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Colombia blocks app it says possibly linked to Cambridge Analytica

BOGOTA ( ) – Colombia, which will hold presidential elections in May, on Wednesday blocked access to a cell phone application it said might be connected with Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy that has been accused of violating Facebook users’ privacy to influence elections in Britain and the United States.

Lawmakers in the United States and Europe are demanding to know more about Facebook’s privacy practices after a whistleblower said Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data to target U.S. and British voters in close-run elections.

Colombia’s commerce regulator said in a statement it would block an application called Pig.gi, which gives users free top-ups in exchange for receiving ads and recommending their friends. The app has more than a million downloads in Colombia and Mexico combined, the regulator said.

The app, which users download via the Google Play store and sign into using their Facebook account, is administered by Fa,上海夜生活Nadine,rrow Colombia S.A.S and Farrow Mexico S.A.P.I. de CV, the statement said.

Attempts to reach Farrow for comment were unsuccessful. A number listed for Farrow in Colombia belongs to another company. There is no listed number for the Mexico branch of the company.

“As a preventative measure and taking into account the potential risk of a wrongful and massive illegal use上海夜生活论坛 of the personal data of thousands of Colombians collected via the download of the Pig.gi application, the application Pig.gi is temporarily blocked while appropriate investigations are undertaken and definitive decisions adopted,” the regulator said.

The regulator did not specify what evidence it had of a connection between Cambridge Analytica and Farrow. The application will be blocked on the Google Play app store and on social media, as will websites where it can be downloaded.

The regulator added it has requested cooperation and information from its counterparts in the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Mexico.

Facebook announced a series of changes on Wednesday to give users more control over their data, after the scandal wiped more than $100 billion from its stock market value.

Cambridge Analytica has said it did not use Facebook data in U.S. Pr,上海夜生活网419Macauly,esident Donald Trump’s campaign, and that it had deleted all Facebook data it obtained fr,上海夜生活网交流Quay,om a third-party app in 2014 after learning the information did not adhere to data protection rules.

Colombia will hold presidential elections on May 27.

Americans less likely to trust Facebook than rivals on personal data

(This March 25 story has been corrected to remove reference to level of trust being lost over time)

By David Ingram and Eric Auchard

SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON ( ) – Opinion polls published on Sunday in the United States and Germany cast doubt over the level of trust people have in Facebook over privacy, as the firm ran advertisements in British and U.S. newspapers apologizing to users.

Fewer than half of Americans trust Facebook to obey U.S. privacy laws, according to a /Ipsos poll released on Sunday, while a survey published by Bild am Sonntag, Germany’s largest-selling Sunday paper, found 60 percent of Germans fear that Facebook and other social networks are having a negative impact on democracy.

Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized for “a breach of trust” in advertisements placed in papers including the Observer in Britain and the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

“We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t上海夜网 deserve it,” said the advertisement, which appeared in plain text on a white background with a tiny Facebook logo.

The world’s largest social media network is coming under growing government scrutiny in Europe and the United States, and is trying to repair its reputation among users, advertisers, lawmakers and investors.

This follows allegations that the British consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperl,上海夜生活乌托邦Paisley,y gained access to users’ information to build profiles of American voters tha,上海夜网邀请码Fabiana,t were later used to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press” on Sunday that Facebook had not been “fully forthcoming” over how Cambridge Analytica had used Facebook data.

Warner repeated calls for Zuckerberg to testify in person before U.S. lawmakers, saying Facebook and other internet companies had been reluctant to confront “the dark underbelly of social media” and how it can be manipulated.

“BREACH OF TRUST”

Zuckerberg acknowledged that an app built by a university researcher had “leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014”.

“This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time,” Zuckerberg said, reiterating an apology first made last week in U.S. television interviews.

Facebook shares tumbled 14 percent last week, while the hashtag #DeleteFacebook gained traction online.

The /Ipsos online poll found that 41 percent of Americans trust Faceboo,上海夜生活怎么玩Gabriella,k to obey laws that protect their personal information, compared with 66 percent who said they trust Amazon.com Inc, 62 percent who trust Alphabet Inc’s Google, 60 percent for Microsoft Corp.

The poll was conducted from Wednesday through Friday and had 2,237 responses. (reut.rs/2G9hvrv)

The German poll published by Bild was conducted by Kantar EMNID, a unit of global advertising holding company WPP, using representative polling methods, the firm said. Overall, only 33 percent found social media had a positive effect on democracy, against 60 percent who believed the opposite.

It is too early to say if distrust will cause people to step back from Facebook, eMarketer analyst Debra Williamson said in an interview. Customers of banks or other industries do not necessarily quit after losing faith, she said.

“It’s psychologically harder to let go of a platform like Facebook that’s become pretty well ingrained into people’s lives,” she said.

Data supplied to by the Israeli firm SimilarWeb, which measures global online audiences, indicated that Facebook usage in major markets and worldwide remained steady over the past week.

“Desktop, mobile and app usage has remained steady and well within the expected range,” said Gitit Greenberg, SimilarWeb’s director of market insights. “It is important to separate frustration from actual tangible impacts to Facebook usage.”

Nestle’s Milkybar targets healthy sweet spot with designer sugar

YORK, Eng,上海夜生活群Fabian,land ( ) – Nestle is launching a lower-sugar Milkybar made with a new version of the sweetener which could help ease the $185 billion confectionery industry’s growing public health headache.

Milkybar Wowsomes, a new more expensive take on the 81-year-old white chocolate made famous by the gun-slinging Milkybar Kid ads, will be on shelves in Britain and Ireland in coming weeks.

The world’s largest packaged food company says the new bars have 30 percent less sugar than a typical chocolate bar, helped by the use of Nestle’s new ingredient, sugar that has been physically altered to be lighter and dissolve faster. But they have only 3 percent fewer calories, due to extra natural ingredients.

The new sugar, first discussed publicly in 2016, partly addresses one of Big Food’s toughest challenges – how to make junk food healthy but keep it tasty.

“Health is important, but … many consumers are not ready to give up taste,” Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy said. “If you could have a tablet of chocolate with the same taste with 30 percent less sugar, I think consumers would jump on it.”

Nestle’s marketing chief says the aim of the new chocolate, which underwent more than 300 recipe tweaks, is to give parents the option of a better treat for their children.

Unlike the original plain white Milkybar chocolate, Wowsomes have a chocolate shell around a creamy center containing both the lighter sugar and crisped oat cereal.

“We felt it was important to signal that this brand is evolving and answering new consumer trends,” Patrice Bula, head of marketing, told .

Nestle shares were up 1.4 percent on Tuesday.

