News Archive


Spin-off or sale? Yahoo turnaround plan in focus as earnings awaited


SAN FRANCISCO Yahoo Inc’s (YHOO.O) plans to turn around its struggling core business are set to dominate its earnings report on Tuesday, with investors keen to see if CEO Marissa Mayer will push ahead with a proposed spin-off or entertain calls for a complete sale.

The spin-off of its main business which includes its search engine and digital advertising units was flagged by Mayer in December after Yahoo abandoned efforts to sell its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N), but the company has provided few details.

On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported Yahoo planned layoffs of about 15 percent of its 11,000-strong workforce and would close unspecified units. A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, citing the quiet period ahead of earnings.

Investors are also expected to zero in on any comments from Mayer on her plans to increase the company’s advertising sales and improve its efforts on mobile platforms, where more users are spending their online time.

Some activist investors are pushing Yahoo to ditch the spin-off and instead sell the core business. Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) has expressed interest in the core, and analysts say other potential buyers include media and private equity firms.

A note published by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey last week valued the core business at between $6 billion and $8 billion.

A Reuters story earlier this year reported that investors are prepared to take a tax hit on a quick sale of the core business instead of waiting for a spin-off that could take more than a year.

For the fourth quarter, analysts expect Yahoo to report revenue of $1.18 billion and earnings per share of 12.5 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Last quarter’s revenues and EPS both missed analysts’ estimates.

Yahoo has struggled to expand its Internet business, which includes selling search and display ads on its news and sports sites and email service, in the face of competition from Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google unit and Facebook Inc (FB.O).

Yahoo’s revenue has fallen slightly since Mayer took the helm in mid-2012, and its share of U.S. web searches is essentially flat with three years ago, gaining no ground on market leader Google.

(Additional reporting by Michael Flaherty in New York and Abhirup Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen R. Trousdale and Edwina Gibbs)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/gJYTvb8BLFc/story01.htm

Oil falls on China economic woes, rising OPEC supply


SINGAPORE Oil prices fell for a second session in Asian trade on Tuesday as worries about top energy consumer China and rising oil supply weighed on markets, although possible talks between OPEC and Russia on output cuts offered some support.

Brent for April delivery LCOc1 had dropped 66 cents to $33.58 a barrel as of 0502 GMT, after settling down $1.75, or 4.9 percent, in the previous session.

The front month contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CLc1 was down 71 cents at $30.91 after falling $2.00, or 5.9 percent, the session before.

Despite the declines, U.S. crude is still nearly 19 percent above the more than 12-year low of $26.19 hit in mid-January.

The fall in oil prices reflected the general negative sentiment in the Asia time zone, said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at Sydney’s CMC Markets.

“Stocks markets are down; oil is weakening. It all points towards negative risk sentiment across the board,” he said.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was down almost 0.9 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei .N225 slipped 0.6 percent.

The dollar index .DXY also slipped.

“(Prices) have just come back to reality a bit, although they are holding water above $30 a barrel,” said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at Sydney’s OptionsXpress, pointing to concern over rising oil supplies and weaker economic data.

Oil prices could nudge below $30 a barrel again if investors saw hopes fading of a deal between members of oil producers cartel OPEC and Russia on production cuts, he said.

Russia’s energy minister and Venezuela’s oil minister discussed the possibility of holding joint consultations between OPEC and non-OPEC countries in the near future, the Russian Energy Ministry said on Monday.

But Goldman Sachs said it was “highly unlikely” OPEC producers would co-operate with Russia to cut output, while also being self-defeating as stronger prices would bring previously shelved production back to the market.

Crude prices fell after China’s purchasing managers index dropped to a three-year low in January, coupled with climbing oil supplies, ANZ said in a note on Tuesday.

“Rising supply also suggests further downside risk to short-term prices. Output from OPEC rose to 33.1 million barrels per day last month as Indonesia’s membership to the group was reactivated,” the note added.

Investors are waiting on a slew of economic data, including U.S. non-farm payroll and unemployment figures and producer prices from the euro zone, to give oil markets further direction, Le Brun added.

That came as U.S. commercial crude oil inventories likely rose by 4.7 million barrels last week to a new record high of 499.6 million barrels, a preliminary Reuters survey taken ahead of industry and official data showed on Monday.

