Jamaica Observer http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/ JamaicaObserver.com, the most concise and in-depth website for news coverage on Jamaica and the Caribbean. Updated daily 7 days a week, 24 hours a day en-us copyright Jamaica Observer, 2011 Seprod moves for milk industry shake-up http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Seprod-moves-for-milk-industry-shake-up_90250 BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com Chief executive officer of Seprod Ltd, Richard Pandohie is prepared to invest $180 million in a drive to revitalise Jamaica&rsquo;s dairy industry &mdash; but is calling for Government to create the framework for a viable sector. <br /> <br /> According to Pandohie, a private-public sector partnership plan &mdash; similar to the models adopted by the island&rsquo;s pork and poultry industry &mdash; is what is needed to support talks by the Government that by 2020 the dairy industry will reduce Jamaica&rsquo;s annual dairy import bill by $3.01 billion, and add approximately 1,300 jobs to the agriculture and manufacturing sector. <br /> <br /> In a round-table conversation with the Jamaica Observer on Monday, the CEO pointed out that Seprod will invest $145 million in a heifer redeployment programme over the next three years to kick-start the revitalisation drive, in line with the Jamaica Dairy Development Board&rsquo;s (JDDB) programme. The remaining sum will be spent on trucks for collection from farmers, scholarships and internship programmes. <br /> <br /> Seprod&rsquo;s return on investment will come from the milk produced by local farmers. The company hopes to provide 500 pregnant heifers to established dairy farmers. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Essentially, the model we are looking to follow is like the pork and poultry. Jamaica is now self-sufficient in both because of investments made in the industry. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are prepared to take on that upfront, financial burden of the farmers and would give the farmers pregnant heifers which would cost roughly $120,000, and only when they start producing milk will we then take the milk and use part of it as payment for the animal and the rest towards other investment on the farms,&rdquo; Pandohie reasoned. <br /> <br /> Ultimately, the dairy industry is targeting 24 million litres of milk production by the year 2020, up from 12.7 million litres produced in 2016. It also means that the industry needs to grow by at least 2,100 milk-producing cows over the next three years. <br /> <br /> But Pandohie is adamant that any effort by industry players could prove futile if the Government does not take swift action in putting proper infrastructure in place to support the industry growth. <br /> <br /> Seprod is now calling on the Government to put in place and monitor an appropriate regulatory framework to help in safeguarding and stimulating the growth requirement to satisfy the objectives of and preserve the domestic market, or the wider Caricom market.<br /> <br /> Chief among the nuisances is the need to place a volume cap on milk powder imported for repackaging and reducing this cap each time the fresh milk production increases.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There is a misguided policy on getting cheaper food and so the policy decision around it was liberalised, which literally devastated the industry from 40 million to 12 million litres today; hundreds of farmers and we are now down to under 150 farmers. Prices have been coming back up on milk. There is a demand, especially since the launch of the Drink Real Milk campaign, and we are saying now is the time to get going,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> Pandohie added that the high incidence of cattle larceny impacts not only current farmers but serves as a disincentive for potential partners, as well as competition from incorrectly labelled products purporting to be milk allowing Canadian manufacturers to enter the market without paying cess. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It must be mandated that they pay cess and rectify their labelling to reflect the correct description. Almond milk is 90 per cent water and should be labelled almond beverage. A similar argument applies to soya milk,&rdquo; the CEO said. <br /> <br /> There is also a call to increase the number of Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) officers, veterinarians and qualified, trained personnel to impregnate animals. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve started because we don&rsquo;t have time. We will continue to partner with companies from the Drink Real Milk campaign and we have also begun engaging farmers. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Where we need the assurance is on things that we don&rsquo;t have control of, like policy decisions and government resources. But we are hopeful that in the budget presentation Minister Samuda will announce investment in RADA and more livestock farmers to drive agriculture,&rdquo; he said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660618/260054_86513_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM BOJ working to make savings more attractive in J$ than US$ http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/BOJ-working-to-make-savings-more-attractive-in-J--than-US-_90322 BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com Jamaicans&rsquo; appetite to invest in US currency has driven the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) to increase its holdings on the foreign currency deposits of financial institutions, thus creating a disincentive for the banks to take deposits in any other currency but the Jamaican dollar. <br /> <br /> The BOJ adjustment means that individuals seeking to hedge against the sliding local currency by saving in foreign currencies will &mdash; effective march 2017 &mdash; no longer see the returns they were once offered by the banks on deposits prior to October last year. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;That appetite to buy US dollars pretty much by everybody meant that they&rsquo;ve got dollars sitting in bank accounts and there is nothing much that people can do with it because there is not a lot of demand for the dollar. The current account deficit in Jamaica has narrowed so much that when you take account of the imports...we actually have more foreign exchange coming in than people want,&rdquo; Governor Brian Wynter stated during a quarterly press briefing yesterday.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a very unusual situation for Jamaica, but I want to stress that that&rsquo;s been the case over the last two years and we project for that to continue into the medium term. That&rsquo;s one of the reasons we say the exchange rate is fairly valued,&rdquo; he continued. <br /> <br /> On Monday the BOJ announced that it is implementing a three-percentage-point adjustment in the cash reserves and liquid assets that deposit-taking institutions are required to hold against foreign currency liabilities. The adjustment will be in two steps, beginning with an increase of two percentage points on the first business day in March 2017, while the remaining one percentage point will be on the first business day in April 2017. <br /> <br /> According to Wynter, the adjustment is aimed at removing the bias that the financial system favoured foreign currency deposits. It is viewed by the BOJ as positive because deposits in Jamaican dollars will now be favoured by the banks. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;The banks basically have got into this position because of this appetite that Jamaicans have had to dollarise. If they have Jamaican dollars, they try to buy US dollars; nobody cared what they were earning in many respects because they were protecting themselves from this devaluation fear.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It was rampant last year. If you recall, despite our repeated statement that the exchange rate was fairly valued. Nevertheless, it was very clear during the year that there was a fear on devaluation, and this fed on itself until we took some stronger actions towards the end of October so that you see in November, December a reversal of that mood and into February now,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> Wynter added that the fear of devaluation had led a financial system flush with foreign currency deposits, with banks nowhere near able to lend the quantity that they borrow &mdash; which left money sitting abroad in accounts earning very little interest rates.<br /> <br /> The BOJ then began the adjustment last October when cash reserves for US dollar deposits stood at nine per cent, while the Jamaican currency reserve was 12 per cent, making deposits in the US currency more attractive. It sought to rectify the issue when it raised the cash reserve liabilities on US currency to equalise with the 12 per cent for Jamaican dollars, while removing the interest paid on foreign currency reserves held. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Having removed that bias in a steady way, we had indicated that we were considering going further on the US dollar cash reserves, hence this step now,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> It means that, as of April, cash reserves requirement on foreign currencies will move to 15 per cent &mdash; a total increase of six percentage points, or six cents more in every dollar, compared to October last year. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660735/260109_86520_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Agriculture tops real sector growth again http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Agriculture-tops-real-sector-growth-again_90286 BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com Once again, the combination of agriculture, forestry and fishing was the sector which grew the most in the December 2016 quarter, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) indicates in its quarterly Monetary Report (QMPR) which was released yesterday.<br /> <br /> The food and forest-based industries topped real sector growth, delivering an increase in the range of 17.5 to 18 per cent and contributing 52 per cent to growth in the goods sector.<br /> <br /> Overall, the BOJ estimates that the Jamaican economy expanded within the range of 1.0 per cent to 2.0 per cent in the December 2016 quarter, representing the eighth consecutive quarter of growth. All industries are estimated to have grown, excluding manufacturing, mining and quarrying and producers of government services.<br /> <br /> The goods sector under which agriculture is categorised contributed 63.4 per cent to this expansion in GDP, growing in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 per cent. The services sector, comprising the remainder, grew in the range of 0.5 per cent.<br /> <br /> The pace of expansion in the tradable sectors of the economy was faster than that for the non-tradable sectors, reflecting continued positive performance in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing and Hotels and Restaurants.<br /> <br /> Non-tradable industries include Construction, Electricity, Gas & Water, Finance & Insurance Services, Real Estate, Renting& Business. <br /> <br /> According to the BOJ, for the fourth consecutive quarter, agriculture, forest and fisheries recorded &ldquo;robust growth, reflective of favourable weather conditions as well as various support initiatives by the Government and private interests.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The December quarter saw an increase in output in domestic agriculture, traditional export crop production and animal farming, the central bank said, with the expansion in domestic agriculture primarily attributed to growth in vegetables and root crops.<br /> <br /> Growth in traditional export crops reflected increases in coffee, cocoa and banana exports, while the increase in animal farming reflected growth in chicken and egg production.<br /> <br /> No other sector is estimated to have grown above 2.5 per cent. The BOJ said Electricity & Water Supply, which grew in the range of 1.5 to 2.5 per cent, was mainly driven by the relatively low cost of energy. The growth in water production reflected increased rainfall relative to a year earlier, which was also higher than the 30-year average for that period.