Nestle is under shareholder pressure to accelerate sales after six years of slowing growth, with the sector struggling as consumers seek fresher foods and flock to new, independent brands seen as healthier or more ethical.

Governments are also cracking down on sugar to help fight obesity, but taxes, like the one coming into effect in Britain next week, generally concentrate on soft drinks.

Companies like Nestle are trying to stay ahead. Next month it is rolling out San Pellegrino soft drinks with the low-calorie sugar substitute stevia, which will keep the fruit-flavored drinks below the new British tax threshold.

Nestle’s new invention is not for use in drinks and for now, it is just in confectionery – one of the toughest categories to reformulate, as chocolate can be up to 55 percent sugar.

SUGAR RUSH

Nestle executives said it was too early to specify how much this development would curb sugar purchases, although the company is looking to cut back over time.

Although the move by one of the world’s largest sugar buyers will not impact demand overnight, it may serve as a litmus test for other manufacturers, industry sources said.

Nestle’s business in the UK and Ireland has already taken out 10,400 tonnes of sugar from its portfolio since 2015. A long-term move away from sugar could spell disaster for farmers in top producing countries like India and Brazil, which together produce over 65 million tonnes of the sweetener each year. 

Global production continues to rise, outstripping demand and hurting prices. Benchmark raw sugar prices have slid 17 percent so far this year, after falling over 22 percent last year. tmsnrt.rs/2DIcmEG

Following the UK test, Nestle hopes to roll the sugar out elsewhere, focusing first o上海夜生活n childrens’ confectionery brands.

“We have quite a few brands in a lot of markets in Latin America, but also in Europe and Asia that could use that technology,” Bula said.

The company declined to say how much the project had cost, but for Jas Scott de Martinville, head of confectionery research and development and the product technology center in the northern English city of York, where the chocolate was developed, it was money well spent.

“Every time you create something as break-through as this, you learn so much … Our scientists in Switzerland,上海夜生活桑拿会所Dallas, will use the knowledge gained to help us advance in other categories.”

In 2016, Nestle said the product had the potential to reduce total sugar by up to 40 percent in confectionery. Milkybar Wowsomes have only a 30 percent reduction, partly because the chocolate shell utilizes regular sugar.

POROUS PARTICLES

Nestle says the new sugar is made by spraying a mixture of sugar, milk powder and water into warm air which forms a porous sugar structure that melts more quickly, meaning that less sugar can be used for the same amount of sweetness.

The idea is similar to that behind SODA-LO Salt Microspheres, which Tate & Lyle launched in 2012, with hollow spheres that allow for sodium reduction.

Most packaged food makers have initiatives aimed at making their products healthier, but some say there is a limit.

“It would,上海凤楼夜网Hallie, not make sense to cut sugar in all our chocolate by 2-3 percent or to use stevia everywhere,” Lindt & Spruengli CEO Dieter Weisskopf said this month. “That would harm the taste.”

Prosecutors search Volkswagen headquarters in new emissions…

BERLIN ( ) – German prosecutors said on Tuesday they had searched Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) headquarters as part of a new investigation into whether the carmaker had overstated the fuel efficiency of more vehicles than previously disclosed.

The news is,上海高端夜生活在那里Lake, the latest setback in the German company’s efforts to move on from a 2015 scandal in which it admitted to cheating U.S. emissions tests on diesel engines.

Prosecutors from the city of Braunschweig searched 13 offices at Volkswagen’s (VW) headquarters in nearby Wolfsburg at the start of March, seizing documents and computer files that will now be reviewed, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said, confirming a report by German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

They were checking a statement issued by VW on Dec. 9, 2015 – about three months after its “dieselgate” scandal broke in the United States – over suspicions its contents were incorrect

In that statement, VW said its own investigations found it had understated fuel consumption, and hence carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, on no more than 36,000 vehicles.

That was much lower than its preliminary estimate of around 800,000 diesel and gasoline vehicles produced five weeks earlier, which caused VW to warn it could face a 2 billion euro ($2.5 billion) hit to profits from the disclosure.

VW also said in its December 2015 statement that it had found no evidence of unlawful alterations to CO2 emissions data.

Prosecutors said on Tues上海夜生活论坛day they were investigating unknown individuals over suspicions of market manipulation.

VW, Europe’s biggest carmaker, confirmed the searches, but declined further comment.

At 1410 GMT, its shares were little changed at 160.35 euros.

Separately, Braunschweig prosecutors are investigating VW’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn, former finance ,上海足浴夜网联系方式Rae,chief and current chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch, and current VW brand CEO Herbert Diess over possible market manipulations related to the dieselgate scandal. VW has denied any market manipulations.

Manfred Doess, head of,夜上海419龙凤论坛Hal, legal affairs at VW’s majority stakeholder Porsche SE (PSHG_p.DE), said on Tuesday he did not expect the latest inquiry to lead authorities to press charges against VW.

“In my judgement, nothing will come out of this,” Doess said at the holding firm’s earnings press conference.

Since its dieselgate scandal, VW has launched a multibillion-dollar investment in electric vehicles and mobility services as part of an attempt to rebuild its image.

($1 = 0.8147 euros)

Success for Uber’s direct loan despite driverless fatality

NEW YORK (LPC) – Uber Technologies’ self-arranged term loan B was increased to US$1.5bn, justifying the taxi app company’s unconventional approach to raising the loan and succeeding despite news that one of the company’s self-driving cars had killed a pedestrian.

The groundbreaking seven-year new-money loan was placed with investors directly through Uber’s capital markets team, rather than through a syndication process led by arranging banks, and also priced tight of guidance.

It is largely a bridge loan designed to fund Uber’s steep cash burn until its planned 2019 IPO, and also required investors to get comfortable with unusual credit metrics, including negative Ebitda.

The Uber car hit and killed Elaine Herzberg in Arizona late on March 18, in what is believed to be the first fatality involving a self-driving vehi,上海夜生活服务Qirin,cle.

News of the accident emerged the following day, and Uber pulled forward the commitment deadline on its loan to Ma,上海高端夜生活在那里Idaline,rch 21 from an original deadline of March 22.

Uber was still able to capitalize on strong investor demand and the deal size was increased by US$250m from US$1.25bn at launch. ,上海夜网推油Jacob,

After the accident, Uber said it would halt the self-driving program in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto and continue to assist local, state and federal authorities as concern rippled through the auto industry.

Proceeds were earmarked for general corporate purposes – a generic use that includes investment in autonomous vehicle technology, investors said.

“I’m guessing the pullback [in that investment] will be temporary,” one investor said.

