Daily Archives: February 23, 2015

UPDATE 1-Australia's QBE outlook disappoints, pushes shares lower

* FY net profit $742 mln vs $254 mln net loss yr ago

* Sees 2015 gross written premiums of $15.5-$15.9 bln

* Shares fall nearly 6 pct at one stage

(Recasts lead with earnings forecast, adds analyst comment)

SYDNEY, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Australia’s biggest insurer QBE
Insurance Group reported annual profit that fell short
of estimates and gave much weaker-than-expected guidance for the
current year, sending its shares down 3 percent.

The company forecast 2015 gross written premiums of
$15.5-$15.9 billion, down from $16.3 billion last year, largely
due to an expected strengthening of the U.S. dollar.

It also expects an insurance profit margin of 8.5-10 percent
compared with market expectations of 10.5 percent.

“QBE results were slightly lower than expectations but their
guidance is fair bit below market expectations. There will be
more disappointment in the guidance for the year,” said David
Spotswood, Melbourne-based analyst at Shaw Stockbroking Ltd.

QBE posted a net profit of $742 million compared with a net
loss of $254 million a year ago, when the company wrote down the
value of its North American operations.

Analysts had forecast, on average, an annual net profit of
$761 million according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

QBE, which operates in more than 50 countries, said its
earnings had benefited significantly from an improved
underwriting result in North America, but it had taken a $324
million hit from a sharp fall in government bond yields.

Its shares fell 3 percent to A$11.26 in a flat Sydney
market. At one point they fell nearly 6 percent, the most since
July 2014.

The stock is now unchanged from the start of the year,
underperforming a 9 percent gain in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast and Swati Pandey; Editing by Robin
Pomeroy and Edwina Gibbs)

Source: Newsjyoti Hot Stock News

UPDATE 1-American and Delta not interested in Skymark Airlines tie-up

(Changes headline, adds Delta comment, background, byline)

By Jeffrey Dastin

<span class="articleLocatio

n”>Feb 23 (Reuters) – American Airlines Group Inc and
Delta Air Lines Inc have no plans to rescue Japan’s
bankrupt Skymark Airlines Inc, the two companies said
separately on Monday following a media report on their alleged
interest in the budget carrier.

“We have studied the current environment surrounding Skymark
and have determined not to participate in that airline’s
restructuring needs at this time,” American spokesman Josh Freed
said in an email. “We are partnered with the premier airline in
that region today, Japan Airlines.”

Delta spokesman Anthony Black said in a telephone interview,
“We have no plans to invest in or partner with Skymark.”

Nikkei Asian Review reported earlier that American intended
to send executives to Japan to discuss investment in Skymark,
and that a tie-up interested Delta, which lacks a Japanese
partner in its SkyTeam alliance.

The report came as Japan’s biggest carrier, ANA Holdings Inc
, and a subsidiary of Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd
expressed interest in Skymark. Meanwhile, U.S.
carriers are increasingly competing for passengers between East
Asia and the United States.

Skymark holds landing slots at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport that
many airlines consider valuable. An agreement between Japan and
the United States limits U.S. carriers to four slots there.

The U.S. Department of Transportation currently is reviewing
whether to award one of Delta’s Haneda slots to American or
Hawaiian Airlines to increase consumers’ choices.
These airlines say passengers will prefer Haneda
to Narita International Airport because it is closer to downtown

Skymark sought protection from creditors last month, saying
a weak yen and a dispute with jet maker Airbus Group
fueled its financial problems. It had liabilities of 71.09
billion yen ($596.24 million).

The airline has agreed on a nine billion-yen sponsorship
deal with Tokyo-based investment fund Integral Corp to keep its
business running and has looked for co-sponsors to help turn the
business around.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin and by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing
by Diane Craft)

Source: Newsjyoti Bankruptcy News

Lady Gaga, Julie Andrews notch Oscars' top social media moment

Lady Gaga performs songs from ''The Sound of Music'' during the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Lady Gaga performs songs from ”The Sound of Music” during the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

(Reuters) – There were underpants, Lego statues and a nail-biting finale on the Oscars stage on Sunday, but it was Lady Gaga’s “Sound of Music” spectacular that sparked the most chatter on social media.

The Oscars lit up digital platforms, with 21 million people logging 58 million interactions about the awards ceremony on Facebook Inc, according to figures from the social networking site on Monday.

Lady Gaga performed a medley of hits from “The Sound of Music” and then was joined by Julie Andrews on stage for the 50th anniversary of the musical, which was talked about by 214,000 people per minute globally on Facebook, the company said.

