Hyundai Motor sells 64.96m units

Hyundai Motor sells 64.96m units

Hyundai Motor Company, South Korea’s largest automaker, has announced its 2015 full-year business results.

Sales volume and sales revenue increased while operating profit declined from the same period last year, mainly due to weak cross currencies, increased promotional activities due to heightened competition amongst automakers and profit decline from non-auto business.

The auto giant claimed it sold 64.96 million units worldwide throughout last year.

Hyundai Motor forecasts that an unfavourable business environment is likely to continue this year.

Emerging markets including China will continue posting slower growths. Also growing geopolitical risks and low oil price will lengthen economic stagnation, leading to steeper competition amongst automakers.

Nevertheless, Hyundai Motor will continue its efforts in establishing sustainable growth with R&D investment to strengthen state-of-the-art technology development and securing eco-friendly technology leadership. Hyundai Motor aims to sell 5.01 million vehicles globally.

It plans to achieve its goal with new model like All-new Elantra, Brand-new IONIQ offered in three eco-friendly powertrain (HEV, PHEV, Full-EV) and Hyundai Motor’s luxury brand Genesis G90 (EQ900 in Korea) large luxury sedan in 2016 to major global markets.

Hyundai Motor will continue strengthening its cooperation with suppliers and actively carry out Corporate Social Responsibilities to create more values to customers and stakeholders alike.

NCC boss harps on 8-point agenda’s benefits to subscribers, economy

NCC boss harps on 8-point agenda’s benefits to subscribers, economy

As part of efforts to develop the communication technology sector of the country, the Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, has harped on his eight-point agenda’s strategic thrusts and the implications for improved telecommunications services quality in the country. Dambatta, during an interactive session with the media in Kano State, explained that the agenda, scheduled for implementation for a five-year period, was premised on a tripod which includes availability of service, accessibility of service and affordability of service, aimed at improving universal access and quality of service. He stressed that the agenda which was in line with the change agenda of the Buhari led administration, revolves round an ideological shift in creation of structures to enhance social benefits and inclusiveness for national development.

In addition, the EVC maintained that the five year strategic vision would enhance the development of a knowledge driven nation that was globally competitive and would help confront any challenge that might arise. Danbatta said:” We present our 8 point agenda alongside the overarching change mantra of President Muhammadu Buhari, to promote innovation, investment, competition and consumer empowerment in and on top of the communications platform of today and the future. The 8 point agenda as listed by the NCC boss were: facilitate broadband penetration, improve quality of service, optimize usage and benefits of spectrum, promote ICT innovation and investment opportunities. Others include facilitate strategic collaboration and partnership, protect and empower consumers, promote fair competition and inclusive growth, ensure regulatory excellence and operational efficiency.”

Completion of 2.6GHz spectrum auction key to affordable broadband –Akinluyi

Completion of 2.6GHz spectrum auction key to affordable broadband –Akinluyi

Tolu Akinluyi, is an experienced telecoms professional whose career in the telecoms industry dates back to 2002 as the first mobile core network engineer of MTN Nigeria. Currently a Communications, Media and Technology Executive with Accenture, one of the global professional services companies, Akinluyi in this interview with Isaiah Erhiawarien, reflects on the key challenges facing players in the industry, including Nigeria’s likely sanctions for shifting the digital migration date.

You have been in the telecoms industry for many years, and as such have a full knowledge of the industry. Do you think the industry has actually grown as far as network capacity is concerned?

Since 2001, the telecommunications industry in Nigeria has experienced impressive growth which has been fuelled by the low teledensity before the advent of affordable mobile telephony in the country, the award of GSM licenses to new mobile telecoms operators, the emergence of business opportunities enabled by the mass proliferation of mobile connections, amongst other factors. For instance, in 2001 there were a total of about 867,000 connected lines nationally, with about 266,000 mobile connections. This number increased by over 10,000 per cent to over 150 million connections today, with about 135 million mobile connections, largely driven by the launch of GSM mobile services in Nigeria. In this period, the contribution of the telecoms industry to Nigeria’s GDP increased from 0.3 per cent in 2001 to 8.53 per cent. And then the also the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, said that the total contribution of ICT industry to the GDP was stated at 10.13 per cent in 2012, with the telecoms sector accounting for about 82 per cent of this figure. This growth has also driven internet penetration in the country. Similarly, the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, over this same period said that internet penetration in Nigeria increased over 3000 per cent. And the NCC now reports that Nigeria has over 93 million mobile internet users however, it is important to note that whilst this figure is impressive, a lot of connections are not yet of sufficient speed to be categorised as broadband. This dramatic growth of the industry has caused growing pains.

