Channel NewsAsiahttp://www.channelnewsasia.comChannel NewsAsia Singapore was established in March 1999 by MediaCorp, and is an English language Asian TV News channel. Positioned to Understand Asia, it reports on global developments with Asian perspectives. Channel NewsAsia brings viewers not only the latest news but also the stories behind the headlines. NewsAsiahttp://www.channelnewsasia.com129137en-usLee Hsien Yang sparks fresh dispute on items taken for Lee Kuan Yew memorial exhibition, 23 Jun 2017 00:27:01 +0800SINGAPORE: A dispute between the children of late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew over his old home at Oxley Road has now widened to include items in his estate that were loaned to a memorial exhibition. 

On Thursday (Jun 22), the late Mr Lee's youngest son Lee Hsien Yang claimed in a Facebook post that his brother Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching had “helped herself to a number of Lee Kuan Yew’s papers” on Feb 6, 2015. This was while the elder Mr Lee lay “gravely ill” in the intensive care unit, after being admitted to hospital the day before, he alleged.

He also claimed that Mdm Ho Ching did so “under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office”, calling it “deeply troubling”.

LKY tribute area National Museum

A screenshot uploaded to Facebook by Mr Lee Hsien Yang showed that the items listed were received by NHB on Feb 6, 2015.

Records show that Mdm Ho was overseas on that date, as she was accompanying PM Lee on an official visit to Spain. She returned to Singapore on Feb 7, 2015.

The National Heritage Board (NHB) late Thursday clarified that items loaned by the Prime Minister’s Office for display at the In Memoriam: Lee Kuan Yew exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore were handed over to NHB on Apr 6, 2015, well after the late Mr Lee died.

NHB said the items listed in the screenshot were received by NHB on Apr 6, 2015 instead of Feb 6, 2015. “This was a clerical error. NHB has a receipt for the items on loan from PMO dated Apr 6, 2015,” a spokesperson said.

In response, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said NHB's clarification was "even more troubling". "By LKY's will, the estate's residual items, such as personal documents, fall under the absolute discretion of the executors Wei Ling and myself," he said, referring to his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling.

"Unapproved removal of these items, even by a beneficiary, constitutes both theft and intermeddling," he said. "Ho Ching is not an executor or a beneficiary to our father's estate. We also still do not understand how she is a proper contact representative for the PMO."

The bitter spat between the Lee siblings spilled into the public domain in the wee hours of Jun 14, when Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Dr Lee issued a joint statement accusing PM Lee of opposing their father's wishes to demolish the house and abusing his power to do so.

Prime Minister Lee has apologised to Singaporeans over the dispute, saying he "deeply regrets that the dispute has affected the country's reputation and Singaporeans’ confidence in the Government". He has announced that he will speak on the matter in Parliament on Jul 3, and urged all MPs to question him vigorously. 

On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also elaborated on the decision to form a ministerial committee to deliberate the options for Mr Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road home, following accusations from Mr Lee Hsien Yang that it was "secret" and "shadowy". "It’s how we ensure that we are not a Government that operates in silos, that the national interest prevails even when there are valid sectoral or private interests, and that the long view prevails over the short view wherever possible," he stated.

Racism tied to worse asthma symptoms for black youth, 23 Jun 2017 00:06:18 +0800(Reuters Health) - African-American children and young adults with a hard-to-treat type of asthma may have a more difficult time keeping symptoms in check when they have experienced racial discrimination, a recent study suggests.

Researchers asked 576 black youth in the U.S. with asthma whether they had been hassled, made to feel inferior or prevented from doing something because of their race, ethnicity, color or language in situations at school, in medical settings or at restaurants and stores. Roughly half of them reported experiencing some form of discrimination at some point in their lives.

When they had not experienced these forms of discrimination, the children and young adults were almost twice as likely to have well-controlled asthma than when they had, researchers report in the journal PLoS One.

“Discrimination is a form of stress, and thus, its effect on asthma may be all or mostly due to stress,” said study co-author Dr. Luisa Borrell, a public health and health policy researcher at the City University of New York.

“Racial or ethnic discrimination experiences could affect our response to medications by changing our airway tissues and mucous production,” Borrell said by email.

The link between symptom control and discrimination was even more pronounced for a subset of participants who had high levels of an immune-system signaling molecule known as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in their blood. It is a protein that’s involved in inflammation and elevated in asthma patients who don’t respond well to standard medications.

Still, even among the participants with high TNF-alpha levels, the youth who didn’t experience discrimination were almost three times more likely to have well-controlled asthma symptoms than their peers who did experience racism.

To assess symptom control, researchers tested how participants responded to albuterol, an inhaled bronchodilator that is used as a rescue therapy to open inflamed airways when people have an asthma attack. People who have frequent attacks may also be prescribed corticosteroids to control their symptoms.

“In asthma that is well controlled, you would expect a low response to albuterol since the patient is not having a lot of symptoms and their airways are not inflamed,” said co-senior study author Dr. Neeta Thakur of the University of California, San Francisco.

“But in people who are not prescribed control medications, or are under-dosed, you might see a higher response,” Thakur said in a statement.

When researchers did lung function tests before and after giving participants albuterol, they found people who experienced discrimination had a bigger response to albuterol than those who didn’t.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove that discrimination directly worsens asthma symptoms.

Another limitation is the possibility that factors such as segregated neighborhoods, exposure to indoor or outdoor air pollution, violence in the community or other social and economic disadvantages might at least partially explain the connection between discrimination and asthma symptoms found in the study, the authors note.

“Race, ethnicity and social class are important proxies for unmeasured factors that influence health outcomes,” said Dr. Avni Joshi of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.

“A child who is in a poor housing situation, is more likely to come from a less educated family, which in turn are likely to be low income with incomplete or poor health coverage and access to care,” Joshi, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “It is in these families that the stress levels are likely high due to insecurities for food, money and perceived or actual discrimination in all spheres of life.”

Controlling stress, however, might help keep asthma symptoms in check, said Dr. Elizabeth Matsui of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

“The details of how stress leads to inflammation are not clear, but links between stress and inflammation have been shown repeatedly, and asthma is a disease characterized by inflammation in the lungs,” Matsui, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “We know that stress is broadly a risk factor for worse asthma, so stress management to reduce stress is appropriate.”

SOURCE: PLoS One, online June 13, 2017.

Boks aim to keep feel-good factor going against France, 23 Jun 2017 00:06:16 +0800JOHANNESBURG: South Africa will seek to maintain the feel-good factor that has returned to their rugby in the third test against France on Saturday, knowing that tougher challenges lie ahead this season.

History beckons for the team with a win at Ellis Park, where they have lost all four previous tests against the touring French but can now sweep a three-match series against their European opponents for the first time.

South Africa Head Coach Allister Coetzee before the match

A sense of optimism has returned to the team after a disastrous 2016 in which they lost eight of their 12 tests, including historic defeats to Ireland, Italy and Argentina.

It is with that in mind that Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has again made minimal changes to his side, preferring continuity over the temptation to give a number of fringe players a run after two convincing wins so far.

Jesse Kriel returns at outside centre after sitting out the 37-15 victory in the second test in Durban because of concussion, while Francois Hougaard and Jean-Luc du Preez come in as injury replacements for Ross Cronje and Opua Mohoje.

Coetzee has handed a first start to prop Ruan Dreyer in the place of Frans Malherbe, his one attempt at tinkering.

The Bok coach says he expects another physical battle, especially as the French have maintained their forward pack that at times gave the home side a battering in Durban.

"This is their last match of the season and they will be highly motivated to finish on a high, so they will yet again pose a serious threat," Coetzee said. "We will have to work extremely hard against a very physical French side who will again test us in all departments."

France coach Guy Noves has made just three changes to his backline, including a recall to the flyhalf position for Jules Plisson.

Other changes see Brice Dulin come in for South African-born Scott Spedding at fullback and Nans Ducuing get a first test start ahead of Yoann Huget on the wing.

