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WASHINGTON — In the wake of an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Iranian military fast-boats prevented privately owned tug boats from salvaging one of the damaged vessels, two U.S. officials aware of the situation told CNBC.

The latest conflict from the world’s most important oil choke point brought oil prices up about 1% on Friday and as much as 4% the day prior on renewed fears of conflict in the Middle East leading to global oil supply disruptions.

America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks without citing specific evidence as to why Tehran was responsible.

“Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted,” Pompeo said Thursday. “No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in nuclear blackmail.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards drive speedboats in front of an oil tanker at the port of Bandar Abbas 

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Friday that if Iran were to block the Strait of Hormuz, “it’s not going to be closed for long,” but did not elaborate on what potential steps the U.S. would take in response. “They’re not going to be closing [the strait],” Trump reiterated during a telephone interview with Fox News.

Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the strait in response to a U.S. decision to end waivers on reimposed sanctions for companies that export oil from Iran. The Strait of Hormuz is a gateway for almost a third of all seaborne crude oil.

In an exclusive interview with CNBC on Friday, Trump’s energy secretary called Iran the “bad neighbor in the neighborhood.”

“Iran should be thinking about how do we maintain our market share, how do we act like good neighbors, how do we continue to be a part of the global community instead of these obvious acts of treachery in the Strait of Hormuz,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said.

At the Pentagon, acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan called the matter an “international problem,” adding that his role would be to “set the conditions for diplomacy.” He added that he was in close coordination with U.S. Central Command to verify whether forces in the region had necessary resources and support for their missions.

In a statement Friday, the board of directors for Frontline Ltd. said that all 23 crew members of the Front Altair oil tanker were unharmed and that the cause of the explosion is unknown. “The incident will be thoroughly investigated by the Company along with third parties, including governmental officials, to determine the cause,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Japanese owner of one of the oil tankers said the vessel was damaged by a projectile, not by a mine, which is what U.S. officials assessed as the source of the blast.

“We received reports that something flew towards the ship,” Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, said at a press conference Friday. “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship,” he said, adding that a projectile landed above the waterline.

On Thursday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the Japanese oil tanker, Kokuka Courageous, had an “unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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UBS earnings Q2 2019

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UBS announced a net profit of $1.4 billion for the second quarter of 2019. This compared to a net profit of 1.28 billion Swiss francs ($1.29 billion) in the second quarter of 2018.

The Swiss-lender announced that this is the highest second-quarter net profit since 2010. The profit boost comes in despite declines in both its investment bank and wealth management divisions.

Here are some key highlights for the quarter:

  • Operating income hit $7.5 billion versus $7.6 billion a year ago
  • Return on tangible equity stood at 11.9% versus 12% a year ago
  • Common equity tier 1 capital ratio of 13.3% versus 13.4% a year ago

“We saw a normalization of the environment coming out of a good March into the rest of the quarter. I’d say the highlights were clearly: diversification paid off again,” Sergio Ermotti, chief executive officer of UBS told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche.

UBS shares hovered around the flatline shortly after the market open.

Global Wealth Management down

UBS, however, saw a decline in its global wealth management business compared to a year ago. The bank reported an operating profit of $886 million compared to over $1 billion in the second quarter of 2018.

Profits in its investment bank division also fell from a year ago. It registered an operating profit of $440 million in the second quarter for this year compared to $571 million a year ago.

Speaking to CNBC, Ermotti explained that “the u-turn in the interest rate environment in the U.S. has created pressure.”

Market expectations point to an interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve later this month. The central bank had embarked on a normalization path in 2015, after the global and sovereign debt crises. However, recent data has shown worsening economic conditions in the U.S.

In Europe, the outlook is similar for monetary policy. The European Central Bank (ECB) said in May that if incoming economic data does not show an improvement, then the central bank will be prepared to announce more stimulus.

Ermotti told CNBC that he is not sure whether further easing will propel the economy. “I’m not sure going deeper into negative territory or using the QE (quantitative easing) is the way to get out of the problems…We need more structural answers,” he said.

Ermotti warned “there are severe broader considerations than just the banking industry” from low rates.

Outlook

Ermotti’s comments come in after the Swiss-lender warned in its latest results that a return to monetary stimulus from various central banks could dent profits going forward. “A sharp drop in interest rates and expected rate cuts will continue to adversely affect net interest income compared with last year,” UBS said.

However, the Swiss bank expects that a diversified business, stronger investor sentiment and higher market volatility will help offsetting impacts from changes to monetary policy.

In the previous quarter, UBS had announced that cutting an extra $300 million from its 2019 costs after anticipating the fall in revenues.

“We constantly look at ways from a structural and tactical point of view, and the 300 million were pretty much tactical. We always think constantly on how to optimize our cost base but at the same time we are investing in the future,” Ermotti said Tuesday.

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Q2 net profit falls 18% amid Popular costs

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Santander said on Tuesday second-quarter net profit fell 18% from a year earlier, due to one-off restructuring costs from its acquisition of troubled lender Banco Popular and a weak performance in Britain.

