Month: January 2012


Cabinet to thwart the people on treaty vote

January 29, 2012

Monetary

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THE Government believes it has ensured that the new European fiscal treaty will not require the support of the people by way of referendum, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Ministers feel the treaty, a final draft of which is expected to be agreed at an EU council meeting tomorrow, has been sufficiently watered down so as to avoid the need to give voters a say.

The Governments approach is completely at odds with the wishes of the people as expressed in an opinion poll today which finds that almost three-quarters want a referendum.

A Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post shows 72 per cent want a referendum, 21 per cent do not and seven per cent have no opinion.

The disclosure that people will likely be deprived of an opportunity to vote on the treaty is expected to provoke a furious response from opponents who believe it will permanently surrender national sovereignty to Europe.

President Michael D Higgins may still refer the treaty to the Supreme Court to test whether a referendum is required; it is also open to any citizen to mount such a legal action.

The treaty has been described as the first foundation stone of full fiscal union in Europe.

Yesterday, the position of the Government remained that the final agreement would be forwarded to the Attorney General this week for advice on ratification.

A Government spokesman last night refused to be drawn on whether legal advice had been taken during the negotiation process so as to avoid the requirement for a referendum.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, would only say: The treaty . . . will be forwarded to the Attorney General for advice on ratification when it is signed off. It is expected and hoped that will happen tomorrow at the EU council meeting.

However, another Government source said: The drafts were worked on by the Taoiseachs department, the Tanaiste and the AG. No other departments were consulted.

Whether or not there was a requirement for a referendum would have influenced the thinking on recommending alternatives to the various drafts.

Yesterday, the economist Colm McCarthy said: This has been a lawyers exercise, especially in Brussels. The main emphasis has been on lawyers rather than economists because the priority seems to be to ensure it is not in conflict with any existing treaties.

As an outcome of this process, there is quiet confidence at Cabinet that the treaty will avoid the requirement for a referendum and will also survive a subsequent legal challenge should such a challenge be taken.

The decision to reopen the issue of EU treaty change was decided upon by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a stroll along the promenade in the Normandy coastal resort of Deauville last October.

From the moment the plan was revealed, the Government has been in fear of a largely eurosceptic response, given the initial rejection of the most recent European referenda on the Nice and Lisbon treaties.

At one point the Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, stated that if a referendum was required as part of the ratification process, the outcome of the referendum would be interpreted as a vote on continued Irish membership of the euro.

As a further inducement for ratification, the fiscal treaty includes a clause that only EU member states that have ratified the treaty will be able to request emergency funding from the ESM.

This means that Ireland, Greece, Portugal and probably Cyprus, Italy and Spain will be required to ratify the treaty if they wish to continue receiving emergency loans from the euro areas monetary fund.

There are four key elements of note in the fiscal treaty:

– The establishment of a Golden Rule to ensure budgetary discipline.

– The policing of the Golden Rule at national level through so-called debt brakes.

– The policing of national budgetary control at supranational level through a stricter excessive deficit procedure, including legal penalties and control by the European Court of Justice.

– New institutional architecture for euro area governance.

A referendum would have been required if the Government decided to introduce a debt brake into the national Constitution.

The Golden Rule stipulates that a general governments structural deficit should not be greater than 0.5 per cent for countries that have a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 60 per cent, and not greater than 1.0 per cent for countries whose debt is below this mark.

However, the debt brake has been described as the only real innovation in the fiscal treaty, as it is the only provision that will lack an enforcement mechanism if the treaty is not ratified.

In order to prevent deliberate or careless drift away from the numerical benchmarks laid down in the treaty, states that ratify will be required to implement the debt brakes.

Under the treaty, each state will have the option of whether the debt brake should be part of the constitution or whether it should be adopted in an act of parliament.

This option was specifically designed to allow states such as Ireland and Finland to avoid complex constitutional amendment procedures.

The fiscal treaty is designed as an insurance policy for core euro area states, and Germany in particular, on the loans provided to the periphery states.

If the treaty is adopted and ratified by at least all euro area states, there is a chance that it may provide Germany with the political capital to consider crisis resolution measures.

