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Thursday, 31 January 2019

Unilever fourth-quarter sales miss expectations

January 31, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Unilever reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter sales on Thursday, hurt by inflation in Argentina and flat volume growth in developed markets, in its first set of results since new Chief Executive Alan Jope took charge.

The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream said fourth-quarter underlying sales rose 2.9 percent. Analysts, on average, were expecting 3.5 percent, a consensus forecast supplied by the company showed.

The Anglo-Dutch group, which is working to move on from last year’s botched plan to shift its main headquarters to the Netherlands, had said full-year sales growth would be at the bottom end of its 3 to 5 percent forecast range.

Looking ahead, it said it expects 2019 market conditions to remain challenging and forecast underlying sales growth again in the lower half of a 3 to 5 percent range, with continued improvement in underlying operating margin and another year of strong free cash flow.

It said it remained on track for its 2020 goals.

In the fourth quarter, Unilever blamed Argentina, which makes up 2.5 percent of its overall business, for hyperinflation that led prices to spike more than 50 percent and therefore volume to fall more than 20 percent in the quarter.

But more broadly, sales volume in the Americas was flat, as pricing growth was offset by volume declines. The same happened in Europe, though the company eked out 0.8 percent sales growth in the region. Overall, underlying sales in developed markets grew only 0.4 percent in the quarter.

The company blamed declines in France and competitive pressures in North America, particular in ice cream and mayonnaise.

For the full year, Unilever reported turnover of 49.6 billion euros ($57.05 billion), excluding its divested spreads business, with underlying sales up 3.1 percent, in line with expectations.

Its full-year earnings were 3.48 euros per share.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Jason Neely/Keith Weir)

Sudan’s Bashir says border with Eritrea, shut for a year, reopens

January 31, 2019
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said on Thursday that his country was reopening its border with Eritrea, which has been shut since January 6, 2018.
“I announce here, from Kassala, that we are opening the border with Eritrea because they are our brothers and our people. Politics will not divide us,” he said in televised remarks before scores of supporters in the town of Kassala, capital of the remote state of the same name.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Brazilians little moved by Vale overtures in wake of disaster

January 31, 2019
By Gram Slattery
BRUMADINHO, Brazil (Reuters) – Residents of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais reacted with indifference and in many cases dismissal at a raft of measures mining giant Vale SA pledged to adopt in recent days in the wake of a dam burst that likely killed over 300 people.
“Too Late” read the newspaper of record here, O Estado de Minas, after Vale, the world’s largest iron ore miner, said it would take up to 10 percent of its production offline and spend 5 billion reais ($1.36 billion) to decommission 10 dams like the one that collapsed at its Corrego do Feijao mine on Friday.
With some 99 people confirmed dead and another 250 missing, according to firefighters, the tailings dam collapse in the town of Brumadinho may be Brazil’s deadliest ever mine disaster. In recent days, Vale has vowed to keep paying taxes on the paralyze mine and donate 100,000 reais to the family of each victim.
The initiatives were either little talked about, or derided in this pastoral region, whose residents are in many cases still in shock.
At the local union on a side street in the devastated town of Brumadinho, one union official still had not heard of Vale’s plan, while another said it was an issue on the back burner.
“Honestly, we’re just absorbing what happened,” said Neftali Goncalves da Silva, the union’s vice president. “Vale will come here and we’ll talk, but for now we’re just recovering.”
On Wednesday, United Nations human rights experts weighed in, urging an official investigation into the incident. Federal and state prosecutors have already said they are a seeking to make the matter a criminal case.
Along the massive mudslide that was once part of the hamlet of Corrego do Feijao, from which the mine takes its name, residents concentrated on trying to put their lives back in order.
“The focus of everything is looking for my brother,” said Pedro Ferreira dos Santos, as he dug into the dirt, looking for his sibling’s body.
“My greatest desire is that he be found.”

