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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Over 100 feared dead after Indonesia military plane crashes

Over 100 feared dead after Indonesia military plane crashes MEDAN, Indonesia | By Roni Bintang More than 100 people were feared dead after a military transport plane plowed into a residential area shortly after take-off in northern Indonesia on Tuesday, in what may be the deadliest accident yet for an air force with a long history of crashes. "For the moment we know there were 113 people (on board). It looks like there are no survivors," Air Marshal Agus Supriatna told Metro TV in the Sumatra city of Medan, adding that some of the passengers were air force families. The crash of the aircraft, a C-130B Hercules aircraft that went into service half a century ago, is bound to put a fresh spotlight on Indonesia's woeful air safety record and its ageing planes. Officials said the plane plunged into a built-up area of Medan, one of Indonesia's largest cities. Eye witnesses said it appeared to explode shortly before it smashed into houses and a hotel. An official at a nearby hospital who declined to be named said that 55 bodies had been brought in so far. Black smoke billowed from the wreckage, and crowds of people milling around the area initially hampered emergency services. "We have been using heavy equipment like earth movers to clear the wreckage of the plane," said Romali, chief of Medan's search and rescue agency, who has only one name. "We are still evacuating bodies from the rubble and we hope we can finish the operation tonight," he said in an interview. Related Coverage › Crashed Indonesian military plane had 113 on board: air force spokesman The plane had been on its way from an air force base in Medan to Tanjung Pinang in Riau Islands off Sumatra. Media said the pilot had asked to return to the base because of technical problems. "It passed overhead a few times, really low," said Elfrida Efi, a receptionist at the nearby Golden Eleven Hotel. "There was fire and black smoke. The third time it came by it crashed into the roof of the hotel and exploded straight away," she said by telephone. Related Video Video Military air crash kills dozens in Indonesia PRESSURE TO MODERNIZE According to the Aviation Safety Network, 10 fatal crashes involving Indonesian military or police aircraft have occurred over the last decade. The accidents put under a spotlight the safety record of Indonesia's aviation and its ageing aircraft. Flightglobal, an aviation industry data and news service. The Indonesian air force has now lost four C-130s, reducing its transport reach in an archipelago that stretches more than 5,000 km (3,000 miles) from its western to eastern tips. Air force spokesman Dwi Badarmanto said it was unclear what caused the crash and, until it was, eight other C-130Bs would be grounded. Related Coverage › Indonesia's air force grounds Hercules planes after deadly crash U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States stood ready to assist the investigation as needed. Although Indonesia accounted for nearly one-fifth of defense spending by Southeast Asian countries last year, as a percentage of GDP the amount was the lowest in the region at 0.8 percent, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute data. President Joko Widodo, who took office last year, has said he plans to double military spending to $15 billion by 2020. The transport plane accident could bring pressure on the president to spend more on modernizing the air force. "This incident shows us that we must renew our aircraft and our military equipment," Pramono Anung, a lawmaker and member of the parliamentary commission overseeing defense, said in an interview. "The Hercules is already old, many of our other (weapons) systems are already old. As parliament we will support giving more funding to the military so that they can upgrade." (Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor, Randy Fabi, Aubrey Belford, Nilufar Rizki and Klara Virencia in Jakarta, Siva Govindasamy in Singapore and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Steve Orlofsky)

Two southern NSW councils reject need to merge under Government program

Two southern NSW councils reject need to merge under Government program By Jordan Hayne Posted about 7 hours ago Queanbeyan mayor Tim Overall Photo: Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall wants his council to become a regional services provider but does not want to merge with others. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore ) Related Story: Local councils vote against NSW forced amalgamations Related Story: City of Sydney votes to oppose proposed merger with neighbouring councils Related Story: More NSW councils in deficit as State Government urges amalgamations Map: Queanbeyan 2620 Queanbeyan City Council and its neighbour Palerang Council have rejected the need for a forced marriage under the New South Wales Government's Fit For the Future Program. Both councils have lodged submissions arguing they should each keep their independence, despite the Independent Local Government Review Panel preferring a merge between the two. Fit For the Future is designed to ensure all local councils in New South Wales are operating efficiently. In some cases councils that were not meeting specific benchmarks and were urged to consider voluntary amalgamation. The NSW Government is refusing to rule out the prospect of forced merges, despite the Australian Local Government Association voting to oppose any forced amalgamations. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has begun assessing council submissions, before delivering a report to the Government in October. Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall said a consultant enlisted by both councils determined that a merger would not improve the region's position. "It was found that if both councils came together, that would be a financially unsustainable proposition unless there were major, major rationalisations between the two councils involving the loss of a whole range of positions," he said. He warned that if a merger went ahead special rate variations could well follow. "I can say that over 30 councils across NSW have recently secured special rate variations to their rate base, but we haven't gone down that path yet. So we'll be doing further analysis work in that regard." Mr Overall said. Palerang Mayor Pete Harrison said that a merger would decrease representation for his constituents. "We have two fundamentally different demographics," he said. We've got ourselves, largely a rural council, dealing with or delivering services into the farming community, small rural villages and towns, whereas next door to us in Queanbeyan you've got what is essentially an urban council. "In Queanbeyan you have something in the order of 26,000 voters, and in Palerang something in the order of 10,000 voters. "Pure democratic reality is that you would have three times the representation and only a quarter from the other." Councils differ on next step of process While both agree a forced merger would be to the detriment of the region, the councils disagree about the best way forward. Palerang mayor Pete Harrison Photo: Palerang Mayor Pete Harrison fears any proposed merger with the larger Queanbeyan Council would reduce representation for residents. (ABC News: Jordan Hayne) Palerang is eager to see both councils share resources and continue on as equals, but Queanbeyan City Council has proposed it become a regional services provider. The model would see smaller councils like Palerang would outsource some of their back office operations to Queanbeyan. "[It would] allow Queanbeyan to provide services to smaller councils across the region, particularly Palerang Council" Mr Overall said. "I do know there are a number of other councils, both in metropolitan Sydney, and regional New South Wales are putting in similar proposals". But Mr Harrison wants to see those services remain in Palerang. "To be perfectly honest [a regional services provider model] doesn't actually help smaller councils, a great deal. It provides a stop-gap sort of solution, but at the end of the day it doesn't really help any small council become stronger," he said. "Buying services from a central provider really doesn't help any small council develop those particular capabilities themselves, it creates an entity which then becomes dependent on a larger entity." The proposals from all councils involved in Fit For the Future will be assessed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which will report to the NSW Government in October. Powered by Bing Topics: state-parliament, local-government, urban-development-and-planning, queanbeyan-2620, bungendore-2621, braidwood-2622, nsw, act

How things have changed for Sydney's first home buyers

DateJune 13, 2015 Matt Wade Matt Wade Senior writer View more articles from Matt Wade Follow Matt on Twitter Analysis First home buyers have been a recurring challenge in Australian politics. They were singled out for assistance in Paul Keating's first budget in 1983 as the government tried to revive the economy after recession. In 2003 Peter Costello ordered a high-profile inquiry into first home ownership when their numbers plummeted amid surging property prices. This week Treasurer Joe Hockey got into political strife for suggesting first home aspirants merely needed to find "a good job that pays good money" if they wanted to get into the super-hot housing market. But a lot has changed for Sydney's first home buyers since Paul Keating was Treasurer. Back in the mid-1980s the typical first-timer was younger and more likely to have children. A bigger proportion relied on a single income, normally earned by a male breadwinner. In the mid-1980s around half of women aged 25 to 45 were in the workforce, now the proportion is about 75 per cent. First home buyers in the 1980s had to deal with a much more rigid mortgage market. State-owned banks did much of the lending and the range of loan products was limited compared with today. Property prices were much lower relative to incomes. In 1985 Sydney's median detached house price was around $73,000 according to Domain Group data, or three-and-a-half times average annual earnings. Now Domain puts the Sydney's median house price at $914,056, about 11 times average earnings. But first time home borrowers in the 1980s faced far more uncertainly over interest rates. Towards the end of that decade official rates soared to around 18 per cent and household interest payments as a proportion of income climbed to the highest level in the modern era. A deep recession followed. The mid-1990s heralded a long period of low and steady inflation and a significant reduction in the level of interest rates. This structural shift has made it easier for first-time home borrowers to service big loans but has also underpinned a significant run up in house prices. The deregulation of the financial system during the 1980s and 1990s made it easier for first-time buyers to get a home loan and has provided a vast array of borrowing options. But policy changes, especially changes to capital gains tax in the late 1990s, drew more investors into the property market. In the early-1990s only about one sixth of new home lending was going to investors but this year it has risen to more than half. Sydney University housing expert, Dr Judy Yates, says Australian attitudes to housing have shifted in recent decades. Once it was viewed primarily as a place to live but now its considered a source of wealth accumulation. "There's been a change from treating housing as just shelter to treating it as an asset," Dr Yates said. The upshot is that first home buyers are now often in competition with investors for similar types of housing. The preferences of Sydney's first home buyers have also shifted. "The starting point for most home buyers in the 1980s was a cheap house and land package on the city fringe," said Domain Group economist Dr Andrew Wilson. But that started to change about 20 years ago. The proportion of townhouses and apartments purchased by first home buyers jumped from 12 per cent to 20 per cent over the decade to 2001 and has continued to climb. "More first home buyers are now looking to inner-city living," said Dr Wilson.

