Name organizer Where
Frontier's "Invest Mongolia Tokyo 2018" Frontier Securities Tokyo Japan
"Open to Export" ICC WTO International business award ICC WTO London



China set for slower growth, tighter policy in 2017 as government targets asset bubbles www.reuters.com

China's economic growth is expected to cool in 2017 as its top leaders flag tighter monetary policy and further curbs to clamp down on asset price bubbles, especially in the property market, even as a sharp drop in the yuan has fed fears of markets turmoil.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on Monday forecast China's economic growth will slow again next year to 6.5 percent, which would be the slowest pace in more than 25 years, down from expected growth of around 6.7 percent for this year.

The anticipated slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy comes at a time of heightened anxiety about the yuan, which slid to over eight year lows last month on speculation of capital outflows in the wake of Donald Trump's U.S. election victory.

On top of that, a rapid rise in bank lending, a dangerous build-up of debt in the corporate sector and a property market that has failed to fully flush out speculators are threatening to derail the economy.

That probably explains why China's top leaders, who held a key meeting on the economy last week, chose to stick to a "prudent and neutral" monetary policy in 2017, while vowing to keep the economy on a path of stable and healthy growth.

Indeed, an adviser to the People's Bank of China (PBOC) said on Monday that the tone set by China's top leaders for 2017 means the current monetary policy can be tightened.

Sheng Songcheng said there would be no grounds for easing next year considering risks from exchange rate volatility, rising inflation, the stock market and the property market.

Data earlier on Monday showed growth in China's home prices slowed again in November, suggesting that government curbs were starting to pay off, although it was too early to say if the slower trend will persist given a supply shortage in some of the bigger cities.

Analysts expect Beijing will start to remove some of the policy accommodation.

"We believe there will be some change from the current relatively loose monetary policies (to a more neutral stance), and the change will start to show up from the third quarter next year," said Wang Jianhui, an economist with Capital Securities in Beijing.

Wang cites potential risks from capacity reduction efforts including an increase in bad loans and a rise in unemployment. He expects the industrial capacity reduction campaign will expand from coal and steel currently to more industries including cement.


Policymakers also said China will control property bubbles and strictly limit credit flowing into speculative buying as property prices have risen at record rates this year.

Data on Monday showed new home prices rose 0.6 percent month-on-month in the nation's 70 major cities, slowing from October's 1.1 percent. But year-on-year price growth was at a record 12.6 percent, highlighting why regulators are keen to keep up the pressure on the sector lest it topples over and knocks the economy.

Analysts are already expecting the property sector - a major contributor to the economy - to be a drag on growth next year. The challenge for policymakers will be in ensuring home ownership remains attractive even as they put in place curbs to temper a speculative rally.


A key challenge will be stemming capital outflows amid a depreciating yuan, which has fallen almost 7 percent against the dollar this year.

The yuan will depreciate against the dollar by another 3 percent to 5 percent in 2017, Ministry of Commerce researcher Jin Bosong said on Monday at a press briefing.

In yuan terms, China's exports should grow 4 percent to 6 percent in 2017, with imports up 2 percent to 4 percent, Jin said.

China's yuan firmed against the dollar on Monday after the central bank set a much stronger midpoint than the market had expected.

China's benchmark CSI 300 Index has fallen 6.6 percent since hitting an 11-month higher on December 1 as liquidity tightens and markets begin to price in a more conservative monetary policy in 2017.

The policy signal from the economic planning meeting "disillusioned investors who had envisioned a further loosening in monetary policies. Now it's clear that policies tend to tighten," Changjiang Securities said in its latest strategy report.

Meanwhile, China's bond market weakness persisted on Monday, deepening concerns over liquidity stress toward the year-end. The price of China's 10-year treasury futures for March delivery CFTH7 tumbled more than 1 percent soon after open, although it trimmed some of the losses by midday.

"Expectations for GDP growth have fallen to 6.5 percent, but if growth is slower than that, I think anything above 6.3 percent can be considered stable," said Capital Securities' Wang.

"The main focus of policymakers is on controlling risk, not growth targets."

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Elias Glenn; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)



Mongolia Year in Review 2016 www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com

Slower economic growth and rising debt levels were the main themes of the past year, though Mongolia’s new government is acting to restore foreign investor confidence while seeking to curb the country’s growing budget deficit.

New government

Swept into office in general elections held at the end of June, winning 65 of the 76 parliamentary seats, the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) has had to contend with a shortfall in revenue due to lower returns from the mining industry at a time when state expenditure has risen sharply.

The country’s year-end budget deficit is expected to reach nearly 20% of GDP, ratings agency Moody’s said in November, a situation that could worsen over the next two years with extensive debts due to be repaid or rolled over.

