 mutual funds investing in Asia had made the top 100 cut. The list included 14 equity funds each from Pakistan and Thailand and nine from India, according to an analysis of data for 27,153 actively managed equity mutual funds tracked by Thomson Reuters Lipper globally. The Asia-focused funds produced an average return of 61.5%, outperforming the top market in the region as well as the 18.6% advance in the MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan. Nearly 7,300 equity funds investing in Asia and tracked by Lipper returned an average 17.9% in 2012. By comparison, non-Asian funds gained 13.3%, the data showed. The world’s top 100 equity fund’s list ranked Golden Arrow Selected Stock Fund fourth generating a return of 105.29% in 2012, Safeway Mutual Fund 18th with a return of 74.23%, NAFA Stock Fund 26th (69.4%), AKD Opportunity Fund 32nd (65.82%), JS Pension Savings Fund – Equity Sub Fund 42nd (62.59%), Asian Stocks Fund Limited 45th (61.07%), Atlas Stock Market Fund 47th (60.69%), JS Growth Fund 51st (60.43%), Pakistan Pension Fund – Equity Sub Fund 52nd (60.31%), Atlas Pension Islamic Fund 80th (57.61%), Atlas Pension Fund 90th (55.93%), Pakistan Islamic Pension 91st (55.70%), ABL Stock Fund 96th (54.39%) and JS Islamic Fund was ranked 99th generating a return of 54.07% during 2012. Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2013. Like Business on Facebook to stay informed and join in the conversation.

Shia doctor & EX MS SG Hospital gunned down in Peshawar-Karachi

Target Killing: PML-N leader among 17 killed in Karachi Published: January 23, 2013 According to witnesses, unidentified men riding motorcycle and a car opened fire on Taimoor’s car from both sides. PHOTO: FILE Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Sindh’s joint secretary Mian taimoor and his father Mian Arbab were shot dead in Defence phase VI area of Karachi, Express News reported. They were brought to a private hospital in Defence phase I, where they succumbed to their injuries. Police and leaders of OML-N are present in the hospital. According to witnesses, unidentified men riding motorcycle and a car opened fire on Taimoor’s car from both sides. The motive behind the shooting is still unclear. Police said that the initial finding suggests that it could be an incident of targeted killing. Sindh hospital MS shot dead A former medical superintendent (MS) of Sindh Government Hospital and a former SHO were among three people shot dead in separate targeted attacks in Karachi on Tuesday night. Former MS Hassan Alam was shot and killed near UP Mor in North Karachi. He was on his way home from his private clinic when two unidentified men riding a motorcycle shot him once, killing him on the spot, according to police officials. New Karachi division SP Salman Hussain said the motive behind the murder had not yet been ascertained and a case has not been registered. The former SHO Alamgir was also killed in North Karachi, near Nagan Chowk. Police said he was shot once in his chest as he was leaving a tyre shop. Arif Rajjar was shot dead earlier in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area. Rajjar and his companions were the prime suspects of a firing incident at a party in a bungalow in Khayaban-e-Rahat. He was reported to have been shot six times by unidentified assailants Overall law and order situation of the city remained precarious throughout the day, 17 people had been shot dead in the city. ======= Sectarian violence: Shia doctor gunned down in Peshawar By Riaz Ahmad Published: January 22, 2013 “Our team has reached the clinic and they are inspecting the crime scene. No FIR has been registered so far,” say police. PHOTO: FILE PESHAWAR: In an apparent incident of sectarian violence, a Shia doctor was gunned down in Peshawar on Tuesday afternoon at his clinic in Liaqat Bazaar, Saddar. Eyewitnesses said that they heard several gunshots minutes after three men entered Dr Shahnawaz Ali’s clinic. When they rushed to the clinic, they found him dead with a bullet wound to his head. The attackers managed to flee after the incident. “Our team has reached the clinic and they are inspecting the crime scene. No FIR has been registered so far,” an official of the West Cantt police station told The Express Tribune. Dr Shah Nawaz belonged to a prominent Shia family of the walled city of Peshawar and was said to be a relative of SP Hilal Haider who was killed in a suicide attack in the Qisakhwani Bazaar last year. In the past few months, several Shia Muslims have been targeted including Dr Riaz Hussain, a prominent Shia leader from Para Chinar Kurram Agency who was also the president of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Kurram Agency chapter. Additional Session Judge Ihtisham Ali was also attacked but was lucky enough to escape the assassination attempt in Hayatabad, only sustaining minor injuries. ================ Gunmen kill Shia leader during mourning procession in Chiniot By Rabia Mehmood Published: January 1, 2013 Shia community members identify one of the attackers as a former Sipah-e-Sahaba leader. PHOTO: APP/file LAHORE: Organiser of Shia religious activities and license holder for the main mourning processions in Chiniot, Malik Mukhtar Hussain, was allegedly target killed by six armed men during a mourning procession which was underway on December 31. Six gunmen on three motorbikes had barged into the vicinity of Imambargah Qasr-e-Abu Talib located in Chowk Shori Pipli area in Muhallah Rangraizan and opened fire at Hussain. Two teenage devotees were also injured in the attack that took place during the mourning procession for the death of the 8th Imam of Shias. Eye witnesses told the The Express Tribune that although the imambargah compound does not have a gate, security was beefed up by police. They added that the gunmen tried to forcibly enter the compound and succeeded in crossing the police check point, eye witnesses said. Syed Shahan Raza, devotee and eye witness of the incident told The Express Tribune via telephone that, Hussain had walked past him, moving towards the entrance point of the imambargah to inquire why there was a clamour when the armed motorcyclists opened fire at him. Raza said he went to the DHQ Hospital with Hussain and that he had to be shifted to Allied Hospital in Faisalabad, but Hussain succumbed to his injuries on the way. Raza added, “Hussain had received several bullets including one in the head.” 34-year-old Hussain owned a catering business and leaves behind a young son and a wife. The incident took place between 10:45pm to 11:00pm on Monday. An FIR against the gunmen was lodged under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 780 A of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Station House Officer of the concerned police station, Naveed Murtaza, was suspended as a result of “negligence” in this incident. District Police Officer Zameerul Hassan said, “We have been working on this case since Hussain was murdered.” The newly inducted SHO of the police Station, Ghulam Abbas, told The Express Tribune that the police have not yet managed to arrest any of the suspects named in the FIR, however, he said that the police was conducting raids. The two teenagers, identified as Muazzam Ali, 16 and Zeeshan Ali, 17, came under fire because they were standing behind Hussain in the procession. Muazzam was put on a ventilator late last night owing to critical injuries he sustained in the chest and neck. Zeeshan was also injured with a bullet that pierced through his chest. Members of the Shia community of Chiniot told The Express Tribune that the attackers abandoned their bikes at the imambargah and managed to evade the police. They identified one of the attackers as Chauhdry Zulfiqar Jutt, a former Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan district-level leader. Jutt has a criminal record. Locals said that sectarian tensions in the area had increased after the murder of banned militant outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba’s former district president Hafiz Abubakar in September, 2012. In the month of Ramazan during August 2012, founder of banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and now the Vice President of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jammat, Malik Ishaq, visited a mosque in Chiniot and an FIR was registered against him on charges of inciting hatred by delivering speeches that fueled sectarian tensions in the area. ===============

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Triple suicide bomb attack targets Afghan government building

