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Sicily is the key to Italy, as Goethe once wrote, and one novel is the key to Sicily: "The Leopard," Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's masterpiece.
This tale of the decline and fall of the house of Salina, a family of
Sicilian aristocrats, first appeared in 1958, but it reads more like
the last 19th-century novel, a perfect evocation of a lost world.
The novel tells the story of Don Fabrizio, the world-weary, cleareyed
Prince of Salina, scion of an old feudal family and lover of
astronomy. It opens in 1860 with the landing in Sicily of forces
intent on unifying Italy and ends in 1910, when a priest comes to
assess the reliquaries of the prince's now aged spinster daughters.
In between, it recounts the fortunes of the prince's favorite nephew,
Tancredi, who supports the unification efforts of Giuseppe Garibaldi
more out of opportunism than idealism and eventually becomes a
diplomat. Tancredi's career is made possible only by his marrying
money - which inevitably means marrying down. To the horror of his
aunt, the devastation of a cousin who loves him and the wry
comprehension of his uncle, Tancredi falls in love with Angelica, the
beautiful daughter of an upwardly mobile landed peasant father and an
illiterate mother not fit for polite company. It is Tancredi who
speaks the novel's most famous line: "If we want things to stay as
they are," he tells his uncle, "things will have to change."
Tancredi's declaration lies at the heart of "The Leopard," at once a
loving portrait of a vanished society and a critique of its
provincialism. "The Sicilians never want to improve for the simple
reason that they think themselves perfect," the prince tells a
Piedmontese aristocrat who tries to persuade him to become a senator.
"Their vanity is stronger than their misery; every invasion by
outsiders ... upsets their illusion of achieved perfection."
In the family palazzo in Palermo, Lampedusa slept in the same room in
which he was born and in which he expected to die. But in 1943 an
Allied bomb severely damaged the building, which was later abandoned.
Although "The Leopard" ends in 1910, it contains a glimpse of the
future: "From the ceiling the gods, reclining on gilded couches, gazed
down smiling and inexorable as a summer sky. They thought themselves
eternal; but a bomb manufactured in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was to
prove the contrary in 1943."
"The novel helped him reconstitute things he'd lost," Lanza said at
N.Y.U. Like Thomas Mann, he said, Lampedusa had been born into "the
full flowering of European civilization," only to see it eclipsed.
"They became prophets of the Europe that thought of itself as the
hegemony and then was superseded by the United States."
The Philippines Just Blew Up Obama's Asia Pivot Eli Lake
Law & Politics
Does anyone remember President Barack Obama's pivot to Asia? The plan
was to focus diplomatic and military assets in East Asia to contain a
rising China. It was one of the reasons Obama said he was shrinking
the American footprint in the Middle East.
Well, the pivot is failing. On Thursday, the president of the
Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, announced to an audience at the Great
Hall of the People in Beijing a "separation" with the U.S. "America
has lost now,” he said. "And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to
Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world:
China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way."
Two things should be said here.
First: Duterte is a crude vulgarian. He has called Obama a "son of a
whore," and picked a fight with the pope. As a politician he is often
compared to Donald Trump. As a president, he has acted like an
authoritarian, waging a paramilitary war against his nation's drug
users and drug dealers.
Second: Duterte's own government appears to have been kept out of the
loop about this new alliance. On Friday, Duterte himself said he did
not mean to imply that he would cut diplomatic ties with the U.S., but
he has not backed away from his pledge to end military cooperation
with the U.S., though others in his government have suggested he will
Regardless, this is a big story. The Philippines has been an important
U.S. ally since the beginning of the cold war. What's more, the Obama
administration has invested in the country as part of its pivot to
Asia. In 2014 the two countries signed an enhanced defense cooperation
agreement. When the Philippines brought a case against China at the
Hague over China's artificial islands in its territorial waters, the
U.S. supported the Philippines diplomatically.
In July, the Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of
the Philippines. This would have been an opportunity for the U.S. to
turn the screws on China. But instead the Obama White House encouraged
China and the Philippines to resolve the matter themselves after the
ruling of the international tribunal.
At the end of August, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters
that the U.S. was not interested in "fanning the flames of conflict
but rather trying to encourage the parties to resolve their disputes
and claims through the legal process and through diplomacy."
Duterte has now taken Kerry's advice. After announcing his country's
new alignment with China, Duterte signed a series of trade agreements
worth $13.5 billion, along with a promise to continue bilateral
negotiations over the South China Sea.