Does that look like a serious challenge by your assessment?

The industry currently faces a series of business, technical and regulatory challenges which pose risks to long term sustainable growth. Whilst many of these challenges are already being faced in more mature markets globally, there are additional local market conditions which exacerbate the situation in Nigeria.

What are your thoughts about the provision of broadband access to Nigerians?

Let’s start with the definition of broadband. A widely accepted definition of broadband is a link capable of delivering internet access at a rate of at least 2 megabits per second (2Mbps). Broadband has become the “oxygen” of the information age. It is crucial in enabling Nigerians access the internet, which is the largest repository of information and knowledge. The ideal broadband supply chain comprises of international connectivity (via submarine cable links), a national backbone network, metropolitan access links, and the local access network (the last mile). The Nigerian government has developed a broadband plan which is aimed at increasing the broadband penetration rate from about 6% in 2012 to 30 per cent by 2018. In Nigeria, there are now multiple submarine cables on the shores of the country. These include the Glo-1, Main One, WACS and SAT3. However, all the cables are landed in Lagos therefore access to other points in the country is limited.

It is necessary to extend the cable systems to other coastal regions of Nigeria in order to ensure resiliency and security. The Nigerian Government therefore has a big role to play in helping to drive this agenda. The backbone links in Nigeria have mostly been developed by individual telecoms operators to suit their business and technical requirements whereas in many other mature markets these were developed by Government owned incumbent operators and later unbundled to ensure open access. As a result, there is an abundance of connectivity on certain key routes, whilst many routes in the country still do not have connectivity. Furthermore, the networks owned by the different operators are not interconnected and therefore not as resilient as possible. The Nigerian government/NCC must follow through on its plans to promote seamless interconnectivity and open access infrastructure sharing amongst operators.

In Nigeria, the last mile is mostly based on wireless technology as a result of the low fixed line teledensity in the country. Therefore most internet connectivity in Nigeria is done via wireless devices. While this helps to provide quick connections, wireless connectivity faces interference and speed challenges which make it less desirable that wired last mile connectivity. The broadband plan must therefore also address the need to provide a mechanism to facilitate an increase in wired last mile connectivity. Regardless of the portion of the broadband supply chain, the challenges faced by operators are common and numerous. These include regulatory challenges associated with getting civil works permits, high costs involved in getting these permits, vandalism and theft of cables, and lack of reliable power resulting in the use of generators which is very expensive.

The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) currently requires telecoms operators to submit impact assessments and get necessary approvals for the erection of telecoms base stations, in accordance with Environmental Impact Assessment regulations. This process has added to the already lengthy process involved in deploying telecoms base stations. It is necessary to find ways to speed up the EIA approval process to ensure that telecoms operators can deploy additional base stations quickly, efficiently and economically. The Government must take steps to remove the regulatory road blocks facing the operators, and continue to drive its broadband plan to ensure targets for broadband penetration can be achieved.

Concerning digital dividends, how best can these be realized in the country?

In 2006, the Nigerian government signed an agreement with the international telecommunications union, ITU, which mandated the digitisation of terrestrial TV signals by June 2015. This switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting is meant to free up analogue transmission frequencies, so that they could be re-used for mobile telephony and broadband access. The process has been completed in other western countries such as the UK, and is termed the digital dividend. The switchover will also lower the cost of transmission for TV signals and provide a host of benefits for consumers including a wider choice of programmes, more interactive services, and lower prices for interactive television receivers.

But the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, was unable to meet the deadline due to a lack of funds. Missing this deadline puts the country at risk of sanctions from the ITU in part because border countries to Nigeria that have already migrated from analogue to digital, are likely to get distorted broadcast signals from television stations located in border towns in Nigeria that are still transmitting analogue signals. Although the NBC has developed a plan to complete the switch over by June 2016, the Ministry of Communications and NCC must actively support the NBC to drive this plan to completion to avoid the ITU sanctions and to free up the frequencies for use by the telecom industry. Completion of this plan will therefore play a big role in enabling the broadband plan. It is important also for both of them to start developing plans to adequately utilise the digital dividend spectrum. These plans need to be developed now, to ensure that the spectrum is appropriately auctioned and effectively utilised as soon as possible, once it becomes available to help advance our national broadband agenda.

