Monday, 2 May 2011

Aflac to Present Live, Online at RetailInvestorConferences.com on May 5th

Company invites Main Street and Wall Street investors to attend interactive real-time virtual conference

NEW YORK May 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Aflac Incorporated (NYSE: AFL) the insurance company that helps employers offer their workers a financial safety net at no direct cost to their businesses, has been declared a World's Most Ethical Company for a fifth consecutive year, today announced that Delia Moore, Investor Relations Manager, will present at RetailInvestorConferences.com.

DATE: May 5th, 2011

TIME: 4:00 PM EDT

LINK: www.retailinvestorconferences.com > Click the red "register/ watch event now" button.


This will be a live, interactive online event where investors are invited to ask the company questions in real-time both in the presentation hall as well as the company's "virtual trade booth." If attendees are not able to join the event live in real-time, an on-demand archive will be available for 90 days.

It is recommended that investors pre-register to save time and receive event updates.

About Aflac Incorporated:

When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For more than 55 years, Aflac insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the number one provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance. In Japan, Aflac is the number one insurance company in terms of individual insurance policies in force. Aflac insurance products provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For five consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere magazine as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. In addition, Forbes magazine has named Aflac as one of America's Best-Managed Companies in the Insurance category. In 2011, Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for the thirteenth consecutive year and included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies for the tenth time. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac, visit aflac.com.

A copy of Aflac's Financial Analysts Briefing (FAB) supplement for the first quarter of 2011 can be found on the "Investors" page at aflac.com, along with a complete listing of Aflac's investment holdings in the financial sector and a separate listing of the company's investments in perpetual securities.

About RetailInvestorConferences.com:

RetailInvestorConferences.com, created by BetterInvesting (NAIC), PR Newswire and MUNCmedia, is the first monthly virtual investor conference series that provides an interactive forum for presenting companies to meet directly with retail investors using a graphically-enhanced online platform.

Designed to replicate the look and feel of location-based investor conferences, Retail Investor Conferences unites PR Newswire's leading-edge online conferencing and investor communications capabilities with BetterInvesting's extensive retail investor audience network and MUNCmedia's sophisticated retail investor targeting.

Forward-Looking Statements

The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a "safe harbor" to encourage companies to provide prospective information, so long as those informational statements are identified as forward-looking and are accompanied by meaningful cautionary statements identifying important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those included in the forward-looking statements. We desire to take advantage of these provisions. This document contains cautionary statements identifying important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected herein, and in any other statements made by company officials in communications with the financial community and contained in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Monday, 18 April 2011

Stocks coming off down week:

NEW YORK (AP) — It was a down week for stocks. Wall Street is hoping for better this week as earnings reports pick up.

In Friday trading, the Dow rose 57 points to close at 12,342. The S&P 500 index was up 5 points to 1,320. The NASDAQ composite added 4 points to 2,765.

For the week, the key averages were down between 0.3 and 0.6 percent.

WORLD MARKETS

Asia markets higher on US economic news

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly higher Monday, shrugging off yet another anti-inflation move by China after encouraging news about the U.S. economy.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index eked out a marginal gain of less than 0.1 percent after opening lower. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent, while South Korea's Kospi slid 0.5 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent.

Benchmarks in Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and New Zealand were also higher. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3 percent. Taiwan's TAIEX was down slightly.

OIL PRICES

Oil near $109 as US gasoline prices jump

SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices fell to near $109 a barrel Monday in Asia as gasoline jumped to average $4 a gallon in six U.S. states and the District of Columbia, raising fears higher fuel costs will undermine crude demand.

Benchmark crude for May delivery was down 58 cents at $109.08 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.55 to settle at $109.66 on Friday.

In London, Brent crude for June delivery was down 33 cents to $123.12 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

ECONOMY-WEEK AHEAD

Reports on housing among those due

WASHINGTON (AP) — The week is fairly light for economic reports. A reading is due today from the National Association of Home Builders on builder sentiment. Tomorrow, the government weighs in with housing starts for March. Also due this week, existing home sales, new unemployment claims and the index of leading economic indicators.

NABE SURVEY

Poll: US economy improving despite global events

WASHINGTON (AP) — Economists say the U.S. economy is gaining strength despite political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East and last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

A survey from the National Association for Business Economics finds that economists are hopeful that the broader economy is substantially improving, with rising employment reported for the fifth quarter in a row.

The outlook for employment rose slightly, reaching a 12-year high. No firms reported significant layoffs, with the only reductions coming from already planned cuts.

Sales increased for the third consecutive quarter, profit margins continued to improve and the number of economists whose firms increased spending over the previous quarter held steady. Nearly all of the 72 economists surveyed, about 94 percent, now expect the economy to grow at least 2 percent in 2011.

GAS PRICES

6 states and nation's capital now at $4 gas

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six states and Washington, D.C., now have gasoline prices averaging more than $4 per gallon.

Triple-A says New York State joined the list yesterday, which also includes Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii and Illinois.

The next states could be Michigan, which has gas for $3.95 per gallon on average, and Indiana, where the average price is $3.94. Nevada, Washington and Wisconsin are close behind.

Hawaii has the highest price in the U.S. at $4.48 per gallon. Wyoming has the lowest, at $3.54.

The national average for gas has increased for 26 straight days, and is now at $3.83 per gallon.

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Monday, 28 February 2011

New Tool to Ease the Life of the Online Business Entrepreneur


Online Business entrepreneurs can now find the perfect .co.uk or .com domain name – thanks to a new free tool from web development company, Bird and Co Creative. The new domain tool is the fastest way to check if a domain is available. With thousands of new businesses starting up in the UK every month, this tool will be vital to many business entrepreneurs.

A website’s domain name is recognised as an essential piece of a company’s branding. The best names can change hands for thousands or even millions. One of the most expensive transactions was in 2009 when the domain name insure.com changed hands for a staggering $16 million.

Many popular terms have already been registered as domain names. So people setting up a new business often find it difficult to find the name that they want. In the past, checking to see if domains were free was a frustrating and time-consuming process. But that has now changed. With Bird and Co Creative’s domain tool it is possible to check the availability of domains instantly. As fast as a person can type, it is checking to see if the domain name can be registered.

The tool can be accessed by visiting the following web page:
http://www.birdandcocreative.co.uk/domainchecker/

The tool was created by the web developers at Bird and Co Creative, Bromsgrove. As Online Marketing Manager Paul Ajao explains “We initially developed this tool to be used in-house, as we create many online campaigns for our clients. Everybody that used it thought it was outstanding, so we decided to make it generally available.”

In today’s economic climate, there are thousands of business entrepreneurs looking to set up an online business. Some people are taking their redundancy money and using it to invest in themselves - they start an online business rather than just wait for another job to become available. The domain tool will help them create a branded website that will give them the best chance of success.
source:http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=132907

Thursday, 24 February 2011

‘Social Media for Business’ – Online Course for Marketers Launched by Oxford Learning Lab

‘Social Media for Business’



Facebook and LinkedIn, are heralding an enormous change to the way businesses market themselves. But are marketers keeping up with the important changes? Oxford Learning Lab, an independent digital publisher that works with renowned marketing experts, is launching a new online marketing course that illuminates how social media can work as a marketing tool for any business. Released to coincide with the launch of Oxford Learning Lab’s revamped website, the course - ‘Social Media for Business’ - is based around high quality video content and downloadable course notes. It is perfect for busy people and affordably priced.

Aimed at professional marketers, marketing students and marketing consultants who wish to increase their knowledge base, the social media course, 'Social Media for Business' provides high quality, flexible learning, round the clock, for the fraction of the cost of an instructor-led course and has the benefit of being eligible as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for marketers.

All course videos feature highly trained marketing professionals, including authors of popular marketing books, and most of the speakers are collaborating with The Chartered Institute of Marketing. The product is endorsed by Oxford College of Marketing, one of the largest providers of The Chartered Institute of Marketing courses.

Giorgio Burlini of Oxford Learning Lab comments: “The user bases of social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have grown enormously in the last year or so and have become the biggest global channels to market. Businesses are winning work from Twitter and LinkedIn, while Facebook has become a vital advertising medium as well as a channel for direct customer communications. It’s important for marketers to understand the many applications and benefits offered to business by social media in engaging customers as well as benchmarking and measuring activities, and planning ahead with quantifiable, achievable objectives.”

Monday, 14 February 2011

P.L.A.Y. Launches New Business and Website Geared Toward Pet Owners

San Francisco retailer of unique dog beds presents a new option for environmentally conscious and fashion-forward pet owners.San Francisco, CA (Vocus/PRWEB) February 14, 2011


New online retail business P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You) just passed a successful one-month mark in its business, offering pet owners across the US and Canada an affordable, artistically-designed alternative in designer dog beds.