Dan Blumenthal, the director of Asia studies at the American
Enterprise Institute, told me Friday that the Obama administration had
fumbled. "After the tribunal decision, our response was to tell
Duterte to tamp down tensions and talk bilaterally with China, and
there was no evidence of follow-up by us in terms of our own military
exercises or diplomatic initiatives to enforce the findings of the
tribunal," he said. "There has been next to nothing on this. We still
haven't had a Freedom of Navigation mission that actually challenges
the Chinese artificial islands."
Is it any wonder then that Duterte concluded Obama wasn't serious
about defending the rule of law in the South China Sea? Close watchers
of the Filipino leader could have predicted this kind of thing. Before
his campaign for the presidency in August 2015, he told supporters,
"If America cared it would have sent aircraft carriers and missile
frigates the moment China started reclaiming land in contested
Of course America didn't do that. It didn't even send the Navy into
Filipino territorial waters claimed by China in the South China Sea
after an international tribunal ruled that those waters were Filipino.
Instead, the Obama administration acted as if international law would
implement itself. But it never works that way. The rule-based system
Obama endorses requires a great power to defend it.
This is one valid perspective.
02-DEC-2013 The Pivot to Asia bares its Fangs
Law & Politics
I see the pivot to Asia as the encirclement of China, then the
shrinking of its operating theatre and then lighting the tinderbox
that is the periphery and Xinjiang might well morph into China’s
Afghanistan. You will recall that the architect of Russia’s defeat in
Afghanistan was Zbigniew Brzezinski and he remains a foreign policy
eminence grise with the president’s ear. The US probably feels it
holds a decisive hard power advantage at this moment and given that
the trajectory is one of gradual erosion of that decisive advantage
leads me to the view that this pivot to Asia has a logic and momentum
of its own. Therefore, I see the US being increasingly determined to
press its advantage One of the key elements of the Pivot to Asia is
the air-sea battle concept. This concept envisages the battle
beginning with a “blinding attack” against Chinese anti-access
facilities and incorporates “distant blockade” operations. China’s
dependence on foreign oil is increasing just as the US’ dependency is
decreasing. And interestingly, given my belief that the Eastern
seaboard is a fabulous energy prize, that puts the Indian Ocean in
many respects right into the geopolitical frame. If you are
considering ‘’distant blockade’’ operations, one of those areas you
will be blockading is this part of the world, given the amount of
energy that is likely to be sold into Asia, in the future.
AT&T to Buy Time Warner in $85.4 Billion Cash, Stock Deal
AT&T Inc. agreed to buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion, forming a
telecommunications and media empire that will own many of the movies
and TV shows it pumps through to subscribers of its wireless, internet
and pay-TV services.
The cash-and-stock deal values Time Warner at about $107.50 a share,
the companies said Saturday in a statement, 20 percent more than
Friday’s closing price. Time Warner shareholders are to receive $53.75
per share in cash and $53.75 a share in AT&T stock.
“This is a perfect match of two companies with complementary strengths
who can bring a fresh approach to how the media and communications
industry works,” AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randall
Stephenson said in the statement.
The deal caps Stephenson’s vision to expand AT&T into media and
entertainment as its wireless business matures. Gaining premium cable
channel HBO, CNN and the Warner Bros. studio means AT&T becomes a
content owner rather than just a distributor of video.
Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
Euro 1.0870 The euro slipped 0.2 percent to $1.0865 as of 11:35 a.m.
in Tokyo from Friday, when the currency touched $1.0859, its lowest
since March 10
Dollar Index 98.63 The market-based probability of a December hike was
68 percent as of Friday, up from 66 percent a week earlier.
Japan Yen 103.94
Swiss Franc 0.9945
India Rupee 66.905
South Korea Won 1135.65
Brazil Real 3.1504
Egypt Pound 8.8968
South Africa Rand 13.9699
Chinese companies target Portuguese banks FT
Chinese companies are targeting stakes in two of Portugal’s leading
banks as the country’s financial sector undergoes a transformation
aimed at clearing bad loans and boosting capital.
China Minsheng Financial Holding has joined the list of candidates for
Novo Banco as Lisbon makes a second attempt to sell the so-called good
bank salvaged from the ruins of Banco Espírito Santo in 2014.