Another investor said: “I do not think the death changes anything. Six thousand pedestrians are killed a year. People are thinking, if everything craps out, will someone buy this money-losing operation for more than my loan balance?”

The loan ultimately cleared at 400bp with a 1% Libor floor at 99.5, versus opening guidance of a 425bp-450bp over Libor range with a 1% floor and 99 OID.

LEVERAGELESS

The direct placement strategy was intended to avoid attracting scrutiny from US banking regulators because the loan might breach leveraged lending guidelines. The rules raise concerns about transactions having a debt-to-Ebitda ratio of over six times or deals that are unable to be paid down by half with cashflow over five to seven years.

Uber reported roughly negative US$2bn of Ebitda in 2017, two sources said, leaving potential investors without the traditional debt-to-Ebitda credit ratio that they rely on to conduct analysis.

“It’s just too hard do a ‘real’ analysis on it,” said the second investor.

Unusually, the loan was marketed on a loan-to-value ratio. Uber is touting an equity value of US$75bn, which would provide上海夜生活 ample coverage for lenders, although that valuation is only implied.

The current valuation follows the purchase of a 17.5% stake in the company in January by an investor consortium led by Japan’s Softbank that included a tender offer for existing shares at a US$48bn valuation and new equity at a US$68bn valuation.

Including capital expenditure and interest expense, the company burned through roughly US$3bn of cash last year. The loan will boost balance sheet cash to nearly US$6bn.

CLO TRADE

Uber’s leveraged loan market debut in 2016 was criticized by regulators. Morgan Stanley led the US$1.15bn TLB with Barclays, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. The deal priced at 400bp over Libor with a 1% floor.

Regulated banks could not play a direct role in the new deal as Uber is a “criticized name”, and Uber was reluctant to go outside its relationship bank group to an unregulated lead arranger, which led to the unconventional structure.

Morgan Stanley was the only bank to play an active role in the new deal, but as Uber’s financial advisor rather than a conventional arranger. Unlike in the 2016 transaction, the bank did not serve as administrative agent.

Macquarie is also serving as an intermediary to CLOs seeking to play the deal. As offshore vehicles, CLOs are prohibited from investing in US loans directly because doing so would be construed as origination, which could otherwise subject them to US corporate income taxes.

CLOs must wait for a seasoning period – typically around 48 hours – during which the originator closes and funds the loan, before it is moved into the CLO via assignment. The process avoids any potential tax liabilities.

Macquarie, which is nonregulated and therefore not subject to the leveraged lending guidance, is funding some of the loan that will be assigned to CLO accounts. Cortland Capital Market Services is the administrative agent.

(This version of the story corrects Morgan Stanley’s role in 2018 deal)

A factory worker at 13, Hong Kong’s iconic billionaire retires

HONG KONG ( ) – Li Ka-shing’s rise from penniless immigrant in 1940 to billionaire tycoon is the consummate success story in Hong Kong, a city which progressed alongsid,上海夜生活乌托邦Barney,e him from trading outpost to one of the world’s biggest financial centers.

A factory apprentice when he was 13, Li, who announced his retirement on Friday at 89, was called “Superman” in the ultra-capitalist hub for his work ethic and business success.

Li has used his business acumen, as well as a habit of personally investing alongside his companies, to amass a fortune estimated by Forbes at $35.3 billion, making him the world’s 23rd richest man.

“I’ve been working for a long time, too long,” a relaxed and sprightly Li said on Friday after ann上海夜生活ouncing he would step down on May 10.

While Hong Kong’s adoration of the billionaire and his rags-to-riches story has waned somewhat in recent years, he is still stepping aside from one of Asia’s most outward-looking empires, spanning more than 50 countries and 323,000 employees at last count.

Through a career spanning the 78 years since his family fled war-torn China for Hong Kong, Li built fortunes first in plastics and property before joining the first wave of top-tier Chinese tycoons in the city with the 1979 purchase of Hutchison Whampoa, a venerable British “hong” or trading house.

Along the way, he led raids on rivals, built strong – later controversial – ties with mainland leaders, was rapped on the knuckles for insider dealing in Hong Kong and turned his sights to overseas expansion in a way that few of his local rivals ever did.

Also unlike his rivals, including fellow hongs Swire Pacific (0019.HK) and Jardine Matheson (JARD.SI), he proved adept at something else: selling assets.

“Li Ka-shing’s real genius, to me, is not necessarily in the assets he acquired, but his ability to sell them at the right time,” said Jonathan Galligan, head of Asia gaming and conglomerates research at CLSA, the brokerage. “Look at anything he sold and, plus or minus a year, its hard to say he didn’t pick the top – that’s a tremendous skill.”

One of Li’s best-known deals in this respect was the 1999 sale of its UK telecoms unit, Orange, to Germany’s Mannesmann at the height of a market boom. After Vodafone bought Mannesmann soon after, the subsequent,上海夜网Eden, forced disposal of Orange to France Telecom produced a second windfall for the Li empire, which netted $21 billion in profits from the two deals.

Today, the assets still held by Li through his flagship CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd (0001.HK), include the biggest container port operator in the world, Canadian oil giant Husky, one of Europe’s leading telecoms operators as well as a collection of UK businesses that saw him awarded a knighthood by the Queen in 2000.

Even after stepping down, Li, who turns 90 in July, will remain a senior adviser for his sprawling business empire.

MYTH AND REALITY

Shrouded in myth and filled with apocryphal anecdotes and tales of family misfortune, Li’s name has become synonymous with against-the-odds success by dint of hard work.

He himself has regularly emphasized the hard work as well as his own drive to educate himself after becoming an apprentice in a watch strap factory at the age of 13, shortly before his father died.

By 19, he had become general manager of the factory, overseeing up to 300 workers and office staff, and at 21, he founded Cheung Kong plastics – the foundation of his empire.

That factory, with 1,000 square feet of space, operated around-the-clock, made a profit from its first year of operation and the young Li slept in a storage room in one of the many stories about his personal thrift.

Li, whose wife died nearly three decades ago, will hand over the keys to his empire to his elder son Victor Li, who, unlike younger son Richard, keeps a low public profile.

But despite the fables of Li’s thrift and being an active philanthropist, many Hong Kongers resent the pervasive role his family plays in the local economy.

They also blame the oligopolistic dominance of tycoons such as Li for social ills including a gaping wealth gap, extensive harbor reclamation, heritage demolition and extortionate property prices.

It is true that it would be difficult to spend a day in Hong Kong without enriching the Li empire and Hong Kongers sometimes use a Cantonese pun on his name, which translates to “Li family city”. Li’s Hongkong Electric is one of two power utilities in the city, while Cheung Kong is one of Hong Kong’s biggest residential developers. His companies also control one of the two dominant supermarket chains and one of the two largest pharmacies as well as one of Hong Kong’s largest cellphone companies.

