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  • BP posts $US4b quarterly loss in oil slump

    2018 - 07.01

    BP had to mark down the value of its reserves because of the substantial drop in oil prices BP had to mark down the value of its reserves because of the substantial drop in oil prices

    BP had to mark down the value of its reserves because of the substantial drop in oil prices

    BP had to mark down the value of its reserves because of the substantial drop in oil prices

    Energy giant BP has reported a net loss of $US4.4 billion ($5.6 billion) in the fourth quarter of 2014, attributed mainly to write-offs of about $US5.5 billion on the value of assets in the North Sea and Angola because of lower estimates of reserves and the falling oil price.

    The results from the company, based in London, were yet another demonstration of the damage that the sharp fall in crude oil prices is having on the industry. BP reported a profit of $US1 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

    At the same time BG, another large British oil and gas producer, said it had write-downs of $US8.9 billion in the fourth quarter, largely because of lower-than-expected prices for its oil and gas. The company reported a net loss of $US5 billion for the quarter and a shortfall of about $US1.1 billion for the year.

    BP said that its write-offs came as a result of a review of the amount of untapped resources in its oil and gas fields. A BP spokesman said the company found that its reserves in the North Sea and Angola were smaller than it had estimated. The company also needed to mark down the value of its remaining reserves because of the substantial recent drop in oil prices, the spokesman said.

    In BG’s case, the largest write-downs were on its liquefied natural gas operations in Australia. Because liquefied natural gas prices are indexed to oil prices, the company calculated that the probable lower oil prices in the future meant it needed to write off $US4.1 billion from the value of those facilities.

    BP also said it would sharply reduce capital spending, to roughly $US20 billion from about $US23 billion in 2013. The company plans to cut exploration spending and postpone what it called marginal projects.

    “Our focus must now be on resetting BP: managing and rebalancing our capital program and cost base for the new reality of lower oil prices,” Robert W. Dudley, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.

    In announcing their quarterly results, other major oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron said they planned to reduce capital spending by billions of dollars. And Exxon Mobil indicated Monday that it was in the “early innings” of trying to cut costs.

    Oil prices were rising for a third straight day on Tuesday. Prices, which had been around $US110 a barrel in the summer, had fallen below $US50 per barrel earlier this year.

    Dudley said he expected weak prices to continue for some time because supply continues to substantially outpace weak demand.

    “I think we are probably in for a minimum of a year, and probably several years, of low oil prices,” he told reporters.

    BP’s earnings excluding inventories and one-time items, which are closely watched by investors, came in at $US2.2 billion, down 20 per cent from a year earlier but above the expectations of analysts surveyed by Reuters.

    “BP today is signaling strong flexibility to manage the current trough oil prices,” Oswald Clint, an analyst at Bernstein Research in London, said in a note to clients.

    BP reported a profit of $US470 million from its 20 per cent holding in Rosneft, instead of the loss analysts had expected, because of “hedge accounting” that the state-controlled Russian giant said on Tuesday it was using to offset the impact of the decline of the ruble.

    Profit for the year fell to about $US3.8 billion compared with $US23.5 billion in 2013.

    BP said it would pay a quarterly dividend of 10 US cents a share, due in March, which is 5 per cent higher than the same period a year earlier, but flat compared with its third quarter.

    “Throughout the work to reset BP, the dividend remains the first priority,” Dudley said.

    BP also said it was taking a $US477 million charge for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, bringing the total charge to $US43.5 billion. The company continues to face legal challenges related to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers and soiled beaches across the Gulf of Mexico.

    BP is in the third phase of a civil case in US District Court in New Orleans that will decide the penalties to be paid for the spill – costs that could hobble the company for a decade or more.

    The US Justice Department is seeking the maximum penalty of $US13.7 billion under the Clean Water Act, while BP is fighting to reduce the fines. The Clean Water Act penalties would come in addition to the $US43.5 billion BP has set aside for cleanup and compensation. More than 810,000 barrels of crude were recovered during cleanup efforts.

    BP won something of a legal victory last month when Judge Carl J. Barbier of the New Orleans court ruled that the size of the spill was 3.19 million barrels, well below the 4.1 million barrels the government had estimated. Had the government persuaded Barbier of its estimate, the company could have faced an additional $US4 billion in fines.

