Egypt Independent: Business-Main news en Egypt petrol subsidy bill down 29% in 2015-2016 <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Egypt&#39;s spending on petroleum subsidies dropped by 28.7 percent in the 2015-16 financial year to compared to one year earlier, Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla said on Sunday, a greater decline than previously announced.<br /><br />Egypt has been trying to wean itself off costly energy subsidies that eat up a large portion of the state budget.<br /><br />Tarek al-Hadidi, head of state oil company EGPC, told Reuters in August that the subsidies had fallen by 23 percent, to 55 billion pounds ($71.36 billion) for the 2015-16 financial year, which ended in June.<br /><br />Molla said on Sunday that the figure was actually 51 billion pounds.<br /><br />In 2014 the government cut spending on energy subsidies, causing domestic prices of natural gas, diesel and other fuels to rise by as much as 78 percent, but has delayed further cuts amid low energy prices that have kept spending down.<br /><br />The state&#39;s 2016-17 budget aims to reduce subsidy expenditure further, targeting 35.04 billion Egyptian pounds.<br /><br />Egypt made 38 new petroleum discoveries in 2015-16, including 24 for crude oil and 14 for natural gas, Molla added.</p> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 12:35:00 +0000 Reuters 2472949 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/12/06/1755/petroleum_minister_tarek_al-molla.jpg Former employees file class action against Wells Fargo <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Two former Wells Fargo &amp; Co employees have filed a class action in California seeking $2.6 billion or more for workers who tried to meet aggressive sales quotas without engaging in fraud and were later demoted, forced to resign or fired.<br /><br />The lawsuit on behalf of people who worked for Wells Fargo in California over the past 10 years, including current employees, focuses on those who followed the rules and were penalized for not meeting sales quotas.<br /><br />&quot;Wells Fargo fired or demoted employees who failed to meet unrealistic quotas while at the same time providing promotions to employees who met these quotas by opening fraudulent accounts,&quot; the lawsuit filed on Thursday in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County said.<br /><br />Wells Fargo has fired some 5,300 employees for opening as many as 2 million accounts in customers&#39; names without their authorization. On Sept. 8, a federal regulator and Los Angeles prosecutor announced a $190 million settlement with Wells.<br /><br />The revelations are a severe hit to Wells Fargo&#39;s reputation. During the financial crisis, the bank trumpeted being a conservative bank in contrast with its rivals.<br /><br />A Wells Fargo spokesman on Saturday declined to comment on the lawsuit.<br /><br />The lawsuit accuses Wells Fargo of wrongful termination, unlawful business practices and failure to pay wages, overtime, and penalties under California law.<br /><br />Former employees Alexander Polonsky and Brian Zaghi allege Wells Fargo managers pressed workers to meet quotas of 10 accounts per day, required progress reports several times daily and reprimanded workers who fell short.<br /><br />Polonsky and Zaghi filed applications matching customer requests and were counseled, demoted and later terminated, the lawsuit said.<br /><br />While executives at the top benefited from the activity, the blame landed on thousands of $12-per-hour employees who tried to meet the quotas and were often required to work off the clock to do so, the lawsuit said.<br /><br />Employees with a conscience who tried to meet quotas without engaging in fraud were the biggest victims, losing wages, benefits and suffering anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment, the lawsuit said.<br /><br />Wells Fargo was aware many accounts were illegally opened, unwanted, carried a zero balance, or were simply a result of unethical business practices, the lawsuit said.<br /><br />&quot;Wells Fargo knew that their unreasonable quotas were driving these unethical behaviors that were used to fraudulently increase their stock price and benefit the CEO at the expense of the low level employees,&quot; the lawsuit said.</p> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 12:28:00 +0000 Reuters 2472947 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/04/09/504802/wells_fargo.jpg European firms offer Britain scant support in divorce talks <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>More than 20 European business associations and companies interviewed by Reuters say they back their governments&#39; position that Britain&#39;s banking sector can only enjoy EU market access post-Brexit if the country still follows the bloc&#39;s rules.<br /><br />Britain wants a trade deal that gives London&#39;s financial district, known as the City, access to EU clients while allowing the government to restrict migration from the bloc &mdash; something at odds with the basic rules of the European Union.<br /><br />Senior lawmakers in the British government have said they expect European business groups to support their position because they need access to the financial services the City provides.