Company news in brief

15 August 2019 | Business

Glencore loses bid to stop 'Paradise Papers'

Global commodity miner and trader Glencore yesterday lost its case to stop Australian tax authorities using business information that was leaked as part of the so-called Paradise Papers.

Glencore had argued that information revealed by the Paradise Papers – a leaked dossier that included information on clients of the Appleby law firm in Bermuda - should not be available to tax authorities as the information had been stolen.

But Australia's high court found that the Australian Tax Office (ATO) was entitled to access the documents as they were in the public domain, adding that lawyer-client privilege did not apply in this case.

The ruling potentially opens the door for Glencore to receive a backdated tax bill, given the ATO has handed peers BHP and Rio Tinto large tax notices in recent years after reviewing their tax practices, specifically those around valuing commodities in lower tax jurisdictions.

"Glencore respects today's High Court decision," a company spokesman told Reuters. – Nampa/Reuters

StanChart eyes private bank assets in growth push

Standard Chartered is targetting growing its private banking assets by 50% to about US$100 billion in three to five years and hire dozens of bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore towards that goal, a senior executive of the lender said.

The moves show StanChart has big growth ambitions for the private banking unit that had until recently weighed on the lender's earnings, with its small size stoking speculation it would be put under review for possible divestment.

The lender will recruit 30-40 private bankers every year in the next two to three years to add to its roughly 300 existing relationship managers, and the bulk of the additions will be in Hong Kong and Singapore, StanChart's global head for private banking and wealth management Didier von Daeniken told Reuters.

With $65 billion worth of private banking assets, London-headquartered StanChart is a small player compared with UBS which, as per Asian Private Banker data, had assets worth US$2.3 trillion and Credit Suisse, with US$770 billion last year.

The private banking business accounted for just 3.8% of StanChart's total profit before tax in the first-half of this year.

StanChart's private banking business caters to wealthy individuals across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, through booking centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, India, London and Jersey Island. – Nampa/Reuters

BAT's takeover of Twisp wins SA approval

British American Tobacco's (BAT) proposed takeover of e-cigarette maker Twisp won approval from South Africa's Competition Tribunal on Tuesday after the UK-based group agreed to a series of conditions.

The local unit of BAT, the world's second-largest tobacco company by sales, announced the deal in 2017 as part of its efforts to increase its offering of so-called next-generation products or alternatives to smoking cigarettes.

BAT, like rivals, is striving for a bigger chunk of the global market for smoking alternatives as volumes of traditional cigarettes continue to slide.

Under conditions placed on the deal, the combined group would not be allowed to agree with retailers to allocate their products more than 70% of visible sales space given to e-cigarettes. They also won't incentivise retailers to deny space to rival products. The conditions will apply for five years.

The Tribunal also said there should be no retrenchments or job cuts as a result of the proposed deal for a period of two years from the date on which the transaction is implemented. – Nampa/Reuters

Exxon eyes exit in UK North Sea

Exxon Mobil is considering a sale of its assets in the British North Sea after more than 50 years in the oil and gas basin as it focuses on US shale production and new projects.

The world's largest publicly traded energy company has held talks with a number of North Sea operators in recent weeks to gauge interest in some or all of its assets, which could fetch up to US$2 billion, according to three industry sources with knowledge of the matter. Exxon declined to comment.

Leaving the British North Sea would mark a major retreat from Europe for Irving, Texas-headquartered Exxon, which has already put its Norwegian offshore assets on the block.

It would follow similar moves by US rivals Chevron and ConocoPhillips which earlier this year sold the bulk of their North Sea operations.

Potential buyers could include large private equity-backed North Sea producers such as Chrysaor or Neptune which have acquired portfolios from veteran producers in recent years. – Nampa/Reuters

Boeing deliveries fall 38%

Boeing Co delivered 38% fewer planes in the first seven months of 2019 than the same period a year earlier, as the grounding and doubts around the future of its best-selling 737 MAX jets hurt operations.

Deliveries totalled 258 aircraft in the seven months through July, compared to 417 last year, and trailing far behind the 458 aircraft handed over in the same period by European rival Airbus SE.

The numbers put Boeing on course to lose the crown of world's biggest planemaker, which it has held uninterrupted for seven years.

The 737 MAX has been grounded worldwide following two fatal accidents that killed more than 300 people and both Boeing and airlines continue to extend the timelines for when it will return to service.

Last month, the company posted its largest-ever quarterly loss due to the spiraling cost of resolving issues with the MAX, warning it may have to halt production of the grounded jet altogether if regulators around the world do not give clearance for it to fly again soon. – Nampa/Reuters

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