What in your views are the likely downsides for Nigeria’s non-completion of the 2.6GHz spectrum auction?

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently suspended the auction of the 2.6GHz spectrum due to administrative challenges. This spectrum is set aside for the provision of advanced wireless broadband services. The advantages of this spectrum are numerous. They include, high spectral efficiency and throughput, global standardisation, and therefore better economies of scale and high capacity. These advantages make this spectrum highly desirable to telecoms operators, and therefore the Government must drive the completion of the auction process in order to deliver on the promise of the broadband plan. Furthermore, completion of this auction will help ensure a competitive environment in addition to widespread broadband at economic prices.

The poor quality of service is persisting in the telecom services market. Do you think this can be overcome by operators?

Since the inception of GSM mobile telephony in Nigeria about 14 years ago, Nigerian subscribers have complained about service quality issues. Complaints include frequently dropped calls, network unavailability, undelivered messages, as well as poor call quality. These problems have been exacerbated by the fact that there are no widely available alternatives to mobile telephony in the country, due to a limited number of fixed line connections. On the other hand, mobile operators have blamed a myriad of technical and environmental issues for the poor service quality. These include, lack of regular power supply, vandalism and theft of network infrastructure, insecurity in certain parts of the country, and over regulation. In a bid to address the concerns of telecoms operators, the NCC has announced that the Critical Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Infrastructure Bill which has been sponsored by the Federal Government will be passed before the end of the year. This bill is expected to put mechanisms in place to ensure that Telecoms Infrastructure all around the country are identified as an important national asset and protected.

This bill will also seek to prevent all cases of vandalism by criminals and terrorists as well as other issues such as the denial of access to overhaul or upgrade BTS sites by local residents. It is important to ensure the prompt passage of this bill to help improve service quality challenges. In addition to passing the critical ICT infrastructure bill, it is also important to put in place adequate business continuity arrangements for all critical infrastructure to ensure adequate resilience, recovery capabilities and contingencies. Protection of critical infrastructure alone is insufficient and important to create a national ICT business continuity plan, which will examine all critical infrastructure, determine our recovery capabilities and put in place the necessary contingencies to assure recovery within required timelines. This business continuity plan must be frequently exercised to ensure that new risks are discovered, and that recovery and contingency measures are sufficient.

Also, in order to provide additional coverage and capacity, operators and tower companies need to deploy additional base stations quickly. This is a cost intensive and time consuming process, which is complicated by the fact that operators currently face multiple regulatory hurdles and taxes. These include national regulations such as Environmental Impact Assessment regulations, as well as state and local government regulations. There is a pressing need to address the issue of excessive regulations as well as multiple taxation at the federal and state levels and as well as at the local government level as these regulations and charges increase the cost and time taken to deploy services, which makes resolving quality of service challenges and meeting our national objectives difficult. The NCC has monitored the quality of service provided by mobile operators and has on several occasions’ sanctioned operators for breaching QoS targets. However, these sanctions alone are not enough. The government must work to address the challenges facing mobile operators in order to create a stable operating environment and also commit the operators to certain level of capital investments.

Why do you think we are having issues with subscriber biometric registration?

In 2011, the NCC directed all telecoms operators to begin registering SIM cards and collecting biometric information from all subscribers. All subscribers were subsequently advised to register their SIM cards or face disconnection. A few months ago the NCC gave the directive to all operators to disconnect all unregistered subscribers. This process caused a lot of complaints from subscribers as several subscribers who had already registered were disconnected. While the biometric registration exercise is a good initiative, it is necessary to ensure that all biometric data is adequately verified and harmonised. Steps must be taken by the operators and NCC to verify and cleanse each biometric date to ensure completeness and accuracy.

What do you think could be done to accelerate technology innovation in Nigeria?