At the same time, Fosun Industrial Holdings, part of China’s biggest
private conglomerate, is in advanced talks on acquiring 16.7 per cent
of Millennium BCP, Portugal’s largest listed bank, and potentially
lifting its stake subsequently to 30 per cent through capital
Besides Minsheng, contenders for Novo Banco include private equity
groups Apollo Global Management, Lone Star Funds and Centerbridge as
well as two Portuguese lenders, BCP and Banco BPI, according to Lisbon
The mystery of Africa's disappearing presidents QUARTZ AFRICA
President Peter Mutharika returned to Malawi on Sunday Oct. 16, just
as he’d promised. Mutharika left to attend the United Nations General
Assembly mid-September and just didn’t come back. His cagey
communications team would not divulge the leader’s itinerary, sparking
rumors that he’d died, and the hilarious hashtag #BringBackMutharika.
Mutharika is the latest African president to disappear without a word
to his people. Communication between leaders and their constituents
often grow quieter after elections. Poor public relations are a signal
of the lack of accountability and transparency displayed by many
Mutharika’s jaunt in New York had nothing on Cameroonian’s president
Paul Biya’s spontaneous stays at European hotels. In 2009, his
three-week holiday in La Baule, southern France cost $40,000 a day.
“Like any other worker, president Paul Biya has a right to his
vacations,” information minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said at the
time. Biya has been in power since 1982.
But this time, one Cameroonian won’t let Biya catch a break while his
country suffers. In a video that is going viral on social media, an
unidentified man stands outside the Intercontinental in Geneva,
condemning Biya and his entourage for living in a hotel for two months
while Cameroonian’s struggled to make a living back home.
“I’ve come back again to the Intercontinental to make a fuss, to ask
what are you still doing here? What do you do everyday?” the man
shouted, continuing to berate Biya until hotel staff shooed him away.
He staged the same protest earlier this year and vowed to return until
Biya went home.
Observer view on Congo and the failure of democracy in Africa Observer editorial
Two decades ago, the Democratic Republic of Congo, sub-Saharan
Africa’s largest country, was engulfed in what became known as
Africa’s Great War, a conflict that drew in half-a-dozen neighbouring
countries and raged for five years from 1998.
The conflict and its aftermath cost the lives of an estimated 5.4
million people, mainly from starvation and disease. This epic disaster
was largely ignored outside Africa, even though it was the developed
world’s insatiable demand for the DRC’s mineral riches that helped to
The war was halted, in part, by the introduction of a new constitution
and a democratic system of governance, replacing decades of Mobutu
Sese Seko’s brutal dictatorship. In 2006 Joseph Kabila was confirmed
as DRC president by popular vote, although the fairness of the
election was widely disputed. In 2011 he was re-elected. Again, the
results were hotly contested. A key factor in their acceptance was his
pledge to honour the constitution and refrain from seeking a third
The DRC’s next presidential election is due next month. It isn’t going
to happen. A court last week upheld a request by the election
commission that the poll be postponed, ostensibly because voter rolls
are incomplete. A “national dialogue” by the ruling coalition and
involving fringe parties and civic groups, but boycotted by the main
opposition and Catholic church, also agreed a delay until at least
April 2018. In effect, Kabila and his security force backers have
compromised the constitution and the judiciary and engineered a silent
coup. His solemn 2011 promise has been broken.
This shameless subversion of the democratic process (parliamentary and
provincial polls have also been put off) was condemned by the main
opposition party, the UDPS, as a “flagrant violation”. Rassemblement
(Gathering), the multi-party opposition organisation, reacted with
fury and called a general strike last Wednesday. Kabila’s attempt to
cling to power threatens the DRC’s hard-won and still precarious
stability. Worse, it risks a return to national and regional upheaval,
violence and war. At least this time the world is paying more
attention. Maman Sambo Sidikou, the senior UN official in the country,
warned the UN security council last week that “large-scale violence is
all but inevitable” if the impasse is not resolved. “The tipping point
could be reached very quickly.” After related clashes in Kinshasa last
month, in which at least 50 people died, the US imposed limited
sanctions on army generals implicated in human rights abuses. On
Monday EU foreign ministers also agreed to pursue possible punitive
Matters are not as clear cut as they might seem. Kabila denies he
wanted the delay. Analysts suggest the president, thrust into office
after his father was assassinated in 2001, is a frontman for the
security apparatus. The opposition is fragmented and its readiness to
resort to protests often leads to violence. Concerns over stability by
countries such as France and Belgium are not wholly disinterested,
commercially speaking. But that the leadership of another African
country appears ready to ride roughshod over democracy and laws is
clear. The DRC has never had a peaceful transition of power since
independence in 1960. This is why term limits are so important. Last
year the presidents of Burundi, Rwanda and Congo-Brazzaville overrode
constitutional requirements that they step aside. In Burundi’s case,
violence and displacement resulted. In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni looks
determined to go on for ever. Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwean “presidency
for life” and José Eduardo dos Santos’s Angolan ascendancy provide
further examples of endemic disregard for democratic principles.