Such measures include increasing the lending capacity of the European Monetary Fund, or issuing collectively guaranteed eurobonds, as proposed by IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.

Last week it was reported that Germany was pulling back from its demand for constitutional limits on debt and deficits, a move that will make it easier for the Government to avoid a referendum on the pact.

– JODY CORCORAN

Originally published in


Moving evicted tenants is big business

January 26, 2012

Business

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NEW YORK — Property owners across the country bear a burden from the recession: paying a fortune in moving and storage costs to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent.

But the owners’ losses are a boon for the companies that clear out homes. Their business has skyrocketed, “making money out of people’s misery,” said David Robinson, an attorney for Legal Services NYC, which helps low-income New Yorkers navigate the eviction process.

Hardest-hit are ethnic urban neighborhoods, where about twice as many renters are forced to leave as in the general population, according to housing experts.

Low-income black women, often single mothers, are the most likely to be evicted because they can’t afford their rent, recent research showed.

For the movers, “it’s a lucrative business, absolutely,” said Eli Navon, owner of Eagle Van Lines, a New Jersey-based company that executes eviction moves in the greater New York area.

Such jobs typically bring extra money because “you have to pack every single thing, from the dishes to the furniture, and sometimes even garbage; we’re not allowed to throw anything out,” said Navon.

His clients pay an average of about $2,500 to clear out a two-bedroom apartment, Navon said. And that’s not the end of eviction expenses for the property owner, who then must pay for a storage unit to hold the tenant’s goods for 30 days.

That’s how long tenants in New York and New Jersey have to pick up their belongings before they’re discarded or auctioned off as a lot.

And some owners take on additional cost when they hire an attorney who specializes in evictions.

Kick ’em Out Quick is the name of a nationwide, online referral service warning owners that “nonpaying and nuisance tenants cost you time, money and serious risk to your property. … Take control and protect your investment.”

In January, they posted their Nightmare Eviction of the Month, from Ogden, Utah. In that case, the landlord waited five months before filing to evict the tenant, who owned $5,600 in back rent, plus $8,700 in damages.

The total loss to the property owner was $14,300, before moving costs.

After New Year’s, “my phone is ringing nonstop,” said Gregory Gosset, managing director of Ogden-based Kick ’em Out Quick, which fields queries from landlords seeking attorneys who handle eviction cases.

Judging by the volume of calls he’s getting, “It’s gotten worse,” said Gosset.

He said he’s now hearing more often from the West — especially southern California, Texas, Washington state and Arizona.

The annual cost of evictions to property owners is in the millions of dollars, according to Chester Hartman, an urban planner with the Poverty and Race Research Action Council in Washington.

A study conducted in Milwaukee showed that one of every 20 renter-occupied properties is evicted each year. In mostly black neighborhoods, the rate is one in 10 households. The research was based on an analysis of court records and fieldwork from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led by sociologist Matthew Desmond, now at Harvard University.

“The odds of a woman being evicted in black neighborhoods is twice that of men,” Desmond said. “It’s quite stunning.”

Arthur Mirtal, sales manager at the White Glove Moving Storage in Bayonne, NJ, said he’s seen a rise in evictions that reflects the failing economy.

In Brooklyn, AAA Moving makes more than $120,000 a year from evictions, accounting for about 20 percent of its revenue, according to manager Mike Edelman, who said his company charges $35 an hour for each employee, plus packing materials and storage.

In 2007, New York’s housing court reported about 700 evictions citywide; two years later, there were more than 1,100. The numbers have tapered off slightly in the past few years.

While failure to pay the rent is a major reason for eviction, a tenant can also be kicked out for violating a lease, damaging property or other causes that can be proved — from criminal activity to unbearable noise.

It’s all legal, hinging on a strict process that governs any eviction move.

First, an owner must warn the tenant of the possibility of eviction and offer them a chance to rectify the situation before going to housing court to request an eviction order from a judge. Then, once a date is set, a city marshal or sheriff with the proper documentation accompanies the mover to the property, along with a locksmith.

“It can be a sleazy business,” said Mirtal, of White Glove Moving Storage.

“A mover has to show up at the door, and we don’t know what to expect,” Mirtal said. “We’re not allowed to throw anything out, so if there’s something that looks like garbage, it has to be packed and labeled.”

