Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Erdogan says F-35 project would collapse without Turkey

April 30, 2019

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that an F-35 fighter jet project without Turkey was bound to collapse, and added that Ankara was being treated unfairly over the project.

Turkey plans to buy Russian S-400 missile defense systems, straining ties with the United States, which has said they would compromise the security of the Lockheed Martin F-35 jets. Ankara is both a prospective buyer of F-35s and also a partner in their production.

Speaking at a defense industry fair, Erdogan said those trying to exclude Turkey from the F-35 project had not thought it through and added that Ankara was rapidly taking steps to develop its own air defense systems.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Specter of extradition law spreads as Hong Kong bookseller flees to Taiwan

April 30, 2019

By James Pomfret

TAIPEI (Reuters) – A Hong Kong bookseller who was detained by China is seeking refuge in Taiwan, saying his home city will no longer be safe when new laws are enacted allowing extradition to China, which could drive even more emigrations from the financial hub.

Lam Wing-kee, 63, worked at a bookshop owned by a publishing company that printed books critical of China’s leaders and their private lives. He found himself at the center of a political storm in 2015 when he and five other Hong Kong booksellers were detained by Chinese agents.

After being held in China, he was allowed to return to Hong Kong on bail for a brief visit, but stayed and lived there as a fugitive protected by Hong Kong’s lack of an extradition law. Last week he left for Taiwan.

“There’s a 99 percent chance that they would catch me and send me back to China. They (Chinese authorities) have already explicitly said that I’m a fugitive,” he told Reuters in a basement bookshop in Taipei.

His decision to flee comes three months before the controversial laws are expected to be passed by Hong Kong’s legislature that would allow individuals, including foreigners, to be sent to a number of countries including China for trial.

The law is seen as a test of the autonomy of Hong Kong, which is ruled by China but has inherited a separate legal system from British colonial rule.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam says extradition laws are necessary to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for fugitive criminals. She has repeatedly cited the case of a Hong Kong man suspected of killing his girlfriend in Taiwan last year, who has been tried in Hong Kong for money laundering but cannot be sent off to face trial for murder.

“We have to ask ourselves whether we will continue to tolerate this loophole in our system…we will be making Hong Kong a haven for all these offenders of serious crime,” she has said. Hong Kong officials have made repeated assurances that no one will be extradited for political crimes, and that Hong Kong courts must approve every extradition request.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang re-iterated the extradition law is a necessary step for legal cooperation with Hong Kong, and would ensure the city doesn’t become a haven for criminals.

But many Hong Kong activists say the aim of the change is to tighten China’s grip on Hong Kong, in violation of promises made when it was handed over from Britain in 1997.

On Sunday, more than 100,000 people marched against the bill — the city’s biggest street demonstration in several years.

The bookseller said his “heart is in pain” at having to leave his home city. He said he was now striving to find a job, while raising funds with a Taiwanese partner to open up an independent bookstore there.

The government push on extradition rules comes as critics say freedoms have been corroded further by China’s Communist leaders in Hong Kong. A British editor was expelled, democratic activists jailed and barred from contesting local elections, and opposition lawmakers disqualified from public office.

“Hong Kong isn’t just changing into a city of sadness, it is becoming a tragic city,” said the silver-haired bookseller. “If the new laws are enacted, you will see a wave of emigrations, or refugees from Hong Kong.”

ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS

His incarceration was part of a coordinated operation by China’s security apparatus that led to five booksellers disappearing from locations in China, Hong Kong and Thailand in late 2015, and later showing up in Chinese detention where they were forced to make confessions on public television.

The case generated huge controversy, and undermined public confidence in China’s commitment to preserving Hong Kong’s freedoms under a so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement guaranteeing it a high degree of autonomy.

Since returning to Hong Kong, he laid low, taking precautions in case Chinese agents target him again, but also speaking out for democracy and fundamental rights.

“My dream is to have a free life now here in Taiwan,” said Lam who wore a brown cardigan and a cap with the United Nations logo knitted onto it.

“There’s no way I can remain in Hong Kong. But later, I will use my methods to retaliate against them (China), to undertake resistance. I hope to use a bookshop to struggle against them.

“We can help people know what’s going on in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China … A lot of other people can protest, demonstrate, write essays to resist China’s oppression. We will use a bookshop. The means is different but the goal is the same.”

Taiwan authorities acknowledged Lam’s case, and said that he could, like all others, seek legal employment which would entitle him to a residency period of 1-3 years.

“Taiwan is a society that protects human rights and stresses the rule of law. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the personal safety of all visitors to Taiwan,” a representative of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council wrote to Reuters.

(Reporting by James Pomfret in Taipei, additional reporting by Jessie Pang, Greg Torode and Donny Kwok in Hong Kong, Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Greg Torode and Peter Graff)

Britain’s Labour meets to decide stance on second Brexit referendum

April 30, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s main opposition Labour Party meets on Tuesday to hammer out its position on whether to demand a second referendum on any Brexit deal as part of its campaign for the European parliament election next month.

With Britain’s delayed departure from the European Union far from clear, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure from many lawmakers and party members to throw his support behind a second referendum, or confirmatory vote, on a Brexit deal.

So far, the party has stuck to its position that it would only back such a vote to prevent what it calls a “damaging Tory (Conservative) Brexit” or to prevent Britain leaving without a deal – a prospect that businesses increasingly fear.

A Labour source said Tuesday’s meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee was not likely to agree something beyond the current stance, which would mean Labour would not hold another vote if it secured its Brexit plan.

That could further infuriate Labour lawmakers, including deputy leader Tom Watson, who have been pushing for a second referendum, a rift that fuelled the breakaway of eight Labour politicians who have formed a new party called Change UK.

Nearly three years after voters backed exiting the EU by 52 to 48 percent, the main parties, like much of the country, are deeply divided over Brexit, leaving it unclear when, and even if, Britain will leave the bloc.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal has been rejected three times by parliament, forcing the Conservative leader to open talks with Labour to try to find common ground and win approval to avoid taking part in the European elections.

After nearly four weeks of the talks, Labour sources said Monday’s talks with the government were better in tone than before and that ministers had shown some willingness to move, declining to offer specifics.

But with time ticking down and a new Brexit deadline set for Oct. 31, parties are readying themselves for the May 23 elections, offering those wanting to remain in the EU and others supporting a clean break another potential battleground.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Boxed in: $1 billion of Iranian crude sits at China’s Dalian port

April 30, 2019

By Chen Aizhu and Florence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Some 20 million barrels of Iranian oil sitting on China’s shores in the northeast port of Dalian for the past six months now appears stranded as the United States hardens its stance on importing crude from Tehran.

Iran sent the oil to China, its biggest customer, ahead of the reintroduction of U.S. sanctions last November, as it looked for alternative storage for a backlog of crude at home.

The oil is being held in so-called bonded storage tanks at the port, which means it has yet to clear Chinese customs. Despite a six-month waiver to the start of May that allowed China to continue some Iranian imports, shipping data shows little of this oil has been moved.

Traders and refinery sources pointed to uncertainty over the terms of the waiver and said independent refiners had been unable to secure payment or insurance channels, while state refiners struggled to find vessels.