"Three changes seemed right to us, we have had two tests to evaluate the players' mindset," Noves said on Thursday.

"We've got nothing to lose in the sense that what we have to do is defend the jersey. I felt there was a lot of progress from one test to the next. Admittedly the first game was so poor, that wasn't difficult.

"The progress is real, I know it. Commitment is the minimum when we put on the jersey."

(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Bubbling Chinese market centre-stage at world wine fest, 23 Jun 2017 00:00:32 +0800BORDEAUX: With a middle-class increasingly thirsty for reds, whites and Italian bubbly, China is the hot ticket for wine traders looking for opportunities at this year's Vinexpo industry extravaganza.

The world's most populous nation has for years been seen as an El Dorado for foreign wine-makers - but those hoping to cash in need to keep up with continuing rapid transformations in the market, including the rise of online sales, say analysts at the four-day global wine gathering in Bordeaux.

Chinese wine professionals(Photo:AFP)

"Just forget everything you knew about this market," influential Chinese wine blogger Terry Xu told an event at Vinexpo in the southwestern city that is the capital of France's wine industry.

Chinese buyers previously saw wine primarily as a prestigious gift to give to others, experts say - but that's changing, with personal consumption growing at break-neck speed.

"Today we're dealing with the final consumer. People are buying wine to drink themselves," said Gregory Perret, marketing director of importer French Wine Paradox, which specialises in mass distribution in China.

The number of Chinese drinkers consuming imported wine more than doubled from 19 million to 48 million people between 2011 and 2017 alone, according to a study by consultants Wine Intelligence.

And by 2020, China - already the world's fifth largest consumer of wine and fourth largest importer - is set to represent 70 per cent of growth in the market by volume, according to another study by Vinexpo and industry analysts International Wine and Spirit Research.

Chinese wine professionals make up the biggest foreign contingent at this year's Vinexpo, which alternates every year between Bordeaux and Hong Kong.

And wheeling and dealing at the fair, which generates some €50 million (US$56 million) in direct business and twice that in knock-on benefits, got off to a high-profile start Sunday with the signature of a partnership between Vinexpo and Tmall, the online sales platform run by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.


Youngsters in the upper middle-class are among those driving changes in Chinese attitudes.

"Younger consumers are really changing, and they change the behaviour of the market," said Chuan Zhou, a researcher at Wine Intelligence.

Among the cultural factors boosting consumption, he pointed to Chinese millennials' growing travels abroad to wine-producing regions - in France and Italy, for example - as well as their insatiable need "to put the most amazing photos on the social networks".

The market is not only growing quickly, but diversifying, with Chinese drinkers increasingly keen to sample new varieties from different countries.

"Georgia, which arrived on the market four years ago, now ranks tenth," notes the American wine journalist and consultant Debra Meiburg, who has been based in Hong Kong for decades.

Aline Bao, director of fine wine purchasing and e-commerce at Chinese state-owned food giant COFCO, said there was "more and more demand for white wines, especially top wines".

"Two or three years ago, people bought cheap wines or bigger brands," she said, adding that over the past two years Chinese drinkers had flocked instead to mid-range labels.

Terry Xu, for his part, noted that sparkling Italian muscat has been a big hit in the Middle Kingdom lately.

In parallel to a flourishing of brick-and-mortar wine shops even beyond China's mega-cities, the country of 1.4 billion has seen an explosion in wine sales on websites such as TMall, Amazon and

According to Wine Intelligence, 48 per cent of Chinese consumers who have drunk foreign wine in the last six months stocked up on the internet - tracking wider shopping patterns in a country where e-commerce is booming.

"You have no choice, you have to be online. China is an online country," Xu told producers at Vinexpo.

One dead as rain storms lash Germany, spark rail chaos, 22 Jun 2017 23:49:54 +0800BERLIN: Heavy summer storms in northern Germany on Thursday (Jun 22) killed a man when a tree crashed onto his car, while railway services were crippled and a tornado was seen near Hamburg.

Gale-force winds, torrential rains and hail damaged rail tracks and power lines, forcing trains to be halted between Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Kiel and Hanover, the national railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) said.

Germany rain storms(Photo:AFP)

The man killed was a 50-year-old whose parked car was hit by a tree near the city of Uelzen, also injuring his wife. A falling tree also seriously injured a female cyclist nearby.

In the port city of Hamburg, the weather service reported a rare tornado some 10 kilometres from the airport.

In the south of the city, storms damaged house roofs and killed sheep that were hit by toppled trees.

Music fans had to seek shelter in their cars at the venue of a weekend musical festival near Bremen that, ironically, is named "Hurricane".

Tyre giant Michelin to cut nearly 2,000 jobs worldwide, 22 Jun 2017 23:45:38 +0800PARIS: Tyre giant Michelin is to cut nearly 2,000 jobs worldwide by 2021 as part of a reorganisation, the company announced on Thursday (Jun 22), saying there would be no forced redundancies.

The company plans to shed 1,500 staff in France, mostly by not replacing workers when they retire, and a further 450 in the United States.


The announcement comes despite Michelin reporting a 43 per cent rise in net profit for 2016 to €1.7 billion (US$1.8 billion).

An early retirement scheme is to be launched at Michelin's historic base in the central French city of Clermont-Ferrand, the company said in a statement.

Michelin said in a statement that only 3,500 staff would be hired to replace the 5,000 expected to retire from its French operations by 2021, while in the United States the "large majority" of losses would also come through attrition.

"The departure of these staff can be achieved without any suffering, there is no suggestion of forced departures, it will be on a voluntary basis," Michelin's chief executive Jean-Dominique Senard.

The company said it plans to begin "new activities" in France that will create jobs, including 250 high-skilled posts.

Parent of Burger King, Tim Hortons to curb antibiotics in chicken, 22 Jun 2017 23:42:50 +0800LOS ANGELES: The parent of Burger King and Tim Hortons on Thursday vowed to cut the use of antibiotics in its chicken supply, joining other major fast-food chain operators in the battle against the rise of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs.

Restaurant Brands International Inc said it intends to switch to chicken raised without the use of antibiotics important to human medicine in the United States and Canada by the end of 2018. More specific details of the plan, released as part of the company's first sustainability report, were not immediately available.

Human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose a grave threat to global health and are estimated to kill at least 23,000 Americans each year, although a recent Reuters investigation found that many infection-related deaths are going uncounted.

Some 70 percent of antibiotics vital for fighting infections in humans are sold for use in meat and dairy production. Medical researchers have concerns that overuse of those drugs on farms may diminish their effectiveness in fighting disease in humans.

As You Sow, a non-profit shareholder advocacy group, withdrew a shareholder resolution calling for reduced antibiotic use in Restaurant Brands' meat supply following its commitment on chicken.

"This is great news for modern medicine and for long-term shareholder value," said Austin Wilson, Environmental Health Program Manager at As You Sow.

McDonald's Corp, Wendy's Co, KFC and Chick-fil-A are among the other companies that have made commitments to reduce the use of antibiotics in the poultry they buy.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

South Africa reports outbreak of H5N8 bird flu in Mpumalanga: OIE, 22 Jun 2017 23:42:48 +0800PARIS: South Africa reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu on a commercial broiler breeder farm in Mpumalanga province, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Thursday, citing a report from the South African farm ministry.

Some 5,000 birds died of the highly contagious disease and the remainder at the 24,000-birds farm was in the process of being culled, the ministry said.

South Africa earlier this month suspended all trade in birds and chicken products from neighboring Zimbabwe after it reported an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu at a commercial poultry farm.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Gus Trompiz)

Giorgi upsets Svitolina at Birmingham, 22 Jun 2017 23:42:43 +0800REUTERS: Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi pulled off a surprise three-set win over number two seed Elina Svitolina on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the Aegon Classic.

Giorgi won six of the last seven games as she triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 over the Ukrainian.

WTA Premier - Aegon Classic

The 25-year-old will face Australian Ashleigh Barty in the last eight at the Edgbaston Priory Club.

