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AB InBev expects to cut three percent of jobs after SABMiller takeover

BRUSSELS Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR) expects to cut some 3 percent of its combined workforce after it has acquired rival SABMiller (SAB.L), according to takeover documents published on Friday.

That would be some 5,500 jobs, according to a source with information on the offer.

AB InBev is aiming to achieve pre-tax savings of at least $1.4 billion per year within the four years after completion of the takeover through increased efficiency, sharing best practices and the removal of overlaps in corporate and regional headquarters.

The maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona expects the potential job losses to take place over a three-year period.

SABMiller employs some 70,000 people and AB InBev more than 150,000, although the combined group’s workforce will be lower because of planned divestments, principally in Europe along with joint venture stakes in the United States and China.

AB InBev has not given estimates for the impact on employment in sales and supply functions because regulatory restrictions has limited its integration planning there.

The documents, giving full details of AB InBev’s offer and the takeover process, said the extent of job reductions in all locations was not yet certain, but that the combined group’s headquarters would be in Leuven, Belgium, with global management based in New York.

AB InBev sees job losses likely at SABMiller’s global headquarters in Woking and the closure of its head office in London within a year, along with the relocation of some regional headquarters.

The world’s largest brewer still needs backing from SABMiller shareholders for its 45 pounds per share offer along with a cash-and-share alternative valuing its target at 78.4 billion pounds ($103.61 billion). Those shareholders will vote at a meeting on Sept. 28.

($1 = 0.7567 pounds)

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Susan Thomas)

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Oil prices dip as Saudi Arabia dampens prospects of output freeze

SINGAPORE Oil prices dipped in early trading on Friday after the Saudi energy minister tempered expectations of strong market intervention by producers during talks next month.

International benchmark Brent crude oil prices LCOc1 were trading at $49.55 per barrel at 2114 ET, down 12 cents from their previous close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was down 7 cents at $47.26 a barrel.

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told Reuters late on Thursday that “we don’t believe any significant intervention in the market is necessary other than to allow the forces of supply and demand to do the work for us,” adding that the “market is moving in the right direction” already.

Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will meet on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum (IEF), which groups producers and consumers, in Algeria from Sept. 26-28.

The minister’s comments put a dampener on expectations of a meaningful intervention into the market which has been dogged by oversupply for more than two years.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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China urges Japan to be ‘constructive’ at G20 summit

BEIJING Japan should play a “constructive” role at the upcoming G20 summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou because cooperation is in the interests of all parties, China’s top diplomat told a visiting Japanese envoy.

Ties between Asia’s two largest economies have long been overshadowed by arguments over their painful wartime history and a territorial spat in the East China Sea, among other issues.

Beijing has also accused Tokyo of interfering in the South China Sea, where China and several Southeast Asian nations are embroiled in an argument over ownership.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will attend the summit, which starts next weekend, along with other world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama.

Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi, who outranks the foreign minister, told the head of Japan’s National Security Council, Shotaro Yachi, that Japan should “play a constructive role” at the G20 summit, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Thursday.

“The improvement of China-Japan ties has been continuously disturbed by various problems, especially the issues related to East China Sea and South China Sea, which is in the interests of neither side,” Xinhua paraphrased Yang as saying.

Yachi also met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

“The China-Japan relationship is still very fragile although there is a momentum of improvement,” Li said, according to Xinhua.

Li said he hoped Japan would adopt a “correct understanding of China and fulfill the commitment to taking China’s development as its opportunity”.

Xinhua said Yachi read a letter from Abe to Li, in which Abe said Japan expected a successful G20 summit and was willing to enhance cooperation with China in this regard.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)

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As central bankers gather, some at Fed make interest rate rise case

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. As central bankers converge on this mountain resort Thursday for an annual conference on monetary policy, a couple of top Federal Reserve officials took the chance to renew a push for interest-rate hikes, citing improvement in employment and inflation.

“The case is strengthening” for a rate hike, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan told CNBC television, whose open-air studio here overlooks the craggy peaks of the Grand Teton National Park.