It would be a mistake to think Africans care less about self-serving,
corrupt and irresponsible politicians than Europeans or Americans. The
African Union has repeatedly stressed peaceful political transitions
in embedding democratic habits. Studies show African voters value
democratic systems but are increasingly frustrated at their
malfunctioning and wilful subversion.
Nigeria demonstrated last year how it could be done. But South Africa,
ruled since apartheid’s end by a single, overpowerful party, is less
of a shining light. Its reported decision to renounce the
International Criminal Court is another sign that too many African
politicians would rather jettison democratic and legal norms than
subject themselves to scrutiny and public judgment.
Banking distress spreads across Africa
“We’ve been forecasting an African banking crisis since the beginning
of this year,” said Robert Besseling, a Johannesburg-based executive
director at business-risk consultancy Exx Africa. “We’re likely to see
more banks fail in Nigeria. The Kenyan banking sector will have to
consolidate and Ethiopia’s will have to liberalise. Angola is also
struggling. Some Ghanaian banks have reported heavy losses. The other
one to watch is the DRC, which has also seen some turbulence.”
New Zimbabwe Notes Stir Memory of 500,000,000,000% Inflation
The country will soon introduce so-called bond notes, pegged to parity
with the U.S. dollar and beginning with denominations worth from $2 to
$5, central bank Governor John Mangudya said on Wednesday. It’s an
attempt to complement the range of foreign currencies used in the
beleaguered economy since 2009, which have been in short supply
following a collapse in exports.
The bond notes won’t address structural challenges facing the economy,
said Naome Chakanya, an economist with the Labour and Economic
Research Institute, a Harare-based think tank. The economy collapsed
in the wake of a campaign to seize white-owned commercial farms and
hand them over to black subsistence farmers, triggering a near
decade-long recession as exports from tobacco to roses slumped.
About 3 million of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people still live abroad
after fleeing the economic crisis, according to the United Nations.
Employment in the manufacturing sector has dropped to 85,000 from
200,000 in 2009, according to the Confederation of Zimbabwe
Industries, while 4,600 companies have closed down in the past three
years, according to central bank data.
“Some are going to accept it, some are going to reject it, others will
be frog-marched to accept since the cash crisis is worsening,”
Chakanya said. “There is a high probability of emergence of a black
market for U.S. dollars, thus creating more problems for the economy”
Consequences Intended or Unintended @TheStarKenya
It has now been about two months since the President assented to the
Interest rate capping Bill. Interestingly, interest-rate limits were
eliminated in July 1991,
The amendment to the Banking Act required lenders to peg credit costs
at 400 basis points above the benchmark central bank rate and
compelled Banks to pay interest of a minimum of 70 percent of the CBR
on deposits. This Interest Rate Corridor essentially topped and tailed
the Banks. What is clear is that there are two calculations that need
to be made when assessing the damage on Banks's Earnings. The first is
to understand how much lending was above the Cap and would have to be
reduced and the second calculation was around the Floor. This is not
a rocket science calculation and SIB have provided research which
Co-op Banks's net interest income is expected to shrink by an
estimated 24.3 per cent and will be followed by Equity Group whose
interest earnings is set to fall 23.5 per cent. Barclays is projected
to see a decline of 15.2 per cent in interest income while that of
StanChart is seen falling 11.6 per cent. Calculations regarding the
deposit structure will also need to be factored into this to get the
whole picture. Tier 2 and Tier 3 Banks get squeezed harder because
typically they pay up for deposits and are now unable to recoup that
deposit premium because of the Cap. Tier 2 and Tier 3 have been topped
and tailed real good.
Dr. James Mwangi spoke of turning up the Lending Volume [he mentioned
a figure of 100b shillings]. Joshua Oigara spoke to a sharp take-up in
loans since the Cap was introduced. Both are indicating the
fundamental bias in favour of the Big Banks, they can turn up the
lending volume. Others can't.
Its worth looking at how the share prices have performed since 24th
August. KCB -26.84%, Barclays Bank -17.52%, Equity -15.22%, StanChart
-11.11% and Co-op Bank is -6.037%.