Triple suicide bomb attack targets Afghan government building Sun, Jan 20 23:02 PM EST By Mirwais Harooni KABUL (Reuters) - A coordinated attack involving at least three suicide bombers and a powerful car bomb took aim at the headquarters of the Kabul traffic department on Monday, followed by a clash between at least one insurgent and security forces, police said. The attack took place just days after six suicide bombers attacked the Afghan spy agency in Kabul, killing two. The Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday's attack. "Today at 5 o'clock in the morning (8:30 p.m. EST Sunday) a number of mujahideen martyrs entered a government building close to an American training centre... Heavy fighting is ongoing," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a text message to media. Police said it was not immediately clear if there were any casualties in the attack, which involved a second bombing, a tactic favored by Islamist insurgents elsewhere but relatively rare in Afghanistan. "About an hour after the initial attack (triple suicide bomb attack) a fourth man drove a car to the same compound and detonated another bomb," the head of the Kabul police criminal investigation department, Mohammad Zahir, told Reuters. Violence across the country has been increasing over the last year, sparking concern over how the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces will be able to manage once foreign troops withdraw by 2014. (Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Algeria toll rises as attack claimed for al Qaeda

Algeria toll rises as attack claimed for al Qaeda Sun, Jan 20 23:46 PM EST 1 of 18 By Lamine Chikhi ALGIERS, Algeria (Reuters) - The death toll has risen to at least 48 hostages killed during a four-day siege at a gas plant deep in the Sahara as a veteran Islamist fighter claimed responsibility on behalf of al Qaeda for the attack. Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal is expected to give details at a Monday news conference about one of the worst international hostage crises in decades, which left American, British, French, Japanese, Norwegian and Romanian workers dead or missing. A security source said on Sunday Algerian troops had found the bodies of 25 hostages, raising the number of militants and their captives killed to at least 80. He said six militants were captured alive and troops were still searching for others. One-eyed veteran Islamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility on Sunday for the attack on behalf of al Qaeda. "We in al Qaeda announce this blessed operation," he said in a video, according to Sahara Media, a regional website. He said about 40 attackers participated in the raid, roughly matching the government's figures for fighters killed and captured. The fighters swooped out of the desert and seized the base on Wednesday, capturing a plant that produces 10 percent of Algeria's natural gas exports, as well as a nearby residential barracks. They demanded an end to French air strikes against Islamist fighters in neighboring Mali that had begun five days earlier. However, U.S. and European officials doubt such a complex raid could have been organized quickly enough to have been conceived as a direct response to the French military intervention. The siege turned bloody on Thursday when the Algerian army opened fire saying fighters were trying to escape with their prisoners. Survivors said Algerian forces blasted several trucks in a convoy carrying both hostages and their captors. Nearly 700 Algerian workers and more than 100 foreigners escaped, mainly on Thursday when the fighters were driven from the residential barracks. Some captors remained holed up in the industrial complex until Saturday when they were overrun. The bloodshed has strained Algeria's relations with its Western allies, some of whom have complained about being left in the dark while the decision to storm the compound was being taken. Nevertheless, Britain and France both defended the Algerian military action. "It's easy to say that this or that should have been done. The Algerian authorities took a decision and the toll is very high but I am a bit bothered ... when the impression is given that the Algerians are open to question," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. "They had to deal with terrorists."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a televised statement: "Of course people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack. "We should recognize all that the Algerians have done to work with us and to help and coordinate with us. I'd like to thank them for that. We should also recognize that the Algerians too have seen lives lost among their soldiers."
Algeria had given a preliminary death toll of 55 people killed - 23 hostages and 32 militants - on Saturday and said it would rise as more bodies were found. The security source said that toll did not include the bodies of 25 hostages found on Sunday, which meant the total number of captives killed - foreign and local - was at least 48. The search was not over, and more could yet be found, he said. Among foreigners confirmed dead by their home countries were three Britons, one American and two Romanians. The missing include at least 10 Japanese, five Norwegians, three other Britons, and a British resident. The security source said at least one Frenchman was also among the dead. LAST WORDS? Alan Wright, now safe at home in Scotland, said he had escaped with a group of Algerian and foreign workers after hiding for a day and a night. While hiding inside the compound, he managed to call his wife at home with their two daughters. "She asked if I wanted to speak to Imogen and Esme, and I couldn't because I thought, I don't want my last ever words to be in a crackly satellite phone, telling a lie, saying you're OK when you're far from OK," he recalled to Sky News. Despite the incident, Algeria is determined to press on with its energy industry. Oil Minister Youcef Yousfi visited the site and said physical damage was minor, state news service APS reported. The plant would start back up in two days, he said. The Islamists' assault has tested Algeria's relations with the outside world and exposed the vulnerability of multinational oil operations in the Sahara. Algeria, scarred by the civil war with Islamist insurgents in the 1990s which claimed 200,000 lives, insisted from the start of the crisis there would be no negotiation in the face of terrorism. France especially needs close cooperation from Algeria to crush Islamist rebels in northern Mali. (Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Oslo, Estelle Shirbon and David Alexander in London, Brian Love in Paris and Daniel Flynn in Dakar; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Sophie Hares and Myra MacDonald) =========================== Insight: Mystery Canadian coordinated Algeria gas field attack, premier says Mon, Jan 21 12:40 PM EST 1 of 3 By Lamine Chikhi ALGIERS (Reuters) - The Islamist attack on the sprawling desert gas complex in southern Algeria that triggered one of the worst hostage crises in years was conceived in Mali and coordinated by a mystery Canadian named only as Chedad, the Algerian prime minister said. Five days after about 40 jihadist fighters raided the facility not far from the Libyan border and Algeria responded with a full-on military operation to kill or capture them, a picture of what happened is emerging. While some hostages escaped in the early stages of the crisis, hopes soon faded for dozens of others once the army decided to take on the raiders. Workers from the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Romania, Norway and the Philippines were either dead or missing, with the overall death toll among hostages and militants put at 67 and potentially rising by up to five. Those who escaped had harrowing tales to tell. One Briton recounted how the attackers had strapped Semtex plastic explosive around his neck, bound his hands and taped his mouth. Another man hid for more than a day and a half under his bed as jihadist fighters searched the workers' residential complex. Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said the plot had been hatched in war-ravaged Mali and the attackers had traveled through Niger and Libya before slipping into Algeria. The jihadists were said to come from Egypt, Mauritania, Niger, Tunisia, Mali, Algeria and, in one case, from Canada. The Canadian, identified initially as Chedad, was coordinating the raiders, Sellal said. The In Amenas gas plant probably felt impregnable to those who worked there - fenced in, hundreds of miles from anywhere and with the Algerian army patrolling its desert approaches. That was a mirage. Libya, an ex-police state turned arms bazaar and now open for jihad, lies just 50 miles away. At least some of the Islamist guerrillas who stormed in before dawn on Wednesday had driven along smugglers' tracks across the Libyan border, an Algerian security official told Reuters, citing evidence from mobile phones traced to the militants. NINE TOYOTAS The militants arrived in nine Toyotas with Libyan plates and painted in the colors of Sonatrach, the Algerian oil and gas company that has a share in the plant, according to the Algerian daily El Khabar. The ease with which they entered the fortified housing compound and nearby natural gas plant left Algerians in little doubt the gunmen had allies among people at the site. "They had local cooperation, I'm sure, maybe from drivers or security guards, who helped the terrorists get into the base," was the immediate reaction of Anis Rahmani, editor of Algeria's Ennahar newspaper and a writer on security issues who said he was briefed by officials. Sellal confirmed that a driver who had formerly worked at the plant had been supplying information to the raiders. Locally hired workers who escaped told Reuters of seeing the gunmen moving around the facility with confidence, apparently familiar with its layout and well prepared. The militants said they launched the raid to halt French military intervention in neighboring Mali, which began earlier this month, however the link is not yet clear. It is possible the attack would have happened anyway, or that the French military operation provided a trigger to carry out an attack based on preparations made earlier. First word of trouble came crackling over a walkie-talkie to the communications room at In Amenas, where a 27-year-old radio operator called Azedine logged a contact with a bus driver who, at 5:45 a.m. (0445 GMT), left to take some foreigners to the airstrip at the town of In Amenas, some 50 km (30 miles) away. "Moments after the bus left, I heard shooting, a lot of shooting, and then nothing," Azedine told Reuters on Friday. BUS SKIRMISH Two people, one British and one Algerian, were killed on two buses heading for the airport. The Briton was identified as a Gulf war veteran who had been in the French Foreign Legion and was working for a security company. Sellal said the raiders planned to seize the foreign passengers, but came under fire from soldiers guarding them. It is not clear whether that incident was part of the plan that secured the militants access to the compound. Almost immediately after the bus skirmish, they were inside, in at least three vehicles. They shot an Algerian guard but he was able to raise the alarm before dying, Sellal said. People who have worked at the site say there was normally an overnight curfew, leaving it unclear how the gunmen were able to get so close before being challenged. Their initial approach may have been well off the main roads. Freed hostages spoke of frightened people staying in their offices or hiding in their dormitories. Azedine saw a gunman put on the ID badge of a French supervisor who had been shot dead. A French catering firm employee spent 40 hours cowering alone under his bed, terrified he would be killed. Alexandre Berceaux said he had survived by staying in his room away from other foreigners, hidden behind a barricade of wooden planks and having Algerian colleagues sneak him food and water. "I was completely isolated ... I was afraid. I could see myself already ending up in a wooden box," Berceaux said in a radio interview. Rapidly the area was surrounded by heavily armed Algerian troops, with tanks, armored vehicles and helicopter gunships from a nearby military base. Sellal said there had been an attempt to negotiate but it had collapsed over the hostage-takers' demands. SMUGGLERS' TRAILS People who know the site, operated by Britain's BP and Statoil of Norway along with Algeria's Sonatrach, said a barracks housing several hundred soldiers lies along the three km (two miles) of road separating the accommodation compound from the industrial plant. A former senior Algerian government official said guards appeared to have been caught napping: "They have all kinds of equipment, detailed surveillance, cameras," he said. "They were caught maybe at the right time, at five in the morning." But he also acknowledged the militants may have had help among the local workforce: "Out of 700 Algerians, I am sure they will find a couple who will cooperate. It always happens." Militant leaders like Taher Ben Cheneb, said by officials to have been one of the commanders of the operation and to have been killed on Thursday, have stoked resentment among southerners at the way foreigners and northerners dominate the better paid jobs in the oil fields. Ben Cheneb, described as a high school maths teacher in his 50s, led the Movement of the Islamic Youth in the South. Security expert Rahmani said he joined forces for this operation with followers of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran of Afghan wars and a leading figure in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who recently formed a new group named Mulathameen. Belmokhtar, the overall commander but not present during the attack, claimed responsibility on behalf of al Qaeda for a raid he called a "blessed operation". While Ben Cheneb's group appeared to have moved on In Amenas from a base inside Algeria, Rahmani said, another group led by Abu El Bara appeared to have come in from Libya. ONE-EYED JACK The group's field commander was a veteran fighter from Niger called Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, Mauritanian media reported. He led his men into the gas plant, where he is believed to have been killed, while Abu El Bara died at the residential complex. Noting the one-eyed Belmokhtar's reputation as a cigarette smuggler as well as a holy warrior - locals call him "Mister Marlboro" - Rahmani added: "They use the same back roads as the smugglers. You need a perfect knowledge of the Sahara to do it. Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, who was captured by Belmokhtar in Niger in 2008 and released after four months, nicknamed him "Jack" so as to be able to discuss him privately with fellow captives. Belmokhtar in turn referred to his prisoners as apostates and infidels. More than a decade after Algeria's civil war killed some 200,000 people, Islamist fighters roam the sandy wastes of Africa's biggest country, mixing smuggling and kidnapping for ransom with opposition to the political establishment that has ruled in Algiers since French colonists left half a century ago. These groups have been energized by the return of heavily armed ethnic Tuaregs and others from Libya, where they fought as mercenaries for Muammar Gaddafi until his overthrow in 2011. The new Libyan authorities are struggling to control their own deep south and it provides a launchpad for raids across the frontier. ARMY ASSAULT While security forces seek to impose control, the tracts of sand are vast, borders among the half dozen countries around the desert are unmarked, and the big money that can be made from illicit trade or kidnapping tourists and Western engineers can be used to buy favors from ill-paid officials. Al Qaeda says it is fighting for a Muslim caliphate that transcends artificial borders in the Maghreb set by colonial powers. Once inside the facility, militants, including bearded, ragged fighters and others in more urban dress, herded groups of Westerners together. Hundreds of Algerians were guarded more loosely. One Algerian worker told Reuters the gunmen said they were only interested in killing "Christians and infidels". Algeria told Western governments, which voiced dismay at the storming of the facility on Thursday, that troops moved in only because guerrillas were trying to leave with hostages, hoping to reach Mali. The captors loaded hostages into a convoy. Special forces backed by helicopters moved in around noon, some 30 hours after the plant was seized. In what appears to have been the deadliest part of the siege, as described by the family of Irish survivor Stephen McFaul, government forces bombed the convoy, blasting apart four vehicles full of hostages. McFaul was in a fifth truck which crashed. He dashed for his life and escaped, and believes all those in the other vehicles were killed. McFaul told how the attackers had turned him into a human bomb, strapping Semtex around his neck. Another Briton, Garry Barlow, called his wife from within the site during the attack and said: "I'm sat here at my desk with Semtex strapped to my chest." During Thursday, most of the hundreds of people at the site were able to flee, some of them Westerners posing as Algerians. "We cut the wire with clippers and ran for it, all together, about 50 of us with the three foreigners," one man was quoted as saying by The Times. By Friday night, it remained unclear how many of the gunmen and their hostages were still in the facility. The operation at the larger, residential compound was over and troops were now surrounding the industrial site, where Nigeri and his men were reported to be holding a group of hostages. But this left Western governments and intelligence officials, long used to difficult relations with Algeria which is proud of its sovereignty, desperate for hard facts about the fate of their nationals. Western capitals seemed to be in the dark when the dramatic and bloody final assault came on Saturday morning. Algerian soldiers shot dead 11 gunmen who had executed seven foreign hostages, according to the state news agency. The militants were then found to have booby-trapped the gas complex with explosives, which the army had to defuse. The operation was over, authorities said, but mopping up went on for hours, with dozens more bodies found and many questions still to be answered. (Additional reporting by Alex Lawler and Jessica Donati in London, Writing by Alastair Macdonald and; Giles Elgood, editing by Peter Millership) =============

