Germany rejected Athens’ claims that it was close to a deal with its international creditors as the world’s top financial officials gathered in Dresden.]]> |||
Dresden, Germany - Germany rejected on Wednesday Athens’ claims that it was close to a deal with its international creditors as the world’s top financial officials gathered in Dresden for a meeting overshadowed by the Greek debt crisis.
Global markets rebounded on Wednesday ahead of a two-day meeting of the world’s top financial officials in the eastern German city after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his cash-strapped state was on “the final stretch towards a positive deal.”
But members of the German delegation in Dresden for the meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers and central bankers said: “We have not advanced much further on the matter.”
The German officials went on to express surprise at the statements from Athens saying that cash-strapped Greece was close to reaching a deal with its European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors.
The threat that Greece could soon run out of money formed part of a preparatory round of talks by officials on Wednesday before the formal launch of the G7 meeting on Thursday.
The G7 ministers are also due to consider the first steps for launching a code of conduct for bankers as well as ensuring a crackdown on international corporations sidestepping national tax laws is introduced by the end of the year.
Hopes that Greece might be edging its way towards an agreement with its international creditors following optimistic comments from Athens resulted in share markets posting solid gains on Wednesday following steep falls over the previous 24 hours.
The ministers from Germany, Italy, France, the US, Japan, Britain and Canada visited Dresden’s reconstructed baroque Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, on Wednesday evening.
The church has become a symbol of the rebuilding of the city after it was all but destroyed in allied bombing raids near the end of World War II 70 years ago.
Finance ministers and central bankers will be joined in their opening session on Thursday by leading academics for a discussion on the prospects for the world economy.
After starting the year on a high note, global growth appears to have stumbled into a period of weakness led by slowing economies in the US, China and Germany. Growth in Japan has also fallen short of expectations.
The eurozone has emerged as something of a bright spot for the first time in years as signs point to painful economic reforms bearing fruit in nations such as Spain and Ireland that have been at the centre of the region’s long-running debt crisis.
But looming large over the 19-member currency bloc is the tense standoff between Athens and its creditors amid concerns that Greece could accidentally stumble out of the euro.
Germany, which currently holds the G7 presidency, is planning for an informal meeting of ministers in Dresden.
Instead of the meeting becoming bogged down in drafting a communique, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who will chair the meeting, is to issue a statement on the ministers’ deliberations.
The Dresden meeting will also help set the stage for next month’s summit of G7 leaders, which is to be chaired by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and held in the Bavarian alpine retreat of Elmau Castle.
Officials have described the Dresden meeting as a brainstorming session for the leaders’ summit in Bavaria.
The finance ministers are also expected to sign off this week on measures aimed at beefing up the fight against financing terrorism amid concerns about Islamic State’s apparent success in raising funds to back their bid to form a caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
Still, the really contentious issues are likely to be off Dresden’s formal agenda, but to dominate discussions on the margins of the
meeting. This is expected to include the Greek debt crisis.
However, four of the key players in the talks with Athens – International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, the European Central Bank’s Mario Draghi, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem and the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici – are attending the Dresden meeting.
Washington is also likely to press its European partners and the IMF to step up their efforts to resolve the Greek debt crisis.
In addition, the US is expected to use the gathering in Dresden to renew its pressure on Germany to act to help stimulate the global economy through launching new public investment programmes aimed at boosting domestic demand.
The number of black South Africans attending universities only grew marginally in a 12-year period from 2002 to 2014, according to a study.]]> |||
Pretoria - The number of black South Africans attending universities only grew marginally in a 12-year period from 2002 to 2014 as millions drop off the education sector grid after matric, Statistics South Africa revealed on Wednesday.
At a press briefing that took place in Pretoria, Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said that population group statistics showed that the numbers of people who attended universities in 2002 were: blacks, 2.8 percent; coloureds, 3.4 percent, and whites, 15.6 percent.
In 2014, the number of blacks attending universities had risen only minimally to 3.4 percent, while for coloureds it had declined to 3.0 percent and the attendance of whites had ballooned to 23.3 percent.
These figures were part of the 2014 General Household Survey which StatsSA released during the briefing.
The survey indicated that in 2002, Indians attending universities stood at 12.7 percent and this figure had increased to 13.1 percent.
“People say there are a number of black children that are attending school - that is true but it is the (population) proportions that count, not just the numbers,” he said.
“The number of blacks in universities is bigger but the key issue is the proportion. Can you imagine the number of black children aged 18 to 29 attending school? That’s about 2 million or more.”
