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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.
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Quoted Content subject to creditline 'Julian Bray'
NUJ Life Member and Equity Full Member.
During career an active MCIPR, MMC & MBDS
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Saturday, 26 December 2009
Northwest Airlines flight 253 Amsterdam to Detroit Explosives Incident
Julian Bray comments: The news that U.S. Federal officials and police are interviewing a Nigerian male, who allegedly tried to “ignite" a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, injuring himself and two other passengers, is deeply disturbing but in itself does not suggest that he was acting in concert with others. But what the incident does suggest is that at peak traffic periods, ground security staff have to be extra vigilant even if this means taking longer to process passengers through check in and border security.
The man claimed to have strapped chemicals in powder form to his legs and used 2 syringes of liquid chemicals to ignite the leg pouches. Other reports say that the suspect simply lit firecrackers. Either way the components did not show up on airport security x-ray monitors or if they did the operator viewing the screens was not sufficiently skilled to spot any concealment.
This is a recurring problem at airports where ground services and the initial passport checks are carried out by sub-contracted staff. During busy holiday period resources are often stretched and many staff encouraged to work extended shift patterns resulting in excessive tiredness and some loss of concentration.
It seems unlikely the suspect would have travelled any distance with the ‘leg pouches’ in place, meaning he would probably have used a toilet cubicle to attach the explosive substance to his legs. The chemicals used by the suspect were probably widely available agricultural chemicals as used in Afghanistan IED incidents.
The man has however claimed he was directed by al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight, over the U.S.A. but US officials are maintaining an open mind over his claims
The suspect identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who is said to be an engineering student at University College of London. Although the Delta Airlines flight was direct from Amsterdam to the USA and did not stop over in London.
He was flying from Nigeria to the United States for a religious seminar, according to his entry visa, which was issued June 16, 2008 and was valid until June 12, 2010.
US authorities on instructions from The White House have raised the threat level, a federal government source said. The threat level has remained constant at "code orange" since 2006.
The suspect had been flagged in a law enforcement-intelligence database but was not on the government's no-fly list, according to a law enforcement official.
"The subject is claiming to have extremist affiliation and that the device was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used," a newly released federal situational awareness bulletin stated.
Delta spokeswoman Susan Chana Elliott said that "as the plane was getting ready to land" in Detroit "a passenger caused a disturbance" by trying to ignite what was initially reported to be firecrackers.
The man was "subdued immediately," Elliott said. Northwest is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta.
"There was one guy, who sat on the other side, the right side of the wing because this was on the left side of the wing, and he jumped over the other people and he took care of it," said passenger Peter Smith.
The suspect reportedly admitted to authorities that he had explosive powder taped to his leg and used a syringe of chemicals to mix with the powder that was to cause explosion. This is of concern due to the method of mixing thought to be consistent with terror techniques.
Northwest Airlines flight 253 -- operated on a code share Delta airplane -- landed safely in Detroit at 11:53 a.m. The man, who flew from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then Detroit, was taken into custody at the Detroit airport and was interviewed by authorities there. He was then taken to an area hospital to be treated for burns.
For Publication CREDITLINE: Julian Bray MCIPR NUJ
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Sunday, 20 December 2009
Eurostar Power Cars Source of Catastrophic Failure - Test Result and not our problem says Eurotunnel!
According to a Eurostar source the results of the test runs conducted on Sunday 20th December they have discovered a possible cause of the problems and also claim to have identified the type of modifications needed.
The Eurostar source claimed that acute weather conditions in N.France caused the catastrophic failure of the power cars - 2 on each 18 carriage train. Annually Eurostar carries out a ‘winterisation’ programme of the entire fleet which they say has worked until now although regular travellers talk of repeated 'transformer failures' throughout the year.
The Sunday test runs show that greatly improved snow screens and shields need to be installed in each of the two power cars which make up and are included in each train. Further test runs will be made on Monday and the results made known the same evening.
The Eurostar fleet consists of 28 inter-capital Class 373 trains, built by GEC Alsthom (now Alstom) and brought into service as early as November 1994. The Alstoms are nearing the end of their high speed life and due to be phased out; a new design ready by 2014.
Each train consists of two power cars and eighteen carriages, including six first class, 10 standard class and two buffet cars, and seats a total of 750 passengers.