More often than not, tenants warned of pending eviction leave before the mover arrives.

And that allows crews “to be very generous with the amount of materials and time they take to do the job,” as Mirtal puts it.

Translation: Companies charging by the hour often take as much time as possible to pack every item, which must then be written up for an inventory, as required by law.

If tenants refuse to leave, it can get ugly, with authorities forcing their way in, sometimes facing resistance.


The Business Matrix: Tuesday 10 January 2012

January 24, 2012

Business

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Hyundai and Land Rover won top honours at the Detroit Motor Show
yesterday, with the Korean firms Elantra taking the car of the
year award and the Range Rover Evoque driving off with the truck of
the year title. It is the second time Hyundai has won the award,
which is given out by a panel of 50 motoring journalists from the
US and Canada.

Courts bans Bwin Portuguese ads

A Portuguese court has ordered Bwin.party digital, the worlds
biggest listed online gaming company, to remove ads and sponsorship
from Portuguese sports competitions after labelling its activities
illegal. Bwin.party, which has a EUR4m sponsorship deal for football,
said the court failed to take into account EU law.

HMV records poor Christmas trading

Simon Fox, the chief executive of HMV, has said the group still
has to convince the City it has a future after it posted another
slump in underlying sales over the Christmas trading period. Mr Fox
described as disappointing an 8 per cent fall in sales at the end
of last year. HMV is trying to sell its live music venue business
to cut borrowings.

Sellers bring homes to market

The number of sellers putting their homes on the market rose for
the third successive month during December, but vendors may need to
cut prices, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered
Surveyors. Its latest monthly survey, published today, suggests
sellers returned in time for the new year, with London leading the
way.

Persimmon hopes for profit leap

Persimmon kicked off the reporting season for the nations
biggest housebuilders forecasting a 50 per cent jump in its annual
profits and swelling interest from would-be buyers. The builder
said visitors had flocked to its sites on the first working weekend
of the new year, bolstering hopes for 2012.

Premier Foods to get out of jam

Premier Foods is looking to sell its Hartleys jams and Haywards
pickles businesses for more than £200m to help meet its borrowing
rules and secure its survival. The Hovis and Mr Kipling food giant
is struggling with hefty debts after an acquisition spree and as it
battles with weak consumer demand.

Aspreys has a happy Christmas

Asprey, the jeweller saved from collapse in 2006, enjoyed a
bumper Christmas with sales up 30 per cent as its deep-pocketed
clientele splashed out. Its new managing director, Paddy Byng – who
joined from the stationer Smythson last year – predicted it would
break even in 2013.

AstraZeneca repeats itself

AstraZeneca was forced to reiterate its 2011 and mid-term
financial forecasts yesterday after inadvertently releasing
confidential company information to analysts. The Anglo-Swedish
firm described the released details as out of date planning
information.

Laird continues steady growth

The electrical components firm Laird, which employs about 9,000
people worldwide, said its diverse markets and broad customer base
continued to help it after seeing a continuation of the steady
performance reported in October.

Ryanairs carbon levy on seats

Ryanair is to introduce a EUR0.25 levy on every seat to cover the
cost of carbon permits it needs under a new European Union
emissions trading plan. We do not agree with it and we do not
believe there will be any environmental benefit, the airline
said.


Eastman Kodak realigns business structure

January 18, 2012

Business

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By Ben Fox

Eastman Kodak Co.

/quotes/zigman/225448/quotes/nls/ek EK
+2.35%



realigned its business structure, a move the imaging company said is intended to reduce costs, accelerate its transformation into a digital company and create shareholder value.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the 131-year-old company is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming weeks if a last-ditch effort to raise cash by selling off some of the company’s patent portfolio fails. That Kodak is even contemplating a bankruptcy filing represents a reversal of fortune for a company that once dominated its industry, drawing engineering talent from around the country to its Rochester, N.Y., headquarters and plowing money into research that produced thousands of breakthroughs in imaging and other technologies.

