FILE PHOTO: Papua New Guinea’s then Prime Minister Peter O’Neill makes an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne/File Photo
May 27, 2019
SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Political turmoil in Papua New Guinea threatened to delay a $13 billion plan to double the country’s gas exports, sending shares in one of the project’s partners, Oil Search Ltd, down nearly 4% on Monday.
PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said on Sunday he would resign after weeks of high-level defections from the ruling party. Sir Julius Chan, twice a former premier, would take over as the government’s leader, O’Neill said.
Political instability is not unusual in Papua New Guinea and has not held back mining and energy investments in the resource-rich country, however protests over benefits failing to reach rural areas have dogged the government and project owners.
It was not clear whether Chan could command a majority in parliament when it resumes on Tuesday.
“We will not choose him. It’s a really bad choice,” opposition lawmaker Allan Bird told Reuters in a text message.
“We want a complete break from O’Neill (and) Chan is just a proxy for O’Neill,” he said.
Chan said on Monday he had been approached by both the government and the opposition to take the role.
“This is not a position I am seeking,” he said in a statement. “However, I love Papua New Guinea, and there is a desperate need right now to unite the country … and to make the wealth of this country work to the benefit of the people of this country.”
O’Neill had resisted calls to resign for weeks but his opponents said on Friday they had rallied enough support in parliament to oust him over a range of grievances, including a gas deal agreed in April with France’s Total SA.
The deal with Total set the terms for developing the Elk and Antelope gas fields, which will feed two new liquefied natural gas (LNG) production units at the PNG LNG plant, run by ExxonMobil Corp.
At the same time, ExxonMobil and its partners are planning to build a third new unit at the PNG plant, to be partly fed by another new gas field, P’nyang.
Credit Suisse analyst Saul Kavonic said the political upheaval could put pressure on the government to negotiate tough terms for the P’nyang gas agreement, which is yet to be finalised, and affect talks on development costs.
“Both these factors heighten the risk of delay,” he said in a note to clients.
Any delays in the P’nyang agreement could hold up a final investment decision on the PNG LNG expansion, which is set to double the plant’s capacity to 16 million tonnes a year.
The uncertainty sent shares in Oil Search, a partner in PNG LNG and Papua LNG, down as much as 3.9% in early trading on Monday. Energy stocks rose 0.6%.
ExxonMobil and its partners had hoped to begin basic engineering planning for the expansion by mid-2019 and make a final investment decision in 2020.
They are racing against projects in Mozambique, Qatar, North America and Australia to produce LNG from the expansion by 2024 to fill an expected gap in the global LNG market. ExxonMobil and Total both have LNG projects elsewhere that could take priority if PNG politics delays them, Kavonic said.
RBC analyst Ben Wilson said he did not think a final investment decision in 2020 was at risk yet and played down the threat that the PNG opposition would seek to renegotiate the LNG agreement.
“Sanctity of contract is critical to ongoing investment in PNG and to the success of future potential sovereign bond issuances,” Wilson said.
Total and Oil Search representatives were not immediately available to comment.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Sonali Paul; Editing by Paul Tait)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. dollars and other world currencies lie in a charity receptacle at Pearson international airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
May 26, 2019
By Josephine Mason and Thyagaraju Adinarayan
LONDON (Reuters) – Cash is still king for investors heading into the summer slowdown.
Stashing cash started during the global rout across financial markets late last year as investors worried about a global economic recession.
Increasing a cash buffer is typical during times of economic and geopolitical strife.
But data and interviews with global wealth managers show that hoarding has continued at unusually high levels even as global stocks have rallied this year amid conflicting signals after the central banks’ U-turns, mixed macroeconomic data and fresh tumult in Washington’s spat with China.
The pan-European STOXX 600 and S&P 500 are up 11% and 12% respectively for the year to date.
However, many U.S. investors have still been lured by the outperformance of U.S. Treasury bonds compared with total returns in U.S. equities over the past six months.
