sgCarMart moves into financial services

Singapore Press Holdings-owned sgCarMart has started a financial services arm to muscle in on the billion-dollar car financing market.

The car portal will offer financing to used car dealers for their vehicle inventory, as well as to car dealers to offer hire-purchase loans to buyers.

sgCarMart’s wholly owned online auction subsidiary, Quotz, will take a 30 per cent stake in sgCarMart Financial Services for $1.5 million.

The remaining 70 per cent of the venture is held by T Financial (51 per cent) and five other parties, Singapore Press Holdings said in an announcement to the Singapore Exchange.

T Financial is a fully owned subsidiary of Toh Capital, which used to be a major shareholder in four used car dealerships.

The other shareholders are car trader Lake View Group and individual investors from the management team of sgCarMart.

sgCarMart general manager Vincent Tan said: “We offer faster, more flexible and competitive loans because we have an information advantage on the cars and borrowers.

COMPETITIVE EDGE

We offer faster, more flexible and competitive loans because we have an information advantage on the cars and borrowers.

SGCARMART GENERAL MANAGER VINCENT TAN

“By leveraging our proprietary car valuation engine, we can get instantaneous and accurate market valuation for each car by analysing thousands of data points collated every month.

“Our existing dealer management system contains real-time data of over 90 per cent of all used car dealers in Singapore, giving us greater visibility over their stock levels and sales turnover.

“We can then accurately appraise the credit profile of the dealers and price our loans better according to the risk.”

Mr Tan estimates that the car financial services market is worth $10 billion in total loans, with a gross annual interest of $340 million.

The new entity has a paid-up capital of $5 million and will be headed by Mr Joe Chua, who was previously with GE Money, Standard Chartered and OCBC Bank.

Its source of funds will be from its paid-up capital, as well as from banks.

Christopher Tan

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U.S. to impose new duties on Chinese aluminum sheet products

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday said it would impose final anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on Chinese common alloy aluminum sheet products of 96.3 percent to 176.2 percent.

The decision marks the first time that final duties were issued in a trade remedy case initiated by the U.S. government since 1985. The Trump administration has promised a more aggressive approach to trade enforcement by having the Commerce Department launch more anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on behalf of private industry.

“We will continue to do everything in our power under U.S. law to restrict the flow of dumped or subsidized goods into U.S. markets,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement.

The final aluminum sheet duties, however, were reduced from those first imposed in April and July. The initial combined range was 198.4 percent to 280.46 percent.

In 2017, imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from China were valued at an estimated $900 million, the Commerce Department said. The flat-rolled product is used in transportation, building and construction, infrastructure, electrical and marine applications.

The U.S. International Trade Commission is scheduled to make its final injury determinations on Dec. 20 after it voted 4-0 in January to authorize the investigation.

U.S. aluminum industry firms including Aleris Corp (ALSD.PK), Arconic Inc (ARNC.N), Constellium NV (CSTM.N), Jupiter Aluminum Corp, JW Aluminum Company and Novelis Corp [NVLXC.UL] testified in December 2017 about what they termed a surge “in low-priced, unfairly traded imports of common alloy sheet from China.”

The firms said the volume of aluminum sheet product imports had increased by nearly 750 percent over the last decade and by more than 91 percent between 2014 and 2017. This resulted in “significant market share gains by Chinese imports at the direct expense of the U.S. industry.”

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Canada says it has no particular concerns over trade deal after U.S. vote

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada has no particular concerns over the fate of a new continental trade deal after U.S. elections that gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Some U.S. commentators are already predicting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) pact – agreed in late September – could face problems when the new House convenes in January, given skeptical comments from sections of the Democratic Party about the benefits of the deal.

Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, indicated he was not worried when asked about ratification of the treaty.

“I don’t have any particular concerns … I’m sure everyone is going to be supportive to the extent they can of the USMCA,” he told reporters.

Asked how quickly the United States could ratify the deal, Leslie noted that U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell had said he believed it would be in the early spring of 2019.

The USMCA, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, stipulates that some manufacturing wages in Mexico will increase. U.S. President Donald Trump had blamed NAFTA for causing hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs to move to low-cost Mexico.

A collapse in the North American free trade regime would badly hurt Mexico and Canada, which both send the majority of their exports to the United States.

A Canadian government source, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the situation, said Canada’s ambassador to Washington “will start to reach out to newly elected members to highlight the importance of our trading relationship”.

Leslie helped coordinate a major Canadian government outreach effort in the United States which was designed to increase awareness of how many U.S. jobs depended on free trade.

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European shares shine after U.S. midterms; Spanish banks rally

MILAN/LONDON (Reuters) – European shares bounced on Wednesday in a broad rally after U.S. midterm elections delivered no big surprise, with a string of solid earnings updates and a rally in Spanish banks on a favorable tax ruling also providing relief.