The trains usually travel at speeds up to 186mph (300 km/h) – 50% faster than any domestic UK rail service. Since 1994, the Eurostar fleet has carried more than 95 million travellers and covered more than 75 million miles (120 million km).
Eurostar is an entirely separate business from Eurotunnel. Eurostar operates high-speed passenger trains, while Eurotunnel operates vehicle shuttle services and the Channel Tunnel itself.
Eurostar is Eurotunnel’s biggest customer but you wouldn't believe it from the astonishingly arrogant news release one 'cheese eating surrender monkey' Pascal Sainson, Eurotunnel Operations Director sent out to the Worlds media, as their clients trains began to fail trapping 1000's of passengers inside the Channel Tunnel on Eurotunnel territory.
Read and weep.
Here is the EUROTUNNEL Press Release in full:
Eurotunnel rescues Eurostar
Overnight from Friday 18 to Saturday 19 December Eurotunnel staff went to the assistance of 5 Eurostar trains which had broken down in the Channel Tunnel, following technical failures. These incidents were in no way due to the Tunnel infrastructure.
• Rescued 5 Eurostar trains which had lost traction (Eurotunnel locomotives and Shuttles are prepared and maintained so that they are not affected by rapid temperature changes).
• Evacuated 1,364 Eurostar passengers and brought them to the surface in Folkestone, Kent using their own trains, where they were able to continue their journey to London
• Towed 2 Eurostars to St Pancras as Eurostar did not have the means to do so themselves
Pascal Sainson, Eurotunnel Operations Director, commented: "In very difficult conditions
Eurotunnel made the decision to assist the Eurostar trains and their passengers. In order to
conduct these operations in complete safety, Eurotunnel mobilised substantial extra staff and
technical resources and also made the decision to interrupt its own services. Eurotunnel has
done everything it can to resolve the situation".
Traffic in the Channel Tunnel has been progressively returning to normal since 05:40 CET this [Sunday]morning.
In anticipation of heavy traffic this weekend Eurotunnel had already instigated its BAR Programme (Busy And Ready). In particular a fleet of snow ploughs and road clearing vehicles has been operating to clear snow from the terminal in Coquelles, France to reduce the impact of the current severe weather in northern France.
Eurotunnel is however not responsible for the condition of the motorways.
Eurotunnel has put in place an organisation to help passengers to cross the Channel even if they arrive late at the departure terminal.
CREDITLINE: Julian Bray MCIPR NUJ
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Eurostar is the normally high-speed train service linking St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International, Ashford International, Paris, Brussels, Lille, Calais, Disneyland Resort Paris, Avignon and the French Alps.
Friday, 18 December 2009
We have to go back to the last deluge of snow in February 2009, I had just recently come out of hospital with an all new metal knee joint (to match the other knee implant eight months earlier; as a result I was confined to the house and ramped up my time on Twitter virtually day and night as it was impossible to sleep, the pain still resisting 8 daily Diclofenacs!
Phillip Schofield, the TV Presenter on ITV's This Morning was busy tweeting that due to snow he might not get into the studio from his vast estate on the top of a hill. At the time, accurate immediate local snow reports were hard to come by, the Met Office would ramble on, and on, issue warnings for whole sections of the country and at times compete with the Environment Agency but still failed to give you precise, immediate, very local snow reports.
As the objective was to get Scofield to his ITV studio in Central London, plotting a possible route, I suggested to my happy band of followers, we all immediately report and retweet snow conditions using a kind of pre-determined shorthand namely a twitter hashtag #UKsnow followed by a FULL postcode and the depth of snow in inches, plus any other info in the remaining tweet.
Armed with this information, inputting the whole postcode into websites like "Up My Street", would give you the locality and so on. Crude but effective. It launched about 11am and then began to climb even knocking the USA Super Bowl off the twitter leaders board, this woke up America and suddenly my humble hashtag was climbing even higher. "Whats with the snow thing in England?" They would wail...
This caught the eye of a few lurking UK software developers and various mashups began to appear @OliBray (no relation) had one but used balloons and these overlapped. @BenMarsh started a snow map, but then mass tweeted his developer crowd and (I like to think unwittingly) changed and lost the whole travel information aspect by converting part of the data into a simple snow map. Ideal for software experts and assorted computer nerds but of little use if you wanted detailed travel information.
You have to understand, the first Ben Marsh UKsnow map didn't give details of the tweets, so in effect hijacked my information hashtag for his own program.
