Pokemon Go catches on in Russia

(Reuters) – Pokemon GO, which marries a classic 20-year-old franchise with augmented reality, has swept Russia even before the official launch of the game in the country.

Facebook Earnings Crush, Stock Skyrockets

By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Rishika Sadam

July 27 (Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s quarterly profit and revenue blew past Wall Street estimates on Wednesday, sending its shares to a record high, as the social media company’s popular mobile app and push into video attracted new advertisers and encouraged existing ones to spend more.

Facebook shares rose 6.5 percent in after-hours trading to $131.40, their highest since the company went public in 2012.

Mobile advertising revenue accounted for 84 percent of the company’s total advertising revenue, compared with 76 percent a year earlier.

Total advertising revenue surged 63 percent to $6.24 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $5.80 billion, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

The company also saw strong growth in monthly active users, now boasting 1.71 billion as of June 30, up from 1.49 billion a year earlier. David Wehner, Facebook’s chief financial officer, pointed to Asia-Pacific, especially India, as one of the most promising areas for continued user growth.

Asia-Pacific “has been a consistently good performer for us over the last several quarters and we will continue to invest our global sales resources to drive opportunities there,” Wehner said in an interview with Reuters.

Facebook is one of the biggest beneficiaries as advertisers move money away from television to the internet and mobile platforms. The company has been beefing up its presence in the mobile video market, where Snapchat and YouTube pose strong competition.

The company is also courting advertisers to experiment with Facebook Live, its recently launched live video feature.

Facebook still has several untapped areas for revenue opportunities, including its WhatsApp and Messenger apps, both of which have more than 1 billion users. But Wehner said the company does not plan to monetize them any time soon, and that it is instead focused on building interactions between businesses and users on the apps.

Facebook also owns picture-sharing app Instagram, which recently announced it has more than 500 million users. Facebook has yet to say how much money Instagram makes, but research firm eMarketer predicts it will make $1.5 billion in revenue this year.

Excluding items, Facebook earned 97 cents per share for the second quarter ended June 30. Analysts on average had expected a profit of 82 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income attributable to Facebook’s stockholders rose to $2.05 billion, or 71 cents per share, compared with $715 million, or 25 cents per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue rose 59.2 percent to $6.44 billion, ahead of analysts’ average estimate of $6.02 billion.

(Reporting by Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Bill Rigby)

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Beekeeping is all the buzz in New York City

(Reuters) – While in other parts of the world honeybees have been creating a buzz because of their rapid decline, in New York their population has been soaring for the past few years, literally.

On first trip to Poland, Pope Francis finds a divided Catholic Church

Privately, Vatican officials expect Pope Francis to wow young people in Poland during World Youth Day, a Catholic youth jamboree dubbed the “Catholic Woodstock” — but publicly, Polish Roman Catholic bishops disagree with his views on issues like homosexuals and divorce and are concerned that he threatens to dilute Church teachings. Mana Rabiee reports.

Tangerine looks to shake up Canadian retail banking space, add one million new customers

TORONTO — Canadian bank Tangerine is targeting a million new customers over the next few years as it looks to shake up Canada’s retail banking market, which has been dominated by its six biggest lenders.

Tangerine is owned by Canada’s third-biggest lender, Bank of Nova Scotia, but has positioned itself as a challenger to the country’s biggest consumer banks, having so far built up a market share of 6 per cent to 7 per cent.

Tangerine, previously ING Direct, was rebranded after Scotiabank bought the business from Netherlands-based parent ING Groep in 2012 for $3.1 billion. ING Direct had operated in Canada since 1997. Tangerine is now Canada’s 7th biggest deposit taker and 6th biggest provider of home loans.

“We have roughly 2 million clients today. Our aspiration over the next few years is to get to 3 million,” Chief Executive Peter Aceto said in an interview at the bank’s headquarters in Toronto.

Unlike its larger rivals, Tangerine does not have a costly branch network to run, instead offering its services online, including no-fee chequing and competitive interest rates.

Aceto said the bank will focus on customers looking for alternatives to traditional banks, to take advantage of a technological revolution that has resulted in a rapid adoption of mobile banking apps and far fewer customers using branches.

“I think we are on the edge of a tipping point where we will see millions and millions of Canadians choosing a model like this. We think today there are somewhere between 10 and 12 million Canadians we call ‘direct ready’ — consumers who would be willing to buy one or more products from a bank they would never meet — and we think we should get significant market share in that growing category,” he said.

Aceto identified three key growth areas — credit cards, wealth management and chequing accounts. The bank now provides around half a million chequing accounts, a product seen as a key conduit from which banks can cross-sell other products.

Aceto said wealth management is the area most ripe for change, with challengers posed to undercut established providers on fees and deliver services to a currently underserved mass market.

