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Afghan finance minister sees boom in indian, chinese investment


Jan 30 Afghanistan expects Chinese and Indian investments in iron ore and copper mining to buoy its economy after NATO troops withdraw in 2014, the country's finance minister said on Wednesday. A group of Indian companies which in 2011 won rights to mine iron-ore in Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, should invest from $10 billion to $13 billion, and Chinese firms should commit from $5 billion to $7 billion on the Aynak copper deposit in Logar province, Omar Zakhilwal told a news briefing in Geneva. The Afghan government is trying to reassure foreign investors its economy will not sink following the NATO withdrawal. Gross domestic product should grow 10 percent this year, in line with the 10-12 percent annual expansion over the past decade, and expand by 6 percent next year, Zakhilwal said. Asked about the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops, Zakhilwal said: "There will be an impact, no doubt about it, but it is not to the extent it is reported. The leaving of the military will not lead to the collapse of the economy."

Referring to China and India, he said: "As we move forward beyond 2014, when international assistance comes down, of course we expect it will be substituted by the private sector .... We believe the involvement of the private sector and private investment certainly has a more lasting impact on our economy than even aid."Afghanistan signed a 25-year contract with China National Petroleum Corp in late 2011 covering drilling and a planned refinery in the northern provinces of Faryab and Sar-e-Pul, the first major oil production in the country.

CNPC, which has started oil production, should invest from $1 billion to $1.5 billion, Zakhilwal said. Investors have to factor in the threat from the Taliban, who have fired rockets at mining projects and planted improvised explosive devices along roads.

In late November, most of the roughly 170 Chinese workers who fled rocket attacks at Aynak, the largest foreign investment project in Afghanistan, returned because of improved security, the mining minister told Reuters at the time. Afghanistan was among countries classed as being at "very high risk" of corruption in a report issued by watchdog Transparency International UK on Tuesday. But Zakhilwal, who signed an agreement with the United Nations on Tuesday for training of Afghan officials in governance, said reports of corruption were exaggerated and the country had made "significant improvement" in recent years. Afghanistan expected to become a member in the next month or two of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, he said, adding that some of its measures exceeded requirements.

Akbank expects 2013 loan growth ahead of sector


ISTANBUL Jan 17 Turkish lender Akbank expects its loan book to grow 20 percent this year and deposits to rise 15 percent, as it seeks to increase market share and lend at higher margins. The Istanbul-based bank also said in a presentation to investors on Thursday it saw its assets rising 15 percent this year, adding the rates of growth it expected were higher than forecasts for the sector as a whole.

The sector's assets were seen growing 12 percent this year, with deposits set to rise 14 percent and lending seen up 16 percent, the presentation said.

Australia business activity weakened in sept survey


SYDNEY Oct 9 Australian business conditions weakened in September as retailers and wholesalers suffered from slack demand, while inflationary pressures remained very subdued, adding to the case for further cuts in interest rates. A monthly survey of around 400 firms by National Australia Bank found firms complaining of a high local dollar, tighter fiscal policy and softer commodity prices. As a result the survey's main measure of business conditions fell 3 points in September to stand at -3, some way below its long-run average. In contrast, the index of business confidence rose 3 points to stand at 0, reversing much of the fall seen the previous month. The two measures have been see-sawing for months with no clear trend emerging."The pull back in business conditions was led by particularly heavy declines in wholesale, retail and transport & utilities," said NAB chief economist Alan Oster.

"We expect to see one more rate cut in November, provided core inflation remains subdued, with the possibility of another in early 2013," he added. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cut interest rates a quarter point to 3.25 percent last week citing a slowdown in China, lower export prices and a high currency among reasons for the move.

Financial markets are pricing in around a two-in-three chance of a cut to 3 percent in November, and further easing to 2.75 percent or lower next year. The survey's measure of sales dropped 6 points to -3, while that for profitability eased 3 points to -5. Measures of future demand were also weak, with the index of forward orders falling 5 points to -7 in the month.