<br /> <br /> Expansion in construction, which grew 0.5 per cent, the BOJ said, was mainly influenced by hotel construction and housing developments by the National Housing Trust (NHT), partly offset by a decline in road construction activities. The spike in NHT housing starts is predominantly related to the start-up of the Friendship housing development in St James, where 1,500 units are expected to be constructed. <br /> <br /> Mining and Quarrying is estimated to have fallen between 4.5 to 5.5 per cent for the December 2016 quarter, reflecting contractions in both alumina and crude bauxite production.<br /> <br /> The central bank said the declines largely reflected lower than anticipated capacity utilisation due to maintenance shutdowns and the change of management at one plant. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660558/260063_86516_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Iron Rock performs above expectations &mdash; Evan Thwaites http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Iron-Rock-performs-above-expectations---Evan-Thwaites BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com Evan Thwaites, managing director of new property insurance company IronRock Insurance Ltd, indicates that directors are pleased with the 2016 results, having weathered the first year in operation with losses which were lower than expected. <br /> <br /> Thwaites told the Jamaica Observer that in the new financial year the company is expecting significant revenue growth with plans to compete fairly aggressively in the property and motor markets.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Christian Watt has joined us in the position of general manager for Marketing and Production, and he will be driving our marketing and advertising campaigns to ensure that we are properly introduced to the insuring public.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;He will also have oversight of our distribution channels and be responsible for the roll-out of our technology platforms throughout all channels,&rdquo; he stated. Iron Rock was incorporated June 9, 2015. In March 2016 the company raised $315 million via IPO and listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. <br /> <br /> After expenses and investment outlay, losses at December were reported at $46.5 million. Notes attached to the year&rsquo;s financials state that at the end of the first year, December 31, 2016, gross written premium amounted to $127.3 million with net written premium totalling $46.5 million. <br /> <br /> Operating expenses at $91 million and claims incurred of $1.9 million were well below projections, whilst underwriting loss was $80 million. With other income of $31.8 million, the company recorded a pre-tax loss of $48.2 million. <br /> <br /> The results do not include any provision for actuarial reserves, which the report said will be accounted for when the actuary&rsquo;s report is received. <br /> <br /> Thwaites told the Business Observer, &ldquo;We are actually quite pleased with the result, as the loss ended up lower than our projections. This was in large part due to operational expenses coming in below budget, claims being lower than budgeted, and foreign exchange gains.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;As a start-up insurance company, it was essential to manage our growth very carefully, so that we could properly serve our new customer base. Last year, we placed significant focus on ensuring that our processes were seamless and as efficient as possible. Of course, we also incurred significant start-up costs.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Also, we were not fully operational until March 2015 (after our successful IPO), and being greenfield, our unearned premium adjustments had a significant impact on our net earned premium.&rdquo; He said that while &mdash; like other companies &mdash; the fledgling insurer was feeling the impact of competition, management had a strategy for increasing clientele based primarily on cost engagement. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Like all other companies, we are experiencing severe competition due to the very soft market, characterised by some of the lowest rates Jamaica has seen in over two decades. <br /> <br /> Our property loss ratio has been excellent, even with the close call of Hurricane Matthew last year. &ldquo;Although there have been several significant losses in the market, eg, the fire at Wisynco and the Marcus Garvey Drive floods, the market is expected to remain soft for the next 18-24 months, barring some major catastrophe,&rdquo; he outlined. <br /> <br /> Thwaites said that for the customer, &ldquo;it is a great time to buy property insurance. Consumers are benefiting significantly from reduced rates and premiums, and we expect that these conditions will result in better market penetration in the near future.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> The Managing Director noted that as a start-up, it was important for the company to grow &ldquo;responsibly, and to ensure that we can fulfil our most important role, which is to pay claims. We therefore will continue to be very diligent in selecting the size and scope of risks that we target. <br /> <br /> Using our technology platforms, we will improve service, improve risk assessment, and provide cost efficiencies that will ultimately provide consumers with a more competitive and affordable product.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> He continued, &ldquo;So far, our results have been in line with our projections, and given the expected revenue growth, we anticipate a significantly improved result at the end of this year. <br /> <br /> We will continue to employ our strategies of careful risk selection, prudent underwriting and of course, maximising efficiencies through the use of technology.&rdquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13661767/ZZ4F01FA99_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 3:49 AM UDC refloats incentives for urban renewal projects http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/UDC-refloats-incentives-for-urban-renewal-projects_89054 BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com While the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) is advertising a very large slate of projects &mdash; including many targeted at urban renewal with incentives as a drawing card &mdash; local companies are still waiting for the green light so they can make use of the benefits.<br /> <br /> New UDC General manager Dr Damian Graham, speaking at the recent Investments and Capital Markets Conference put on by the Jamaica Stock Exchange, said the state development agency is seeking investors with the financial resources, development experience and management expertise for billions in assets which it owns and some of which it intends to sell outright.<br /> <br /> Major projects exist in downtown Kingston; Runaway Bay, St Ann; Montego Bay; and Portmore, St Catherine, for which partners are being sought.<br /> <br /> On offer by the development agency are a range of incentives which are intended to improve returns for investors. Among them are an investment tax credit of 33.3 per cent on capital sums invested, tax-free rental income, exemption from transfer tax and stamp duty, and tax-free urban renewal bonds.<br /> <br /> The benefits were suspended towards the second half of the previous International Monetary Fund programme as the government sought to cut revenue losses in line with tight fiscal objectives.<br /> <br /> However, the UDC is now building its hopes of viable public/private partnerships (PPP) on the tax benefits as a drawing card.<br /> <br /> Three years ago GraceKennedy (GK) purchased lands from the UDC in downtown Kingston with an eye on such incentives. Projects include the new GK headquarters &mdash; to be completed at a cost of around US$25 million and slated for completion in 2017.<br /> <br /> On Thursday, group CEO of GraceKennedy Ltd Don Wehby said the company was in the process of formally applying to the UDC, following other approaches made more than a year ago. <br /> <br /> Having made large investment outlays, Wehby is keeping his fingers crossed that the incentives will be approved.<br /> <br /> The headquarters is being constructed on a 48,000-square-foot plot of land acquired from the UDC and will house GK business units with space for rental for offices and retail entities. The plan is centred on land located in a zone identified as suffering from urban blight.<br /> <br /> GK was previously successful with its application for GK Foods & Services Ltd, which benefited from the tax incentives available under the Urban Renewal Act in 2009 when they constructed their distribution centre at Salt Pond Road in Spanish Town. Now Wehby hopes that the company&rsquo;s downtown project will be equally successful.<br /> <br /> Wehby told the Jamaica Observer, &ldquo;This forms an integral part of the justification to develop our new headquarters downtown. We also plan in the future to do further development and the Urban Renewal (Tax Relief) act will be critical for us to justify the investment from a financial rate of return.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Dr Graham, UDC head, indicated that most of its PPP projects were located in downtown Kingston, and soon new bids will be invited for them from private sector developers. Included among them is a five-tower 8-storey mixed-use complex comprising condominium apartments, commercial space on the street level, 114 parking spaces, with a gross area of approximately 189,000 sq ft. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660740/259996_86500_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Jamaica set for second draw down from IMF http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-set-for-second-draw-down-from-IMF_90285 BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com Jamaica is poised to receive a second draw down of US$170 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the Precautionary StandBy Arrangement.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Andrew Holness met yesterday with the team from the IMF which is currently conducting the first review under the arrangement with the Fund.<br /> <br /> On completion of the review, the drawdown will bring to total that will be available to the Bank of Jamaica to manage shocks that could create risks to an investor to US$600 million.<br /> <br /> Speaking at a BOJ quarterly press conference yesterday, Governor Brain Wynter said the bank&rsquo;s assessment indicates that all of the quantitative performance criteria and the structural benchmarks for the review period have been met.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This includes the target for non-borrowed reserves, also inflation target range of one per cent and nine per cent under the SBA. The out turn for December 2016 at 1.7 per cent sits comfortably within that range,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> Nonetheless, inflation is expected to trend up over the March 2017 quarter to end the fiscal year somewhat below the target range of 4.5 per cent to 6.5 per cent. <br /> <br /> For the fiscal year 2017/18, inflation is projected to range between four per cent and six per cent as price pressures to remain subdued at an average of approximately 0.4 per cent per month, similar to the monthly inflation in the last few months. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/9067560/ZZ65D87EB8_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM BOJ projects oil price stability for 2017 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/BOJ-projects-oil-price-stability-for-2017_90234 BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com Local manufacturers and other sectors impacted by oil prices can factor into their planning a year of stability, according to the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) in its latest Quarterly Monetary Policy Report (QMPR).<br /> <br /> The BOJ projection &mdash; referencing the US Energy Information Administration&rsquo;s (EIA) January 2017 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) which estimates that excess supplies will persist for most of 2017 and 2018 &mdash; is that notwithstanding the coordinated attempts to curb supplies to the market, &ldquo;global petroleum and other liquid inventory will continue to increase, and oil prices are likely to stabilise significantly below US$60 per barrel.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> It indicates as well that a major contributor to this projected buoyancy in global oil supplies is the response of shale gas production to oil prices.