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Showing posts from June 18, 2013

CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-California lawmakers pass budget, set aside rainy day funds

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California lawmakers passed a $96.3 billion budget on Friday that would spend more on education, health care and other services while setting aside $1.1 billion for the state's first rainy day fund in years. The spending plan makes changes to the way the state funds education, increasing the base amount spent on all students while funneling more money to districts with children who live in poverty or who do not speak fluent English.   It also restores funds that had been cut from dental programs for the poor, mental health services and assistance for veterans. The $1.1 billion reserve was part of a deal negotiated with Governor Jerry Brown, who pressed fiscal restraint on the Democratic legislature. It marks a dramatic turnaround from four years ago, when the state was in the red by $16 billion. "This was the first year in many that we weren't negotiating how deep to cut and what to cut," Darrell Steinberg, president pro tem of the state senate, said in an interv

UPDATE 3-California lawmakers pass budget, set aside rainy day funds

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California lawmakers passed a $96.3 billion budget on Friday that would spend more on education, health care and other services while setting aside $1.1 billion from the first surplus in years for a rainy day fund. The spending plan makes changes to the way the state funds education, increasing the base amount spent on all students while funneling more money to districts with children who live in poverty or who do not speak fluent English. It also restores funds that had been cut from dental programs for the poor in the most populous U.S. state, and for mental health services and assistance for veterans.   The $1.1 billion reserve was part of a deal negotiated with Governor Jerry Brown, who pressed fiscal restraint on the Democratic legislature. It marks a dramatic turnaround from four years ago, when the state was in the red by $16 billion. "This was the first year in many that we weren't negotiating how deep to cut and what to cut," Darrell Steinberg, president pro

UPDATE 3-Colombia to issue $3 billion overseas bonds next year

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Colombia revised its 2013 fiscal accounts and financing plans for next year, lowering the amount of domestic bond sales this year and stepping up both local and overseas debt next year, Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said on Friday.   Colombia plans to raise external debt in 2014 worth $5 billion, with $3 billion of that issued in overseas bonds and the remainder from multilateral lenders, Cardenas said during the annual revision of accounts. That is more than the government aims for overseas debt this year. Cardenas maintained the level of international debt for this year at $2.6 billion, with $1.6 billion in global bond sales. Another $1 billion will come from multilateral lenders this year, he said. In the local market, Colombia will issue a total of 30.5 trillion pesos ($16.1 billion) of Treasury bonds, known as TES, next year with 22.5 trillion sold at auction. Cardenas lowered the total sale of TES bonds this year to 29 trillion pesos from an earlier goal of 30 trillion

UPDATE 2-BTG Pactual snaps up Petrobras Africa stake for $1.53 bln

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Brazil's Banco BTG Pactual SA agreed to buy 50 percent of the African operations of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the state-run oil giant said on Friday, expanding the high-flying investment bank's role as a backer of cash-squeezed Brazilian companies.   BTG Pactual agreed to pay $1.53 billion for 50 percent of Petrobras' African unit, Petrobras Oil & Gas BV, which has offices in Angola, Benin, Gabon and Namibia and operations in Nigeria and Tanzania, the statement said. Petrobras is trying to sell oil fields, exploration rights, refineries and other assets in the United States, Japan, Argentina , Peru and other countries to help finance a $237 billion, five-year investment plan, the world's largest corporate spending program. It tried to sell the Nigerian assets alone for as much as $5 billion, Reuters reported on March 13. "The operations represent an important step for Petrobras in its asset-sale program, allowing it to increase its activities in Africa and t

Czech President says charges in scandal "very serious"

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Czech President Milos Zeman said on Saturday that abuse of power and corruption charges against a close aide of Prime Minister Petr Necas and other officials were "very serious" and seemed well founded. _0"> When asked whether he thought the centre-right cabinet should stay in office, he said: "I consider the charges that have been brought to be very serious."   "After hearing from the police president and the supreme state attorney, I am coming to the conclusion that they are based on sufficient evidence," he added in his first remarks on the political turmoil. "This is an indirect but clear answer to your question."

