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Monday, January 18, 2010

Luxembourg FM calls for European tax

Luxembourg's finance minister called for a new tax to fund the European Union's budget, saying in Monday's Le Figaro newspaper he favoured a levy on financial transactions or a carbon tax.

Luxembourg's finance minister called for a new tax to fund the European Union's budget, saying in Monday's Le Figaro newspaper he favoured a levy on financial transactions or a carbon tax.

"Our citizens have a direct link with their national budget but this is not at all the case when it comes to the European Union budget," the minister, Luc Frieden, wrote in a commentary for the French daily.

"It would therefore make sense to rethink the financing of the European budget through a European tax imposed on certain services or products that would go directly into the European budget," he said.

"A European environmental tax, such as a carbon tax, or a tax on certain financial transactions would be particularly suitable," he added.

The Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers met in Brussels on Monday, with its chairman calling for the group to be given greater powers for surveillance of national economies in the wake of the economic crisis.

Europe Finance Chiefs Says Greece Must Deal With Deficit Itself

European finance chiefs said Greece must rein in its budget deficit on its own as the nation’s fiscal crisis threatens to spread to other countries in the region.

“The Greeks are very much aware of how serious the situation is, and they are very much aware that they will in the end have to solve the situation themselves,” Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos told reporters today before a meeting with euro-area counterparts in Brussels. “They have difficult work to do,” Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

Greece last week presented its economic plan to push down a budget deficit that’s still more than four times the European Union’s limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product and which has prompted rating companies to cut the nation’s creditworthiness. Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou will brief his counterparts on the budget plan, which includes 10 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in cuts this year.

Papaconstantinou said in an interview on Jan. 14 that overall government debt will “peak” at 120 percent of GDP next year and “start declining afterwards.” He also signaled the need for Greece to provide more-reliable statistics after the EU said earlier this month that the country’s data contained “severe irregularities.”

“The serious reforms made to their statistics will help detect and avoid more problems like this in the future,” Schaeuble told reporters.

Economic Surveillance

Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, who is leading today’s meeting, called for “broader economic surveillance” of national economies by the euro-area finance ministers. The European Commission “should not hesitate” to warn governments if they “risk jeopardizing the proper functioning of the economic and monetary union,” Juncker said in a letter to the ministers dated yesterday.

Finance ministers should follow such a warning with “a frank discussion with the member state concerned,” said Juncker, who is set to win a new term as eurogroup head.

The finance chiefs also are debating who will succeed Lucas Papademos as vice president of the European Central Bank after his term expires at the end of May. The most likely appointees are Luxembourg central bank chief Yves Mersch, Portuguese counterpart Vitor Constancio and ECB Banking Supervision Committee Chairman Peter Praet, economists say.

Shareholders of Northland Approve Continuation of the Corporation to Luxembou

Northland Resources Inc. (the "Corporation") (TSX: NAU | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating)(FRANKFURT: NBS)(OSLO: NAUR) (is pleased to announce that at a special meeting of shareholders of the Corporation held on January 15, 2010, the shareholders of the Corporation overwhelmingly approved the continuation of the Corporation from British Columbia to Luxembourg (the "Continuation") and certain other matters relating to the Continuation. Of the 54.77% of the shares represented at the meeting, 99.96% voted in favour of the Continuation.

Management of the Corporation has determined that the Continuation is in the best interests of the shareholders and the Corporation. The Continuation into Luxembourg, a European country, is consistent with the Corporation's objective of integrating into Europe to facilitate development of its European assets.

The Continuation will become effective upon filing the migration deed in Luxembourg. Upon the effective date of the Continuation, the Corporation will no longer be incorporated pursuant to the laws of British Columbia but will be subject to the jurisdiction and laws of Luxembourg. In addition, the Corporation will change its name from "Northland Resources Inc. to "Northland Resources S.A.". The Corporation will remain a reporting issuer pursuant to Canadian securities laws in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Juncker assured of third term

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker looked likely to secure another term as president of the Eurogroup ahead of a meeting of finance minsters, on 18 January. Emerging as the only candidate after Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti last week denied having an interest in the post, Juncker saw fit to send a letter to ministers setting out his intention to modernise the group, which coordinates the interests of the 16 countries using the euro. Calling for a closer coordination of economic policies and surveillance, Juncker said in the letter – seen by AFP– that warnings may be necessary for countries that stray from agreed norms.

“The Eurogroup should lead a more broad economic surveillance [...] to identify priority problems for each of our member states and to establish a coherent frawework for action,” the letter says. It goes on to argue that in cases where some countries deviate from the “general lines” agreed by the majority, the European Commission should issue warnings to ensure the smooth functioning of the economy.

