Iran’s largest carmaker ups

production by 160pc

ISLAMABAD (APP): Iran and the Middle-East’s largest auto-manufacturer, Iran-Khodro Company (IKCO), boosted production by 160% in the past four months compared to the same period last year, Fars news agency reported. “The fulfillment of the company’s new plans has resulted in this production boost that stands for 173,089 sets of cars in four months,” IKCO’s public relations department said. The production reached 66,775 sets in the last (Iranian) year’s first four months (March 20-July 20, 2013). Meanwhile 53,077 sets of passenger cars were produced in the past month, which itself registers 125% growth compared with the corresponding period last year when production stood at 23,571 sets.

“IKCO manufactures 2300 sets of vehicles on a daily basis and is determined to release 600 thousand sets of vehicles by the end of this Iranian year (March 19, 2015),” the public relations press release said.

Businessmen urged to press Congress to re-authorise Export-Import Bank

WASHINGTON (Reuters): President Barack Obama on Saturday urged business owners to press Congress to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which could halt any new financing Sept. 30 - as some conservative Republicans hope it will - if lawmakers fail to act. The little-known institution provides loans to buyers of U.S. products abroad. Obama said in his weekly radio address that if Congress lets the bank close, it would be stunting U.S. export growth and impeding economic expansion. “If Congress fails to act, thousands of businesses, large and small, that sell their products abroad will take a completely unnecessary hit,” the president said.

While playing a relatively small role in the U.S. export universe, the bank has become a political flashpoint. Conservative Republicans single it out as an unnecessary and potentially risky government program, while moderates and most Democrats defend it as providing a useful boost to businesses seeking new markets.

Household names such as Boeing Co, Caterpillar Inc and General Electric Co are big beneficiaries of the bank’s services. Ex-Im Bank’s critics say aiding well-established firms such as those serves little purpose and puts taxpayers at risk.

Opposition to renewing the bank’s charter includes influential lawmakers such as new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, both Republicans.

Fueling concerns about the bank’s role, Delta Airlines charges that the institution provides an unfair advantage to foreign competitors of the U.S. carrier.

“If left to do business as usual, the Bank has proven that it will continue to help all foreign airlines indiscriminately, including well-funded and state-supported ones that competitively threaten U.S. airlines and their employees,” Delta Senior Vice President Andrea Fischer Newman wrote to Hensarling this week.

The airline wants a ban on Ex-Im Bank backing for deals to buy wide-body aircraft, such as Boeing’s 747s. Boeing says that without Ex-Im Bank financing, airlines around the world would buy Airbus planes, usually with French or German export credit subsidies.

“The U.S. aerospace industry would lose sales and market share, and the jobs associated with that lost business would end up in Europe,” Boeing senior vice president Tim Keating wrote to Hensarling last week.

The bank’s supporters hope that Congress will temporarily renew the bank’s charter in a stopgap government funding bill that must pass before Sept. 30. That would leave lawmakers more time to craft legislation that would provide a longer charter extension but contain reforms to the bank that would mollify critics.

Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012 and skeptic about the bank, said this week he thinks the bank’s charter will be kept alive with a temporary extension.

RSA to sell insurance business

in Singapore

LONDON (Reuters): London-based RSA Insurance Group plc said it reached an agreement to sell its insurance business in Singapore and Hong Kong to Allied World Assurance Co Ltd for 130 million pounds ($215.51 million) in cash. The deal is expected to result in a gain of about 110 million pounds and will add about 95 million pounds to the company’s tangible net assets, RSA Insurance said on Thursday. The transaction to sell RSA Singapore and RSA Hong Kong is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to complete during the first half of 2015. RSA Singapore and RSA Hong Kong underwrite a mix of commercial speciality and retail business.

Allied World Assurance Co Holdings Ltd, through its subsidiaries, provides property, casualty and speciality insurance and reinsurance services.

UK forces energy, mining firms

 show foreign state payments

LONDON (Reuters): Britain announced that energy and mining firms would have to disclose from next year any payments made to governments in countries where they operate as it aims to curb corruption in the natural resources sector. UK-registered companies will have up to 11 months after the end of their financial year to report payments to Companies House under the new rule, which will take effect from Jan. 1 2015. “The UK is determined to lead by example, which is why we have introduced reporting requirements on UK-based extractives companies early,” Business Minister Jo Swinson said in a statement.