RPT-FEATURE-World Bank, U.N. join hands in conflict zones but face hurdles

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When the heads of the World Bank and the United Nations flew into the violence-wracked African city of Goma on a cloudy day last month, it was the first time the giants of international development had joined forces in the struggle to help the world's most fragile regions. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon traveled to three countries in the Great Lakes region in East Africa to cement a new partnership, tying $1 billion in bank money to the U.N. peacekeeping efforts in the region.   They announced the funding in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), even as mortar shells were falling in the country's eastern edge in Goma. But the men, both born in South Korea, pledged to continue their trip. "We're going there because our belief is that peace, security and economic development are intertwined," Kim said in Kinshasa. "We're going with a very specific purpose in mind: there must be a peac

Second Greek coalition partner rebuffs PM offer on state broadcaster

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Both junior partners in Greece's fragile coalition government have turned down a compromise proposal by the prime minister to avert a government crisis over the shutdown of public broadcaster ERT. _0"> Prime Minister Antonis Samaras offered on Friday to rehire a smaller number of staff to resume news broadcasts, in an attempt to defuse an outcry over Monday's shock closure of ERT - part of savings under the terms of Greece's international bailout.   If no compromise is reached, the government might fall and new elections would be called, meaning almost certain derailment of the country's bailout programme. "Our position remains the same. Any restructuring of ERT has to take place with the broadcaster open, as it was before," Andreas Papadopoulos, spokesman of the Democratic Left party, told Reuters on Saturday. The proposal was also dismissed as inadequate late on Friday by the Socialist PASOK party, which is demanding the immediate reopening of

Egypt in late stages of verifying reform plan with IMF -c.bank

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Egypt's government is in the late stages of verifying its economic reform programme with the International Monetary Fund before obtaining a $4.8 billion IMF loan, its central bank governor said on Saturday. The loan, needed to help stabilise Egypt's balance of payments and state finances, has been under discussion for two years but agreement has repeatedly been postponed by political unrest in the country and the government's reluctance to commit to austerity measures.   "The IMF is verifying numbers with the government regarding the programme and they are in late stages of verifying all the numbers," central bank governor Hisham Ramez told reporters after a meeting of regional central bank chiefs in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. There have been no changes to the plan or the amount of aid the country is seeking, he added. "The programme is as it was planned by the Egyptian government. It is $4.8 billion that they have been talking to them about." He said

Czech ruling partners say govt situation getting serious

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A court decision to keep a close aide to Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas in custody due to corruption charges is seriously complicating the situation in the ruling coalition, his government partners said on Saturday. _0"> "This piece of information of course significantly changes the situation. It is the first decision, albeit only partial," Petr Gazdik, head of party TOP09's parliamentary club, told Reuters, adding his party leadership would meet on Saturday evening to consider what to do.   Karolina Peake, the head of the second coalition partner LIDEM, a small liberal party, also said the situation "is more serious from hour to hour".

RPT-FEATURE-World Bank, U.N. join hands in conflict zones but face hurdles

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When the heads of the World Bank and the United Nations flew into the violence-wracked African city of Goma on a cloudy day last month, it was the first time the giants of international development had joined forces in the struggle to help the world's most fragile regions. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon traveled to three countries in the Great Lakes region in East Africa to cement a new partnership, tying $1 billion in bank money to the U.N. peacekeeping efforts in the region.   They announced the funding in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), even as mortar shells were falling in the country's eastern edge in Goma. But the men, both born in South Korea, pledged to continue their trip. "We're going there because our belief is that peace, security and economic development are intertwined," Kim said in Kinshasa. "We're going with a very specific purpose in mind: there must be a peac

UPDATE 3-Czech PM in survival struggle after court keeps aide in custody

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The coalition partners of Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said they were considering whether they could stay in government with him on Saturday after a court ordered the detention of a close aide to Necas over corruption charges.   A court in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava ruled that Jana Nagyova, who has been in charge of Necas's office for years, be remanded in custody. Prosecutors allege she bribed politicians and illegally ordered intelligence agents to conduct surveillance operations. After the court ruling, an official with TOP09, the bigger of two parties that are in coalition with Necas, said party leaders would meet on Saturday evening to decide what to do about staying in the coalition. Karolina Peake, leader of the second junior partner in the coalition, the small liberal party called LIDEM, told Reuters: "The situation is becoming more serious from hour to hour." Necas's Civic Democrat party alone does not have enough seats in parliament to hold on

Czech PM says aide must quit after graft charges

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said a close aide must leave her job as the head of his office after she was charged with corruption and abuse of power and taken into custody on Saturday. _0"> Necas, under growing pressure to resign over the scandal, said in a statement he expected to meet his ruling coalition partners to discuss the political crisis after he returns from a scheduled foreign trip on Sunday.

