GENEVA, July 30 -- Swiss prosecutors said Monday they have been assisting Japanese investigations into former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn, who has been indicted over financial misconduct and breach of trust.
Tokyo prosecutors requested Swiss assistance in investigations on Jan. 14, and the request was forwarded to the Canton of Zurich's prosecutors on March 8 following a summary probe, a spokesperson of the Swiss Federal Department of Justice. While Zurich prosecutors did not give details of the ongoing investigation, they are believed to be checking bank accounts associated with Ghosn as Tokyo prosecutors are apparently following the flow of money disbursed by Nissan and Renault SA in Europe and the Middle East. Many European and American financial institutions are based in Zurich, which is known for hosting many private banks and investment banks for the wealthy class. French media have reported Ghosn was making preparations since around last year to move his tax domicile to Switzerland, which offers preferential tax treatment to the rich.
The former boss of the major Japanese automaker has been accused of underreporting his remuneration and redirecting company funds, allegations he categorically denies. Since his arrest last November, investigations into Ghosn have spilled over to other countries. Earlier this month, French authorities searched the head office of Renault in connection with a probe into Ghosn's lavish 2016 wedding party at the Palace of Versailles. The once-feted auto tycoon also served as Renault chairman.
Ghosn has been free on bail since April and is now awaiting trial in Japan.
HONG KONG, July 30 -- Hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong have blocked train services during the early morning rush hour, causing commuter chaos, in the latest anti-government campaign to roil the territory.
Activists blocked train doors on Tuesday, playing havoc with services and forcing hundreds of people to stream out of railway stations in search of alternative transport. Rallies against an extradition bill, which would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial, have now evolved into a wider backlash against the city's government and its overseers in Beijing. Protests have been taking place almost daily, sometimes with little notice, piling pressure on Hong Kong's beleaguered government and stretching the city's police force, which some have accused of using excessive force. "We don't know how long we are going to stay here, we don't have a leader, as you can see this is a mass movement now," said Sharon, a 21-year-old masked protester who declined to give her full name.
"It's not our intention to inconvenience people, but we have to make the authorities understand why we protest. We will continue with this as long as needed." Others chanted, "Liberate Hong Kong," and "Revolution of our Time". Rail operator MTR Corporation said some services had been disrupted and urged people to use other forms of transport. Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997, is embroiled in its worst political crisis for decades after two months of increasingly violent protests. On Monday, China reiterated its support for Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, and its police and urged Hong Kong people to oppose violence. The latest protest follows a demonstration at the Chinese-ruled city's international airport on Friday and violent protests at the weekend, when activists clashed with police who fired rubber bullets, tear gas and sponge grenades - a crowd-control weapon. Minor scuffles broke out between protesters and commuters as some grew frustrated over the train stoppage. "It's so inconvenient and annoying, really. I am in hurry to work, to make a living. Will you give away your salary to me?" said one 64-year-old man.
BANGKOK, July 30 -- Citing concern for the health of General Prawit, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has announced that he will supervise the Royal Thai Police and chair the Police Commission himself.
Prayut was speaking to reporters after he officially took office as the concurrent defence minister by entering his office at the Defence Ministry. Prayut said he would supervise the national police force and head the Police Commission in lieu of his deputy, General Prawit Wongsuwan, because he has concerns over Prawit’s health. “I have concern for Prawit’s health. He has a very high level of determination for his other responsibilities,” Prayut said. He said Prawit has several other responsibilities, including national intelligence and the supervision of the National Security Council.
Prayut said he would screen promotions of both senior military and police officers that were nominated by their agencies, in order to ensure suitability. The prime minister said it was not certain whether he would also supervise the Department of Special Investigation, but he would make sure that all important tasks related to the DSI would get done. Prayut added that the DSI would also need to be reformed, as the agency may have too many police officers working for it. Regarding the military budget, Prayut said the military agencies may not get all of what they wanted because the government has limited money. But he insisted that the much-criticised procurement of submarines would not be cancelled. “The purchase must be made properly. There must be a committee to check it and make it transparent – and the issue is over,” Prayut said.
BEIJING, July 30 -- Almost three months after their trade talks broke down in acrimony, Chinese and American negotiators will meet again in Shanghai this week amid tempered expectations for breakthroughs in their year-long trade war.
Two days of talks are scheduled to restart on Tuesday (July 30) after a truce reached by Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last month.
Deep tensions remain, though, and recent days have brought mixed signals from both sides, with neither showing an urge to compromise. China has purchased millions of tonnes of soybeans from the United States, and Chinese companies will continue to seek American agricultural products including soybean, cotton, pork, sorghum, wheat, corn and dairy, state media Xinhua News Agency said on Sunday. The People's Daily newspaper said in a commentary on Monday that the move is a "concrete", "goodwill" step to implement the consensus reached by Mr Xi and Mr Trump in Japan, and called on the US to reciprocate and meet China halfway. Nevertheless, Beijing has also called the US the "black hand" behind anti-government protests in Hong Kong and said last Friday that an investigation into FedEx Corp's claims that it mistakenly rerouted Huawei Technologies packages to the US found additional legal violations. Mr Trump has spoken with tech executives about the ban on selling products to Huawei and potentially easing that prohibition while other US officials played down the possibility of a quick trade deal.
