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Champion Iron restarts Bloom Lake

Loading the first train with 16,500 tonnes of concentrate comes just three months after the formal decision was made to restart operations at the mine, and about a week after pushing the ‘on’ switch at the plant, following optimisation of the separation circuit to materially improve the ore recovery rate.

The recommissioning had been delivered ahead of budget and the scheduled March opening, Champion said.

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Capital expenditure to restart the whole operation is C$327 million (US$257 million), including C$157 million spent on upgrades at the mine.

Bloom Lake has reserves of some 411 million tonnes, and was estimated to generate more than C$15 billion in revenue over the next 20 years. Annual production is expected to be around 7.4Mtpa.

“Significantly, the first train confirms we have been able to produce a high-grade iron concentrate of exceptional quality, as outlined in the mine’s feasibility study,” executive chairman and CEO Michael O’Keeffe said.

The restart comes at a time when the price differential between higher and lower grades is growing on global markets, which will benefit a high-grade mine like Bloom Lake.

“Furthermore, not only are we on schedule and within budget, but with current iron ore prices of US$78 per tonne for 62% Fe being substantially higher than the estimates of US$56/t used in our planning, we are already ahead of forecast,” O’Keeffe said.

Champion secured the mothballed mine from administrators, taking it out of bankruptcy protection in April 2016 for C$10.5 million (US$8 million) in cash, C$41.7 million in environmental liabilities and C$1.1 million in bonds.

This followed former owner Cleveland-Cliffs (US:CLF) stopping operations at the mine in late 2014 following falling iron ore prices, recoveries and profitability. It had spent over US$5 billion developing it.

Champion has since completed both the feasibility study and funding within 18 months.

A syndicate of dealers, including RBC Capital Markets and Sprott Capital Partners helped organise the funding, while global metals powerhouses Glencore (LN:GLEN) and Sojitz Corporation have offtake agreements.

The company owns 63.2% alongside partner and government representative Ressources Québec (36.8%).

*Haydn Black is a reporter at

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Codan up on 1H results, Cat deal

The company, a significant supplier of military communications hardware, and metal and mine detectors, reported a A$15.8 million net profit on $94.7 million of revenues for the six months to December 31, 2017. The first-half results included another modest result from the mining tech arm – $2.3 million sales and a “small loss” – but CEO Donald McGurk said the loss was due to ongoing investment “in preparation for scaling this business”.

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Asian shares rebound as U.S. rate fears ebb

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares rebounded on Friday as comments from a Federal Reserve official eased worries that the central bank might raise rates more aggressively this year, while the safe-haven yen held on to its gains amid heightened volatility across markets.

Financial markets have fluctuated wildly this month as investors fretted about how fast the Fed might raise rates in the wake of data showing a pick up in U.S. inflation. That in turn has stoked anxiety that many central banks will start to tighten policy in a hit to earnings, which have boomed thanks to a synchronized uptick in global growth.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.4 percent, but was still on track to end the week barely changed.

Australian and New Zealand shares were each up 0.5 percent while Japan’s Nikkei edged 0.3 percent higher and South Korea’s KOSPI index rose 1 percent.

Asian shares took a knock on Thursday after minutes of the Fed’s last meeting showed policy makers were confident about the economic outlook, prompting some investors to boost the odds of faster rate hikes.

The Fed started tightening its ultra-loose policy at the end of 2015 after keeping rates on hold for almost a decade. It raised interest rates three times in 2017 and is likely to tighten again in March.

St Louis Fed President James Bullard tried to tamp down of expectations of four rate hikes in 2018, instead of the widely anticipated three increases, saying on Thursday policymakers need to be careful not to increase rates too quickly because that could slow the economy.

That was enough to send U.S. shares rallying, despite the negative lead from Asia and Europe.

On Wall Street, the Dow added 0.7 percent, the SP 500 ended a tad firmer while the Nasdaq lost 0.11 percent.

Analysts expect the market to be in a “holding pattern” ahead of a slew of important U.S. January activity data on Tuesday, followed by global surveys on manufacturing activity on Thursday.


“We think inflation and yield fears are overblown near term,” JPMorgan analyst Marko Kolanovic wrote in a note.

“However, speculators have amassed the largest short position in the history of bond futures trading. With such a large short position, there is always risk of profit taking, or worse a proper short-squeeze.”

Bond prices gained, sending benchmark U.S. Treasury 10-year yields US10YT=RR down from a four-year high of 2.9570 percent.

