Month: December 2011


Ex-Met Jose Reyes Joins Sliding Roof in Miami Marlins’ Makeover

December 26, 2011

Business

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Ex-Met Jose Reyes Joins Sliding Roof in Miami Marlins’ Makeover
December 08, 2011, 12:24 AM EST

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By Rob Gloster

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) — The Miami Marlins have a new shortstop, stadium, manager, reliever, uniform and name. Missing is a guaranteed way to pay for all those upgrades.

Still showing one of Major League Baseball’s smallest payrolls, the team that has finished last in National League attendance for seven straight seasons as the Florida Marlins announced its biggest on-field splurge this week at the sport’s Winter Meetings in Dallas.

The Marlins, who have spent an average of less than $41 million on player salaries the past five seasons, committed almost $18 million annually to former New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes and $9 million to reliever Heath Bell. They also have agreed to a free-agent deal with pitcher Mark Buehrle worth $14.5 million annually, Fox Sports reported yesterday.

That’s in addition to the more than $20 million a year over the next decade that ESPN said they had offered to first baseman Albert Pujols, a three-time NL Most Valuable Player.

“This is smoke and mirrors,” Wayne McDonnell, an associate professor of sports management at New York University, said from the meetings. “What we saw with the Marlins this past week is a gross misappropriation of funds on ballplayers whose return on investment could possibly be a negative in the years to come.”

Team owner Jeffrey Loria said a new 37,000-seat ballpark in downtown Miami with a retractable roof will almost double attendance and fund the team’s resurgence.

Football Stadium

The Marlins drew 1.5 million fans in 2011 at Sun Life Stadium in suburban Miami Gardens that it shared with the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins. At one late August game, a fan counted 347 people in the stands for the first pitch.

Loria told reporters at the Winter Meetings that he expects attendance of 2.8 million this season.

“You have no idea how difficult it is every single day watching the rain come,” said Loria, who bought the team in 2002. “We don’t have that issue any more. You have an air- conditioned stadium with a roof.”

Shrinking the size of the potential sellout crowd also drives demand, the owner said.

“When you have a ballpark that has 78,000 seats, there’s no great demand, in the middle of nowhere in a football- configured stadium,” Loria said. “But with a ballpark half that size, a baseball-only ballpark, we can create a different type of experience and we’ve seen it in our sales already.”

The Marlins say they expect to sell out every game at the new ballpark, giving them the ability to rebuild a team that went 72-90 and finished last in the NL East in 2011. They’re already spending that anticipated windfall.

‘Make Playoffs’

“Instead of waiting for it to sell out and then signing players, the decision was made to improve the team and win on a consistent basis and show fans that not only do we have a new ballpark, but we’ve got a team that we expect to be competitive and make the playoffs,” team President David Samson told reporters.

The Marlins have been last in the major leagues in player payroll in two of the past four seasons, with a low of $21.8 million in 2008. Their average payroll of $40.6 million the last five seasons contrasts with the NL East-rival Mets’ average of more than $131 million and the New York Yankees’ average of more than $200 million.

In recent years, the Marlins have come to the Winter Meetings to sell off players. Established as an expansion team in 1993, the Marlins won World Series titles in 1997 and 2003 — and then gutted the payroll each time.

Dismantle Champions

In 1998, Florida went 54-108, the first team in major league history to lose 100 games the season after winning the World Series. After defeating the Yankees for their second championship in 2003, the Marlins traded away pitcher Josh Beckett and first baseman Carlos Delgado for younger, less expensive players.

This year, the Marlins have been the biggest buyers at the Winter Meetings, which end today.

“Now we’re able to explore some things we haven’t been able to explore in the past,” said Larry Beinfest, Miami’s president for baseball operations. “There’s no question the payroll is going up, we have been revenue-challenged in the past.”

McDonell, who created “The Business of Baseball” course at NYU, said the Marlins needed to sign All-Stars “to appease a fan base that has been alienated and disgruntled with how the team has been run.”