Turkish police enter Istanbul's Gezi Park after PM's warning

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Turkish riot police fired teargas and water cannon to try to clear protesters from a central Istanbul park on Saturday evening, hours after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned that police were ready to intervene. _0"> "We have our Istanbul rally tomorrow. I say it clearly: Taksim Square must be evacuated, otherwise this country's security forces know how to evacuate it," Erdogan had told tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in the capital Ankara.  

UPDATE 5-Czech PM in survival struggle after court keeps aide in custody

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Coalition partners of Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said they were considering whether they could stay in government with him on Saturday after a court ordered the detention of his close aide on corruption charges.   A court in the eastern city of Ostrava ruled that Jana Nagyova, who had been in charge of Necas's office for years, be remanded in custody. Prosecutors allege she bribed politicians and illegally ordered military intelligence to spy on people in whom she had a personal interest. The lawyer for another of the eight people charged in the case, head of military intelligence Milan Kovanda, said Kovanda admitted issuing orders for people to be put under surveillance and that one of the subjects of that surveillance had been the prime minister's wife. Necas said earlier this week he and his wife, his college sweetheart, were jointly filing for divorce. The corruption operation threatening the prime minister's job was the biggest in 20 years in the Czech Repub

UPDATE 2-Greek coalition partners rebuff PM offer on broadcaster

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Both junior partners in Greece's ruling coalition have turned down a compromise by the prime minister over the shutdown of the public broadcaster ERT, raising the prospect that the rift among the parties might be impossible to mend.   Prime Minister Antonis Samaras offered on Friday to rehire a smaller number of staff to resume news broadcasts, in response to an outcry over Tuesday's abrupt closure of ERT to save money under the terms of Greece's international bailout. But his concession did not satisfy the left-wing parties in the fragile coalition, the Socialist PASOK and the Democratic Left, who are demanding the immediate reopening of ERT's television and radio stations. The failure to reach a compromise so far has led to speculation about an early election, which would almost certainly derail Greece's bailout programme - although all the party leaders have said they do not want a new vote. "Our position remains the same. Any restructuring of ERT has t

INSIGHT-Withdrawal syndrome sparks anxiety for Fed

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When do you take the addict off the methadone?   That's essentially the dilemma facing the U.S. Federal Reserve's 19 policy makers when they meet in Washington this week. Since the height of the financial crisis in 2008, the U.S. economy and everyone with a stake in it have become hooked on the massive amounts of stimulus injected by the U.S. central bank. Now, though, consensus is building among policy makers that the time is nearing to adjust their $85 billion-a-month asset purchase program, dubbed quantitative easing, but divisions remain over just when to start reducing the dosage. In recent weeks, even the program's most ardent supporters, including Chairman Ben Bernanke, have begun signaling a willingness to dial back the pace of bond buying before too much longer. Meanwhile, those who have never liked it insist the moment has arrived and worry the Fed's grip on markets is weakening the longer the program remains in full force. "We haven't taken ste

After opening gambit, Detroit manager's next move vexes creditors

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Now that Detroit's emergency manager has laid out a tough road that could include a bankruptcy filing for the city, the bondholders, pension managers and others with a stake in the outcome are left to assess his next steps while seeking to minimize any possible losses. Kevyn Orr faces a difficult task, for he must either coerce the financially troubled city's creditors into cutting a deal that would leave many with just pennies on the dollar, or file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, where his powers would be greater but the likelihood of long, costly litigation far higher.   Rather than a corporate setting, the city's emergency manager is acting in a political realm where the interests of Detroit's citizens and even credit ratings throughout the state of Michigan may hang in the balance. There was a forceful start to negotiations with debtholders at a Detroit hotel on Friday, with the city represented by Orr saying it would stop making payments on some of its $18.5 billio

RPT-Wall St Week Ahead: Investors will look to Fed to ease volatility

Stock investors eager to hear from the Federal Reserve about its plans for continuing economic stimulus may get some soothing words from the U.S. central bank this week. The Fed is unlikely to tip its hand about when it might begin to scale back its bond-buying program, but policymakers still may be inclined to try to tamp down recent volatility in financial markets with some mention of the issue. The rally in stocks stumbled and Treasury bond yields rose to 14-month highs following Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments that the Fed may decide to begin scaling back its quantitative easing in the next few policy meetings if the economy improves. As part of its quantitative easing policy, adopted more than four years ago, the Fed has been buying Treasury and other bonds each month to keep interest rates low and promote growth. Interpreting Bernanke's words and recent signs about the economy has roiled markets since then. The Dow industrials climbed 200 points in eight of the 17