Spain's Garbine Muguruza also moved into the quarter-finals, enjoying a 6-1 6-4 win over American Alison Riske.

Britain's Johanna Konta takes on American Coco Vandeweghe later on Thursday and France's Kristina Mladenovic is up against China's Shuai Zhang.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Rare protest on Thai student leader's arrest anniversary PacificThu, 22 Jun 2017 23:40:22 +0800BANGKOK: Anti-junta activists staged a rare protest in Thailand on Thursday (Jun 22) demanding the release of a prominent student leader who was detained for sharing a news story about the kingdom's new monarch on Facebook.

Jatupat "Pai" Boonpatararaksa, 25, was arrested six months ago for sharing a profile of King Maha Vajiralongkorn written by the BBC's Thai-language service in London on his Facebook page.

People stand behind makeshift bars wearing masks(Photo:AFP)

Criticising the royal family is punishable by up to 15 years in prison per count in Thailand, where the law is broadly interpreted and ferociously enforced.

Some 120 people have fallen foul of the law since an ultra-royalist junta seized power in 2014 but Pai was the first to be detained under the new king's reign.

Around a dozen protesters, some wearing face masks of the detained student, held a brief rally on a pedestrian bridge in downtown Bangkok on Thursday evening.

Police allowed the protest to go ahead, a rarity in the military-run nation where public displays of dissent are often quickly quashed.

Protester Kornkanok Khunta, a political science student at Thammasat University, said supporters believed Pai was targeted because he was openly critical of the military.

"Two thousand people shared this news (profile) but only he got arrested," she told AFP. "Pai is a hero, he is someone who inspired people."

Supporters later read out messages behind bamboo poles strung together to symbolise a jail cell as plainclothes police filmed and bemused tourists looked on.

Pai hails from Thailand's northeast, a poor and rural region where anti-military sentiment runs high. He led a group of local students opposed to junta rule.

Since his arrest he has been denied bail in a series of secret court hearings while his plight has become a rallying cry for democracy activists and he has won a prominent South Korean human rights award.

Earlier this month the United Nation's rights body released a fresh statement condemning Thailand's use of lese majeste.

The statement noted that the conviction rate under the law had gone from 75 per cent before the coup to 96 per cent last year.

Many of those jailed have been handed sentences as long as 30 years, often for comments made on Facebook.

Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne after the October death of his father Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for seven decades. He has yet to attain his father's widespread popularity.

Debate about the monarchy's role inside Thailand is all but impossible and media must heavily self-censor when reporting on the royals.

Doping - IPC VP says Russia has until September to conform, 22 Jun 2017 23:27:44 +0800LONDON: Russia has until September to prove it has made the necessary reforms to participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) presidential candidate Andrew Parsons said on Thursday.

Brazilian Parsons, an IPC vice president who unveiled his election manifesto and is the fourth presidential candidate to succeed Philip Craven in the September election, said Russia still had work to do.

"The Russian Federation and the Russian Paralympic Committee, they know the steps they have to take until September because in September we have a governing board meeting and in this meeting we can decide if we lift the suspension or not," Parsons told reporters in London.

"So, of course if we decide in September that they're not ready to come back as a full member it will be difficult for the Russian athletes to compete in Pyeongchang."

"We don't want that to happen. We want the Russian athletes back but of course what happened in Sochi (in 2014), in the lead-up to Sochi, cannot be forgotten."

Last year the independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report compiled by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren showed more than 1,000 Russian competitors across more than 30 sports were involved in an institutional conspiracy to conceal positive drug tests over the course of five years.

The report provided exhaustive evidence of an elaborate doping scheme sponsored by Russia's Sports Ministry leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The IPC banned the Russian Paralympic Committee from participating in the 2016 Rio Games and Parsons said there would need to be substantial evidence provided in September.

"We have to respect not only the rights of the Russian para-athletes but also the rights of all the other athletes in the world to compete on a level playing field," he said

Russia has rejected the accusations that doping took place with political support, but has pledged to reform its anti-doping structures and the World Anti-Doping Agency has noted progress.

The election for a new IPC president will take place at the IPC General Assembly on September 7-8.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Kohl's widow in tug-of-war over unification Chancellor's legacy, 22 Jun 2017 23:27:39 +0800BERLIN: Less than a week after Helmut Kohl's death, a row has broken out between his widow, his sons and his political party over the funeral and legacy of the Chancellor who led Germany through the end of the Cold War and reunification.

Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that his second wife, Maike Kohl-Richter, had tried to prevent Chancellor Angela Merkel, his one-time protege, from speaking at his memorial service and instead proposed a vocal critic of her, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the EU summit in Brussels

The young, liberal Orban was mentored by Kohl in the early years after the 1989 collapse of East European Communism, although as prime minister of Hungary he has steered an anti-EU, authoritarian course that many say is at odds with Kohl's legacy.

Kohl-Richter has also clashed with his estranged son Walter, who said he was barred from visiting the couple's home to discuss funeral arrangements on Tuesday, a claim denied by his widow's lawyer.

The Christian Democrat has been lauded as the statesman who seized the opportunity of collapsing Soviet power in Eastern Europe to win a prize few believed attainable: the reunification of East and West Germany.

Next week he becomes the first person to be honoured with a European memorial service for pushing for deeper European integration that led to the birth of the European Union and the common euro currency.

But Kohl became increasingly isolated after leaving office in 1998, his legacy tarnished by a party financing scandal involving illegal anonymous donations.

He remarried in 2008 after first wife Hannelore's 2001 suicide. Thirty-four years his junior, Kohl-Richter jealously guards his legacy, keeping reams of official papers in their marital home.

Kohl also grew estranged from former political allies. Merkel was never forgiven for finally plunging in the knife at the time of the funding scandal. Then the party's General Secretary, she effectively dispatched Kohl with an article in a prominent newspaper in which she said the party must "learn to fight without the old warhorse".

Many questioned whether it was really an increasingly frail Kohl who was close to Orban, a nativist critic of Merkel's open-doors refugee policy, whom he received in his Oggersheim home last year when she was under fire for opening Germany's borders to Syrian refugees.

Orban has campaigned to "stop Brussels", home to the EU's headquarters, which he has compared to Moscow. Russian troops occupied Hungary for more than 40 years. But he was fulsome in his praise for Kohl's life-work.

"His visage is still before me, my dear friend Helmut's valedictory look, as he repeated: 'Europe, Europe'," Orban wrote in a condolence letter to his widow.

Kohl-Richter has been talked out of her objections to Merkel. A government spokesman confirmed that Merkel would speak at the Strasbourg memorial service on July 1.

(Additional reporting by Gergely Szakacs in Budapest; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

US banks look to rebuild European football from the ground up, 22 Jun 2017 23:11:40 +0800LONDON (Reuters/IFR) - U.S. banks that have carved out a lucrative niche financing the construction and renovation of sports stadia are making a push into Europe, signing a major deal with English Premier League soccer club Tottenham Hotspur last month.

Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) dominate the sector, using stock and bond issues, the sale of naming rights, and securitisations of future ticket and TV revenues to fund improvements in infrastructure.

FILE PHOTO: Construction work is seen outside the stadium before the match

With financial fair play rules curbing the sums deep-pocketed owners can spend, the banks are hoping to capitalize on clubs' need for new sources of financing.

"We are building on a base in Europe, what we call greenfield. I want to get to 60 stadiums done, I'm on 40 now," said Goldman Sachs' Greg Carey, one of the biggest names in U.S. sports finance, who now comes to Europe once a month.

Goldman and BAML were among banks that lent Tottenham Hotspur, known as Spurs, 400 million pounds (US$512.32 million) in May to help finance a new 61,500-seat stadium in London. The five-year loan is secured on the new stadium and related commercial and match day revenues.

Carey has orchestrated stadium deals worth more than US$20 billion for the New York Yankees, San Francisco 49ers and other elite American teams and has arranged private transactions for Italian soccer clubs AS Roma and Inter Milan.