Stadium Bonds

The city and county sold a combined $511.9 million in revenue bonds in 2009 and 2010 to pay for the Marlins’ new stadium and parking garages. The bonds, which are backed primarily by tourism taxes, mature through 2049. A Miami-Dade County stadium bond maturing in 2028 traded on Dec. 5 at an average price of 105.03 cents on the dollar for an average yield of 4.6 percent. That’s down from an average price of 108.9 cents on the dollar on Nov. 17.

The Marlins haven’t announced a naming-rights deal for the stadium, which is the subject of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. The SEC has given the city and county until Jan. 6 to provide financial information on the bond sales and records of campaign contributions from the Marlins to local and state officials.

Loria said he isn’t concerned about the SEC probe.

“We will work with the SEC and help them in any way possible,” he told reporters.

Reyes, 28, who last season became the first Mets player to win a batting title, is the second free-agent All-Star to join Miami this week. Bell, 34, saved 132 games for the San Diego Padres the last three seasons.

Guillen New Manager

The Marlins signed manager Ozzie Guillen, who in 2005 led the Chicago White Sox to their first World Series title in 88 years, in late September to a four-year, $10 million deal.

“Of the top five guys out there, we signed Bell, (it’s reported) we signed Buehrle, we signed Reyes,” Guillen told reporters yesterday. “Now everybody out there knows we are for real.”

McDonnell said the Marlins may be back to selling players at the Winter Meetings — perhaps including Reyes and Bell — in the next few years if things don’t go well.

“It’s all about cost certainty, accountability and responsibility,” he said. “They can’t sustain that business model if they lose those fans as quickly as they win them back. I think they’re being overtly aggressive, but it’s going to come back and bite them in the end.”

–With assistance from Aaron Kuriloff in New York. Editors: Larry Siddons, Jay Beberman

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Gloster at rgloster@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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Microsoft to offer Windows 8 business users a way to distribute private apps

December 23, 2011

Business

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Microsoft to offer Windows 8 business users a way to distribute private apps

By Mary Jo Foley | December 7, 2011, 10:45am PST

Summary: Microsoft is going to allow business users to distribute their internal Windows 8 Metro-style apps using the Windows Store (or circumventing it, if they prefer).


Samsung Promotes Head of Chip Business After Reversing Slump

December 21, 2011

Business

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Samsung Promotes Head of Chip Business After Reversing Slump
December 08, 2011, 12:12 AM EST

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By Jun Yang

(Updates share price in fifth paragraph.)

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) — Samsung Electronics Co. named Kwon Oh Hyun, its computer-memory chip business head, as vice chairman after he led the company out of the industry’s worst slump.

Kwon was promoted at Asia’s largest maker of semiconductors in a broad management reshuffle across Samsung Group companies, South Korea’s biggest conglomerate said in an e-mailed statement today. He will continue overseeing chip and display operations at Samsung Electronics, according to the statement.

Samsung Electronics was the only profitable maker of the chips known as DRAM in the third quarter after prices plunged to a record low. The Suwon, South Korea-based company is benefiting from diversification into semiconductors for mobile devices and servers at a time when slowing growth of personal-computer sales has caused other chipmakers to suffer mounting losses.

“Samsung has quickly shifted away from PC chips to specialty chips, so they’ve been relatively unaffected by market conditions,” Kim Young Chan, a Seoul-based analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp., said by telephone. “Going forward, they’ll keep focusing on chips going into mobile products.”

Samsung Electronics rose 1.2 percent to 1.06 million won at the close in Seoul trading, and was the biggest contributor to the benchmark Kospi index’s 0.9 percent advance. The shares have advanced 11 percent this year, compared with the 6.4 percent decline in the benchmark.

Family Members

Jung Yeon Joo, chief executive officer of trading company Samsung C&T Corp., was also promoted to vice chairman, according to the statement. Kim Bong Yung, previously a senior executive vice president at Samsung SDS Co., was promoted to president and appointed chief executive officer of Samsung Everland Inc., the group’s de facto holding company, according to the statement.