    BP could be fined $US4,300 for each barrel of oil spilled, though Barbier has the authority to set lower penalties. Under the Clean Water Act, the judge assigning penalties should look at the oil company’s ability to pay, its cleanup efforts and its history of violations.

    The New York Times

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    Harper Lee to release second novel 50 years after To Kill a Mockingbirdvideo

    2018 - 07.01

    Harper Lee to release second novel 50 years after To Kill a Mockingbird | video Harper Lee receiving the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. Photo: Getty Images.

    Mary Badham and Gregory Peck as Scout and Atticus Finch in the 1962 movie of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photo: Supplied.

    The original cover of the classic book.

    TweetFacebookTo Kill A Mockingbirdwas published, the iconic novel is to get a sequel.

    Go Set A Watchman, which was written beforehand by author Harper Lee, was, until now, thought to have been lost.

    The 304-page book will be published by Harper Collins. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

    The Pulitzer-winningTo Kill a Mockingbirdwas published in 1960 and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.

    Set in Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression, it is the story of a young girl whose father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman.

    In 1962, it was adapted into a film starring Gregory Peck as attorney Atticus Finch. The role won an Oscar for Peck.

    Harper Collins is planning a first printing of 2 million copies ofGo Set A Watchman.

    Lee said she had originally writtenGo Set A Watchmanbut, after advice from her editors, who were more interested in the flashbacks to the character Scout’s youth, was persuaded to write another book, which becameTo Kill A Mockingbird.

    Scout, also known as Jean Louise Finch, is the book’s narrator, looking back on the events of her youth as an older woman.

    “I hadn’t realised it had survived,” Lee said in a statement issued by Harper Collins. “So was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it.

    “After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

    Go Set A Watchmanis also set in Maycomb, roughly 20 years after the events ofTo Kill A Mockingbird.

    A summary from the publisher says: “Scout has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”

    Publisher Jonathan Burnham said: “This is a remarkable literary event. The existence ofGo Set a Watchmanwas unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift to the many readers and fans ofTo Kill a Mockingbird.

    “Reading in many ways like a sequel to Harper Lee’s classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter’s relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s.”

    The book will be released in July.

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    Men arrested at Wolli Creek face drug supply charges

    2019 - 09.16

    Two men will face Sutherland Local Court today after they were arrested at Wolli Creek following a police investigation into a drug supply syndicate.

    Just after noon on Tuesday, police went to a Wolli Creek park and found two men involved in the supply of cocaine.

    The men attempted to flee in a car but were stopped and arrested after they crashed into a police vehicle.

    Police seized 112 grams of cocaine and cash during the arrests.

    One of the men, an 18-year-old from Canterbury, was taken to St George Hospital for treatment of minor injuries sustained during the crash.

    He was then taken to St George police station and charged with nine drug supply offences.

    The other man, a 23-year-old from Canterbury, was taken to St George police station and charged with 10 drug supply offences.

    The men were refused bail to appear in court today.

    Investigators searched two properties at Canterbury.

    Officers seized property suspected to have been stolen including a boat, jet-ski and appliances.

    At one of the properties in Cooks Avenue, police arrested a 43-year-old man wanted on an outstanding warrant for traffic and drug possession offences.

    He was taken to Campsie police station, charged and refused bail to appear in Burwood Local Court today.

    Surry Hills Region Enforcement Squad officers formed Strike Force Schuter last year to investigate a syndicate involved in cocaine supply in Sydney’s south.

    Investigation are continuing.

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    Moruya oncology ward target draws closer

    2019 - 09.16

    Moruya oncology ward target draws closer MARKET RAFFLE: State treasurer Andrew Constance, Kay Crisp, Moruya Market president Harold Nash, Max Crisp and deputy mayor Rob Pollock at the raffle draw at the Moruya Markets.

    MARKET RAFFLE: State treasurer Andrew Constance, Kay Crisp, Max Crisp and deputy mayor Rob Pollock getting ready to draw the raffle at the Moruya Markets.

    BEHIND YOUR BACK: Rob Pollock draws the raffle ‘behind his back’ helped by Max Crisp his wife Kay and state treasurer Andrew Constance.

    BEHIND YOUR BACK: Rob Pollock draws the raffle ‘behind his back’ helped by Max Crisp his wife Kay and state treasurer Andrew Constance.

