Archive for August, 2008

Chinese official says no need to speed renminbi rise (Reuters)

Sunday, August 31st, 2008 | Finance News

LONDON (Reuters) -
China need not accelerate the
appreciation of its renminbi currency against the US dollar,
the Financial Times quoted a senior Chinese economic
policy-maker as saying.

It said the comments by Cheng Siwei, vice-chairman of the
standing committee of National People's Congress, were likely
to disturb many in the United States, who are hoping a faster
appreciation will help rebalance the world economy and improve
prospects for U.S. growth.

"My point is that we don't need to accelerate the
appreciation of the renminbi. The dollar will not weaken very
much and may get stronger, as happened ," Cheng told
the Financial Times
(http://www.ft.com/world/asiapacific/china).

"This makes appreciation of the Chinese currency against
the dollar less necessary," he said. The renminbi was still
likely to appreciate against other currencies.

Cheng acknowledged there were some disputes about exchange
rate policy
in Beijing.

(Writing by Ralph Boulton, editing by Myra MacDonald)

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Gulf oil output at a trickle ahead of Gustav (Reuters)

Sunday, August 31st, 2008 | Finance News

HOUSTON (Reuters) -
U.S. energy companies shut nearly all
offshore oil production and were racing to bring down
flood-prone Louisiana refineries on Sunday ahead of Hurricane
Gustav's landfall, which could rival the wrath of 2005's
Hurricane Katrina
.

Gustav is expected to be a Category 3 hurricane with wind
speeds
up 127 mph when it hits the Louisiana coast on Monday in
the first major test of the U.S. energy industry's preparedness
since the devastating 2005 hurricane season.

Over 96 percent of U.S. Gulf oil production and 82 percent
of natural gas output had been closed as of Sunday afternoon,
the U.S. Minerals Management Service said.

The Gulf normally pumps 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd)
of oil, a quarter of all U.S. production, and 7.4 billion cubic
feet of natural gas, about 15 percent of domestic output.

At least nine refineries with a combined capacity of 2.2
million bpd, or 12.5 percent of U.S. refining capacity, were
being shut along the south Louisiana coast ahead of Gustav's
projected arrival west of New Orleans on Monday.

Other refineries were reducing processing rates and further
shutdowns were possible.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wrecked more than 100 oil
platforms
in 2005, shutting down a quarter of U.S. oil
production and closing several large refineries for months.
Analysts have warned Gustav could deal a harsher blow and
potentially send oil prices up $10 a barrel or more.

The New York Mercantile Exchange opened its electronic
trading platform
earlier than normal on Sunday to allow traders
to adjust positions ahead of the arrival of the hurricane.

U.S. crude oil futures were up $1.70 at $117.16 a barrel as
of 4:35 p.m. EDT after rising as much as $3.14.

"This could be potentially the most dangerous storm for the
energy sector we've ever seen, said Chris Jarvis, senior
analyst at Caprock Risk Management in Hampton Falls, New
Hampshire
. "It is going right across the most important areas."

Others took an optimistic view of the widespread shutdowns
Sunday.

"This is Katrina's legacy," said Phil Flynn of Alaron
Trading in Chicago. "The industry is much more prepared and
taking things much more seriously. That's why so much has been
shut down so quickly.

INFRASTRUCTURE CLOSURES

In addition to closing oil and gas fields and refineries,
energy companies were also shutting down important fuel
transportation systems.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only U.S. port capable
of offloading the biggest oil tankers and a major conduit for
U.S. crude imports, halted all operations on Sunday.

"It's coming right at us," said LOOP spokeswoman Barb
Hestermann of the Gustav's forecast path. "It looks like we're
Ground Zero."

Gustav was forecast to slam into the coast just west of the
LOOP's onshore operations center at Galliano, Louisiana.

The Sabine Pipeline, which includes the delivery point for
U.S. natural gas futures, shut at 1:00 p.m. EDT. The move led
the NYMEX to declare force majeure on its August and September
natural gas futures contracts, meaning sellers were not
contractually bound to make physical delivery.

