QANTASS $2 billion cost-cutting program has come at a high price for two of the groups most senior executives. Qantas International boss Simon Hickey and Qantas Domestic chief Lyell Strambi will both leave the airline to seek new opportunities elsewhere, it was announced late yesterday.
EARLIER: United Airlines passengers endure the day from hell
The departures cap a tumultuous week for the airline with a return to profit announcement overshadowed by a series of technical faults with aircraft.
CEO Alan Joyce will remain in place, overseeing a more streamlined executive team.
In a statement issued to the Australian Securities Exchange, Mr Joyce recognised the contribution made by Mr Hickey and Mr Strambi.
Lyell and Simon have helped build a stronger Qantas, said Mr Joyce.
I would like to thank them for their tremendous contribution and wish them well for the future.
In Mr Hickeys ten years at Qantas, he held various senior roles including CEO of Qantas Frequent Flyer, moving over to the troubled international arm in May 2012.
Mr Strambi served the airline for six years, most recently as the head of Qantas Domestic which recorded a $335 million decrease in profits last financial year.
Mr Joyce said the business had faced a tough market environment but had risen above the competition to emerge as a stronger and leaner business.
But there is still a lot of work to build the foundation for a stronger, more sustainable and more successful Qantas, he said.
This new executive team will lead this work forward to deliver for our customers, shareholders and employees according to the strategy we have laid out.
Mr Hickey said he felt privileged to have worked with a dedicated and passionate team of people at Qantas but now was the right time to explore new opportunities.
Mr Strambi also said the time was right for him to look for new challenges outside the aviation industry.
Im proud of the progress made and have no doubt Qantas can keep improving into the future, ensuring the airline remains this countrys first choice for business travellers, Mr Strambi said.
Other changes announced include the axing of the position of QantasLink CEO.
John Gissing will instead become group executive for associated airlines and services, including QantasLink, Network Aviation and Jetconnect.
Group Chief Financial Officer Gareth Evans will take over as Qantas International and Freight boss and Chief Operating Officer Andrew David will move into Mr Strambis office as head of Qantas Domestic.
The executive restructure will begin to take effect from the new year.Read more
OIL prices are at their lowest level since 2009, which is good news for drivers. But behind the scenes is a dirty battle for domination which will impact on us all.
Heres the good oil and the bad on the worlds stocks of black gold.
EARLIER: Why they have us over a barrel
Why is the oil price falling?
Its a war of attrition. The 12 countries that comprise OPEC are trying to crush the shale oil producers of the US, whose rise they underestimated. Last week Saudi Arabias oil minister told fellow OPEC members they must combat the US shale oil boom, arguing against cutting crude output. That argument carried the day. Production levels were maintained, which is expected to depress prices and undermine the profitability of North American producers.
Oil is down by about 30 per cent since June, although West Texas Intermediate the worlds benchmark oil grade did bounce back 5 per cent overnight to $US69.31 a barrel. Some think the price could fall to as low as $US30 a barrel. The International Energy Agency estimates most drilling in the Bakken formation the shale producers that OPEC seeks to drive out of business makes money when oil is above $US42 a barrel.
Who has the oil?
Saudi Arabia has more proved oil reserves than any other country about 16 per cent of all black gold, according to the US Department of Energy.
Thats 266 billion barrels, the authoritative Oil & Gas Journal has estimated. Sixty-eight per cent of the oil it produced in 2013 went to Asia. According to the US Department of Energy, Venezuela has the second-largest reserve of oil, at 211 billion barrels. Others reckon it has the largest, putting its holding at nearly 300 billion barrels. It is sending a greater proportion of its oil to China and India and less to the US. Canada is third, according to both the US Government and the Oil & Gas Journal, followed by Iran, Iraq and Kuwait. The US is 12th on the list. Canada is the largest exporter of oil to the US. Saudi Arabia is second. Venezuela is third.
How much oil is there?
