A sovereign fund in Saudi Arabia has appointed a new special advisor formerly associated with the chemicals manufacturer Dow, and who was a chief executive officer there, the Business News desk at news agency Reuters reported this morning.
The state fund, run by the royal government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, appointed Andrew Liveris, who was previously U.S. firm Dow’s chairman and CEO, today in an announcement. In English the fund trades under the name Public Investment Fund (PIF) and manages more than USD 250 billion (GBP 192.8 billion) in state assets. The fund plans to more than double its portfolio to USD 400 billion (GBP 309 billion) by the year 2020, Reuters reported. The PIF is run by the Saudi Council of Economic and Development Affairs on behalf of the kingdom, and in July 2018, bought a 5% minority stake in American electric car maker Tesla.
Liveris’s new role will see him work with the PIF on essential and significant matters, as well as help PIF strengthen its collection of assets and give input on the contribution of PIF companies to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious economic plan, Vision 2030.
Liveris is an Australian national, currently residing in Midland, in Michigan state of the U.S. He served at Dow for fourteen years before retiring in April this year.
Crypto-currencies have heralded the 21st century version of the Gold Rush as rising interest in the investment power of these new forms of payment is buoyed by the innate desire of many people to become rich beyond their wildest dreams. While some are very much wary of the newfangled money, particularly given the oft-reported lurches in the value of Bitcoin itself, a crypto-currency pioneer from Argentina claims to have worked out a simple formula to transform yourself into a bitcoin millionaire.
Entrepreneur Wenceslao Casares is the CEO of startup Xapo, a company that offers storage, purchase and purse services for bitcoins, and was previously founder of an Internet service provider, a video game company and a bank. Largely based in the tech heartland of Silicon Valley in the United States these days, Casares has long been a vocal defender of bitcoin and played a role in the development of the internet itself, according to online magazine Grandes Medios. His love of crypto and hobnobbing with the technorati even enabled him to convince Microsoft tech billionaire Bill Gates to adopt the currency. Casares also took on a position as an advisor for the compensation board of the PayPal council in 2016.
Being so familiar with the technology of the Net, you would have expected Casares to be quite knowledgeable about crypto-currencies, and indeed he claims to have cracked the binary code behind how to win big with cryptocoins.
In an address to crypto advocates at the Westin Hotel in Times Square, New York, US, Casares publicly announced his formula to become a bitcoin millionaire, according to Quartz magazine. Casares advised the attendees to take just one per cent of what they owned in money, convert it into bitcoins and then stash the funds away for five years, simply forgetting about it. He said that even though you will lose one per cent of your fortune, within five years the value of bitcoin will have risen enough that you would be a millionaire in dollar terms, he told the audience.
Casares believes that while bitcoin will be on an upward value trajectory, it is still an investment with risks like any other. He warned that the success rate of his formula is fifty per cent and that there was a twenty per cent chance that bitcoin would fall and become worthless, meaning investors would lose all of their initial cash, but Casares also prophesied that within five years a single bitcoin would trade for more than a million U.S. dollars apiece. As of today’s date, one bitcoin is worth nearly USD 7,650 ($7,643.64), or GBP/£ 5,699.32.
Casares also predicted that bitcoin, as a ‘meta-currency’ would bypass central banks and become a new global monetary standard, “If bitcoin is successful, it will be the biggest leap forward in the democratisation of money we have seen, “ he said.
London – VIJAY SHAH via KALYEENA MAKORTOFF and Independent
The uncertainty about the political and economic ramifications of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union next year have set European businesses with operations in the UK on edge in the past year. Now Swiss banking giant UBS is the latest bank to doubt its ongoing presence in Britain after the withdrawal, with UK newspaper The Independent reporting recently that the bank is planning to move jobs from London to Germany.
As talks between Britain’s prime minister Theresa May and the European Commission see trade deals and negotiations complicated and rejected left and right, UBS has said it expects to merge its British arm with its Germany-based European facility before the Brexit deadline of 29th March, 2019.