“That problem translates to whether there are employment opportunities or not. That is why whites have a very low unemployment rate,” Lehohla said.
Touching upon history, he said, “Of course one has to remember historical legacies and so on, but looking forward we should be aspirational and shouldn’t argue on numbers, but on proportions of the population.”
The percentages relate to young people in the 18 - 29 age group.
The survey estimated that there were 783 545 students enrolled at higher education institutions across the country.
Almost two-thirds of the students were black Africans while 24.9 percent were whites, and 5.9 percent each for the coloured and Indian/Asian populations.
The survey found that 79.3 of students in this age group were enrolled at public education institutions in 2014, and approximately 89.2 percent of students paid amounts of R4 000 or more per year in tuition fees.
The survey also found that only 16.5 percent of students benefited from bursaries or fee reductions.
Eskom says it will implement stage one load shedding from 5pm until 10pm on Wednesday due to a shortage of generating capacity.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Eskom will implement stage one load shedding from 5pm until 10pm on Wednesday.
“This is due to a shortage of generating capacity as several units are currently out of service due to maintenance,” the power utility said in a statement.
Eskom said load shedding was a necessary measure to protect the power system,”and, to ensure that maintenance is carried out in order to guarantee that our supply of electricity can be maintained in the long term.”
“Any unexpected changes on the vulnerable and constrained power system could lead to a change in the load shedding stage at short notice,” Eskom cautioned.
Eskom called on all customers to reduce the load on the power grid by switching off geysers, air conditioners, pool pumps and all non-essential appliances throughout the day.
Time Warner Cable is once again at the centre of a cable mega-merger, reports Joshua Brustein.]]> |||
New York - Time Warner Cable is once again at the centre of a cable mega-merger, in the form of a $55-billion deal with Charter. The last time a cable giant tried to buy Time Warner Cable, the deal collapsed, largely over concerns about how bad it would be for customers. Charter is already hard at work arguing why it’s different this time around. And while Charter will be talking largely about how the cable industry will stay competitive, the deal could also result in some new competition in another arena dominated by a small number of companies that wield immense power: wireless.
Cable companies and wireless companies haven’t traditionally infringed on each others’ territory. The cable industry has focused on pay television; the wireless industry was all about phone calls. Today the main business of both industries is selling access to the Internet. Cable companies are developing their own wireless services in which people spend most of their time connected to Wi-Fi networks and fall back on cellular service to fill the gaps.
Doing this requires some access to cellular spectrum. Both Comcast and Time Warner Cable sold Verizon their rights to wireless spectrum in a $3.6-billion deal in 2011 but maintained the ability to access Verizon’s network for their own services. Verizon was largely seen to have secured a sweetheart deal at the time, says Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst at New Street Research. But he doesn’t think Verizon would strike a similar deal today.
“Nobody was talking about Wi-Fi-first wireless models,” he says. “Between then and now, though, a couple of these businesses were launched in Europe by cable companies and have been incredibly successful.” One of them, notably, was Telenet, a Belgium-based company owned by Liberty Global. John Malone is chairman of both Liberty Global and Liberty Media, Charter's largest shareholder.
Wi-Fi-first wireless services are slowly coming to the US. Smaller players have offered similar services for years at very low prices, Google used the approach when it launched its own wireless service last month, and Cablevision recently launched its own Wi-Fi-first wireless service. T-Mobile and Sprint have been happy to sell wholesale access to their networks for companies looking to resell wireless service. None of the existing products seem quite ready to compete with standard cellular plans - but the big players haven’t yet arrived.
The Charter-Time Warner deal would give the combined company about 17.8 million web subscribers second only to Comcast's 22.4 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Comcast is planning its own service Wi-Fi-first service while Charter believes it will inherit its access to Verizon’s spectrum if the Time Warner deal moves forward.
Charter Chief Executive Tom Rutledge told Bloomberg that one of Charter's next moves would be to build out its Wi-Fi business in homes and public spaces if the deal is approved. In a call with investors, he said that wireless will allow the company to add mobile-only customers. “I think that’s a long- term opportunity of the industry and one that’s enhanced by this combination,” said Rutledge. Presumably, these would come from people who have existing relationships with a wireless provider already.
Google’s wireless ambitions inspired predictions that prices would be pushed down by Wi-Fi-first plans. But Google Fi is a tiny experiment. When Comcast and the new Charter put the resources of their cable empires behind the idea, it could be real trouble for wireless companies, says Craig Moffett, an analyst with MoffettNathanson. AT&T, he wrote in a note to investors on Monday, “will be far smaller as a percentage of the US broadband market, and they will lack Charter's and Comcast's two-way infrastructure. That's a huge disadvantage. More broadly, the 'two camps' of Cable will each have the scale to compete with TelCos even more aggressively than in the past.”