According to BP, total world proved oil reserves reached 1687.9 billion barrels at the end of 2013 enough to meet 53.3 years of global production and nearly 20 billion barrels more than was known to exist at the end of 2012. The largest additions to reserves came from Russia, adding 900 million barrels and Venezuela adding 800 million barrels. In 2013, global consumption grew by 1.4 million barrels a day. All of that growth came from emerging economies. Rich countries consumption fell by 0.4 per cent, the seventh decrease in the past eight years.
Where does our oil come from?
According to the US Department of Energy, most of Australia crude oil imports are from Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia, which altogether produced about 48 per cent of what we brought in during 2013. Another 20 per cent came from West African nations such as Nigeria, Congo and Gabon.
Who is OPEC?
OPEC or Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was founded in Baghdad in 1960 by Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. It now has 12 members: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Combined they have 72 per cent of the worlds reserves, according to BP. OPEC defines its mission as being to coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its Member Countries and ensure the stabilisation of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry.
What does all this mean for you?
The biggest effect is at the bowser. Last week the Singapore gasoline price the starting point for calculating the cost of filling up here fell by US$6.70 or 7.5 per cent to a 4-year low of US$82.80 a barrel. According to CommSec, in Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price fell by $6.16 a barrel or 5.9 per cent last week to $A97.52 a barrel or by 3.87c/L to 61.3c/L. Over the past four weeks, the Singapore gasoline price has fallen in Australian dollar terms by 9.5c/L. But not all of this benefit has been passed on to motorists. Petrol companies are keeping it. The margin between retail and wholesale prices has blown out to levels not seen since 2010. Groups such as the Australian Automobile Association say it is very concerning. CommSec reckons we should be paying about 10c/L less than we are.Read more
THE rich sure are different from you and Mark Mascia. His middle-class upbringing in leafy Connecticut hadnt prepared the money man for the rarefied world of unimaginable wealth.
Mascia, 33, raised $50 million in 2006 for a private-equity fund specialising in white-hot commercial real estate for wealthy investors. When its annualised returns soared as high as 12 per cent, he became a hot commodity himself.
Some of Americas richest families old and new money have come knocking on his door.
I wasnt poor. My dad was a doctor. I lived a comfortable lifestyle, but I was by no means wealthy, Mascia told The Post. And there was simply nothing in my upbringing that would have prepared me for the people I am dealing with now.
These people belong to the family offices catered to by his New York-based Mascia Development.
These family offices notoriously secretive hold and manage assets in excess of $1 billion each. And although thats smaller than the reported $10 billion held by Point72 Asset Management the family office of Connecticut billionaire investor Steven Cohen Mascias families have upped their game.
Their real estate investment holdings have jumped from 7 per cent to 10 per cent in the past 24 months alone.
But it is the lifestyles of his wealthy families some with fortunes that predate the First World War that often amaze Mascia. Forget about the island retreats, yachts, art, private jets, servants and mansion though there are those family dynamics are much more interesting.
We have some who are very, very eccentric clients. Some worry about people prying into their business, Mascia said. And then there are others who are the most dysfunctional youve seen it is the craziest, movie-type thing you could possibly imagine. People throwing things at each other at family meetings. Some give all their money away to charity sometimes to spite their children.
And despite the vast riches, some folks travel incognito and are indistinguishable from your next-door neighbour in Queens.
There are people who live the lifestyle with all the excesses, but then there are other ultra-rich people I know who drive around in a 20-year-old Volkswagen and live in a $300,000 to $500,000 home and just happen to be worth tons of money. They dont find the trappings of wealth attractive.
Not all rich families are so temperate. Many have blown the family inheritance, with internal feuds and overindulgence emptying coffers and trust funds.
Many of New Yorks mega-rich, though, still seem a long way from losing it all.
New Yorks Hearst family is regarded as the states richest, with an estimated net worth of $35 billon spread among 64 members. The Hearsts and New Yorks Rockefellers, with $10 billion among an estimated 200, wont be visiting pawnbrokers.
