Troubled airbag maker Takata plummets more than half

Takata shares plummeted by more than 50 percent in early trade Thursday on fears the troubled airbag maker plans to file for bankruptcy and sell its assets to a US company.The company at the centre of the global auto industry’s biggest-ever safety reca…

Takata shares plummeted by more than 50 percent in early trade Thursday on fears the troubled airbag maker plans to file for bankruptcy and sell its assets to a US company.

The company at the centre of the global auto industry's biggest-ever safety recall has tumbled for four straight days and is now worth less than a quarter of its value a week ago.

The shares dropped by their maximum daily loss limit on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to 115 ($1.10), falling by more than 50 percent from its Wednesday close.

The huge losses stem from a report last week by Japan's Nikkei business daily which said the company, with liabilities exceeding one trillion yen ($9 billion), would make a formal decision about the bankruptcy filing at a board meeting this month.

Some other media have made similar reports, saying Takata's automaker clients were supporting the bankruptcy plan.

On Wednesday, Jiji Press reported the airbag maker will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday, while other media suggested it could come as early as this week.

Takata shares were suspended from trading on Friday pending a response to the Nikkei story and other reports.

Later Friday Takata said that no decision had been made but "all options" were on the table.

American autoparts maker Key Safety Systems, owned by China's Ningbo Joyson Electronic, will take over the firm's operations, the Nikkei's report on Friday said.

The board of Takata's US-based unit TK Holdings is expected to approve a filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy there this month, it added.

US could ease some post-crisis regulation: Fed governor

The US Federal Reserve is open to easing some banking regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis, including stress tests and the so-called Volcker Rule, according to a central bank governor.In testimony to be delivered Thursday, Federal R…

The US Federal Reserve is open to easing some banking regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis, including stress tests and the so-called Volcker Rule, according to a central bank governor.

In testimony to be delivered Thursday, Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell said some reasonable reforms could be in order. But he argued reforms made since the crisis had left the US banking sector in better condition than it was before the meltdown.

The central bank should consider adjusting regulations "in common-sense ways that will simplify rules and reduce unnecessary regulatory burden without compromising safety and soundness," Powell said in prepared remarks released Wednesday.

The testimony comes as the Trump administration prepares to modify much of the regulation included in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which was enacted in response to the crisis.

The Federal Reserve on Thursday is also due to publish the results of annual stress tests for major banks, which are called for under Dodd-Frank and intended to make sure lenders are on solid capital footing in the event of a crisis.

The financial industry, and mid-size banks in particular, have complained of the burden the new regulations place on lenders.

The Fed would support raising the threshold for the stress-test requirement, applying it to banks with $50 billion or more in assets from the current $10 billion.

The central bank could likewise exempt smaller banks from the Volcker Rule, which restricts certain speculative and risky trades made with a bank's own assets, according to Powell.

"There is little doubt that the US financial system is stronger today than it was a decade ago," Powell said in testimony to be delivered before the Senate Banking Committee.

"We must also be vigilant against new risks that may develop."

Jackie Kennedy watch fetches nearly $380K in New York

An engraved gold Cartier watch given to Jacqueline Kennedy and a reciprocal thank-you painting from the former first lady sold for $379,500 at auction in New York on Wednesday, Christie’s said.The Tank watch was given to Kennedy by her brother-in-law, …

An engraved gold Cartier watch given to Jacqueline Kennedy and a reciprocal thank-you painting from the former first lady sold for $379,500 at auction in New York on Wednesday, Christie's said.

The Tank watch was given to Kennedy by her brother-in-law, Prince Stanislaw "Stas" Radziwill, in February 1963 to commemorate a 50-mile hike in Palm Beach championed by former president John F. Kennedy in a drive to make Americans fitter.

The back of the timepiece is engraved: "Stas to Jackie, 23 Feb. 1963. 2.05am to 9.35pm" -- the start and finish of what turned into a 19-hour, 30-minute hike.

In exchange the first lady gave Radziwill a painting she made of him and Chuck Spalding, a close friend of the president's, with the dedication: "February 23, 1963 2.05am to 9.35pm / Jackie to Stas with love and admiration."

Kennedy was often photographed wearing the watch, which smashed pre-sale estimates of $60,000 to $120,000, together with the painting, to sell after three minutes of bidding and more than a dozen individual bids, Christie's said.

"In 20 years I've been selling watches, I've never seen so much excitement," John Reardon, international head of watches at Christie's, told AFP ahead of the sale.

"Many of the most iconic photographs of her, you can see the Cartier Tank in the corner of the picture on her wrist," Reardon said.

The identity of the buyer was not immediately disclosed, but Reardon said potential buyers from Asia, Europe and the United States expressed interest in having "a little piece of Camelot to put on their wrist."

He described the condition of the more than 50-year watch as "extraordinary considering its age" and said its current strap had been worn by Kennedy.

"She preferred to wear a lizard strap, when she had this piece on her wrist for decades, and this is the actual strap that she wore for many years," he said.

Kennedy is one of America's most iconic first ladies, remembered for her style, elegance and sophistication. Plunged into mourning by her husband's assassination in 1963, she later married Greek shipping mogul Aristotle Onassis.

She died in Manhattan in 1994 at the age of 64.

Radziwill was an emigre aristocrat who escaped from the German invasion of Poland at the end of World War II and later married Jackie's sister, Lee.

Oil, gas giants could waste trillions in a 2C world: report

Thirty percent of investments planned by oil and gas majors over the next decade could be wasted if the world economy retools to cap global warming at two degrees Celsius, researchers warned Wednesday.

The 2C (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) target is the cornerstone of the 196-nation Paris Agreement, inked in 2015.

Projects worth $2.3 trillion (two trillion euros) could become unprofitable as energy shifts toward renewables and if fossil fuel prices stagnate, according to an analysis of investment budgets for 69 publically traded oil and gas companies.

Some players will be more exposed than others, said the report, “Two degrees of separation: Transition risk for upstream oil and gas in a low-carbon world.”

Up to 50 percent of ExxonMobil’s proposed capital expenditure to 2025, for example, is allocated to uneconomical projects likely to disappoint shareholders, the researchers concluded.

Shell, Chevron, Total and Eni were found to have put 30 to 40 percent of future spending at risk, about average for the companies examined.

At the other end of the scale, 14 companies — including state-owned giant Saudi Aramco — were seen as well-aligned with the 2C scenario.

“This report is a real game-changer for the future of corporate-investor engagement,” said Nathan Fabian, director of policy & research at PRI, a UN-backed network of investors who oversee $62 trillion (56 trillion euros) in assets.

“Investors in oil and gas companies have been in the dark about their exposure to climate risk — now they will be able to confront companies with precise information.”

PRI produced the report in collaboration with Carbon Tracker, a financial think tank that assesses the impact of climate change on capital markets and investment.

Major energy companies are already under growing pressure from investors to explain how global warming — and the shift to a low-carbon economy — will affect their bottom lines.

Last month, three-fifths of ExxonMobil shareholders defied the board and voted for the company to report annually on how new technology and 2C policies will affect business and investment plans.

– Off the table –

Weeks earlier, a majority of Occidental Petroleum shareholders called for similar measures.

“There are clear signs that oil demand could peak in the early 2020s, so companies need to start taking options that would come onstream then off the table,” said James Leaton, Carbon Tracker’s research director.

“Sticking with the growth-at-all-costs scenario just doesn’t add up for shareholder value when policy and technology are heading in the opposite direction.”

The move towards corporate transparency around climate issues extends beyond the fossil fuel industry.

On June 29, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures — initiated at the COP21 Paris climate summit by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney — will issue final recommendations.

The task force has already called for the disclosure of climate-related impacts and risks, and strategies to confront them — backed by metrics and targets.

The Carbon Tracker report on investment risk in the fossil fuel industry looks at oil and gas production to 2035, and capital investment to 2025.

The proposed projects would generate 380 billion tonnes of CO2 — 60 percent from oil, 40 percent from gas — by 2035, exceeding the fossil fuel “carbon budget” consistent with a 2C cap on global warming.

Companies will need to knock off at least 60 billion tonnes of that total for the world to have a 50/50 shot at a 2C world.

In a joint statement, institutional investors backing the report — including Britain’s Legal & General Investment Management, Dutch pension fund PGGM, and the French fund FRR — cautioned against the risk of stranded assets.

“Some companies have to reconsider their business strategy,” they said.

ExxonMobil, Total, Eni and Shell are all involved in the single biggest uneconomic asset flagged by the report, the $33.5 billion (30 billion euro) Kashagan Phase 2 project in Kazakhstan. Analysts estimate it would require oil prices of at least $110 a barrel to break even.

London Brent crude closed at just over $45 (40 euros) a barrel on June 21.

Thirty percent of investments planned by oil and gas majors over the next decade could be wasted if the world economy retools to cap global warming at two degrees Celsius, researchers warned Wednesday.

The 2C (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) target is the cornerstone of the 196-nation Paris Agreement, inked in 2015.

Projects worth $2.3 trillion (two trillion euros) could become unprofitable as energy shifts toward renewables and if fossil fuel prices stagnate, according to an analysis of investment budgets for 69 publically traded oil and gas companies.

Some players will be more exposed than others, said the report, "Two degrees of separation: Transition risk for upstream oil and gas in a low-carbon world."

Up to 50 percent of ExxonMobil's proposed capital expenditure to 2025, for example, is allocated to uneconomical projects likely to disappoint shareholders, the researchers concluded.

Shell, Chevron, Total and Eni were found to have put 30 to 40 percent of future spending at risk, about average for the companies examined.

At the other end of the scale, 14 companies -- including state-owned giant Saudi Aramco -- were seen as well-aligned with the 2C scenario.

"This report is a real game-changer for the future of corporate-investor engagement," said Nathan Fabian, director of policy & research at PRI, a UN-backed network of investors who oversee $62 trillion (56 trillion euros) in assets.

"Investors in oil and gas companies have been in the dark about their exposure to climate risk -- now they will be able to confront companies with precise information."

PRI produced the report in collaboration with Carbon Tracker, a financial think tank that assesses the impact of climate change on capital markets and investment.

Major energy companies are already under growing pressure from investors to explain how global warming -- and the shift to a low-carbon economy -- will affect their bottom lines.

Last month, three-fifths of ExxonMobil shareholders defied the board and voted for the company to report annually on how new technology and 2C policies will affect business and investment plans.

- Off the table -

Weeks earlier, a majority of Occidental Petroleum shareholders called for similar measures.

"There are clear signs that oil demand could peak in the early 2020s, so companies need to start taking options that would come onstream then off the table," said James Leaton, Carbon Tracker's research director.

"Sticking with the growth-at-all-costs scenario just doesn't add up for shareholder value when policy and technology are heading in the opposite direction."

The move towards corporate transparency around climate issues extends beyond the fossil fuel industry.

On June 29, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures -- initiated at the COP21 Paris climate summit by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney -- will issue final recommendations.

The task force has already called for the disclosure of climate-related impacts and risks, and strategies to confront them -- backed by metrics and targets.

The Carbon Tracker report on investment risk in the fossil fuel industry looks at oil and gas production to 2035, and capital investment to 2025.

The proposed projects would generate 380 billion tonnes of CO2 -- 60 percent from oil, 40 percent from gas -- by 2035, exceeding the fossil fuel "carbon budget" consistent with a 2C cap on global warming.

Companies will need to knock off at least 60 billion tonnes of that total for the world to have a 50/50 shot at a 2C world.

In a joint statement, institutional investors backing the report -- including Britain's Legal & General Investment Management, Dutch pension fund PGGM, and the French fund FRR -- cautioned against the risk of stranded assets.

"Some companies have to reconsider their business strategy," they said.

ExxonMobil, Total, Eni and Shell are all involved in the single biggest uneconomic asset flagged by the report, the $33.5 billion (30 billion euro) Kashagan Phase 2 project in Kazakhstan. Analysts estimate it would require oil prices of at least $110 a barrel to break even.

London Brent crude closed at just over $45 (40 euros) a barrel on June 21.

Croatian taxi drivers protest against Uber

Hundreds of Croatian taxi drivers blocked traffic Wednesday in the capital Zagreb to protest against the controversial ride-hailing app Uber they consider to be unfair competition and operating illegally.Some 900 taxis, according to organisers, parked …

Hundreds of Croatian taxi drivers blocked traffic Wednesday in the capital Zagreb to protest against the controversial ride-hailing app Uber they consider to be unfair competition and operating illegally.

Some 900 taxis, according to organisers, parked their vehicles in two lanes of the main Vukovarska avenue in the city centre, demanding Uber to be banned.

"We have exhausted all legal options and are left with only this," said Bozo Miletic, a representative of the taxi drivers.

"Uber is illegal" and it should be banned in Croatia, he said.

They were supported by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who called ride-hailing apps such as Uber "contrary to Croatian legislation."

Like in numerous other countries, Uber doesn't consider itself a taxi service and hasn't received a licence.

Plenkovic said that the law would be amended, but gave no further details.

Uber, which started operating in Croatia in 2015, said the protest caused "unacceptable pressure" during the tourist season.

According to the company, more than 100,000 people in the nation of 4.2 million use the Uber app.

Uber has announced the introduction of a boat service on Croatia?s Adriatic coast, due to be launched on Monday.

Earlier this month taxi drivers protesting against Uber blocked centre of Warsaw. Similar protests have been organised in a number of European cities, including Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Barcelona and Rome.

Diageo buys George Clooney’s tequila Casamigos for $1bn

Diageo, the British maker of alcoholic drinks, said Wednesday it had agreed to buy Casamigos, an upscale tequila brand co-founded by Hollywood star George Clooney, in a deal worth up to $1 billion.”This is an exciting opportunity for Diageo to strength…

Diageo, the British maker of alcoholic drinks, said Wednesday it had agreed to buy Casamigos, an upscale tequila brand co-founded by Hollywood star George Clooney, in a deal worth up to $1 billion.

"This is an exciting opportunity for Diageo to strengthen its participation in the fast growing tequila category, as well as expand the brand internationally," the company said in a statement.

It called Casamigos the fastest-growing super-premium tequila brand in the United States.

Casamigos has won numerous awards since it was created in 2013 by Clooney and two friends, and sales have climbed fast.

The tequila has promoted itself as "made by friends for friends", and the founders plan to stay involved.

"Casamigos has always been brought to you by those who drink it and we look forward to continuing that, working alongside the expertise and global reach of Diageo," said Casamigos Tequila Co-founder Rande Gerber.

