Companies press ahead on Bangladesh safety pact; hot weather pushes up natural gas futures

07/08/2013 11:18 AM

07/08/2013 11:20 AM

Bangladesh safety accord

A group of primarily European retailers and clothing makers said Monday that it plans to inspect clothing factories in Bangladesh that make garments for the companies within the next nine months and will concentrate renovations on those that pose the biggest safety threat.

The group of 70 companies includes Swedish retailer H, Italian clothing maker Benetton and French retailer Carrefour. Under the companies’ agreement, they are required to pay administrative costs for the inspections, training and other programs. And they’re also responsible for ensuring that “sufficient funds are available to pay for renovations and other safety improvements.

The details of the legally binding five-year pact come after negotiating with worker rights’ groups and other organizations on how the plan should be carried out. The plan, announced in mid-May, initially had 30 companies signing on. The plan covers anywhere from 800 to about 1,000 of the 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh.

“Our mission is clear: to ensure the safety of all workers in the Bangladesh garment industry,” said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, a Geneva-based labor union involved in the negotiations.

Hot weather rise

Natural gas futures gained in New York Monday for the fourth time in five days on speculation that hotter weather may spur demand for the power-plant fuel.

Gas rose as much as 3.5 percent as forecasts showed above- normal temperatures from the Northeast into central and western states through July 22. The high in Dallas on July 12 may be 103 degrees, 7 degrees above normal.

“We might get some warmer temperatures that may help the market,” said Tom Saal, senior vice president of energy trading at FCStone Latin America LLC in Miami. “Last week, the market stopped its downward trend. It held support in the $3.50-$3.60 area.”

Natural gas for August delivery rose 11.8 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $3.735 per million British thermal units at 9:36 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Dell founder backed

A top proxy advisory firm is recommending that Dell shareholders vote in favor of a deal that would allow the company’s founder and an investment firm to buy the computer maker and take it private.

Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners have offered to buy Dell Inc. for $13.65 per share, or a total of $24.4 billion. Michael Dell believes he can turn the company around by taking it private and diversifying into niches, such as business software, data storage and consulting.

But Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor and Dell’s second-largest shareholder, says he wants Dell to remain publicly traded and boost value for shareholders by buying back $16 billion in stock.

The company has backed Michael Dell’s proposal and said that Icahn doesn’t have adequate financing for his plan. Shareholders will vote on the buyout offer at the company’s annual meeting July 18.

Fiat to buy more Chrysler

Italian automaker Fiat has exercised a third option to buy a small amount of Chrysler stock, but the sale won’t go through until a U.S. court settles a dispute over the price.

Fiat said Monday that it offered $254.7 million for another 3.3 percent of Chrysler’s outstanding equity.

Fiat already owns 58.5 percent of Chrysler, with the remaining 41.5 percent held by a trust that pays medical bills for retired United Auto Workers union members. The Italian company wants to buy all of the trust’s stock and fully merge Chrysler and Fiat.

The price on the options will be settled by a judge in Delaware Chancery Court, and the ruling is likely to set the price for the trust’s remaining Chrysler stake.

“I hope to close (the deal) as soon as possible if they let me do it,” the Italian news agency LaPresse quoted Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne as saying at an appearance Monday in Turin, Italy, Fiat’s headquarters city.

Buffett donations

Billionaire Warren Buffett is giving five charities more than $2.6 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock as part of his overall plan to give away his fortune gradually.

Buffett announced the annual gifts Monday. The biggest block of Class B shares of Berkshire stock worth $2 billion is going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Buffett also gave 1.75 million shares to his own foundation and 1.2 million shares to each of his three children’s foundations.

Last year, Buffett announced plans to double the amount of stock he gives to his children’s foundations because he has been pleased with the work they’ve done.

Medicare won’t pay

Eli Lilly Co. says it will push ahead with a first-of-a-kind imaging chemical designed to help screen for Alzheimer’s disease, despite a negative ruling by Medicare officials.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it will not cover the chemical, called Amyvid, which highlights brain plaque in medical imaging scans. The government program provides health coverage to more than 47 million seniors.

Medicare officials say more trials are needed to prove the tool works. The government will pay for patients enrolled in future studies, but not for general use.

The ruling is an unexpected setback for Indianapolis-based Lilly, after European Union regulators endorsed the drug in January. The company says it will continue to seek Medicare coverage.

Paulson takes golden hit

John Paulson, the billionaire hedge-fund manager seeking to rebound from losses tied to bullion, posted a 23 percent decline in his PFR Gold Fund last month, according to a letter to investors.

The drop brings the loss to 65 percent since the start of the year, the firm said in the July 3 letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. The fund, with about $300 million in assets, consists mostly of Paulson’s own money and is the smallest at the firm, which manages $19 billion. Paulson’s other funds are profitable this year.

The New York-based firm reiterated its commitment to investing in bullion and stocks of gold producers for protection against currency debasement as central banks pump money into the global economy. Gold dropped 12 percent in June, the most since October 2008, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he may start reducing bond purchases that have fueled gains in financial markets globally.

“Although the timing is uncertain, if you have a long-term view we believe the funds offer the potential for outsized returns,” the firm wrote in the letter.

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