In a protocol attached to the Lisbon Treaty, the Eurogroup is given a special status in order “to develop ever-closer coordination of economic policies within the euro area”. While ministers from the 16 countries continue to meet informally – meaning they adopt no conclusions – under Article 136 of the treaty, they will now have greater scope to set their own rules on budgets and economic policy. Ministers can vote on the measures by qualified majority in the Council. They can also vote on a unified eurozone position in international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and G20 (Article 138).

Spain has signalled that it is keen to see a greater coordination of eurozone policies in these two organisations, and aspiring Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn is to come out with a communication on the issue should he be confirmed in the post at the end of this month.

The new powers could be particularly important given that several EU member states – and most notably Greece – are having problems keeping their budget deficits and government debt under control. Greece has been an item on the Eurogroup agenda for months, but will come up for particular scrutiny after a Commission report found, on 8 January, that its Statistics Office had failed to provide Eurostat with accurate government accounts for 2008 and 2009. Greece was to submit an updated stability and growth programme under the EU’s excessive deficit procedure, on 15 January, and ministers will be eagerly awaiting a detailed run-through of the programme from their Greek counterpart, George Papaconstantinou.

The issue of warnings and sanctions will also feed into talks on the new EU2020 strategy, which have faltered at the first hurdle over whether or not member states should be punished for failing to meet growth and jobs targets.

Belgian, Luxembourg rescue teams return from Haiti

Members of Belgian and Luxembourg rescue teams arrived in Brussels at the weekend from quake-ravaged Haiti, believing they have done all they could to help find survivors, the foreign ministry said.
BRUSSELS - The teams landed at around 1845 GMT in an Airbus A330 plane, with some 20 other people aboard, including Belgians and foreign nationals who sought to flee by any means possible, images from broadcaster RTBF showed.
The Belgian B-FAST search and rescue team was among the first from abroad to arrive on the scene following Tuesday's quake, which is thought to have killed more than 50,000 people and injured a quarter of a million others.

While B-FAST medical teams remain in Haiti, the 22-member search and rescue team withdrew believing that it could do no more to save people trapped in buildings destroyed by the 7.0 earthquake.

A team of 16 search and rescue specialists from Luxembourg was also aboard.

"The opinion of the United Nations, as well as the teams themselves, was that at this time, notably given the climatic conditions, their chances of success became too slim," Belgium's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The B-FAST field hospital is fully operational, but security around this hospital is not yet optimal," the statement said, adding that UN protection was being sought for the medical staff.

The Belgian search and rescue team had to spend its last night at the airport in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince due to security concerns, Belgian officials said.

The foreign ministry said that 87 Belgians were still to be accounted for in Haiti. Three were officially listed as missing.


VAT refund changes hold up Europe businesses

Businesses across Europe have cash flow worries because of problems with a new electronic system that was supposed to speed up value added tax refunds across borders.

The move from a paper-based to an electronic system for VAT refunds at the start of January has been marred by the failure of about half of Europe’s member states to set up a working interface through which businesses can submit claims to other member states.

Meanwhile, a technical change to the point of time at which VAT has to be assessed means that it is virtually impossible for businesses to comply properly with the new rules, according to BusinessEurope, the umbrella organisation for national industry federations in Brussels.

“The new rules on when the supply of services needs to be reported for VAT are almost impossible to comply with. This may bring penalties even where no tax is due,” it warns. Henk Wildeboer, head of its VAT working group, says the organisation will be detailing its concerns in a formal paper shortly and lobbying for legislative changes .

A spokesman for the International VAT Association said that assurances about the state of the systems from member states representatives and the commission had proved over-optimistic. He said: “They are not as ready as they indicate they are.”

The biggest problems were potentially faced by transport companies for which VAT on diesel fuel is a significant portion of their operating costs, he said. They could face serious cash flow problems if the VAT refunds are delayed. VAT reclaim agencies will also face particular difficulties, he said.

The survey by the International VAT Association found that Cyprus, Poland, Romania, Italy, Lithuania, Greece do not yet have working portals allowing businesses to access the electronic system. Portals in Ireland, Slovak Republic, Portugal, the UK, Luxembourg, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands are only partially working.

Sweden, Finland, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and Bulgaria had fully working systems, while it was unable to obtain information about Estonia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Malta and Hungary.

The change from a paper-based to an electronic system, which was designed to make refunds for businesses faster and easier, was part of a package of reforms that represented the most far-reaching changes to the EU VAT system since the introduction of the single market in 1993.