The Reuters poll was taken ahead of weekly inventory reports from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API), due out later on Tuesday, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), due for release on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Keith Wallis; Editing by Richard Pullin, Joseph Radford and Michael Perry)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/QOQiR-04YWA/story01.htm

Asian shares slip as crude resumes drop


TOKYO Asian shares fell on Tuesday as crude oil prices slid on rekindled oversupply fears and after downbeat manufacturing data raised concerns about sluggish global economic growth.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was down 0.4 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 slipped 0.5 percent as investors locked in profits after two straight days of big gains following the Bank of Japan’s decision to introduce negative interest rates late last week. [.T]

U.S. crude oil CLc1 was down about 1.8 percent at $31.06 a barrel after skidding as much as 7 percent overnight, pressured by weak economic data from China, a U.S. forecast for mild weather and doubts that suppliers would be able to agree on steps to address the global supply glut. [O/R]

Despite the declines, U.S. crude is still nearly 19 percent above the more than 12-year low of $26.19 hit in mid-January.

“(Prices) have just come back to reality a bit, although they are holding water above $30 a barrel,” said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at Sydney’s OptionsXpress, pointing to concern over rising oil supplies and weaker economic data.

Brent April crude futures LCOc1 slipped 1.5 percent.

Oil faced fresh pressure from Chinese manufacturing data for January released on Monday showing the fastest pace of contraction since 2012.

The Australian dollar was down about 0.4 percent at $0.7088 AUD=D4, though it held above its recent seven-year trough of $0.6827.

As expected, the Reserve Bank of Australia held interest rates steady at a record low of 2.0 percent, where they have stood since May 2015. Although the bank was hopeful on growth prospects, it reiterated that there was scope for a further cut if needed to support the economy.

The greenback slipped about 0.3 percent against its Japanese counterpart to 120.67 yen JPY=, but remained underpinned by the BOJ’s surprise move on Friday to adopt negative interest rates.

Markets had a muted reaction to results of Iowa’s Republican presidential nominating primary election, in which U.S. Senator Ted Cruz beat billionaire Donald Trump. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in a virtual tie with rival Bernie Sanders.

Wall Street marked modest losses on Monday, after January surveys of global factory activity on Monday showed the new year began much as the old one ended, with too much capacity chasing too little demand.

Global manufacturing expansion accelerated slightly but remained weak at the start of 2016 as faster growth in developed markets failed to offset a contraction in emerging economies.

U.S. economic data showed manufacturing activity contracted in January for a fourth straight month as factories grappled with a strong dollar and lower oil prices forced energy firms to further cut spending, but the pace of the decline appeared to be slowing.

The euro was up about 0.2 percent at $1.0909 EUR=, mired in recent ranges, its gains limited by the disappointing euro zone manufacturing data as well as comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

The central bank head stressed the risks facing the euro zone and reiterated the ECB was ready to review its monetary policy stance in early March.

(Additional reporting by Keith Wallis in Singapore; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/vVKKRgud9TE/story01.htm

Exclusive: Travel insurer says sales soar on Zika fears


NEW YORK Travel insurance sales for trips to Latin America have surged as vacationers consider scrapping their plans to avoid the rapidly spreading Zika virus, one of the top U.S. providers, RoamRight, told Reuters on Monday.

The Maryland-based company, part of insurer Arch Capital Group Ltd (ACGL.O), said revenue jumped 81 percent in January from a year ago for its “Cancel For Any Reason” policy covering trips to Zika-impacted areas in the Americas.

The rise provides an early insight into how traveler patterns are changing because of the mosquito-borne virus, even as airlines and hotel chains say it is too soon to tell whether Zika has dented bookings.

The World Health Organization on Monday called the virus, linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, an international health emergency that could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.

“We see that kind of growth when there is a terrorist attack or some other event that precipitates people thinking about protecting their travel costs,” said Linda Fallon, head of RoamRight and senior vice president of travel for the group’s Arch Insurance Company division.

RoamRight, ranked third by sales in 2015 on travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, declined comment on how the boost would impact its profitability because it does not know how many customers will claim refunds and therefore what losses it will incur. For this reason, it also was too early to consider whether to charge customers more, Fallon added.

Parent Arch Capital does not disclose RoamRight’s total sales but reported group revenue of $932.6 million and net income of $64 million in the third quarter of 2015.

PEACE OF MIND

The “Cancel For Any Reason” policy, whose pricing has not changed in the past year, repays claimants 75 percent of all nonrefundable trip costs, from airfare and hotel to on-site tours and excursions, RoamRight said.