German conservative says "Grexit" best solution for all

Greece's Varoufakis: Rather 'cut my arm off' than agree to current deal Published time: July 02, 2015 16:35 Get short URL Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (Reuters / Marko Djurica) Bailout, Crisis, EU, Economy, Greece Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has pledged to resign if Greeks voted ‘Yes’ in Sunday’s referendum on the country’s bailout. He also said he would “prefer to cut my arm off” rather than sign the current deal with Greece’s creditors. “Everybody in the government will do what we must do in order to respect the “Yes” vote of the Greek people, but there won’t be a “Yes” vote. I am quite confident that the Greek people have had enough of extending and pretending, like the rest of the world by the way,” Varoufakis said in an interview to Bloomberg on Thursday. People got tired of “losing their dignity by signing agreements and making pledges that simply cannot be met. Because the financing is wrong,” he said. Varoufakis said that if the ‘Yes’ vote succeeds, come Sunday midnight he won’t be finance minister anymore. “But I would help whoever it is,” he added. Varoufakis complained that the country’s debt was unsustainable, saying ‘I’d better cut my arm off’ than sign the deal with creditors that doesn’t include debt reorganization. ‘Desperate’ to stay in the euro Greece “really desperately wants to stay in the euro, even if we are critical of the institutions in the framework of the euro,” Varoufakis said. “The question for the Greek people is, how do you stay in it. Do you stay by further extending and pretending? I believe not. If we sign that agreement that was offered to us by these institutions, in 6-12 months we'll be even closer to insolvency,” he said. “I won’t sign another extension and pretend. I’m allergic to extending and pretending.” The group of eurozone finance ministers has agreed that the debt talks will be paused until after Greece holds a referendum on whether or not Athens should agree to the international creditors’ conditions. Mr. Varoufakis said the talks would resume with European creditors even if the result on Sunday was a 'No' vote. “What we do with this economy and whether we extend the crisis by pretending to have solved it will depend on the outcome of the referendum,” he said. In the case of a 'No' vote, the Greek government would “immediately start negotiations,” Varoufakis promised. “Believe you me, there will be an agreement,” he said. Greek PM: We aim to seal deal with creditors after referendum Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also says that a “'No' answer in the referendum would be an important step to getting a better deal – it does not mean a break-up with Europe." "I fully understand the difficulties, and I will do everything in my power so that they are temporary. Those who say the government has a plan to exit Europe are lying," he added. Tsipras said his government was facing the consequences of a fight for decent welfare: "The predominance of extreme views in Europe has led to the closure of Greek banks, to scare the ordinary Greek citizen. To protect the right of our pensioners for a decent pension, we have been fighting for five months, and now, we are facing retribution for it." ‘No banking crisis in Greece’ When asked whether the Greek banks would open next Tuesday as normal, Varoufakis said “absolutely.” “It's not a banking crisis according to the ECB and SSM the banks were perfectly capitalized there was no problem with them. What is happening is there has been a political decision to shut the banks down as a way of effectively pushing us to accept a nonviable agreement at the political level. So this is a political crisis, but nothing to do with the banks. Once the political crisis is over after the Greek people deliver their verdict, the banks will open,” he said. Meanwhile, Greeks have been queuing to withdraw money from ATMs after the government said that banks would remain closed for a week starting from Monday. Restrictions on withdrawals have been introduced following the ECB refusal to provide additional Emergency Liquidity Assistance to Greece’s banking system. ========= Joseph Stiglitz: how I would vote in the Greek referendum Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks Alexis Tsipras, leader of the radical left main opposition party Syriza, greets supporters after a rally of the party in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, January 2015. Photograph: Sotiris Barbarousis/Sotiris Barbarousis/epa/Corbis Tuesday 30 June 2015 02.02 AEST Last modified on Tuesday 30 June 2015 23.29 AEST The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics. Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%. It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018. Greece debt crisis: Athens fails to repay IMF as bailout runs out - as it happened Greece has become the first advanced economy to fall in arrears to the IMF as its second bailout expires Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend. In terms of transforming a large primary deficit into a surplus, few countries have accomplished anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years. And, though the cost in terms of human suffering has been extremely high, the Greek government’s recent proposals went a long way toward meeting its creditors’ demands. We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece. But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies. But why would Europe do this? Why are European Union leaders resisting the referendum and refusing even to extend by a few days the June 30 deadline for Greece’s next payment to the IMF? Isn’t Europe all about democracy? In January, Greece’s citizens voted for a government committed to ending austerity. If the government were simply fulfilling its campaign promises, it would already have rejected the proposal. But it wanted to give Greeks a chance to weigh in on this issue, so critical for their country’s future wellbeing. That concern for popular legitimacy is incompatible with the politics of the eurozone, which was never a very democratic project. Most of its members’ governments did not seek their people’s approval to turn over their monetary sovereignty to the ECB. When Sweden’s did, Swedes said no. They understood that unemployment would rise if the country’s monetary policy were set by a central bank that focused single-mindedly on inflation (and also that there would be insufficient attention to financial stability). The economy would suffer, because the economic model underlying the eurozone was predicated on power relationships that disadvantaged workers. Greek debt crisis: protests as EC urges yes vote in referendum – as it happened Governments of France, Germany and Italy all warn that Greeks are voting on their eurozone membership on Sunday, as banks remain shut And, sure enough, what we are seeing now, 16 years after the eurozone institutionalised those relationships, is the antithesis of democracy: many European leaders want to see the end of prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist government. After all, it is extremely inconvenient to have in Greece a government that is so opposed to the types of policies that have done so much to increase inequality in so many advanced countries, and that is so committed to curbing the unbridled power of wealth. They seem to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate. It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that. By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present. I know how I would vote. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University. His most recent book, co-authored with Bruce Greenwald, is Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2015. Tanks in the streets! Martial law! What has #qanda done!? | First Dog on the Moon Girls who have sex are like tape that loses its stickiness. Seriously? | Van Badham Phil Walsh: son charged with murder of Adelaide Crows coach Melbourne church CityLife apologises for warning students not to hug Phil Walsh: an old-school coach, lifted by grit and inspired by the art of the game | Michael Safi ============== Greece crisis: Tsipras accepts troika bail out proposals with conditions Eurozone finance ministers are scheduled to discuss Tsipras’s latest proposals in a conference call at 5.30pm Brussels time Hazel Sheffield Wednesday 01 July 2015 Alexis Tsipras has said that Greece will accept all bailout conditions proposed by the country’s creditors with only a handful of minor changes. In a letter sent to the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank and seen by the Financial Times, Tsipras expands his idea for a new, third €29.1 billion rescue package. "The Hellenic Republic is prepared to accept this Staff Level Agreement subject to the following amendments, additions or clarifications," the letter read. Greece will accept all the VAT proposals, Tsipras said, as long as there is a 30 per cent discount for Greek islands. The pension age will change to 67, Tsipras agreed, starting in October rather than immediately as the troika had proposed. He also asked that a ‘solidarity grant’ for poorer pensioners is phased out more slowly than the troika requested. Eurozone finance ministers are scheduled to discuss Tsipras’s latest proposals in a conference call at 5.30pm Brussels time. Markets reacted positively to the news. Vonnie Quinn ✔ ‎@VonnieQuinn Dax after FT report of Tspiras's letter to EC/ECB/IMF accepting conditions with minor changes for extension/bailout 3 ============ New Greek bailout bid mixes chutzpah with caution Athens wants a last-minute EU backstop loan to avoid a technical default if it doesn’t repay the IMF on Tuesday. Assuming the answer is no, it might convince Greeks to vote for euro exit. It could also serve as a signal to the ECB not to cut off emergency Greek bank loans. Greece makes IMF stooge in game-theory drama Athens probably won’t pay the IMF debt due on June 30. It’s a tactic - the Greek government can and will honour the debt eventually. But non-payment puts pressure on the euro zone to sweeten its deal – or to collapse Greek banks and accelerate euro exit. Corporate financiers put brave face on Greek crisis Dealmakers would be forgiven for putting almost any plan on ice, pending some sort of resolution of the Greek debt drama. The $18 billion Towers Watson-Willis merger and the IPO of market maker Flow Traders suggest that deals can still get done, even if it’s with gritted teeth.

Dealmakers would be forgiven for putting almost any plan on ice after Greece announced it would not pay debt due on June 30. Yet the $18 billion merger of Towers Watson and Willis, and the initial public offerings of market maker Flow Traders and Spanish cable telecoms operator Euskaltel, suggest that deals can still get done.

Some corporate actions are hard to curtail even in the trickiest times. In the case of a merger or takeover, the fear that price-sensitive news will leak gives a special incentive to press ahead. An IPO timetable is easier to extend. That said, sellers of stock in an IPO may conclude it is better to crack on than risk finding worse circumstances later.

Urgency varies. Companies in less need may fare better with investors. Flow Traders, for instance, isn’t raising new capital but giving existing owners an exit. A company desperate to refinance debt, on the other hand, might have more reason to press on but hold less appeal for stock buyers. Meanwhile, the merger of reinsurer Willis and professional services company Towers Watson is an all-stock transaction, which makes the union less dependent on credit markets, where Greece’s debt drama is likely to have a disruptive impact.

Flow Traders also shows it is easier to keep the show on the road if there is a strong corporate story to tell. It provides liquidity to the managers of exchange-traded financial products, and reckons that the industry’s assets under management will increase 17 percent a year to $6 trillion by 2019. Its exposure to falling asset prices is limited since as a market maker, it facilities trading activity without taking on the risk of holding stock that is unhedged.

At the 29 to 37 euro per share price range outlined on June 30, Flow Traders expects to have a market capitalisation of between 1.35 and 1.72 billion euros. That equates to a reasonable 12 and 15 times projected forward earnings. Companies and corporate finance advisers willing to be realistic about pricing will find options remain open, regardless of wider market wobbles.

http://www.flowtraders.com/
  • Reuters: Insurance broker Willis Group to merge with Towers Watson

  • Reuters: Flow Traders announces indicative price range and offer size of planned IPO

  • Insurance broker Willis, and Towers Watson, the consultant, said on June 30 that they plan to merge to create an entity worth around $18 billion.

    Flow Traders, a market maker specialising in exchange-traded financial products, said on the same day it would pursue previously announced plans for an initial public offering. Euskaltel, a Spanish fibre telecoms company, also went ahead with its public listing of shares.

    Greece will not pay a 1.6 billion euro loan installment due to the International Monetary Fund on June 30, a Greek government official confirmed.

    Greece closed its banks and imposed capital controls on June 28 after bailout talks with foreign lenders broke down and the European Central Bank froze funding support to Greece’s banks.

    Willis Group and Towers Watson have taken out a spot of insurance against future troubles in the sectors they serve. Willis, an Irish-domiciled broker big in the United States and the UK, is joining forces with Towers Watson, a U.S.-based risk and healthcare consultancy. The tie-up has a defensive logic, but carries positive rationale as well.

    Insurers are battling historically low interest rates, while reinsurance premiums are at the low end of their long-term ranges. Neither Willis nor Towers Watson appear to be struggling at present – the former did see net income fall 0.8 percent between 2013 and 2014, but the latter saw it rise 13 percent.

    Still, the more reinsurers like PartnerRe do their own mergers, the less will be left for broking and consultancy fees. The promise of over $100 million of annual cost synergies in a Willis-Towers deal will help maintain returns.

    But there’s also a chance to drive up revenue. Towers Watson is big in healthcare consultancy – advising companies on how their employees should arrange their medical and pension affairs. Post-Obamacare, this sector should become busier. Hooking up with Willis, which already has strong broking and consulting relationships amongst middle-sized corporates, could introduce these services to new markets.

    So-called “mergers of equals” usually aren’t. Yet Willis Towers Watson, as the new group will slightly inelegantly be called, has a reasonable division of spoils. Each firm gets six board directors, Willis the chairmanship and Towers Watson the chief executive role. Willis shareholders get 50.1 percent of the new group, Towers 49.9 percent, plus a one-off $4.87-a-share dividend.

    That said, the June 29 share prices would imply that Towers investors might have received 54 percent of the combined $18.1 billion group – a bigger gap than appears to be bridged by the special dividend. A 5 percent rise in Towers’ shares and a 7 percent drop in Willis’ since March suggest one reason for the disparity. Another might be Towers’ keenness to redomicile away from its American base and start taking advantage of Willis’ low Irish corporate tax rate.

    The Irish-domiciled insurance broker and the U.S.-based consultancy group will form a new company, Willis Towers Watson, domiciled in Ireland. Towers Watson shareholders will receive 2.649 Willis shares for each Towers Watson share they own, plus a one-off $4.87-per-share cash dividend.

    Willis shareholders will own 50.1 percent of the combined entity, while Towers Watson will own 49.9 percent. Towers Watson Chairman and Chief Executive John Haley will become chief executive of the combined company, Willis Chief Executive Dominic Casserley will be deputy chief executive, and Willis Chairman James McCann will chair the combined group.