In the foreign exchange market, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, was flat at 89.736, with the euro a touch softer at $1.2324 after rising 0.4 percent on Wednesday.

“Movements in EUR/USD seem to be mirroring movements in US equities, rising when equities sell off and weakening when they rally,” ANZ analysts wrote in a note to clients.

The yen, which tends to benefit during times of heightened volatility or uncertainty, rose almost 1 percent overnight to last fetch around 106.8 per dollar.

In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, data showed business confidence fell more than expected in February.

Though Germany is set for solid growth in the first quarter, diverging monetary policy expectations with the United States sent the “trans-Atlantic spread” between German and U.S. 10-year borrowing costs to 222 bps, the highest in more than a year.

Oil prices eased from two-week highs. [O/R]

U.S. crude was down 13 cents at $62.64 per barrel and Brent was last at $66.39. Spot gold ticked lower to $1330.26 an ounce.

Reporting by Swati PandeyEditing by Shri Navaratnam

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Exclusive: Trump calls meeting on biofuels policy blamed by bankrupt refiner

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has called a cabinet-level meeting early next week to discuss potential changes to biofuels policy, which is coming under increasing pressure after a Pennsylvania refiner blamed the regulation for its bankruptcy, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The meeting comes as the oil industry and corn lobby – powerful forces in Washington – clash over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a decade-old regulation that requires refiners to cover the cost of mixing biofuels such as corn-based ethanol into their fuel.

The regulation has created a lucrative market for corn-growing states, but refiners say it costs them hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Trump’s engagement reflects the high political stakes of protecting jobs in a key electoral state. Oil refiner Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), which employs more than a thousand people in Philadelphia, declared bankruptcy last month and blamed the regulation for its demise.

The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, will include Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and potentially Energy Secretary Rick Perry, according to the three sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

One of the sources said the meeting would focus on short-term solutions to help PES continue operating. PES is asking a bankruptcy judge to shed roughly $350 million of its current RFS compliance costs, owed to the EPA which administers the program, as part of its restructuring package.

Another source said the meeting could instead focus on broad changes to the RFS that would reduce the cost of the program for the entire refining industry.

Officials at the EPA, Agriculture Department, and Energy Department declined to comment. A White House official, Kelly Love, said she had no announcement on the matter at this time.

The sources did not say what proposals might be discussed, but said the options would be constrained by political and legal realities that have derailed previous efforts at reform.

The Trump administration has already considered changes to the RFS sought by refiners this year – including reducing the amount of biofuels required to be blended annually under the regulation, or shifting the responsibility for blending to supply terminals – only to retreat in the face of opposition from corn-state lawmakers.


The EPA is expected to weigh in officially in the coming weeks on PES’s request to the bankruptcy judge to be released from its compliance obligations. But any such move would likely draw a backlash from other U.S. refiners, who have no hope of receiving a waiver.

Under the RFS, refiners must earn or purchase blending credits called RINs to prove they are complying with the regulation. As biofuels volumes quotas have increased, so have prices for the credits – meaning refiners that invested in blending facilities have benefited while those that have not, such as PES, have had to pay up.

PES said its RFS compliance costs exceeded its payroll last year, and ranked only behind the cost of purchasing crude oil.

Other issues may have contributed to PES’s financial difficulties. Reuters reported that PES’s investor backers withdrew from the company more than $594 million in a series of dividend-style distributions since 2012, even as regional refining economics slumped.

Regulators and lawmakers have been considering how to cut the cost of the RFS to the oil industry.

In recent months, for example, the EPA has contemplated expanding its use of an exemption available to small refineries – a move that would likely push down RIN prices, but which both the oil and corn industries have said would be unfair.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, meanwhile, last year proposed limiting the price of RINs to 10 cents, a fraction of their current value – an idea that was roundly rejected by the ethanol industry as a disincentive for new ethanol blending infrastructure investment.

Senator John Cornyn, also a Texas Republican, is preparing draft legislation to overhaul the RFS in Congress that would include the creation of a new specialized RIN credit intended to push down prices – but it too faces resistance from both the corn and oil lobbies.

Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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BlackRock puts gunmakers on notice after Florida school shooting

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The world’s largest asset manager put U.S. gunmakers on notice on Thursday that it is no longer business as usual in the wake of a shooting that killed 17 at a Florida high school.

BlackRock Inc said it will speak with weapons manufacturers and distributors “to understand their response” to the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in U.S. history, putting pressure on companies such as Sturm Ruger Company Inc and American Outdoor Brands Corp.