According to Nielsen Social, which monitors comments on Twitter Inc, some 60,000 tweets were posted in the minute following Lady Gaga’s tribute performance as she was joined by Andrews, making it the most-tweeted moment of the night. With 129,000 mentions, Lady Gaga was also the celebrity who garnered the most chatter on Twitter.

About 13 million people viewed 5.9 million tweets in the United States about the Oscars on Sunday night.

Show highlights included host Neil Patrick Harris wearing just his underpants on stage in an homage to a scene from “Birdman,” the audience receiving Lego Oscar statues during the “Everything Is Awesome” performance from “The Lego Movie” and John Travolta’s apology to Idina Menzel for flubbing her name at last year’s ceremony.

On Instagram, it was Oscars presenter Ansel Elgort’s photo with his mother as his date to the ceremony that earned the most “likes” – more than 733,000.

The Oscars, aired live on Walt Disney Co’s ABC, saw a sharp dip in viewership, with 36.6 million people in the United States tuning in to see frontrunners “Birdman” and “Boyhood” battle it out for the night’s best picture prize. “Birdman” won, while “Boyhood” was shut out of the major categories.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Ken Wills)

Source: Newsjyoti Entertainment

Bird spit coffee? Asia firms seek global appetite for China delicacy

Bird's nest coffee is pictured for sale at an outlet at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, outside Kuala Lumpur, February 18, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

(Reuters) – Prized in China for its alleged health benefits for hundreds of years, nests made from swiftlets’ saliva are being mixed into coffee and cereal as the Southeast Asian producers of the delicacy seek to broaden its appeal, and their profit margins.

The nests are among the world’s most expensive foods, selling for up to $2,500 a kg and the swiftlets that weave them are indigenous to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

China consumes almost 90 percent of all bird’s nests, traditionally eaten in soup, creating an industry that last year recorded $5 billion in sales and which executives expect to double by 2020.

Companies such as Malaysia’s Swiftlet Eco Park, one of the country’s largest developers of swiftlet houses, want bigger gains by expanding their product line and market beyond China, where importers can often dictate the price.

“Ask anybody in the industry where is your market and they’ll say China and Hong Kong. Everybody is going there,” said Group Managing Director Loke Yeu Loong. “We are looking at new markets, but if I sell raw bird’s nest to Europe or India, they don’t even know how to cook it.”

Swiftlet Eco makes coffee, skin care, puddings and candies with bird’s nest. Loke declined to give specific sales figures but said the profit margin on some of these products was 10 times more than the raw nests.

The company is also spending big on marketing bird’s nest as a health food in the Middle East, Europe and the United States and plans to raise about $30 million through an initial public offering and New York listing in the third quarter of this year.

Southeast Asian swiftlets’ nests are particularly popular in the Lunar New Year festivities, which began in China last week, and are believed to be rich in nutrients that can help digestion, raise libido and improve the immune system.

Malaysia is the world’s largest producer of raw nests after Indonesia.

Lee Kong Heng, president of the Malaysian Federation of Bird’s Nest Traders Association, says marketing bird’s nest as a supplement would attract younger, wealthier and more health-conscious consumers worldwide.

Vietnam’s largest birds’ nest producer Yen Viet Joint Stock Co. is also keen to play up the benefits of the delicacy. The company makes cereals and porridge and is investing into scientific research in a bid to increase global sales, said Chief Executive Dang Pham Minh Loan.

Malaysian bird’s nest producers are well placed to market to the majority Muslim Middle East because the nests are halal, or a food permissible under Islam, Swiftlet Eco Park’s Loke said.

With more research, he hopes birds nest will become a global phenomenon. “We can conduct research and prove the benefit of consuming bird’s nest scientifically,” he said.

(This version of the story has been refiled to fix typo in first paragraph)

(Additional Reporting by Mai Nguyen in HANOI and Fransiska Nangoy in JAKARTA; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

Source: Newsjyoti Lifestyle

Ebola drug in Guinea helps some, stirs debate on broader use

(Reuters) – A Japanese anti-Ebola drug being tested in Guinea should be made available across West Africa after initial trials showed it halved mortality rates in some patients, the medical charity administering it said.

Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), which ran the trials of favipiravir in Guinea, said mortality rates fell from 30 to 15 percent in patients with a low to moderate Ebola count but was not effective on those with a high level of the virus.

The level of the Ebola virus in a patient’s blood is thought to be determined by the amount of time since infection as well as age and genetics.