Saudi Aramco-Dow JV raises funding for $19 bln project -sources

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Sadara Chemical Co, a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical , has signed a fundraising package for the $19.3 billion petrochemical complex it is building in the east of the kingdom, three banking sources said on Sunday. The financing package totals around $12.5 billion and consists of loans from banks, export credit agencies and the state-owned Public Investment Fund, as well as proceeds from an Islamic bond issue. The remaining cost will be met by the two partners. The facility, located at Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, will be the world's largest chemical complex ever built in a single phase. It will produce more than 3 million tonnes of petrochemicals each year when completed in 2016.   Sadara was not immediately available for comment. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as the matter has not been made public. The split between the different portions of the facility were changed from an original outline released in May

French Socialists call for weaker euro, eased EU budget rules

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France's ruling Socialists called on Sunday for a weaker euro and changes to EU rules on budget deficits, accusing the centre-right governments of Britain and Germany of creating economic hardship across the European Union.   At a conference on Europe, Francois Hollande's party adopted a policy paper that toned down earlier attacks on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, providing some relief to the French president as he seeks to ease tensions with Berlin. "Right-wingers have ruined Europe and thrown Europeans into precariousness," read the preamble to the 13-page policy paper which seeks to woo voters ahead of European Parliament elections in early 2014 where Eurosceptic and far-left and far-right parties are expected to make gains. "The ambition of the (European) community has been destroyed by an alliance of convenience between British conservatives who only want a Europe on the cheap and a la carte, and the free-market intransigence of the German right,&quo

Brookfield to sell assets to Weyerhaeuser, KapStone for $3.68 bln

Brookfield Asset Management Inc on Sunday said it had agreed to sell all its Longview Timber holdings to Weyerhaeuser Co for $2.65 billion, including assumption of debt. _0"> The company also said it will sell its Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging operations to KapStone Paper and Packaging Corp for $1.025 billion. "While the timing of the (separate) sale transactions is coincidental, for investors in our funds these transactions represent monetization at excellent returns and puts each of these assets into the hands of strategic buyers who will be able to take them to the next level," Cyrus Madon, Senior Managing Partner in Brookfield's Private Equity Group, said in a release.

RPT-Brookfield to sell assets to Weyerhaeuser, KapStone for $3.68 bln

Brookfield Asset Management Inc on Sunday said it had agreed to sell all its Longview Timber holdings to Weyerhaeuser Co for $2.65 billion, including assumption of debt. _0"> The company also said it will sell its Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging operations to KapStone Paper and Packaging Corp for $1.025 billion. "While the timing of the (separate) sale transactions is coincidental, for investors in our funds these transactions represent monetization at excellent returns and puts each of these assets into the hands of strategic buyers who will be able to take them to the next level," Cyrus Madon, Senior Managing Partner in Brookfield's Private Equity Group, said in a release.

UPDATE 1-Bond insurer attorneys barred from San Bernardino bankruptcy

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The judge overseeing the bankruptcy of San Bernardino, California, on Thursday disqualified a law firm from representing a major bond insurer in the case, because she said some of its lawyers had "switched sides." Federal Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury said the law firm of Winston & Strawn can no longer represent one of the city's creditors, bond insurer National Public Finance Guarantee Corp. She ruled that because Winston recently hired attorneys who had worked on the case for Calpers - the state pension fund and a direct adversary of National in the proceedings - the entire firm of Winston & Strawn should be disqualified.   Calpers, America's biggest pension fund and San Bernardino's biggest creditor, had asked the judge to ban Winston & Strawn after it hired several attorneys who had been working for Calpers in the bankruptcies of San Bernardino and Stockton, another California city seeking Chapter 9 protection. National, the municipal bond wi

Detroit creditors brace for haircuts, or worse, at meeting to avoid bankruptcy

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Detroit's creditors will begin to learn on Friday morning what they can recover without driving the financially troubled city into bankruptcy when the city's emergency manager unveils his restructuring plan. _0"> Manager Kevyn Orr has dropped hints that creditors would fare better by compromising now rather than in court should he opt to file what would be the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.   He has begun laying a choice before creditors: Work with him by accepting cuts to what they are owed, or face the prospect of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceeding where they might have little influence on the outcome. "I have a very powerful statute," Orr said at his first meeting with the public on Monday, referring to Michigan's new emergency manager law. "I have an even more powerful Chapter 9. I don't want to use it, but I am going to accomplish this job. That will happen." Orr, the bankruptcy attorney Michigan officials tapped in M