Top U.S. airlines are currently promising refunds for tickets to the region, although American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) has limited the offer to pregnant travelers and their companions, while other carriers have specified a deadline for invoking the offer.

Fallon said vacationers were turning to insurance, not necessarily scrapping plans altogether, because they were not yet sure how the virus would impact them or how severe outbreaks would be at the time of travel.

“People are just looking to take precaution,” she said. “This gives people the peace of mind.”

Since December 2015, RoamRight has seen a nearly 10 percent rise in orders for all its policies covering trips to the more than 20 countries and territories in the Americas impacted by the virus, it said.

Rival Tin Leg said it has not seen a significant increase in sales attributable to Zika but noted that canceling a trip because of concerns of the virus was not covered by its standard policies. It added the virus was “a major topic of questions we receive from our customers.”

InsureandGo USA, Travel Insured International, AXA Assistance USA and Trip Mate did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/kv7PQd76S9A/story01.htm

China shares stage tentative bounce, yuan fixed firmer


SHANGHAI Chinese shares edges higher on Tuesday while the country’s central bank guided the yuan to its highest fix in almost a month as Beijing sought to keep markets calm heading into the Lunar New Year holidays.

The Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC added 0.8 percent in early trade, while the CSI300 index .CSI300 of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose 0.9 percent.

The gains recovered only part of Monday’s losses, incurred after official surveys of China’s manufacturing and services sectors disappointed and sent ripples of selling through markets globally.

“The data suggest continued uncertainties and headwinds to the outlook,” wrote Shengzu Wang, an analyst at Barclays. “We have seen no sign of stabilization since the start of 2016.”

Given that, Wang was surprised China’s central bank had not cut rates or reserve requirements, rather relying on huge injections of funds to tied the banking system over the Lunar New Year holidays.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) may have been concerned that such cuts would only encourage capital flight and further wagers on yuan devaluation.

It has been fighting to keep the currency stable through a series of higher daily yuan fixes and a range of measures that essentially make it very expensive to short the currency.

On Tuesday, it set the yuan at 6.5510 per dollar CNY=SAEC, the highest fix since Jan. 6 when a sudden drop in the currency sparked worldwide concerns Beijing was seeking a competitive depreciation.

Still, many analysts suspect the currency will be allowed to drift lower over time both to help underpin exports and fight deflation risks at home. Some investors with deep pockets are laying money on it.

Hedge funds have ramped up bets on a devaluation since the Bank of Japan cut rates below zero last week, with the bias toward yuan falls in options markets hitting its highest on record.

Reuters data showed riskier bets that only pay out if the yuan weakens to levels well above 7 per dollar passed peaks hit around Beijing’s one-off mini-devaluation last August.

“Since the Bank of Japan was so dovish last week, all of these countries are under a lot more pressure to devalue,” said a dealer with one Asian bank in London.

Such talk will only heighten the focus on the PBoC’s reserves position, due to be reported some time this week, for details on just how much intervention has been needed to shelter the yuan from capital flight.

(Writing by Wayne Cole; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/UmGmChQJGtQ/story01.htm

Alphabet profit sends shares up; overtakes Apple in value


Alphabet Inc easily beat Wall Street’s quarterly profit forecasts on Monday, helped by strong mobile advertising sales, sending the shares of Google’s parent higher in after-hours trading to surpass Apple Inc as the most valuable U.S. company.

For the first time, the company disclosed the profitability of Google’s search engine and its other online services, and how much it is spending on ambitious technology projects such as self-driving cars.

The numbers were lapped up by investors, who saw room for growth in Google’s traditional business, and were relieved to see that spending on new projects it calls ‘Other Bets’ was not as lavish as some had feared.

“It’s pretty interesting that 80 percent of YouTube views come from outside of the United States. I didn’t think it would be that high,” said Kevin Kelly, managing partner at Recon Capital. “It demonstrates that the value of YouTube can continue to be extracted,” he said.

The operating profit margin for its Google unit was 31.9 percent in the most recent quarter, compared to 25 percent for Alphabet.

Alphabet spent $869 million on capital expenditures for the Other Bets in 2015, up from $501 million in 2014. It has not made any projections about if or when those bets cumulatively would become profitable.

“As long as the core business continues to operate well with accelerated revenue… investment in those businesses can continue,” said Ronald Josey of JMP Securities.

