April 15, 2024

Brazilian Tapped to Lead World Trade Organization

PARIS — Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo of Brazil will be the next leader of the World Trade Organization, a Brazilian official said Tuesday, and will take the reins at a time when the group is fighting to remain relevant.

Representatives of the 159 W.T.O. member states, meeting in Geneva, reached consensus on Mr. Azevêdo late Tuesday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Brazilian foreign ministry said. The organization was scheduled to make an official announcement on Wednesday.

Mr. Azevêdo, a career diplomat and Brazil’s permanent representative to the W.T.O., would be the sixth person and the first Latin American to lead the global trade body since its creation in 1995. He beat out seven other candidates for the position, including the other finalist, the former Mexican trade minister Herminio Blanco Mendoza, who had the backing of the European Union.

Mr. Azevêdo has said that his goal at the organization is “to build bridges among my peers in Geneva.” In the end, his candidacy appealed to a number of developing countries, which saw his final opponent, Mr. Blanco — who holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago — as a favorite of the United States and other wealthy nations.

The current chief, Pascal Lamy, took office in 2005 and will step down after his second four-year term expires Sept. 1.

Petros Mavroidis, a professor of trade law at Columbia University in New York, noted that Mr. Azevêdo had an insider’s knowledge of how the W.T.O. worked, something he said might help him work out “a face-saving compromise” over the deadlocked Doha round of trade negotiations. But Mr. Mavroidis also said he was surprised that the group, facing existential doubts, had not chosen someone with more political weight, “someone like Bill Clinton.”

“They haven’t delivered anything for years,” Mr. Mavroidis said. “Mr. Azevêdo is a skillful ambassador, but I think you need someone to shake the place up. And I don’t know if he’s the one to do it.”

Mr. Azevêdo takes over at a time when the W.T.O. — established as a forum for setting global trade rules, reducing barriers to commerce and settling disputes — appears to have lost its way. Early optimism about the Doha round, which began in 2001 and which many had hoped would be the organization’s crowning achievement, has long since faded.

Mr. Lamy, a Frenchman, initially earned high marks for his efforts on the Doha round, but nations’ disagreements on agricultural subsidies, tariffs on manufactured goods and developing countries’ access to global markets, coupled with the onset of the global financial crisis, effectively killed the appetite for a global pact. Instead, major trading nations have been bargaining over deals at the regional and bilateral levels.

One of the most ambitious regional proposals is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to link the United States, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan and others. More recently, the United States and the European Union have also signaled interest in a free trade agreement.

The technical complexity of both proposals, as well as opposition from numerous special interests, probably means that years of negotiations lie ahead before either yields fruit.

Some economists argue that the rapid growth of developing nations like China, Brazil and India has left the W.T.O. hopelessly out of date.

Michael Punke, the U.S. ambassador to the W.T.O., called last month for its members to make an all-out effort to take at least a small step toward regaining momentum for a multilateral deal at a trade ministers’ meeting set for Bali in December.

“Absent a course correction, the current path of talks would lead directly to failure at Bali,” Mr. Punke warned. “And if Bali fails, it is hard to imagine how Doha can succeed.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/08/business/global/08iht-wto08.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Times Co. Names Mark Thompson Chief Executive

Mark Thompson.

The New York Times Company has namedMark Thompson, the departing director general of theBritish Broadcasting Corporation, as its new president and chief executive.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman ofthe TimesCompany and the newspaper’s publisher, announced the appointment late Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Thompson, 55, will join the company in November. In addition to his executive roles, he will also sit on the board.

In choosing Mr. Thompson, a veteran of television who has spent nearly his entire career at the BBC, The Times reached outside its own company, its own industry and even its own country to find a leader to guide it in an uncharted digital future.

“We have people who understand print very well, the best in the business,” Mr. Sulzberger said in the interview. “We have people who understand advertising well, the best in the business. But our future is on to video, to social, to mobile. It doesn’t mirror what we’ve done. It broadens what we are going to do.”

Mr. Thompson who just arrived on Tuesday afternoon fromLondon, said that he had been “a reader of The New York Times for decades” and said he was honored to take the new position.