    The combined group expects to generate run-rate cost synergies of $100-$125 million fully realised within three years post-close.

    =================== Willis Group and Towers Watson Announce Merger to Create Leading Global Advisory, Broking and Solutions Firm Printer Friendly VersionView printer-friendly version Combination offers clients a broader range of advice, analytics, specialty capabilities and solutions covering benefits; brokerage and advisory; talent and rewards; exchange solutions; and risk and capital management across all segments and geographies Creates integrated global platform to drive long-term growth and market share gain in traditional and new businesses Merger delivers significant potential to enhance long-term shareholder value through incremental revenue growth, expected cost synergies of $100-125 million, and greater corporate efficiencies LONDON & ARLINGTON, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jun. 30, 2015-- Willis Group Holdings (NYSE:WSH) and Towers Watson (NASDAQ:TW) today announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement under which the companies will combine in an all-stock merger of equals transaction. Based on the closing prices of Willis and Towers Watson common stock on June 29, 2015, the implied equity value of the transaction is approximately $18 billion. The transaction has been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of each company. The combined company will be named Willis Towers Watson. This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150630005494/en/ Upon completion of the merger, terms of which are detailed below, Willis shareholders will own approximately 50.1% and Towers Watson shareholders will own approximately 49.9% of the combined company on a fully diluted basis. The combination of Willis and Towers Watson brings together two highly complementary businesses to create an integrated global advisory, broking, and solutions provider to serve a broad range of clients in existing and new business lines. The combined company will have approximately 39,000 employees in over 120 countries, and pro forma revenue of approximately $8.2 billion and adjusted1/underlying2 EBITDA of over $1.7 billion for the twelve months ended December 31, 2014.3 John Haley, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Towers Watson, said, “This is a tremendous combination of two highly compatible companies with complementary strategic priorities, product and service offerings, and geographies that we expect to deliver significant value for both sets of shareholders. We see numerous opportunities to enhance our growth profile by offering integrated solutions that leverage Willis’ global distribution network and superb risk advisory and re/insurance broking capabilities to deliver a more robust set of analytics and product solutions across a broader client base, including accelerating penetration of our Exchange Solutions platform into the fast growing middle-market. We also expect to realize substantial efficiencies by bringing our two organizations together, and have a well-defined integration roadmap to capitalize on identified savings, ensure the strongest combination of talent and practices, and realize the full benefits of the merger for all of our stakeholders.” Mr. Haley continued, “Importantly, our organizations share a client-first mentality and a focus on providing services and solutions that consistently exceed clients’ expectations. As we bring these two companies together, we are confident associates across both organizations will enjoy increased development opportunities as part of a stronger and more global growth company.” Dominic Casserley, Willis CEO, said, “These are two companies with world-class brands and shared values. The rationale for the merger is powerful – at one stroke, the combination fast-tracks each company’s growth strategy and offers a truly compelling value proposition to our clients. Together we will help our clients achieve superior performance through effective risk, people and financial management. We will advise over 80% of the world’s top-1000 companies, as well as having a significant presence with mid-market and smaller employers around the world.” Mr. Casserley continued, “We look forward to bringing Towers Watson’s innovative solutions to our clients alongside our broking and advisory services. The opportunity to deliver significant savings to our growing middle market client base with Towers Watson’s market-leading private exchange platform is particularly attractive.” Transaction Delivers Key Strategic and Financial Benefits Powerful Global Platform for Profitable Growth: Drives incremental growth opportunity through increased ability to rely upon Towers Watson’s relationships to increase Willis’ penetration in the large U.S. P&C corporate market. Accelerates Growth in Exchange Market: Provides significant opportunity to accelerate growth in the exchange market by bringing Towers Watson’s best-in-class Exchange Solutions offering to Willis’ significant middle-market relationships. Expands International Profile: Combined entity will both internationalize Towers Watson’s exchange offering and serve more multinationals around the world, given the expanded capabilities and footprint. Strong Financial Profile: Combined entity will have a strong balance sheet and financial profile, with a diversified revenue mix across segments, geographies and clients, and significant cash flow generation. Highly Achievable Cost Synergies: Combination is expected to result in $100-125 million in cost savings to be fully realized within three years of closing, primarily related to the elimination of duplicate corporate costs and economies of scale, in addition to increased efficiencies. These savings are incremental to current cost saving and operational improvement initiatives already underway at each company. Transaction Structure Pursuant to the terms of the merger, Towers Watson shareholders will receive 2.6490 Willis shares for each Towers Watson share. Towers Watson shareholders will also receive a one-time cash dividend of $4.87 per Towers Watson share pre-closing. Subject to Willis shareholder approval, Willis expects to implement a 2.6490 for one reverse stock split, so that each one Willis share will be converted into 0.3775 Willis Towers Watson shares. If the reverse stock split is approved, Towers Watson shareholders will receive one share of Willis Towers Watson for each Towers Watson share. The merger is not conditioned on Willis shareholder approval of the reverse stock split. Willis shareholder ValueAct Capital – owner of approximately 10.3 percent of the common stock of Willis – has entered into an agreement to vote its shares in favor of the transaction. Management, Governance and Integration Upon closing of the transaction, James McCann will become Chairman, John Haley will be Chief Executive Officer and Dominic Casserley will be President and Deputy CEO. The new company’s board will consist of 12 directors total – six nominated by Willis and six by Towers Watson, including Towers Watson’s and Willis’ current CEOs. Additionally, Roger Millay will be CFO. Dominic Casserley and Gene Wickes from Towers Watson have been chosen to oversee the Integration Team. After closing, the combined company will maintain its domicile in Ireland and significant presence in major markets around the world. Approvals and Time to Close The transaction is expected to close by December 31, 2015, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and approval by both Willis and Towers Watson shareholders. Advisors Willis received legal advice from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Matheson, and financial advice from Perella Weinberg Partners, LP; Towers Watson received legal advice from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and financial advice from BofA Merrill Lynch. Conference Call and Webcast Details Willis and Towers Watson will host a joint conference call and webcast today at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time (U.S.) to discuss the proposed merger. Participants will include Towers Watson Chairman and CEO and CFO, and Willis’ CEO and CFO. The general public is invited to listen to the call by dialing (855) 631-5368 (U.S. domestic), or (330) 863-3283 (international), conference ID 75130475, or via a live audio webcast through the Investor Relations sections of the Willis and Towers Watson websites. For those unable to listen to the live broadcast, a replay will be available on both websites or by dialing (855) 859-2056 (U.S. domestic), or (404) 537-3406 (international), conference ID 75130475, beginning approximately two hours after the event. The replay of the conference call will be available through July 14, 2015. The webcast and a podcast will be archived and available online on each company’s website for at least 30 days following the call. A copy of the investor presentation will be made available on both companies’ investor relations websites. Additional information regarding the transaction can be found on willisandtowerswatson.mergerannouncement.com. About Willis Group Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global risk advisory, re/insurance broking, and human capital and benefits firm. With roots dating to 1828, Willis operates today on every continent with more than 18,000 employees in over 400 offices. Willis offers its clients superior expertise, teamwork, innovation and market-leading products and professional services in risk management and transfer. Our experts rank among the world’s leading authorities on analytics, modelling and mitigation strategies at the intersection of global commerce and extreme events. Find more information at our website, www.willis.com, our leadership journal, Resilience, or our up-to-the-minute blog on breaking news, WillisWire. Across geographies, industries and specialisms, Willis provides its local and multinational clients with resilience for a risky world. About Towers Watson Towers Watson is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. With 15,000 associates around the world, the company offers consulting, technology and solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Learn more at towerswatson.com. # # # Responsibility Statement The directors of Willis accept responsibility for the information contained in this document other than that relating to Towers Watson, the Towers Watson Group and the directors of Towers Watson and members of their immediate families, related trusts and persons connected with them. To the best of the knowledge and belief of the directors of Willis (who have taken all reasonable care to ensure that such is the case) the information contained in this document for which they accept responsibility is in accordance with the facts and does not omit anything likely to affect the import of such information. The directors of Towers Watson accept responsibility for the information contained in this document relating to Towers Watson, the Towers Watson Group and the directors of Towers Watson and members of their immediate families, related trusts and persons connected with them. To the best of the knowledge and belief of the directors of Towers Watson (who have taken all reasonable care to ensure that such is the case) the information contained in this document for which they accept responsibility is in accordance with the facts and does not omit anything likely to affect the import of such information. Important Information About the Transaction and Where to Find It This document shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities, nor shall there be any sale of securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such jurisdiction. No offer of securities shall be made except by means of a prospectus meeting the requirements of Section 10 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended. Willis plans to file with the SEC a Registration Statement on Form S-4 in connection with the transaction. Willis and Towers Watson plan to file with the SEC and mail to their respective shareholders a Joint Proxy Statement/Prospectus in connection with the transaction. The Registration Statement and the Joint Proxy Statement/Prospectus will contain important information about Willis, Towers Watson, the transaction and related matters. Investors and security holders are urged to read the Registration Statement, the Joint Proxy Statement/Prospectus and other related documents carefully when they are available. Investors and security holders will be able to obtain free copies of the Registration Statement, the Joint Proxy Statement/Prospectus and other related documents filed with the SEC by Willis and Towers Watson through the web site maintained by the SEC at www.sec.gov or by visiting the investor relations sections of Willis’ or Towers Watson’s websites at www.Willis.com or www.towerswatson.com. Participants in the Solicitation Willis and Towers Watson, and their respective directors and executive officers, may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies in respect of the transactions contemplated by the merger agreement. Information regarding the directors and executive officers of Willis, and their direct or indirect interests in the transaction, by security holdings or otherwise, is contained in Willis’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2014 and its proxy statement filed on April 17, 2015, which are filed with the SEC. Information regarding Towers Watson’s directors and executive officers, and their direct or indirect interests in the transaction, by security holdings or otherwise, is contained in Towers Watson’s Form 10-K for the year ended June 30, 2014 and its proxy statement filed on October 3, 2014, which are filed with the SEC. A more complete description will be available in the Registration Statement and the Joint Proxy Statement/Prospectus. Forward Looking Statements This document contains forward-looking statements that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Statements that are not historical facts, including statements regarding expectations, hopes, intentions or strategies regarding the future are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are based on Willis or Towers Watson management’s beliefs, as well as assumptions made by, and information currently available to, them. Because such statements are based on expectations as to future financial and operating results and are not statements of fact, actual results may differ materially from those projected. Willis and Towers Watson undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. The risks and uncertainties which forward-looking statements are subject to include, but are not limited to: the ability to consummate the proposed transaction; the ability to obtain requisite regulatory and shareholder approvals and the satisfaction of other conditions to the consummation of the proposed transaction on the proposed terms and schedule; the ability of Willis and Towers Watson to successfully integrate their respective operations and employees and realize synergies and cost savings at the times, and to the extent, anticipated; the potential impact of the announcement or consummation of the proposed transaction on relationships, including with employees, suppliers, customers and competitors; changes in general economic, business and political conditions, including changes in the financial markets; significant competition that Willis and Towers Watson face; compliance with extensive government regulation; the combined company’s ability to make acquisitions and its ability to integrate or manage such acquired businesses; and other risks detailed in the “Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information,” “Risk Factors” and other sections of Willis’s and Towers Watson’s Form 10-K and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 1 Towers Watson adjusted EBITDA defined as net income (attributable to common stockholders) adjusted for discontinued operations, net of tax, provision for income taxes, interest, net, depreciation and amortization, transaction and integration expenses, and other non-operating income excluding income from variable interest entity. 2 Willis underlying EBITDA defined as net income (attributable to Willis Group Holdings) adjusted for net income attributable to non-controlling interests, interest in earnings of associates, net of tax, income tax charges, interest expense, restructuring charges, depreciation, amortization and other non-operating income. 3 Financials based on calendar year 2014 results, pro forma for the merger, completion of Willis’ acquisitions of Miller and Gras Savoye (pending), and full year run rate contributions for Willis’ acquisitions of IFG, Max Matthiessen and Charles Monat. View source version on businesswire.com: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150630005494/en/ Source: Willis Group Holdings and Towers Watson Willis: Investors: Peter Poillon, +1 212 915 8084 peter.poillon@willis.com or Media: Miles Russell, +44 (0) 7903 262118 / +44 (0) 20 3124 7446 or Stephen Cohen, + 1 212 886 9332 stephen.cohen@teneostrategy.com or Towers Watson: Investors: Aida Sukys, +1 703-258-8033 aida.sukys@towerswatson.com or Media: Sard Verbinnen & Co Michael Henson/Conrad Harrington, +44 (0) 20 3178 8914 or Bryan Locke/Jenny Gore, +1 312 895 4700 =================== BERLIN One of the leading figures in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), pleaded on Tuesday for an "orderly" exit of Greece from the euro zone, saying it was the best option for all concerned. The comments from Markus Soeder, regional finance minister of the Bavarian CSU, underscore the depth of frustration with Greece in Merkel's conservative camp and how difficult it would be for her to reverse course and offer Athens new concessions to keep them in the euro. Although the CSU has taken a tougher line on Greece than Merkel's own party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), the conservative backlash against Athens has broadened since Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras broke off bailout talks last week and called a referendum. Greece is widely expected to miss a 1.6 billion euro payment to the IMF on Tuesday, effectively putting them in default. Soeder told Deutschlandfunk radio that an "orderly, judicious and considered exit plan would be the best path for both sides", sharply criticizing Tsipras for playing with Europe and his own people. If Tsipras remains in office, Soeder said a so-called "Grexit" appeared "unavoidable". Even if Greeks vote in favor of a bailout in the referendum, which is scheduled for Sunday, Soeder argued against making any more concessions to Athens. (Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Gareth Jones)