The reform of the refund system was an attempt to move away from a burdensome paper-based system which often resulted in delays with valid claims being paid late or not at all. Many companies ended up paying much more tax than they needed because they were put off making claims by the difficulty of keeping up to date with legislation in different countries, complicated paperwork, tight deadlines for submitting claims and language barriers.

A spokesman for the Association criticised a failure to conduct end-to-end testing of the IT system before it went live. He also criticised the failure of member states to collaborate in building compatible portals, saying that Finland and Sweden were the only countries known to have worked together.

Suggestions that the EU should go back to its old paper-based system until the new technology is up and running have been rejected on the grounds of legal rules and the unworkability of operating two systems in parallel, he said.

The timing issue stems from the fact that a “taxable event” for cross-border services supplied to businesses is now deemed to occur when the service is supplied, rather than when it is invoiced. But Mr Wildeboer says that, because invoicing inevitably lags, this means that businesses cannot realistically calculate the right amount of tax due in any month. While some member states are fairly sympathetic to short payment delays – such as the UK and some Nordic countries – others are “really strict” and could impose penalties.

BusinessEurope will lobby to revert to calculating VAT at the invoice date, but Mr Wildeboer says that it will also want some assurances that member states will apply a “soft touch” vis-a-vis penalties in the meantime.

European Union finance ministers, meeting in Brussels, will have another stab at trying to agree revisions to the savings tax directive, so as to better crack down on tax evasion, on Tuesday. The measures require agreement by all 27 EU member states, and progress proved impossible last month, when Austria and Luxembourg dug their heels in over automatic sharing of savers’ bank account information. Although the majority of EU member states are supportive of the changes, diplomats say it is unlikely that unanimity will be forthcoming.
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Luxembourg's "Draft Dodgers" an uneven war drama

PALM SPRINGS, California (Hollywood Reporter) - The youth of Nazi-annexed Luxembourg had a choice, "Draft Dodgers" shows: conscription in the German army and likely death on the Russian front or the death-in-life of hiding in the country's iron mines for months on end.

Focusing on one young man's brutal wartime awakening, Luxembourg's foreign-language Oscar entry is by turns melodramatic and muscular.

The English-language title of "Refractaire" -- which bowed stateside at the Palm Springs festival -- doesn't quite match the nuance of the original. And producer Nicolas Steil's directing debut sometimes forsakes subtlety for overwrought flourishes. But at its best, "Draft Dodgers" offers fine period detail and makes powerful use of actual locations, from the mines themselves to the banal basement stairs that the occupiers turned into a tool of torture.

Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet stars as Francois, an unlikely member of one of the subterranean communities of deserters. Neither a communist nor the son of dissidents, he's the privileged child of an engineer who was well-known for collaborating with the Germans. After his father's retaliatory murder and his mother's steady fade into insanity -- one of the film's clumsiest elements -- Francois leaves the German-run university, where lectures center on the difference between Aryans and subhumans, and makes his way underground, with the help of the Resistance. In his three-piece suit and polished shoes, Francois is an almost comical addition to the group, which is run by the wiry Pierrot (Michel Voita) and at first glance threatens to turn into a collection of character types.

But broad strokes notwithstanding, the film is less interested in obvious personality clashes and class distinctions than in the ways Francois breaks out of his protective cocoon and into the world of moral complexity -- a world powerfully represented by the dank, impenetrable darkness of the mine.

Eventually becoming a courier for the Resistance, the collaborator's son finds a convenient hiding place in the arms of a collaborator's wife, Malou (Marianne Basler). The affair with an older woman is nothing if not a cliche of coming-of-age dramas, and the film doesn't entirely avoid a familiar touch of the mawkish. What deepens the lonely Malou's character is her clear understanding of what the Nazi Party represents to her weak, disappointed husband.

The film's strength is its understanding of the degrees of resistance and collaboration. At the other end of the spectrum are patches of stilted dialogue -- especially in Francois' family back story -- and plaintive music to drive home points.

Performances are a mixed bag; among the standouts are Thierry van Werveke as Malou's husband, Carlo Brandt as trigger-happy dissident Jacques and Guillaume Gouix as the rough-hewn Rene, who above-ground was Francois' rival for the affections of a girl. Leprince-Ringuet is not the most compelling of protagonists, but he convinces as an untested boy getting a devastating crash course in adulthood.