“It’s a privilege,” he said. “What we’ve got in The New York Times is an outstanding newsroom,” calling it “the envy of the world.”

The Times has been without a chief executive since Janet Robinson left in December 2011. Since then, Mr. Sulzberger has said the company was looking for a candidate with experience in the digital world and across multiple platforms.

Mr. Thompson’s reign at the BBC has largely been categorized as one of digital expansion and as having an emphasis on developing the BBC internationally. He championed the BBC’s collaboration in YouView, a joint venture with ITV, Channel 4 and other channels, that provides digital TV and many of BBC’s international for-profit ventures, like BBC America. He has also overseen several rounds of cost-cutting at the corporation, which depends largely on public support (through license fees), not advertising, for its operating budget.

Mr. Thompson’s candidacy had been rumored for several months. He was regarded as an unorthodox choice not just because he was from television but because he worked for a public broadcaster and had no experience running a publicly traded concern like the Times Company. He also rose through the editorial ranks of the BBC, whereas publishers in theUnited Statestypically emerge from the business side.

“I think of myself as a journalist,” Mr. Thompson said. “I spent many of my years as a working journalist.” He did not say whether he would favor video over other components of The Times like apps or social media. “These are all going to be important,” he said.

The search for a new chief executive was led by the firm Spencer Stuart. Mr. Sulzberger declined to provide details about the other candidates except to say that the board interviewed all of the finalists and he met with the candidates privately before a decision was made.

John Janedis, a research analyst with UBS, said that finding the right chief executive for the Times Company was a tall order. “They would have to have the respect of the newsroom and a digital background,” he said. “On a practical level, it was hard to find deep roots in both of those things. In Mark, I guess those boxes get checked.”

Craig Huber, an independent research analyst with Huber Research Partners, cautioned that Mr. Thompson’s adjustment to a company driven by ad and circulation revenue would take time.

“The New York Times has to prove itself every day to keep its subscribers and advertisers,” he said. “The BBC certainly doesn’t in the U.K.”

Mr. Thompson had said he would step down from his current position after the London Olympics, which ended Sunday. He leaves the BBC on a high point, particularly in the news organization’s digital ventures. The BBC reported that a total of 55 million viewers logged onto its sports Web site during the Olympic Games held in London from July 27 to Aug. 12. The Web site averaged about 9.5 million visitors each day of the Olympics.

“If you look at what the BBC has done with digital, especially in coverage of the Olympics and interactive, it’s been extremely good,” said Ian Whittaker, a media analyst at Liberum Capital in London. He added: “Having said that, Mark Thompson has never had to scrap for advertising revenue or circulation revenues.”

A graduate of theUniversity of Oxford’s Merton College, Mr. Thompson first joined the BBC in 1979 as a production trainee. After working as an editor on the BBC’s flagship “Nine O’Clock News” and the news program “Panorama,” he graduated to overseeing the separate channel BBC2 and serving as the BBC’s director of national and regional broadcasting. In 2000, he became the BBC’s director of television.

After a two-year stint as chief executive ofBritain’s Channel 4, he returned to serve as BBC Worldwide’s director general in 2004 and added chairman to his title this year. As director general, he oversaw 20,000 employees globally and 400,000 hours of programming, according to the BBC Web site.

Mr. Thompson has frequently weighed in on controversies about the BBC’s coverage. In 2010, he told The New Statesman, a current affairs magazine, that in the past, particularly during the Thatcher years, the BBC had a “massive” left-leaning bias, but added that the bias no longer existed. In June, the BBC fielded more than 4,000 complaints about its coverage of the queen’s diamond jubilee. Mr. Thompson apologized for “some inaccuracies in the commentary that we shouldn’t have had.”

Mr. Thompson is described by friends as being both a committed journalist and an astute politician. One London friend who did not want to discuss Mr. Thompson for attribution said he was extremely intellectual, a quality that can at times come across as remote or condescending.

Mr. Thompson lives inOxfordwith his wife, the American-born Jane Blumberg. They have three children. According to the BBC’s annual report, Mr. Thompson earned £622,000 (about $962,000) in the 2011 fiscal year.