Mississippi River traffic south of New Orleans closed
Saturday night. Ship channels into Lake Charles in west
Louisiana as well as Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur in Texas
planned to shut by Sunday night, cutting off crude oil
shipments to refineries.

The region's largest offshore producer, Shell Oil Co
(RDSa.L), said all of its Gulf production would be shut by
Sunday night. All 1,300 of the company's workers were onshore.

Rival energy giants BP (BP.L), Chevron (CVX.N) had shut
almost all production. ConocoPhillips (COP.N), and Exxon
(XOM.N) were also shutting off production as they evacuate
workers.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba, Bruce Nichols, Robert Campbell
and Haitham Haddadin; editing by Chris Baltimore and Gunna
Dickson)

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Commerzbank to buy Dresdner, axe 9,000 jobs (Reuters)

Sunday, August 31st, 2008 | Finance News

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -
Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) agreed to buy
Dresdner Bank from Allianz (ALVG.DE) on Sunday in a $14.5
billion all-German deal that will break the country's banking
mould and cost 9,000 jobs.

Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) will buy its competitor in two steps,
taking 60 percent this year and the rest in 2009 to create a
rival to sector leader Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) in Europe's
biggest economy.

Much of the purchase price will be paid to Allianz in the
form of shares, leaving Europe's biggest insurer with a stake
of almost 30 percent in the new Commerzbank.

The new owner plans to close more than a third of the
combined group's 1,900 branches and pare back laggard
investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort, which has been further
hobbled by the credit crunch.

The deal puts a price tag of 9.8 billion euros on Dresdner.
Allianz, Europe's biggest insurer, paid 24 billion for it in
2001.

A further strand to the deal sees Allianz buying
Commerzbank's fund management business Cominvest.

Analysts and insiders were skeptical over whether the
pairing of what many see as two mediocre performers could
create a financial champion.

"It is good for Allianz. In the seven years they have owned
Dresdner they have learned that they don't have a clue about
running a bank," said Dirk Becker, an analyst with Landsbanki
Kepler.

"But it is a huge integration. We will see in half a year
that something will go wrong."

JOBS GLOOM

The sale casts a dark cloud over Dresdner Kleinwort, the
group's accident-prone investment bank which helped cause the
insurer $5 billion of writedowns during the credit crunch.

Part of the purchase price that Commerzbank is paying to
Allianz will be ringfenced to cover any further writedowns.

About 2,500 of the 9,000 jobs that will be cut are set be
lost outside Germany, and Commerzbank flagged investment
banking as one of the businesses where the axe will fall. Many
of the non-German job losses will happen at Dresdner Kleinwort
in London.

The sale will give Commerzbank a badly needed leg-up in its
home market, which is dominated by state not-for-profit
lenders, and allow Allianz to end an unhappy marriage that
unsuccessfully tried to match investment bankers with insurance
salesmen.

Architects of the Dresdner takeover had hoped to sell bank
accounts
to Allianz customers as well as products such as car
insurance at bank branches.

Instead, investor tempers rose and Dresdner racked up
billions in losses.

In June last year, Reuters reported that Allianz had begun
to consider its options for Dresdner. The resulting jump in the
insurer's share price reflected the degree of investor
frustration with the botched takeover.

But finding a buyer has not been easy, mostly because of
Dresdner's laggard investment bank -- a business, said one
insider, which Allianz had never intended to keep.

"It was clear from the start to Allianz that they did not
want to keep the investment bank," this person said. "But when
the time was right to sell it -- at the top of the investment
banking
boom in late 2006 -- they fell asleep at the wheel."

The sale will beef up Commerzbank. Despite being one of the
country's biggest lenders, it is still a lightweight by
European standards, with a market value of about 13 billion
euros -- less than half that of Frankfurt neighbor Deutsche
Bank
.

China Development Bank (CHDB.UL) had also been interested
in Dresdner but was sidelined in the face of opposition in both
countries' capitals to a deal.

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