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Gulf Keystone Investors Push To Remove Murray

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Senin, 30 Maret 2015 | 11.46

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

Investors in a controversial London-listed oil company are demanding that it begins hunting a successor to its chairman in return for backing a £30m fundraising.

Sky News has learnt that several major City institutions have told Gulf Keystone Petroleum that they want to see a replacement identified for Simon Murray, who took over as chairman less than two years ago.

The ultimatum comes amid discussions between Gulf Keystone, which operates in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and prospective buyers of its assets or the whole company.

Payments to oil exporters have faced protracted delays as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been distracted by ongoing unrest in Iraq and the need to devote resources to countering incursions by Islamic State insurgents.

Although Gulf Keystone and other foreign oil companies have begun to receive some multimillion dollar payments, the company's indebtedness has left it facing a financial crunch.

Last month, Gulf Keystone confirmed a Sky News report that it was in talks with prospective buyers, while it has also been pursuing a share placing to raise roughly £30m as an alternative option to secure its future.

Leading City institutions which have fought a long-running battle with the company over pay and governance are now calling on Mr Murray to depart.

A former French Legionnaire and ex-chairman of Glencore, the giant commodities trader, Mr Murray was drafted in as Gulf Keystone's chairman in July 2013 after a protracted fight led by Capital Group and M&G Investments.

The company's former chief executive, Todd Kozel, finally stepped down from the role last year following hints of a further revolt, but the change has failed to appease investors.

A number of independent board members elected as part of a peace deal in 2013 have since been forced out.

Shares in Gulf Keystone have slumped by more than 63% during the last year, valuing it at just £330m, while it continues to carry debts of nearly £400m.

It is unclear whether Gulf Keystone will agree to expedite a succession plan for Mr Murray or whether potential successors have been identified.

The fundraising may yet be a necessity, since a sale of Gulf Keystone is by no means certain.

Exxon Mobil is said to be among the prospective buyers.

In a statement earlier this month, Gulf Keystone said: "Stakeholders are advised that these discussions (with potential buyers) are preliminary and, as such, there can be no certainty that any offers will be received and any transaction concluded, or any certainty as to the terms on which any offer might be made.

"Concurrently, and in view of strategic discussions and its current liquidity position, and with the intention of meeting its existing debt payment obligations, the Company is undertaking a review of its financing options and in that context will engage in discussions with its key stakeholders."

London-listed companies have been hit hard by the fall in the price of crude oil, with Afren among those facing urgent restructurings as they buckle under the financial strain.

Another Kurdistan-focused group, Genel Energy, which is run by Tony Hayward, the former BP chief executive, has also been impacted by the payments delay involving the KRG, although it has a much stronger balance sheet.

The investment banks Deutsche Bank and Perella Weinberg Partners are advising the company on its options.

A Gulf Keystone spokesman declined to comment on Sunday.


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Miliband's NHS Pledge At Campaign Launch

Labour leader Ed Miliband has launched his party's General Election campaign with a promise to safeguard the future of the NHS.

The event in east London came after Mr Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron answered questions in the Battle For Number 10, the first showdown of the campaign.

Launching the party's push for power in the "tightest general election in a generation", Mr Miliband said: "The Tories say this is as good as it gets.

"We say Britain can and must do better than this."

Referencing the special programme broadcast on Sky News and Channel 4, the Labour leader claimed the PM's performance showed he was "rattled", "running from his record" and "living in a different world".

The election on 7 May is a choice between "two different visions" for Britain, Mr Miliband said.

"A Tory government that looks out only for the few, or a Labour government that will stand up for working families in every part of our country," he claimed.

At the heart of the launch was a promise of a "double lock" to protect the health service.

Mr Miliband said Labour would act to ensure health services are not threatened by privatisation and pledged to provide £2.5bn in extra cash, paid for by taxes on expensive properties and tobacco companies and a crackdown on tax avoidance.

A new profit cap - usually 5% - would be imposed on outsourced healthcare contracts worth more than £500,000, private firms would be prevented from "cherry-picking" lucrative treatments and the NHS would be the "preferred provider" for all services.