The burning question of gas flares

The burning question of gas flares Chris Stanton May 22, 2010 It is one of the bitter ironies of the Gulf energy industry that it burns huge volumes of natural gas as waste despite a power crisis in the region and increasing global pressure on natural resources and the environment. Topic Dolphin Energy General Electric The Middle East as a whole ranked second in the world last year for wasting natural gas by burning it off instead of using it for power stations and industry. Each year, countries surrounding the Gulf flare 27 billion cubic metres, according to satellite data from Global Gas Flaring Reduction, an international organisation supported by the World Bank. That staggering sum is 30 per cent more than the UAE imports from Qatar through the Dolphin pipeline and is sufficient to supply a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant with enough gas to produce 18 million tonnes per year for export, worth more than US$9.6 billion (Dh35.2bn) at current prices in Japan, the biggest market. As countries in the region face gas shortages and international criticism for their emissions of greenhouse gases, eliminating the waste should be the first logical step of any energy policy, experts say. "Gas flaring reduction is not just a technical issue that oil producers have to deal with, but it's a relevant solution in today's energy debate," says Paulo de Sa, the manager of the oil, gas and mining division at the World Bank. "Some countries use heavy fuel oil for power generation while still flaring associated gas. Generating electricity with gas that would otherwise be flared contributes to improving access to energy in the most efficient way possible." The practice of flaring only increases the region's carbon footprint, emitting about 80 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, based on World Bank figures, slightly more than the carbon emissions of Austria. Globally, flaring emits 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions of France. Ending the practice in Iraq alone, which is planning to increase oil production as much as five-fold in the next two decades, would prevent forecast emissions of tens of millions of tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere, says Mounir Bouaziz, a vice president for new gas business at Royal Dutch Shell, the oil giant. "There are one or two elephants we can chase," he says. "The example of Iraq, we are talking about the equivalent of taking more than 4 million cars off the road, or reducing the amount of cross-Atlantic flights by 100,000 flights per year." Russia and Nigeria are the worst offenders, followed by Iran and Iraq. The oil industry is well aware of the arguments against flaring and is often quick to agree that action is needed, but say economic and logistical challenges stand in their way. Oil companies flare or vent gas when they lack the pipelines and other infrastructure to move it to where it can be used. Often, they say they are forced to flare because the source is a remote oilfield that is too small or far away from major infrastructure to make it practical to capture the gas. In such cases, additional investment is needed to make the capture of gas possible, they say. Gas also is flared at refineries as well as LNG and chemical plants as a safety mechanism to prevent a sudden rise in pressure. At Oman LNG, which operates a plant near Sur, flaring remains "a very important element of ensuring process safety", said Brian Buckley, the chief executive of the company. Oman is responsible for about 1.5 per cent of the gas flared worldwide, putting it in the top 20 flaring countries. It is joined on the list by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Page 2 of 2 The sultanate has reduced the practice by 25 per cent in the past five years, Mr Buckley says. John Malcolm, the managing director of Petroleum Development Oman, the country's largest oil company, plans to halve flaring in four to five years. In Qatar, Maersk Oil Qatar, a joint venture between the Danish company Maersk and Qatar Petroleum, has cut flaring from 5.6 million cu metres to 1.1m cu metres on the Shaheen oilfield, even as it expanded production, said Sheikh Faisal Al Thani, the acting managing director. "It shows you can [produce] more oil and less flaring," he said. Qatar Petroleum would encourage more flaring reduction projects, but was not ready to set a firm target at all its fields, said Saif al Naimi, the company's director of health, safety and environment regulation and enforcement. The UAE is the only major oil producer in the region not on the top 20 list, following the success of a dogged government policy in Abu Dhabi that has reduced flaring by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) by 98 per cent since 1990, said Ali al Jarwan, the general manager of Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (ADMA-OPCO), an offshore division of ADNOC. "If the gas plant is not available, we do not flare," he said. "If we don't have facilities we shut down production and we think about recovering production the next day or next week." Now ADMA-OPCO is looking to shift from minimal flaring to a zero-tolerance approach in five to seven years, he said. Initial rapid gains were a result of simple fixes such as better co-ordination between drillers and gas plant operators, but extinguishing the last flares will require large capital investments. Some of those investments may not prove cost-effective on their own, Mr al Jarwan noted, but were required by government policy. Across the wider region, many flaring reduction projects need an extra funding stream to offer sufficient returns to investors. International carbon credit schemes organised by the UN Clean Development Mechanism are one option, but the process is cumbersome and the rewards too uncertain for investors. So far only two flaring reduction projects having received credits since the programme began in 2005. Ultimately, projects across the region need another boost, which could and should come as part of a new international treaty on climate change under discussion this year, says Sam Nader, the director of Masdar Carbon, a division of the Abu Dhabi Government's clean energy company. "Gas-flaring reduction should be among the first to be considered for finance by the international treaty under the global agreement," he says. "The two most important goals in this decade are energy efficiency and energy access, and gas flaring meets both. You have energy access, access to saved gas and mainly these are developing countries that can make use of the gas for their communities … secondly, energy efficiency, optimising your hydrocarbon production." For Abu Dhabi, one of the largest oil exporters in the world, gas flaring reduction also meets a third priority, he says, which is to clean up the hydrocarbon industry. "Prolonging the life of the hydrocarbon industry is of prime concern to us in Abu Dhabi," he says.cstanton@thenational.ae Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/energy/the-burning-question-of-gas-flares#ixzz2IVjxwpD5 Follow us: @TheNationalUAE on Twitter | thenational.ae on Facebook =========== UPDATE 3-Dana creditors talk tough after Islamic bond miss Thu, Nov 01 09:53 AM EDT * Dana says in talks to amend, extend sukuk terms * Bondholders to claim Dana's Egyptian assets - source * Company missed $920 million outstanding payment on Wednesday * Shares suspended on Abu Dhabi bourse By Dinesh Nair DUBAI, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates' Dana Gas failed to repay a $920 million Islamic bond on maturity, prompting a source close to holders of the bond to say they will stake claim to the natural gas producer's extensive Egyptian assets. Dana, a leading Middle East natural gas company, said on Thursday it was in talks with bondholders to amend and extend