Mr. Thompson will be joining the Times company as it continues to face challenges posed by changing reader habits and a shifting advertising market. Last month, it reported a net loss of $88 million for the second quarter of 2012. A positive sign has been the success of its digital subscription strategy, which has so far attracted 509,000 paid subscribers to the Web site, e-reader and other digital editions of The Times and The International Herald Tribune. “They’re much more subscription-driven than I think people give themcreditfor,” Mr. Janedis said.

Shares in the company closed up slightly on Tuesday at $9.09.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/times-co-names-mark-thompson-chief-executive/?partner=rss&emc=rss

President to Ease Student-Loan Burden for Low-Income Graduates

At a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, said the president would use his executive authority to expand the existing income-based repayment program with a “Pay as You Earn” option that would allow graduates to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 20 years and have the rest of their federal student loan debt forgiven. That plan would start next year.

Most of the 450,000 low-income student-loan borrowers currently enrolled in income-based payment must pay 15 percent of their discretionary income for 25 years before having their debt forgiven, although terms are easier for those in public service.

The lower caps of the new program were scheduled to go into effect for new borrowers in 2014, but, Ms. Barnes said, “because we know the frustration of crushing loan burdens, we have to act now.”

Ms. Barnes noted that over the last month, more than 30,000 people had signed a petition on the We the People platform at whitehouse.gov, asking for relief on student debt.

“It’s a message heard loud and clear,” she said.

The high cost of college and the growing debt burden of student loans have become increasingly potent political issues in recent years, high on the agenda of Occupy Wall Street and related protests across the country.

And the annual College Board reports on college prices and student aid, to be released Wednesday, make it clear that with the weak economy, the college affordability problem is getting worse.

At public universities and community colleges, costs for the current academic year increased more than 8 percent, lifted in part by steep tuition increases in California, according to the “Trends in College Pricing 2011” report.

While California’s whopping increases — 21 percent at the four-year universities and 37 percent at the community colleges — were extreme, declining state support for higher education has brought hefty tuition increases at many public universities nationwide. Arizona and Washington, for example, increased their in-state tuition and fees by 17 percent and 16 percent.

This is the fifth consecutive year in which the public universities that serve most students raised their tuition at a faster rate than the far more expensive private universities. And over the last three decades, the report found, the average tuition at four-year state universities almost quadrupled.

“It is not surprising, but we do have issues we have to face,” said Sandy Baum, the economist who is co-author of the report. “Families are struggling because their incomes are not increasing, but states are struggling too.”

Adjusted for inflation, state appropriations per full-time student are about 23 percent lower than they were a decade ago.

“Families and students are paying more but they’re getting less,” said Jane Wellman, executive director of the Delta Cost Project, “because what we’re willing to invest in this generation is less than what we were willing to invest in my generation.”

At Tuesday’s press briefing, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimated that the debt-consolidation program could help 6 million borrowers who carry both direct federal loans and loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan program, which ended last year. Under that program, private lenders received federal subsidies to make federally guaranteed loans to students; despite lobbying by the banking industry, the Obama Administration killed the program, redirecting billions of dollars of subsidies into expanded Pell grants for low-income students.

Between January and June, Mr. Duncan said, borrowers making payments on both kinds of loans can consolidate them and get a half-percent interest-rate cut. The savings to pay for the lower loan rate, he said, would come from the lower cost of administering the combined loan.

Further information on the new programs will be available at 1-800-4fedaid (1-800-433-3243) or studentaid.ed.gov.

The Obama administration has taken other steps toward college affordability. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, introduced in 2009, expanded the tax benefits for college costs. According to the College Board’s new “Trends in Student Aid 2011,” report, higher education tax credits and deductions grew to $14.7 billion in 2009, from $6.6 billion in 2008. People with adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 to $180,000 got 26 percent of those tax savings, compared with 18 percent a year earlier. At the other end of the spectrum, the credits are available even to those who owe no taxes.

According to the College Board, average in-state tuition at public universities this year is $8,244, up from $7,613 last year; with room and board, the average total charge is $17,131, up from $16,162 last year. But the averages mask enormous variation from state to state: the University of New Hampshire’s tuition is more than $13,500, compared with $2,600 in Puerto Rico and $4,100 in Wyoming.

