Thursday, July 31, 2014

U.S. drugmaker AbbVie Inc (ABBV.N) bought Dublin-based Shire Plc

U.S. drugmaker AbbVie Inc (ABBV.N) bought Dublin-based Shire Plc (SHP.L) on Friday in a 32 billion pound ($54.7 billion) deal that will allow it to slash its tax bill by relocating to Britain.
The London-listed company, which makes expensive medicines to treat rare diseases, fought off four earlier bids from AbbVie until the U.S. firm raised its price to 52.48 pounds per share - made up of 24.44 pounds in cash and 0.8960 new AbbVie shares.
Chicago-based AbbVie is buying Shire to cut both its U.S. tax bill and its reliance on arthritis drug Humira, the world's top selling medicine which loses U.S. patent protection in 2016. AbbVie, which generates nearly 60 percent of its revenue from Humira, had until Friday to announce a firm offer for Shire, extend the deadline or walk away under UK takeover rules.
It now plans to create a company listed in New York, incorporated in Jersey, the Channel Islands, and tax-domiciled in Britain, which will pay an effective tax of about 13 percent by 2016, sharply lower than its current rate of about 22 percent, making the deal one of the biggest driven by the tactic known as tax inversion.
America's Pfizer Inc tried to pull off the same trick earlier this year when it made a bid for Britain's AstraZeneca plc (AZN.L) though its $118 billion deal was rejected.
Calls for political action to stop tax inversion deals are growing in the United States. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged Congress this week to take steps to discourage companies moving their tax domiciles aboard, saying "economic patriotism" was needed.
AbbVie's chairman and chief executive Richard Gonzalez said he thought the debate would be more appropriately shifted to tax reform and making companies more competitive in the global economy. U.S. companies cannot move overseas earnings back into the country for acquisitions or investment without losing part of it to the taxman.
"Companies like ours need access to our global cash flows to be able to make investments all around the world, but specifically to be able to make investments in the United States, and today we at a disadvantage versus many of our foreign competitors," he said.

However, he added, tax cutting was not the main objective of the Shire deal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Casual dinning and devices

Logo used from 1980–2007, still in use at some...
Logo used from 1980–2007, still in use at some Applebee's locations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Casual dining chain Applebee’s (DIN) has applied to trademark the phrase “No Tech Tuesday.” While one could reasonably infer that the restaurant is planning to host device-free dining on, say, Tuesdays, the chain denies that it has any such plans.
“Guests are welcome to use as much or as little tech as they want,” says Applebee’s spokesman Dan Smith. “Like many brands, we file many phrases for protection. There’s absolutely zero percent linkage between No Tech Tuesday and anything in the restaurant.”
So why trademark the phrase at all? It would seem the chain is considering some marketing around it but hasn’t quite worked out the details. It could, for instance, be used in some cutesy ad about going out to eat midweek to escape all your gadgets at home. That’s just a guess. Smith claims Applebee’s hasn’t even gotten that far. “It could be used in any number of things, for marketing. … But we have determined that any future application will have no link to the restaurant.”
What is clear is that trying to get customers—especially those in the valuable millennial demographic—to put down their devices is not a battle most restaurants want to fight. Some restaurants worry that the dining experience is worse when everyone is fixated on their screens, but many, such as McDonald’s (MCD) and Starbucks (SBUX), see smartphones and tablets as a valuable marketing tool and as the latest way to take orders and payments.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Mylan buys Abbott specialty brands for structured tax inversion

Generic drugmaker Mylan Inc said on Monday it would buy Abbott Laboratories' branded specialty and generics business in developed markets outside the United States in a $5.3 billion deal that will bolster its product line and also cut its tax bill.
The deal gives Mylan a wide array of Abbott brands that have annual sales of almost $2 billion in those markets, including gastroenterology drug Creon, pain drug Brufen and influenza vaccine Influvac.
It has been structured to help Mylan reduce its tax bill, by moving its tax address outside the United States, a practice known as tax inversion that has become popular among healthcare companies.
"We see Mylan creating a platform for potential future acquisitions with this deal," thanks to revenue from the Abbott products and a lowered tax rate of 20 to 21 percent in the first full year and high-teens later on, said JP Morgan analyst Chris Schott.
Mylan shares were up 2.7 percent at $51.55 on the Nasdaq in early afternoon, while Abbott shares were up almost 1 percent at $41.66 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Abbott will transfer assets - now sold in Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - to a new publicly traded company in the Netherlands that will also include Mylan's existing businesses.
Abbott will receive 105 million shares of the combined company, giving it an ownership stake of about 21 percent that is worth $5.3 billion based on Mylan's closing stock price on Friday.
Abbott will continue to sell its branded generics, however, in emerging markets, where strong sales growth is expected because of rising numbers of middle-class patients. By contrast, its sales of generics in developed markets have been steadily declining in recent years due to price pressures in Europe.
Although the deal would hurt Abbott's 2015 earnings, the suburban Chicago company said it plans relatively quickly to sell its stake in the new company and use the proceeds to boost Abbott's earnings, such as by acquiring more medical devices or buying back its shares.