“I see wealth as something that is the most prime for disruption. I think that’s the place where Canadians get the least and pay the most,” he said. Tangerine provides mutual funds to about 100,000 customers.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

Notley’s lawsuit to stop power companies from leaving contracts ‘could be a Monty Python script’

The Alberta government’s clumsy attempt this week to protect consumers – i.e. increasingly hostile voters — from the consequences of its aggressive climate change policy is backfiring, with the NDP getting blowback the size of a Chinook for not knowing the terms of its own 16-year-old power contracts, then suing to dodge the costs.

The province’s attorney general filed a bizarre lawsuit Monday to stop power companies – including utilities owned or partially owned by Alberta’s two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton – from backing out of power contracts made less profitable by Alberta’s increased carbon costs.

The lawsuit also strangely targets its own regulatory agency, the Alberta Utilities Commission, for “unlawfully” agreeing to terms in 2000 that allowed termination of so-called Power Purchase Arrangements “if a change in law renders the PPA unprofitable, or more unprofitable.”

Strangely, Rachel Notley’s NDP government claims it wasn’t aware of the out clause until recently.

The actual announcement of the lawsuit was even more bizarre. In it, the provincial government said the exit clause was “lobbied for by Enron – a discredited and now bankrupt U.S. electricity operator at the centre of numerous other controversies and questionable business practices” and secretly accepted by the previous (Tory) government so the private sector could “earn greater profit ” — as if pointing the finger at long-dead Enron, or the previous government, or profit-seeking companies, somehow bolsters its credibility.

Any NDP delusion that the fight will garner consumer support was quickly overrun by reaction that ranged from disbelief to ridicule.

In a statement Wednesday, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce said the lawsuit “sets a devastating precedent that will erode public trust in our regulatory agencies, call into question contracts that have been promulgated under existing regulations, and discourage inward investment to our province.”

“The Government’s incendiary portrayal of business as motivated only by the pursuit of profit at the expense of public welfare, at a time when business is struggling – and still contributing substantially to our collective prosperity – is as insensitive as it is insulting,” the chamber’s director for policy, Justin Smith, said in the statement.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called the suit “outrageous.”

“We have the spectacle of the provincial government suing itself because, apparently, it didn’t know its own policies that have been in place for 15, 16 years and that (Calgary utility) Enmax has been abiding by.”

“I think Venezuela has moved north,” said an oil executive. “If the reality were not so stark it could be a Monty Python script.”

One business observer described it as a “p.r. stunt” whose real intent is to tie up the dispute in the courts until the next election, while yet another said it’s evidence the province didn’t think through the consequences of its carbon policy, then made up a “ludicrous claim” to blame someone else for the fallout.

I get why they are not keen on having to potentially pay this, but neither are Albertans.

“Overall, this creates yet more uncertainty in the Alberta power market,” RBC Dominion Securities analyst Robert Kwan said in a report to clients. “Further, we wonder if this is a sign that the government will look for ways to minimize the cost to rate payers and/or tax payers of any intended (or in this case, unintended) changes in carbon legislation and market design.”

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman, who got stuck defending the fiasco, said the province is trying to protect Albertans. “I get why (those sued are) frustrated,” she said. “I get why they are not keen on having to potentially pay this, but neither are Albertans.”

With the NDP government increasing the carbon levy on large emitters, by way of the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, effective Jan. 1, and power costs at rock bottom due to Alberta’s depressed economy, Enmax, Capital Power, Trans-Canada Corp., ATCO Ltd., and AltaGas Ltd. used the out clause to terminate all of their PPAs for coal-fired electricity. The out clause was negotiated to protect the utilities against rule changes for the duration of 20-year contracts that could change the economics of the agreements.

The province is asking the Court of Queen’s Bench to deem the backing-out clause invalid because the Alberta Utilities commission didn’t have the authority to allow it. The case is going to court in Edmonton in November.

“If all these buyers were permitted to abandon their obligations under the PPAs … the estimated impact on Alberta electrical ratepayers is in the order of $2 billion … the shortfall of which will have to be charged to consumers,” Alberta says in its statement of claim.

The reality is the government has been downplaying the downside of its climate change plan from the get-go, as if remaking Alberta’s oil and gas-based economy to fit its green dreams won’t have costly consequences.

The dispute over PPAs is just the tip of the iceberg. Next in line will be coal companies forced to retire their power plants early, and oil sands companies impacted by a cap on oil sands. Watch them line up for compensation if they end up with stranded assets, with consumers/taxpayers stuck with the bill. That’s on top of a $3-billion carbon tax on everything they will have to start paying next January.

Financial Post



Distressed debt diva Lynn Tilton speaks out on ‘unfair’ SEC trial: Frankel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lynn Tilton, the flamboyant financier sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission last March for allegedly defrauding investors in three distressed debt funds, accused the…

When politics blinded hedge fund managers: James Saft

(Reuters) – Call it Obama derangement syndrome or call it principled objection to monetary and fiscal policy, but Republican-leaning equity hedge funds got their heads handed to them in 2008 and 2009.