The banks do not disclose how much they make from sports financing but "the margins are very, very attractive" said Chris Wheeler, banking analyst at Atlantic Securities.

"Yes, it's profitable. It's not a big people business, you don't need 500 traders to do it ... You need a small team. And there are only so many stadiums being built, so you don't need vast resources."

The margins charged reflect risks including the chance that future revenues might not stack up to pay off the debt taken on.

For Europe's big soccer clubs there is the annual prospect of a sharp fall in earnings if they fail to qualify for the Europe-wide Champion's League competition or are relegated to a lower division.

Early this century, English club Leeds United was relegated and had to sell players and its stadium after borrowing heavily to chase a Champions League place but missing out. Investors took heavy losses.

Construction projects can also be subject to cost overruns and delays, as with the rebuilding of London's Wembley Stadium.

These risks can be offset by ensuring stadium projects can generate additional revenue from hosting concerts or other sporting events. Spurs plan to host two NFL games a year.


BAML started its sports finance and advisory practice in 1992 and has helped bankroll stadia including a US$1.2 billion 80,000 seat arena for the Dallas Cowboys that opened in 2009 and also the Yankees' stadium.

"We decided there was a good business model here. We provide a full platform - investment banking, capital raising, corporate banking," said managing director Elliott McCabe.

"The U.S. market is highly developed for financings in the sports sector. Our biggest focus growing up has been domestically in the U.S..

"We have interest in Europe. There are many well-run clubs with strong ownership groups," he added. "However, every situation is unique, it's not cookie-cutter."

The deals can require banks to put in a lot of their own money, one reason U.S. banks have an edge over European rivals with less available balance sheet to put to work. Goldman and BAML often write big cheques - Goldman committed US$850 million so construction could start on the San Francisco 49ers' Levi's Stadium.

"How do we help the clubs become more competitive?" Carey said. "By building better facilities so they can put more money into the team, so they can be potentially better and play in the Champions League and make more money. So it's a virtuous cycle."

With their new stadium, Spurs aim to boost earnings like arch-rivals Arsenal have done since moving into the Emirates Stadium - itself financed by borrowing against future ticket sales - in 2006.

Arsenal's matchday revenues of 134 million euros in 2015/16 were more than double Spurs' 55 million euros, according to Deloitte analysis which shows Europe's top clubs made just 18 percent of revenues from matchday income in the 2015/16 season.

That makes upping capacity or getting fans to spend more with better facilities a main lever for increasing cashflows.

TV and broadcasting rights, which are mostly collectively arranged, generated 39 percent of revenues, while 43 percent came from commercial income such as advertising and merchandising.

The Spurs deal and proposals by Dutch team Feyenoord include plans to regenerate the area around their stadiums.

Similar promises of regeneration have seen U.S. city authorities put money into stadium projects in the last decade, often raised via a hotel tax. But the economic benefits are disputed.

Stanford economist Roger Noll is among those who say such public/private partnerships have provided poor value because the additional revenue raised as a result of the development does not cover the funding provided.


Europe's love affair with soccer means it is seen as the main area of opportunity there. Big-name teams including Feyenoord, Italy's AS Roma and Fiorentina, Chelsea and Everton in England and Spanish team Barcelona all have plans for new or improved stadia seating up to 100,000 people.

The experience of the New England Patriots shows what an impact a new stadium can have.

Since the Boston-based NFL team moved into the Gillette Stadium in 2002, they have won five Superbowls and are now the sixth most valuable sports team in the world, with a franchise worth US$3.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Then at Citigroup, Carey made his name with an innovative financing deal for the stadium that allowed owner Robert Kraft to raise US$325 million at low interest rates by pledging future revenues from advertising, naming rights and other income.

The sports-mad 56-year-old from Long Island's office at Goldman is filled with memorabilia.

"My office looks like a sports museum," Carey said.

(US$1 = 0.7808 pounds)

(Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Catherine Evans)

Tesla moves a step closer to building electric cars in China, 22 Jun 2017 23:05:46 +0800REUTERS: Tesla Inc took a step closer toward establishing an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in China with its announcement on Thursday that it is in exploratory talks with the Shanghai municipal government.

Tesla has said it wants to build electric cars in China to avoid a 25-percent tariff on imported vehicles.

FILE PHOTO -- A Tesla Model X is photographed alongside a Model S at a Tesla electric car dealersh

The company did not provide a timeline for setting up a China plant, but said it expects to "more clearly define" its China production plans by the end of the year.

Tesla shares were up 1.5 percent at US$382 in midday trading.

China's central government requires foreign companies such as Tesla to have a Chinese partner in new auto manufacturing ventures, with the foreign company owning no more than 50 percent.

Tesla did not say which companies it might partner with. Speculation has centered on Tencent Holdings Ltd , the internet giant that is China's largest company. Earlier this year, Tencent acquired a five-percent stake in Tesla for US$1.8 billion.

Tesla has not said which vehicles it plans to build in China. However, a supplier familiar with the company's thinking said it was considering the Model 3 sedan and a crossover companion called Model Y. The Model 3 is slated to begin production in July at Tesla's Fremont plant in California, with the Model Y tentatively scheduled to follow in mid-2019.

In a separate but related development, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Thursday he was concerned about Ford Motor Co's announcement earlier this week that it will move some production of its Focus small car to China and import the vehicles to the United States.

"If it happened for reasons that are non-economic reasons, then I think the administration should take action," Lighthizer told U.S. lawmakers.

Tesla is the most valuable U.S. automaker, with a market capitalization of more than US$60 billion, but it has yet to turn an annual profit.

(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Bernadette Baum)

Erdogan spokesman says Turkey and Russia to deploy in Syria's Idlib - Turkish TV, 22 Jun 2017 22:46:59 +0800ANKARA: Turkish and Russian personnel will be deployed in Syria's northern Idlib region as part of a de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia last month, Turkish broadcasters quoted the Turkish presidential spokesman as saying on Thursday.

Ibrahim Kalin was quoted by Haberturk television channel as saying the de-escalation zones, agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, would be further discussed during talks in the Kazakh capital Astana in early July.

"We will probably be most prominent in the Idlib region with the Russians; mostly Russia and Iran around Damascus, and a mechanism involving the Americans and Jordan in the south in the Deraa region is being worked on," Kalin was quoted as saying, adding that Russia had proposed Kazakh and Kyrgyz forces to be sent as well.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Champs Elysees attacker had been in Turkey and had huge arsenal of weapons - official, 22 Jun 2017 22:41:29 +0800PARIS: The man behind this week's attempted attack in Paris's Champs Elysees avenue had been to Turkey several times in 2016 where authorities questioned him over large amounts of gold and jewellery in his possession, and he had a huge arsenal of weapons, said the Paris prosecutor.

Paris public prosecutor Francois Molins added at a news conference on Thursday that the attacker - whom he named as French national "Adam D" - had also wanted to go to Syria and had pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On June 19, the individual had rammed a car carrying weapons and explosives into a police van as it drove in a convoy down Paris's Champs Elysees, and subsequently died.

"The arsenal of weapons discovered in the vehicle, highlights the scale of the terrorist act that was being prepared, which - if it had succeeded - would have had terrible consequences on human life," said Molins.

Molins said authorities had not yet identified the nature of orange smoke coming out of the car after the attack. In his car were an assault rifle, two pistols, ammunition and two large gas canisters, authorities had previously said.

Adam D was married to a Tunisian and had two children, added Molins.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Michel Rose)

AT&T unclear what final merger conditions Justice Department will seek, 22 Jun 2017 22:37:11 +0800WASHINGTON: AT&T Inc was confident it would win regulatory approval for its US$85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc before year's end as the Justice Department continues its review, but was still awaiting details about any final requirements for the deal, a senior executive said.

Bob Quinn, AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, said in a C-SPAN interview this week that the telecommunications company was unclear what final conditions the Justice Department may seek as part of any approval.