  • (Reporting by Gram Slattery; Additional reporting by Leanardo Benassatto; Editing by Christian Plumb and Lisa Shumaker)

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Sony Xperia XZ4 to have 52MP sensor

Yesterday, we heard about some specs for the Sony Xperia XZ4 leak ahead of an official announcement. Just a few hours later, a wonky report surfaced claiming that the Xperia XZ4 will have a 52MP sensor, the highest of any smartphone right now. The current record is held by the Honor View 20, which has a 48MP sensor. The camera system in question is comprised of three cameras. The first is a 16MP telephoto camera with an f/2.6 aperture lens. The middle camera is the 52MP camera with f/1.6.The last camera at the bottom is a 0.3MP ToF sensor with an f/1.4. Source: Sumahoinfo This...

Dollar falls, euro lifted as Fed turns cautious

January 31, 2019

By Tom Finn

LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar weakened on Thursday after the Federal Reserve pledged to be patient with further interest rate hikes, a move that lifted the euro and the Australian dollar.

The Fed left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, as expected, but discarded its promises of “further gradual increases” in interest rates.

The dollar fell to a three-week low against other major currencies and U.S. Treasury yields dropped after the Fed changed its tone.

“Risk assets are dancing in the streets and the dollar’s down in the dumps,” said Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes. “We may yet get a [Fed] rate hike in June ,but if what matters is where policy’s heading in the medium term, the FX market would overlook that and sell the dollar anyway.”

The drop in the dollar benefited the euro by overshadowing concern about weakening growth in the euro zone. It rose 0.2 percent to a three-week high of $1.1504.

“The flip-side of the dovish Fed is a stronger euro – this is something the European Central Bank will take note of, that could also bring forward some dovish ECB decisions to control that,” said Commerzbank strategist Rainer Guntermann.

But weakening economic momentum in the euro zone has led markets to price in an accommodative ECB through much of 2019. That is likely to limit the upside for the euro over the medium term.

The dollar index, which tracks its value against six other major currencies, fell around 0.2 percent to a three-week low of 95.16. It had already fallen 0.43 percent overnight.

The Australian dollar added 0.3 percent to $0.7277 after rallying 1.3 percent on Wednesday, its largest percentage gain since Jan. 4.

The Swiss franc and yen each gained around 0.15 percent versus the dollar, fetching 108.87 and 0.9923, respectively.

Sterling, which is grappling with troubles of its own on uncertainty over the prospect of a chaotic British exit from the European Union, was up 0.2 percent at $1.3157.

(Additional reporting by Vatsal Srivastava, editing by Larry King)

Germany, France, Britain to launch mechanism for trade with Iran

January 31, 2019

PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany, France and Britain have officially set up a European mechanism to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent U.S. sanctions, two diplomats said on Thursday.

The EU has been preparing the system, in effect a clearing house that avoids monetary transfers in dollars between the EU and Iran for months although it is unlikely to become operational for several months due to technical details.

German broadcaster NDR reported that the European Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) would be named INSTEX-Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges.

The idea is for the SPV to help preserve the economic benefits for Iran derived from the curbs it placed on its nuclear program under a 2015 deal with world powers.

Europe has been keen to show good faith toward Iran since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal last year.

The entity is not likely to revive trade with Iran to begin with as its focus will primarily be food, medicine and humanitarian, with transactions small. It will not be used for oil-related transactions that have been hit hard by U.S. sanctions.

“It won’t change things dramatically, but it’s an important political message to Iran to show that we are determined to save the JCPOA and also the United States to show we defend our interests despite their extraterritorial sanctions,” one European diplomat said.

However, relations between Tehran and the EU have worsened, and the EU this month imposed its first sanctions on Iran since the 2015 deal in reaction to Iran’s ballistic missile tests and assassination plots on European soil.

In a symbolic move, the EU added two Iranian individuals and an Iranian intelligence unit to the bloc’s terrorist list.

EU member states are also finalizing a joint statement on Iran to outline concerns about Tehran’s regional policies and ballistic missile program, but also to show their desire to maintain the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

France and Germany had taken joint responsibility for the SPV. A German banker would head up the vehicle, which would be based in France. France, Britain and Germany will be shareholders and they hope other states will join.