No practical example better underscores the power of technology innovation than Estonia. According to the Economist, when Estonia regained its independence in 1991, less than half of its population had a telephone line and it had very limited links to the outside work. 25 years later, it is a world leader in technology. It has created several technology startups, its software developers created the software behind Skype and it even has developed a program to teach five year olds the basics of computer programming. Today technology industries account for 15 per cent of Estonia’s GDP. The Estonian example shows that it is possible to use IT as a catalyst for rapid growth. The Nigerian government must create an enabling environment to foster sustainable growth and development of the IT sector. The development of technology hubs such as the Information Technology Developers Entrepreneurship Accelerator, iDEA, must continue to be encouraged. The government must encourage the industry to promote, build, incubate and partner in the development and realisation of IT innovation hubs. In-addition, government support is required in the roll-out of awareness campaigns on IT Innovation coupled with government commitment towards funding some these hubs to catalyse private sector funding.

Scientists make historical discovery predicted by Einstein

In a landmark discovery for physics and astronomy, scientists said Thursday they have glimpsed the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time that Albert Einstein predicted a century ago.

When two black holes collided some 1.3 billion years ago, the joining of those two great masses sent forth a wobble that hurtled through space and reached Earth on September 14, 2015, when it was picked up by sophisticated instruments, researchers announced.

“Up until now we have been deaf to gravitational waves, but today, we are able to hear them,” said David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, at a packed press conference in the US capital.

Reitze and colleagues compared the magnitude of the discovery to Galileo’s use of the telescope four centuries ago to open the era of modern astronomy.

“I think we are doing something equally important here today. I think we are opening a window on the universe,” Reitze said.

The phenomenon was observed by two US-based underground detectors, designed to pick up tiny vibrations from passing gravitational waves, a project known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO.

It took scientists months to verify their data and put it through a process of peer-review before announcing it on Thursday, marking the culmination of decades of efforts by teams around the world including some 1,000 scientists from 16 countries, according to the National Science Foundation, which funded the research.

Gravitational waves are a measure of strain in space, an effect of the motion of large masses that stretches the fabric of space-time — a way of viewing space and time as a single, interweaved continuum.

They travel at the speed of light and cannot be stopped or blocked by anything.

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As part of his theory of general relativity, Einstein said space-time could be compared to a net, bowing under the weight of an object.

When objects with mass accelerate, such as when two black holes spiral towards each other, they send gravitational waves out around them at the speed of light, like ripples emanating from a pebble thrown in a pond.

The strongest waves are caused by the most cataclysmic processes known to mankind — black holes coalescing, massive stars exploding, or the very birth of the Universe some 13.8 billion years ago.

While scientists have previously been able to calculate gravitational waves, they had never before seen one directly.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) David Shoemaker, the leader of the Advanced LIGO team, it looked just like physicists thought it would.

“The waveform that we can calculate based on Einstein’s theory of 1916 matches exactly what we observed in 2015,” Shoemaker told AFP.

“It looked like a chirp, it looked at something that started at low frequencies — for us low frequencies means 20 or 30 hertz, that’s like the lowest note on a bass guitar, sweeping very rapidly up over just a fraction of a second… up to 150 hertz or so, sort of near middle C on a piano.”

The chirp “corresponded to the orbit of these two black holes getting smaller and smaller, and the speed of the two objects going faster and faster until the two became a single object,” he explained.

“And then right at the end of this waveform, we see the wobbling of the final black hole as if it were made of jelly as it settled into a static state.”

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The L-shaped LIGO detectors — each about 2.5 miles (four kilometers) long — were conceived and built by researchers at MIT and Caltech.

One is located in Hanford, Washington, and the other is in Livingston, Louisiana. A third advanced detector, called VIRGO, is scheduled to open in Italy later this year. Others are planned for Japan and India in the coming years.

Tuck Stebbins, head of the gravitational astrophysics laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, described the LIGO detector as the “one of the most complex machines built by humans.”

Physicists said the gravitational wave detected at 1651 GMT on September 14 originated in the last fraction of a second before the fusion of two black holes somewhere in the southern sky, though they can’t say precisely where.

An analysis by the MIT and Caltech found that the black holes joined about 1.3 billion years ago, and their mass was 29-36 times greater than the Sun.

The wave arrived first at the Louisiana detector, then at the Washington instrument 7.1 milliseconds later.

The two instruments are 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) apart, and since both made the same reading, scientists consider their discovery confirmed.

Accolades poured in from across the science world, as experts hailed a discovery that will help better understand the universe.

“This is one of the major moments in astronomy. It’s completely transformational,” said Alberto Vecchio, professor of astrophysics at the University of Birmingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy.