Economists have joked privately that Li’s businesses give him better first-hand knowledge of the health of the Hong Kong economy than any amount of government information ever could.

END OF AN ERA

Li is the most prominent of the city’s powerful tycoons or oligarchs to step aside for the next generation, an exclusive peer group that also include Lee Shau-kee of Henderson Land, six months Li’s senior.

While these tycoons still control large swathes of Hong Kong, namely its core property sector, Chinese capital and businesses have become more intertwined with the city’s economic fabric, challenging their dominance as the streets are increasingly lined with mainland-backed banks, petrol stations, shops and supermarkets.

Over the past few years, Li’s close ties with Beijing’s Communist Party leadership have come under scrutiny.

Li came under rare attack by so,上海仙霞路夜生活Quaid,me Chinese state media outlets a few years ago, who accused him of abandoning China by selling off some assets there. Li, however, has denied turning his back on China and says he is confident in the country and its president Xi Jinping.

Though rarely accessible in recent years, the bespectacled tycoon enjoys shooting from the hip during public appearances and hasn’t shied from making controversial and politically barbed comments.

His lieutenants have however tended to be more circumspect – at least when it comes to commenting on Li. Asked in 2015 for his thoughts about what a surprise wholesale restructuring of the Li empire meant for the family’s succession planning, Canning Fok, Li’s second-in-command, told reporters, to laughter, that “We don’t interpret what the big boss says.”

And asked this week by for his thoughts on any retirement by Li, Simon Murray, Fok’s predecessor, kept it brief, replying via email simply “Happy Retirement!”

Li, though, has fresh challenges in mind.

“I will don a new battle suit and put all my efforts into the work of my (charity) foundation, especially on the aspects of medicine and education.”

Boeing loyalist Ryanair to fly first Airbus with Austria deal

DUBLIN/BERLIN ( ) – Ryanair’s (RYA.I) plan to buy Laudamotion will add Airbus (AIR.PA) planes to the Irish low-cost carrier’s fleet for the first time and could herald an improvement in relations with the European planemaker.

The acquisition by one of the world’s biggest airlines, which now operates 430 Boeing (BA.N) 737s, marks an unusual step in the low-cost business, where carriers tend to stick to a single aircraft type to keep costs down and operations simple.

The move to buy 75 percent of Vienna-based Laudamotion could also signal a shift to form a multi-airline group in the low-cost business, mirroring traditional operators such as IAG (,上海高端夜生活在那里Caden,ICAG.L) and Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) that each run several carriers.

But Chief Executive Michael O’Leary is starting small with Airbus, although he said he had harbored aspirations to develop an Airbus fleet at Ryanair for “some years”.

The Laudamotion deal gives Ryanair 15 Airbus A320, with plans to double that in three years. By comparison, Ryanair aims to have 570 Boeing 737s in five years, ensuring it stays one of the biggest clients for the Seattle-based firm even as it forms a new link with the European manufacturer.

“This obviously gives them more bargaining power,” said Mark Simpson, an analyst at broker Goodbody, which has a “buy” rating for Ryanair. “If they are going to 600 aircraft, do you have 400 Boeing and 200 Airbus? It gives them flexibili,上海会所夜网Paige,ty.”

To keep costs down, Ryanair could choose to operate either Boeing or Airbus out of each base but not mix them, he said.

Ryanair’s ties with Airbus have been strained over the years. Former Airbus sales chief John Leahy, who retired at the end of 2017, was furious at O’Leary for giving the impression he was about to sign a deal for 100 aircraft in 2002 before squeezing a better de上海夜生活网al from Boeing.

O’Leary has always declined to comment on the issue.

But the departure of Leahy, who refused to pitch to O’Leary for a big 200-plane ord,上海夜网邀请码Earl,er in 2009, might change the dynamics.

“Airbus never wanted to play ball with Ryanair, but it could be a new start with changes to the Airbus sales team and top management,” aviation consultant John Strickland said.

“VALUED CUSTOMER”

Ryanair has ordered 40 737s and 200 737 Max aircraft, part of plans to carry 200 million passengers a year by 2024.

A Boeing spokesman did not comment on O’Leary’s remark that he had long aspired to an Airbus fleet, saying: “We look forward to continuing to meet the requirements of a valued customer.”

O’Leary, who has donned a Seattle Seahawks American football shirt and delivered rousing speeches to Boeing workers, is credited for saving hundreds of jobs at the U.S. planemaker when he put in the order for 100 aircraft in 2002.

Airbus may yet balk at trying to win O’Leary into a big order, in a bid to avoid a price war that might anger its own top buyers, like easyJet (EZJ.L), if they believed a rival low-cost carrier was securing a better deal for aircraft.

But the growing size and clout of low-cost carriers means Ryanair is not alone in building bridges beyond traditional suppliers. Industry sources say a top easyJet executive was the guest speaker at a recent internal Boeing event.

“It’s not about today, but it is about keeping networks intact,” one industry official told .

Building broader relationships in the industry would make sense if Ryanair or easyJet ever moved to add wide-body jets to their fleet. Ryanair has previously said it would launch long-haul routes if it secured the right aircraft at the right price.

O’Leary said on Tuesday that Laudamotion would operate as a separate entity in the Ryanair group, a move he also proposed when trying to acquire former Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus, another Airbus operator. The airline eventually went to IAG.

An investment banker who has advised Ryanair and IAG at different times said he expected O’Leary to build up a group of several airlines, starting with Ryanair, Laudamotion and Ryanair Sun, which is a charter carrier based in Poland with five planes.

“You create a group of airlines to compete with each other intensely – a kind of an IAG for low-cost carriers,” he said.

Ryanair is not alone in facing more complexity with an acquisition. All-Boeing operator Alaska Airlines bought Airbus operator Virgin America in 2016 for $2.6 billion.

Still, some industry experts expect Alaska to switch back to Boeing, albeit when the Virgin America leases for Airbus planes expire in about 2022-2024. Similarly, they say O’Leary is unlikely to shift to Airbus with a big deal soon.

“But it serves as a reminder to Boeing,” Strickland said, “never to become complacent.”

Spotify touts growth over profits in listing pitch to retail investors

LONDON/SAN FRANCISCO ( ) – Streaming music leader Spotify used its cultural cool factor to appeal to mom-and-pop investors in an unconventional presentation ahead of its April 3 stock market listing.

