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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to 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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Standard Chartered leads FTSE 100 lower as US investor cautions on bank’s loan book

Category : Business

Leading index dips after seven days of gains, after disappointing Chinese data and banking sector weakness

Standard Chartered is leading the way lower as the market slips back after seven days of gains.

The bank is down 70p at £15.13, a decline of more than 4%, following a report that investment group Muddy Waters was shorting its shares. According to Bloomberg, the group’s Carson Block said he was concerned about the bank’s deteriorating loan quality, and said its loan book could come under stress when the Chinese economy slows down. He reportedly said at a conference in Las Vegas on Friday:

We think the market misunderstands the amount of risk that’s presently in the book.

He pointed to a $1bn loan to Samin Tan, the chairman of Bumi, the coal company at the centre of a dispute between co-founders Nathaniel Rothschild and Indonesia’s Bakrie family.

Meanwhile HSBC is 11.4p lower at 733.4p after Investec moved from buy to reduce. Analyst Ian Gordon said:

We are perfectly comfortable with HSBC’s first quarter 2013 financials – sharply lower impairments and an improving cost performance broadly offsetting weak revenues – but after the stock’s recent outperformance we see limited further upside.

Overall the FTSE 100 is down 21.65 points at 6603.33, not helped by disappointing Chinese industrial production figures. Investors have turned a little more cautious following recent market performances, including a five and a half year high on the FTSE 100.

Miners are mixed after the Chinese data, with Anglo American down 29.5p at 1561.5p and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation 4.7p lower at 289.2p.

But Lonmin has been lifted 15.4p to 294.2p after the platinum miner reported a better than expected first half profit of $54m, up from $18m and lifted its production guidance. The group has been hit by a wave of unrest and violence in South Africa, and warned that wage talks ahead presented a significant challenge.

Elsewhere GlaxoSmithKline has climbed 19p to £16.89 following news late on Friday that US regulators had approved Breo, a treatment for chronic pulmonary disease made in partnership with American group Theravance.

G4S has added 5.1p to 252.8p as bargain hunters emerged after the company’s recent declines. The company has won a couple of UK government contracts as it tries to shed the legacy of its chaotic London Olympic performance.

Strike-hit mining firm CEO quits

Category : Business, World News

The chief executive of mining firm Lonmin is stepping down four months after a deadly strike at its South African Marikana platinum mine.

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Lonmin’s acting chief Simon Scott awarded £1m pay package

Category : Business

Simon Scott’s special award, worth almost £814,635, or two and a half times his salary, will be paid if he stays for three years

Lonmin’s acting chief executive Simon Scott has been awarded a bonus and one-off cash award of almost £1m despite unprecedented industrial unrest in South Africa, leaving more than 40 dead and plunging the mining group into financial crisis this summer.

In the midst of the industrial dispute it was decided in early September that Scott – Lonmin’s finance director, who was acting chief executive because of Ian Farmer’s ill-health – would be awarded an “exceptional one-off cash retention award … to help provide immediate stability for the company”. The award, worth almost £814,635, or two and a half times Scott’s salary, will be paid if he remains with the company for three years and Lonmin performs to expectations. In addition Scott received a bonus of £130,311, almost half his maximum entitlement. This was on top of benefits and an inflated salary for taking on Farmer’s role totalling £419,552.

He did not meet a number of bonus performance criteria, but was judged to have qualified for the safety element of his bonus. For the purposes of Scott’s bonus calculation, Lonmin’s remuneration committee found just two fatalities had occurred in the year. Last month Lonmin shareholders voted in favour of an $817m cash call to repair the group’s damaged balance sheet after the industrial unrest.

Anglo American Platinum sacks 12,000 striking South African miners

Category : Business

Staff fired by text and email after three-week strike while two deaths reported amid latest unrest

The world’s biggest platinum producer has sacked 12,000 workers by text message and email at its largest South African platinum mine following three weeks of strikes over pay and working conditions.

Bosses at Anglo American Platinum, or Amplats, a subsidiary of London-listed Anglo American, made the decision on Friday on another day of violent clashes between South African police and workers that left one person dead.