"While we have a very positive view toward Mylan stock, we do not expect to be a long-term shareholder in Mylan," Abbott Chief Executive Miles White told investors in a conference call on Monday.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Retiring in Ecuador

English: Quito, Ecuador: Independance Place. E...
English: Quito, Ecuador: Independance Place. Español: Quito, Ecuador: plaza de la Independencia, tambien Plaza Grande. Français : Quito, Équateur : place de l'Indépendance, aussi Plaza Grande. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What’s your definition of “riding off into the sunset?”
For many retirees, post-employment bliss is more about getting the most out of a dollar and less about lying on the beach beneath palm trees. That's why those with limited budgets are discovering Ecuador just might be the perfect destination for life after work.

Here are five reasons the South American nation is luring retirees.

1. Stretch Your Nest Egg

By moving to Ecuador, some retirees say they can double or even triple their disposable income and live comfortably for around $2,000 a month or less. A furnished three-bedroom apartment with a view of the Andes rents for $600.
"It's a nation where, in the right communities, you really can 'upgrade' your lifestyle," said Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living Magazine. "Because day-to-day living costs a fraction of what it does up north, a nest egg stretches much further."
A three-course lunch at a sit-down restaurant can cost as little as $2.50 -- and you can add a beer for just 85 cents. Plus, seniors receive discounts on public transportation and cultural events. And because Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency, it eliminates the hassle of money conversions, so you can focus on bargaining at the market instead.

2. Low-Cost Medical Care

Ecuador reportedly offers high-quality health care at a fraction of the cost in the U.S. Patients frequently receive personal attention directly from doctors, instead of nurses or physicians assistants. Medications are significantly cheaper, in some cases 60 to 70 percent less.
Retirees Ernie and Jorie Kinnard, formerly of Cumming, Ga., described a trip to the emergency room in Ecuador that ran them $37. The bill included $12 for the emergency room visit and $25 to see a specialist.
A recent surgery with a seven-day hospital stay that would have cost them $15,000 in the U.S. was just $2,200 in Cuenca. Some expats opt for private medical insurance, but residents are eligible for the government's medical insurance, which is similar to Medicare but is restricted to one hospital.

3. Lots of Flight Options

There are eight nonstop flights daily between the U.S. and Ecuador's main airport in Quito, and daily in-country flights between the three major cities: Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca.
A new $680 million airport opened just outside Quito with additional customs points, improved cargo capacity, and the longest runway of any international airport in Latin America. And some airlines give seniors half-off airfare for round-trip tickets purchased for flights originating within the country.

More Americans Opting to Retire Abroad

4. It Really Is Paradise

Ecuador hosts a variety of climates, divided by the Andes mountain range: there are broad beaches on the Pacific Coast, snow-capped volcanoes, geothermal hot springs, and the dense Amazon rain forest.
Ecuador is a land of diverse experiences. In just one trip, you can see the Pacific Coast, the Andes, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.
Just off the coast, the Galapagos Islands are perhaps the most famous wildlife reserve in the world, with its blue-footed boobies and gigantic tortoises. Charles Darwin formed his theory of evolution at this volcanic archipelago, located 600 miles west of the mainland.

There's no need for air conditioning, especially if you live in the Southern Sierra. Cuenca is two degrees south of the Equator, set in the Andes Mountain Range about 8,400 feet above sea level.
Winters are mild, at about 52 degrees, and the summer tops out at about 75 degrees.
Cuenca actually means “river basin,” or “bowl,” in Spanish.
"The lower air pressure doesn't hold heat the way it does at lower elevations, so in Cuenca, everyday has all four seasons," explained retiree Frances Hogg, from Michigan. "It is spring in the morning, summer at noon, fall in the evening and winter at night."

5. Cuenca Is for Lovers

Retirees Judy and Bill Collins from Houston, Texas, said moving overseas together has sparked their sense of adventure. And despite its challenges, the overall experience has strengthened their marriage.
"The city itself has a certain charm," said Judy Collins. "Cuenca is the 'Paris of Ecuador' because here people hold hands and they kiss and love each other and they're not afraid to show it." 