(Reporting by John Irish and Riham Alkousaa; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Michelle Martin)

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PUBG Xbox One, PS4 patch notes REVEALED for Battlegrounds UPDATE

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South Korean city OKs revised plan for low-wage carmaking JV with Hyundai

January 31, 2019

By Hyunjoo Jin and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean city council on Wednesday green lit a revised plan for a low-wage automaking joint venture with Hyundai Motor, setting the stage for the construction of the car maker’s first factory at home in more than two decades.

The proposed plant in the southwestern city of Gwangju is in line with Seoul’s policy to spur job creation, but comes as Hyundai is grappling with excess capacity globally amid sluggish domestic demand, falling U.S. exports and weak China sales.

With unemployment rates hitting a 17-year peak in 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called on the country’s biggest automaker to build a local factory. The liberal government counts Gwangju as its political stronghold.

The city council said it aims to sign the deal with Hyundai on Thursday after final negotiations and, according to a city official, Moon is expected to attend the signing ceremony.

A preliminary deal for the JV had been reached early last month. It included an annual wage of 35 million won ($31,341.51) for JV employees, or less than half the average 92 million won that the automaker’s unionized workers earn.

But the plan was scuttled as labor representatives in the city council called for a revision to terms that allow the JV to skip annual wage negotiations with its workers.

Hyundai had spurned the proposal.

The council has now agreed on a compromised plan regarding collective wage bargaining, the city official said, without elaborating because of the confidentiality of the matter.

Hyundai’s labor union released a statement, saying it will “fight strongly” against the company and the government. The union worries the JV would put downward pressure on wages, and eventually take away production and jobs.

A Hyundai spokeswoman did not have immediate comments.

At the proposed JV, Hyundai is looking to build mini-SUVs starting 2021, with an annual capacity of 100,000 vehicles.

Since its factory in the central city of Asan in 1996, Hyundai has not built new production facilities in South Korea – home to high-wage, strike-prone workers.

It has instead focused on setting up overseas production units, such as in the world’s largest auto market China, in search of cheaper labor and to be closer to consumers.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Exclusive: PetroChina to drop PDVSA as partner in refinery project – sources

January 31, 2019

By Chen Aizhu

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – PetroChina Co plans to drop Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) as a partner in a planned $10 billion oil refinery and petrochemical project in southern China, said three sources familiar with the matter this week.

The company’s decision adds to state-owned PDVSA’s woes after the United States imposed sanctions on the company on Jan. 28 to undermine the rule of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

However, dropping the company was not a reaction to the U.S. sanctions but follows the deteriorating financial status of PDVSA over the past few years, said two of the sources, both executives with China National Petroleum Corp, the parent of PetroChina.

“There will be no role of PDVSA as an equity partner. At least we don’t see that possibility in the near future given the situation the country has been through in recent years,” said one of the executives, asking to remain unidentified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The move illustrates the fading relationship between Venezuela and China, which has given $50 billion to the South American country in the form of loans-for-oil agreements. China, the world’s largest oil importer, is now the second-biggest buyer of Venezuelan crude in Asia, taking in 16.63 million tonnes, or about 332,000 barrels per day (bpd), in 2018.

That relationship began to fray in 2015 when Venezuela requested a change in the payment terms on the debt to ease the impact of its falling crude output and declining oil prices. Instead of handing out large fresh loans, Beijing has shifted to small investments or granting extensions in the grace periods for the outstanding loans.

The sanctions were imposed at the same time the United States and other nations have backed opposition leader Juan Guaido as legitimate ruler instead of President Nicolas Maduro. During Maduro’s rule, oil production has plunged while millions have left amid hyperinflation and as consumer goods have vanished from market shelves.

PDVSA was originally a 40 percent equity partner in the refinery project, located the city of Jieyang in the southern province of Guangdong. PetroChina and PDVSA received environmental approval for the project in 2011.

Initial plans were for the refinery to process 400,000 bpd of strictly Venezuelan crude oil. The plans have now been expanded to focus on petrochemical production including a 1.2-million-tonnes-per-year ethylene plant and a 2.6-million tpy aromatics plant. The plant is expected to be operational by late 2021, Caixin reported on Dec. 5.