The border incursions do go both ways. AT&T has reached a deal to acquire DirecTV, but the purchase still has to be approved by regulators. Verizon, meanwhile, is preparing to launch a mobile video service. Both companies have cable-like pay television services already. But the wireless companies aren’t cutting to the core of the cable business in the way cable could do to them. “Of all the businesses that any of these guys are in, pay TV is the worst,” says Chaplin. “Depending on how you allocate costs, it may be that pay TV doesn’t make money for the cable companies anyway.”
Finance chiefs from the Group of Seven industrial nations will meet in Dresden this week.]]> |||
Dresden, Germany - Little more than a gentlemen's club in recent years, G7 finance ministers and central bankers have their work cut out this week to revive stuttering global growth and defuse tensions over China's claims to economic power.
Topping the agenda for the finance chiefs from the Group of Seven industrial nations is how to keep a faltering global recovery on track as the threat of a Greek default, rising oil prices and bond market turmoil fuel investor nervousness.
The United States is likely to use the talks, beginning late on Wednesday and running through to Friday, as an opportunity to press Europe to reach a funding-for-reforms deal with Greece, an official close to the discussions said.
“I would expect the Americans to put pressure on the Europeans in Dresden about Greece,” the official said.
“The Americans are stressing the geopolitical risks and telling us we have to find a solution, that we cannot really put the euro area and Europe at risk because of Greece.”
Hosts Germany have given the meeting in Dresden the heading “Towards a Dynamic Global Economy”, but they and officials from the United States, Japan, Canada, France, Italy and Britain must also grapple with the rise of a power not even present: China.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Reuters last week that officials could talk informally at the meeting about the increased importance of the Chinese yuan.
The inclusion of the yuan in the International Monetary Fund's currency basket would mark another stage in China's rise as a global economic player, requiring the United States to accept a dilution of its power in international finance.
Having ignored US urgings not to sign up to a China-led development bank, European G7 members have signalled an openness to add the yuan this year to the basket of currencies makes up the IMF's Special Drawing Rights (SDR) - a virtual currency that defines the value of IMF reserves, used for lending to countries in financial difficulty.
The United States and Japan are again more cautious.
Including the yuan in the basket would increase China's influence at the IMF - an institution Washington was instrumental in designing and through which it has projected 'soft power' for the last 70 years.
The yuan, also known as the renminbi, is already the world's fifth most-used trade currency. Beijing has made strides this year in introducing the infrastructure needed to float it freely on global capital markets.
A senior US Treasury official said on Tuesday China's currency liberalisation plans were welcome and would be needed before the yuan was able to join the IMF currency basket.
While the Europeans are vying for commercial advantage in the world's second biggest economy, Washington sees Beijing also as a strategic challenger that may not feel bound by rules written by the West.
Greece, which is scrambling to strike a deal with its international lenders before an IMF loan falls due on June 5, poses a more pressing problem.
A senior US Treasury official said Washington would emphasise the need to find a pragmatic solution. Failure could have unpredictable consequences for the European and even global economies, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The EU and Switzerland have signed an accord that will end banking secrecy for EU residents and stop them from hiding undeclared income in Swiss banks.]]> |||
Zurich - The European Union and Switzerland signed a major accord on Wednesday that will end banking secrecy for EU residents and prevent them from hiding undeclared income in Swiss banks, the European Commission said.
The agreement deals “another blow against tax evaders, and (represents) another leap towards fairer taxation in Europe”, said Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for tax issues.
Moscovici signed the accord, which takes effect in 2018, along with Jacques de Watteville, the Swiss secretary of state for international financial matters and Latvian Finance Minister Janis Reirs, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.
“The EU led the way on the automatic exchange of information, in the hope that our international partners would follow,” Moscovici said in a statement.
“This agreement is proof of what EU ambition and determination can achieve.”
Under the accord, the EU and Switzerland will automatically exchange information on the bank accounts held by their respective residents beginning in 2018.
“This new transparency should not only improve member states' ability to track down and tackle tax evaders, but it should also act as a deterrent against hiding income and assets abroad to evade taxes,” the European Commission said.
The EU executive is negotiating similar accords with Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino that are expected to be signed by the end of the year.
The FBI agent who oversaw the Bernard Madoff investigation is now working for Goldman Sachs Group.]]> |||
Manhattan - The FBI agent who oversaw the Bernard Madoff investigation and helped pioneer the use of wiretaps that yielded dozens of insider-trading convictions is now working for Goldman Sachs Group.