“We think this is a sufficiently encouraging sign for it to be made available to Ebola patients more widely,” said Augustin Augier, secretary general of ALIMA, which runs the treatment center in Nzerekore, in southeast Guinea.

An outbreak of Ebola has killed close to 10,000 people across West Africa over the last year. The number of new cases has plummeted but officials have said much work still needs to be done before the virus is snuffed out in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three worst affected nations.

Guinea’s government has already authorized the use of favipiravir in other Ebola centers where there are 40 patients.

Several health officials said the drug should be given in Sierra Leone, where more than 160 patients are suspected of carrying the virus.

“It isn’t a miracle cure but it could help by improving chances of survival and getting people to come in for treatment earlier,” said Philippe Maughan, at the humanitarian branch of the European Commission.

ALIMA also wants to make it available to direct Ebola contacts, such as a baby breast-fed by an infected mother, as a preventative measure.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) said more research should be done. “There are not sufficient data to draw firm conclusions about this drug’s efficacy against Ebola,” a spokeswoman said.

Asked whether the WHO would facilitate the use of favipiravir more widely, she said: “It is up to national regulatory authorities how and whether to use it.”

The WHO has received hundreds of drug proposals, including unconventional treatments such as gastric juice from vultures, and has now narrowed the field down to 8-10 candidates.

Favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Japan’s Fujifilm to treat flu, has been used on some Western Ebola patients. No negative side effects were reported among 80 patients during the Guinea trial.

Unlike some of the other drugs, there are thousands of doses available and it is relatively cheap.

The trial, sponsored by French health research body INSERM and made public on Monday at a medical conference, envisaged testing at least 120 patients, but falling cases in Guinea has made that difficult.

The trial of another experimental drug, brincidofovir, in Liberia was canceled due to a lack of patients.

(Additional reporting by Saliou Samb in Conakry and Misha Hussain for the Thomson Reuters Foundation; Editing by David Lewis and Robin Pomeroy)

Source: Newsjyoti Health

U.S. lawmaker seeks congressional hearing on ‘superbug’ outbreak

People walk past the entrance to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California February 19, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

People walk past the entrance to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California February 19, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn

(Reuters) – A U.S. lawmaker on Monday called on the Congress to investigate the medical scopes blamed for an outbreak of a bacterial “superbug” at a University of California, Los Angeles hospital that has infected seven patients.

Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, said in a letter asking for a congressional oversight committee hearing that the outbreak of the drug-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, bacteria posed “both health and national security” risks.

“If unmitigated, the human and societal costs of CRE outbreaks will continue to rise,” Lieu wrote in the letter.

“A superbug infection can kill not only the patient who was exposed to a tainted duodenoscope but also family members, friends and hospital staff who interacted with the patient,” he said.

Officials say the duodenoscopes, which are inserted down a patient’s throat during gastrointestinal procedures, spread the antibiotic-resistant bacteria to seven patients at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, contributing to two deaths. The other five are under treatment.

An additional 179 people who had endoscopies at the large teaching hospital may have been exposed to the potentially fatal pathogens, according to UCLA.

On Friday, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist said the agency was close to unveiling a detailed procedure designed to prevent the scopes from spreading the superbug.

Called a “surveillance culture,” the procedure involves swabbing the device after it has been disinfected and then allowing any microbes to grow into detectable colonies, much as doctors take throat swabs to determine if a patient has a strep infection.

The UCLA medical center has said it had been sterilizing the duodenoscopes implicated in the infection according to manufacturer standards. It has said it now uses a more rigorous process that exceeds national standards.

Hospitals across the United States have reported exposures from the same type of medical equipment in recent years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it was working with other government agencies and scope manufacturers to minimize risks to patients.

(Story has been refiled to correct typographical error in headline)

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Source: Newsjyoti Health

Africa's expanding farms attract more plague-infested rats

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Converting wilderness areas into farmland in East Africa may be increasing the risk of disease epidemics, as rodents crawling with plague-carrying fleas are drawn to the harvested food.

In northern Tanzania, crop lands have expanded by 70 percent over the last few decades and the number of plague-carrying rodents in these corn growing lands has nearly doubled compared with neighboring wilderness areas, said the study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene on Monday.

Scientists linked an increase in corn fields – necessary to feed an expanding population – to a 20-fold rise in the population of African rats in northern Tanzania, which transmit deadly diseases to humans, including Lassa fever and plague.