Given a few prods at the time by the media and by a few fellow developers, Ben then acknowledged where he got the hashtag from and has indeed made a lot of money out it (and good luck to him) with other programs based on the #UKsnow program, he did one for Vodafone to market Holiday destinations and roaming charges for example.
As a lot of my then followers helped to get the hashtag off the ground, long before Ben opened his map website, creative copyright I would claim is still mine as originator of a made up word is UKsnow. We also suggested the BBC use UK SNOW for detailed snow reports, which they now do.
Don't get me wrong, the NEW UKsnow map from @Benmarsh NOW does the job very well, as he now incorporates the twitter feed but it would take very little to acknowledge that he didn't start it all off and that a lot of other people got the ball rolling before he came along... including @schofe so Ben in the style of Desert Island Discs "UKsnow hashtag originated by Julian Bray and developed by Ben Marsh." That would satisfy the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act in the UK and I'd be more than happy to grant a licence for UKsnow and SnowUK.... both of which will trigger the Ben Marsh map but hopefully the newer SnowUk will contain emergency news and practical help for those stranded by putting in the precise position, a hundred calls to the appropriate emergency service will ensure help really is on the way..
Bringing the saga up to date: OK hands up! Being an old hand at PR; if I hadn't made the claim for the IP rights, this story would have been spiked. Immediately dead and buried.
As it is, a few tweets put a cyber feather up the backside of some IT hacks, BBC corrs. such as Rory Kettleandphones together with assorted data obsessive anoracs who should know better before rushing into print and wasting acres of airtime on the IP claim.
It was after all in response to widespread press notices being sent out by Ben and his merry crew and the incorrect version of the story being given the oxygen of publicity by the Guardian Datablog but you would expect that of the Grauniad so nothing new...
I'm blissfully happy as now everyone knows that it was in effect a collaborative effort started as a twitter discussion by my happy band of followers and something that within a couple of hours had zipped to the top of twitter trending.
As a by-product it is also interesting to see how many other unrelated subjects are now routinely prefixed UK rather than British. The UK of course being a term more widely used in conversation outside of the United Kingdom, rather than inside our country.
Finally me learned friends over some fine claret advise it is possible to assert the copyright and IP claim, to the made up word not to a hashtag as such. It is up to others if they wish to challenge my assertion and if they do, it will probably be in public, thereby keeping the #UKsnow idea alive and so for many years to come. Clearly a win, win situation.... the Simon Cowell of Tweets no less...
Julian Bray MCIPR NUJ
firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0044 (0)1733 345581
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
They have yet to talk to me so here it is..
Julian Bray MCIPR NUJ
email@example.com Tel: 0044 (0)1733 345581
Saturday, 12 December 2009
My feet begin to crumble… Julian Bray recalls the early 60’s. Globetrotting with the Bata Shoe Company
Join Bata and see the World, but if the world is in political turmoil as it was in 1963-4, what do you do with an advertising and marketing man who has been hired from Glasgow, Scotland put through the Bata Overseas induction course and destined to take over Batas marketing at Gwelo in Rhodesia?
Rhodesia Leader Ian Smith had imposed a unilateral declaration of independence, the UK had countered with sanctions and Julian Bray (that’s me!) found myself, being seconded to the British Bata Shoe Company whilst my sponsors Bata Development Limited (BDL) – the international training and staff placement arm – above the then 151 Oxford Street Bata Store (now Boots the Chemist) whilst they found another country to take me.
During this time BDL had put me up at the swanky Berners Street Hotel, just off Londson's Oxford Street. For a young man, fancy free, absolute bliss and just a stones throw from Soho and all Londons top Jazz and Rock Clubs. Some 44 years ago, as veteran rocker Zoot Money (his rock’n’roll band is still touring with Alan Price) himself reminded me .. Part of my stay would be at the UK Factory Estate. This didn’t really prepare me for East Tilbury, first reaction: What is this! Everywhere you looked, wall to wall Bata! These days slick marketing men would call it branding. Bata in the early 60’s was light years ahead, it had been imported lock, stock and Skoda Fire Engine in the 1930’s from Czechoslovakia, the city of Zlin to be precise just before the Iron Curtain descended, leaving a little bit of Czechoslovakia in…East Tilbury …
The Bata farm, Bata Milkman and Bata milk bottles even, Bata Fire Service – superb Skoda Fire Engine, Bata Technical College, Bata Ambulance Station (The old American pre-war Chevvy saloon car converted into an ambulance for the factory. Still in use when I was at East Tilbury, is now on permanent display at the War Museums Duxford Aerodrome Museum), Bata Club & Bar (!), Bata Shoe Shop (of course), Bata Supermarket, Bata Bakery, Thomas Bata Statue and the Bata Hotel (now called Stanford House).