“And you should conclude from that in the not-too-distant future … I think we’re moving toward being able to take another step.”

Kansas City Fed President Esther George, whose bank has hosted the conference here since 1978, had an even stronger message.

“I think it’s time to move,” she told Bloomberg TV.

The Fed raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade in December, but has kept them on hold since then on concern that headwinds from abroad and financial market volatility at home could hurt growth.

Recent strong readings on the U.S. labor market, and signs that inflation is finally beginning to pick up, have begun to encourage some policymakers to believe that rates should rise, if not as soon as September’s policy meeting then at least before the end of the year.

Investors are awaiting a speech on Friday morning by Fed Chair Janet Yellen for more definitive clues about the timing of an interest rate rise.

But not all Fed policymakers are on board for a rate hike soon.

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, who is at Jackson Hole for the conference, has long called for patience in raising rates so as to give inflation a better chance of reaching the Fed’s 2.0-percent target sooner.

Traders currently put chances of a December rate hike at about 42 percent.

The call to raise rates stands in stark contrast to the likely next moves from many other global central banks whose representatives are meeting here, including policymakers at the central banks for Europe and Japan, where prolonged economic weakness has all but ruled out any near-term contemplation of tighter monetary policy.

It also is anathema to the dozens of activists planning to protest outside of the lodge where the three-day conference begins later on Thursday. Fed Up, a network of community organizations and labor unions, will meet with George and half a dozen other policymakers later in the day to air their concern about the impact higher rates will have on America’s poor.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir in Jackson Hole and Jonathan Spicer in New York; Additional reporting by Sam Forgione; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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Senior executive of South Korea’s Lotte Group has died: Lotte official

SEOUL A senior executive of South Korea’s Lotte Group has died, the country’s fifth-largest family-run conglomerate said on Friday, amid a sweeping criminal probe into the business.

Lotte Group, in a text message to reporters, said it confirmed the death of Vice Chairman Lee In-won through police and other sources. It did not elaborate further or give the cause of death.

Yonhap News Agency, citing unnamed sources, reported a body believed to be Lee’s was found on a walking path outside Seoul on Friday morning. Police were conducting an investigation to confirm whether the body was Lee’s, Yonhap said, adding that a suicide note was found in the executive’s car.

Prosecutors raided Lotte offices in June, looking into a possible slush fund as well as breach of trust involving transactions among the group’s companies, sources said.

Lee was scheduled to appear before prosecutors Friday morning for questioning, Yonhap said.

Fire department staff and police found a body believed to be Lee’s, an official at the Yangpyeong fire department near Seoul told Reuters, declining to be named as he was not authorized to speak to media. Police officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

A South Korean prosecution official, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to comment on the matter, expressed condolences for Lee’s death and the prosecutors planned to reconsider the schedule for the ongoing investigation.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Nataly Pak; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Caution before Yellen’s Jackson Hole speech crimps risk appetites

TOKYO Caution ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen at the annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, limited movements across global markets on Friday.

Asian stocks tracked an overnight dip on Wall Street and edged down early in the session, while geopolitical tensions helped shore up crude oil prices.

Risk markets were wary of the U.S. central bank hinting at near-term interest rate hike which could divert some of the massive liquidity that has drenched global markets.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS lost 0.2 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 fell 0.4 percent and South Korea’s Kospi .KS11 dropped 0.3 percent.

U.S. stocks were modestly lower on Thursday, weighed down by a drop in healthcare and consumer companies. [.N]

“While it is possible that her comments will have a longer-term feel about them and could also be reasonably technical in nature, markets will be particularly interested if she follows on from some of her Fed colleagues that have signaled recently that markets are under-pricing potential upcoming Fed tightening,” wrote strategists at ANZ.

“Those comments haven’t really shifted market pricing, but if the boss was to signal it too, markets would likely listen.”

On Thursday Kansas City Fed President Esther George said it is time for the central bank to raise rates gradually and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan noted the Fed should be able to hike “in the not too distant future.”

