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Sainz has no hard feelings over Hamilton’s Ferrari move

SAKHIR, Bahrain : Spaniard Carlos Sainz said he had no hard feelings towards seven times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton over the Briton’s impending move to Ferrari as his replacement. Hamilton will take Sainz’s seat alongside Charles Leclerc at the Italian glamour team next season in a shock move announced earlier this month. “I think this is how the sport works and obviously I have a lot of respect for Lewis and the success he’s had and obviously his choice to join Ferrari,” said Sainz sitting alongside Hamilton in a Bahrain Grand Prix press conference on Wednesday. “I would have done the same in his position,” added the 29-year-old, who himself replaced four times champion Sebastian Vettel at the Maranello-based team in 2021. Hamilton, who has not won a race since 2021, signed a two-year extension with Mercedes only last August but activated a break clause to sign a multi-year deal with Ferrari. The 39-year-old has said he wanted to start a new chapter in his record-breaking Formula One story. Ferrari are the sport’s most successful team but have not won a drivers’ title since Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 championship. “There’s a huge amount of respect between us all and I have a huge amount of respect for Carlos,” said the 103-time race winner. “I don’t feel like there’s any animosity or anything like that. “It’s not a personal thing, it’s what happens in this racing world and I hope that nothing changes between us through that,” added Hamilton. “I don’t think it will.”

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More Singapore businesses will have to report sustainability information, starting with listed firms in 2025

SINGAPORE: All listed companies in Singapore will be required to make climate-related disclosures starting from the financial year (FY) of 2025, said Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Finance Chee Hong Tat on Wednesday (Feb 28). Such disclosures will have to be done based on local reporting standards that are aligned with the International Sustainability Standards Board, a global accounting standards body. The new requirement will also apply to large non-listed companies – defined as having annual revenues of at least S$1 billion (US$0.74 billion) and total assets of at least S$500 million – from FY2027, Mr Chee announced, as he laid out the Finance Ministry’s spending plans for the year ahead. This phased implementation in sustainability reporting for businesses comes after a public consultation put out by the Sustainability Reporting Advisory Committee last year. The committee was jointly formed by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) and the Singapore Exchange Regulation to advise on a climate reporting roadmap for Singapore-incorporated companies. Speaking in parliament, Mr Chee said the government has “considered the public feedback carefully” before making the decision to introduce mandatory climate disclosures in phases. He noted that other jurisdictions, such as the European Union and New Zealand, have introduced similar requirements for both listed and non-listed firms. Currently, only listed firms in five prioritised industries, such as financial and energy, are required to provide full climate-related disclosures. Those in the materials and buildings, as well as transportation industries started doing so from this year, while others make disclosures on a “comply-or-explain” basis. Under the new rules, both listed companies and large non-listed companies will also be required to obtain external limited assurance, or independent verification, on their scope 1 and scope 2 emissions. This will kick in two years after the mandatory reporting requirements take effect. Scope 1 covers a company’s direct emissions such as manufacturing facilities or company vehicles, while scope 2 covers indirect emissions generated from the purchase of electricity. There is also the so-called scope 3 emissions, which typically refers to indirect emissions from entities up and down a company’s value chain. These can include purchased goods and services, business travel, commuting, waste disposal and water consumption.

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Bitcoin eyes $60,000, ‘FOMO’ stirs biggest monthly rally since late 2020

