Indonesia’s record $2bn Islamic bond issue; McDonald’s faces worker protests; Fear over the fate of Palmyra

1 Indonesia’s record $2bn Islamic bond issue (Straits Times) Indonesia completed its largest-ever global sukuk offer, selling $2 billion of the debt at the lowest yield in three years. The Finance Ministry issued the dollar notes at 4.325 per cent, lower than its initial indication of 4.55 per cent, Robert Pakpahan, director general at the budget financing and risk management office at the ministry, said. That compares with the 4.35 per cent rate paid on similar Shariah-compliant debt sold last year and the record-low 3.3 per cent on 10-year sukuk issued in 2012.

Standard & Poor’s, which ranks Indonesia at the highest junk level, raised its outlook on the nation’s credit rating to positive from stable, citing policy framework improvements and enhanced monetary and financial management. Hong Kong ended a roadshow for a planned sale of Shariah-compliant dollar notes on Thursday, while PT Garuda Indonesia, the country’s state-controlled airline, is meeting investors to market an upcoming greenback-denominated sukuk issue.

“Demand for sukuk is increasing globally,” Pakpahan said from Jakarta. “Our gross issuance has also increased this year, compared to last year,” so the government decided to raise a larger amount from Islamic bonds, he said.

2 McDonald’s faces worker protests (BBC) Fast food giant McDonald’s is facing pressure from both workers and investors, who are increasingly unhappy with the firm’s business strategy. Hundreds of fast food workers and supporters converged in front of McDonald’s corporate headquarters on Thursday before the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

They demanded the fast food giant raise wages to $15 per hour, from $9. Separately, investors voted to change how board members are elected. They are unhappy with the firm’s slumping sales. McDonald’s – the once invincible-seeming US corporate food giant whose arches are seen across the globe – is struggling, as health-conscious consumers eschew its food in the US and workers stage day-long protests against the company.

That has made this shareholder meeting – the first since British-born chief executive Steve Easterbrook took over the firm in January – a crucial focus of both worker angst and investor frustration. McDonald’s banned media from attending the event, and has sought to dismiss both worker complaints and investor efforts to change the management of the firm.

3 Fear over the fate of Palmyra (San Francisco Chronicle) Fears mounted over the fate of one of the Mideast’s most prominent archaeological sites after Islamic State militants overran the historic Syrian town of Palmyra, seizing control of its temples, tombs and colonnades within hours.

The takeover also expanded the extremists’ hold, making them the single group controlling the most territory in Syria. “The Syrian regime appears to be in terminal decline, and the Islamic State group in its timing is capitalizing on recent losses by government forces in the north and south,” said Amr Al-Azm, an antiquities expert and professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio.

The militants overran the famed archaeological site early Thursday, just hours after seizing the nearby town in central Syria, activists and officials said. They also captured Palmyra’s airport and the notorious Tadmur prison, delivering a startling new defeat for President Bashar Assad, whose forces quickly retreated.

An oasis set in the Syrian desert, Palmyra is a strategic crossroads linking the capital Damascus and cities to the east and the west. Its capture raised alarm over some of the world’s most important ancient ruins, whose fate remained unknown. A UNESCO world heritage site, Palymra boasts 2,000-year-old towering Roman-era colonnades, temples and priceless artifacts that have earned it the affectionate name among Syrians of the “Bride of the Desert.”

They are the remnants of an Arab client state of the Roman Empire that briefly rebelled and carved out its own kingdom in the 3rd Century, led by Queen Zenobia, with Palmyra as its capital. Before the war, it was Syria’s top tourist attraction, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year. It includes a 3,000-seat amphitheater overlooking a colonnaded main avenue where plays, concerts and youth festivals were staged.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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