Another challenge the new administration has faced is a steep decline in foreign direct investment (FDI), stemming in part from a sharp fall in commodity demand and prices, but also from concerns over policy shifts implemented by the former Democratic Party (DP) government.

At least some of these concerns were allayed ahead of the June election, with the DP government reaching an agreement on profit sharing and taxation with mining giant Rio Tinto over the Oyu Tolgoi mine. As a result, in May Rio Tinto announced it would push ahead with the second stage of the mine, with the development valued at $5.3bn.

Addressing investment hurdles in the mining industry, along with the MPP government’s commitment to streamlining FDI procedures, should go some way to boosting capital inflows and underpin a measured recovery in the commodities sector in coming years.

Ratings roll back

In mid-November Moody’s downgraded Mongolia’s government long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings from “B3” to “Caa1”, with a stable outlook.

Citing a decline in key fiscal metrics, which the ratings agency said it did not see materially reversing over the next few years, Moody’s cautioned that the government faced a number of fiscal challenges and liquidity risks.

“While we recognise that the authorities have made progress in recognising off-budget spending and defining transparent, short- and medium-term corrective actions, we expect that Mongolia's debt metrics will continue to deteriorate in the next two years while fiscal challenges will be compounded by a sharp slowdown in economic growth which places further pressure on the fiscal and external positions,” the Moody’s statement said.

On a more positive note, Moody’s said that GDP growth would increase – albeit only slightly – next year after shrinking 1.6% in the first nine months of 2016. Mining-related FDI is also set to recover, leading to a pick-up in growth, as the second stage of the Oyu Tolgoi mine project comes on-line in 2018, the ratings agency said in its November note.

IMF assistance

At the end of September, the new MPP government reached out to the IMF, seeking to open negotiations towards obtaining fiscal assistance to bridge budgetary and debt repayment gaps and improve liquidity in the domestic economy.

The IMF issued a statement in November saying that talks with the Mongolian government had been productive, with discussions covering policies that could become part of an economic and financial programme backed by the fund. Meanwhile, Mongolian officials announced they hoped a comprehensive support programme with the IMF could be finalised and in place by February.

The government has also said it would welcome loan assistance from Japan as it seeks to balance austerity measures with economic development and reignite FDI, which dwindled to just $200m last year, roughly 5% of the peak capital inflow posted in 2011.

Mongolia’s debt repayment programme and import costs have been impacted by a sharp decline in the tugrik, which fell to a record low of MNT2411:$1 in November. The currency declined 17% this year, with its retreat prompting the central bank to push up its benchmark interest rates by 4.5 percentage points to 15% to support the ailing currency.

Measured austerity

The MPP government has already moved to put in place measures likely to be met with IMF approval, including cutting state spending, consolidating budgetary expenditure and conducting studies to determine the exact level of debt owed to the private sector, including foreign companies, according to international press reports.

As a first step, in mid-October Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat announced that his government aimed to halve the budget deficit to 9% by the end of next year.

The government forecasts it will be able to bring down a balanced budget by 2020, though this may depend on revenue increases, which in turn will rely on improved commodity prices as well as austerity measures the IMF may call for under the terms of a potential agreement in the new year.



Japan to financially support UK nuclear projects www3.nhk.or.jp

The Japanese government will provide financial support for major electronics firms that are involved in the construction of nuclear power plants in Britain.
Increasing exports of infrastructure such as high-speed railway systems is one of the pillars of Japan's growth strategy.
However, Chinese companies have won the bidding for such projects by working closely with the Chinese government.
Japan's government plans to provide funding to help Hitachi and Toshiba to build 5 nuclear power plants in the UK.
The government-affiliated Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Development Bank of Japan will provide loans and invest in these projects.
The government-linked Nippon Export and Investment Insurance will be asked to provide credit guarantees to encourage Japanese financial institutions to co-finance the projects.
Industry minister Hiroshige Seko is planning to meet his British counterpart, Greg Clark, in Japan this week, to exchange opinions on cooperation between the 2 governments.
Britain's finance minister Philip Hammond told NHK on Thursday in Tokyo that his government welcomes the interest of Japanese businesses and will look carefully at the proposals that have been put forward.


