Neville Prior

EFSA OKs Titanium Dioxide but Nano Concerns Remain

Neville Prior  16 September 2016 01:03:32 PM
EFSA has said white food colouring titanium dioxide poses no health concerns despite data gaps, but campaigners have raised doubts over the safety of nanoparticles.

Bayer Clinches Monsanto Takeover

Neville Prior  16 September 2016 01:03:04 PM
Bayer has finally won its hard-fought battle to take over US agribusiness rival Monsanto. The two agriculture giants have just confirmed that the deal will go ahead after Bayer sweetened its offer to $128 per share. Altogether, the purchase price will total $66 billion. Based on Monsanto’s closing share price on May 9, 2016, the day before Bayer’s first written takeover offer, the price represents a premium of 44%.

The German company said it will finance the transaction with a combination of debt and equity, with the equity component of around $19 billion to be raised through the issue of mandatory convertible bonds and a rights issue with subscription rights. Bridge financing of $57 billion has been secured from BofA Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and JP Morgan. Despite the much higher level of debt it will carry, Bayer said it still targets an investment grade credit rating post-closing and is committed to the single "A" credit rating category over the long-term.

Acknowledging, indirectly, that it has had a close look at Monsanto’s books – something that was not entirely clear during its long courtship of the US group – Bayer said it has confirmed sales and cost synergies assumptions in due diligence and expects annual EBITDA contributions from total synergies of approximately $1.5 billion after year three, plus additional synergies from integrated solutions in future years. Bayer added that it expects the Monsanto takeover to provide its shareholders with accretion to core earnings per share in the first full year after closing and a double-digit percentage accretion in the third full year.

Closing of the deal is expected by the end of 2017, following all regulatory approvals. Bayer’s supervisory board has given its blessing, but Monsanto shareholders will also have a say, as will antitrust approval authorities. Bayer has committed to a $2 billion reverse antitrust break fee, if the transaction fails to gain approval. Monsanto’s chairman and CEO, Hugh Grant, who successfully held out for several increased bids, said he believes the combination with Bayer “represents the most compelling value for our shareowners, with the most certainty through the all-cash consideration.”

Pro forma sales of the combined agricultural businesses totalled €23 billion in 2015.

The industry’s two giants said their merger will benefit from Monsanto’s leadership in seeds & traits and its Climate Corporation platform, along with Bayer’s broad crop protection product line across a comprehensive range of indications and crops in all key geographies. The new player – which at present will be the clear industry leader – will have its global Seeds & Traits and North American commercial headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, its global Crop Protection and overall Crop Science headquarters in Monheim, Germany, and an “important presence” in Durham, North Carolina – in the heart of the so-called Research Triangle. Digital Farming activities will be based in San Francisco, California. The announcement of a successful deal left it initially unclear as to whether the new company will trade as Bayer CropScience or be given a new name.

BASF to Acquire Henkel’s Professional Western European Building Material Business

Neville Prior  16 September 2016 01:00:45 PM
Image:BASF to Acquire Henkel’s Professional Western European Building Material Business
BASF has signed an agreement to acquire Henkel’s professional Western European flooring, tiling and waterproofing business in order to strengthen its portfolio in construction chemicals. Both parties have agreed not to publish financial details of the transaction. The transaction includes Henkel’s flooring business sold under the Thomsit brand and the Thomsit trademark globally. Also part of the transaction is Henkel’s flooring, tiling and waterproofing business in Western Europe, currently sold by specialised retailers or under the Ceresit brand. BASF and Henkel have agreed that BASF will use the Ceresit trademark for the Western European business in the categories of tiling and waterproofing. Main markets are Germany and Benelux. Total revenue for the business being acquired is in a higher double-digit million euro range. BASF intends to integrate the acquired business into PCI Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BASF and part of its construction chemicals division. PCI Group has a leading position in the German market for tile fixing systems.