The strike has shut four of the firm’s five mines in the Rustenburg area, 70 miles from Johannesburg, costing Amplats production of 39,000 ounces of platinum, worth £51m, according to the company. Two more mines owned by Amplats were closed as the strikes spread, with the firm unable to guarantee the safety of staff who reported for duty.

What started as a platinum mining issue has now extended to other industries, with the oil group Shell declaring that it was unable to honour fuel deliveries after 20,000 truck drivers continued a two-week strike. Strikes are also under way at gold and iron ore mines and production of 2,000 cars was lost after a wildcat strike at the Toyota plant in Durban.

Amplats decided to sack the miners four days after issuing an ultimatum to the 26,000 strikers to return to work. Only 20% of workers returned, meaning that the mines remained shut.

Those who failed to turn up for work were given a second ultimatum to attend disciplinary hearings, but 12,000 decided against being represented and were dismissed.

Workers are demanding higher salaries, claiming that rival firm Lonmin has set a precedent. Last month, Lonmin gave its staff a 22% pay rise after weeks of unrest that saw 34 people shot dead. An inquiry into the killings began last week.

The Lonmin dispute threatened to reignite on Friday after a National Union of Mineworkers official was shot dead in what NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka described as an “execution-style” killing.

On Thursday night, an Amplats worker died in clashes. He was thought to have been struck by a police rubber bullet.

The unrest led to protesters in a shanty town near the Amplats mine barricading streets with rocks and burning tyres, having burned down a training centre and two conveyor belts, making it harder to restart operations.

Amplats bosses have refused to offer a pay rise similar to Lonmin’s, although the chief executive, Chris Griffith, did suggest that a salary review due next year could start earlier.

He said: “The company is committed to participating in the platinum centralised engagement structures driven by the Chamber of Mines, as well as exploring the possibility of bringing forward wage negotiations within our current agreements.”

The sackings are unlikely to bring stability to the company, which has seen its share price fall by 13% since the unrest started. On Friday night, shares closed down 1.5p at £18.12. And any resolution does not guarantee a revival. Lonmin shares have plummeted nearly 27% since August, despite its strike ending.

Anglo American is understood to be considering closing some of its South African mines as it weighs its future in the country. Credit Suisse analysts suggested last week that the company could shut two or three of its five operating shafts.

Shell effectively said the situation was too dangerous for it to meet its delivery contract: “There is fuel available across the country, so the issue is not fuel supply, but the challenge is delivering it safely to our retail sites.”

Many supermarkets and logistics firms are running on backup plans because of the drivers’ strike and the US car group General Motors said production at its Port Elizabeth plant on the south coast had also been affected.

AngloGold Ashanti, South Africa’s biggest bullion producer, has lost nearly all local production due to 24,000 workers being on strike, while rival Harmony Gold has also taken a hit. On Tuesday another mining firm, Gold Fields, evicted 5,000 striking employees from company dormitories, saying they were intimidating fellow workers.

About 300 strikers at Kumba Iron Ore have also blockaded the company’s giant Sishen mine in the remote Northern Cape province.

The last mass sackings in the platinum mining sector took place in February, when Impala Platinum dismissed 17,000 workers at its Rustenburg operation after wildcat strikes. It led to an escalation of violence and the company re-employed nearly 5,000 workers. Amplats has not said whether it will consider re-employing any of the 12,000 former workers.

More than 75,000 miners, 15% of the workforce in a sector that accounts for 6% of output, have been out on unofficial strikes.

Lonmin shares rise after pay deal

Category : Business

Shares in Lonmin jump 9% at the start of trading in London, after the firm signs a pay deal with striking miners in South Africa.

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Striking South Africa platinum miners agree deal with Lonmin

Category : Business

Miners to return to work after pay rise ends five weeks of bitter industrial action during which 45 people were killed

Striking platinum miners in South Africa have accepted an agreement with Lonmin and plan to return to work on Thursday, all but ending five weeks of acrimony, bloodshed and tragedy.

