Sumitomo Life close to acquiring 18% stake in Vietnamese Bao Viet from HSBC

Japanese insurer Sumitomo Life Insurance Company is nearing an agreement to buy  an 18% stake in Vietnamese financial services group  BaoViet Holdings from British banking giant HSBC (LON:HSBA), Reuters reported citing a knowledgeable source.

According to the person, Sumitomo Life is to pay the UK-based lender some JPY30bn (USD357m/EUR270m) for the interest. The parties are likely to shake on the deal before the week is over, the source added.

Reuters went on to say that Sumitomo Life was doing what many domestic rivals had undertaken, which is to look for opportunities to sustain growth through investment abroad. Such moves are designed to counter the impact of an aging population and a weak economy at home.

The news agency was unable to extract comments from a Sumitomo Life spokesman.

Virgin Money to sell private bank Church House Trust

UK financial services company Virgin Money Holdings (UK) Limited said it had agreed to sell regional private bank Church House Trust Limited to specialist credit card provider SAV Credit Limited for an undisclosed sum.

The target, which was founded in 1978, specialises in providing deposits and mortgages to personal banking customers. It was acquired by Virgin in January 2010.

In a separate statement, the buyer said that the acquisition was an important move in the company’s plan to expand in areas apart from its core credit card business and would allow it to bolster its presence in the savings market. Under the terms of the deal, the target’s staff, headed by Graham Hughes, and its base in Yeovil will be preserved.

The transaction is subject to approval by UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) and is seen closing in the first half of 2013.

Virgin Money provides savings, mortgages, credit cards, pensions, investment and protection products to more than 4m customers. It is also the official sponsor of the London Marathon.

TeleCommunication Systems launches first Next Generation 9-1-1 emergency communication solutions

TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: TSYS) has announced its new, comprehensive, end-to-end suite of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) solutions for public safety and emergency response.

TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: TSYS) has announced its new, comprehensive, end-to-end suite of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) solutions for public safety and emergency response.

Through its acquisition of microDATA in July 2012, TCS added powerful new geographic information system solutions, call taker equipment and related NG 9-1-1 system components and services to other TCS solutions.

Today’s TCS NG 9-1-1 suite is the first fully standards-compliant NENA i3 NG 9-1-1 system: a comprehensive public safety portfolio providing key products and services to wireline local exchange carriers, VoIP service providers, competitive local exchange carriers and wireless operators. This solution combines TCS’ carrier-grade Emergency Services IP Network (ESINet) and national text gateway with microDATA’s ESINet and CPE solution.

TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. is a world leader in highly reliable and secure mobile communication technology. To learn more about emerging and innovative wireless technologies, visit www.telecomsys.com.

US Treasury sells remaining AIG shares for $7.6bn

New York-based insurer American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG) has announced the completion of an offering of approximately 234.2m shares of AIG common stock by the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury).

According to AIG, Treasury received proceeds of approximately USD 7.6bn from the sale. The sale of these shares the last of Treasury’s remaining shares of AIG marks thefull resolution of America’s financial support of AIG.

Since September 2008, America committed a total of USD 182.3bn in connection with stabilizing AIG during the financial crisis.

Since then, through asset sales and other actions by AIG, theFederal Reserve, and Treasury, America recovered its USD 182.3bn plus a combined positive return of USD 22.7bn.

Beginning in May 2011, Treasury successfully sold approximately 1.7bn shares of AIG common stock in six public offerings for total proceeds of approximately USD 51bn, including approximately USD 13bn purchased by AIG.

Treasury continues to hold warrants to purchase approximately 2.7m shares of AIG common stock the sale of which is expected to provide an additional positive return to taxpayers.

US economy poised for growth, but austerity threatens

According to a report from Canada-based financial services firm Toronto Dominion’s (TSX: TD) (NYSE: TD) US-based TD Bank’s TD Economics affiliate, the main obstacle standing in the path of faster US economic growth is a strong headwind blowing in from fiscal restraint.

The report said that, without fiscal drag, the US economy would be headed for a growth trajectory in the 3-4% range in 2013.