The intended transaction includes a temporary lease of Henkel’s production site in Unna, Germany, where the respective products are being produced. BASF will operate the Unna site for a period of two to three years and will then continue the business at existing PCI production sites, mainly in Hamm, Germany, which is located nearby Unna. The transaction is subject to the approval of relevant antitrust authorities and is expected to close by year-end 2016.

“The acquisition of Thomsit and the Ceresit flooring, tiling and waterproofing business in Western Europe demonstrates our strong commitment to expanding our Construction Chemicals product portfolio. Together, the strong brands PCI and Thomsit will make BASF one of the leading companies in the market for flooring products in Germany. The Ceresit flooring, tiling and waterproofing business in Western Europe will allow us to enter market segments which we do not serve comprehensively today,” said Ralf Spettmann, president of BASF’s construction chemicals division.

UK Construction Industry Keeps Its Head

Neville Prior  9 September 2016 01:58:37 PM
Image:UK Construction Industry Keeps Its Head
Fears about the post-Brexit impact on the UK construction industry have dampened after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that monthly output was merely flat in July. In its first statistical announcement on the sector since the European Union referendum, the ONS said “there is very little anecdotal evidence at present to suggest that the referendum has had an impact on output”. As a result, the ONS revised upwards its original second quarter estimate of UK gross domestic product which showed a decrease in output of 0.7%. The latest figures found that all new work increased by 0.5% while all repair and maintenance decreased by 1.1% in July. However, year-on-year construction output decreased by 1.5%. All new work, and repair and maintenance decreased by 0.6% and 3.2% respectively.

Olympic Pride

Neville Prior  21 August 2016 08:16:56 PM
Image:Olympic Pride
What a great performance from Team GB. 2nd overall but what a performance per head of the population, and top in terms of number of sports in which gold was won.

Since the depths of 1996 in Atlanta, it just shows that where there is a will there is a way!

Well done - inspirational!

(And of course congratulations to competitors, winners or not, from all countries)

Confectionery Faces Voluntary Sugar Targets and Calorie Caps in the UK

Neville Prior  19 August 2016 09:23:14 AM
Voluntary sugar targets and calorie caps on confectionery and eight other categories are planned by the UK government in March 2017.

Government Unveils £2.5bn Apprenticeship Proposals

Neville Prior  18 August 2016 11:39:01 AM
Extra support - worth £2,000 per trainee - will also be available for employers and training providers that take on 16 to 18-year-old apprentices or young care leavers The government’s new funding model for the planned apprenticeship levy would see the vast majority of employers having 90% of training costs paid for by the government. Under the plans employers that are too small to pay the levy - around 98% of employers in England - will have the bulk of the costs provided. Extra support - worth £2,000 per trainee - will also be available for employers and training providers that take on 16- to 18-year-old apprentices or young care leavers. Employers with fewer than 50 employees will also have 100% of training costs paid for by government if they take on these apprentices. In all, £2.5bn will be invested in apprenticeship training by 2020.

Apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon said: “We need to make sure people of all ages and backgrounds have a chance to get on in life. Apprenticeships give young people - especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds - a ladder of ‎opportunity. That’s why we continue to work tirelessly to deliver the skills our country needs. The apprenticeship levy is absolutely crucial to this."

“Our businesses can only grow and compete on the world stage if they have the right people, with the right skills. The apprenticeship levy will help create millions of opportunities for individuals and employers. This will give our young people the chance they deserve in life and to build a highly-skilled future workforce that the UK needs.”

A new register of training providers will be introduced from April 2017 to improve the link between training providers and employers to will help employers identify a high-quality provider so they can deliver the skills they need to grow. All employers and training providers now have the chance to feedback on the proposals for apprenticeship funding by 5 September. Final funding proposals will be confirmed in October 2016.

In response, the Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry, said: “This announcement sends a clear signal that ministers are listening to our members’ concerns. “Smaller businesses are taking on more apprentices than ever before. What’s more, a quarter of our members say they are considering employing an apprentice in the future, but only if they feel apprenticeships are affordable."

“While many small firms are committed to apprenticeships, many more continue to be worried about the time and personal commitment required. Getting apprenticeship reform right, including changes to existing funding arrangements, is key to apprenticeship growth among small businesses and the government achieving its target of three million new apprenticeships over the course of this Parliament.”