My home for the next few months. My bedroom, huge square plate glass wall type window overlooking the Thames Estuary and the distant gas flare from the oil terminal. You could see over the mud flats and watch the birdlife, tankers and shipping sailing by. Amazing sunsets too.
Pirate radio had just started, “My feet begin to crumble…” wafting out of the radio - the Beatles had yet to peak. Electrical sockets and plumbing in the Bata Hotel bedroom were of a unique Zlin design as was everything else. The entire construction had been imported from Zlin, even the round butter pats at breakfast had the Bata logo stamped on them, until the machine (again Zlin built) broke down and no further parts could be imported – funny what you do remember…just as you remember the ’knocker upper’ early in the morning a distant rumble would get louder and louder, as a man with a big padded stick would bang on all the bedroom doors, no one slept in at the Bata Hotel!
The offer was simple, rather than have me attending and repeating numerous BDL retail and manufacturing training courses, (I had after all just about completed the entire catalogue of Bata International training courses for visiting overseas Batamen, rewritten many of the training manuals) they would take home to their own countries. I had by my unexpected extended stay pushed the international induction system to the full.
I was also more than ready for a change in the routine and I was therefore to assist my hosts at the British Bata plant to launch a series of Kelvin Shoe Shops up and down the country: Ebbew Vale, Mottingham, Stoke -on- Trent, Tunstall, Birmingham, Seven Kings, Mill Hill, the list seemed to be endless.
At the same time, spend some time as an observer in the various departments at the East Tilbury factory, to get practical hands on experience of all the processes, as everyone would be in at the deep end in Africa! Where you start with a plastics plant, stamp out flip flops, buy hides and skins and work the business upwards…
Needless to say, time spent on the mighty hydraulic foot operated clicking press,a fearsome machine to stamp or ‘click’ out leather shoe components from beautifully cured and dressed skins, was short and swift as the departmental head saw his months profits being decimated by an enthusiastic but serially useless clicker, only able to get a few cut pieces out of a hide, but generate lots of useless waste material!
Same went for the graceful and somewhat hypnotic Ford car production line inspired Wellington boot line, did at least 10 minutes on that one before being honourably discharged!
However discovered the trick of using a thumb to press and fold the shaft of the boot to tuck one inside the other, been very useful ever since! Did manage to get my head around the sock production line door and the metal shop - making shoe box racks. Finally, shop fittings and furniture were graced with my visits. Bata in those days worked on the basis of being completely self-contained and produced all the shop fittings and fixtures for its then extensive network of shoe shops.
Bata Development Limited (BDL) paid for my salary, board and lodging and all out of pocket expenses. I literally signed for everything. I was later to find out that BDL re-charged me to several overseas Bata companies and at one time BDL were being paid three times over for my services. Truly a profit centre!
Mr Tusa, the factory boss, (his son is John Tusa, later to run the BBC and the Barbican) fearing that his then profitable and precision run (strictly to the original Zlin Czechoslovakian model) organisation would be plunged into financial ruin if Julian Bray was let anyway near the hallowed manufacturing process, swiftly arranged that I was introduced to a delightfully rotund ex-military gentleman a Mr Donithorne, his pride and joy being a series of dummy window displays inside the factory (i.e. no glass in the windows!) where the next seasons window themes were tried out and the windows dressed. I think his long suffering but ever cheerful number two was a gentleman by the name of Charlie Harsant, one of them however had a very large 1950’s gas guzzler of a motor car ideally suited to cramming in extra stock and display fittings. The task? The complete roll out 60 or so retail shops all over the UK in just a few months.