    Monday, June 29, 2015

    New homes to be developed to replace old Housing Trust stock

    LAUREN NOVAK POLITICAL REPORTER The Advertiser June 29, 2015 2:18PM Up to 90 new homes will be developed through a rebuilding program designed to replace old Housing Trust stock. Picture: Keryn Stevens •Housing trust homes painted before demolition •... or left empty •... or occupied by investors •... or rented out to tourists •... or left filthy UP to 90 new homes will be developed through a rebuilding program designed to replace old Housing Trust stock. In the first phase of the program, 65 Housing Trust homes will be demolished to make way for a mix of new social, affordable and private market housing across the city. Vacant lots will also be developed. Construction is expected to take about 18 months and generate 105 jobs. Housing and Urban Development Minister John Rau said the work was expected to deliver between 80 and 90 new homes. It marks the start of a long-term regeneration of 4500 pre-1968 Housing Trust homes over the next 15 years. The State Government will release nine expressions of interest for construction companies and not-for-profit organisations to develop the earmarked lots. Mr Rau said the works were expected to generate $22 million in economic investment. He said all but two of the earmarked 65 homes were already vacant and negotiations were underway with the two remaining tenants. The homes are in Kidman Park, Woodville Gardens, Elizabeth Park, Smithfield Plains, Melrose Park, Fulham and Christie Downs. Mr Rau said more than 60 per cent of public housing occupants were single tenants but a “significant proportion” of the homes had three or more bedrooms. He said the rebuilding program was about creating more relevant options but argued it would not add to the list of people waiting for a social housing placement. ================ Thousands of dollars spent painting homes to be demolished DAVID NANKERVIS The Advertiser June 25, 2015 9:00PM Public housing tenant Jolanta says she has received mixed messages from Renewal SA. Picture: Naomi Jellicoe THOUSANDS of dollars have been spent by the State Government to renovate a housing trust home it plans to demolish. The Government has admitted to spending $8000 to paint a vacant trust home at Derrick Place, Glenelg East, in February which it now wants to knock down. The adjoining trust home is also slated for demolition and with plans to move out the tenant, who as recently as last week was told her home too was to be painted. The Housing Trust Tenants Association and Opposition have slammed the property upgrade as a waste of taxpayers’ money. The trust homes at Derrick Place have been transferred from Housing SA to Renewal SA, the body which is overseeing the State Government’s plan to renovate 4,500 trust homes during the next five years. Renewal SA said one unit became vacant and was repainted as it “was originally planned to be sold’’. However, those plans have changed because Renewal SA said the two units “occupy a large block of land which provides a good opportunity for urban renewal’’. A Renewal SA spokeswoman said it is “in discussion with the tenant (in the other home) about moving to a location suitable for their needs, which would allow for the redevelopment of this site to create new housing opportunities.’’ While Renewal SA was unable to say how many other trust homes have been renovated before demolition in the past year, the Opposition fears the waste of money at the Glenelg East properties may not be isolated. Opposition social housing spokeswoman Rachel Sanderson said renovating a property that is slated for demolition was “bureaucratic bungling at its worst and a total waste of taxpayer’s money.” “With the Weatherill Government planning to redevelop thousands of housing trust homes in the near future it needs to lift its game quickly,’’ she said. The tenant of the Derrick Place property said she received a message on her phone voicemail from a company last week saying it would begin painting her home on Thursday. The Advertiser, which has heard the message, alerted Renewal SA which has since said there will be no upgrade and the painting firm told the tenant yesterday it will no longer be doing the job. The tenant Jolanta, who did not want her surname published, said she couldn’t understand why her property was to be painted when she has been told by Renewal SA she has to move because the home was to be demolished. Jolanta said she has received mixed messages from Renewal SA over her future accommodation, including her home would be sold, that it would be demolished and that she might be even be able to stay. Housing Trust Tenants Association secretary Tony Elmers said he sympathised with Jolanta’s uncertain situation and blamed a “bureaucratic stuff up’’ for the waste of money on the painting.

    Car bomb in Yemeni capital hits mourners, dozens wounded

    TOP NEWS Yemeni forces launch Scud missile at Saudi Arabia - Yemen military spokesman Mon, Jun 29 22:54 PM BST SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni forces launched a Scud missile at a missile base in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Yemeni state news agency Saba quoted the military's spokesman as saying. "The rocket units in our heroic armed forces today launched a Scud missile at the Al Sulayyil missile base in Riyadh province ... it comes as a response to the crimes of the brutal Saudi aggression," Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman said. (Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Alan Crosby) Twitter | Search Home Connect Trends Me M2_tab_indicator Tweet Haykal Bafana Haykal Bafana @BaFana3 Now in #Yemen : Scud missile launched towards Al Salil base, Wasi Dawaasir in #Saudi Arabia Riyadh province. 2:57 PM - 29 Jun 2015 24 Retweets 9 Favorites Reply Retweet Favorite More Abdulrahman Alrazhi Abdulrahman Alrazhi @AAlrazhi 1h @BaFana3 #Eat_Kabsa_and_Scud :D View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite wtfarab wtfarab @wtfarab 1h @AAlrazhi @BaFana3 lol... i needed that. View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Haykal Bafana Haykal Bafana @BaFana3 1h What's the range from the Yemen-KSA border to this Saudi missile base in Riyadh province? About 800 km? Can Scuds go that far? View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite فارس سعيد فارس سعيد @farissaeedtaiz 1h @BaFana3 yes it can View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite #Resistance #Resistance @HeartOfRebelion 1h @BaFana3 we about to find out View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite BiladAlFransi BiladAlFransi @BFransi 1h @BaFana3 SCUD-D can reach 700km, but their are not in the Yemeni inventory. Yemen has SCUD-B with a range of 300km View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite BiladAlFransi BiladAlFransi @BFransi 1h @BaFana3 they* View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Urban Dictionary Urban Dictionary @abu3aseed 1h @BaFana3 top range is 700km View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Insurrection News Insurrection News @InsurrectNews 1h @BaFana3 The Rodong-1 scuds made by N Korea have a range of 1000km en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scud#Rodo… View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Hana Alshowafi Hana Alshowafi @Hanaalshowafi 1h Same inquiry"@BaFana3:What's the range 4m the Yemen-KSA border 2this Saudi missile base n Riyadh province?Abt 800 km?Can Scuds go that far? View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Tonton du Bled Tonton du Bled @NextDoorArab 59m @BaFana3 yes the scud c can but I think most of them have been destroyed. The Base nevertheless was within range of hwasong 5 scud b missile View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Haykal Bafana Haykal Bafana @BaFana3 58m Yemen army spokesman announcing the Scud launch on Riyadh province missile base warns Saudi Arabia "More surprises come." View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Isonomia92 Isonomia92 @Pianafierro 56m @BaFana3 dependes de modification, in the original version no, but in new ones yes (even 1500 km it's said) View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Hamed Afaashi Hamed Afaashi @HamedGhaleb 47m @BaFana3 from hadrmout border with aljawf province it can pic.twitter.com/4QHoMqG7nN View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Haykal Bafana Haykal Bafana @BaFana3 47m I'm half hoping the next Scud missile surprise from Yemen will target Hadi's Riyadh villa. View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Oglo Olio Oglo Olio @OgloOlio 46m @BaFana3 400 km max. View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite #اليمن #Yemen #اليمن #Yemen @Walled_Alsafani 44m @bafana3 why not ^_^ View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Nadav Pollak Nadav Pollak @NadavPollak 42m @BaFana3 Most Scuds can't get to more than 400-500 KM, the Scud D can get to 700 KM View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite خالد الاحمدي خالد الاحمدي @k2h2al2ed 38m @HamedGhaleb @SultanatZman @BaFana3 اووووووووه قررررح القات😂😂😂😂😂 View conversation · Reply Retweet Favorite Enter a topic, @name, or fullname Settings Help Back to top · Turn images off Car bomb in Yemeni capital hits mourners, dozens wounded SANAA A car bomb claimed by Islamic State exploded in the Yemeni capital Sanaa overnight, medics said, wounding at least 28 people gathered to mourn another attack earlier this month. In a new sign that three months of war in Yemen was ratcheting up, the country's military spokesman said its forces had launched a Scud missile at a Saudi military base on Tuesday. A Saudi-led military alliance has been bombing Yemen's dominant Houthi group and its allies in the army to dislodge them from the capital and restore the exiled president. A sectarian-tinged conflict has raged throughout Yemen's south and center, pitting the Shi'ite Muslim Houthis against mostly Sunni local militiamen who support the Arab intervention. ADVERTISING The political vacuum has given hardline Sunni militants greater room to operate. They regard the Houthis as apostates worthy of death, and the overnight blast was the latest in a series of attacks on the group and their supporters. Related Coverage › Yemeni forces launch Scud missile at Saudi Arabia: Yemen military spokesman "The explosion was caused by a car bomb which exploded behind the military hospital in the Sha'oub district in Sanaa, which injured 28 people including 12 women in a building where victims of a previous attack were being mourned," a medical source said. In a statement posted online, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it had targeted the area "out of revenge for the Muslims against the Houthi apostates." Despite the months of Arab air strikes backing up the Houthis' armed opponents in Yemen, the Houthis have not lost ground on the battlefield and have stepped up their exchanges of artillery and rocket fire with Saudi forces along their border. Yemeni forces launched a Scud missile at a missile base in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Yemeni state news agency Saba quoted the military's spokesman as saying. "The rocket units in our heroic armed forces today launched a Scud missile at the Al Sulayyil missile base in Riyadh province ... it comes as a response to the crimes of the brutal Saudi aggression," Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman said. Luqman said the attack hit the base, which is about 450 km (280 miles) south of the Saudi capital Riyadh, but a previous Scud launched by Yemen's forces earlier this month was shot down by Saudi patriot missiles despite Yemeni claims it struck its target. (Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