Under the revised plan, the refinery will not be restricted to Venezuelan oil but could process other so-called heavy crude grades that could come from Middle Eastern producers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, said the third official, a PetroChina trading executive.

An e-mail response from PetroChina’s public relations company Hill+Knowlton Strategies only stated “China-Venezuela Guangdong Petrochemical Co Ltd is a joint venture company approved by the state,” referring to the formal name for the company set up by Petrochina and PDVSA to develop the refinery.

PDVSA and the Venezuelan Ministry of Petroleum did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; editing by Christian Schmollinger)

U.S. lawmakers move to curtail president’s power to levy tariffs

January 31, 2019

By Chris Prentice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation to limit the president’s power to levy import tariffs for national security reasons

The bills face an uncertain future but underscore bipartisan concerns on Capitol Hill over the rising costs of the Trump administration’s trade policies. The United States in 2018 slapped duties on aluminum and steel from other countries, drawing criticism from lawmakers who support free trade and complaints of rising supply chain costs across business sectors.

Two bipartisan groups of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation known as the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The bills would require Trump to have congressional approval before taking trade actions like tariffs and quotas under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The law currently allows the president to impose such tariffs without approval from Capitol Hill.

“The imposition of these taxes, under the false pretense of national security (Section 232), is weakening our economy, threatening American jobs, and eroding our credibility with other nations,” said Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, co-sponsor of the Senate bill.

Toomey led a similar push last year that did not go to vote. It is unclear that Congress would consider taking up such legislation now. Still, the bills underscore mounting pressure from lawmakers to address concerns over tariffs, especially those on Canada and Mexico as lawmakers ready to vote on a new North American trade deal agreed late last year.

Republican Chuck Grassley from Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, earlier pressed the Trump administration to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico before Congress begins considering legislation to implement the new pact.

Numerous business and agricultural groups have come out in support of the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, but have said its benefits will be limited so long as the U.S. tariffs and retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico remain in place.

Companies are able to request to exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs, but the process has been plagued by delays and uncertainty.

“Virginia consumers and industries like craft beer and agriculture are hurting because of the President’s steel and aluminum tariffs,” said Democratic Senator Mark Warner, co-sponsor of the Senate legislation. “This bill would roll them back.”

Republicans Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Darin LaHood of Illinois and Democrats Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Jimmy Panetta of California introduced the House legislation.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by James Dalgleish)

UK to formulate Irish border proposals ‘in a few days’: Hunt

January 31, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will take a few days to formulate some proposals to put to the European Union in an attempt to resolve the issue of Irish border arrangements after Brexit, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt told BBC radio on Thursday.

“We will put those proposals together. It is going to take a few days to do that,” he said.

“I happen to believe there is potential along all the different routes that have been discussed. But we need to put those together, make sure they meet the concerns the EU has expressed and then I think… we will have a proper discussion,” he said.

Hunt said it was too early to say if an extension to the Brexit process would be required. Britain is due to leave on March 29.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Netflix Is Getting Into Theatre-On-Demand

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Existentialism, Experience, And Our Implicit Biases

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Why Journalists Are Addicted To Twitter

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75+ NYC Galleries Sued Because Their Websites Aren’t Accessible To Blind People

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In France – A Golden Age For Comic Books

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The Current Journalism Crisis Didn’t Just Happen – It’s Been Decades In The Making

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The Brief, Brilliant Filmmaking Career Of Ida Lupino

“In the 1940s she was known as an actress, usually playing good-hearted tough-as-nails dames … But in a brilliant short burst, from 1949 to 1953, she directed six of her seven feature films, co-writing and producing many of them. She was, of course, a woman director in a man’s world, but beyond that her films deserve to be rediscovered because they are so substantial, stylish and bold, … [taking] on social issues that were usually taboo.” — BBC

Funding Boom In Higher Ed Benefits The Liberal Arts

There’s a growing consensus across the donor community that the liberal arts can effectively complement the STEM model. Throw in traditional support for endowments and digitization projects, plus gifts earmarked for philosophy studies, and it becomes clear that the liberal arts funding space is more diverse and robust than one would initially suspect. – Inside Philanthropy

Staging The Stories Of The Murdered Women Of Juárez

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