"We can honestly say that we love what we do, and starting this business is one of the best decisions we've ever made. Well, besides getting our own dog, of course," said William Chen, founder and owner of P.L.A.Y. "We've taken that love we have towards our pug and created products that dog-lovers everywhere can appreciate in terms of design, environmental-friendly materials, washable construction and price."

Recognized for its ergonomic construction made with recyclable fill materials, P.L.A.Y. makes designer beds for pets of all sizes. From small beds to extra large dog beds suitable for breeds up to 110 pounds, there is a wide selection of designs and styles, with more in the works.

After solidifying its online ecommerce store, P.L.A.Y. plans to work with brick and mortar retail stores nationwide to allow consumers to physically see and test its products before buying. With quality products and fashionable designs, P.L.A.Y. anticipates expanding into the international market to carve out its own reputation for excellence and care.

"We offer something that is unique," said Chen. "We understand that dog owners want to give the best to their furry friends, so we make that possible at a great price, which is different from many of our competitors. You can get an environmentally-conscious dog bed that is fashionable, made with quality construction and still affordable-all in one pet-friendly package."

About P.L.A.Y.
P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You) began with the mission to create the perfect dog bed for Momo, the pug belonging to P.L.A.Y. owner and founder William Chen. Collaborating with a manufacturer of infant and children products for the ultimate standard in safety and comfort, the company paired with San Franciscan designer David Collins to offer aesthetically pleasing, top quality designs. Each pet product is made with recycled materials, making P.L.A.Y. dog beds great for the environment, your pet and your interior design.

Friday, 11 February 2011

House Republicans lead charge to reduce regulations

WASHINGTON — House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa gaveled Thursday's hearing to order with two posters displayed behind him: "How do regulations block private sector job growth?" asked one. "We're listening," promised the other.



The problem, said Democrats on the panel, is whom the committee is listening to: business owners, their lobbyists and conservative think tanks who came with a built-in bias against federal health and safety regulations.

"We need to expand the scope of our inquiry to include the benefits of regulation, as well as the costs," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee's top Democrat. "We also need to expand the groups we are seeking input from beyond those who want to repeal regulations."

The oversight hearing was part of a coordinated GOP effort to "expose job-killing regulations." A judiciary subcommittee held a similar hearing Thursday afternoon, followed by floor debate on a resolution requiring House committees to list and review regulations in their jurisdiction.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, the resolution's sponsor, said stronger oversight was necessary to "rein in big government and shine light on our federal regulatory process."

Democrats questioned the necessity, if not the goals, of the effort.

"A meaningless gimmick that only wastes time," said Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y. "Nothing more than a vehicle to rehash old politically motivated fights," said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. "A feel-good resolution from the Republican majority," said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

President Obama is conducting his own review of regulations. He told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday that he would work with business leaders to "get rid of regulations that have outlived their usefulness."


Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., said Congress should "weed out the hyperbole" and look at specific regulations.

Issa, R-Calif., agreed that more work remained to be done but said Congress first needs to raise awareness of the impact of regulations on jobs. "We think what we can be is the canary in the coal mine," Issa told reporters.

"It's easy to rail against regulations in the abstract. It's like railing against taxes," said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor who studies regulation at the University of Michigan. "But it's hard to sell to the American people that we should water down environmental or consumer protection regulations specifically."

Even if Republicans aren't successful in rolling back existing regulations, the effort could make regulators think harder about the costs of compliance.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Brasil Telecom S.A. - Financial and Strategic SWOT Analysis Review


Brasil Telecom S.A. (Brasil Telecom) is a holding company engaged in the provision of telecommunication services. It is principally involved in the business of providing local fixed-line telephone, long-distance services. In addition, the company offers broadband services to customers including fixed line telephone as well as mobile service, free Internet access data and voice, national and international long-distance, data center,


broadband and dial-up internet access. Furthermore, the company also involves in support services through call center. Brasil Telecom offers the package in bundled solutions to private, public and industrial accounts including home, corporate and city.

This comprehensive SWOT profile of Brasil Telecom S.A. provides you an in-depth strategic analysis of the company´s businesses and operations. The profile has been compiled to bring to you a clear and an unbiased view of the company´s key strengths and weaknesses and the potential opportunities and threats. The profile helps you formulate strategies that augment your business by enabling you to understand your partners, customers and competitors better.

This company report forms part of the ´Profile on Demand´ service, covering over 50,000 of the world´s leading companies. Once purchased, highly qualified team of company analysts will comprehensively research and author a full financial and strategic analysis of Brasil Telecom S.A., including a detailed SWOT analysis, and deliver this direct to you in pdf format within two business days. (excluding weekends).

The profile contains critical company information including*,

- Business description – A detailed description of the company´s operations and business divisions.
- Corporate strategy – Analyst´s summarization of the company´s business strategy.
- SWOT Analysis – A detailed analysis of the company´s strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.
- Company history – Progression of key events associated with the company.
- Major products and services – A list of major products, services and brands of the company.
- Key competitors – A list of key competitors to the company.
- Key employees – A list of the key executives of the company.
- Executive biographies – A brief summary of the executives´ employment history.
- Key operational heads – A list of personnel heading key departments/functions.
- Important locations and subsidiaries – A list and contact details of key locations and subsidiaries of the company.
- Detailed financial ratios for the past five years – The latest financial ratios derived from the annual financial statements published by the company with 5 years history.
- Interim ratios for the last five interim periods – The latest financial ratios derived from the quarterly/semi-annual financial statements published by the company for 5 interims history.

Note*: Some sections may be missing if data is unavailable for the company.

Key benefits of buying this profile include,

You get detailed information about the company and its operations to identify potential customers and suppliers.
- The profile analyzes the company´s business structure, operations, major products and services, prospects, locations and subsidiaries, key executives and their biographies and key competitors.

Understand and respond to your competitors´ business structure and strategies, and capitalize on their weaknesses. Stay up to date on the major developments affecting the company.
- The company´s core strengths and weaknesses and areas of development or decline are analyzed and presented in the profile objectively. Recent developments in the company covered in the profile help you track important events.

Equip yourself with information that enables you to sharpen your strategies and transform your operations profitably.
- Opportunities that the company can explore and exploit are sized up and its growth potential assessed in the profile. Competitive and/or technological threats are highlighted.

Scout for potential investments and acquisition targets, with detailed insight into the companies´ strategic, financial and operational performance.
- Financial ratio presented for major public companies in the profile include the revenue trends, profitability, growth, margins and returns, liquidity and leverage, financial position and efficiency ratios.

Gain key insights into the company for academic or business research.
- Key elements such as SWOT analysis, corporate strategy and financial ratios and charts are incorporated in the profile to assist your academic or business research needs.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Small-business optimism in Canada


Sentiment among small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada was down slightly last month, according to a monthly survey.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business on Wednesday said its "business barometer" for January was 68.9, down from 69.3 in December.

Despite the decline, the CFIB said the results show the rise in optimism that took place late in 2010 has continued into the new year. The barometer spent most of last year in the mid-60s.

The CFIB says scores greater than 50 show most business owners expect conditions to improve over the next year. If the index is between 65 and 75, that's usually indicative of economic growth, it says.

Earlier this week, Statistics Canada said there was a 0.4 per cent expansion in gross domestic product in November, the most economic growth seen in eight months.

The CFIB said the current optimism among small-business owners is showing up in increased orders and intentions to invest in production equipment.

"It appears to be the business-to-business side of the economy that is powering this latest improvement," said CFIB chief economist Ted Mallett.

"After supporting the economy so well earlier in the recovery, the consumer-led sectors have remained in the background."

The strongest business sentiment is being seen in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and British Columbia. The weakest is in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The CFIB's January business barometer was based on web surveys with 967 businesses. The results are considered representative within 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

KC company in forefront of Internet advertising business


The biggest advertising spots on the Internet are household names: Google, Facebook, Bing.

But by pulling together all sorts of digital advertising — from e-mail and search-engine ads to mobile ads and online-game offers — a Kansas City company, Adknowledge, has become the No. 4 digital advertising network.

And it plans to keep growing after announcing in January that it attracted $200 million in new outside financing.

Scott Lynn, Adknowledge’s chief executive officer, said most of the roughly million online advertisers today turned to Google. And heavily trafficked websites such as The New York Times, ESPN and Expedia attract big-brand advertisers.

But “the remainder of the Internet is very, very difficult to advertise with,” he said. “We’re trying to create a single advertiser marketplace for those other segments so that advertisers can go to a single website, enter a credit card number and buy traffic with all of these different companies through a one-stop shop.”

In just six years Lynn’s company has put together those pieces, roughly doubling its annual revenue last year to $300 million.

