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Archive for ◊ April, 2014 ◊

The OpenSSL Heartbleed security fiasco made everyone aware of just how fragile and under-financed many vital open source projects were. To help fix the cash flow problem, a dozen top technology companies, including Amazon, IBM, Intel, and VMware, joined forces with The Linux Foundation to form the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII). Heres how its going to work.

Theres no question of the need. Steve Marquess, the OpenSSL Software Foundation president, said after the Heartbleed security hole was revealed that OpenSSL had never received enough donations to properly sustain the manpower levels needed to support such a complex and critical software product.

As Matthew Green, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and OpenSSL critic, told BuzzFeed. The OpenSSL Foundation has some very devoted people. It just doesn’t have enough of them, and it can’t afford enough of them. Or, as he put in a tweet, Windows has a dev team. OpenSSL these days is two guys and a mangy dog (said with love –theyre great guys, and a great dog)…

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Johnny Cash’s home sells for $2 million
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 | Author:

A sprawling home in Henderson, Tennessee which once belonged to late music legend Johnny Cash has been sold for $2 million.

The mansion, which the country music star and his wife June Carter Cash called home for more than 40 years, is off the market after bosses at limited liability company Lakehouse Holdings purchased the property. The estate was sold by Bee Gees star Barry Gibb and his wife Linda, who bought the house in 2005, promising to preserve the Cash legacy. They also hoped the setting would serve as an inspiration in their own music. The Gibbs, whose main residence is in Miami, Florida, were planning to completely renovate and restore the lake-front house in 2005, but a fire in 2007 destroyed much of the mostly wooden structure.

The seven-bedroom home was built in 1968, and served as a setting in 2005 Cash biopic Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

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Jawboning May Not Cool China’s Resource Finance Plays
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 | Author:

China banking regulators have long taken aim at a local method in raising credit called collateral financing, as shown this week by turmoil in the market for iron ore. But a close look at those efforts show much of it amounts to jawboning, with little lasting impact on China’s jumpy resource markets.

In collateral financing, commodity importers use their shipments as collateral to circumvent government restrictions on conventional lending methods. Collateral financing comes in various degrees of elaborateness, ranging from a simple arbitrage off the discrepancy between foreign and domestic prices of the commodity, to more complex models involving currency arbitrage and offshore vehicles.

Traders say the practice is alive and kicking across virtually all commodities. Copper has gotten its fair share of attention for its role in these arrangements, but stuff like soybeans, zinc, steel – and now iron ore – also are variously in play.

Iron ore – a mineral used to make steel — came into vogue as financing collateral in March, as falling copper prices made the red metal an increasingly dangerous bet, traders and analysts say. On Monday, local media reports that the China Banking Regulatory Commission was circulating a proposal for a crackdown on iron-ore financing led the commodity’s futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange to fall 5%. Among the proposals: banks from May 1 will increase the size of deposits they require on letters of credit importers use to ship in their commodities.

The banking regulator didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The China Iron and Steel Association said Monday it has no information that the rules were about to be changed. “I’ve received a lot of calls about it and obviously, such a big move will severely affect iron ore traders and steelmakers,” said the association’s executive vice chairman,Wang Xiaoqi. The association has argued in the past that such financing is crucial for a credit-strapped steel industry.

It wouldn’t be the first time the government has tried to curb collateral financing. The practice is deeply ingrained in China’s vast shadow-banking world. It has become more entrenched after China’s central bank emphasized tamping down inflation, which at times made credit hard to come by.

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(Menafn – Canada NewsWire via COMTEX)

Air Canada Successfully Completes US400 Million Unsecured Financing

MONTREAL, Apr 15, 2014 (Menafn – Canada NewsWire via COMTEX) –Air Canada announced today that it has completed its previously announced private offering of US400 million of 7.75% senior unsecured notes due 2021 (the Notes). Air Canada received net proceeds of approximately C432 million from the sale of the Notes and will use these proceeds for general corporate purposes.

The successful completion of our unsecured note offering is another significant transformational event for Air Canada as we enter a new phase of capital investment in our fleet and product, said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive Officer. I was especially pleased with the offerings reception. The capital markets have demonstrated their confidence in Air Canada by extending us credit on an unsecured basis on competitive terms, recognizing, among other things, Air Canadas improved leverage ratios, credit ratings and profitability, as well as the elimination of the pension deficit overhang. I would also like to recognize the work of our legal and finance teams in concluding this offering in a timely manner and on favourable terms.

The Notes were sold at par and provide for interest payable semi-annually. The Notes are senior unsecured obligations of Air Canada, and are guaranteed on a senior unsecured basis by one of Air Canadas subsidiaries.

