International markets roundup

NEW YORK: The New York Stock Exchange was closed on Tuesday because of the Independence Day public holiday.

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LONDON: A spate of dealmaking news swept European stocks on Tuesday, with share in Worldpay soaring after approaches to buy the company helped mitigate a broad based pull back from the previous session’s strong gains.

The pan-European STOXX 600 fell 0.3 per cent, in line with a dip in euro zone stocks and Britain’s FTSE index.

The FTSE 100 ended the day 0.27 per cent lower at 7,357.23 points,

On Monday, European shares had their strongest day since April 24, when Emmanuel Macron won the first round of France’s presidential election.

The closure of the US market for the July 4 national holiday also meant volumes were lower than usual.

“Today is a consolidation day after gains yesterday, as we don’t have a US market,” said Angelo Meda, head of equities at Banor Capital.

But dealmaking was back with a vengeance as a key driver of individual share moves.

Payments company Worldpay shares soared 27.7 per cent to a record high after it received rival takeover approaches from credit card tech firm Vantiv and JPMorgan.

This came after Danish rival Nets said on Monday it had received offers. Nets and another German rival Wirecard rose more than four per cent.

“This is one of the most intriguing sub-sectors in the financials space. There are a lot of companies still, and we are probably going to have only one or two big leaders in the payments space,” said Meda.

A further boost to the sector came from news that the European Commission gave its blessing to a state bailout of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, paving the way for a deep restructure of the troubled lender.

TOKYO: Asian shares turned lower on Tuesday as earlier gains were quashed by tensions on the Korean peninsula after North Korea fired a missile that landed in Japanese waters, deepening concerns over the isolated nation’s nuclear capabilities.

European shares were also set to open in the red, with financial spreadbetters expecting Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX to start off 0.2 per cent each, and France’s CAC 40 down 0.3 per cent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6 per cent after rising earlier.

Japan’s Nikkei also surrendered earlier gains to drop 0.1 per cent, and South Korea’s KOSPI extended losses to trade 0.6 per cent lower.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 13.11 per cent to 3,182.80 points.

North Korea test-launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Tuesday, South Korean and US officials said, days before leaders from the Group of 20 nations are due to discuss steps to rein in Pyongyang’s weapons programs.

The missile flew 930 kilometres before landing in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the South Korean military and Japanese government said.

Tokyo strongly protested what it called a clear violation of UN resolutions, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will ask the presidents of China and Russia to play more constructive roles in efforts to stop Pyongyang’s arms program.

The South Korean won dropped 0.4 per cent to 1,151 won to the dollar as of 0532 GMT.

The nervous mood pushed the safe-haven yen up 0.4 per cent to 113.02 yen per dollar.

“As concerns surrounding the firing of ballistic missiles brewed midday, we are seeing the slide in the Japanese market spreading across to the rest of Asia,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

WELLINGTON: New Zealand shares were higher on Tuesday, led by Spark New Zealand and Westpac Banking Corp.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 0.4 per cent, or 32.21 points, to 7,620.64.

Asian stars of Hawaii Five-0 quit the show after being offered less money than white co-stars

Their characters, Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua, will not appear in the upcoming eighth season.

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The characters’ absence will be referenced in the season premiere.

Sources tell Variety that Park and Kim had been seeking pay equality with stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but were unable to reach satisfactory deals with CBS Television Studios, which produces the series.

CBS’s final offer to Kim and Park was believed to have been 10-15% lower than what O’Loughlin and Caan make in salary.

O’Laughlin and Caan each have deals that also provide them percentage points on the show’s back end.

“I will never forget meeting Daniel while still writing the pilot and being certain there was no other actor who I’d want to play Chin Ho Kelly,” said executive producer Peter Lenkov.

“Needless to say, Daniel has been an instrumental part of the success of ‘Hawaii Five-0’ over the past 7 seasons and it has personally been a privilege to know him.

Grace’s presence gave ‘Hawaii Five-0’ a beauty and serenity to each episode.

She was the consummate collaborator, helping build her character from day 1.

“They will always be ohana to us, we will miss them and we wish them both all the best.”

A CBS spokesperson said in a statement: “We are so appreciative of Daniel and Grace’s enormous talents, professional excellence and the aloha spirit they brought to each and every one of our 168 episodes.

They’ve helped us build an exciting new Hawaii Five-0, and we wish them all the best and much success in their next chapters. Mahalo and a hui hou…”

Kim and Park have both been cast members on “Hawaii Five-O” alongside O’Loughlin and Caan since CBS premiered a rebooted version of the classic television cop show in 2010.

