China Says Arable Land Size of Belgium Too Polluted for Farming

China Says Arable Land Size of Belgium Too Polluted for Farming

More than 2 percent of China’s arable land, or an area the size of Belgium, is too polluted to grow crops, the government said, offering new evidence of the environmental cost associated with 30 years of breakneck growth. Read more of this post

China Gold Imports From Hong Kong Fall 53 Percent as Price Drops

China Gold Imports From Hong Kong Fall 53 Percent as Price Drops

Gold shipments to China from Hong Kong declined by more than 50 percent in November as demand from investors weakened after prices slid for a third month. Net imports, after deducting flows from China into Hong Kong, were 60.9 metric tons in November, from 129.9 tons in October, according to data from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department. Still, the amount in the first 11 months of the year has more than doubled to 1,017 tons, the data show. Read more of this post

A year in a word: Airpocalypse – China is getting airy ambitions

December 30, 2013 4:26 pm

A year in a word: Airpocalypse – China is getting airy ambitions

By Jamil Anderlini in Beijing

The yellow-brown toxic blanket that has become commonplace in China’s capital

(noun) – the shockingly high levels of air pollutants plaguing major Chinese cities, particularly in winter in the colder north of the country, where coal-burning is the main source of electricity and heating.

This portmanteau word was coined at the start of 2013 as dark sulphurous clouds of pollution descended on Beijing, blocking out the sun and sending residents scurrying to buy face masks, air filter machines and air tickets to escape the smoggy Armageddon. Read more of this post

Researchers Aim to Speed Cures to Patients; Progress Is Slow in Developing New Drugs for Cancer, Other Diseases

Researchers Aim to Speed Cures to Patients

Progress Is Slow in Developing New Drugs for Cancer, Other Diseases

SHIRLEY S. WANG

Dec. 30, 2013 7:00 p.m. ET

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Hoping to speed development of treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases, scientists are testing new methods to research promising medications. Bringing a new drug to market typically costs upward of $100 million and can take as many as 15 years of research, testing and regulatory review. As a result, health experts worry that not enough innovative medicines are being developed, or that the progress is too slow. Read more of this post

‘Pain Free’ After Surgery Is New Goal at More Hospitals

‘Pain Free’ After Surgery Is New Goal at More Hospitals

JESSICA HOLZER

Dec. 30, 2013 7:04 p.m. ET

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German hospitals, dogged by a cultural grin-and-bear-it attitude toward pain, are starting to change.

About 120 hospitals in the country now carry “pain-free” certifications—essentially a pledge to keep patients’ pain at bearable levels. Meanwhile, 170 German hospitals are participating in a multinational registry known as Pain Out to swap information on patients’ satisfaction with their pain control, in effect drawing a map of pain management in the country and highlighting particularly effective approaches. Read more of this post

Cancer eclipsed as global donors focus on other diseases

December 30, 2013 2:11 pm

Cancer eclipsed as global donors focus on other diseases

By Javier Blas in Lilongwe

The paediatric ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital and the Baylor Clinical Centre of Excellence are not even 50 metres apart. A small gate and garden separate them within an overcrowded and decrepit hospital in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Read more of this post

A Resisted Pill to Prevent H.I.V.; Truvada’s use to prevent H.I.V. has been approved by the F.D.A. and hailed by experts

December 30, 2013

A Resisted Pill to Prevent H.I.V.

By DAVID TULLER

SAN FRANCISCO — Over a cup of tea at a downtown Starbucks, Michael Rubio recalled how four friends became H.I.V. positive through unprotected sex, all within a year. The news shocked Mr. Rubio, a 28-year-old gay man, into trying a controversial new form of H.I.V. prevention: a daily pill that studies show is highly effective in protecting people from infection. Read more of this post

No end to strengthening of won against the yen

No end to strengthening of won against the yen

Dec 31,2013

   
   

BY LEE HO-JEONG [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

The rate at which the Japanese yen is falling has been fast enough to keep currency traders and exporters at the edge of their seats. 
The Korean won closed the currency market for 2013 at 1,001.9 won against 100 yen yesterday. The currency market is closed today, New Year’s Eve. 
Although the Korean won weakened at the last minute, it appreciated sharply to trade at 999 won immediately after the currency market opened earlier yesterday. 
This was the most the won had appreciated against the Japanese currency in five years.  Read more of this post

Why has privatization earned such a bad name? Few privatizations have failed in Korea so far

Privatization the best prescription

Why has privatization earned such a bad name? Few privatizations have failed in Korea so far.