The future of the crude, worth well over $1 billion at current prices, has become even more unclear after Washington last week increased its pressure on Iran, saying it would end all sanction exemptions at the start of May.

“No responsible Chinese company with any international exposure will have anything to do with Iran oil unless they are specifically told by the Chinese government to do so,” said Tilak Doshi of oil and gas consultancy Muse, Stancil & Co in Singapore.

Iran previously stored oil in 2014 at Dalian during the last round of sanctions that was later sold to buyers in South Korea and India. https://reut.rs/2yo9Se6

China last week formally complained to the United States over the unilateral Iran sanctions, but U.S. officials have said Washington is not considering a further short-term waiver or a wind-down period.

The 20 million barrels is equal to about a month’s worth of China’s imports from Iran over the past six months, or about two days of the country’s total imports.

Iran says it will continue to export oil in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

A senior official with the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: “We will continue to sell our oil.”

“Iran is now desperate and will deal with anyone with steep discounts as long as they get paid somehow,” said Doshi.

(GRAPHIC: Iran crude oil shipments to China, https://tmsnrt.rs/2DzAegN)

SOME OIL TAKEN

Some Iranian oil sent to Dalian has moved, according to a ship tracking analyst at Refinitiv.

Dan, a supertanker owned by NITC moved 2 million barrels of oil from Dalian more than 1,000 km (620 miles) to the south to the Ningbo Shi Hua crude oil terminal in March, according to Refinitiv data.

Ningbo is home to Sinopec’s Zhenhai refinery, one of the country’s largest oil plants with a capacity of 500,000 barrels a day and a top processor of Iranian oil.

Sinopec declined to comment.

The Iranian tanker was chartered by state-run Chinese trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, according to Refinitiv analyst Emma Li. The NITC official confirmed the oil was taken by Zhuhai Zhenrong.

Zhenrong was started in the 1990s and brokered the first oil supply deals between Iran and China. At that time, Iran was supplying oil to China to pay for arms supplied by Beijing during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Zhuhai Zhenrong still specializes mainly in buying Iranian oil.(https://reut.rs/2IHlvEx)

An official at the general manager’s office with Zhuhai Zhenrong’s office in Beijing said he could not immediately comment. The company did not reply to a fax seeking comment.

For now, more Iranian oil is heading to China, with the supertankers Stream and Dream II due to arrive in eastern China from Iran on May 5 and May 7, respectively, Refinitiv data showed.

Some of this crude may be from Chinese investments into Iranian oilfields, a sanctions grey area.

Whether China will keep buying oil from Iran remains unclear, but analysts at Fitch Solutions said in a note “there may be scope for imports via barter or non-compliance from … China.”

Muse, Stancil & Co’s Doshi said the only way to get the Iranian oil out of Dalian now was by cheating.

“Only rogue parties might try to cheat the system and try to pass the Iranian oil at Dalian as something else via fraudulent docs. But I doubt this is easy or can amount to much in terms of volume.”

(MAP: Iranian supertanker frees some oil from China storage in March, https://tmsnrt.rs/2W1FJvK)

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Florence Tan in Singapore; additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and Min Zhang in Beijing; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Richard Pullin)

Former Italian PM Berlusconi hospitalized: report

April 30, 2019

MILAN (Reuters) – Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was taken by ambulance to Milan’s San Raffaele hospital on Tuesday, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on its website.

Corriere said the condition of the 82-year-old media tycoon’s condition was unknown.

(Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

Logitech shares fall as investors pocket recent gains

April 30, 2019

By John Revill

(Reuters) – Logitech International SA shares fell nearly 9 percent on Tuesday as investors cashed in on the computer peripheral maker’s gains this year and success providing fast keyboards and mice for players of online games like Fortnite.

Traders said the sell-off followed Logitech shares’ gaining 40 percent since the start of the year, rather than the latest earnings and sales which were roughly in line with forecasts.

The Swiss-U.S. company, which also makes mobile speakers and video conferencing equipment, reported a 22 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit to $42.1 million. Revenue increased 5.4 percent to $624.3 million, matching analyst estimates.

The surprise departure of Chief Financial Officer Vincent Pilette “to pursue a senior management role at another company” and Logitech’s not upgrading its guidance for its next financial year could also have played a role, traders said.

“The figures are fundamentally OK, but Logitech’s shares have risen very strongly this year, so there is now some consolidation,” one Zurich-based trader said.

Pilette’s departure, after six years at Logitech, could also be a contributory factor, the trader said.

“The CFO leaving is a secondary reason, although everyone is replaceable these days,” he said.

At 0830 GMT Logitech shares were down 3.7 percent to 40.81 Swiss francs. The stock started 2019 at 30.92 francs.

For the year as a whole, Logitech sales increased 10 percent, when currency swings were removed, to $2.79 billion.

“We’ve delivered our third consecutive year of double-digit growth in constant currency and our highest fiscal year sales ever,” said Chief Executive Bracken Darrell, who has led the turnaround of the company.

Darrell described Pilette, who was popular among the investment community and invested in Logitech before joining the company from Electronics For Imaging, as a “terrific partner”.

Nate Olmstead, head of finance, will be interim chief financial officer when Pilette leaves at the end of May.

Logitech said it expected to increase its sales in the mid- to high single-digit range and increase its operating income to $375 million to $385 million during its 2020 financial year, confirming the outlook it gave in March.

During the 2019 business year, which ended on March 31, Logitech had twice increased its guidance.

Analysts described the figures as positive with strong profit margins.

“We regret Vincent Pilette’s departure and it will be important that his successor pursues the same discipline in executing on the business model,” said Michael Foeth at Bank Vontobel.

(Reporting John Revill in Zurich by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Rigby and Michael Shields)

Supervisors ignored Russian warnings over money laundering at Danske: document

April 30, 2019

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Russia’s Central Bank sent warnings in 2007 and 2013 to Estonian and Danish financial supervisors over suspect transactions worth billion of dollars at the Estonian branch of Danske Bank but they were largely ignored, a confidential EU document shows.

The EU paper, seen by Reuters, is the outcome of an investigation by the European Banking Authority (EBA) and details for the first time the extent of supervisory shortcomings in the two countries over the Danske case.

The EBA investigation followed the disclosure last year of a money-laundering scandal at Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, which has admitted that 200 billion euros of suspicious transactions flowed through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

The EBA document cites internal communications between the Russian Central Bank and the Estonian and Danish supervisors in which Moscow warned of money laundering risks and tax evasion linked to payments to clients of the Estonian branch of Danske Bank.

The EBA document showed that regulators did not take sufficient action to address risks after the Russian warnings, in what the EBA said was a breach of EU rules.

Earlier this month, the EU’s national banking supervisors, who control the EBA, rejected the watchdog’s proposal on the rule breach and effectively blocked further action against the Estonian and Danish regulators.

The two regulators from Estonia and Denmark and the Russian Central Bank did not respond to Reuters requests for a comment. The EBA was not immediately available.

EU lawmaker Sven Giegold, who sits on the EU parliament’s committee on financial crime, said in a letter to the EU Commission that the EU executive should start legal proceedings against Denmark and Estonia for their flaws in applying EU laws.

“The case of the Danske Bank is not closed for us, regardless of the decision of EBA,” EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova said in a statement, without elaborating on whether Brussels will open a legal procedure on this case.