Diageo said the deal includes an initial consideration of $700 million and up to another $300 million depending on performance over 10 years.

Tesco supermarket to axe 1,100 UK jobs

Britain’s biggest retailer, supermarket giant Tesco, said Wednesday it plans to cut 1,100 jobs with the closure of a call centre in the Welsh capital Cardiff.Operations will be shifted to its office in Dundee, Scotland, creating 250 jobs, Tesco added i…

Britain's biggest retailer, supermarket giant Tesco, said Wednesday it plans to cut 1,100 jobs with the closure of a call centre in the Welsh capital Cardiff.

Operations will be shifted to its office in Dundee, Scotland, creating 250 jobs, Tesco added in a statement.

"The retail sector is facing unprecedented challenges and we must ensure we run our business in a sustainable and cost-effective way, while meeting the changing needs of our customers," said Matt Davies, chief executive of Tesco's UK operations.

Tesco last week reported climbing sales during its first quarter by keeping a lid on food prices despite rising UK inflation.

Airbus and Boeing eye lucrative maintenance market

Airbus and Boeing wheeled out the usual round of order announcements at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday, but alongside the big ticket purchases, the aerospace rivals are also eyeing the lucrative maintenance and servicing market as they seek to boost g…

Airbus and Boeing wheeled out the usual round of order announcements at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday, but alongside the big ticket purchases, the aerospace rivals are also eyeing the lucrative maintenance and servicing market as they seek to boost growth.

Boeing finalised an order for three 787 Dreamliners to Israeli carrier El Al and inked a memorandum of understanding with leasing company Air Lease Corporation for 12 737 MAXs, while Airbus announced $1.5 billion in orders for Hungarian budget carrier Wizz Air and Portuguese charter airline Hi Fly.

Away from the order books, Airbus and Boeing are targeting the service and maintenance market as a means of boosting business, with the global fleet of planes on course to double by 2036.

Boeing values global demand for aerospace services at $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years. Europe and North America are expected to remain the biggest markets, but the fastest growth is set to come in Asia, where demand for new planes is booming.

The US giant predicts the global aviation support market -- which includes maintenance, engineering, training and information services and analytics -- will be worth some $8.5 trillion between 2017 and 2036.

These services go alongside the massive growth in global air traffic and demand for new aircraft -- Boeing estimates more than 41,000 planes will be needed in the next 20 years for an estimated $6.05 trillion.

- Data-driven flight -

Boeing said its customers are increasingly using technology and data to improve their business decision-making and passengers' travel experience.

"It is clear that our customers, in both commercial and government sectors, are searching for more efficient ways to keep their fleets operating and ready for use in an age of rapid technological advancement," Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Global services, said in a statement.

"As commercial airline fleets continue to grow worldwide, demand for after-market services designed to increase efficiency and extend the economic lives of airplanes will follow."

Boeing, which achieved a turnover of $95 billion in 2016, announced the creation of a dedicated services division late last year, due to start operations on July 1.

It has a 50 percent share of the civil and military aviation market, but only seven to nine percent in services.

Airbus estimates the services market will be worth $3.2 trillion over the next 20 years, including $1.85 trillion for maintenance alone.

The European giant also announced plans to install new floating black box flight data recorders on its long-haul planes from 2019.

Each plane will be equipped with two recorders, one fixed in the forward part of the aircraft and a second in the tail which could detach and float on the surface if the plane crashes in the sea.

This would help avoid a repeat of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014 with 239 people on board and has never been found, despite a huge search in the Indian Ocean.

Norway offers oil firms record number of Arctic blocks

Norway on Wednesday proposed to open up a record number of blocks in the Barents Sea to oil exploration despite protests from environmentalists and others fearing possible damage to the Arctic region.The Norwegian oil and energy ministry offered oil co…

Norway on Wednesday proposed to open up a record number of blocks in the Barents Sea to oil exploration despite protests from environmentalists and others fearing possible damage to the Arctic region.

The Norwegian oil and energy ministry offered oil companies 93 blocks in the Barents Sea and nine others in the Norwegian Sea, all located beyond the Arctic Circle.

"New exploration acreage promotes long-term activity, value creation and profitable employment in the petroleum industry across the country," Energy Minister Terje Soviknes, a member of the right-wing government, said in a statement.

Public bodies such as the Norwegian Environment Agency, the Directorate of Fisheries and the Norwegian Polar Institute had opposed the opening of several dozens of these blocks, wary of their proximity to the sea ice and the effect of disruptive surveying techniques on valuable fish stocks, among other things.

"This shows that Norway's government has no respect for the climate goals they signed onto in the Paris agreement," the head of Greenpeace Norway, Truls Gulowsen said, referring to the 2015 COP21 accord aiming to keep global warming to under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels.

"The blocks offered are for the most part extremely far north in very fragile areas ... but also very expensive to exploit, so it is in all regards oil that should remain underground," he told AFP.

Along with another non-governmental organisation, Greenpeace is already suing the Norwegian state to protest last year's allocation of other areas in the region for oil exploration. The trial is to begin on November 14.

Norsk Olje og Gass, an organisation representing the oil industry, meanwhile welcomed the government's announcement, saying it would bring "enormous value ??to Norwegian society".

The largest producer of black gold in Western Europe, Norway has seen its production halved since the early 2000s.

According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the Barents Sea contains about two-thirds of the nation's remaining resources.

Companies have until November 30 to submit their applications, with licenses expected to be awarded in the first half of 2018.

US existing home sales rebound in May as prices rise

Sales of existing homes rebounded in May after April’s surprise dip, and prices edged higher, according to industry figures released Wednesday.The National Association of Realtors said strong demand and inexpensive mortgages were driving up prices at a…

Sales of existing homes rebounded in May after April's surprise dip, and prices edged higher, according to industry figures released Wednesday.

The National Association of Realtors said strong demand and inexpensive mortgages were driving up prices at an unsustainable rate.

Sales of existing homes rose 1.1 percent last month to an annual rate of 5.62 million, seasonally adjusted, but the increase appeared larger after April's already-low numbers were revised downward.

The sales pace beat analyst expectations and was 2.7 percent above the same month last year.

Prices also rose for the 63rd straight month, with the median cost for all housing types hitting $252,800, a new peak and up 5.8 percent over May of last year.

Meanwhile, housing inventory rose slightly for the month but remained very tight. Supply gained 2.1 percent for the month, with the existing pool of homes hitting 1.96 million. But this was still 8.4 percent lower than the supply recorded in May 2016 and the 12-month measure has fallen for 24 consecutive months.

The current sales rate indicates a supply of just 4.2 months, down from 4.7 months in the same month of last year.

"Home prices keep chugging along at a pace that is not sustainable in the long run," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement.

"Current demand levels indicate sales should be stronger but it's clear some would-be buyers are having to delay or postpone their home search because low supply is leading to worsening affordability conditions."

Homes typically changed hands in 27 days in May, down from 29 days in April and 32 days in May 2016

The figures follow the government data last week showing the pace of new home construction fell in May for the third month in a row.

Industry observers point to the current tight labor market as well the high volume of housing held by investors as reasons for the failure of supply to keep pace with demand.

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said sales and prices are likely to continue to rise.

"The inventory data signal even faster price increases ahead, pushing implied real mortgage rates further below zero and, hence, attracting new potential buyers into the market," he wrote in a research note.

"The rising trend in mortgage applications in recent months points clearly to new cycle highs for home sales over the summer."

Saudi stock market up after new heir named

The Saudi stock market was up four percent Wednesday on news that King Salman had named his powerful son as heir and that the exchange had moved closer to joining a major global index.The Saudi Tadawul index, the largest in the Middle East, surged 4.12…

The Saudi stock market was up four percent Wednesday on news that King Salman had named his powerful son as heir and that the exchange had moved closer to joining a major global index.

The Saudi Tadawul index, the largest in the Middle East, surged 4.12 percent in early afternoon trading after Salman ousted his nephew as crown prince and installed his son Mohammed bin Salman.

Trader confidence was also up after the Tadawul announced that global stock benchmark provider MSCI had added the exchange to its Emerging Market Index Watch List.

Saudi Arabia is the only major emerging economy not represented in the index.

The Watch List designation brings "anticipated MSCI Index inclusion now one step closer," Khalid al-Hussan, CEO of the Saudi bourse, said in the statement.

Tadawul and Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority, the regulator, have made a series of reforms as part of efforts by the kingdom to broaden its investment base and diversify the economy.

The Tadawul All-Shares Index, which has a capitalisation of about $400 billion, opened to direct investment by qualified foreigners for the first time in 2015.

In February it inaugurated a parallel market designed to boost the role of small and medium firms.

The MSCI's move "signals to international investors that the country's capital market has attained greater maturity in terms of efficiency, governance and regulatory framework," Tadawul chairwoman Sarah al-Suhaimi said in the statement.

Bloomberg News reported that calculations by HSBC Holdings Plc predicting the kingdom's shares could see inflows of around $9 billion next year if the MSCI grants emerging market classification.

Kalanick, Uber’s disruptive driving force

Travis Kalanick was the driving force behind Uber, taking a spur-of-moment idea and turning it into the world’s most valuable venture-funded tech startup.But Kalanick’s brash personality and freewheeling management style made him a liability as well as…

Travis Kalanick was the driving force behind Uber, taking a spur-of-moment idea and turning it into the world's most valuable venture-funded tech startup.

But Kalanick's brash personality and freewheeling management style made him a liability as well as an asset to the global ridesharing giant, and on Wednesday he stepped down as chief executive.

Kalanick frequently recounts how the idea behind Uber was born, when he and a colleague were attending a technology conference in Paris and failed to find a taxi on a cold night.

He dreamt up the "magical" idea of pushing a button to hail a ride, the story goes, and used that to create a company that disrupted a global industry while ruffling the feathers of both regulators and established taxi operators.

Uber now operates in hundreds of cities and more than 80 countries, accounting for bookings of some $20 billion last year.

Its valuation has soared to a whopping $68 billion, unprecedented for a startup which has yet to hit the stock market.

But the hard-charging style which helped Uber succeed has also made Kalanick a target for critics.

He has borne responsibility for allegations of sexism, cut-throat workplace tactics and covert use of law enforcement-evading software.

Uber's image has been tarnished by a series of missteps including a visit by executives to a South Korean escort-karaoke bar, an attempt to dig up dirt on journalists covering the company and the mishandling of medical records from a woman raped in India after hailing an Uber ride.

Uber hired former US attorney general Eric Holder to review allegations of a toxic work culture, and adopted his report calling for a series of reforms and safeguards against abuses.

Kalanick has been humbled by recent events, which included the release of a dash-cam video showing him berating and cursing at one of Uber's drivers.

In a statement, Kalanick said he loved Uber "more than anything in the world" but had agreed to investors' request for him to quit.

- Being 'disruptive' -

Uber and Kalanick exemplified the notion of being "disruptive," which in Silicon Valley is seen as a positive force for change.

But as it grew into a global company, both the firm and its founder appear to have come to the realization they need to grow up.

Kalanick retains a seat on the board and is likely to retain some influence thanks to his substantial holding of shares in the company.

Apple opens new round in battle with Qualcomm

Apple has expanded its legal battle against Qualcomm, accusing the US chip maker of charging for invalid patents in the latest twist in the clash between the two tech giants.In legal filings in a federal court in California on Tuesday, Apple claimed th…

Apple has expanded its legal battle against Qualcomm, accusing the US chip maker of charging for invalid patents in the latest twist in the clash between the two tech giants.

In legal filings in a federal court in California on Tuesday, Apple claimed that several Qualcomm patents were invalid because they conflict with existing patents, while other patents were not essential for cell phone communications, according to details of the lawsuit reported by The Wall Street Journal.

In January the iPhone maker filed a lawsuit complaining that Qualcomm -- which produces chips widely used in smartphones and tablets around the world --abused its market power to demand unfair royalties, and demanded billions of dollars in compensation.

Apple filed two similar complaints against Qualcomm in China days later.

However Qualcomm countersued in April, claiming that Apple breached agreements and encouraged regulatory attacks worldwide on Qualcomm.

"Qualcomm's illegal business practices are harming Apple and the entire industry," Apple said in an email Tuesday to AFP.

"They supply us with a single connectivity component, but for years have been demanding a percentage of the total cost of our products - effectively taxing Apple's innovation."

Qualcomm, in a statement by legal counsel Don Rosenberg, denied the accusations.

Apple "knows well" that "Qualcomm's innovations are at the heart of every iPhone and enable the most important uses and features of those devices," Rosenberg said.

"It simply is untrue that Qualcomm is seeking to collect royalties for Apple innovations that have nothing to do with Qualcomm's technology."

In January, the US Federal Trade Commission hit Qualcomm with an antitrust suit alleging it abused its dominant market position for processors, resulting in higher prices for consumers.

The complaint said Qualcomm's practices amount to "unlawful maintenance of a monopoly in baseband processors," which are devices that enable cellular communications in phones and other products. Qualcomm rejected the claims as "flawed".

The San Diego, California, group in 2015 agreed to pay $975 million to settle antitrust charges in China.

Qualcomm is challenging a European Union competition inquiry which could result in a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual sales, which amounted to $26.5 billion in 2015.

Honda halts production at Japan plant after cyber attacks

Honda said Wednesday it had temporarily halted production at plant in Japan after it suffered a cyberattack from the same ransomware that struck hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide last month.The Japanese automaker said it had shut its plant i…

Honda said Wednesday it had temporarily halted production at plant in Japan after it suffered a cyberattack from the same ransomware that struck hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide last month.

The Japanese automaker said it had shut its plant in Sayama, near Tokyo, on Monday after discovering its computer system was infected with the so-called WannaCry virus.

The virus encrypts computer files, making them inaccessible until users pay a ransom.

"The malware affected the production of about 1,000 cars," a Honda spokeswoman told AFP, adding that production restarted on Tuesday.

"There is a possibility that our overseas facilities were also infected... We're now investigating that," she added.

Honda's plant produces a number of models including the Accord sedan and Odyssey Minivan.

The unprecedented global cyberattacks, which started in mid May, struck banks, hospitals and government agencies in more than 150 countries, exploiting known vulnerabilities in old Microsoft computer operating systems.

In May, French auto giant Renault was hit, forcing it to halt production at sites in France, Slovenia and Romania as part of measures to stop the spread of the virus.

Nissan's British unit in Sunderland was also hit in the attack.

In Japan, 2,000 computers at 600 companies and organisations had been affected by the May virus, according to media reports.

Japanese conglomerate Hitachi was also affected, saying its computer networks were "unstable", crippling its email systems.

