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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to http://pennystockpaycheck.com for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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China is buying less coal but more mining groups

Category : Business

Cash-rich companies in China are able to snap up mining assets driven into retrenchment by slowdown in Chinese demand for coal

It is ironic indeed that China is in talks about a $2bn (£1.3bn) purchase of a gold producer, African Barrick, whose value has been hammered down at least in part by the lack of confidence surrounding the Chinese economy.

Cash-rich companies from the People’s Republic are in a perfect position to snap up mining assets around the world that are being driven into retrenchment by a slowdown in Chinese demand for all kinds of coal, ore and minerals.

Some of this slowdown results from deliberate policies by the government in Beijing, but it would take a heroic conspiracy theorist to believe these were being pursued so that more commodity firms can be hoovered up by China on the cheap.

Certainly in the case of African Barrick Gold, the share price is down well below its 2010 float on the London stock market. But demand for gold in China is still growing – partly as a hedge against falls in other investments.

There is no doubt that China’s first-half GDP growth of 7.8% – its lowest level in three years – is causing a huge slump in the price of most commodities, and severe pain for the miners who benefited so much from China’s previously soaring demand.

Some coal prices recently hit a two-year low and BHP Billiton said on Thursday that increasing costs and falling prices meant “clearly there may be some impact on jobs in some areas” of its Australian coal operations.

The company, which is expected to unveil its first profit fall in three years next week, has abandoned an $80bn five-year spending plan that it unveiled less than a year ago when commodity prices were still flying high.

Last week Rio Tinto said it would be closing the Blair Athol coal mine in Queensland before the end of the year with the loss of 140 jobs, and reported a 22% slump in first half-profits to $5bn compared with the same period last year. And this week Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) – a FTSE 100 company – said it would be cutting its spending this year by $300m and reviewing its long-term investments of $8.8bn as earnings plunged 40%.

ENRC’s chief executive, Felix Vulis, talked about a “volatile market environment and pricing uncertainty” that has come just after the Kazakh-focused iron ore miner has spent $5bn on acquisitions.

ANZ Bank has recently cut its overall commodity price forecasts by 4% for this year and 3.4% for next. Now is a good time to buy – that is, if you have $3.2

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FTSE finishes flat week on a high note as Chinese growth figures lift mining sector

Category : Business

China’s GDP news gives support to mining shares, while ENRC stake sale swirls around Kazakhmys again

Mining shares led the market higher, as the latest data from China showed the country’s economy was still growing, albeit more slowly than previously.

China of course is a major consumer of commodities, and the figures eased fears that mining companies’ revenues could come under pressure. So Rio Tinto rose 94p to £30.20, Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation climbed 15.2p to 408.8p and BHP Billiton was 54.5p better at 1805.5p.

Kazakhmys climbed 42.5p to 744p on renewed talk that it could swap its 26% in ENRC for Glencore’s 51% stake in zinc and gold group Kazzinc. Analyst Paul Cliff at ING said any deal would have to include a $500m payment from Glencore to make up for the difference in valuation between the two businesses. He said a deal would benefit Kazakhmys, but it was not clear whether Glencore would want to sell the business. Cliff said:

Any potential deal would likely generate operational and capital expenditure synergies, as well as an improved growth profile for Kazakhmys.

An asset swap is more likely than a cash sale of Kazakhmys’ ENRC stake: a cash exit appears unlikely following ENRC’s poor share price performance, in our view. Kazakhmys has little need for additional cash as its balance sheet is strong and its key growth projects enjoy low-cost Chinese funding. We believe returning cash proceeds from any potential sale of ENRC to shareholders could also result in Kazakhmys being relegated from the FTSE 100 index. We think management would rather swap Kazakhmys’ minority stake in ENRC for a controlling stake in additional base metals assets in central Asia.