The “Hawaii Five-0” changes represent the latest in a series of cast overhauls at returning broadcast dramas.

NBC’s “Taken” and ABC’s “Quantico” and “Once Upon a Time” have also parted ways with veteran cast members in the lead up to the coming season.

Rudd says Abbott and Turnbull are ‘tweedledee and tweedledum’ on policy

The government’s policies on climate change, healthcare and the NBN are likely to stay the same even if a leadership spill one day replaces Malcolm Turnbull with Tony Abbott, according to former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

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Speaking on ABC Radio this morning, the former Labor leader was asked whether friction between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott was proof the Liberals had failed to learn from the leadership tussle that plagued Mr Rudd’s own prime ministership.

He said the differences between the two men were superficial on the “big policy changes facing Australia”.

Among those policies were “the future of the national broadband network, the future of climate change action, the future of a sustainable economic growth strategy, NDIS and the future of health reform,” Mr Rudd said.

“Frankly if I look at Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull it just seems to be tweedledum or tweedledee.”

It comes following a week in which Mr Abbott made frequent media appearances, suggesting changes to government policy.

Mr Abbott has also blasted his Liberal colleague Christopher Pyne for a recently leaked recording in which the Turnbull Government minister promised swift action on same-sex marriage and said his moderate faction had gained control of the party.

Mr Abbott has denied claims he is seeking to topple Malcolm Turnbull to regain the prime ministership. 

“I am very happy being a backbench member of the government because it gives me the freedom to speak as I think best, and it gives me more time to be a very conscientious local member,” he said in an interview published in The Manly Daily  on Wednesday.

Vocus shares up as KKR moves closer

US private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts has moved a step closer to a takeover of Vocus Group with the telco’s board opening its books to a non-exclusive due diligence.

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KKR had announced a conditional $3.50 a share takeover proposal for Vocus on June 7, valuing the telecom operator at $A3.3 billion, a far cry from the almost nine dollars a share Vocus was commanding in August last year.

At 1020 AEST, Vocus shares were ahead by three per cent, at $3.41.

On Wednesday, Vocus said its board had carefully reviewed KKR’s proposal and decided to allow due diligence in order to establish whether an acceptable transaction could be agreed.

“While we are confident that the management team can deliver on the strategic plan, we believe it is in the best interests of shareholders to grant KKR due diligence to explore whether a potential whole of company proposal is available that takes into account the benefits that the plan delivers,” Vocus chairman David Spence said.

Vocus said it will update shareholders in due course.

KKR’s offer is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, including a nod from the Foreign Investment Review Board; due diligence and a unanimous Board recommendation.

Vocus, which has expanded to become Australia’s fourth-biggest telecommunications company through a series of mergers and acquisitions, cut its full year profit guidance in May, for the second time in six months.

The company, however, reaffirmed the revised guidance in early June, with full-year underlying profit expected to come in between $160 million and $165 million.

Medicare breach: Government criticises fearmongers, says exposure is limited

It’s believed someone breached the security surrounding Medicare details, potentially exposing Australians to fraud.

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Federal police are now investigating the “traditional criminal activity”, which was revealed on Tuesday.

A report on ‘The Guardian Online’ website detailed how one of its own reporters was able to buy his Medicare card number from a darknet trader for less than $30.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge declined to elaborate on the “most likely problem”, but cited previous cases of doctors’ surgeries being broken into.

“I have my strong suspicions but we’re leaving it obviously up to the police to do a proper investigation,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

He again admitted the government wasn’t aware Medicare details were being sold on the dark web until the report.

But he insisted personal health records aren’t at risk and those saying otherwise were indulging in fear-mongering and being irresponsible.

“Someone hasn’t hacked into a database,” Mr Tudge said.

“There is no indication this is widespread.”

At least 75 files are believed to have been sold since October last year.

However, Mr Tudge couldn’t confirm this, saying only that the government believed the number of those affected was a “small number in the dozens”.

“The people that we know had a Medicare card number breach, we have contacted,” he said.

Doctors are seeking government assurances that patient records are secure.

“This is a deeply concerning,” Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said.

The AMA fears the Medicare issue might dissuade Australians from taking part in the government’s ‘My Health Record’ online patient health information program.

“It is so important for the success of the My Health Record that doctors and patients both have absolute confidence in the integrity of the system,” Dr Gannon said.

Mr Tudge later told Sky News he had given the AMA president a confidential briefing.

Woosha backing in Dons after AFL shocker

Essendon coach John Worsfold isn’t planning to swing the axe after their dismal loss to AFL cellar-dwellers Brisbane.

