Sun, May 18, 2014 - Page 15 News List

World Business Quick Take



US housing starts jump

US housing starts jumped last month and building permits hit their highest level in nearly six years, offering hope that the troubled US housing market could be stabilizing. A separate report on Friday showed consumer sentiment falling this month on worries over income growth, tempering the housing data’s upbeat signal on the economy. Groundbreaking for homes surged 13.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.07 million units, the highest since November last year, the US Commerce Department said. The increase, which marked a rebound from a cold winter that had weighed on activity, was driven by starts on multifamily housing.


Insider trader sentenced

A US federal judge on Friday sentenced Michael Steinberg, a former portfolio manager for SAC Capital, to 42 months in prison following his conviction for insider trading. US Judge Richard Sullivan imposed a sentence longer than the 24 months sought by Steinberg’s attorneys, but shorter than the 63 to 78 months prosecutors had argued for. A New York jury in December last year convicted Steinberg after concluding he garnered about US$1.9 million in illegal profits through insider information about Dell and other technology companies that was relayed to SAC through a chain of business contacts, some of whom received money for the tips. One of eight ex-SAC employees now convicted of insider trading, Steinberg was close to SAC founder Steven Cohen, whose firm in November last year pleaded guilty to insider trading and paid SU$1.8 billion in penalties. Cohen has not been charged criminally.


Rio would consider offers

Rio Tinto is not actively seeking to divest assets this year, but would consider any attractive offers, company chief executive Sam Walsh said on Friday. The world’s third-largest miner, has been divesting assets that it no longer considers core. Speculation has centered on coal operations in Mozambique, South Africa and Australia, but Walsh said there were no firm plans. “If somebody comes along with a large checkbook and makes an attractive offer, of course we’ll consider that ... but we are not out in the market seeking for people to buy our assets,” he told reporters. “We have no need to divest any assets during 2014; we are focusing on the final work to get our balance sheet back in strength.”


France called protectionist

The leading US business group on Friday called France protectionist, after Paris asserted its right to veto any foreign takeover of key French companies. The US Chamber of Commerce said the move by Paris, announced on Thursday as US industrial giant General Electric presses to buy a division of France’s Alstom, would not help the country’s economy. The new rules, which came into effect on Friday, allow the government the final say over whether a foreign company can take over a French firm in the key sectors of energy, transport, water, health and telecommunications. French Minister of Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg called it a move of “economic patriotism.” “These protective measures on France’s strategic interests are a renewal of our powers,” he told Le Monde newspaper.

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