Those comments were roughly in line with the hawkish views expressed by Fed policymakers including Vice Chair Stanley Fischer earlier in the week, adding to expectations that Yellen’s comments would be in a similar vein.

The dollar treaded water against its main peers ahead of Yellen’s speech. The U.S. currency was flat at 100.560 yen JPY=, having risen a modest 0.3 percent so far this week.

The euro was also little changed at $1.1286 EUR=, on track to dip about 0.3 percent on the week.

The Australian dollar nudged up 0.1 percent to $0.7624 AUD=D4.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil CLc1 inched up 2 cents to $47.35 a barrel after rising 56 cents, or 1 percent, on Thursday.

Oil prices were lifted overnight by U.S.-Iran military tensions in the Gulf and speculation the dollar would fall in response to Yellen’s policy speech.

(This version of the story has been filed to remove extraneous words from opening paragraph)

(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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GM cleared in second U.S. verdict over crash blamed on ignition switch

NEW YORK A Texas jury said on Thursday a General Motors Co (GM.N) ignition switch, linked to nearly 400 injuries and deaths, was not to blame for a fatal 2011 crash, according to a company statement.

The verdict in Harris County, Texas, was the second in favor of GM this year in lawsuits over the now recalled ignition switch.

Plaintiff Zachary Stevens alleged that a defective switch caused him to lose control of his 2007 Saturn Sky and crash into another vehicle, killing the other driver. GM said his reckless driving was at fault.

During the trial, which opened on Aug. 9, Stevens’ lawyers pushed back against GM and noted their client suffered a severe head wound in the crash.

Manslaughter charges initially filed against him were dropped after GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles with the switch in 2014, according to his lawsuit.

Jurors deliberated for less than an hour before returning a unanimous verdict for GM, said company spokesman Jim Cain.

“We asked the jury to evaluate Zach Stevens’ case on the facts and they did,” Cain said in a statement. “The accident had nothing to do with the ignition switch.”

A lawyer for Stevens, Josh Davis, called it “a very tough loss.”

The case was the third involving the switch to go to trial since the beginning of the year. The first was voluntarily dismissed by plaintiffs during the trial, and the second resulted in a verdict clearing GM of liability for a 2014 crash in New Orleans.

GM resolved some claims for injuries and deaths blamed on the switch through an out-of-court program administered by Washington lawyer Kenneth Feinberg. Federal lawsuits have been consolidated in New York City, while about 20 are pending in the Texas state court where Stevens’ case was filed.

A fourth trial over the switch is set to begin on Sept. 12 in Manhattan.

GM has paid roughly $2 billion in criminal and civil penalties and settlements in connection with the switch, which can rotate out of position and cut power to steering, brakes and air bags. The company previously acknowledged that some of its employees knew about the switch defect for years before a recall was initiated.

(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)

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Apple fixes security flaw after UAE dissident’s iPhone targeted

SAN FRANCISCO Apple Inc issued a patch on Thursday to fix a dangerous security flaw in iPhones and iPads after researchers discovered that a prominent United Arab Emirates dissident’s phone had been targeted with a previously unknown method of hacking.

The thwarted attack on the human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor, used a text message that invited him to click on a web link. Instead of clicking, he forwarded the message to researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.

The hack is the first known case of software that can remotely take over a fully up-to-date iPhone 6.

Experts at Citizen Lab worked with security company Lookout and determined that the link would have installed a program taking advantage of a three flaws that Apple and others were not aware of. The researchers disclosed their findings on Thursday.

“Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements,” Citizen Lab wrote in a report released on Thursday.

The researchers said they had alerted Apple a week and a half ago, and the company developed a fix and distributed it as an automatic update to iPhone 6 owners.

Apple spokesman Fred Sainz confirmed that the company had issued the patch after being contacted by researchers.

The Citizen Lab team attributed the attack software to a private seller of monitoring systems, NSO Group, an Israeli company that makes software for governments which can secretly target mobile phones and gather information. Tools such as that used in this case, a remote exploit for a current iPhone, cost as much as $1 million.

NSO Chief Executive Shalev Hulio referred questions to spokesman Zamir Dahbash, who said the company “cannot confirm the specific cases” covered in the Citizen Lab and Lookout reports.