<br /> <br /> As outlined in the QMPR, &ldquo;According to Rystad Energy&rsquo;s July 2016 North American Shale Report, average shale wellhead break-even prices were below US$40/bbl and most commercial wells exhibited break-even prices between US$25/bbl and US$30/bbl in 2016.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Against this background, the BOJ noted, Baker Hughes reported a continued increase in weekly oil and gas rig counts since June 2016 when prices averaged US$48.85/bbl. The increase in rig counts is expected to continue in a context where oil prices appear to have stabilised above the break-even levels. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;In the context of the expected continued response of shale gas to the relatively elevated level of oil prices, Bank of Jamaica&rsquo;s assessment is that prices should average US$52.04/bbl in FY2017/18 and US$56.20/bbl in FY2018/19. Prices are projected to average US$48.06/bbl in FY2016/17,&rdquo; the central bank concluded. <br /> <br /> It noted that the forecast is supported by the EIA&rsquo;s projections that prices will average US$52.50/bbl in 2017 and US$55.18/bbl in 2018.<br /> <br /> Nevertheless, the BOJ notes, there are several upside and downside risks to future oil prices. <br /> <br /> On the upside, the risks include higher prices due to the continued reiteration by OPEC and confirmation with customers that they will reduce oil deliveries in the coming months.<br /> <br /> The BOJ said a further cut in production levels by OPEC and non-OPEC members could upset its projection, as would an increase in fuel demand from advanced and emerging market economies.<br /> <br /> Other risks included geopolitical tensions in the Middle East which could disrupt supplies; and the depreciation of the US dollar due to uncertainties surrounding the policies of the new US President which could make it less costly to purchase oil. <br /> <br /> Downside risks that could result in lower oil prices the BOJ said, include the potential for continued efficiency gains and cost reductions from non-OPEC producers which could result in additional supply volumes; higher than expected global oil supplies, particularly from Libya and Nigeria, and a failure to meet OPEC&rsquo;s crude oil production target; and a larger increase in the US Fed funds rate which could lead to a stronger US dollar and lower commodity prices.<br /> <br /> Additionally, the BOJ said, slower economic growth in China could lead to reduced demand for fuel. In 2016, China &mdash; the world&rsquo;s second-largest oil consumer &mdash; posted its lowest GDP growth since 2009 at 6.7 per cent. <br /> <br /> Increased competition for crude oil market share could place additional downward pressure on crude prices. The BOJ said it would continue to monitor developments in the oil market and adjust its projections as these risks materialise. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13363450/170955_86503_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM We want your money &mdash; Holness invites pension funds to invest in infrastructure, divested assets http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/We-want-your-money---Holness-invites-pension-funds-to-invest-in-infrastructure--divested-assets_90264 BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com With only 10 per cent of working Jamaicans being members of pension funds and retirement schemes, Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness is urging more Jamaicans to invest in formal pensions funds as a means of saving towards retirement.<br /> <br /> At the same time, speaking at yesterday&rsquo;s annual pension seminar staged by Sagicor Group in Kingston, he said that existing funds should consider investing in government and other infrastructure projects which have the potential to deliver returns to investors over as long a horizon as 50 years.<br /> <br /> The seminar, staged at the Jamaica Conference Centre, was held under the theme &ldquo;Pension Funds: Fuelling Economic Growth&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> Sponsor Sagicor Pooled Investment Funds, comprising nine funds, has 32 per cent of the retirement funds market. The fund passed $118 billion in total funds under management in December 2016.<br /> <br /> President and CEO of Sagicor Group Richard Byles said Sagicor Pooled Funds, via its ownership of 2,000 hotel rooms, earns a total of US$140 millioon annually, which is more than the US$53 million earned by sugar and the $130 million earned by bauxite in 2015. The PIF-owned hotels employ 4,000 individuals.<br /> <br /> Byles said he was looking forward to the government initiating a reform process which would see more Jamaicans contributing to a pension scheme, thereby increasing the multiplier effect of pension funds on the economy.<br /> <br /> In Chile, the company head pointed out, pension funds were 64 per cent of GDP and the economy was growing between four to five per cent annually. In Jamaica, on the other hand, pension savings were equal to only 24 per cent of GDP and economic growth was anaemic.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Holness, who was the keynote speaker at the pensions seminar, stated that most funds in Jamaica are principally invested in government bonds, which he says is not the best place for them.<br /> <br /> According to the Financial Services Commission (FSC), as at September 30, 2016, there were 801 pension plans (superannuation funds and retirement schemes) covering approximately 10 per cent of the employed labour force, with assets totalling $438.07 billion.<br /> <br /> The funds have been progressively reducing the level of investment in government securities since two debt exchange events in the last decide.<br /> <br /> But, as noted by the FSC, despite the shifting appetite away from direct holdings of securities of governments to investment arrangements, direct holdings of securities of governments still comprised approximately 31 per cent of total investments, or $135.88 billion.<br /> <br /> According to the prime minister, pension funds are a safe place for retirement savings, because the traditional belief among Jamaicans that they will be provided for by their children once they retire is not sustainable.<br /> <br /> Encouraging Jamaicans to take &ldquo;personal responsibility,&rdquo; he cautioned that the practice of dependence on children affected the quality of life of offspring, especially where the parents involved were also unable to provide them with the resources to improve their quality of life.<br /> <br /> Turning to the management of funds, the prime minister noted that conservative management was connected to an earlier financial crisis during the Finsac era. He said it was time now for funds to leverage this new legacy of good management for the benefit of the investing public, considering the major challenge posed by attempts to ensure a secure future for retirees. <br /> <br /> Statistics indicate that by 2020 the elderly will make up 25 per cent of the population, and in 50 years there will be more Jamaicans aged over 60 than those aged under 14, he said. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Most pension funds are now tied to GOJ bonds,&rdquo; he noted, adding that a better choice for such funds would be long- term income-generating infrastructure projects.<br /> <br /> He said that a part of the current administration&rsquo;s strategy for growth was to get such funds matched with real, long-term investments.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The government has been very active in increasing asset utilisation. Aside from infrastructure, assets which are not being used to their fullest extent will be divested,&rdquo; he stated.<br /> <br /> Holness said that this included the government&rsquo;s stake in the Jamaica Public Service Company. Some entities, he said, would be listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, giving pension funds, companies and individual Jamaicans the opportunity to invest. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660538/259917_86502_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM 10 Secrets of the best Jamaican salespeople http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/10-Secrets-of-the-best-Jamaican-salespeople_90240 Herman Alvaranga Working with highly successful Jamaican salespeople can be a very rewarding experience. Usually they are very focused on achieving their goals and are prepared to put in long hours. But perhaps what excites me most about them is their thirst for knowledge of their trade. <br /> <br /> They ask the most insightful questions and are always seeking to sharpen their skills. What else have I noticed about them? Here, in no particular order, is a list of the top 10 habits &mdash; let&rsquo;s call them secrets &mdash; of the most successful salespeople that I have worked with over time.<br /> <br /> 1.They never sell themselves. <br /> <br /> Everyone has heard somewhere or the other that the first thing that you sell is yourself. But the most successful salespeople never do that. They know that customers despise salespeople who appear to be pushy, self-seeking hustlers trying to manipulate them. So what do the best salespeople do? They develop a value hypothesis and engage their prospect/customer/client in a conversation that seeks to create value for them. That&rsquo;s called win-win!<br /> <br /> 2. They epitomise two character traits. <br /> <br /> What are these character traits, and why are they important? The first is empathy: being able to feel as the other person does, getting powerful feedback so that you can ask the right questions and get the right answers. The second most important characteristic is ego drive. Now this may appear contradictory, but it isn&rsquo;t. It is what makes the salesperson want and need to make the sale in a personal or ego-satisfying way, not merely for the money to be gained. He/she has to make the sale! Failure is a motivation towards greater efforts and the ego enhancements that he/she needs.<br /> <br /> 3.They know why they were hired. <br /> <br /> Business-to-business salespeople in particular know that their job is to create a better balance sheet for both their company and their customer. They know that today&rsquo;s consumer is smarter and better informed, and has no time for salespeople whose approach to selling is still about making a pitch, attempting a trial close and handling objections. But they will entertain a discussion on how you can assist them in creating a better balance sheet.<br /> <br /> 4. They work closely with marketing. <br /> <br /> The most successful salespeople recognise that they need marketing to stage promotional events and so on to create brand awareness, induce trial and ultimately achieve brand preference. They also know that marketing is keenly aware that nothing happens until somebody sells something. So what do they do with this knowledge? Working through their managers they keep close to marketing, always asking for promotional activities and better marketing communications.<br /> <br /> 5. They choose their prospects carefully. <br /> <br /> The most effective salespeople are suspicious of those who tell them that sales success is a numbers game, because it is not that simple in the Jamaican context. While that may be true of a call centre operation in a major US city when you are selling clothes irons or some simple, low-priced product, that is definitely not the case for Jamaican road warriors! Indeed, astute salespeople have long abandoned old-style prospecting, choosing to focus instead on identifying higher-value exchange opportunities and the quality of their prospects.<br /> <br /> 6. They look beyond stated needs. <br /> <br /> The most successful salespeople know that people are guided by what they know. Consequently they never confuse the customers&rsquo; stated needs with their unstated, real, or secret needs. Did you hear the story of the person who went to the insurance company for motor cover for a new car, and instead of spending $65,000 for motor cover only, ended up paying $650,000 in premium for a range of other assets? Now that&rsquo;s a classic case of the value of probing beyond stated needs!