Traipefest 2010 Jan. 25

The spellings of this annual community event may vary, but year after year the message remains the same. The annual Treipenfest (aka Tripenfest, Tripefest, Traipenfest and Traipfest) in Rollingstone means socializing with friends and enjoying plates of delicious food, including specially-seasoned traipen.
It is a yearly gathering that is produced through the collaboration and hard work of an intergenerational group -- families and friends of different professions, ages, and national backgrounds, most from Rollingstone, Oak Ridge, Altura, Lewiston, Minneiska and Winona; a few from St. Paul, La Crosse and the Milwaukee area. Many of those who plan the event and prepare the food are descendents of immigrants from Luxembourg, where traipen (a type of blood sausage) has been made for centuries.

Cooking and then sharing a hearty winter meal has been part of the history of many Winona County immigrant groups. However, the making of Luxembourger traipen is a remarkably long-standing tradition. The custom arrived in Winona County in the mid 1800s with the first settlers from the Grand Duchy.

The celebration of traipen at a yearly public Festival also has had a long history. “Fests” have been organized in Winona County for more than a century, with interruptions during the World Wars. Around the turn of the last century, Winona’s Luxembourg Society organized a “Treipen” evening. Many from Rollingstone and other towns attended. In the 1920s, Rollingstone began to advertise its own “Tripefeste.” However, these Festivals came to a halt during World War II, and were not resumed for more than a generation. In 1988, a group of Rollingstone area citizens decided to re-constitute their local Luxembourg Society, establish a Sister City agreement with Bertrange, Luxembourg, open the Luxembourg Heritage Museum, and reinvigorate the tradition of winter “Treipenfest.” Thus, while this year’s gathering is being advertised as the “twenty-second annual,” its history is much older than that.

The completion of the traipen-making was cause for celebration. With the pantry filled with meat, the family could relax and enjoy a large meal that featured home-grown potatoes, vegetables, breads, desserts, and, of course, the traipen. It was always seasoned according to a secret family formula, using “Bounekraitchen,” a type of summer savory still grown in the gardens of many Rollingstone residents.

The Fest sometimes also featured a dance -- all of this merriment tied to the celebration of “Fusicht,” the traditional Luxembourger “Carnival.” These festive events had to be completed before the beginning of Lent, a more somber season filled with prayer, much simpler meals, abstinence from drinking and meat, and occasional fasting.

The 2010 Traipefest will be held on Monday, January 25th, at Ginny’s Supper Club, 401 Rolling View Drive, Rollingstone, with servings at 5 pm and 7 pm—and door prizes. Seating is limited, so all are urged to order tickets without delay. For reservations, call Dorothy Stoos at (507) 689-2139 or Ginny Lehnertz at (507) 689-2111. Take-outs are available.

Spyker, Genii Capital to jointly bid for Saab-report

FRANKFURT, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Dutch sports-car maker Spyker (SPYKR.AS) and Luxembourg investment firm Genii Capital plan to bid jointly for Sweden's Saab, as parent General Motors [GM.UL] starts winding down the ailing business, according to German Wirtschaftsowche business weekly

The weekly magazine, in prereleased abstracts of a story due to appear on Jan. 18, said the two companies, which hitherto had been trying individually to clinch a deal to buy Saab, had now teamed up.

"According to WirtschaftsWoche information, Spyker Cars and Genii Capital have been in contact in order to make a last-second joint offer," the abstracts said, giving no other details.

Genii is backed by Formula 1 mogul Bernie Ecclestone.

Spyker said on Tuesday it was working "around the clock" and was not prepared to give up on a deal to snag Saab. [ID:nN12118333] (Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Maureen Bavdek)

UAE's Dubai, Luxembourg aim to cooperate in financial services

DUBAI, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- Luxembourg's Crown Prince Guillaume Tuesday attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)between his country and the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC).

Home of 249 regional and international banks, insurers and asset managers, the DIFC has decided to cooperate in the future with Luxembourg in various fields including market access, financial regulations and infrastructure, training, and industry development for firms located in the two jurisdictions, according to the MoU.

Joined at the signing ceremony by a senior finance delegation which is currently visiting the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Crown Prince Guillaume encouraged firms from Dubai to do business in Luxembourg.

"The world's largest satellite operator company, SES Global, is based in Luxembourg and various Internet sales providers like Amazon, Skype and Ebay equally have chosen Luxembourg as their European headquarters," he said in a speech addressing the DIFC Authority, led by DIFC governor Ahemd Humaid Al Tayer.

Al Tayer welcomed the MoU with Luxembourg. "Luxembourg's uniqueness and strategic location in the center of Europe makes it a natural partner for the UAE which itself enjoys a key location in the Middle East," he said.

He also stressed that the UAE, of which Dubai is considered the city of finance, has taken effective measures to tackle the financial crisis.

