July 23, 2017

Another bitcoin rival makes its mark in cryptocurrency world

The San Francisco firm fixed a record $30 million worth of transactions in the second quarter of 2017. The figure had reportedly tripled from the first quarter when it recorded $6.7 million in sales.

© Jens Kalaene / Global Look PressBitcoin rival ethereum gobbling up cryptocurrency market

The company says the $21 million in purchases came from institutional investors, actively using Ripple’s licensed money service business.

Ripple also managed to sell an additional $10.3 million XRP via sales of the asset to fund its operations.

XRP finished the second quarter priced at $0.263, an impressive quarter-to-quarter spike of 1,159 percent and a year-to-date growth of 3,977 percent.

The cryptocurrency is listed on 30 exchanges and is currently in third place by market capitalization after bitcoin and ether.

In May, Ripple announced plans to structure the sale of its currency. The move boosted interest to XRP in the second quarter according to Miguel Vias, Ripple’s head of XRP markets, as quoted by CNBC.

“With respect to XRP, we are incredibly focused on international payments. I think we are probably the only digital asset that has a clear use case with respect to what we are trying to do with the asset,” he told the channel.

“With respect to growth and outreach, we will continue to partner with digital asset exchanges for listings and most importantly… it is really all about payments and in this quarter, you will see some very interesting developments with respect to our partnership in payments, with respect to XRP in particular,” Vias added.

Despite analysts’ concerns over volatility in the cryptocurrency market and a potential split in bitcoin, Vias is optimistic about both Ripple and its rivals.

“What we have seen is an embracing of digital assets broadly by really established institutions. When you have folks like the Bank of England, which did a proof of concept with us, as well as the Bank of Japan coming out and saying, we are considering this as legal tender at some point – when you see those developments, you can’t help but feel that we are on the right path, that interest is going to continue to grow,” he said.

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French tobacconists protest govt plan to raise cigarette prices

Claiming the measures will ruin their business and won’t even reduce smoking, they covered speed cameras with plastic bags in the southern city of Toulouse, the northern region of Picardy and Bearn near the Pyrenees, as well as other parts of France.

Some of them covered their faces with masks showing the face of French President Emmanuel Macron or Health Minister Agnes Buzyn.

In Toulouse protesters put up posters saying, “No to the €10 packet, clients deprived, cigarette sellers threatened,” and rolled out a banner saying “Getting rid of tobacco vendors will not cut down on smoking.”

“This product is dangerous, but every government fights against this scourge by raising prices – there aren’t enough preventative measures focused on young people,” the president of the federation of cigarette sellers in the area of Occitanie near the Spanish border, Gerard Vidal was cited as saying by Local France.

Vidal called for a real “plan of action in the fight against the black market cross-border sales and on the internet.”

READ MORE: No butts about it: Cigarettes account for over one-quarter of all cancer deaths

The French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn announced plans to raise the price of cigarettes earlier this month, saying her aim is “for the children born today to be France’s first generation of non-smokers.”

© Vladimir AstapkovichThe price of cigarettes in Russia may double in 2017

According to France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, with 80,000 tobacco-related deaths in France each year, “doing nothing is not an option.”

The price of a pack of cigarettes in France is among the highest in Europe, although Ireland and the UK have higher prices.

Statistics showed in March the French bought four million packets of cigarettes, over four percent more than during the same period last year.

The confederation of cigarette sellers met with Buzyn on Wednesday to announce the “rising worry” in the profession.

British American Tobacco France has already estimated its lost revenue will reach €2.7 billion by 2020.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397094-french-tobacconists-price-hike/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

US corporations lobby against anti-Russia sanctions

BP, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Boeing and Citigroup, MasterCard and Visa are reportedly among the companies raising concerns the punitive measures will ultimately harm their businesses, rather than the Kremlin.

© imago stockpeople / Global Look PressUS oil sector warns Washington over ‘unintended consequences’ of new anti-Russian penalties

Ford, Dow Chemical, Procter Gamble, International Paper, Caterpillar, and Cummins have reportedly warned the measure could impact their businesses as well.