Many of the senior staff in London will be transferred to positions in Europe, mainly in Frankfurt, with the ‘lack of a Brexit transition deal’ being the main reason, causing considerable headache for UBS senior executives worried about possible fallout to the UK’s finance industry, of which UBS is a major player.
The move will mostly affect staff who serve Europe-based clients as well as those working in the bank’s central risk management and support services, which will be centralised in Frankfurt.
UBS said its plans would be put in motion “in the absence of adequate transition relief being agreed and passed into law by the United Kingdom and the European Union”.
“The nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU remains unclear,” UBS said.
“Any future limitations on providing financial services into the EU from our UK operations could require us to make potentially significant changes to our operations in the UK and the EU, and to our legal structure.”
It added: “We further anticipate that some staff would be relocated as a result.”
Many in the UK financial industry had been hoping for the maintenance of ‘passporting rights’ which allow UK and mainland European institutions to operate seamlessly in each other’s territory with few restrictions, but the dithering in the Brexit negotiations casts doubts in any future interconnectivity between the two.
UBS had not formally stated how many jobs will move from Britain, but the Independent has stated that the number will be in the region of 200. The bank does plan to keep its UK wealth management, asset management and non-EEA investment bank business in the country, where it employs around 5,000 people, mainly in London.
“The timing and extent of the actions we take may vary considerably depending on regulatory requirements and the nature of any transition or successor agreements with the EU,” UBS said.
UBS follows in the wake of several other international finance leaders who are re-orienting themselves towards the Continent in the aftermath of Brexit. German firm Deutsche Bank plans to also move staff, possibly in the hundreds, out of London, while HSBC will relocate 1,000 jobs to France. Another thousand jobs will go with JP Morgan, which plans to beef up its European operations, while American heavyweights Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley may also move staff across various EU locations, according to the newspaper.
Rome – VIJAY SHAH via askanews, Dukascopy and Yahoo! Notizie
The year 2017 has been a great one for ‘Made in Italy’, as the European country saw a historical world beater for its exports abroad, Yahoo Italia and askanews reports today. With Italy’s exports achieving a healthy growth of six per cent this year, the nation brought in €40 million (GBP 35.4 mill./USD 4.7 mill.) in revenues. The figure was based off an analysis presented to Italy’s National Assembly in preparation for International Italian Food Year 2018.
Two thirds of Italy’s food exports in 2017 were to members of the European Union, with a sizeable portion fuelled by importers from the United States, which has a large historical Italian population.
Published figures based on ISTAT foreign trade tables pointed to a seven per cent increase in exports to France, six per cent to the US, and a small two per cent increase in trade with Great Britain. But by far the biggest recipient of goods ‘made in Italy’ was China, with a booming seventeen per cent increase in Italian exports, buoyed by a greater presence of Italian firms in the Far East and Chinese middle-class consumers developing a taste for Italian cars and cuisine.
But even the Chinese powerhouse was eclipsed by Japan and Russia, who increased their exports from Italy by thirty-nine and thirty-one per cent respectively. This was despite an Russian embargo slapped on the importation of a list of products, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meat and sausages, as well as fish, from the European Union, which was enacted after the EU imposed sanctions on Russia.
Italian salami were the most popular export this year, with a growth of eight per cent. Producers of wines and artisan cheeses also enjoyed modest trade increases, but surprisingly, sales of pasta abroad declined by three per cent, partly blamed on new EU transparency rules concerning the origins of wheat production.
In a parallel with the surging value of crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin recently as well as public interest in the subject, the first ever listing of Bitcoin futures on a physical currency exchange saw a rapid rise in value, Turkey’s English language newspaper The Daily Sabah reported via wire agencies recently.