"Some of the major policy measures taken by the UAE included a guarantee of all deposits by the Central Bank, the setting up of a50-billion-dirham (about 13.6 billion U.S. dollars) emergency liquidity facility, and the deposit of 70 billion dirhams in local banks by the government," he said.

Luxembourg has a tradition as a financial center in Europe and is specialized on the investment funds industry in particular. With lower tax rates than in neighboring France and Germany, it attracts capital as well as residents from both countries, which are member states of the European Union (EU) as Luxembourg is.

The country, which has a total population of only half a million people, is the second largest investment fund center in the world and the Eurozone's premier hub for private banking.

Its 148 banks contribute 38 percent to the country's GDP. Some 3,450 investment funds are registered in the tiny state, overseeing around 2 trillion euros (about 2.9 trillion dollars) under management. However, banks' cumulated balance sheet shrank by 19 percent in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis.

With the MoU with Dubai, they hope to get better access to the Middle East, where private wealth is estimated at around 3 trillion dollars.

Juncker says U.S. bank fee idea tough to copy in EU

LUXEMBOURG, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. idea of recouping the costs of the financial bailout by taxing banks is the right one, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers said on Friday, but it would be difficult to copy in the European Union.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also Luxembourg's prime minister, told a news briefing that the idea would be discussed at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Monday.

"(President Barack) Obama without a doubt is right to propose these measures. We have to see now in Europe ... whether we proceed in the same way," he said.

"I have no preconceived idea but I would find it difficult to adopt a common approach as tax matters are decided on a national level," he said. "We will exchange views on this Monday evening." Obama on Thursday proposed that Wall Street banks pay up to $117 billion via a levy on assets in order to reimburse taxpayers for the financial bailout, and criticised bankers for their "massive profits and obscene bonuses." [ID:nLDE60E142] (Reporting by Michele Sinner, writing by Jan Strupczewski, editing by Luke Baker)

Stingrays Are Cute, And Pretty Smart Too -- A gift from the Parc Merveilleux Zoo in Luxembourg to the Tiergarten Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna made in 2003 led to a serendipitous research project by zoo observers.

The gift: several adult South American Vermiculate river stingrays (Potamotrygon castexi). The research: designing a way to test the cognitive abilities of the stingrays.

Shortly after the adult stingrays were delivered to the Vienna Zoo, one of the females gave birth to six stings. The stings were separated from the adults and kept in an 850 liter aquarium covered with layers of duckweed to reduce the ambient light from the room.

The plants became very dense, and soon the young stingrays were observed floating on their backs inspecting them. Then, the stings began to spurt water from the tank through the duckweed, all over the floor. Even after a layer of mesh was placed on the tank to limit the mess, the stingrays perfected their aim, and spit water right through the tiny holes in the mesh.

What was all this about? Was it a form of stingray play? An effort to get human attention?

Dr. Michael J. Kuba, leader of the stingray project reported: "My interpretation is that small food remnants remained lodged in the duckweed, triggering the "water spouting" behavior. Also, the rays appeared to have learned that humans mean "food" and, therefore, began to spout water as soon as someone approached the aquarium."

Three researchers, including Dr. Kuba and Ruth A. Byrne - both of whom recently worked at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research (Altenberg, Austria), now at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem - and Gordon M. Burghardt, Professor at the University of Tennessee, USA, developed a method for studying problem solving and tool use in stingrays.

Five of the stings were studied. Each one faced a food-filled plastic pipe with one end sealed (black) and the other open (white). The challenge for each was to figure out how to get the food out of the pipe.

All of them figured out how to get the food quickly, one on the first attempt. They were able to differentiate the white end of the tube on repeated tries, and they all used water as a tool to help get their food out of the pipe. (They squirted water into the tube to loosen the food and then sucked the food out of the pipe.)

This level of cognitive ability - both the ability to use tools and the ability to problem solve - has never been revealed before about the stingray. Neither, according to Dr. Kuba, have stingrays been studied cognitively before. " sharks, [stingrays] have often been considered to be reflex machines having very acute senses but limited cognitive capacities," he told BBC's EarthNews.

Finding out more about cognition in stingrays could tell us more about the evolution of cognition in other vertebrates. But can they have their own act at Sea World?

That, we shall see.

More information: -- BBC Earth News

Rothschild backs new hedge funds platform

UK wealth manager Rothschild has emerged as the most high-profile supporter of a new European funds venture hoping to tap into the demand for more liquid, tighter-regulated hedge funds.

Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild, a Luxembourg arm of the family wealth-management empire, is the biggest name involved in the Next Generation Absolute Return platform, which has been set up by Switzerland-based Decision Analytics Advisory Partners and will offer built-to-order absolute-return strategies from as many as 12 underlying investment managers.

Decision Analytics' venture brings together several European asset management firms, besides Rothschild. These are Luxembourg-based Lemanik Asset Management; the Swiss firms Secquaero Advisors and Plexus Investments; and German-based fund manager Acatis Investments. All will comply with the EU's Ucits rules.

Fred Sage, managing partner of Decision Analytics, said in a statement: "Our combined expertise provides the investor with the benefits of pre-screened, hard to identify managers who bring excellent strategies, skill, track records and the required capacity".

Advising on the platform is Bob Friedman, who built a similar operation for American Express Bank's wealth business in the early 2000s.

The new venture is tapping into a theme that has been keeping the hedge funds industry busy in recent months. Several managers such as Brevan Howard, BlueCrest, Marshall Wace and Veritas Asset Management have launched Ucits-compliant versions of their strategies.

Other firms, notably Schroders' subsidiary NewFinance Capital, have also recently launched fund platforms. Meanwhile, companies such as 3A Asset Management have begun marketing 'funds-of-Ucits-compliant-hedge-funds'.

The EU's Ucits III rules set minimum standards on liquidity, transparency and risk management, and allow managers to market themselves to "non-sophisticated” investors.

Commerzbank to sell Dresdner Bank Monaco

Commerzbank has announced that it has agreed to sell Dresdner Bank Monaco S.A.M. to Bank Audi sal – Audi Saradar Group.

The value of the deal is undisclosed, and the sale itself is subject to the necessary approvals of the relevant regulatory authorities.

Dresdner Bank Monaco S.A.M. is a subsidiary of Dresdner Bank Luxembourg S.A and focuses upon private wealth management in northern Italy, southern France and Monaco itself.

At the end of 2008 its assets under management were €233m, and it employed 18 staff.

Bank Audi sal is a leading Lebanese financial institution and already has a presence in France, and Switzerland.

The acquisition of Dresdner Bank Monaco S.A.M. is in line with Bank Audi sal’s strategic objective of developing a strong private banking presence in Europe.

Commerzbank has made a number of sales in recent months, last year selling off the Kleinwort Benson business to financial holding company RHJ International and the Global Agency Securities Lending business of Dresdner Bank to Deutsche Bank.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Luxembourg funds woo UAE investors

Luxembourg, the second- largest investment fund centre after the US and an important private banking centre in the Europe, is trying to attract fund managers from the UAE to invest in registered funds there, people associated with the matter told Emirates Business.

As a part of the initiatives to attract investments from the UAE into the Luxembourg-registered investment funds, the Crown Prince of Luxembourg Prince Guillaume will visit the UAE on January 12.

Officials at Loyens & Loeff, a law firm that is sponsoring the events associated with the visit, said the prince will be accompanied by Luxembourg's Finance Minister Luc Frieden.

The visit comes close on the heels of a tax treaty becoming effective between the two countries. "The visit comes as a part of the efforts to attract the UAE fund managers and initiators to use Luxembourg -registered investment funds," said Stijn Janssen, Tax Advisor with Loyens & Loeff.

Prince Guillaume will also visit Bahrain.

While Bahrain already has about 600 Luxembourg-registered investment funds, the number is much lesser in the UAE. "We want more Luxembourg-registered funds to be launched in the UAE," Janssen said. He added that 10 Luxembourg-registered funds have been in launched in the country in the past one year.

"Four of these are Shariah-compliant funds," said Valerie Mantot Groene, Attorney at Law with Loyens & Loeff. These funds have been launched by the UAE-based financial institutions and are investing within the UAE and the GCC, Groene said. About 15 Luxembourg-registered funds have been launched in the UAE in the past two years, she said.

The UAE and Luxembourg have signed a tax treaty to avoid double taxation of companies. The treaty came into effect on January 1. The two countries have also signed an MoU to allow funds registered in one country to operate in the other.

"A Luxembourg-registered fund can operate from anywhere. However, it comes under the regulations of Luxembourg financial supervisory authority — the CSSF," Janssen said.

Prince Guillaume will address a seminar at the DIFC and meet Governor Humaid Al Tayer. Trade between the UAE and Luxembourg stood at Dh57 million in 2008 but is expected to rise much higher once the long-pending FTA between the UAE and European Union is signed. Luxembourg is Europe's leading centre for reinsurance companies. Of late, it has also been attracting several information technology companies.

This is the second high- profile visit from Luxembourg in recent months. Jeannot Krecke, Luxembourg's Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, met UAE's Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi two months earlier.