Dec 31,2013

Cosmetics are a must-buy item for Chinese shoppers when they visit South Korea. The next best seller is cigarettes. Korean cigarettes produced by KT&G (originally Korea Tobacco and Ginseng, but now changed to Korea Tomorrow & Global) are far better than Chinese cigarettes in taste and quality. KT&G has been through two major turning points in its history – the opening of the tobacco market in 1988 and the privatization of the company in 2002. Despite heavy competition from multinationals like Benson & Hedges, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco, the company remains solid, even without monopoly status or government protection. In fact, it accounts for 62 percent of the domestic cigarette market and is the world’s fifth-largest tobacco producer. It has also succeeded in business diversification, with cigarettes now accounting for just 70 percent of its revenue, down from 90 percent. Thanks to the commercialization of ginseng products, it also markets health and cosmetic items. Read more of this post

Ssangyong Engineering & Construction (E&C) has filed for court protection as its creditors refused to finance the cash-strapped builder

2013-12-30 22:18

Ssangyong files for court receivership

Choi Kyong-ae
Ssangyong Engineering & Construction (E&C) has filed for court protection as its creditors refused to finance the cash-strapped builder, the Seoul-based company said Monday.
Ssangyong E&C said it held a board meeting Monday afternoon to ask the Seoul Central District Court to lead a debt-rescheduling program after one of its major creditors, the Military Mutual Aid Association, raised an objection to additional financial support to it.
“We have tried to trim off project financing-related debts in recent years but still run with about 500 billion won ($475 million) in outstanding debts,” Ssangyong E&C spokesman Choi Seh-young said by telephone.
Ssangyong became the first Korean builder which filed for court protection since the 1998 financial crisis that severely hit the construction sector. Back then, major contractors such as Hyundai Engineering & Construction and Daewoo Engineering & Construction went through a debt workout program.
Ssangyong, the country’s 14th-biggest construction firm in terms of a combination of sales and orders, once marked 1.8 trillion won in debts involving project financing, according to the company.
Its filing for court receivership may have an impact on the company’s ongoing construction projects at home and abroad. Ssangyong earns 40 percent of its overall sales from overseas markets, largely in Southeast Asia. At home, some 1,400 subcontractors are facing liquidity problems due to delayed payments for construction equipment and materials.
“We have decided to file for court protection as the second-best option, though not the best option, in order to keep overseas projects unscathed from what’s taking place in Korea,” said Choi. “We will make an utmost effort to ensure our ongoing and upcoming overseas projects will not be interrupted by our local liquidity woes.”
Ssangyong E&C will be delisted from the Korea Exchange in March when its 2013 fiscal year ends, he said.
Despite the planned delisting, the entity may have a lifeline from its creditors led by Woori Bank next year.
Shim Sang-weon, general manager of Woori Bank’s corporate restoration department, said the biggest creditor may consider extending a loan to Ssangyong’s overseas projects “if the court asks us (Woori Bank) to give a helping hand to Ssangyong.”
The company has inked net losses in the past three consecutive years as one-off costs involving the project financing were priced in its bottom line. It posted 700 billion won in combined net losses from 2011 to 2013. Its yearly order book fell to 1 trillion won from 2.5 trillion won during the same period.
Woori Bank owns a 27 percent stake in Ssangyong, followed by the state-run Korea Development Bank with 17 percent, Seoul Guarantee Insurance with 17 percent, Shinhan Bank with 13 percent and Kookmin Bank with 8.9 percent.
Ssangyong entered a workout program in June after it failed to receive payments involving local construction projects from developers.
“For us, what is badly needed is regaining credibility by completing the debt-rescheduling plan,” Choi said.

Korean courts come down hard on chaebol-controlling families

Courts come down hard on chaebol-controlling families

Dec 31,2013

In the aftermath of “economic democratization” pledges by major candidates in last year’s presidential election, owners of chaebol – once practically immune from going to jail thanks to their “contribution to the national economy” regardless of their violations – realized in 2013 that they are no longer safe from spending time behind bars. At SK Group, the country’s third-largest conglomerate, Chairman Chey Tae-won was handed a four-year jail term for embezzlement. And Chey’s younger brother, Jae-won, vice chairman of the group, was taken to prison straight from the courtroom in September after receiving a sentence of three and a half years. The Chey brothers were charged with embezzling 46.5 billion won ($44 million) in group funds. Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-yeon, 61, is serving a three-year prison term. With his case back in the appellate court, he has been temporarily released due to ill health. Lee Jay-hyun, chairman of CJ Group, also was placed behind bars in July after he was indicted on charges of massive tax evasion and embezzlement. Lee is standing trial with his confinement suspended because of poor health. Other executives in court custody are Lee Ho-jin, former Taekwang Group chairman, and his mother, Lee Seon-ae, former executive director of Taekwang Group; Koo Cha-won, LIG Group chairman; and Koo Bon-sang, vice chairman of LIG Nex1.