The company said consolidated revenue jumped 17.8 percent to $21.33 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $18.10 billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected $20.77 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue for Other Bets was $151 million, up 29.8 percent from $106 million in the same quarter last year, primarily from its smart-home monitoring unit Nest, Google Fiber, which provides high-speed Internet access, and its life sciences business Verily.

Adjusted earnings of $8.67 per share handily beat analysts’ average estimate of $8.10 per share.

In a call with analysts, Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat attributed the strong earnings to “increased use of mobile search by consumers,” as well as “ongoing momentum” in YouTube and programmatic advertising, referring to the automatic buying of ads.

Kelly at Recon Capital said he would not be surprised if YouTube saw a surge in advertising revenues beyond the 17 percent increase it saw during the 2015 fiscal year.

Total operating losses on the Other Bets – which include glucose-monitoring contact lenses and Internet balloons – increased to $3.57 billion in the 12 months ended Dec. 31, and $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter.

The Google unit houses its Internet and related businesses such as search, ads, maps, YouTube and Android as well as hardware products such as its low-cost Chromebook laptops.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said on the call that its Gmail service crossed one billion monthly active users last quarter, joining Search, Android, Maps, Chrome, YouTube and Google Play in topping that mark.

He also touted the company’s performance during the holiday shopping season, saying that programmatic video impressions doubled this season compared to last, and that 60 percent of them came from mobile devices.

But Porat, without providing figures, said the company planned to accelerate capital expenditures in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Google’s shares rose almost 5 percent in after-hours trading. Alphabet’s combined share classes were worth $549 billion, compared with Apple, which had a value of about $534 billion.

Alphabet will officially overtake Apple in market value if both companies’ shares open around current levels on Tuesday.

Google’s advertising revenue increased nearly 17 percent to $19.08 billion, while the number of ads, or paid clicks, rose 31 percent, the company said. Analysts had expected paid clicks to increase 21.8 percent.

Advertisers pay Google only if someone clicks on their ad.

Net income in the fourth quarter rose to $4.92 billion, or $7.06 per Class A and B share and Class C capital stock, from $4.68 billion, or $6.79 per share. (bit.ly/1WY8V19)

Adjusted earnings of $8.67 per share excluded certain one-time items.

(Reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru and Deborah M. Todd in San Francisco; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Stephen R. Trousdale and Bill Rigby)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/ljp5VRgyA-Y/story01.htm

Foreign companies bet on China’s consumers as industry slows


LONDON Coffee shops, burger bars and clothes stores are among the foreign businesses in China that say they are thriving despite the economic slowdown that is hurting the manufacturing sector.

A Reuters examination of comments or recent statements from 34 large publicly-traded foreign companies that updated investors on their China operations shows a diverging experience between sectors.

Eighteen of the companies had products focused on consumers and 13 of these said sales grew in the fourth quarter or full year with just three down and two flat. Of the eight industrial companies in the search, six reported weakness in China or falling sales.

Coffee shop chain Starbucks (SBUX.O), Sweden-based tissue maker SCA (SCAb.ST) fashion group Hennes Mauritz (HMb.ST) and fast-food seller McDonald’s (MCD.N) are seeing strong growth despite the economy expanding at its slowest pace since 2009 in the fourth quarter.

“The success we are enjoying in China is really kind of highlighted by this past quarter,” said Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, which like many foreign companies does not break out China operating results in its accounts. He was speaking on a Jan 21 call with investors.

“We opened over 150 stores in China, this past quarter, the most we’ve ever opened in our history.”

McDonald’s said its fourth-quarter comparable sales increased 4 percent in China and it plans to open more than 250 restaurants this year, the highest in any of its markets.

“We remain confident in the potential of this important market and in the strategies we have in place to expand the brand even further,” Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s Corporation CEO told investors on Jan 25.

Magnus Groth, CEO of SCA, which also makes diapers, said the rate at which China’s population was shifting from being poor and rural to an urban middle class, was unmatched in other emerging markets, creating huge opportunities for his business.

But in the industrial sector the outlook was less rosy.

Construction goods maker Caterpillar (CAT.N) and Germany’s Siemens are among the industrial companies that suffered last year. U.S.-based United Technologies Corp. (UTX.N), which makes elevators and refrigeration units predicted even lower sales in 2016.

“Short-cycle (industrial) business was affected by double-digit decline in China,” said Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser told investors last week.

“China is going to be slow and it remains to be seen whether we see a sustainable demand-related pick-up,” he added.