Its work force has grown to 330, about half of them in Kansas City. Adknowledge also has offices in New York; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Fort Myers, Fla.; Britain; and Australia.

The Silicon Alley Insider, a website that focuses on tech business news, last year ranked Adknowledge No. 18, after Hulu and before TheLadders.com, on its list “The Digital 100: World’s Most Valuable Start-Ups.” The report estimated Adknowledge’s value at $900 million.

Some of the building blocks of Adknowledge’s success:

•A huge database of consumer profiles and their interaction with ads, used to predict where businesses should put their ads to get the best response. Adknowledge emphasizes that it does not use “cookies” to follow people online, as some companies do, and that its profiles are anonymous — consumer interactions are not linked to any person’s identity. Adknowledge has more than 60 terabytes — a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes — of that behavior data and says it runs more than 20 billion calculations a day “to determine what ad to show to each consumer.”

•A sophisticated matching site, bidsystem.com, that makes it easier for advertisers and digital advertising channels to find one another. Adknowledge says more than 10,000 advertisers bid for traffic — to put their ads where they’re most likely to be seen. And the company says it generates “more than 280 million clicks per month” for its advertisers across “multiple channels, including e-mail, display and social advertising.”

•A series of acquisitions in the past two years to expand those channels.

Lynn said the company’s 2009 acquisitions of social media businesses such as Super Rewards (an Internet advertising company that offers points or other rewards to online users who sign up for services) and the media division of Miva Inc., one of the largest independent online advertising networks, supported Adknowledge’s vision of creating a single marketplace for online advertising.

And last summer Adknowledge acquired the Hydra Group, which has thousands of online advertising affiliates — sites that get commissions when the ads they display are clicked, especially if they generate sales or other desired actions, such as requesting information on products or services.

“We currently maintain market leadership positions with our social media and e-mail advertising businesses,” Lynn said at the time of the acquisition, “and believe that Hydra will allow us to achieve the leading position in the affiliate industry.”

Lynn said another factor in Adknowledge’s success was that “a majority of the company is technology-focused,” enabling it to come up with powerful, innovative products such as bidsystem.com and its programming to predict which advertising approach would be most effective for a particular client.

Monday, 31 January 2011

TA Global Acquires Hotel Business In Kushan, China



TA Global Bhd's (TAG) wholly-owned Swiss Liberty Sdn Bhd, has signed a sale and purchase of shares agreement with Kingdom Hotel Investments to acquire the hotel and business of Swissotel Kunshan in Kunshan, China.

This was done via the purchase of the entire issued shares of Kingdom Kunshan Ltd (KKL) of 4.031 million shares of US$1 each for a cash consideration of RM185.500 million. (US$1=RM3.0535), the company said in a filing to Bursa Malaysia.

KKL owns 100 per cent of the equity of First Shanghai Hotel Group (FSHG) and 100 per cent of the equity of Sino Dragon Asset Ltd (SDAL) which in turn owns 65 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, of the equity of Kunshan Mamlaka Hotel Company Limited, a China incorporated company, which is the registered owner of the hotel property and business.

The hotel, rated a 5-star with 387 guest bedrooms, is prominently located in the city centre of Kunshan, along the western edge of Kunshan Economic and Technological Development Zone.

TAG said the proposed acquisition would be funded from internally-generated funds and external borrowings.

Meanwhile, the original cost of investment in the hotel was US $59.3 million.

In the statement, TAG said the proposed acquisition would further enhance the company's hospitality operations in major cities worldwide and expand its existing hospitality properties portfolio in China.

It will also provide a steady revenue stream and enhance revenue contribution from its hospitality division to the company.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

World stocks down ahead of US growth figures



World stock markets mostly slipped Friday as investors braced for growth figures for the U.S. economy, the world's largest, and worried about debt problems in large economies like Japan.

Markets were still rattled from the previous day's credit rating downgrade of Japan by Standard & Poor's. Rival agency Moody's Investors Service later said that the U.S. rating outlook remains under pressure, increasing the likelihood that it might fall to 'negative' from 'stable' over the next two years due to high levels of debt.
orld stock markets mostly slipped Friday as investors braced for growth figures for the U.S. economy, the world's largest, and worried about debt problems in large economies like Japan.

Markets were still rattled from the previous day's credit rating downgrade of Japan by Standard & Poor's. Rival agency Moody's Investors Service later said that the U.S. rating outlook remains under pressure, increasing the likelihood that it might fall to 'negative' from 'stable' over the next two years due to high levels of debt.

Against that backdrop, the U.S. economic growth figures for the fourth quarter will be crucial to markets.

Economists on average forecast that the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent in the October-December quarter. If they are right, it would show the economy has consistently gained speed since hitting a rough patch in the spring, when Europe's debt crisis hurt sales of U.S. exports and crimped business activity.

How well consumer spending picks up will be key, as it accounts for three quarters of the U.S. economy and a fifth of global growth.

"The financial markets have been taking a rosier view of U.S. economic performance in recent weeks, largely on indications of stronger than expected consumer purchases during the holiday season," said Stephen Lewis at Monument Securities in London.

However, he noted growth is still unlikely to be strong enough to fill spare capacity, meaning the economy still has plenty of idle resources such as factories and workers. Unemployment, which has remained stubbornly high despite the recovery, is a top concern for the Federal Reserve, which has shown no indication of wanting to tighten its monetary policy anytime soon.

In Europe, eyes were on Spain, where the government reached a deal with unions on raising the retirement age to 67 from 65. Along with measures to bolster the troubled savings banks, the pension reform plan is a key component in the country's fight to ease tensions over the debt crisis.

Madrid's exchange was among the top risers in Europe -- gaining 0.4 percent -- as the pensions deal offset the news that Spanish unemployment rose back above the 20 percent level in the fourth quarter.

Elsewhere, Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.7 percent lower at 5,920.05 while Germany's DAX gained 0.1 percent to 7,163.20. France's CAC-40 was down 0.1 percent to 4,056.93.

Europe's debt crisis has eased over the past weeks on signs that governments are committed to a broader, bolder strategy to regain market confidence. Public borrowing rates have fallen and the 17-nation euro has rallied sharply. On Friday, thorld stock markets mostly slipped Friday as investors braced for growth figures for the U.S. economy, the world's largest, and worried about debt problems in large economies like Japan.

Markets were still rattled from the previous day's credit rating downgrade of Japan by Standard & Poor's. Rival agency Moody's Investors Service later said that the U.S. rating outlook remains under pressure, increasing the likelihood that it might fall to 'negative' from 'stable' over the next two years due to high levels of debt.

Against that backdrop, the U.S. economic growth figures for the fourth quarter will be crucial to markets.

Economists on average forecast that the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent in the October-December quarter. If they are right, it would show the economy has consistently gained speed since hitting a rough patch in the spring, when Europe's debt crisis hurt sales of U.S. exports and crimped business activity.

How well consumer spending picks up will be key, as it accounts for three quarters of the U.S. economy and a fifth of global growth.

"The financial markets have been taking a rosier view of U.S. economic performance in recent weeks, largely on indications of stronger than expected consumer purchases during the holiday season," said Stephen Lewis at Monument Securities in London.

However, he noted growth is still unlikely to be strong enough to fill spare capacity, meaning the economy still has plenty of idle resources such as factories and workers. Unemployment, which has remained stubbornly high despite the recovery, is a top concern for the Federal Reserve, which has shown no indication of wanting to tighten its monetary policy anytime soon.

In Europe, eyes were on Spain, where the government reached a deal with unions on raising the retirement age to 67 from 65. Along with measures to bolster the troubled savings banks, the pension reform plan is a key component in the country's fight to ease tensions over the debt crisis.

Madrid's exchange was among the top risers in Europe -- gaining 0.4 percent -- as the pensions deal offset the news that Spanish unemployment rose back above the 20 percent level in the fourth quarter.

Elsewhere, Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.7 percent lower at 5,920.05 while Germany's DAX gained 0.1 percent to 7,163.20. France's CAC-40 was down 0.1 percent to 4,056.93.

Europe's debt crisis has eased over the past weeks on signs that governments are committed to a broader, bolder strategy to regain market confidence. Public borrowing rates have fallen and the 17-nation euro has rallied sharply. On Friday, the common currency was down slightly from two-month highs to trade at $1.3695 from $1.3729 in New York late Thursday.

Wall Street was headed for a lower opening, with Dow futures down 0.1 percent to 11,938 and S&P 500 futures losing 0.1 percent to 1,294.

In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average dropped 1.1 percent to close at 10,360.34 as traders reacted to the news -- revealed after the close the previous day-- that Standard & Poor's has lowered Japan's long-term sovereign debt rating one notch to AA- due to its ballooning public debt.