Boeing's Space Bins will stow six bags

Boeing's Space Bins will stow six bags, two more than the current pivot bins installed on ...
Boeing's Space Bins will stow six bags, two more than the current pivot bins installed on Next-Generation 737s (Photo: Boeing)
Seasoned travelers know the benefits of restricting luggage to carry-on, letting them smugly cruise past the suckers waiting at baggage claim at the end of a flight. But with the number of people going carry-on only, finding space in the overhead compartments can be a hassle. Boeing's new Space Bags overcome this problem, with each storing two more bags than the current bins.
To be offered as an optional feature on the new Next-Generation 737's and 737 MAX aircraft, the new Space Bags will stow six carry-on bags of the standard 9 x 14 x 22-in (23 x 36 x 56 cm) size. This will bring the bag-carrying capacity of aircraft including the 737-900ER and 737 MAX 9 up to 194, which is 62 more bags than the current pivot bins that were introduced in 2010 can handle.
Boeing says the new Space Bins are as easy to close as the pivot bins, but don't require an assist mechanism. They also feature a lower bin lip height to make them easier to load and increase visibility to the back of the bins.
The Space Bins can be retrofitted to existing Next-Generation 737s and will be introduced on new aircraft deliveries to Alaska Airlines when they become available from late 2015.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Less spent on R & D better the performance on Wall Street

Canon PowerShot A590 IS Sample - Hewlett-Packa...
Canon PowerShot A590 IS Sample - Hewlett-Packard Logo (Macro) (Photo credit: włodi)
When Meg Whitman was named chief executive of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) in 2011, she inherited a real mess. HP’s share price had been slaughtered by the ouster of Mark Hurd and the reign of Léo Apotheker—an 11-month period that I like to refer to as the Grim Bumbling. Trying to revive hope in the company and its stock, Whitman vowed to invest in what had once made HP great. She would pour money into research and development, HP would invent wonderful things, and investors would eventually rejoice.
While this plan seemed sound enough in theory, a new study has suggested that it might have been exactly the wrong thing to do.
The data sleuths over at Bernstein Research have just issued a sizzling report with the title “Do High R&D Spenders in Tech Generate Stock Outperformance?” Even if it’s not the sexiest title, the conclusion is titillating. Bernstein examined technology companies since 1977 to measure R&D spending as a percentage of the company’s sales. The researchers found that over 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year periods, the companies with the lowest spending on R&D tended to perform the best on Wall Street. It really is just like Thomas Edison said: “Invention is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent a waste of everyone’s time.”
Bernstein divided the technology companies into High, Medium, and Low R&D spenders. Roughly speaking, the high group tended to spend 18 percent to 35 percent of revenue on R&D; the medium group spent 11 percent to 17 percent; and the low group 10 percent or less. Members of the high-spending group tended to be heavy on hardware companies with names such as Nvidia (NVDA) and Intel (INTC), the middle range encompassed big names like Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT), and the low-end group included HP, IBM (IBM), and Apple (AAPL). Some companies changed groups depending on which time period Bernstein examined.
If we focus on results from the past five years, the biggest R&D spenders underperformed the other technology companies by 15 percent on average when it came to gains in share price. The middle R&D spenders outperformed the rest of the companies by 23 percent on average, while the lowest spenders outperformed the rest by 19 percent. And the majority of the low spenders—63 percent—outperformed their peers; from the middle and high spenders, only 43 percent and 40 percent, respectively, bested their peers.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

British bank Barclays is to replace branch cashiers

British bank Barclays is to replace branch cashiers with floor-walking staff sporting tablet computers as personal banking becomes increasingly virtual.
From October staff will step out from behind their glass booths, armed with tablets to help them offer advice to customers and guide them on how to use self-service machines for basic transactions.
Banks are keen to automate more basic services within branches, such as withdrawing and depositing cash and paying bills, as customers become more comfortable with remote banking.
A report published last week by the British Bankers Association and accountancy firm EY found that Britons are now using mobile and internet banking for transactions worth nearly 1 billion pounds a day.
The change at Barclays will involve more than 6,500 employees dropping their cashier titles for the new role of "community banker", with all in-branch staff receiving an average pay rise of 2.8 percent.
The bank, which has more than 1,500 branches in the UK, said that the new role will give staff the opportunity to use their skills and help customers with services they could not provide from behind a counter, such as setting up direct debits.
Barclays' rivals Royal Bank of Scotland and Virgin Money have already started to transform their branch experience with state-of-the-art technology.