    BEHIND YOUR BACK: Rob Pollock draws the raffle ‘behind his back’ helped by Max Crisp.

    And the winner was Maggie Brennon of Malua Bay…

    State Treasurer Andrew Constance draws the second prize… a $50 dollars cheese voucher from South Coast Cheese….

    MARKET RAFFLE: State treasurer Andrew Constance, Kay Crisp, Max Crisp and deputy mayor Rob Pollock with the winning tickets at Moruya Markets.

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    Pool re-opening makes splash for Quorn swimmers

    2019 - 09.16

    DIVING IN…At the Quorn Pool’s official reopening were Deputy Mayor Ken Anderson, Chair RDA Far North Dr Jen Cleary and Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey.Quorn residents are excited about their newly refurbished pool and were out in force on Australia Day to join in the opening.

    Federal Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey opened the pool and surrounds and said, “ The pool presents a lovely entrance to the town from Port Augusta and many young families told me how much they have been using it already.”

    The refurbishment was jointly funded by Federal, State and Local Governments.

    Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said works included major pool renovations including installing new tiles, a one-metre diving springboard and starting blocks.

    “Renewing and building infrastructure in country towns like Quorn is vital to our economic health,” he said.

    “The regional areas provide the best opportunities for the State to re-energise itself economically, it is important we build the best possible services to attract people to live in our towns.

    “Quorn’s pool redevelopment including filters, plant, fencing, sheds, toddler’s pool, disabled access and signage all add to the amenity of the town.”

    Flinders Ranges Council Deputy Mayor Peter Slattery, who could not be present on the day said “The pool is well used by the community, not only for social and recreational swimming but for water aerobics and fitness activities, VacSwim lessons, Quorn Area School swimming programs and is home to the Quorn Amateur Swimming Club”.

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    Geoff Handbury donates $150,000 to the Nationals in 2013-14

    2019 - 09.16

    FILE PICTHE owner of ACE Radio and the Weekly Advertiser donated $150,000 to the Nationals in the 2013-2014 financial year.

    Former Balmoral farmer and philanthropist Geoff Handbury made two donations to the Victorian branch of the party – one of $100,000 and one of $50,000.

    Mr Handbury said he decided to back the Nationals because of the performance of Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty and former Nationals leader Peter Ryan.

    ‘‘I found them very open about their beliefs and their beliefs for the future of Victoria,’’ he said.

    ‘‘I was a great admirer of Hugh Delahunty and Peter Ryan and that opinion made me keen on supporting their party.

    ‘‘They gave me the impression that the National Party was the party to back.’’

    The Australian Electoral Commission published donation disclosure forms for the last financial year on Monday.

    Mr Handbury said he did not have a problem with media proprietors donating to political parties.

    ‘‘If they own the newspaper and they’ve got a certain belief, they should get behind it and let the public know,’’ he said.

    ‘‘My father-in-law was Sir Keith Murdoch. He was one of the greatest journalists and media proprietors of the time.

    ‘‘I remember when I first met him and got to know him, he would always say ‘why does that paper sit on the fence, why don’t they get up and say what they believe in?’ That really stayed with me.’’

    Mr Handbury’s late wife Helen was media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s sister.

    Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said she did not receive any favourable treatment from Mr Handbury’s media outlets during the election campaign.

    ‘‘We paid for all of our political advertisements and they were all at normal rates,’’ she said.

    ‘‘There wasn’t any favouritism in terms of any media that I received during the campaign.’’

    She said she did not believe Mr Handbury influenced editorial decisions during the campaign.

    Mr Handbury also donated $20,000 to the Liberal Party in 2013-2014.

    In 2010-2011, Mr Handbury donated $30,000 to the Liberal Party and $20,000 to the Nationals.

    In 2009-2010 he donated $70,000 to the Liberal Party.

    ACE Radio broadcasts in the Wimmera through Mixx FM and 3WM.

    Mr Handbury said he did not have a rigid party bias, and while he was not a Labor supporter he was impressed by the new government’s commitment to the National Centre for Farmer Health, which he helped establish through donations.

    He said he loved giving his money away.

    ‘‘I’m in a position to give money away and I enjoy looking for the causes I want to back – it gives me great pleasure,’’ he said.

