Monday, 20 June 2011

Online radio company Pandora Media soared as much as 48 percent as it began its first day of trading after its initial public offering

IMF warns of increased risks to the world economy.

17 June 2011.

Problems in Greece could spread throughout the eurozone, the IMF warns .

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the risks facing the world economy have increased.

The fund said it was concerned about the continuing Greek debt crisis, the arguments over US deficit plans and the need to curb growth in Asia.

But it said it expected global growth to remain on track, though it lowered its forecasts for the US and UK.

The IMF predicted that the world economy would grow at a rate of 4.3% in 2011 and 4.5% in 2012.

The fund called for greater political leadership in dealing with the eurozone debt crisis and the budget crisis in the US.

"You cannot afford to have a world economy where these important decisions are postponed, because you're really playing with fire," said Jose Vinals, director of the IMF monetary and capital markets department.

The IMF's latest forecasts came as it updated its assessments of financial stability, country finances and the global economy. Its last review was in April.

The fund warned that the continuing Greek debt crisis could destabilize the global financial system.

Many analysts believe Greece will not be able to pay back all the money it has borrowed.

"I don't think there is a question over whether Greece is going to default, it is just a question of whether it is an orderly or disorderly one," says George Magnus, senior economic adviser at UBS.

The IMF warned that if Greece was unable to pay its debts, other countries such as Spain or Portugal may also be affected.

European banks which lent money to these countries would in turn lose out.

"In a serious market event, a shock could be transmitted beyond the eurozone", warned the IMF's financial stability report.

It called on the leaders of European governments to implement long-term policies to prevent further problems.

At the same time, the IMF warned that European banks had not yet built up sufficient capital to remain healthy in a further economic shock.

The IMF also highlighted debt problems outside the eurozone.

Japan is struggling to cut its spending in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

In the so-called "core" European countries, such as France and Germany, growth has exceeded expectations.

The IMF raised its 2011 growth forecast for Germany to 3.2% from 2.5%.

This may help to mitigate some of the problems faced by other countries in the eurozone.

Outside Europe, the fund said it expected economic growth in developing countries to remain strong.

Property prices in China and Brazil have also risen sharply posing the risk of a sharp downturn.

This, in turn, presents a risk of overheating - where economies grow too fast leading to a rapid contraction later.

"Too much capital may be moving too quickly to emerging markets," the IMF warned, pointing to higher inflation in some countries.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Facebook looking at IPO

The number of people using Facebook has dropped in the UK for the second month in a row, mirroring similar falls in the US, Canada and Norway, giving the first signs that the social network's popularity may be decreasing in the west.

The website continued to grow worldwide, hitting an all-time high of 687 million users, according to data from the tracking company Inside Facebook, which uses Facebook's own advertising tools to determine the number of people using the site every month. That slowdown could stop founder Mark Zuckerberg's ambition to reach 1 billion users worldwide, despite his prediction last June that "it is almost a guarantee that it will happen".

The fastest-growing countries, including Brazil and Mexico, grew at a maximum of 10% over the month.

Meanwhile, reports in the US suggest that Facebook may have to make a public share offering at the beginning of 2012 because it will have more than 500 shareholders. US securities exchange commission rules oblige companies to make a listing once they passed this number.

Facebook is preparing to file for an initial public offering as early as October or November that could value the popular social networking site at more than $100 billion, financial news channel CNBC reported on Monday.

Goldman Sachs is leading the chase to manage the lucrative offering, which could come in the first quarter of 2012, CNBC said.

With more than 500 million users, Facebook is the world's most popular Internet social network and one of the most hotly-anticipated initial public offerings on Wall Street.

Facebook, whose chief operating officer last month told Reuters that an IPO was "inevitable," declined to comment on the latest report about its timing for an offering.

Anticipation about a Facebook's future plans comes at a time of heightened investor appetite for shares of fast-growing social networking companies.

Professional networking site LinkedIn Corp launched its own IPO last month, valuing the company at about $7 billion.

Earlier this month, daily deals site Groupon Inc filed to raise up to $750 million in an IPO, fueling speculation that Internet valuations have become too rich.