RBS has begun the installation of self-service machines in branches and Virgin Money recently opened its fourth "lounge", where customers can eat and drink while using mobile devices and watching television.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Roku beats Apple out in set-top boxes

If you don't have a streaming media player by now, what are you waiting for? New figures from research firm Parks Associates suggest that 25 percent of all U.S. households will have a set-top box within two years.
As for which one you might purchase, we're willing to bet that you're going to be looking at one of two companies for a streaming box: Roku or Apple. According to Parks Associates, Roku devices made up 46 percent of all streaming media players purchased last year, with Apple devices coming in a distant second at 26 percent.
Parks Associates also surveyed households to see what they use most for streaming right now, and the answers shouldn't surprise you. Among all households with a streaming media player, 44 percent used a Roku device "the most," compared to 26 percent of households with an Apple gadget. That's up slightly from the 24 percent of households who gave Apple streamers the head-nod in last year's survey, but not nearly as much as Roku, which jumped from 37 percent in 2013 to 44 percent in 2014.
In other words, the gap between the two living room competitors appears to be getting bigger.
Parks Associates"Multiple factors have allowed Roku to outpace Apple in U.S. sales and usage," said Barbara Kraus, director of research at Parks Associates, in a statement. "Roku has always had a close association with Netflix, the largest source of video downloads, and currently offers more than 1,700 channel apps as well as a choice of models with different features and price points, all of which appeal to consumers' purchasing instincts. With Amazon entering this CE category, there will be renewed pressure on all players to develop the best combination of 'can't miss' content with a simple and intuitive interface."
That said, Apple does beat Roku for worldwide sales, having sold about 20 million Apple TVs since the device's launch in 2007 vs. Roku's total sales of about 8 million between 2008 and the end of 2013. Kraus estimates that Apple will be able to add a little more competition to the set-top playing field if it releases an updated Apple TV at some point this year. But, in general, Apple doesn't appear to be supporting and promoting its set-top device very strongly in the U.S.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines bans smoking on balconies

Cruisers who are also smokers should check their preferred line's smoking policy before they book their next voyage. More and more lines are banning smoking on cabin balconies, once considered a must-have feature for smokers who needed a place to puff in private.
The latest to join the balcony smoking ban is
Carnival Spirit
Carnival Spirit (Photo credit: blmiers2)
, one of the largest and most popular lines, especially for American cruisers.
The ban on balcony smoking will take effect on Oct. 9. The line had already banned smoking in cabins. Smoking will continue to be allowed in designated open deck areas, as well as night clubs and certain areas within the casino and casino bar, the cruise line said.
Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor of Cruise Critic, called the new policy a "big move on Carnival’s part."
But it seems to be the "wave" of the future: several other lines -- including Royal Caribbean, Cunard, P&O, Disney and Seabourn -- have also banned balcony smoking, at least to some degree. But while the smokers may be fuming, it seems the majority of Carnival cruisers are in favor of the policy change.
READ: Cruise Trend: All You Can Drink Plans
"We’re currently seeing a pretty favorable response from our members. Many say that they’ve refrained from booking a balcony cabin for this particular reason, so it’s a step in the right direct for those cruisers," said McDaniel.
Carnival Cruise Lines told ABC News the change was "response to the preferences of a majority of our guests."
The only mainstream cruise lines that still allow smoking on cabin balconies are Norwegian and Holland America. Holland America is part of the larger Carnival Corp., but the ban does not apply across all brands.
For smokers who are used to smoking on cabin balconies, it will be more important than ever to become familiar with cruise line smoking policies prior to boarding, as many lines have already made similar policy changes. Carnival Cruise Lines said guests who smoke in their staterooms or on their balconies will be assessed a $250 cleaning and refreshing fee.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

U.S. is on track to pass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of crude oil