Authorities across the world have issued public alerts warning computer users to beware of suspicious emails and beef up their computer security measures.

Airbag maker Takata dives 25% on bankruptcy fears

Takata shares plunged again Wednesday, losing almost half of their value in just three days of trading on reports the troubled Japanese airbag maker will file for bankruptcy protection and sell its assets to a US company.Takata, at the centre of the au…

Takata shares plunged again Wednesday, losing almost half of their value in just three days of trading on reports the troubled Japanese airbag maker will file for bankruptcy protection and sell its assets to a US company.

Takata, at the centre of the auto industry's biggest-ever safety recall, finished at 244 yen ($2.20), tumbling by nearly 25 percent -- its maximum daily loss limit -- on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, after eye-popping falls on Monday and Tuesday.

The Nikkei business daily has said the company, with liabilities exceeding one trillion yen ($9 billion), would make a formal decision about the bankruptcy filing at a board meeting this month.

American autoparts maker Key Safety Systems, owned by China's Ningbo Joyson Electronic, will take over the firm's operations, the Nikkei's report on Friday said.

The board of Takata's US-based unit TK Holdings is expected to approve a filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy there this month, it added.

Some other media reports said Takata's major automaker clients support the bankruptcy plan.

Takata has already agreed to pay a billion-dollar fine to settle lawsuits in the United States over its defective airbags, which have been linked to at least 16 deaths and scores of injuries globally.

The Tokyo-based firm was suspended from trading on Friday pending a response to the Nikkei story and other similar reports.

Later Friday Takata said that no decision had been made but "all options" were on the table.

The shares plunged when they started trading again Monday.

As on Monday and Tuesday, the shares went untraded for most of Wednesday session's since the number of sell orders swamped buy orders.

Nearly 100 million cars, including about 70 million in the United States, were subject to the airbag recall, the largest in auto history, over the defective Takata airbags. These have been blamed for 11 deaths in the United States alone.

Global ratings agency Standard and Poor's said Monday that any bankruptcy filing by Takata would not immediately affect its rating on Honda, a major Takata customer, as the Japanese automaker has already written down costs linked to the faulty airbags.

The Friday reports said a new company created under Key Safety would buy Takata's operations and continue supplying airbags, seat belts and other products.

The downsized Takata would remain responsible for recall-related liabilities, the Nikkei said.

10 years after US housing crash, remnants accompany recovery

Boarded-up homes became a ubiquitous symbol of the US housing crash, with once-prosperous neighborhoods left to decay as mortgage defaults soared and no new buyers emerged.Some 10 years later, the national picture has improved and many places have boom…

Boarded-up homes became a ubiquitous symbol of the US housing crash, with once-prosperous neighborhoods left to decay as mortgage defaults soared and no new buyers emerged.

Some 10 years later, the national picture has improved and many places have boomed. Although the bricks and mortar of abandoned properties scar the streets of many states, suitors are lining up in some places where tumbleweed long ago outgrew the market.

Newburgh, in the Hudson Valley two hours north of New York City, is a minnow compared to cities in Florida and California that fell apart when the subprime mortgage bubble burst, culminating in a global recession.

The once thriving area of 30,000 people succumbed to rising interest rates, falling prices and local tax hikes all the same. Many families upped sticks without warning in 2007-08.

Rows of vacant properties remain, but Newburgh is on the up.

"It hit Newburgh particularly hard," says Stuart Sachs, an artist originally from Brooklyn, who bought a home close to his new city's main drag 14 years ago.

"Before the great recession most of these buildings were inhabited. All of them, from here to the corner, have been seized, which is truly terrible."

More than 700 homes are still empty -- about 10 percent of those in the town. Leaks, fire risks and rising crime exemplify the vast collateral damage.

To make matters worse, about 200 properties are so-called "zombie" homes, which are not only vacant, but have no real owner and sit in limbo.

Banks may have already started the long, drawn-out foreclosure process, but are yet to take ownership. Unattended, the homes fall into disrepair and are no longer habitable, a deadweight on a fully-fledged revival.

"Very often the banks start the process and realize that they're going to make less by selling the house," explains Helene Caloir, director of the New York State Housing Stabilization Fund.

"They don't really have an incentive to finish. They're in foreclosure but it never gets resolved."

The city is leading a revitalization effort to fight the vacant home problem, with the help of subsidies managed by Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a non-profit organization.

- A hipster haven? -

The cash comes from banks who reached a deal with the state attorney general's office to cope with the after-effects of the crisis and avoid prosecution.

Newburgh city hall and Newburgh Community Land Bank, an independent but subsidized local entity, are working together. The city currently owns about 150 of the vacant properties and the bank around 80.

Together they are trying to breathe life back into the abandoned streets and put the empty homes back on the market.

Newburgh Community Land Bank has already sold 60 of its homes to buyers whose finances have been thoroughly investigated, says executive director Madeline Fletcher.

A few have been bought by people wanting to live in them, but most by investors, private companies or non-profit organizations. In 80 percent of those cases, investors charge moderate rents in exchange for a low purchase price.

"We feel that it's also part of our role to ensure that people here have opportunity that their quality of life improves," says Fletcher.

Fortunes can change quickly. Hipsters are starting to appear in Newburgh.

While the city suffered job losses from a decline in manufacturing, new interest is drawn by the area's architectural riches and pretty -- if old -- brick homes.

"Every weekend we do get people in here from Brooklyn that can't believe they can buy a townhouse for $40,000," says Mikey Jackson, co-owner of the 2 Alices cafe, which he opened three years ago.

"Business has been good. It's been growing," he says. "There's a very fancy restaurant, a couple of hip bars."

- 'Killing zombies' -

The average price for a home in Brooklyn is almost $1-million.

But Fletcher wants to avoid the rampant gentrification that transformed the New York borough, even if the brick homes are similar.

"I started in 1981 and this is the first time it's going in the right direction," says William Horton, deputy head of the fire department called out to a number of blazes at abandoned homes.

But the difficulty remains trying to track down whoever could claim ownership of the "zombie" homes.

The city hall has created the role of investigator, a first, who scours every avenue, through the courts or online, for the name of a lawyer who could be a starting point, says city planner Alexandra Church.

"Killing zombies in Newburgh is the same as in 'The Walking Dead," she says, drawing a comparison with the popular television series. "You literally try every tool that you have."

Kazakh energy expo sapped by rows over costs, visitors

Kazakhstan sought a place in the sun when it bid to host a glitzy international energy expo, but a spat over visitor numbers has strengthened criticism that the multi-billion dollar showpiece was money thrown to the wind.Russian President Vladimir Puti…

Kazakhstan sought a place in the sun when it bid to host a glitzy international energy expo, but a spat over visitor numbers has strengthened criticism that the multi-billion dollar showpiece was money thrown to the wind.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Spain's King Felipe VI were among the dignitaries taking in the festive opening on June 9 of the Future Energy expo in the Central Asian country's futuristic new capital of Astana.

Dancers in golden bodysuits hoisted imitation solar panels skywards, spacemen swung on ropes between suspended models of the planets and Kazakh children sketched a "city of the future" on a giant screen to impress the VIPs.

But just over a week into the event, fresh controversy broke out as internet service providers in the country appeared to block the Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine following a critical article claiming weak visitor numbers, while authorities engaged in an unseemly spat with the author.

Graft scandals and an economic crisis cast long shadows over ex-Soviet Kazakhstan's decision to hold the event in the showpiece city of Astana, which is costly to reach from most European and Asian capitals.

Officials have continued to trumpet it as a branding coup, however.

"People call Astana a city of the future. Well, this (expo) area will become like a city of the future within the city of the future," Astana's Mayor Asset Issekeshev told AFP in an interview in his office.

"The area where the expo is now will host a museum and centres of technical and financial excellence. These centres can be put to use by the city, the country, and hopefully the whole region," he added.

- Glass half empty? -

When an AFP correspondent visited the expo territory on the outskirts of Astana on its June 10 opening to the public, the event appeared well-attended with large queues coming out of major pavilions.

But reporters who visited the following day, including an AFP photographer, reported a clear drop in numbers despite Kazakh authorities claiming Monday that more than 86,000 people have already visited the expo's main pavilion.

James Palmer, Asia editor for Washington-based Foreign Policy claimed in his article entitled "Kazakhstan Spent $5 Billion on a Death Star and It Doesn't Even Shoot Lasers" that many pavilions at the expo "were barren of anyone except staff" during his recent visit.

The PR-sensitive country's information minister, who denied ordering a block on the Foreign Policy website, said Palmer was guilty of "untruths and misinterpreting facts".

Palmer was even forced to respond to a claim by organisers that he had not visited Kazakhstan by tweeting photographs of his passport showing entry and exit stamps as well as a ticket stub from the event.

The government says the expo cost Kazakhstan 400 billion tenge, $1.3 billion at present rates but close to double that figure prior to the battering received by the national currency following the collapse of global energy prices in 2014.

Criticism of spending on the expo only grew after chief organiser Talgat Ermegiyayev, a former sports minister, was arrested in 2015 and jailed for 14 years in 2016 for embezzling some 5.9 billion tenge from the event's budget.

- Future energy focus -

Some 115 countries including China, Russia and the United States are participating in the event which runs into September.

While some of the pavilions wowed visitors, many had a more token feel.

Kazakhstan's neighbour Russia used its pavilion to promote its new generation of nuclear-powered ice-breakers, for instance.

"No other country in the world has a fleet like this," boasted Maria Nikolayeva, a guide, standing by a water tank representing the Arctic Sea patrolled by model versions of the boats.

Costa Rica's display, surrounded by other similarly threadbare Latin American pavilions, consisted simply of a video highlighting the country's natural habitat and renewable energy use.

"It is important for us to be here and show people what we are about," said Arturo Fournier-Facio, the country's ambassador to Russia who had travelled down for the occasion.

World's fairs and specialised expos like the one in Astana originated in the 19th century industrial era to showcase mankind's achievements. Legacies of the events include major tourist attractions such as the Eiffel tower in Paris and the Space Needle in Seattle, but in recent times the events have taken on a more corporate vibe.

"If this expo brings us closer to using clean energy and recycling, then great, but really, we shouldn't need an expo to do those things," said Aidos Sarym, a political scientist based in Almaty, Kazakhstan's second largest city and its capital up to 1997.

"I think, given the social and economic problems we have, there were other things to spend this money on."

"Hopefully this experience (hosting the expo) will act as a kind of inoculation and in the future we will not need to host such grand events," he told AFP.

Risky gold rush: Indonesia tackles illegal mining boom

Hulking excavators claw at riverbanks on Indonesia’s Sumatra island in the hunt for gold, transforming what was once a rural idyll into a scarred, pitted moonscape.It is one of a huge number of illegal gold mines that have sprung up across the resource…

Hulking excavators claw at riverbanks on Indonesia's Sumatra island in the hunt for gold, transforming what was once a rural idyll into a scarred, pitted moonscape.

It is one of a huge number of illegal gold mines that have sprung up across the resource-rich archipelago as the price of the precious metal has soared, luring people in rural areas to give up jobs in traditional industries.

Now authorities in Sumatra's Jambi province, which has one of the biggest concentrations of illegal mining sites in Indonesia, have started a determined fightback, combining a crackdown with attempts at regulation.

Declines in the price of rubber, which provided a livelihood for many in the area who had worked on plantations tapping the commodity, has driven many locals to more lucrative -- and dangerous -- gold mining.

Iwan, a 43-year-old who works at an illegal site by the Tabir river, left his job on a rubber plantation to become a gold miner two years ago but said life was still difficult.

"This year has been tough because there are days when we don't find any gold," the miner, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

"But it's still better than being a rubber farmer because rubber is very cheap nowadays."

The illicit industry in Jambi started off in a handful of places with small-time prospectors panning for gold, but has exploded to about 100 sites in recent years.

With authorities apparently doing little to stop the boom in its early years, miners became increasingly bold and began openly using excavators.

Mining in the province is usually carried out at open sites next to rivers, where workers dig shallow pits in the hunt for gold deposits that typically build up next to waterways.

- Miners' lives at risk -

In Jambi, the wildlife-filled jungles have been degraded by the expansion of mines and plantations to devastating effect.

But it is not just the environment that is suffering, miners are putting their lives at risk.

Burning mercury mixed with raw ore to extract gold is common, but can cause serious neurological damage. Miners sometimes develop problems such as tremors and persistent coughing from inhaling the fumes.

In recent months, authorities have stepped up their fight back.

Police have raided mines, authorities have initiated programmes to offer training in farming techniques in a bid to lure workers away from prospecting, and have appointed village heads who are firmly against the practice.

But officials quickly realised that cracking down alone was not the solution. They are also taking steps to regulate the industry by offering would-be miners a route to working legally.

Under a plan introduced by the local government in December, individual miners and small groups can apply to open up a pit in a "People's Mining Area".

Workers can mine in an approved area after obtaining a permit, said Karel Ibnu Suratno, a senior official from the Jambi government.

He said authorities would be able to oversee the work, meaning that environmental damage would be limited, and local government coffers would get a boost as miners would have to pay tax on the gold they find.

The scheme "is meant to improve people's lives" by ensuring the miners themselves get the profits, rather than the wealthy individuals providing financial backing for the sites who usually remain in the shadows, said Suratno.

"Most of them don't earn much but mining is the only source of income they have," he added.

- 'All I can do' -

The government is facing an uphill struggle to clamp down on the industry however. Since the introduction of the "People's Mining Area" initiative, only one area has successfully applied for a permit.

Authorities have sometimes faced retaliation when they attempt to crack down.

After some people allegedly involved in trading illegally-mined gold were arrested in Jambi last year, the local police station was set on fire in a suspected revenge attack.

Activists believe that going after the miners themselves does not really tackle the root cause of the problem, and authorities need to catch the wealthy financiers.

"It's hard to stop illegal mining here as long as the people who finance it are not known, and have not been caught," said a local environmental activist, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

But campaigners say perhaps the biggest challenge is that so many in an area with few employment opportunities have come to rely on illegal gold mining.

"This is all I can do to earn a living," said miner Iwan.

After toppling Apple in China, Oppo eyes world market

With its army of salespeople and vast network of outlets, a relatively new smartphone maker has exploded in popularity to overtake global giants Apple and Samsung in China?s market — and now it has its eye on the West.Oppo began life selling DVD playe…

With its army of salespeople and vast network of outlets, a relatively new smartphone maker has exploded in popularity to overtake global giants Apple and Samsung in China?s market -- and now it has its eye on the West.