Founded in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 by the now 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook threatens Internet companies like Google Inc and Yahoo Inc as it becomes a popular online destination for Web surfers and an important marketing channel for advertisers.

Facebook was valued at $50 billion earlier this year when Goldman Sachs invested in the company.

Recent transactions of Facebook shares on the secondary market have valued the company between $78 billion and $81 billion, according to information on the website of Sharespost, an exchange for trading shares in private companies.

Facebook is expected to generate roughly $4 billion in advertising revenue in 2011, up from $1.86 billion a year earlier, according to market research firm eMarketer.

Taiwan brings foldable touchscreens closer to reality

June 13 - The era of foldable touchscreens for computers and cell phones is rapidly approaching. Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute has developed an award-winning flexible display screen that will soon be ready for consumers.

Interactive 3D dashboard maps the future of navigation

Audi and MIT's SENSEable City Lab have teamed up to design the car navigation system of the future -- a 3D display that will sit on the dashboard.

No one wants to pay for music. Yet investors are splurging on music firms

May 12th 2011

SAY what you like about the men who built business empires from the wreckage of Soviet communism. They are angels. Roman Abramovich turned Chelsea football club into a winner. Alexander Lebedev rescued the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers. And on May 6th Len Blavatnik, an oil magnate, agreed to pay $3.3 billion for Warner Music Group. The stunned reaction among music executives suggests that his is the greatest act of charity ever.

Warner Music was born in 2003, when Edgar Bronfman and a group of investors paid $2.6 billion for Time Warner’s music division. Mr Bronfman, heir to a whisky fortune, was known as an unlucky investor. New York magazine called him “possibly the stupidest person in the media business”. Not any more. He has managed to sell a company in a collapsing industry for substantially more than it cost (and there are rumours that another suitor will yet try to outbid Mr Blavatnik’s offer).

Since 2003 global CD sales have roughly halved. Competition from pirates has crushed retailers and forced record labels to cut prices. Rising digital music sales, mostly through Apple’s iTunes store, have not nearly made up for these losses. And it is still unclear whether music-streaming services such as Spotify will reverse the decline or accelerate it by drawing honest people away from buying music.

Under Mr Bronfman and his private-equity partners, Warner Music drastically cut costs in the mid-2000s. Executives went from flying first class to business class, then to economy. For a while revenues held up, suggesting it was possible to run a successful music firm on the cheap. But since 2008 Warner’s recorded-music sales have dropped by 75%. Its “artist and repertoire” costs, which include searching for and signing artists, are also dropping. That is a worrying sign, similar to a drug firm spending less on R&D.

Investors argue that music publishing (that is, the trade in songs rather than recorded music) is still doing fairly well. This is true. Advertisers and TV broadcasters are hooked on music, and that brings money to record labels. But firms must cultivate songwriters for years. Warner’s publishing business is weak—its share of the market has slipped in the past two years to 13.9%, according to Music & Copyright, a trade publication.

The rumour now is that Warner will try to buy EMI from Citigroup, which seized it earlier this year from Terra Firma, another private-equity firm. That would make some sense. Warner is strong in America; EMI is strong in Europe. And rich technology firms want to copy Apple by building businesses on music: Google launched a music-storage service on May 10th. The bigger the music firm, the more it can pick winners and shake the digital market. A merged EMI-Warner would be a serious rival to Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest music company.

Overpaying for two music firms is not twice as crazy as overpaying for one. But Mr Blavatnik may not get the chance. Also, the auction for Warner Music suggests there will be no shortage of rich men willing to lose—sorry, risk—money on a record company.

Foreign investors buy London luxury

Americans pack suitcases with caution

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Quiz: Replies - Social Expressions in English - Elementary Level

Quiz: Replies - Social Expressions in English - All Levels


A high price for Brazilian culture?

Transsexual model takes Rio

You Are What You Speak

Robert Lane Greene, our business correspondent and editor of our Johnson blog, discusses his new book on the politics of language

Smarter contact lenses

Researchers are adding radio-powered sensors, drug-delivering systems and wireless digital displays to contact lenses

Too hot: Latin America’s biggest economy is more fragile than it appears.