At private nonprofit four-year colleges, the average tuition is $28,500 this year, a 4.5 percent increase on last year’s $27,265. With room and board, the average total charges are $38,589, up from $36,971 last year. And at community colleges, the average tuition and fees are $2,963, up 8.7 percent from last year’s $2,727.

Only about a third of full-time students pay for college without some grant aid, whether in the form of a federal Pell grant, a state scholarship or aid from the college itself.

Net tuition —the amount a student actually pays, after grants and tax savings— is often sharply lower than the published price. In fact, the College Board report said, net tuition at community colleges was low enough that, when grants and tax savings are taken into account, the average student can pay nothing out of pocket and have $810 left over for books and living expenses.

This year, the report said, full-time students at state universities receive an average of about $5,750 in grants and tax benefits, while students at private nonprofit colleges get about $15,530 and those at community colleges about $3,770.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=481de7248b80bb6ecdb671e84bd58412

CBS Reports Quarterly Profit More Than Doubled to $395 Million

The company, which owns the CBS broadcast network and the Showtime premium cable network among other assets, posted net income of $395 million in the quarter, up from $150 million in the same quarter last year.

Analysts predict that the strong showing by CBS is likely to be repeated by the other major media companies that will report second-quarter earnings this week and next.

Reassuring investors who have wondered about the strength of the advertising sector at a sour time for the broader economy, Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS Corporation, said there was no comparing the mood of the marketplace now with the period in 2008 when advertisers retreated as the recession sank in.

“We’re not seeing anything like that — like we felt three years ago,” he said, answering an analyst’s question on a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

Describing increased demand for advertising time on CBS shows, Mr. Moonves said the recent end to the NFL lockout was a “big shot in the arm to us and to our advertisers.” CBS begins televising football games late in the third quarter of each year.

Historically, CBS has been the most dependent on advertising revenue of the major media companies. On Tuesday, Mr. Moonves emphasized how the company was “derisking its business model” by diversifying revenue sources. Total revenue for the quarter was $3.59 billion, up from $3.33 billion a year ago.

“CBS is a fundamentally different company today than we were just a few years ago,” he said, referring to the changing mix of revenue.

For the quarter, advertising revenue — still the biggest piece of revenue by far — grew 3 percent to $2.2 billion, while content licensing and distribution revenue grew 21 percent to $889 million. Mr. Moonves said Netflix’s licensing of old CBS shows like “Star Trek” and “Cheers” this year had contributed to the gains.

Last month, the two companies agreed to extend that arrangement to Canada and Latin America, but that was not reflected in the earnings, nor was Amazon’s licensing of old CBS shows, which was announced last week.

Benjamin Swinburne and Micah Nance of Morgan Stanley said Tuesday in a report that the two recent deals “highlight the continued opportunity for content owners to monetize current and library TV inventories.”

Affiliate and subscription fees, another center of growth for CBS and other media companies in recent years, grew 12 percent to $426 million for the quarter. The one segment of CBS to post a decline was publishing, which was down 3 percent to $183 million. CBS said that what it characterized as “strong growth in the sale of more profitable digital content” was offset by lower sales in print.

CBS shares fell 3.7 percent on Tuesday to close at $26.28.

Notably, CBS’s local television and radio stations posted a 2 percent increase in revenue for the quarter over a year ago, even though even-numbered years like 2010, when there is an influx of political spending, typically outperform odd-numbered years.

The increase also occurred despite what Mr. Moonves called a “temporary slowdown in Japanese auto spending” because of the earthquake and tsunami in March. As that spending returns, he said, “we feel very good about this category going forward.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=651129111a1b0885bff2f4c322d4d6ce

Treasury Now Sees Profit From Bailouts

When it comes to calculating the bill for the government’s bailout of banks, insurers, automakers and the ailing housing market, the numbers have been all over the map.

But on Wednesday, Treasury officials laid claim to an eventual $23.6 billion gain for taxpayers on the entire rescue program, despite doubts from skeptics about just how Washington crunched the numbers.