“We found that introducing maize production in natural areas appears to create a perfect storm for plague transmission,” Hillary Young, a University of California professor and a lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“Local farmers often … store this harvested corn next to or inside their homes – baiting in the hungry field rats and increasing opportunities for human infection.”

In Tanzania alone, plague caused about 675 deaths from 1980 to 2011, the study said, and these numbers could rise as new wilderness areas become farmland and rat populations increase.

Though less deadly than Ebola or other epidemics, plague – caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis is fatal in more than 30 percent of cases if left untreated, the study said.

As Africa’s population soars, and food demand increases, scientists, farmers and politicians will have to balance the need for more farmland with concerns over the spread of disease, scientists said.

(Reporting By Chris Arsenault, editing by Ros Russell)

Source: Newsjyoti Health

Novartis blood cancer drug wins U.S. OK after setback

Tue Feb 24, 2015 3:29am IST

Swiss drugmaker Novartis' logo is seen behind scaffolding at the company's plant in the northern Swiss town of Stein January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Swiss drugmaker Novartis’ logo is seen behind scaffolding at the company’s plant in the northern Swiss town of Stein January 27, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

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<span class="focusParagraph articleLocation”>(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved Novartis AG’s drug to treat patients who have relapsed after earlier therapies for multiple myeloma, an aggressive blood cancer, even though an advisory panel in November recommended against approval.

The drug, Farydak, in clinical trials almost doubled to 10.6 months the amount of time it took for the disease to progress, compared with standard treatment. But it was associated with a wide array of serious side effects, including severe diarrhea and heart problems, which are prominently listed in a boxed warning.

Farydak was approved for use in combination with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd’s Velcade and the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone once a patient has received at least two prior treatment regimens. Prior treatments would include Velcade and an immunomodulatory drug, such as Celgene Corp’s Revlimid.

The FDA’s advisory panel of outside medical experts had voted 5 to 2 against recommending approval, saying the drug’s benefits did not outweigh its risks.

But the FDA, which usually follows the advice of advisory panels but is not obligated to do so, granted Farydak conditional approval, meaning that continued approval may hinge on demonstrating benefits in confirmatory trials.

Farydak was approved with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), a communication plan meant to inform health care professionals of a specific drug’s risks and how to minimize them.

The disease is caused by an overgrowth of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in the bone marrow, which displace healthy cells and prevent them from functioning properly. Almost 22,000 Americans annually are diagnosed with the cancer, and almost 11,000 die from it each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Multiple myeloma is incurable, and has a high rate of relapse. The Novartis medicine is the first among a new class of treatments called HDAC inhibitors, meant to help restore cell function.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson and Bill Berkrot in New York; additional reporting by Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian and Andrew Hay)


Source: Newsjyoti India health

American Airlines says won't participate in Skymark Airlines restructuring now

<span class="articleLocatio

n”>Feb 23 (Reuters) – American Airlines Group Inc has
decided not to participate in the restructuring of Japan’s
bankrupt Skymark Airlines Inc at this time, a spokesman
said following a media report that said it was considering a
tie-up with Skymark.

“Asia remains an important and evolving part of the
competitive landscape, and we are partnered with the premier
airline in that region today: Japan Airlines,” Josh Freed, an
American spokesman, said in an email on Monday, noting that the
company had made the decision after studying the current
environment surrounding Skymark.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin)

Source: Newsjyoti Bankruptcy News

U.S. names first-ever LGBT human rights envoy

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The United States Department of State on Monday named its first-ever special envoy to advocate globally for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Randy Berry, an openly gay senior diplomat, has served as U.S. Consul General in Amsterdam since 2012. His earlier foreign service postings included Nepal, Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda, South Africa and New Zealand.

“Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally–the heart and conscience of our diplomacy,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in announcing the groundbreaking appointment.

In his new role, Berry is charged with advancing government initiatives to reduce violence and discrimination against LGBT people around the world, including in the more than 75 countries where consensual same-sex relationships are criminalized.

He also will be able to utilize the State Department’s Global Equality Fund, created in 2011 to provide critical emergency, short-term, and long-term assistance to protect and advance the human rights of LGBT communities in over 50 countries.

“At a time when many LGBT people around the world are facing persecution and daily violence, this unprecedented appointment shows a historic commitment to the principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement.

The appointment is part of an Obama administration push to promote LGBT rights internationally and make them a foreign policy priority.

(Reporting by Lisa Anderson, Editing by Maria Caspani)

Source: Newsjyoti Lifestyle