At stake is the health of the global economy, which is being weighed down by uncertainty for markets and companies. The International Monetary Fund last week further reduced its estimates for global growth and warned that damage was to some extent "self-inflicted" by prolonged uncertainty caused by the trade war, escalating tensions over technology and Brexit. "There is still a huge gap between the two sides on key sticking points," said Mr Robin Xing, chief China economist at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong. "So far, there is still no clear path towards a comprehensive deal." China is holding to its three key demands: The immediate removal of all existing tariffs, a balanced agreement, and realistic targets for additional Chinese purchases of American products. No achievements would be made if the US sticks to its existing stance during the Shanghai talks, Taoran Notes, a blog run by the state-owned Economic Daily newspaper, said last Friday. The US should remove all additional tariffs first if it wants to reach a deal, and equality and respect between the two sides are the only way to reach agreement, it said. China is not afraid of US threats to impose tariffs on an additional US$300 billion of Chinese goods, it said. Among the US's demands are structural reforms to China's economy, greater protection of intellectual property rights and a more balanced trading relationship. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said last Tuesday that Mr Trump's objective was to get "a proper deal". Leading the delegation from Washington, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "will put forth the view we'd like to go back to where we were last May, where we did not have an agreement but we seemed to be about 90 per cent of the way there", White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters last Friday. The prospects for an agreement are hampered by tensions over geopolitical issues including Hong Kong, North Korea, Taiwan and the South China Sea. Huawei remains a key point of contention, with China last week urging the US to block a proposed Bill that would stop the Chinese telecoms giant from accessing US patents.
AMSTERDAM, July 29 -- Alcohol-free beers drove rising sales at Dutch brewing giant Heineken in the first half of the year, but its shares slumped on Monday as profitability was flat.
The world's second-largest brewer said net profit was down by 1.4 percent to 936 million euros ($1.0 billion) while sales jumped to 13.6 billion euros, up 5.9 percent from the same period last year. Operating profit rose mostly due to a positive effect of currency changes, and its operating profit margin -- revenues minus costs -- actually dipped. The company's shares fell by more than 5.0 percent in midday trading in Amsterdam. A key driver of the Heineken brand's 6.9 percent growth was the demand for low or no-alcohol beer, with Heineken 0.0 now available in 51 markets around the world, the brewer said. Heineken said its partnership within China Resources Beer became effective at the end of April, now giving it access to the fast-growing Chinese premium beer market. Under the deal the Dutch brewer took a 40 percent stake in the holding company that controls China Resources Beer, merged its current operations into the firm and licence it to the Heineken brand for use in the Asian giant. The two firms are joining forces at a time when competition is becoming fierce in the Chinese market, with consumers turning towards foreign beers and premium products as middle class incomes rise.
SHANGHAI, July 29 -- The much-advertised new Star Market of the Shanghai Stock Exchange opened to a stellar start with all 25 new shares soaring by an average of 140 per cent.
The euphoria did not last long. By the second day, all but four of the new listings in China’s latest answer to America’s Nasdaq fell as investors took flight. The volatility looks set to continue for a while.
Collectively, the two dozen firms raised 37 billion yuan (US$5.4 billion). The trillion-dollar question on everyone’s minds is: Will the Science and Technology Innovation Board become another casino for China’s predominantly retail investors, or help viable new hi-tech unicorns raise funds and realize their true value? The timing is more auspicious than the launch of its cousin, ChiNext, a decade ago in Shenzhen. That was in the midst of the global financial crisis, and its total valuation is still 60 per cent off its peak in 2015. Policymakers want it to be different this time. The ongoing trade war with the United States means many Chinese start-ups will prefer to raise capital onshore than try to list in a country that has been openly hostile to China’s technological rise.
Is China’s tech board just another ‘casino’ for excitable punters?
Star Market was effectively created on the order of President Xi Jinping in November. It aims to provide a freer market mechanism to fund technological innovation rather than infrastructure projects. To discourage inexperienced retail investors, trading on the new market is restricted to players with at least two years of experience and 500,000 yuan in available funds. But the thresholds may be too low to make a difference. More than 140 firms in technology and science have applied for listing, which could collectively raise 128.8 billion yuan. If successful, that will certainly give Hong Kong’s stock exchange a run for its money. Since last year, the city has revamped its listing rules in a bid to attract mainland Chinese firms. The loosening of rules includes allowing companies with dual-class share structures and unprofitable biotechnology start-ups to go public. Dual-class structures allow existing owners or founders to retain their control of the company even if they only own a minority of shares after listing.
Star Market will be the first exchange in China to allow unprofitable technology companies, not just biotech start-ups, to list. A new IPO system means companies are required to disclose their earnings and operations in their listing applications. But regulators will let the market decide their valuations once their applications have been cleared. Beijing has long wanted to woo back national champions such as Alibaba Group (which owns the South China Morning Post), Tencent and Xiaomi to list onshore. To avoid fizzling out like ChiNext did, Star Market needs to prove that it is truly market-driven and able to attract big-ticket unicorns.