These dummy displays would all be put into a series of photographs and the original dressing windows by numbers kit evolved for shop mangers up and down the country. I seem to remember, the actual time allowed to dress the window was helpfully added. Few people ever cottoned on to the fact that it is far easier and quicker to dress a window from the front without glass, than it is to dress it from behind a plate glass barrier and work backwards…
As it happened British Bata had decided that many of the older Bata shop units up and down the country, many on short or near end of term full repairing leases, with interiors dating back to the early 40’s – all units, furniture and even clocks still bearing a’Made in Zlin’ label, needed a new lease of life, the units were totally stripped out, Marley floor tiles laid, walls and ceilings painted white. Stark white neon tubes ran the length of the ceiling and a Blue on white background KELVIN SHOES illuminated fascia hoisted over the entrance. Job done.
The opening programme was ambitious a new store opened every week for what seemed to be six months, in every unlikely backwater of England and Wales. All the new fittings from Shoe box racks, Chairs, furniture, sock dump bins arrived in a large removal van on the Monday. It all had to be installed ready to receive the shoe stock inventory on Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday, dress the windows, interior displays, millions of balloons to be blown up. Paste up the billboards and A board pavement posters, Friday set up loudspeakers, a microphone, loud music (Oh yes!) and Saturday the Grand Opening. Being the most talkative I was give the microphone and fairground barking role enticing customers into the brand new shop.
The big deal? Free East Tilbury produced socks and or tights with every purchase! In later years that early Bata experience paid off as I was later to join both the BBC and IRN as a broadcast journalist. The original intention was to provide a cheap secondary chain of shoe shops in low income areas. The Kelvin Shoe experience unwittingly hit a chord and revenues from these twilight shops exceeded all expectations. It also left the incoming manager with a headache; as the opening week takings would act as a target for subsequent weeks, by which time we had moved on, taking the Kelvin Shoe Opening Experience Bandwagon with us.
These were great buccaneering times, Bata worldwide (some 80 countries) it has to be said was in the 1960’s, light years ahead in terms of retail marketing and shoe manufacturing, the Kelvin Shoes roll out was not only a feat of human endurance but a clear demonstration of how all departments came together to produce this unlikely success.
As a postscript BDL did find me a home with the Uganda Bata Shoe Company in Kampala, Uganda as the old East Africa Bata Shoe Co covering Kenya, Uganda and W Tanzania was to be broken up. Uganda was newly independent and the President Milton Obote (who died in exile) was later to thank me on behalf of the work Bata was doing around the country (so many similarities to the Kelvin Shoe roll out…funny that).
The delay also resulted in me finding a bride in Leigh on Sea,but later dissolved when we returned to the UK she was to work in Kampala as secretary to the British High Commissioner Rex Hunt, he later to find fame as our man in the Falklands, on his death, my Letter published in the London Times with Rex Hunts obituary, recalled how we watched England win the 1966 World Cup in black and white, on a small 14 inch television at the British High Commission. I had persuaded Uganda Televsion to clear national TV programming for a day and loop the match, a video tape rushed by diplomatic courier along with a keg of Watneys Red Barrel ( Hmmmm) . I also suggested that the newly released Booker T's Green Onions would make an ideal UTV News Ident (!) James Bwogi, head of UTV agreed, it ran for a year or more, Poor old James was later to be brutally murdered by Idi Amin.
We flew out to Uganda, Entebbe on an East African Airways Comet 4-c, stopping for fuel at Benghazi, and a warm bottle of Coca Cola, until finally arriving fifteen hours later in Entebbe, Uganda. A beautiful country blissfully unaware of the gathering storm clouds that would be unleashed on that gentle land just six years later.
Today there is little evidence of Bata in the UK, but my pioneering work in Africa lives on as it does in Europe. I spent a couple of happy years in Kampala, Uganda and by fortune my contract finished just as the independence honeymoon of the former British colony started to wane and little did anyone know the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin Dada would turn the whole region on its head, destroying everything in its wake. The Uganda Asian population would be expelled to the UK and if that wasn’t enough AIDS would ravage that already war torn country some ten years later.
I boarded the East African Railways train in Kampala for the majestic two days and night journey through the Rift Valley and countless game reserves to Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. I was on my way home, knowing even then the last physical embodiment of colonial rule was enshrined in the impeccable silver service offered on board the train. My idyllic Ugandan experience would never be repeated and those who took my place would not enjoy it either as the political storm clouds gathered.
Julian Bray MCIPR NUJ
firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0044 (0)1733 345581
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
JUNK status companies include ports operator DP World as residents of Peterborough UK unexpectedly rejoice....
INTERNATIONAL investors are still assessing potential HUGE losses after Dubai World, a state-controlled investment company, announced two weeks ago that one of its units wanted a halt in debt repayments.