The pan-European STOXX 600 benchmark closed with a 1 percent gain near a three-day high hit earlier in the session, with all major country and sectoral indexes gaining between 0.5 percent and 2 percent on the day.

Spain’s stock market .IBEX closed at its highest since Oct. 10, boosted mainly by its banking sector.

The U.S. midterm elections saw Democrats ride a wave of dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, giving them the opportunity to block Trump’s agenda and open his administration to intense scrutiny.

A divided Congress could be neutral for equities overall, some dealers said, but the result spurred investors to return to riskier assets, such as equities.

“With the Democrats taking over the House we will now have to see what gridlock in Congress means for policy. As for the market impact, a split Congress has historically been bullish for equities and we expect to see the same pattern again,” said Torsten Slok, Chief International Economist at Deutsche Bank.

“It is too early to predict where policy will go … What matters for markets is what will happen to trade policy, healthcare policy, immigration policy and fiscal policy.”

Company results announcements drove the biggest movers on the STOXX 600, with Scout24 (G24n.DE), Ahold (AD.AS) and Vestas (VWS.CO) rising by between 6.2 percent and 7.6 percent after strong updates. Adidas (ADSGn.DE) fell 3.6 percent after the sportswear company cut its revenue target after a fall in sales in western Europe.

Weaker than expected revenue growth sent the world’s biggest security firm G4S (GFS.L) down nearly 18 percent to its lowest since August 2016 for its worst day in seven years.

BANK GAINS

Spanish banks were in the spotlight after a government move to counteract a court ruling that would have forced customers to pay mortgage stamp duty, pledging to pass a law to oblige banks to pay the tax.

Banking shares, which had rallied initially on the court ruling, came off early highs after the government’s announcement but largely held gains after it became clear that the new law would not be applied retrospectively.

Shares in Caixabank (CABK.MC) Sabadell (SABE.MC), BBVA (BBVA.MC), Santander (SAN.MC) and Bankia (BKIA.MC) were up by between 1.8 percent and 4.1 percent.

“The Supreme Court decision to maintain the status quo on the mortgage tax has removed a tail risk and restored the much-needed legal security for the banks to continue operating in the long-duration business of mortgage loans,” broker Alantra said in a note.

Topping the leader board were shares in dialysis care services provider Fresenius Medical Care (FMEG.DE), which rose 9.6 percent after a vote in California defeated a proposal to cap profits of dialysis clinics.

Healthcare stocks .SXDP rose 1.5 percent because the results of the U.S. midterms were seen as reducing the likelihood of legislative action to cut medical costs in the world’s biggest and most profitable market.

Danske Bank (DANSKE.CO) jumped 6.7 percent for its biggest daily gain since August 2013 after the lender’s largest shareholder ousted the chairman, the latest executive to be forced out after a money laundering scandal.

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Injured owl rescued by Acres in Jurong West, undergoing treatment at Jurong Bird Park

SINGAPORE – An injured owl which was found by a Jurong West resident on Sunday (Nov 4) is currently undergoing treatment at the Jurong Bird Park.

The spotted wood owl, which is uncommon in Singapore, is suffering from bilateral paralysis and is unable to stand on either leg, a Wildlife Reserves Singapore spokesman told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Nov 7).

Jurong Bird Park’s Avian Hospital received the owl on Monday evening, said the spokesman.

It is currently being housed in an incubator and receiving intensive care from an avian veterinary team.

Despite this, its condition has not improved much since Monday. Bruising was also noted on the skin on its back.

The spokesman added that if the owl does not respond well to treatment, its condition would suggest that it has a more severe spinal cord injury.

Ms Siti Norbarizah, 34, found the owl on the pavement outside her ground floor Housing Board flat on Sunday evening, and contacted the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) for help.

She posted a video of the injured owl on Facebook, and it was reposted on bird enthusiast Facebook group BirdCraze. Wildlife photographer Ted Ng, 34, who saw the video, went to check on the owl around 10.15pm on Sunday.

Mr Ng, who witnessed Acres handle a bird rescue before, told ST he noticed that there was some blood on owl’s beak, suggesting that the bird could have crashed into a glass surface.

He brought the owl home with him and wrapped it in a towel, placing it in a basket. He also provided Acres with updates on the owl’s condition, he said.

“My intention was to release the owl once it recovered. However, a few hours had passed and the owl was unable to stand up on its feet,” he said. Mr Ng handed over the owl to Acres on Monday morning .

Acres deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan told ST that the young adult owl was “weak and in a state of shock” when they picked it up.

While Acres was not certain how the owl sustained its injuries, Mr Kalai said that it was “most likely due to a window collision”.