Under the new structure, Kodak reduced its segments from three to two–commercial and consumer–which will both report to a new chief operating office led by Philip Faraci and Laura Quatela. Faraci will continue to serve as Kodak’s president and chief operating officer and will focus on the commercial side. Quatela, who was recently named, alongside Faraci, to both positions, will focus on the consumer segment. The changes were effective Jan. 1.

Shares climbed 34% to 54 cents in recent premarket trading.

“This new structure simplifies the organization, focuses it more precisely on our consumer and commercial customers, and puts the right people in place to capitalize fully on the tremendous technological capabilities of Kodak,” said Chief Executive Antonio M. Perez.

Casting about for alternatives to its lucrative but shrinking film business, Kodak toyed with chemicals, bathroom cleaners and medical-testing devices in the 1980s and 1990s, before deciding to focus on consumer and commercial printers in the past half-decade under Perez.

None of the new pursuits generated the cash needed to fund the change in course and cover the company’s big obligations to its retirees. A Chapter 11 filing could help Kodak shed some of those obligations, but the viability of the company’s printer strategy has yet to be demonstrated, raising questions about the fate of the company’s 19,000 employees.

The three previous segments were the graphic communications group, which provided digital equipment and software to printing industries, the consumer digital imaging group, which focused on print images, and film, photofinishing and entertainment, the company’s traditional film and photographic paper products.

The commercial segment will take up the graphic group and the consumer segment will take all of the consumer digital imaging group. The traditional film business will be broken up into the two new segments.

/quotes/zigman/225448/quotes/nls/ek

Add EK to portfolio

EK

Eastman Kodak Co.


$
0.53

+0.01
+2.35%

Volume: 13.99M
Jan. 17, 2012 4:03p


French Business Confidence Climbs From Low

January 11, 2012

Business

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French business confidence climbed
from a two-year low last month and industrial output increased
in November, indicating the threat of a recession in the euro-
region’s second-biggest economy is easing.

The Bank of France’s Business Sentiment Indicator (FRBSI) for
manufacturers advanced to 96 from 95 in November, when it fell
to the lowest since September 2009. Industrial production
unexpectedly climbed 1.1 percent in November, lifted by
electronics and refinery output, national statistics office
Insee said today. Both numbers beat economists’ forecasts.

The numbers suggest that France may be able to skirt a deep
recession as European leaders impose austerity measures to
contain the region’s sovereign-debt crisis. The confidence
reading suggests French gross domestic product will stall and
not shrink in the fourth quarter, the Bank of France said today.

“This is reassuring,” said Michel Martinez, an economist
at Societe Generale in Paris. “The economy may have contracted
in the fourth quarter and probably in the first quarter but the
recession will be very mild. It’s not an implosion, not the 2009
scenario.”

Stocks rallied and commodities rose for a third day with
US index futures gaining. The MSCI All-Country World Index
added 0.7 percent at 10:30 am in London and Standard amp; Poor’s
500 Index futures increased 0.9 percent. The Shanghai Composite
Index jumped 2.7 percent for its biggest three-day advance in 15
months on speculation the government may act to spur growth in
the world’s second-biggest economy as import growth fell to a
two-year low.

French Bonds

The euro strengthened 0.2 percent to $1.2791. The yield on
France’s 10-year bond fell 6 basis points to 3.258 after Fitch
Ratings said the country would likely avoid a downgrade this
year.

Europe’s economy isn’t out of the woods and investors will
be watching developments closely. Fitch today forecast a
“shallow recession” for the euro region “as tough austerity
measures continue to bite and consumer and business confidence
remains weak.” Italy faces “a significant risk” of a rating
reduction.

Finland’s economy grew at the slowest pace in 1 1/2 years
in October as the debt crisis sapped export demand. GDP adjusted
for working days expanded an annual 1.1 percent in October,
slowing from a revised 2.3 percent increase in September,
Helsinki-based Statistics Finland said.

‘Dangerous Territory’

Even with the monthly jump in output, French industrial
production fell 1 percent in the three months through November,
according to Insee. Order books are less full now than they were
a month ago and inventories are at their target level, the Bank
of France survey of manufacturers showed.

