1 Oil producers hope for stable market in 2018 (Gulf News) The world oil market has the potential to reach full stability in 2018 as the level of inventories are expected to be reduced to a comfortable level, said Suhail Bin Mohammad Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Industry, ahead of the Opec Ministerial Meeting in Vienna where it has been agreed to extend oil output cuts until the end of 2018.
The minister said, “For stability to happen, we need to consider renewing or extending the deal further and we need to see the same level of compliance achieved in 2017.” The Declaration of Cooperation’ was a landmark decision reached by 13 Opec and 11 non-Opec producers at the joint ministerial-level meeting in Vienna on 10th December 2016.
Opec and its allies outside the group agreed on 30th November to maintain oil production cuts until the end of 2018. A joint Opec and non-Opec communique said the next meeting in June 2018 would present an opportunity to adjust the agreement based on market conditions.
“The Declaration of Corporation’ by Opec and non-Opec participating countries gave hope and stability to the market at a very critical time, especially when the non-Opec oil producing countries showed commitment in compliance with the Declaration of Cooperation, even though this is the first time that they worked together with Opec, which was a testimony to their responsible efforts toward market stability,” said Al Mazrouei.
2 Toys R Us shutting more shops (BBC) Toys R Us is preparing to close around a quarter of its 106 UK stores, with the loss of hundreds of jobs, the BBC understands. The closures would form part of a deal to renegotiate debts owed by the company to its landlords – which must be agreed by 75% of its creditors.
The toy giant, which has around 3,000 workers, is looking to move away from its “big-box” out-of-town store model. The company is seeking approval from its board and US parent company to enter talks with the landlords.
Specialist restructuring firm Alvarez and Marsal is understood to be drafting a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) on its behalf. The CVA process is separate to bankruptcy protection proceedings involving Toys R Us’s US parent company, which were announced in September.
Retail analyst Kate Hardcastle, from Insight With Passion, said the challenge facing Toys R Us is a common theme of retailers. “Toy retailers, fashion retailers, everyone is going to reduce the size of their stores. It’s coming. In the coming 24 months you will see a lot more of this sort of news,” Ms Hardcastle said.
Ms Hardcastle said Toys R Us was stuck between the extensive range and lower pricing of online retail and the theatrics and free entertainment offered by toy stores such as Hamleys, Lego and Disney stores. “Toys R Us does not fit into either of these market spaces”.
3 The price to pay for shipbreaking (John Vidal in The Guardian) Chittagong in Bangladesh is now the world’s largest shipbreaking centre, last year recycling 230 ships and generating 10m tonnes of steel – up to 60% of all the steel used in Bangladesh.
Most of the workers migrate from rural areas. Hired out in gangs, they live in overcrowded shacks close to the yards. The Ferdous yard is like many others. Hidden behind high metal gates, it slopes down to the Bay of Bengal. It can take months for young men, wielding only sledgehammers and metal cutters, to dismantle a large vessel.
“Chittagong is the cheapest place to scrap ships but the price is suffering. Nine men have died here this year. Nobody feels responsible for these men’s lives,” says Muhammed Ali Shahin, Bangladesh coordinator of Shipbreaking Platform. The law offers little protection, he says. “EU laws stop EU-flagged ships being broken up on Asian beaches, but because owners can easily ‘reflag’ ships it has little strength.”
Pressed by labour groups, the UN’s International Maritime Organisation passed the Hong Kong Convention (HKC) in 2009. This demands that ship owners and states do not pose a risk to human health, safety and the environment. But, says Shipbreaking Platform, it does not stop the beaching of vessels, which is blamed for most accidents, and it is unlikely to come into force for years because it requires 15 states, and 40% of world merchant shipping, to have signed up.