Employment was a shade softer, led by a pullback in the once red-hot mining sector. Mining giant BHP Billiton on Tuesday said it plans to cut an undisclosed number of jobs in iron ore, its biggest and most profitable business, as it tries to cope with weaker prices and higher costs. Yet overall mining employment conditions stayed positive, suggesting miners were still hiring but at a slower pace. Measures of inflation were benign with final product prices rising at the slowest pace since January. Input costs also eased, as did the wage bill. Official figures for consumer prices are due later in October and are expected to show underlying inflation remained near the floor of the RBA's 2 to 3 percent target band in the third quarter.

Bnp paribas loses geneva trade finance head


GENEVA, March 29 French bank BNP Paribas' Geneva-based managing director and head of trade finance, Jacques-Olivier Thomann, has left his role, according to several banking sources. Thomann's decision to leave was a personal choice, and his successor will be revealed shortly, according to a BNP Paribas source, adding that he has accepted an advisory role at the bank's Paris headquarters.

BNP Paribas is one of the most active banks in trade finance, an industry that has come under increasing pressure from Basel regulations on capital adequacy and from a shortage of dollar liquidity among European banks.

Last week Thomann told Reuters the bank was planning to launch a fund this year to drum up new liquidity for trade finance.

Thomann is also president of industry body the Geneva Trading and Shipping Association.

Business looks to un report for clarity on climate risks


Companies increasingly factor extreme weather into their strategic planning and a report from the United Nations due on Friday is expected to underscore the heightened risks they face. Extreme temperatures, droughts, and sea level rises will all get worse unless governments make sharp cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summary report is expected to conclude. It is also expected to say human activities are "extremely likely" - at least a 95 percent probability - to be the main cause of warming since the 1950s, according to leaked drafts of the report seen by Reuters. Most companies already examine how climate change and extreme weather events could impact their output, operations, goods availability and demand. A survey by the Carbon Disclosure Project and Accenture in January showed that 70 percent of the 2,415 companies polled believed their revenue would be significantly affected by a changing climate. Some 51 percent said that drought or extreme rain had already affected their businesses, which represented a combined spending power of $1 trillion.

"For business, it is not about arguing with scientific consensus; it is about understanding the scale of the risk," said Celine Herweijer, partner at PwC."It is about simple business risk and planning: where can you invest; how can you protect your infrastructure; where can you source supplies; what is the cost of commodities; what's your plan B?," she added. RISKS Utilities and manufacturers are studying weather patterns which could put their sites and operations at risk while retailers, such as Tesco, are studying their supply chain to consider the impact of climate change on agricultural commodities.

Insurers might have to ditch traditional models for pricing risk as extreme weather events increase and premiums become unaffordable for homeowners and businesses. Around 80 percent of the assets of companies on London's FTSE350 index are overseas, many in the countries most vulnerable to climate change such as India, China, South Africa and Brazil. Spirits maker Diageo has been expanding in emerging markets such as Africa, India and Latin America, and expects water-related stress on crops to affect its businesses.

"As our business continues to grow, particularly in emerging markets, the climate change impacts increase. As we broaden our strategy from our own operations to our supply chain, the report reaffirms this is the right strategy to take," said Michael Alexander, head of environment at the firm. Diageo, which sells brands such as Guinness beer and Smirnoff vodka, relies on wheat, barley, corn and maize but temperature and rainfall changes will affect some growing areas, prompting the firm to turn to less water-intensive crops such as sorghum or cassava. For telecom companies such as Britain's BT Group, more extreme weather will not only affect its suppliers in emerging markets but its networks in Europe."The BT network in the UK is a strategic national asset and we are looking at how we can model (based on the IPCC report) what could happen on the flood plains over the next 50 to 100 years," said Niall Dunne, BT Group's head of sustainability."The more extreme weather impacts on our network, the more faults there are. BT Fiber Optic Broadband and BT Sport are multi-billion pound investments and we need to protect those in the long term."