Tuesday June 7th 2011

Brazil's economy

Too hot: Latin America’s biggest economy is more fragile than it appears.

BRAZIL has a lot to be proud of. A decade of faster growth and progressive social policies has brought a prosperity that is ever more widely shared. The unemployment rate for April, at 6.4%, is the lowest on record. Credit is booming, particularly to the large numbers who have moved out of poverty and into the middle class. Income inequality, though still high, has fallen sharply. Therefore, for most Brazilians life has never been so good.

That success is partly due to good luck, in the form of booming commodity prices. Besides, it is also the result of good policies. A country once known for its macroeconomic incompetence has maintained an enviable stability, navigating the 2008 financial crisis as well as the more recent influx of foreign capital. Not surprisingly, perhaps, many of Brazil’s economic officials now have an air of arrogance, as they argue that the rest of the world has more to learn from Brazil than vice versa.

The timing of such complacency could not be worse. The economy is overheating. The government is taking too long on a deeper reform agenda that is essential to boost Brazil’s long-term growth and fiscal stability. Furthermore, President Dilma Rousseff’s growing political problems do not help: her chief of staff, Antonio Palocci, is under fire over fat consulting fees.

All this adds up to a warning: Brazil’s economy is heading for trouble.

Inflation is 6.5% and rising. It is driven (as elsewhere) by food and fuel costs, but the tightness of Brazil’s labour market suggests that it could easily become troubled as workers expect higher prices and demand higher wages. The jobless rate is well below the level that is consistent with stable prices. Although professional forecasters’ expectations of future inflation have stabilised, the proportion of ordinary people expecting higher prices has risen. If the labour market remains red-hot, stubborn inflation seems all too likely—especially if (as seems probable) foreign investors eventually become alarmed and the exchange rate weakens.

The best way to counter the inflation risk is through tighter macroeconomic policies. Brazil’s central bank has been raising interest rates, but monetary conditions are still looser than before the financial crisis in 2008, when joblessness was much higher. Brazilians worry, reasonably, that faster rate rises will attract even more foreign capital. Attracted by high interest rates, investors have piled into the country, sending the currency soaring to an increasingly overvalued rate, despite an expanding arsenal of taxes designed to deter them. Brazilian officials are right to worry about the impact of foreign capital flows, but their emphasis on controls and fear of raising rates have distracted them from a more potent tool: tighter fiscal policy.

Ms Rousseff’s government brags about its fiscal squeeze. Thanks to strong revenues and a slowdown in investment spending, the primary budget is on track to hit a surplus of almost 3% of GDP. To slow overall demand growth and reduce Brazil’s real interest rates, the government needs far more ambitious fiscal consolidation: with the economy growing strongly, the overall budget (ie, including interest payments) should be in surplus. Worse, today’s gains are coming from the wrong sources; rather than slowing investment, the state should be squeezing its transfer payments. Under current rules, Brazil’s minimum wage will rise by 7.5% in real terms next year—at huge fiscal cost, since pension payments are linked to the minimum wage.

Tighter fiscal policy is Brazil’s best defence against short-term economic trouble. A state will improve productivity growth as well as Brazil’s saving and investment rates. Pension reform is urgently needed in a country that is ageing fast, has absurdly generous pensions and in which the average woman retires at 51.

Such reforms are difficult. But without them Latin America’s biggest success story will start to look not so bright for Brazilians to be proud of.

Breaking News - June 7th, 2011.

Flights in several South American countries are being disrupted by clouds of ash spread by a Chile volcano range. Flight to and from the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, have been suspended, while in Chile, Santiago airport has also seen cancellations. Earlier, Chilean authorities expanded the evacuation area around the Puyehue-Cordon-Caulle volcano range, about 800km (500 miles) south of Santiago.

It began erupting at the weekend and continues to produce a column of ash. Aviation officials say around 60 flights - domestic and international - from Ezeiza and Aeroparque airports in Buenos Aires have been cancelled. The country's main airlines - Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral - announced that they had cancelled all flights until further notice.