Mr Miliband said: "Just think about how far backwards the NHS has gone in the last five years.

"People waiting longer and longer to see a GP. Ambulances queuing up outside hospitals, because A&E is full. Even a treatment tent erected in a hospital car park.

"For all the promises, for all the air-brushed posters, David Cameron has broken his solemn vow to the British people when it comes to our NHS."

He admitted the race for Downing Street would be neck-and-neck and could "come down to the wire".

Mr Miliband said: "I know our opponents will throw everything they have our way, because they're desperate to hang on to power.

"But we know we can win this fight on behalf of the British people."

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has also launched the party's campaign in Glasgow.

Addressing activists, Mr Murphy called on them to help Labour "consign David Cameron and his austerity to the dustbin of history".

In response to Mr Miliband's remarks, Conservative MP and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We can only have a strong NHS if we have a strong economy, but Ed Miliband doesn't have an economic plan.

"We all know Labour want to 'weaponise' the NHS but this is another policy from Ed Miliband that looks ill-thought through. It risks higher infection rates, higher waiting times and chaos for our NHS.

"This incompetence is exactly why Ed Miliband is simply not up to the job."


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UK Airlines Bring In New Cockpit Safety Rules

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Minggu, 29 Maret 2015 | 11.46

By Charlotte Lomas-Farley, Sky News Correspondent

New safety rules have been introduced in the UK after 150 people on board the Germanwings Airbus A320 were killed when it crashed in the French Alps.

The UK's aviation regulator, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, has contacted all British airlines to get them to review all relevant procedures.

Here is a breakdown of how the safety rules affect different airlines:

:: Thomas Cook, Thomson and easyJet - from Friday, all three are changing their safety procedures to ensure that two crew members are in the cockpit at all times.

:: Virgin Atlantic and Monarch - both airlines say that while a two crew policy has always been common practice, they are in the process of making this formal policy.

If a pilot or co-pilot needs to leave the cockpit for any reason then a cabin crew member will stand in.

:: Jet2 and Flybe - both carriers already implement a two people in the cockpit at all times policy, as does Ryanair.

:: British Airways - the airline has refused to comment on the policy of its cockpit manning levels. The airline has insisted it does not discuss security issues.


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Miliband's NHS Pledge At Campaign Launch

Labour leader Ed Miliband has launched his party's General Election campaign with a promise to safeguard the future of the NHS.

The event in east London came after Mr Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron answered questions in the Battle For Number 10, the first showdown of the campaign.

Launching the party's push for power in the "tightest general election in a generation", Mr Miliband said: "The Tories say this is as good as it gets.

"We say Britain can and must do better than this."

Referencing the special programme broadcast on Sky News and Channel 4, the Labour leader claimed the PM's performance showed he was "rattled", "running from his record" and "living in a different world".

The election on 7 May is a choice between "two different visions" for Britain, Mr Miliband said.

"A Tory government that looks out only for the few, or a Labour government that will stand up for working families in every part of our country," he claimed.

At the heart of the launch was a promise of a "double lock" to protect the health service.

Mr Miliband said Labour would act to ensure health services are not threatened by privatisation and pledged to provide £2.5bn in extra cash, paid for by taxes on expensive properties and tobacco companies and a crackdown on tax avoidance.

A new profit cap - usually 5% - would be imposed on outsourced healthcare contracts worth more than £500,000, private firms would be prevented from "cherry-picking" lucrative treatments and the NHS would be the "preferred provider" for all services.

Mr Miliband said: "Just think about how far backwards the NHS has gone in the last five years.

"People waiting longer and longer to see a GP. Ambulances queuing up outside hospitals, because A&E is full. Even a treatment tent erected in a hospital car park.

"For all the promises, for all the air-brushed posters, David Cameron has broken his solemn vow to the British people when it comes to our NHS."

He admitted the race for Downing Street would be neck-and-neck and could "come down to the wire".

Mr Miliband said: "I know our opponents will throw everything they have our way, because they're desperate to hang on to power.