Oppo began life selling DVD players in the in the southern manufacturing hub of Dongguan a little more than a decade ago and only broke into the handset market in 2011.

But with an aggressive marketing strategy and concentration on bricks-and-mortar stores in small and medium-sized cities -- rather than relying on online customers -- sales have soared.

Last year it had a market share of 16.8 percent making it the China market leader and while a slip in the first three months of 2017 put it just behind local rival Huawei, according to market analyst IDC, it remains well ahead of Apple and Samsung.

Globally it ranks fourth behind Samsung, Apple and Huawei.

While its rivals focus on the premium end of the smartphone market in major cities and online, Oppo makes relatively cheap devices -- its latest model is less than half the price of an iPhone 7.

Oppo also sells them in actual shops. It has 200,000 outlets across China -- less than 10 percent of its purchases are made online -- while retailers are offered generous commissions in exchange for promoting the brand.

"In small cities, consumers unfamiliar with smartphones need to see and touch the devices and to have salespeople there to help them," said Yi Jun, Oppo's international sales director.

At the company's factory in Guangdong province, Oppo handsets are submitted to a series of durability tests including one-metre drops and temperature changes ranging from -40 degrees Celsius to 85 degrees Celsius.

"Technology is essential for meeting consumers' expectations," Yi said, pointing to Oppo's fast-charging ability, high-definition camera lens and sleek design.

- 'Brand ambassadors' -

Now Oppo's rivals are starting to follow suit.

Chinese brand Xiaomi, which lost significant market share in 2016, has been relying on the web for sales of its top-of-the-range smartphones.

But in February it announced plans to go back to old-fashioned selling techniques with plans to open 1,000 stores by 2020 in the hope of reversing its fortunes.

As competitors play catch up, analysts warn Oppo must maintain its momentum to stay on or near the top.

It needs to continue expanding its sales network and offering competitive products, said Mo Jia, an analyst at technology research firm Canalys.

Oppo has also been boosting its sales abroad, including emerging markets in Southeast Asia where its share more than doubled to 13.2 percent last year -- by far the biggest increase among its rivals, IDC data shows.

In India, it was the fourth-biggest player in the fourth quarter, with 8.6 percent market share, behind Samsung, Xiaomi and Lenovo.

"Its success in these countries comes from frantic marketing," said IDC analyst Tay Xiaohan, noting the use of local celebrities as "brand ambassadors" as it targets millennials.

It is also starting to back high-profile sports teams to increase brand awareness. Earlier this year it forked out more than $160 million to become an official sponsor of the Indian cricket side.

And Oppo is adapting its products to satisfy the "selfie" trend.

"We noticed the craze in Southeast Asia for group selfies and tailored our devices accordingly," Yi said, referring to special camera features that enable users to take better self-portraits.

Next stop is the West.

"We are very interested in entering the US and European markets, we are working on it... but without a precise timeline," Yi said.

It will be challenging.

While Huawei has managed to make a name for itself in US and European smartphone markets, it was already very present in those places as a telecom equipment manufacturer, said Annette Zimmermann, an analyst with technology research company Gartner.

And Oppo's direct sales strategy might not be as successful in markets dominated by mobile network operators that provide handsets with their contracts.

China opens gates to US beef imports

China opened its gates to US beef imports this week, giving American cattle farmers much sought-after access to the country’s massive market following a 14-year ban.Shipments of eligible US beef have been allowed to enter China since Tuesday, the Gener…

China opened its gates to US beef imports this week, giving American cattle farmers much sought-after access to the country's massive market following a 14-year ban.

Shipments of eligible US beef have been allowed to enter China since Tuesday, the General Adminstration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement.

Announced last month, the lifting of the beef embargo was one of the first concrete results of trade discussions that began when Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Donald Trump at the US leader's resort in Florida in April.

The agreement, seen as a sign of warming trade ties between the world's largest economies, also gives US natural gas and certain financial services access to China's market of nearly 1.4 billion people.

In return the United States will allow cooked Chinese poultry to enter US markets.

China imposed a ban on US beef imports following a case of mad cow disease in the United States in 2003.

To ensure the safety and quality of the imported meat, China insists that US beef comes from cattle younger than 30 months.

The animals must be traceable to their birth farm.

"Cattle should be born and raised in the US, or born in Mexico or Canada and slaughtered in the US," China's quarantine authorities said.

"Cattle should not be the offspring of those that were suspected of having or confirmed to have mad cow disease."

Beef consumption in China is rising owing to the country's fast-growing middle class, though pork still accounts for more than 60 percent of the meat consumed.

Asian stocks hit by energy firms as oil dives, Shanghai muted

Another sell-off in energy firms dragged Asian markets lower on Wednesday, tracking hefty losses on Wall Street as oil prices tanked, while Shanghai was muted despite MSCI’s decision to include mainland-listed firms in a key index.Crude sank more than …

Another sell-off in energy firms dragged Asian markets lower on Wednesday, tracking hefty losses on Wall Street as oil prices tanked, while Shanghai was muted despite MSCI's decision to include mainland-listed firms in a key index.

Crude sank more than two percent on Tuesday as traders grow increasingly worried about a global supply glut as continued production in the US and elsewhere offsets an OPEC output cut deal.

The fall also came despite a drop in US inventories.

"Oil prices have officially entered a bear market (and) plummeted two percent after reports of rising output for from Nigeria and Libya -- both OPEC members exempt from the production cut deal," said Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA.

The crude sell-off, which means the commodity has lost a fifth of its value from recent highs, saw energy firms drag Wall Street down with all three main indexes ending deep in the red.

And while both main contracts stabilised on Wednesday, Asian energy firms followed their US counterparts.

Rio Tinto sank 2.5 percent and BHP dived more than three percent in Sydney, while Hong Kong-listed CNOOC was more than one percent off and Inpex fell 1.8 percent in Tokyo.

Broader markets were also well down. Tokyo's Nikkei fell 0.2 percent by the break, while Sydney sank 1.2 percent and Seoul gave up 0.5 percent. Singapore tumbled 0.9 percent, Wellington eased 0.5 percent and Manila 0.1 percent.

- Sterling loss -

Shanghai bucked the trend to edge up 0.3 percent but the gains were minimal despite MSCI finally approving mainland-listed stocks, or A-shares, for its emerging markets index.

The agreement, after three previous rejections, means for the first time foreigners will be able to buy into Chinese markets directly, providing a possible $8 billion of inflows in the near term.

It is also seen as another step for the country's leaders in further opening up to the world economy and asserting Beijing's growing importance to global finance.

However, analysts pointed out that while the decision is important, Chinese stocks will only account for 0.7 percent of the index when they are included next June.

Northeast Securities analyst Shen Zhengyang said: ?The thing itself is a good thing. But it has limited benefit for the market. The money that will come in is just a drop in the bucket, while the market?s liquidity itself isn?t sufficient at the moment due to the deleveraging process in the financial system.?

The yuan edged up on the MSCI move but the pound continued to struggle against the dollar having taken a hit Tuesday after Bank of England governor Mark Carney dismissed an interest rate hike any time soon.

Carney's comments disappointed investors after a recent run of rising inflation suggested the BoE could lift borrowing costs again. Adding to the pound weakness was ongoing speculation about how tough Brexit terms will be after negotiations on Britain's departure from the EU got under way.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 20,183.90 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 25,805.00

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,150.05

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1135 from $1.1132 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2623 from $1.2624

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 111.41 yen from 111.46 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN two cents at $43.49 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN nine cents at $45.93

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 21,467.14 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,472.71 (close)

Toshiba eyes exclusive sale talks with US-SKorea consortium: reports

Toshiba will hold exclusive talks with a consortium of US, South Korean and state-backed Japanese investors to sell its prized memory chip business, reports said Wednesday, as the loss-hit conglomerate scrambles to raise cash.The industrial conglomerat…

Toshiba will hold exclusive talks with a consortium of US, South Korean and state-backed Japanese investors to sell its prized memory chip business, reports said Wednesday, as the loss-hit conglomerate scrambles to raise cash.

The industrial conglomerate, a pillar of corporate Japan, needs to raise money after taking massive losses from US nuclear operations that have puts its survival in doubt.

The company's board is meeting Wednesday to discuss a plan that would give preferential treatment to the joint bid worth more than 2 trillion yen ($18 billion), Japan's public broadcaster NHK and the leading Nikkei business daily reported.

The potential suitor is comprised of the public-private Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, the state-backed Development Bank of Japan, South Korean chip giant SK Hynix and US private equity fund Bain Capital, the reports said, citing unnamed sources.

However, the sale of Toshiba's profitable memory chip business, seen as key for the cash-strapped firm's turnaround, still faces hurdles as its US chip factory partner Western Digital tries to block the sale with a court injunction.

Contacted by AFP, a Toshiba spokesman declined to comment on the reports including whether it plans to hold a board meeting Wednesday.

Toshiba is the world's number two supplier of memory chips, behind South Korea's Samsung and ahead of third-placed Western Digital.

Its chip division has accounted for about one-quarter of its annual revenue.

But the sale is controversial.

Japanese media have said the government was worried about losing a sensitive technology to foreign owners amid questions about security around systems already using Toshiba's memory chips. They are widely used in data centres as well as smartphones and computers.

In Tokyo trading, Toshiba rose 0.57 percent to 332.1 yen.

Accused ex-Barclays chief quits Rio Tinto board

Former Barclays chief executive John Varley quit as a director of mining giant Rio Tinto on Wednesday after being charged with conspiracy to commit fraud in Britain.He was among four senior executives from the bank charged on Tuesday by Britain’s Serio…

Former Barclays chief executive John Varley quit as a director of mining giant Rio Tinto on Wednesday after being charged with conspiracy to commit fraud in Britain.

He was among four senior executives from the bank charged on Tuesday by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) following a five-year investigation over emergency fundraising worth billions of dollars from Qatar during the financial crisis.

The Anglo-Australian miner's chairman Jan du Plessis said he had the "highest regard" for Varley, who has been on the Rio board since 2011.

"I am very grateful for John?s outstanding contribution over the five or so years he has been on the board," he said.

"The board holds him in the highest regard and will miss his valuable insight. Personally, I am not only losing a senior independent director, but a close colleague, whose wisdom and support I am going to miss tremendously."

His resignation as a non-executive director and chair of the company's remuneration committee will take immediate effect.

Britain's SFO said the charges he faces relate to Barclays "capital raising arrangements with Qatar Holding LLC and Challenger Universal Ltd, which took place in June and October 2008".

It added that they also involve a US$3-billion loan facility made available to the State of Qatar acting through the country's Ministry of Economy and Finance in November 2008.

Barclays has said it was "considering its position", with the defendants due to appear before London's Westminster Magistrates' Court on July 3.

Canada airports ban ads helping bumped passengers: ad company

Canada’s two largest airports in Montreal and Toronto have banned ads from a company that helps passengers bumped from overbooked flights to get compensation from airlines, the company’s president said Tuesday.Flight Claim posted billboards inside the …

Canada's two largest airports in Montreal and Toronto have banned ads from a company that helps passengers bumped from overbooked flights to get compensation from airlines, the company's president said Tuesday.

Flight Claim posted billboards inside the Montreal terminal promising up to Can$1,800 for bumped passengers, as well as for cancelled or delayed flights.

But company president Jacob Charbonneau said the Montreal airport pulled the ads after only five days, while the Toronto airport outright refused to run the promotion.

"It is the duty of airports to display consumers' rights, or at least not to prevent us from doing so," an indignant Charbonneau told AFP.

"These are regulations, laws to which airlines must submit."

Flight Claim was founded one year ago, before public outrage over airline overbooking prompted Ottawa to introduce a passenger bill of rights in May. It offers to file compensation claims on passengers' behalf, for a 25 percent cut of the payout.

It recently paid in advance to have its ad posted at the Montreal terminal for two years, but Charbonneau said his advertising agency informed him airlines had "pressured" the airport authority to remove the ads.

Stephanie Lesage, a spokeswoman for the airport disputed that version of events, saying an error had simply been made in approving a "controversial" ad that risks harming a partner or customer.

Public outrage over the failed ad campaign, meanwhile, has turned out to be a windfall for Flight Claim, which has been flooded with queries from new customers since its predicament made the news.

UK car sector urges interim Brexit trade deal

Britain’s automotive sector on Tuesday urged the government to agree an interim Brexit trade deal, one day after formal talks began in Brussels.

Industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), holding an international summit in the capital, called for Britain to keep membership of the European single market and customs union until a final Brexit deal has been inked.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit minister David Davis kicked off formal negotiations on Monday in a lengthy process that will see Britain leave the European Union in two years’ time.

“We have to be pragmatic,” SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes told reporters at the summit in central London.

“We are not going to be able to agree on a comprehensive, new relationship with the EU in two years’ time. Hence we need a backup plan.

“We need a clear interim arrangement for withdrawing from the EU, where we continue to operate, business as usual, from day one.”

Davis had stressed on Monday that Britain would have to quit the bloc’s common market and customs union to ensure the return of full sovereignty.

Without a new trade agreement, Britain would fall back on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which could mean higher export tariffs and other barriers.

“There must be no cliff-edge. To leave in 2019 without a deal would put the industry in peril,” warned SMMT boss Hawes.

“Returning to WTO tariffs and customs barrage would damage our industry permanently, disrupting supply chains and jeopardising competitiveness.”

British carmakers would also suffer from soaring production costs to the tune of billions, he added.

“The cost of production in the UK would increase more than our competitors. The cost of cars for British consumers would also increase.

“Our analysts put the bill at around £4.5 billion ($5.7 billion, 5.1 billion euros) in tariffs on cars alone. So the cliff-edge must be avoided.”

Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has previously vowed that “no deal is better than a bad deal” in the Brexit negotiations.

May has repeatedly insisted that Britain will leave Europe’s single market or tariff-free zone in order to control EU immigration, thus delivering a so-called “hard” Brexit.

However, her position weakened this month as she failed to secure an absolute majority in an inconclusive general election.

Britain's automotive sector on Tuesday urged the government to agree an interim Brexit trade deal, one day after formal talks began in Brussels.

Industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), holding an international summit in the capital, called for Britain to keep membership of the European single market and customs union until a final Brexit deal has been inked.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit minister David Davis kicked off formal negotiations on Monday in a lengthy process that will see Britain leave the European Union in two years' time.

"We have to be pragmatic," SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes told reporters at the summit in central London.

"We are not going to be able to agree on a comprehensive, new relationship with the EU in two years' time. Hence we need a backup plan.

