July 6, 2022

U.S. Steps Up Anti-Corruption Inquiry Against BHP

The company has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) since 2009, mainly over exploration activities that had been terminated and its hospitality at the Beijing Olympic Games.

“As a part of the U.S. process, the SEC and DOJ have recently notified the group of the issues they consider could form the basis of enforcement actions and discussions are continuing,” BHP said in a statement, adding that it could not comment on possible outcomes.

BHP has said previously it believed it had complied with all applicable laws in regards to its Olympics sponsorship, and said on Friday it has what it considers to be a “world class anti-corruption compliance program.”

“BHP Billiton is fully committed to operating with integrity and the group’s policies specifically prohibit engaging in unethical conduct,” the company said, adding that it was cooperating fully with the authorities.

After being approached by the SEC, the company said in 2010 that it had uncovered potential violations of anti-corruption laws “involving interactions with government officials”, which media have said related to a payment to Cambodian officials in 2006 for a bauxite project that BHP later dropped.

Penalties for violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act can vary widely, depending on, among other factors, the extent and duration of the violations, the level of benefit the company received, and the level of cooperation from the target of the probe.

In one recent case, French oil giant Total SA agreed to pay $398 million to settle U.S. criminal and civil allegations that it paid $60 million in bribes to win oil and gas contracts in Iran over nine years.

In another recent settlement, Parker Drilling booked a $15.85 million charge to settle allegations by the SEC and Justice Department that it bribed officials in Nigeria and Kazakhstan.

SEC spokesman John Nester declined to comment on the BHP probe. The Department of Justice was not immediately available for comment.

The company released the update on the anti-corruption probe ahead of its annual results, due on August 20, the first results under new Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/08/15/business/15reuters-bhp-investigation.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

NBC Wins U.S. Television Rights to Four More Olympics

But Tuesday, Comcast responded with a knockout bid and a promise that it would show every event live, on television or online, a recognition of the immediacy of technology and a drastic reversal of NBC’s policy of taping sports to show them to the largest possible audience in prime time.

ESPN and Fox Sports also promised to carry everything live, but their bids were dwarfed by NBC’s during an auction held at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Comcast agreed to pay $4.38 billion for the United States media rights to four Olympics from 2014 to 2020, which eclipsed a $3.4 billion offer from Fox, a division of News Corporation. In an auction that allowed bids for two or four Olympic Games, or both, ESPN, a division of the Walt Disney Company, offered $1.4 billion for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Fox also bid $1.5 billion for the 2014 and the 2016 Olympics.

Brian L. Roberts, the chairman and chief executive of Comcast, said that spreading costs over four Olympics was critical to the bid, which was divided in two: $2 billion for the 2014 and 2016 Games, and $2.38 billion for the next two, whose locations have not been selected. NBC paid $2 billion for last year’s Winter Games in Vancouver (and lost $223 million) and next year’s Summer Games in London.

“We’ve said all along that we’d take a disciplined approach, where we could take a path to profitability,” Roberts said in a conference call. “It was responsible.”

Still, Comcast is paying considerably more than Fox to keep the Olympics in the NBC family than General Electric did for the Vancouver and the London Games. Neal Pilson, a former CBS Sports president, said, “I think Brian felt some pressure to validate the merger, and I think this also establishes that, as everyone felt, the Olympics were more important to NBC than they were to any other network.”

ESPN and Fox bid as if they did not feel they had to win the auction. In a statement, ESPN said: “We made a disciplined bid that would have brought tremendous value to the Olympics and would have been profitable for our company. To go any further would not have made good business sense for us.”

Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said Comcast’s winning bid was out of character for a company that has been “relatively cautious.” But, he added: “I think it’s fair to say that at this price, the Olympics are going to be a loss leader for Comcast and they will have a negative effect on short-term earnings. Still, strategically, it’s possible they can pay for themselves.”

By combining NBC’s broadcast and cable networks with Comcast’s sports assets, which include the Versus sports channel, the Golf Channel and 11 regional sports networks, Roberts said he believed his Olympic investment could turn a profit. Mark Lazarus, the chairman of the NBC Sports Group, said that there were more ways to make an Olympic profit “than the old NBC was capable of doing.”

NBC’s Olympic cable coverage has in the past been on the USA, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and Oxygen channels. The old NBC was personalized by Dick Ebersol, who ran the network’s sports division for nearly 22 years until resigning last month in a salary dispute that was the climax of a power struggle with Comcast executives. Ebersol had been critical to every Olympic bid since the acquisition of the rights to the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games; he also engineered two pre-emptive bids within a few months in 1995 that brought NBC the rights to every Olympics from 2000 to 2008, at a cost of $3.5 billion to General Electric.

