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African development bank board approves 900 mln euro loan for algeria


ABIDJAN Nov 2 The African Development Bank's board approved a 900 million euro ($1 billion) loan for Algeria on Wednesday aimed at supporting reforms to help the North African nation confront falling oil revenues, it said in a statement.

The money will support the government's efforts to improve domestic revenue mobilisation and the investment climate as well as boosting the efficiency of the energy sector and promoting renewable energy.

Australia corporate loans surge, defies asia slump


(Reuters Basis Point) - Australia's loan volumes jumped 11.4 percent on year to $10.97 billion from 25 deals in the first quarter of 2016, as companies rushed to refinance maturing debt, in sharp contrast to the subdued volumes seen in other major Asian markets. The strong Australian loan market stands out when compared with Asia, which suffered a 38.7 percent plunge in volume to $68 billion in the first quarter. Australia takes third spot in the region after Hong Kong and China, accounting for 16.2 percent of regional volume, according to Thomson Reuters Loan Pricing Corp data. The increased loan volumes bode well for the rest of the year with banks upbeat a number of large state privatisations coming up."There are a lot of infrastructure deals in the pipeline .. the momentum in M&A activity will continue from last year." said Aziz Dean, Westpac Banking Corp's head of loan markets in Sydney.

New South Wales, fresh from selling state transmission company TransGrid for A$10.3 billion ($7.89 billion), has kicked off the A$12 billion sale of state energy distributor AusGrid. Victoria state's Labor government is also moving ahead with the A$6 billion privatisation of the prized Port of Melbourne. Corporate-led M&A activity, however, can go quiet ahead of an election, according to Westpac's Dean, as companies need political certainty to make such key decisions.

Australia appears poised for an early election on July 2 after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced earlier this month he would force a vote on union reform bills that is likely to be blocked in the Senate by minority parties, triggering a rare election for every seat in both houses of parliament. In addition to healthy loan growth, pricing in Australia is on the rise - albeit at a slower pace than the rate of increase in funding costs experienced by the four domestic majors. On Thursday, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group raised a five-year A$ bond at 118 basis points over three-month bank bill swap rate, against 80 basis points last year.

"The cost of funding for domestic banks is going up faster than the ability to increase loan spreads," said Dean. "This must eventually mean that banks will have less capital to deploy."Borrowers can expect to pay more if the major banks' funding costs continue to rise. "Australian banks have been disciplined about pricing," said John Corrin, ANZ's head of loan syndications in Hong Kong.

Australias fairfax in exclusive talks with business spectator source


Australian newspaper company Fairfax Media Ltd is in exclusive talks to acquire the publisher of independent news and opinion website Business Spectator, a source with direct knowledge of the situation said on Tuesday. Fairfax and Australian Independent Business Media (AIBM), which owns Business Spectator, have been in exclusive talks for a week, said the source, who declined to be identified because the matter is confidential. Media reports, which have put the value of a deal around A$20 million ($21 million), have said that Fairfax was vying with News Corp's Australian arm News Ltd for AIBM. Business Spectator had revenues of A$3.6 million in the last fiscal year, according to reports.

Fairfax, which publishes the Australian Financial Review, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne, has said it is in the hunt for acquisitions. Business Spectator editor-in-chief Alan Kohler told Reuters a sale process has been underway for some time, but declined to comment on whether there were exclusive talks.

"We have had a wide range of interest, some in the business and some investors. The process is still going on," Kohler said.

Chief Executive of the Australian Financial Review Group, Brett Clegg, referred to previous comments by Fairfax that it was seriously looking at Business Spectator, but declined to comment further. As well as Business Spectator, AIBM also owns the Eureka Report personal investment newsletter.($1 = 0.9697 Australian dollars)