Yesterday saw the introduction of futures valued in Bitcoin put up on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), set for expiry in January 2018. Its initial value was set at 5 pm local time at USD $15,000 (GBP £11215.50). By 1:30 am the value of the futures had risen comfortably to $18,590 (GBP £13901), according to figures quoted in the Daily Sabah from trading firm CBOE Global Markets.
Bitcoin has enjoyed a bumper 2017, with ceiling-shattering rises in value. While starting off the year on a record low of USD $1,000 (GBP £748) per coin, the value rocketed to $16,858 (£12612) on online trading exchange Coindesk. The currency is currently around the $16,612 mark.
Bitcoin futures are a type of speculative financial instrument that allows investors to bet on whether the currency’s price in physical money will rise or fall.
According to Bob Fitzsimmons, a futures manager at Wedbush Securities, the initial offering of the CBOE Bitcoin futures was quiet and steady before interest, much like the currency itself, began to accelerate. Eventually a thousand trades were made in the first two hours after opening. Chicago may well soon become a hub for Bitcoin futures trading, as CBOE’s rival, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, also plans its own crypto-currency listing later this week, The Daily Sabah mentions.
The growing publicity of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies such as Litecoin and Ethereum is enticing traders looking for something a little different, while still productive, despite many in the world of economics avoiding virtual currencies due to their lack of central authority, their fluidity in transactional spaces and their volatility in real-world prices.
“It gives it legitimacy. It recognizes that it’s an asset you can trade,” said Nick Colas, of Data Trek research.
The CBOE listing was given the go-ahead by the United States Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on the first day of this month. The CTFC did however warn would-be traders of Bitcoin’s ‘potentially high level of volatility and risk in trading these contracts (BTC futures)’. Others have expressed concerns that listing the futures on physical exchanges could see investors fall victim to the effects of ‘short sellers’, who bet on downward moves in assets.
Doha – VIJAY SHAH via Qatar National Bank and Investing.com
OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), a network of fourteen crude oil producing nations may be likely to continue maintaining its curb on production output for the foreseeable future according to commodity analysts at the Qatar National Bank, as reported by Investing.com today.
Record low oil prices, natural disasters and a rapidly shifting political landscape have given a bullish feel for the oil market. An oversupply of oil on the international market forced OPEC members to agree to limit their outputs in order to prevent a sudden decline in price earlier this year, with a provisional deadline of March 31, 2018, however the Qatari bank’s specialists say it is very likely that OPEC will continue with the production cut further into the new year.
The OPEC decision has also been influenced by higher output from non-OPEC affiliated countries. Non-OPEC output is expected to increase further in 2018, and it is predicted that OPEC will continue the curb till at least the end of next year.
In late September, oil prices reached a high of USD $59 per barrel, as the oil industry recovers from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey wrought upon oilfields in the Gulf Region of the US, and the likelihood of fresh sanction being imposed upon leading oil producer Iran by the Trump administration, who oppose closer links with the country due to its controversial nuclear programme.
Additionally, two OPEC members, Russia and Saudi Arabia had recently engaged in high-level talks aimed at keeping the extension of cuts in place for a long time, with Saudi unilaterally offering to cut its national output by 0.3 million barrels per day, which is over and above the cut it agreed with fellow members. Meanwhile, oil producers outside OPEC have increased their production by 0.7 million barrels per day, with the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicting a non-OPEC increase of 1.5 mbpd in 2018. Libya and Nigeria, though members of OPEC, are excluded from the cuts agreement and have in fact increased their oil exports, while OPEC members have been reported to be struggling to meet compliance rates.
The Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB), one of the largest banking firms operating on the Indian Ocean island, has been declared ‘2016 Bank of the Year – Mauritius’ for the sixth year in a row, French-language Le Defi Media Group reported this past Friday.
The bank, one of the island’s few indigenously operated financial institutions has won the coveted title six times in the past eight years. A feature of the Mauritian high street with its distinctive red and white livery and stylised red sailboat logo, MCB received its latest award from The Banker, a banking magazine covering retail finance, technology and investments globally, and part of the prominent London based Financial Times group, who also publish the highly regarded Financial Times newspaper here in London.