While we feel comfortable that Kazzinc would be a good strategic fit for Kazakhmys, Glencore might not, of course, be a seller. Glencore has already agreed with Verny to increase its ownership in Kazzinc from 50.7% to 93% for $3.2bn. However, we note that the average equity value of mid-tier zinc producers has almost halved since Glencore’s IPO, while the intended IPO of Kazzinc’s gold assets is no longer likely to generate additional value, in our view.

Our [estimated value] for Kazzinc (100% basis) is $4.3bn, valuing Glencore’s 50.7% stake at $2.2bn. Our [valuation of Kazakhmys' ENRC stake is] $2.65bn.

We think the potential for a value-accretive exit from ENRC remains too speculative at this stage, and we maintain our sell recommendation for Kazakhmys. We continue to believe the market is underestimating Kazakhmys’ cost-inflation problem and consensus earnings per share is too high (albeit falling rapidly). Our 630p target price represents a 15% discount to our net present value estimate for the company.

Anglo American added 35p to £20.45 despite Liberum Capital moving its recommendation from buy to hold ahead of the company’s half year figures on 27 July. Analyst Dominic Okane said:

We expect pre-reporting by key divisions [Amplats, Kumba, De Beers] will deliver disappointment ahead of the plc’s results, triggering another cut to consensus estimates. Anglo has performed in line with the pack year to date but has had the worst earnings momentum alongside bid target Xstrata.

Long term Anglo holders have held out in hope of an Amplats de-merger or a bid materialising. Both now look remote and a premium-justifying bid by Glencore Xstrata is simply wide of the mark.

Elsewhere in the sector Polymetal recovered 56p to 877p after a fall earlier in the week on news it had been ordered to pay $27m in taxes and fines relating to the pricing of silver contracts.

Overall the FTSE 100 finished 57.88 points higher at 5666.13, as investors shrugged off Moody’s downgrade of Italy and further details of Spain’s budget cuts. Over the week the leading index was virtually unchanged, amid protests in Europe over austerity and disappointment that the US Federal Reserve appeared reluctant to take more aggressive measures to boost the world’s largest economy. The US reporting season began with many companies showing the scars of the global downturn.

Among the risers, Burberry recovered 71p to £12.29 following Thursday’s falls on signs of a trading slowdown.

ITV added 2.7p to 74.95p, helped by news that US cable group Comcast had sold its 15.8% stake in History Channel owner A&E Television Networks to Disney and Hearst Corporation for a better than expected $3.02bn. There was also a spot of Friday afternoon bid speculation.

BT rose 7.6p to 222.3p after a positive note on the telecoms sector from Credit Suisse. It said:

We are now more positive on the European telco sector, having increased our house overweight stance versus the market. We continue to see scope for BT to beat consensus on cost cutting. Business spend is likely to be weak again, but expectations are lower now.

Aggreko added 17p to £19.36. The temporary power supply company was hit on Thursday by a warning on sales from US group Cummins, one of its key suppliers. Cummins said US demand for power generation equipment had weakened, and it saw no improvement in sales from Brazil, China and India. But Caroline de La Soujeole at Seymour Pierce said:

Although we acknowledge that Aggreko is a significant customer of Cummins power generation segment (at around20% according to some market estimates), we do not believe Cummins downgrade is a precursor of bad news from Aggreko. One of Aggreko’s key strength is its scale which enables it to respond quickly to any changes in demand. In its pre-close trading update, which was less than a month ago, Aggreko raised its capital expenditure guidance by £50m to £415m. We remain comfortable with our positive stance on the company. Forecasts remain unchanged. The recent weakness in the share price represents a buying opportunity in our view with the shares trading on a prospective PE of 18 times.

But continuing criticism of G4S over its poor performance in providing security for the London Olympics saw its shares fall 4.3p to 278.7p.

Experian lost 19p to 932p despite the credit information company announcing a 14% rise in quarterly revenue, driven by a strong performance in north America. Caroline de La Soujeole at Seymour Pierce said:

Overall this is a very good performance from Experian. However we are concerned by the slowdown in UK and Latin America credit services – combined these two segments account for 25% of group sales. We retain our reduce recommendation and 840p target price.