"But we know we can win this fight on behalf of the British people."

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has also launched the party's campaign in Glasgow.

Addressing activists, Mr Murphy called on them to help Labour "consign David Cameron and his austerity to the dustbin of history".

In response to Mr Miliband's remarks, Conservative MP and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We can only have a strong NHS if we have a strong economy, but Ed Miliband doesn't have an economic plan.

"We all know Labour want to 'weaponise' the NHS but this is another policy from Ed Miliband that looks ill-thought through. It risks higher infection rates, higher waiting times and chaos for our NHS.

"This incompetence is exactly why Ed Miliband is simply not up to the job."


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UK Airlines Bring In New Cockpit Safety Rules

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Sabtu, 28 Maret 2015 | 11.46

By Charlotte Lomas-Farley, Sky News Correspondent

New safety rules have been introduced in the UK after 150 people on board the Germanwings Airbus A320 were killed when it crashed in the French Alps.

The UK's aviation regulator, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, has contacted all British airlines to get them to review all relevant procedures.

Here is a breakdown of how the safety rules affect different airlines:

:: Thomas Cook, Thomson and easyJet - from Friday, all three are changing their safety procedures to ensure that two crew members are in the cockpit at all times.

:: Virgin Atlantic and Monarch - both airlines say that while a two crew policy has always been common practice, they are in the process of making this formal policy.

If a pilot or co-pilot needs to leave the cockpit for any reason then a cabin crew member will stand in.

:: Jet2 and Flybe - both carriers already implement a two people in the cockpit at all times policy, as does Ryanair.

:: British Airways - the airline has refused to comment on the policy of its cockpit manning levels. The airline has insisted it does not discuss security issues.


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Miliband's NHS Pledge At Campaign Launch

Labour leader Ed Miliband has launched his party's General Election campaign with a promise to safeguard the future of the NHS.

The event in east London came after Mr Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron answered questions in the Battle For Number 10, the first showdown of the campaign.

Launching the party's push for power in the "tightest general election in a generation", Mr Miliband said: "The Tories say this is as good as it gets.

"We say Britain can and must do better than this."

Referencing the special programme broadcast on Sky News and Channel 4, the Labour leader claimed the PM's performance showed he was "rattled", "running from his record" and "living in a different world".

The election on 7 May is a choice between "two different visions" for Britain, Mr Miliband said.

"A Tory government that looks out only for the few, or a Labour government that will stand up for working families in every part of our country," he claimed.

At the heart of the launch was a promise of a "double lock" to protect the health service.

Mr Miliband said Labour would act to ensure health services are not threatened by privatisation and pledged to provide £2.5bn in extra cash, paid for by taxes on expensive properties and tobacco companies and a crackdown on tax avoidance.

A new profit cap - usually 5% - would be imposed on outsourced healthcare contracts worth more than £500,000, private firms would be prevented from "cherry-picking" lucrative treatments and the NHS would be the "preferred provider" for all services.

Mr Miliband said: "Just think about how far backwards the NHS has gone in the last five years.

"People waiting longer and longer to see a GP. Ambulances queuing up outside hospitals, because A&E is full. Even a treatment tent erected in a hospital car park.

"For all the promises, for all the air-brushed posters, David Cameron has broken his solemn vow to the British people when it comes to our NHS."

He admitted the race for Downing Street would be neck-and-neck and could "come down to the wire".

Mr Miliband said: "I know our opponents will throw everything they have our way, because they're desperate to hang on to power.

"But we know we can win this fight on behalf of the British people."

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has also launched the party's campaign in Glasgow.

Addressing activists, Mr Murphy called on them to help Labour "consign David Cameron and his austerity to the dustbin of history".

In response to Mr Miliband's remarks, Conservative MP and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We can only have a strong NHS if we have a strong economy, but Ed Miliband doesn't have an economic plan.

"We all know Labour want to 'weaponise' the NHS but this is another policy from Ed Miliband that looks ill-thought through. It risks higher infection rates, higher waiting times and chaos for our NHS.