The new bill, aimed at punishing Russia for alleged meddling in the US presidential election, was approved last month. The measures target already sanctioned Russian banks and energy sector, limiting the financing period for them to 14 and 30 days respectively.

The legislation also introduces individual sanctions for investing more than $5 million a year or $1 million at a time in Russian pipeline projects or providing such enterprises with services, technology or information support.

Over a dozen of US corporations want changes to the bill and lobbyists and trade associations have been visiting Capitol Hill in recent days meeting members of Congress.

“It passed with such force and such a strong vote in the Senate, it seemed to be insurmountable initially. I don’t think they thought through the unintended consequences,” said a senior congressional aide who has worked on the billб as quoted by the media outlet.

The bill, which is still to be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Trump administration has drawn a wave of criticism among European corporations as well.

Earlier this week, the heads of European energy companies warned the sanctions Washington wants to impose on the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline might have an adverse impact on Europe.

Last month, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said the new measures introduced by the US were only about “selling American liquefied natural gas and ending the supply of Russian natural gas to the European market.”

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397075-us-conglomerates-against-russia-sanctions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

UK enjoys tourist spending splurge thanks to cheap pound

According to the company, it has tracked credit card spending of £643 million by visitors in June and predicted a £2.4 billion bonanza for retailers if the trend continues over the summer.

In contrast, spending by British travelers abroad has fallen sharply.

The Office for National Statistics said a steady rise in UK tourism numbers has led to strong June results for the country’s retailers.

Companies like Burberry have reported a boost to trade in the UK as the cost of luxury goods for people from abroad has become more competitive.

Worldpay said luxury boutiques and department stores enjoyed a 63 percent rise in sales, aided mainly by US and Russian tourists.

© Paul HackettUK becomes sterling travel destination as pound plummets

“Sterling’s slump is continuing to attract visitors in their droves, safe in the knowledge that their holiday cash will stretch a little further,” said Worldpay chief UK marketing officer, James Frost.

“It tends to be London that grabs the headlines when it comes to tourist spending, but the reality is destinations right across the UK are benefiting from an influx of free-spending tourists,” he added.

According to Frost, businesses in Scotland and Wales have seen foreign spending surge by as much as 27 percent compared to last year, and that could increase further in July and August.

“By investing to make their businesses more attractive to global customers, retailers and tourist hotspots across the UK could make serious gains from the pound’s performance this summer,” he said.

The British currency plunged to a nine-month low against the euro on Friday, after the update from the European Central Bank and on fraught Brexit talks. It was trading at €1.117 against the single currency as of 10:08am GMT.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397074-pound-surges-tourist-spending/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Siemens to suspend contracts with state-owned Russian companies over turbine deliveries to Crimea

Siemens is not allowed to do business in the Crimea. The Russian region faces sanctions from US, EU and its allies since it broke away from Ukraine in 2014.

The German company says the equipment was manufactured and intended for a project in the south of Russia and was not intended to be transferred to the Crimean peninsula. However the Black Sea territory is part of the Russian Federation.

“Siemens will halt power generation equipment deliveries from existing contracts to state-controlled customers in Russia for the time being. During that time, Siemens is implementing an additional controls regime that is exceeding legal requirements by far,” the company said in a statement.

The concern added it will fully divest its minority interest in the Russian company Interautomatika, which offers products and services for power-plant instrumentation and control systems. Siemens has also initiated the termination process of a license agreement with Russian firms in the area of equipment supply for combined-cycle power stations.

READ MORE: Siemens sues Russian partner over delivery of turbines to Crimea

“Siemens continues to pursue criminal charges against the responsible individuals at our customer, TPE, as well as legal actions that are intended to halt any other deliveries to Crimea and ensure that any equipment that has already been dispatched is returned to its original destination, Taman,” the statement added. 

The turbines were made by Siemens Gas Turbine Technologies LLC, based in Russia’s St Petersburg. It is 65 percent owned by the German company and uses Siemens technology.