the terms of the bond, or sukuk, after it became the first firm from the UAE not to repay a bond on maturity. But a source close to the creditors said Dana sukukholders are determined to go after the assets used to back the issue. "Bondholders will now pursue an enforcement of Egyptian assets and pursue their unlimited recourse $1 billion claim against Dana Gas PJSC," the source said, declining to be named. Dana has operations in Egypt and Iraq, is listed on the Abu Dhabi stock exchange and is headquartered in the emirate of Sharjah. The Abu Dhabi bourse suspended Dana shares on Thursday, pending clarification on the Islamic bond. Although indebted firms in the Gulf Arab state have extended maturities on billions of dollars in bank loans since the onset of the world financial crisis of 2008-09, no sukuk have been restructured or unpaid on maturity. There are very few private corporate bonds or sukuk outstanding in the UAE, as most issuance has so far been from the state, or state-linked entities, and financial institutions. Other bonds and sukuk in the Gulf Arab region did not appear to be affected by the non-payment of Dana's sukuk. Islamic finance, launched in its modern form in the 1970s and estimated to have global assets of over $1 trillion, offers investments that comply with Islamic law which bans interest or investing in industries that involve gambling or alcohol. Sukuk are one of Islamic finance's highest profile products. Some in the industry claim sukuk are safer than traditional bonds because they are effectively certificates of ownership in a real asset and not pure debt. The Dana saga is not expected to have any significant impact on sukuk issuance or prices because the firm, a relatively small one compared to other issuers, is seen as a special case not representative of Gulf economies which are growing strongly. Dana, which is privately owned, is not seen as a strategic entity for the UAE so any government support is unlikely. NO MAJOR CONTAGION
"We haven't seen any major contagion in the Gulf bond and sukuk markets from this news. Frankly, institutional investors appear to be taking this in their stride," Chavan Bhogaita, head of markets strategy at National Bank of Abu Dhabi, said. "Telling investors that they have successfully paid all coupon payments thus far and are committed to a consensual arrangement is pretty lame. Bottom line is that they (Dana) didn't pay the $920 million that was due yesterday," Bhogaita said. Dana has a three-day grace period to make the payment but "appear unlikely to do so," the source added.
The UAE's largest listed natural gas firm, hit by payment delays from Egypt and Iraq's Kurdistan region, said it had also missed an $18.75 million accrued profit payment due Oct. 30 on the five-year sukuk, issued with a 7.5 percent coupon. It had repurchased $80 million of the $1 billion bond in 2008. Dana said it had paid $356 million to bondholders over the last five years. "Dana Gas is in ongoing discussions with an ad-hoc committee of sukuk holders over terms to amend and extend the sukuk," it said in a bourse statement. Bondholders have yet to issue a formal statement. The convertible sukuk has gained global interest as most of the debt is said to be owned by big investment firms including BlackRock Inc and Ashmore Group. The sukuk is secured against Dana's Egyptian operations, Sajaa Gas Private Ltd, a gas processing and sweetening plant in Sharjah, and United Gas Transmissions Co, a pipeline project to supply Iranian gas which is yet to start up. Sources told Reuters on Tuesday that Dana would not repay the sukuk on the Oct. 31 maturity. They said the two sides had entered a so-called standstill, valid for up to six months, in early October to allow talks to continue. PAYMENT DELAYS Dana's problems worsened in 2011 after political unrest in the region led to payment delays from Egypt and Iraq's Kurdistan region. It had outstanding receivables of 754 million dirhams ($205 million) in Egypt and 1.33 billion dirhams in Kurdistan as at Sept. 30. Dana said liquidity challenges, mainly due to non-payments from Egypt and Kurdistan, are "short term" and it is committed to finding a consensual solution with the bondholders. In May, Dana said it had hired Blackstone Group, Deutsche Bank and law firm Latham & Watkins as advisers. Investors have hired Moelis and law firm Linklaters. Dana's shares and sukuk have been under pressure on investor worries of non-payment of the outstanding bond. The sukuk, which is lightly traded, was quoted at 66 cents to the dollar according to prices from Nomura Holdings, unchanged from Wednesday's close. It was quoted at 78 cents to the dollar earlier in the week but slumped after reports of non-payment. "This was well-flagged and with the restructuring, sukuk holders will be looking at any way Dana can monetise its assets," said Amer Khan, fund manager at Shuaa Asset Management. In a separate statement, Dana said its third-quarter net profit fell 27 percent to 104 million dirhams from 143 million dirhams a year ago. Its cash balances stood at 516 million dirhams as of Sept. 30. Revenue for the period fell 21 percent to 512 million dirhams, due to a decline in Egypt production and lower hydrocarbon prices, Dana said. ============== Regulation & Environment: Australia’s coalseam-to-LNG companies stand up By News Desk | May 20, 2013 12:01 AM Comments (0) Companies looking to turn Australian coalseam gas into LNG for export are facing increasing resistance from environmental groups. In this week’s Regulation & Environment column in Oilgram News, Christine Forster discusses how producers are pushing back. ——————————– Some of the companies building massive new coalseam gas-to-LNG projects in the eastern Australian state of Queensland have gone on the front foot to counter what they describe as anti-development activism. BG subsidiary QGC has been particularly vocal among the players, who are fighting back against criticism in social and traditional media of the rapidly expanding industry’s environmental footprint. QGC is building the $20.4 billion Queensland Curtis LNG project on Curtis Island in Gladstone. The 8.5 million mt/year facility will be the world’s first CSG-based LNG plant when it starts up in 2014. Two other LNG plants are being constructed on Curtis Island. All three will be fed with CSG from thousands of wells in Queensland’s Bowen and Surat basins. Origin Energy and ConocoPhillips are developing the $24.7 billion Australia Pacific LNG project, with a capacity of 9 million mt/year, and a Santos-led group is working on the 7.8 million mt/year Gladstone LNG plant. Those two facilities will start up over 2015-2016. In recent weeks, QGC has railed against federal government plans to regulate CSG projects which impact water resources, and to monitor fugitive emissions from CSG wells. BG Group Australia Chairman Catherine Tanna, at a recent speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia, criticized increasing regulation of the industry, pointing at the federal government’s planned changes to its Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to include a so-called “water trigger.” That move took the industry by surprise, coming as an additional layer of regulation on top of the requirements of the state governments. The EPBC Act amendments, proposed by the Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, were debated in the Senate on May 14 and look set to be passed with support from the Green party and unaligned parliamentarians. The opposition Liberal National Party Coalition opposes the bill. “The gas industry has been criticized on many fronts,” Tanna told the AmCham event. “Very occasionally that criticism is warranted and the industry has been quick to remediate. A lot of what is said, though, is highly questionable, and propagated without challenge to the point where activism determines public policy; where the tail wags the dog.” ——————————–
Tanna argued that rather than “poisoning” aquifers, and “alienating” farm land, the CSG industry reduced the pressure on stressed aquifers by purifying salty coalseam water and providing it to farmers and local towns. “It is water that otherwise would not be available for any use,” she said. “If these proposals were, therefore, designed to protect Australia’s water resources, they fail on this logic alone. They were clearly not introduced to deal with an environmental problem. They were introduced to appease activists.” “That is a measure of what is at stake when we have decision making on this basis; when green activists and their supporters deliberately misinform; and when motives and charges go unquestioned and unchallenged,” Tanna said. “Just as it is right that our industry be scrutinized and held to account, so, too, should our critics.”