Sheikha Lubna invited businesses in Luxembourg to benefit from the opportunities and facilities offered by the UAE for investors. She added that it was important for companies from Luxembourg to take part in the exhibitions and commercial shows staged in the UAE as they offer marketing, promotion and networking opportunities in the region.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Middletown native travels to Luxembourg for semester

When Hannah Bentz, 19, started her freshman year at Miami University of Ohio, she thought she wanted to major in business.
From the start, though, she didn't like it. Gentz, of Middletown , said she always had an interest in history and foreign cultures and decided to take a political science class. Soon, she switched her major to diplomacy and foreign affairs.

This month, Gentz will go to Luxembourg to continue her studies abroad for a semester.

She'll stay with a host family in Differdange, Luxembourg, a part of the trip she thinks will give her insights into the local culture that staying in a dorm would not.

Among history, political science and marketing courses, Gentz will take a French class, one of several languages commonly spoken in Luxembourg, she said.

Gentz has already purchased her Eurorail train pass, and plans to travel as much as her free time allows.

"I like seeing other cultures and ways of life, and hopefully, I can incorporate that into my work someday," she said.

This summer, Gentz will help organize a model United Nations summer camp at Frederick 's UNESCO Center for Peace.

While she's in Europe, she'll promote the camp and its broader ideals of maintaining peace in the world, she said.

"I would love to work for an international organization someday," she said.

Bentz said she also plans to keep up her international travels. She wants to visit some other countries in Europe she hasn't seen, and Australia and Russia.

Visa on arrival for tourists from five nations

India has for the first time introduced visa on arrival scheme for five countries including Japan and New Zealand. This is to facilitate bonafied foreign tourists who plan their visit at short notice. The other three countries are Singapore , Finland, and Luxembourg . According to the External Affairs Ministry, the scheme has been introduced for one year on experimental basis. The visa will have the maximum validity of 30 days and single entry facility will be granted by the immigration Officers at Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata airports. The rule of a gap of two months between two visits will apply to only tourists visa holders . This restriction will not apply to persons of Indian origin(PIO) or overseas citizens of India (OCI) card holders as well as foreigners holding business employment, students and other categories of visa.

The government has also slightly relaxed the visa rules for the tourists who use India as a hub and visit neighbouring countries. In such cases, if the itinerary shows visits to India and other countries as part of the same trip, the government has allowed the Visa Issuing Authorities to relax the 60-day period of break and permit up to three entries into India. For others however after the tourist visits India and leaves the country, there has to be a break of 60 days before he or she can apply for another tourist visa. The residents of Bangalore and Chandigarh will become the first to benefit from an e-governance project that ensures the issuance of passports within three days of the police verifications of the applicants.

Luxembourg PO/Tamayo: Xenakis: Complete Orchestral Works

Though not quite a complete survey of Iannis Xenakis's works involving ­orchestra — none of the choral pieces are included, nor several of the concertante ones — this is a wonderfully varied ­collection of superb studio ­performances by the Luxembourg ­Philharmonic under Arturo Tamayo ­recorded over the last seven years. Xenakis's music remains some of the most remarkable of the second half of the 20th century, with a physicality and architectural sense of shape and surface that are unique in our time. I doubt that anyone would want to play all five of these discs in succession — the music is simply too pungent, sometimes too overbearing in its impact to be taken in large quantities. But the range of the ­effects that Xenakis employs, his ­spectrum of string effects, the dense-packed dissonant clusters and the ­micro-polyphony that is moulded into lava-like streams of sounds is spell-­binding in its immediacy. Though it was music that always came with a wealth of mathematical theorising to support it, as Xenakis's career went on, it was the uniqueness of its impact as sound that seemed its most important quality; no one else has written music like this.

Thank you, Dubai

Your obnoxious adherence to the Arab boycott made Chanukah come early for the Israelis.
Lyon Roth
Dear Dubai,

On behalf of many, I would like to say shukran iktir (thanks a lot). Thanks to your longstanding adherence to the Arab boycott, dozens of Israeli investors and entrepreneurs got their Chanukah present a couple of weeks early this year. Admittedly, this was an unconventional gift from an entirely unexpected source, but Israelis were completely spared the carnage precipitated by the Dubai debacle disclosed last week.