<br /><br />But interviews with companies and trade bodies across Europe suggest the most important thing for business leaders is maintaining a single market with a single set of rules that includes the four freedoms: free movement of workers, capital, goods and services.<br /><br />They are less concerned about losing access to the City of London.<br /><br />Companies including Deutsche Post, Daimler and Fiat Chrysler said they did not see significant disruption if the City loses free access to the EU market.<br /><br />&quot;We have taken a very clear line that the integrity of the four freedoms must be observed and that there is no cherry picking,&quot; said Markus Beyrer, Director General of BusinessEurope, the umbrella body for the biggest EU business federations.<br /><br />&quot;This is a very clear message we get from our constituency.&quot;<br /><br />The conflict of views gives an early indication of the difficulties facing both Britain and the European Union in the divorce negotiations to come, with both sides having little room for concessions.<br /><br />Britons chose to leave the EU in a vote driven in part by a desire to curb immigration. The government, which has pledged to respect the people&#39;s will, will face an outcry - among both the general public and eurosceptics in its own ranks - if it allows free movement from the bloc.<br /><br />The EU is also in a tight spot. Continental businesses, despite their opposition to a UK exemption, rely on London to help arrange share sales, bond issuances and M&amp;A deals. But officials fear if Britain is allowed a special deal, then other members states might demand bespoke relationships, putting the single market and the Union itself at risk.<br /><br /><strong>Economic interest</strong><br /><br />Britain exports more financial services than any other country and hosts the highest number of headquarters of financial services companies, and firms in related professional services such as law, than anywhere else in the world, according to a report from lobby group TheCityUK last month.<br /><br />But some analysts said that by taking an overly optimistic perspective of support for its arguments in Europe, the British government risked leaving the EU with no agreement on market access.<br /><br />A spokesman for the Treasury said: &quot;Our position is absolutely clear, we want the best deal for trade in UK goods and services.&quot; He declined to comment on previous government comments about the stance of European corporate leaders.<br /><br />British lawmakers including finance minister Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have said it is in European companies&#39; interests to allow an exception from normal EU rules for Britain&#39;s financial sector - which generates around a tenth of national economic output.<br /><br />&quot;European confederations of industrial producers, trade bodies and associations and financial sector regulators will be talking with governments about the impacts of possible different outcomes, and I would expect those people ... to be arguing for following rational economic interest,&quot; Hammond said in parliament this month.<br /><br />European business groups say they benefit from barrier-free trade with the City of London, using it for fundraising, repackaging receivables like car loans and mergers advice. They acknowledge shifting to financial services providers in Frankfurt and Paris could push up costs.<br /><br />&quot;We do not exclude the possibility that funding costs might be more volatile in future,&quot; said Silke Walters, a spokeswoman for German carmaker Daimler.<br /><br />Yet, the impact is seen as manageable. UK-based banks, some of which are subsidiaries of European and U.S. groups, can easily shift trading desks to continental centers, said Anders Ladefoged, deputy director of business lobby Danish Industry.<br /><br />Some businesses may experience no impact, according to German engineering association VDMA, which said many of its members relied on German banks for borrowing rather than London-issued bonds.<br /><br />London is the most important center for bond issuance in Europe but, unlike in the United States, European companies largely use banks for financing rather than the bond market.<br /><br /><strong>Special deal</strong><br /><br />In the days after Britain voted to leave the EU in June, the largest French and German business associations - MEDEF, BDI and BDA - said their governments should be clear with Britain that the decision meant the City would lose access to the EU market.<br /><br />Business associations in Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania and fourteen other countries told Reuters they also did not support Britain retaining market access if it restricts the free movement of EU workers.<br /><br />Reuters contacted over 100 of the biggest continental companies to ask whether they were prepared to lobby for a special deal for Britain.<br /><br />Most of those who responded said they would not get involved in the debate, at least until after a deal was agreed, but that they were not worried that a deal which cut off City banks would significantly impact their businesses.