"That conversation is just beginning really," Quinn said. "We've gotten through the point where we're produced all the data and answered all the questions and I think that process will kick off this summer."

In June, a Senate panel voted 19-1 to advance the nomination of Makan Delrahim, who was chosen by President Donald Trump to be the top U.S. antitrust regulator. The Senate must still vote to confirm Delrahim and it is not clear when they will vote.

Until Delrahim is confirmed, "it is kind of hard to predict whether even the list that we see preliminarily will be the final list that they want to close on," said Quinn, without elaborating.

The No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier still needs some foreign approvals. In March, it won the European Commission's nod for the deal.

Separately, a group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken, urged the Justice Department to closely scrutinize the deal.

"We have strong concerns that the combined company's unmatched control of popular content and the distribution of that content will lead to higher prices, fewer choices, and poorer quality services for Americans," they wrote.

"Before initiating the next big wave of media consolidation, you must consider how the US$85 billion deal will impact Americans' wallets, as well as their access to a wide range of news and entertainment programing."

AT&T said in a statement it had previously addressed all the issues in the letter and argued that the deal would offer consumers more choice, and "will expand distribution and creative opportunities for diverse and independent voices."

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

In Brussels, weakened May to offer EU citizens rights, 22 Jun 2017 22:37:09 +0800BRUSSELS: Prime Minister Theresa May said at the start of a European Union summit on Thursday that she would reassure fellow leaders that her government will protect the rights of their citizens living in Britain after its departure from the bloc.

But other leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, made clear that they did not want to get drawn into Brexit discussions and instead preferred to focus on the future of the EU without Britain.

At her first EU summit since a June 8 election sapped her authority to set the terms of Brexit, May said: "I'm going to be setting out some of the UK's plans, particularly on how we propose to protect the rights of EU citizens and UK citizens as we leave the European Union."

She seemed keen to calm the mood with the continentals after weeks of sniping during her election campaign, describing the first formal meeting of Brexit negotiators on Monday as "very constructive" and stressing that London wanted a "special and deep partnership with our friends and allies in Europe".

Merkel also expressed a desire for constructive talks with Britain, but made clear that the EU's priority now was its own future.

"I want to state clearly that the shaping of the future of the 27 has priority over the negotiations with Britain over its exit," Europe's leading power broker said on arrival.

"We will conduct these talks in a good spirit," she added. "But the clear focus has to be on the future of the 27."

France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, spoke of working with Germany to revive European integration and did not refer at all to Britain during his remarks before talks got under way.

Over after-dinner coffee, May will outline her plan to provide early guarantees for some three million people living in Britain from other countries in the bloc, a British source said.

But her wings have been clipped - not only in Britain where voters denied her a majority in parliament, but also in Brussels where EU leaders will try to stop her from discussing Brexit beyond a quick briefing. One EU official said too much detail from May would be unhelpful, as it could provoke reactions.

Instead, once she has left the room, they will continue their own discussion of Britain's departure from the European Union, notably on which city gets to host two EU agencies being pulled out of London - a potentially divisive issue for the 27.


Weakened by an election she did not need to call, May has watered down her government's programme to try to get it through parliament and set a softer tone in her approach to Brexit.

Yet her aims have held - she wants a clean break from the bloc, leaving the lucrative single market and customs union and so reducing immigration and ending EU courts' jurisdiction.

On Thursday, her finance minister, Philip Hammond called for an early agreement on transitional arrangements to ease uncertainty that he said was hurting business.

Reflecting, confusion on the continent about what kind of Brexit she will ask for, summit chair Donald Tusk said ahead of a separate meeting with May: "We can hear different predictions, coming from different people, about the possible outcome of these negotiations: hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no deal."

Some Britons had asked him if he could imagine Britain not leaving after all: "The European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve. So, who knows?," the former Polish prime minister said before quoting John Lennon's song "Imagine":

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I am not the only one."

Other leaders took up the late Beatle's theme. President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania, which has over 100,000 citizens in Britain, insisted relations would remain close and tweeted the Motown lyric: "#Brexit: ain't no mountain high enough".

But Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel, who argues for a need to protect EU integration from British ambivalence toward the project, tweeted: "It's time for action and certainty. Not for dreams and uncertainty #Brexit #FutureofEurope"

Speaking to reporters at the summit, Michel said: "Theresa May is in a very difficult situation in terms of leadership so we will have to see what position Great Britain will defend.

"We can speculate, but it is a waste of time."


A British official said May would offer "new elements" in a paper on citizens' rights to be published next week. There may be sticking points with Brussels, such as the cut-off date for EU citizens in Britain to retain rights under the bloc's free movement rules and EU demands to preserve a panoply of rights in the future that may irk those keen to reduce immigrant numbers.

May will also aim to show that while still a member of the EU, Britain will contribute to other summit discussions, pressing for more action to encourage social media companies to clamp down on internet extremism and for the EU to roll over sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Driven by Germany and France's new pro-EU president Macron, some EU states are keen to set up new defence cooperation of a kind that Britain has long resisted as a member. British officials say London, with little power to block them, now accepts the current EU proposals.

British strengths in the intelligence and security fields, as well as its military clout, are key elements in a future relationship with the EU that May wants to emphasise.

(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald, Robin Emmott, Jan Strupczewski, Elizabeth Miles and Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels; Editing by Noah Barkin)

Car bomb kills seven at police station in Somali capital - police, 22 Jun 2017 22:37:06 +0800MOGADISHU: A car bomb targeting a police station killed at least seven people in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Thursday, police said, and al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab said it was behind the attack, the second this week.

A Reuters witness saw bodies lying on the ground at the Waberi police station, near Maka al Mukarama road, the busiest street in Mogadishu. Cars were ruined and the building damaged.

"We carried seven dead people and 12 others injured from the scene," Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of the Amin ambulance service, told Reuters. Major Mohamed Hussein, a police officer, had earlier given a toll of four dead.

The blast came despite thousands of security personnel, including police, intelligence and military, being assigned to secure Mogadishu earlier this month.

On Tuesday, a car bomb attack on a government building in Mogadishu, also claimed by the al Shabaab militant group, killed at least 10 people.

"As you can see, the terrorists attacked the station which is now destroyed," Ahmed Mohamed, spokesman for the Mogadishu security forces told reporters at the scene.

Al Shabaab, which wants to force out African Union peacekeepers, oust the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam on Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack.

It also gave a higher number for those killed. Its numbers often differ from those given by government officials.

Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said a suicide bomber rammed his car into the police station. "Eleven enemies in the station died and more were injured," he said.

(Reporting by Feisal Omar and Abdirahman Hussein; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

US intelligence chiefs say they did not feel pressured by Trump - CNN, 22 Jun 2017 22:37:04 +0800WASHINGTON: Two top U.S. intelligence officials have told investigators President Donald Trump suggested they publicly deny any collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia, but they did not feel he had ordered them to do so, CNN reported on Thursday, citing multiple sources.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers met separately last week with investigators with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate intelligence committee, according to CNN.

U.S. President Donald Trump takes the stage for a rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids

The two senior officials said they were surprised at Trump's suggestion and found their interactions with him odd and uncomfortable, but they did not act on the presidents' requests, CNN reported, citing sources familiar with their accounts.

Representatives for the White House have previously directed any queries about the Russia investigation to Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz. A spokesman for Kasowitz did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Representatives for Mueller's office could not be immediately reached for comment. Representatives for Coats, Rogers, and the Senate intelligence panel's Republican Chairman Richard Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner had no comment.

Mueller's team and the panel, along with several other congressional committees, are probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Kremlin has denied U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusion that Moscow tried to tilt the election campaign in Trump's favour, using such means as hacking into the emails of senior Democrats.

Trump, a Republican, has denied any collusion and has variously said Russia might or might not have been responsible for hacking. He continued to cast doubt on the investigations in a series of tweets on Thursday morning.

"By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin.," Trump wrote. "Why didn't they stop them?

"Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia."

Johnson, who was Homeland Security secretary under former Democratic U.S. president Barack Obama, on Wednesday told lawmakers there was a delay in the FBI notifying his agency about cyber hacking at the Democratic National Committee. The Obama administration was hesitant to insert itself into the election by asking the president himself to make a public announcement, Johnson added.

But Johnson, who has been out of government since late January, did not weigh in on whether the hacks were a result of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  

Obama's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Coats and Rogers had told the Senate committee at a June 7 public hearing that they could not comment on their conversations with Trump because they believed them to be confidential. They provided no legal basis for their position.

Their refusals exasperated both Republican and Democratic senators on the panel. Coats and Rogers later met with the Senate intelligence panel behind closed doors.

In May, the Washington Post reported that Trump had urged Coats and Rogers to publicly deny there was any evidence of collusion but that they refused to comply with what they believed were inappropriate requests.

Former FBI Director James Comey accused Trump of firing him to try to undermine the agency's Russia investigation. He told the Senate panel this month he was so unsettled by his interactions with Trump that he immediately documented them in detailed memos.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Merkel slaps down May on Brexit talks, 22 Jun 2017 22:35:51 +0800BRUSSELS: German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Thurday (Jun 22) that the EU's future took priority over Brexit talks as Prime Minister Theresa May met European leaders for the first time since a disastrous election gamble.

Under intense pressure on all sides since losing her majority, May said her task at the Brussels summit would be to set out her plans to protect EU citizens' post-Brexit rights.

Merkel and May

But Merkel, Europe's most powerful leader, made clear that this was not at the top of her agenda as she reaffirmed Berlin's strong ties with France and its newly elected President Emmanuel Macron.

"For me the shaping of the future of the 27 is a priority coming before the issue of the negotiations with Britain on the exit," Merkel said. "We want to conduct these negotiations in a good spirit but the clear focus has to be on the future of the 27."

Macron, attending his first summit, did not mention Brexit directly but said it was now time to get down to concrete work - "hand in hand with Germany" - on putting the European Union back on track after years of austerity and crisis.

Britain's vote to leave the EU exactly a year ago on Friday was the biggest in a series of shocks that the bloc has faced, but it now insists it is turning the corner on anti-EU sentiment.


May is set to brief EU leaders on her Brexit plans over dinner on Thursday, before being kicked out while the remaining 27 discuss key issues including the future location of the EU's medicines and banking agencies, currently based in Britain.

For her part, May said she would set out "clearly how the UK proposes to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and see the rights of UK citizens living in Europe protected."

The fate of an estimated three million Europeans living in Britain and around one million Britons living elsewhere in the EU was thrown into doubt by Britain's vote to leave the bloc last year.

"That's been an important issue, we've wanted it to be one of the early issues that was considered in the negotiations, that is now the case, that work is starting," she told reporters as she arrived.

May had previously refused to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain until those of expatriate Britons were secured.

A European diplomat said that there was "no question of any discussion, let alone any negotiation" with May at the summit.

The issue of citizens' rights is one of three priorities in the Brexit talks which began on Monday, along with Britain's estimated €100 billion (£88 billion, US$112 billion) divorce bill, and the fraught question of Northern Ireland, which will share Britain's only land border with the EU after Brexit.

Earlier, EU president Donald Tusk had channelled former Beatle John Lennon as he said he hoped Brexit could be reversed - though others immediately poured cold water on the idea.

"Some of my British friends have asked me whether Brexit could be reversed, and whether I could imagine an outcome where the UK stays part of the European Union," Tusk told reporters.

"I told them that in fact the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve, so who knows?" the former Polish premier said.

"You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one," he added with a broad smile, quoting Lennon's iconic song "Imagine."

But Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel - who has strongly argued for EU unity on Brexit - said Tusk should let it be.

"It's time for action and certainty. Not for dreams and uncertainty #Brexit #Future of Europe," Michel tweeted.

Calling Brexit "a pity", Lithuania's outspoken President Dalia Grybauskaite said: "We need to think about the future, and the sooner we settle the future the better for all of us."

At the same time, Tusk insisted that the remaining 27 members had a renewed sense of optimism about the bloc's future after years of crisis and mounting anti-EU sentiment, which culminated in the Brexit vote.

"Never before have I had such a strong belief that things are going in a better direction," he said.


In Brussels, security has been stepped up after Tuesday's bombing at one of the city's main rail stations by an Islamic State sympathiser, following attacks in Britain and France.

That put the immediate focus on security and the EU's growing efforts to build up a security role and capability for itself.

Meanwhile Macron and Merkel are expected to recommend another six-month rollover of tough economic sanctions imposed against Russia in 2014 over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed 10,000 lives.

Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker are also expected to report on recent meetings with US President Donald Trump, who has alarmed the EU and NATO with his "America First" approach.

United States rejects UN call for access to safe abortions, 22 Jun 2017 22:30:47 +0800GENEVA: The United States on Thursday rejected a United Nations resolution on violence against women because it called for access to safe abortion for all women in countries where legal.

The administration of President Donald Trump said last month it was vastly expanding the scope of a policy blocking U.S. assistance to foreign groups that perform or provide information about abortions.

U.S. First Secretary to the U.N. in Geneva Jason Mack said, after a resolution from Canada on eliminating violence against women was adopted by consensus, that the U.S. "must dissociate from the consensus" specifically on access to safe abortions.

"We do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance," he said in a statement read to the Council.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., gave formal notice this month that the Trump administration is reviewing its participation in the forum and called for reforms to eliminate what she called its "chronic anti-Israel bias".

The Council said women and girls are at higher risk of sexual violence in wars and post-conflict situations and require access to health care, psychosocial support and legal aid.

It said all women should have access to "comprehensive sexual and health-care services" including modern contraception, prevention programs for adolescent pregnancy, and "safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law".

Despite rejecting that call, the U.S. delegation said that the United States "strongly supports the spirit of this resolution and joins other members of this Council in condemning all acts of violence against women and girls".

The United States is among the Council's 47 member states, which are elected by the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

Egyptian government approves presidential proposal extending state of emergency, 22 Jun 2017 22:30:42 +0800CAIRO: Egypt's government has approved President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's proposal to extend a national state of emergency for an additional three months, the cabinet said in a statement on Thursday.

Parliament unanimously approved a three-month state of emergency in April, broadening the power of authorities to crack down on what it called enemies of the state after two church bombings killed at least 45.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gives an address after the gunmen attack in Minya

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Eric Knecht)

France outlines tough new anti-terrorism law, 22 Jun 2017 22:23:17 +0800PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron's government on Thursday (Jun 22) set out a tough new anti-terrorism law that has already faced protests from civil rights groups.

The proposals presented to the first meeting of the reshuffled cabinet are designed to allow the lifting of the state of emergency that has been in place in France since the November 2015 attacks.

France hooded officer

The government has extended the state of emergency five times since it was introduced by the then Socialist government in response to coordinated shootings and suicide bombings in Paris that killed 130 people in November 2015.

The current provision expires in mid-July when it is expected to be extended again until Nov 1 while the new law is prepared.

The legislation has received the go-ahead from France's top administrative court despite concerns from rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that it will enshrine into law draconian powers allowed under the state of emergency.

Amnesty complained last month, for example, that French authorities were abusing anti-terrorism measures by using them to curb legitimate protests.

France has been consistently targeted by militants since 2015.

The ever-present threat was underlined on Monday when a man rammed a car laden with guns and gas bottles into a police van on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue.

The driver of the car, 31-year-old suspected extremist Adam Djaziri, died in the attack but no-one else was injured.

The new law would give local authorities greater powers to act to protect an event or location thought to be at risk from attack, without first seeking permission from the courts.

Local authorities could, for example, decide to put in place a security cordon and carry out bag checks and searches using private guards without seeking approval beforehand.

The draft law would also allow places of worship thought to be promoting extremism to be shut down for up to six months.