Led by 35-year-old Chief Executive Daniel Ek, ,上海夜生活乌托邦Dahlia,wearing jeans, white t-shirt and a dark blazer, executives said Spotify would prioritize growth over profits to fend off big rivals Apple Inc (AAPL.O)上海夜生活 and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), while also seeing a clear path to making money.

Ek’s team made a direct case to individual investors in a public we,上海夜网邀请码Octava,bcast instead of a traditional closed-door road show typically used to woo institutional investors in initial public offerings (IPOs).

The Stockholm-based company’s stock will hit the public markets in a direct listing without traditional underwriters. It must convince investor,上海夜网千花Nadia,s that its business is sound and that investors who buy shares in the public market debut will not be hurt by unexpected volatility.

“You won’t see us ringing any bells or throwing any parties,” Ek said. “Since Spotify isn’t selling any stock in the listing, we’re really entirely focused on the long-term performance of the business.”

The direct listing is critical to alleviating Spotify’s losses, which are driven by financing costs, and will enable all late-stage investors to convert debt holdings into equity.

Spotify’s revenue grew 39 percent to 4.09 billion euros ($5.04 billion) in 2017 from 2.95 billion euros in 2016, it said in a securities filing. At the same time, net financing costs of 855 million euros pushed up operating losses to 378 million euros from 349 million euros.

Chief Financial Officer Barry McCarthy, the former long-serving CFO of streaming video giant Netflix Inc (NFLX.O), said Spotify’s strategy was to prioritize growth before short-term profitability, and that greater scale would enable profit margins to swell.

With 71 million subscribers at the end of 2017, Spotify is the leader in streaming music. It also has 92 million users of its free, advertising-supported service, which it says delivers a constant stream of converts to its paid offering. That will keep it ahead of Apple, the company believes.

Tomas Otterbeck, an equities analyst with Swedish research firm Redeye, said he was impressed by McCarthy repeating the idea that “We are playing a market share game” and that Spotify could reach 100 million paying subscribers by early next year.

The independent service is jockeying against efforts from Apple, which has 38 million paid listeners and eschews advertising-supported services.

Apple, Spotify, Google and other services charge around $9.99 a month for music subscriptions. Amazon Prime service subscribers can get the music service for $7.99 a month.

Ek portrayed Spotify as an underdog not tied to a major technology company, describing a strategy to be a ubiquitous music service available across phones, computers, smart speakers and car entertainment systems.

Because the company will not issue any new shares, it did not specify a listing price. Based on private transactions, it is valued at roughly $19 billion, according to calculations.

It has hired brokerage Morgan Stanley to match buy and sell orders to set its opening trading price and said it will provide financial guidance to investors on March 26.

STAYING AHEAD

McCarthy spelled out Spotify’s long-term operating targets for generating sustained free cash flow, with annual revenue growth between 25 and 35 percent and gross margin between 30 and35 percent – ambitious for a loss-making company.

Helping listeners find new bands and songs is an “infinitely larger” opportunity in music than so-called discovery was for video, McCarthy said, comparing Netflix’s rapid rise from mail-order DVD distribution into a streaming media service to Spotify’s audio streaming business.

Spotify could devour the $28 billion, advertising-driven radio market, he said. Advertising makes up only about 10 percent of Spotify’s current revenue, and McCarthy said he would be “thrilled” if Spotify could pull in 20 percent of its revenue from ads, although he expressed some doubt about whether the company could hit that mark.

“There is an enormous pay-off for whoever wins. Now it remains to be seen whether we will win, but that’s the game we are playing,” he said.

British VW drivers start ‘dieselgate’ claim in High Court

LONDON ( ) – Lawyers for more than 50,000 British car owners kicked off a lawsuit against Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) in London’s High Court on Tuesday in a battle for compensation over a diesel emissions scandal that has engulfed Europe’s largest carmaker since 2015.

The,上海夜生活服务Pablo, three-day hearing will determine whether the claims can be managed collectively under a Group Litigation Order (GLO) and will set a deadline for claimants to sign up to what lawyers say could become the largest group action in British legal history.

Volkswagen has said about 11 million cars worldwide – and 1.2 million in the UK – were fitted with software that cheated diesel emissions tests designed to limit noxious car fumes and carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution.

VW agreed to pay up to $25 billion in the United States to settle claims from owners, environm上海夜生活论坛ental regulators, states and dealers. It offered to buy back 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles.

The company has not reached a similar deal in Europe, where it faces billions of euros in claims from investors and customers in the worst business crisis of its 78-year history, dubbed “dieselgate”.

Law firm Slater and Gordon, which says it represents more than 40,000 claimants in Britain, alleges VW deceived people into buying cars that breached emissions regulations by installing “defeat devices”, engine management software designed to mask pollution levels.

The German company dismissed the allegations and said it intended to defend itself robustly. It said it had broken no English laws, that British drivers had suffered no loss and that the legal proceedings were premature and unfounded.

“We … are confident of a successful outcome,” the firm said in a statement. It said it had not been established that the software was an illegal defeat device and emphasised that the U.S. situation was “materially different”.

“The vehicles are different, the regulatory environment is different and the technical measures are different. The affected vehicles in the UK do not cause more pollution on the road than expected,” it said.

Volkswagen has offered European drivers a software update removing a mode that operated when cars were experiencing test conditions.

Slat,上海夜生活乌托邦Kailani,er and Gordon, one of at least three law firms acting fo,夜上海论坛Radcliff,r affected VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda drivers in England and Wales, alleged that the software fix had led to mechanical problems.

It said it had surveyed more than 11,600 affected car owners who had agreed to the VW fix. Some reported that cars lost power at high speed, had poorer fuel efficiency and engine power and that cars had “juddered”, it said.

VW said the survey’s methodology had not been explained and that it was in the financial interest of respondents to allege they had suffered damage.

“We have implemented the technical measures in over 840,000 vehicles in the UK and in over 6.4 million vehicles across Europe and the overwhelming majority of customers with these vehicles are satisfied,” it said.

Lawyers say that if the case was not settled, it might not come to trial before 2020.

Elliott asks to replace Telecom Italia board members, including…

MILAN ( ) – Activist investor Elliott proposed to oust the French chairman of Telecom Italia (TIM) (TLIT.MI) and install leaders of Italy’s corporate establishment on the board as part of an inten,上海夜生活乌托邦Tamara,sifying campaign to force a shakeup at the former state phone monopoly.

Elliott said last week it had taken a stake in TIM and was ready to replace board members in a bid to improve strategy, value and governance – a move widely seen as a challenge to the way top shareholder Vivendi (VIV.PA) runs the company.