Millionaires were hoarding as much as a third of their wealth in cash in March, up from less than a quarter at the end of last year, according to a client survey by UBS Asset Management.
UBS doesn’t have historical data for global allocation, but Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti described cash levels as astonishing and said in March U.S. holdings were at records.
Global funds on average allocated 6.4% of their portfolios to cash in the first quarter, the highest on records going back to 2013, according to Reuters’ survey. [ASSET/WRAP]
That level shrank to 5.2% last month, but it is still above historical levels, Reuters records show.
Graphic: Cash stash, click https://tmsnrt.rs/2M1CyUr
Reflecting the caution and uncertainty spreading across markets, most UBS clients said they were waiting to pounce on the next investment opportunity, holding cash as protection against a market downturn or keeping it for an emergency when asked what their rationale is for holding so much cash.
“One of the most common questions we get asked is ‘when’s the cycle going to end’,” said James Mulford, Head of UK Mandates & Investment Content at UBS Global Wealth Management.
According to Morningstar data gathered for Reuters on more than 1,000 funds, net cash allocation has remained around 3% since late last year, above the historical average of 2.7%.
Interviews with wealth managers at Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and HSBC confirm the trend.
“Cash has been running meaningfully above average among clients,” said Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. “Typically cash would be 5-6% of their assets. Now it’s 3 to 4 times more.”
Investors wonder how much longer this year’s stock market rally can last as valuations look stretched and Q1 corporate earnings growth slowed, but they are also struggling to find alternative markets as government bond yields weaken.
“Clients are questioning if there is value in this market,” said Shalett.
Holding cash will also stifle activity and further hurt income for banks, which are struggling with lower trading activity in general.
Late last month, UBS’ Ermotti said the bank had seen some pick-up in client activity, but had previously described conditions as the toughest in years as revenues in its investment bank and wealth management fell.
SELL IN MAY?
So much cash on the sidelines undermines the idea posed by many analysts over the past month that investors have been too complacent about the headwinds, such as a breakdown in the U.S.-China trade talks, that could threaten the stock rally during the quieter summer months.
The summer months to the end of September are often the weakest stretch in the year.
Instead, investors were unusually cautious even before U.S. President Donald Trump sent shudders through financial markets earlier this month by reigniting his spat with Beijing.
“There’s a lot of cash on the sidelines that tells us investors don’t have conviction, but it also means they’re not exposed so they won’t be forced to sell,” said Willem Sels, chief market strategist at HSBC Private Banking.
“That gives me some confidence that we won’t see a big correction in equity markets.”
While Treasuries have outperformed U.S. stocks over the past six months, the strategy may not pay off in the long term, UBS reckons.
The wealth manager expects a long-term annualized return of 7.8% for global stocks based on the MSCI All Country World Index, versus 2.8% for U.S. dollar cash, measured in 1- to 3-month Treasury notes.
But what could prise them out of their lethargy? Better economic and corporate data and an end to Trump’s protectionist policies, asset managers say.
Until then, Christophe Donay, head of asset allocation at Pictet Wealth Management, said investors are stuck.
“Most investors are trapped in a prisoners dilemma. Whether to collaborate – follow the trend – or not collaborate. The optimal decision is do nothing,” he said.
Graphic: US notes vs stocks, click https://tmsnrt.rs/2EvsXyZ
Graphic: US stocks and cash adjusted for inflation, click https://tmsnrt.rs/2YLY1lz
(Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee; Editing by Toby Chopra)
The belief that the primary purpose of a business is to maximize profits for its shareholders is widely held across the country, from the boardrooms of the Fortune 500 to the classrooms of the nation’s top business schools. But this idea, which emerged in the 1970s and is now virtually assumed to be economic law, came under attack this week from a surprising direction.
Pro-business Republican Sen. Marco Rubio released a study warning of threats to the economy posed by excessive financialization. The well-researched, persuasive report highlights that private sector investment – defined as businesses using capital to purchase or build assets – has been in decline for decades, while the profits accruing to shareholders have dramatically increased. The report paints a bleak picture of an economy becoming less innovative, less competitive, and less rewarding for most of its participants.
