WASHINGTON, June 14 -- American officials released images they said show that Iran was involved in an attack on an oil tanker near the entrance to the Persian Gulf on Thursday (June 13), one of a pair of incidents that have raised tensions between the United States and Iran over the past day.
An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat "was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous", one of two tankers attacked on Thursday, according to Navy Captain Bill Urban of the US Central Command. That was after another mine had already detonated, damaging the ship, the US said. The video and photographs showing a boat alongside the hull of a larger vessel with a hole in its side were released by the US Central Command along with a timeline of the episode. It was the first evidence publicly put forward by the US to support its claim - announced earlier on Thursday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - that Iran was behind the attacks. Iranian officials have rejected the accusation.
"Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls," Capt Urban said in a statement, adding that the crew of the Courageous was rescued by a Dutch tug and later taken aboard the USS Bainbridge. He said that the crew of the second tanker, the Front Altair, were put aboard a Revolutionary Guard Corp vessel. Iran said on Friday (June 14) it was responsible for maintaining the security of the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, state radio reported, adding that blaming it for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman was alarming. “We are in charge of maintaining security of the Strait and we rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time ... US Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo’s accusations towards Iran is alarming,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. Kokuka Sangyo, the Japanese operator of the Courageous, said it was attacked twice on Thursday, in incidents that were three hours apart, forcing the crew to evacuate. The tanker was carrying 25,000 tonnes of methanol from Saudi Arabia to Asia. Japanese public broadcaster NHK, citing Kokuka Sangyo's chief executive officer, said the ship was hit by a shell. The manager of the Norwegian-owned Front Altair said it was sailing in international waters when it was damaged by an explosion, and that the episode was being treated as a "hostile attack". The ship had loaded a cargo of naphtha in Abu Dhabi and was bound for Taiwan, a company official said.
BANGKOK, June 14 -- Nok Airlines Plc, the operator of Nok Air low-cost airline, has appointed Wutthiphum Jurangkool chief executive officer and executive director.
Acting CEO Pravej Ongartsittigul said the board of directors made the decision on Thursday and the appointment took effect on Friday, he added. Mr Pravej was the acting CEO since August last year. The board also appointed him as chairman of the executive committee starting Friday, he added. Mr Wutthiphum represents the Jurangkool family, the major shareholders' group of the airline. He served as director and executive at SE-Education Plc, a publisher and bookstore operator, and Aira Capital Plc, a holding company.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand on Monday renewed the operating licence for the airline for 10 years. Nok Air chairman Prasert Bunsumpun said the executive appointment and licence renewal would help ensure employees and clients the company could continue its operation. Nok Air board in April has approved the management to seek a 3-billion-baht loan to improve cash flow of the carrier.
The carrier's losses deepened over the past 18 months 304.2 million baht in the first quarter of this year from 26.9 million in the same period last year and 2.8 billion baht for all of 2018 compared 1.8 billion in the previous year. Its major shareholders are the Jurangkool family (67.4%) and flag carrier Thai Airways International Plc (15.9%). NOK shares climbed 0.04 baht to 2.30 baht at 12pm on Friday in thin trade.
SAPPORO, June 7 -- Japan will restart commercial whaling on July 1 in Kushiro, Hokkaido, after the government announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission in December, a local fishery source said Friday.
Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a moratorium adopted in 1982 by the IWC. Since 1987 it has hunted whales for what it claims is research, a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling. Following the withdrawal, Japan will hunt whales in nearby waters and within its exclusive economic zone but not in the Antarctic Ocean, where the country has carried out so-called "scientific whaling" for what it says are research purposes.
NEW YORK, June 6 -- Uber Technologies is testing a helicopter service in New York City, according to documents outlining the program obtained by Bloomberg.
Passengers will be able to use the Uber app to book a flight through the service, called Uber Copter, the documents show. Tests flights took off from a Manhattan heliport near Wall Street to John F. Kennedy International Airport. After Bloomberg asked Uber for comment on Wednesday, the New York Times published a story about the programme. It says customers will be able to book flights starting July 9 in New York City and that the average ride will cost US$200 to US$225 (S$273 to S$307) a person. Mr Eric Allison, the head of Uber's flight business, told the Times that the company plans to eventually offer helicopter rides in other cities. A spokesman for Uber declined to comment.