BlackRock is the largest shareholder in both gunmakers and has more than $6 trillion in assets under management. It stopped short of saying it would divest its funds of gun companies, however.

Underlining how the Valentine’s Day massacre at the Florida high school has rattled the finance industry’s relationship with gunmakers, First National Bank of Omaha said separately on Thursday it would not renew a contract with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to issue a NRA-branded Visa card. The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gun control activists have campaigned in recent days for everything from banning semi-automatic guns like the one used in the Florida shooting to asking public pension funds to sell gun stocks.

New Jersey legislators on Thursday said they plan to introduce bills to bar state pension funds from investing in gun manufacturers.

BlackRock said it cannot sell shares of a company in an index, given its fiduciary responsibilities. Instead, “We focus on engaging with the company and understanding how they are responding to society’s expectations of them,” BlackRock spokesman Ed Sweeney said in an email.

Sweeney declined to give more specifics, such as what if any changes BlackRock might seek at weapons makers or at retailers that sell their products.

But with so much money under management, BlackRock often has among the largest stakes in U.S. public companies, giving it much potential influence over their policies.

It owns about 17 percent of the total shares of Sturm Ruger and has about 11 percent of American Outdoor Brands, for instance, according to U.S. regulatory filings. The shares are largely held in funds that track indexes, such as the $6 billion iShares U.S. Aerospace Defense ETF.

BlackRock and other large index fund managers carry clout partly through their proxy votes, such as for directors and on matters brought to a vote by shareholders.

Both American Outdoor and Sturm Ruger for instance face shareholder resolutions calling for them to report on their efforts related to gun safety, according to a list of resolutions kept by the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.

Representatives for American Outdoor Brands and Sturm Ruger did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Shares in both companies rallied on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump advocated tightening background checks for guns in response to the most recent school shooting.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink in January wrote a letter to corporate executives saying that companies need to show how they make “a positive contribution to society” in addition to delivering financial performance.

And he said that BlackRock would increase its own engagement with companies to improve its oversight over those companies, doubling to 64 the number of people it has dedicated to “investment stewardship,” its team that focuses on other company’s governance.

Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Additional reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker

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Trump’s call for more gun regulation boosts firearm stocks

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Shares of gunmakers American Outdoor Brands and Sturm Ruger Company rallied on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump advocated tightening background checks for guns in response to last week’s high school massacre in Florida.

The Republican president’s tweets and comments were seen as increasing the possibility of greater curbs on gun ownership, fueling expectation that people might seek to stock up on guns in advance of any changes.

Both of those sentiments had dipped since Trump was elected in November 2016 – illustrating a paradox under which a president viewed as more favorable to gun ownership can depress gun sales and shares in gunmakers.

“What Trump has been saying is a complete surprise,” said Aegis Capital analyst Rommel Dionisio, who covers firearms makers. “The prevailing wisdom for Republican presidents is not to be pro-gun control.”

Under Democratic President Barack Obama, firearm sales hit record levels as people stocked up, thinking the government might tighten gun control laws. Mass shootings that took place during Obama’s eight years in office from 2009 bolstered that expectation even more, often sending shares of gunmakers surging in the immediate aftermath of such events. (

Sales and stock prices of firearms makers slumped after Trump’s unexpected election victory was seen as reducing prospects for curbs on gun ownership. Sturm Ruger’s stock has fallen 22 percent since the 2016 election, and American Outdoor Brands has lost 63 percent of its value.

But tweets and comments by Trump on Wednesday and Thursday that he supported raising the age limit for purchases of some kinds of guns, as well as other measures, turned up the heat on the gun control debate, and boosted gunmakers’ shares.

Sturm Ruger rose 3.6 percent, while American Outdoor Brands jumped as much as 7.9 percent before ending with an increase of 0.6 percent.

Nevertheless, Trump took a pro-gun stance in advocating arming some schoolteachers to prevent school shootings. Also fueling the gun control debate, National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre in a speech on Thursday described control advocates as elites aiming to “eradicate all personal freedoms.”

Reflecting the gun industry slump under Trump, Sturm Ruger reported a 27 percent fall in revenue for the December quarter on Wednesday.

Ruger laid off 50 workers in January, and in its quarterly report it said it was slashing its capital expenditures plan for 2018 by more than half, suggesting the Southport, Connecticut, company expects its business to remain difficult.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a massacre that has fueled unprecedented youth-led protests in cities across the country. Many of the teens and their parents are calling for greater gun control.

Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis

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Stymied by regulators, Airbnb looks to luxury vacations, hotels for growth

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Airbnb is rolling out new services aimed at attracting travelers looking for luxury accommodations and traditional hotels, the latest move to contend with sputtering growth in its original home-renting business.

The company on Thursday will unveil a new product that bundles Airbnb’s poshest properties with high-end travel services, as well as a separate category of homes guaranteed to be clean and comfortable. Airbnb will also make it easier for boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts — once its arch enemies — to list their rooms on its online booking site.

The company is billing the effort as a way to win over travelers who have shied away from the risks and quirks that are part of renting a stranger’s apartment.

But it is also an acknowledgement that its core business has hit roadblocks around the world. Regulators in key cities such as Berlin, London, New York and even its hometown of San Francisco have cracked down on short-term rentals, blaming Airbnb for exacerbating already tight housing markets. The company has been forced to slash its listings in certain popular cities as part of its concessions to regulators.

Airbnb has compensated by adding services such as restaurant reservations and guided trips of local sights, part of a roster of offerings the company is betting will someday generate more revenue than it earns from renting homes.

Thursday’s event in San Francisco builds on this effort, with Airbnb Chief Executive Brian Chesky set to announce changes that put the company in closer competition with the likes of Expedia Inc (EXPE.O).

Planned moves include a new way of categorizing listings. Airbnb will specify whether the property is a home, bed-and-breakfast, hotel or something more eccentric, like a houseboat or yurt. And it will give guidance on the best properties for certain types of travelers, such as whether a house is most appropriate for families, newlyweds or colleagues on a work retreat, according to an Airbnb spokesman, who spoke with Reuters prior to the Thursday event.

Another new category is made up of homes that Airbnb has inspected for quality and cleanliness. Landlords will be able to charge a premium for those properties, enabling Airbnb to earn more too. Airbnb charges fees of up to 15 percent for guests and about 3 percent for hosts on the price of each rental.

There is a sense of urgency for Airbnb to get it right. The privately held company is valued at $31 billion and needs a predictable business with steady growth to hold a successful initial public offering, expected in 2019.

“Airbnb (is) figuring out how do we grow at the same levels that investors are expecting us to grow, given some of the regulatory headwinds,” said Christopher Anderson, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. “That comes down to more breadth of inventory.”

Airbnb, which does not release its financial data, said last year it had achieved its first full year of profitability. The company continues to increase its number of listings and visitors, but growth has slowed.

Since its launch in 2009, the company at least doubled the number of bookings for its properties every year until 2017, when bookings grew by 62.5 percent to 130 million guests. The slowdown is due in part to the company’s larger size as well as the harsher regulatory climate.


In San Francisco, for example, which passed a 90-night limit on rentals and issued licensing requirements, the number of short-term rentals fell to 3,500 in January from more than 8,500 in August, according to government figures.

Several European cities have cracked down too. In Berlin, 3,953 homes were removed last year from vacation rental listings, a government report shows, although it was not clear how many of those were specific to Airbnb. Available Airbnb listings for Paris stood at 35,825 last month, down from 40,484 in January 2017, according to market tracker AirDNA. Tougher rules in Amsterdam have caused Airbnb listings to stabilize at around 18,000, a city official said. Those numbers could fall further when new restrictions capping Amsterdam home shares at 30 days go into effect next year.

Airbnb continues to expand outside of traditional city centers, and its new offerings will appeal to more diverse users and changing travel patterns, according to Chris Lehane, head of global policy for Airbnb.

Founded as a way for homeowners to make a bit of cash renting spare rooms to penny pinchers, Airbnb now operates in 191 countries.

“It’s just a very different business that existed in 2009 when Airbnb was primarily in the U.S. and in urban markets,” Lehane said.

The company sees particular promise in hotel listings. There are currently 24,000 hotel rooms already listed on Airbnb, up 520 percent from a year ago. While big chains are not likely to be on the site anytime soon, Airbnb is eager to attract more small, independent hotels to lure travelers who want predictable accommodations.

Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel industry research firm Atmosphere Research, said it is a recognition that Airbnb and hotels, seemingly at odds, might actually help each other’s business.

“That is the lion laying down with the lamb,” Harteveldt said. “Airbnb may become a bona fide online travel agency just like Priceline.”

But whether Airbnb can succeed in that segment remains to be seen. There is a slew of competition, from giants like Expedia, which owns Airbnb competitor HomeAway, to luxury home booking company onefinestay, which is backed by a large European hotel group.

The company also risks alienating homeowners, who were the first to use Airbnb and are among its fiercest advocates.