QCLNG will add $32 billion to the Queensland economy in its first 10 years. QGC has also hit out at proposed federal regulations to measure fugitive emissions of CSG from gas production, saying the costs of implementation outweigh any environmental or revenue gain. The regulations, to be introduced from July 2013, have been applied after nearly a year of public consultation during which the government received only 17 submissions, with gas companies given just a month to comment, QGC said. Santos has also pitched into the debate, running newspaper advertisements last month in response to a critical report on high-profile Australian Broadcasting Corporation television program 4 Corners. “The Santos GLNG project in Queensland was subject to an extremely comprehensive environmental approval process,” CEO David Knox said in the advertisement. “Rather than being rushed, as claimed by 4 Corners, this process took over four years to complete between 2007 and 2010, involved 20,000 pages of environmental submission and resulted in 1,200 specific environmental conditions.” The upstream peak industry body is also campaigning hard, releasing a steady stream of statements refuting the environmental lobby’s claims, including its “shameful scare campaign” on the human health impacts of the CSG industry. But the industry might soon get its wish, with a return to a streamlined approvals process concentrated in the hands of the states. That is the system backed by the federal LNP opposition, widely tipped to oust the minority Gillard government in a general election scheduled for September 14 this year. –Christine Forster in Sydney

Caterpillar writes off most of China deal after fraud

Caterpillar writes off most of China deal after fraud Sat, Jan 19 05:06 AM EST By Ernest Scheyder (Reuters) - Caterpillar Inc uncovered "deliberate, multi-year, coordinated accounting misconduct" at a subsidiary of a Chinese company it acquired last summer, leading it to write off most of the value of the deal and wiping out more than half its expected earnings for the fourth quarter of 2012. Shares of Caterpillar fell 1.5 percent in afterhours trading following news of the fraud, which was discovered after problems were found with the Chinese company's inventory. Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of tractors and excavators, said on Friday it would take a non-cash goodwill impairment charge of $580 million, or 87 cents per share, in the quarter. Analysts had expected the company to report $1.70 per share when it reports its results on January 28, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Caterpillar closed the purchase of ERA Mining Machinery Ltd and its subsidiary Siwei, China's fourth-largest maker of hydraulic roof supports, last June, paying HK$5.06 billion, or $653.4 million. ERA had been publicly traded in Hong Kong, doing business through Siwei, which is known for making equipment to support roofs in mines. A member of the Caterpillar board during the course of the Siwei deal told Reuters the board was distracted at the time by a larger transaction and paid relatively little attention to the Siwei acquisition. "It came as a complete surprise to us," the former board member said of the fraud, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. "It was presented to us as a pretty straightforward transaction. It's a shame. It should have been investigated further." The source said the driving force behind the deal was Ed Rapp, the former Caterpillar chief financial officer who now serves as a group president with responsibility for China, among other operations. The source said it was Rapp who presented the deal to the board and pushed for its completion. A Caterpillar spokesman declined to comment on Rapp's role in the deal. Rapp could not be immediately located for comment. REVERSE TAKEOVER At the time of the Caterpillar purchase, ERA Mining was listed in the Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) of the Hong Kong stock exchange, which is "designed to accommodate companies to which a higher investment risk may be attached," according to the offering circular filed by Caterpillar last year in Hong Kong. The company was previously known as ERA Holdings Global Ltd. and provided "corporate secretarial services" before being acquired by Siwei in September 2010 through a reverse takeover. Caterpillar's write-off could revive concerns over accounting scandals and corporate governance issues of Chinese companies voiced by investors including Muddy Waters founder Carson Block. Reverse takeovers have been of particular concern, since most of the recent accounting scandals in the United States have come from small Chinese companies who went public via a reverse takeover, including China MediaExpress Holdings Inc. A Hong Kong arbitration panel on Wednesday ruled China MediaExpress was a "fraudulent enterprise." 'COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE' In a statement, Caterpillar said an ongoing investigation launched after the deal closed "determined several Siwei senior managers engaged in deliberate misconduct beginning several years prior to Caterpillar's acquisition of Siwei." According to a question-and-answer dialog Caterpillar included in its statement, the company found discrepancies in November between the inventory in Siwei's books and its actual physical inventory, triggering the probe. The company also said it had replaced several senior managers at Siwei, adding that their conduct was "offensive and completely unacceptable." Representatives for Siwei didn't respond to calls and requests for comment on the Caterpillar announcement. The company employs about 4,000 people in Zhengzhou and produces hydraulic roof supports used to prevent rocks from falling into a coal mine's working area. Siwei competes with market leader Zhengzhou Coal Mining Machinery, according to Zhengzhou Coal's IPO prospectus filed in November. Citigroup and law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP served as financial and legal advisers to Caterpillar on the transaction. Blackstone and DLA Piper acted as ERA's financial and legal advisers. Freshfields said in an emailed statement that it wasn't able to comment on client matters. Representatives for Blackstone, Citigroup and DLA Piper didn't respond to requests for comment on Saturday. CHINA AMBITIONS The Siwei deal came as part of Caterpillar's larger ambitions in China. In early 2012, it added Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, to its board of directors. The company, which already has 23 manufacturing facilities in China and four more under construction, said the Siwei episode would not change its strategy in the country. Caterpillar's experience with Siwei may also renew focus on the standoff between the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and audit firms over access to accounting documents of U.S.-listed Chinese companies suspected of fraud. While Siwei was not U.S.