Patrick Carroll, 50, joined the bank after almost a quarter century with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the latest in a line of former feds who’ve moved to Wall Street firms. He is a vice-president in Goldman Sachs’s compliance, surveillance and strategy group, part of a division overseen by Alan Cohen, global head of compliance.
While Carroll’s FBI career spanned bank robberies and organised crime, he’s best known for being at the investigative centre of securities-fraud cases ranging from Madoff and billionaire fund manager Raj Rajaratnam to a $554-million Ponzi scheme used to buy expensive teddy bears.
His appointment comes as regulators and prosecutors are tightening scrutiny of financial institutions, sometimes charging banks as corporate defendants and imposing billions of dollars in fines following guilty pleas.
“It’s really about how Goldman is reacting to the tidal wave of litigation that now seems to be part of the ongoing government toolkit for regulating banks,” said Roy Smith, a professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a former Goldman Sachs partner. “It can help to have some people who know how government prosecutors and investigators think, some guy who has the mindset of an alligator.”
Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs, declined to comment on the scope of Carroll’s work.
A native New Yorker with a Joe Friday “just the facts” style, Carroll became an agent in 1991, after stints at Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, in a bureau push to hire people with financial backgrounds following the savings-and-loan crisis. He got Series 7 and Series 63 licences soon after graduating from Fordham University.
He rose to become supervisor of one of the New York FBI’s two squads investigating white-collar crimes, eventually overseeing as many as 25 agents.
In 2003 the FBI unveiled Carroll’s 18-month undercover securities-fraud case called “Operation Wooden Nickel”. It borrowed law enforcement techniques commonly used against drug cartels and mobsters.
To unearth fraud in the foreign currency markets, he sent an undercover agent posing as a corrupt trader to work in an exchange and used co-operating witnesses to record brokers in boiler rooms, banks and interbank forex brokerages. Almost 50 traders were arrested for cheating thousands of investors in rigged trades. At least 40 were convicted.
“Here you have professional criminals operating at major, well-respected financial institutions,” Carroll said in an interview. “That was kind of an ‘aha’ moment, that we could do it, that these allegations are correct and that we were also capable of getting to it.”
The strategy would later be applied to hedge funds, which proved tough to infiltrate as rogue traders committed crimes with friends or business school classmates, he said.
Small-time traders “would always complain to us, ‘Why aren’t you doing anything about the bigger guys?’” said Carroll.
The prosecution of Galleon Group LLC co-founder Rajaratnam was the first significant use of wiretaps in a securities-fraud case. The evidence was essential, said Richard Holwell, the former judge who presided over the trial and upheld the legality of the intercepts.
“They provide a chance for the jury to hear it as it happens,” said Holwell, of Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP. “And there is something else - maybe if there is someone out there intent on breaking the law, they will now be more careful in light of the fact that their phone may be tapped.”
To date, more than 80 people have been convicted as part of the insider-trading initiative carried out by the Manhattan US Attorney, the FBI and regulators. Wiretaps played a role in many, and helped persuade at least a dozen people to plead guilty and co-operate after they were confronted with their recorded conversations.
The wiretaps have been controversial. While a federal appeals court rejected Rajaratnam’s argument that the intercepts weren’t properly authorised, two federal judges criticised their use. One said he was troubled by the FBI’s failure to stop listening to unrelated calls between a trader and his wife. The couple’s suit against 16 agents was dismissed on May 15 by an appeals court.
Carroll’s squad also had to deal with Ponzi schemes exposed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, including Madoff’s. When prosecutors needed to question and arrest Madoff, they called Carroll, said former prosecutor Bill Johnson. Madoff, who ran the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, is serving a 150-year prison term and 14 others were convicted.
The Ponzi schemes broken up by Carroll included one by two WG Trading Co. Fund managers convicted of swindling investors of $554 million. The US found the managers used the funds to buy horse farms, cars and rare Steiff teddy bears. An auction of the stuffed toys later generated more than 1.1 million pounds ($1.69 million).
Carroll, who started at Goldman Sachs in April, isn’t the first FBI agent from New York to join the bank, said Peter Grupe, his former FBI supervisor.
Joseph Demarest, currently the FBI’s assistant director of cyber-investigations and a former head of the New York office’s international terrorism branch, also did a stint at Goldman Sachs in its Global Security unit before returning to the bureau, Grupe said.
“The financial sector is a natural place for former FBI special agents to continue to make a difference, as the corporate security and compliance fields require strong leaders with honed investigative skills,” Demarest said in a statement. “The FBI produces some of the most seasoned and successful leaders in America, who often continue to put their specialised skills to work in private industry following government service.”