The police massacre of 34 protesting mineworkers at Marikana last month was the worst display of state violence in the country’s post-apartheid history. In all 45 people died during the bitter industrial action. Unrest spread to other mines, threatening the backbone of South Africa’s economy.

On Tuesday strikers gathered near the Marikana mine 60 miles north-west of Johannesburg cheered when they were informed of London-listed Lonmin’s final offer. It includes a 22% pay increase for rock drillers – taking their pay to just over 11,000 rand (£825) a month – and a one-off payment of 2,000 rand (£150) to help cover nearly six weeks of not receiving wages while on strike, Bishop Joe Seoka, a member of the negotiating team, told Associated Press.

About 5,000 strikers gathered in a stadium to hear the deal, and cheered and sang when they finally accepted the offer, described as record-breaking. They formed a line and danced out of the stadium. “You have won as workers,” Seoka told the crowd. He said there would be further negotiations in October when they could discuss a further increase.

One worker held up a hand with the phrase “Mission Accomplished” written in black ink.

Lonmin confirmed that a wage deal had been signed, officially ending the strike.

Opposition parties welcomed the settlement. Sej Motau, shadow minister of labour for the Democratic Alliance, said: “We hope that this brings the necessary stability to the situation at Marikana, for appropriate humanitarian assistance to be provided to the families of Marikana victims and for unencumbered reflection on the majoritarian labour regime that has contributed to the tragedy.

“The DA remains convinced that the events at Marikana could have been prevented through a more equitable labour regime, with a better prepared police service and in a minerals sector in which policies serve a broader range of stakeholders. We will be using our position in parliament to push for appropriate policy reforms.

“We hope that the Marikana workers will be allowed to return to work without fear for their safety.”

The deadly strike has shaken Lonmin, mining and the whole of South Africa, triggering a wide ranging debate about the role of mining companies and labour unions, persistent police brutality and impatience at the governing African National Congress’s lack of progress in arresting inequality after 18 years. It reportedly cost the country more than 4.5bn rand.

The ferocity of the government’s crackdown, and allegations that police tortured detained mineworkers, has been compared with the era of racial apartheid. Last weekend soldiers supported police as they seized weapons and dispersed some protesting workers with teargas and rubber bullets.

Simon Scott, the company’s acting chief executive, said: “These have been difficult and tragic weeks for everyone involved with the company, the communities living around our operations and the South African nation as a whole.

“Tonight’s agreement and the subsequent return to work is only one step in a long and difficult process which lies ahead for everyone who has been affected by the events at Marikana, but it is essential in helping secure the futures of our tens of thousands of employees and all those who rely on Lonmin in the region.”

The Lonmin workers were the first to strike and in recent weeks seven other mines had work stoppages. Partially led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the strikes have swept across the platinum belt, home to nearly 80% of the world’s reserves. AMCU is challenging the dominance of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), whose leaders have grown rich and powerful from an alliance with the ANC, which has relied on organised labour for votes.

The work stoppages reportedly cost the country more than 4.5bn rand (£335m). They hit the rand currency, raised insurance against default on South African debt and spooked some foreign investors into selling shares in mining companies.

In another sign that weeks of labour unrest could be ending, Anglo American Platinum said it had resumed its operations in the strike-hit Rustenburg area.

“Anglo American Platinum Limited (Amplats) confirms that all of its Rustenburg operations have resumed, effective from today’s morning shift,” the company said.

On the news of the Marikana agreement, the spot platinum price fell 2% to a session low at $1,627.49/oz and the rand firmed against the dollar.

The conflict in the mining sector had also damaged president Jacob Zuma and the ANC, whose response was seen as slow and ineffective. They face accusations that they had neglected poor workers and sided with wealthy business owners.

On Tuesday Julius Malema, an ANC rebel who calls for the nationalisation of mines, criticised Zuma for sending the army to Marikana in recent days as if was under an “undeclared state of emergency”. Malema added: “Never in the history of the ANC has a sitting president presided over such chaos and division in the ANC and the country.”