The Empire State leads the nation in the number of billion-dollar families and their total wealth 26 families with $159 billion combined, according to Forbes.
From an early age, I was taught the great responsibilities that come with wealth, the enormous importance of being frugal and the protection of wealth was instilled in me, Christopher Tsai, the 39-year-old son of the late Chinese-American billionaire investor legend, Gerald Tsai, told The Post.
Many of the families I deal with are families I admire in the way they deal with each other amicably, said Mascia. And they help each other.
This article originally appeared on The New York Post.Read more
On Tuesday, American Airlines parent company joined those that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. High fuel prices, over $800 million labor costs and competitors winning the airline’s business travelers over caused its defeat. Despite the filed bankruptcy with a cash stockpile of $4.1 billion, the company said buying new aircraft from Boeing and Airbus is still feasible. It may resurface as a tough contender by 2012’s end said Stern Agee analyst Jeff Kaufmann.
The airlines may stop non-profitable routes services and cut its presence at airports like Chicago O’Hare and San Francisco International. This could result to increased prices and give its rivals more profit-earning opportunities more so for its toughest competitor, United Continental Holdings. Airline analyst Savanthi Syth believes American plans to shrink its Caribbean and Latin American routes from its Miami hub. This could push JetBlue’s 6.3 million seats higher if American pulls back its 11.2 million seats in the region.
Despite attempts to make more money, tough competition was a hurdle. Fund manager Craig Hodges said that this could be similar to 2003 when demand was coming back and there were only 4 of them. Companies like Union Pacific traded at $30 per share after the consolidation. In 2007, Union Pacific grew 108% against S&P 500 index’s 65% within the same period.
The airlines that used to be last to refurbish aircraft said that will change. Syth said over 200 older McDonald-Douglas planes and 120 Boeing 757s may be updated. While in bankruptcy, American said it will lease 24 older planes hand and refurbish or replace current aircraft. Michael Sansoterra of RidgeWorth Large Cap Fund Analysts said it will be beneficial to suppliers of services and parts like bolts, aircraft interior plastic lining and drink carts used by flight attendants. The companies that may benefit include new or upgraded planes supplier, BE Aerospace whose stock went 5.8% higher. It shares the market with French company Zodiac. Other than BE Aerospace owned by Sansoterra’s funds, he also owns $23.7 billion Precision Castparts Corp, maker of weight-sensitive fasteners, bolts and other parts for Airbus and Boeing wide-body aircraft. Precision is 18.1% up this year pushing Sansoterra’s fund 1.2 percentage points higher than S&P 500 in the same period.
The parts are weight-sensitive, which helps make the planes decidedly more fuel-efficient. The company is up 18.1 percent this year, one reason why Sansoterras fund is 1.2 percentage points ahead of the S&P 500 over the same time frame. Analysts said airport-revenue municipal bonds rely on parking, concessions, landing fees and terminal rentals to earn and pay investors. Aggressive competitors are believed to easily fill the gap in airports like Chicago or Dallas should American reduce services there.
Evercore Wealth Management’s Howard Cure said investors confuse airline industry problems with airports a lot. He said the high cost and the high competitive airport industry goes up or down with tourism or fuel prices which is different from how airports operate. Commonly, airport revenue bonds are higher by about 20 percentage points than water/sewer revenue bonds, said Cure. With rare airport bond defaults, investors are likely to earn without having that many risks, added Cure. There are beneficial tax advantages too when investors buy home state airport bonds.Read more
China remains resilient despite slow growth weighed down by Beijing’s anti-inflation drive and low global demand. Urbanization continues and stronger domestic consumption is providing support. Thursday’s factory sector strength showed emboldened China bears. Cynics who foresee a sudden economic slowdown may have underestimated Beijing’s quick reaction in reviving growth in case needed. Inflation is seen to ease later this year which lessens new monetary tightening measure requirements, said analysts. Economist Stephen Green expects policy to relax as price pressures become restrained. International financial markets and commodities demand may be hurt should China slowdown but global investors remain unnerved. The Chinese economy grew at an average yearly rate of 10% for the last 30 years.