“DOUBTFUL TRANSACTIONS”

EBA document showed that a few months after Danske Bank had acquired Finland’s Sampo Bank and its Estonian business in February 2007, the Russian Central Bank sent a warning to the Danish and Estonia authorities.

In a letter dated June 8, 2007, the Russian Central Bank alleged that “clients of Sampo Bank permanently participate in financial transactions of doubtful origin” worth billions of roubles monthly.

The Central Bank’s letter alleged that Sampo’s clients resided mostly in offshore jurisdictions, including the British Virgin Islands and Britain, noting these clients were receiving transfers from Russian shell companies that were not justified by real exchanges of goods or services and were instead likely concealing tax evasion and money laundering.

The EBA document said neither the Estonian nor the Danish authorities properly followed up on the Russian warning.

The EBA document also said that two years after the Russian warning, the Estonian regulator said Danske had adopted measures “in line with the highest international standards.”

But problems at the Estonian branch of the bank continued, according to the EBA document.

The EBA cited a second letter to the Estonia supervisor from the Russian Central Bank sent in February 2013 which alleged that Danske’s branch in the country had executed transactions to accounts of non-resident clients meant “to launder proceeds of crime from Russia.”

This letter alleged the suspicious transactions amounted to more than $3 billion in 2011 and 2012 alone.

The EBA document, citing this second warning from Russia, concluded that the Estonian and Danish supervisors did nothing meaningful to immediately address the situation.

The EBA document found that the two national watchdogs were in breach of their EU obligations for the period between 2007 and 2014.

In that period the two regulators had the opportunity to address risks but “despite identifiable risk indicators, they did not cooperate with each other to do so effectively, nor did they take appropriate supervisory action separately,” the draft EBA report said.

The authorities changed tack from 2015, EBA said, which led to the disclosure by Danske Bank last year of alleged money-laundering activities at its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; additional reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, John O’Donnell and Andrey Ostroukh; editing by Jane Merriman)

Algerian ex-PM in court for corruption probe: Ennahar TV

April 30, 2019

ALGIERS (Reuters) – Algeria’s ex-Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia appeared in court as part of a corruption probe, private channel Ennahar TV reported on Tuesday.

He joined a list of powerful figures including the finance minister and several oligarchs to face judicial investigations since mass protests forced the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika this month.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Peter Graff)

Vodafone found security flaws in Huawei equipment in 2011, 2012

April 30, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Telecoms group Vodafone found security flaws in equipment supplied by China’s Huawei to its Italian business in 2011 and 2012, the two companies said on Tuesday.

Vodafone, Europe’s biggest telecoms group, said it had found security vulnerabilities in two products and that both incidents had been resolved quickly. Bloomberg reported the news first.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, is under intense scrutiny after the United States told allies not to use its technology because of fears it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying. Huawei has categorically denied this.

Britain last week sought to navigate its way through the bitter dispute between the two countries, deciding to block Huawei from all core parts of its 5G network and restrict access to non-core parts.

Huawei said it was made aware of historical vulnerabilities in 2011 and 2012 and that they had been addressed at the time.

“Software vulnerabilities are an industry-wide challenge,” it said. “Like every Information and Communications Technology vendor we have a well-established public notification and patching process, and when a vulnerability is identified we work closely with our partners to take the appropriate corrective action.”

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Jack Stubbs, editing by Louise Heavens)

Samsung Electronics bets on better second-half after first-quarter profit slumps

April 30, 2019

By Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd flagged improved second-half results on expectations of a pick up in memory chip and smartphone sales, after posting its weakest profit in more than two years in the first quarter.

The world’s top maker of semiconductors, however, warned of more short-term pain in the second quarter, with memory chip prices likely to decline further before a rebound in demand as data centers re-stock later in the year.

“For the second half of 2019, the company expects memory chip demand for high-density products to increase, but uncertainties in the external environment will persist,” the tech giant said in a statement.

Hit by falls in chip prices and slowing demand for display panels, Samsung posted operating profit of 6.2 trillion won ($5.4 billion) in the quarter ended March, smallest since late 2016 but in line with the company’s guidance.

Revenue fell 13.5 percent to 52.4 trillion won, also in line with its earlier estimates.

Samsung’s core semiconductor business booked a 64 percent fall in operating profit to 4.1 trillion won, while the display business logged 560 billion won in losses.

Memory chip makers have been hit by a downturn in the global smartphone market and a fall in demand from data centers behind cloud computing services amid a broader economic slowdown.

Samsung’s smaller rival, SK Hynix, last week posted the slimmest quarterly operating profit in over two years. But it was confident chip demand would recover later this year, a sentiment echoed by Samsung on Tuesday.

Samsung said its server DRAM chip customers would start rebuilding inventories from the end of the second quarter, while new smartphone models would support sales of mobile DRAM.

For NAND flash memory chips that suffered big price falls since last year, Samsung said market conditions would stabilize in the second half as high-density chip adoption for mobile devices drives up demand.

An easing in China-U.S. trade tensions could also unlock some demand for consumer electronics and encourage Chinese cloud service providers, which had stockpiled chips in anticipation of a prolonged trade war, to lower their inventories to more normal levels, analysts said.

“On the macroeconomic side, China may give a boost to its IT industry to support the economy and if there’s a trade agreement signed between China and United States, these will drive up demand for Samsung’s products, like chips,” senior analyst Song Myung-sup at HI Investment and Securities said.

MOBILE WORRIES

The world’s top smartphone maker said its mobile business posted a 40 percent drop in operating profit to 2.3 trillion won in the first quarter.

The Apple Inc rival and supplier is hoping to revive flagging growth in its mobile business with its latest handset, featuring a big, bending screen.

But in a blow to its renewed focus on innovation, Samsung delayed global sales of the foldable phone after reviewers discovered problems with the display.

Samsung, which supplies screens for its own folding phones, forecast weak second-quarter earnings in the display business as demand for flexible screens was expected to remain weak.

But it said demand for flexible display panels would likely pick up and sales for its smartphones were also expected to rise in the second half, led by new models in all segments including the low-end Galaxy A series.

There is “no change” in the company’s push toward foldable phones, said Lee Jong-min, vice president of the company’s mobile business.

“Samsung Electronics have been preparing Galaxy Fold for a long period and there’s no change to our direction to provide premium experiences for customers desiring innovation,” Lee said, reiterating Samsung will find the reason behind the problems with the display.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Stephen Coates and Himani Sarkar)

Sea of Thieves update: Anniversary DLC downtime plans, patch notes and changes



XBOX ONE owners can soon download the massive new Sea of Thieves gameplay update.

Kirin 985 to be mass-produced with 5G modems

Last month we heard rumors that the Huawei Mate 30 could be the first smartphone with a chipset built on the EUV process, and now media representatives in Taiwan confirm the information. Not only that, but Huawei's chip manufacturer HiSilicon will implement 5G modem in all the chips, effectively making all future Huawei flagships 5G-compatible. The new processor will be manufactured using the FC-PoP method (FlipChip Package-on-Package), which allows vertical stacking of transistors. Combined with the Extreme UltraViolet process, the transistor density will be increased by 20% -...