The Notes were offered and sold in the United States only to qualified institutional buyers in reliance on Rule 144A under the US Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the Securities Act), and to certain non-US persons in transactions outside the United States in reliance on Regulation S under the Securities Act. The Notes have not been and will not be qualified for sale to the public under applicable Canadian securities laws and, accordingly, any offer and sale of the Notes in Canada will be made on a basis that is exempt from the prospectus requirement of such securities laws. The Notes have not been and will not be registered under the Securities Act or the securities laws of any other jurisdiction and may not be offered or sold in the United States absent registration or an applicable exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act and state securities laws.

This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell the Notes or the solicitation of an offer to buy the Notes, nor will there be any sale of the Notes in any state or jurisdiction where such offer, solicitation or sale is not permitted.

About Air Canada

Air Canada is Canadas largest domestic and international airline serving more than 180 destinations on five continents. Canadas flag carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and in 2013 served more than 35 million customers. Air Canada provides scheduled passenger service directly to 60 Canadian cities, 49 destinations in the United States and 72 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance, the worlds most comprehensive air transportation network serving 1,269 airports in 193 countries. Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking according to independent UK research firm Skytrax that ranked Air Canada in a worldwide survey of more than 18 million airline passengers as Best Airline in North America in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year.

Caution Regarding Forward-Looking Information

Air Canadas public communications may include forward-looking statements within the meaning of applicable securities laws. Forward-looking statements, by their nature, are based on assumptions and are subject to important risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements cannot be relied upon due to, amongst other things, changing external events and general uncertainties of the business. Actual results may differ materially from results indicated in forward-looking statements due to a number of factors, including without limitation, industry, market, credit and economic conditions, the ability to reduce operating costs and secure financing, pension issues, energy prices, employee and labour relations, currency exchange and interest rates, competition, war, terrorist acts, epidemic diseases, environmental factors (including weather systems and other natural phenomena, and factors arising from man-made sources), insurance issues and costs, changes in demand due to the seasonal nature of the business, supply issues, changes in laws, regulatory developments or proceedings, pending and future litigation and actions by third parties as well as the factors identified throughout Air Canadas public disclosure file available at Any forward-looking statements contained in this news release represent Air Canadas expectations as of the date of this news release and are subject to change after such date. However, Air Canada disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required under applicable securities regulations.

SOURCE Air Canada

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Greif Inc. has created two new positions as the company shifts its structure to mirror other multinationals.

The Delaware-based industrial packaging company brought in former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner David Lloyd as corporate financial controller, and promoted Chris Luffler to business managerial controller.

Both roles also include the vice president title.

Lloyd worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers for almost 10 years, auditing large, multinational manufacturers, according to his Linkedin profile. He also led the firm’s recruitment efforts at Ohio State University and Ohio University. At Greif (NYSE:GEF), he’ll lead the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission reporting and other accounting, budgeting and regulatory issues.

Luffler has worked at Greif since 2009, and will now be the lead contact between the business operations and corporate finance departments.

Greif said the new positions reflect a structure change “that will better serve the company’s multinational and varied business operations,” especially as it expands globally. Splitting the function of a corporate controller mirrors the strategy of other multinational companies, Greif said.

“With two decades of experience most recently in a world-class organization, David brings deep technical experience in public accounting and auditing with multinational corporations,” Greif CEO David Fischer said in a release. “I have every confidence that he will make a significant contribution to the company and we welcome him into his new role.”

Fischer has led the manufacturer since 2011.

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HARRISBURG — When allegations became public that four Philadelphia state representatives had accepted cash from an undercover operative, the Senate and leaders of the House moved quickly to ban monetary gifts in their chambers.

Now legislators are considering what broader restrictions might be needed to bolster a sense of integrity in the Capitol.

On Monday, the Senate State Government Committee took testimony on the question of limiting gifts to public officials. State law requires the reporting of gifts totaling $250, with exceptions for those from family and friends, and of hospitality costing more than $650 per year.

Committee chairman Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, said he is working with other legislators on a bill that would include some form of a ban on gifts. He said they hope to introduce a measure in the next few weeks.

We have a long history of instance after instance of corruption, he said. I dont think its enough any longer for us to just be comfortable that we think as individuals were doing the right thing. Theres a broader question of being part of an institution that we all want to be proud of and not letting the actions of one individual or several individuals sully the reputation of that institution.

Mr. Smucker said legislators had been discussing overhauls in the wake of scandals, including allegations of a pay-to-play culture at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, but were prompted to action when The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in March that at least four Democratic state representatives from Philadelphia had accepted money from an undercover operative working for the state attorney generals office.