Apple and Ireland to challenge EU tax ruling this week www.bbc.com

Apple plans to appeal this week against the European Commission's ruling that it pays up to €13bn (£11bn) to Ireland in back taxes.
EU regulators ruled Apple's controversial tax deal was illegal, and is demanding the record penalty.
The tech giant says it has been singled out and was "a convenient target".
Ireland is also contesting the decision, claiming EU regulators were interfering with national sovereignty.
'Misunderstood law'
Apple's European headquarters are located in Ireland - where the standard rate of corporate tax is 12.5%.
But in August, the commission said Ireland had enabled the company to pay substantially less than other businesses, in effect paying a rate of no more than 1%.
Ireland's finance ministry said in a strongly-worded statement on Monday that the European Commission had "misunderstood the relevant facts and Irish law".
"Ireland did not give favourable tax treatment to Apple - the full amount of tax was paid in this case and no state aid was provided," it said. "Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers."
And Apple's general counsel Bruce Sewell told Reuters that the commission had disregarded tax experts brought in by Irish authorities.
"Apple is not an outlier in any sense that matters to the law. Apple is a convenient target because it generates lots of headlines," Mr Sewell said.
Even if Apple lost its appeal, the record tax bill should not be a problem for iPhone maker which saw a net profit of $53bn in the 2015 financial year.
Apple is not the only company that has been targeted for securing favourable tax deals in the European Union.
Last year, the commission told the Netherlands to recover as much as €30m (£25.6m) from Starbucks, while Luxembourg was ordered to claw back a similar amount from Fiat.


Tax on Christmas alcohol shop is over 50%, industry says www.theguardian.com

Tax accounts for more than half of the total cost of the average family’s Christmas alcohol shop, a study by the wine and spirits industry has found. While alcohol duties are typically higher per head in Finland, Ireland and Germany, British consumers pay more alcohol tax than the citizens of most other European Union member states.
In the UK, a family spending £171.66 stocking the drinks cabinet for the festive season will hand over £88.19 of that sum to the Treasury. By comparison, the total cost of the equivalent amount of alcohol in France would be £136.89, with just £43.52 going to the taxman.
According to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which commissioned the research, 50% of the total cost of alcohol in the UK is accounted for by Treasury-imposed duties, while in France the levy represents on average just 32% of the cost.
“Comparing the wine and spirit tax regime in the UK to that in France puts the UK’s high rate of excise duty firmly in the spotlight,” said WSTA’s chief executive, Miles Beale.
The numbers were produced by comparing a festive-season shop consisting of five bottles of wine, two bottles of champagne, two bottles of other sparkling wine, three bottles of spirits, two bottles of port, 24 cans of beer and 12 ciders.
WSTA is warning that the price of wines and spirits will rise in the new year, when manufacturers and importers begin to pass on the extra costs triggered by the fall in sterling’s value that followed the decision to leave the European Union.
“In addition, with inflation levels rising to 1.2% in November, spirits prices will increase and wine will be hit again,” said Beale. “And that is also why it’s vital there is no increase to duty on wine and spirits at the next budget in March. The chancellor can provide welcome relief for businesses that have some extremely testing times ahead.”


Labour calls for closer scrutiny of tech firms and their algorithms www.theguardian.com

Labour’s industrial spokesperson has called for the algorithms used by technology firms to be made transparent and subject to regulation, as the party prepares the new year launch of its industrial strategy consultation.
Shadow minister Chi Onwurah wants to see greater scrutiny of the mathematical formulas that now control everything from the tailored news served to Facebook members to the speed at which workers are required to move around an Amazon warehouse.
“Algorithms aren’t above the law,” Onwurah warned this weekend. In a telephone interview on Sunday, she said: “The outcomes of algorithms are regulated – the companies which use them have to meet employment law and competition law. The question is, how do we make that regulation effective when we can’t see the algorithm?”
Labour’s industrial paper, due to be published after the Christmas break, will call for suggestions on how tech firms could be more closely supervised by government.
“We expect algorithms and data rights to be considered as part of that consultation,” said Onwurah, who was shadow digital economy minister before taking on the industrial brief. “Algorithms are part of our world, so they are subject to regulation, but because they are not transparent, it’s difficult to regulate them effectively.”
The business models of technology firms are increasingly being challenged by lawmakers. Google’s shopping and advertising services are under investigation by the European commission, while Uber drivers won a landmark case at a London tribunal this autumn to be considered as employees of the ride-hailing app, and therefore entitled to a minimum wage and holiday pay.
The equations behind the operations of digital businesses are a closely guarded trade secret. Any suggestion that they might have to hand them over to government agencies is likely to trigger a major pushback from silicon valley, where many of the biggest names are headquartered. Some commentators have compared forcing Google to share its search algorithm to ordering Coca-Cola disclose the secret recipe behind its best selling fizzy drink.
But pressure for reform is mounting. Social media platforms are being blamed for allowing the spread of misinformation and online abuse, conditions which some argue are fueling the resurgence of extreme politics in America and western Europe.
There are also signs that Google pages are being distorted by the spread of unchecked hate speech. Many search results are now reinforcing extreme views, with articles denying the holocaust or disparaging women increasingly appearing at the top of the rankings.
Facebook has swung between relying entirely on maths and employing humans as well as software to weed out fake news, pornography and extremist propaganda.
“If people were falling very ill after drinking Coca-Cola, the company would have some duty to share what could be causing that,” said Onwurah, a chartered engineer who built telecoms networks before entering parliament.
“Google and others argue their results are a mirror to society, not their responsibility,” she wrote in a letter published Sunday. “Google, Facebook and Uber need to take responsibility for the unintended consequences of the algorithms and machine learning that drive their profits. They can bring huge benefits and great apps, but we need a tech-savvy government to minimise the downside by opening up algorithms to regulation as well as legislating for greater consumer ownership of data and control of the advertising revenue it generates.”
She has raised concerns about Google being given access to NHS patient data. Its British subsidiary DeepMind, which specialises in machine learning, has signed an agreement with the Royal Free Hospital in north London to develop an app that will warn doctors when patients are at risk of acute kidney injury. Junior health minister Nicola Blackwood revealed, in response to parliamentary questions, that the government had not been shown the details of the agreement or discussed it with the hospital.
“Labour is having to raise the debate because the government is years behind on this and refuses to face up to the challenges of the digital era,” Onwurah said.
The government says it is introducing greater protection for consumers and in particular for children online. The digital economy bill, which is awaiting approval from the House of Lords, is designed to ensure that websites that allow children to access pornographic content will be blocked.