The fund proposed to include a motion on the agenda of an April 24 shareholder meeting that seeks to replace six board members originally nominated by Vivendi, including TIM Chairman and Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine, TIM said on Thursday.

It also proposed replacing them with well-known names in Italian business, including Fulvio Conti, a former head of utility Enel (ENEI.MI) and former TIM finance director.

As part of the request, Elliott declared owning 2.53 percent of TIM, just above a threshold required to propose amendments, a copy of the document showed. It also reserved the right to request further changes to the AGM agenda.

The inclusion of well-connected Italian business people in its slate sugges上海夜网ts Elliott wants to win favors with other investors and especially with the Italian gover,上海夜生活网交流Tallulah,nment, which has objected to Vivendi’s growing influence at the company.

That included the ousting of two CEOs as well as the appointment of two-thirds of TIM’s board and de Puyfontaine as executive chairman. Rome later used the so-called “golden power” last year to have a say in some strategic decisions at TIM.

To challenge Vivendi’s 24 percent stake, Elliott has been on a charm offensive with some of the biggest institutional investors in Italy and abroad. The fund has reached out to main Italian funds, including Mediolanum, Fideuram and Eurizon, and other stakeholders abroad, two sources close to the matter said.

The funds did not comment.

TIM has lost more than one-third of its market value since Vivendi first took a stake in mid-2015, unnerving some investors. Yet despite disappointment over the way Vivendi has run the company, fund backing is not a given, the people said.

“There is a wait and see approach among institutional investors, Italian and foreign ones. They want to see what exactly Elliott wants,” one of the sources said.

The funds are also curious what newly appointed Chief Executive Amos Genish – a telecoms veteran put forward by Vivendi – will deliver, the person added.

TIM has not paid a dividend since 2012, but last week Genish held out the promise of richer shareholder returns with a new three-year strategy.

Elliott has yet to outline its exact proposals for TIM, but sources said it wants a majority of independent board members, plans to push for the conversion of TIM’s savings shares into ordinary stock and seek a spin-off of the soon-to-be-created network company.

Vivendi told on Wednesday it would be ready to support an alternative strategy to boost ,上海夜网Pamela,TIM’s short-term share price, even as it remained committed to its final goal of creating an Italian telecoms and content champion.

“If you buy TIM shares now, you need to have a long-term view because the rally already happened on Elliott’s entry,” an investor at a Milan-based asset manager said.

“I’d sit on the fence instead.”

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in final quote)

Illinois judge to decide jurisdiction over Cruz eligibility complaint

CHICAGO ( ) – An Illinois judge on Friday said she would decide next month whether she had jurisdiction over a voter’s complaint that Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz should not be on the state’s primary ballot because he was born in Canada.

Lawrence Joyce, a lawyer and pharmacist, filed a complaint in January with the Illinois State Board of Elections s,上海足浴夜网联系方式Kaiden,aying that under the U.S. Constitution, the Texas senator cannot run for president since he is not a “natural born” citizen. Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta of a Cuban father and an American mother.

The Board rejected Joyce’s complaint – saying Cruz became a natural-born citizen at the moment of his birth because of his mother’s citizenship – so he petitioned the Cook County Circuit Court to review that decision.

Circuit Court Judge Maureen Ward Kirby said she was not sure she had jurisdiction, and set a March 1 hearing for arguments on whether to dismiss the complaint.

The complaint comes in the wake of repeated attacks on Cruz about his eligibility by New York businessman and presidential rival Donald Trump.

Children born abroad to American citizens can immediately be registered as U.S. citizens through a consular report of birth abroad, but Joyce said that process is a form of naturalization.

A /Ipsos poll in January found that one quarter of Republicans did not think Cruz was qualified to be president because of his birthplace.

Cruz and Trump are locked in a battle to win the Republican no,上海夜生活论坛Cadence,mination for the Nov. 8 election. Cruz won the first nominating contest in Iowa while Trump prevailed in New Hampshire.

“A potential nightmare scenario may be developing if Ted Cruz becomes the nominee and is then forced to resign the nomination,” Joyce told reporters. He backs Republican candidate Ben Carson but said no candidate was involved in his lawsuit.

Voters in New York and in Alabama have also filed legal challenges to Cruz’s eligibility.

“It is widely assumed and believed that no court is going to invalidate a presidential candidate on this issue,” said Gerald Rosenberg, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

Lawyers for both Cruz and,夜上海论坛Fabian, the Illinois State Board of Elections said they would present motions to dismiss the case based on jurisdiction and because they said Lawrence did not properly serve notice of his complaint.

The Illinois primary is March 15 but early voti上海夜生活ng has already begun.

Dropbox shares close up 35 percent in biggest tech debut since Snap

( ) – Dropbox Inc’s shares closed at $28.42, up more than 35 percent in their first day of trading on Friday, as investors rushed to buy into the biggest technology initial public offering in more than a year even as the wider sector languished.

The stock opened at $29 on the Nasdaq and soared as much,上海夜网官方网站Kaiden, as 50 percent to a high of $31.60 in early trading. At the stock’s opening price, Dropbox had a market valuation of $12.67 billion, well above the $10 billion valuation it had in its last private funding round.

Its IPO priced at $21 per share late on Thursday, $1 above the projected range of $18 to $20, and was several times oversubscribed.

The solid first-day pop came despite weakness in the wider U.S. stock market. The S&P 500 slid 1.8 percent while Nasdaq dropped 2.4 percent, adding to losses of more than 2 percent each on Thursday.

The S&P tech index was down 2.73 percent.

Dropbox’s much-awaited debut ended a long dry spell in the U.S. IPO market for big tech names.

The last so-called tech unicorn to hit the market was Snap Inc last March, and the Snapchat owner is now trading roughly 4 percent below its $17 IPO price.

“In the case of Dropbox, investors get a chance to g,上海夜生活网419Caitlin,et exposure to a next-generation tech company, which is a proven business model,” said Tom Taulli, InvestorPlace.com analyst.

The pop in Dropbox’s price may bode well for Spotify, valued at roughly $19 billion in the private market. The music streaming service has filed for a direct listing and will start trading on the New York Stock Exchange on April 3.

“Dropbox is going public at the right time. It has an attractive story to justify its need for financing and the market dynamics are good,” said Josh Lerner, professor of investment banking at Harvard Business School.

“But at the same time, the environment is also competitive”.

The San Francisco-based company, which started as a free service to share and store photos, music and other large files, competes with Alphabet Inc’s Google, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc as well as Box Inc.

It has yet to turn a profit, which is common for startups that invest heavily in growth. As a public company Dropbox will be under pressure to quickly trim its losses.