    ‘‘Most of the things I’ve backed – health, education and sport – where I’ve backed them I’ve had a personal reward for what I’ve done and just a lovely feeling of satisfaction.’’

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    Rain brings hope to North

    2019 - 09.16

    Fresh river water mixes with the muddy banks of the Gulf of Carpentaria coastline.THE Gulf is still waiting for its Big Wet but already talk is that the people who live there have started off 2015 in a better frame of mind than the previous two seasons, thanks to the surge in cattle prices.

    The economy of scale offered by the big country up north means that many of the calf factories are still stocked up and looking to both restocker interest further south and overseas live export markets to come shopping.

    The Gulf rivers in full flow over Normanton

    Queensland Country Life paid a quick visit to the region last week to talk to mayors and cattle producers at Camooweal, Burketown, Normanton and Georgetown.

    The scene at the million-acre Thorntonia station, 100km north east of Camooweal, is one being repeated all across the Gulf – green pick in some paddocks, waiting for February and the hope of general rain, and good numbers of young cattle putting on weight.

    An aerial view of the rivers around Burketown.

    Lloyd and Wendy Hick own the property on the Queensland-Northern Territory border and say 30mm received a couple of weeks ago had been their biggest fall.

    “It’s a good start if we get rain in February,” Lloyd said.

    “We’ve had three ordinary seasons in a row and the country needs a good soak. We were in a similar situation last year and it didn’t turn up.”

    Lloyd says he hears a similar story to the north in Burketown – all have had some rain but are still experiencing a light January.

    The Albert River in flow

    On the eastern side of the Gulf, Barry Hughes tells a story of patchy rain around Georgetown and erosion and seed bank losses in places where big falls were recorded at the start of the year.

    “In places like Forsyth, Einasleigh, Kidston, where they had 70, 80, 90mm – you welcome the moisture but it can add to your woes.

    “With the variable soil types in our part of the world, the hard clays don’t handle that sort of rain and had little grass cover to hold anything up.

    “In a lot of cases the ground is baked and, when water hits, it runs off at a million miles an hour.”

    Barry says it will be important for producers to keep up the practice of matching stocking rates to rainfall, especially with not a lot of rain projected for coming months.

    Sally Cripps is a journalist for Queensland Country Life at Blackall

    Email: [email protected]苏州美甲美睫培训学校.au

    Twitter: https://twitter苏州美甲美睫培训学校/sallyQCL

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    Tertiary scholars impress Narooma Rotarians

    2019 - 08.16

    ROTARY SCHOLARS: At Narooma Rotary’s Tertiary Scholarship night last week was Rotarian Charmaine White, left, 2014 Scholarship holder Connor Ross, President Angie Ulrichsen, 2015 Scholarship holder Carl McEvoy, and Rotarian Peter Bull who is counsellor for 2013 Scholarship holder Maia Zucco. NAROOMA Rotarians were delighted to focus on the Club’s Tertiary Scholars at last week’s meeting.

    “It’s always so inspiring to hear from these talented young people,” said Narooma Rotary president Angie Ulrichsen.

    She introduced the 2015 Tertiary Scholarship holder Carl McEvoy who will study for a Bachelor of Media at Macquarie University.

    Carl impressed everyone with his passion for his chosen field, particularly film.

    Rotarians also caught up with last year’s scholarship winner Connor Ross who spoke about his experiences during his gap year.

    This included being NSW winner of the Telstra Road to Discovery competition for developing singer-songwriters and the associated week in Melbourne where he gained valuable insights into the music industry, and a foray into event management organising artists for the local ‘Little Night In’.

    Connor is now looking forward to starting his studies for a Bachelor of Arts (Music Industry) at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

    The Club’s 2013 Scholar Maia Zucco was unable to be in Narooma that night, so her counsellor Peter Bull read a letter to the Club on her behalf.

    She enters the third year of her Psychology Honours studies at Macquarie University this year, having achieved distinctions or high distinctions in all subjects last year.

    Maia aims to do a Masters of Clinical Neuropsychology.

    She again thanked Rotarians for their “continuing support and genuine interest to my studies”.

    President Angie reminded everyone that the three-year scholarship for a former Narooma High student was only possible because of a bequest made to Rotary for that purpose in 1989 by Alexander Birch.

    “Through his generosity, Narooma Rotary has now helped 25 students from Narooma High pursue their tertiary studies – assistance that totals over $210,000,” she said.