Weeks later, the Senate unanimously approved legislation that would ban public officials and employees from accepting gifts of cash, including gift certificates, from lobbyists or anyone else seeking to influence the legislative process. That measure is in a House committee, where it will stay, House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said, until a hearing in June.

Republican and Democratic House leaders earlier this month signed a document restricting House members and employees from accepting cash gifts. (The Senate, along with its gift legislation, approved a rule barring its members and staff from accepting money from lobbyists.)

As to anything further, we believe we need to take a deliberative approach, Mr. Miskin said. Until we see what all the facts are, its hard to determine exactly what laws need to be strengthened or tweaked — if any — [and] what bills need to be introduced.

Pennsylvania is following a trend over the past six or seven years of states tightening their gift laws, said Peggy Kerns, director of the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Eleven states, including Pennsylvania, place no monetary restrictions on gifts, according to the ethics center, though Pennsylvania law prohibits gifts meant to influence a vote or other official action. Thirty states limit gifts to a monetary threshold, while nine states ban lobbyists from giving gifts to legislators, according to the center.

Senators on Monday heard from Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, a good-government group, who encouraged them to end or seriously restrict the giving of gifts. They also heard from John Schaaf, counsel to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, who described steps that state has taken to strengthen ethics rules.

Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, said he sees the developing legislation as a bipartisan effort that should address not just gifts but broader issues, such as campaign finance overhaul.

Its got to be part of the overall dialogue of reform and creating a government that is more responsive to the citizens, he said.

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Why your money is wasted in cash
Monday, April 28th, 2014 | Author:

Savers are suffering from the longest run of low investment returns from deposit accounts in more than a decade.

Online savings account average interest rates have been at a record-low 2.5 per cent for eight months, one-year term deposit rates have halved since 2011 and now average just 3.3 per cent, while interest rates for cash management accounts have fallen by two thirds, an analysis of Reserve Bank of Australia data shows.

Even if the RBA starts lifting its official interest rate later this year, there is no guarantee that deposit rates will rise.

AMP Capital chief economist and head of investment strategy Shane Oliver says the outlook for deposit rates mainly depends on where the official interest rate moves. He believes the RBA will start lifting the official cash rate around September or October, reflecting a strengthening economy.

Deposit rates may still go down a little bit, but I think you have seen the low point for the cash rate, he says.

Any official interest rate rise by the RBA may only be one or two small moves and then left there for a while, Oliver says.

We are still going to have pretty low interest rates for some time to come. For investors, its a question of where you go. Are you better off in shares of the bank you have your money in?

Buying the bank rather than bank deposits can give investors more than double the income, with bank dividends now paying about 5 per cent plus tax benefits, but carries the risk of losing part of your initial investment if share prices fall.

Comedian Dave Hughes is among the millions of savers battling crazily low deposit rates at the moment, and says savers are losing money once inflation and tax eat into their interest income.

Its almost impossible to get ahead of the game, says Hughes, whose national tour reaches Brisbane later this year.

He says he got caught up in the GFC in 2008 and lost confidence in the sharemarket, but has stuck with shares.

You have almost got to buy bank shares if you cant beat them, join them and just hope they dont crash. The returns on bank shares are great. Fingers crossed we dont have another GFC in the next few years.

The average person, including me, doesnt have time to think about it you want the safest investment you can get and you think thats money in an investment account. But money in a bank account is throwing money away.

Catapult Wealth director Tony Catt says comparing shares with cash deposits is like comparing apples and pears because the risks vary so much.

He says higher-interest cash options include progress saver-type accounts where you can add money but not withdraw it.

They can be up to 3.5 or 4 per cent but they are one of the very few options, he says.

There are also introductory rates for online savers but you might get four good months at 3.5 per cent, but thats it.

If you think the interest rate is going to make you money, its not. Ultimately the saving itself is going to earn you money.

Catt says sitting between shares and deposits are bank hybrid notes, which are listed on the sharemarket and are paying between 5 and 5.7 per cent. However, while hybrid securities are safer than shares, you can still lose money if the bank has financial problems.

AMPs Shane Oliver says other options include:

– Listed property trusts, which are paying an average 5.5 per cent income and have become more conservative after being smashed in the GFC.

– Corporate debt, with companies such as Woolworths paying investors 5.5 to 6 per cent. This is usually accessed via a fund manager.

– Equity income funds, which focus on shares that pay reliable dividends.

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LAREDO — For 12 hours a day, the waiting room at Dr. Gustavo Villarreal’s family practice is often packed with patients, people who will pay a flat $50 fee for the convenience — or necessity — of a walk-in, quick-turn doctor’s visit. Villarreal’s practice, which does not accept any form of health insurance, has thrived despite its location in a city where nearly one-third of the population lives below the federal poverty line. 