Fears that China’s economy is weaning increased due to weak data but for now, the world’s 2nd largest economy indicates resilience. To market watchers, hard landing in China’s term is dip in quarterly GDP growth below 8% the threshold needed to create enough jobs that would guarantee social stability. During the 2008 global financial crisis that threatened a slump, Beijing announced a 4 trillion yuan ($600 billion) stimulus plan. Double-digit growth quickly resumed. Economists said it caused inflation and uncontrolled lending and property bubbles that imbalanced the economy further and is now weak against a current ‘soft patch’. In case of 6% inflation in June or July, policymakers may again consider stimulus to be controlled in the 2nd half of 2011.
Economist Dong Tao said should hard landing threaten, expect fiscal stimulus rescue instead of monetary easing. Providing funding to policy housing and speeding up infrastructure projects would be the easy options, he said. China said it plans to build and upgrade 36 million cheap homes between now and 2015. Most economists remain positive and expect a 2nd quarter GDP growth of over 9%, same percentage for full-year. Beijing is really aiming for gentle growth easing and economist Kevin Lai said the slowdown is essentially part of the deal to reduce excesses and control inflation. U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini said because of over-investment, after 2013, China may deal with a meaningful probability of a hard landing. Investment is already 50% of China’s GDP.
Despite risks, there is no indication that China will explode. The country has managed to avoid crash predictions. ING’s Asia research head Tim Condon said China typically grows out of them, making good loans, the good loans finance the bad loans and eventually they write off the bad loans. Economist Andy Xie argued that there are no debt issues for Chinese households and most bank loans went to government projects. He said when a borrower is in technical default, it usually doesnt lead to asset seizure followed by liquidation, which is the cause of a hard landing. Usually, the government owns both lender and borrower and debt rescheduling is almost automatic. While money supply grows, it will be spent and turned into demand, added Xie. Still, analysts say China has to reduce its dependence on investment and exports and opt for financial reorganization to avoid risks.Read more
Google Inc will sponsor SolarCity’s $280 million residential solar power systems project that will install roof solar panels for thousands of homeowners. This will be Google’s largest single clean energy investment that will help people who don’t wish to dole out a large amount for a solar energy system. This also brings Google’s clean technology investment to a total of $680 million. The project will also help SolarCitys solar lease program where customers pay monthly solar panel fees instead of paying a large installation price. Customers are able to save on electric bills.
SolarCity Chief Executive Lyndon Rive said compared with money saved in a bank, Google will gain better results through the project as it will own the systems. He is hoping that with their deal with Google, other companies will realize the good in financing solar energy systems. He said its been mainly banks that have focused on this, and what that has done is it hasnt broadened the market. With Google’s involvement, hopefully it will show other corporate companies that this is a smart investment. In 2007, Google has already mentioned its intent in solar, wind and geothermal technologies by planning millions of dollar investments. It aims to make renewable cost competitive with coal.
SolarCity recently acquired solar power project developer and distributor, groSolar. The privately held company has now expanded into ten states.Read more
Chairman Bill Gates of Microsoft Corp and Robin Li, CEO of China’s giant search engine Baidu, will join forces to form an alliance for public health. Their first project together under Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Baidu Charitable Foundation is to push for cessation of smoking habit among smokers. Bill Gates said the many people under Baidu are a great asset in getting out health-related messages. He hopes other people will join in. It was Gates’ second trip to China. The first was in September with Warren Buffett when they met with 50 Chinese leaders to talk about charitable donations. Gates encourages the rich to be more charitable and with Buffett started the Giving Pledge project. They traveled to India to spread the project’s aim.