Revolution-era New York mine could produce hydro power www.mining.com

Flooding a mine is a closure strategy that mining companies often use as part of a rehabilitation plan usually decided at the beginning of a mine's operating life.
Once the tunnels are flooded, the mine and its workings become submerged, not just in a physical sense but in the minds of the public, who then regard that mine as finished, and the lake that fills the former pit probably assigned a recreational use.
An abandoned mine in New York state seemed to be destined to a similar, ignominious fate, but for a group of engineers who saw the historically-significant iron ore mine serving a more useful purpose.
The engineers are "pitching a plan to circulate some of the millions of gallons of groundwater that have flooded the mine shafts over the years to power an array of 100 hydroelectric turbines a half-mile underground," reads a story about the centuries-old mine, located in the Adirondacks mountains of upstate New York, carried by Associated Press.
The mine which closed in 1971 apparently notched its mark on history for contributing iron for one of the first naval battles of the Revolutionary War on nearby Lake Champlain. According to Wikipedia, the Battle of Valcour Island, also known as the Battle of Valcour Bay, took place on October 11, 1776, on Lake Champlain. Some more colour is provided by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, which sets the stage for the battle on its website:
The American fleet, commanded by Arnold, consisted of eight gondolas, three row galleys, two schooners, one sloop, one cutter and bateaux. The vessels in the British fleet were not only larger with better sailing characteristics, but they were also crewed by professional sailors under the command of skilled naval officers.
Electricity produced from the turbines would feed into current solar and wind producers, who lack a source of uninterrupted power, according to AP:
Engineers would drain roughly half of the water from the shafts and pump the remainder into an upper chamber. The water would then be released into a lower chamber, powering turbines and creating electricity. The turbines would be reversed to pump the water back up to repeat the process.
The project is basically an underground version of big outdoor projects that rely on the same principle. The New York Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project in the Catskills and the proposed Eagle Mountain project in southern California, for example, use outdoor, hilltop lakes as the upper reservoirs.
While pumped hydro power has been used for decades in the United States as the primary source of energy storage used to meet periods of peak electricity demand, mines are not typically used as reservoirs. If approved by federal authorities, the Mineville Pumped Storage Project would be one the first of its kind in America. AP points out that a similar project has been proposed for an abandoned mine and quarry in Elmhurst, Illinois.
North of the border, Northland Power is considering a pumped power project involving a decommissioned open-pit iron ore mine on the former Bethlehem Steel site between Ottawa and Toronto. The Marmora Pumped Storage facility would produce 400 megawatts of electricity for five hours, and create a waterfall nearly five times the height of Niagara Falls, Clean Technica reported in 2013.