Rest assured that, given the chance, Israelis would have aggressively pursued investment opportunities in the region. Isolated for years, they have become among the most globally active entrepreneurs, seeking practically any market that will agree to work with them. Historically, that meant traveling great distances. When a Frenchman wants to export something locally, he can get in his car and drive to any of eight countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra or Spain. An Argentinian can drive to five: Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil or Uruguay. There is only one place an export-oriented Israeli businessman can drive to: Ben Gurion Airport. Due to the Arab boycott, regional trade has never been an option and Israel’s closest geographic neighbors may just as well have been on Mars.

No peace payoff

Your application of the Arab boycott is neither original nor unique. Arab boycotts of Jewish interests started as early as 1922. A formal boycott was declared by the newly formed Arab League Council on December 2, 1945, two and half years before the creation of the modern State of Israel. It applied to "all Jewish and Zionist products." The boycott evolved after 1948, and intensified following the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Essentially, it has three components: (1) the primary boycott, which prohibits direct trade between Israel and the Arab nations; (2) the secondary boycott, directed against companies that do business with Israel; and (3) the tertiary boycott that blacklists firms that trade with other companies that do business with Israel. The latter two components have been somewhat relaxed since the Oslo accords in 1993 and the peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. That year also marked the launch of the World Economic Forum’s Middle East North Africa business summits, in which many of your countrymen participated.

Patterned after the famous annual gatherings held in Davos, these were the first formal engagements between Israeli and Arab business leaders. As expected, Israeli participants, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, were tripping all over each other to meet potential Arab business partners who, for the most part, seemed overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Very few deals were consummated, and those that were received harsh condemnation in the Arab world for being premature.

The next year, in Amman, Israelis showed up with a list of 218 proposed projects worth $25 billion. As can be imagined, almost all were ignored. Moreover, the $5 billion regional bank that was agreed was never established. The Egyptians hosted the following year, and the last of these conferences was held in Doha, Qatar in 1997.

As a participant, I can attest that a lot of pressure was applied, directly and indirectly, by the Americans as well as EU countries, to end the Arab boycott entirely. These efforts failed. However, the summits did provide an opportunity to meet, learn from, and develop relationships with potential partners who, hopefully, would be more forthcoming in a more private forum.

Politics prevails

In the 1990s, I was working for Koor Industries. It was Israel’s largest conglomerate with over 50 subsidiaries, employing 35,000 people and representing 7% of the country's industrialized economy. Following each of the three World Economic Forum conferences I attended, I traveled throughout the region (with a Canadian passport) to see whether Koor’s extensive menu could provide a platform for joint venture activities with Arab interlocutors, especially within the Persian Gulf. I visited each of the six GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman) at least once and was in your city, Dubai, four times. Everyone I met was courteous and curious. But, at the end of the day, the political obstacles were insurmountable.

It is worth recalling that in 1997, oil was trading at about $10-12 a barrel, and these countries were under enormous pressure to accelerate economic diversification. Perhaps because you in Dubai had already almost run out of oil, you were substantially ahead of your neighbors in almost every other industry. Major real estate construction projects punctuated the expanding skyline and the unquenchable thirst for record-breaking trophies was visible all over the city. You developed a thriving diamond industry, a financial center, and a burgeoning tourism and entertainment complex that was a playground for the wealthy within the region and beyond. Flying to and from Riyadh through Dubai was an incredible study in contrasts. In Dubai, women wore western clothes, worked in offices and drove cars. The mega-wealthy would fly in and out just to purchase luxury goods from the largest duty-free zone in the world.

Over the next ten years, as oil soared towards a peak price of $147 per barrel, the Arab elite became increasingly wealthier and your town became their favorite place to show off their wealth. Major neighborhoods were built on man-made islands offshore, contractors were outdoing each other to construct the next Tower of Babel and a city that never came within 20 degrees of a snowy day now offers visitors year-round skiing - indoors! Nothing was too expensive because the petrodollar flow was destined to last forever. One or two Israeli real estate tycoons who have partnered with Saudi businessman on other projects are rumored to be “silent partners” in some Dubai projects as well. Yet you generally adhered to the Arab boycott and remain extremely reluctant to embrace meaningful partnerships with Israeli companies.

There is an old joke about the Jew who prefers to read Arab newspapers because instead of reading about Jews being persecuted, Israel being attacked, Jews disappearing through assimilation, and Jews living in poverty, he can now read how Jews own all the banks, Jews control the media, Jews are all rich and powerful, and Jews rule the world. One world Jews don’t own any part of is Dubai World, the sovereign wealth fund that is now teetering on the brink of insolvency, struggling to restructure nearly $60 billion in debt. This has already had significant repercussions for numerous entities within the region and many countries around the world. Except Israel. So as we approach Chanukah, let me say once again, shukran Iktir. And a'id sa’id (happy holiday).

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