    “However in a few more years, that bequest will be exhausted but Mr Birch will have done what he wanted, to help Narooma young people achieve their dreams with the help of our club.”

    The three year scholarships to both 2012 scholar Joanna Gray and 2011 scholar Tilley Wood have now ended and Narooma Rotarians wish them both every success.

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    Motorcycle awareness campaign kicks off

    2019 - 08.16

    Motorcycle awareness campaign kicks off AWARENESS RIDE: The Bastards SMC met on Saturday at O’Briens Hotel and went on a ride to the Cobargo turn off on the Bermagui Road they say is “black spot” for motorbike accidents with two recent accidents.

    RAFFLE DRAW: After the ride, the Motorcycle Awareness Raffle was drawn at The Dromedary Hotel, Central Tilba by club corporal Gareth Rogers and public Maz Youlten.

    O’BRIENS: The winner of the first raffle was drawn at a free barbecue at The Dromedary Hotel, Central Tilba on Saturday after a ride from O’Briens Hotel.

    TweetFacebookThe winner of the first raffle was drawn at a free barbecue at The Dromedary Hotel, Central Tilba on Saturday after a ride from O’Briens Hotel, Narooma out to the Cobargo turn off on the Bermagui Road, which the riders say is “black spot” for motorbikes with two recent accidents.

    The club is hoping to produce “Motorcycle Aware Driver” bumper stickers and apparel.

    Members are going to set up “Watch out for motorbikes!” temporary banners at and around black spots.

    There is also talk of supporting motorcycle lobby groups working to preserve bikers’ rights and safety on the road.

    The Bastards SMC would like to thank the businesses involved, including Narooma Motors, Jaycar and Narooma Legend Motorcycles, Casey’s Cafe, Altered Image Tattoo of Bermagui and The Dromedary Hotel, Central Tilba.

    The next fundraiser gets underway next month with tickets being $5 tickets and the Major Prize being a night for two staying at the Dromedary Hotel with an extra $200 voucher for drinks and dinner and a $50 breakfast voucher at My Heaven on Earth Cafe at Central Tilba.

    Related stories:Narooma rallies around fallen Harley rider

    Horror weekend for motorcyclists on Illawarra roads: photos, video

    Motorbike crash sees Bermagui woman airlifted

    Good times at The Dromedary Hotel: PHOTOS

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    Mixed bowls club turns 25

    2019 - 08.16

    High times: Some of the organisers of the 25th anniversary high tea, club president Clive Jackson, second from left, Beth Gabriel, second from right, and Dorothy and Stan Galbraith. Support: Invited guests at the high tea, from left, Jutta Hall, Marian Longobardi and Dot Bransdon.

    Invited: Long-standing mixed bowls suporters Hazel and Harry Lavender.

    Gratitude: Guests invited to the high tea, from left, Margaret and Allan Goodwin and Margaret and Harry McKay.

    Celebration: Invited to share in the mixed bowls 25th anniversary high tea are Fae Smurthwaite, left, and Cathy Clark.

    Foundation: Invited guests, from left, George Smurthwaite, Barbara Morton and Jim Galbraith.

    Activity: Among the guests of honour at the high tea were Lester Thurgate and Sue Gates.

    Spread: Mixed bowling club members baked some of the cakes for the spectacular high tea.

    Main event: The celebratory mixed bowlers high tea gets under way.

    WHEN Wauchope Mixed Bowling Club celebrated its 25th anniversary this week its president Clive Jackson pointed out it wasn’t one of the oldest in Australia, it was in fact the only one in Australia – as far as anyone can tell.

    The club has made inquiries through the state organising body, the Royal NSW Bowling Association, and advertised asking for information about any other mixed bowling groups and drawn a blank – aside from return inquiries from prospective members.

    Other clubs obviously play mixed bowls too, but as part of a men’s or women’s club, not separately.

    So the group’s anniversary really was something to celebrate – a unique and long-lasting group of organised social mixed bowlers.

    The club invited along some of the founders and long-standing members of the club to join the celebration, and in his short address at the start of the celebratory high tea Clive pointed them out as “the invited guests without whom the club wouldn’t exist” and who had supported it and put a lot of work into keeping it going.

    He also asked members to help put together a history of the club by “jotting down their memories” of past events and practices.