Retail Sales Rise in July

Neville Prior  18 August 2016 10:40:38 AM
Image:Retail Sales Rise in July
Warmer weather and a weaker pound helped boost retail sales in July, according to official data. Retail sales grew by 5.9% compared with July 2015, the Office for National Statistics said. "Better weather this year could be a major factor, with sales of clothing and footwear doing particularly well," said Joe Grice of the ONS. He added that there was anecdotal evidence suggesting the weaker pound encouraged overseas visitors to spend. Sales of watches and jewellery were up 16.6% in July compared with the same month last year - the biggest jump in nearly two years.

Compared with June, UK retail sales were up 1.4%, a figure that was much stronger than expected. Sterling climbed about half a cent to a two-week high against the dollar after publication of the figures. The retail data went against expectations of an immediate hit to consumer confidence from the UK's vote to leave the European Union. Other figures released earlier this week also showed little immediate impact of the Brexit vote on the labour market, but there were signs of inflation pressures building after the plunge in sterling, which could diminish the spending power of households.

Dennis de Jong of UFX.com said: "The High Street certainly hasn't taken as big a hit as many had predicted in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, but retailers will still have concerns about what lies ahead over the next few months. "The government won't be celebrating just yet, as they will need to see more evidence that consumers are continuing to reach for their wallets as the effects of Brexit become clearer."

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics said that "consumers' blissful ignorance won't last long". "July's retail sales figures show that consumers have been protected from the immediate fallout of the Brexit vote, but with firms intending to stop hiring and inflation set to soar, the High Street is set for a tough year," he said. "The real test for consumer spending lies in 2017 when jobs cuts will kick in and inflation will erode spending power," Mr Tombs added.

The Bank of England more than halved its forecasts for household spending growth over the next two years after the vote to leave the EU. It now expects growth in spending of 1.0% and 0.75% in 2017 and 2018 respectively due to lower growth in wages and higher inflation.

Happy Weekend

Neville Prior  12 August 2016 05:00:08 PM
Image:Happy Weekend
The sun is shining, its Friday evening - Good weekend all.

EU Opens Antitrust Probe on Dow Chemical, DuPont Merger

Neville Prior  12 August 2016 12:09:42 PM
Image:EU Opens Antitrust Probe on Dow Chemical, DuPont Merger
The European Union’s antitrust authority opened a full-blown investigation into the proposed merger of Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. , which could require the companies to make bigger concessions to clear their blockbuster deal. The European Commission said it would investigate whether the combination may reduce competition in crop protection, seeds and certain petrochemicals. The proposed merger, disclosed in December, would unite the two giants with a combined market cap of roughly $122 billion, before splitting into three separate companies. Last month, Dow and DuPont privately outlined concessions to EU authorities to address antitrust concerns there. In-depth antitrust inquiries are common in Brussels for large merger reviews and don’t necessarily mean a deal will be blocked. If the EU confirms its concerns, the companies can sell assets or make other adjustments to assuage regulators.

The EU’s deeper questioning of the Dow-DuPont deal comes as other top suppliers of seeds, weed killers and insecticide plan their own mergers, and antitrust officials for the bloc have signalled they will closely scrutinise consolidation in the sector.

“The livelihood of farmers depends on access to seeds and crop protection at competitive prices. We need to make sure that the proposed merger does not lead to higher prices or less innovation for these products,” said European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The commission said it found the concessions Dow and DuPont outlined on July 20 “insufficient to clearly dismiss its serious doubts” about the merger being in line with EU rules. The commission said it was concerned about the concentration of herbicide and insecticide businesses, among other product lines. The companies on Thursday said they had anticipated “a thorough review” by regulators and still expect the deal would close by the end of this year. A final EU decision is expected by Dec. 20. Given the scale of the two companies, the commission said it was “cooperating closely” with competition authorities in the U.S., Brazil and Canada that are also scrutinising the deal.
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