Four years into the shale revolution, the U.S. is on track to pass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of crude oil, most analysts agree. When that happens and by how much, though, has produced disparate estimates that depend on uncertain factors ranging from progress in drilling technology to the availability of financing and the price of oil itself.
Forecasts for U.S. shale oil production vary from an increase of 7.5 million barrels per day by 2020 – almost doubling current domestic output of 8.5 bpd -- to a gain of 1.5 million bpd, or less than half of what Iraq now produces.
The disparities are a function of the novelty of the shale boom, which has consistently confounded forecasts. In 2012, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that production from eight selected shale oil fields would range from 700,000 bpd of so-called tight oil to 2.8 million bpd by 2035. A year later, those predictions had been surpassed.
"The key issue is not whether production grows, it's by how much," said Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup in New York. "We're only at the beginning of the first inning and this is a nine-inning game."
The stakes couldn't be bigger, ranging from the multibillion-dollar investments needed to explore and drill to oil supply issues that go to the heart of U.S. foreign policy. Relations with countries ranging from Iraq and Iran to Russia, Ukraine, Libya and Venezuela are colored to one degree or another by the question of energy.
The U.S., a nation transformed by the 1973 Arab oil embargo, could become energy independent by 2035, according to bullish forecasts from BP Plc and the International Energy Agency. Coupled with growing output from oil-rich neighbors, the continent has a growing shield from supply shocks.
"Looking at North America, including Canada and Mexico, we're much more politically stable," said Lisa Viscidi, program director of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.
Still, many drillers have found that healthy forecasts of oil in the ground don't guarantee it can be economically extracted.
For example, based on the promise of free-flowing oil, Chesapeake Energy's then-top executive Aubrey McClendon bought up land in Ohio's Utica shale oil field and touted it in 2011 as a $500-billion opportunity. State geologists estimated the shale play could hold as much as 5.5 billion barrels of reserves.
But last year, after months of drilling, Chesapeake’s average output per well per day was just 80 barrels. Competitor BP wrote off $521 million and exited the Utica just two years after leasing 85,000 acres.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wells Fargo & Co the largest U.S. mortgage lender, reported a 3 percent rise in second-quarter

Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo (Photo credit: JeepersMedia)
Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), the largest U.S. mortgage lender, reported a 3 percent rise in second-quarter profit, helped by a rally in the equity and fixed income markets, and said it was seeing signs that the U.S. economy was improving.
The bank said its capital markets, corporate banking, commercial real estate, debit card and personal loans businesses had all perked up in the latest quarter compared with the first.
But mortgage lending and investment banking revenue fell and overall loan growth was modest, compared with a year earlier.
Wells Fargo is the first of the major U.S. banks to report second quarter results, and its earnings show the headwinds that its rivals also faced during the period.
This is also the first quarter since 2009 that Wells Fargo did not increase its earnings-per-share from the preceding quarter, ending a 17-quarter streak.
CEO John Stumpf was upbeat, however, noting that the bank's businesses were improving compared with the first quarter.
"Our results ... reflected strong credit quality driven by an improved economy, especially the housing market, and our continued risk discipline," he said in a statement.
Wells Fargo shares were down 1.2 percent at $51.20 in early trading. Up to Thursday's close, the stock had risen about 14 percent since the start of the year.
Net gains from equity investments jumped 121 percent to $449 million, while earnings from the bank's wealth, brokerage and retirement business grew 25 percent to $544 million.
Net gains from debt securities were $71 million compared with a loss of $54 million a year earlier.
Net income applicable to common shareholders rose to $5.42 billion, or $1.01 per share, matching the average analyst estimate. In the second quarter of 2013, the bank earned $5.27 billion, or 98 cents per share.(
Net income was boosted by the release of $500 million that had been set aside to cover bad loans, the same amount it released in both the year-earlier and first quarters.

Revenue slipped to $21.1 billion, from $21.4 billion in the second quarter of 2013, slightly beating expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Monday, July 21, 2014

European Central Bank becomes the region's financial supervisor in November

Bank (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
The European Central Bank wants to give banks just 48 hours to review the results of a balance sheet health check so it can guard against data leaks even though the banks would like more time.
The ECB is carrying out the most detailed ever review of the euro zone's 128 largest banks before it becomes the region's financial supervisor in November.
Its aim is to restore confidence in Europe's banking sector that has traded at lower valuations than its U.S. counterpart since the financial crisis due to uncertainty about the health of European banks' balance sheets.
The results of the eight-month exercise are due in October and the ECB is holding meetings in Frankfurt this week to tell bankers how they will be released to the banks and the markets.
The bank faces a delicate balancing act in trying to keep its work under wraps and avoid breaches of market disclosure rules, while not blind-siding banks with unforeseen capital demands that they could struggle to fulfil.
Two people familiar with the Frankfurt discussions told Reuters the ECB proposed giving banks 48 hours warning of their results ahead of the publication date in late October.“Banks can't comprehend this highly complex ... process within 48 hours in a way that they can sign it off in good conscience,” one person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The ECB said the 48-hour deadline was one element in an ongoing dialogue with the 128 banks it was reviewing.

“We will communicate with the banks directly concerning exact timelines for the disclosure of the final result of the Comprehensive Assessment closer to the end of the process,” a spokesman said.

Best Cuba City Guide – Interactive City Guide

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