<br /><br />However, companies do fear that if Britain was allowed to secure access to the EU market, without following all the four freedoms, it would set a dangerous precedent.<br /><br />Some countries may seek dispensations to protect certain industries or sidestep competition rules, said Luca Paolazzi, Chief Economist at Italy&#39;s Confindustria business confederation. This could see the single market becoming an inefficient patchwork of trading rules, making cross-border business more difficult.<br /><br />&quot;Cherry-picking would mean you are making the rules a la carte and that creates opportunities for unfair competition so it&#39;s not something that is good for a competitive market,&quot; he added.<br /><br />Some business associations and companies said it could even lead to the collapse of the whole Union, and that concern about the stability of the bloc would cause volatility in the Euro.<br /><br />&quot;It would be tempting to say &#39;let Britain take three (of the freedoms) but not the fourth&#39;. But if you take that forward, that would create a lot of problems down the road that would be even worse for Swedish industry,&quot; said Carola Lemne, Director General of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.<br /><br />Some analysts said the British government&#39;s misinterpretation of EU business leaders&#39; thinking reflected a broader misunderstanding about what concessions EU members were prepared to make.<br /><br />Simon Tilford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform think-tank, said that if Britain better understood the thinking of EU governments and businesses, it could secure a deal allowing tariff-free trade in goods with Europe.<br /><br />If it didn&#39;t, the two-year period between notifying Brussels of its intention to leave, and membership expiring, could pass without any deal at all, he said.<br /><br />&quot;If the UK wants controls on labor movement from the EU it will have to concede membership of the EU&#39;s single market for services. I think that&#39;s obvious.&quot;</p> Sun, 25 Sep 2016 11:18:00 +0000 Reuters 2472946 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/03/15/504802/brexit.jpg Egypt's GASC buys 240,000 tonnes of Russian wheat after amending terms <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Egypt&#39;s General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) bought 240,000 tonnes of Russian wheat on Thursday in a tender, its first successful purchase since abolishing a &quot;zero ergot fungus&quot; rule that had halted its previous three tenders.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>GASC bought 180,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at an average price of $187.11 per tonne cost and freight, and another 60,000 tonnes at $186.80 per tonne cost and freight, traders said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Earlier, suppliers had held off on making offers, saying they needed more guarantees that the import authorities would tolerate negligible levels of the common grain fungus in their cargoes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;There was an amendment made so that final inspection of the wheat would be at the load port, and that is much better than what it was before,&quot; one Cairo-based trader said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The offers were made by Louis Dreyfus, Olam, Union and Aston, they said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Earlier, traders said the following offers were made in dollars per tonne free-on-board:</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>*Louis Dreyfus: 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at $189</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>*Union: Three cargoes, each of 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at $178.78</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>*Olam: 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at $187.79</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>*Aston: 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at $179.00</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Traders also said earlier in the day that they estimated the lowest cost and freight prices (C&amp;F) in dollars per tonne as follows:</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>*Aston: 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at $179.00 FOB and $7.80 freight, equating to $186.80 C&amp;F</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>*Union: Three cargoes, each of 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at $178.78 FOB and $8.43 freight, equating to $187.21 C&amp;F</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>*Olam: 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at $187.79 FOB and $8.98 freight, equating to $196.77 C&amp;F</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>*Louis Dreyfus: 60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat at $189 FOB and $8.98 freight, equating to $197.98 C&amp;F.</div> Sat, 24 Sep 2016 11:57:00 +0000 Reuters 2472907 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/08/30/505446/wheat_0.jpeg