    Asked how the club had come into being as the one-of-a-kind group that it is, he said he thought that it was there because 25 years ago a group had got together and decided to do it.

    The club currently has about 60 members and usually has a roll-up of about 40 players on a typical Monday afternoon, he said.

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    Oscar nominated Felicity Jones to lead Star Wars spin-off movie

    2019 - 08.16

    Rumours persist that the new movie will focus on Boba Fett. Jones has an Oscar nomination for Theory of Everything.

    More on Star WarsMore on OscarsMore movie newsMovie sessions

    Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Jones has been named as one of the stars of a new standalone Star Wars movie.

    The project is one of two standalone films in development, spun off the long-running Star Wars franchise.

    That franchise’s seventh chapter, The Force Awakens, is currently in post-production and will be released in cinemas in December.

    Jones, nominated at this year’s Academy Awards for her work in The Theory of Everything, will star in the spin-off film from English director Gareth Edwards.

    Disney and Lucasfilm have not released any information on plot or characters, though there are persistent rumours that this project will focus on the character of Boba Fett.

    Fett was first seen in an animated sequence during the widely panned 1978 television program The Star Wars Holiday Special.

    He made his live-action debut in the 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back. In that film he was one of several bounty hunters recruited by the franchise’s chief villain, Darth Vader.

    The spin-off film is slated for release in December, 2016.

    There is a second standalone Star Wars film, from American director Josh Trank, also in development.

    In May, 2014, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger said a total of three standalone films would be produced in the next decade.

    Iger said the company’s plans for the Star Wars franchise would be to produce new “core” films (that is, films connected to the franchise’s main storyline of the clash between the Empire and the Rebellion) every two years, with a spin-off in between.

    That means the planned Episode VIII would be released in 2017, with Trank’s standalone film released in 2018, and the final chapter of the third trilogy – Episode IX – due in 2019.

    The Force Awakens will feature a handful of “original” Star Wars cast members, including Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford.

    It is set 30 years after the events of Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, which was released in 1983.

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    ‘At the end of the day, the new economy will win’

    2019 - 08.16

    Having upended retail in China, Alibaba – which listed on the New York stock exchange last year – is aiming for 2 billion customers around the world. Having upended retail in China, Alibaba – which listed on the New York stock exchange last year – is aiming for 2 billion customers around the world.

    Having upended retail in China, Alibaba – which listed on the New York stock exchange last year – is aiming for 2 billion customers around the world.

    Having upended retail in China, Alibaba – which listed on the New York stock exchange last year – is aiming for 2 billion customers around the world.

    Hunched over the counter of his tiny, gadget filled stall in Beijing’s vast Hailong Electronics City, Wang Ning bemoans a week without a single sale. “It’s dying,” says Wang, shaking his head as he looks out at abandoned stores and torn promotional posters in what was once the busiest market in the Zhongguancun district, known as China’s silicon valley. “There are more sales staff than customers around here. Everyone buys online now.” The six football-field-sized floors are dotted with shuttered shops, victims of the rise of internet-based businesses like Jack Ma’s Alibaba  and billionaire Richard Qiangdong Liu’s JD苏州美甲美睫培训学校, which started out in Zhongguancun almost two decades ago. The online revolution promises to boost productivity and could create 46 million new jobs in China by 2025, many of them higher-skilled, according to a report by McKinsey & Co. But the losers will be as many as 31 million traditional roles, the equivalent of the entire employed population in Britain. While such creative destruction is a global phenomenon, its speed and scale in China is unparalleled, said Cao Lei, director of the China E-Commerce Research Center, a private research agency based in Hangzhou, the hometown of Alibaba. “The internet helps improve productivity and efficiency, but it can be quite painful for traditional businesses,” Cao said. “Bookstores fail first, then clothing chains, then consumer electronics stores, then air-ticket booking offices, and in the future, bank branches and other traditional services facilities may fail.”