<br /> <br /> 7. They don&rsquo;t sell solutions. <br /> <br /> The best salespeople know that if you are selling &ldquo;solutions&rdquo; you are just another vendor competing on price. We learnt in marketing 101 that there are five levels of product/service: core, basic, expected, augmented and potential. The best salespeople know that they must find a way to offer an augmented product or service to achieve some level of differentiation, because if they don&rsquo;t they are doomed to compete on price. Better still, where possible they seek to co-create a product/service with their customer. It puts them in a different league.<br /> <br /> 8. They know what value they create for their customers. <br /> <br /> How your customers treat you is directly proportional to the perceived value that you create for them. The most successful salespeople calculate the value that they create for their customers and let them know what it is. This gains them respect and may even make them skip the queue when other reps are waiting.<br /> <br /> 9. They are suspicious of sales trainers. <br /> <br /> The most successful salespeople can never know enough about their trade, but need to make optimal use of their time. Therefore they check the credentials of sales trainers and others who are hired to improve their productivity, and ruthlessly avoid trainers who, for example, are still telling them about closing sales when their business model requires them to obtain the right commitment and create customers for life.<br /> <br /> 10. They manage themselves ruthlessly. <br /> <br /> This is crucial, since a salesperson often works alone with minimal personal supervision. Most will tell you that they have A, B, C and D customers. They use this classification as a guide for estimating present and future income streams, and apportion their time and efforts accordingly. <br /> <br /> Good stuff! But it can be offensive to some long-standing customers who are declining in importance, so, drawing from the BCG model, we encourage a reclassification under the following four broad categories: stars, strategic, status and streamline. <br /> <br /> So there you have 10 secrets of the most successful Jamaican salespeople as we see it. Random? Anecdotal?...Perhaps. Furthermore, they can hardly be considered secrets, but are they worthy of your consideration? <br /> <br /> Finally, we invite your comments and additions to our list.<br /> <br /> Herman D Alvaranga, FCIM, MBA, MISM, is president of the Caribbean School of Sales Management (CSSM), the region&rsquo;s first Public Training College specialising in sales, marketing and brand management education, consulting and research. E-mail him <br /> <br /> at hdalvaranga@cssm.edu.jm<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660593/260062_86497_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Dixon says cheers to J Wray & Nephew http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Dixon-says-cheers-to-J-Wray---Nephew_90148 Gary Dixon has resigned from J Wray & Nephew (JWN), where he was marketing director for the spirits company owned by Gruppo Campari. He is set to leave at the end of March.<br /> <br /> Dixon first started working at JWN in 2012, where he was in charge of strategy development, systems implementation and day to day operations of the marketing department for spirits and wines, according to his LinkedIn profile.<br /> <br /> Prior to that Dixon was brand manager for Guinness at Red Stripe &mdash; owned by international spirits company Diageo &mdash; from 2010 to 2011. Before that he worked as a category manager for Lascelles Ltd for brands such as Magnum Tonic Wine, Sangster&rsquo;s Rum Cream and Charley&rsquo;s JB Overproof Rum. <br /> <br /> Dixon holds an MBA from Florida International University in the United States and a Bachelor&rsquo;s of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Technology in Kingston.<br /> <br /> WALTERS STARTS UP AT DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT<br /> <br /> Start-up entrepreneur Akua Walters is now head of business development at Digital Development International LLC, based in Washington DC in the United States, according to his LinkedIn profile. <br /> <br /> In the role he manages relationships with clients and internal teams to ensure the best outcomes on projects. That includes helping clients to understand customer stories, build and analyse data sets for their projects, make useful connections and deliver customer service.<br /> <br /> Prior to Digital Development, Walters was marketing, brand management and creative control for Jamaica-based Ultreya Logistics Inc, from 2014 to 2016. During that time he was also co-founder of ErrandBoy from 2014 to 2015, and was also the marketing and public relations coordinator for the Caribbean Development for the Arts Sports and Culture Foundation.<br /> <br /> Prior to that Walters was the marketing manager for Pin Pon Pin Jamaica, from 2012 to 2014. His previous work exeperience included work as a lifeguard, life insurance advisor, and public servant.<br /> <br /> Walters holds a BA degree in Political Science and History from the University of the West Indies.<br /> <br /> EBB AND FLOW AT CARGO HANDLERS<br /> <br /> Jamaica Stock Exchange listed company, Cargo Handlers Ltd (CHL) has announced that William Craig has been appointed an independent, non-executive director on the company&rsquo;s Board of Directors and will serve as a mentor, effective February 10, 2017.<br /> <br /> Craig is CEO and owner of Billy Craig Insurance Brokers.<br /> <br /> As Craig steps onto the board, he will be filling some large shoes, as CHL has also announced that Tony Hart, the founder and a director of the company, retired as of February 17. Hart is a renowned business titan based largely in Montego Bay, and was the 2013 inductee to the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica&rsquo;s Hall of Fame.<br /> <br /> &mdash; Richard Browne<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660225/259931_86459_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660226/259969_86456_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660228/259952_86457_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660229/259933_86458_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Smartphones are revolutionising medicine http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Smartphones-are-revolutionising-medicine_90160 BOSTON, United States (AFP) &mdash; Smartphones are revolutionising the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, thanks to add-ons and apps that make their ubiquitous small screens into medical devices, researchers say.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If you look at the camera, the flash, the microphone... they all are getting better and better,&rdquo; said Shwetak Patel, engineering professor at the University of Washington.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;In fact the capabilities on those phones are as great as some of the specialised devices,&rdquo; he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting this week.<br /> <br /> Smartphones can already act as pedometers, count calories and measure heartbeats.<br /> <br /> But mobile devices and tablets can also become tools for diagnosing illness.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;You can use the microphone to diagnose asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder),&rdquo; Patel said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;With these enabling technologies you can manage chronic diseases outside of the clinic and with a non-invasive clinical tool.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> It is also possible to use the camera and flash on a mobile phone to diagnose blood disorders, including iron and haemoglobin deficiency.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;You put your finger over the camera flash and it gives you a result that shows the level of haemoglobin in the blood,&rdquo; Patel said.<br /> <br /> An app called HemaApp was shown to perform comparably well as a non-smartphone device for measuring haemoglobin without a needle. Researchers are seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for its wider use.<br /> <br /> Smartphones can also be used to diagnose osteoporosis, a bone disorder common in the elderly.<br /> <br /> Just hold a smartphone, turn on the right app in hand and tap on your elbow.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Your phone&rsquo;s motion picture sensor picks up the resonances that are generated,&rdquo; Patel said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If there is a reduction in density of the bone, the frequency changes, which is the same as you will have in an osteoporosis bone.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Such advances can empower patients to better manage their own care, Patel said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;You can imagine the broader impact of this in developing countries where screening tools like this in the primary care offices are non-existent,&rdquo; he told reporters.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So it really changes the way we diagnose, treat and manage chronic diseases.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> LOWER COSTS<br /> <br /> Mobile smartphone devices are already helping patients manage cancer and diabetes, says Elizabeth Mynatt, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Someone who is newly diagnosed with diabetes really needs to become their own detectives,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They need to learn the changes they need to make in their daily lifestyle.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> For women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers provided a tablet that allows them real-time access to information on the diagnosis, management of their treatment and side effects.<br /> <br /> The technique also helps patients who may not be able to travel to a medical office for regular care, reducing their costs.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Our tool becomes a personal support system,&rdquo; Mynatt said. &ldquo;They can interact to get day-to-day advice.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Research has shown this approach &ldquo;changes dramatically their behaviour&rdquo;, she added.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The pervasiveness of the adoption of mobile platform is quite encouraging for grappling with pervasive socio-economic determinants in terms of health care disparities.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> A growing number of doctors and researchers are turning to smartphones for use in their daily work, seeing them as a useful tool for managing electronic health data and figuring out the most effective clinical trials, said Gregory Hager, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University.<br /> <br /> Clinical trials currently cost around US$12 million to run from start to finish, he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The new idea is micro-randomised trials, which should be far more effective with more natural data,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Although the costs could be dramatically lower, too, the field is still new and more work needs to be done to figure out how to fully assess the quality and the effectiveness of such trials.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660656/260015_86460_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Burger King&rsquo;s parent buys Popeyes chicken http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Burger-King-s-parent-buys-Popeyes-chicken_90252 OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) &mdash; Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King and Canada&rsquo;s Tim Hortons donut shops, said yesterday it has reached a deal to buy American fried chicken chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.<br /> <br /> The sale price is US$1.8 billion, or US$79 per share, according to a statement, representing a 27 per cent premium over Popeyes&rsquo; recent average stock price.<br /> <br /> Oakville, Ontario-based Restaurant Brands International (RBI) said Popeyes would continue to be managed independently.<br /> <br /> Under the new ownership, the chicken chain will be &ldquo;accelerating its pace of growth&rdquo; with the opening of new restaurants in the United States and elsewhere, it added.<br /> <br /> Popeyes currently has 2,600 fast-food restaurants in the United States and 25 other countries around the world &mdash; including Jamaica.