At both the state and federal level, efforts are underway to decrease Texas’ sky-high rate of residents without health coverage. But Villarreal is among a rising number of primary care practitioners who have given up on the red tape of filing insurance claims, switching to a cash-based model that is growing in popularity among Texas’ insured and uninsured patients.

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Credit Guarantee Corp (M) Bhd (CGC) is expected to provide about RM400 million to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) this year under a wholesale guarantee for unsecured business financing.

The guarantee will help mitigate risks, improve lending capacity and augur well for the development of unsecured SMEs financing business in the country.

President and Chief Executive Officer Datuk Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad was confident that more banks would venture into unsecured financing as it provided a new edge for the banking industry.

Credit Guarantee Corporation Malaysia Bhd and OCBC Al-Amin Bank Bhd on Thursday inked the countrys first SME wholesale guarantee, marking a milestone in the development of Malaysias unsecured business financing efforts.

The guarantee, involving an initial tranche of RM250 million of OCBC Al-Amins existing unsecured SME portfolio, will see the ratio of risk involved in the financing business being shared equally between CGC and OCBC Al-Amin for a guarantee period of five years.

We are still in talks with other banks to venture into unsecured financing but it takes time, as we need to deliberate on the features of the product as it differed from one bank to another in terms of pricing.

However, Im not allowed to disclose which banks are actually discussing with us right now.

But, we do have few banks lined up for this product, he told reporters after the signing ceremony of the SME wholesale guarantee agreement witnessed by Bank Negara Malaysia Assistant Governor Bakaruddin Ishak.

The agreement involves CGC and OCBC Al-Amin sharing the risks equally for five years.

Wan Azhar said the product was the first of its kind as previously the entire risk centred on banks alone.

Leveraging on OCBC Al-Amins existing unsecured SME portfolio, we are confident that we will be able to meet the target, he said.

Through this new product, the financial institution will be able to free up capital while mitigating risk, he added.

Wan Azhar also said the company received many enquiries from the Middle-East on setting up a similar guarantee system in their country.

They are interested in the possibility of a collaboration between Malaysia and countries in the Middle-East. So we are looking at exploring the possibility of doing that right now, he added.

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Cash still king as Saudis shun credit cards
Saturday, April 26th, 2014 | Author:

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat–Credit card use in Saudi Arabia has been on the decline since 2008, according to recent data released by the country’s central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency.

The figures show that credit card revenues in the Kingdom, which stood at 9.4 billion Saudi riyals (2.5 billion US dollars) in 2008, have fallen 22.3 percent between then and 2013.

Total revenues fell from 2008 to 2009 to reach 8.6 billion riyals (2.3 billion dollars), and then to 8.3 billion riyals (2.2 billion dollars) in 2010, and 7.7 billion riyals (2 billion dollars) in 2011, rising slightly in 2012 to 7.9 billion riyals (2.1 billion dollars), and then dropping again to the lowest level during the five-year period to 7.3 billion riyals (1.9 billion dollars) in 2013.

Despite having one of the largest economies in the Arab world and rising individual spending power, Saudi Arabia remains dominated by a preference for cash, with 98 percent of transactions in the country still being made using notes and coins, according to the McKinsey Global Payments Map.

But this is not unusual in the Arab world, where cash economies predominate. Even in other GCC high-flyers, such as Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar, around 92 percent of all transactions in each country are still being made in cash. In “electronifying” economies such as the US and the UK, 56 percent and 61 percent of all transactions remain cash-based respectively.

Commenting on the data, Mohamed Mahmoud Shams, head of the Gadwa Feasibility Studies Center in Riyadh, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The figures from the last five years indicate that payments made outside the Saudi banking system have been increasing since 2008, a clear sign that cash is still preferable [among Saudi consumers] to credit, despite the latter’s being widespread and available across the world.”

He added that payments in Saudi Arabia made outside the banking system had risen 63 percent during the same period.

Shams said that both savings deposits and certificates of deposit had only grown by 7 percent, another sign that Saudis preferred “simpler financial products” and that the country’s economy remained reliant on “traditional policies.”

But a number of market observers see an inevitable future rise in consumer financial products in the Kingdom over the coming years, and particularly in credit card use. A recent Euromonitor International report sees changing consumer patterns in the Kingdom stemming from the growing number of expats, rising disposable incomes, the country’s young population and the increase in Sharia-compliant credit cards as signs that non-cash payment methods will become more popular in the coming years.

A joint report by the Royal Bank of Scotland and Capgemini also predicted a rise in credit card use in Saudi Arabia in the future as consumer awareness programs by domestic banks improve and payments systems innovations produce increasingly more specialized, Sharia-compliant non-cash payment methods catering specifically to the Saudi market.

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