The euro zone’s largest bank in terms of market cap — which took over Banco Popular in June 2017 — reported a net profit of 1.39 billion euros ($1.56 billion) for the April to June period, topping analysts’ expectation of 1.29 billion euros in a Reuters poll.

Steady growth in Latin America business volumes, where it makes 46% of its earnings, was not enough to offset charges of 706 million euros, mainly in Spain.

Like its European rivals, Santander is struggling to lift earnings from loans in its home market with interest rates hovering at historic lows.

“We have delivered the strongest underlying quarterly performance in over 8 years, reflecting the progress that we have made in our commercial and digital transformation,” Jose Garcia Cantera, chief financial officer of Santander, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“Our businesses in both North and South America continue to perform extremely well and while the charges relating to ongoing infrastructure in Europe have impacted attributable profit — something that we anticipated — we are already starting to see the value that this will create going forward,” Cantera said.

Net interest income, a measure of earnings on loans minus deposit costs, was 8.95 billion euros, up 5.6% from the second quarter of last year and 3.1% higher against the previous quarter due to a solid lending growth in Latin America.

Analysts had forecast a NII of 8.76 billion euros. 

In Britain, its third-largest region, profit fell 41%, partly due to restructuring costs of 26 million euros and provisions of 80 million euros.

Santander ended the quarter with a core Tier-1 capital ratio, a closely watched measure of a bank’s strength, of 11.3%, compared with 11.23% in the previous quarter.

Shares of the bank were up over 2% shortly after the opening bell.

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Coca-Cola raises revenue forecast after earnings beat

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Coca-Cola on Tuesday reported quarterly earnings and revenue that beat analysts’ expectations, driven by sales of its namesake soda brand.

Shares of the company jumped 5.6% in early trading. The beverage giant’s stock, which has a market value of $230.6 billion, is up 14% in 2019. Shares of rival PepsiCo, which are valued at $182.8 billion, have been closing the gap with Coke, rising 18% over the same period.

“Our strategy to transform as a total beverage company has allowed us to continue to win in a growing and vibrant industry,” CEO James Quincey said in a statement.

Here’s what the company reported for its fiscal second quarter compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted earnings per share: 63 cents, adjusted, vs. 61 cents expected
  • Revenue: $10 billion vs. $9.99 billion expected

The beverage giant reported net income of $2.61 billion, or 61 cents per share, up from $2.32 billion, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Coke earned 63 cents per share, topping the 61 cents per share expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Net sales rose 6% to $10 billion, narrowly beating expectations of $9.99 billion. Coke raised its full-year outlook for revenue and now expects organic revenue growth of 5% rather than 4%.

“We think the dollar is towards the end of a strong cycle,” CFO John Murphy said.

The company attributed its strong performance during the quarter to 4% volume and transaction growth in Coke’s namesake brand. Its Zero Sugar line once again saw double-digit volume growth across the globe.

Quincey told analysts that nearly 25% of the company’s revenue now comes from new or reformulated beverages, up from 15% just two years ago.

During its second quarter, Coke partnered with Netflix to bring back New Coke and help promote the third season of “Stranger Things.” It also rolled out Coca-Cola Plus Coffee in more markets, as the company expands into different kinds of caffeinated drinks.

That includes Coke’s first energy drink under the Coca-Cola brand. Coca-Cola Energy uses caffeine from naturally derived sources and is available in 14 countries, including Japan and South Africa. By the end of 2019, the beverage giant plans to bring it to Mexico, Brazil and four more countries.

Quincey declined to share any plans to sell Coca-Cola Energy in the U.S. but said it would benefit the company to wait to learn more from early markets before entering its home market. In July, an arbitrator ruled that Coke can peddle the energy drink under the terms of its contract with Monster Beverage.

The company has also launched its first product line with Costa Coffee since it acquired the U.K. coffee brand in January for $4.9 billion. The canned coffee drinks contain double shots of espresso and will launch in Poland and China this year. There are no plans to introduce the ready-to-drink coffee beverages in the U.S.

Coke reiterated its fiscal 2019 earnings forecast, saying that earnings per share could fall or rise by 1%. The company had pointed to currency fluctuations, Fed rate hikes and changing tax rates as reasons for its gloomy earnings projection. Murphy told analysts on the conference call Tuesday that “currencies have gotten worse,” but he expects a more “benign” currency environment in 2020.

Net sales in the Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa segments were flat for the quarter, largely due to the impact of currency. Revenue in Latin America fell 6% because of a 13% currency headwind, although Coke said it had strong performance in Mexico and Brazil. Quincey told analysts that Mexico’s economic growth is slowing, so the company is tweaking its strategy for the country.

North America was the only region to reported net revenue growth. Price hikes and packaging initiatives helped propel revenue growth of 2%. The company said that it saw strong performance from soda, water, sports drinks, juices and dairy and plant-based beverages.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the amount of the Costa deal. It was $4.9 billion when it closed, according to a Coca-Cola spokesperson.

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