"We need a clear interim arrangement for withdrawing from the EU, where we continue to operate, business as usual, from day one."

Davis had stressed on Monday that Britain would have to quit the bloc's common market and customs union to ensure the return of full sovereignty.

Without a new trade agreement, Britain would fall back on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which could mean higher export tariffs and other barriers.

"There must be no cliff-edge. To leave in 2019 without a deal would put the industry in peril," warned SMMT boss Hawes.

"Returning to WTO tariffs and customs barrage would damage our industry permanently, disrupting supply chains and jeopardising competitiveness."

British carmakers would also suffer from soaring production costs to the tune of billions, he added.

"The cost of production in the UK would increase more than our competitors. The cost of cars for British consumers would also increase.

"Our analysts put the bill at around £4.5 billion ($5.7 billion, 5.1 billion euros) in tariffs on cars alone. So the cliff-edge must be avoided."

Britain's Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has previously vowed that "no deal is better than a bad deal" in the Brexit negotiations.

May has repeatedly insisted that Britain will leave Europe's single market or tariff-free zone in order to control EU immigration, thus delivering a so-called "hard" Brexit.

However, her position weakened this month as she failed to secure an absolute majority in an inconclusive general election.

Brazil’s JBS to sell $1.8 billion in assets after corruption settlement

Global meatpacking leader JBS announced Tuesday it plans to sell six billion reais ($1.8 billion) in assets in an effort to build up its cash reserves following a major corruption settlement linked to a probe of Brazilian President Michel Temer.

JBS parent company J&F Investimentos agreed to pay a record fine of more than $3 billion after JBS owners admitted they had made illicit payments to politicians in exchange for favors for years.

“The divestment plan aims to reduce debt… to reinforce the company’s financial structure,” JBS said in a statement.

Under the plan, JBS will let go of 19.2 percent of its shares in dairy firm Vigor Alimentos SA, as well as its ownership interest in Northern Irish poultry meat producer Moy Park, US-based Five Rivers Cattle Feeding and several other farms.

Earlier this month, JBS had already announced separately that it was selling one billion reais ($302 million) of its operations in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The group’s share prices dropped nearly three percent around 11:30 am (1430 GMT) after it announced its latest sell-off.

JBS chairman Joesley Batista caused major political uproar last month when he handed authorities an audio recording in which Temer appeared to condone the payment of hush money to a former lawmaker now in prison.

Batista clinched a plea bargain deal with authorities as the nationwide anti-graft operation codenamed “Car Wash” began targeting his business dealings.

Batista agreed to cooperate in exchange for avoiding a conviction.

Global meatpacking leader JBS announced Tuesday it plans to sell six billion reais ($1.8 billion) in assets in an effort to build up its cash reserves following a major corruption settlement linked to a probe of Brazilian President Michel Temer.

JBS parent company J&F Investimentos agreed to pay a record fine of more than $3 billion after JBS owners admitted they had made illicit payments to politicians in exchange for favors for years.

"The divestment plan aims to reduce debt... to reinforce the company's financial structure," JBS said in a statement.

Under the plan, JBS will let go of 19.2 percent of its shares in dairy firm Vigor Alimentos SA, as well as its ownership interest in Northern Irish poultry meat producer Moy Park, US-based Five Rivers Cattle Feeding and several other farms.

Earlier this month, JBS had already announced separately that it was selling one billion reais ($302 million) of its operations in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The group's share prices dropped nearly three percent around 11:30 am (1430 GMT) after it announced its latest sell-off.

JBS chairman Joesley Batista caused major political uproar last month when he handed authorities an audio recording in which Temer appeared to condone the payment of hush money to a former lawmaker now in prison.

Batista clinched a plea bargain deal with authorities as the nationwide anti-graft operation codenamed "Car Wash" began targeting his business dealings.

Batista agreed to cooperate in exchange for avoiding a conviction.

Man bun, cornrows and freckles: Ken gets a makeover

Ken, the all-American, muscular male with luxuriant hair, is getting a makeover. Barbie’s iconic boyfriend is breaking out 15 new looks, including man bun, cornrows and freckles.Times are changing and doll manufacturer Mattel is playing catch-up as it …

Ken, the all-American, muscular male with luxuriant hair, is getting a makeover. Barbie's iconic boyfriend is breaking out 15 new looks, including man bun, cornrows and freckles.

Times are changing and doll manufacturer Mattel is playing catch-up as it also battles to boost declining sales.

Ken's makeover was unveiled 18 months after Barbie, the stereotypical blue-eyed blonde bombshell, was given three new body types -- tall, petite and curvy.

Mattel's Next Gen Ken will come in three body types -- "broad", "slim" and "original," seven skin tones, eight hair colors and nine hairstyles, 56 years after the first Ken doll hit the market.

The dolls extend Barbie's Fashionista line, which now runs to 40 dolls, representing seven body types, 11 skin tones and 28 hairstyles, the company said.

"We are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation," said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and general manager of Barbie.

"Evolving Ken was a natural evolution for the brand and allows girls to further personalize the role they want him to play in Barbie's world," she added.

The man doll will also sport "modernized fashions" ranging from casual business attire to athletic wear. Ken dolls were shown on the company website Tuesday dressed in hipster-style checked shirts, denim shorts and skinny jeans.

One wore heavy dark-rimmed spectacles.

Mattel's announcement in January 2016 of the new curvy Barbie was welcomed as an acknowledgement, however belated, that women come in many shapes and sizes.

Ford to import Focus cars built in China

Ford will import its next-generation Focus sedans into the US market from China, after a highly-publicized move to cancel plans to build the car in Mexico, the company announced Tuesday.The move runs counter to the US car industry’s recent efforts to h…

Ford will import its next-generation Focus sedans into the US market from China, after a highly-publicized move to cancel plans to build the car in Mexico, the company announced Tuesday.

The move runs counter to the US car industry's recent efforts to highlight American production amid intense criticism from President Donald Trump.

Ford, which already produces the Focus in China for that market, couched the move as a cost-saving strategy, and said no American jobs would be lost as a result of the change.

Ford's plan to move production of the Focus to a factory in Hermosillo, Mexico, announced in 2016, angered then-candidate Trump, who threatened to impose a border tax on any imported cars. Trump has repeatedly singled out the auto industry and pressured them to keep plants and jobs in the country.

Ford in January canceled the move, as well the plan to build a new plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and then in March, announced $1.2 billion in investments in American plants, earning praise from Trump.

"Car companies coming back to US JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!," the president tweeted at the time.

Under the strategy announced Tuesday, the next-generation Focus will begin production globally in mid-2019, and will be imported into the US market primarily from China, with additional variants coming later from Europe, the company said.

Ford's Michigan plant will continue to produce the Focus through mid-2018, and then will be converted to make a pickup truck and SUV, so no hourly jobs will be lost.

Ford also said it would invest $900 million in a Kentucky plant to retool it to build new full-size SUV models.

The American car giant recently ousted its CEO and installed Jim Hackett in the top job, amid a management shakeup that signaled a desire to focus more on high tech, such as self-driving cars.

In announcing its China plans, the company said it would save $1 billion in costs it would have incurred to retool a Mexico plant to build the Focus and to build the new factory there.

"Finding a more cost-effective way to deliver the next Focus program in North America is a better plan, allowing us to redeploy the money we save into areas of growth for the company," including in autonomous and electric vehicles, Joe Hinrichs, Ford's head of global operations, said in a statement.

But pressed by reporters during a conference call, Hinrichs conceded the decision could cause political blowback.

"China gets a lot of attention, we'll see how this plays out," he said on the call, according to US media, adding that consumers are less concerned with where products are made.

"iPhones are produced in China, for example, and people don't really talk about it."

Driver in fatal Tesla autopilot crash warned repeatedly: investigators

The driver killed in the 2016 crash of a Tesla Model S took his hands off the wheel while using autopilot despite repeated warnings not to do so, government investigators have found.The National Transportation Safety Board said the driver had been usin…

The driver killed in the 2016 crash of a Tesla Model S took his hands off the wheel while using autopilot despite repeated warnings not to do so, government investigators have found.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the driver had been using the semi-autonomous driver assistance system for extended periods when his car crashed into a 53-foot freight trailer west of Williston, Florida.

The NTSB Monday released a large amount of data on the incident, but said it had not determined the cause of the crash. But it is the second agency whose findings have not faulted Tesla's driver-assistance system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this year also found that Tesla's Autopilot system was not at fault in the May 2016 crash.

According to data retrieved from the wrecked car's computers, the driver, 40-year-old Joshua Brown, traveled for nearly 40 minutes before crashing using the autopilot system, and did not have his hands on the steering wheel.

On seven occasions, the car gave the driver visual warnings and on six of these alerts chimed to tell the driver to return his hands to the steering wheel.

Of the 37 minutes during which the driver assistance system was active, the driver's hands were detected on the wheel only "for 25 seconds," the report said.

At the time of the crash, Brown was traveling at 74 miles (118 km) per hour in an area where the speed limit was 65 mph, when he collided with the semitrailer making a left turn. The Tesla went under the trailer, smashed into a utility pole, according to investigators.

The Tesla Model S is outfitted with sensors, cameras and other technology allowing it to perform some maneuvers autonomously, such as slowing in case of detected danger. But the company has said it is not a self-driving system and driver vigilance is required.

Tesla in September began upgrades to the driver assistance system to improve functions in rain, fog and snow.

UK chancellor Hammond, BoE chief Carney stress Brexit perils

The two most senior custodians of Britain’s economy on Tuesday laid out arguments for a Brexit that protects jobs and financial health — a day after the government prioritised a clean break with the EU.Seeming to contradict some of the “hard” Brexit r…

The two most senior custodians of Britain's economy on Tuesday laid out arguments for a Brexit that protects jobs and financial health -- a day after the government prioritised a clean break with the EU.

Seeming to contradict some of the "hard" Brexit rhetoric espoused at the start of negotiations with the EU on Monday, finance minister Philip Hammond and Bank of England governor Mark Carney stressed the perils of an abrupt divorce from Britain's biggest trading market.

Carney even mocked Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's argument that Britain can have its cake and eat it by quitting the European Union but still retaining the benefits of membership.

"Before long, we will all begin to find out the extent to which Brexit is a gentle stroll along a smooth path to a land of cake and consumption," Carney said at the annual Mansion House event, which was postponed from last week by a deadly fire in a London tower block.

"Depending on whether and when any transition arrangement can be agreed, firms on either side of the channel may soon need to activate contingency plans," the governor cautioned.

The central bank chief -- to the ire of some Brexiteers -- has long argued that Britain should proceed on a smoother glide path out of the EU by agreeing transitional rules for its banks and companies.

Hammond, whose stock has risen since Prime Minister Theresa May emerged wounded from a general election setback this month, singled out financial services as a key driver of the economy.

While Brexit minister David Davis on Monday stressed that Britain would have to quit the EU's common market and customs union, Hammond agreed with Carney on the need for a transitional deal "to avoid unnecessary disruption and dangerous cliff edges".

Ensuring that Brexit does not imperil British jobs or impoverish living standards "will require every ounce of skill and diplomacy that we can muster", he said.

"Yesterday was a positive start. It will get tougher," the chancellor of the exchequer added.

"But we are ready for the challenge."

Chinese and Russians aim to end Airbus-Boeing duopoly

China’s C919 and Russia’s MC-21 may be absent from the tarmac at the Paris Air Show, but their makers don’t hide their ambition to nose into the biggest part of the civil aviation market — single-aisle medium-haul aircraft — which is dominated by Air…

China's C919 and Russia's MC-21 may be absent from the tarmac at the Paris Air Show, but their makers don't hide their ambition to nose into the biggest part of the civil aviation market -- single-aisle medium-haul aircraft -- which is dominated by Airbus and Boeing.

"For decades there were just two families of competing aircraft in the single-aisle segement, the A320 and the 737" built by Airbus and Boeing, said Stephane Albernhe, managing partner at Archery Consulting.

Both firms have been announcing business worth tens of billions of dollars for their mid-range bestsellers at the Paris Air Show, but they're unlikely to keep the market for themselves for long.

"Things are beginning to change because the duopoly is being attacked by the Bombardier's C Series, Comac's C919 and Irkut's MC-21.

While Bombardier's C Series entered into commercial service last year, both the C919 and MC-21 only just made their maiden test flights last month and are years away from entering into service.

The C919, which made its first test flight on May 5, built by state-owned aerospace manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), represents nearly a decade of effort in a government-mandated drive to reduce the nation's dependence on Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

Capable of carrying 168 passengers over a distance of 5,500 kilometres (3,400 miles), the C919 already has 600 orders.

The MC-21 also represents an effort by Russia to end reliance on foreign aircraft. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian airlines have shifted to Airbus and Boeing aircraft which are cheaper to operate.

Manufactured by the state-owned Irkut, the aircraft made its first flight on May 28 over Siberia. Capable of carrying between 132 and 211 passengers up to 6,000 kilometres, there have been 175 orders for the MC-21 according to Irkut.

The MC-21's maiden flight comes six years after Russia's short-haul Sukhoi Superjet aircraft came into service in 2011. But they have since suffered serious technical issues that have forced the plane's grounding.

For Gilles Fournier, managing director of the Paris Air Show, "these planes are not yet mature enough to display" at the event. But, he added, "I think they will be in two years" at the next Paris Air Show.

"These new entrants have states which support them and they won't stop there," said Albernhe.

"They have started with single-aisle aircraft, but its a good wager that at least as far as the Chinese are concerned, the next model with be a long-haul aircraft."

In fact, Beijing and Moscow announced last month they intend to work together this time a long-distance aircraft, which has been baptised C-929 by the Chinese.

Capable of carrying 280 passengers on flights up to 12,000 kilometres, the C-929 would take on the latest long-haul jets offered by Airbus and Boeing -- the A350 and 787 Dreamliner.

The plane is to be developed by COMAC and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). Chinese media have said development could cost between $13 billion and $20 billion.

- Biggest aviation market -

So far the Chinese are proceeding slowly to acquire know-how, and relying on their vast home market, to avoid a commercial failure.

According to estimates by Airbus and Boeing, the Chinese market will need around 6,000 new aircraft over the next few decades, making it worth a trillion dollars.

"It will take time before Russian and Chinese manufacturers acquire the technical and industrial maturity of Airbus and Boeing," cautioned Albernhe.

Until the C919 and MS-21 receive certification from US and European regulators the aircraft won't be able to truly compete for business internationally.