Prime Minister Edouard Philippe argued it struck the "right balance" between respecting freedoms and reinforcing security.

"We want to guarantee security and we want to do so while respecting the law and the constitution ... and we cannot stop living our lives," he told TF1 on Wednesday.

French authorities have launched a review of gun ownership after it emerged that the driver of the car on the Champs-Elysees had been legally allowed to possess firearms despite being on an extremist watchlist since 2015.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, who retained his job in Wednesday's reshuffle, said the attack was a timely response to those questioning the necessity of the new law.

"You can see that the state of France today necessitates it," Collomb said, speaking on Monday. "If we want to effectively ensure the security of our citizens, we must be able to take a certain number of measures," he added.

Since the large-scale Paris attacks in November 2015 and last year's Nice truck attack, which were both claimed by the Islamic State group, attacks have mainly been smaller and aimed at the security forces.

A known extremist shot dead a policeman on the Champs-Elysees in April, just days before the first round of the presidential election.

Macron on Wednesday named a new centrist cabinet after his party won a commanding majority in parliamentary elections.

In a cabinet that continues to bridge the left-right divide, he appointed little-known railway executive Florence Parly as defence minister and constitutional lawyer Nicole Belloubet was made justice minister.

Veteran Socialist Jean-Yves Le Drian remains in post as foreign minister, as does conservative Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

After chairing the cabinet meeting, Macron headed to his first European Union summit.

The 39-year-old president said in an interview Wednesday that Europe was capable of transforming the world with France as a driving force.

Danone looks to ride healthy food revolution wave, 22 Jun 2017 22:16:48 +0800PARIS: Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone, wants the world's biggest yogurt maker to play a central role in the revolution sweeping the global food industry as it tries to respond to a consumer shift towards healthy eating.

As more consumers, notably the "Millennial" generation, opt for healthier diets and a more socially responsible way of life, Danone, along with rivals such as Nestle, have been seeking to adapt.

Faber unveiled a new company "signature" dubbed "One Planet. One Health" for Danone on Thursday in Berlin at the annual meeting of the Consumer Goods Forum, a gathering of the world's biggest retailers and packaged food companies.

"A revolution is cooking, what are we going to do about it?" Faber told the meeting, warning that consumers will turn their backs on big food companies if they do not do more to address issues like obesity, inequality and climate change.

"We are losing them. They are getting out of our shops, out of our brands. They are going for food without the food industry. Not only without us, but maybe against us," he said.

Danone has bought U.S. organic food producer WhiteWave in a US$12.5 billion deal, bringing the company more into line with healthier eating trends.

The deal also aims to boost growth at Danone, whose shares trade at a discount to rivals. The company's depressed valuation was highlighted this week as a reason for it being touted as a potential bid target.

Faber told Reuters that Danone, which has no large controlling shareholder, was "no more and no less than usual" vulnerable to a possible takeover bid.

Danone is seeking to build on the WhiteWave deal with a campaign to promote itself as a leader in terms of healthy eating habits.

"The global industrial food system is reaching its limits," Faber told Reuters in a phone interview before his speech in Berlin. He said evidence of this included obesity and malnutrition, wasting water and food, soil depletion, and climate change.

"Everywhere people want to regain control over their food," said Faber, a rock climber and campaigner for corporate social responsibility.


WhiteWave's products have outsold mainstream packaged food businesses in recent years, highlighting the consumer shift toward natural foods and healthier eating. The deal should also help Danone to cope with tougher market conditions in dairy products in Europe, and babyfood in China.

WhiteWave makes Danone the world's biggest producer of organic food and gives it a stronger foothold in North America, which is becoming its biggest market, accounting for US$6 billion, or around 25 percent of group sales against 13 percent previously.

Faber said he hoped the new Danone signature would help to address a general consumer mistrust of big, corporate brands.

"Small brands communicate on their intentions, they are activists. It is key that big brands also state their intentions," he said.

Faber, the first Danone CEO from outside the founding Riboud family, is pushing on with a dual economic and social agenda, which - like that of many blue-chip companies - aims to not only boost shareholder value and profits but also meet other targets on the environment and social policies.

"The big risk is to avoid transforming ourselves and end up only cutting costs to return cash to shareholders," he said.

A pledge at the annual shareholder meeting in April for Danone to be certified as a for-profit corporation that commits to positive social and environmental goals - was in line with that strategy, he said.


Bid speculation around Danone pushed its shares sharply higher this week. Broker Exane said it could be an acquisition target for Kraft Heinz, also citing PepsiCo and Coca Cola as credible suitors.

Analysts at Berenberg wrote in a research note that investors would need concrete evidence of Danone's progress in its new areas.

"We believe investors will need to see further evidence of organic growth and margin momentum to agree with the CEO that Danone is 'uniquely placed to embrace the food revolution' and for its valuation discount to the sector to close fully."

Faber is confident Danone will deliver. "I am absolutely convinced our strategy creates value for the long-term but also the short-term," he said, adding he expected sales growth to improve in the third quarter.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, additional reporting by Emma Thomasson in Berlin; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Jane Merriman)

Home Capital to get CUS$2 billion loan from Berkshire Hathaway, 22 Jun 2017 22:11:59 +0800REUTERS: Home Capital Group Inc said billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc will provide a new CUS$2 billion (US$1.50 billion) line of credit to its unit Home Trust Co, ending the Canadian lender's strategic review process.

Berkshire will also indirectly buy CUS$400 million of Home Capital's common shares in a private placement through its unit Columbia Insurance Co, Home Capital said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO - The Home Capital Group's headquarters in Toronto

"Home Capital's strong assets, its ability to originate and underwrite well-performing mortgages, and its leading position in a growing market sector make this a very attractive investment," said Warren Buffett, Berkshire chairman and CEO.Berkshire will hold an about 38.39 percent equity stake in Home Capital after buying 40 million shares at an average price of about CUS$10.00 per common share.

Berkshire will make an initial investment of CUS$153.2 million to buy 16 million common shares and an additional investment of CUS$246.8 million to purchase 24 million shares through a private placement.

The additional investment is subject to shareholder approval, while the initial investment will not require approval from shareholders.

Canada's biggest non-bank lender also said it will continue to explore further asset sales and financing deals over the next year, but has concluded its strategic review process that began in April.

"This investment from Berkshire not only addresses Home Capital's near-term requirements for additional liquidity and a lower-cost credit agreement, but also facilitates what the Board feels is the best available path to long-term success," Home Capital's Chair Brenda Eprile said.

Berkshire will not be granted any rights to nominate directors to Home Capital board or any governance rights as an equity holder, Home Capital said.

The CUS$2 billion loan facility, expected to be effective on June 29, will replace the existing one for a similar amount between Home Trust Company and a major institutional investor.

On Tuesday, the company said it would sell a portfolio of commercial mortgage assets valued at CUS$1.2 billion to bolster its liquidity and trim outstanding debt on a CUS$2 billion emergency facility it agreed with the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan in April.

Last week, Home Capital reached a CUS$30.5 million settlement with the Ontario Securities Commission, settled a class action lawsuit and accepted responsibility for misleading investors about problems with its mortgage underwriting procedures.

The settlement is expected to help secure long-term financing at sustainable interest rates, investors and analysts said.

(Reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair and Gopakumar Warrier)

Mylan shareholders vote against executive pay, re-elect board, 22 Jun 2017 22:11:57 +0800AMSTERDAM: Mylan NV shareholders voted against the generic drugmaker's executive pay policy but re-elected the board at its annual meeting on Thursday despite a shareholder campaign in the wake of a scandal over high prices for its EpiPen emergency allergy treatment.

The company did not disclose the vote totals for the directors. Investors agitating against Mylan's board had a steep threshold to cross as more than two-thirds of the shares voted, as well as more than half of Mylan's outstanding shares, were needed for the directors to lose.

The failed measure to approve the company's executive compensation was a non-binding advisory vote. Mylan has said it will take into account the outcome of this vote when considering future compensation arrangements.