Investors dumped shares in banks, which own large amounts of government bonds. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan's biggest bank, fell 2.7 percent. Mizuho Financial Group, the No. 2 banking group, declined 1.2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group retreated 1.6 percent.

Analysts said signs of weakness in some of the world's leading economies were causing investors to think hard about stocks and whether now was a time to jump in, stay put, or head for the exits.

The rating given Japan on Thursday -- its first downgrade in almost nine years -- is the same rating given to China, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The news sent the dollar as high as 83.18 yen late Thursday from 82.20 yen. On Friday it was trading at 82.63.

The downgrade is a stern reminder to Japan that it faces consequences for letting its debt swell to twice the size of gross domestic product. The government estimated Japan's public debt would swell to 997.7 trillion yen ($12 trillion) by March 2012, up from 943 trillion yen this year.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.7 percent at 4,774.90 as the first estimates of the economic cost of east coast flooding -- possibly the most expensive natural disaster in Australia's history -- were released.

South Korea's Kospi declined 0.3 percent to 2,107.87 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.7 percent to 23,617.02. Shares in Indonesia and Thailand were all lower.

China's Shanghai Composite index gained 0.1 percent to 2,752.75. Benchmarks in Taiwan and New Zealand were also higher.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 1 cent at $85.63 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.69 to settle at $85.64 a barrel on Thursday.e common currency was down slightly from two-month highs to trade at $1.3695 from $1.3729 in New York late Thursday.

Wall Street was headed for a lower opening, with Dow futures down 0.1 percent to 11,938 and S&P 500 futures losing 0.1 percent to 1,294.

In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average dropped 1.1 percent to close at 10,360.34 as traders reacted to the news -- revealed after the close the previous day-- that Standard & Poor's has lowered Japan's long-term sovereign debt rating one notch to AA- due to its ballooning public debt.

Investors dumped shares in banks, which own large amounts of government bonds. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan's biggest bank, fell 2.7 percent. Mizuho Financial Group, the No. 2 banking group, declined 1.2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group retreated 1.6 percent.

Analysts said signs of weakness in some of the world's leading economies were causing investors to think hard about stocks and whether now was a time to jump in, stay put, or head for the exits.

The rating given Japan on Thursday -- its first downgrade in almost nine years -- is the same rating given to China, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The news sent the dollar as high as 83.18 yen late Thursday from 82.20 yen. On Friday it was trading at 82.63.

The downgrade is a stern reminder to Japan that it faces consequences for letting its debt swell to twice the size of gross domestic product. The government estimated Japan's public debt would swell to 997.7 trillion yen ($12 trillion) by March 2012, up from 943 trillion yen this year.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.7 percent at 4,774.90 as the first estimates of the economic cost of east coast flooding -- possibly the most expensive natural disaster in Australia's history -- were released.

South Korea's Kospi declined 0.3 percent to 2,107.87 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.7 percent to 23,617.02. Shares in Indonesia and Thailand were all lower.

China's Shanghai Composite index gained 0.1 percent to 2,752.75. Benchmarks in Taiwan and New Zealand were also higher.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 1 cent at $85.63 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.69 to settle at $85.64 a barrel on Thursday.
Against that backdrop, the U.S. economic growth figures for the fourth quarter will be crucial to markets.

Economists on average forecast that the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent in the October-December quarter. If they are right, it would show the economy has consistently gained speed since hitting a rough patch in the spring, when Europe's debt crisis hurt sales of U.S. exports and crimped business activity.

How well consumer spending picks up will be key, as it accounts for three quarters of the U.S. economy and a fifth of global growth.

"The financial markets have been taking a rosier view of U.S. economic performance in recent weeks, largely on indications of stronger than expected consumer purchases during the holiday season," said Stephen Lewis at Monument Securities in London.

However, he noted growth is still unlikely to be strong enough to fill spare capacity, meaning the economy still has plenty of idle resources such as factories and workers. Unemployment, which has remained stubbornly high despite the recovery, is a top concern for the Federal Reserve, which has shown no indication of wanting to tighten its monetary policy anytime soon.

In Europe, eyes were on Spain, where the government reached a deal with unions on raising the retirement age to 67 from 65. Along with measures to bolster the troubled savings banks, the pension reform plan is a key component in the country's fight to ease tensions over the debt crisis.

Madrid's exchange was among the top risers in Europe -- gaining 0.4 percent -- as the pensions deal offset the news that Spanish unemployment rose back above the 20 percent level in the fourth quarter.

Elsewhere, Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.7 percent lower at 5,920.05 while Germany's DAX gained 0.1 percent to 7,163.20. France's CAC-40 was down 0.1 percent to 4,056.93.

Europe's debt crisis has eased over the past weeks on signs that governments are committed to a broader, bolder strategy to regain market confidence. Public borrowing rates have fallen and the 17-nation euro has rallied sharply. On Friday, the common currency was down slightly from two-month highs to trade at $1.3695 from $1.3729 in New York late Thursday.

Wall Street was headed for a lower opening, with Dow futures down 0.1 percent to 11,938 and S&P 500 futures losing 0.1 percent to 1,294.

In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average dropped 1.1 percent to close at 10,360.34 as traders reacted to the news -- revealed after the close the previous day-- that Standard & Poor's has lowered Japan's long-term sovereign debt rating one notch to AA- due to its ballooning public debt.

Investors dumped shares in banks, which own large amounts of government bonds. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan's biggest bank, fell 2.7 percent. Mizuho Financial Group, the No. 2 banking group, declined 1.2 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group retreated 1.6 percent.

Analysts said signs of weakness in some of the world's leading economies were causing investors to think hard about stocks and whether now was a time to jump in, stay put, or head for the exits.

The rating given Japan on Thursday -- its first downgrade in almost nine years -- is the same rating given to China, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The news sent the dollar as high as 83.18 yen late Thursday from 82.20 yen. On Friday it was trading at 82.63.

The downgrade is a stern reminder to Japan that it faces consequences for letting its debt swell to twice the size of gross domestic product. The government estimated Japan's public debt would swell to 997.7 trillion yen ($12 trillion) by March 2012, up from 943 trillion yen this year.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.7 percent at 4,774.90 as the first estimates of the economic cost of east coast flooding -- possibly the most expensive natural disaster in Australia's history -- were released.

South Korea's Kospi declined 0.3 percent to 2,107.87 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.7 percent to 23,617.02. Shares in Indonesia and Thailand were all lower.

China's Shanghai Composite index gained 0.1 percent to 2,752.75. Benchmarks in Taiwan and New Zealand were also higher.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 1 cent at $85.63 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.69 to settle at $85.64 a barrel on Thursday.

Friday, 28 January 2011

A SWOT analysis of Jamaica's economy


SINCE the start of the year I have received many questions (both locally and internationally) about the prospects for Jamaica's economy in 2011 and beyond. Perhaps more so today than in previous years, persons are understandably more curious about Jamaica's prospects for growth. This is understandable because with the world coming out of a very significant global recession, there are many realignments of investment portfolios taking place, and investors are more cautious, after being ravaged by the global events since 2007.

Investors also are becoming a lot more conscious of global investments, and understand that true diversification is not just among asset classes but more importantly between economies. This is an underlying ph
Nine Maoists were killed in an encounter with security forces at Luhur forest in Jharkhand's Latehar district in the wee hours on Friday.

"Nine bodies of the Maoists were recovered after the encounter at Luhur jungle under Barwadih police station," Latehar Superintendent of Police Kuldweep Diwedi told PTI over phone.

Security forces comprising CRPF and the district police have also recovered arms and ammunition from the spot,

To know more click hear
ilosophy that Jamaican policymakers need to understand as we craft policies around the economy. As a result of improvements in technology and investor awareness, there are greater choices across economies when choosing where to put money to work. So that even an individual investor can open an online brokerage account and invest overseas in what they consider a more attractive and predictable environment. This, I believe, will be the scene for investors from 2011 going forward, and will be to the disadvantage of countries that do not get their investment environment right.

One particular question being asked is, what are the prospects for the Jamaican economy and investments in particular? I don't believe that this question can be answered in a "one size fits all" sort of way, as it depends a lot on the type of investment one is involved in. For example, while I believe that there are significant growth prospects for small businesses, it depends on the type of business one is in and the approach to that business development.

What I would therefore like to do in this article is look at a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of the Jamaican economy. This requires much further discourse for anyone looking at an investment or business opportunity.