Mr Kalai said that “owls are wild birds which are very sensitive to stress” and the public should not attempt to handle or contain large birds of prey like owls unless advised by Acres.

Members of the public are advised to call Acres on 9783-7782 or the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore on 1800-476-1600 should they encounter a wild animal in distress.

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Sumatra plane passengers refuse to fly with stinking durian cargo

The fruit’s notorious smell causes passengers outrage and they demand its removal from cargo before take-off.

    Passengers in Indonesia have refused to fly on board a plane carrying a load of the smelly durian fruit causing the plane to delay by an hour while the fresh cargo was unloaded.

    The spiky looking, popular Asian fruit has many supporters considering it the “king of fruits” but plenty of haters as well who describe its smell as dirty socks and vomit. 

    Passengers of the Sriwijaya Air flight SJ091 flying from the Bengkulu province in Sumatra to Jakarta on Monday complained to staff about smelling the notorious fruit and refused to get on the plane unless it was removed from cargo.

    Some passengers even argued that apart from the unpleasant smell, they were also concerned by the extra weight on board. 

    The airline admitted it was carrying more than two tonnes of the smelly ware but insisted they posed no danger to the flight and that the smell would go once the aircraft was in the air.  

    Sriwijaya Air official Abdul Rahim told national television station Kompas TV that the unusually hot weather was probably to blame for the stench. 

    “Durian is not classified as a hazardous material to be transported on a plane,” Abdul said.  

    “We made the necessary precautions, such as putting in pandan leaves and coffee powder to absorb the durian smell,” he said late on Tuesday. 

    After passengers who had already boarded the plane decided to get off, the staff decided to acquiesce and unloaded the fruit, a process that delayed the flight by an hour but it landed safely in Jakarta. 

    Bengkulu airport staff said they would review their procedures regarding transport of durian to avoid passenger discomfort in the future.

    ‘The innocent fruit’

    In their arguments for the fruit’s removal, some passengers referred to the crash of a Mandala Airlines plane in 2005 which failed to take off and killed 149 people. 

    That plane had been found carrying 2.7 tonnes of durian but the National Transportation committee classified the accident as a wrong take-off and loss of control, in its final report to the Aviation Safety Network. 

    The report described an improper checklist procedure that failed to indicate the retracted flaps and slats of the plane and lead to the unsuccessful take-off that took the lives of passengers, crew as well as people on the ground. 

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    Exclusive: Credit Suisse pulls out of South Africa in global shift – sources

    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) has pulled out of South Africa after more than a decade as part of Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam’s bank-wide revamp, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

    Switzerland’s second largest bank is in the final stages of a three-year drive to focus on managing the money of wealthy investors and scale back investment banking.

    “They are gone. It’s a total withdrawal wrapped up some weeks back,” one of the sources said.

    In 2013 Credit Suisse, which declined to comment, told customers in nearly 50 markets, including Congo and Angola, that it would end cross-border wealth management business with them.

    Credit Suisse’s website says it has office in approximately 50 countries and lists Johannesburg as its only sub-Saharan African location.

    Thiam, who in September ruled himself out as a candidate for political office in his native Ivory Coast, has been the driving force behind the changes at the Swiss bank. Like other European players, Credit Suisse has been struggling to compete with the U.S. investment banks which dominate Wall Street.

    Credit Suisse, which had around 30 staff at its Johannesburg office, re-entered South Africa in 2006 after leaving in the 1980s under pressure from anti-apartheid campaigners.

    QUIET WITHDRAWAL

    The Swiss bank’s quiet withdrawal comes months after its rival Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) said it would wind up its advisory, corporate broking and sponsor-services to refocus on Europe and its home market after three years of losses.

    Credit Suisse is quitting a country whose economy has slipped into a recession for the first time since 2009, and where activity in mergers and acquisitions halved in the first six months of the year to its lowest level in a decade.

    Unlike Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank plans to maintain a physical presence offering debt capital markets, fixed income and treasury services.

    Credit Suisse will offer private banking services for well-heeled South Africans from London, Zurich and Dubai, another source said. Its research teams in these cities would continue to cover selected blue chip South African companies, they added.

    The Swiss bank initially teamed up with Standard Bank (SBKJ.J), South Africa’s biggest lender by assets, to create a joint venture focusing on equity research, sales, trading and equity capital markets deals.

    But it ended this four years later, saying it would develop its offering of trading, private trading and investment bank.

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    Two men charged over illegal fireworks display in Little India

    SINGAPORE – Two men were charged on Wednesday (Nov 7) over an illegal fireworks display in Little India earlier this week.

    Thiagu Selvarajoo, 29, is accused of letting off dangerous fireworks while Siva Kumar Subramaniam, 48, is charged with abetting him.