2019 Formula 1 World Championship Drivers' Standings
“This is a significant milestone for DiMuto because it strengthens our capabilities in using disruptive innovation to grow the global agri-food cold chain market in a bigger way,” said founder and chairman Gary Loh. “With PwC’s deep expertise in helping companies expand, we are confident of accelerating our expansion worldwide, as we continue rolling out our Track & Trace blockchain to benefit more industry players. Now that we have stronger resources, we envisage a faster rate of market adoption for DiMuto, which is platform-agnostic and interoperable among the different blockchain systems currently used by the big global retailers.”
DiMuto’s Track & Trace, which digitises each fruit into a traceable digital asset, tackles key issues that are hampering global trade in the cold chain market, including financing, supply chain transparency, food safety and waste. It also levels the playing field for small and medium-sized fruit businesses to compete with the big global brands. As it stands, Thailand’s Queen Frozen Fruits and Australia’s Morning Glory Enterprise are now using Track & Trace to monitor durians and spaghetti squash, respectively. During its three-month trial between March and June, DiMuto has tagged 1.2 million durians, apples, avocados, lemons and oranges for firms in the US, Thailand, Mexico, Australia and China.
“In today’s business environment, innovation is no longer just nice to have,” said Patrick Yeo, Venture Hub leader. “Businesses in all industries need to constantly innovate in order to keep up with the pace of change. Strengthening traceability in the food supply chain through innovative technologies is in line with our purpose of building trust in society and solving important problems, and we are pleased to be working with DiMuto in this regard.” Both parties intend to develop a trust framework for Track & Trace by establishing a set of principles to enhance safety and security in the food supply chain.
HONG KONG, July 29 -- Hong Kong police’s decision to fire tear gas in the heavily populated and residential district of Yuen Long on Saturday has come under fire, after a viral video showed residents of an old people’s home choking on the noxious substance.
The footage shows a cloud of tear gas spreading inside the room through a window, which is soon completely blocked from view. It contradicts the police’s earlier claim that no nursing homes had been affected by their clearance operation. Sounds of coughing can be heard on the video, with an old lady saying: “Why aren’t the windows closed?” The woman is believed to be a resident on the first floor of the Kwan Yue Elder Nursing Home in Yuen Long. The building faces On Lok Road, where tear gas was fired by riot police against protesters. On Sunday, a staff member from the nursing home said no residents had been sent to hospital because of the tear gas. He said police had called them in advance to take precautionary measures against possible chaos. An estimated hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers had defied a police ban on Saturday to march in the northern town to protest the brutal violence in Yuen Long MTR station last week, where a mob indiscriminately attacked passengers and protesters returning from a march against the extradition bill.
On Saturday afternoon, protesters advanced along On Lok Road with their umbrellas up as they hurled objects at the police, who used tear gas, sponge grenades, pepper spray and batons to drive them back at multiple spots. Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan had earlier said no elderly care homes had been affected, and said the force had called 22 of them nearby on Saturday. Staff from two other nursing homes confirmed they had received such calls, and added they were not affected with the windows closed.
VIENNA, July 29 -- Iran looking at further reduction of its commitments under JCPOA by September 4-5 as part of less-for-less approach, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sunday after a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"Further we are in early September, with September 4-5 being a reference date, when Iran plans to take the so-called third step to reduce its commitments as part of the less-for-less approach," he said.
"We called on the Iranians to refrain from that after all," he said, adding that it is necessary to see to it that Iran really has the economic possibilities that were provided by the deal and lost due to the US sanctions. "Some participants in the deal think that Iran must get back to the implementation of its commitments in full without any additional reservations or conditions," he said. "But in the current situation, it looks absolutely unrealistic."
Modernization of reactor at Iran’s Arak
Ryabkov added that the project for the modernization of the heavy water reactor at Iran’s Arak is nearing the equipment purchasing stage. "Progress has been made on the Arak project," he said. "It is not nominal. The stage of practical, purchasing activities is nearing. It is a separate question who will supply equipment there and what kind of equipment. But as a matter of fact, it is not a political question. It is a question to the designers." According to the Russian diplomat, the prospects for handing over equipment for the modernization of the reactor at Arak are seen as quite sensitive in some countries. "Anyway, we have an indirect relation to this project," he noted. "We are not going to supply any equipment there. All we can do is to offer our consultancy.". INSTEX vehicleThe European special purpose vehicle INSTEX aiming at facilitating trade between the European Union and Iran is operating in the pilot mode and a series of procedures are needed to make fully operational, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister noted.
"INSTEX is operating in the pilot regime. To make it fully operational certain political and bureaucratic procedures are to be finalized, in particular, to sign additional documents between ISTEX and a similar structure set up in Iran," Ryabkov said. The European Union announced the launch of the INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) vehicle at a previous meeting of political directors on June 28. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on July 17 that a number deals with several millions of US dollars had been executed via INSTEX but, in his words, it was not enough. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said earlier on Sunday that the EU’s vehicle was not yet operational.