COMAC still hasn't received US certification for its ARJ-21 regional jet, which entered service with a Chinese airline in 2015 and remains limited to internal routes.

But the threat that China and Russia pose is taken seriously on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Never sell your competition short," said Randy Tinseth, vice president for marketing at Boeing's civil aviation unit.

"Ten years from now, 15 years from now, they will be the world largest aviation market," he said. "That's why they're investing in these products -- they have the biggest domestic market that puts them in a place no one else is."

The same message can be heard from Airbus.

"If you ask me 'are there any threats in the next five to ten years to Airbus or Boeing?' Probably not," said John Leahy, the chief operating officers for customers at Airbus' commercial aircraft unit.

But "in 20 years I think they will be one of the three big manufacturers of aircrafts," he added.

Business management consultancy AlixPartners also thinks it will take some time for the Chinese and Russians to really break into the market.

"Looking ahead, we don't expect the commercial aircraft duopoly of Airbus and Boeing to be heavily threatened in the near future, it will probably take another generation of new aircraft," said Eric Bernardini, who heads of aerospace and defence at AlixPartners

"However, an acquisition by the Chinese of Bombardier C Series would create a serious threat," he noted on the company's website.

The C Series has begun to make inroads in the global market, but Bombardier had to take on debt and was rescued by the Canadian provice of Quebec to finance building the aircraft, its first foray in the medium-range segement.

China hopes shares finally enter global index

A US-based firm is to announce Wednesday whether it will finally include Chinese shares in a key global stock index after three previous rejections.MSCI Inc. has excluded China’s “A” shares from its emerging markets index for three years in succession …

A US-based firm is to announce Wednesday whether it will finally include Chinese shares in a key global stock index after three previous rejections.

MSCI Inc. has excluded China's "A" shares from its emerging markets index for three years in succession but analysts are hopeful Beijing will be lucky the fourth time round.

Inclusion in the index is seen as significant for China's stock markets because many overseas investors measure the performance of their portfolios against MSCI indexes and are obliged to buy shares in them.

MSCI says its emerging markets index is tracked by more than $1.5 trillion in assets.

The New York-based equity index provider has in the past cited obstacles such as China's restrictions on market access and on moving capital in and out of the country.

But analysts are optimistic about its chances this time, even though the domestic market has been rocked by Beijing's recent efforts to tighten credit -- over concerns that the country's massive debt could trigger a financial crisis.

"The chance is higher than before. China has done quite a lot of work," Haitong Securities analyst Zhang Qi told AFP.

China has been gradually opening its A share market to foreign investors, allowing them to trade selected stocks in Shanghai and Shenzhen through mechanisms linking those markets to Hong Kong.

Overseas investors have also been allowed to buy A shares through a quota system.

But for the most part they have been restricted to "B" shares denominated in US or Hong Kong dollars and traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen, or "H" shares traded in Hong Kong.

Also seen as boosting China's chances is MSCI's decision to slash the number of A shares for inclusion to 169 from the previous proposal's 448.

That would give China a weighting of 0.5 percent in the index compared with the earlier one percent.

China's inclusion would help around $8 billion flow into its stock markets, Capital Economics said, describing it as "a token inclusion" given the weighting would be the equivalent of 0.1 percent of the domestic market's capitalisation.

Nevertheless analysts said China's admission to the index would be a good start.

"A low number of shares and weighting is not important at the beginning," said Li Daxiao, chief economist at Yingda Securities.

"It is like opening a door. Even if it is just a crack, it is a huge improvement compared to being completely shut."

Citic Securities analyst Zhang Qun said inclusion would have "more of an emotional effect than a practical one".

"It is the change from zero to one. If in the next few years the degree of opening up increases... then it could go from one to 10 or even 100," Zhang said.

A spokesman for China's securities regulator said last week that any emerging market index would be "incomplete" without Chinese stocks.

Rio backs Yancoal over Glencore for Australia coal mines

Rio Tinto Tuesday recommended China-backed Yancoal as the buyer of most of its Australian coal mines, rebuffing a surprise higher bid from commodities giant Glencore earlier this month.

The world’s second-largest miner said in January it was selling Coal & Allied to Yancoal Australia — majority-controlled by China’s Yanzhou Coal — for US$2.45 billion.

But Glencore, which like Yancoal also operates numerous coal mines in Australia, offered US$100 million more for the assets — in New South Wales state — earlier this month.

Rio said it spoke to both parties but still favoured Yancoal since the deal was expected to be completed faster due to greater funding and regulatory certainty.

Yanzhou Coal is one of China’s largest mining groups by market capitalisation.

“We believe Yancoal’s offer to purchase our thermal coal assets for US$2.45 billion offers the best value and greater transaction certainty for shareholders,” Rio’s chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a statement.

“Yancoal’s revised offer is the most attractive because it removes the deferred payment structure, can meet the timeline we have set for the transaction, and has given us certainty regarding the outstanding regulatory approvals required.”

Under the original proposal, Yancoal was to pay an initial sum of US$1.95 billion and the rest as deferred payments, but would now make a single payment of US$2.45 billion, Rio said.

Yancoal had already been given the green light by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board, while the Glencore plan was subject to Australian regulatory approval.

Dual-listed Rio said it would put the Yancoal offer to shareholders in Britain and Australia later this month, with the transaction expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year.

Rio, which in February reported a surge in annual net profit thanks to improving commodity prices, is selling Coal & Allied in a divestment drive which analysts expect will lead to a complete exit from the sector.

Yancoal operates several mines across Australia including in New South Wales, while Glencore operates 18 open-cut and underground coal mines across the country.

Rio Tinto Tuesday recommended China-backed Yancoal as the buyer of most of its Australian coal mines, rebuffing a surprise higher bid from commodities giant Glencore earlier this month.

The world's second-largest miner said in January it was selling Coal & Allied to Yancoal Australia -- majority-controlled by China's Yanzhou Coal -- for US$2.45 billion.

But Glencore, which like Yancoal also operates numerous coal mines in Australia, offered US$100 million more for the assets -- in New South Wales state -- earlier this month.

Rio said it spoke to both parties but still favoured Yancoal since the deal was expected to be completed faster due to greater funding and regulatory certainty.

Yanzhou Coal is one of China's largest mining groups by market capitalisation.

"We believe Yancoal's offer to purchase our thermal coal assets for US$2.45 billion offers the best value and greater transaction certainty for shareholders," Rio's chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a statement.

"Yancoal's revised offer is the most attractive because it removes the deferred payment structure, can meet the timeline we have set for the transaction, and has given us certainty regarding the outstanding regulatory approvals required."

Under the original proposal, Yancoal was to pay an initial sum of US$1.95 billion and the rest as deferred payments, but would now make a single payment of US$2.45 billion, Rio said.

Yancoal had already been given the green light by Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board, while the Glencore plan was subject to Australian regulatory approval.

Dual-listed Rio said it would put the Yancoal offer to shareholders in Britain and Australia later this month, with the transaction expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year.

Rio, which in February reported a surge in annual net profit thanks to improving commodity prices, is selling Coal & Allied in a divestment drive which analysts expect will lead to a complete exit from the sector.

Yancoal operates several mines across Australia including in New South Wales, while Glencore operates 18 open-cut and underground coal mines across the country.

Philippine Airlines orders seven planes for $235 million

Philippine Airlines will buy seven planes from Canada’s Bombardier as part of an effort to regain its dominance of the growing air travel market, the carrier said Tuesday.PAL said it sealed the deal for seven Q400 turboprops, worth $235 million at list…

Philippine Airlines will buy seven planes from Canada's Bombardier as part of an effort to regain its dominance of the growing air travel market, the carrier said Tuesday.

PAL said it sealed the deal for seven Q400 turboprops, worth $235 million at list prices, at the Paris Air Show.

The carrier aims to increase its fleet serving smaller islands in the archipelagic nation.

"We used to be the only carrier in the Philippines. We used to be the dominant domestic player," a statement quoted PAL president Jaime Bautista as saying in Paris.

However the rise of budget airlines starting in the late 1990s eroded PAL's market share. Upstart Cebu Pacific eventually overtook it to become the Philippines' largest carrier.

"The management of Philippine Airlines believes we should get back the market share we used to own," Bautista said.

The new 86-seat Q400s and other types of narrow-bodied aircraft would enable PAL to do that, he added.

The acquisition of the seven Q400s would be on top of five Q400 planes worth $168 million which PAL ordered last December but which have not yet been delivered.

PAL, which has a fleet of 81 planes, already operates five Q400s and four smaller Q300 aircraft from Bombardier. These service airports that cannot handle wide-bodied planes.

Company headed by Hong Kong’s Li plays down retirement claim

The company headed by Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing played down a report Tuesday that he plans to retire by next year, insisting he is “in very good health”.The Wall Street Journal said Li, nicknamed “Superman” for his financial acumen and influe…

The company headed by Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing played down a report Tuesday that he plans to retire by next year, insisting he is "in very good health".

The Wall Street Journal said Li, nicknamed "Superman" for his financial acumen and influence over the city, had told associates he would step down as chairman of his global conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings by 2018.

His retirement would likely come before his 90th birthday in July next year, the Journal said, citing "people briefed by the tycoon". One source said Li could retire by the end of this year.

But the firm played down the speculation. "Mr Li is in very good health," a spokesman said in an emailed statement.

"There is no concrete timetable at this stage and Mr Li will make his official announcement when he decides to retire."

The statement said Li had talked about his retirement "from time to time" and had expressed confidence in his eldest son Victor to lead the company in future.

Li is regularly asked about retirement at press conferences but never gives a straight answer.

However, a sweeping revamp of his vast empire in 2015 was seen as a sign that he was paving the way for Victor to take over.

Li's flagship CK Hutchison controls assets in telecoms, utilities, ports and other industries in over 50 countries.

His Cheung Kong Infrastructure company operates development, investment and infrastructure businesses in mainland China, the UK, Canada and other countries.

Li, still an avid golfer, got his start in 1950 making plastic flowers.

After diversifying into property, he made large profits in the 1960s and in the following decades his businesses reached into many sectors of Hong Kong life.

Local legend has it that he can even control the weather -- ensuring typhoons do not hit Hong Kong during the working day.

Ex-Barclays CEO charged with fraud over Qatar funding 

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said Tuesday it had charged Barclays bank and four former managers, including a chief executive, with “conspiracy to commit fraud” linked to emergency fundraising from Qatar during the financial crisis.”The Serious Fraud …

Britain's Serious Fraud Office said Tuesday it had charged Barclays bank and four former managers, including a chief executive, with "conspiracy to commit fraud" linked to emergency fundraising from Qatar during the financial crisis.

"The Serious Fraud Office has today charged Barclays Plc and four individuals with conspiracy to commit fraud and the provision of unlawful financial assistance" linked to capital raising from Qatar in 2008, the SFO said in a statement, adding that former CEO John Varley was one of those to face court.

"The charges relate to Barclays Plc?s capital raising arrangements with Qatar Holding LLC and Challenger Universal Ltd, which took place in June and October 2008," the SFO said.

It added that they relate also to a $3-billion loan facility made available to the State of Qatar acting through the country's Ministry of Economy and Finance in November 2008.

The other three charged are Barclays' former executive chairman of investment banking Roger Jenkins, the former chief executive of Barclays wealth and investment management Thomas Kalaris and former European head of financial institutions group Richard Boath.

The defendants will appear before London's Westminster Magistrates? Court on July 3, the statement added.

Airbag maker Takata plummets on bankruptcy fears

Takata shares dived again Tuesday, losing one-third of their value in just two days of trading on reports the troubled airbag maker will file for bankruptcy protection and sell its assets to a US company.The embattled stock finished the day at 324 yen,…

Takata shares dived again Tuesday, losing one-third of their value in just two days of trading on reports the troubled airbag maker will file for bankruptcy protection and sell its assets to a US company.

The embattled stock finished the day at 324 yen, tumbling by nearly 20 percent -- its maximum daily loss limit -- on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, after it plunged 16.5 percent Monday.

Investors bolted for the exit doors after Japan's Nikkei business daily said the company, with liabilities exceeding one trillion yen ($9 billion), would make a formal decision about the bankruptcy filing at a board meeting this month.

Takata, at the centre of the global auto industry's biggest-ever safety recall, was suspended from trading on Friday pending a response to the Nikkei story and other similar reports.

Later Friday Takata said that no decision had been made but "all options" were on the table.

American autoparts maker Key Safety Systems, owned by China's Ningbo Joyson Electronic, will take over the firm's operations, the Nikkei's report on Friday said.

The board of Takata's US-based unit TK Holdings is expected to approve a filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy there this month, it added.

Like on Monday, the shares went untraded for most of Tuesday session's as the number of sell orders swamped buy orders.

Nearly 100 million cars, including about 70 million in the United States, were subject to the airbag recall, the largest in auto history, over the defective Takata airbags. They have been blamed for at least 16 deaths globally.

Global ratings agency Standard and Poor's said Monday that the possible bankruptcy filing by Takata will not immediately impact its rating on Honda, a major Takata customer, as the Japanese automaker has already written down costs linked to the faulty airbags.

Last month four automakers including Toyota and BMW agreed to pay $553 million to settle a US lawsuit over the airbags.

The suit filed in late February claimed the carmakers were aware of the dangerous defects and used the airbags in their vehicles anyway. Nearly 16 million cars were involved.

Takata pleaded guilty to fraud in February and agreed to pay a $1 billion penalty to settle the issue with US regulators.

The Friday reports said a new company created under Key Safety would buy Takata's operations and continue supplying airbags, seat belts and other products.

The downsized Takata would remain responsible for recall-related liabilities, the Nikkei said.

Australian gambling giants get approval to form powerhouse

Australian gambling giants Tabcorp and Tatts were Tuesday given the green light by the competition tribunal to merge, paving the way for the creation of a betting powerhouse following months of uncertainty.The rival Australian-listed firms announced th…

Australian gambling giants Tabcorp and Tatts were Tuesday given the green light by the competition tribunal to merge, paving the way for the creation of a betting powerhouse following months of uncertainty.

The rival Australian-listed firms announced their plan to merge in October, but the proposal encountered several hurdles including questions raised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the impact on competition in Queensland state.

The Australian Competition Tribunal -- which Tabcorp took the deal to in order to sidestep the watchdog -- gave it the go-ahead provided the firm sold its Queensland gaming business.

"The tribunal is satisfied in all the circumstances that the proposed merger would result, or would be likely to result, in such a benefit to the public that the acquisition should be allowed to occur," tribunal president Justice John Middleton said.