The table outlines generally the SWOT of the Jamaican economy as I see it, and provides an indication (based on interpretation) of where businesses and investors should be looking for 2011 and beyond.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

US stock market daily report (26/01/11, Wednesday)


President Obama's State of the Union address gave stocks a boost today, helping the Dow Jones rise above 12,000. Last night in Obama's address, he promised to focus on job creation and lowering corporate tax rates. Investors were confident in future business after the President said he wanted to close corporate tax loopholes for the first time in 25 years and use that revenue to lower tax rates. It was also encouraging to hear Obama is in support of a five-year freeze on discretionary spending, resulting in the deficit being lowered by $400 billion over the next 10 years. Investors were very pleased with Obama's plans, helping them look past today's weak reports on earnings. Stocks were rising today; the Dow passed the key 12,000 mark.
Today was the first time since 2008 the Dow has been at this level; it is an encouraging sign for the markets. Analysts are crediting today's increase to higher investor confidence following the State of the Union address. Investors also waited for the Federal Reserve's comments on the Central bank's two day policy meeting that ended today; the news didn't heavily affect the markets since investors were pretty sure today's report would show interest rates remain unchanged, which they did. The markets surly didn't rise off of today's corporate earnings. After the close yesterday, Yahoo gave fourth quarter results that came in under what analysts were expecting, sending shares down over 2% in today's session. Shares of Bowing were also falling, as the company said it expects to see earnings per share for the year to be less than analysts were expecting. Boeing said fourth quarter earnings were at $1.56 per share, more than the $1.11 per share analysts forecasted.
Stocks gave up some of their earlier gains, but managed to remain in the positive; all three major indexes were still rising, with the NASDAQ making the most gains. Commodities were rising; both gold and crude oil prices were increasing following yesterday's losses. As the dollar fell versus the pound and the yen; the greenback rose against the euro. With just under an hour left in the trading session, the Dow was still at a gain of 20 points.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

HUL Q3 net marginally declines at Rs 637.5 cr


Hindustan Unilever (HUL), the country's largest fast moving consumer goods company, has posted a marginal decline of 1.78 per cent in net profit at Rs 637.51 crore in the third quarter ending December 31, 2010 as compared to Rs 649.11 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous year. Total income during the period under consideration, however, increased from Rs 4,573.23 crore to Rs 5,127.71 crore.

With sustained double-digit underlying volume growth in the domestic consumer business (13 per cent), net sales grew 12 per cent during the quarter and ahead of the market in aggregate. Home and personal care business grew by 11.6 per cent with competitive growth in both laundry and personal wash. Laundry portfolio was further strengthened with Rin delivering record volume growth.

Harish Manwani, chairman said: “Our strategy is working and is reflected in the consistent double digit underlying volume growth over the last four quarters and ahead of market growth. We continue to strengthen our leadership in core categories, even as we invest to build opportunities for the future. In an inflationary environment, we will manage our business dynamically, through judicious pricing actions and increased focus on cost effectiveness, while ensuring that we remain competitive in the market place.”

Personal wash grew ahead of the market with Lifebuoy growing strongly post the relaunch and the premium portfolio continued to deliver robust growth. Personal products grew strongly at 20 per cent across categories with skin care delivering a particularly strong performance.

Skin care growth was innovation led, both on the core and in emerging segments. Fair and Lovely, Ponds White Beauty and Vaseline Healthy White continued to deliver robust sales growth. Both Hair and Oral performed well across the key brands. Dove Hair range was relaunched with Fiber Actives and in Oral, a new variant Close-up, Fire-Freeze. was successfully introduced. Foods business grew 11.3 per cent.

In tea, Red Label was relaunched continuing to deliver double-digit growth. Coffee growth was robust, across conventional and instant coffee, with price point packs performing particularly well. Knorr soupy noodles sustained its strong momentum and is now available nationally. Ice-cream grew by 31 per cent with good growth across formats.

Pureit continued to expand its franchise with product offerings across multiple price and benefit positions. Overall, the water business grew strongly and in line with action standards. Input cost inflation continued to rise during the quarter.

Cost of goods sold went up by 220 bps, as a result of steep rise in material costs, especially in commodity sensitive categories. A&P spend grew by 17 per cent to maintain market competitiveness and to develop emerging categories. Consequently, operating margins were lower by 320 bps.

Financial income increased by Rs 38 crore through further improvement in working capital and sound treasury management. Profit after tax but before exceptional items declined by 2.1 per cent, while net profit declined by 1.8 per cent.

The shares of HUL were trading down 0.77 per cent at Rs 295.60 on the BSE at 1:12 pm.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Australia slowly emerges as prime market for online retail


Australia is fast-gaining a reputation as a global hub for online shopping, with no less than US giant internet retailer eBay reportedly alluding to the Aussie market as a viable and standout business consideration for web retailers.

The remarks made by eBay chief executive John Donahoe came weeks after a debate was spawned by giant Australian retailers led by Gerry Harvey, when the group called on the federal government to consider the imposition of GST on online purchases originating from Australia.

The group, which also comprised of Solomon Lew and the head of Myer and David Jones, drew flak from Australian consumers, who scored the retail group's position as self-serving and insensitive of shoppers' general welfare.

Harvey pushed forward his suggestion amidst fluctuating performance of the retail sector even during the peak of the holiday season, when shoppers were expected to accelerate their local spending.

Retailers blamed the emerging behaviour of local consumers, in which they turn to online shopping for its offering of more convenience and more savings. Australian retailers explained that internet sellers are able to provide cheaper products due to their lower operations cost.

Harvey also scored that fact that online retailers are not paying local taxes as he asserted during his initial campaign for GST to be imposed on online providers that "if I think something is right I'll fight for it, always have."

Yet his campaign appeared to have adapted a milder tone lately as Harvey revealed that his recent back-pedalling was mostly caused by attacks that he described as increasingly becoming "vicious and hateful."

Australian retailers have been complaining that they are absorbing significant losses owing to the present environment in the industry and reports are swirling around that many retailers are rethinking their current approach to combat rising rent costs and to reach more customers.

Chief of Australian retailers' concern is the prohibitive costs of land leases in the country as Myer chief executive lamented that the business climate in the US is more accommodating for retailers, citing that "in California, some of the largest shopping centres are well out of the cities where the land and rent are a lot cheaper."

However, consumer group Choice reminded the retailers that they may be missing the real reason why they are lagging behind and sales are on a downward spiral.

Choice campaign director Christopher Zinn told The Australian that "the big chains should recognise that it's their high prices, limited range and poor customer service that increasingly encourage people to use the internet."

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Business-community support gives Falcon his wings


Christy Clark leads the opinion polls among candidates for the B.C. Liberal leadership. George Abbott is well positioned as the compromise choice.

Mike de Jong is the sleeper, whose vote tally may well surprise his rivals. Moira Stilwell and Ed Mayne are the undisputed also-rans.

But Kevin Falcon stands out from the six-pack of leadership hopefuls in one regard -- endorsements from the business community.
The Falcon campaign has been trumpeting its support from business and corporate leaders in a series of press releases.

Each sets out the latest inductees into Falcon 20/20, described as "a group of B.C. business people who believe that Kevin Falcon's experience and vision for B.C. make him the clear choice to be the best premier."

The 20/20 moniker -- a play on the slogan "clear vision, clear choice" -- echoes the Top 20, the group of corporate leaders that backed Social Credit during the Bill Bennett era.

Falcon is an unabashed admirer of Bennett and cites him as a leadership model in a recent video where he tries to underscore the differences between his more team-oriented leadership style and that of the current premier, Gordon Campbell.

But where the names of Bennett's Top 20 were kept secret (until leaked to Vancouver Sun columnist Marjorie Nichols during the 1986 Socred leadership race), the members of Falcon's 20/20 are a matter of public record.

The group is chaired by Ryan Beedie, president of the Beedie Group, one of the province's largest developers of industrial property and one-time would-be buyer of the Vancouver Canucks along with Tom Gaglardi.

Also a member of Falcon's 20/20 is Gaglardi, chairman and chief executive officer of Sandman Hotels, grandson of the legendary Social Credit highways minister, "Flying" Phil Gaglardi.

Other key members: Kyle Washington, Seaspan International. Christian Chia, Open Road auto dealerships. Terry McBride, Nettwerk Music. Cam McNeill, MAC Marketing home builders. Roger Hardy, Coastal Contacts/ Clearly Contacts.

Peter Armstrong, Rocky Mountaineer tourist train. John O'Neill, O'Neill hotels and resorts. Restaurateurs Stan Fuller (Earl's), Jeff Fuller (Joey's), David Aisenstat (Keg), Rick Jaffray (Cactus Club) and Emad Yacoub (Glowbal).

Plus, in no particular order: Carolyn Cross, Ondine Biomedical. Samir Manji, Amica Mature Lifestyles. Matt Young, Innovative Fitness. Zahra Mamdani, Wear Else Fashions. Paolo Kalaw, Frontier Dental labs. Tom Greenough, Tom Tar Roofing. Eric Carlson, Anthem Properties.