“This expands hugely the way we can observe the cosmos, and the kinds of physics and astrophysics we can do,” said professor Sheila Rowan, Director of the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research.

Abhay Ashtekar, director of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos at Penn State University, described the discovery as “breathtaking” and said it “will stand out among the major achievements of 21st-century science.”

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Andrew Coates, professor of physics at University College London, said it was “up there with the Higgs boson, the mass of the neutrino, discovery of the electron, electromagnetism, the Copernican revolution and Newton’s laws.”

“We can now listen to the universe rather than just look at it,” said professor B S Sathyaprakash of Cardiff University. “This window turns on the soundtrack for the universe.”

Indirect proof of gravitational waves was found in 1974 through the study of a pulsar and a neutron star. Scientists Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor won the Nobel Prize for physics for that work in 1993.

Pope Francis, Russian patriarch kiss at historic meeting

Pope Francis, Russian patriarch kiss at historic meeting

Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill kissed each other and sat down Friday for the first meeting between heads of the Eastern and Western churches in nearly a thousand years.

The 79-year-old Francis, in white robes and a skullcap, and Kirill, 69, in black robes and a white headdress, exchanged kisses and embraced before sitting down smiling for the historic meeting at Havana airport.

“At last we meet. We are brothers,” said the pope as they met. “Clearly this meeting is God’s will.”

The Argentine pontiff is looking to heal a nearly 1,000-year-old rift in Christianity that dates back to a 1054 schism which helped shape modern Europe and the Middle East.

Francis stepped off a plane in the sunshine and shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro on the tarmac at Jose Marti Airport before heading into the private meeting with Kirill.

The white-bearded Orthodox leader was also greeted by the 84-year-old Castro after arriving on Thursday.

The two church leaders were due to meet for about two hours and then to sign a joint declaration on the contemporary persecution of Christians in places such as Iraq and Syria.

Francis then embarks on a tour of Mexico while Kirill continues a visit to Cuba, Brazil and Paraguay.

The meeting on neutral ground – hosted by the communist, atheist Cuban leadership – was decades in the planning, with the final obstacles swept away by the pope’s determination and global politics.

Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has pushed to make the Vatican a more active player in international diplomacy.

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“I just wanted to embrace my Orthodox brothers,” he said in an interview this week.

But he also framed the encounter in a broader context of engaging Russia, saying Moscow could be an important partner for peace in the world.

Francis has twice received Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican. The Russian leader has clashed with other powers recently over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

“In the background there is a third player,” Vatican expert Marco Politi wrote in a blog, referring to Putin’s influence at Friday’s meeting.

“It would be naive to believe the sudden availability of the patriarch is unrelated to the geopolitical situation Russia finds itself in at the moment,” he argued, in a reference to Russia’s intervention in Syria.

A spokesman for the Orthodox church in Moscow insisted however there was no political agenda behind the meeting.

Spokesman Alexander Volkov said he hoped it would open the door to “new prospects of mutual cooperation,” but that reunification of the Eastern and Western churches was not on the agenda.

Despite the breakthrough of a face-to-face meeting, Vatican-Orthodox relations remain strained.

The Orthodox Church’s refusal to accept the primacy of the Roman pontiff has long been the primary barrier to a rapprochement.

Now there are tensions over the perceived evangelism of the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe.

The conflict in Ukraine has pitted Ukrainian Catholics loyal to Rome against separatists who are mostly Russian Orthodox.

Francis’s arrival in Mexico on Friday evening was set to be a luminous affair, with hundreds of thousands of well-wishers expected to line the 12-mile (19-kilometer) route from the airport to the Vatican ambassador’s residence in Mexico City.

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The plan is for believers to light up the road Francis’ popemobile will travel with their mobile phones or hand-held torches, creating what local organizer Roberto Delgado described as a “wall of light and prayer.”

To underline his commitment to the plight of migrants fleeing persecution and poverty, Francis’ schedule will take in trips to Mexico’s southern and northern borders.

Mexico is home to the second-largest Catholic community in the world after Brazil.

The papal visit there comes a day after a prison riot left 49 inmates dead in the north of Mexico.

On Wednesday in Ciudad Juarez, on the border with the United States, Francis will deliver an open-air mass.

Worshippers on the other side of the border, close to the Texas town of El Paso, will also be able to follow it.