<br /> <br /> The deal, which is expected to close by early April, adds to RBI&rsquo;s portfolio of more than 20,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660648/259990_86426_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM A boost for Nollywood with The Wedding Party success http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/A-boost-for-Nollywood-with-The-Wedding-Party-success_90255 LAGOS, Nigeria (AFP) &mdash; Nollywood film The Wedding Party has shown Nigerian cinema at the top of its game with its success at the box office taking it to new audiences across Africa and the world.<br /> <br /> The country may well be in recession, but Nollywood, which churns out some 2,000 films a year and is the world&rsquo;s second-biggest film industry outside India, has never been healthier.<br /> <br /> The Wedding Party is a madcap, glamorous comedy telling the story of the marriage of Dunny and Dozie, despite the misgivings of their families&rsquo; rivalries.<br /> <br /> One family is Igbo and the other Yoruba &mdash; two of the main ethnic groups in Nigeria.<br /> <br /> The film&rsquo;s director, Kemi Adetiba, admitted that she hadn&rsquo;t expected it to be so successful.<br /> <br /> In the two months since its release, the film, which is still showing in cinemas, has already generated 400 million naira (US$1.3 million), shattering the West African nation&rsquo;s previous record.<br /> <br /> Until then the record was the 178.5 million naira made by A Trip to Jamaica, which also came out last year, showing that home-grown films can be more popular than Hollywood blockbusters.<br /> <br /> COMING TOGETHER<br /> <br /> At a cinema in Lagos, the audience cried out in delight at the sight of hundreds of guests of the bride and groom trying to outdo one another in frenzied traditional dances.<br /> <br /> Betty, a 27-year-old Lagos entrepreneur, had seen the film three times already but was still laughing throughout. She said the dance contest was her favourite scene.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;That&rsquo;s exactly the way we are in terms of weddings. Our weddings are very colourful, our weddings are a lot of laugh time, a lot of dancing, a lot of drama &ndash; that&rsquo;s who we are,&rdquo; she said smiling.<br /> <br /> Another cinema-goer, Joy, said the film sends out a message by mocking the intolerance and mistrust that often characterise relationships between Nigeria&rsquo;s different ethnic groups.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The movie is like two sides of Nigerians &ndash; the Igbos and Yorubas, the toughest part in Nigeria,&rdquo; she said. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is like harmonising the two parts together and making us understanding why we need to be together, no matter the tribe.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> IMPROVING STANDARDS<br /> <br /> Critics, the public and the vocal band of Nigerian cinema bloggers have called the film &ldquo;superb&rdquo; and &ldquo;perfectly cast&rdquo;. They also agree 2016 was an &ldquo;exceptional&rdquo; year for Nollywood.<br /> <br /> About a dozen Nigerian films including The Wedding Party have been shown at international film festivals, including in Toronto last September.<br /> <br /> The CEO, for example, which came out in June last year, had a budget of more than US$1 million and couldn&rsquo;t be further removed from the shoestring productions that typify Nollywood.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are in a crucial time in the history of Nigerian film-making,&rdquo; said Abiola Adenuga, the head of the PEFTI Film Institute in Lagos.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Professionalism is climbing to new hights with new production companies, advertising agencies, cinema houses... <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Nigerian people are a very selective audience... internationally travelled, we know what to obtain everywhere and we expect nothing less on the home front.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Since Nollywood took off in the 1980s, movies were often made in just a few weeks with a budget of less than US$20,000.<br /> <br /> Most went straight to DVD and were pirated, to be sold at traffic lights, junctions and market stalls.<br /> <br /> NIGERIAN TOUCH<br /> <br /> But the improving quality of local productions, the explosion of pan-African satellite television channels and the opening of more modern cinemas have helped the industry take off.<br /> <br /> In 2014, Nollywood generated US$7.2 billion or 1.4 per cent of Nigeria&rsquo;s economy, according to the Oxford Business Group.<br /> <br /> But beyond the modernisation of the sector, it&rsquo;s the &ldquo;Nigerian touch&rdquo; of the film, the exuberance of its characters and the gags that have made The Wedding Party a success, its director said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The first thing that was important to us was making a Nigerian story,&rdquo; Adetiba added. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;The story of love and romance is very universal, but we didn&rsquo;t try to play like a Hollywood movie or that sort of thing.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We wanted people to be able to turn around and go, &lsquo;That&rsquo;s my mum, that&rsquo;s my auntie.&rsquo; And that&rsquo;s what happened.&rdquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660638/259988_86462_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Deep sea mining gets a second look http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Deep-sea-mining-gets-a-second-look_90154 BOSTON, United States (AFP) &mdash; The risk of running out of rare earth metals that are essential to modern technology has led to a surge in interest in mining the deep seas.<br /> <br /> But fears have also mounted about the environmental impact of disturbing vast areas of the pristine ocean floor, experts said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Boston in the United States.<br /> <br /> Demographic growth and the acceleration of technological innovations in the past 40 years have doubled the quantity of minerals extracted worldwide, leading to shortages of certain key metals, according to a recent UN report.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Mining is essential for modern life,&rdquo; said Thomas Graedel, professor emeritus of industrial ecology and chemical engineering at Yale University.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If global development proceeds at its current pace, traditional land-based supply of resources may be challenged to meet demand.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> When it comes to copper, an essential element for electrical equipment and numerous industries, a shortage could begin around 2050, he said. <br /> <br /> This uncertainty highlights the importance of considering deep-sea mining, even though the process involves environmental risks.<br /> <br /> Cobalt, iron, manganese, platinum, nickel, gold and other rare earth minerals are generally found at depths ranging from a few hundred to several thousand metres (yards).<br /> <br /> But just how much valuable material lies beneath the ocean floor remains highly uncertain, said Mark Hannington, a geologist at GEOMAR-Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Germany.<br /> <br /> Observations so far indicate that seafloor deposits targeted for mining could include from 600 million to a billion tons of minerals, including 30 million tons of copper and zinc, resources which could help respond to growing global demand for electronics.<br /> <br /> He also said that nodules &mdash; or rocky formations containing valuable metals on the ocean floor &mdash; &ldquo;are enormously abundant&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> INTERNATIONAL SEABED AUTHORITY<br /> <br /> But details on this potential remain poorly understood, because for the past three decades, exploration has been concentrated on certain areas near hydrothermal vents.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have not found the large deposits yet,&rdquo; said Hannington.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have got to figure out how to find them if we want to truly understand the resources,&rdquo; he added.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got to speed up the process dramatically because it has taken 30 years to get where we are now and 30 years from now it will be too late.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> He added that all the zones granted exploration permits so far represent only 0.5 per cent of the total area that could be mined in the ocean.<br /> <br /> Until now, 27 countries including India and China, have signed contracts to explore for these resources with the International Seabed Authority, the body charged with controlling exploration and exploitation of the areas beyond national borders.<br /> <br /> But given the sizeable risks to fragile ecosystems, a new international approach to managing mineral deposits should be put in place, according to a recent report published in the journal Science.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Waters deeper than 200 metres make up 65 per cent of the world&rsquo;s oceans, and are vulnerable to human activities,&rdquo; it said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Cumulative impacts could eventually cause regime shifts and alter deep-ocean life-support services such as the biological pump or nutrient recycling.&rdquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660590/259994_86433_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM World&rsquo;s biggest miner BHP posts soaring half-year profit http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/World-s-biggest-miner-BHP-posts-soaring-half-year-profit_90253 SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) &mdash; Mining giant BHP Billiton yesterday reported a dramatic rebound in half-yearly profits on the back of surging coal and iron ore prices and improved productivity.<br /> <br /> The underlying profit of US$3.2 billion and earnings before tax of US$9.9 billion for the last six months of 2016 exceeded expectations.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This is a strong result that follows several years of a considered and deliberate approach to improve productivity and redesign our portfolio and operating model,&rdquo; Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said.<br /> <br /> The Anglo-Australian mining giant announced a 40 US cent interim dividend per share which eclipsed analyst projections of about 30 US cents.<br /> <br /> In January, the company reported record Australian iron ore production in the last six months of 2016 after a 28 per cent surge in the price of the commodity, compared to the corresponding period in 2015.<br /> <br /> The latest results show a 157 per cent increase in underlying profit from a year ago and a 65 per cent year-on-year jump in earnings before tax, marking a significant turnaround in the company&rsquo;s fortunes.<br /> <br /> BHP posted an annual net loss of US$6.39 billion, its worst-ever result, for the year to June 30 2016 as the industry battled big declines in commodity prices.<br /> <br /> For copper, BHP said it would revise output guidance at Chile&rsquo;s Escondida mine, the biggest in the world, where 2,500 workers are on strike.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are confident in the long-term outlook for our commodities, particularly oil, with markets expected to rebalance in the near term, and copper, where we expect a deficit to emerge in the early 2020s,&rdquo; Mackenzie said.<br /> <br /> However, the firm added in a statement that &ldquo;the (iron ore) market is likely to come under pressure in the short term from moderating Chinese steel demand growth, high port inventories and incremental, low-cost supply&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Iron ore prices have risen from a low of US$40 per tonne in 2015 to around US$90 this month.<br /> <br /> Metallurgical coal prices also surged in the last six months &ldquo;driven by pronounced shortages in both domestic Chinese and seaborne supply&rdquo;, BHP said.<br /> <br /> The profit rebound comes amid ongoing settlement negotiations over the November 2015 fatal Samarco mine collapse in Brazil.<br /> <br /> Samarco &mdash; which is co-owned by BHP and Vale &mdash; is facing massive legal costs for the tragedy, in which 19 people died, an entire village was destroyed and water and supplies were cut off to tens of thousands.<br /> <br /> BHP said last month they had struck an agreement with Brazilian prosecutors to negotiate settlement of a 155 billion real claim (US$50 billion) by June 30. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Restart of (Samarco) operations remains a focus but will only occur if it is safe, economically viable and has community support,&rdquo; BHP said in its results.<br /> <br /> The world&rsquo;s second-largest miner, Rio Tinto, also reported a surge in gains earlier this month. Annual net profit hit US$4.62 billion for the year to December 31, compared to a US$866-million net loss in the previous financial year. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660313/260010_86454_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Brazil&rsquo;s economy puts damper on Rio carnival http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Brazil-s-economy-puts-damper-on-Rio-carnival_90155 RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AFP) &mdash; Rio carnival is a celebration of joyful excess but deep recession in Brazil means that samba schools are thinking about their budgets as much as their dance moves.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Here the key word is austerity,&rdquo; says Luiz Carlos Magalhaes, president of the Portela samba school, which has won the prestigious annual parade contest in the Sambodromo more than any other school.<br /> <br /> Like football teams, the samba schools are organised in divisions and their contests are judged on strict criteria where the slightest slip costs points.<br /> <br /> That they need to pay attention to detail is giving organisers at top-ranked schools a headache as they prepare for battle on February 25-26 at a time of increasingly thin budgets.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;re living day to day. We raise money with dinner dances at our headquarters and see how much we made before we go out to buy the feathers and sequins,&rdquo; Magalhaes said.<br /> <br /> Every school in the first division, known as the Special Group, gets six million reais (about US$2 million) from a mixture of city subsidies and proceeds from television coverage. They also raise money through sponsorship and &mdash; although none openly admits this &mdash; funding from illegal gambling rackets. <br /> <br /> Portela is in trouble, Magalhaes said, because &ldquo;our main sponsor dropped us at the last minute. We&rsquo;ve really had to bend over backwards to make it work&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> At another top-division school, organisers ended up giving free meals instead of pay to the small army employed to sew costumes.<br /> <br /> SCROUNGING<br /> <br /> Down in the second division, things are more complicated. They get only a third of the subsidies given to the top flight and sponsors have little interest in chipping in.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Not only do we have less funds but the materials are more expensive too. That&rsquo;s why we&rsquo;ve had to innovate, trying to create an alternative carnival,&rdquo; said Jorge Silveira, artistic director at the Viradouro, which won the whole contest back in 1997.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;By chance I&rsquo;ve discovered real treasures in our props department and I&rsquo;ve got around the crisis by recycling all sorts of things,&rdquo; he said, seated on a float made in the shape of a huge cake.<br /> <br /> Even if Viradouro&rsquo;s hangar is smaller and less modern than the facilities used by Special Group schools, Silveira knows the conditions he is working in are a great deal better than those encountered by lower divisions.<br /> <br /> For the third to fifth levels, the contests are not held in the specially built Sambodromo stadium but along Intendente Magalhaes Road in the working-class north of Rio. They do not benefit from television rights. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s my fifth carnival and it&rsquo;s definitely the worst of the lot. It&rsquo;s a lot harder this year,&rdquo; said Tatiana Santos, president of the Arranco do Engenho school in the fourth division.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Our subsidy comes in instalments and we&rsquo;ve not got more than 70 per cent so far. The rest will only be paid after carnival &mdash; we&rsquo;ll use it to pay our debts,&rdquo; said Santos, 37, in the dusty hangar where her school puts together its show.<br /> <br /> One way of surviving this year was to make the parade a homage to first-division school Salgueiro, which was flattered and loaned the samba minnows costumes and a float.<br /> <br /> Fabio Augusto, president of fifth division Tupy de Vraz de Pina, has also had to go scrounging.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;re living from donations. We&rsquo;ve gone from hangar to hangar at the big schools and got all sorts of things,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> And things are not as bad as they were.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;When I took over the school two years ago, we didn&rsquo;t even have drum sticks,&rdquo; he said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660234/260043_86488_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Weaning off oil, Scottish islands eye renewable future http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Weaning-off-oil--Scottish-islands-eye-renewable-future_90157 LERWICK, United Kingdom (AFP) &mdash; Strong winds and stormy seas have helped turn the Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic into a European renewable energy giant, producing more power than it knows what to do with.<br /> <br /> The tidal power underwater turbines that were completed last month are only the latest green energy project for an archipelago that has been reliant for decades on the North Sea offshore industry.<br /> <br /> Even homeowners are getting in on the act with small wind turbines in their gardens and solar panels on their roofs &mdash; somewhat optimistically in an area where winter daylight lasts just six hours.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not 100 per cent self-sufficient but we&rsquo;re quite a long way towards it,&rdquo; Jim Dickson, 69, told AFP at his home in the windswept village of Brae, referring to electricity generation for his own house.<br /> <br /> Dickson, who lives near the Sullom Voe oil terminal, can power the building and an electric powered Nissan Leaf car from a turbine in his garden with enough left over to feed into the island&rsquo;s grid when conditions are favourable.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;What I make from the government for producing per kilowatt hour more than pays for what I buy from the grid, so effectively there is no power bill.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The former harbour master knows about the dangers of fossil fuels.<br /> <br /> He was winched aboard the out of control oil tanker MV Braer in 1993 during the worst cyclone on record in the North Atlantic, in an ill-fated attempt to prevent it running aground.<br /> <br /> His efforts to attach a tow rope failed and the ship crashed into the rocks at Quendale Bay, spilling 84,700 tonnes of crude oil into the sea.<br /> <br /> The nation was aghast at images of Shetland&rsquo;s famous seabirds drowning in black ooze.<br /> <br /> HARNESSING THE SEA<br /> <br /> The oil industry in Shetland began in the 1970s with the development of the North Sea fields.<br /> <br /> The Brent field east of the archipelago became an emblem of the industry, with &ldquo;Brent Crude&rdquo; becoming a benchmark for oil trading around the world.<br /> <br /> Oil giant Shell has announced plans to decommission the field but new discoveries west of Shetland could give a boost to the industry.<br /> <br /> French energy firm Total has invested &Acirc;&pound;3.5 billion (US$4.4 billion) in a new gas plant near Sullom Voe that opened last year to extract gas from its fields west of Shetland, Laggan and Tormore.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Producing gas and oil from the west of Shetland basin is very, very challenging,&rdquo; field operations manager Simon Hare told<br /> <br /> AFP on a hill overlooking the plant, a sprawling development which stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the islands&rsquo; natural beauty.<br /> <br /> The gas plant is designed for a lifetime of 30 years.<br /> <br /> But environmentalists are pinning their hopes on another energy asset under the waters around Shetland.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;In tidal, we&rsquo;re very fortunate in Scotland,&rdquo; said Patrick Ross-Smith, Shetland development officer at Nova Innovation, which has installed three 100-kilowatt turbines in the Bluemull Sound.<br /> <br /> Scotland has 24 per cent of Europe&rsquo;s entire marine energy potential because of its powerful tides.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s great to harness some of that in Shetland,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> The turbines&rsquo; success has had the odd effect of creating too much power.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The Shetland grid is itself constrained now. It cannot take any more renewables,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Around 10 per cent of the islands&rsquo; electricity is generated from renewables and wind and tidal generators are licensed only to produce up to that limit.<br /> <br /> There is no connecting cable between Shetland and mainland Britain and as the renewable energy cannot easily be stored to ensure stable supply, the turbines have to be switched off from time to time.<br /> <br /> The proposal for a connector line to link Shetland to the mainland 200 miles (322 kilometres) away remains uncertain.<br /> <br /> For Dickson, the more renewables the better.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;You will always need hydrocarbons to power your jumbo jet, for example, but you shouldn&rsquo;t be making electricity with hydrocarbons,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s wrong, it&rsquo;s nonsense.&rdquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660647/259771_86428_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Tourism shows signs of recovery in Egypt http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Tourism-shows-signs-of-recovery-in-Egypt_90159 CAIRO, Egypt (AFP) &mdash; Tourists are slowly returning to Egypt, easing pressure on a key sector battered by years of turmoil and the 2015 bombing of a plane carrying Russian holidaymakers.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There is an increase in the number of tourists. This situation was much better in January than in previous years,&rdquo; Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Omaima al-Husseini said.<br /> <br /> Visitors from China, Japan and Ukraine account for a large part of the growth. <br /> <br /> China&rsquo;s top public travel agency, China International Travel Service, reported a 58 per cent increase in tourists flying to Egypt compared with 2015.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There are more bookings between October 2016 and January 2017 than last year,&rdquo; said Egyptian Tourism Federation chief Karim Mohsen.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There is an improvement, especially in cultural tourism in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan,&rdquo; key historical sites, he said.<br /> <br /> The uptick is a sign of hope for a country also reeling from the shock of an economic reform programme that has triggered massive inflation.<br /> <br /> Once a key foreign currency earner, the tourism sector crashed in 2011 after a popular uprising overthrew veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak, ushering in years of sporadic unrest.<br /> <br /> Recoveries in the sector since then have been set back by new crises.<br /> <br /> In June 2015, a massacre of tourists at a Luxor temple was narrowly averted when assailants armed with assault rifles and explosives bungled the attack and were intercepted by police.<br /> <br /> But in October that year, Islamic State group jihadists, who are waging an insurgency in the eastern Sinai Peninsula, struck again. They bombed a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers home from the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.<br /> <br /> All 224 people on board were killed.<br /> <br /> Russia suspended flights to Egypt, and Britain cut air links with Sharm el-Sheikh.<br /> <br /> Visitor numbers plunged from 9.3 million in 2015 to 5.3 million the following year, Husseini said.