Sarah MacNeill, MacNeill Yakamoto Recruitment. Rob Macdonald, Macdonald Development real estate. Jeff Booth, Build Direct building materials. Salim Karim, Inn House Retail. Jim Case, Travelers Financial. Paul Hemsley, Hemmera environmental consultants.

Leah Costello, Curious Mind Productions. John Vickerstaff, Network Bonding and Insurance. Bob Cross, Bankers Petroleum. Lance Sparling, Wakefield Home Builders. Lorraine Cunningham, Cunningham Group. Tom Kramer, Canadian Utility Construction. Steve Ashforth, Glastech Contracting.

George Horie, Sanctuary TV series. Martin Charlwood, Uniglobe Travel. Chuck van der Lee, Ananda Holdings, restaurants. Greg Fleck, Service Works Distribution. Tina Osen, HUB International insurance brokers. Riaz Pisani, Contac Services online supply management.

Christopher Philps, Fairborne Homes. John Frostad, Shearers Foods. Suki Sekhon, CRS real estate. John Pacey, Verathon Medical. Holly Gordon, iPOWOW online market research. Steven Dean, Oceanic Iron Ore. Glenn Bailey, Bailey Group business consultants. Sam Gudewill, Pacific Group. Roger Finnie, Pemberton Insurance. Eric Savics, Haywood Securities.

The press releases tout Falcon as the get-things-done guy in the Liberal government, which readily explains his attraction to business leaders. But being top-heavy with such connections also makes him a target for accusations that he'll favour business over the public interest.

Indeed the New Democratic Party Opposition pounced on Friday, noting that a charter member of the Falcon 20/20, Roger Hardy, was urging customers of his Clearly Contacts business to join the Liberals and vote for Kevin Falcon.

The firm, as the New Democrats noted, had already benefited from a Falcon-led decision to relax regulations regarding sale of glasses and contacts. True, though as Hardy noted in his letter to customers, the change also benefited consumers.

"Today, thanks to legislation introduced by the B.C. Liberal Party last year, the doors have been opened to competition in our industry, dramatically reducing the price of contact lenses [and] eyeglasses. This legislation will save British Columbians millions of dollars over the next five years." Then the pitch to join the party -- "it takes two minutes and costs only $10" -- and vote for his man Falcon, "a candidate with experience and a willingness to make changes that require leadership, and benefit all British Columbians."

Hardy's is just one of the 49 names on Falcon's list. Look for the New Democrats to open a file on each of them, just in case Corporate Kevin proves to be as popular with Liberal members as he is with the business sector.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Michael Jackson's estate sues business partner of singer's mother


Michael Jackson's estate Thursday sued a businessman who has teamed up with the singer's mother to market memorabilia related to the late King of Pop on the website jacksonsecretvault.com.

The site, the lawsuit alleged, "does absolutely everything in its power to suggest to its visitors that it is the hub for all things Michael Jackson, and that it is sanctioned and supported by the estate, when in fact it is neither."

Visitors to the site can buy an "official" $39.99 coffee table book containing hundreds of photos from the Jackson family archive and apparently authorized by Katherine Jackson.

The 80-year-old matriarch of the show business family is featured prominently in promotional photos.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court, accuses Howard Mann and related parties of copyright infringement and misappropriation of likeness, among other charges.

It seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the defendants' profits.

"People who trade off Michael's personality, copyrights, and trademarks should not be allowed to exploit the legacy of one of the world's most recognized talents for their own benefit," estate lawyer Howard Weitzman said in a statement.

"Protecting and preserving Michael's assets are a core responsibility of the Estate and we will do everything the law permits to enforce those rights."

Mann could not immediately be reached for comment.

But he told TMZ.comlast November, after the estate had fired off a cease-and-desist letter, that he was "not remotely" worried about it.

He said he was helping Katherine Jackson make money while the estate focused on paying off her son's debts.

Katherine Jackson, notably, is not named in the lawsuit.

A spokesman for the estate declined to comment.

She is also a beneficiary of Jackson's estate and is the guardian of his children.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Budget(2011-2012)to begin funding for Delhi Metro Phase III


The first tranche of central government funding for the third phase of the Delhi Metro commuter rail project is likely to come in the coming 2011-12 Budget.

The Centre is expected to provide around Rs 750 crore as its share of equity infusion. The entire central government equity amounting to Rs 5,000 crore would be spread over five years.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is likely to invest Rs 28,000 crore for the third phase, of which around 40 per cent, amounting to Rs 10,000 crore, would come as equity support in equal proportion from the Centre and the Delhi government.

“We have graded our equity requirement for phase-III. What we will seek in the 2011-12 Union Budget would be roughly 15 per cent of our total requirement from the Union government, of Rs 5,000 crore,” E Sreedharan, managing director of DMRC, told Business Standard.

Adding: “While the funding pattern for phase-III is yet to be finalised, we have already advised that the equity contribution from the two governments of Rs 5,000 crore each would be spread over the next five-six years. A provision for that will come in the Union budget.”

DMRC has proposed to add around 70 km through Phase-III to its 189-km operational network in the National Capital Region.

While the metro train operator has already started minor construction work under phase-III to avoid delays, the work would start in full swing only after the funding arrangement is finalised.

Japanese aid again Sreedharan said of the rest of the fund requirement of Rs 18,000 crore, Rs 10,000 crore would be sourced as loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). This is the Japanese government agency for extending technical and financial assistance for projects in developing nations. Jica loans were instrumental in the commissioning of phases I and II of the Delhi Metro.

“The loan amount from Jica can be further increased to fill the small funding gap that may remain,” Sreedharan said. DMRC prefers Jica, he added, as the rate of interest of 1.3 per cent at which debt had so far been obtained was “quite comfortable”. However, formal talks with Jica on the proposal are yet to begin. These will take place only after the central government approves the project.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Online CRM battle: Microsoft Australia declares war

Microsoft’s global war against software rivals Salesforce.com, Oracle and NetSuite flared up dramatically on Australian shores this morning, as the company launched the software as a service version of its popular Dynamics CRM suite locally with a slew of partners and its first customer, in addition to an aggressive pricing scheme.

Dynamics has traditionally required an on-premises hosting model, or customers could also outsource it to be hosted by partners. Under Microsoft’s new model, however, the software can be delivered as a service directly from the company’s own global cloud computing infrastructure. The closest such facility to Australia is believed to be located in Singapore.

In a statement issued this morning, Microsoft said the offering would be available in Australia right now at a promotion price of AU$42.25 per user, per month, for the first 12 months of servics to customers that sign up by June 30.

That pricing is a little more expensive than the US$34 per month that US customers will enjoy, but it is still broadly competitively priced with Salesforce.com’s offering — which starts at AU$35 per user, per month for basic sales and marketing functionality and ranges through AU$95, $AU180 and $AU360 pricing plans.

Microsoft stated this morning that Salesforce.com and Oracle customers who switched to its online offering between now and June 30 could receive up to AU$249 for each user that made the switch — money which can be used towards the cost of migrating data or building in customisations.

Locally, Microsoft said it had signed up a slew of local partners to help customers adopt the new technology — ranging from independent software vendors like Connect2Field to global systems integrators like Avanade and HP and those in-between — local systems integrators and partners like CSG, Oakton, eSavvy and JayThom.

The first Australian customer for the suite appears to be local group buying site Cudo, although the site itself is actually a joint venture between Microsoft, publishing giant PBL and ninemsn — which itself is a Microsoft joint venture.

“To support our growth and agility we need to build our business on platforms that give us on-demand scale, the ability to pay as we grow and a familiar, rich set of functionality for our teams to use wherever they are,” said Cudo chief technology officer Greg Willis, in Microsoft’s statement. “The combination of a cloud deployment option and the seamless integration with Microsoft Office Outlook 2010 made this new version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM an ideal choice for our development – even during the beta.” Local partner eSavvy aided with Cudo’s adoption of the platform.

Dynamics CRM Online is actually part of Microsoft’s regular release cycle for its Dynamics CRM software in general; the 2011 version of the software for on-premise and partner-hosted deployments will be available on February 28.

The news comes as Microsoft’s large rivals have been making moves in the Australian market in recent times. Oracle revealed in September that it would partner with local company Harbour MSP to provide a version of its on-demand CRM platform hosted in Australia, while Salesforce.com is known to be currently previewing the ‘Spring 2011′ version of its suite at the moment.

And NetSuite has also been active as well — with global chief executive Zach Nelson making a flying visit to Sydney in October. German software giant SAP, however, has not been as vocal in the Australian market on the CRM front in recent times

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Renault working on global, low-cost car for India


French automaker Renault is keen on developing an affordable car for the Indian market that could be positioned above the Tata Nano in the sub-Rs 3-lakh space.