The shareholder campaign against Mylan's board, led by New York City and State pension funds, picked up steam after Chairman Robert Coury's nearly US$100 million pay package was disclosed earlier this year.

The annual meeting was held in Amsterdam, where the company has been headquartered since 2015. It was sparsely attended, with around the same number of attendees from the company as those in the audience.

The only shareholder to speak was Quirijn Bongaerts of the Dutch small shareholders association VEB. He challenged Coury on executive pay, ethics and the appointment of board members.

The New York City and State pension funds and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, as well as influential proxy advisory firm ISS, had urged shareholders to vote against the directors to voice their dissatisfaction.

ISS said earlier this month that shareholder value had eroded as the board mismanaged the EpiPen issue. Sharp price increases for the life-saving treatment spurred congressional, Justice Department and other government investigations of Medicaid overcharging.

Mylan shares were up 64 cents, or 1.7 percent, at US$38.91 in late morning trading on Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling, Writing by Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Dan Grebler)

US House Democrats reject Deutsche Bank privacy claim in Trump query, 22 Jun 2017 22:11:54 +0800FRANKFURT: U.S. House Democrats rejected an assertion by Deutsche Bank that privacy laws prevent it from sharing information about President Donald Trump's finances, as they investigate possible collusion between his campaign team and Russia.

In a letter to the bank's lawyers made public on Thursday, five Democrats who have been seeking financial information about Trump argued U.S. federal laws protecting banking customers' confidentiality did not apply to requests from Congress.

A Deutsche Bank logo adorns a wall at the company's headquarters in Frankfurt

The bank could also circumvent privacy concerns by obtaining disclosure consent from the president and his family, they said.

"Given President Trump's repeated assertions that he does not have ties to Russia, such disclosure would ostensibly be in his interest," they wrote.

Investigations are underway in Washington into claims of collusion between Trump's inner circle and Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign - which both the president and Moscow have denied.

Public records show that Deutsche Bank loaned Trump millions of dollars for real-estate ventures.

As well as details about those transactions, the lawmakers are seeking information about a Russian "mirror trading" scheme that allowed US$10 billion to flow out of Russia.

In January, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay US$630 million (497 million pounds) fines over the scheme, which could have been used to launder money out of Russia.


In the letter, dated Wednesday, Maxine Waters, ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, and four peers reiterated requests for information and gave Deutsche Bank until June 29 to respond.

They first asked the bank in May to share what it might know about Trump's real-estate business and whether the president had financial backing from Russia.

Deutsche Bank's Washington-based external counsel responded to that request earlier this month by saying it was barred from sharing information about Trump's finances.

"We hope that you will understand Deutsche Bank's need to respect the boundaries that Congress and the courts have set in an effort to protect confidential information," the bank's law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, wrote.

A disclosure document posted on the U.S. Office of Government Ethics website last week showed liabilities for Trump of at least US$130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, suggesting the German bank is one of Trump's biggest lenders.

They included one exceeding US$50 million for the Old Post Office, a historic Washington property where Trump has opened a hotel.

The Democrats do not have the power to compel Deutsche Bank to comply with their request. The Financial Services Committee has subpoena power but Republican committee members, who are in the majority, would have to cooperate.

No Republicans signed any of the letters to Deutsche Bank.

The Russian "mirror" trades involved, for example, buying Russian stocks in roubles for a client and selling the identical value of a security for dollars for a related customer.

Deutsche Bank has provided the Democrats with copies of settlements regarding the trades.

(Reporting by Tom Sims,; editing by John Stonestreet)

Police investigating Facebook post defending radical preacher Rasul Dahri, 22 Jun 2017 21:55:29 +0800SINGAPORE: The police are investigating a Facebook post defending radical Singaporean preacher Rasul Dahri, whose books were banned this week for containing extremist religious views. 

Police said on Thursday (Jun 22) that a report was lodged and they are looking into the matter.

Rasul Dahri

Online Islamic Bookshelf, a book retailer, came to Mr Rasul's defence in a Facebook post on Thursday morning, saying his publications do not promote violence. If that was the case, many of his followers would have "long time bomb here and there," the book retailer said.

It also suggested that Islam was the religion that's being "targetted the most" by the media. 

Mr Rasul has been known to maintain “exclusivist, hardline and extreme positions in Islam,” said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) on Tuesday after the announcement that his publications would be banned.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, Dr Yaacob had said authorities will not allow Mr Rasul's radical teachings and extremist ideology to take root in Singapore.


On the sidelines of an event to launch a Hari Raya-themed train on Thursday, Dr Yaacob said religious authorities here must boost their presence online to reach out to young Malay-Muslims to counter radical ideology.

He pointed out that several young asatizahs already have programmes that are available online. "It's just a matter of making them popular and appealing to young Singaporeans," he said. "This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the young Malay-Muslim Singaporeans, especially in the online space."

Offline, the asatizahs have also been conducting religious classes for young Malay-Muslims and according to Dr Yaacob, some of the classes are large, drawing 700 to 800 people.

"No questions asked - you can come with your hijab, without your hijab, doesn't matter. We want to reach out to them to make them feel comfortable," the minister added. 

His comments come two days after it was announced that a 24-year-old auxiliary police officer was detained under the Internal Security Act for planning to travel to Syria to take part in armed violence. Last Monday, it was revealed that 22-year-old infant-care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari was detained for radicalism under ISA. 

Both are young Malay-Muslims and in both cases, their family and friends found out about their views and intentions but did not report them to the authorities.

"My appeal to the wider community is that there are resources within the community to help our young Malay-Muslim Singaporeans who may be affected by this radical ideology," Dr Yaacob reiterated. 

"Please step forward, please keep us informed and we will do our very best to help them. We are not here to condemn them, we are here to save them."

Gains in healthcare stocks lift Wall Street, 22 Jun 2017 21:41:29 +0800REUTERS: Wall Street was higher in late morning trading on Thursday as health stocks got a boost after Republicans unveiled a bill to repeal Obamacare and the energy sector took a breather with oil prices edging up from multi-month lows.

The S&P healthcare index rose 1.08 percent to hit a record high as investors cheered the bill, which is aimed at curbing Medicaid funding and reshaping subsidies to low-income people for private insurance.

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York

United Health , Johnson and Johnson and Gilead rose between 1 percent and 3.6 percent, and were among the biggest boosts on the three major indexes.

The Nasdaq biotechnology index rose 1.3 percent and is now up more than 9 percent for the week.

A slight rebound in oil prices also relieved some pressure. U.S. crude was up 1.4 percent at US$43.11 per barrel, while global benchmark Brent was 1.65 percent higher at US$45.56.

Since peaking in late February, crude has dropped around 20 percent, skidding into bear market territory, despite OPEC-led efforts to stabilize the market.

"Oil is at a price level where it tends to keep markets down," said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

The S&P energy index is the worst performing sector so far this year, having lost about 15 percent. The broader S&P 500 index rose about 9 percent in the same period.

At 11:10 a.m. ET (1510 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 43.36 points, or 0.2 percent, at 21,453.39, the S&P 500 was up 4.48 points, or 0.18 percent, at 2,440.09.

The Nasdaq Composite index was up 6.31 points, or 0.1 percent, at 6,240.26.

Investors are also concerned that the drop in oil prices could affect inflation. Inflation remains stubbornly below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target, even as the central bank adopts a hawkish tone regarding future rate hikes.

"Right now the bond market seems to be convinced that inflation is going to remain much lower than what the Fed thinks," Frederick added.

Economic data on Thursday showed jobless claims for last increased by 3,000 to 241,000, but remain at levels consistent with a tight labor market.

Among stocks, Accenture was off 5.7 percent after the consulting and outsourcing services provider trimmed its annual revenue forecast.

Oracle was up 9.5 percent as the business software maker forecast an upbeat current-quarter profit, prompting brokerages to raise price targets.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,824 to 938. On the Nasdaq, 1,578 issues rose and 1,091 fell.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)