Emperor Akihito prays ahead of Japan’s first abdication in two centuries

April 30, 2019

By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Emperor Akihito prayed to a Shinto sun goddess on Tuesday, starting a day of ceremonies to mark the end of a three-decade reign in which he sought to ease painful memories of World War Two and bring the monarchy closer to people.

Akihito, 85, was the first monarch to take the Chrysanthemum Throne under a post-war constitution that defines the emperor as a symbol of the people without political power. His abdication is the first in two centuries.

His father, Hirohito, in whose name Japanese troops fought World War Two, was considered a living deity until after Japan’s defeat in 1945, when he renounced his divinity.

Akihito, together with Empress Michiko, his wife of 60 years and the first commoner to marry an imperial heir, carved out an active role as a symbol of reconciliation, peace and democracy.

“I think the emperor is loved by the people. His image is one of encouraging the people, such as after disasters, and being close to the people,” Morio Miyamoto, 48, said as he waited near a train station in Tokyo.

“I hope the next emperor will, like the Heisei emperor, be close to the people in the same way,” he said.

Akihito, who has had treatment for prostate cancer and heart surgery, said in a televised address in 2016 that he feared his age would make it hard for him to carry out his duties fully.

REPORT TO THE SUN GODDESS

Akihito reported his abdication in sanctuaries inside the Imperial Palace, including one honoring the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, from whom mythology says the imperial line is descended, and two others for departed emperors and Shinto gods.

Video aired on NHK public TV showed Akihito, wearing a dark orange traditional robe and black headdress, walking slowly into the first sanctuary as a courtier in a white robe walked behind holding the train and another carried a sword. Crown Prince Naruhito conducted a similar ceremony, NHK said.

Ahead of the ceremonies, Japanese onlookers and foreign tourists gathered outside the palace amid tight security.

“I wanted to come to the Imperial Palace as they (emperor and empress) are like the father and mother of the country,” said Kimiyo Miyagawa, 68, a housewife from northern Japan who came with her daughter to be near the palace.

“I would like to tell them ‘Thank you so much for your hard work’,” she said. “I’m full of gratitude.”

The abdication will be marked by a brief and relatively simple ceremony in the Imperial Palace’s prestigious Matsu no ma, or Hall of Pine. About 300 people will attend and it will be broadcast live on television.

Attendees at the afternoon abdication ceremony will include Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, as well as the heads of both houses of parliament and Supreme Court justices.

Imperial chamberlains will carry state and privy seals into the room along with two of Japan’s “Three Sacred Treasures” – a sword and a jewel – which together with a mirror are symbols of the throne. They are said to originate in ancient mythology.

Abe will announce the abdication and Akihito, wearing Western morning coat, will make his final remarks as emperor.

NEXT EMPEROR

Not everyone was excited by the imperial changeover.

“It’s a normal day. That kind of political stuff is irrelevant to us ordinary people,” said Masato Saito, a 40-year-old construction worker. “As long as they make our lives easy to live, that’s all I care.”

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania offered their “heartfelt appreciation” to the royal pair in a statement.

Naruhito, 59, will inherit the throne in separate ceremonies on Wednesday. Naruhito, who studied at Oxford, is likely to continue an active role and together with Harvard-educated Masako give the monarchy a cosmopolitan tinge.

Police have tightened security near the Imperial Palace, a 115-hectare site that is home to the emperor and empress in the heart of Tokyo. Media said several thousand police officers were being mobilized in the capital over the next few days.

Tuesday marks the last day of the Heisei imperial era, which began on Jan. 8, 1989, after Akihito inherited the throne. The era saw economic stagnation, natural disasters and rapid technological change.

Akihito officially remains emperor until midnight, when the new Reiwa era, meaning “beautiful harmony”, begins.

Japanese traditionally refer to the date by the era name, or “gengo”, a system originally imported from China, on documents, calendars and coins but many people also use the Western calendar.

(Additional reporting by Malcolm Foster and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel, Paul Tait and Darren Schuettler)

Why Airbus isn’t pouncing on Boeing’s 737 MAX turmoil

April 30, 2019

By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) – When Boeing launched its 737 MAX jetliner in response to Airbus’s record-selling A320neo, a wave of poker-faced satisfaction spread through Airbus headquarters in France.

Its reasons for cheering Boeing’s decision to make a similar jet, based on a similar strategy of engine efficiencies, partly explain why Airbus is wary of exploiting Boeing’s misery over the global grounding of the MAX today, industry sources say.

Airbus has joined major airlines in expressing confidence that Boeing will emerge soon from a crisis caused by two fatal crashes. In the first place, that is because both giants share a stake in preserving public trust and rarely compete on safety.

“This is not good for aviation,” new Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said of the MAX crisis earlier this month.

But the history of the MAX and its competitor, the Airbus A320neo, also illustrates why the two companies are unlikely to come to blows over the future of the MAX beyond their fierce day-to-day competition, strategists and industry officials say.

Airbus and Boeing operate a roughly equal duopoly in the market for single-aisle jets that Airbus values at $3.5 trillion over 20 years.

Neither can afford to fall too far behind without suffering a big disadvantage on costs, which depend heavily on volumes.

If one of them did, it would likely take drastic action – anything from launching a price war to developing a new jet – that could destabilize both, and so market forces tend to keep the two companies’ strategies in line, industry insiders say.

In 2011, Airbus was testing that alignment with record sales of its recently launched A320neo, offering more efficient engines. It had launched the upgraded A320 after beginning to lose ground to a new competitor, Canada’s Bombardier CSeries.

By adopting similar engines, Airbus was able to block the CSeries and stimulate massive orders from its existing customer base, while sending a message to an even bigger potential rival, China, that the core of the jetliner market would be defended.

But Airbus was also worried that its strategy would have to be torn up as Boeing considered leapfrogging it with an all-new jet that would take longer to build but give more efficiencies.

Airbus knew it would have to respond to this with a costlier Plan B aircraft, code-named A30X, but was facing multiple calls on its cash, including problems with its A400M military plane.

Airbus decided it needed to force Boeing off the fence and struck in its backyard with a deal to sell 460 jets to American Airlines, several people familiar with the negotiations said.

Calculating it would lose too many such deals before its all-new jet was ready, Boeing did a U-turn and announced a re-engined 737 in time to win back almost half the American order.

Engine maker General Electric was also influential in nudging Boeing to a new strategy, and had a draft engine deal in place even before Boeing officially changed position, two people familiar with the talks said. GE had no immediate comment.

WRONG TIMING

Eight years later, both planemakers have sold thousands of their respective re-engined jets and have seen share prices jump five-fold, lifting the entire commercial aerospace sector.

Not only could the duopoly be destabilized if the MAX had to be replaced, but now would not be an ideal time for a technology arms race in this crucial part of the market, experts say.

Led by Boeing, planemakers widened the use of lightweight carbon-composite materials earlier this decade. Then it was the turn of engine makers to produce a quantum leap in performance.

Future game-changers may lie in artificial intelligence and automation in the cockpit, but these are not yet mature.

“The technology for major new steps in materials, engines and piloting are not there right now. It is not the best time for either side to destabilize the market and launch a new single-aisle plane,” a senior industry strategist told Reuters.

Furthermore, Airbus is not as ready as it would like for a parallel race in factory technology needed for a new plane.