The timing of Ebersol’s departure puzzled Barry Frank, an executive vice president of I.M.G. and a former Olympic negotiator. “Why would you let Dick Ebersol go, and a month later, buy four Olympic Games, when what Dick did best, better than anyone else, is produce the Olympics?” he said Tuesday.

Clearly, Comcast felt it could could replace Ebersol in NBC’s executive suite with Lazarus, and replace Ebersol in the Olympic production control room with some of his disciples. Comcast is also ending Ebersol’s practice of tape-delaying many sports, especially the most popular ones, like figure skating and gymnastics, and more recently, snowboarding, to build a four- or five-hour prime-time program.

Even as NBC introduced online streaming, Ebersol nonetheless delayed showing some events during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and even more last year in Vancouver.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=460ed8a8e960b1f4a7421f33f6c9198e

Greece Pushes Plan to Raise Cash With Big Sales

ATHENS — The Greek government, under pressure from its foreign creditors to raise money by privatizing state enterprises, is facing fierce opposition to its proposed sell-offs from powerful labor unions and critics within the governing Socialist party itself.

No islands or beaches are up for sale, despite the persistent, usually snide suggestions from abroad that have riled many Greeks.

Still, the program that is expected to go before Parliament next week is ambitious. It would authorize the selling of stakes in three utilities: the Greek railway, the race track and the national lottery. Also up for sale or lease are assets including disused venues built for the 2004 Olympic Games and the site of the capital’s former airport, which the government of Qatar has expressed an interest in developing.

In all, the government hopes to raise 50 billion euros, or $72 billion, by 2015 to help avert a default on the country’s huge debt, although many analysts consider that figure to be overly optimistic. By pressing ahead, the government is seeking to demonstrate its resolve in meeting the terms of its 110 billion euro bailout, even as the rating agency Standard Poor’s issued another downgrade on Monday and as European officials discuss ways to relieve some of the debt load.

Indeed, representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the European Union are back in Athens to decide whether to release the next installment of the emergency loan package, estimated to be 12 billion euros. The fact that the Greek budget deficit for 2010 was revised upward, to 10.5 percent of gross domestic product from an estimated 9.5 percent before, suggests that inspectors will be particularly strict this time.

The government insists the privatizations will not be derailed.

“Commentators have doubted the Greek government’s resolve at every juncture of the crisis and in each case the government has proven them wrong,” George Petalotis, a spokesman for the government, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Greek labor unions, however, are determined to stop the sales, fearing that private ownership will lead to downsizing and job cuts. They are lining up a barrage of protests, starting with a one-day general strike on Wednesday.

At the front line is Genop, the union representing workers at P.P.C., the state electricity company. Genop has threatened rolling strikes that could cause lengthy power cuts across the country just as the summer tourist season kicks off.

Speaking Friday in Parliament, Prime Minister George Papandreou promised that Greece “will not give up control of P.P.C.,” even though it was seeking to reduce its stake to 34 percent from 51 percent. He also insisted that the sale would not be done at a “bargain basement price.”

But skepticism lingers at all levels of the governing Socialist party, known as Pasok, particularly about privatizing the power company. Tina Birbili, the energy minister, recently told Ta Nea, a center-left daily, that it was premature to talk about privatizing P.P.C. as its share price was undervalued. It is currently trading at around 11 euros, compared with a five-year average of more than 17 euros.

Greece can sell the race course, the lottery, and even the railway, “but not P.P.C.,” said Alexandros Athanasiadis, a Pasok deputy whose constituency is in Kozani in northern Greece, where P.P.C. has one of its biggest coal-fired plants. “It’s a profit-making company and it provides jobs for thousands,” he added.

With a six-seat majority in Greece’s 300-seat Parliament, the government is unlikely to lose the vote next week, but rebel Socialist lawmakers may push for the bill to be watered down, as has happened with other controversial measures, especially if union pressure mounts.

Indeed, many union leaders are also members of Pasok. In 2001, a previous Socialist government had to withdraw a bill proposing a pension system overhaul following weeks of mass, union-organized street protests.

Those same unions have also managed to keep foreign buyers at bay. In the past 20 years, Greece has attracted only one big strategic investor — Deutsche Telekom, which has a 30 percent stake in the telecommunications company O.T.E.

Deutsche Telekom is legally bound to buy as much as 10 percent more of O.T.E. should the Greek government sell shares by the end of this year, and has the first right of refusal beyond that.

The Greek Finance Ministry said that a French company, Pari Mutuel Urbain, was in talks about the race track, but could give no details of other potential deals. P.M.U. for its part had no immediate comment.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/10/business/global/10privatize.html?partner=rss&emc=rss