Corruption and infighting dog growth sharing in Korean government poicies aimed at empowering small businesses

Corruption and infighting dog growth sharing

Government initiative spawns big problems in small business sector

Dec 30,2013

The government’s economic policies aimed at empowering small businesses, particularly mom-and-pop stores, to compete against conglomerate-backed larger businesses have turned out to have unpleasant side effects.  Read more of this post

“The worsening financial health of public firms has become a major national concern. We must address their heavy debts”; Korean govt urged 12 heavily-indebted public firms to sell all their “unnecessary” assets. For example, the housing developer pays an interest of some 12 billion won ($11.4 million) every day for its debts totaling 142 trillion won. Its debt ratio stands at 466 percent

2013-12-31 16:01

Public firms to sell non-core assets

By Na Jeong-ju
The government urged 12 heavily-indebted public firms Tuesday to sell all their “unnecessary” assets and lower their debt levels.
The targeted firms include Korea Land & Housing Corp., Korea Gas Corp. and Korea Electric Power Corp. The combined debts held by the 12 firms soared from 187 trillion won to 412 trillion won ($393 billion) under the previous Lee Myung-bak administration. Read more of this post

Japan is no longer a backwater for investors

December 30, 2013 7:53 am

Japan is no longer a backwater for investors

By Trevor Greetham

Authorities are saying the right things and doing most of them

At Fidelity our multi asset funds have been overweight Japan all year and we are happy to maintain that going into 2014. The authorities are saying the right things and doing most of them. While there is a new found sense of confidence in policy circles, there is enough scepticism among domestic institutions, economists and the media to make you feel the story is not overdone. Read more of this post

Traders squeezed as Indian farmers turn stockpile gamblers

Updated: Tuesday December 31, 2013 MYT 3:13:15 PM

Traders squeezed as Indian farmers turn stockpile gamblers

PIWDAI: Farmers such as 68-year-old Ghanshyam Gokale are quietly shaking up agricultural commodity trading in India, forcing the likes of top soybean processor Ruchi Soya to shift its business model away from futures contracts and towards the “spot” market. Read more of this post

Singh’s $160 Billion Logjam Saps Lanco Earnings: Corporate India

Singh’s $160 Billion Logjam Saps Lanco Earnings: Corporate India

Indian projects valued at more than $160 billion remain stalled a year after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up a panel to accelerate investments, sapping earnings at companies such as Lanco Infratech Ltd. (LANCI) Read more of this post

Roads Displacing Oxen Spur Rural India in Boost to Singh

Asphalt to Vodafone Transform Rural India as Ox-Cart Era Fades

For three decades, Indian rice farmer Lahu Bhiwa loaded his grain onto an ox cart and sold it to families in his village, earning about 2,000 rupees ($32) a month. His life changed in 2010, when bulldozers cleared a new road that has helped triple his income. Read more of this post

India’s Anti-Graft Hero Offers Too Much Personal Transparency

India’s Anti-Graft Hero Offers Too Much Personal Transparency

By Agence France-Presse on 3:00 pm December 30, 2013.

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In this photograph taken on Dec. 22, 2013, India’s Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party) leader Arvind Kejriwal, center, is greeted by supporters as he arrives at a public meeting in New Delhi. (AFP Photo/Sajjad Hussain)

New Delhi. India’s anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal swept to power last month on a promise of greater transparency and he began office Monday true to his word – admitting that Delhi belly had spoiled his first day. Read more of this post

Has the Indian Art Market Hit an Inflection Point? Some Indian artists already have a global market. Now, India is ready to develop as a global hub for art

Has the Indian Art Market Hit an Inflection Point?

by Steven P Murphy | Dec 31, 2013

Some Indian artists already have a global market. Now, India is ready to develop as a global hub for art

Wherever I travel, I find that the interest and audiences for art continue to grow, and with that we see new collectors engaging in the art market at all price levels. This is equally true in India, a country with such rich artistic heritage. Spending time with our team in Mumbai and meeting clients over the last few days, I am more certain than ever that the time is right for us to be holding our inaugural auction. Read more of this post

Apollo’s failed deal for Cooper sows doubt on future Indian M&A

Apollo’s failed deal for Cooper sows doubt on future Indian M&A

4:25am EST

By Sumeet Chatterjee

MUMBAI (Reuters) – The ambition from Indian mid-sized companies for large debt-fueled acquisitions abroad was dealt a major setback after the unraveling of a $2.5 billion bid by India’s Apollo Tyres Ltd (APLO.NS: QuoteProfile,ResearchStock Buzz) to buy Cooper Tire & Rubber Co (CTB.N: QuoteProfileResearchStock Buzz). Read more of this post