In 1975, Gates co-founded Microsoft which became the world’s giant software maker making Gates one of the world’s richest men, with a net worth of $56 billion. He became less active in managing Microsoft in 2008 and now runs the Gates Foundation. In his trip to China, Gates also met with Chinese Premier Wang Qishan to discuss charity work and poverty reduction. Gates said he met Li a year ago and they started talking about charity. Li said Gates had always been a role model to him even before he began Baidu, that he bought a copy of Gates’ biography after he graduated. Li is from Yangquan, born to factory-worker parents. He received his bachelor’s degree from Peking University and proceeded to get a computer science master’s degree from the State University of New York. Li received a link analysis patent in 1996. The analysis ranks the number of search listings’ though incoming sites’ links. He used the research and founded China’s search engine, Baidu. He is currently one of China’s richest
In their initial project, Li said they will increase smokers’ awareness of the dangers of active and passive smoking. They also intend to spread the health alliance’s initiatives and health messages via online community. There may be over 300 million smokers in China but there are over 477 million Internet users hence it is easier to spread awareness through that avenue. The open-ended public health alliance will be active in China and around the world.Read more
Citigroup Inc said names, account numbers and contact information of 200,000 North American bank card holders have been hacked. Discovered in May, this is the latest of a series of cyber attacks on major companies. But Citi assured that there were no birth dates, social security numbers, card expiration dates and card security codes compromised. Citi’s U.S. spokesman Sean Kevelighan said the company contacted customers whose information was impacted but disclosed no details for their customers’ security. There were no details given as to how the breach happened. Citi’s Hong Kong spokesman James Griffiths said the North America breach impacted 1% or 21 million based on the bank’s annual report.
Japan’s Sony disclosed several network security breaches this year and similarly, City may be besieged with complaints for not informing customers sooner. Spokesman for Australias Consumer Action Law Center, Dan Simpson said it may be the bank’s business, but its the consumers personal information so consumers deserve to be told about security breaches immediately. They find it hard to see why the breach couldn’t have been disclosed sooner.
The list of cyber attack victims is growing with Citigroup as the latest addition. EMC Ltd, a data storage company, vowed to replace millions of electronic keys following the hackers’ use of RSA data in the recent breach into Lockheed Martin. RSA is an EMC security division. Sony said one of the breaches it suffered involved its PlayStation Network and Qriocity accounts where 77 million users’ personal information was accessed. The company was censured for not immediately telling its customers about it. Last week’s victim, Google Inc, said its Gmail accounts were targeted including those of senior U.S. government officials. They said the breach appeared to have come from China. Washington moved to see if any security was compromised due to Google’s Gmail system invasion in an increased cyber security alert.
During a regular monitoring, Citi discovered the unauthorized access to its online banking service, Citi Account Online. With that amount of bank data stolen, it’s definitely a serious security breach, said Ty Miller, chief technology officer of Pure Hacking. Citi’s Paul Galant, who used to handle the bank’s credit card unit, said financial institutions experience security breaches. He said theyre going to continue to happen and the banking industry has to keep the customer base safe.Read more
Despite concerns that hover over the finance industry, strong markets tend to remain calm. However, when it was hinted that unrest could reach Saudi Arabia, investors became worried. It is because any possibility of unrest hitting Saudi Arabia could spell major ruin.
While the problem is yet to actually be seen, uncertainties have already caused stocks to slip and move slow. Libya may not pose as much of a major problem to most investors even if there is undeniably a respectable amount of oil from this country.
There are two sides to the possibility of the threat. According to Satyajit Das, a global finance expert and author of soon-to-release book “Extreme Money: The Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk,” Riyadh is where the rubber is going to meet the road in the latest Middle East crisis.
Das said by the end of this year, the world economy will be very different from its present state if Saudi Arabia will not be able to handle the biggest threat it faces in 60 years. He believes investors must ask what higher than $200 crude oil would do to global economic growth while their spreadsheet column reflects $500 oil.