The 11-year old company reported revenue of $1.11 billion in 2017, up from $844.8 million a year earlier. Its net loss nearly halved from $210.2 million in 2016.

“The strong performance of the Dropbox IPO may open the door for more technology unicorns to IPO throughout the rest of 2018,” said Sohail Prasad, co-founder and co-c上海夜生活hief executive of Equidate, a platform for trading of shares in private technology firms.

“If inve,上海夜网千花Kaia,stors had bought Dropbox stock within the last six months, they’d be up over 75 percent.”

Exclusive: ‘Where can I buy?’ – Google makes push to turn product…

NEW YORK ( ) – Alphabet Inc’s Google routinely fields product queries from millions of shoppers. Now it wants to take a cut of their purchases, too.

The U.S. technology company is teaming up with retailers including Target Corp, Walmart Inc, Home Depot Inc, Costco Wholesale Corp and Ult上海夜生活a Beauty Inc.

Under a new program, retailers can list their products on Google Search, as well as on the Google Express shopping service, and Google Assistant on mobile phones and voice devices.

In exchange for Google listings and linking to retailer loyalty programs, the retailers pay Google a piece of each purchase, which is different from payments that retailers make to place ads on Google platforms.

The listings will appear under sponsored shopping results and will not affect regular search results on Google, the company said.

Google’s pitch to retailers is a better chance to influence shoppers’ purchasing decisions, a move that is likely to help them compete with rival Amazon.com Inc. Google hopes the program helps retailers capture more purchases on desktop, cell phones and smart home devices with voice search – the next frontier for e-commerce.

The previously unreported initiative sprang from Google’s observation that tens of millions of consumers were sending image searches of products, asking “Where can I buy this?” “Where can I find it?” “How can I buy it?” “How do I transact?” Daniel Alegre, Google’s president for retail and shopping, told exclusively.

Over the past two years, mobile searches asking where to buy products soared by 85 percent, Alegre said.

But the current default choice for many consumers is a Google search that ends with an Amazon purchase, analysts said. The new Google program, Shopping Actions, will be available in the United States to retailers of all sizes and could help retail chains keep those customers.

“We have taken a fundamentally different approach from the likes of Amazon because we see ourselves as an enabler of retail,” Alegre said. “We see ourselves as part of a solution for retailers to be able to drive better transactions … and get closer to the consumer.”

For consumers faced with a surfeit of choices, the idea is to make online buying easier by giving them a single shopping cart and instant checkout – a core feature of Amazon’s retail dominance.

Retail chains can also offer products through the Google Home voice shopping device, holding on to those who may be headed to Amazon for better deals and giving them personalized recommendations based on previous purchase history.

For example, a shopper looking for sneakers on Google on his phone can see a retailer’s listing and add that to his Google Express cart. Later, the customer can stand in the kitchen, and use the Google Home voice device to add paper towels to the same cart and buy everything at once.

Retail partners saw the average size of a customer’s shopping basket increase by 30 percent, Alegre said, pointing to early results from the Shopping Actions program.

Ulta Beauty’s average order value has jumped 35 percent since partnering with Google, Chief Executive Officer Mary Dillon said. Ulta sells makeup and skin care products from brands such as MAC, Estee Lauder and Clinique.

Over the past six months, Target said the number of items in shoppers’ Google Express baskets have increased by nearly 20 percent, on average, as a result of its tie-up with the internet company.

ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS MY FRIEND

The retailers are also eager to get in on the rapidly growing voice shopping market dominated by Amazon’s popular Echo home device, analysts and consultants said.

Both Walmart and Target last year struck deals to appear in search results via Google Home.

,上海高端夜生活在那里Daisy,

Smart voice devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home will be installed in 55 percent of U.S. households by 2022, according to Juniper Research. Amazon’s Alexa platform could generate $10 billion in revenues by 2020, a separate report from RBC Capital Markets estimated.

“Brands are looking at Google as the enemy of the enemy and that makes Google their friend,” said Guru Hariharan, CEO of ret,上海夜生活服务Larissa,ail technology firm Boomerang Commerce, referring to the competition between Amazon and chains like Walmart and Target.

Target shoppers “love the ease and convenience of making their Target run without lifting a finger by using a voice interface,” Chief Information and Digital Officer Mike McNamara said.

“This is just the beginning for Target and Google,” he added.

Target shoppers will soon be able to link their online account,上海晚上耍女人的地方Radley, and loyalty card with their Google accounts and get 5 percent off on purchases and free shipping, McNamara said.

A tale of two hotels: Italy’s bad loan sales hang in the balance

MILAN/LONDON ( ) – The Hotel Dei Dogi, a lagoon-side palazzo in Venice, will be renovated in the autumn for the first time in 20 years after a U.S. investment firm snapped up the debts of its family owners, confident of selling it and eight sister hotels at a profit.

In the hinterland a couple of hours’ drive to the west, hotel Le Seriole, modest with a small pool and closed, is being auctioned for a fifth time this month; four previous attempts drew no bids – driving the price down by 79 percent.

The two hotels hold clues to Italy’s ability to draw a final line under a banking crisis that risked undermining the euro zone at its height and boosted anti-establishment parties in this month’s election.

The Dei Dogi is the exception – such high end properties account for just five percent of the problem loan market’s annual turnover, two industry sources said. Far more common are businesses like Le Seriole, fo,夜上海论坛Idaleen,r which liquidation could be the only option.

But both fall into the more promising half of Europe’s biggest bad loan market because their obligations are backed by physical assets.

A buyer can expect to recover at least 50-60 percent of a loan with good collateral such as an apartment in a large city, compared with just 5-6 percent in a corporate bankruptcy with no assets pledged as guarantee, several industry sources said.

Italy’s banks have cut their soured debts below 300 billion euros from a peak of 360 billion in 2015-16, starting with batches of unsecured loans that were easier to price.

Regulators, keen to strengthen the lenders and prevent a new financial crisis, are demanding more, and banks, having plowed through reams of messy loan records, last year began to put more valuable secured loans on the block.

They are drawing healthy competition from investors seeking higher returns in a property market that has lagged behind a rebound in other developed countries.

Some buyers see a virtuous circle in which an injection of funds into neglected underlying assets proves a boon to the broader Italian economy. Others fear prices are rising too fast at a time of post-election political uncertainty.

All agree a sense of momentum is key.

“Perceptions and the level of confidence count perhaps even more than actual numbers,” said Guido Lombardo, chief investment officer at Credito Fondiario, an Italian bank that invests in soured loans and manages them.

“A prospect of stability would really help support expectations of a pick-up in property prices.”