The company also says it wants to buy back the turbines and announced they plan to cancel the contract for their delivery.

“New business engagements in gas turbine power generation equipment in Russia will be solely executed by its majority-owned SGTT joint venture and its wholly-owned subsidiary, OOO Siemens, Moscow,” Siemens said, adding that “all new engagements would be subject to the new, permanent control mechanism.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on the Siemens statement, telling journalists “it’s a question for the companies involved.”

After reunification with Russia, Crimea faced problems with electricity because nearly all of its power came from Ukraine. In November 2015, the peninsula declared a state of emergency as four Ukrainian power lines providing electricity to the region were blown up, leaving Crimea in a total blackout.

Russia reportedly needs four turbines for new power stations on the Crimean peninsula. Two of the turbines are for a power plant in Sevastopol, and the other two for a plant under construction in Simferopol.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397038-siemens-turbines-crimea-suspension/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

ExxonMobil challenges ‘fundamentally unfair’ $2mn fine deals with Russia’s Rosneft

The American oil giant maintains that at no point has its dealings with Rosneft violated the sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis three years ago.

In the legal challenge filed against the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), ExxonMobil insists that it followed guidance from the Obama administration which OFAC proceeded to retroactively change.

“OFAC seeks to retroactively enforce a new interpretation of an executive order that is inconsistent with the explicit and unambiguous guidance from the White House and Treasury issued before the relevant conduct and still publicly available today,” ExxonMobil’s filing in the US District Court, said.

Just prior to filing its complaint, the company based in Irving, Texas was fined $2 million by the US Treasury for signing eight deals with Russian oil giant Rosneft, which allegedly violated Ukraine-related sanctions.

The deals, all signed in May 2014, have been sealed while current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the company’s CEO.

According to an OFAC statement, the restrictions were violated by ExxonMobil’s US subsidiaries “by signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin, the President of Rosneft OAO, and an individual identified on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.”

The American oil giant, however, maintains that Rosneft was not subject to any sanctions at the time the documents were signed.

“Instead, the sole basis of OFAC’s July 20, 2017 penalty notice… is that the documents were signed on behalf of Rosneft by its President and Chairman, Igor Sechin, who at the time was subject to sanctions only in his individual capacity,” the legal complaint said.

Sechin was added on the US sanction list days before the deals were signed for allegedly demonstrating “utter loyalty” to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

AFP Photo / Karen BleierExxon business in Russia not disrupted by Ukraine crisis – CEO

ExxonMobil argues that Obama’s executive order and the White House’s guidance emphasized that only personal assets of the sanctioned individuals were subjected to sanctions.

“When Mr. Sechin was designated, the Treasury Department made clear that Rosneft was not designated and that Mr. Sechin was being designated as an ‘individual’,” the 21-page complaint reads.

Considering the circumstances, ExxonMobil called the Treasury’s ruling “fundamentally unfair”, and in violation of due process.

The company also said that it has been dealing with Rosneft since the late ‘80s and that the US government “has historically supported those activities.”

Thursday’s legal showdown is heavily influenced by the current political landscape. The deals between ExxonMobil subsidiaries and Rosneft were signed while Tillerson was the company’s CEO. Back then, Tillerson firmly opposed the anti-Russian sanctions.

After leaving ExxonMobil to take up his top government post, Tillerson has made a U-turn on his anti-Russian sanctions stance, and has now adopted the US establishment’s mainstream position.

READ MORE: ExxonMobil boosts Russian oil assets by 450% in 2014, despite sanctions

A Treasury spokesman said OFAC only engaged with ExxonMobil’s lawyers, and “did not discuss this case with Secretary Tillerson,” before ruling on the fine, Reuters reported.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/397030-exxon-challenges-fine-rosneft/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

‘Dirty, difficult, and dangerous’: Why millennials won’t work in oil

During the Super Bowl earlier this year, the American Petroleum Institute (API) launched an adgeared toward millennials, who now make up the largest generation in the US labor force.   

“This ain’t your daddy’s oil”, the ad says, in what API described as “a modern look at how oil is integrated into products consumers use now and in the future supported by bold visuals.”  