Tatts and Tabcorp have pursued the idea of closer ties for years in a bid to cut costs and chase opportunities globally, and investors welcomed the decision, which would see the formation of a Aus$8.6 billion (US$6.5 billion) titan.

Shares in Tabcorp rose 4.86 percent to Aus$4.85 while Tatts was up 4.08 percent at Aus$4.34, after both lifted a trading halt in Sydney on Tuesday afternoon.

Tabcorp's chairman Paula Dwyer said the merger would allow the new entity to be "well positioned to invest, innovate and compete in a global gambling entertainment marketplace".

The company -- which runs betting operations in Victoria and New South Wales and has a broadcasting and media arm built around Sky Racing -- said about Aus$130 million a year would be added to gross operating income from synergies and other improvements.

Tatts, which has a betting shop network in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania and also operates a lotteries business, added that it was working with Tabcorp on the remaining government and regulatory approvals.

Both companies also compete in online gambling.

The merger is expected to kick in after a Tatts shareholder meeting in August.

The plan had also been challenged by a consortium led by US private equity firm KKR, which lobbed in a bid in December that was later withdrawn after it was rejected.

Tokyo rallies on weak yen but most Asia markets struggle

Tokyo’s Nikkei rallied Tuesday as the dollar extended gains against the yen on fresh indications the Federal Reserve will lift interest rates again this year, while technology firms tracked a sector rebound on Wall Street.

However, most other regional markets struggled after Monday’s healthy gains, despite being given a positive lead from Wall Street where the Dow and S&P 500 closed at fresh record highs.

One of the key drivers of Monday’s US rally were comments from influential New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley, who reaffirmed the bank’s plan to press on with its rate hikes and forecast of higher inflation.

He said that despite tepid price rises, he was confident that “if the labour market continues to tighten, wages will gradually pick up”.

“Hitting the right chords and sounding dismissive about the recent slowdown in inflation, an unrepentantly hawkish Dudley provided the USD bulls with enough fodder,” Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA, said in a note.

The remarks came after Fed boss Janet Yellen set out a more hawkish tone than usual, while the central bank set out plans to wind down its asset holdings to suck cash out of the financial system.

The greenback jumped in US trade and kicked on in Asia, heading towards 112 yen for the first time since the end of May.

Tokyo stocks ended the morning session 1.1 percent higher, with exporters key winners thanks to the weaker yen, while tech firms bounced after two weeks of sharp losses.

Other major markets struggled. Hong Kong was slightly lower, Sydney fell 0.4 percent and Seoul gave up 0.1 percent. Singapore shed 0.2 percent.

Shanghai also slipped 0.2 percent as investors await a decision by MSCI on whether to include it in its list of benchmark indexes.

The bourse has been denied for the previous three years over concerns about certain restrictions, despite Beijing providing greater access to its domestic, renminbi-based capital markets.

MSCI said China still maintains problematic restrictions including a 20 percent monthly repatriation limit, which it called “a significant hurdle for investors,” and too many restrictions on new financial product offerings.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 percent at 20,287.67 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: FLAT at 25,930.96

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,138.97

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.66 yen from 111.54 yen at 2100 GMT

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1152 from $1.1149

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2732 from $1.2734

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP four cents at $44.24 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP seven cents at $46.98

New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 21,528.99 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.8 percent at 7,523.81 (close)

Tokyo's Nikkei rallied Tuesday as the dollar extended gains against the yen on fresh indications the Federal Reserve will lift interest rates again this year, while technology firms tracked a sector rebound on Wall Street.

However, most other regional markets struggled after Monday's healthy gains, despite being given a positive lead from Wall Street where the Dow and S&P 500 closed at fresh record highs.

One of the key drivers of Monday's US rally were comments from influential New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley, who reaffirmed the bank's plan to press on with its rate hikes and forecast of higher inflation.

He said that despite tepid price rises, he was confident that "if the labour market continues to tighten, wages will gradually pick up".

"Hitting the right chords and sounding dismissive about the recent slowdown in inflation, an unrepentantly hawkish Dudley provided the USD bulls with enough fodder," Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA, said in a note.

The remarks came after Fed boss Janet Yellen set out a more hawkish tone than usual, while the central bank set out plans to wind down its asset holdings to suck cash out of the financial system.

The greenback jumped in US trade and kicked on in Asia, heading towards 112 yen for the first time since the end of May.

Tokyo stocks ended the morning session 1.1 percent higher, with exporters key winners thanks to the weaker yen, while tech firms bounced after two weeks of sharp losses.

Other major markets struggled. Hong Kong was slightly lower, Sydney fell 0.4 percent and Seoul gave up 0.1 percent. Singapore shed 0.2 percent.

Shanghai also slipped 0.2 percent as investors await a decision by MSCI on whether to include it in its list of benchmark indexes.

The bourse has been denied for the previous three years over concerns about certain restrictions, despite Beijing providing greater access to its domestic, renminbi-based capital markets.

MSCI said China still maintains problematic restrictions including a 20 percent monthly repatriation limit, which it called "a significant hurdle for investors," and too many restrictions on new financial product offerings.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 percent at 20,287.67 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 25,930.96

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,138.97

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.66 yen from 111.54 yen at 2100 GMT

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1152 from $1.1149

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2732 from $1.2734

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP four cents at $44.24 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP seven cents at $46.98

New York - Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 21,528.99 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.8 percent at 7,523.81 (close)

UK economy faces slowdown on political turmoil, Brexit: CBI

Britain’s economy will slow in the coming years, the CBI business lobby warned Tuesday, blaming domestic political turmoil — and the impact of Brexit one day after EU divorce talks began.The economy will expand by 1.6 percent this year before slowing …

Britain's economy will slow in the coming years, the CBI business lobby warned Tuesday, blaming domestic political turmoil -- and the impact of Brexit one day after EU divorce talks began.

The economy will expand by 1.6 percent this year before slowing to 1.4 percent in 2018, according to upgraded forecasts from the Confederation of British Industry, after 1.8-percent growth in 2016.

The CBI, which is Britain's biggest employers' grouping, also cited fallout from this month's inconclusive general election.

"The UK is expected to see steady but subdued economic growth over the next couple of years," it said in a statement.

"The economy continues to face headwinds, with ongoing political uncertainty and Brexit negotiations, which will require careful navigation by business and the government."

The latest growth forecasts marked upgrades from prior guidance of 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent, for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

- Economy 'shifts down a gear' -

"Growth should be steady, if restrained, over the next couple of years as the pace of the economy shifts down a gear," added CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn.

"While the country's exporters should emerge as a real catalyst of growth, rising inflation and stubbornly low wage growth mean that people are already starting to feel the pinch.

"So, after a frantic period in Westminster, this is the time for a renewed focus on the economic fundamentals of this country."

Britain and the European Union finally kicked off formal Brexit talks in Brussels on Monday, vowing to work constructively for a deal despite disarray in London over whether to go for a "hard" or "soft" divorce.

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly insisted that Britain will leave Europe's single market or tariff-free zone in order to control EU immigration, thus delivering a so-called "hard" Brexit.

However, May's position weakened this month as she failed to secure an absolute majority in the election -- which the premier had called to strengthen her negotiating hand.

Meanwhile on Monday, five major British business bodies called in a letter to economy minister Greg Clark for continued access to the European single market until a Brexit agreement has been sealed.

The groups -- comprising the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, the EEF manufacturers' organisation, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors -- all urged the government to "put the economy first".

- UK economy is 'centre stage' -

"The interesting opportunity that we have is for the economy to be back centre stage," Fairbairn told reporters on Monday.

"Our view is that there has not been enough emphasis on the economy in the past few months."

She added: "One of the things that we are hearing from all parties is the importance of the economy right now -- the impact on people's lives -- because that is what's going to make a difference to productivity, to fairness, to living standards.

"So... we would hope to see that having a real impact on those negotiations."

Later on Tuesday, British finance minister Philip Hammond will deliver a Brexit-themed speech in central London.

The Mansion House event had been cancelled last Thursday after the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.

NAFTA renegotiation may extend into 2018: US official

Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement could take until next year, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday.The remarks underscore the pressures facing the current administration as it attempts to deliver on one of President Donald …

Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement could take until next year, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday.

The remarks underscore the pressures facing the current administration as it attempts to deliver on one of President Donald Trump's signature campaign pledges.

Speaking at a trade event near Washington, Ross said that in an "ideal world" talks would be completed in 2017 but that would mean talks would have to happen at "record speed."

"So, I don't know whether we'll be able to do that," he said. "But we're certainly mindful of the calendar and the fact that the calendar is fundamentally not our friend."

The Trump administration last month gave lawmakers 90 days' notice of the administration's intention to start to renegotiate the 1994 trilateral trade pact with Mexico and Canada, and talks are due to begin in August.

But the talks could be complicated by Mexico's general elections in July 2018, which observers say mean President Enrique Pena Nieto may not have a free hand for bargaining; and by campaigning for the US congressional midterm elections late next year.

In addition, there is the expiration in mid-2018 of "fast-track" authority which provides streamlined treatment in the US Congress of any trade legislation, although Congress could extend the rule for another three years.

On the campaign trail, Trump described NAFTA as a "disaster" for the United States and vowed to exit from the deal. But he retreated from those threats once in office following pleas from Mexican and Canadian officials.

The Trump administration has taken an aggressive stance on trade issues, and waded into several disputes with Canada, over lumber and dairy, and with Mexico over sugar.

Trump also pledged to be tougher on unfair trade practices with countries like China, and on Monday, the Commerce Department announced yet another trade complaint against that country, this time over plywood.

Commerce said preliminary results found Chinese exporters were selling hardwood plywood on the US market at prices that are as much as 114.7 percent below fair value.

A final determination in the anti-dumping complaint brought by several American lumber companies is due in August, but US customs will begin to collect duties immediately, the Commerce Department said.

Last year, the trade in plywood, widely used in construction, was valued at $1.1 billion.

In April, Trump invoked national security interests in ordering a probe of steel imports from China, which many trade experts say is flooding the world market and driving down prices.

Asian-American band win top court case over offensive trademark

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of an Asian-American band calling themselves The Slants, who had been denied the right to trademark their name because it was deemed a racial slur.The move is expected also to work in favor of the Washingto…

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of an Asian-American band calling themselves The Slants, who had been denied the right to trademark their name because it was deemed a racial slur.

The move is expected also to work in favor of the Washington Redskins, the football team whose controversial name has been attacked as racist by Native American groups and whose trademarks were cancelled as a result.

The Supreme Court decided that the US Patent and Trademark Office could not refuse the Portland, Oregon-based band the right to trademark the name, generally seen as a racial slur on Asians but which the group's founder, Simon Tam, had said was an act of "re-appropriation."

Tam likened the use of the word to African-Americans using the highly charged racist term "nigger" in their music.

The case has drawn intense interest as it focused on the rights of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment of the US constitution, at a time of heightened racial tensions in the country.

Boeing announces latest plane at Paris Air Show

Boeing announced Monday what it claims will be the most efficient jet yet in the highly competitive civil aviation market as it tries to claw back market share from rival Airbus.”Today, it is our pleasure to officially announce the newest member of our…

Boeing announced Monday what it claims will be the most efficient jet yet in the highly competitive civil aviation market as it tries to claw back market share from rival Airbus.

"Today, it is our pleasure to officially announce the newest member of our 737 family, the 737 MAX 10," Kevin McAllister, head of the company's commercial aviation division, told journalists as the Paris Air Show got under way.

The MAX 10 will be the largest of the updated 737 series, which competes head on with Airbus's A320 neo family. With the latest advances in engines and aerodynamics, they promise significant fuel savings to airlines, which have responded with hundreds of orders for single-aisle airlines that are the workhorses of their fleets.

Airbus, which moved first to update its aircrafts used in most midrange flights, now has a 60 percent market share.

The 737 MAX 10, which can carry up to 230 passengers, is the largest in the class, and Boeing said it would be five percent cheaper to operate than the Airbus A321neo. As these planes can carry more passengers, they have attracted interest from low-cost airlines as well as carriers looking to exploit their range that allows them to make flights across the Atlantic.

McAllister said the 737 MAX 10 would "the most efficient single-aisle airplane in the skies".

Boeing also announced its first order for 10 of the aircraft from jet leasing firm BOC Aviation in a deal worth $1.25 billion (1.12 billion euros).

Boeing has a test version of the 737 MAX 9 on display at Le Bourget airport north of Paris, which hosts the air show.

While Airbus and Boeing dominate the world's civil aviation industry, the duopoly is not without challengers: Competition is looming, notably from Russia and China, which have been test-flying their own mid-range models.

The airshow comes a little too early for either Russia's Irkut, with its MC-21, or China's Comac, with the much-flagged C919, to be able to showcase their aircraft there, but both will leave little doubt that they expect to win a big slice of the aviation pie in the future.

Airbus will also showcase its new long-haul model A350-1000 and Boeing its 787-10 Dreamliner, while Ukraine's Antonov will present its 132 D.

While new civilian aircraft orders will probably fall short of the $130 billion the Paris show clocked up last time -- mostly thanks to booming orders for Boeing and Airbus -- the industry is still optimistic about sustained growth.

Airbus said this month that it expected the market for large passenger planes to more than double in the next 20 years, driven by growth from Asian markets.

Raising its previous forecasts for the next two decades, the European aircraft maker also said a slowdown in orders over the past several months did not signal a drop in the market.

"The trend is positive," said Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier.

It predicts the need for 35,000 new planes worth $5.3 trillion over the next two decades, an increase from last year's estimates.

Airbus earlier warned it expected slow orders this year and perhaps next year, too, but called it a normal part of the business cycle.

- Supersonic roars -

French President Emmanuel Macron officially opened the biennial Paris Air Show, arriving on a Airbus A400M military transport plane.

Military aircraft are also a key part of the air show, and the spectacular displays of supersonic combat planes are a key draw for the crowds.

One star performer will be Lockheed Martin's F-35A next-generation fighter jet, scheduled to make demonstration flights during the air show.

Some 200,000 member of the public are expected to visit the air show, which runs to June 25. That is in addition to the 150,000 industry professionals from 2,370 companies.

burs-rl/js

Shares in airbag maker Takata dive on bankruptcy fears

Takata shares dived 16.5 percent Monday in response to news reports that the troubled airbag maker plans to file for bankruptcy and sell its assets to a US company.The stock finished the day at 404 yen ($3.6), tumbling by its maximum daily loss limit o…

Takata shares dived 16.5 percent Monday in response to news reports that the troubled airbag maker plans to file for bankruptcy and sell its assets to a US company.

