Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mitsui warns of first ever loss; First US shale supply arrives in Europe; Grabbing wife's phone is robbery

1 Mitsui warns of first ever loss (BBC) Shares in Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co fell as much as 8% after warning of its first annual loss since 1947. Mitsui said China's economic slowdown and the slump in global commodity prices made the loss inevitable. Its president Tatsuo Yasunaga said they would "exhaust all possible means to return to profitability".

Japan's trading houses of Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Marubeni and Itochu have traditionally helped control the country's natural resource imports. This is by making large investments in raw materials that help secure supplies at certain price levels.

Several of them have already had to take on impairment costs as oil and metal prices collapsed. Mitsubishi may also post its first net loss of more than 100bn yen ($890m) in the year ending March 31.

2 First US shale supply arrives in Europe (Terry Macalister in The Guardian) The first US shale gas sailed into Europe bringing controversy in its wake. Ineos, the chemical group, said that its own gas carrier arrived in Norway on Wednesday with 27,500 cubic metres of American ethane on board. Shipments to Ineos’s UK refinery at Grangemouth are scheduled to start later this year.

“This is a strategically important day for Ineos and Europe,” said Jim Ratcliffe, chairman and founder of Ineos which has spent $2bn on different aspects of its import programme over five years. “We know that shale gas economics revitalised US manufacturing and for the first time ever Europe can access this essential energy and raw material source too,” he added.

Ineos has chartered eight purpose-built vessels which it says will create “a virtual pipeline across the Atlantic” with gas from the Marcellus shale of Western Pennsylvania shipped out via an export terminal near Philadelphia.

But the shipments have triggered rows about the British government’s own shale strategy which has faced drilling protests from locals and environmentalists at early sites such as Balcombe in West Sussex. Nick Grealy, an independent UK gas consultant, said that Ineos ethane import plans and existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from other countries such as Qatar made no sense when there were known reserves under the ground in Britain.

The gas from Ineos is not the first shipped out of the US. Last month that prize went to Cheniere Energy which exported LNG to Brazil. In the past exports of oil and gas were banned as the country was a net importer. But the massive ramp up in US shale oil and gas production which has seen the price of both oil and gas plummet worldwide, has encouraged Barack Obama to change the law.

Environmentalists still fear that shale gas – whether from the US or Britain – will crowd out investment for renewables and undermine a rush away from fossil fuels of which it is one. But gas enthusiasts believe the fuel, much lower in carbon content than say coal, can act as a “bridge” to a lower carbon world.

3 Grabbing wife’s phone is robbery (Bob Egelko in San Francisco Chronicle) Convicted of robbery for grabbing a cell phone from his wife after attacking her, Jose Aguilera argued, through his lawyer, that it couldn’t have been robbery because the phone, which he had purchased, was community property — jointly owned –and he’d intended to keep it only temporarily.

Nice try. Upholding Aguilera’s conviction, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles said that a spouse who takes property by “force or fear,” and intends to deprive the other spouse of a major portion of its value or use, commits robbery even if it’s community property.

The case dates from August 2014, when Aguilera and Angelica Avila, his wife of six years, got into an argument after attending a party together. According to Avila’s statement to officers — which she tried to recant at Aguilera’s trial — she ran to their car, and he ran after her, started to choke her and demanded her phone.

She said she broke free, got in the car and locked the door, but he broke a window and tried to pull her out. The court said bystanders intervened and pulled Aguilera off, but he was able to take her phone from her purse. Officers said they found him talking on the phone a block away.

Prosecutors said Aguilera had attacked his wife in the past and taken her cell phone to keep her from calling the police. A Los Angeles County jury rejected a felony domestic violence charge but convicted him of misdemeanor battery as well as the felony charge of robbery, and he was sentenced to a year in jail.

Under California law, theft occurs only when a co-owner takes property with the intent to keep it permanently. But robbery, as the court in Aguilera’s case explained, is a different type of crime — it requires proof that property was taken from someone by “force or fear.”

A forcible temporary taking of community property can be robbery, Justice Thomas Willhite said in the 3-0 ruling, if it deprives the other spouse of “a major portion of the value or enjoyment” of the property. And that’s what happened in this case, Willhite said: The evidence showed that Aguilera had taken the phone “to prevent Avila from calling the police in the midst of his violent assault on her.”

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