“Our history has been democratisation of technology and making cars affordable to a vast number of people. I cannot comment on the pricing of this product but it will be sandwiched between the ultra-low cost car planned with Bajaj Auto and other existing models,” Mr Jerome Stoll, Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing of Renault, told Business Line.

Growth drivers

Indications are that the car will be produced on a global platform, which will also cater to Brazil and other emerging economies. In that case, the business plan will be pretty much on the lines of what Toyota is planning with the Etios compact. Renault has already zeroed in on India and Brazil, along with Russia, as its future growth drivers beyond Europe.

Mr Stoll said Renault was convinced that there was a market for an affordable car in India. “If we want to be a major player both in India and other price-sensitive countries, this will be a priority,” he added. This explains why the company is pursuing a similar plan in Brazil where there is a sizable market for affordable cars. It will, however, be dearer than the one for India thanks to a host of levies.

Ultra-low cost car

Incidentally, the ULC with Bajaj is due to hit the roads in mid-2012 and is expected to start off with a base price tag of Rs 1.5 lakh and going upwards. Bajaj has been entrusted with the responsibility of developing the car where the focus will be on mileage of over 30 kilometres to a litre.

China, interestingly, does not figure in Renault's priority list though its global ally, Nissan, is working actively on growing its market share there. India's car market is still a fifth of China's but Renault believes that it still holds immense potential. “When we look at the rapid pace of growth in India, we are confident that there is room for us,” Mr Stoll said.

The company is categorical though that it will first focus on the large domestic market where five models, including two compacts, have been planned over the next two years. “We have to optimise the resources available here and are already sourcing engineering work, components and services,” he said.

Renault's India chapter did not exactly start on a promising note with the joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra achieving little with the Logan in terms of numbers. “Brand awareness of Renault is still low and this could just end up being a big opportunity to redefine what we want to do now,” Mr Stoll said.

The company's logic in starting off with its new innings with the Fluence is more to do with positioning and conveying the Renault DNA. “It is a good way to showcase our technology in the upper end of the segment while meeting the customer's expectations,” he added.

Monday, 10 January 2011

How to Clean Up Your Online Reputation


If you own a small or medium business, a good reputation--online and offline--is clearly key to your success.

The Internet can overwhelm users with information, so anything negative--especially if it appears high in search results--can have a drastically harmful effect on your company's success and reputation.

A potential customer who searches for your business online is a lot like a recruiter, trying to find the best company for the job.Among U.S. recruiters, 70 percent have rejected candidates based on their online reputation--and yet only 7 percent of Americans believe that their online reputation can affect their job search, according to a 2010 study by Microsoft and Cross-Tab Market Research.

Ignoring how your company appears in search results and on ratings Websites has arguably never been more perilous.

One significant figure in the recently altered relationship between businesses and search engines is Vitaly Borker, owner of retail eyewear Website DecorMyEyes.com, who told the New York Times in November that his unconventional search engine optimization (SEO) strategy worked like a charm: Borker harassed customers, directing them to vent on the Internet. His Website thus climbed higher in Google's search results, bolstered by the many links from established review Websites.

Google immediately reworked its code and buried DecorMyEyes along with other businesses it deemed "bad." Now that Google no longer rewards bad customer service with top spots in searches, it's a good time to examine how your business can get more positive attention in legitimate ways.
Should You Pay for Online Reputation Management?

Deciding to take control of your online reputation is a daunting task, and you may be tempted just to hire someone to do it for you. Online reputation management companies abound on the Internet--claiming everything from 100 percent success rate (or your money back) to a "special technology" that reorders search results.

Such companies may be worth looking into, but there is no magical way to erase content from the Internet. Once something is uploaded to the Web, it's impossible for you or a third party to remove it without help from the administrator of the Website where it appears.

It's even harder to remove content from search engines (like Google) that cache their results and enable surfers, with the click of the Cached link, to view content that has been "removed." In addition, the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine stores records of Websites dating back to the 1990s.

Organizations such as ReputationDefender, RemoveYourName, and Integrity Defenders offer business packages to help you take on your online reputation. Essentially, however, these services focus on two tasks: requesting that negative information about you or your company be taken down, and helping you create new content to displace the negative content.

ReputationDefender, which is perhaps the best-known reputation-oriented service, charges between $3000 and $10,000 to monitor your reputation. RemoveYourName and Integrity Defenders are a bit cheaper; their packages start at $3000 and $630, respectively. Often the quoted prices are just a starting point. ReputationDefender charges extra, for example, for helping you get rid of unsavory remarks that they uncover.

Here are some key points to remember if you decide to hire an online reputation management company:

* Weigh any negative reviews of the company more heavily than you normally would. Remember, these companies are in the business of defending and rehabilitating reputations; if 10 "bad" reviews of their own service get through, imagine how many others they may have buried.
* No company has the magical power to automatically remove negative reviews from the Internet.
* Consider the benefits of a service that charges monthly versus a flat-fee service. Monthly services, such as BrandsEye, will constantly monitor your reputation. Flat-fee services, such as RemoveYourName, will spend as much time as it takes to get results. If you're looking to remove specific negative reviews, a flat-fee service might be best for you; but if you just want someone to monitor your reputation, a monthly service makes more sense.
* It's entirely possible that a reputation-monitoring service won't be able to help you, or that the service's efforts may backfire. In the case of Ronnie Segev, ReputationDefender and a blog called The Consumerist ended up in a spitting match after ReputationDefender requested that an article about Segev be removed.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Finance firms shrug off bonus rows to report recovery in business levels



Despite the controversy over bonus payments, Britain's financial-services sector continued to recover during the final quarter of 2010, a report from the CBI reveals today, with businesses such as banking, insurance and investment reporting strong growth in activity.

The employers' group's data is a welcome boost following a string of reports in the past week that the economy had begun to falter, particularly in December when the cold weather wreaked havoc for many firms, especially in the service sector of the economy.
shedding jobs
The CBI said that 50 per cent of financial-services businesses had reported a growth in sales volumes during the three months to the end of December, while 23 per cent reported a fall. The positive balance, of 27 per cent, was almost identical to the corresponding figure of 28 per cent for the third quarter of 2010.

With financial services not affected by the weather, volumes improved in every part of the financial-services sector in the final quarter. However, the growth was not matched by an increase in profitability, with profits growing at their slowest pace for 18 months, according to the CBI's survey. Many firms also gave warning that they expected to see the pace at which volumes are growing to slow during the first three months of this year.

John Cridland, the CBI's director-general designate, said that the mixed picture and the cautious outlook was a reminder that the economic recovery would continue to be lumpy.

"Activity in the financial-services sector grew strongly over the second half of 2010, but firms see growth slowing over the coming three months, and expect another fairly moderate increase in profitability," he said.

"Numbers employed have fallen significantly and investment plans have weakened since September – this probably reflects renewed cost control given little growth in incomes and slower growth in profitability."

One particular worry is that the recovery in the financial-services sector, as in other parts of the economy, does not seem to be producing any significant boost for the jobs market, with companies instead focusing on keeping costs as low as possible.

In fact, the CBI said that numbers employed in finance fell at the fastest rate since March 1993 during the fourth quarter. The resulting negative balance of 48 per cent of employers shedding jobs as opposed to taking them on reflects that trend. And staff costs now account for a smaller proportion of total costs than at any time for more than 20 years.

One other anxiety is that in the crucial banking sector, many firms are nervous about the increasing cost of regulation – they also insist that while they are able to increase lending, the demand from businesses and consumers is not there, claims reflected in recent Bank of England surveys.

Andrew Gray, UK banking leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accountancy firm that helps the CBI to compile the data, said confidence was improving among banks but said the focus on cost and efficiency levels would continue. "While almost all banks expect compliance spend to climb this year, they intend to reduce overall costs putting headcount under continued pressure," he said.

"Focus on balance-sheet management as the sole priority seems to have come to an end, allowing more focus on market positioning and business retention," he added. "Falling activity with financial institutions suggests some banks are now able to be more self sufficient and have more stable longer-term funding and reduced reliance on the inter-bank market."

Friday, 7 January 2011

'Amazon tax' could push e-commerce out of Illinois



Both House and Senate lawmakers this week approved House Bill 3659, which now heads to the governor's desk. Dubbed the "Amazon Tax," the legislation requires major online retailers, such as Amazon.com and Overstock.com, to collect the state's 6.25 percent sales tax from Illinois customers.

The state can now collect sales tax from online sales of a business that has an actual brick-and-mortar presence in the state.

But the proposed legislation considers Amazon and Overstock's partnerships with local retailers as their extending arms, and is projected to bring in about half of the $150 million in sales tax the state is now losing out on.

