FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Red Cross workers carry a body bag with the remains of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash victims at the scene of a plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
March 19, 2019
By Omar Mohammed
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Financiers, passengers and industry partners are, for now, still backing Ethiopian Airlines’ quest to become Africa’s dominant carrier, despite a March 10 crash that killed 157 people.
The causes of the Flight 302 tragedy will likely take months to establish. While much of the international focus has been on U.S. planemaker Boeing and its 737 MAX 8 jet, the airline’s reputation could also hinge on the results of the investigation.
Although crash inquiries focus on preventing future accidents rather than attributing liability, any findings that the carrier fell short in plane maintenance or piloting could be damaging.
For the present, however, passenger confidence in Ethiopian Airlines, long regarded as one of the most reliable in Africa, has remained steady, according to the company. Cancellation and booking rates are unchanged since the crash, said spokesman Asrat Begashaw.
“We are operating as normal,” he told Reuters. “Our brand is keeping its level, and we are okay.”
Two banking sources with knowledge of the matter said that, barring a major new twist in the investigation with long-term fallout, banks were still comfortable lending to Ethiopian Airlines.
“Ethiopian is a solid company,” said one, an official from an international bank that helped finance the acquisition of some Ethiopian Airlines planes. “No reason to change the way the bank sees its credit risk at this point.”
A vote of confidence from lenders is important for the airline because its years of rapid expansion have largely been financed by international borrowing.
The second source, a top European aviation banker, said Ethiopian Airlines was “a good airline, with a good reputation”.
“So unless it (the crash) is a major problem of piloting or maintenance – and it is far too early to talk about that – they will still have access to financing,” the source added.
The sources declined to be identified because the matters are confidential.
Ethiopian Airlines has borrowed from foreign banks including JP Morgan, ING Capital and Societe Generale over the past decade. It also has outstanding bonds worth $540 million, though none due until 2024, Refinitiv data shows.
The borrowing helped finance the acquisition of stakes in or establish partnerships with at least four African carriers, establishing hubs to feed traffic into Addis Ababa. Last year, the Ethiopian capital overtook Dubai as the main gateway for long-haul passengers into Africa.
The airline’s fleet grew from 35 planes in 2007 to 111 in 2019. It now flies to more than 119 international destinations, up from 52 a decade ago.
The expansion has made the state-owned carrier, founded in 1945, the most profitable major airline on the continent. Ethiopian’s net profit in the 2017/18 financial year rose to $233 million from $229 million the previous year; operating revenue jumped 43 percent to $3.7 billion.
Last year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced plans to sell a minority stake in the airline as part of a broad strategy to open up the country to foreign investors.
Industry analysts said it was too early to evaluate the impact of the crash on the airline’s long-term plans but said, for now, its reputation remained largely intact.
“It’s a very strong management team, with good vision,” said Nawal Taneja, an author and professor at Ohio State University’s Center for Aviation Studies. “We’ve got to look at the strength of the airline as a whole, not just this one incident.”
PARTNERS, BOEING BOOKINGS
Those who want to travel across Africa have few options other than flying. Conflict, poor roads, and limited cross-border train transport often make travel by land difficult.
Analysts said the crash was unlikely to damage Ethiopian’s partnerships with African carriers, key to a strategy that helped increase passenger numbers from 2.5 million a decade ago to 10.6 million last year, or with other industry players.
One such partner is ASKY, a Togo-based carrier which Ethiopian Airlines helped launch in 2010.
“Ethiopian’s accident has not affected our partnership in any way,” said Lionel Tsoto, the airline’s head of public relations. “We continue just as before.”
Global aviation leasing firm GECAS said the airline was a “close and valued partner who we look forward to working with in the future”.
The crash, which saw the Nairobi-bound flight go down minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa, triggered a global grounding of 737 MAX planes, wiping about 10 percent off Boeing’s share price. GRAPHIC: http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/testfiles/boeing737maxseries
Investigators have noted similarities with another deadly crash in Indonesia five months ago involving a plane of the same type owned by Lion Air, but safety officials stress the investigation is at an early stage.
Ethiopian Airlines, which grounded its handful of remaining 737 MAX planes, said it would decide whether to cancel orders for 29 others after a preliminary investigation.
Analysts said it was unlikely that the carrier would cancel the orders, worth $3.5 billion at the current list price, because Boeing would have to fix any problems before regulators permit the jet to fly again.
