BHP Billiton Plans to Sell 10 Assets After Debt Rises to Record; BHP has gone from holding $200 million in net cash at the end of 2010 to net debt of $30.4 billion at the end of 2012

BHP Billiton Plans to Sell 10 Assets After Debt Rises to Record

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world’s largest mining company, is planning to sell about 10 of its assets amid a rise in debt levels after a two-year metals boom driven by Chinese demand stuttered.

The Gregory-Crinum coal mine in Australia’s Queensland state is among the assets being considered for sale, spokeswoman Eleanor Nichols said by phone today. The Australian newspaper first reported that Chief Financial Officer Graham Kerr told equity analysts last week the divestment program was focused on at least 10 BHP assets. The company owns mines, oil and gas wells, and processing plants.

Global mining companies are selling off businesses after slumping metal prices triggered more than $60 billion of writedowns to mineral resources. BHP’s debt has risen to a record $30.4 billion and Chief Executive Officer Marius Kloppers last month joined his counterparts at Rio Tinto Group and Anglo American Plc in stepping down from his role. Read more of this post

Norway: The New Yale? Norway loads up on smaller stocks and so-called value stocks, which trade at lower prices in the short term

Updated March 7, 2013, 10:43 a.m. ET


Norway: The New Yale?

Wealthy investors are embracing the Yale model of ‘alternative investments.’ But there may be a better strategy.


UNLESS YOU’VE somehow kept your wealth a secret, your financial adviser has probably already urged you to “add alternatives” to your portfolio, or simply “invest like Yale.” But here’s a comeback to use next time this topic comes up: Tell the professional you’ve recently studied the Norway model—which will be true once you’ve finished reading this column.

There’s certainly much to be said for Yale’s investing approach. The university’s $19 billion endowment focuses almost exclusively on alternative assets, such as hedge funds, timber, oil and gas, real estate and private-equity funds that invest in corporate buyouts. It generally shuns stocks and bonds. Yale’s reasoning: As an institution with a perpetual time horizon and extensive resources, it can capitalize on the extra return alternative assets should offer because they can’t be easily traded like stocks and bonds.

Note that this is not a market-timing strategy. Yale did not forecast a poor future for stocks and bonds when its chief investment officer, David Swensen, began investing in alternative assets in 1990. Rather, the university believed its approach made sense because a large endowment was a perfect vehicle for holding and managing illiquid investments. Indeed, the strategy has worked as hoped: From 2000 through 2012, Yale’s endowment returned about 12 percent annually. Read more of this post

Want a longer, happier life? Embrace pessimism, study says

Want a longer, happier life? Embrace pessimism, study says

Sarah Boesveld | 13/02/27 7:46 PM ET
A growing body of research has credited the power of positive thinking for contributing to good health and a longer, happier life. But a new study out of Germany suggests people who are pessimistic about their futures — specifically older people — may find greater life satisfaction down the road than their more optimistic peers.

“The optimists are those who basically close their eyes, shut their eyes and don’t really want to know about the truth” about the inevitable costs of aging and death, he said. “That’s how we interpreted this finding — that basically these things [pessimistic expectations] really help people to be aware that they need to be cautious.”

The longitudinal study, published this month in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology and Aging, set out to discover how anticipations about future life satisfaction change over time.

More than two-thirds of older Germans, aged 65 to 96, who thought life would only get worse actually had better health outcomes, said lead study author Frieder R. Lang, a professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and the German Institute for Economic Research.

“If you really think about the future in five years, understanding that although things are fine right now they might get worse, this seems to have a positive effect on lower disability risks and lower mortality risks,” he said in an interview Wednesday from Germany. Read more of this post

Rolex chief Patrick Heiniger who ran the watchmaker between 1992 and 2008 and designed a crucial restructuring

March 8, 2013 6:38 pm

Patrick Heiniger, watch executive

By James Shotter


Even by Switzerland’s exacting standards, Rolex is notoriously discreet. So too was Patrick Heiniger, who ran the watchmaker between 1992 and 2008. One journalist landed an interview with him only after 15 years of trying. Many more never succeeded.

Yet if anything, such elusiveness piqued rather than stilled public interest in the standard-bearer of the Swiss watch industry. And that curiosity was never more intense than on the day in December 2008 when Rolex abruptly announced that Heiniger was leaving “to pursue personal interests”.

With typical coyness, Heiniger, who has died in Monaco from an unspecified illness aged 62, added nothing to the company’s explanation. Many wondered whether a sudden yen for other pursuits really was the full story.

On the same day, Rolex informed the world in a rare statement that it had not lost a fortune with Bernard Madoff, the US fund manager whose Ponzi scheme had been rumbled just two weeks earlier. The group also felt obliged to deny suggestions of collapsing sales, massive overstocking and trying to impose its wares on unwilling dealers, as the escalating financial crisis took its toll on global demand for luxury timepieces.

Whatever the merits of such claims, it is certainly true that in the preceding boom years Heiniger had Rolexfirmly in expansion mode. Having been appointed only the third managing director in Rolex’s history in 1992, five years later he also became chief executive. He spent much of the 1990s overseeing the vertical integration of the watchmaker. That was a crucial strategic move, which helped secure its prized autonomy by giving Rolex control of the manufacturing of all important components.

As well as buying up suppliers, Heiniger dramatically simplified the production process. Twenty sites became three, all in and around Geneva, the city that founder Hans Wilsdorf had made the company’s home 14 years after it came into being in London in 1905. Read more of this post

Reality TV for the Red Planet: A Dutch entrepreneur’s financial plan for a colony on Mars is based on selling the television rights to cover the project every step of the way

March 8, 2013

Reality TV for the Red Planet



“How many people do you think would want to watch the first humans arrive on Mars?” said Bas Lansdorp, of Mars One.

PARIS — As Wernher von Braun, the rocket scientist, used to say, the most overwhelming obstacle to exploring the cosmos isn’t gravity. It’s the paperwork.

Not to mention the money.

So when Bas Lansdorp began dreaming more than a decade ago about establishing the first permanent human colony on Mars, his primary focus was not on overcoming the technological challenges. It was the business model.

“All the technology we need exists already — or nearly exists,” he said. “I just couldn’t figure out how to finance it.”

Mr. Lansdorp, a 36-year-old Dutch engineer and entrepreneur, does not have the name recognition of Dennis Tito, the American financier and space tourist, who announced a plan last month to send two people on a round-trip Mars flyby in 2018. Nor can Mr. Lansdorp hope to match the deep pockets of Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, who has proposed sending as many as 80,000 people to the Red Planet and charging them $500,000 each. Richard Branson, the Virgin entrepreneur, has space aspirations, too.

But Mr. Lansorp is convinced that he has found the perfect plan to raise the $6 billion he says he needs to land an initial crew of four people on the Martian surface by 2023. The entire mission — from the astronauts’ selection and training to their arrival and construction of a permanent settlement — would be broadcast as a worldwide, multiyear reality television show.

“How many people do you think would want to watch the first humans arrive on Mars?” Mr. Lansdorp asked in a recent interview, recalling the more than 600 million viewers who were said to have tuned in to the grainy, black-and-white images of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in 1969. Read more of this post

Sakura flowers blossom in southwest China’s Guizhou province

Sakura flowers blossom in Guizhou

2013-03-09 02:15:21


US professors lose it on CNBC over China real estate

US professors lose it on CNBC over China real estate

  • Staff Reporter



Professors Peter Navarro and Lee Ann show off their letters. (Internet Photo)

What was supposed to be civilized debate turned into an indecipherable cacophony of egos in a live show on CNBC. Peter Navarro, a professor at University of California at Irvine, and Ann Lee, a professor at the New York University, came to an impasse on the topic of the impact of the Chinese housing bubble on the global economy, reports Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News. China released recently new regulations to curb China’s rising real estate prices, including an increase in down payments and loan rates for buyers of a second piece of property in cities. These policy measures worry investors and generate fears of a bubble building in China’s property market.

CNBC invited Navarro and Lee to share their perspectives over the concern, which kicked off well until Ann Lee started speaking. Before finishing her first sentence, Navarro began and kept up a string of snide comments about her affiliation with Beijing, and continously cut off Ann’s every attempt at an argument. The brawl boiled over when she said, “I don’t think there was a bubble at all. The Chinese government has been trying to slow and cool this part of the economy for years.” Navarro, a seasoned academic at a respectable university, came back with an extraordinary rebuttal in the middle of Ann’s sentence, “This is the most bullshit I have ever heard,” and “shame on you, Ann.” Eventually the hostess Michelle Caruso-Cabrera gave up trying to exact something viewers could understand and cut short the show.

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