Power group SSE dropped 12p to £14.08 after sell notes from both Citigroup and SocGen, while Barclays fell 1.35p to 162.15p as the libor scandal continued to cast a shadow over the bank despite the departure of chief executive Bob Diamond. Poor results from US bank JP Morgan did not help sentiment.

Defence companies were in focus during the Farnborough Air Show, on hopes of a boost to business. BAE Systems rose 6.4p to 306.4p while Chemring – which was also the subject of takeover talk – climbed 1.2p to 279.2p.

But Booker led the FTSE 250 fallers, down 2.35p to 88.95p as Shore Capital downgraded the cash and carry wholesaler from hold to sell. Analyst Clive Black said:

Booker’s stock valuation is now amongst the global consumer stars. Such ratings imply no disappointment whatsoever in our view; and whilst we are not suggesting a disappointment is around the corner, we note the inclement British summer cannot be doing Booker any favours, noting evidence of soggy trading in the soft drinks market.

ENRC chairman pledges to fly to Africa as corruption concerns mount

Category : Business

Mehmet Dalman wants face-to-face meeting with controversial Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler following Global Witness report

Mehmet Dalman, the chairman of FTSE 100 miner Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, has promised to fly to Africa for talks with the business’s controversial partner following mounting concerns that the group has left itself open to corruption allegations.

ENRC admits to being in an “ongoing dialogue” with the Serious Fraud Office after claims made by more than one whistleblower at the firm – an exchange that includes questions over the group’s ties to Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler. Gertler has been dogged by accusations that a close relationship with the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo has allowed him to buy interests in the country’s mining assets on the cheap.

Speaking after ENRC’s annual general meeting in London on Tuesday, Dalman said: “I need to go and sit down and talk to this guy [Gertler]. I need to go and feel for myself how things are in Africa and I will do that. I can’t do it today. I’ve only been in this seat for three months. I do actually have another couple of jobs to do so it’s not my only job.”

He added: “In fairness we have not done as much work [in Africa] as we have done in Kazakhstan [where a whistleblower also highlighted concerns]. I have not turned my attentions to the Africans as yet.”

Last week, in an interview with the Guardian, Dalman refused to endorse Gertler when asked if he had any concerns about doing business with the Israeli. “Don’t give me questions that I will look bad on, right? Come on. Be fair,” he said.

Dalman’s pledge to attempt to meet his company’s business partner came as anti-corruption campaigners Global Witness published a report into the group’s relationship with Gertler that called on ENRC to publish the results of an internal inquiry into the whistleblowers’ allegations. The report stated: “Global Witness believes that [Gertler's] offshore structures [that sold assets to ENRC] could allow corrupt Congolese officials to benefit from these deals.”

Global Witness representatives attended Tuesday’s annual meeting, which partly motivated the company to set itself apart from its listed mining peers and ban the media from the meeting. Dalman, who claims the decision was taken out of his hands, said: “The board took the view, for whatever reason, that as we begin to move towards this liberalisation of the way we do things, and given the fact that we had Global Witness in there, it may not have been the most appropriate thing to do.”

In the media’s absence, the annual general meeting’s resolutions sailed through, with the company trumpeting a 97.9% support for the remuneration report, which has caused such problems for other companies during the so-called “shareholder spring”. However, shareholders linked to the company’s Kazakhstan home – including the three founders Alexander Mashkevitch, Alijan Ibragimov and Patokh Chodiev, hold more than 80% of ENRC shares. Votes accounting for almost 10% of the free float actively opposed the resolution.

The meeting was Dalman’s first as chairman and came as the company is trying to reinvent itself after being hit by a corporate governance storm last year, when concerns over the 2010 purchase of a controlling stake in a disputed Congo operation, Kolwezi, was followed by an internal row between the founding shareholders and directors.