Luke McCreevy, representing The Banker cited MCB’s record of offering local excellence in the island’s lucrative banking sector. He said “The jury found that the MCB is the Mauritian bank that grew the most during the last twelve months. This growth is reflected not only in the excellent financial results achieved but also by the range of initiatives taken by the MCB during this period,”
Antony Withers, MCB chief executive said “This award inspires us to do even better in 2017, and already we intend to offer our clients even more services, more effectively,”
MCB, headquartered in the Mauritian capital, Port Louis, also maintains branches in the Seychelles, Maldives and in Madagascar. It is the oldest bank on the island, founded in 1838, as well as also having the distinction of being one of the oldest retail finance institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. After a slow and rocky start, the bank began to massively expand in the post-World War II years and now maintains forty branches and 150 cash machines in Mauritius alone.
The financial conference and events company ICBI, a division of multinational organisationInforma plc., will be launching its much awaited SuperReturn International event on the 22th to 25th February 2016, according to the official website hosted by ICBI.
The 19th Annual SuperReturn International, to be held at theInterContinental HotelinBerlin, will bring together more than 1,500 senior-level delegates from theprivate equityworld, representing over 350 powerfulLPfirms and 650+ private equity andventure capitalmanagers. The event will also feature a line-up of more than 250 industry heavyweight speakers well versed in the fields of investment andcapital growth, including many industry leaders and global investors.
The SuperReturn International event, part of the highly-respected SuperReturn and SuperInvestor series of financial events and summits managed by Informa, was first organised in 1998, and since then has gone from strength to strength, helping share valuable knowledge and investment strategies in the private equity field as it has grown from being a small ‘cottage industry‘ to a mainstream one in charge of billions of dollars of investments. Over the years, the SuperReturn International events, which are held yearly, have built up an enviable and formidable reputation as the world’s leading private equity and venture capital event, bringing top private equity performers, global leaders and industry trailblazers together every year to discuss the most pressing issues concerning their market. The event also offers valuable opportunities for networking and discussion among private equity leaders and executives. In 2014 alone, SuperReturn attracted over 1,500 delegates from all over the world.
The event is also famed for its high levels of current and topical debates in global private equity, without any editing, giving an unaltered and no-holds-barred experience of issues and hot topics on a multi-million dollar industry. It will also host two smaller events during the conference, the GermanPrivate EquitySummit and the Private Debt & Mezzanine Finance Summit alongside the set speakers and presentations, aimed at delegates looking to specialise in those aspects of investment.
SuperReturn is particularly aimed at a worldwide audience, including European andNorth Americanpension plans and family offices, Middle Easternsovereign wealth funds, global insurance companies, funds of funds investment houses, asset and wealth managers, DFIs and those involved with endowments and foundations. The event comes officially endorsed by private equity and venture capital associations fromPoland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, India and Canada.
Among the top delegates and speakers expected to attend SuperReturn include heavyweights such as long-time event veteran David Rubenstein ofThe Carlyle Group; Joe Baratta (The Blackstone Group); Kathleen Bacon (Harbourvest Partners); Mike Powell (USS) and professors from the universities of Oxford and Lausanne. One previous delegate,Kevin Albert, a partner at Pantheon, a leading internationalprivate equity fund-of-fundsmanager, commented that SuperReturn International was “the New York of conferences. It’s the biggest, it’s the best and it’s the one you want to make it at”. The event is also one of the most up-to-date in the field technologically, with delegates able to download brochures and attendee lists via the ICBI event website for SuperReturn, as well as read the event’s official blog, follow the Twitter account, view special programming on SuperReturn TV and organise meetings with other delegates and senior executives via the revolutionary new SuperReturn App and online networking platform.