American-Style Start-Ups Take Root in India

DECEMBER 30, 2013, 8:43 PM

American-Style Start-Ups Take Root in India

By SEI CHONG

MUMBAI, India — India has built a reputation as a notoriously tough place to do business, one that has stymied even giants like Walmart. And unlike Silicon Valley, where a decent idea can attract funding, investors in India are much more reluctant to risk their money on start-ups. Read more of this post

Construction costs of a new HK-Shenzhen border control point have escalated by a staggering 52 percent to HK$24.8 billion

Crossing costs soar
Eddie Luk
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Construction costs of a new border control point have escalated by a staggering 52 percent to HK$24.8 billion. The government is seeking Legislative Council approval for an extra HK$8.55 billion – from an original cost estimate of HK$16.2 billion – for the new Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai crossing between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Read more of this post

Hong Kong New Air Quality Index Shows Very High Health Risk

Hong Kong New Air Quality Index Shows Very High Health Risk

A new Hong Kong air quality index introduced yesterday as part of the city’s efforts to combat pollution registered “very high” a day after the guage reached its highest level. Read more of this post

Hong Kong Regulator Takes Measures to Stem Counterfeit Banknotes

Hong Kong Regulator Takes Measures to Stem Counterfeit Banknotes

Hong Kong’s banking regulator introduced more measures to stem counterfeiting after fake HK$1,000 ($129) notes were found in the city and Macau in the past two weeks. Read more of this post

Bird Flu Subtype Reemerges in Hong Kong: Official

Bird Flu Subtype Reemerges in Hong Kong: Official

By Agence France-Presse on 7:13 pm December 30, 2013.
Hong Kong. An elderly man has contracted a mild form of bird flu in the first case of its type for four years, Hong Kong officials said on Monday. “We are now investigating a confirmed human case of influenza A H9N2, affecting a man aged 86,” Leung Ting-hung, controller of the city’s Center for Health Protection, told reporters. Read more of this post

The Shale Oil Party Is Ending, Phibro’s Andy Hall Warns

The Shale Oil Party Is Ending, Phibro’s Andy Hall Warns

Tyler Durden on 12/29/2013 20:27 -0500

oil supply future_0

Phibro’s (currently Astenback Capital Management) Andy Hall knows a thing or two about the oil market – and even if he doesn’t (and it was all luck), his views are sufficiently respected to influence the industrial groupthink. Which is why for anyone interested in where one of the foremost oil market movers sees oil supply over the next decade, here are his full thoughts from his latest letter to Astenback investors. Of particular note: Hall’s warning to all the shale oil optimists: “According to the DOE data, for Bakken and Eagle Ford the legacy well decline rate has been running at either side of 6.5 per cent per month… Production from new wells has been running at about 90,000 bpd per month per field meaning net growth in production is 25,000 bpd per month. It will become smaller as output grows and that’s why ceteris paribus growth in output for both fields will continue to slow over the coming years. When all the easily drillable sites are exhausted – at the latest sometime shortly after 2020 – production from these two fields will decline.” Read more of this post

Food Processors Address Frozen Produce’s Image Problem

Food Processors Address Frozen Produce’s Image Problem

SARAH NASSAUER

Dec. 30, 2013 6:56 p.m. ET

Frozen food makers are launching an image campaign to rehab attitudes about the healthiness of frozen vegetables, Sarah Nassauer reports on Lunch Break. Photo: Green Giant. Read more of this post

As Coffee Prices Decline, Investors Brace for More

As Coffee Prices Decline, Investors Brace for More

LESLIE JOSEPHS

Dec. 30, 2013 7:25 p.m. ET

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Coffee prices have tumbled 20% this year, capping the biggest two-year plunge in a decade and highlighting commodity markets’ struggle with a supply deluge. Read more of this post

‘China Valley’ industrial park to be created in Saemangeum by 2020; The park will be used mainly to produce fresh and processed foods, such as fresh and powdered milk, for exports to China

‘China Valley’ to be created in Saemangeum

Jung Seok-woo

2013.12.31 12:22:19

South Korea and China have agreed to cooperate in building an industrial park in Saemangeum, tentatively named “Saemangeum China Valley” by 2020, Seoul officials said Monday.  Read more of this post

The ASX’s winners and losers for 2013

The ASX’s winners and losers for 2013

December 31, 2013 – 5:18PM

Sally Rose

In a year when big department store chiefs, including Myer’s Bernie Brookes and Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman, bemoaned the onslaught of competition from offshore online retailers, a cluster of smaller, nimbler, retailers outperformed. Read more of this post

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