Last June’s annual meeting ended with the abrupt departure of two of those directors, Sir Richard Sykes and Ken Olisa, which raised fears that the founders were trying to consolidate power. Olisa said ENRC’S behaviour was “more Soviet than City”.

Both ENRC and Gertler have consistently denied any wrongdoing in the DRC and insist the transactions were properly conducted.

Mining group ENRC urged to reveal details of controversial Congo deals

Category : Business

Campaigners want Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation to publish results of inquiry into links with Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler

Controversial links between the FTSE 100 mining group Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and an Israeli businessman with high-level contacts in the Democratic Republic of Congo have returned to plague the company on the eve of its annual general meeting in London on Tuesday.

Anti-corruption campaigner Global Witness is urging ENRC to publish the results of an internal inquiry into allegations made by at least two whistleblowers at the firm, which is understood to include an investigation into the group’s ties to Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler.

Gertler has been dogged by accusations that a close relationship with DRC president Joseph Kabila has allowed him to buy interests in the country’s mining assets on the cheap. The Global Witness report states: “The offshore shell companies associated with Mr Gertler and paid by ENRC are obscure entities which have been registered in secrecy jurisdictions and have therefore not declared their full list of beneficiaries. Global Witness believes that these offshore structures could allow corrupt Congolese officials to benefit from these deals. If this is correct, ENRC may have poured money into corrupt transactions.”

ENRC has acquired stakes in mining concessions from Gertler at prices that appear to have delivered the Israeli’s offshore companies handsome – and speedy – profits. The FTSE 100 group’s purchases have also been criticised for being at levels significantly less than the true market value, meaning the company and its partner could have profited at the expense of one of the poorest populations on Earth.

The call for more transparency at ENRC comes after the mining company’s new chairman, Mehmet Dalman, refused to back Gertler in an interview with the Guardian last week. When asked if he has ever had any concerns about doing business with the Israeli, Dalman replied: “You know that is such a leading question I’m not even going to respond to it, right? … Any comment I make, whatever you write down, it will not look right. Why would I answer that question? It is a no-win situation for me. Don’t give me questions that I will look bad on, right? Come on. Be fair.”

The Global Witness report lists five deals it is concerned about that ENRC has completed in the DRC. Its questions centre on how Gertler’s offshore companies “obtained their licences in deals that were conducted in secrecy and not subject to public tenders”; how the offshore entities “have not revealed their full list of beneficiaries [so] there is a risk that these beneficiaries could include corrupt Congolese officials”; and how “in at least two cases ENRC bankrolled the initial purchases by Gertler-related offshore companies instead of doing business directly with the Congolese government”.

Scrutiny of these deals – plus similar transactions conducted with Gertler by FTSE 100 commodity trader Glencore – have led to promises of a parliamentary investigation. Last month, Pauline Latham MP, a member of the international development select committee, issued a statement asking: “Are London-listed firms using Dan Gertler and shell companies to navigate around anti-bribery legislation?”

Glencore, ENRC and Gertler deny any wrongdoing and say the transactions were properly conducted. In response to the Global Witness report, ENRC said: “ENRC is committed to upholding the highest standards of corporate governance and implements a zero-tolerance policy to bribery and corruption across all of our operations. In bringing significant and much-needed investment to the DRC, ENRC has fully complied with regulations and disclosure obligations.” A spokesman for Gertler’s Fleurette Group said: “Fleurette has continually stated that the only beneficiaries [of Fleurette Group] are the Gertler Family Trust for the family members of Dan Gertler.”

Mining group ENRC urged to reveal details of controversial Congo deals

Category : Business

Campaigners want Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation to publish results of inquiry into links with Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler

Controversial links between the FTSE 100 mining group Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and an Israeli businessman with high-level contacts in the Democratic Republic of Congo have returned to plague the company on the eve of its annual general meeting in London on Tuesday.