Now credit rating agency Moody's has seen enough and immediately declared JUNK status for all the six major Dubai Government related firms after Government sources declined to issue any assurances to international investors in case of default.
But in a corner of Cambridgeshire England, the flags are out as the Dubai World wholly owned subsidiary 'retail shed' developer Gazeley Limited (recent acquired from Asda/Walmart) now immediately saddled with a JUNK status credit rating, will not be able to raise all the international long-term finance to build a massive downtown warehouse/rail terminal, over an important flood plain "Drysides" at Stanground,Cambridgeshire a high population residential district of the City of Peterborough.
The site is already being actively marketed by Gazeley, with an intensive 'softening up PR & media campaign, despite not yet having submitted a formal planning application. Stanground resident Julian Bray said: " This massive proposed warehouse rail terminal proposal conceived by Banksters in more profitable money-grabbing times was seen by some City Councillors as a way of reserving a place for themselves in the history books. With this massive collapse they will simply be history at the next election!".
"It is highly unlikely RBS already owned by the British taxpayer and holding most of the DP World debt, can justify further finance to the junk status Gazeley parent.
"The development has already blighted property in the area and would have introduced 24 hour noise and light pollution, 365 days of the year and substantially raised the water table in these flood prone times, as it is the Envionment Agency already has us marked down as a flood risk area. Its time we also junked Dubai owned Gazeley and its ill thought out massive shed development".
Creditors were shocked when the Dubai government refused to stand behind Dubai World or any of its subsidiaries and honour its debts in times of trouble.
Bonds issued by Nakheel, the beleaguered real estate unit, had been trading at more than their face value as investors were willing to pay a premium for what they perceived to be a de facto state guarantee.
But withdrawal of public support has put a question mark over the creditworthiness of several other government-related businesses. "This rating action follows recent comments and statements from government officials, which cause us to believe that no meaningful government support should be assumed for any entity that is not directly part of or formally guaranteed by the government," said Philipp Lotter, at Moody's in Dubai.
The six downgraded firms are ports operator DP World, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, the business developer centre Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, Emaar Properties and DIFC Investments.
The Dubai World woes have now spread to other state-run companies. The $26bn debt restructuring of Dubai World could almost double to $46.7bn as more of the emirate's businesses might struggle to meet debt payments, Morgan Stanley said in a research report. According to the investment bank, other companies that are vulnerable include Dubai Holding, Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group, Borse Dubai and Dubai Sukuk Center.
Bloomberg News also reported that Nakheel, the real estate firm that has asked for a halt in its $3.5bn bond due on 14 December, made a loss of 13.4bn dirham ($3.65bn) in the first half of the year. The loss, which compares to a profit of 2.65bn dirham ($722m) in the same period last year, was attributed to write-downs of real estate values and lower sales,
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Friday, 4 December 2009
Dubai assets 'untouchable', lawyers caution foreign bondholders
Creditors to Dubai World have been warned by lawyers that all assets behind the bonds are likely to be "untouchable" because of the complicated legal structure in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Creditors to Dubai World, in effect the bondholders are collectively standing on top of skyscrapers, getting ever near to the edge just hoping to learn something positive about Dubai World's plans to restructure $26bn (£15.7bn) of debt, including $6bn in the speculative risk-taking Nakheel property subsidiary. Nakheel owns or has control of many of Dubai's most flashy projects, including the Palm Islands, Being good Dubai persons, they issued over half the debt in the form of a $3.5bn sukuk, an Islamic bond.
Few banks in the initial scamble to get a piece of the initial action bothered to consider the small print thinking that the ruling families would effectivel;y underwite all the bonds (or paper) ever issued. A no brainer, how could it with this blue-chip pedigree ever fail ??? Read on, Dear Reader....
It was the sukuk's looming December 14th 2009 due date that prompted last week's standstill announcement. Those upending glasses in the City of London's Bow Wine Vaults call it SUCK UK! In effect that is exactly what will, happen but not just for the UK, banks and pension funds, the world over have been sleepwalking into this. I'll explain:
Lawyers have for many years, repeatedly warned that rules which govern sukuks are way more than complex,they can be operated in many different ways and always subject to local circumstances (hang onto the word 'local').