Boeing will be keen to retain the airline as a customer; more than half of Ethiopian’s fleet are Boeing jets.
“Ethiopian have been very loyal to Boeing in the past,” said Phil Seymour, chief executive of the IBA Group, a Surrey-based aviation consultancy.
“They will be in control of the conversation with Boeing now,” he added. “I would suspect that the business decision is to stick with the order.”
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher and Inti Landauro in Paris, Rachel Armstrong in London, Maggie Fick in Addis Ababa and John Zodzi in Lome; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alexandra Zavis and Pravin Char)
FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen building an aircraft engine at Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alwyn Scott
March 19, 2019
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – New orders for U.S.-made goods rose less than expected in January, held back by decreases in orders for computers and electronic products, in another indication of slowing manufacturing activity.
Factory goods orders edged up 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday, as demand for primary metals and fabricated metal products fell. That followed an unrevised 0.1 percent gain in December.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders rising 0.3 percent in January. Factory orders increased 3.8 percent compared to January 2018.
The release of the report was delayed by a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan. 25.
Reports last Friday showed manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state hit nearly a two-year low this month.
Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is losing momentum as the stimulus from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades. Activity is also being crimped by a trade war between the United States and China as well as by last year’s surge in the dollar and softening global economic growth, which are hurting exports.
In January, orders for machinery rose 1.5 percent after falling 0.4 percent in December. Orders for mining, oil field and gas field machinery fell 2.7 percent after tumbling 8.2 percent in December.
Orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components rebounded 1.4 percent after dropping 0.3 percent in December. Computers and electronic products orders fell 0.9 percent after decreasing 0.4 percent in December.
Orders for primary metals declined 2.0 percent and fabricated metal products orders fell 0.6 percent. Transportation equipment orders increased 1.2 percent in January, slowing from the prior month’s 3.2 percent rise.
Orders for civilian aircraft and parts increased 15.6 percent in January. Motor vehicles and parts orders gained 0.4 percent.
The Commerce Department also said January orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, rose 0.8 percent as reported last week. Orders for these so-called core capital goods dropped 0.8 percent in December.
Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, also increased 0.8 percent in January as previously reported. Core capital goods shipments edged up 0.1 percent in December.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
FILE PHOTO: Paul Ryan speaks after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young
March 19, 2019
(Reuters) – Fox Corp on Tuesday appointed former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of Formula One Group Chase Carey and two others to its board.
Carey served as president and chief operating officer from 2009 to 2015 at Twenty-First Century Fox.
The newly spun-off media company, which will mark a new phase for billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s media business, will debut on the Nasdaq on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma; Editing by Arun Koyyur)
David Hookstead | Reporter
Philadelphia Phillies player Carlos Santana had an incredible reaction to his teammates playing video games.
During a poor part of last season for the Phillies, players were focused on video games during matchups taking place out on the field. How did Santana respond to that? He just smashed the TV with a baseball bat. (RELATED: Bryce Harper Signs With The Phillies)
When the Philadelphia Phillies lost their ninth consecutive game toward the end of last September, veteran first baseman Carlos Santana felt like he needed to send a message to his teammates who he said spent portions of the game against the Atlanta Braves playing video games in the clubhouse. Santana grabbed a bat, retreated to the room at Citizens Bank Park where the gaming took place and smashed the TV to ensure there would be no more Fortnite the final two days of the season.
“I see a couple players — I don’t want to say names — they play video games during the game,” Santana told ESPN. “We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren’t worried about it. Weren’t respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It’s not my personality. But I’m angry because I want to make it good.”
This is awesome. It’s almost straight out of the movie “Moneyball,” when players dance to music after losing.
If you’re a pro athlete and you’re playing video games during actual games, then you should be suspended immediately. It should be a zero-tolerance policy.
You’re getting paid a ton of money to win. If you can’t delay picking up a controller for the four or five hours you’re committed to playing, then you have no business in the sport. It’s that simple.
I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if this ended in a fistfight. Imagine giving everything you have, and then finding out some players are busy with Fortnite. (RELATED: Philadelphia Phillies Sell $4 Million Worth Of Tickets After Signing Bryce Harper)
Smashing a TV seems like a very calm and measured response.
If you’re dumb enough to play video games during a matchup, then you’re dumb enough to get your TV smashed. Play stupid games and I promise you that you’ll win stupid prizes.