Anti-corruption campaigner Global Witness is urging ENRC to publish the results of an internal inquiry into allegations made by at least two whistleblowers at the firm, which is understood to include an investigation into the group’s ties to Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler.

Gertler has been dogged by accusations that a close relationship with DRC president Joseph Kabila has allowed him to buy interests in the country’s mining assets on the cheap. The Global Witness report states: “The offshore shell companies associated with Mr Gertler and paid by ENRC are obscure entities which have been registered in secrecy jurisdictions and have therefore not declared their full list of beneficiaries. Global Witness believes that these offshore structures could allow corrupt Congolese officials to benefit from these deals. If this is correct, ENRC may have poured money into corrupt transactions.”

ENRC has acquired stakes in mining concessions from Gertler at prices that appear to have delivered the Israeli’s offshore companies handsome – and speedy – profits. The FTSE 100 group’s purchases have also been criticised for being at levels significantly less than the true market value, meaning the company and its partner could have profited at the expense of one of the poorest populations on Earth.

The call for more transparency at ENRC comes after the mining company’s new chairman, Mehmet Dalman, refused to back Gertler in an interview with the Guardian last week. When asked if he has ever had any concerns about doing business with the Israeli, Dalman replied: “You know that is such a leading question I’m not even going to respond to it, right? … Any comment I make, whatever you write down, it will not look right. Why would I answer that question? It is a no-win situation for me. Don’t give me questions that I will look bad on, right? Come on. Be fair.”

The Global Witness report lists five deals it is concerned about that ENRC has completed in the DRC. Its questions centre on how Gertler’s offshore companies “obtained their licences in deals that were conducted in secrecy and not subject to public tenders”; how the offshore entities “have not revealed their full list of beneficiaries [so] there is a risk that these beneficiaries could include corrupt Congolese officials”; and how “in at least two cases ENRC bankrolled the initial purchases by Gertler-related offshore companies instead of doing business directly with the Congolese government”.

Scrutiny of these deals – plus similar transactions conducted with Gertler by FTSE 100 commodity trader Glencore – have led to promises of a parliamentary investigation. Last month, Pauline Latham MP, a member of the international development select committee, issued a statement asking: “Are London-listed firms using Dan Gertler and shell companies to navigate around anti-bribery legislation?”

Glencore, ENRC and Gertler deny any wrongdoing and say the transactions were properly conducted. In response to the Global Witness report, ENRC said: “ENRC is committed to upholding the highest standards of corporate governance and implements a zero-tolerance policy to bribery and corruption across all of our operations. In bringing significant and much-needed investment to the DRC, ENRC has fully complied with regulations and disclosure obligations.” A spokesman for Gertler’s Fleurette Group said: “Fleurette has continually stated that the only beneficiaries [of Fleurette Group] are the Gertler Family Trust for the family members of Dan Gertler.”

ENRC promises boardroom change as profits fall

Category : Business

The company, which was shaken by a boardroom bust-up last year, is keen to bolster its corporate governance credentials to curry favour with international investors

ENRC, the London-listed Kazakh mining firm, is promising to bring in new directors to “refresh” its management team as it seeks to regain its poise after reporting a fall in profit in 2011.

The company, which was shaken by a boardroom bust-up last year, is keen to bolster its corporate governance credentials to curry favour with international investors. Analysts have suggested its share price could be higher if it was run on more conventional lines.

Chairman Mehmet Dalman admitted in an interview with the Guardian the board had been “dysfunctional” in the past, but said that was no longer the case after reforms last year.

Ken Olisa, a former British non-executive who was ousted after last year’s tumultuous annual meeting, famously described the company as “more Soviet than City”. Floated in 2007, it has been rocked by disagreements over strategy.

Three Kazakh oligarchs own more than 35% of the company; a further 12% is owned by the Republic of Kazakhstan. Kazakhmys, another miner, owns 26%.