    Siva Kumar allegedly helped by placing a box of Happy Boom fireworks on a road divider in Gloucester Road shortly before midnight on Monday, according to court documents.

    The court documents did not reveal how the fireworks were procured.

    Thiagu allegedly discharged them that evening.

    The Straits Times earlier reported that a police officer spotted bursts of fireworks exploding in the area at around midnight.

    The police said that through inquiries, officers from the Central Police Division managed to establish the identities of those involved in setting off the fireworks. The duo were arrested on Tuesday.

    A video of the fireworks display made the rounds on social media.

    Facebook group SG Road Vigilante – SGRV posted the video on Tuesday afternoon along with a post which read: “Illegal fireworks being set off at Race Course Road. Singapore police officers can be seen rushing towards the scene.”

    The post ended by wishing people a happy Diwali or Deepavali, a Hindu holiday also known as the Festival of Lights.

    Several netizens left comments speculating that the fireworks were set off to celebrate the holiday on Tuesday.

    The two Singaporeans are remanded and will be back in court on Nov 14.

    It is illegal to set off fireworks in Singapore without obtaining prior permission from the authorities.

    Offenders convicted of discharging dangerous fireworks can be jailed for up to two years and fined between $2,000 and $10,000.

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    From Myanmar to Mexico, transnational criminal groups are trafficking more drugs than before: UN

    WASHINGTON – High-level delegations from government ministries and agencies across Asia are meeting on Wednesday (Nov 7) in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw to discuss a new strategy to combat synthetic drugs: focus on the chemicals needed to make them.

    The crisis in the region has been growing, with methamphetamine production and trafficking reaching alarming levels.

    The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said seizures this year to date already exceed records set in 2017.

    Drugs pumped out of the notorious Golden Triangle – roughly where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet – are not limited to the region, where supply vastly exceeds market demand in the surrounding Mekong region and South-east Asia, said the UNODC.

    The drugs reach shores farther afield, as far away as Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

    In a report last year, UNODC said opium poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle has levelled off after tripling over the last decade, with production mainly concentrated in Shan state in northern Myanmar. But methamphetamine production and trafficking continues on an upward trajectory.

    Also, powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl are being produced, diverted and trafficked in and from the region, to North America and recently Australia, where they are mixed into the opiate and heroin markets to maximise profits.

    South-east Asia’s meth crisis is mirrored by the United States’ opioid crisis in two respects – both are getting worse, and in both cases the majority of the supply of drugs comes from grey border zones within sovereign countries.

    This is where cartels and armed groups – sometimes plainly criminal and sometimes political, or a mix of both – in parts of northern Mexico and in parts of northern Myanmar control a parallel, illicit economy which, in some respects, is the only significant economy in those areas.

    In the United States, deaths from drug poisoning have reached the highest level ever recorded, according to the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) released last week.

    The opioid threat – controlled prescription drugs, synthetic opioids, and heroin – has reached epidemic levels. Some 174 people died every day from drug poisoning in 2016, the NDTA said – more than those who died by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicides and homicides.

    The NDTA report mentions Asia-based transnational criminal organisations (TCOs) specialising in international money laundering by “transferring funds to and from China and Hong Kong through the use of front companies and other money laundering methods”.

    “Asian TCOs… remain the 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy) source of supply in US markets by trafficking MDMA from clandestine laboratories in Canada into the United States,” it said.

    In South-east Asia, the focus is shifting to stopping precursor chemicals to disrupt meth production.

    “The surge in synthetic drugs, particularly meth… is like nothing we have ever seen before, and it has required a matching surge in precursor chemicals,” UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas said.

    “At this point the trade is worth billions of dollars to the larger transnational organised crime groups as they have consolidated production into safe havens and started trafficking to increasingly distant markets,” he warned.

    “The levels of production we’re now seeing would simply not be possible without a steady and rising supply of precursor chemicals of one type or another.

    “But at the same time governments are reporting little if any seizure of chemicals and pharmaceuticals that can be used to make synthetic drugs, indicating traffickers source them easily and move them freely across borders.”

    Hence the need to interdict the flow of precursor chemicals, mostly from China and India.

    National Narcotics Control Commission of China’s deputy secretary-general Min Tianshi, in a statement on the Naypyitaw meeting, said: “The need to coordinate on a strategy and programme with UNODC has become obvious.”

    “The issue has come up again and again at regional forums,” he said. “There is growing momentum to address cross-border precursor diversion and trafficking, and we see the talks here this week as a step forward.”

    A key prerequisite is for governments, and agencies within governments, to share information quickly. Health authorities for instance, may be aware sooner than law enforcement agencies of a particular drug problem.

    “After what we have seen in North America with fentanyl and related powerful opioids, we hope everyone appreciates rapid sharing of information can save lives,” UNODC synthetic drug analyst Inshik Sim said.

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