It said that the worst of the consumer deleveraging cycle and its dampening effect on economic growth appear to be over. But just as the private sector is set to provide a welcomed tailwind to the economy, it will be met with worsening cross winds from public sector restraint.

TD Economics forecasts economic growth to average 1.9% in 2013 down from an estimated 2.2% in 2012. However, by the second half of next year, clearer fiscal policy should lead to resurgence in private demand, placing the economy on a stronger footing with 3.0% growth in 2014.

With a few weeks to go before deep spending cuts and tax hikes arrive and hamper economic growth, a deal to avoid them between the White House and Congress has yet to be reached.

TD Economics estimates that if all tax hikes and spending cuts are allowed to take place as scheduled, it would cut 3.0 %age points from real GDP in 2013.

The constraint on growth posed by fiscal policy comes amid signs that housing has entered a self-sustaining recovery. Home prices have risen consistently through 2012 while delinquencies and foreclosures have fallen.

TD said that the rise in home prices has been substantial prices are up 5.0% from year-ago levels and appears sustainable. The fall in construction activity over the last several years has cleared the supply overhang and allowed rising demand to pull up prices.

The housing market has also been the focus of the Federal Reserve, whose latest round of quantitative easing has focused on purchases of mortgage-backed securities.

HM Treasury allocates £200m to Pru for UK middle market investments

The investment management unit of international financial services group Prudential Financial (NYSE: PRU), Prudential Capital Group, said that UK economics and finance ministry Her Majesty’s Treasury has allocated GBP 200m (about USD 323m) of a total GBP 700m (about USD 1.1bn) to the firm as part of a partnership to make more capital available to mid-sized UK businesses.

According to Pru , the GBP 200m was allocated to the Pricoa Sterling Fund, which, consistent with the objectives of the public/private partnership, will invest in debt securities of UK companies with less than GPB500m in annual revenue.

The funds will be invested alongside the advisor’s parent and other institutional investors.

Prudential Capital Group said it has lending relationships with more than 1,000 companies and manages a portfolio of more than USD 65bn globally, including USD 10bn managed for non-affiliated investors, as of September 30, 2012.

HM Treasury launched the initiative, called the Business Finance Partnership, earlier this year to increase the supply of capital through non-bank lending channels and to help diversify capital sources.

The UK chancellor’s Autumn Statement announced the investment of GBP 700m toward the creation of five new funds that will lend to mid-sized companies.

For more information, visit www.news.prudential.com.

Dutch chemical group AkzoNobel disposes of North American decorative paints unit for $1bn

Dutch paints, coatings and chemicals group AkzoNobel NV (AMS:AKZA) on Friday said it would sell its decorative paints business in North America to US sector player PPG Industries Inc (NYSE:PPG) in a deal worth USD1.05bn (EUR801.1m).

Following a successful four-year turnaround, AkzoNobel decided to shed the Decorative Paints North America unit, in line with strategy to focus on key European markets and its solid positions in growth regions, it said.

For its part, the buyer sees the acquisition to continue its rapid portfolio transformation strategy via growth of its coatings operations, PPG chairman and CEO Charles E Bunch noted. The move also increases the company’s scale in the paint market in North America, the CEO added.

The business to be divested had revenues of USD1.5bn last year, 5,000 employees and eight manufacturing sites. Its portfolio includes brands such as Glidden in the US and Sico in Canada. The vendor will use the USD875m cash proceeds from the sale to finance organic growth and reduce net debt, it said.

AkzoNobel is still present in North America through its Performance Coatings and Specialty Chemicals businesses, which combined sales of more than USD2.7bn and nearly 5,000 employees in 2011.

Mexican Coca Cola bottler Femsa acquires Coca Cola bottling unit in Philippines for $689m

Coca-Cola Femsa SAB de CV (MXK:KOFL), the bottler of Coca Cola in Mexico, said on Friday it would pay USD688.5m (EUR525.3m) in cash to buy 51% in The Coca-Cola Company’s (NYSE:KO) bottling unit in the Philippines.

The deal, which allows Coca-Cola Femsa to expand beyond Latin America, gives the buyer the option to purchase the remaining 49% in Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc (CCBPI) at any time within the next six years.