<br /> <br /> RECOVERY HINGES ON RUSSIA, UK <br /> <br /> But industry officials have cautiously welcomed what they say is a noticeable improvement since October.<br /> <br /> In December 2016, 551,600 tourists visited Egypt compared with 440,000 the year before, according to the government&rsquo;s statistics agency.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Activity has picked up a bit in the winter of 2016-2017,&rdquo; said Tamer al-Shaer, vice-president of the Blue Sky travel agency.<br /> <br /> He said that included a 30 per cent increase in Ukrainian tourists and a 60 per cent increase in visitors from China, with daily flights to Aswan, a southern city rich in ancient sites.<br /> <br /> Japan&rsquo;s HIS travel agency said the number of tourists heading to Egypt &ldquo;multiplied by four to five times&rdquo; last year.<br /> <br /> Since charter flights from Japan to Egypt resumed in April 2016, they have been, on average, 80 per cent full, said a spokesman for the Japan Association of Travel agents.<br /> <br /> Egypt hosted a record 14.7 million foreign tourists in 2010, a year before Mubarak&rsquo;s overthrow and the ensuing economic nosedive.<br /> <br /> Restoring even two thirds of that number is a key government goal, but it hinges on Russia and Britain resuming flights, Husseini said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There are ongoing negotiations... we hope the issue will be resolved as soon as possible,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> More than 60 per cent of tourists arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh by plane used to come from Britain or Russia.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So long as the Russians do not come back, there will be paralysis,&rdquo; the tourism federation&rsquo;s Mohsen said. &ldquo;Russians and Britons are the backbone of Sharm el-Sheikh.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Other European countries such as Germany and France have registered a slight increase in reservations to Egypt.<br /> <br /> In early February, four other European countries &mdash; Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden &mdash; eased travel warnings against travel to south Sinai, where Sharm el-Sheikh and other resorts are situated. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660636/260033_86468_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660644/260031_86467_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Iran gets set for Internet of Things launch http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Iran-gets-set-for-Internet-of-Things-launch_90180 TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) &mdash; Intelligent transportation and gas meters you can read from your phone: the Internet of Things is heading for Iran thanks to a deal announced Thursday.<br /> <br /> Internet of Things (IoT) applications allow users to monitor and control everything from fridges to city-wide metro systems by connecting remote sensors with computers, mobile phones and smart watches.<br /> <br /> French startup Sigfox, which runs a wireless IoT network connecting such devices, signed the deal with local internet provider Parsnet to deploy its nationwide services in Iran by June 2017, Parsnet said in a statement.<br /> <br /> Iran will be the 31st country to deploy Sigfox&rsquo;s network, it said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The arrival of this global connectivity solution opens the door to new economically competitive and energy-efficient services for Iranian businesses,&rdquo; Parsnet head Ahmad Jafarabadi said.<br /> <br /> Parsnet&rsquo;s parent company, ParsOnline, is one of Iran&rsquo;s biggest internet providers.<br /> <br /> Iran has a population of 80 million people who use at least 30 million smartphones, a third of which have internet access, according to local media.<br /> <br /> The deal comes just over a year after an accord came into effect between Iran and world powers removing some economic sanctions in exchange for limits on Tehran&rsquo;s nuclear programme.<br /> <br /> Founded in 2010, Sigfox is headquartered in France&rsquo;s &ldquo;IoT Valley&rdquo; near Toulouse. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660592/260012_86498_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Nicaragua focuses on climate-change resistant coffee http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Nicaragua-focuses-on-climate-change-resistant-coffee_89911 MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AFP) &mdash; With climate change threatening crops in many parts of the world, Nicaragua is turning to a robust variety of coffee bean to protect one of its key exports.<br /> <br /> The appropriately named robusta coffee comes from the coffea canephora plant, which is being increasingly planted in the Central American country under government authorisation.<br /> <br /> The sturdy variety is easier to care for, higher in caffeine, faster to produce fruit and more disease-resistant than the more popular Arabica sort Nicaragua traditionally grows &mdash; although it is of lower quality, fetching a lower price.<br /> <br /> However, its advantages make it better suited to ride out climate change and bring benefits to smaller producers, industry groups say.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Robusta coffee production has proven its profitability through its high productivity, low production costs and high potential,&rdquo; says Luis Chamorro, an executive with the Mercon group, which plans to plant the variety on 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) it owns on the eastern side of the country.<br /> <br /> LOWER PRESTIGE?<br /> <br /> But not everyone is convinced. <br /> <br /> Some producers worry that the new focus on robusta could affect Arabica production and prestige.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If we change to a variety that damages our coffee-growing sector and the prestige of quality, that would be an error we shouldn&rsquo;t make and it could cost us dearly,&rdquo; warns Leonel Lopez, a coffee farmer in the northern Nueva Segovia region.<br /> <br /> The stakes are high for Nicaragua, a poor country that depends on its coffee sector, which brings in US$400 million in export revenues and employs hundreds of thousands of people.<br /> <br /> However, a lengthy drought over the past two years and a blight that has affected most of the coffee plantations &mdash; ruining hundreds of smaller outfits &mdash; has prompted the diversification to robusta.<br /> <br /> KEEPING VARIETIES SEPARATE<br /> <br /> More bitter and acidic, the robusta bean is often mixed with other varieties, especially for instant coffee.<br /> <br /> The government authorised its planting in the eastern lowlands five years ago. Last December, the agriculture ministry decided to expand the order to some fields in the west.<br /> <br /> To stop robusta coffee plants from invading Arabica-producing fields, they are planted at least 30 kilometres (20 miles) apart.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We believe both varieties can exist alongside each other, as already happens in Brazil and in Vietnam,&rdquo; says Michael Healy, president of the UPANIC farmers&rsquo; association.<br /> <br /> The 2016-2017 robusta harvest should yield more than 1,800 tons, Chamorro said. That&rsquo;s around two per cent of the total coffee volume produced in the country. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660233/259727_86430_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Burger King's owner buys Popeyes chicken http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Burger-King-s-parent-buys-Popeyes-chicken OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) &mdash; Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King and Canada's Tim Hortons donut shops, said Tuesday it has reached a deal to buy American fried chicken chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.<br /> <br /> The sale price is US$1.8 billion, or US$79 per share, according to a statement, representing a 27 per cent premium over Popeyes' recent average stock price.<br /> <br /> Oakville, Ontario-based Restaurant Brands International (RBI) said Popeyes would continue to be managed independently.<br /> <br /> Under the new ownership, the chicken chain will be "accelerating its pace of growth" with the opening of new restaurants in the United States and elsewhere, it added.<br /> <br /> Popeyes currently has 2,600 fast-food restaurants in the United States and 25 other countries around the world.<br /> <br /> The deal, which is expected to close by early April, adds to RBI's portfolio of more than 20,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660121/BKpopeyes_w300.jpg Local News Tuesday, February 21, 2017 3:43 PM Lots for $29 million and views for free at new Widcombe Estate development http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Lots-for--29-million-and-views-for-free-at-new-Widcombe-Estate-development_89925 BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter collindera@jamaicaobserver.com Developer Peter Rousseau is placing on the market property for which the developers have created tough rules for homeowners. <br /> <br /> Widcombe Estate, a 25-acre property, is described as the last big parcel of land left to be developed in Kingston 6, realtors from agent Coldwell Banker indicate.<br /> <br /> To be operated by Rosemead Corporation, principals of which include Peter Rousseau, the requirements for residents are exacting. <br /> <br /> Andrew Issa, broker at Coldwell Banker, told the Jamaica Observer: &ldquo;It has been a long time since a development of this type has come on the market. We have seen similar developments of this type before that have done very well, with coordinated buildouts based on the covenant restrictions.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> A response sent from Rosemead Corporation indicates that the group will spend upwards of $900 million over 24 months on development. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;In addition to the cost of purchasing the property, we have invested some $350 million in Grade A infrastructure which includes roads, drainage, sidewalks and underground conduits for services. We intend to invest another $450 million over the next 24 months,&rdquo; it was stated.<br /> <br /> The gated development is located in the hills, two minutes away from Barbican in Kingston. The price per lot is as rarefied as the location, starting at US$220,000 ($29 million.) Lot sizes range from 8,963 to 15,214 square feet. <br /> <br /> For those who qualify for purchase, failure to adhere to the rules &mdash; including securing approval for home design &mdash; will result in actions inclusive of being prevented by security personnel from entering the community, the homeowners agreement outlines.<br /> <br /> Realtors at Coldwell Banker Jamaica Realty &mdash; the agents for this development &mdash; believe the strict operating codes will be attractive to those desiring to reside in the exclusive community, which promises an orderly existence.<br /> <br /> CB realtor Kaili McDonnough-Scott told<br /> <br /> Sunday Finance, &ldquo;It is the last great subdivision in Kingston. &ldquo;Widcombe Estate is a big deal for the Kingston real estate market.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The developers of Widcombe Estate have been very careful to flesh out the vision of the development. Making it gated was a must from a security standpoint, but also they want to ensure that building codes are adhered to, as well as design codes, to create some level of uniformity, although owners will have the option of building a house based on their architect&rsquo;s design.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Homeowners&rsquo; rules include the stipulation that no one should construct any building without an underground water tank or a water tank at ground-floor level painted in either a white or cream colour with a capacity of at least two days&rsquo; water supply.<br /> <br /> Homeowners are also prevented from painting, staining or otherwise changing the colour of any exterior portion of any building or structure, or from carrying out any works to the exterior or common parts of the building without the prior written approval of the Company.<br /> <br /> Roofing is restricted to wood shingle, clay tile, standing seam sheeting, fibreglass shake in cream, grey, natural wood, terracotta, roof tile clay or white colours.