Francis has said the most emotional moment for him will come with Saturday’s visit to the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

HSBC may move jobs if Britain leaves EU

HSBC may move jobs if Britain leaves EU

London – HSBC could switch up to 1 000 jobs to Paris if Britain votes to exit the EU in the forthcoming referendum.

Announcing its decision to stay in London after an exhaustive 10-month review, which included taking advice from former US secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger, its chairman, Douglas Flint, said the “best answer” for the bank was for the UK to stay put in a reformed EU.

But failing that, it would have the option to switch jobs away from the City. Stuart Gulliver, the chief executive, said that could mean 1 000 people moving. Roles affected would be in the corporate and investment bank which remains outside the ring-fenced retail bank, headquartered in Birmingham.

Other banks have been working on similar contingency plans.

HSBC, which employs 45 000 people in the UK, said the decision taken by its 19-member board to remain headquartered in London had been a unanimous one.

The City faced a stiff challenge from Hong Kong, with Singapore and even Toronto mentioned as possible alternatives. Mr Flint, who could be replaced within the next two years along with Mr Gulliver, said the decision was based on a “generational view”.

That view and the end of the process – completed at an estimated cost of £30m – means there will be no repeat of the three-yearly review.

The bank’s shares finished the day up by a modest 6p at 446.4p, despite analysts at Investec describing the decision as “widely expected but regrettable”. They said the bank’s statement “offers little justification for the decision”, which would leave HSBC “trapped in the EU” and weighed down by higher capital requirements than those of its international peers because of UK regulation.

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Others were more supportive: “It would have been a bloody big job to move,” said Hugh Young, managing director of Aberdeen Asia Management, one of HSBC’s top 10 investors. The decision was hailed as an endorsement and a vote of confidence by both the Treasury and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

During the period of HSBC’s review, the banking levy was reformed, a regime designed to hold senior bankers to account was softened, and a review into banking culture was dropped.

Mr Flint has denied that there were direct were negotiations with Government on these issues but said: “A levy based on an international balance sheet was a disincentive for a global group, and we made that point… It was good to see that the scope… changed to being a domestic impost, and that was important.”

Gerard Lyons, economic adviser to London’s mayor, said: “The unanimous decision by the HSBC board is a clear endorsement of London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre.”

Oil prices rebound in Asia, US crude back above $30

Oil prices recovered in Asia on Monday after a steep fall in the previous session, with US crude back above $30 a barrel as traders mulled the impact of a potential freeze by key producers. Crude spiked sharply last week after major exporters held talks on a potential agreement to reduce a global supply glut that has dragged prices to their lowest levels in nearly 13 years this month. Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top crude producers, have agreed to limit production if others followed suit. But crude resumed its downtrend Friday as traders fretted the deal would not gain traction, with analysts cautioning that Iraq and Iran, which is ramping up output after sanctions were lifted, had shown little support. News commercial oil stockpiles in the US, the world’s top oil consumer, continued to build up added to the pressure. At around 0630 GMT Monday, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in March was up 41 cents, or 1.38 percent, at $30.05. Global benchmark, Brent, for April advanced 38 cents, or 1.15 percent, to $33.39 a barrel. Sanjeev Gupta, who heads the Asia Pacific oil and gas practice at EY, predicted oil prices would remain under pressure and said he sees “little evidence of any relief from the oversupply”. The market will now be “looking for clues on the outlook for crude oil demand from the manufacturing and service sector data from the US and Europe that will be released this week,” he added. Still, Capital Economics said even if the producer talks did not lead to an agreement “they may be the first indication of willingness to act to prevent prices falling further”. “A sustained recovery may require something more substantial, but for now at least oil prices appear to have found a floor,” it said.

Agents can drive microinsurance, says Anchor boss

The Managing Director, Anchor Insurance Company Limited, Mr. Ademayowa Adeduro, has said that insurance agents are relevant channels that can take microinsurance to the grass roots.

He said this during a get together party of the company, where the firm rewarded its outstanding agents and employees with gifts in Lagos.

“The agents are in a best position to sell insurance because people come to them like the artisans and motorcyclists who have to pick up insurance at low premium and they can sustain their business,” he said.

He said the annual event was part of its visions for insurance penetration in Nigeria to sell insurance to every Nigerian, adding that this sector was an area of growth for the country.

Adeduro worried that many industries were closing instead of new ones coming up while many house collapses were still been recorded.