Businesses urged to help communities adapt to climate change


PARIS, Dec 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From coconut growers in the Philippines whose trees were wiped out in Typhoon Haiyan to palm oil prices squeezed by El Nino-linked droughts, the bottom line of consumer products giant Unilever is taking bigger hits from extreme weather. With storms, floods and droughts hiking its business costs by an estimated 300 million-400 million euros ($325.44 million-$433.92 million) a year, it is moving to deal with those impacts, which are becoming more severe with climate change. In the Philippines, Unilever has provided storm-hit communities with tree seedlings. In Tanzania, the multinational is restoring degraded land and supplying higher-yielding tea plants to growers, as well as setting up a factory to buy excess production that is currently thrown away."This is not us doing charity, this is not us doing corporate social responsibility," Pier Luigi Sigismondi, the company's chief supply chain officer, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation."We can secure the supply of our business for the long-term, as we make a positive impact on the smallholder farmers and protect the environment at the same time."But do companies call work like this adaptation to climate change? If not, should they?There is pressure, both inside and outside the U. N. climate negotiations in Paris, for more private-sector involvement in adaptation efforts to enable people and economies to adjust to worsening extreme weather and rising seas as the planet warms. Businesses are increasingly moving to protect their own assets - and in some cases, their workers - from floods, extreme heat and other threats. But this has been a lower priority than reducing their emissions through using more renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, said Lila Karbassi, head of environment and climate at the U. N. Global Compact Office, which works with the private sector on tackling climate change."The issue of adaptation is lagging a little bit behind," she said. No matter how far governments agree to curb global warming at crunch talks in Paris this week, "there will be unavoidable impacts" companies need to prepare for, she said. While this message appears to be filtering through to boardrooms, there is debate about how far corporate efforts on adaptation should go. In a report issued at the Paris climate summit on Monday, the U. N. Global Compact said companies increasingly recognise climate change as a critical factor for business continuity and competitiveness. But a narrow focus on risk management is not enough, it said.

"Companies depend on the health and resilience of the communities in which they operate, source materials and sell their products," it said."Corporate adaptation strategies that do not coordinate with public adaptation efforts or acknowledge the vulnerabilities of these communities are incomplete and will not ensure business continuity."RESPONSIBLE ADAPTATION The report lists 17 case studies of what it calls "responsible corporate adaptation". They range from Israeli company Netafim introducing a new rice cultivation strategy to decrease water use in India, to Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Group developing a "weather index insurance" programme to protect against climate change-induced crop damage in Thailand.

Karbassi noted it had been hard to find many case studies that fitted all the criteria for inclusion in the report. One problem is that companies have been taking measures to protect their supply chains from extreme weather for years, including impacts on food and water supplies. That started before such activities were branded as climate change adaptation. Pieter Pauw, a researcher with the German Development Institute, pointed to the complications of identifying which elements of a project to use less water, for example, actually count as climate adaptation rather than just water efficiency. And while some commodities firms may be working to help the small-scale producers that supply them with tea, cocoa, coffee or tobacco, that leaves many other subsistence farmers struggling to keep up their yields of maize or beans without any kind of help, he said. Even reaching the million or so farmers in Mars' global supply chains is challenging, Barry Parkin, the confectionery giant's chief sustainability officer, told a discussion on corporate adaptation in Paris on Monday. The company is working to strengthen its farmers' resilience through "dramatically improving" their yields and livelihoods. To achieve wider reach, Mars is collaborating with four of the world's other biggest chocolate brands and five major raw materials suppliers on the ground to pool knowledge in a common platform called "CocoaAction".

Getting the best adaptation strategies to millions of farmers requires "uncommon collaboration" in the market, as well as time and money, he noted. POOREST NOT PROFITABLE But action by companies that produce and use commodities can only be a partial solution to helping the poorest people cope with climate change impacts, said Tim Gore, climate change and food policy head with Oxfam International. Helping poor farmers adapt to climate impacts for the most part "are not profit-making investments", he said."Whether it's a subsistence farming community in Africa, or people living below sea level in Bangladesh that are out of reach of the private sector, how are we going to make sure those people are getting any kind of support?"That is why developing countries and aid agencies have been pushing for a commitment on government spending for adaptation in the new global climate deal due at the end of this week in Paris, where wrangling over responsibility for climate finance is fierce. Yet more collaboration between governments and business will clearly be required to adapt on the scale needed, with tens of billions of dollars needed each year, experts say. Policy makers should provide information and guidance, look for common areas of interest, fund research and development and provide subsidies for things like micro-insurance, the Global Compact report said. The U. N.'s Karbassi said there was much work to do to build good partnerships to boost adaptation for the poorest."I think it will be a huge trend in the next five to 10 years to see how businesses can be associated with governments to help the most vulnerable people affected by climate change," she said.