Add to this investments already made by suppliers, banks and manufacturers, and their reliance on preserving resale values of planes already flying, and few are in a hurry to start afresh.

“Industrially and competitively it is logical in a duopoly that you need a reasonably strong competition,” said Rob Morris, head consultant at UK-based aerospace advisers Flight Ascend.

In the short term, Airbus has little capacity to push output higher, even though some Boeing customers are already courting it in public – a move partly seen as an effort to negotiate better terms with Boeing.

But the possibility of radically upsetting the duopoly may have receded under new Airbus sales chief Christian Scherer, a market-share pragmatist who helped launch the A320neo, and Faury, a cautious engineer focusing on industrial improvements.

Faury on Tuesday played down the prospect that the MAX crisis would open up new business for Airbus and said the grounding “does not change the mid-term to long-term picture”.

Airbus has already won a larger share of the single-aisle market than expected, leaving the usual 50/50 split with Boeing skewed toward Airbus, now on 60 percent. Experts say a further land grab could have unpredictable consequences for both.

“Boeing can’t accept market share below 40 percent. If the MAX fails, Boeing has to do something fundamental and Airbus has to respond,” Morris said.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter and Louise Heavens)

EU court rules in favor of bloc’s trade deal with Canada

April 30, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The EU-Canada free-trade agreement’s provisions to protect investors do not breach EU law, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday in a major relief for proponents of the deal that came into force in 2017.

The ECJ’s judges said in their ruling that the mechanism to resolve disputes between investors and states, which critics say unfairly favor multinationals, is in line with EU law.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Robin Emmott)

Avengers Endgame screenwriters reveal why [SPOILER] had to DIE – ‘It’s no TRAGEDY’



AVENGERS ENDGAME screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have revealed why a certain major character had to die.

European shares fall as growth worries linger; AMS rises

April 30, 2019

(Reuters) – European shares fell on Tuesday as a decline by banks and weak China factory data offset a surge in shares of chipmaker AMS, while investors waited for euro zone economic growth numbers.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index edged lower by 0725 GMT. Most major indices fell except London’s FTSE 100, which was little changed.

China’s manufacturing activity failed to meet expectations, underscoring weakness in the world’s second-largest economy.

In contrast, French economic growth held steady in the first quarter and Spain’s preliminary gross domestic product beat expectations. Investors now are waiting for economic growth data for the euro zone later in the day.

Banks were the biggest weight on the STOXX 600. Danske Bank, caught up in a money-laundering scandals, fell more than 6 percent after lowering its outlook for 2019. Santander, the euro zone’s biggest bank by market value, also slipped after first-quarter net profit.

Nordea Bank and BBVA also reported lower profits and fell more than 2 percent each.

Standard Chartered, however, advanced after the bank announced plans for up to $1 billion of share buybacks, its first in at least 20 years.

Airbus slipped after the European planemaker reported a heavy drain on cash, which overshadowed slightly higher-than-expected core first-quarter profits.

Rising fuel costs and excess capacity in Europe dragged German airline Lufthansa into a first-quarter loss. The stock shed 3 percent.

Among the bright spots, chipmaker AMS jumped 16 percent, boosting the tech index, after it beat forecasts for first-quarter profit and gave an upbeat outlook for the second quarter.

An Apple supplier, the AMS results came before Apple’s on quarterly report, due late on Tuesday.

The world’s top maker of semiconductors, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, reported weak quarterly profit but forecast a recovery in demand in the second half of the year.

Apple, General Electric and McDonald’s are all due to report their earnings later in the day.

(Reporting by Agamoni Ghosh and Medha Singh, editing by Larry King)

Google parent’s shares dive as YouTube changes, competition hurt revenue

April 30, 2019

By Arjun Panchadar and Paresh Dave

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday saw its slowest revenue growth in three years from increased competition in advertising, stumbles in its smartphone business and disruptive changes at YouTube that left the leading internet ad company lagging rivals.

Shares of Alphabet dropped 7.5 percent after hours, setting them up for the biggest one-day drop since falling 8 percent in October 2012. They had closed Monday at a record-high of $1,296.20.

Alphabet Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat attributed slower revenue growth to currency fluctuations, competition and unspecified product changes.

The company is facing continued pressure from advertisers to tighten controls on its fast-growing YouTube video service so that they not appear to be sponsoring adult or offensive content.

Google also is struggling to find the right mix of ad formats to use on mobile devices, voice assistant-enabled home speakers and in emerging markets.

Eight of the 11 analysts who questioned executives on a call on Monday asked about the revenue issues, an unusual level of shared interest. But the executives offered limited new details, prompting Barclays’ analyst Ross Sandler near the end to preface a question by saying he was just beating a dead horse.

Reflecting on the sales growth slowdown, Porat said unspecified changes at YouTube had boosted first-quarter revenue a year ago, with nothing delivering a comparable bump this year.

About 85 percent of Alphabet’s revenue comes from Google’s ad business, which sells links, banners and commercials across its own websites and apps and those of partners.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said revenue slowdowns should be expected as the company focuses on the long term.

“You are going to have quarter-to-quarter variations once in a while, but we remain confident about the opportunities we see,” he said on a conference call.

Major competitors for ad spending such as Facebook Inc, Snap Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Twitter Inc all reported last week quarterly revenue above or in line with analysts’ expectations.

Alphabet said its quarterly revenue rose 17 percent from a year ago to $36.3 billion, about $1 billion short of Wall Street’s average estimate, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company said it would have met expectations, adjusting for currency fluctuations.

The growth was the slowest since 17 percent in the first quarter of 2016 and compared with 26 percent for the same quarter in 2018.

Facebook, the No. 2 internet ad company, posted 26 percent growth to $15.1 billion in quarterly results last week. [nL3N2264UK]

“Google ad revenue growth has been slowing amid downward pressure on ad prices, especially for revenues coming from international markets,” Monica Peart, senior forecasting director for ad research firm eMarketer said in a statement. 

RISING COSTS

Alphabet’s quarterly costs rose about the same as revenue, up 16.5 percent from last year to $29.7 billion.

Expenses have surged faster than revenue for much of the past two years as it adds data centers, offices and YouTube content licenses, concerning some investors amid increased scrutiny on the company’s privacy practices and the advertising restrictions at YouTube.

More advertising controls are coming to YouTube in the coming weeks that could affect sales, Pichai said.

In the first quarter, sales of Google’s Pixel phones also struggled from intense competition in the premium smartphone market, Porat said. The company is expected to introduce lower-priced Pixel devices next month.

Alphabet has yet to tout significant revenue from its spending on ventures such as self-driving cars and its AI helper Google Assistant.

Newer units that are producing noticeable revenue have lagged in market share, including Google’s consolidated hardware unit and Google Cloud, which sells computing and data storage services to businesses.

And Google’s costs could jump further if governments globally follow through on threats to rein in the ability of apps to track users for advertising purposes. Other regulators have discussed forcing companies to step up monitoring of user content. Cost will rise in the current quarter as Google resumes some marketing efforts, Porat said.

Shares of Alphabet have gained 23 percent this year as positive macroeconomic signals had given investors reason to bet on it. But it is the least growth among the so-called FAANG group, with Facebook at 48 percent, Netflix at 39 percent, Apple at 30 percent and Amazon at 29 percent.