<br /> <br /> Should homeowners desire to change the colour, quality or material of the roof of any building or structure erected on the lot they have paid for, they will need the written approval of the Company.<br /> <br /> Approved construction can take place only from Monday to Friday between the hours of 9am to 5pm, and on Saturdays between the hours of 9am to 4pm.<br /> <br /> Realtors at Coldwell Banker Jamaica Realty, believe the strict operating codes will be attractive to those desiring to reside in the exclusive community, which promises an orderly existence.<br /> <br /> Kaili McDonnough-Scott told Sunday Finance, &ldquo;I think that buyers who are sceptical now and don&rsquo;t get in early, will want to pinch themselves in 10 years for not buying a lot, when the area is fully developed and prices become comparable with Jacks Hill and Millsborough.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> McDonnough-Scott said lot sizes range from 1/2 to 1/3 to 1/4 acre. The half-acre lots have already been sold. Out of 32 lots for sale, 10 lots have been reserved, she indicated.<br /> <br /> Buyers will have three years to build &mdash; in line with a plan approved by the board of the corporation.<br /> <br /> Andrew Issa said he anticipated steady sales because the development is located in Kingston 6 &mdash; an area which is in high demand.<br /> <br /> Rosemead expressed the view that the property&rsquo;s closeness to UWI, UTech, University Hospital and several high schools, including Campion College and Jamaica College, was a major selling point, along with arrangements for security.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It has the time-tested attributes of any winning real estate investment: location, location, location. The views at Widcombe Estates are unparallelled. Every lot has spectacular views. Some have 270-degree views of the city of Kingston, others have magnificent hill views, and a few of them have both,&rdquo; it was noted.<br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13651974/259213_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12642305/184966_14889_repro_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13651971/259214_w300.jpg Local Business Sunday, February 19, 2017 12:00 AM GK to add 20 agent banks http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/GK-to-add-20-agent-banks-_89943 BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com GraceKennedy group plans to add at least 20 First Global Bank branch networks across its Western Union locations in Jamaica later this year, using the agency banking model.<br /> <br /> With the agency banking regulations approved by the Bank of Jamaica, CEO of the GraceKennedy Group Don Wehby expects that the initiative will be a game-changer for First Global and will also bring greater support for financial inclusion across the island. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;What you are going to be seeing is a more integrated financial service for the GK Group where at some of these locations you can buy your microinsurance, top up GK MPay and you can do banking as regulated by agency banks,&rdquo; Wehby told the Sunday Finance. <br /> <br /> The BOJ has proposed that services to be offered by agents include delivery of customer account statements and payment instruments such as prepaid cards on behalf of deposit-taking institutions, cheque encashment, deposits and withdrawals, electronic transfer of funds, account balance enquiries, and the collection of &lsquo;know your customer&rsquo; and due diligence documentation.<br /> <br /> However, deposit-taking institutions shall remain responsible for the analysis or verification of the adequacy and acceptability of the documentation.<br /> <br /> Western Union has more than 150 locations and controls roughly 50 per cent of Jamaica&rsquo;s remittance market which is valued at US$2.1 billion. <br /> <br /> Wehby is leveraging relations through GraceKennedy Money Services (GKMS) to have First Global&rsquo;s contact points greater than Scotiabank and National Commercial Bank Jamaica.<br /> <br /> The GraceKennedy Group, which celebrated its 95th anniversary last week, lauds itself as a consumer-centric company incorporation digitisation in line with global trends. The company, through GKMS, has since launched its mobile payment platform, GK MPay, a system expected to bring greater support for financial inclusion across the island. <br /> <br /> Described as a &lsquo;revoluntionary platform&rsquo;, GK MPay permits users to execute a range of transactions, including: bill payment, top-up of phone credit, make peer-to-peer transfers, and even purchase items from established merchants or the sidewalk vendors from a mobile device.<br /> <br /> GKMS has also received approval from the BOJ for users of the GK MPay to receive Western Union remittances via the platform. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13652300/172822_w300.jpg Local Business Sunday, February 19, 2017 12:00 AM Post Office answers ring of alarm http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Post-Office-answers-ring-of-alarm_89915 Claudienne Edwards Dear Claudienne:<br /> <br /> I live in Connecticut, USA. In 2011 I suffered a broken back as the result of a fall. During surgery on February 7, 2011, the doctors placed titanium, steel and plastic in my back. A battery was also implanted in my side to stimulate my spine, ease the pain and assist me in walking. The battery was implanted on November 28, 2011, and was supposed to last for 10 years. However, an X-ray done on January 20, 2017 showed that the battery was dead and would have to be replaced.<br /> <br /> The operation to replace the battery has been scheduled for March 17 at the Bridgeport Hospital in Connecticut. If during that operation the doctor discovers that the wire in my back is damaged, he says he will have to close the incision; another surgeon will have to come and reopen the incision at a later date, remove the damaged wire, rewire my back, then install the new battery in my side.<br /> <br /> I live alone and am now experiencing a lot of pain. My daughter, who lives in Savanna-la-Mar, wants to come to the US to help me after the operation as the doctor says I will need someone to assist me.<br /> <br /> The doctor gave me a letter that explained to the United States embassy in Jamaica my daughter&rsquo;s need for a visa to come and assist me for a few months. She took the letter to a travel agency which got her a March 17 date for an interview at the embassy. <br /> <br /> However, since March 17 is the date scheduled for my operation, the doctor wrote another letter to the embassy explaining that I would need my daughter to assist me before that date.<br /> <br /> On January 24, 2017 I sent my daughter a small package by express mail that contained a gold ring and the second letter from my doctor. I was told that the package would reach my daughter in three days.<br /> <br /> However, the Customs Department at the Central Sorting Office in Kingston opened the package and requested the invoice for the ring. I quickly sent them the invoice and I was told that the package would be sent on to Savanna-la-Mar immediately.<br /> <br /> Up to now (Friday February 10), my daughter has not received the package. <br /> <br /> She urgently needs to get the letter so that the travel agency can ask the US embassy for an earlier interview date. <br /> <br /> I have made several calls to the Central Sorting Office, but despite their assurances the package has not yet reached Savanna-la-Mar.<br /> <br /> My pain is intense and I cannot sleep on a bed. I sleep in a &ldquo;lift chair&rdquo;. Pressing a button on the chair lifts it to a position that enables me to stand or lie down and sleep on it. <br /> <br /> The doctor says that after the operation I will need someone to assist me both at the hospital and at home. I will also have to use a walker to help me move around. <br /> <br /> I would appreciate your help to find out why the post office has not yet sent the package to Savanna-la-Mar. <br /> <br /> DC<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> Dear DC:<br /> <br /> On Monday February 13, Tell Claudienne contacted the office of the Postmaster General at South Camp Road. We gave the Public Relations Department the tracking number for your package. The PR department has informed us that after the Customs Department got the voucher and cleared the package, it should have been sent immediately to another section of the post office to be dispatched. Apparently there was a misunderstanding that resulted in the package not being dispatched to Savanna-la-Mar. After the PR department intervened, we were assured that the package was being prepared for dispatch to Savanna-la-Mar on Tuesday, February 14, and that your daughter could collect it at the local post office on Wednesday, February 15. <br /> <br /> We spoke with your daughter on Wednesday and she said she had received the package.<br /> <br /> We wish you all the best.<br /> <br /> Have a problem with a store, utility, or company? Telephone 936-9346 or write to: Tell Claudienne c/o Sunday Finance, Jamaica Observer, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5; or e-mail: edwardsc@jamaicaobserver.com. Please include a contact phone number. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13652130/171025_85818_repro_w300.jpg Local Business Sunday, February 19, 2017 12:00 AM Montego Bay seeking greater investment http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Montego-Bay-seeking-greater-investment_89946 BY HORACE HINES News reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Jerry Butler will deliver the keynote address at the inaugural staging of Invest MoBay - a conference to be hosted by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) on Friday, March 3 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The conference will focus mainly on business and investment opportunities.<br /> <br /> The initiative will be marked by a business panel and luncheon. Investors and business executives will be exposed to numerous opportunities for business and industry development, as well as alternative avenues emerging in Montego Bay, the fastest-growing city in the English-speaking Caribbean.<br /> <br /> Montego Bay, which enjoys the lion&rsquo;s share of the nearly three million tourists who arrived in the island last year, offers countless openings for investors in the hospitality and related industries. <br /> <br /> In fact, the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, which up to last year provided 22,000 jobs, is poised to grow by more than five times within the next four years.<br /> <br /> Additionally, the population of Montego Bay now stands at approximately 180,000 residents and growing. This expanding population triggers the need for low to middle-income housing, urban transportation, infrastructure development in the area of roads, sewerage, garbage disposal, etcetera, presenting substantial investment opportunities in these areas. <br /> <br /> Bearing in mind the possibilities emerging in the various sectors, the focal point of the Invest MoBay summit will be hinged on the key areas of agriculture, agro-processing, light manufacturing, infrastructure development, transportation, housing and services.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the inaugural conference will provide a business venue where investors and business executives will interact with leading stakeholders in the city, drawn from various sectors, including political, business, academic, human resources,developers and other industry experts.<br /> <br /> Already, the upcoming investment and business conference is generating tremendous momentum and interest throughout the business community in Montego Bay, to the delight of MBCCI president Gloria Henry.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We want to accelerate the process of investment matchmaking where investors can be introduced not just to products, but to local entrepreneurs and facilitators that can help them gain access to investment opportunities in this growing economic corridor,&rdquo; Henry stated.<br /> <br /> MBCCI director Conrad Robinson concurred: &ldquo;Montego Bay is a vibrant emerging market with tremendous possibilities and opportunities for trade and investment&hellip;.and through the Invest Montego Bay initiative we are determined to demonstrate that the City of Montego Bay is open for business.&rdquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12959464/203276_w300.jpg Local Business Sunday, February 19, 2017 12:00 AM