The stock finished the day at 404 yen ($3.6), tumbling by its maximum daily loss limit on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The Nikkei business daily has said the company, with liabilities exceeding one trillion yen ($9 billion), would make a formal decision about the bankruptcy filing at a board meeting this month.

Takata, at the centre of the global auto industry's biggest-ever safety recall, was suspended from trading on Friday pending a response to the Nikkei story and other similar reports.

Late Friday Takata said that no decision had been made but "all options" were on the table.

American autoparts maker Key Safety Systems, owned by China's Ningbo Joyson Electronic, will take over the firm's operations, the Nikkei's report on Friday said.

The board of Takata's US-based unit TK Holdings is expected to approve a filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy there this month, it added.

The shares went untraded for most of Monday as the number of sell orders swamped buy orders.

"Once the word is out (about bankruptcy) that will scare the company?s business partners away and it becomes unable to conduct normal business transactions," speeding up its bankruptcy filing, said Toru Kitani, an analyst at SMBC Friend Securities.

"Given its massive liabilities, there will be no resources left to pay dividends to shareholders. In essence, shareholders' investment is doomed to become a mere scrap of paper. It's an extremely risky stock."

Nearly 100 million cars, including about 70 million in the United States, were subject to the airbag recall, the largest in auto history, over the defective Takata airbags. These have been blamed for 11 deaths in the United States alone.

Last month four automakers including Toyota and BMW agreed to pay $553 million to settle a US lawsuit over the airbags.

The suit filed in late February claimed the carmakers were aware of the dangerous defects and used the airbags in their vehicles anyway. Nearly 16 million cars were involved.

Takata pleaded guilty to fraud in February and agreed to pay a $1 billion penalty to settle the issue with US regulators.

The Friday reports said a new company created under Key Safety would buy Takata's operations and continue supplying airbags, seat belts and other products.

The downsized Takata would remain responsible for recall-related liabilities, the Nikkei said.

Head of major Taiwan bank held over ‘illegal loans’

The head of a major Taiwanese bank has been detained on suspicion of granting illegal loans, just months after another banking scandal rocked the island’s financial sector.

SinoPac Holdings chairman Ho Shou-chuan and two others are being probed over an alleged Tw$5 billion ($164.8 million) of loans made to an “offshore company with no real operations”.

It is not yet clear what relationship they have with the firm that received the money. The case comes after the ex-chairman of Mega International Commercial Bank was indicted in December on charges including insider trading.

That followed a massive $180 million fine slapped on Mega by American authorities after they said they found “suspicious transactions” between its New York and Panama branches.

Taipei District Court approved on Sunday a request by prosecutors to take Sinopac’s Ho and the other two suspects into custody, saying there was a risk of evidence tampering or collusion.

Local prosecutors investigating the case searched Ho’s residence and office last week.

“(Ho) and the others are suspected of jointly violating laws including the Securities and Exchange Act and breach of trust,” prosecutors said.

No formal charges have been made yet.

The case revolves around alleged illegal lending to a company called J&R Trading Co. by a SinoPac subsidiary since 2009.

Local media said the funds were routed to finance an investment into a commercial building in Shanghai.

According to the court statement, Ho insisted at most he is accountable for “administrative negligence” and did not cause the company any damage.

SinoPac held an emergency board meeting Saturday and appointed an acting chairman following Ho’s arrest.

The bank said it will cooperate with the investigation and that its operations are continuing as normal.

Two other people critical in the probe have not been questioned yet as they are out of the country, the court said Sunday.

Taiwan last year toughened its anti-money laundering laws following the Mega bank scandal.

That case also led to the resignation of the island’s top financial regulator, who was criticised over the handling of the fallout.

Mega bank was found to have links with a Panamanian law firm at the centre of a huge data dump known as the Panama Papers scandal.

The trove of leaked papers revealed murky offshore financial dealings that used shell companies to help politicians, celebrities and sports stars to skirt taxes.

The head of a major Taiwanese bank has been detained on suspicion of granting illegal loans, just months after another banking scandal rocked the island's financial sector.

SinoPac Holdings chairman Ho Shou-chuan and two others are being probed over an alleged Tw$5 billion ($164.8 million) of loans made to an "offshore company with no real operations".

It is not yet clear what relationship they have with the firm that received the money. The case comes after the ex-chairman of Mega International Commercial Bank was indicted in December on charges including insider trading.

That followed a massive $180 million fine slapped on Mega by American authorities after they said they found "suspicious transactions" between its New York and Panama branches.

Taipei District Court approved on Sunday a request by prosecutors to take Sinopac's Ho and the other two suspects into custody, saying there was a risk of evidence tampering or collusion.

Local prosecutors investigating the case searched Ho's residence and office last week.

"(Ho) and the others are suspected of jointly violating laws including the Securities and Exchange Act and breach of trust," prosecutors said.

No formal charges have been made yet.

The case revolves around alleged illegal lending to a company called J&R Trading Co. by a SinoPac subsidiary since 2009.

Local media said the funds were routed to finance an investment into a commercial building in Shanghai.

According to the court statement, Ho insisted at most he is accountable for "administrative negligence" and did not cause the company any damage.

SinoPac held an emergency board meeting Saturday and appointed an acting chairman following Ho's arrest.

The bank said it will cooperate with the investigation and that its operations are continuing as normal.

Two other people critical in the probe have not been questioned yet as they are out of the country, the court said Sunday.

Taiwan last year toughened its anti-money laundering laws following the Mega bank scandal.

That case also led to the resignation of the island's top financial regulator, who was criticised over the handling of the fallout.

Mega bank was found to have links with a Panamanian law firm at the centre of a huge data dump known as the Panama Papers scandal.

The trove of leaked papers revealed murky offshore financial dealings that used shell companies to help politicians, celebrities and sports stars to skirt taxes.

Boeing, Airbus to battle it out at Paris Air Show

The aircraft industry descends on Paris for the world’s biggest airshow Monday, which sees bitter rivals Boeing and Airbus battle for contracts as newcomers snap at the heels of the two giants.Single-aisle planes for short and medium distances are the …

The aircraft industry descends on Paris for the world's biggest airshow Monday, which sees bitter rivals Boeing and Airbus battle for contracts as newcomers snap at the heels of the two giants.

Single-aisle planes for short and medium distances are the hottest ticket in the world's civil aviation industry, with airline demand for models in the Airbus A320 family giving the European company an edge, for now, over its American opponent, which is racing to return in force to the mid-range segment.

But the duopoly is not without challengers: Competition is looming, notably from Russia and China who have each been test-flying their own mid-range models.

Boeing, meanwhile, is to showcase the 737 Max 9 model as its anti-Airbus weapon in a market segment where squeezing a few more seats into a narrow-body cabin while eking out increased fuel efficiency over greater ranges is key.

Airbus's biggest-capacity member of the mid-range family, the brand new A321neo, is able to fit in 236 seats in an all-economy class version. Low-cost airlines are eyeing the aircraft to break profitably into transatlantic routes.

Coming up next from Boeing is the 737 Max 10 which is to match that capacity, while also being lighter and cheaper, the plane maker has said. Test flights have been completed and Boeing is now talking to customers about placing orders.

"This airplane would give airlines increased capacity and the lowest seat costs ever for a single-aisle airplane," said Randy Tinseth, vice president for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"Simply put, the 737 MAX 10X would be the most profitable single-aisle airplane the industry has ever seen," he wrote in a blog entry.

Airbus will also showcase its new long-haul model A350-1000 and Boeing its 787-10 Dreamliner while Ukraine's Antonov will present its 132 D.

While new civilian aircraft orders will probably fall short of the $130 billion the Paris show clocked up last time -- mostly thanks to booming orders for Boeing and Airbus -- the industry is still optimistic about sustained long-term growth.

Airbus said earlier this month it expects the market for large passenger planes to more than double in the next 20 years driven by growth from Asian markets.

The planemaker predicts the need for 35,000 new planes worth $5.3 trillion over the next two decades, an increase from last year's estimates.

The biennial Paris Airshow, which runs to June 25, is expected to attract 150,000 industry professionals from 2,370 companies.

There will also be some 200,000 regular visitors, many of whom will come especially for spectacular displays of supersonic military hardware as fast combat planes break the sound barrier. One star performer will be Lockheed Martin's F-35A new generation fighter jet.

burs-jh/rl/klm

Asian markets extend gains at start of the week

Asian markets on Monday built on last week’s gains following another record on Wall Street, while the euro edged up on news that French President Emmanuel Macron’s party had secured a healthy majority in National Assembly elections. The Dow in New York…

Asian markets on Monday built on last week's gains following another record on Wall Street, while the euro edged up on news that French President Emmanuel Macron's party had secured a healthy majority in National Assembly elections.

The Dow in New York closed at a fresh all-time high thanks to a bounce in energy stocks, providing a positive lead for Asia, with a weaker yen helping Tokyo rally.

The dollar climbed above 111 yen Monday after Japan posted a surprise trade deficit for May. The Nikkei ended the morning session 0.6 percent higher.

Hong Kong added 0.9 percent and Shanghai was up 0.3 percent, while Seoul gained 0.6 percent and Sydney 0.5 percent. Wellington, Taipei and Manila were also well up.

With few drivers for business this week, eyes will be on the start of talks between Britain and the European Union on its extraction from the economic bloc.

The negotiations come after the ruling Conservative party lost its parliamentary majority in elections this month, weakening the government's hand.

"How these negotiations evolve will likely hold the near term fate for the Pound," said Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA.

The pound, which tumbled in response to the election result, continues to struggle around two-month lows against the dollar.

The euro edged up to sit about $1.12 after Macron's year-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) and its allies won 351 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, giving the president a strong mandate to enact business-friendly reforms.

However, the currency's gains were tempered by the fact the party did not secure the forecast landslide.

On oil markets prices dipped on lingering glut concerns as US companies' rising production offsets big output cuts agreed by OPEC and Russia.

The Baker Hughes rig count showed another rise last week, Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, said in a note.

"That's 22 weeks in a row that oil rigs have been added, a record run," he said, although he pointed out that the rate of new additions was easing.

"Even just a casual observance of the energy news would show that the conversation is turning a little from OPEC and its production cut deal efficacy to US production and its sustainability ? or growth ? at these levels," he added.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 20,062.19 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.8 percent at 25,841.05

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,132.20

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1199 from $1.1194 at 2100 GMT on Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2768 from $1.2777

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.05 yen from 110.89 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 19 cents at $44.55 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 18 cents at $47.19 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 21,384.28 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,463.54 (close)

Japan logs first trade deficit in four months in May

Japan logged its first trade deficit in four months in May despite growth in exports, as imports soared on higher energy bills, government data showed Monday.Japan logged a surprise deficit of 203 billion yen ($1.8 billion), according to data from the …

Japan logged its first trade deficit in four months in May despite growth in exports, as imports soared on higher energy bills, government data showed Monday.

Japan logged a surprise deficit of 203 billion yen ($1.8 billion), according to data from the finance ministry, despite market expectations that the world's third largest economy would have posted a surplus.

Exports in May rose 14.9 percent from a year earlier to 5.85 trillion yen thanks to an increase in shipments of cars and steel, chalking up growth for the sixth consecutive month.

But imports expanded faster, rising 17.8 percent to 6.05 trillion yen, boosted by heavier costs for liquefied natural gas, coal and crude oil.

Japan's politically sensitive surplus with the United States rose 19.0 percent to 411 billion yen as exports increased 11.6 percent.

US President Donald Trump has vowed to root out "unfair" trade practices around the world and target other countries including Japan.

Israel adopts draft bill to ban ‘harmful’ binary options

The Israeli government on Sunday adopted a draft law banning the country’s firms from selling binary options to clients abroad, after widespread complaints of fraud.The move comes a year after authorities in Israel banned the sale of binary options to …

The Israeli government on Sunday adopted a draft law banning the country's firms from selling binary options to clients abroad, after widespread complaints of fraud.

The move comes a year after authorities in Israel banned the sale of binary options to Israeli citizens.

The draft law is to be submitted to the Knesset, or parliament, where it must pass three readings.

The bill also bans the sale by Israeli firms of financial products if the trader carrying out the transaction is not licenced in the country where the client lives.

The chairman of the Israel Securities Authority, Shmuel Hauser, said the sale of binary options was causing huge economic harm to people around the world, and "encouraging anti-Semitism".

Avishai Mandelblit, a government legal adviser, welcomed the adoption of the draft law saying, it was targeting "criminal acts".

Israel has had the lion's share of companies doing brisk business selling binary options, with 15,000 employees handling hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the past few years, binary options have become very popular, allowing investors to buy and sell online in the way of gamblers, betting on currency fluctuations, commodities or shares.

Transactions are usually short-term, and investors sometimes only have minutes to decide, for example, if the price of the dollar against the euro will go up or down.

‘Cars 3’ speeds past ‘Wonder Woman’ at box office

Disney’s “Cars 3” raced past superhero flick “Wonder Woman” to number one at the North American box office over the weekend, with a $53.3 million haul, industry estimates showed Sunday.The third installment in Pixar’s “Cars” franchise featuring Lightni…

Disney's "Cars 3" raced past superhero flick "Wonder Woman" to number one at the North American box office over the weekend, with a $53.3 million haul, industry estimates showed Sunday.

The third installment in Pixar's "Cars" franchise featuring Lightning McQueen and his longtime friends fighting off a challenge from a new generation of racers is voiced by stars including Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo and Armie Hammer.

Despite being knocked down to second place, "Wonderwoman" still had an impressive showing.

The action film starring Gal Gadot netted $40.8 million, for a total of $274.6 million in domestic ticket sales in three weeks, according to industry tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Gadot, of the "Fast and Furious" series, plays an Amazonian goddess-princess-superhero whose lasso, bracelet and tiara have magical powers.

In third place was newcomer "All Eyez on Me." The Tupac biopic beat expectations with $27.1 million in ticket sales for Demetrius Shipp Jr.'s portrayal of the legendary rapper's rise, prison sentence and shooting death.

It buried "The Mummy," starring Tom Cruise, which placed fourth. The latest revival of the original "Mummy" made in 1932 took in $13.9 million in its second weekend.

The film, which cost $125 million, has been widely panned by critics.

Fifth place went to "47 Meters Down," the adventures of two sisters who fend off a shark attack after going cage diving. It scored $11.5 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" ($8.5 million)

"Rough Night" ($8.1 million)

"Captain Underpants" ($7.4 million)

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" ($5 million)

"It Comes at Night" ($2.6 million)