    France bets on Arab Sunni states as Iran nuclear deal nears: The Saudis are the heavyweights in the zone and their influence goes beyond their borders. We're playing that to the full

    Mon, Jun 29 14:48 PM EDT image By John Irish VIENNA (Reuters) - France has asked its firms to prepare a return to Iran ahead of a likely deal with powers to curb Tehran's nuclear program, but Paris' tough stance in talks and ties with Sunni Arab states means its "love-hate" relationship with Iran will continue. Despite a long history of commercial, political and social links with Iran that even saw Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei exiled near Paris in 1979, France has arguably been the most demanding among the six powers negotiating a final accord. The talks will continue past Tuesday's deadline for a comprehensive agreement intended to open the door to ending sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy in exchange for limits on its most sensitive nuclear activities for at least a decade. France's position risks alienating its companies once international sanctions are lifted and Iran is able to collect debts from overseas banks that may exceed $150 billion and attract companies to invest across all sectors, from its aging hydrocarbon-based energy system to transport and general construction. "Everyone is looking at Iran with greed," said a senior French official. "It's an important market, but it's not the only one. There was a strategic decision to be made on who could face Iran as it pushes its pawns in the region. That's Saudi Arabia and Egypt. That's the choice we've made." Paris repeatedly points to its longstanding hard line on weapons proliferation - it first began talking to Iran in 2003 over its nuclear program - as proof it is acting from a point of principle when it comes to negotiations with Iran. But it is also true there has been a hawkish shift toward Tehran under Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, who have respectively aligned themselves with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite Iran's main regional rival. SALES TO THE GULF Similar positions on conflicts across the Middle East and Iran's role in them as well as what some Arab countries perceive as disengagement on the part of traditional ally the United States, have helped France nurture new commercial links where once Britain and the United States were dominant. Iran has been expanding its influence across the Middle East, from Iraq to Lebanon, and Syria to Yemen, which is the latest theater in Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia's tussle for power in the region. "The Saudis are the heavyweights in the zone and their influence goes beyond their borders. We're playing that to the full," said a French diplomat. The results are there to be seen. Paris has sold fighter jets, warships, helicopters and satellites to Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates over the last year, lifting military sales over $15 billion. Since being invited by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, to attend a regional leaders' summit in May - a rare privilege for a head of state - Hollande has signed contracts worth $12 billion including the sale of Airbus planes. Ironically, as Western powers warn of regional nuclear proliferation if the agreement with Iran is weak, France last week became the first country to sign feasibility studies to build two nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia potentially worth more than $10 billion. Saudi Foreign Minister, ‎Adel al-Jubeir, recently told Reuters France was an old ally and trading partner that had proved its reliability to the Gulf. "We have common views with regard to the challenges in the region today with Syria, Yemen, Iraq, terrorism ‎and of course Iran's nuclear program, and there are very large commercial and military ties between our two countries. We hope to increase those." NO WORRIES FOR IRAN DEALS Historically, French firms ranging from automaker Peugeot to oil major Total were key players in the Iranian market, but European Union and U.S. sanctions adopted in 2011 scared French firms away. Imports from Iran to France fell to just 62 million euros in 2013 from 1.77 billion in 2011. French exports to Iran in 2013 fell to 494 million euros from 1.66 billion euros in 2011, according to French foreign ministry estimates. A recent charm offensive has seen Iranian ministers, including the deputy oil minister, pass through Paris to whet the appetite of business-hungry executives. France-based Iranian businessmen have also been hired by Iranian authorities to revive links with their local counterparts. France's main business lobby group plans to send a delegation comprising about 100 firms to Tehran in September. "I tell French companies that even if there is a deal it will take time and that the lifting of sanctions will only slowly begin in 2015," said a senior French diplomat involved in the talks who recently briefed firms on the prospects of a deal. He told them that firms from other countries including the United States and Germany had already positioned themselves and there was "no time to waste". The diplomat confirmed that should there be an agreement Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who some diplomats say has a personal animosity to Iran since he was prime minister in the mid-1980s, would travel to Tehran quickly after. "Love and hate dominate all aspects of our relations," Iranian Transport Minister Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi told a recent conference in Paris, bemoaning France's lack of "Iran strategy" while outlining $80 billion of potential transport projects. "Sooner or later the nuclear conflict will be resolved and France needs to decide on its position now. I am certain that the businessmen will have more realism than the politicians." Despite the overtures, French officials make it clear that in the immediate future Iran will play second fiddle to Sunni Arab states commercially and politically. At home, that stance has brought some criticism, with some lawmakers saying Paris is thinking short-term, picking Sunnis over Shi'ites and leaving itself out in the cold in Iran. "It's not because you're the first one in that you're the first served," a second senior French government official said, dismissing their concerns. "We'll be ready. Don't worry about our firms." (Writing by John Irish; editing by Parisa Hafezi and Philippa Fletcher)

    Articles of Association : Framework for China-led AIIB signed

    The signing ceremony of the articles of association for setting up China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) began in Beijing on Monday. Representatives of 57 founding member countries of the bank are participating in the ceremony, including Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. An inter-ministerial meeting will also be held in Beijing today (Tuesday) to discuss important financial and administrative matters about the future working of AIIB. During his visit, the finance minister will also hold meetings with senior Chinese leadership and discuss different avenues of bilateral economic cooperation, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “The CPEC involves a cluster of communications, infrastructure and power generation projects and will provide an integrating platform for over 3 billion people in Central, West and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa regions,” he said. He also met Chinese President Xi Jinping following the signing of the document. Pakistan has been actively involved in the consultations at all levels and after intensive consultations amongst the members, the articles of association signing was made possible in a short span of nearly eight months since the MoU on the establishment of the AIIB was signed in October 2014. “We believe that the bank will be an important platform to convert the abundant savings available in the region into investment to help regional economies achieve sustainable and rapid development,” said Dar, adding that Pakistan hoped to draw financial support for communications and energy infrastructure projects, including projects for construction of roads and dams. The AIIB has been viewed by some as a rival to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, and the United States and Japan have notably declined to join. Australia became the first country to sign the document. Seven more are expected to do so by the end of the year. Beijing will be by far the largest AIIB shareholder at about 30 percent, followed by India at 8.4 percent and Russia on 6.5 percent. Among non-Asian participants, Germany is the largest shareholder with 4.5 percent, followed by France with 3.4 percent and Brazil on 3.2 percent. The AIIB is expected to go into operation later this year with its headquarters in Beijing. All financial terms in the agreement are in US dollars and the bank’s working language will be English. Washington sought to dissuade its allies from taking part but European countries including Britain, France and Germany have rushed to sign up as they seek to bolster ties with the world’s second-largest economy. There are some concerns over transparency of the lender, which will fund infrastructure in Asia, and worries that Beijing will use it to push its own geopolitical and economic interests. Supporters, however, say fears over undue Chinese influence are overblown, and that the participation by more than 50 countries will dilute Beijing’s power. The articles of association specify that the bank’s president must come from the Asian region and will serve a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms. Chinese Vice Minister for Finance Shi Yaobin said that China will “recommend a strong and powerful candidate” for the position. Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2015. Like Business on Facebook, follow @TribuneBiz on Twitter to stay informed and join in the conversation.

    Sunday, June 28, 2015

    Tagara Builders' liquidation puts sub-contractor's business at risk, forces staff lay-offs

