Thursday 26th May 2016
NEWS TICKER: THURSDAY, MAY 26TH - Dan Carter has been appointed lead manager of the Jupiter Japan Income Fund, with immediate effect. Dan, who is currently deputy manager of the fund will take over from Simon Somerville, who will be leaving Jupiter after eleven years. Carter has 12 years’ experience of analysing and managing Japanese equities, and has worked alongside Somerville for eight years. He has also lead managed the Jupiter Japan Select Sicav fund, aimed at international clients, since 2013, having been deputy manager for two years. There will be no change to the investment philosophy of the fund says Jupiter and the funds will continue to be managed alongside each other, ensuring continuity for investors. There is a significant overlap between the two portfolios in terms of the companies they are invested in. The funds seek to own long-term positions in cash-generative, income-paying Japanese companies that are run for shareholders, have a genuine competitive advantage and offer real, identifiable growth opportunities that he believes are underappreciated by the market. Carter joined Jupiter in 2008 as an analyst on the Far Eastern Equities team. Before that he was a Fund Manager at Odey Asset Management on the Japanese equities team, and was previously at Baillie Gifford & Co, where he was an investment analyst for both the Japanese equities and UK large-cap equities teams - CME Group Executive Chairman and President Terry Duffy will appear before the Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee today to discuss how imposing a proposed tax on financial transactions would harm Illinois consumers, agricultural producers, businesses and the state economy. "Imposing a financial transaction tax will not alleviate the state's budget crisis, and instead would have a negative impact on consumers because the cost of hedging their business risks would go up as much as 800 percent," said Duffy. "If enacted, every business that uses any risk management tools would face higher costs as bid/ask spreads widen. Farmers, ranchers and other businesses in Illinois and all over the country would be forced to pass along those costs to consumers, who would pay more for food, gas, airline tickets and other products. Additionally, a transaction tax would put the largest exchange in the US, which is headquartered in Illinois, at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace." The hearing is scheduled for 10:00 am CT in the Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois. Duffy's testimony will be available on at the same time as the hearing - Moody's has upgraded to A3 from Baa1 the senior unsecured debt ratings of Autoroutes du Sud de la France (ASF). Concurrently, Moody's has upgraded to (P)A3 from (P)Baa1 the rating on the company's €8bn medium-term note (EMTN) programme. The outlook on the ratings is stable. The upgrade reflects ASF's strengthening financial profile on the back of a strong traffic performance and expected future traffic growth, says the ratings agency. ASF is expected to exhibit funds from operation/debt metrics firmly in the mid-teens in percentage terms, which Moody's considers commensurate with the A3 rating level. In 2015, ASF reported traffic growth of 3.1% compared to the previous year. “We expect traffic growth to moderate during the year, although the 2016 annual traffic increase is anticipated to be at least 2%. The positive traffic trends, which offset the financial impact of the 2015 tolls freeze and the relatively limited toll increases in 2016(1.63% for ASF and 1.18% for Escota), are supportive of ASF's credit profile in the context of the group's increasing investments associated with the implementation of the so-called Plan de Reliance Autoroutier (a government stimulus plan),” says Moody’s. ASF is expected to implement capital expenditure worth €800m per annum over the next three years - The European Parliament has approved aid on Thursday worth €6,468,000 for 557 redundant workers from the “Larissa” supermarket in Greece and €5,146,800 for 2,132 former drivers for the road haulage and delivery firm MoryGlobal SAS in France. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) aid will still need to be approved by the Council of Ministers on June 6th. In Greece, Larissa’s 422 employees and 135 worker-owners were made redundant when the cooperative supermarket was declared bankrupt. In France, MoryGlobal’s 2,132 lorry drivers and their delivery colleagues lost their jobs due to its bankruptcy and closure. Both bankruptcies resulted from the prolonged global financial and economic crisis which has devastated the Greek economy and deeply affected the road haulage sector. The measures, co-financed by the EGF and the Greek and French governments, would help the workers to find new jobs by providing them with occupational guidance and other assistance schemes. The aid request from France was passed by 540 votes to 73, with 2 abstentions. The request from Greece was approved by 551 votes to 67, with two abstentions. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) was introduced in 2007 as a flexible instrument in the EU budget to provide support, under specific conditions, to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of mass redundancies caused by major changes in global trade (e.g. delocalisation to third countries). The EGF contributes to packages of tailor-made services to help redundant workers find new jobs. Its annual ceiling is €150m. Redundant workers are offered measures such as support for business start-ups, job-search assistance, occupational guidance and various kinds of training - Pirum Systems says Ben Challice will be joining as chief operating officer, responsible for strategic product and market development. Challice joins from Nomura, where he headed up Global Prime Services – which included Equity Finance, Prime Brokerage and Delta One at Nomura and previously held senior positions at Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs - Catella has appointed Antti Louko to head its Finnish operations and to establish a new corporate finance unit in Helsinki. Louko will join Catella as managing director of Catella Property Oy and head of the new corporate finance unit, from November. Louko joins Catella from a role as head of real estate at Advium Corporate Finance Oy where he headed the real estate team. He previously worked as the director responsible for transactions at SRV Group, and at Aberdeen Property Investors - Advanced payments tech firm SafeCharge says Umberto Corridori has been appoint vice president of sales for Europe. Corridori has held senior roles in large companies such as Dell Italy and joins after a long tenure at PayPal where he served as head of sales Italy & iGaming CEMEA - AIM-listed Xtract Resources PLC says it has entered into an agreement to sell the Manica Gold project in Mozambique to Nexus Capital and Mineral Technologies International Ltd for $17.5m in cash. The firm says some of the proceeds will be used to settle outstanding payments owed to Auroch over the acquisition of the Manica licence. Xtract adds that it expects to have remaining cash proceeds of approximately $12m. Under the agreement, Xtract will sell its 100% interest in Explorator Limitada, the entity which holds title to the Manica mining licence 3990C on completion of the deal. Xtract said it is expected that a bankable feasibility study, to assess the viability of developing and mining a hard rock gold deposit identified within the Manica licence, will be completed in the second quarter of 2016, Mine construction is planned to begin in the fourth quarter, with first production to follow in the final quarter of 2017. Mining of the alluvial gold deposit is planned for the third quarter this year – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing up to €294m in local currency equivalent for two ground-breaking projects to increase the use of domestically produced natural gas and largely replace the use of coal in Kazakhstan. The first project is the upcoming modernisation and refurbishment of the underground storage in Bozoi in the Bank’s first-ever cooperation with the national gas company KazTransGas (KTG). An EBRD loan equivalent to €242m in local currency to the KazTransGas subsidiary Intergas Central Asia will allow for the upgrade of the storage to its full capacity of 4bn cubic metres (bcm), from the current limit of 2.6 bcm - United Utilities reported a 0.6% rise in full year revenue to £1.73bn this morning, although the new regulated price controls contributed to a 9% drop in underlying operating profit to £604m. The company says it is confident of reaching its targets for capital expenditure in the first year of the new regulatory period and announced plans to invest £100m across the 2015-2020 period in renewable energy projects, mainly solar power. The final dividend was raised 2% to 25.6p, making a total of 38.45p for the year – Ahead of its planned initial public offering in Australia, fantasy sports app Sports Hero has raised an additional $2.4m in funding. SportsHero is a new app that lets sports fans dabble in match predictions and show their skills off against friends and other game-watchers. The app is made by the team behind Singapore-based TradeHero, a virtual trading app backed by more than $10m from investors. - DONG Energy has set an indicative price range for its planned stock market listing of 17.4% of its shares at DKR200 to DKR255 per share, giving the group a market value of DKR83.5bn to DKR106.5bn ( between $12.6bn and $16bn), making it Europe’s biggest float this year. The state-controlled company, is one of the world’s largest offshore wind farm developers -