Lee Jae Yong, the son of Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun Hee, and his sister Lee Boo Jin were excluded from the latest management changes. Lee Jae Yong was promoted to president at Samsung Electronics a year ago when the sister was named president at Samsung Everland, chief executive officer of affiliate Hotel Shilla Co. and adviser to Samsung C&T.

Kwon “has contributed to strengthening of Samsung’s market leadership in memory products,” the parent company said in the statement, which also credited him for expanding the non-memory business.

Dual Role

Samsung’s chip division had an operating profit of 1.59 trillion won ($1.4 billion) in the third quarter, while its closest rival Hynix Semiconductor Inc. had an operating loss of 276.8 billion won.

Samsung expanded Kwon’s role in July to include oversight of the unprofitable liquid-crystal display business. Kwon has led the chip division since 2008.

The company began operations at its latest factory in South Korea in September. The 12 trillion won facility is the largest in the industry and can produce NAND flash chips used in mobile devices as well as DRAM with the narrowest circuitry in the industry. Samsung plans to build another NAND-flash factory in China.

Samsung began to operate its Austin, Texas, factory’s logic-chip production line at full capacity in October, about five months after operations began, the company said yesterday. The plant makes application processors used in mobile phones.

Operating profit at the company’s logic chip business will probably jump 156 percent to 1.7 trillion won this year and 69 percent next year, according to Korea Investment & Securities.

–Editors: Terje Langeland, Suresh Seshadri.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jun Yang in Seoul at jyang180@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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IBM, Accenture vie for NSW Education SAP Learning Management and Business …

December 14, 2011

Business

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The program, dubbed Learning Management and Business Reform, aims to move legacy finance, human resources, payroll and student administration systems used in schools, TAFEs and within the department to new SAP-based platforms.

The ambitious eight-year LMBR project — which began in 2006 — was intended to replace systems, including some more than 15 years old, that were complex, rigid and mainly manual-based.

In a report released yesterday, the NSW Auditor-General said LMBR had failed to deliver expected benefits since its inception.


Japan business lobby says Olympus case an outlier

December 13, 2011

Business

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japans corporate governance system is not to blame for the huge accounting scandal at Olympus Corp, and foreign investors are unlikely to abandon Japanese firms, an official at the powerful business lobby Keidanren said on Wednesday.

Shares of Olympus have dropped around 50 percent since the scandal erupted and some experts have said the case could dampen foreign investors willingness to invest in Japan.

But Yasuhisa Abe, director of the Keidanrens business infrastructure bureau, said he was not worried because foreigners share of investment in Japanese stocks has been rising and investment decisions are made based on other factors.

Investments are dependent on firms performance or the moves of the Japanese economy. I can assert that no one makes decisions on investments looking only at governance, he told Reuters in an interview.

Olympus is at risk of being delisted over its $1.7 billion accounting scandal, one of the biggest ever in Japan, which broke in October after its former British CEO Michael Woodford blew the whistle on expensive and questionable acquisitions.

The scandal has put the spotlight on an ongoing review of Japans Corporate Law, on which a Justice Ministry advisory panel has been working for over a year. Panels in the ruling Democratic Party and main opposition Liberal Democratic Party are also discussing the topic of corporate governance.

I do not think that there are any problems in terms of the (corporate governance) system. The issue really is about individual firms, Abe said.

Abe said he understood the need to review the corporate law, but the process should not be linked to specific cases including Olympus, which is a member of the lobby.

A harshly worded report by an external panel that investigated the Olympus scandal on Tuesday urged legal action against executives responsible for the two-decade cover-up and criticized external auditors who signed off on the books of the 92-year-old medical equipment and camera maker.

The panel also said that reviewing the corporate governance system could help prevent similar cases, although ultimately directors and auditors themselves need to act responsibly.

The Olympus case suggests it may be necessary to reconsider the roles of auditors, Abe said.

But he said the lobby staunchly opposed making it mandatory to appoint external directors, a proposal that the Justice Ministrys panel is considering, noting that Olympuss three outside directors did not prevent the scandal.