Samsung Electronics likely to procure phone batteries from LG Chem: Chosun Ilbo www.reuters.com

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is in talks with LG Chem Ltd to make it one of its smartphone battery suppliers, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said on Monday - a move that would diversify its supplier base after the failure of its Galaxy Note 7.
Samsung Electronics, the world's top smartphone maker, currently procures Note batteries from group firm Samsung SDI and China's Amperex Technology.
Chosun Ilbo quoted an industry official as saying that there was more than a 90 percent chance of a deal being struck and said that Samsung Electronics would likely begin procuring LG Chem batteries from the second half of next year.
A Samsung Electronics spokeswoman did not have immediate comment on the report, while an LG Chem spokesman declined to comment.
Samsung Electronics announced the recall of 2.5 million fire-prone Note 7s in early September, a fault that was attributed to a defect in Samsung SDI battery. In October, it pulled the plug on the $882 device after replacement phones using batteries from China's Amperex Technology also caught fire.
LG Chem currently makes phone batteries for its affiliate LG Electronics and U.S. company Apple Inc, analysts said.


Fairfax Financial to buy Allied World for $4.9 billion in cash-and-stock deal www.reuters.com

Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited (FFH.TO) and Allied World Assurance Company Holdings Ltd (AWH.N) said on Sunday they agreed to merge in a $4.9 bln cash-and-stock deal, according to a joint news release.
The offer with dividend amounted to $54 per share for Allied World, or an 18 percent premium above the insurance company's closing price on Friday, the release said.


Vale opens largest iron ore mine in its history www.mining.com

Vale SA (NYSE:VALE) cut the ribbon on a massive iron ore mine in Brazil on Saturday – the largest in its history and what the world's largest iron ore producer says is the biggest ever in the mining industry.
While that is quite a claim, delving into the details of the $14.3-billion S11D complex shows that Vale is most likely correct.
Located in Canaã dos Carajás in Southeast Pará, the project – which includes the mine, processing plant, railroad and port logistics – has been 15 years in the making, starting with the first technical and feasibility studies in 2001. The Preliminary License (LP) was granted in June 2012 and, a year later, the Installation License (LI) was issued. On December 9, the Operation License (LO) was granted. Commercial operations start in January 2017 and the mine’s lifespan is expected to be 30 years.
S11D is also the largest private investment made in Brazil in a decade, which Vale says will boost the economies of the states of Pará and Maranhão. The company says its operations in Minas Gerais will also benefit from the project, since that ore will be blended with that extracted from S11D.
“For me, seeing the completion of S11D is much more than just witnessing a new landmark in the mining industry. More than an enterprise embodying the latest technology, low cost and high productivity, the S11D portrays Vale’s ability to make things happen,” Vale’s CEO, Murilo Ferreira, said in a press release describing the project in detail.
The completion of the mine is as much a feat of mining engineering/ construction as of transportation logistics.
Out of the US$14.3 billion invested in the project, $6.4 billion accounted for the mine and plant, and $ 7.9 billion in the construction of a 101-km-long railroad branch, and to expansions of the Carajás Railroad (EFC) and of the Ponta da Madeira Maritime Terminal in São Luís (MA).
S11D forms part of Vale's massive Carajás complex and will add another 90 million tonnes to the miner's capacity pushing it to between 400 and 450 million tonnes per year, by 2020.
The project was named after its location: it is on block D of the S11 ore body, which contains four blocks: A, B, C and D. According to Vale, S11’s mineral potential is 10 billion tons of iron ore, and blocks C and D together have reserves of 4.24 billion metric tons. The first geological surveys in the region occurred in the 1970’s.
Its full name is the Eliezer Batista S11D Complex, named after the company’s former president who was in charge of building the Tubarão Complex and assessing the feasibility of the Carajás mine.
Vale said in November it has been able to reduce cash costs to just $12.70 per tonne (it's in the high teens at Rio Tinto and BHP) and that S11D could push costs below $10 a tonne, thanks largely to the weak real which is down more than a third in value against the US dollar over the past year. The press release confirms that Vale expects to deliver ore at the Ponta da Madeira Maritime Terminal in São Luís (MA), the so-called C1 cash cost, at US$7.70 per tonne – 41% less than Vale’s current average C1 cost.
One of the most interesting aspects of the project is its automation. The mine will use a truckless system for conveying the ore – with a set of structures comprised of mobile excavators and crushers interconnected by a conveyor belt. Shovels will dump the ore in mobile crushers, which feed a system of mobile and fixed conveyors installed inside the mine, and long distance conveyors connecting the mine to the plant and waste piles. The total length of the truckless conveyor belts operating in the mine and the plant is 68 km. Vale says the truckless system will cut fuel costs by 70% as well as slash waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
The ore will be dry processed with equipment developed by Vale in partnership with manufacturers, specially tailored to process the high-moisture ore from Carajás, the company states. Dry processing – using iron ore's own natural moisture – is expected to cut water consumption by 93% and will eliminate the need for tailings dams.