"This incompetence is exactly why Ed Miliband is simply not up to the job."


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Rio Tinto Cuts UK Jobs As 1500 Staff Face Axe

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Jumat, 27 Maret 2015 | 11.46

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

The mining giant Rio Tinto is taking the axe to at least 1500 jobs, including a substantial proportion of the roles at its London headquarters, as it braces for a sustained dip in global commodity prices.

Sky News has learnt that the FTSE-100 group, which has a market value in London of more than £54bn, informed staff on Wednesday that it was beginning a consultation about cuts involving a significant number of its UK jobs.

The development is the latest in a phased series of cuts signalled by Rio Tinto since Sam Walsh, its chief executive, announced a reorganisation last month focused on "streamlining its product groups and corporate functions as part of the continued focus on efficiency and costs".

The precise number of job cuts at Rio's London offices, where several hundred staff work, could not be established on Thursday, although insiders said that the overall scale of redundancies across the company would be larger than the 1000 speculated in recent reports.

The bulk of the planned cuts will come at Rio Tinto's operations in Western Australia.

"I realise that for some of you the changes I have outlined will be challenging and in some circumstances they will result in good people leaving our business," Mr Walsh said in an internal memo distributed in February.

A separate communication to staff in the UK is understood to be planned for this week, although a Rio Tinto spokeswoman declined to comment.

Like other raw materials groups, Rio Tinto is preparing for a sustained fall in the price of commodities such as iron ore, of which it is one of the largest miners in the world.

The job cuts are expected to result in hundreds of millions of pounds in annual savings, following billions of pounds of cost reductions since Mr Walsh took the helm in 2012.

Separately on Thursday, Shell, the oil group, said it would reduce the number of staff and agency contractors at its UK North Sea operations by at least 250 during 2015.

The measures are part of a range of initiatives Shell has been pursuing to manage costs and improve the competitive performance of its operations around the world. Staff and agency contractors based in Aberdeen and on installations in the North Sea were informed of the plans during a meeting today.

"The North Sea has been a challenging operating environment for some time. Reforms to the fiscal regime announced in the budget are a step in the right direction, but the industry must redouble its efforts to tackle costs and improve profitability if the North Sea is to continue to attract investment," Paul Goodfellow, Shell's upstream vice-president for the UK and Ireland, said.

"Current market conditions make it even more important that we ensure our business is competitive.

"Changes are vital if it is to be sustainable."


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Co-op Bank Secures Chief Executive Until 2017

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

The struggling Co-operative Bank will announce on Friday that it has struck a deal to keep its chief executive until at least 2017 as it attempts to return to profitability.

Sky News understands that Niall Booker, a former HSBC executive, has agreed to remain in his post for around two more years amid pressure from regulators for continuity at the helm of the embattled lender.

The deal with Mr Booker will be announced alongside the Co-op Bank's full-year results, which - while an improvement on its £1.3bn loss in 2013 - will provide a further reminder of the task facing its board.

Mr Booker had been discussing signing a rolling six- or 12-month deal with Dennis Holt, the Co-op Bank's chairman, when his existing contract expires in June.

However, sources indicated on Thursday that he would be tied into a longer deal, with a revised incentive package if he succeeds in transforming the bank's fortunes.

The disclosure of the new arrangements and the Co-op Bank's results will come three months after it was the only one of eight lenders to fail stress tests set by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), an arm of the Bank of England.

Mr Booker took over in 2013 as the Co-op Bank faced the threat of collapse, following the emergence of a £1.5bn black hole on its balance sheet and a wider governance crisis at the Co-op Group, the UK's most prominent mutual.

The Co-op Bank's former chairman, Paul Flowers, brought it into disrepute when his drug-taking and sexual proclivities were exposed by a tabloid newspaper, while his financial competence was questioned by MPs after he failed to correctly state the size of the Co-op Bank's balance sheet.

The chief executive is said to have had a difficult relationship with some of the bondholders who became major Co-op Bank investors as part of its rescue restructuring just over a year ago.