There are no prevention measures, Abe said, referring to the Olympus case. It is not a matter of preventing such cases by creating some kind of a structure, he said .

Outside directors, also known as non-executive directors, are not employees or stakeholders in a company and are seen as relatively free from the conflicts of interest that may affect those with direct links to the organization.

But many in business are concerned that making outside directors mandatory would reduce their management freedom.

Keidanrens opposition to legal changes has been a key factor in stalling corporate governance reform, experts say.

(Additional reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Linda Sieg and Chris Gallagher)


Romney and the Business Narrative

December 11, 2011

Business

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One of the themes of a recent New York Times Magazine piece on Mitt Romney is that the likely Republican nominee for president is running a campaign that, unlike President Obamas successful bid for the White House in 2008, is not based on the candidates personal narrative. This is largely true, not only because Romney, a national figure for at least four years now, still presents as an extremely boring man about whom ordinary people feel no curiosity, but also because the son of privilege who goes to elite schools and gets rich as a consultant urging companies to lay people off is not exactly a compelling story.

The absence of any personal narrative around Romney does not mean there is no narrative to his campaign and the image of All-Business Man, the worlds most boring superhero which, according to the New York Times, he has cultivated. Romney is not the first GOP candidate to present himself as a leader from the private sector uniquely positioned to rebuild the country and the economy. The businessman as savior is a popular Republican theme, which is consistent with the Republicans ideological preference for business interests over those of working people, youth, senior citizens, the environment or anything else.

It also suggests a more disturbing approach that is also part of the Republican appeal. There is a degree of confidence — arrogance is probably a better word — that while likely reassuring for his supporters, is not what the US needs right now. Unquestioning confidence in a set of solutions and approaches which in reality, rather than the distorted context of a Republican primary, is precisely what the US should avoid right now, is not something we need in our next president.

While the notion that if something worked in the private sector, it can work in government makes for a good campaign sound bite, it is a disastrous foundation for making policy. Governing is not about turning a profit, sacrificing long term goods for immediate benefit and exploiting natural and human resources, but these are principles which drove most of Romneys private sector career.

Romneys campaign will likely continue to be a largely closed self-congratulatory loop of business people assuring each other that they can cure the countrys economic ills and that they know what is best for the US because of their business experience. This, again, is standard Republican fare, but part of that fare is an implicit belief that people, notably the current administration, who seek to govern on principles other than doing what is best for business are either naive, misguided or dangerous. If Romney wins, the government will be run not just by people whose loyalties are to business interests, to a great extent that is already the case, but by people who see no other angle as having any legitimacy at all.

Interestingly, Romneys moderate record as a governor somewhat betrays this business oriented approach, but Romney has not governed in a long time. He has been essentially a full time candidate for about five years. This experience has forced him to emphasize his business background while, in order to remain viable in a Republican primary, and downplay his experience and the knowledge he gained as a governor.

Romney has been fortunate in that he has not had a well-funded competent conservative candidate challenging him for the nomination. He is also fortunate that the other candidates many strange stories, gaffes, claims and missteps have dominated the campaign thus far. This has taken attention away from closer scrutiny of Romney and his two-dimensional and unhelpful views on the economy. However, while it is easy to laugh at Michele Bachmanns position that we should close our embassy in Iran, or at Rick Perrys inability to recall which three government agencies he would eliminate, Romneys positions are probably more dangerous because unlike Bachmann, Perry, Herman Cain or the others, Romney has a real chance of being president.

The substance of Romneys approach to governance and economics is troubling, but the tone is perhaps more disturbing. It is almost as if the theme of his campaign is that it is time for Americans to grow up and let a businessman take over. Romneys comfort with business people, and almost nobody else, confirms this. A big part of the reason the country is in its current economic mess is because for too long the wisdom of the business community drove overall economic policy. Obama has not been tough enough in investigating Wall Street, seeking to dismantle the cozy relationship between the finance sector and the government or challenging the notion that the self interest of business leaders should guide economic policy. Romney, however, will embrace these principles far more than Obama or even other Republicans because of his experience, background and, yes, personal narrative.


