Archive for November, 2008

Alcoa not seeking to raise Rio Tinto stake: exec (Reuters)

Thursday, November 27th, 2008 | Finance News

MELBOURNE (Reuters) –
U.S. aluminum giant Alcoa Inc (AA.N) is not actively seeking to raise its stake in miner Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) despite plans by its ally, Chinalco, to up its Rio holding.

Alcoa and state-owned Aluminum Corp of China (Chinalco) teamed up in February to buy 12 percent of Rio's London shares, or 9 percent of Rio's total share registry, for about $14 billion in a move that followed a hostile takeover bid for Rio from rival BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) (BLT.L).

"We're not actively seeking to increase our stake right now," Alcoa Australia (AA.N) Managing Director Alan Cransberg told Reuters after a speech in Melbourne.

Chinalco vice president and spokesman Lu Youqing said this week Chinalco plans to lift its stake in Rio to at least 14.99 percent after BHP abandoned a $66 billion bid to buy Rio Tinto on Tuesday.

"From Alcoa's point of view ... I would have thought for them to put up more capital would be a fairly high-risk move at this point," said Ben Kakoschke, commodities analyst at Tolhurst.

"Fitch have downgraded the credit rating of (Rio), Moody's are looking to downgrade. So it makes a pretty high-risk move to be throwing more money at it at this stage," he said.

Alcoa has slashed production capacity by 615,000 tonnes, or 15 percent of its total capacity, as aluminum prices have halved since June to around $1,785 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange. Demand has shriveled and inventories held in LME warehouses have ballooned due to a deepening global economic crisis.

Ratings agency Fitch has lowered its rating on Rio Tinto while rating agency Moody's has said it may lower its A3 senior unsecured rating on Rio Tinto as the company generates lower cash and battles high debt levels after its $38.1 billion purchase of Canadian-based aluminum producer Alcan last year.

Lu said Chinalco might consider seeking as much as 49.99 percent of Rio, but that was an idea that had been suggested by investment bankers and was not the company's policy.

Later, Chinalco issued a statement to clarify its stance.

"Chinalco has not made any decision in respect of its investment options in Rio Tinto, including the possibility of increasing its holding above 15.00 percent," it said.

Rio shares last traded up 9 percent at A$46.71 in a broader market (.AXJO) up 3 percent. Rio shares had stood at over A$155 in May.


(Editing Lincoln Feast)


India shares fall 1.5 pct after attacks, seesaw (Reuters)

Thursday, November 27th, 2008 | Finance News

BANGALORE (Reuters) –
India's main share index opened down 1.5 percent on Friday and seesawed in early trade, after coordinated militant attacks on India's financial capital of Mumbai that killed more than 100 people.

Financial markets were shut on Thursday after the attacks.

Shares in Indian Hotels Co Ltd (IHTL.BO) fell 12.9 percent to 42.20 rupees and EIH Ltd (EIHO.BO) was down 8.5 percent at 85 rupees after their main hotels -- Taj Mahal Hotel and Oberoi-Trident were hit by the attacks.

At 9:59 a.m. (0429 GMT), the 30-share BSE index (.BSESN) was down 0.24 percent, or 21.64 points, at 9,005.08, after having risen as much as 0.6 percent earlier following a weak start.

The 50-issue NSE index (.NSEI) fell 0.25 percent to 2,745.45 points.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee & Ami Shah; Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan))


Online retailers ramp up deals to capture dollars (AP)

Thursday, November 27th, 2008 | Finance News

NEW YORK – Online retailers are ramping up heavy-duty deals to turn skittish shoppers into buyers during the crucial Thanksgiving weekend and "Cyber Monday" — but even so, online sales are expected to be fairly flat after years of strong growth.

Free shipping is virtually a given, and many are offering financing options such as no payments for 90 days and deals like $10 off purchases of $50 or more, along with traditional discounts on products.

"Last year, people were spending a lot more money on gifts and products," says Jeff Wisot, vice president of marketing for online retailer "With the economic challenges arising this year, people are definitely spending less."

"Cyber Monday," a term coined by the trade group National Retail Federation in 2005 to describe the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, is the unofficial kickoff for the busy online retail season.

However, this year, consumer spending has dropped dramatically — down 1 percent in October, the largest amount since the 2001 terrorist attacks — as consumers grapple with a shaky economy, mounting job losses and a prolonged housing slump.

During the holidays, the trade group expects overall holiday spending will total about $470.4 billion, a 2.2 percent rise from a year ago and the slowest growth since 2002, and online retail is being hit along with brick-and-mortar stores. ComScore, a digital technology monitoring company, said Tuesday it expects online retail spending for November and December to be flat compared with the same two months in 2007. Last year's growth rate was 19 percent.

The expected slowdown in online growth is "dramatically different than what we've seen," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group. "Consumers are not in a rush to shop."

In an effort to entice them, online retailers are offering a bounty of deals.

Wisot of says his site is offering free shipping on most items, instant rebates and deals on TVs, GPS devices and other items.

Online jeweler sent out a targeted e-mail promotion offering $100 off a $500 engagement ring, valid until Tuesday. And through Bill Me Later, an online payment site is acquiring, is offering 0 percent financing on purchases of $500 or more for six months. Bill Me Later has similar promotions for other online retailers.

Meanwhile, will take up to 65 percent off watches and offer one-day deals such as knife set that is usually $157 on sale for $49.99.

"We're bringing prices down as low as we can get them," Berman says. "These are great deals."

Online auction site is holding what it calls the largest sale in its history, with $1 holiday doorbuster items hidden on the site that consumers hunt for, including a 65-inch Panasonic plasma HDTV and a 2009 Chevy Corvette. EBay also will offer items typically in demand for the holidays for bids starting at $1.

Toys "R" Us is offering more online promotions on Cyber Monday than last year, including 70 percent off Star Wars figures, $50 off the normally $59.99 Guitar Hero wired guitar controller from Activision and other deals.

And PayPal, another online payment site that eBay owns, is partnering with several retailers on deals. At Toys "R" Us, customers get $10 off purchases of $50 or more. Elsewhere, customers using PayPal can receive cash-back incentives ranging from 5 percent to 30 percent off at retailers including American Eagle Outfitters Inc., and Blockbuster.

Whether all the deals, rebates and discounting offers will help remains to be seen, says Dr. Michael Belch, a professor of marketing at San Diego State University.

"There's little doubt the consumer is still going to be very price sensitive," he says. "They're going to be looking for values."