Airbnb host Stephen Barefoot is a bit wary of the company’s growth plans. Partially retired, Barefoot rents out a floor of his home in Durham, North Carolina, to supplement his income. He enjoys the personal connections with guests and wonders if that could change.

“It just loses it a little bit when I think about it in the same terms as Expedia,” he said.

Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco. Additional reporting by Tina Bellon in New York, Dominique Vidalon in Paris and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam.; Editing by Marla Dickerson.

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Dow, S&P climb on energy and industrials; Nasdaq falls

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Dow and SP 500 advanced on Thursday to halt a two-session losing skid, buoyed by gains in industrial and energy shares as U.S. Treasury yields eased, while the Nasdaq lost ground for a third straight session.

Major indexes advanced early as worries about a faster pace of interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve were eased by comments by St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, who expressed concerns that a “bunch of hikes” could turn Fed policy restrictive. Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields US10YT=RR retreated from the more than four-year highs hit on Wednesday.

Those gains faded, however, and major indexes finished well off session highs as investors exercised caution in what is likely to be a rising interest rate environment.

“The rally on Bullard was a little overzealous,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“I wouldn’t be out there aggressively buying stocks because until the interest rate picture clarifies, and it probably will do so at a higher level, it is just going to create problems for equities,” he said.

The concerns over rising interest rates have dogged Wall Street of late, and stocks stumbled on Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January meeting showed the central bank’s rate-setting committee grew more confident in the need to keep raising rates.

Market participants are still largely expecting the Fed to raise rates three times this year, beginning with its next meeting in March.

Despite the recent climb in rates, many analysts expect the stock market to be able to absorb the rise as long as economic data remain supportive and the pace of the increase is modest.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 164.7 points, or 0.66 percent, to 24,962.48, the SP 500 .SPX gained 2.63 points, or 0.10 percent, to 2,703.96, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 8.14 points, or 0.11 percent, to 7,210.09.

Benchmark 10-year notes US10YT=RR last rose 5/32 in price to yield 2.9225 percent, from 2.941 percent late on Wednesday.

Industrial shares climbed 0.59 percent, led by a 3.04 percent gain in Quanta Services Inc (PWR.N) after its quarterly results and a 3.34 percent rise in United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) after the aero parts maker said it is exploring a breakup of its business portfolio.

Energy stocks .SPNY, up 1.08 percent, also helped support gains, as oil prices advanced on a surprise draw in U.S. crude inventories.

Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N) shares surged 21.67 percent, their biggest daily percentage gain since April 2016, after the company’s quarterly results and outlook.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.09-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.41-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The SP 500 posted two new 52-week highs and nine new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 58 new highs and 47 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.81 billion shares, compared to the 8.44 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

  • White House adviser says stock market volatility is ‘not unusual’

Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler

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HP Inc results beat estimates, raises 2018 profit forecast

HP Inc (HPQ.N) reported first-quarter revenue and profit on Thursday above Wall Street estimates as it sold more personal computers and printers, helping the company raise its full-year profit forecast.

Shares of the company, which houses the hardware business of former Hewlett-Packard Co, rose 5.3 percent to $22.53 after the bell.

The company said it expects fiscal 2018 earnings per share to be in the range of $1.90 to $2.00, up from $1.75 to $1.85. That number was above the average analyst estimate of $1.81 per share.

HP Inc’s personal systems business, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the company’s total revenue, rose nearly 15 percent to $9.44 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $8.50 billion.

Despite a shrinking PC market in the United States, the company continued to pick up market share, after toppling Lenovo Group Ltd (0992.HK) last year from the top position globally, according to research firm Gartner Inc (IT.N).

Going forward, companies such as HP Inc are expected to benefit from demand for better quality in personal computers.

According to a Gartner report, PC buyers will look for quality and functionality rather than lower prices, which will increase average selling prices of PCs and improve profitability in the long run.

The Palo Alto, California-based company, which completed the acquisition of Samsung Electronics Co’s (005930.KS) printer business last year, said revenue from its printer business rose 13.7 percent to $5.08 billion, above the average analyst estimate of $4.76 billion.

Net earnings rose to $1.94 billion, or $1.16 per share, in the quarter ended Jan. 31, from $611 million, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier, benefiting from a one-time tax gain of $1.03 billion.

Revenue rose 14.5 percent to $14.52 billion.

Excluding items, the company earned 48 cents per share.

Analysts on average were expecting 42 cents per share and revenue of $13.49 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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