MATURING ECONOMY

Several CEOs said the divergence was a normal sign that China’s economy is maturing from one based on industry to one fueled by consumption.

Growth for 2015 as a whole hit 6.9 percent after the fourth quarter slowed to 6.8 percent, capping a tumultuous year that witnessed a huge outflow of capital, a slide in the currency and a summer stocks crash. There has been further volatility in financial markets this year.

Data from China’s statistics bureau showed that industrial output for December missed expectations with a rise of just 5.9 percent, illustrating how a slowing economy and shift to consumer-led growth is hurting industry.

By contrast, December retail sales, although disappointing, were a strong 11.1 percent.

Ford Motor Company (F.N) reported a good fourth quarter in China with sales up 27 percent in December.

“It’s going from an investment-led, and industry-led economy to a consumption-led one. And if you look at the consumption piece of GDP that’s actually growing, which is a good sign,” CEO Mark Fields said last month.

“It’s going to be a bit bumpy as they go through that transition.”

HEADWINDS

Consumer goods companies are not unaffected by China’s downturn. Several have reported weakness in the market but even they have largely shrugged it off.

Apple (AAPL.O) said it saw some “economic softness” in China – “something that we have not seen before” Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Reuters in an interview. However, CEO Tim Cook said the iPhone maker was not changing its investment plans there, citing strong underlying demand trends.

“The middle class in China was less than 50 million people in 2010, and by 2020, it’s projected to be about half a billion. .. I think the demographics are great,” he added.

Some companies, like Ford and Unilever (ULVR.L), which reported moderated growth in the more developed markets within China, said secondary cities were picking up the slack.

“The growth is coming from really the lower tier and coastal cities, more so than the A cities,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, which makes everything from ice-cream to cleaning products.

An increasing adoption of Western consumption patterns is also buoying companies. Drinks maker Remy Cointreau (RCOP.PA) said Christmas gifting was becoming increasingly important for his business, helping to compensate for a reduction in the importance of the Chinese New Year market.

Starbucks said its growth in China was without the country having adopted the “morning ritual” of drinking coffee, but that it was confident it would, offering significant additional long term growth.

Yet some western trends currently being echoed in China, present challenges for companies. As in the United States and Europe, Chinese shoppers are increasingly eschewing hypermarkets. This has hit French supermarket chain Carrefour (CARR.PA) and companies, like chocolate maker Hershey, which mostly sell large shops.

In response, Carrefour is opening convenience stores and Hershey is refocusing on distributing through such stores.

And even in industry there are bright spots despite the slowdown.

“In China we’re starting to see the aluminum dynamic improving,” William Oplinger CFO of U.S. aluminum producer Alcoa (AA.N) said on a Jan. 11 earnings call.

“We see that fundamentals are solid….We continue to expect 6 percent growth in aluminum. Demand is on track to double between 2010 and 2020.”

(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Anna Willard)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/yEmzTGgZx3c/story01.htm

Swiss say $4 billion misappropriated from Malaysian state firms


WASHINGTON/KUALA LUMPUR Switzerland’s chief prosecutor said on Friday a criminal investigation into state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had revealed that about $4 billion appeared to have been misappropriated from Malaysian state companies.

The office of Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber said it had formally asked Malaysia to help with its probes into possible violations of Swiss laws related to bribery of foreign officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement at the fund.

It said it had identified four cases of alleged criminal conduct.

1MDB, whose advisory board is chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been probed by Malaysian authorities following accusations of financial mismanagement and graft.

Earlier this week, Malaysia’s attorney general cleared Najib himself of any criminal offences or corruption, declaring that $681 million deposited into his personal bank account was a gift from Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

The Malaysian attorney general’s office said in a statement on Saturday that it would take all possible steps to follow up and collaborate with its Swiss counterpart, but noted that the investigations into donations made to Najib were entirely separate from those into 1MDB.

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying the funds were a political donation and he did not take any money for personal gain.

In its statement seeking Malaysia’s assistance, the Swiss attorney general’s office said: “The monies believed to have been misappropriated would have been earmarked for investment in economic and social development projects in Malaysia.”

It added that each case involved “a systematic course of action carried out by means of complex financial structures.”

1MDB said it has not been contacted by foreign legal authorities on any matters relating to the company.

The Swiss authorities began investigations last August into 1MDB for suspected corruption of public foreign officials, dishonest management of public interests and money laundering.