“Oil, gas and mining can, if well managed, deliver precious economic benefits to the populations of developing countries. Too often, though, the assets from resource-rich countries are not benefiting local people or the local economy.”

The announcement on Friday follows a period of consultation with industry and the public on the proposal.

“While these reforms may be a step in the right direction to eradicate corruption, tax evasion and reduce extreme poverty in emerging markets, a disclosure regime is not of itself a cure,” Rachel Speight, a partner at law firm Mayer Brown, wrote in an email to Reuters.

“The changes may also negatively impact upon the commercial prospects for companies, with significant increased compliance costs and disclosure of sensitive information in circumstances where not all companies operating in the extractive industry are subject to the same regulations.”

In the consultation, oil and mining majors including BHP Billiton , Chevron and ExxonMobil expressed concerns about the potential costs of implementing such measures.

Some of them said that a British move ahead of other countries could hit companies as well as the attractiveness of Britain as a place to list shares and establish operations.

BP estimated costs of about $6.5 million to deliver the first filing and $2.5 million a year thereafter, mainly related to setting up a team to interpret the legislation, develop relevant processes and implement them in the various locations where the company operates.

The Association of British Independent Oil Exploration Companies (BRINDEX) said the requirements might affect its smaller members disproportionately, since their systems may not be as sophisticated as the large companies.

“There appear to be very few benefits to our members of publishing the new extractive report, but instead it is imposing another administrative and unnecessary burden on our sector at a time of other similar transparency initiatives,” it said.

Swedish govt cuts growth forecast

HARPSUND (Reuters):  Sweden’s centre-right government delivered a gloomy message to voters on Saturday ahead of next month’s general election, cutting its growth forecast due to weakness in the global economy and saying it will further raise taxes if re-elected. With just weeks to go before the vote, the Alliance coalition hopes that by stressing its fiscal prudence it can catch the opposition which holds a big opinion poll lead ahead of the Sept. 14 vote. “A weak development internationally will mean a somewhat slower recovery in Sweden,” Finance Minister Anders Borg told reporters. “That, along with (planned) increased expenditure at the end of the next term of government, means that we must strengthen the budget.”

Sweden’s economy contracted slightly in the first quarter and barely grew in the April-June period as its key export sector was hurt by sluggish overseas demand, particularly in Europe.

The euro zone has stalled and recovery there could be further hampered by sanctions against Russia, imposed in July over its involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

Borg cut his forecast for growth this year to 1.9 percent against a forecast made in July of 2.5 percent. For next year he cut his forecast to 3.0 percent from 3.1 percent.

He said the public sector was expected to run a deficit of 2.2 percent of gross domestic product this year versus a previous estimate for a 1.6 percent shortfall.

To bring public finances back to a targeted 1 percent surplus by 2018, Borg said he planned to raise taxes on the financial services and commercial property sectors if reelected and would hike duties on tobacco and alcohol.

Those measures will strengthen the budget by around 25 billion crowns.

POSITION OF STRENGTH

“We are in a position of strength now and so we need to build up buffers for the future, because there is one season that always returns and that’s winter,” he said.

However, with the economy still fragile, the new measures will be delayed until 2017-2018, Borg said.

The Alliance has already outlined plans to raise duties on cars, alcohol and tobacco, and to reduce tax breaks on pension savings. Schools, welfare, defence and asylum services are some of the areas that will get extra funding and the Alliance has pledged that 5 million Swedes will have jobs by 2020, 350,000 more than today.

Yet the warning that fiscal policy needs to be tighter is an about-turn for a government that has cut taxes by around 130 billion crowns since it took power in 2006. The opposition has also promised tax hikes, of around 30 billion crowns, and its message of more spending on welfare and schools has found favour with some voters.

The most recent polls show the four-party centre-right coalition government trailing the centre-left opposition by more than 10 points.

Social Democrat financial spokeswoman Magdalena Andersson on Saturday accused the government of creating the hole in public finances through its income tax cuts and adding that promised jobs had failed to materialise.