SA miners ‘to go back to work’

Category : World News

Striking miners at a Lonmin platinum mine in South Africa will return to work on Thursday after accepting a pay offer, mediators and reports say.

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South Africa mine unrest costs £335m in lost output

Category : Business

Lonmin, whose Marikana mine has seen worst violence, halts work on new shaft and puts 1,200 miners out of work

Unrest at South Africa’s platinum and gold mines has cost the industry 4.5bn rand (£335m) in lost output, President Jacob Zuma said, as the company at the centre of the strikes closed a shaft putting 1,200 miners out of work.

Although two mines reopened on Monday there was still no end in sight to the protests over pay which have seen 45 people killed in weeks of unrest. Zuma said that aside from the losses to mining companies, the stoppages had cost the South African treasury 3.1bn rand.

Lonmin, the London-listed company whose Marikana mine near Johannesburg has seen the worst violence, said it was losing production of 2,500 ounces (77kg) each day the strike continues. The world’s third biggest platinum producer, Lonmin is in danger of breaking its banking covenants because of the dispute and it said on Monday that it was halting work on a new shaft and would not require 1,200 contract workers.

As tension continued to run high, South African police stopped ANC renegade Julius Malema from addressing striking miners at Marikana. Malema, a rebel expelled from the ANC, has become Zuma’s most strident critic and has urged strikers to make mines “ungovernable”.

Following the government’s promise to get tough on strikers and those inciting violence, police, some armed, surrounded Malema as he arrived in Marikana, 60 miles north-west of Johannesburg, where police shot dead 34 strikers last month.

Strikers also said they would keep shut four mines run by the world’s top producer, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), which the company aims to reopen on Tuesday.

“There is no need to resort to violence. I believe we must not encourage that,” Zuma told a conference of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, a partner with the African National Congress (ANC) in the governing alliance.

Some of the miners gathered at a football pitch in the town to hear Malema speak, threw stones at a police car as officers escorted him from the area.

Aquarius Platinum’s Kroondal mine and Xstrata’s chrome operation near the platinum belt city of Rustenburg reopened on Monday. But the situation on the ground remained tense, and Xstrata said that miners who had chosen to return to work had been subjected to intimidation by striking colleagues.

The unrest has its roots in a bloody turf war for members between an upstart union and the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) – a key political base for the ANC – but it is now unclear who the strikers are taking their directions from.

One workers’ representative dismissed Amplats’ plan to reopen its Rustenburg mines as a “joke”.

“For us, the reality is that the general strike is on,” Mametlwe Sebei, a self-styled Rustenburg community leader and Marxist politician, told Reuters. “We are going to be demonstrating in defiance. We will not be intimidated.”

Amplats management was “whistling in the dark” if it believed the mines would reopen on Tuesday, he said.

“They can deploy the army, they can be shooting people, shooting old men in their shacks, teargassing young kids … but let us be clear, there will be repercussions.”

South Africa is home to 80% of known reserves of platinum, the price of which has gained around 20% since the Marikana shootings on 16 August.

Police raided a Lonmin hostel on Saturday and seized spears, machetes and other weapons from strikers. They later used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse groups of protesters. The army has also been brought in to help restore order.

On Monday, police arrested 42 people at a mine owned by RBPlat and Amplats who were on an illegal strike.

Lonmin said mining activity at Marikana remained minimal and lowered its full-year production guidance to between 685,000 and 700,000 saleable ounces from 750,000 ounces. Lonmin also said it would temporarily close a shaft at its Karee mine, which had been meant to boost output for the struggling company.

On Friday, Lonmin workers dismissed an initial pay offer as way below the 12,500 rand a month basic pay sought by members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which is challenging the dominance of the NUM. Lonmin, which is offering increases of between 9% and 21%, said 12,500 rand would put thousands of jobs at risk and challenge the viability of the business. Basic pay for most underground workers is currently around 5,400 rand.

The ANC has criticised companies for paying lip service to the mining charter, which seeks to give workers and communities a bigger share of mineral wealth and rectify disparities of white apartheid rule.