Despite its pitch to speak the millennials’ language and reach out to the elusive generation, the ad sparked anger with many consumers and viewers.

millennials continue to have the most negative opinion toward the oil industry compared to all other industries, and they don’t see a career in oil and gas as their top choice of a workplace. The oil industry’s talent scouting and recruiting methods of the past are failing to reach millennials, who want their work to have a positive impact on society, various studies and polls have found – a rather big ask for the oil industry.

This failure to reach the group that makes up the largest portion of today’s workforce -which now surpasses Generation X – points to a huge problem for the oil sector, as Baby Boomers move into retirement in droves.

Not only are millennials snubbing oil and gas because of its negative image, they also seek different job perks than previous generations sought, and in this regard, the oil industry will need to do more as it becomes increasingly obvious that millennials want different things than what oil executives think they want.

Read More on Oilprice.com: Ecuador abandons the OPEC deal: who’s next?

A total of 14 percent of millennials say they would not want to work in the oil and gas industry because of its negative image – the highest percentage of any industry, McKinsey said in September 2016.

Young people see the industry as dirty, difficult, and dangerous, according to an EY survey published last month. EY’s survey polled millennials – the 20-to-35-year-olds today—as well as Generation Z coming after them, and found that younger generations “question the longevity of the industry as they view natural gas and oil as their parents’ fuels. Further, they primarily see the industry’s careers as unstable, blue-collar, difficult, dangerous and harmful to society.”

In addition, two out of three teens believe the oil and gas industry causes problems rather than solves them, the survey showed.

So ‘not your daddy’s oil’ is not sinking in with millennials and Generation Z, and with many of them, it never will, despite the oil lobbies’ marketing efforts to try to make it sound like an attractive career path.

According to executives polled by EY, the top three drivers for young people would be salary (72 percent), opportunity to use the latest technology (43 percent), and a good work-life balance (38 percent). But young people – although they are also prioritizing salary – have other views on what they look for in a job. Salary is still the top priority at 56 percent, but a close second comes good work-life balance (49 percent), with job stability and on-the-job happiness equally important at 37 percent.

Executives are underestimating the importance of work-life balance and stability for Millennials, while overestimating the allure of technology as a factor. It’s not surprising that Millennials are not as attracted to the opportunity to use new tech as oil executives believe they are – Millennials generally don’t see technology as a perk, they take it for granted.

Moreover, millennials don’t see the oil and gas industry as innovative – a major driver of career choice among this generation. According to a recent report by Accenture, “Despite evidence to the contrary, many millennials believe the sector is lacking innovation, agility and creativity, as well as opportunities to engage in meaningful work. In fact, only 2 percent of US college graduates consider the oil and gas industry their top choice for employment.”

Read More on Oilprice.com: US May Halt Oil Imports From Venezuela

Accenture is warning that ‘the talent well has run dry’ and said:“We believe the growing workforce deficit will, in fact, be a greater barrier to oil and gas companies’ upturn success than any deficits that might exist in capital, equipment or supplies.”  

The oil   and gas industry is losing the competition for talent recruitment to industries that are more appealing to millennials, and US oil and gas firms will face the talent crunch first, according to Accenture.

“Any mature industry has to think about the fact that there’s a new sheriff in town with new values, new spending habits,” Jeff Fromm, an expert in marketing to American millennials, told Bloomberg.

And if the oil and gas industry wants to get this ‘new sheriff in town’ on board, it needs to profoundly change recruitment strategies and talent sourcing. But with the negative image that is probably set to become even more negative – despite oil organizations’ marketing efforts – oil and gas has a huge workforce problem looming.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/396954-millenials-oil-industry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Fecal bacteria found at UK branches of McDonald’s, KFC & Burger King

Experts from the program “Watchdog” tested ten samples at each of the chains for traces of “fecal coliform” that is found in human and animal feces and cause a number of diseases.