    Construction of Murray Bridge shopping complex halted, leaving 150 out of work and sub contractors unpaid: union Posted Fri at 9:39am Aaron Cartledge said worksite changes were overdue Photo: CFMEU secretary Aaron Cartledge said up to a dozen sub contractors have not been paid. Map: Murray Bridge 5253 Construction of a shopping complex in Murray Bridge has been halted, leaving about 150 workers in the dark amid claims sub contractors have not been paid for at least three months, a union says. The workers were told to stop work on Thursday morning and do not know when they will be allowed back on site. The complex is being built by South Australian company Tagara and has been under construction since mid 2014. Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) secretary Aaron Cartledge said up to a dozen sub contractors have not been paid for their work at the complex for at least three months. This is yet again another builder who gets into financial problems and along the way burns a number of those small sub contractors. CFMEU secretary Aaron Cartledge "This has been a saga over that last few weeks where they (sub contractors) had been demanding payment and payment wasn't coming, so it's come to a head this morning," Mr Cartledge said. "We've got real fears for those small sub contractors who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. "This is yet again another builder who gets into financial problems and along the way burns a number of those small sub contractors. "What they're telling me is some of them are owed up to $700,000." Master Builders Association chief executive John Stokes said the company was working through some financial matters. "We'll have a clearer understanding of the position of Tagara next week some time," he said. Mr Cartledge said other building sites could also be affected as Tagara has 14 different projects across the state. "These sorts of events can start a snowball effect on to other projects," Mr Cartledge said. Mr Cartledge said the incident highlighted problems in the industry regarding payments when a company is in financial trouble. "There needs to be a look at these sorts of projects that builders pay money, progress claims, into a trust fund so that money is held in a trust for sub contractors and that they actually get some preference to that trust fund if there is financial trouble," he said. Tagara's managing director Tullio Tagliaferri is also the president of the Master Builders Association. From other news sites: •Adelaide Now: Sub contractors walk off the job as major Adelaide builder owes "hundreds of thousands" in fees to workers at Murray Bridge shopping centre =================================== Tagara Builders' liquidation puts sub-contractor's business at risk, forces staff lay-offs Posted about 2 hours ago Related Story: Tagara Builders enters liquidation following claims of unpaid workers Related Story: 150 out of work as shopping complex construction stops in SA: union Map: SA An Adelaide sub-contractor who says he is owed tens of thousands of dollars by the failed Tagara building company fears his business is at risk and he will be forced to lay off staff. The South Australian building company, which has about $70 million worth of projects across the state, was put into liquidation last week. Tagara Builders managing director Tullio Tagliaferri also stepped down from his position as Master Builders Association South Australia president. Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) said while dozens of workers would be directly affected, it would put a strain of hundreds of sub-contractors who were working on their projects. One sub-contractor, who wants to remain anonymous, said he would have to reduce his workforce from 18 to eight, but was hopeful he would find more work for them. "Look, you get a relationship with your staff and I'd like to try and work on, if that's at all possible, because of the relationship you have with your workers," he said. It's extremely nervous, it's like playing roulette. There's some builders out there that just take advantage of you. Tagara sub-contractor "They've got families and responsibilities to mortgages and payments and whatever and the way the industry is at present there's just no work outside, they just can't get another job." He said he has not been paid by Tagara Builders for several months, and has considered leaving the industry because of the uncertainty of working with building companies. "It's extremely nervous, it's like playing roulette. There's some builders out there that just take advantage of you if you're not up to speed as far as the laws are concerned and they just take money off you without any reason whatsoever and then you've got to try and fight it," he said. "Because there's no certainties of whether or not they're going to go through. If they go bankrupt, we're basically finished, we get nothing." SA building industry 'in turmoil' John Stokes from the Master Builder's Association said the collapse of Tagara Builders was a sign that the building industry was in turmoil in South Australia. The industry is pretty much in crisis and unfortunately what's happened in the Tagara case is one of the sort of snapshots of what can happen. John Stokes, Master Builders Association Mr Stokes said construction work in commercial building was down 23 per cent from five years ago. He has called on the Government to urgently re-stimulate the ailing industry. "The industry is pretty much in crisis and unfortunately what's happened in the Tagara case is one of the sort of snapshots of what can happen when the building industry is in crisis and perhaps isn't getting the support it needs," Mr Stokes said. The liquidator is conducting an assessment of Tagara's current projects. CFMEU secretary Aaron Cartledge has called for legislative reforms to force builders to place money into trust for sub-contractors in case their business fails. He said Tagara going into liquidation could leave dozens of sub-contractors out of pocket. "We believe there's probably 50 or 60 sub-contractors who all employ building workers," he said. "So there's hundreds of building workers affected by this and a number of business would probably suffer financial hardship because of the money that's outstanding." =============================================================== Construction of Murray Bridge shopping complex halted, leaving 150 out of work and sub contractors unpaid: union Posted Fri at 9:39am Aaron Cartledge said worksite changes were overdue Photo: CFMEU secretary Aaron Cartledge said up to a dozen sub contractors have not been paid. Map: Murray Bridge 5253 Construction of a shopping complex in Murray Bridge has been halted, leaving about 150 workers in the dark amid claims sub contractors have not been paid for at least three months, a union says. The workers were told to stop work on Thursday morning and do not know when they will be allowed back on site. The complex is being built by South Australian company Tagara and has been under construction since mid 2014. Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) secretary Aaron Cartledge said up to a dozen sub contractors have not been paid for their work at the complex for at least three months. This is yet again another builder who gets into financial problems and along the way burns a number of those small sub contractors. CFMEU secretary Aaron Cartledge "This has been a saga over that last few weeks where they (sub contractors) had been demanding payment and payment wasn't coming, so it's come to a head this morning," Mr Cartledge said. "We've got real fears for those small sub contractors who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. "This is yet again another builder who gets into financial problems and along the way burns a number of those small sub contractors. "What they're telling me is some of them are owed up to $700,000." Master Builders Association chief executive John Stokes said the company was working through some financial matters. "We'll have a clearer understanding of the position of Tagara next week some time," he said. Mr Cartledge said other building sites could also be affected as Tagara has 14 different projects across the state. "These sorts of events can start a snowball effect on to other projects," Mr Cartledge said. Mr Cartledge said the incident highlighted problems in the industry regarding payments when a company is in financial trouble. "There needs to be a look at these sorts of projects that builders pay money, progress claims, into a trust fund so that money is held in a trust for sub contractors and that they actually get some preference to that trust fund if there is financial trouble," he said. Tagara's managing director Tullio Tagliaferri is also the president of the Master Builders Association. From other news sites: •Adelaide Now: Sub contractors walk off the job as major Adelaide builder owes "hundreds of thousands" in fees to workers at Murray Bridge shopping centre =============================

    Adelaide auction clearance rates surged ahead to 70.8 per cent last week: CoreLogic RP Data

    ADELAIDE auction clearance rates surged to 70.8 per cent last week, which was 7.3 per cent higher than the week before.

    Greece imposes capital controls as crisis deepens

    'V for Varoufakis!' Greek finance minister burns EU with laser eyes (VIDEO) Published time: February 26, 2015 12:32 Edited time: February 26, 2015 20:37 Get short URL Still from Youtube video Still from Youtube video Tags Art, Bailout, EU, Economy, Germany, Government Spending, Greece, Media, Music, Politics As Greece’s finance minister clashes with the EU and his German counterpart over Athens' debt to the Troika of European lenders, a German show has uploaded a YouTube video spoof of the economic standoff between them, entitled ‘V for Varoufakis’. READ MORE: Eurozone backs Greek reforms, enabling €172bn rescue extension “He’s the lost son of Zeus with a heart made of stone!”… "his body screams of sex”… “his leather jacket is made of skin from German shepherd puppies”… “He doesn’t negotiate, he simply kicks ass”. These are just some of the lyrics to the awfully catchy metal tune about Yanis Varoufakis that is taking YouTube by storm, with 6,300 views in just four hours. The video, courtesy of Now Magazine Royale, proudly, and in an almost mock-Germanic tone, lists the Germany’s achievements – the positive (like the economy, the large gold reserves etc.) and the negative ones (like starting two world wars and "almost" winning). All the while, tense and poignant music plays in the background, while a slender military-looking German with a mustache proudly recites the achievements. This is all done to tongue-in-cheek montage of Oktoberfest girls carrying beer and other traditional symbolism, interlaced with Germans doing back-up singing to the music, “Varoufakis! Relentless Varoufakis!”, as the whole thing descends into a heavy metal song. It’s topped off with a devilish Varoufakis, grinning away, his bald head gleaming in the dark as he plays the bouzouki like an electric guitar. “Dear Greek Folks, the time has come: we surrender! Take all our money, you may also take Helene Fischer, but please, keep this financial Hercules off us. We could only just bear with Costa Cordalis [a German singer of Greek origin], so this is clearly way too much!” the description to the video reads. The current economic standoff reached a new high, as Varoufakis claimed his country’s acceptance of Brussel’s bailout strategy for Greece amounted to a “sell-off of family silver at rock-bottom prices and in a way that doesn’t lead to development for the economy.” ================== Athens (AFP) - Strapped for cash in crisis-hit Greece but desperate to visit the Acropolis? Tourists faced with empty ATMs need not despair, visitors to the ancient site can now pay by card for the first time. People have long been asking to be able to use debit or credit cards to purchase the 12 euro ($13.5) entrance tickets to Athens's hill-top citadel, the culture ministry said Monday, insisting that families wanting to admire the Parthenon up close would not be penalised for running short on cash. Long queues have sprung up at ATMs around the city after Greece imposed capital controls and closed banks across the country, hoping to prevent a run on banks following a breakdown in its bailout talks. Cash machine withdrawals have been capped at 60 euros per day, per card. Cards issued by foreign banks are exempt, but some tourists were coming up short Monday as ATMS across the city began to run dry. The ministry said tour operators could also buy entry passes to the site on an IOU basis, with the money to be paid once the banks re-open. The 2,500-year-old temple complex was used by ancient Greeks to worship Athena, the goddess of wisdom. =================== Nobody in the halls of the International Monetary Fund in Washington has any illusion: Greece is going to default Tuesday, delivering a new blow to the global crisis bank's credibility. Just weeks ago, the Fund refused to accept the idea that Athens, which has received some 32 billion euros from the IMF to rescue its economy since 2010, would be unable to make the 1.5-billion-euro ($1.7 billion) payment. At the beginning of June, Managing Director Christine Lagarde insisted she had the assurance of Greek leader Alexis Tsipras. "The prime minister said 'do not worry,'" she said confidently. A Fund spokesman reiterated that confidence again last week. But Tsipras's announcement of a referendum on an adjusted bailout plan -- which he urged his people to reject -- made clear that the country is not going to reach a deal with official creditors in time to finance any new debt payment. How "is it possible the creditors are waiting for the IMF payment while our banks are being suffocated?" Tsipras asked. Greece will be the first country to default on the IMF since Zimbabwe in 2001, and in terms of standards of living, the wealthiest. The IMF will undoubtedly wait to the final minute before declaring Athens "in arrears," but then the country will be immediately cut off from further IMF aid, including disbursements planned on the existing bailout program. - Reputation, resources at stake - The IMF has less at stake than Greece in that event, but still stands to lose, experts told AFP. "A default by Greece, even if a short-lived one, would stain the reputation of the IMF and make it less likely future IMF programs would trigger private (capital) inflows into troubled countries," said Eswar Prasad, a former Fund official. It is not the first time that the IMF, traditionally called on by economically troubled governments to help when they run short of liquidity, faces the breakdown of a bailout program. And it has already confessed errors in prescribing austerity as a cure when that ended up stifling economic growth. The institution has been criticized from outside as well as inside. Some member states have objected to the way rules have been bent to keep supporting Greece. They note that the Fund can only lend to a country if its debts are judged sustainable, and Greece's clearly are not. A default by Athens will only aggravate that open wound. "Non-payment would signal in a way that is clear to the person in the street worldwide that IMF engagement with the euro and Greece has gone very badly wrong," said Peter Doyle, who used to work for the IMF European Department. What happens with Greece could also impact the IMF's likewise high-risk loan program for Ukraine, said Doyle. In March, Kiev obtained a new lifeline from the IMF amid huge questions over whether its debt load is sustainable. The fund has more to guard than its image: it needs to protect the hundreds of billions of dollars provided it by its 188 members. It has been able to, without much controversy, write off loans made to certain countries, mainly those in the most dire circumstances. That includes Haiti, whose $268 million in debt was forgiven after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and $100 million written off for the West African countries hardest hit by Ebola last year. But the Greek case is different. The size of the loans is many times larger and the losses would impact the IMF's financial integrity. The Fund needs Greece to keep going and eventually pay up, but "has few cards left to play," Prasad said. "It's in no one's interest to escalate the implications of this missed payment," said Domenico Lombardi, a former board member of the IMF. "They're going to play that down in the hope that this is not going to jeopardize the start of future negotiations." Lagarde clearly understands that. Over the weekend, with Greece's default in motion, she took a measured approach, withholding criticism and saying the Fund "stands ready to provide assistance as needed." Greece imposes capital controls as crisis deepens Sun, Jun 28 21:36 PM EDT image 1 of 15 By Lefteris Papadimas and George Georgiopoulos ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece moved to check the growing strains on its crippled financial system on Sunday, closing its banks and imposing capital controls that brought the prospect of being forced out of the euro into plain sight. After bailout talks between the leftwing government and foreign lenders broke down at the weekend, the European Central Bank froze vital funding support to Greece's banks, leaving Athens with little choice but to shut down the system to keep the banks from collapsing. Banks will be closed and the stock market shut all week, and there will be a daily 60 euro limit on cash withdrawals from cash machines, which will reopen on Tuesday. Capital controls are likely to last for many months at least. "The more calmly we deal with difficulties, the sooner we can overcome them and the milder their consequences will be," a somber-looking Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a televised address. He promised bank deposits would be safe and salaries paid. Even as Tsipras spoke late on Sunday, lines forming at petrol stations and in front of the dwindling number of bank machines that still contained cash highlighted the scale of the disaster facing Greeks, who have endured more than six years of economic decline. The failure to reach a deal with creditors leaves Greece set to default on 1.6 billion euros of loans from the International Monetary Fund that fall due on Tuesday. Athens must also repay billions of euros to the European Central Bank in the coming months. The impending default on the IMF loans leaves Greece sliding toward a euro exit with unforeseeable consequences for Europe's grand project to bind its nations into an unbreakable union by means of a common currency. It also carries broad implications for the global financial system. After months of wrangling, Greece's exasperated European partners have put the blame for the crisis squarely on Tsipras' shoulders. The 40-year-old premier caught them by surprise in the early hours of Saturday by rejecting the demands of lenders and calling a referendum on the bailout. The creditors wanted Greece to cut pensions and raise taxes in ways that Tsipras has long argued would deepen one of the worst economic crises of modern times in a country where a quarter of the workforce is already unemployed. After announcing the referendum, Tsipras asked for an extension of Greece's existing bailout until after the July 5th vote. Euro zone officials refused, and in his televised address Tsipras bemoaned the refusal as an "unprecedented act". Despite the hardening of positions, officials around Europe and the United States made a frantic round of calls and organized meetings to try to salvage the situation. U.S. President Barack Obama called German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and senior U.S. officials including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who spoke to Tsipras, urged Europe and the IMF to come up with a plan to hold the single currency together and keep Greece in the euro zone. The German and French governments announced emergency political meetings. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged the Greeks to come back to the negotiating table. "I cannot resign myself to Greece leaving the euro zone ... We must find a solution," Valls told Europe 1, Le Monde and iTELE in a joint interview. SAFE HAVENS SOUGHT The euro fell sharply against the dollar and safe-haven U.S. government debt futures rallied as investors exhibited fears of a Greek default and exit from the euro zone. "That is going to have a real big impact on markets and that will generate increased volatility," said Ian Stannard, European head of FX strategy at Morgan Stanley in London. The euro EUR= fell nearly 2 U.S. cents to a one-month low in early Asia Pacific trade. The fear of contagion produced a sharp move into safe-haven government debt. U.S. 10-year Treasury futures rose 1 27/32 in active trading early. The bank holiday announced by Tsipras will last at least until Monday, July 6, the day after the planned referendum, an official said after a late-night meeting of the cabinet. The Athens stock exchange will be closed as the government tries to manage the financial fallout. It remains unclear how long capital controls will remain in force. In Cyprus, which imposed similar measures in 2013, they were not fully lifted until April this year. Tsipras faces growing political pressure with some opinion polls suggesting a majority of Greeks could turn their back on his call to reject the bailout and instead decide to support the lenders' package in next Sunday's referendum. If they do, he would face pressure to resign, leaving the way open for new elections. Former conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who on Sunday met Greek head of state President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, said Tsipras should drop the referendum plans and return to the negotiations or make way for a government of national unity. As speculation of capital controls have increased over the past two weeks, Greeks have pulled billions of euros out of their accounts. Long queues formed in supermarkets on Saturday as shoppers stocked up on essentials. Greece's top refiner, Hellenic Petroleum, said it had enough fuel reserves on hand to last for many months, but there were reports of long queues forming at petrol stations as motorists rushed to fill up. The broader consequences for Greece's economy, now back in recession, are likely to be severe, with the tourism sector, which accounts for almost a fifth of economic output, about to start its vital summer season. Anxious to reassure tourists, the government said the 60 euro cash withdrawal limit would not apply to people using foreign credit or debit cards. Travel companies had been warning tourists for some weeks that they should be prepared to take extra cash, given the likelihood of problems with the system. But the sight of cash machines that had run dry was a visible shock to many tourists. "I am trying to go over to the bigger banks," said Cassandra Preston, a Canadian tourist who was searching around in central Athens for a machine that had cash. "I am here for another month and I would like to make sure I have some cash on me." Many leading economists have voiced sympathy with the Greek government's argument that further cuts in spending risk choking off the growth that would give Greece some prospect of servicing debts worth nearly twice its annual national income. However, in economic powerhouse Germany, other southern states that have endured austerity in return for EU cash and poor eastern countries with living standards much lower than Greece's, many voters and politicians have run out of patience. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble openly questioned the solvency of Greek banks, a key condition to qualify to receive such finance. "The ECB has always said that as long as Greek banks are solvent, then emergency loans, the ELA, can be granted," he said on Saturday. "And now there is naturally a new situation that because of the developments the liquidity and solvency of Greek banks, or some Greek banks, could be in doubt." (Additional reporting by Deepa Babington, George Georgiopoulos, Karolina Tagaris, Michele Kambas, Lefteris Karagiannopoulos, Matthias Williams in Athens; Writing by Anna Willard and James Mackenzie; Editing by Alastair Macdonald, Janet McBride, Alessandra Galloni, Toni Reinhold) =================== Greece in shock as banks shut after snap referendum call Mon, Jun 29 07:27 AM EDT image 1 of 15 By Karolina Tagaris and Michele Kambas ATHENS (Reuters) - Greeks struggled to adjust to shuttered banks, closed cash machines and a climate of rumors and conspiracy theories on Monday as a breakdown in talks between Athens and its creditors plunged the country deep into crisis. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who blindsided creditors by calling a referendum on the austerity cuts in the aid package proposed by the creditors, appeared on television on Sunday night to announce capital controls to prevent banks from collapsing. Their imposition capped a dramatic weekend for Greece that has pushed the country towards a likely default on 1.6 billion euros ($1.77 billion) of International Monetary Fund loans on Tuesday and closer to an exit from the euro currency bloc. French President Francois Hollande appealed to Tsipras to return to the negotiating table and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was willing to talk to the 40-year-old Greek leader if he wanted. "There are a few hours before the negotiation is closed for good," Hollande said after a cabinet meeting on Greece. But with Greece's bailout program expiring in less than 48 hours, hopes of a last-minute breakthrough were fading fast. Greeks - used to lengthy talks with creditors before a eleventh-hour deal materializes - were left stunned. "I can't believe it," said Athens resident Evgenia Gekou, 50, on her way to work. "I keep thinking we will wake up tomorrow and everything will be OK. I'm trying hard not to worry." European officials sent confusing signals about their next move. A spokesman for the European Commission told French radio that Brussels would not make any new proposals on Monday, appearing to contradict comments by EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. He said a new offer was forthcoming and that the two sides were "only a few centimeters" away from a deal. European bank shares fell sharply on Monday. Top banks in Spain, France and Germany were down more than 6 percent as the risk of a spillover to banks in other peripheral euro zone countries spooked investors. The Greek government will keep banks shut at least until after July 5, the date of the referendum, and withdrawals from automated teller machines were limited to 60 euros a day when they reopened at midday. The stock exchange will also stay shut. After months of talks, Greece's exasperated European partners have put the blame for the crisis squarely on Tsipras's shoulders. The creditors wanted Greece to cut pensions and raise taxes in ways that Tsipras has long argued would deepen one of the worst economic crises of modern times in a country where a quarter of the workforce is already unemployed. As Tsipras announced the emergency measures late on Sunday, there were long queues outside ATMs and petrol stations as people raced to take out cash before it was too late. Lines of over a dozen people formed at ATMs when they reopened on Monday. "I've got five euros in my pocket, I thought I would try my luck here for some money. The queues in my neighborhood were too long yesterday," said plumber Yannis Kalaizakis, 58, outside an empty cash machine in central Athens