Rubio lays the blame for this situation squarely at the feet of a business sector captured by the “ideology of shareholder primacy.” The report briefly mentions the evolving career choices of graduates of Harvard Business School while discussing America’s manufacturing decline. As a recent HBS graduate, I know that shareholder primacy theory is rigorously debated on campus by students and professors. But less often discussed is how the career choices of the school’s graduates are evidence of the ideology’s pervasiveness. The result is a staggering misallocation of some of the country’s most valuable human capital.
Harvard’s data shows that in the 1960s, 6% of HBS graduates pursued careers in finance; that figure is now over 30%, making finance the school’s most popular career field. Hedge funds, private equity firms, and investment banks are just the first order players. Over the last five years, 24% of the school’s graduates went to management consulting firms, whose rise parallels corporate America’s pursuance of shareholder primacy and its emphasis on financial initiatives like cost-cutting and merger diligence. The data shows 18% took jobs in technology, but it seems that Silicon Valley increasingly produces start-ups designed to maximize value for investors rather than pursue true innovation.
These career choices are not confined to Harvard. Data from Stanford and Wharton, two other top business schools, shows nearly identical trends. If you believe these findings, what they suggest is that many of this country’s future leaders work on behalf of an increasingly smaller group of shareholders rather than putting their talents and training to use in building, hiring, and inventing – the pursuits that result in economic development and shared prosperity.
The consequences are not just economic. The clustering of young talent in financial hubs has cultural and political implications. Over the last five years, an astounding 61% of U.S.-bound HBS graduates have landed in three cities: Boston, New York, and San Francisco. Those cities certainly have vibrant economies, but they generate just 15% of the country’s GDP and contain only 6% of America’s population.
Meanwhile, huge opportunities for leadership and wealth creation are being missed in other parts of the country and in other sectors of the economy. Texas, for example, is home to 9% of the country’s population and a dynamic economy that created one in seven new American jobs last year. Nearly 50 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the state, and several of its largest cities offer bustling start-up scenes. It is the epicenter of the shale revolution, arguably the most geopolitically important American innovation of the last two decades. Yet, over the same period, just 3% of HBS MBAs moved to Texas after graduation.
This is a complex issue, not easily distilled into a story of makers versus takers. And none of this is to say that finance or its practitioners are bad. On the contrary, financiers play a critical role in the economy. But, as Rubio’s report explains, in a healthy system they would take a back seat to industry, and industry would be allowed to reinvest its profits into less certain activities designed to yield greater amounts of long-term value.
The political and economic consequences of all of this should be the most worrisome. What happens to a country that sits by idly while a generation of its best minds congregate in a handful of cities, pursuing activities so out of sorts with the historic tenets of American capitalism? We are in the process of finding out. The political divides and the rise in income inequality that we see today are not random occurrences; they are at least in part caused by financialization and a fixation on the shareholder.
Our universities can and should play key roles in undoing these trends. It was the business schools and their faculties, after all, that helped normalize the theory of shareholder primacy. But it was not so long ago that they sought different, nobler ends. Donald David, the dean of HBS during the late 1940s, asserted that the ideal graduate would combine “competence in management” with the application of “social skill as to make his business a ‘good society,’” while demonstrating “the willingness to contribute constructively in the broader affairs of the community and nation.” The idea that managers have an obligation to do more than just return cash to shareholders – produce goods, create jobs, and lead their communities – is as relevant in an era of Sino-American economic confrontation as it was on the eve of the Cold War.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway hit out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday, saying the congresswoman “treats everybody like they’re her staff.”
Conway told “Americas Newsroom” on Thursday that after President Donald Trump abruptly ended a planned meeting with Democrats, she offered to meet with Pelosi only to be rebuffed.
“She said … ‘I talk to the president, I don’t talk to staff,’” Conway said. “You know, let’s face it, she’s the sixth-most-rich member of Congress. She treats everybody like they’re her staff.”