“Europe is still in dangerous territory as the sovereign-
debt crisis has turned into a crisis of confidence,” Elga Bartsch, chief European economist at Morgan Stanley in London,
said in a note to clients. “A mild recession over the winter
could turn into a deep one if a full-blown, area-wide credit
crunch materializes.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who expects the economy
to expand 1 percent in 2012, has repeatedly said he’ll make
additional spending cuts and further tax increases if necessary
to meet the government’s deficit targets as the economy slows.
The austerity threats are sapping consumer demand and prompting
companies such as PSA Peugeot Citroen SA and Societe Generale to
cut jobs, fueling the slowdown.

ECB Rates

Societe Generale’s Martinez said policy makers’ response
will be key to boosting confidence among companies and
underpinning output. “None of this means that the situation
can’t deteriorate,” he said.

The European Central Bank’s governing council meets later
this week, followed by a press conference by President Mario Draghi on Jan. 12. The Frankfurt-based central bank will leave
its key refinancing rate at 1 percent, according to the median
of 51 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey.

In contrast with European numbers, US economic data have
signaled improvement. Job growth picked up in December and
consumer credit jumped by $20.4 billion in November, reports in
recent days showed. A release today may indicate a monthly gain
in wholesale inventories in November, with restocking forecast
to add to gross domestic product.

In Asia, China’s import growth fell to a two-year low in
December, underscoring a slowdown in the fastest-growing major
economy. The moderation caused the trade surplus to increase to
$16.5 billion in the month, as exports advanced 13.4 percent in
December.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Mark Deen in Paris at
markdeen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Craig Stirling at
cstirling1@bloomberg.net

Corzine Requests Extra Time for Statement During MF Global Testimony

January 4, 2012

Business

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House sources tell FOX Business that the attorney for former MF Global chief Jon Corzine has requested additional time to make a statement during testimony he’s scheduled to give at the first of three congressional hearings on the implosion of the brokerage firm.

The request for additional time to 10 minutes from the five minutes normally allotted to witnesses is seen as an indication among staffers involved in tomorrow’s hearings that “Corzine will say what he’s going to say in his statement, and not much more.

Some congressional staffers say they expect Corzine will dodge questions from members of the House Agriculture Committee or exercise his Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination. But FOX senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano says courts have made it difficult for witnesses to plead the Fifth selectively, particularly after making public comments about the matter under investigation.

A spokesman for Corzine didn’t return calls for comment.

The House Agriculture Committee on Thursday is scheduled to hear testimony from several witnesses, including Corzine, regarding the brokerage’s demise. It was Corzine who changed MF Global’s business model from a plain-vanilla brokerage firm of commodities to a risk-taking outfit not unlike a hedge fund that ultimately led to its sudden downfall last month.

A slew of securities regulators — including the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as well as the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York — have launched investigations into MF Globals demise, focusing on whether executives made false statement about the firm’s financial health prior to its bankruptcy, as well as the circumstances behind the missing money.


Expedia Plans to Spin Off TripAdvisor Business Around Dec. 20

January 2, 2012

Business

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Expedia Plans to Spin Off TripAdvisor Business Around Dec. 20
December 07, 2011, 6:05 AM EST

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By Ari Levy

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) — Expedia Inc. plans to spin off its TripAdvisor Inc. unit as a publicly held business around Dec. 20, letting investors bet on its fast-growing travel- recommendation service.

The TripAdvisor spinoff, first announced in April, was “overwhelmingly approved” by Expedia stockholders at its annual meeting, the Bellevue, Washington-based company said today in a statement. As part of the move, Expedia will consolidate its shares with a reverse 1-for-2 stock split.

After the TripAdvisor deal, all of its outstanding stock will be held by Expedia shareholders. TripAdvisor will be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the ticker symbol TRIP and headquartered in Newton, Massachusetts.

The move will let shareholders benefit from the success of TripAdvisor, a smaller business that is outpacing Expedia’s main operations. In the third quarter, sales at TripAdvisor climbed 30 percent to $180.8 million, double the growth rate of Expedia, which recorded revenue of $1.14 billion. TripAdvisor includes 19 travel and advertising brands.

Expedia shares fell less than 1 percent today to $28.81. The stock has gained 15 percent this year.

–Editors: Nick Turner, Stephen West

To contact the reporter on this story: Ari Levy in San Francisco at alevy5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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