According to him, insurance has a cogent role to play in boosting economic activities in the country.

The managing director said the company had been able to sustain a rewarding relationship with the agents, adding that this group contributed about 23 per cent to its gross premium and 40 per cent to its profitability.

He noted that the company still remained a major player in oil and gas business and was underwriting major risks in the country.

The insurer said the 2016 budget of the country was a promising one for insurance sector because it would play relevant roles in the capital and recurrent expenditures.

He also observed that the insurance regulator was enlightening the MDAs on the need to have insurance desks and do their insurances well.

Adeduro disclosed that the firm obtained licence for microinsurance last year and had done recruitment to develop it.

Union Assurance changes name to Ensure Insurance

Union Assurance Company Plc says it has obtained the approval of the Corporate Affairs Commission and the National Insurance Commission to formally change its brand identity to Ensure Insurance Plc.

The company said in a statement, “The brand known as Union Assurance Company Plc is now ‘rested’ and in its stead is a selfless, responsive, innovative and ambitious brand now known as Ensure Insurance Plc.”

“Our clients will ‘ensure’ that in the event of an accident, death, loss of property, business interruption, product recall, property damage and all other risks and hazards, which we accept to carry on their behalf, we shall make certain that their claims will be paid and restored in a responsive and selfless manner,” it stated.

The firm said this new brand was coming with a talented team of insurance practitioners and experienced personnel drawn from the Nigerian and global firms such as Toyota, Mckinsey and Swiss-Re.

In the quest to be different, the firm stated that it was the first company to secure regulatory approval for a motor product that could settle motor accident claims within 24 hours.

“Ensure is also the first company to offer steep discounts for safer drivers. All female drivers and male drivers above 45 years of age can enjoy an additional 15 per cent discount on their insurance premiums,” it stated.

According to the executive team at Ensure, the insurance landscape will witness a much more competitive and innovative brand in 2016 and insurance consumers will benefit more from buying insurance.

NITEL, MTEL pensioners cry out over 10 years’ unpaid pension

NITEL, MTEL pensioners cry out over 10 years’ unpaid pension

Pensioners of the defunct Nigeria Telecommunication Limited (NITEL) and its mobile arm, Mobile Telecommunications (MTEL) have cried out to President Muhammadu Buhari to end their 10 years of suffering by paying their pension benefits.

The pensioners numbering over 2000 said previous administrations have failed to pay their pension since former President, Olusegun Obasanjo sold and dissolved the organisation in 2006.

Chairman, NITEL, MTEL pensioners, Iko Edem who made the call at a meeting held in Lagos, said previous administrations have not been fair to them. He however, expressed confidence in the administration of President Buhari.

He said they have met with the present officials of the Federal Government and they have shown sympathy to them, adding that following their agitations, government paid them them five years pension as pay off which they rejected.

He said: “Our appeal is to the present government and we believe that they are listening to us. They told us that they feel a lot of injustice has been done to us and that they are looking into the matter. We have representatives in Abuja that is meeting with government and they are advising us on steps to take.

“We made approaches to the past governments to no avail, only to be paid off five years pension right. We rejected it and sued government at an Abuja High court and won. The Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) that sold NITEL went to court to appeal the judgment against us and won. We proceeded to the Supreme Court because we were not satisfied and this is the situation as at today.

“It has not been easy for us at the Supreme Court because of the many cases at the Court. Presently, the attention of government is on political cases and that is why they have not heard our case up till now.  We filed our case in May last year and up till now they have not even heard us. But our lawyer has advised us to also go political and to do this; we have to work with the government.

“The present officials of government have sympatised with us. Many of us for instance, served for 35 years. By the constitution of this country, once you have served in any institution, you are entitled to pension for life. It is however, unfair for any government to stop our pensions and ask us to go for life. We are the only pensioners that government asked to go away with five years pension. There are other cases. They initially stopped our pension and when we protested, they paid us five years without negotiating with anyone of us. This is unacceptable to us.”

He stressed that pensioners who served for 35 years or retired voluntarily after 10 years are supposed to earn pension for life, adding that those who were exited from the service and have served 10 years in NITEL are also qualified for pensions.

He noted that they are open for negotiation if they don’t want to pay them pension for life.

We know the conditions for pay off which is that you either pay us 25 years pension salary or negotiate with us and whatever the two parties agree will be binding on us.