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After leading Sunday’s clash at Etihad Stadium by 27 points early in the last term, the Bombers were found wanting again in a tight finish, going down by eight points.

It was another frustrating capitulation a week after losing to Sydney by a point after surrendering a three-goal lead in the dying minutes.

Essendon have lost four of their past five games to remain two wins outside of the top eight but Worsfold is backing change from within ahead of Saturday’s clash with Collingwood.

“I’m not expecting to make too many,” Worsfold said on Wednesday.

“I’m a coach who definitely expects the players to drive what they expect from each other.

“We’re very clear on the way we want to play footy and we’re very clear that we didn’t play that way on the weekend.”

The shock loss to the last-placed Lions prompted Bombers chief executive Xavier Campbell to vent his frustration on Twitter in a post retweeted by the club’s official feed.

“Not good enough. Not even close. Fans deserve so much better. 41,000 came out today and we let you down,” Campbell wrote.

Campbell has since apologised to the players but Worsfold said he had no problem with the reaction.

“When I saw it I said ‘that pretty much sums up how we all feel’,” Worsfold said.

“We felt like we let our fans down but we let ourselves down as well.”

Worsfold said there were obvious similarities between the 11th-placed Bombers and 15th-placed Magpies ahead of Saturday’s game.

“They’re playing pretty good footy without getting wins on the board,” he said.

“We’re not assessing them as a team that’s a lot lower than us on the ladder and therefore not performing well.”

The Bombers will likely turn to Michael Hurley or Michael Hartley to stand the 211cm-Mason Cox, who booted three goals during the Pies’ loss to Hawthorn on Sunday.

Service sector activity up in June

Activity in the Australian services sector activity lifted in June, expanding for the fourth straight month, but businesses are finding high energy costs a problem.

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The Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Services Index (PSI) rose 3.3 points to 54.8 points in the month, staying above the 50-point level signifying expansion.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said the services sector ended the financial year in positive territory, but conditions remain patchy across the sub-sectors.

“On the business inputs side, more businesses, across a wider range of sectors, are telling us that energy pricing and availability outlook is highly challenging,” Mr Willox said on Wednesday.

“The energy problem has become real and immediate for Australian business.”

The input prices sub-index lifted by 1.2 points to 59.3 points in June, with businesses continuing to single out high energy cost pressures across various sectors.

The wage sub-index also rose – up 4.4 points to 56.3 points – indicating stronger upward pressure on wages across the services sector.

Sales, new orders and employment all expanded.

Selling prices lifted after being weak over the last 18 months, but the lift suggested only mild price rises for customers.

Five of the nine services sub-sectors – property and business, finance and insurance, wholesale trade, personal and recreational services, and hospitality – expanded in June.

But transport and storage, health and community services, retail trade, and communication services contracted.

The Ai survey said some respondents had noted positive demand for business-to business services from the construction and infrastructure investment sectors.

Some businesses said consumer confidence had improved but this had not translated into better sales in retail.

Others said greater competition from offshore and online providers was negatively affecting activity across sectors that are consumer-oriented.

Migrant experience installation redesigned for Trump’s America

They may be fast disappearing from the streets of New York, but an Afghan-American artist has installed public telephone booths in Times Square to spotlight the immigrant experience in Donald Trump’s America.

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New York today boasts no more than four public phone booths, the last vestiges of a pre cell-phone era. The arrival of three in Times Square as part of Aman Mojadidi’s ‘Once Upon a Place’ installation has nearly doubled that number.

Passers by can pick up the handset, but cannot talk. Instead they listen. At the end of the line are the voices of New Yorkers telling their personal stories of immigration – legal or illegal – from around the world.

Mojadidi asked each to narrate their experiences in their own language for a maximum of 15 minutes, without interrupting with any questions. Nor has their testimony been translated into English.

“Even if you don’t understand the language, you can feel the emotion as if it is a song maybe,” he explained to AFP.

The art project boasts more than five hours of recordings from 70 different New Yorkers and will remain in Times Square until September 5.

Mojadidi first started working on the project in 2014, well before Trump ran for president and unleashed vehement rhetoric against unauthorised immigrants and took office attempting to restrict immigration from certain Muslim countries.

The shifting political environment saw Mojadidi scrap initial plans to dot the project around the city and hold formal workshops in different communities. He said his subjects became “very nervous” about the idea.

“Even if you don’t understand the language, you can feel the emotion”: Aman Mojadidi. Pic: Times Square Arts长沙桑拿,timessquarenyc长沙楼凤,

“‘Why do we need to come there? Who else is going to be there?'” he quoted them as saying.