Shaikh Muddassir Siddiqui, the respected doyen and head of Islamic finance at Denton Wilde Sapte, the London Law Firm cautioned that: ".... any default of the loan would be governed by sharia laws" then added as a mind-blowing kicker: "Each jurisdiction approaches the sharia elements of financial structures, in different ways, according to the requirements of its own law. Neither debtor nor creditor should assume that a single interpretation of the sharia principles shall be applied universally just because the structure has been determined to be sharia-compliant."
Put simply the recovery of investments may be further complicated by the UAE's foreign ownership laws. I sincerely hope everyone is still with me as it gets even better (well not for us in the West) Consider that even if Nakheel's properties are liquidated, their entitlement could be restricted because assets belonging to the ruling family cannot be seized and sold.
Of course this has to be right, the directors at RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) would have known this long before Gordon Brown (current but unelected Prime Minister but formerly holder of the UK Piggybank aka The Treasury) decided to bail out the banksters, But they kept that under wraps, buyer beware.
The excellent London Daily Telegraph newspaper buttonholed one Essam al-Tamimi, senior partner at Al Tamimi and Company, a Dubai-based law firm, who delivered this chilling warning: "The UAE courts will order everyone to pay their debt, you, me and the ruler, we are all equal under the law. But when it comes to government debt, following the issuing of the judgment... like in a lot of countries, the attachment of government assets and selling them by public auction is not allowed."
So before RBS in the UK, pays out £1.5 billion in bonus payments in the next few days, the directors might like to think how they can possibly get around these little local difficulties as the UK taxpayer though RBS holds a mountain of Dubai World paper. Slapping a writ on the funnel of the former Cunard Cruise ship the QE2 muight be an option....we live in interesting times...
A further development is that the bosses of Dubai World, no doubt with the aid of a few prods have now agreed to meet its main creditors next week. The bondholders, which are being represented by Ashurst, are also thought to include some of the world's biggest pension fund managers including Blackrock, Pioneer and Fidelity.
The twist about the implication of Sharia Law however was not raised in the initial negotiations and only became an issue when it became clear the Dubai Government would 'cherry pick' some of the investments it would bail out or take over. They would not automatically underwriting the whole basket - that seemingly being best left to RBS - but that is where we came in!
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Not quite saying that the law is structured or loaded to suit local business and citizens but a major near on impossible headache for international bondholders.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Obama to send an extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and yet this war cannot be won!
A sweeping statement? Maybe but have a look at the so called enemy. The whole structure of the Taliban is different, they don’t have rules of engagement, no distinctive uniforms and life is cheap. The reward is in the next world…
Remember the Russians were here before us leaving behind mountains of hardware and the manufacturing expertise has been handed down through many generations. It is not unusual to finds boys of seven years old manufacturing bullets and maintaining sophisticated weapons. A few are also on the front line. The British Government in its colonial days could never understand the concept of tribalism in Africa and repeatedly tried to install the ‘Westminster Model’ of government. In Uganda we even provided a replica House of Commons in Kampala as a parting gift on that country gaining independence. Within a few months the local politicians were all sitting on the one side as they could not understand the merits of having an opposition.
The same thinking has to be applied to Afghanistan, Corruption is a way of life and has been so for hundreds of years. Gordon Browns call to the new Afghanistan government to cut out corruption is in reality for UK consumption and simply does not take into account how the locals got into politics in the first place! Without corruption and pay offs, few would have been elected and now of course those who facilitated or greased the political route now want their favours returned again and again.
Not the Westminster Model but then what am I saying? The locals only have to look at our MP’s expenses scandal, widely reported and even Gordon Brown had to pay back some of the money…so how on earth can he preach to the new Afghanistan Government about corruption? British Commanders called for an extra 2,000 UK troops. Gordon Brown offers a sticking plaster. 500 troops. The reason? It’s back to support and equipment. It was Gordon Brown after all who cut all the defence budgets during his tenure at the Treasury.
The UK troops are highly professional, disciplined and will operate to the best of their abilities, The troops have to believe in what they are doing and why. It’s just a pity the political classes are playing fast and loose. Perhaps every politician should be required to embed and spend a month on the front line (over the Christmas recess perhaps?).
I guarantee our troops would all be out by February – well before the General Election which is increasingly looking like an event for March and possibly a hung Parliament. Which in Afghanistan terms is the worst of all possible options especially as the threat is really centered on Pakistan – but that is a whole new war waiting to happen and they have nuclear weapons as well! Merry Christmas!
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