Major shoutout to Santana for showing the Phillies what leadership looks like.
Source: The Daily Caller
FILE PHOTO: British and EU flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
March 19, 2019
By Thomas Escritt and Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union governments are exasperated by British dithering over quitting the bloc but have little appetite for pushing it out on schedule next week without a divorce deal, senior figures said on Tuesday.
EU ministers in Brussels to prepare a summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday voiced frustration after the speaker of parliament threw up a new obstacle for her plan to get her Brexit deal ratified before the March 29 deadline.
“Our patience as the European Union is being sorely tested at the moment,” German Europe minister Michael Roth told reporters. “Dear friends in London, please deliver. The clock is ticking.”
But Roth also echoed comments in Berlin by Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU’s pre-eminent leader, who said she would “fight to the last minute” until midnight (2300 GMT) on March 29 to ensure an orderly exit for the EU’s second-ranked economy.
He said Germany’s main aim was to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would disrupt business across the continent.
However, after two defeats for the Withdrawal Agreement that May negotiated with the EU, and her difficulty in trying to get it through parliament on a third vote even before the speaker ruled that it must be substantially changed, it is not clear how May can avert this without asking fellow leaders for more time.
ALL DEPENDS ON MAY
Leaders expect to discuss such an extension at the two-day summit starting on Thursday afternoon. But if May has yet to make a concrete proposal on her next move then, then the summit can do little more than outline possible steps — such as a readiness to give her a couple of months, or maybe longer.
“If there is no move from London, the leaders can also decide to wait,” said Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. “It really depends on what May will say at the summit.”
Diplomats said member states were still discussing options for extension — possibly only for two to three months, if May persuades them she can clinch a deal at home, or for much longer if May accepts that radical reworking is needed. But these would come with conditions and might not be agreed until next week.
Merkel said there was “far too much in flux” to forecast the outcome of the summit, but her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, told reporters in Finland: “If more time is needed, it’s always better to do another round than a no-deal Brexit.”
EU diplomats say it is highly probable that leaders will unanimously support some sort of extension rather than see Britain lurch out of the bloc in 10 days’ time — even though some governments are starting to argue for ending the uncertainty and trusting to arrangements already put in place to mitigate the effects of a sudden, immediate exit.
Aides to French President Emmanuel Macron, a powerful voice on the Council alongside Merkel, say the onus is on Britain to say what it would do with more time.
“This uncertainty is unacceptable,” his EU affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau said in Brussels on Tuesday.
“Grant an extension? What for? Time is not a solution, it’s a method — if there’s an objective and a strategy. And it has to come from London.”
(Writing by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Contrary to the views of most economists, the Trump administration expects the U.S. economy to keep booming over the next decade on the strength of further tax cuts, reduced regulation, and improvements to the nation's infrastructure.
The annual report from President Donald Trump's Council of Economic Advisers forecasts that the economy will expand a brisk 3.2 percent this year and a still-healthy 2.8 percent a decade from now. That is much faster than the Federal Reserve's long-run forecast of 1.9 percent annual economic growth.
The administration's forecast hinges on an expectation that it will manage to implement further tax cuts, incentives for infrastructure improvements, new labor policies and scaled-back regulations — programs that are unlikely to gain favor with the Democratic-led House that would need to approve most of them.
Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House council, insisted that the president's economic agenda would provide enough fuel to drive robust growth at a time when the majority of economists foresee a slowdown due in part to the aging U.S. population.
He said the biggest risk to growth would be if financial markets anticipate that Trump's existing policies would be reversed. Without getting into specifics, Hassett said the risk would be if markets expect that the winner of the 2020 presidential election would shift away from policies such as the tax overhaul that Trump signed into law in 2017.
"Uncertainty over the policies themselves could slow their positive impact," Hassett said.
The tax cuts added roughly $1.5 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade, not accounting for economic growth. The report suggests that the lower tax rates have increased business investment in ways that will make the economy more productive, while also creating a surge in people coming off the sidelines to search for work.
The administration's optimism comes amid signs of slowing global economic growth, as well as a recent slowdown in manufacturing production and weakness in retail sales in January and December.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: Mark Read, chief executive of WPP, leaves following the AGM in London, Britain, June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
March 19, 2019
By Kate Holton and Pamela Barbaglia
LONDON (Reuters) – A series of buyout funds including U.S. firms Advent and Blackstone are in talks with advertising group WPP to explore bids for a majority stake in its data analytics unit Kantar, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The sale, led by Goldman Sachs, may value Kantar at up to 3.5 billion pounds ($4.7 billion), but some private equity investors are fretting over the decline in profits and revenues that the business has suffered in recent years.