Although Pelosi is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, Fox News notes that her actual ranking depends on how that wealth is calculated.
“She treats me like I’m either her maid or her driver or her pilot or her makeup artist and I’m not. And I said to her ‘how very pro-woman of you’ … she’s not very pro-woman.”
Pelosi declined to comment on Conway’s remarks while speaking to reporters later on Thursday.
“I’m not going to talk about her. I responded as the speaker of the House to the [president]. Other conversations people want to have among themselves is up to them,” she said.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: A Nissan logo is pictured during the media day for the Shanghai auto show in Shanghai, China, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
May 23, 2019
By Naomi Tajitsu
YOKOHAMA (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co is not considering the possibility of a merger with top shareholder Renault at the moment, and none of the nominees to the Japanese automaker’s board are pressing to make it an issue now, an external director said on Thursday.
As Nissan ponders its future without former chairman Carlos Ghosn, who orchestrated its financial rescue two decades ago, French partner Renault SA has been quietly maneuvering for merger talks, sources at both automakers have previously told Reuters.
France’s government has also weighed in, saying on Wednesday that the status quo was weakening the alliance and could not continue.
But given Nissan’s current focus on improving corporate governance and recovering from a run of poor results, Keiko Ihara, who has been overseeing efforts to overhaul governance, told Reuters in an interview that the issue of a merger was not on the table at the moment.
“We don’t have time to feel any of the pressure which appears to be coming externally,” she said.
“We’re not aware of any director nominee who wants to make this an official topic of discussion at the moment.”
Ihara, who also chairs a provisional council for an external nominations committee to be set up next month, said the process to find eventual successors to CEO Hiroto Saikawa and other executives would begin soon after the group is formed.
Saikawa, a protege of Ghosn, has come under pressure to lift Nissan’s dismal operational performance just as Renault has been looking at ways to merge the two companies, a move opposed by Saikawa and some of his colleagues.
Ihara also said that Nissan has a lot of internal talent from which it can choose its next generation of executives after an exodus of top-level officials following the ouster of Ghosn.
Nissan is overhauling its board structure and the way it appoints top executives and determines their pay as it seeks to improve its corporate governance after it accused Ghosn of financial misconduct.
Ghosn denies all charges against him.
Last week, Nissan announced a list of 11 nominees for its expanded board of directors, which include Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and CEO Thierry Bollore, to be voted on by shareholders next month.
It also decided that Saikawa would stay on as chief executive though Renault had earlier pushed for a change in Nissan’s leadership.
“Once the nominations committee is up and running, it will start considering a succession plan,” Ihara said. She said the provisional council believed there were “dozens of people” within the company who could eventually take over as CEO, chief operating officer or other management positions.
“Nissan is a global company so it has a wealth of people who have deep global experience and expertise,” Ihara said.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Anshuman Daga)
FILE PHOTO: Pound coins are seen in the photo illustration taken in Manchester, Britain September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Illustration
May 23, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – A no-deal exit by the United Kingdom from the European Union would push sterling to its lowest against the euro since the global financial crisis a decade ago, UBS Wealth Management said on Thursday as uncertainty over the chaotic process deepens.
The asset management division of UBS said in a note the UK currency would hit 97 pence, just short of parity against the euro. That would be its weakest since December 2008.
It also predicted it would fall to $1.15, its lowest since a flash crash in October 2016.
“Investors should not be complacent about the threat of a no-deal exit,” said Dean Turner, UK economist at UBS Wealth Management.
In turn, a decision to remain in the bloc would likely cause a swift rebound in sterling. Turner said he believes the pound is undervalued relative to its purchasing power parity level of around $1.58.
Sterling was trading at 88.25 pence against the euro and $1.26 by 0907 GMT.
(Reporting by Josephine Mason, Helen Reid and Abhinav Ramnarayan; writing by Josephine Mason, Editing by Helen Reid)