Coca-Cola Femsa will increase its exposure to fast-growing emerging economies with this acquisition, expecting profitable growth and long-term returns in these economies, it said.

The transaction, reflecting an enterprise value of USD1.35bn for CCBPI, is seen to wrap up in early 2013.

CCBPI runs 23 production plants, serving nearly 800,000 customers and is expected to sell some 530m unit cases of beverages in 2012.

The buyer’s advisors include Allen & Company LLC, Rothschild, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP and SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan.

Why is professional indemnity insurance essential for your business?

Insurance can take many forms and guises, and the many different types can often leave people stumped and confused as to which is best for them. Here we will look into one particular type, Professional Indemnity Insurance, and what it can do for your business.

Professional Indemnity Insurance will prove invaluable the moment that your business is accused of making a professional mistake. If such a situation should arise, for whatever reason, having plans in place will be vital. Keeping insurance policies up to date has never been more important for a business than it is in the current age of compensation culture. People are more keen than ever to cast their eyes about, look for anything that could be construed as a mistake, and take action if they feel they can.

Having the insurance in place will mean that your business and the individual employees contained within will be protected from allegations from third parties, and will cover any legal fees that may be incurred during the process, as well as the cost of any compensation that may arise. For businesses working within certain areas, such as financial services, having a Professional Indemnity Insurance policy in place is a legal requirement. For others it is highly recommended. Property professionals and accountants are particularly advised to take out policies, due to the risks their business occurs on a day to day basis. A mistake made by an accountant could cost his client on a severe financial level, a mistake in making a property evaluation could potentially cost a homeowner significantly for example. If these forms of mistake occur, the protection would come via the Professional Indemnity Insurance. It is also worth noting that whether you charge for professional advice is unimportant. If your business is issuing advice free, or as part of some benefits package, there is still scope for exposure to liabilities and therefore possible claims of negligence.

The way in which the Professional Indemnity Insurance operates in a way different from certain types of insurance, basing itself on the ‘claims made’ model. Essentially what this means for your business is that it is the policy which you hold at the exact time when the claim is made that moves into operation, rather than the policy held when the alleged professional mistake occurred. This means that a third party can make a complaint many years after the work or advice took place, potentially putting your business in a tricky position. This highlights the need to keep a Professional Indemnity Insurance policy in place at all times, and keep it up to date, relevant and effective, regardless of whether work is currently taking place.

Professional Indemnity Insurance packages can be tailored to fit the needs of any business, so it is always worth discussing options and finding out what suits your particular needs best. There is no ‘one size fits all’ policy, every business will require different cover. What is essential to remember however, that the cost of choosing not to insure yourself could put the financial security of your entire business at severe risk. Learn more about Professional Indemnity Insurance for your business at Endsleigh.co.uk

Contactless payment introduced on London buses

Bus passengers in London can now use a contactless debit, credit or charge card to pay for their journey, Transport for London (TfL) announced today.

To use contactless payment, passengers can touch their payment card on the yellow Oyster card reader and pay the single Oyster fare on any of London’s 8,500 buses.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, welcomed the new technology and said it means that people can avoid having to search for change and also benefit from the Oyster fare discount.

According to TfL, London’s transport authority, more than 85,000 bus journeys in the capital each day are still paid for using cash. The single fare costs GBP2.30 when paying by cash, which is much higher than the GBP1.35 Oyster fare. Moreover, at least 500 people every day try to pay their fare with a high denomination note for which the bus driver does not have change.

Initially this new payment method will only be available on London’s buses and daily price caps will not be applied, but by the end of next year contactless payment will be extended to cover travel on the London Underground, Docklands Light Rail, London Overground and trams. Daily and weekly price capping will be included at this stage, TfL said.

The authority is also in talks with the train operating companies that serve London about the possibility of accepting contactless payment cards on National Rail services where Oyster is currently accepted.

Contactless enabled cards are currently issued by a number of UK banks. The technology allows users to safely make a fast payment for goods or services costing GBP20 or less without entering a PIN.