He thinks this is a period of unparalleled political uncertainty and that an arc of instability that start in Morocco and ends in China is taking shape and how this can upset world order is grossly underestimated by people. He believes investors are too trusting about Saudi Arabia perhaps because energy prices at present do not indicate that it may not endure the next 2 years. In Das’s observation, Saudi made itself fabulously rich at the expense of 80% of the rest of their country.
With unemployment at 40% and unaffordable food and houses, people may turn aggressive and it is uncertain how the Fahds will react to major protests. News may have reported that Saudi police fired on protesters in Qatif but Das believes the Saudis will not use their full military power against their people. They will just leave and move to their homes in London, Paris and Beverly Hills. This could be a concern because the next Saudi government may not be as pro-Western that would want to strengthen their country’s reserves as trust sign and give no regard to economics.
On a positive note, concerns about Riyadh may be too loud because Saudi protests remain economic-issues related which may be resolved by a simple allocation of the monarchy’s enormous wealth. An analysis by the Los Angeles Times explained that protesters’ view on their disagreements with the Fahds is more like a family matter, their revolutionary cause more like an assembly.
Housing, education, sports activities and a social welfare spending program of $36 billion was already announced by the Saudis. This biggest measure in history aims to help unemployed citizens and provide security for lower-income Saudis while some are for deceased borrowers’ debts write offs.
Saudi Arabia has a total of $445 billion reserves and no external debts so it can practically entice the opposition into settlement and by allowing more masses to have a say in the government.
Compared to Libya, Saudi produces twice as much oil (4 million barrels of oil daily) and sell it fast. While it’s true that it is of less quality than the sweet Libyan oil and extra capacity is like 2 million to over 6 million, the capacity is there.
What Das said about Saudi Arabia may be true but the Saudis can survive this crisis better than their neighbors. This can help cool things down including prices and global equity markets can return to normal. It may not be soon so there could still be market struggle in the near future.
A bill preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating emissions said to be the cause of global warming was presented to Republicans of Congress’ chambers. The bill, Energy Tax Prevention Act, was introduced by House Energy and the Commerce Committee chairman Representative Fred Upton. Officials said any bill obstructing the agency from dealing with the environment will be vetoed by President Barack Obama. He has promised to reduce 17% off U.S. greenhouse gases lower than 2005 levels by 2020.
House Energy and Power Subcommittee chairman and the measure’s co-sponsor, Ed Whitfield, said the EPA pursues a dramatic shift in the nation’s energy and environmental policy to send shock waves to the economy. A version of the bill was introduced in the upper chamber by climate cynic Senator James Inhofe.
In 2007, the EPA was granted greenhouse gases regulation by the Supreme Court. After EPA stated that emissions cause the public health a lot of danger, gases regulation including smokestacks and vehicles began in January.
If the bill passes Republican-dominated House, in the Senate, it is expected to gain support of industrial states Democrats who are in for rough elections during 2012. Voting against a bill that may close factories and harm jobs may be tough for some Democrats.
The Senate bill was already signed by coal-rich West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin. In 2010, Manchin had a TV campaign where he was seen shooting a climate bill with a rifle. Democrats Collin Peterson and Dan Boren signed onto the House bill.
Other Democrats however, are not in favor of the measure. Representative Henry Waxman said it exempts the nation’s largest polluters from regulation at the expense of public health and security.
It may be a tough fight for the legislation that needs 60 votes to get through the Senate and that Senator Jay Rockefeller’s bill which delays EPA actions for 2 years may have better chances of passing.
However, EPA regulation is welcomed by some giant power companies like NRG Energy Inc saying it ensures future power plants investments.
EPA regulation that started in January requires greenhouse gases emission permits for big industries then power plants performance standard comes next in July and emissions limitation for oil refiners in December; all these to regulate the pollution.
The bill was criticized by environmentalists which to them is more like Dirty Air Acts that allows polluters a way around carbon dioxide pollution limits. Sarah Saylor, Earthjustice legislative representative said this is going to worsen asthma and other lung diseases, increase deadly heat waves and extreme weather conditions.
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