LONDON :Bitcoin surged for a fifth day on Wednesday to near $60,000, buoyed by flows into new U.S. spot bitcoin exchange traded products that have driven it up nearly 40 per cent in February, which would mark its largest monthly rally since December 2020. Bitcoin was last up 4.5 per cent at $59,244, its highest since December 2021. Traders have poured into bitcoin ahead of April’s halving event – a process designed to slow the release of the cryptocurrency. In addition, the prospect of the Federal Reserve delivering a series of rate cuts this year has fed investor appetite for higher-yielding or more volatile assets. “Bitcoin is being driven by the support of consistent inflows into the new spot ETFs and outlook for April’s halving event and June’s Fed interest rate cuts,” Ben Laidler, global markets strategist at retail investment platform eToro, said. The value of all the bitcoin in circulation has topped $2 trillion this month for the first time in two years, according to crypto platform CoinGecko, while the price of the token itself has doubled in just four months. The bigger bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have seen a definite pickup in interest this week. The three most popular, run by Grayscale, Fidelity and BlackRock, have seen trading volumes surge. On Monday and Tuesday, around 110 million shares in the biggest three changed hands, about 51 per cent of the 215 million shares traded in the market’s most valuable companies – Apple, Microsoft and Nvidia, according to LSEG data. Three weeks ago, this percentage was closer to 15 per cent. “Essentially, we’re seeing the ETF effect ahead of schedule. Inflows into them stepped up quickly last week and have been sustained, and we think it’s reflective of advisors getting out there very quickly to start selling the ETFs to clients,” Joseph Edwards, head of research at Enigma Securities, said. LSEG data showed flows into the 10 largest spot bitcoin ETFs brought in flows of $420 million on Tuesday alone, the most in almost two weeks. Crypto investor and software firm MicroStrategy earlier this week disclosed it had recently bought about 3,000 bitcoins for $155 million, while social media platform Reddit also said in a regulatory filing it had bought small amounts of bitcoin and ether. Meanwhile, the world’s second biggest crypto currency ether,, which underpins the Ethereum blockchain network, rose 2.2 per cent to $3,320, having hit another two-year high earlier in the day. The price has risen 47 per cent in February, the biggest monthly gain since a 70 per cent rally in July 2022. Some investors are hoping U.S. regulators will approve applications for ETFs based on spot ether. Enigma Securities’ Edwards said the run higher felt reasonably steady. “There certainly isn’t a manic feeling to who’s buying and why – ether gaining against the field also speaks to a more measured environment – but there’s at least a little FOMO (fear of missing out) going on right now,” he said. (Additional reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft in London and Medha Singh in Bangalore; Editing by Alun John and Tomasz Janowski)

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China’s aviation fuel demand seen up 13% in 2024 – CNPC research

BEIJING : China’s aviation fuel consumption is likely to expand 13.1 per cent this year, extending a robust recovery last year on passenger travel, but the country’s crude oil imports may stay largely flat, according to forecasts by a research arm of state energy giant China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). Aviation fuel consumption may hit 39.3 million metric tons this year, and crude oil imports are expected to rise 0.1 per cent to 565 million metric tons, or about 11.3 million barrels per day (bpd) CNPC’s Economic & Technology Research Institute (ETRI) said in its annual outlook on Wednesday. Kerosene demand has been widely expected to grow further this year, as China’s international air travel demand gradually recovers in the post-COVID travel market. International traffic remained depressed, at 53 per cent of pre-COVID levels at the end of 2023, LSEG data showed. Wider economic pressures have weighed on demand for diesel, a key fuel for trucks in the logistics and construction sectors, as CNPC expected diesel use to fall 2.8 per cent this year to 196 million metric tons. Gasoline consumption, however, may grow 1.3 per cent to 165.1 million metric tons, CNPC said. Analysts have forecast China’s gasoline demand will likely peak between 2024 and 2025, as a rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) continues at breakneck speed. EV sales are expected to account for 40 per cent of about 23 million total auto sales this year. National crude oil throughput is seen growing 1.8 per cent to a record 752 million tons, or 15.04 million bpd, with average refinery utilisation rate pegged at 78.3 per cent, off slightly from last year’s 78.9 per cent, CNPC added. (ton = 7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion)

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Ronaldo slammed for appearing to make obscene gesture

Cristiano Ronaldo faced a flurry of criticism after appearing to make an obscene gesture following the end of Al Nassr’s 3-2 win over Al Shabab in an exciting Saudi Pro League game on Feb 25. The Portugal forward opened the scoring with a 21st-minute penalty but Al Nassr needed a late goal from Brazilian Talisca, who struck twice, to settle the game with four minutes left. After the final whistle, social media videos captured Ronaldo cupping his ear before repeatedly pumping his hand forward in front of his pelvic area. The action appeared to be directed at the rival Al Shabab supporters. In the background, chants of “Messi” could be heard, referencing Ronaldo’s long-term football rival from Argentina. The incident was not caught on television cameras, but some Saudi pundits said Ronaldo should be sanctioned. There has been no official response but Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat said the national football federation (SAFF) had opened an investigation into the incident. “The disciplinary committee is facing the biggest test. We will wait and see,” Waleed Al Farraj, a prominent Saudi writer and television host, said on social media platform X. “Everything has its limits, no matter how famous you are. This is how the major leagues are.” Al Nassr were not immediately available to comment. The 39-year-old Ronaldo has faced similar criticism in the past. In April 2023, he appeared to grab his genitals while on his way to the dugout following the end of a league game against Al Hilal, which Al Nassr lost 2-0. Earlier this month, he picked up an Al Hilal scarf thrown at him from the stands, put it in his shorts and then threw it away as he walked towards the tunnel after Al Nassr lost 2-0 in the Riyadh Season Cup final. Ronaldo, who joined Al Nassr as a free agent in late 2022, tops the Saudi league scoring charts with 22 goals in 20 appearances so far this season. Al Nassr are second in the table with 52 points, four behind Al Hilal, who have a game in hand. – REUTERS

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New programme gives ITE students public service work experience

Students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) can try their hand at working in the public service through an internship programme that started in early 2023. The Public Service-ITE Internship Programme allows students to learn new skills and competencies and explore various career opportunities in public service, said a Public Service Division (PSD) spokeswoman on Feb 15. The programme was launched as part of Public Service for Good, a movement started by PSD in July 2023 to give public officers the opportunity to contribute to causes outside their job scope, she added. Since the launch, more than 110 ITE students have been given internship roles across more than 20 public service agencies, covering job areas such as service delivery, information technology, community services and social media. Students in the programme are tagged to a mentor, who will guide them during the internship, said an ITE spokesman on Feb 15. Mentors share career advice and experiences, as well as encourage them during the stint. Dr Jason Tan, an associate professor from the National Institute of Education, said the internship programme is in line with the ongoing discussion about the definition of merit. He said: “For too long, merit has been almost too focused on educational qualifications, so this is an example of the public service trying to broaden the definition of merit through recruitment.” He added that the programme sends a strong signal to the wider public about the civil service opening itself to the possibility of recruiting a wider diversity of individuals. ITE students will have access to valuable social networks that come from these internships, which is a key benefit of the programme, said Dr Tan. “It widens these students’ thinking on the possibilities out there for them, encouraging them to think bigger and broaden their horizons,” he added. “Currently, the networks these students have often limit their options and they don’t know what is available out there for them.”

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Japan’s Advantest says executive Lefever to become CEO

TOKYO : Japan chip testing equipment company Advantest Corp said on Wednesday its Chief Operating Officer Douglas Lefever, a U.S. citizen, will become CEO from April, with current Chief Executive Yoshiaki Yoshida to move to chairman. Lefever, who became COO in January last year and previously served as CEO of Advantest America, joins a select group of foreign leaders of companies in Japan, which is known for its hierarchical and codified corporate culture. Lefever takes Advantest’s reins at a time of growing investor anticipation about the boost chip equipment makers may receive from investment in artificial intelligence, with the company’s shares gaining 44 per cent year-to-date. Advantest said last month it sees an improvement in the chip industry as inventories adjust and expects the memory tester market to reach roughly $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion this year compared with about $1.1 billion last year. Tokyo Electron’s shares have gained 45 per cent this year with Screen Holdings up about 60 per cent.

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GoTo, TikTok compliance with Indonesia’s trade regulation nears 100%, says GoTo CEO

JAKARTA : Indonesian tech firm GoTo and Chinese-owned partner TikTok will be wholly compliant in a month and a half with the Southeast Asian nation’s regulation that bans in-app transactions on social media, GoTo’s CEO said on Wednesday. Short video app TikTok acquired in December majority shares in GoTo’s e-commerce unit Tokopedia after the Indonesian trade ministry banned transactions on its TikTok Shop e-commerce unit. “Integration process is going well. All parties continue to communicate with the related ministries and as far as we know the process is nearing completion,” CEO Patrick Walujo said in an online briefing. Indonesian minister for small and medium enterprises Teten Masduki said last week TikTok had yet to comply with the regulation. TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Following December’s deal, TikTok has reopened its e-commerce services, which are now facilitated by Tokopedia. GoTo’s management said in the briefing that it will receive a quarterly e-commerce fee from Tokopedia, with the sum being dependent on Tokopedia’s gross merchandise value. Based on a GMV of $2.9 billion recorded in the third quarter of last year, the e-commerce service fee for GoTo will be $11.4 million, GoTo said. GoTo also expects its partnership with TikTok will benefit not only its e-commerce business but also its financial services segment as it will be able to offer digital payments and “buy now, pay later” credit schemes on TikTok.

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South Korea exports likely rose for fifth month in Feb: Reuters poll

SEOUL : South Korea’s exports likely rose in February for a fifth straight month, led by chip shipments, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday, in which analysts said much slower growth this month would be largely due to unfavourable calendar effects. Exports out of Asia’s fourth-largest economy are expected to have risen 1.9 per cent in February from a year earlier, according to the median estimate of 22 economists in the survey conducted Feb. 22-27. That follows an 18.0 per cent jump in January, which was the fastest since May 2022. Data out of South Korea is often distorted in January and February, due to timing differences in Lunar New Year holidays. There were less working days in February this year than last year, because the Lunar New Year holiday period was pushed back to February from January. “The improving trend of exports, led by semiconductor exports, is judged to be continuing,” said Park Sang-hyun, an economist at HI Investment Securities. “There are signs of recovery in shipments to the greater China region, which is another positive signal,” Park said. South Korea’s exports started to rise slowly from October 2023 after a year-long downturn, mostly on improving demand for semiconductors, leading uneven economic growth. In the first 20 days of this month, while exports in total fell 7.8 per cent, chip sales jumped 39.1 per cent. Semiconductor exports are likely to extend their gains to a fourth straight month this month. “Exports to China and semiconductor exports likely continued to expand on AI-related semiconductor demand,” said Park Chong Hoon, economist, Standard Chartered. However, other than semiconductors, shipments of most other products were seen sluggish, analysts said. Meanwhile, imports likely fell 10.4 per cent in February from a year earlier, after falling 7.9 per cent in January, according to the survey. That would mark the 12th consecutive month of imports falling. In the survey, the median forecast for the monthly trade balance pointed at a surplus of $1.90 billion, compared with $0.33 billion in January. South Korea – the first major economy to report trade data each month – is scheduled to report the figures for February on Friday, March 1, at 9 a.m. (0000 GMT).

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Explainer-Country Garden: How bad are its debt problems?

HONG KONG : Chinese developer Country Garden said on Wednesday a liquidation petition has been filed against it for non-payment of a $205 million loan, clouding its debt revamp prospects and undermining Beijing’s effort to restore confidence in the property sector. Country Garden said in a regulatory filing it would “resolutely” oppose the petition, which was filed by a creditor, Ever Credit Limited, a unit of Hong Kong-listed Kingboard Holdings, opens new tab. The petition is set to revive homebuyer and creditor concerns about the Chinese property sector’s debt crisis at a time when Beijing is trying to boost confidence in the industry that accounts for a quarter of China’s GDP. Who is Country Garden and why do people care about its debt woes? Until 2023, Country Garden was the largest Chinese developer by sales. The company was considered financially sound compared with peers like China Evergrande Group which defaulted on its debt in 2021. While Country Garden’s liabilities are only 59 per cent of those at Evergrande, it has 3,103 projects across China, compared with around 800 for Evergrande – making the company matter to systemic stability while also fueling contagion fears as it shows signs of financial stress. A liquidation of Country Garden would exacerbate the real estate crisis, put more strain on its onshore lenders, and could delay the prospect of a recovery of not only the property market, but the overall Chinese economy. Where are we in Country Garden’s debt crisis? Country Garden in October missed a $15 million bond coupon repayment and a group of so-called ad hoc bondholders was formed for negotiations to prepare a roadmap for repayment of its $11 billion offshore debt that is deemed in default. The developer last month said that it had appointed KPMG Advisory (China) Ltd as its principal financial adviser for its offshore debt restructuring, replacing Houlihan Lokey which it picked last year. How bad is Country Garden’s financial situation? Country Garden’s total liabilities were about $194 billion at the end of June last year, unchanged from the end of 2022. It faces 108.7 billion yuan ($14.9 billion) worth of debts due within 12 months, while its cash levels are around 101.1 billion yuan. The company’s liquidity stresses became public last August after it missed two dollar coupon payments. Country Garden Chairperson Yang Huiyan said last month the market did not recover as expected in 2023 and was still in correction. Will Beijing bail out Country Garden and what is the outlook for the developer? Beijing has so far not directly bailed out any private Chinese developer despite some of them coming to the brink of collapse since the property crisis hit the economy in 2021, after a regulatory crackdown on developers’ accumulation of debts. For now, Beijing is scrambling to introduce a string of measures, including offering whitelist financing support to select property projects, mortgage rate cuts, and an easing of home purchase restrictions, to revive the property market and prop up the sputtering economy. Country Garden on Wednesday said 135 of its projects had been listed by Chinese local governments as suitable for financing support. The country’s central bank last week announced its biggest ever reduction in the benchmark mortgage rate, although analysts believe its impact on home prices will be limited given existing mortgage holders will not benefit until next year. China’s new home prices slowed their month-on-month declines in January with the biggest cities seeing some stabilisation, but the nationwide downward trend persisted despite Beijing’s efforts to revive demand.

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