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TV Closure Channels Opposition

Sunday, 01 July 2007
TV Closure Channels Opposition A majority of Venezuelans appear to support continued student protests over the closure of an opposition television channel in May this year, despite President Hugo Chavez insisting the demonstrations were part of a US plot to topple him. Chavez replaced RCTV, the country’s oldest broadcaster, with a state network last month. Since then, there have been regular protests by thousands of students accusing the president of undermining democracy. Chavez’s critics say his move to curb TV news and analysis are evidence of centralisation after the president politicised the military, judiciary and oil industry. Chavez is considering indefinite re-election, has won powers to rule by decree and is forging a single governing party to steer his self-styled socialist revolution. Ian Williams reports on a country in ferment.

A majority of Venezuelans appear to support continued student protests over the closure of an opposition television channel in May this year, despite President Hugo Chavez insisting the demonstrations were part of a US plot to topple him. Chavez replaced RCTV, the country’s oldest broadcaster, with a state network last month. Since then, there have been regular protests by thousands of students accusing the president of undermining democracy. Chavez’s critics say his move to curb TV news and analysis are evidence of centralisation after the president politicised the military, judiciary and oil industry. Chavez is considering indefinite re-election, has won powers to rule by decree and is forging a single governing party to steer his self-styled socialist revolution. Ian Williams reports on a country in ferment.

At the end of May the screens went dark for Venezuela’s most popular TV station when Hugo Chavez’s government refused to roll over the expiring 20 year broadcast license for the privately owned RCTV and allocated its slot to yet another government owned station. Far away in Chile the Senate condemned it as a move against free speech, and human rights and journalists organisations’ across the world have complained in similar terms. As so often, the event is being presented in stark black and white terms by both supporters and opponents of Chavez. As usual, reality is a little more nuanced.

RCTV would not be anyone’s example of objective journalism — but there is also plenty of evidence that the Venezuelan government is squeezing dissident media, with ominous implications for the future. However, so far, everything has been done “legally” and through regulation rather than outright repression, suggests Patrick Esteruelas of the Eurasia Group, the global political risk and advisory firm.

Technically, under the media law, RCTV’s licence should have been automatically renewed, but the government added allegations of sexism and racism to lend verisimilitude to the real political agenda. RCTV was vigorously anti-government, and there is little doubt that its closure was politically motivated. It was alleged, and rebutted that the station had supported the 2002 coup — but there was no “due process” to test the allegations either way.

