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.

China’s new leaders: Don’t get your hopes up; The only good news coming from the pending leadership changes is the near certainty of the end of China’s one-child policy

China’s new leaders: Don’t get your hopes up

March 8, 2013: 3:11 PM ET

The only good news coming from the pending leadership changes is the near certainty of the end of China’s one-child policy.

By Minxin Pei

FORTUNE — Ever since Xi Jinping, China’s new leader, ascended to the top spot of the ruling Communist Party’s hierarchy last November, he has promised repeatedly to restart China’s long-stalled economic reforms. With the opening of the annual session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament (officially known as the National People’s Congress), Xi and his colleagues finally have a chance to show the Chinese people what kind of reforms they have been thinking about.

Of course, it may be too early to analyze the pronouncements coming out of the congress since its most important business, such as announcing the restructuring of the State Council (the cabinet) and appointments of key economic officials, has not concluded. However, based on the information leaked to the press, it appears that the new leadership will not embark on a bold course of reform. Caution, not risk-taking, will remain the modus operandi of Chinese leadership. Read more of this post

Merkel Tours Berlin Start-Ups: ‘People Pay Money for That?’

03/08/2013 01:43 PM

Merkel Tours Berlin Start-Ups

‘People Pay Money for That?’

By Annett Meiritz

Merkel Visits Berlin Startup Companies

In a show of support for Berlin’s burgeoning Internet start-up scene, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ventured into a strange new world of employee-friendly tech offices on Thursday. Though she showed a lot of interest, Berlin still has a long way to go in supporting the city’s growth as a tech hub.

Two hours into her tour of Berlin’s digital wonderland, a place where business is booming and “feel-good managers” tend to the well-being of their employees, Angela Merkel was finally confronted with a bit of cautious criticism. Sitting across from the German chancellor, California native Holly mentioned that there are “barriers” for young Internet companies like Wooga, the social gaming developer where she works.

Merkel interrupted, asking: “What kind of barriers do you mean?”

Holly told the story of how she is actually a musician who initially came to Berlin on vacation, but stayed because she found the city so appealing. Then she found a job at Wooga, and the bureaucracy horror began. At municipal offices where residents are expected to register, one is “lucky if someone speaks English,” she said, adding that the authorities don’t even provide forms in the global language.

“We don’t want money from you, but we want a more welcoming atmosphere,” said Jens Begemann, one of Wooga’s founders.

The chancellor thought for a moment, then asked: “Have you spoken with the mayor about this?”

Yes, said Begemann. “But everything that you do to help Germany develop a more welcoming culture really helps the industry,” he said. Merkel nodded. Read more of this post

Korea’s Kakao Talk is paying an unexpected price for becoming the nation’s most popular mobile messenger. To the dismay of Kakao, the company that manages the service, its messages are being used as police evidence


Kakao Talk pays price of popularity

Chat king suffers increased workload

By Cho Mu-hyun

Kakao Talk is paying an unexpected price for becoming the nation’s most popular mobile messenger. To the dismay of Kakao, the company that manages the service, its messages are being used as police evidence.

As mobile Internet services are increasingly being used for social communication, authorities are starting to look into servers for evidence in cases, rather than calling for witnesses, investigating hearsay or examining hard copies of documents. Read more of this post

Meet Memoto, the Lifelogging Camera; Memoto snaps photos automatically at thirty-second intervals

MARCH 8, 2013, 2:47 PM

Meet Memoto, the Lifelogging Camera


Memoto snaps photos automatically at thirty-second intervals.

AUSTIN, TEX., — Facebook and Instagram have conditioned people into sharing photos of their most memorable moments — vacations, parties, weddings, meals and outings with friends.

But what about everything else that happens in between?

That’s the content that Memoto, a Swedish start-up, wants to capture with a small, wearable camera that automatically takes photos of the wearer’s surroundings.

The square-shaped device can be clipped onto a collar, a jacket or worn around the neck on a string. It snaps photos at 30-second intervals, and switches off only when it is dark, face-down or placed into a pocket.

“It’s not only the stuff you thought you would want to remember,” like beautiful sunsets, elaborate dinners and rambunctious nights out with friends, said Martin Kallstrom, one of the founders of the company. “Ordinary moments can turn out to be special. But the only way to see that is to capture everything.” Read more of this post

Finnish upstart rival Supercell knocks Angry Birds off its perch

Last updated: March 8, 2013 5:31 pm

Upstart knocks Angry Birds off its perch

By Tim Bradshaw in San Francisco and Robert Cookson in London

Angry Birds has become a familiar sight at the top of Apple’s app-store leaderboard. Rovio’s blockbuster mobile game and its many spin-offs first topped the iPhone’s charts in early 2010 and is now back at number 1 in the US and other countries after a week-long promotional giveaway.

But the apps market has changed radically in the three years since Angry Birds first burst on to the iPhone. While Angry Birds and its 99 cent spin-offs, Bad Piggies andAngry Birds: Star Wars are still getting plenty of downloads, they no longer lead the app pack in generating revenues, ranking towards the bottom of the 100 “top grossing” apps of Apple’s store.

That’s not bad in a marketplace of more than 800,000 apps. But where Angry Birds once was atop the revenue charts now sits Clash of Clans, a free title from Rovio’s Finnish neighbour Supercell.

Over the past year, the “freemium” model has come to dominate mobile games. Players of Clash of Clans can purchase extra “gems” for $5 to $100 at a time, which are exchanged in the game for cannons and towers to defend from plundering barbarians and attack invading goblins. Read more of this post

Will the Austin startup ecosystem ever live up to its promise?

Will the Austin startup ecosystem ever live up to its promise?


ON MARCH 8, 2013

On paper, it seems obvious that Austin should be included in the “best startup cities in America” list. For starters, the city hogs the tech industry’s attention for a week every year during South By Southwest, now hyped and mocked in equal measure. Then there are the heavy-hitter tech residents. Some of the biggest and most important tech companies have a presence here: Google, Apple, Facebook, Evernote, Cisco, IBM, Dell, AMD, National Instruments, and Texas Instruments, just to name a few. The local economy is booming, the state is business-friendly, and the cost of living is relatively low, compared to the coasts.

But the key words in the graph above are “on paper,” “for a week” and “a presence.” The reality is despite the best intentions and endless buzz, Austin has never lived up to its much talked about potential as a startup hub. Read more of this post

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