-listed, the broader accounting question has been a thorny one for U.S. companies looking to grow their business in China. ($1=HK$7.75) (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Soyoung Kim in New York, Elzio Barreto in Hong Kong and Kevin Yao in Beijing; Writing by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Gary Hill, Tim Dobbyn and Susan Fenton) ============= Red flags revealed in filings of firm linked to Caterpillar fraud Thu, Jan 24 06:14 AM EST By Clare Baldwin HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Chinese mining equipment company at the centre of an alleged accounting fraud was also involved in a web of insider loans and asset transfers prior to its purchase by Caterpillar Inc., public filings show. The transactions, while not illegal, should have sounded warnings about the company's finances when the U.S. firm came calling last year, corporate governance experts said. The world's largest maker of tractors and excavators said last week it was writing off most of the $654 million value of its purchase of ERA Mining Machinery Ltd after uncovering "deliberate, multi-year, coordinated accounting misconduct" at its subsidiary Zhengzhou Siwei. Caterpillar said an internal investigation had uncovered improper accounting of inventories, revenue recognition and cost allocation at Siwei, designed to overstate the profitability of the business in the years before it bought it. Corporate disclosures from ERA filed prior to the takeover show some unusual transactions, including directors lending the company cash at relatively high interest rates and asset-shuffling between Siwei and related parties. Investors and corporate governance experts say these were potential red flags that should have prompted Caterpillar and its team of lawyers, accountants and bankers to ask some searching questions before pulling the trigger on the deal. "Every time there's a horror story like this, it acts as a damn good wake-up call that you need to look carefully before you do a deal," said David Holloway, senior managing director at FTI consulting and an expert in investigation of business fraud. Caterpillar declined to comment on the ERA directors' loans and did not respond to a request for comment on Siwei's operations. ERA directors could not be reached for comment. A source directly involved with the Caterpillar deal said RSM Nelson Wheeler was ERA's auditor, while Deloitte and Ernst & Young acted on Caterpillar's side. RSM did not respond to calls and emails and Deloitte and E&Y declined to comment. One of the directors who lent the company money was Beijing-based U.S. businessman Emory Williams Jr, a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China and son of a former Sears Bank and Trust Co. chairman and chief executive. A second was Li Rubo, a graduate of the South Dakota School of Mines and former Chinese government official. There are no allegations of illegality against any of ERA's directors. A security guard at Siwei's six-storey, glass-fronted headquarters on the outskirts of Zhengzhou, eastern China, stopped a Reuters reporter from entering the campus, saying senior managers were all in Beijing for meetings. Reuters' efforts to contact ERA chairman Williams, Li and other directors and major shareholders at listed addresses in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Zhengzhou and by telephone and email were also unsuccessful. RED FLAGS One concern about ERA should have been why the Hong Kong-listed company needed to borrow more than $9.5 million from four directors -- who earned nearly $500,000 in interest -- at loan rates that were among the most expensive on its balance sheet. "It wouldn't necessarily mean there are cash flow problems but it would be a massive red flag", because it would call into question whether the financing was in the company's best interests, a U.S. lawyer experienced with China transactions, commenting on condition of anonymity, wrote in an email. The personal loans are detailed in regulatory filings made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission prior to ERA's takeover by Caterpillar in June last year. "While company loans to directors are a governance no-no, the opposite is more of a grey area," said Jamie Allen, secretary general of the Asian Corporate Governance Association, in an emailed response to a Reuters' question. "Is the interest rate fair and at arm's length? Why didn't the company go to a bank?" Allen said he had not studied the ERA deal in detail, but these would have been important questions to ask. David Webb, a shareholder activist and member of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission's Takeover and Mergers Panel, said local listing rules allowed directors to lend money to companies at normal commercial terms, provided the loan was not securitized, although it was not a common practice. "Presumably the board would have looked at alternative sources of funding," he said. In one example, in April 2010, Williams and Li lent $6.4 million to pay down loans of nearly $20 million, mostly funded by a U.S. private equity firm, that were used to acquire Siwei, and for working capital, according to the filings. Williams and Li made the loan at an interest rate of 8 percent per year, compounded annually. In a letter from the board at the time of ERA's reverse merger, the directors, who did not yet include Williams and Li, called the loans "fair and reasonable" and "justifiable". ERA's loans with commercial banks at the time were at interest rates ranging from 4.9 percent to 7.4 percent. REVERSE TAKEOVER At the time of the Caterpillar takeover, ERA was listed in the Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) of the Hong Kong stock exchange, which is designed to accommodate companies with a higher risk profile. ERA had absorbed Siwei through a reverse takeover in 2010, a corporate maneuver that has become controversial in the United States following a series of accounting scandals involving small Chinese companies listed there. Caterpillar said it found discrepancies in November between the inventory on the books of Siwei, which makes hydraulic supports for coal mines, and its actual physical inventory, triggering the probe. The company blamed "several senior managers" whose misconduct it said began some years before it acquired Siwei. Caterpillar did not identify the senior managers. Corporate filings show that the amount of money Siwei was owed by its customers had grown 58 percent a year since 2008, overtaking total sales in 2011, and that some 90 percent of those debts were overdue when Caterpillar launched its bid. John Hempton, a prominent hedge fund manager with Sydney-based Bronte Capital, said 20 minutes research into ERA was enough to convince him to short Caterpillar's shares after he heard it was buying the Chinese company. Hempton found what he considered a problem with ERA's receivables -- it often took 180 days to collect payment, twice the industry average. "This was something that should have been spotted in only a few minutes," he said. Caterpillar declined to comment further on whether its examination of ERA's accounts had been sufficiently thorough, although last week it said it believed its due diligence process was "rigorous and robust". ASSET SHUFFLING Williams and Li also helped finance the 2007 purchase of Zhengzhou Siwei with a $2.95 million interest-free loan, according to ERA's reverse takeover prospectus. Li helped fund his part of the loan by borrowing $2.565 million from another company where both he and Williams were directors. Records from around that time show some unusual transfers of company assets at Zhengzhou Siwei. In one instance, Siwei disposed of an industrial tank-making business valued at nearly $5 million at "nil consideration" to a company in which a Siwei director and former substantial shareholder had taken a majority stake four months earlier. The company said the assets were loss-making, but continued to purchase millions of dollars worth of equipment and services from the same firm between 2007 and 2009, paying an average of 2 percent to 4 percent above the market rate for the "better quality services provided", according to regulatory filings. Efforts to contact those involved were unsuccessful. In another case, Siwei transferred a 7.5 percent stake in a mining equipment firm to one of its partners -- a company linked to one of China's biggest weapons manufacturers -- to offset "trade payables", an accounting term that usually refers to liabilities owed to suppliers and could suggest Siwei was having trouble paying its bills. A director surnamed Wang reached by telephone at the head office of the former partner, Shaanxi Dynamic, said her company had severed ties with Siwei a few years ago. David Smith, head of corporate governance for Asia at fund manger Aberdeen, said shuffling of assets between related entities was not uncommon in China and could be legitimate. "It's not necessarily a red flag, but it's a catalyst that would have us look into the matter in quite a lot of detail to understand why it is happening," he said. "Our concern would be value leaving the company as a result of the swapping." (Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in Zhengzhou, China, Michael Flaherty, Denny Thomas, Stephen Aldred and Lawrence White in Hong Kong, Lucy Hornby and Michael Martina in Beijing and Ernest Scheyder and Jennifer Ablan in New York; Writing by Alex Richardson; Editing by Ian Geoghegan) ============