Mark Bouris – Monetary policy dissected

December 8, 2011

Monetary

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Mark Bouris says everyone should understand how monetary policy works. Picture: Jane Dempster.
Source: The Sunday Telegraph


School PTO is collecting for needy local families

December 3, 2011

Monetary

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Updated: November 20, 2011 2:52AM

PLAINFIELD — The Plainfield Central High School Parent Teacher Student Organization is collecting monetary donations for its 19th annual Christmas drive for needy families.

The PTSO will use the money received to provide Christmas dinner and buy individual gifts for needy district. Last year the PTSO helped more than 40 families.

Monetary donations can be made payable to the PTSO Needy Family Drive and mailed to Plainfield High School-Central Campus, 24120 W. Fort Beggs Drive, Plainfield, 60544. Please send monetary donations to the attention of Audrey Stein.


Monetary Fund Urges China to Ease State Controls on Banking

December 2, 2011

Monetary

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SHANGHAI — The International Monetary Fund warned China on Tuesday that tight government management of the nation’s banking and financial system was creating “a steady build-up in vulnerabilities” that could eventually damp economic growth.

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Andy Wong/Associated Press

A report by the International Monetary Fund said the growth of China’s economy was at risk.

In the 125-page report on China’s financial system, the I.M.F. said that state controls over the economy were partly to blame for soaring property prices, excessive bank lending and mounting local government debt, and that these were among the growing risks that threatened to undermine the country’s economic boom.

The report was the latest effort by the I.M.F. to pressure Beijing to quicken the pace of its economic reforms and adopt a more market-oriented approach to banking and finance in the country, which has the world’s second-largest economy.

“The existing configuration of financial policies fosters high savings, structurally high levels of liquidity and a high risk of capital misallocation and asset bubbles, particularly in real estate,” the report said. “The cost of these distortions is rising over time, posing increasing macro-financial risks.”

Jonathan Fiechter, one of the authors of the I.M.F. report, said Tuesday by telephone that China had made remarkable progress over the last three decades, but that the country’s integration into the global economy made it more urgent for its banks to operate according to market forces.

“Take the training wheels off and let the banking system work,” Mr. Fiechter said.

While there is no imminent threat of a financial collapse in China, the I.M.F. said state banks could be “severely impacted” if the economy were hit by several risks at once, like a sharp drop in property prices and major changes to the country’s exchange rate.

In a response to the report, which was completed in 2010 but released Tuesday, China’s central bank said that the report was largely constructive, but added that “several points in the report are not comprehensive or objective enough, and the suggestions regarding the time frame and prioritization of some reform measures lack a thorough understanding of China’s reality.”

The Chinese government’s control over the economy has become a sore point in China’s relations with the United States and the European Union over the last few years.

Only two weeks ago, in a report to Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission criticized China for pursuing “state capitalism” — policies that give big state-owned companies a competitive advantage over foreign companies doing business in China.

The Chinese Communist Party “has not expressed an interest in becoming a bastion of free market capitalism,” the Congressional report said, noting that state companies account for about 50 percent of China’s economic output. “It is pursuing socialism with Chinese characteristics, which mandates a prominent role for state ownership.”

In the I.M.F. report, China’s banking and financial system is portrayed as huge, complex and flawed, with state bank lending favoring state companies over private corporations and the financial system creating distortions that affect a wide range of factors, including interest rates, property prices and the exchange rate.

The I.M.F. said, for instance, that despite the nation’s spectacular growth, the quality of that growth had become increasingly inefficient. It now takes about $5 worth of investment to create $1 of gross domestic product — about 40 percent more than it takes in Japan or South Korea, the report said.

Among the lengthy list of prescriptions that the I.M.F. suggested were strengthening regulatory oversight of the financial system, liberalizing interest rates, giving banks more control over lending and risk management and expanding the authority of the nation’s central bank.