Indeed, as late as Tuesday afternoon, accountants from Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget were at odds over how to calculate the gains the government made on once-troubled mortgage securities it acquired at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.

As a result, on Tuesday morning the Treasury estimated it would show a $100 billion profit but by late Tuesday that had been reduced to nearly $24 billion.

Even that is debatable, however, according to lawmakers like Representative Patrick T. McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, who is chairman of the House oversight committee’s bailout panel.

“The estimates have been consistently off and Treasury has consistently changed the metric for success,” Mr. McHenry said in an interview on Wednesday. “In the beginning, they weren’t touting payback — they touted effectiveness. Now, they are touting payback but ignoring the moral hazard this program has created.”

Treasury officials say they are actually being conservative in their profit projections. But even if that roughly $24 billion estimate proves too optimistic, the trend still represents a major turnabout from the river of red ink critics predicted. The administration itself projected a $100 billion loss only a year ago.

Why did the numbers move so wildly? For starters, asset prices improved as the economy rebounded. But some of the gains remain on paper, and profits that haven’t been booked have to be continually adjusted to reflect price swings in the market. Then there are the vagaries of government accounting, like how to properly value complex mortgage securities.

What is more, the government’s financial rescue remains a political hot potato, drawing criticism from the left and the right, but Obama administration officials are naturally eager to portray it as a success, especially with a budget deficit of $1.5 trillion expected in 2011.

“There is no historical precedent for a financial rescue this effective,” the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, said in an interview Tuesday. “We are performing better than all expectations and ahead of the other countries caught up in the crisis.”

At a House Oversight subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Treasury officials once again sparred with a government watchdog over the success of the financial rescue. In his testimony, Neil M. Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the bailout program, greeted the lower cost estimates as “good news,” but warned that the“most significant legacy may be the exacerbation of the problems posed by ‘too big to fail,’ particularly given the manner in which Treasury executed the bailout.”

On Wednesday, the Treasury said that KeyCorp and SunTrust Banks repaid their bailout funds, helping the government claim a $6 billion profit on the bailout program for banks. The Treasury projects it will receive another $14 billion as hundreds of smaller banks repay their bailout funds.

The Treasury is also claiming it will make a $12 billion profit when it winds down its 92 percent ownership stake in the American International Group later this year, although for now that is only on paper. It also assumes that large stake can be sold at current prices, even though unloading such a big position could depress its value.

Those gains could also disappear if several big losses materialize. The Treasury projects the bailouts of General Motors, Chrysler and Ally Financial could cost it about $15 billion, while losses from the government’s beleaguered mortgage modification programs, like HAMP, could wind up reaching $46 billion. (With only about $1 billion of HAMP funds disbursed so far, bailout watchers say the actual loses could be sharply lower.)

Still, the TARP bailout was only one part of the government’s rescue. Counting other federal aid programs allows the administration to radically reduce its overall cost of the effort.

As part of its analysis, the Treasury included in its profit estimates about $1.2 billion from fees it collected from federal guarantees on money market mutual funds during the crisis. It also included realized gains of $22.5 billion from a series of Federal Reserve emergency aid programs designed to get credit flowing again.

But the bulk of its gains come from a bounce-back in the value of more than $1.6 trillion in mortgage bonds and other debt that the government bought as the financial crisis worsened between 2008 and early 2010, in an effort to prop up the housing market. The Treasury has realized about $13.5 billion in income from interest payments of these bonds through the end of 2010, while the Federal Reserve has earned about $72.5 billion on a similar portfolio of securities backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Treasury officials project they will collect at least another $16 billion over the next few years.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York rejected a $15.7 billion offer from A.I.G. to buy back mortgage securities owned by the government, underscoring Washington’s hard line in trying to maximize the value of its holdings.

Even as the Treasury collects income from the mortgage securities it owns, it is still pumping tens of billions into Fannie and Freddie, the government-controlled mortgage giants, to keep them afloat. Although the Treasury recently lowered its loss estimates, its analysis project that losses stemming from government’s support of the two companies could reach $73 billion over the next decade.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=db76e0132aacc44d2cefa7f5edea0d8a