Dahbash said NSO sells within export laws to government agencies, which then operate the software.

“The agreements signed with the company’s customers require that the company’s products only be used in a lawful manner,” he added. “Specifically, the products may only be used for the prevention and investigation of crimes.”

Dahbash did not answer follow-up questions, including whether the exposure of the tools use against Mansoor in UAE and a Mexican journalist would end any sales to those countries.

NSO has kept a low profile in the security world, despite its 2014 sale of a majority stake for $120 million to California private equity firm Francisco Partners. That company’s chief executive, Dipanjan Deb, did not return a call on Thursday. In November 2015, Reuters reported that NSO had begun calling itself “Q” and was looking for a buyer for close to $1 billion.

Sarah McKune, senior legal adviser to Citizen Lab, said Israel tries to follow the strictures of the Wassenaar Arrangement, which puts controls on the international sale of nuclear and chemical weapons technology and more recently cyber intrusion tools.

NSO may have had to apply for an export license, she added, saying that raised questions about “what consideration was given to the human rights record of UAE.”

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not respond to an email seeking comment.

NSO marketing material says that it also has capabilities for Android and BlackBerry devices. No version of the software has been exposed, indicating it remains effective.

Citizen Lab did not directly accuse UAE of carrying out the attack on Mansoor with NSO gear called Pegasus, but it said other NSO attacks on critics of the regime were connected to the government.

It also said a Mexican journalist and a minority party politician in Kenya had been targeted with NSO software and that domain names set up for other attacks referred to entities in Uzbekistan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other nations, suggesting that other targets lived in those nations.

A call to the UAE embassy in Washington was not immediately returned.

The market for “lawful intercept,” or government hacking tools, has come under increased scrutiny with revelations about authoritarian customers and noncriminal victims.

Two popular vendors, Hacking Team of Italy and Gamma Group of the United Kingdom, have had their wares exposed by researchers or hackers.

Mansoor had previously been targeted with software from both of those companies, according to Citizen Lab.

“I can’t think of a more compelling case of serial misuse of lawful intercept malware than the targeting of Mansoor,” said one of the Citizen Lab researchers, John Scott-Railton.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; editing by Peter Henderson and Tom Brown)

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Russian lawmaker’s son convicted in U.S. for hacking scheme

The son of a Russian lawmaker was convicted on Thursday on U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to hack into U.S. businesses in order to steal and sell credit card numbers, costing financial institutions more than $169 million.

Roman Seleznev, also known as “Track2,” was found guilty by a federal jury in Seattle on 38 of 40 counts including wire fraud and intentional damage to a protected computer following an eight day trial, prosecutors said.

The conviction of Seleznev, of Vladivostok, followed a 10-year-long investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, the agency said. He was arrested in 2014 in the Maldives in what Russia at the time called a “kidnapping.”

Seleznev, the son of Valery Seleznev, a member of the Russian Parliament, is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 2. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, said his lawyer, John Henry Browne.

Browne said Seleznev, 32, plans to appeal and challenge what he called Seleznev’s illegal arrest in the Maldives and a ruling that allowed prosecutors to introduce evidence from a corrupted laptop seized at the time of his arrest.

“I don’t know of any case that has allowed such outrageous behavior,” Browne said.

Prosecutors said that from October 2009 to October 2013, Seleznev hacked into retail point-of-sale systems and installed malware to steal credit card numbers from businesses, including restaurants and pizza parlors in Washington state.

Prosecutors said Seleznev sold the credit card information on various “carding” websites. Buyers in turn used the card numbers for fraudulent purchases, they said, causing 3,700 financial institutions to lose more than $169 million.

In total, prosecutors said he stole and sold more than 2.9 million credit card numbers. His laptop, they said, contained more than 1.7 million stolen numbers, along with evidence linking him to various servers, email and transactions in the scheme.

Seleznev faces separate charges pending in federal courts in Nevada and Georgia.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York and David Alexander in Washington; Editing by Eric Walsh and Grant McCool)

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