© Kim Hong-JiFecal bacteria found in drinks sold by UK’s top three coffee chains

The coliforms were discovered in three samples of McDonald’s drinks, six from Burger King and in seven samples taken at KFC food outlets. Four of the samples collected from Burger King and five from KFC reportedly had “significant” levels of the bacteria.

The fast food chains were quick to respond to the findings.

“We are shocked and extremely disappointed by these results. We have strict procedures for the management and handling of ice, including daily and weekly inspections and cleaning of the ice machine and storage holds, as well as the routine testing of ice quality across our business,” a KFC spokesman said in response.

“Cleanliness and hygiene are a top priority for the Burger King brand. The strict procedures we have in place are designed to ensure all guests have a positive experience each time they visit our restaurants,” according to Burger King.

“We have robust procedures in place with regard to the production, storage, and handling of ice in our UK restaurants. Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people, and we will continue to review our procedures and training, working closely with our restaurant teams to ensure those procedures are adhered to at all times,” a McDonald’s spokesman told CNBC.

The Department for Environment, Food Rural Affairs (DEFRA), a UK government body responsible for control of water standards, says coliform bacteria should not be present in any water used by people.

The findings are worrying, the experts say.

“You have to look at the people making the ice, handling the ice, which they then transfer into customers’ drinks. And then you also have to look at hygiene failure with potentially the machines themselves: are they being kept clean?” said Tony Lewis, head of policy and education at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, as quoted by the Liverpool Echo.

READ MORE: Subway refutes DNA tests showing its chicken is 50% soy

Last month, BBC journalists detected traces of the same bacteria in the samples of iced drinks in UK’s three major coffee chains: Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Caffe Nero.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/396941-fecal-bacteria-uk-mcdonalds-kfc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

US lifts laptop ban on flights from Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid International Airport was the last of the ten airports to be exempted from the ban.

On its website Saudi Arabian Airlines confirmed that its two hub airports which serve the US have received clearance from the DHS.

In March, US President Donald Trump’s administration barred all electronic devices larger than a mobile phone in cabins on flights from ten airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be hidden inside them. Such devices have been allowed only in checked luggage.

Over the past three weeks US officials have lifted the ban after visiting the airports affected in the region to confirm new security measures announced were being properly implemented.

The ban has been lifted on Etihad Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc.

The new requirements which were announced last month include enhanced passenger screening at foreign airports, increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas, and expanded canine screening. They affect about 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States from 280 airports in 105 countries. Airlines that fail to meet the new security requirements could face restrictions on in-cabin electronics.

READ MORE: US announces ‘first step’ in new air travel security measures

A travel ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, – remains in place, although it has been challenged in US courts.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/396934-us-ends-laptop-ban/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Chinese investors set new record buying US real estate

The figure was more than ten percent up from the $28.6 billion in Chinese investments in the sector in 2015.

A row of newly-constructed homes selling for over one million dollars each are pictured in the new Sydney suburb of Greenhills Beach © Jason ReedChinese purchase billions of dollars’ worth of real estate in Australia annually

According to the agency, Canadians have been catching up with transactions at $19 billion, also a record.

Growing interest from Canadian buyers comes from the high price of real estate in Canada, especially in Toronto and Vancouver, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

All in all, foreign buyers along with recent migrants brought a record $150.3 billion to the US real estate market, marking a 49 percent year-over-year increase the association reports.

International buyers purchased 284,455 homes, which accounts for ten percent of the dollar volume of existing-home sales.

“The political and economic uncertainty both here and abroad did not deter foreigners from exponentially ramping up their purchases of US property over the past year,” Yun said in a statement.

“While the strengthening of the US dollar in relation to other currencies and steadfast home-price growth made buying a home more expensive in many areas, foreigners increasingly acted on their beliefs that the US is a safe and secure place to live, work and invest,” the economist added.

Florida (22 percent), California (12 percent) and Texas (12 percent) remain the top destinations for foreigners, according to the NAR.

Canadians reportedly prefer Florida, Chinese buyers favor California, while Mexican buyers mostly buy residential property in Texas.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/396906-china-us-residential-property-record/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS