Archive | April, 2010

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Shell’s 30-year rule for new energy technology adoption

Shell CEO Peter Voser has made a fascinating speech in China, where he highlights the length of time taken for new energy technologies to gain adoption. He says Shell’s research shows it takes “30 years for new energy types to capture 1% of the market“. And he contrasts this with the electronics industry, where a […]

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US house prices face ‘double-dip’ risk

February was a milestone in US house markets. For the first time since December 2006, prices were higher than a year ago, according to today’s authoritative S&P/Case Shiller Index. But the rise in the 10 City and 20 City indices was just 1%. And as the above S&P chart shows, prices are still only at […]

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US army wages war on PowerPoint

The PowerPoint programme revolutionised business meetings in the early 1990′s. No longer did people turn up with a few notes, and spend 15 minutes drawing out ideas on a flip chart or acetate. Instead, they collected their thoughts beforehand into a well-worked-out proposal. But PowerPoint has also had unintended consequences. The above slide, from the […]

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Middle East worries about rise of dumping charges

Trade protectionism is on the rise around the world, as the blog forecast in its Budget Outlook back in October. It suggested that “arguments about the ‘export of jobs’ will increase“, and argued that “chemical companies will need to keep a close eye on the political arena, as they operate in a complex value chain, […]

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INEOS was refused help by the UK government

INEOS CEO Jim Ratcliffe has told the Sunday Times that the UK government “refused financial help” last year, when sales collapsed. He revealed that: • The company had approached the UK government for help with liquidity, including deferral of VAT (sales tax) payments, but “got absolutely nowhere“. • Ratcliffe had even found it “quite difficult […]

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Betting against the American dream

The political firestorm inspired by the SEC’s citing of Goldman Sachs for fraud shows no sign of dying down. It has even inspired a Broadway song that describes how another hedge fund, Magnetar, allegedly made money out of betting against the housing securities it helped to create. Click here to see it (the video is […]

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LyondellBasell to exit Chapter 11

LyondellBasell (LBI) is to exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 30 April, 15 months after entering it in January 2009. The past 15 months have been an expensive lesson for those debt-holders who financed Basell’s purchase of Lyondell in July 2007, at the peak of the market. LBI entered Chapter 11 with $24bn of debt. […]

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Alaska’s lessons for European air traffic control

Somewhere at the back of the blog’s mind is the memory of a major 1980 eruption by Mt St Helens in Washington State, NW USA. According to the Wall Street Journal, the lessons learnt by Alaska Airlines from this eruption could have avoided the closure of Europe’s airspace last week, if they had been picked […]

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IMF targets bankers’ FAT

We are often told that investment bankers are much cleverer than the rest of us. But sometimes, they do seem to lack common sense. Their behaviour since the Crisis, in paying out $bns in bonuses to the lucky few, seems no way to appease understandable public anger over the cost of the banks’ bailout. The […]

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EU auto sales rise 9% in Q1

The impact of government scrappage schemes continues to dominate European auto sales. As the chart shows, sales were up 9.2% in Q1, and March was up 10.8%, versus 2009. On a national basis, Germany continued its decline after the end of its scheme, with sales down 26.6% in March. But this was offset by UK […]

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