While the SuperReturn International event has a global focus, there are also specialist events covering private equity leaders and investors in Asia, the United States, Africa, China, the Middle East and for companies in emerging markets.
2016’s SuperReturn International will be held at the InterContinental Hotel conference suite at Budapester Straße 2, 10787 Berlin, Germany on the 22-25 February. For more information visit http://www.icbi-superreturn.com/
DISCLAIMER: The writer is employed with Informa, of which ICBI is a subsidiary.
An article published by the U.K. newspaper The Independent today claims that houses located in the vicinity of a racecourse can cost up to twenty per cent more than those situated further away. In one cited example, houses located near Wetherby Racecourse are 119% higher than the average property price for the entire county of West Yorkshire.
New research suggests that houses located in the same postcode district as a racecourse are 19.6 per cent higher than the average for other houses in the same county as a whole. The study on house prices and areas was conducted by Chestertons Research using data from property prices website Zoopla.
According to the research and Zoopla’s figures, houses in the same postcode area as a ‘mixed racecourse’ command a 25 per cent price premium. Move near a national hunt course and you will pay 18.5 per cent above average prices. if you decide to put roots down in the vicinity of a traditional flat-racing venue then you will likely pay the smallest increase – at 15 per cent, the figures claim. In London and surrounding areas, which has several mixed racecourse locations, the average house price asked for by sellers and agents is £346,355. The average for postcodes with a flat racing course stands at £276,497 and £258,813 for national hunt racing venues.
The five highest average prices are all located in the south-east of England, in areas traditionally frequented by the upper and upper-middle classes. Sandown Park (KT10) in Surrey has the highest average house price of all racecourses in England at £905,635, followed by Ascot (SL5) with £694,391, Epsom (KT18) at £494,341, then Goodwood (PO18, £484,676) and Windsor (SL4, £457,630). All of these racecourses are located in the Home Counties region, a high-price area surrounding England’s capital city, the area of choice for commuters in high pay careers.
House prices in the LS22 postcode region, home to Wetherby racecourse in West Yorkshire, average out at £348,967 which represents a 119 per cent premium over the West Yorkshire average. House prices within the same postcode area as Southwell (NG25) racecourse in Nottinghamshire county are slightly over 111 per cent more than the county’s pricing average, marginally higher than Ascot race course (SL5) in Berkshire.
“In recent years horse racing has become increasingly popular and events such as Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the Epsom Derby are key dates on the social calendar for hundreds of thousands of people across the country,” said Nick Barnes, the head of research at Chestertons, in an interview with The Independent explaining the findings.
“For those living close to race courses our research shows that the disruption caused by big racing events is worth the hassle. The staging of big events pumps money into local economies and house prices close to countries throughout the country are benefitting from this, with certain locations achieving substantial price increases since the downturn in 2008.“.
The higher house prices around racing venues can be attributed to the prestige the locations have among horseracing clientele, who generally have high disposable incomes and are advanced in age. Many are retirees or people in their late working lives who have a preference for traditional racing sports. In addition to the presence of racecourses, these areas also attract people for the higher standard of living and amenities to be found, as the racecourses inject a large financial boost to the local areas they operate in.
Some courses, such as Royal Ascot, have long been substantial bit players popular culture due to the events they host, which draw thousands of punters and fans, and horse racing in particular is a significant component of the UK’s betting industry.
This report is based on one supplied by the London office of The Daily Star website of Lebanon, via the international news story supplier and agency AFP, with additional background information on the ISIL/Iraq conflict supplied by the HEM blog editor and reporter.
Despite ongoing tensions in Iraq as a new militant group sweep their way through much of the country’s north and centre, oil prices for the area continued to rise as of today, according to crude oil analysts and Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, it has been reported. Quoted oil prices on the international commodities market continued an upward trend this Monday holding not far from last week’s exceptional nine-month peak, analysts have noted.