Amazon.com has sent a letter to Illinois-based affiliates stating that it would terminate its partnership once Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill.

Chicago-based BradsDeals.com, a coupons publisher, says the bill will push e-commerce businesses out of the state.

"Amazon will have the responsibility starting on July 1 to charge sales tax to shoppers in Illinois as long as they're working with small businesses in Illinois," said Brad Wilson, BradsDeals founder. "Unfortunately, preserving the lack of sales tax to consumers is more important to Amazon than working with us."

Other Illinois-based online retailers such as CouponCabin.com and FatWallet.com could lose up to a third of their revenues. And some are actually considering moving their business to another state — a thought not far from the corporate mind of FatWallet.com.

"That could account for a large percentage of our revenue, in order to keep our business going because we make pennies on a dollar," said FatWallet spokesman Brent Shelton. "We'd probably be forced to move the business to another state, where Amazon and Overstock would still be willing to work with us."

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Revenue predicts lawsuits from major online retailers if the proposal is put in place. But Mike Clemons says the new law will not create a loss of local jobs.

"I think this is legislation that will retain jobs in Illinois, and create jobs in Illinois, because it will level the playing field between your local brick-and-mortar retailer, who has to unfairly compete with the Amazons and the Overstocks of the world," Clemons said.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Web businesses say they'll flee Illinois if sales tax is OK'd



Some Illinois-based Web businesses were furious Thursday at a legislative plan that would require online retailers, such as Amazon.com and Overstock.com, to collect a 6.25 percent state tax if they have commissioned affiliates in the state.
That puts at risk huge revenue streams for such Illinois-based Web sites as FatWallet.com,CouponCabin.com and BradsDeals.com, which receive much of their commissions from sending customers to major online retailers. Their commissions are at risk because large retailers have shown in the past that they will sever business relationships with affiliates like those to avoid collecting state sales tax, called a use tax in Illinois, on products they sell.The bill, passed Thursday afternoon, needs approval from Gov. Pat Quinn.

"I feel like I've been completely flipped the bird," said Tim Storm, chief executive of FatWallet, based in Rockton, near Rockford. "Essentially, 30 to 40 percent of our revenue gets shut off instantaneously."

"The reality is that as a business owner with 52 employees, we're not going to just get shut down because of a law Illinois passes. Our customers don't care whether we're in the state of Illinois," he said.rad Wilson, founder of BradsDeals, in Chicago, said about half his revenue would be in jeopardy, along with 20 jobs at his company.

"We don't have much choice. If this is going to stick, we literally can't physically be in Illinois," Wilson said. "My wife is from Cleveland and would be thrilled if we moved back there. That's the kind of thing that's going through my head."

Though consumers are technically supposed to pay sales tax on Internet purchases via their state income tax forms, few do. That amounts to a built-in discount for consumers and a competitive advantage for online retailers who sell to them.

Currently, only online retailers that have a physical location in Illinois — a retail store, headquarters or warehouse, for example — have to collect state tax at checkout. The new law, which would take effect July 1, would define online retailers as having a physical location in Illinois if they have affiliates in the state.

"The point is that someone is supposed to be collecting this tax," said John Patterson, spokesman for state Senate President John Cullerton, who pushed for the change. "All other retailers in Illinois have to collect the sales tax. They're at a competitive disadvantage from online retailers.

"The motivation is to create some tax fairness among retailers in Illinois."
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association supported the bill.Revenue at CouponCabin, in Chicago, would be cut by one-third if the large retailers cut it off, said Scott Kluth, founder and president. He said he was dismayed that the bill was hurried through the Legislature.

"It was disheartening that this bill was passed by both houses in 30 hours without a full and fair opportunity for the voice of Illinois small businesses to be heard," he said. "Unfortunately, this bill will do significant harm to our growth."

Illinois affiliates were notified this week by some large online retailers that they would cut off business relationships if the bill became law. One letter from Overstock to BradsDeals read, "We are writing to inform you that if (House Bill) 3659 passes, Overstock.com will have to end our relationships with all Illinois-based affiliates before the bill becomes law. … Only three states have passed these laws, and in each … our response, and the response of most large Internet retailers, was to terminate affiliate services in those states."Wilson said he got a similar letter from Amazon.

The bill applies only to affiliates that have at least $10,000 a year in revenue. But if large retailers, such as Amazon, cut off all affiliates in Illinois, it would end commission streams to small Web sites, such as bloggers, who might sell Amazon goods at their sites. Amazon could not be reached for comment.

The bill would not affect Groupon, the wildly successful Chicago-based daily-deal site that offers discount certificates, mostly for use at local businesses, said spokeswoman Julie Mossler. Use tax is handled by merchants at the point of redemption, she said.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The roar of the business dinosaur

“If you can outsource my job overseas, I can outsource my shopping there too” was one of the many angry online reactions to the latest phase of a campaign by some of Australia’s largest retailers to reduce GST thresholds on imported goods.

This campaign started last year with Harvey Norman co-founder Gerry Harvey and Myer CEO Bernie Brooks threatening to setup Chinese-based online stores to overcome the claimed tax and tariff disadvantages of Australian retailers.

At the time there was little sympathy for this view and the latest campaign from the retailers has attracted even less support from consumers quickly pointing out the main reason for going online are the poor sales experiences and high prices on offer to from Australia’s larger shopping chains.

In Australia and globally we’re seeing two contradictory trends happening – a move to commoditised, global markets driven mainly on price and niche markets based around convenience, locality and service – the Internet drives both of these to some extent but globalisation and changing customer behaviour have also played their part.

For the last decade the retailers have chosen to ignore these changes. Gerry Harvey proclaimed two years ago that online retailing was “a waste of time” while both Myer and David Jones shut down their online services when it became apparent their competitors had been seriously wounded by the dot com crash in 2001.

The demise of many online traders in the post-2001 tech wreck gave the major retailers nearly ten years breathing space to build their online presences and anticipate the return of e-commerce. Instead Harvey Norman stuck with their cheap credit strategy, Myer with their perpetual discounting model and David Jones with their aura of exclusivity.

In the meantime, the online traders learned their lessons and rebuilt their businesses. Amazon expanded from books to everything, online auction sites became popular and new business models like the “deal of the day” websites came along. At the same time, consumers and overseas retailers became relaxed about accepting payments and dispatching goods overseas.

Now the retailers realise they should have adapted while the going was good. That they are reduced to special pleading to the government indicates the bind they now find themselves.

Strangely, were the shopping magnates not complaining about GST but about many of the other problems faced by the retail sector, such as high wholesale costs and rents, they’d probably be a lot more sympathy.

Australian commercial rents are excessive as we see with Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall regularly being listed as having some of the most expensive shopping rents in the world and shopping centres in other cities, suburbs and regions aren’t far behind central Sydney. This all feeds into the cost structures of our retailers.

Wholesale markups by distributors and licensees are probably the biggest problem for Australian retailers competing against foreign online stores, that brand names are a third or a quarter of the price in Europe, Asia and North America illustrate just how rapacious the entire supply chain is.

Those supply chains too shouldn’t be overlooked, either. The ACCC and successive Federal governments have allowed our industries to consolidate into two major players; in supermarkets, breweries, logistics companies, agriculture and many other fields we’ve seen a lessening in competition and innovation, which has pushed up costs to the Australian consumer.

Hopefully the Productivity Commission inquiry will look at these aspects as well as the effects of the Internet on the retail sector.


Whatever the government discovers, it’s not going to get better for the retail industry: location aware services, recommendation engines and virtual reality equipped smartphones are already changing the travel and hospitality industries with the retail sector beginning to feel the early effects of these technologies.

All of this isn’t to say that the future of retail is dismal, there are many innovative stores, both new and established, using the Internet and providing the service, range and experience Australian customers deserve from their shops.

Just last month a Sydney butcher won an international design prize for their shop fit out, likewise many smaller retailers have identified where their strengths lie and how they can use them to grow their businesses in the face of global, price sensitive competition.

The “Fair Go for Retailers” alliance isn’t really about GST – it’s about middle-aged retailers clinging to a 1980s model of doing business while failing to understand how the economy, society and their markets are changing. Just their miscalculation in the public mood indicates how out of touch these folk are with their customers.

We could dismiss the complaints of the large retailers as being the first dying roars of business dinosaurs who failed to recognize and adapt to a changing market place, this would be a mistake as many other Australian industries are displaying the same willful ignorance of the new economy.

This should be the biggest concern for all Australians: that our employers and those our superannuation funds are investing in are ill-equipped to deal with the 21st Century. We need business leaders capable of recognizing and dealing with change before more industries follow the big retailers onto the edge of irrelevance.