GROWTH CONUNDRUM

Italy’s 1.5 percent economic growth last year, the fastest since 2010, helped corporate insolvency rates return to pre-crisis levels. The upturn should also benefit creditors’ recovery rates, which generally move inversely to default rates.

“How much and how fast you recover is directly correlated with GDP growth, with a lag of 6-12 months,” said Andrea Mignanelli, CEO of Italy’s second-biggest debt collector, Cerved Credit Management.

“With the economy on the mend, we’re already witnessing improvements: fewer judicial auctions with no bidders, more out-of-court settlements, slightly quick,上海夜生活网419Caitlin,er bankruptcy proceedings.”

The election, however, has cast doubt over Italy’s outlook as some economists say only further reforms can lift the growth potential of the euro zone’s most sluggish economy.

The reformist center-left government was punished by popular anger at bailouts that shored up the system but hurt thousands of ordinary savers. Now, the two contenders to lead the next executive are the anti-establishment 5-Star and the eurosceptic League, who both have pledged to row back on previous market-friendly measures.

HOPE AND DESPAIR

Betting on Italy’s steady tourist flows, Minnesota-based investment firm Varde Partners bought 350 million euros of bank debt owed by hotel chain Boscolo before acquiring nine hotels, including Dei Dogi, from the controlling family last year.

Varde restructured the debt and will invest 80 to 90 million euros in a revamp under new chief executive Stephen Alde,上海夜生活乌托邦Fabi,n, who oversaw the renovation of The Connaught hotel in London.

“The management team will be focused on enhancing the quality of the hotels over the next three to four years,” said Tim Mooney, a partner and global head of real estate at Varde in London. “We will then seek to sell the company.”

Despite being a top tourist destination, Italy suffers from outdated infrastructure with thousands of overly-indebted, family-owned hotels lacking the cash to invest in the business.

Stuck in the countryside outside Mantua, hotel Le Seriole was financed by bailed-out lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), which is offloading 24 billion euros in bad debts.

Provided the loans are cheap enough, funds can still reap the double-digit returns their investors normally demand even if a property sells for less than the value of the land it is on.

“There are really good returns to be made if you know how to price your assets well,” said Pier Paolo Masenza, a partner at consultancy PwC in Milan.

Selling prices have risen, by 10 percent in 18 months according to one industry source. But despite this, and years of costly writedowns by banks, a gap remains between balance-sheet values and how much investors are willing to pay.

Italy’s slow-moving judicial system is partly to blame; data firm上海夜生活论坛 DATASINC calculates foreclosures and insolvency procedures take on average 4.4 years, increasing risks and costs.

Three industry sources said investors can expect to recoup on average 30-35 percent of a loan’s nominal value. But servicing costs shave up to 10 percent off recovery rates and legal costs take off another 5-6 percent.

Returns are still attractive considering Italian soured loans fetched on average 18 percent of their face value last year, Italian bad loan specialist Banca IFIS (IF.MI) calculated.

That compares with an average book value of 35.6 percent for the worst kind of soured loans, which total 166.5 billion euros before writedowns according to the central bank.

Several sources said up to two thirds of a further 112 billion euros in ‘unlikely to pay’ UTP loans valued by banks at around 66 percent of their face value would have to be classed as insolvent and heavily written down to facilitate disposals.

This is either because borrowers are effectively beyond redemption or because the loans’ small size makes them unsuitable for restructuring.

HEATING UP

With some investors saying Italian bad loan portfolios on sale can easily attract two dozen bids, banks can hope rising competition among investors will help stem future loan losses.

Early market entrants, big private investment firms such as Cerberus or Fortress, have been joined by niche buyers like London-based Algebris, which targets corporate bad loans backed by high-quality properties, mainly in northern Italy.

There are also more buyers funding purchases from bank deposits and happy with lower returns than traditional funds.

A well-oiled market would help Italian banks deal with new European rules which will give lenders only up to eight years to write off new loans turning sour to avoid build-ups.

But a top investor and a debt collection specialist both said they were concerned about how much further prices could rise before endangering returns, as their loans were performing in line with projections rather than outperforming.

“That means the prices paid for those portfolios were broadly right. Yet prices keep rising … we’re nearing levels where someone may start getting hurt,” one person said.

(GRAPHIC: Bad loans across the euro zone – tmsnrt.rs/2FmQG6S)

Wall Street advances on energy bump; Facebook woes continues

( ) – U.S. stocks advanced modestly on Tuesday as higher oil prices lifted the energy sector, but another slump in Facebook Inc (FB.O) shares curbed gains.

Oil prices rose more than 2 percent to touch a three-week high, driven by tensions in the Middle East and the possibility of further declines in Venezuelan crude output.

Those gains helped the S&P energy index .SPNY rise 0.84 percent, making it easily the best performing of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors.

Facebook Inc (FB.O) shares ended down 2.6 percent, well above earlier lows. The social media company said on Tuesday it faced questions from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission about how its users’ personal data was mined by a political consultancy hired by President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The stock has fallen about 9 percent over the past two sessions, its biggest two-day decline since February 2016, a drop that has weighed heavily on equities.

U.S. and European lawmakers have demanded an explanation of how the consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, gained access to the data and why Facebook failed to inform its users, raising broader industry questions about consumer privacy and whether tou上海夜生活网gher regulation is on the horizon.

“The negative part would be they are going to haul them in front of Congress now and we’ll see do they create new laws, are there new regulations that could stunt the growth of the company? That is really what the fear is,” said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.

Facebook was not the only social media stock or fund taking a hit on Tuesday. Shares of S,上海夜网Idaia,nap Inc (SNAP.N) fell 2.56 percent, while Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) shares tumbled 10.38 percent. The Global X Social Media ETF (SOCL.O) lost 0.9 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 116.36 points, or 0.47 percent, to 24,727.27, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 4.02 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,716.94 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 20.06 points, or 0.27 percent, to 7,,上海晚上耍女人的地方Kade,364.30.

Oracle (ORCL.N) dropped 9.4 percent after the business software maker reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue.

Financial stocks .SPSY edged up 0.21 percent as investors awaited a near-certain interest rate hike at the end,上海夜生活群Dalton, of the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting on Wednesday.

Market participants largely expect a total of three rate hikes this year, although some have not ruled out the possibility the U.S. central bank will hike four times.

“We are finally normalizing, after years we talked about the Fed holding it down and the market only going up because of the Fed. Now let’s see what the market can do – can it stand on its own two legs?” said Saluzzi, referring to the low interest rate environment the Fed put into effect after the financial crisis.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.26 billion shares, compared with the 7.17 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.28-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.26-to-1 ratio favored decliners.