Hellman & Friedman and CVC Capital Partners are also working on the deal, the sources said, while industry players have so far shied away from the process.
Bain Capital has also expressed interest in making a bid for Kantar, another source said, adding Bain might later decide to team up with one of the other buyout funds in the race.
WPP sent out confidential information packs this week, with non-binding offers expected in April, one of the sources said.
WPP, Blackstone, Advent and CVC declined to comment, while representatives at Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman were not immediately available.
WPP, the owner of agencies including JWT, Finsbury and Ogilvy, is in the middle of an overhaul launched by its new boss Mark Read following several profit warnings in 2017 and 2018.
The London-based group wants to sell a majority stake in Kantar to reduce debt as it braces for a tough year with revenue expected to drop by between 1.5 and 2 percent in 2019.
Kantar, a leading player in market research, provides brand and marketing communications research for some of the world’s largest advertisers.
Yet it has suffered a decline in revenue in recent years, with underlying sales down 2 percent last year to 2.6 billion pounds and operating profit down 14 percent to 301 million.
“The deal poses some challenges for private equity funds as it’s been on a downward trajectory for a while,” one source said.
Private equity investors are examining the turnaround potential of a possible deal, the sources said, and would value the business at up to 10 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), hoping to reignite growth within the first three years of their investment.
Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker said in February that Kantar could fetch more than 3 billion pounds, with WPP raising close to 2.1-2.2 billion pounds from a 60 percent stake sale.
WPP boss Read aims to complete the sale by the end of the summer as he needs cash to steer the world’s biggest advertising group back to growth.
Read took the helm of WPP last year, pledging to spend 300 million pounds to restructure the group and bring it back in line with peers by the end of 2021.
Founder Martin Sorrell, 74, remains a major WPP shareholder but is now running a new company which last year beat WPP in the race to buy Dutch digital agency MediaMonks.
(Editing by David Holmes)
Al Noor mosque shooting survivor Farhid Ahmed poses with a photo of his wife Husna, who was killed in the attack, after an interview with Reuters in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. Picture taken March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
March 19, 2019
By Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (Reuters) – Husna Ahmed was 19 when she arrived in New Zealand from Bangladesh on her wedding day. Waiting to meet her was Farid, the man she would marry in a few hours, as their families had agreed.
A quarter of a century later, the life they had built together was torn apart at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch when a gunman walked into the building, firing on worshippers at Friday prayers.
Husna encountered the gunman on his way out of the mosque. He shot her on the footpath. She fell and he fired two more shots, killing her instantly.
Farid, who uses a wheelchair after an earlier accident, was talking to a friend and was delayed from joining worshippers at his usual spot at the front of the mosque, instead praying in a small side room.
He managed to escape when he heard the shooting begin, returning when the gunman left, to find many of his friends and community members dead and comfort those who were dying.
Farid found out about his wife’s death when a detective he knew called his niece as they waited outside the mosque.
She passed the phone: “I don’t want you to wait the whole night, Farid. Go home, she will not come,” Farid said the detective told him.
“At the moment I hear that, my response was I felt numb,” Farid told Reuters. “I had tears but I didn’t break down.” His niece crumbled.
A total of 50 people were killed in the rampage, with as many wounded, as the gunman went from Al Noor to another mosque in the South Island city.
Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries including Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Syria, Turkey, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Husna was one of five members of a growing but tight-knit Bangladeshi community killed, according to the Bangladesh consul in New Zealand, Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan. Four others were wounded, one critically, he added.
Members of the Bangladesh cricket team, in town for a test match against New Zealand, narrowly avoided the carnage, turning up at the Al Noor mosque soon after the attack took place.
Based on what eyewitnesses told him, Farid said instead of hiding, Husna helped women and children inside the mosque and ran to the front of the building to look for him.
“She’s such a person who always put other people first and she was even not afraid to give her life saving other people,” Farid said.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with murder. He entered no plea and police said he is likely to face more charges.
The slaughter has rocked Christchurch, and New Zealand, to its core, blanketing the city in grief and driving Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to promise swift gun law reform.
Farid said he had forgiven his wife’s killer.