Today, ENRC blamed rising costs for its weak financial performance, citing wage and energy inflation and a bigger bill linked to the price of raw materials used by its manufacturing operations.

A big producer of ferrochrome, an essential component of stainless steel, ENRC is one of Kazakhstan’s largest companies, accounting for 3% of the country’s GDP in 2009. ENRC employs more than 70,000 people, of which 65,000 are located in Kazakhstan.

Profits dived 7.5% to $2.7bn (£1.7bn) last year as costs rose 24% to $3.5bn in a year that saw record capital expenditure of nearly $2bn. The company is planning to cut costs by $150m this year, partly by reducing headcount in Kazakhstan. Some activities could be outsourced to generate further efficiencies.

Rival Kazakhmys this month reported real inflation in Kazakhstan at almost three times the official rate.

Dalman, a former City investment banker at Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank, who took over from Johannes Sittard in February, said: “We have continued to review board composition, mindful of the need to progressively refresh the board, with a view to affording it with talented and dedicated directors. I will lead this effort and I will be in a position to report back to you on our progress in the not too distant future.”

ENRC needs to recruit a new senior independent director to replace Dalman, who held that role before becoming chairman. One other non-executive is being sought. Dalman said he expected to announce appointments in “weeks rather than months”. He said ENRC’s share price did not reflect the company’s intrinsic worth and should be substantially higher than today’s (Wed) 646p. Dalman said it was his understanding that non-executive director Sir Paul Judge intended to stay with the company even though it was reported last year that he wanted the chairmanship.

Felix Vulis, ENRC chief executive, was optimistic about future prospects. He said: “Although the volatility in global markets persists in 2012, particularly concerning the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, we remain confident in the outlook for our diversified mix of commodities due to sustained growth in emerging markets.”

In January, ENRC agreed to pay $1.25bn to settle a long-running dispute with Canada’s First Quantum Minerals over assets in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

ENRC sparked uproar when it bought the Kolwezi copper mining project in the war-ravaged African country. The operation had belonged to First Quantum but it had been seized by the DRC government, which accused the Canadians of contract violations. City analysts said ENRC’s action had alienated shareholders and several big investors, including Standard Life, sold their holdings in protest.

The agreement was struck on the basis that First Quantum drops all legal claims against the DRC and ENRC; the DRC has also pledged to terminate its claims against First Quantum.

Greenock Resources: Kakanda Project Announcements

Category : Stocks, World News

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Feb. 21, 2012) - Greenock Resources Inc. (TSX VENTURE:GKR) (“Greenock”) announces the conditions to satisfy completion of the Letter Agreement dated October 5, 2011 whereby a private company Quatern Holdings Limited (“Quatern”) or its nominee was to acquire 87.5% of the shares of PTM Minerals (Cayman) Ltd. (“PTM”) have not been completed.

Greenock has been informed of actions by Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation PLC (“ENRC”) that challenges the mineral rights of PTM. As quoted from correspondence copied to Greenock on February 21, 2012 between Torys LLP representing ENRC to the Corporate Finance Branch of the Ontario Securities Commission:

See original here: Greenock Resources: Kakanda Project Announcements

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Greenock Resources: Kakanda Project Announcements

Category : Stocks, World News

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Feb. 21, 2012) - Greenock Resources Inc. (TSX VENTURE:GKR) (“Greenock”) announces the conditions to satisfy completion of the Letter Agreement dated October 5, 2011 whereby a private company Quatern Holdings Limited (“Quatern”) or its nominee was to acquire 87.5% of the shares of PTM Minerals (Cayman) Ltd. (“PTM”) have not been completed.

Greenock has been informed of actions by Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation PLC (“ENRC”) that challenges the mineral rights of PTM. As quoted from correspondence copied to Greenock on February 21, 2012 between Torys LLP representing ENRC to the Corporate Finance Branch of the Ontario Securities Commission:

Follow this link: Greenock Resources: Kakanda Project Announcements

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