“Mining remains the bedrock of the South African economy, and yet the abject poverty and squalor surrounding mining areas remains a matter of deep concern,” it said in a statement.

“The current instability at Marikana thus poses challenges to the growth of the sector and the international image of the country,” the ANC said. Reuters

South African miners reject Lonmin pay offer

Category : Business

Move dashes hopes of ending five weeks of industrial action which could be ‘extremely damaging’ to country’s economy

Strikers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine rejected a pay offer on Friday, dashing hopes of ending five weeks of industrial action that has swept through South Africa’s platinum sector and laid bare the power struggle in the ruling ANC.

Workers at the mine, where police shot dead 34 protesters last month, dismissed the offer as way below the 12,500 rand (£925) a month sought by members of the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

“We are not interested,” striker Molifi Phele said as hundreds of stick-waving demonstrators chanted and danced around him on the sun-bleached grass in the heart of the “platinum belt”, 100km north-west of Johannesburg.

“What he is offering cannot buy you anything. All we want is 12,500.”

The killings at Marikana on 16 August have poisoned industrial relations across the sector and could be “extremely damaging” to the economy, finance minister Pravin Gordhan said in a shift of tone from last week.

The rand fell 3% on Wednesday as the unrest engulfed Anglo American Platinum, the world’s biggest producer, and ripples have reached the bond market amid concerns Pretoria might resort to throwing money at the problem.

“Things could get really ugly,” said Manik Narain, an emerging market strategist at UBS in London. “There is a risk the government will respond to the unrest with fiscal stimulus, which will not go down well with rating agencies.”

On Friday police fired teargas and stun grenades to disperse another group of striking miners at an Aquarius Platinum plant in the area.

Aquarius said it had closed the mine as a precaution. Global miner Xstrata did the same at a nearby chrome plant.

South Africa drops miners’ murder charges – for now

Category : Business

Prosecutors drop charges against 270 miners accused of killing striking colleagues, but say they may be recharged later

South African prosecutors have provisionally withdrawn murder charges against 270 miners who had been accused of killing 34 striking colleagues shot dead by police, but said they could be recharged when investigations are complete.

Public anger had been mounting at the charges, made under an apartheid-era law under which the miners were deemed to have had a “common purpose” in the murder of their co-workers.

The police killing of the strikers last month at the Marikana mine, run by platinum producer Lonmin , was the worst such security incident since the end of white rule in 1994, and recalled scenes of state brutality from that era.

“Final charges will only be made once all investigations have been completed. The murder charges against the current 270 suspects will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court,” Nomgcobo Jiba, the acting national director of prosecutions, said in a televised news conference.

The miners will be released from prison starting this week. In all, 44 people were killed in the wave of violence stemming from an illegal strike and union turf war.

Top members of the ruling African National Congress had also expressed dismay at the charges as a public backlash gathered.

“We are all surprised and confused by the national prosecuting authority’s legal strategy,” the ANC’s chief whip in parliament said on Friday.

The ANC, whose members were gunned down by police at protest rallies and targeted with draconian laws before Nelson Mandela’s election as the country’s first black president, has been criticised for using similar tactics now that it is in power.

The current president, Jacob Zuma, seeking re-election in December as the leader of South Africa’s dominant party, has seen his support erode over the killings and the state’s handling of the matter.

His enemies say he is more interested in protecting the industry and powerful labour groups than the miners.

Talks to end the strike at Lonmin, the world’s third largest platinum producer, were set to resume on Monday after weekend funerals for the slain workers.

Lonmin’s mines have been idle for three weeks, and labour strife has spread from the platinum sector to gold, where a quarter of the 46,000-strong workforce at Gold Fields have staged a wildcat strike, further unsettling investors.

In the case of Lonmin, the strike and violence stem from a turf struggle for members between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and the small but militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which has flared across the platinum belt.

The stakes are high as South Africa sits on about 80% of the world’s known reserves of the precious metal, used to make catalytic converters for automobiles.

The price of platinum has been depressed by weak demand, which has put pressure on industry margins at a time when power and labour costs have been rising rapidly. The recent strife has pushed the price up by about 8%.