Lauber’s office said a small portion of the apparently misappropriated money had been transferred to accounts held in Switzerland by former Malaysian public officials and current and former public officials from the United Arab Emirates.

The four cases of suspected criminal conduct related to former 1MDB subsidiary SRC international, Petrosaudi, Genting/Tanjong, and ADMIC between 2009 and 2014, it said.

When presenting his findings last week, Malaysia’s top lawyer had asked the country’s anti-graft agency to close all probes into SRC and the money deposited in Najib’s account.

Officials from Malaysia’s anti-graft agency were not immediately available for comment on the statement by the Swiss authorities.

In a statement, Petrosaudi denied any wrongdoing in connection with its joint venture with 1MDB, which was wound up in 2012. Petrosaudi said that in the event that its assistance “is requested, it will cooperate fully with the authorities.”

Petrosaudi said further it has not been accused of any criminal conduct and denied being the subject of any investigation.

The Jan. 29 press release from the Swiss authorities said four cases involving criminal misconduct “have come to light” relating to Petrosaudi, SRC, Genting/Tanjong and ADMIC. But the release did not specify how the firms were involved. Reuters was unable to determine their involvement.

Genting and Tanjong did not answer calls seeking comment. ADMIC could not immediately be reached.

In its statement, the Swiss prosecutor’s office said Lauber had discussed the 1MDB case with his Malaysian counterpart at a meeting in Zurich in September.

    Sources familiar with the September discussion between the two law enforcement officials said the Malaysian official strongly urged Lauber to abandon his 1MDB-related investigation.

1MDB is also under investigation by law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong and the United States, media and other sources have said.

Tony Pua, a member of the Malaysian parliament with the opposition Democratic Action Party, called on the Malaysian attorney general to cooperate fully with foreign investigating agencies.

“Such cooperation will not only go a long way towards identifying the culprits … but also removing the perception that the Malaysian AG was biased in favor of the Prime Minister,” Pua said.

Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission has said it will seek a review of a decision by the attorney-general to clear Najib.

The Swiss statement said the request for mutual assistance is to advise the companies involved and the Malaysian government of the results of the Swiss criminal proceedings, “with the aim of finding out whether losses on this scale have been sustained.”

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball, A. Ananthalakshmi, Emily Chow, Rozanna Latiff; Editing by John Chalmers, Will Waterman, Richard Chang, Toni Reinhold)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/JOBJPa6Lp8s/story01.htm

Bacardi demands U.S. explain giving Havana Club brand to Cuba


HAVANA Bacardi on Monday sought U.S. records to explain the U.S. government’s decision to strip the spirits company of its right to the Havana Club brand name and hand it back to a Cuban state company partnered with a global rival.

Bacardi’s Freedom of Information Act request is the latest step in a long battle with the Cuban government over the Havana Club trademark in the United States.

Cuba cannot sell its rum in the United States because of the U.S. trade embargo on the island, but it hopes to eventually gain access to the world’s largest rum market now that U.S.-Cuban relations are improving.

In January, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided to allow Cuban state firm Cubaexport to register the Havana Club name once again in the United States.

The move opened the door to Cubaexport and its French partner, Pernod Ricard (PERP.PA), the world’s second-largest spirits group, one day selling Havana Club in the United States in direct competition with Bacardi products.

Bacardi, a former Cuban distiller now based in Bermuda, left Cuba after the 1959 revolution and subsequently acquired the rights to the Havana Club trademark from its pre-revolutionary owner whose distillery was nationalized.

The United States previously recognized Bacardi’s claim to Havana Club under a statute aiming to protect owners of Cuban companies nationalized after Fidel Castro’s rebels came to power. Meanwhile, everywhere else in the world, the name belonged to Cuba through the joint venture between Cubaexport and Pernod Ricard.

Bacardi’s Freedom of Information Act request filed on Monday asks to see all records related to the Havana Club trademark decision held by the executive office of President Barack Obama, the U.S. Patent Trademark Office, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the State Department, the National Security Council, the Treasury Department or any other offices.

“The American people have the right to know the truth of how and why this unprecedented, sudden and silent action was taken by the United States government to reverse long-standing U.S. and international public policy and law,” Eduardo Sanchez, senior vice president and general counsel of Bacardi, said in a statement.

The Cuban government has not commented on the case. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not comment on specific cases, a spokesman said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/2UdBrjrr7ik/story01.htm