New alliances: Gardezi family joins PPP, Qasim moves to PML-Q

New alliances: Gardezi family joins PPP, Qasim moves to PML-Q By Our Correspondent Published: December 25, 2012 Wattoo says that Mehmood’s efforts in south Punjab and his own in central Punjab will produce a surprise result for the party in the elections. PHOTO: NNI LAHORE: The Gardezi family from Bahawalpur announced their decision to join Pakistan Peoples Party on Tuesday and vowed to give their opponents a run for their money in the upcoming elections. Former PML-N MPAs Syed Salman Gardezi and Syed Irfan Ahmed Gardezi joined the PPP. Sajid Hussain Bukhari, the former tehsil nazim of Bahawalpur, also left the PML-N to join the PPP on Tuesday. The three men held a press conference at the Governor’s House with PPP Central Punjab President Mian Manzor Ahmed Wattoo and other senior leaders of the party. Wattoo said the PPP welcomed the newly appointed Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood. He said Mehmood was a seasoned politician who would strengthen the party in south Punjab. Wattoo said the gates of the Governor’s House would be open to the PPP’s workers. He said the PPP would gradually show its cards as it got closer to the election.He said Mehmood’s efforts in south Punjab and his own in central Punjab will produce a surprise result for the party in the elections. Sources within the PML-N said the Gardezi family had joined the PPP because their rival, MNA Riaz Hussain Pirzada, had joined PML-N. According to a PML-Q press release, former PML-N ticket holder from PP-22 Chakwal Pir Nisar Qasim has joined PML-Q along with many of his supporters. Qasim expressed complete confidence in the leadership of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. Describing Elahi’s term as chief minister as a golden era for the Punjab, he said now the province had been rendered bankrupt by the PML-N, crime had increased, the Sharif brothers refused to listen to their own parliamentarians. He said most PML-N members of the assemblies were unhappy and many PML-N parliamentarians would quit the party once elections were announced. Elahi said with Qasim joining the PML-Q, the party would become even stronger in Chakwal. Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2012. =========== Two PML-N MNAs among three Jehlum politicians jump over to PPP By Web Desk Published: January 20, 2013 Raja Afzal (C) announcing his decision to join PPP flanked by senior PPP leaders Feryal Talpur (L) and Khurshid Shah (R). PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS KARACHI: The pulling and pushing between political parties for the best candidates continues with two Members of National Assembly of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) announcing on Saturday that they were joining the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Express News reported. Former MNA and Senator Raja Afzal along with his two sons MNAs Raja Asad and Raja Safdar announced their decision to join the PPP in a press conference at Bilawal House on Saturday evening after a meeting with PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Speaking on this occasion‚ PPP leader and women’s wing head Faryal Talpur said that the PPP was a large party and number of political leaders wanted to join it before the elections. Senior PPP leader and federal minister for religious affairs Khurshid Shah was also present for the announcement. =========== Punjab governor’s sons have joined PPP: Gilani By Web Desk Published: January 20, 2013 File photo of Punjab Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood. PHOTO: EXPRESS/ FILE RAHIM YAR KHAN: Three sons of Punjab Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood have joined Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), announced former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Sunday, reported Express News. Addressing a rally in Rahim Yar Khan along with the Punjab governor, Gilani welcomed Murtaza Mehmood, Mustafa Mehmood and Ali Mehmood to the party. Murtaza is an MPA, while Mustafa is an MNA. Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood earlier belonged to Pakistan Muslim League ­– Functional (PML-F) but had resigned from the party when President Asif Ali Zardari offered him the post of the governor. The governor, addressing the rally later, claimed that he did not need any protocol as he was the peoples’ governor. He said that the doors of the Governor House are always open for the people of Punjab. “I promise you that the current government will give power to you to help you get developed,” he told the people. ============= Bahawalpur province: ‘Makhdooms and Gilanis cannot decide our fate’ By Kashif Zafar Published: January 23, 2013 Nawab Salahuddin Abbasi said the BNAP had supported the PPP after late Benazir Bhutto promised to create a Bahawalpur province. PHOTO: AFP/FILE BAHAWALPUR: “We will not let any Gilani or Makhdoom determine the fate of Bahawalpur province,” Nawab Salahuddin Abbasi, leader of the Bahawalpur National Awami Party (BNAP), said on Tuesday. He was addressing a press conference at the house of party’s President Muhammad Farooq Azam Malik. Abbasi said the BNAP had supported the PPP after late Benazir Bhutto promised to create a Bahawalpur province. He said now that the PPP had almost completed its tenure, it was backing out from the commitment. He said he had declined an offer to be made governor and change his stance. The nawab said that Governor Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood had made a two-and-a-half-month deal with the government and betrayed the people of Bahawalpur. “We will not let them add Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan to the Bahawalpur province.” The nawab said that the government could neither deceive the people of Bahawalpur nor force them to change their perspectives and compromise. He said the BNAP will participate in the upcoming general elections. He said the Sharif Brothers should live up to their commitment and play their role in the creation of the Bahawalpur province. He hoped that they would not betray the people as the PPP had. The nawab claimed that before Mehmood, the PPP had offered him the Punjab governorship. But, he said, he had refused to make any deal that would require him to compromise the rights of the people of Bahawalpur. He said his party’s demands were legitimate and that they would not stop until the Bahawalpur province was created. He said the party would also reject any changes made in the recommendations of the commission formed to creation new provinces. The nawab announced that he will stand for two National Assembly seats from Bahawalpur and one from Rahim Yar Khan. Former federal minister and BNAP President Muhammad Farooq Azam Malik said that the issue of creating the Bahawalpur province was completely different from the creation of other provinces. “There is no problem with our boundaries and resources. Mehmood’s father, Makhdoom Hassan Mahmood, had served as chief minister of Bahawalpur state before it was disbanded in 1956. Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2013. ====== Zulfiqar Khosa's son joins PPP By Web Desk Published: January 23, 2013 A file photo of Saifuddin Khosa. PHOTO: EXPRESS ISLAMABAD: Son of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa joined Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Wednesday. Saifuddin Khosa made the announcement during a press conference in Islamabad with other PPP leaders. While speaking to media, Saifuddin said he was positive about serving the country well while being a part of the PPP. ========