    Productivity boost

    The shift online could contribute up to 22 per cent of the nation’s productivity growth by 2025 and make up 7 per cent to 22 per cent of the total increase in gross domestic product from 2013 to 2025, McKinsey found. By 2025, that could translate into as much as 14 trillion yuan ($2.9 trillion) in annual GDP. That’s no consolation for Li Feng, who has a store on the fourth floor of Kemao Electronics City, just across the street from Hailong Electronics mall. “The market was packed with people when it first opened in 2004,” said Li, looking up from the TV drama he was watching, for want of customers. “Business has gone from bad to worse in the last five years. The impact from online sales is huge.” Li has shut down the retail side of his business and now tries to eke out a living providing IT services to existing corporate customers, he said, as fellow shopkeepers played poker in the otherwise empty stall next door. China online

    JD.Com’s Liu started renting a booth in Zhongguancun in 1998 with an initial investment of 20,000 yuan ($4104). Back then, China had 2.1 million users connected to the web via 747,000 computers, according to China Internet Network Information Center, the government body tasked with managing online resources. By the end of June 2014, the number of users had jumped to 632 million, with 83.4 per cent of them able to access the Internet via smartphones. JD苏州美甲美睫培训学校’s Liu is now worth an estimated $9.4 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires. “US traditional retail networks are strong, but Chinese consumers long faced an archaic, inefficient brick-and-mortar network,” said Josh Gartner, a Beijing-based spokesman for JD苏州美甲美睫培训学校. “Consumers flock to superior service.”

    More servers

    Alibaba has created 14 million jobs directly and indirectly, Ma said in an interview with US talk show host Charlie Rose at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month. Ma is China’s wealthiest man and the world’s 13th richest person with an estimated $45 billion fortune. Explaining his company’s sales growth versus traditional retailers, Ma said: “If you want to have 10,000 new customers, you have to build a new warehouse, this and that. For me, two servers.” He’s aiming for 2 billion customers around the world. The industry has made it easier and cheaper for merchants to reach consumers and has supported the development of logistics infrastructure, a Hong Kong-based Alibaba spokeswoman wrote in an email. “With an under-developed and fragmented retail sector, more consumers are going online to find what they need and at the same time stimulating consumption in China’s economy,” she wrote. Premier Li Keqiang is cheering the new economy. Last month, he pressed the enter key on a keyboard for WeBank, a private bank funded by Tencent Holdings  granting a 35,000 yuan ($7183) loan to a local truck driver.

    Online future

    Without the cost of bullet-proof glass, uniformed tellers and branch outlets, services such as WeBank’s “may be the future,” said Cao. Ma’s Alibaba also has approval to set up an online lender. The expansion of internet-related businesses is “where our hope lies,” Ma Jiantang, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics, said at a press conference in Beijing on January 20 after releasing GDP data that showed the slowest annual expansion since 1990. A primary reason for the economy’s slowdown, weakness in the property market, isn’t helped by the move online. Property developer Dalian Wanda, owned by China’s second-richest man Wang Jianlin, plans to close 10 malls across the country and redesign another 25 to cut retail space, China Business News reported last month. Zong Qinghou, China’s fifth-richest man with a beverage and chain-store conglomerate, said at a forum in August that online shopping businesses are “affecting China’s economic security” by suffocating stores that have to pay rents.

    Stores closeLi Ning, a sports-clothing maker, is expected to post losses for the third consecutive year and has closed more than a thousand retail outlets since 2012. Anta Sports Products, a maker of shoes, has also been shutting down stores partly due to competition from online shopping. At least 300 wholesale markets in Guangzhou are teetering on the edge of survival, especially cloth and garment markets, the Guangzhou Daily reported in December. The biggest of those can house hundreds of outlets and thousands of staff. “Online shops are virtual, and if they kill all the real economy, what business can they do? What products can they sell?” Zong said in comments published on the official People’s Daily’s website in August. He said the government should enhance supervision on virtual shops.

    Old vs new

    Alibaba has a “credibility crisis” fueled by a failure to crack down on shady merchants, counterfeit goods, bribery and misleading promotions using its online malls, a Chinese government regulator said last week. It later eased away from confrontation, saying the report didn’t have judicial effect and that Ma had met with regulators promising to step up anti-piracy spending. “Clashes between the old and new economies” will intensify, said Ouyang Rihui, the deputy dean at the Academy of Internet Economy, a research agency within the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing. He said the loss of retailers is just the beginning of the effect of technology on jobs. “The real challenge for China will be at the front end of production — imagine a day when most manufacturing is automated,” said Ouyang, who helped the government draw up plans to develop the internet economy. “At the end of the day, the new economy will win.”

    Bloomberg News

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