As a consequence of its PRA stress test failure, the Co-op Bank postponed a vote on incentive awards for Mr Booker and senior colleagues because the proposals "include measures which may no longer be appropriate".

At the time of the stress test failure, Mr Booker said: "We have achieved the target of building our capital base and the actions we have taken during the first year of our business plan have made the Bank more secure for the benefit of all stakeholders.

"Our key ratios around capital, liquidity and leverage at the present time are significantly strengthened, we're ahead of schedule in the disposal of Non-core assets and the stability of our core franchise is improving.

"However, given we are in the early stage of our plan, the original capital deficit and the nature of our assets, it is no surprise that we have not met the severe stress test hurdle."

The Co-op Bank was plunged into financial chaos even as it attempted to pursue a takeover of 632 Lloyds Banking Group branches - which subsequently became TSB Banking Group.

It is now trying to sell a vast portfolio of assets, about which it has been holding talks with funds including Apollo Management, Blackstone and CarVal.

The ‎talks with prospective investors are ongoing and are likely to result in a series of transactions involving different structures for the assets, which the banking regulator has ordered the Co-op Bank to sell.

A number of other unidentified parties have also held talks with the Co-op Bank about buying parts of Optimum, which the lender adoped after its merger with the Britannia Building Society in 2009.‎

A spokesman for the Co-op Bank declined to comment.


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Bank Lacks Robust Crisis Management - Report

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Kamis, 26 Maret 2015 | 11.46

A failure of the Bank of England's interbank payments system last year showed it was not fully able to handle a crisis in the financial system, a report has found.

The Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system went down for nine hours on 20 October leaving almost £300bn of payments, including house purchase transfers as well as financial market trades, in limbo.

The failure was blamed on "the introduction of defects as part of functionality changes made to the RTGS system in April 2013 and May 2014", the report said.

The investigation, which was commissioned by the Bank and compiled by auditors Deloitte, said that while all the cash transfers affected eventually cleared that day, a third of the house purchases were delayed by at least 24 hours.

It identified a lack of robust crisis management at the bank - a finding that will be seen as particularly embarrassing because of the central bank's own demand of UK lenders that they should ensure financial stability through robust IT systems.

The report also highlighted a lack of supervision at the time of the outage.

It showed that three senior staff were abroad and did not see an email warning them of the problem and officials chose not to start a backup system in the hope of fixing the immediate problem quickly.

The Bank said it was to implement all the report's recommendations and it had since launched a committee to oversee the system.

It is being led by Minouche Shafik, the deputy governor for markets and banking.

He said: "The RTGS system is vital to the effective functioning of the UK economy and the financial system.

"Participants in the RTGS system - and most importantly, their customers - rightly expect it to meet extremely high standards of service, availability and resilience.

"The Bank is committed to meeting those high expectations, including through the full and timely implementation of the recommendations contained in this independent review."


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Kraft Gobbled Up By Heinz In Mega Merger

Heinz has confirmed it has agreed a merger with Kraft in a deal that would create the world's fifth largest food and drinks company worth approximately $80bn (£54bn).

A statement confirmed the new firm would be called Kraft Heinz and, subject to Kraft shareholder approval, current Heinz investors would hold 51% of the stock.

Kraft shareholders will own 49% of shares in the combined company and net a special cash dividend of $16.50 per share.

Heinz said the aggregate special dividend payment of approximately $10bn was being fully funded by an equity contribution by billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital.

Berkshire and 3G, which owns Burger King, came together in 2013 to buy Heinz.

It is understood they brokered the deal with Kraft, a company which caused controversy in the UK in 2010 when it bought the UK chocolate maker Cadbury and shifted work overseas.

Kraft later spun Cadbury off.

The merger statement said it offered "significant synergy potential", including an estimated $1.5bn in annual cost savings to be implemented by the end of 2017.

It added synergies would come from the increased scale of the new organisation, the sharing of best practices and cost reductions.

The news release did not mention the possibility of job losses.

The combined company would be run by Bernardo Hees, currently the chief executive of Heinz.


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