Carroll says he already knew many people at Goldman Sachs, having worked with “their compliance for many years”. His leaving was motivated by a desire for a new challenge after 25 years at the FBI, he said.
Given the fate of former employers Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, he added with a wry smile: “I haven’t told the FBI this, but every place I’ve left has crumbled.”
* With assistance from Michael J. Moore in New York
Gold recovered some lost ground on Wednesday as the dollar retreated after its biggest daily rise in two years.]]> |||
London - Gold recovered some lost ground on Wednesday as the dollar retreated after its biggest daily rise in two years, but prices remained under pressure from expectations that a US rate increase may come soon.
Gold fell 1.7 percent on Tuesday, its biggest one-day drop this month, after firmer data supported the view that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates this year.
That would lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion, while boosting the dollar, in which it is priced.
Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,187.90 an ounce at 09h40 GMT, while US gold futures for June delivery were down 50 cents an ounce at $1,186.40.
“We're seeing a bit of a reversal, with gold prices a little bit higher in a bounce-back after the decline yesterday,” LBBW analyst Thorsten Proettel said.
“Speculators are playing the scheme where good, positive news from the US economy (that) gives information about interest rate hikes is bad for gold, and the other way around.”
Positive data on US business investment spending, consumer confidence and house prices on Tuesday was in line with Fed Chair Janet Yellen's comments last week that indicated the US central bank is poised to raise rates later this year.
That boosted the dollar and weighed on shares.
A string of reversals from the previous day's sharp moves marked global financial market trading on Wednesday, with stock markets and crude oil rising and the US dollar retreating.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke emphasised on Wednesday that a move to raise US rates should be viewed as a positive sign for the world's largest economy.
Tuesday's gold price drop did little to stimulate demand from price-sensitive consumers in Asia, dealers said.
“Following the overnight rout, we were expecting to see some interest from Asia during today's session, however aside from a moderate level of support courtesy of Chinese trade, interest was generally muted,” MKS said in a note.
Silver was up 0.1 percent at $16.71 an ounce, while platinum was flat at $1,122.50 an ounce and palladium was up 0.3 percent at $782.50 an ounce.
Silver remains the best-performing precious metal this month despite Tuesday's 2.4 percent drop, up 3.4 percent since the end of April in its biggest monthly rise since January.
The Western Cape’s 2015 Farmworker of the Year competition aims to celebrate agricultural stars.]]> |||
Cape Town - The Western Cape’s minister of economic opportunities on Wednesday launched the 2015 Farmworker of the Year competition, which he said was “aimed at honouring excellence in the sector”.
Alan Winde said he believed that the province’s hardworking farmers needed to be celebrated and recognised.
“Like we celebrate the heroes of our sports fields, we need to celebrate the heroes of our economy,” he said. “Our agri-professionals play a vital role in ensuring that the produce delivered to our shelves, and to outlets across the world, is of a very high standard. They are helping us to grow this sector, and together, we are building a sustainable economic future.”
The Western Cape 2015 Farmworker of the Year competition is co-sponsored by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and Shoprite.
Jerome Thompson, a manager at a Kanonkop farm, beat over 1 000 entrants to win the 2014 Farmworker of the Year competition. And Thompson, who is scheduled to travel to France to meet and network with agribusinesses in the next few months, said: “Since I won the competition, residents in my area recognise me and people turn to me for advice. My goal is to start my own business. I also want to make a real difference in my area and would like to start a centre for development.”
There are 11 categories including irrigation specialist, agri-processing specialist and technical operator.
More than 6 000 farmworkers had entered the competition since 2002.
This year’s regional competition would take place in the following areas: Berg River, Breede Valley, Horsemanship, Durbanville, Elgin, Grabouw, Vyeboom, Villiersdorp, Franschhoek, Hexvallei, Klein Karoo, Koup, Langeberg, Olifants River, Overberg, Piket-Bo-Berg, Stellenbosch, Swartland and Witzenberg.
The competition’s first regional winner would be announced in July in the Witzenberg region, with the overall winner set to be announced in November.
Famous Brands has named Moses Kgosana as an independent non-executive director.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Famous Brands said on Wednesday it had appointed Moses Kgosana, the outgoing chief executive of KPMG Southern Africa and chairman of KPMG Africa, as an independent non-executive director, effective May 22.
Kgosana, who has 33 years of accounting, auditing and advisory experience in both the public and private sectors, has also served as lead director for KPMG’s international board.