“I want to give the message to the person who did this, or if he has any friends who also think like this: I still love you,” Farid said. “I want to hug you and I want to tell him in face that I am talking from my heart. I have no grudge against you, I never hated you, I will never hate you.”
LIKE A MOTHER
A few hours after the massacre as evening fell, the front room of Farid’s home in a sleepy Christchurch suburb where he runs a homeopathy business was full with survivors and friends grieving for a woman many described as like a mother to them.
Husna was born on 12 October in 1974 in Sylhet, a city on the banks the Surma River, in northeastern Bangladesh. She was so fast that Shahzalal Junior High School would only let her run three races, to give her rivals a chance, Farid said.
She moved to New Zealand in 1994.
Thin, nervous and overwhelmed by leaving everyone she knew for a new life in an alien country, she burst into tears when her husband-to-be picked her up from Auckland airport.
He comforted her on the long drive back to Nelson, where he was living, and where she quickly found her feet.
With almost no other Bangladeshis in the small city, Husna made English-speaking friends and learned the language within six months. Farid said she spoke it with more of a Kiwi accent than he did.
When Farid’s workmates at a meatpacking plant agreed to work half an hour longer on Fridays so he could take a break to pray, she cooked them a feast every week in thanks.
And when Farid was partially paralyzed after being run over by a car outside his house, after four years of marriage, she moved with him to Christchurch and became his nurse.
“Our hobby was we used to talk to each other. A lot. And we never felt bored,” he said.
When Christchurch was razed by a deadly earthquake in 2011, Husna helped settle an influx of Bangladeshi migrants – qualified engineers, metalworkers and builders – who came to assist the rebuilding of the shattered city.
Mohammad Omar Faruk, 36, was one of the new arrivals. Faruk was working as a welder in Singapore but leapt at the opportunity to come to New Zealand where working conditions were better and permanent residency was possible.
Faruk was also killed at Al Noor mosque.
His employer, Rob van Peer, said he had allowed his team to leave early last Friday after they finished a job by lunchtime, meaning Faruk could attend Friday prayers.
Van Peer said Faruk was loved by his colleagues for his loyal and friendly personality and fast, precise welds.
Zakaria Bhuiyan, a welder at another engineering firm, also died. Newly married, he was waiting for a visitor visa so his wife could travel from Bangladesh.
Mojammel Haque worked as a dentist in Bangladesh and was studying in New Zealand for an advanced medical qualification when he was killed.
All three men knew Husna, said Mojibur Rahman, a welder and former flatmate of Faruk.
“It’s really hard because we are a little community but everyone’s living here in unity, we know each other, we share everything with each together,” he said. “Now I don’t know what’s going to happen, how we become normal.”
The fifth Bangladeshi victim was Abus Samad, 66, a former faculty member of Bangladesh Agriculture University who had been teaching at Christchurch’s Lincoln University.
CUSTOMS AND CARE
Many new workers to Christchurch brought young families, or were starting them and Husna took it upon herself to care for women through their pregnancies, often waking Farid at all hours so he could drive her to the births.
“We think she’s like a mother…if there’s something we needed, we go to Husna,” said Mohammed Jahangir Alan, another welder.
Husna guided his wife, then 19, to a midwife and a doctor and joined her in the delivery room as she gave birth to a baby girl, Alan said.
A few days later Husna shaved the infant’s head, an Islamic ritual which she did for dozens of children in the community. She was so gentle the baby fell asleep while she pulled the razor over the soft skin.
Husna would also lead the customary washing and prayer ritual for women who died. She was due to lead a workshop the day after her death to teach other women the process.
Now, Husna’s devastated female family members will wash her for her funeral, expected later this week.
“We know she would just want us to be a part of it, to wash her,” said her sister-in-law Ayesha Corner.
After the burial, Farid says he wants to continue the work he and his wife used to do and to care for their 15-year-old daughter.
When the lockdown at her school lifted on Friday, their daughter returned home, knowing only her mother was missing and asking where she was.
“I didn’t miss a second, I said: ‘She is with God,’” Farid said.
“She said: ‘You are lying’. She said: ‘Are you telling me I don’t have a mother?’”
“I said: ‘Yes, but I am your mother now and I am your father…we have to change the roles.”
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook in CHRISTCHURCH; Additional reporting by Ruma Paul in DHAKA; Editing by Lincoln Feast)