Global food prices will remain high and volatile throughout this year and into next despite record food production. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) twice yearly Food Outlook analysis says rising demand will absorb most of the higher output. It says its index of food prices in May was at 232, only six points below February's record high of 237. The FAO says higher food prices could mean poor countries will see food import costs rise by up to 30%. That would mean them spending 18% of their total import bills on food this year, compared with the world average of 7%.

Fashion house Prada is trying to raise up to $2.6bn (£1.6bn) when it goes public (IPO) on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The privately owned company wants to sell 423.3 million shares to investors in a range of 36.50 to 48 Hong Kong dollars, the BBC has learned. Prada would be the first Italian company to list in Hong Kong, as it tries to take advantage of China’s growing appetite for luxury goods. The company was founded in 1913 and also owns Miu Miu and Church's Shoes. According to documents filed to the Hong Kong stock exchange, Prada expects to open 70 more stores in Asia by 2014, of which 30 will be in China. "We believe further growth is possible due to the continuing growth of the Chinese economy," the company said. Prada, said it also hopes to expand in the Middle East, Russia and Brazil. The company is run by the husband and wife team Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada, who is the founder's granddaughter

The struggling US housing market passed a sad milestone in the first quarter of this year, posting a further deterioration that means the fall in house prices is now greater than that suffered during the Great Depression. The brief recovery in prices in 2009, helped by government aid to first-time buyers, has now been entirely over, and the average American home now costs 33 per cent less than it did at the peak of the housing bubble in 2007. The fall in house prices in the 1930s Depression was 31 per cent – and prices took 19 years to recover after that downturn. And in the latest Conference Board consumer confidence survey more people expressed uncertainty over their future economic prospects. The confidence index fell unexpectedly to 60.8 from a revised 66.0, when economists had expected it to rise to 67.0. Falling house prices and negative equity combined with high petrol and food prices and a still-weak jobs market to raise consumers' fears for the future.

Apple highlights the features of its new operating system, Lion.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Media regulator prohibits phrases such as 'Follow us on Twitter' in move against leading social networks

Twitter and Facebook will no longer be mentioned on French airwaves unless they are relevant to a particular story.

How do you say Facebook and Twitter in French? You don't – at least, not if you are on radio or television, where French officials have banned any mention of them unless they are specifically part of the story.

The internet sites have fallen victim of a 1992 decree that outlaws the advertising or promotion of private business on programmes. Journalists will no longer be able to end their reports by saying "Follow us on Twitter" or "Have a look at our Facebook page", because the French government considers this subliminal promotion, and has decided it is unfair to other similar networks.

Christine Kelly, spokeswoman for the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA), the government broadcasting authority, said: "Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are other social networks that are struggling for recognition. This would be a distortion of competition. If we allow Facebook and Twitter to be cited on air, it's opening a Pandora's box. Other social networks will complain to us, saying 'Why not us?'"

No details have been given on how the rule will be enforced or what punishment might wait those who continue to say Facebook and Twitter on air.

The ban comes less than two weeks after President Nicolas Sarkozy's internet and digital technology summit, the e-G8, where he was given a Facebook T-shirt by the site's founder, Mark Zuckerberg..

Some commentators have suggested the ban is another effort by France to control the influence of Anglo-Saxon cultural influences, particularly those seen as encouraging the use of English.

"The CSA hasn't understood that above being trademarks, Twitter and Facebook are public spaces where more than 25% of the French public discuss and exchange information," said journalist Benoît Raphael.

Kelly said broadcasters must not use the website names unless it was "essential to the story".
Instead, they should say: "Find us on social networks."

Shoppers getting choosy

Sales at stores open a year or more rose nearly five percent in May, much slower growth than the prior month. Analysts say rising costs and a wobbly economy have created choosy shoppers seeking discounts and making fewer trips.

Apple boss Steve Jobs shows off iCloud service

6 June 2011

Steve Jobs took to the stage to unveil Apple's iCloud services.

Apple has unveiled its much-anticipated iCloud service at its annual developers' conference.

Apple boss Steve Jobs returned from medical leave to show off the features of the web-based service.

He said iCloud was necessary because the PC was no longer the digital hub of users' digital lives.

The web-based service aims to synchronise and co-ordinate the key content people store and share across their devices.