EUROPEAN FINE

Alphabet’s expenses included a $1.7 billion fine from the European Commission for having placed anticompetitive advertising restrictions on websites using its searches.

Google’s 3 billion users help make it the world’s largest seller of internet ads, capturing nearly a third of all revenue, according to research firm eMarketer. Facebook is at about 20 percent.

Including the European fine, net income was $6.7 billion, or $9.50 per share, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $7.3 billion, or $10.48 per share. Earnings excluding the fine were $8.3 billion, or $11.90 per share, beating analysts’ estimates $10.61 per share for adjusted earnings.

Operating margin excluding the fine was 23 percent, up from 22 percent in the year-ago period.

(Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Lisa Shumaker)

Realme's RMX1901 will be called the Realme X

Last week, a Realme device passed through the TENAA with a large bezel-less display and a pop-up camera. The device was explicitly named RMX1901 on the filing, but we are now learning this Realme smartphone is going to be called the ‘Realme X'. This according to Chief Marketing Officer of Realme: Xu Qi Chase. The CMO made a Weibo post that revealed the phone's name. A promotional video for Realme was posted to the phone maker's Weibo account with a new Realme song. The video also showed the unreleased smartphone in a few quick shots. Stills from Realme video This looks...

Indebted Chinese seek wisdom of credit card ‘goddesses’ as retail lending surges

April 30, 2019

By Shu Zhang and Samuel Shen

SINGAPORE/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – In a ballroom at the Vienna International Hotel in Shanghai, Mei Liangming was giving a lecture on the ins and outs of getting credit cards, rolling over debts with multiple cards, and cleaning up one’s bad credit history.

“When you’ve nothing left to pledge as collateral and banks no longer wish to lend any money to you, your credit cards are your life raft,” Mei, a financial consultant from Shenzhen Shandao Management Consulting, told a 100-strong audience.

Such lectures are gaining popularity in China among desperate borrowers as a slowing economy hurts the ability of some to pay their dues.

Credit-starved small business owners under financial stress are also joining in the fray, seeking ways to overcome cash-flow problems.

Beijing has called on banks to increase access to consumer finance in an effort to boost retail spending and bolster the economy.

Many banks are issuing more credit cards – an extra 98 million last year – as well as marketing new types of cards and bumping up credit limits.

But the surge in consumer lending has been accompanied by a rise in bad debts, with credit card delinquencies up 19 percent to 79 billion yuan ($11.7 billion) last year, 10 times the level in 2010, central bank data shows.

“The rapid rise of household leverage is something that we have been concerned about, especially consumption debt … and short-term loans,” said Richard Xu, China banking analyst at Morgan Stanley.

Due to excessive spending, job losses and borrowing of high-interest loans, some cardholders live in debt traps, cashing out one card to repay dues from another.

Shandao charges 200 yuan per head at introductory seminars in cities across China, a saleswoman told Reuters. For more advanced techniques targeting each bank’s specific requirements, attendees pay an extra 19,800 yuan for two days of hands-on training, she said.

Guo Zun, a self-styled “Goddess of credit financing in China”, said she had figured out more than 1,000 ways to use credit cards for financing, and aimed to train 100 million individuals in credit card seminars, according to a marketing video from her company, Lingdong China.

Ma Jinhai, who attended a similar “study group”, was looking at maximizing credit card limits as an easy alternative to relatively hard-to-get bank loans.

“I’m curious to know how some people can borrow 200,000 yuan, or even half a million yuan, using credit cards,” said Ma, who runs a small environment protection company in eastern Zhejiang province. “It’s always a good thing to have access to more funding.”

CREDIT CARD BOOM

Credit cards have become a pillar for mid-tier and small banks across China as they expand retail lending.

Last year, 12 out of 18 listed lenders that disclosed their credit card figures reported growth of over 20 percent in the number of outstanding credit cards. Bank of Guiyang <601997.SS> in the southwest led with 63 percent growth, while Harbin Bank <6138.HK> in the northeast was at 49 percent, and Bank of Shanghai <601229.SS> in eastern China grew by 41 percent, their annual reports show.

Bank of Qingdao <3866.HK> issued its first credit card last September, and quickly hit 1.2 billion yuan in transactions for the rest of last year, according to its annual report.

National joint-stock lender China Merchants Bank <600036.SS>, dubbed “the king of retail” in Chinese banking circles, launched its “Retail Finance 3.0” strategy last year, and credit cards in circulation surged 35 percent.

China CITIC Bank <601998.SS> has fast-tracked its credit card business, with transaction volume rising 36.1 percent on average over the past three years.

The strategy is not without risks.

CITIC posted a 156 percent rise in non-performing credit card debt over the last six months of 2018, nearly doubling the business’ bad loan ratio to 1.85 percent at end-December from 0.98 percent at end-June, its filings show.

CITIC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“For the pick-up in bad debts of credit cards, it hasn’t come to the level of systematic risks,” said Nicholas Zhu, banking analyst with Moody’s Investors Service.

“But we need to pay continuous attention to the fast growth of credit cards, and how concentrated the problem is in some of the more developed regions such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Zhejiang where household leverage is higher than the national average.”

The official delinquency ratio of credit cards was 1.16 percent at end-2018, according to the central bank.

RISE OF DEBT COLLECTORS

Growing volumes of credit card bad debts are overwhelming retail bankers, who have to chase defaulters with phone calls, in-person visits, and even arranging alternative funding for those owing too much money.

“Your client manager will help you sell your house or get you money from online lending companies. In the last resort, they introduce you to loan sharks,” said a consumer finance banker at a joint stock bank.

“If you still refuse to pay back, your client manager will go to court to freeze your properties first and come talk to your bosses and parents.”

Some banks are turning to external debt collectors to hunt down defaulting borrowers.

Zhang Haiyan, a former banker at Bank of Communications’ (BoCom) credit card unit, last year started one such external credit card debt collecting firm.

Her company, Hunan Hao Xing Asset Management Co, now employs over 100 debt collectors in four cities – Nantong, Xiangtan, Wuhan and Xianning – and counts BoCom, CITIC Bank and China Minsheng Banking Corp as clients.

Business is growing quickly, Zhang told Reuters.

Due to hot demand for their services, fees paid by banks to external debt collectors have risen from 10-15 cents on the dollar to 20 cents, said Li Fengqin, debt collection strategy team manager at BoCom’s credit card center.

A debt collector can easily earn 50,000 yuan per month, she said. That’s about six times the average month salary in Beijing.

“So many more overdue loans are coming in. How can we possibly handle that with existing staffing?” Li said.

(Reporting By Shu Zhang in SINGAPORE and Samuel Shen in SHANGHAI; Additional reporting by Cheng Leng in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Tesla to reduce solar panel prices by up to 38 percent: NYT

April 30, 2019

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc plans to announce that it has begun selling solar panels and related equipment for up to 38 percent below the national average price, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The company will reduce the prices by standardizing systems and having customers order the items online, the report said.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

(Reporting by Akshay Balan in Bengaluru)

Are you British? India government asks Modi’s main election rival, Gandhi, to respond

April 30, 2019

By Krishna N. Das

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s government has asked Rahul Gandhi, the president of the main opposition Congress party, to respond to a complaint by a lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party accusing him of holding dual British citizenship against Indian law.

Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has dominated Indian politics for much of its history since independence from Britain in 1947, is the main challenger to Modi in the 39-day general election that began on April 11. Results will be known on May 23.

Congress dismissed a notice sent to 48-year-old Gandhi, who has studied and worked in England, by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday as a “pathetic stunt that is not just frivolous but downright stupid”.

The notice was based on a letter from Subramanian Swamy, an outspoken member of parliament from Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Swamy has for long cited what he calls annual reports and other documents from 2005, 2006 and 2009 of a UK-registered company, at which Gandhi was a director, as mentioning his nationality as British.

“You are requested to intimate the factual position in the matter to this ministry within a fortnight of the receipt of this communication,” B.C. Joshi, a director in the Indian interior ministry, said in the notice to Gandhi.

Federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh, also a senior BJP leader, told reporters his ministry was following due process.

India’s constitution says that any person voluntarily acquiring a foreign passport automatically loses Indian citizenship.

Congress said the BJP was making fake, personal attacks on Gandhi after sensing defeat in the election. Gandhi has been a member of India’s lower house of parliament since 2004 and is contesting this election from two seats.

“This is outrageous, outlandish and obtuse,” Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha said. “The people of India can see through these malicious and malevolent personal attacks.”

The BJP earlier protested against any constitutional post for Gandhi’s Italian-born mother, Sonia Gandhi, who famously gave up on the chance to become India’s prime minister despite Congress winning the 2004 election under her presidency. She became an Indian citizen in 1983.

(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Indonesia election rivals toil in ‘war rooms’ to check ballots

April 30, 2019

By Jessica Damiana and Fanny Potkin

JAKARTA (Reuters) – In a low-rise Jakarta office block, young Indonesian supporters of President Joko Widodo sit hunched over screens to count photographed vote tallies from polling stations, two weeks after an election to lead the world’s third-biggest democracy.

Opposing campaigns have set up their own operations, dubbed “war rooms”, to verify counts after Widodo’s challenger, Prabowo Subianto, disputed unofficial tallies by private pollsters giving the president a lead of about 10 points.

Retired general Prabowo has said his poll put him on 62 percent and alleged widespread cheating, raising the prospect of a legal challenge when official results are released next month, and the risk of street protests.In 2014, Prabowo also claimed victory, before contesting the results at the Constitutional Court, which confirmed Widodo’s win.

This time, social media has been awash with conspiracy theories, questioning the neutrality of the election commission and election supervisory agency.

“There are heightened concerns about the electoral process this time because there have been consistent efforts to erode trust in the electoral commission using hoaxes and disinformation,” said Ben Bland, director of the Southeast Asia project at the Australian think-tank, the Lowy Institute.

Nonetheless, he said the transparency of the vote count and public trust in Indonesia’s election agencies should “ensure that, in the end, the final results will be seen as legitimate”.

Counting is done manually in Indonesia and results are filled in on a tabulated form posted at polling stations with “official witnesses”, including from parties, taking photographs of the so-called form.

A non-partisan organization called Kawal Pemilu, or Guard the Election, used 45,000 volunteers to post photos of the forms on their website. The group’s co-founder, Elina Ciptadi, said about 30 percent of this data had been logged by vetted moderators to ensure it matched official tallies.

“The way we work, everybody verifies everybody’s else’s work,” Ciptadi said, adding that any discrepancies were reported to the election commission, which had been very responsive.

‘HONEST AND FAIR’

Prabowo’s running mate, Sandiaga Uno, said his campaign was conducting its own verification of votes.

“This is a part of our effort to ensure that the election is honest and fair, because, for Prabowo and me, the mandate of the people must be fulfilled,” he told reporters on Monday. 

In Widodo’s “war room”, volunteers, some affiliated with parties backing the president, are paid 4 million rupiah ($280) a month to work 12-hour shifts to count votes.

“It’s important for democracy to have more varieties of data so that we can compare,” campaign communications director Usman Kansong told Reuters.

The count at the election commission on Tuesday based on about 55 percent of the 813,350 polling stations put Widodo on 56.13 percent and Prabowo on 43.87 percent.

Prabowo’s campaign has said it has uncovered discrepancies in the voter list and alleged fraud in some places, claiming officials punched ballots in favor of Widodo.

Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto said last week accusations that the government and security forces conspired with election agencies to conduct systematic fraud during the vote were “baseless”.

Political analysts have said the size of Widodo’s lead undermined the opposition’s charge that the election was stolen, but noted that Islamist supporters of Prabowo could still take to the streets to dispute the results.

(Additional reporting by Yerica Lai; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Danish fishing communities fear Brexit could sink them

April 30, 2019

By Andreas Mortensen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – In the small fishing town of Thyboron on the northwestern coast of Denmark, many fishermen worry the British waters they have become increasingly dependent on will be out of reach when Britain leaves the European Union.

Poul Erik Rom, 35, and his father Ejvind, 65, are from a long line of fishermen. Each year they land fish worth some 25 million Danish Crowns ($3.75 million) from their vessel, one third of which come from British waters.

Poul Erik began his career in the offshore oil industry, but in 2011 he bought into a fishing vessel made by his father, who has been a fisherman all his life.

“I like the unpredictability of fishing. Sometimes we catch 200 kilos, sometimes two tonnes, and we never know what prices we will get,” says Poul Erik.

But the uncertainty as Britain leaves the European Union is more excitement than he had hoped for.

Since the 1970s, EU fishermen have had access to British waters under a deal, that many in Britain saw as unfair. Now some see Brexit as a chance to “take back control” of their waters and keep foreign vessels out.

“This town could end up closing down because of Brexit,” says fisherman Michael Bork, 36, who has been fishing since the age of 10.

Between 30 and 40 percent of the catch landed in Thyboron Port come from British waters.

“We just hope we can stay afloat. But without access to British waters, fishing spots in Danish waters will be congested with Dutch and Belgian fishermen along with the Danish vessels. There simply aren’t enough fish for that. The industry will collapse,” says Michael Bork.

In 2015 – one year before the British voted to leave the EU – Poul Erik and his father retrofitted their vessel to make room for a bigger catch on their longer journeys deeper into British waters.

“It seems like we have to sail further and further away from the shore to find the fish,” says Poul Erik, who worries what will happen if he is restricted access to British water.

The problem for Poul Erik and his father is that as the water warms due to climate change, the fish they rely on such as cod and haddock tend to swim toward colder waters nearer the UK and further north.

Under a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, Britain can choose to close its sea border completely overnight or wait until the end of 2019, according to the Danish fishing minister.

If a deal is reached, EU fishing vessels could have temporary access until a permanent trade deal is reached.

European Union leaders this month gave Britain six more months until Oct. 31 to leave the bloc, but the British political elite is still squabbling over how, when or if it will Brexit. The latest postponement essentially means all options – including the hard exit are open.

“For me personally I could lose my job, if our fishing in British waters was limited,” says Mikkel Jakobsen, 22, who works onboard the Pia Glanz fishing vessel along with nine other crew.

“It’s always annoying when politics get in the way,” says Jakobsen. “We ordinary people can’t do much about it anyway no matter how loudly we speak.”