on Monday. "I don't know what else to say. It's a mess." "DRAMATIC HOURS" Newspapers splashed pictures of long lines outside cash machines on their front page. The Nafetemporiki daily headlined Monday's edition "Dramatic hours" while the Ta Nea daily simply said: "When will the banks open". The conservative-leaning Eleftheros Typos newspaper accused Tsipras of announcing the referendum as a ruse to tip the country into early elections in the hopes of winning them. "Mr Tsipras's decision to call a referendum and a possible euro exit constitutes a premeditated crime," it said in an editorial. "It is clear that Mr Tsipras has lost the trust of citizens. That's obvious from the queues at ATMs and petrol stations, and it will become obvious at next Sunday's ballot." As rumors flew about, dozens of pensioners queued outside at least two offices of the National Bank of Greece (NBGr.AT) on Monday after hearing they could withdraw pensions from some branches. They were turned away, Reuters photographers said. "I've worked all my life, only to wake up one morning to a disaster like this," said one shop owner, who was there to collect his wife's pension. Despite the financial shock, parts of daily life went on as normal, with shops, pharmacies and supermarkets in the city opening and Greeks meeting to discuss their country's fate at cafes and restaurants. Tourists gathered as usual to watch the changing of the presidential guard outside parliament. A rally called by Tsipras's Syriza party to protest against austerity measures and urge voters to say "No" in the referendum on bailout terms is expected later on Monday. Officials around Europe and the United States made a frantic round of calls and organized meetings to try to salvage the situation. U.S. President Barack Obama called Merkel, and senior U.S. officials including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who spoke to Tsipras, urged Europe and the IMF to come up with a plan to hold the single currency together and keep Greece in the euro zone. "While the program is active until Tuesday, they aren't providing the necessary liquidity for Greek banks just to blackmail and to terrorize us," Administrative Reforms Minister George Katrougalos told Antenna television. "If we vote a yes, they will demolish pensions, you will have to pay for medicare in public hospitals. When your kids can't go to school you will say 'thanks' and they will say 'you asked for it'. "But if you say no you have the ability to fight for a better future." ($1 = 0.9026 euros) (Additional reporting by Deepa Babington, Lefteris Karagiannopoulos, Yannis Behrakis and Alkis Konstantinidis; Writing by Matthias Williams and Deepa Babington; Editing by Anna Willard) =========================== Sailor Benny Good! They will leave the euro, the new dracma crashes 80 percent. An then begin to recover. Under the austerity system they would have never recovered and never stopped having to pay. This is a good thing. Sad that it will lead to possible extremist right wing party's gaining more ground though. People will blame Syriza for the inevitable part where things get worse before they begin to get better. So they will swing to the other extreme, that's historically when the extreme right wins support. When people stop thinking what's best for the country/society and can only afford to think about themselves and their immediate families. I dont think it's going to be a short crisis. 5+ Years before recovery really begins I would predict!Well they aren't doing a whole lot of recovering at the moment Bindy peppercorn! Funny that the rhetoric coming from the EU is that 'they are going to let grandma vote on economic policy, what would she know?' .. Seems they believe people only deserve a vote in a democratic society when you can't effect any real change, or something. Damien Cruickshank A short crisis, then recovery? That's what austerity promised. Funding a lifestyle on debt promises long-term pain when struggling to pay back creditors. There was a 1922 crisis in the US, by all metrics promising to be worse than the 1929 one.. nothing was done, no spending, no debt.. it disappeared in less than 2 years according to current research. Greece being mugged? No, Greece had been dipping into the savings of caring friends.. who are now getting nasty because they realise they're not going to be paid back. I would say it's the fault of both parties. They all knew Greece would struggle. Austerity would have been softer back then. for individual citizens it's not a boring case of currency monopolies and productivity differences.. but if Greek politicians listened to both proper economists and common sense, they would have seen the case for deficit reduction, grexit, and there would be no crisis now. This is a textbook example of how not to live off neighbours until even the country's future wealth is spent. Between Greek government debt spending, and US government interest bubbles / bad debt encouragement... Truly free markets are the only solution. Everything government touches becomes a Greek Tragedy... Literally. Edit: to prevent folks claiming the GFC was caused by "the free market economy" I must point out the Australia has a freer economy than the USA. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/.../Economic_Freedom_of_the_World Xenia Ambatzidis Mugged and bullied, it's disgusting what they're doing to the Greek people! Paying off a debt of which they have only received 1% of the money but being charged interest for the whole amount? It's disgusting, unethical and illegal! Shame to the previous greek governments and politicians, shame to all who support this! I hope they vote NO and stand up against the bullies and pave the way for Italy and Spain etc. Make no mistake, Greece is not alone. “A boring case of…?”. Last night I spoke to my mum who lives in Greece. She is an older lady and was crying because she is scared. Next time I speak to her I’ll make sure I pass on your comment of “boring case of…” I’m sure she (or anyone else in Greece) doesn’t see it as a boring case of anything. Do you know what they see? They see their family homes and shops sold for next to nothing so they can feed their kids. They see their 70+ year old parents crying for the first time in their lives out of shame because they have to ask their children for money to buy a loaf of bread. They see older people having their fingerprints taken etc by police because they couldn’t afford to pay the latest tax. They see people everywhere trying to feed a 4 member family on one part time job (and that’s a good case scenario). I can’t believe you see it as boring case of anything. Some people have been living without electricity (in winter that means no heating) to say the least. Children have died from cold. Some people work and don’t get paid for 5-6 months. How do they feed their families? Don’t ask. Have you read the reports of people looking through rubbish? Yep. That would be them. I am so ashamed of the fact that in the past when people would discuss Greece with me and referred to the Greeks as lazy etc I would nod. Do you know why I nodded? Because I couldn’t be bothered setting them straight. I thought ‘let them believe what they want, whatever…’. I’m setting things straight now. I am 38 years old and I only have ever met one lazy Greek person in Greece. Yes they enjoy their outings for coffee with their friends etc. But they drink that same coffee/drink for 2-3 hours….because that’s all they can afford. The important thing is to catch up with their friends. I’m envious. Why? Because as I go on with my life here and spend $250 every time I visit my psychologist to get things off my chest, they don’t need to do that. Because they catch up with each other on a daily basis. The only thing you can blame the Greek people for, is voting for incompetent and corrupt politicians in the past (Current government not included). Even then, how much can you blame them? Do you know a lot of them the last few elections didn’t know who to vote for? They saw all politicians and political parties pretty much the same. Yet they had no other choices! Do you know with what criteria they voted? By trying to judge who is the LEAST CORRUPT! Can you imagine having to make that choice? Knowing they are all corrupt, pocketing bribes left, right and centre and still having to vote for someone? I am not an economist or an expert on politics. I can only say that I see the current government in Greece as truly trying to help the Greek people. At the very least, they are giving people back their dignity and their pride. They are giving people hope that not all politicians are the same. They are at least making people such as myself who have never had any interest in politics in the past (re: Greece) interested. My generation in its majority grew up (in Greece) having an off button when it comes to politics. As soon as any political conversation started, we would be ‘they’re all the same, there’s no hope’. So making even us interested is a huge feat in itself. They are ruling with transparency and accountability, which has not happened for a very long time in Greece, if ever. Again, that is a huge step forward. The unfairness of it all chokes me. I will not rest until all the past politicians of Greece who stole money, were bribed, etc are in prison for treason. If Greece were able to get that money back out of all the overseas bank accounts in which they have been stashed, they would have a left over amount after they paid off their debts. Clearly and realistically, that is not to be but we can dream… As for conspiracy, let’s address that. I can think of one conspiracy. In fact, it’s already happening… Greeks have to sell their homes, land etc so they can afford to eat and pay the huge taxes that are constantly introduced. Other Greeks can’t afford to buy…so guess who buys the land? Greece’s richest neighbours, Germany. And is it so hard to believe that once they own a large chunk of Greece they will then claim its natural resources for their benefit? Do you know that a previous Greek government has sold the sun to the Germans? That’s simplifying it I know…but still. They sold the freaking sun! I could seriously keep going with my rant but I won’t. The Greeks may starve in the next few months but at least they’ll starve with their head held up high. Lachlan Wells Err, Xenia Ambatzidis you're deliberately taking what I said out of context. I don't appreciate being construed in such a way. Plight of Greeks is anything but boring. The economic theories behind how they got there is well-known and textbook-worthy. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimum_currency_area Also you'll never see me claiming Greeks are lazy (nor did I say it in the above explanation). In fact in the OECD they work more hours / year that the average (and a staggering amount more than the Germans!). See http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?DataSetCode=ANHRS Never did I once brush this off in the manner you are describing I did. I suggest you re-read my comment if you think that is true. Daniel Mclachlan They just need to stop spending work longer and return later or pay allot more tax Ron James Yep ... the euro politicians are afraid that Putin will offer to bail them out in exchange for a warm water navy base, the new Greek leader was playing this as a bluff card, but the bankers called his bluff ...now when the Poms vote to leave the Eurozone ... shame really ... could have been a great force but politicians setting up an economic block was never going to succeed when 'photo ops and signing ceremonies' take precedence over fiscal rigor. Except there's no logic to that at all. If the proposition of going it alone was better than staying in the EU/eurozone they would have done it already. No, they want to have their cake and eat it too. There's no obligation for the ECB, IMF and the EU's stronger members to lend to Greece; without those loans they would have had to balance the books much quicker and harsher (read: more severe austerity) since nobody would fund their deficit. There's no grand conspiracy here; it is quite a boring case of non-optimal currency areas and misaligned productivity levels. Greece is in a trap due to its currency situation. It's best long-run strategy is to leave the euro, but no politician wants to be the one presiding over the depression that such a transition entails. Michael Wilson Bankruptcy and a euro exit won't solve the structural problems in Greece (no one bothers to pay taxes or keep govt spending within sensible limits). They'll have to find money from somewhere, and most likely that'll be Russia. So Greece will end up either a 4th rate basketcase state on the edge of Europe, or a 2nd rate basketcase state allied with Russia. In the long term, structural changes may occur, but that's a very long way off. In the short term there'll be serious poverty and unrest in Greece, and in the medium term, Russia will have an extra ally. A great result all round then... NOT. Paul Mccluskey Give it a rest ABC !Greece is being mugged by the EU ! Greece will have a referendum next Sunday to ask its people what they think of the latest bailout ( real democracy) but the f*ckers in the IMF don't want this ! (Profit before people ) Syriza scares the f*ck or of Europe because finally a govt has stood by its own mandate to protect its population from Austeriry ! Rebecca Mcintosh 2 or 3 of the bigger banks will be lucky to survive. Some people will lose everything but never fear the smart and rich got their money out of Greece a long time ago. This should only affect the poor. Rebecca Mcintosh 2 or 3 of the bigger banks will be lucky to survive. Some people will lose everything but never fear the smart and rich got their money out of Greece a long time ago. This should only affect the poor. Yllek Notlim That article doesn't explain how Greece got into so much debt in the first place. "Finance is global and the linkages are often hazy, breeding suspicion and fear about who is exposed and for how much. When that happens, no-one will lend and finance grinds to a halt. The merest hint of bank collapses sends fear through financial markets." This indicates that people running our economies do so without much of a clue as to what they're doing and don't care. The Greek debt crisis is escalating. Business editor Ian Verrender explains what it might mean, who will be worst affected, and how we got here in the first place. Austin Dewey All you need to know...led RADICAL LEFT to power. Closing banks, restricting amount of own money citizens can withdraw and stubbornly failing to negotiate with those indebted to... Michael Michellis Puerto Rico is an unincorporated state of the USA and has just been declared "INSOLVENT" and about to collapse like Greece due to austerity measures failing to arrest it Marilyn Hunt Just make Greece (and Italy) an electronic-only economy for a while. Then the economy can be tracked and fixed. The repayments can be made when people pay taxes rather than operating as a cash/barter economy riddled with tax dodgers at every (EVERY) level. Try asking for a receipt in either country! It is a beautiful country, But you can see the poverty everywhere! I was there in May and I thought things I bought were a reasonable price. The food was beautiful along with the scenery... I hope this country sorts its finances soon. Zoran Mitrevski They should not have to be a part of EU anyway. Look at the different wage structure and the earnings for each country but the difference in the cost of living is not that big. What Germans can afford, Greeks can not. Brett Archer Sounds like zero interest rates. Where by depositors, were paying banks to keep money, in deposits. Called a bail in. When depositors take their money out called a bail out. Can happen here too. Where depositers are offered ridiculous interest rates, for deposits, and then pay tax on that interest. Bail outs occur. Judy Green Reminds me of stables and closing doors!! He's run out of money so now he's going to grab everybody's savings???? James Carthew Government should only be involved in the economy to provide progresssive taxation, regulate environmental issues, protect customers, and bust monopolies when market share is over 85% and income is over $1 billion AUD. Government should not be involved in business subsidies for large businesses at all. Brett Archer Royalty has an affect on price of gold, as soon as Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth touched German ground, Gold fell $30 AU / ounce. Immediately. Deborah Snavely Austerity = betraying one's citizens with failed pensions and 50% unemployment while kowtowing to the bankers who drove the world off a cliff once ALREADY, in just the past decade! Mitch Andrews Just opened my money lending store in Athens...#capitalism all the way Ben: Because people are drawing to much money out ... most money is digital . there's never even close to enough money if there is any kind of bank run ... same will happen here as soon as people figure it out ... Danny Hughes Not so sure it's as easy as leaving the euro, reinstating the drachma and heading to recovery in the modern world. If they don't want to pay back the debt, who will want to do business with them? Powerhouses of Europe will shun them, and rightly so ============================ Athens (AFP) - Strapped for cash in crisis-hit Greece but desperate to visit the Acropolis? Tourists faced with empty ATMs need not despair, visitors to the ancient site can now pay by card for the first time. People have long been asking to be able to use debit or credit cards to purchase the 12 euro ($13.5) entrance tickets to Athens's hill-top citadel, the culture ministry said Monday, insisting that families wanting to admire the Parthenon up close would not be penalised for running short on cash. Long queues have sprung up at ATMs around the city after Greece imposed capital controls and closed banks across the country, hoping to prevent a run on banks following a breakdown in its bailout talks. Cash machine withdrawals have been capped at 60 euros per day, per card. Cards issued by foreign banks are exempt, but some tourists were coming up short Monday as ATMS across the city began to run dry. The ministry said tour operators could also buy entry passes to the site on an IOU basis, with the money to be paid once the banks re-open. The 2,500-year-old temple complex was used by ancient Greeks to worship Athena, the goddess of wisdom.