“In the end, it was all very one on one. So the way I implemented the project changed a lot.”

Nor is the choice of telephone booths insignificant.

“When I learned how phone booths were starting to be removed from the streets, not just in New York but in other cities around the world, I immediately thought about all of the stories that are trapped inside of these phones,” he said.

“I thought of a natural way to bring stories back to the streets by using the phone booths, bring back the spirit of the phone booths.”

Aman Mojadidi’s ‘Once Upon A Place’ is in Times Square until September 5. Pic: Times Square ArtsTwitter/Times Square Arts

Palmer rejects Queensland Nickel lawsuit

Clive Palmer has rejected a federal government lawsuit against him and nephew Clive Mensink over the collapse of Queensland Nickel as baseless and politically motivated.

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Mr Palmer said in a statement that the claim, lodged late last week in the Supreme Court in Brisbane by the government-appointed liquidators of QN, had “no legal basis” and was “just a desperate attempt for the government to act for political purposes”.

The 280-page claim is attempting to claw back some of the $300 million in debts left when QN collapsed in early 2016, leaving hundreds without a job.

It names 21 defendants including Mr Mensink, a string of Mr Palmer’s companies, former QN director Ian Ferguson, Mr Palmer’s father-in-law, and two mystery women in Hong Kong and Kyrgyzstan .

Mr Palmer, who is currently on a luxury European cruise with his family, is being personally pursued for $73 million he allegedly transferred from QN.

He is also being sued for $207 million in compensation for allegedly breaching his duties as director.

The liquidators want a declaration Mr Palmer acted as a ‘shadow director’ for QN after formally stepping away from the company.

They claim he exerted power over the company’s direction and finances from behind the scenes.

“During the periods when Mr Palmer was not a validly appointed director of QNI prior to 18 January 2016, Mr Mensink and Mr Ferguson, being validly appointed directors of QNI, were accustomed to act in accordance with Mr Palmer’s instructions and wishes,” the claim reads.

It alleges Mr Palmer used emails and text messages to give instructions to Mr Mensink and Mr Ferguson, that he remained a signatory to QN bank accounts even when he ceased to be an appointed director, and that he also signed documents that shaped the business.

Mr Mensink is being sued for $110 million in compensation for alleged breaches as a director, while Mr Ferguson is being sued for $25 million.

The claim also alleges Mr Palmer and Mr Mensink continued to trade after the company became insolvent in October 2015, and so are responsible for the $13 million in debts wracked up by QN before it collapsed a few months later.

Mr Mensink has been out of the country since June last year, and has failed to appear at the Federal Court in Brisbane on a number of occasions to face liquidators over QN’s collapse.

Mr Palmer said he has filed a lawsuit against the liquidators in the Federal Court.

I was too young for Origin decider: Pearce

If anyone knows how hot the State of Origin cauldron will be for Queensland rookie Cameron Munster next Wednesday night, it’s the most maligned halfback for NSW.

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Munster is poised to become the first playmaker to debut in a State of Origin series decider since a 19-year-old Mitchell Pearce was thrust into that pressure-cooker environment in game three of the 2008 series.

Pearce ended up missing a tackle on Johnathan Thurston that resulted in the series-winning try for Billy Slater.

It was the start of a Blues career that has been forever under scrutiny as the Maroons extended their dominance in the interstate arena.

A decade on and Pearce concedes that, in hindsight, he wasn’t ready for his 2008 call-up.

“I was too young,” Pearce said.

“I remember, I was a bit different. I was 19 so I didn’t think too much at that stage. It’s probably less pressure back then because you haven’t been a part of a series and all the rest of it.”

However Pearce believes 22-year-old Munster will be far more comfortable, thanks to the close presence of influential Melbourne teammates.

The Storm’s star playmaking trio of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith will all be alongside the man asked to wear the jumper of injured champion Thurston.

It is arguably the most celebrated jumper in Origin, also following in the footsteps of Maroons legends Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer.

“If we’re talking about Munster, he’s a great player and I think he’d be really comfortable around their spine that they’ve got there,” Pearce said.

“Obviously Johnathan Thurston’s one of the greatest of all time so he brings a whole other dimension to their team. I don’t think they’ll be changing too much.”

Pearce, who is the Blues’ second-most experienced Origin player with 17 games, again finds himself under pressure to deliver the Blues a series win in his seventh year in the arena.

However the 28-year-old insists he’s grown accustomed to the hot seat.

“I’m pretty relaxed right now. There’s always pressure. We’re here to prepare as a winning team and go out there and do our best to win the series for NSW,” he said.