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from Breakingviews:

Sony stumble gives Loeb headache and opportunity

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.  The opinions expressed are his own.

Sony may have given Dan Loeb a headache - and an opportunity. The Japanese group’s quarterly loss knocked almost 12 percent off its market value by midday on Nov. 1 and raised questions about the company’s revival. Poor results from Sony’s entertainment and electronics arms suggest there’s limited upside from the spinoff that activist investor Loeb proposed earlier this year. However, it may give him a chance to push for more radical restructuring.

Five of Sony’s nine main divisions reported an operating loss for the three months to September. Only the music unit and the company’s part-owned financial services arm stood out. Though the smartphone business reported a 39 percent jump in revenue, this was flattered by translating foreign sales into weaker yen. Sony also took a red pen to its profit forecasts: it now expects earnings of just 30 billion yen ($306 million) for the twelve months to next March. In August, it thought the full-year figure would be 50 billion yen.

The warning went down badly with investors, who sent the shares down to their lowest level since early May - just before Loeb disclosed his 6 percent stake, which he raised to almost 7 percent a month later. Sony has politely rebuffed the investor’s proposal for a partial spinoff of the entertainment business. And there’s little in the results to suggest that the move would unlock much hidden value. Though Sony lost money making movies in the quarter, it also lost money making televisions.

from Breakingviews:

Debt deal may encourage Asia’s dollar craving

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Washington’s last-minute deal on raising the U.S. government’s debt ceiling made grim viewing for Asian central banks. It’s the second time in two years they have faced anguish over the safety of their enormous U.S. government bond holdings. But even with an agreement to raise the ceiling until Feb. 7, and default averted, the harrowing experience is unlikely to turn America’s largest creditor group into a bunch of angry sellers. They may in fact do the opposite, and buy more.

from Environment Forum:

Disasterology 6: Signs of commerce return to “The Town That Disappeared”

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

As shopping centers go, the Minamisanriku Sun Sun Shopping Village is minor: a fish monger, a beauty parlor, a vegetable stand and a florist, along with a few other stores. The people who run the shops live elsewhere since their homes were destroyed by the 2011 tsunami, and the areas that flooded are still not considered safe for residents to return.

from Environment Forum:

Disasterology 5: When the high ground isn’t high enough

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

The school children in Minamisanriku knew what to do in case of a tsunami: run as fast as they could up the hill to the Togura middle school, perched more than 40 meters, or 131 feet, above Shizagawa Bay. This wasn’t high enough when the waves rolled in on March 3, 2011.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Learning budget lessons from Japan and Britain

While the world is transfixed by the U.S. budget paralysis, fiscal policies have been moving in several other countries, most notably in Japan and Britain, with lessons for Washington and for other governments all over the world.

Let's start with the bad news: Shinzo Abe’s decision to increase consumption taxes from 5 to 8 percent next April. This massive tax hike, to be followed by another increase in 2015, threatens to strangle Japan’s consumer-led growth from next year onwards, since Abe looks unlikely to offset this massive fiscal tightening with stimulative measures that would maintain consumers’ spending power. Even if Abe delivers on his vague promise to compensate with business tax reductions, these will only aggravate the over-investment and corporate cash hoarding that have long distorted the Japanese economy. Meanwhile, the government’s willingness to risk economic recovery in the cause of fiscal discipline implies that those of us who believed Abe was making an unconditional commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve economic recovery were simply wrong. Now that the forces of budgetary austerity have reasserted themselves, Japan’s probability of ending its decades of stagnation is much reduced.

from Breakingviews:

Three taboo-breaking deals offer hope for Japan

By Peter Thal Larsen
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Japan Inc is breaking some deep-rooted taboos. The country’s corporate establishment has long frowned on companies that succumb to foreign takeovers, offload non-core businesses, or leverage up for acquisitions. Three recent M&A deals suggest these strictures are no longer so tight. A freer form of capitalism may be taking hold in the land of the rising sun.

from Environment Forum:

Disasterology 4: Disaster Candy in Japan


For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

A fair featuring cartoon frogs and rhinos, baskets of toys to trade and hands-on crafts might sound like the answer to a parent’s prayer on a rainy weekend. But this was a fair with a difference: the annual Bo-Sai Expo in Tokyo, an event meant to prepare young families for disaster.

from Environment Forum:

Disasterology 3: Learning to shout after the Fukushima disaster

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

On the afternoon of March 3, 2011, Japan’s public television network NHK was broadcasting a session of parliament live when warning chimes and a bulletin flashed across screens: “This is an earthquake early warning,” an announcer said. “Beware of a strong earthquake … The Tokyo studio is shaking right now.” When the picture switched to the studio, the announcer continued to speak in a calm voice. This was common practice, meant to avoid causing panic.

from Photographers' Blog:

The samurai and survivors of Fukushima

Fukushima, Japan

By Damir Sagolj

Shortly after the mandatory evacuation was announced on television, Fumio Okubo put on his best clothes and his daughter-in-law served up his favorite dinner. By morning, the 102-year-old was dead. He had hanged himself before dawn.

GALLERY: BROKEN LIVES OF FUKUSHIMA

A rope knitted from plastic bags is certainly not a tanto knife. Nor was his death a dramatic one, with the public in attendance and blood all around but what an old farmer did that morning recalls the act of a samurai in ancient times - to die with honor. Okubo, who was born and lived his entire life between Iitate's rice fields and cedar trees, wanted to die in his beautiful village, here and nowhere else.

from Full Focus:

Broken lives of Fukushima

Damir Sagolj, who covered the impact of the 2011 Sendai tsunami and the following Fukushima disaster returned to the region to document the lives of people who were impacted by the tragedy. Read Damir's personal account of what he witnessed inside the evacuation zone here.

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