Contacts, calendar and mail applications have been re-written so a change to one propagates across the other versions on separate devices. This re-writing means Apple's MobileMe service will soon cease to exist.

Anyone buying an app, book or music track for one device will see it replicated on the other Apple devices they own. Similarly, bookmarks for interesting web pages will be shared across all gadgets.

Mr Jobs stressed that iCloud was "not just a hard disk in the sky".

This would end the current frustration of keeping content such as photos and songs synchronised.

One key element of iCloud was Apple's music store iTunes, he said. This now has a iCloud element so music bought on one device can be propagated across all the Apple gadgets that person owns.

One part of the cloud-version of iTunes, called iTunes Match, will also scan the songs that people have ripped from their own CDs. This will recreate the library in the cloud without the need for the music to be uploaded. The service will cost $24.99 a year in the US. UK prices have yet to be given.

The release of iTunes Cloud pits Apple against Google and Amazon which have both unveiled their own web-based music storage services. However, both those lack the involvement of record labels and the ability to replicate an existing library.

"This is the first set of cards on the table for the long game which is increasingly moving access to all your media up into the cloud,” said Mike McGuire, senior analyst with research firm Gartner.

"We are seeing people putting pieces in place for the time when more and more consumers have those assets, not just in their immediate vicinity, but up in the cloud," he said. "Those kinds of transitions for consumers take a long time. They don't happen overnight."

Apple also talked about updates for the iOS operating system that runs on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. It said it had sold more than 200 million iOS devices.

One novel feature integrates micro-blogging service Twitter into camera and photo apps to make it easier for people to share snaps with followers. iOS5 also introduces a auto-focus feature that lets a user zoom in on a particular.

Apple said it also planned to introduce a system that will update iOS devices without the need to plug them in to a PC or Mac. The new version of iOS will be available in the Autumn.

Lion, the forthcoming update for the Apple Mac operating system was also demonstrated at the WWDC. Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller said the software had more than 250 new features.

One key update, he said, was the inclusion of multi-touch keypads so Apple's notebooks can handle gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and momentum based scrolling seen before now on the iPhone.

Another gesture will take users to Ground Control, a global overview of everything happening on a notebook. Lion also has an autosave feature that automatically keeps copies of documents and other files.

Also introduced was a peer-to-peer wi-fi feature called Air Drop that lets Mac owners share files with friends and colleagues by dragging and dropping an icon onto a picture.

Apple said Lion will no longer be available on a physical CD, instead the software will have to be downloaded. Apple also cut the price of the update from more than $100 to $29 (£20.99 in the UK) when it goes on sale in July.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Quiz: Linking words - Summit 2 - Unit 7

CNN's Richard Quest talks to Digital Life host Shelly Palmer about music services that can deliver tunes from anywhere.

World Health Organization says cell phone radiation could cause cancer.

Consumer internet traffic. How the world will use the internet in 2015

The number of internet connected devices is set to explode in the next four years to over 15 billion - twice the world's population by 2015.

Technology giant Cisco predicts the proliferation of tablets, mobile phones, connected appliances and other smart machines will drive this growth.

The company said consumer video will continue to dominate internet traffic.

It predicts that by 2015, one million minutes of video will be watched online every second.

The predictions come from Cisco's fifth annual forecast of upcoming trends.

Cisco's Visual Networking Index also estimated that at the same time more than 40% of the world's projected population will be online, a total of nearly three billion people.

The networking giant forecast that by 2015 internet traffic will reach 966 exabytes a year.

An exabyte is equal to one quintillion bytes. In 2004, global monthly internet traffic passed one exabyte for the first time.

But Cisco said alongside this quadrupling of traffic comes a number of very real concerns.

"What you are seeing is this massive growth in devices, the way devices are being used and are connected to the internet and what users expect them to do," said Suraj Shetty, Cisco vice president for global marketing.

"All this is putting a lot of pressure on the internet and the next generation internet faces issues handling not just the proliferation of these devices but how they are going to grow and be intelligent enough to be connected to you.

"The most important question we face is how to manage all this traffic intelligently," Mr Shetty added.
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