The uncertainty is already having an impact on the local fishing industry, as new investments are being held back in ships and fishing quotas.

Poul Erik and his father’s vessel, which is worth 20-25 million crowns, goes out to sea 300 days a year, with five onboard at any one time out of a total crew of seven.

Poul Erik has had to start considering what to do if Danish boats are excluded from British waters, and what that would mean for his livelihood. The choices are stark. He doesn’t want to return to his previous work, he doesn’t want to sell his boat for much less than it is worth.

“If I was to sell it all when everyone is struggling, I would get nothing for my ship or my quotas. And of course I owe the bank a lot of money, which I’m sure they would like to get back.”

(Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Alexandra Hudson)

Oil prices firm as Saudi Arabia says OPEC may extend supply cuts

April 30, 2019

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices on Tuesday reversed earlier losses after Saudi Arabia said a deal between producers to withhold output that has been in place since January could be extended beyond June to cover all of 2019.

The statements by Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih came despite pressure by U.S. President Donald Trump to raise output to make up for a supply shortfall expected from tightening U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Brent crude futures were at $72.25 per barrel at 0701 GMT, up 21 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.67 per barrel, up 17 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their previous settlement.

Prices had come under downward pressure earlier on Tuesday after data on China’s factory activity weighed on financial markets, including crude oil futures, as it suggested Asia’s biggest economy is still struggling to regain traction.

Despite a shaky global economy, oil prices have surged by almost 40 percent since January, lifted by supply cuts led by the Middle East-dominated producer club of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as by U.S. sanctions on producers Iran and Venezuela.

Matt Stanley, a broker with Starfuels in Dubai, said oil prices had risen this year due to the “choking” of supply rather than because of strong demand.

TIGHTER SANCTIONS

The Saudi statements appear to defy calls by Trump late last week for OPEC and its de-facto leader Saudi Arabia to raise output to meet the supply shortfall caused by the tightening Iran sanctions.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said “Iranian oil production will fall to 1.9 million barrels per day in 2H19 from 3.6 million barrels per day in 3Q18 as U.S. sanctions kick in and waivers eventually expire”.

Despite this, the bank said it expected “a nearly balanced market in 2019” as output from OPEC and also the United States will rise.

French bank BNP Paribas said it expected oil prices “to rise in the near-term” as crude producers were “over-tightening the market in the face of unplanned supply outages and resilient oil demand”.

The bank said it expected crude markets to climb until the third quarter of 2019, adding that prices would then “start to become vulnerable to a sharp rise in U.S. exports of light crude thanks to pipeline and terminal capacity expansion”.

U.S. exports exceeded 3 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time in early 2019 amid a more than 2 million bpd production surge over the past year, to a record of more than 12 million bpd.

BNP Paribas said it saw WTI averaging $63 per barrel in 2019, up $2 from its previous forecast, while Brent will average $71 per barrel, up $3 from an earlier estimate.

“In 2020, we see WTI averaging $64 per barrel and Brent $68 per barrel,” the bank said.

(GRAPHIC: U.S. crude oil production & exports, https://tmsnrt.rs/2ULQiTd)

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford and Richard Pullin)

Netflix signs deal for Thai cave boy rescue miniseries

April 30, 2019

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Netflix said on Tuesday it had secured the rights to make a miniseries about the dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in northern Thailand last year that captured international attention.

“The story combines so many unique local and universal themes which connected people from all walks of life, from all around the world,” Erika North, Netflix’s Director of International Originals, said.

“Thailand is a very important market for Netflix and we are looking forward to bringing this inspiring local, but globally resonant story…to life,” she added.

The “Wild Boars” soccer team, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.

A 17-day effort to rescue them gripped the world with experts from various countries volunteering to help.

“We look forward to working with all involved parties to ensure our story is told accurately,” assistant coach Ekkapol “Ake” Chantapong said.

The miniseries will be directed by Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu and Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya.

Netflix and SK Global Entertainment secured the rights from the 13 Thamluang, a company established by the boys and their coach.

So far, two books about the rescue have been published while a feature film by British-Thai director Tom Waller, “The Cave”, wrapped up shooting in December, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

(Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa and Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Nick Macfie)

EV battery maker LG Chem sues SK Innovation, alleges trade secret theft

April 30, 2019

SEOUL (Reuters) – Electric vehicle (EV) battery maker LG Chem said it has sued its South Korean peer SK Innovation in the United States for alleged theft of trade secrets.

LG Chem and its American unit have filed a lawsuit against SK Innovation in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), accusing SK Innovation of misappropriation of trade secrets by hiring its former employees.

It has asked ITC to stop SK’s imports of samples of lithium-ion batteries and infrastructure technology infringing LG Chem’s trade secrets into the United States.

SK Innovation currently produces EV batteries only in South Korea and plans to begin mass production in its Hungary and U.S. factories in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

“This lawsuit is an inevitable measure to protect our core technologies and intellectual property drawn from lengthy research and immense investment,” Shin Hak Cheol, LG Chem’s vice chairman and CEO, said in a statement on Tuesday.

SK Innovation expressed regret over LG Chem’s legal actions in the United States against the company.

“SK Innovation’s battery business will grasp the situation and clarify allegations raised by LG Chem through legal procedures,” SK Innovation said in a statement.

SK Innovation, owner of South Korea’s top refiner SK Energy, is a latecomer to a market dominated by China’s CATL and BYD, Japan’s Panasonic Corp as well as local rivals LG Chem and Samsung SDI Co Ltd.

Since starting mass production in 2012, SK Innovation’s customers have included Germany’s Daimler AG and Volkswagen.

In March, SK Innovation broke ground to build its first U.S. EV battery plant in the southeast state of Georgia.

“SK Innovation has been aggressively investing in EV battery business and these lawsuits might hurt its EV battery business, especially in the United States,” said Hwang Yu-sik, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities.

LG Chem said it expects the ITC’s final ruling on the case in the second half of 2020.

LG Chem ranked fourth in the global EV battery market with a 10.4 percent market share while SK was in tenth place with a 1.7 percent market share during January and February 2019, according to industry tracker SNE Research.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Suspected explosive device found, man arrested in New Zealand’s Christchurch

April 30, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield and Praveen Menon

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand police said on Tuesday a man was arrested and bomb disposal officers found a package with a suspected explosive device at a vacant property in Christchurch, where 50 people were killed in attacks by a lone gunman on two mosques in March.

Police cordoned off streets in the Phillipstown area of the city on New Zealand’s South Island, with a bomb disposal team, ambulance and fire and emergency crews sent to the scene.

“Police have located a package containing a suspected explosive device and ammunition at a vacant address … in Christchurch,” district police commander Superintendent John Price said in a statement.

An explosives disposal unit rendered the package safe and a 33-year-old Christchurch man was arrested, the statement said. The police cordon was later lifted.

The New Zealand Herald said police were called due to “threats about an explosive device”.

Fifty people were killed and dozens wounded in attacks on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques during Friday prayers in Christchurch on March 15, the worst peace-time shooting in New Zealand history. Tuesday’s incident was about a kilometer from the Linwood mosque.

Authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, with 50 counts of murder.

The mosque attacks shook New Zealand to its core and prompted the government to quickly tighten gun laws.

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Praveen Menon; Editing by Paul Tait)

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