Helicopters have been whisking travellers from Manhattan to nearby airports for decades. Now, a startup called Blade Urban Air Mobility even lets customers book using an app. It currently offers regular flights from Manhattan to three airports six days a week for as little as US$195. "There may be no greater validation of Blade's strategy than Uber entering the urban air mobility market in New York City," said Blade's chief executive officer Rob Wiesenthal. As Uber geared up last month for America's largest initial public offering since 2014, the company emphasised its investment in various modes of transportation. In addition to the world's largest ride-hailing service for cars, it operates self-driving vehicles, electric bicycles, scooter rentals and now helicopters. Next week, Uber will host a conference about flying urban transport in Washington. When Uber Copter arrives next month, it will only be available to members of the company's loyalty programme who qualify for the top two tiers, Platinum and Diamond, said a person familiar with the plans. The rides can be booked on demand or up to five days ahead of time, said the person, who asked not to be identified. Each helicopter can accommodate five passengers, and like Uber car rides, prices will fluctuate based on demand and other factors.
The documents on Uber's test flights show that it shuttled two groups of riders on April 11. The rides, from Manhattan to JFK and back, took five passengers each way. The documents list the names of Uber employees on the manifest. According to the documents, passengers are to be greeted with, "Hello, welcome to Uber Copter".
NEW YORK, June 5 -- Coming soon to Instagram feeds everywhere: more sponsored advertisements from "influencers."
While this may be good news for users with large followings who make money promoting products, for the rest of us, it could mean wading through more unwanted ads in our feeds. On Tuesday, Instagram, a Facebook-owned platform known for photos that inspire envy and ire, announced changes to its advertising strategy that would allow brands to promote influencer-created content in people's feeds, even if those people do not follow the influencer's account. "One of the biggest requests from brands to date is the ability to incorporate branded content posts into their advertising strategies," the company said in a blog post. "With branded content ads, businesses have an opportunity to tell their brand stories through creators' voices, reach new audiences and measure impact," the statement continued. "Using the tools available on the Facebook ads platform, businesses can reach targeted audiences beyond the people who follow the brand and creator accounts." The ads will look similar to those already found in Instagram Feed and Stories but will be labeled "paid partnership."
The move, according to the company, is in response to brands' desire to better target users and offer a more organic ad experience. "Promoting content directly from an influencer's handle inherently gives the post more authenticity than coming from a brand handle, and we're seeing significantly higher engagement rates using this strategy," Liat Weingarten, vice president of brand communications for Old Navy, said in a quote included in Instagram's announcement. The company has been testing these ads since last year, according to Ad Age. Evan Asano, chief executive of MediaKix, an influencer marketing company, said big brands were clamoring to work with influencers and were "not afraid to drop US$500,000 for a spot with Kim Kardashian," the reality TV star who has nearly perfected the art of monetising social media. And now there are kidfluencers, nanoinfluencers and captionfluencers.
"Influencer marketing is blowing up," Asano said. "And Instagram wants a piece of that pie." According to Instagram, 68 per cent of its regular users say they come to the platform to interact with "creators."
Instagram has about 1 billion monthly active users, according to a company spokeswoman, who declined to share how much influencer marketing is worth. Other social media platforms have become inundated with ads as of late. Last month, Twitter acknowledged it had been running experiments with the frequency of advertisements. As a result, users' timelines became cluttered with junky ads and at least one malicious campaign, according to BuzzFeed News. Although Instagram's revenues are still largely generated by advertising, the company wants to create new revenue streams, and has recently introduced a tool that allows users to buy things without leaving the app. Most of the ads currently on Instagram are for "smaller brands you've never heard of" that sell things like zero-gravity beanbags or generic T-shirts, Asano said. "It's possible," he said, "that change signals that Instagram isn't monetising ads in a way that Facebook wants it to.
SHANGHAI, June 4 -- Sector evolves rapidly as high net worth individuals' objectives shift from wealth creation to preservation
As the country's financial regulator tightens its grip on the once sprawling wealth management market, the pace of development of the private banking sector targeting high-end customers has picked up, reflecting the maturing investment philosophy of high net worth individuals who each hold average investable assets of 6 million yuan ($870,000). Statistics from the China Banking Association showed that the 27 members of the private banking commission had attracted 705,900 clients by the end of 2018, up 21 percent from a year earlier. The total assets under management also surged 21 percent year-on-year to more than 11 trillion yuan.
"Commercial banks' general asset management business contracted last year, largely due to the newly released asset management regulations. But China's private banking sector grew unexpectedly, leading wealthy Chinese to invest in the country's key sectors to optimize social resources and accelerate the transformation of China's banking industry," said Bai Ruiming, deputy secretary-general of the association.
In late April 2018, the People's Bank of China, the central bank, and three other financial regulatory bodies released a new regulation for financial institutions' asset management business, in an attempt to avoid fixed returns and multi layered nesting of products. Five months later, a follow-up regulation for commercial banks' wealth management business was released to draw a definite line between public and private offerings. The policies had a noticeable effect. According to a survey jointly released by the global consulting firm BCG and China Construction Bank, China's wealth management market retained a compound average growth rate of 16 percent from 2013 to 2017. However, the market growth rate dropped to 8 percent last year, which was the first registered single-digit growth in years.