In particular, outbound deliveries of Brent crude-priced oil from the beleaguered Middle Eastern nation, one of the world’s top producers, added 10 U.S. cents to the price of a barrel, which now stands at $114.91 under London prices via their late morning deals compared with Friday’s closing level. Oil pricing benchmark West Texas Intermediate of the United States reported a larger 22 cents increase on their prices for Iraqi crude and barrels there have been quoted at $107.05. Both transatlantic trends have proved unusual in that armed conflict and disarray generally cause a drop in oil prices, but this weekend’s running increases seem to have bucked that usual trend, perhaps buoyed in part by increasing demand for oil from highly industrious countries like China and Mexico.
Dorian Lucas, an analyst at British-based energy consultancy Inenco, helped explain the situation with Brent oil. In an interview, he stated ” Brent crude opened today at fractionally below $115 per barrel…Prices remain around the nine-month high average achieved in the back end of last week, supported by the continued violence and instability in Iraq “.
Last Thursday witnessed a soar in price for Brent oil $115.71 a barrel – the highest point since September 9, 2013. In the New York commodity exchange, prices jumped to $107.73 per barrel, a level not witnessed since September 19, 2013.
While oil traders in the Western markets have rejoiced, the situation on the ground for the Iraqi cabinet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been far from pleasant. The ISIL militia, also known as ISIS, and fully referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant & Al-Shams have cut a swathe across Iraqi territory these past few weeks. Active in neighbouring Syria, where ISIL fighters are battling the government of that country’s president Bashar al-Assad, the militia, once allied with Al-Qaeda but following their own trajectory now, have invaded and occupied several of Iraq’s major cities. The birthplace of former dictator Saddam Hussein, Tikrit, as well as the oil producing city of Mosul have been quickly taken over by ISIL while local regiments of the Iraqi army have fled after abandoning their posts, uniforms, equipment and bases. The ISIL have threatened to march and take Baghdad, Iraq‘s capital as well as the predominately Shi’a south, including the holy cities of Najaf and Karbalah.
Iraq’s security forces are struggling to contain the insurgency as ISIL have overrun five of the country’s provinces, exacting murderous revenge on those soldiers and civilians unable to flee in advance. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been made effectively homeless and there are fears the country could slide into sectarian civil war and even break apart. Iraq is still reeling from the aftereffects of the US invasion of 2003 which saw the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government. Many people, both inside and outside the region,still claim the Americans’ main motivation for the invasion was to secure control of Iraq’s vast oil reserves.
Recently, the militants have swept into the towns of Rawa and Ana in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, after taking the Al-Qaim border crossing with Syria. They have now formed a corridor of Iraqi territory linking them up with co-fighters across the border with Syria.
The crisis has however, benefitted oil prices internationally, with barrels from OPEC’s number two producing nation still flowing largely unimpeded. However, in an industry prone to sudden falls and uncertainty, markets have now priced in potential supply disruption, traders say. David Lennox, a resource analyst associated with Fat Prophets in Sydney, told the French news agency AFP: “We see oil retaining support from the violence in Iraq, but markets have already priced in a significant risk premium in the last few weeks,…“
ISIL militants have yet to arrive in the south of Iraq, where most of the lucrative oilfields and installations are based. If they do manage to take up these fields, it is assumed that oil exports will drop significantly and that ISIL commanders may use the fields’ revenues to bankroll their occupation and ongoing struggle in both Iraq and Syria.
“We see prices remaining relatively stable at current levels as long as the crisis does not spread to Iraq’s south where most of its exports are coming from,” added Lennox.
“The market has already been quite used to patchy output from the north where the fighting is currently going on, and it must also be noted that Iraq has been extremely volatile in terms of output for many years now.”
Iraq currently is the world’s second largest crude oil exporter after Saudi Arabia. Both are members of the twelve-nation oil producing and exporting union Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Iraq is believed to possess around 11 per cent of global oil resources and generates 3.4 million barrels of ‘black gold’ a day.