Diego Arria, who was information minister in Venezuela between 1978 and 1979 points out that while the RCTV was indeed a harsh critic of government — it was a critic of all governments, “including the one I served in. It was extremely critical and independent, but we did not consider closing it. It is the only station with a national reach”. Arria also acerbically comments on Chavez’s administration. “This is a military government, half of it is composed of officers. We should start calling them by their ranks to remind people” [of that fact].

RCTV continues on the Internet and on Cable, so it is not completely stifled — but only 20% of the population has access to cable, and few of those will be among the poorer sections of the population upon whose support Chavez relies. Ominously, the state-owned media, which now includes six TV and eight radio stations, ignored the vociferous student protests about the closure.

Allegedly, when ex-Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, was asked why he allowed newspapers to function uncensored, replied that few Serbs read newspapers, and those that did were not going to vote for him anyway. It was the radio and TV that he strictly controlled. Chavez seems to have adopted the same principle. The El Nacional newspaper is still critical but as Arria says, “newspapers are expensive, and have limited reach, while radio and TV really get out to the people”.

Eurasia Group’s Patrick Esteruelas rebuts the accusations that RCTV promoted the 2002 coup — although neither did it broadcast the protests that led to its reversal. “Even so, the channel played a fairly questionable role with its heavy editorialising,” he says. On the other hand, he explains, “It is the latest peak of the trend since the 2004 election. In the past the press operated in much greater freedom but now there is a culture of fear and self-censorship.”

A new media law, which was introduced in Venezuela in 2005 and which is locally known as the ‘Rebound Law’, extended in broad terms the bounds of what is defined as libellous or violent.  The law has also led to an increase in self-censorship and accommodation with the government on the part of some of the media owners. It has resulted in toned-down and non-aggressive criticism, and led to a change in the nature of TV news and analysis broadcasting. Before the law was introduced, early morning news and current affairs shows “had politicians arguing, lots of commentary — now it’s cartoons,” says Esteruelas.

Even the remaining private stations, such as Venevision, seem to have recognised the realities of power and have come to an editorial accommodation with the administration in order to remain on the air.

Washington’s campaign against Chavez has in some measure helped legitimise the president’s behaviour not only domestically but across the region, where Washington often seems blind to the unpopularity of many of its policies. This time, however it may be that Chavez might have gone too far.

A DATOS poll in June found 66.9% of respondents opposed the closure of RCTV. This chimed with a survey from Datanalisis in April that found nearly 70% opposed the shutdown however, most respondents were more concerned with the loss of their favourite soap operas than with press freedom. Esteruelas cautions that the “popular backlash is not just motivated by freedom of the press. It is also that the government has cut some of the nation’s most popular TV programming and replaced it with very dull fare”. Venezuelans are now missing their favourite TV shows, such as Who wants to be a Millionaire? and are not happy with re-runs interspersed with what is essentially feel-good propaganda for the government that now occupy the slot.

The DATOS poll of 600 Venezuelans, taken in early June, showed 56.2% of respondents in favour of the student demonstrators continuing their protests against closure with 23.8% against. Significantly 75% opposed the possible closure of Globovision, the last major independent station which still has 16 years of its licence to run. However, the  fact that its potential closure is on the agenda suggests public  appreciation of how flexible the rule of law has become. Only 7.6% of respondents thought the main pro-government state channel, praised by Chavez, was “good” or “very good”. DATOS found 81.1% of viewers thought it was “bad” or “very bad”.

President Chavez, a frequent and vocal critic of the United States and who was re-elected by a landslide in December 2006 on the back of his generous social spending, was dismissive of the poll results. “This is all part of the conspirators’ plan,” he said in his weekly TV show. “This is an attempt to incite them.” Chavez has accused the students of being part of a US-backed “soft revolution”.

It is unlikely.  However, even deprived TV addicts are not enough to overthrow a government.  Esteruelas says “at the moment there is no alternative, certainly not from the completely discredited opposition.” With gaping social and ethnic divides in the country, it is true that many middle class Venezuelans — and the media that some of them own — could not bring themselves to recognise Chavez’s election victory, and the opposition tactics have been almost criminally stupid.

The merging of all the (many) other leftist parties into one “Bolivarian” organisation does not bode well for the emergence of serious opposition to Chavez’s manifest authoritarian tendencies. Rising oil prices and the pork-barrel public expenditures have helped maintain popular support, but rising consumption and regulation and expropriation of the food sector have led to more food imports than ever before, while oil exports now account for 91% of exports.

Esteruelas identifies how sensitive the economy, and the government is to the maintenance of current oil prices since production is going down, and Chavez’s policies have cut off the foreign investment and expertise needed to develop and expand production. “There is no room for even a small dip in prices.” Of course, at the moment, betting on continuing oil price rises seems safe, but it may not always be so, which ties Chavez’s oil-barrel politics, both internationally and domestically to the global economy he  despises so much. As with the opposition, the crucial test of how authoritarian he is will be how he reacts to losing a parliamentary majority.

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