StanChart is an Outlier and the only Banking stock that has served up
a positive return in 2016. StanChart is +15.58% in 2016 on a Total
Return Basis. When you compare StanChart's Total Return versus the
Banking Index, it is even more impressive.
Credit to the private sector has been slowing sharply and last
registered a +7.07% expansion in July 2016 versus Levels above 20%
July 2015 . Recent moves by the CBK to steer interest rates lower were
in part certainly triggered by this sharp slow-down. This is a Key
Indicator to watch in assessing the side-effects of the Interest rate
Another consequence is that the Act surely accelerates consolidation
in the Banking Sector. The Deposit Flight to Quality post the Imperial
and Dubai Bank developments coupled with the Caps and Floors have
surely made consolidation all but inevitable. However, merging
sub-optimal balance sheets will not necessarily work. There is a
requirement to infuse more Equity Capital.
I have been wrestling with the thought of whether the Authors of the
Bill appreciate how much they have improved the Government of Kenya's
position. The Net consequence of the Act [preceded by the Deposit
Flight to Quality] has created an outsize demand for Government of
Kenya [considered risk-free on the Bank's balance sheet] Paper. The
National Treasury finds itself in a sweet spot. Demand for GOK Paper
is currently off the charts as witnessed by the recent Sale of 30b of
15 year Infrastructure Bonds, which I believe is the longest maturity
Bond ever sold by the Government of Kenya. The Government is
reconfiguring its maturity Profile [previously quite lumpy] very
Another noteworthy development at the Stock Market has been the
recovery in Kenya Airways' share price which has been entirely
correlated to Michael Joseph's quick accession to the Chairman's
position at the Airline The share price has ramped +50% higher over 4
short weeks. There is a Big Job to be done at the airline which spans
cancelling all Fuel Hedging, proper oversight over FX and Treasury and
much more. Optimising the Balance Sheet needs someone real credible at
the head of Future negotiations and the market is betting if anyone
can Michael can.
KenGen takes Sh2bn tax hit after Treasury dividend arrears pay
The Sh5.7 billion dividend payment, which had accrued over four years,
prompted the tax payment to the Kenya Revenue Authority.
The levy, known as a compensating tax, cut KenGen’s profit by nearly half.
The tax is a secondary levy that is charged upon the distribution of
untaxed income. It largely arises when dividends are paid out of
untaxed profits or reserves.
KenGen managing director Albert Mugo said in an interview the tax
became payable after the company paid dividends to the Treasury yet it
had benefited from massive investment deductions on its capital
projects in recent years.
“We have enjoyed investment allowances when building projects outside
Nairobi including those in Olkaria,” he said.
“At the time you are enjoying that tax investment allowance, you are
not supposed to pay a dividend. But immediately you pay a dividend,
the government charges you the compensating tax.”
The Nairobi All Share rebounded 1.02 points to close at 136.81.
The Nairobi NSE20 closed +11.12 points at 3214.50.
Equity Turnover clocked 438.373m and somewhat some seriously low-ball
volume sessions last week.
N.S.E Equities - Agricultural
Kapchorua Tea rallied +6.66% to close at 80. Tea Farmers have all had
quite a windfall.
N.S.E Equities - Commercial & Services
Safaricom [which will report earnings Early November] firmed +1.52% to
close at 20.00 and traded 4.937m shares. Buyers outpaced Sellers by a
factor of 2 to 1 signalling further upside traction into that Earnings
Kenya Airways maintained its ''Michael Joseph'' Rebound and closed
+7.96% at a Fresh 2016 high of 6.10 and traded 2.023m shares. Kenya
Airways has registered a parabolic +69.44% price rebound over the last
4 weeks. The Price Surge is a serious Signal in the Noise.
N.S.E Equities - Finance & Investment
Sidian Bank, formerly known as K-Rep Bank [but is not listed at the
Securities Exchange] today announced that it has embarked on a
voluntary retirement scheme. This is surely a harbinger of things to
come in the smaller Banks as they right-size their Operations. Sidian
which is majority owned by Centum is moving with despatch.
Equity Group firmed +0.81% to close at 30.75 and was lightly traded
with just 82,800 shares changing hands.
Standard Chartered firmed a shilling and is the only bank at the NSE
that has posted a positive return in 2016. StanChart is +16.00% on a
Total Return basis in 2016.
N.S.E Equities - Industrial & Allied
EABL was the most actively traded share at the Exchange today and
closed unchanged at 272.00 and traded 1.013m shares worth 276.139m
[62.98% of the total volume traded today]. EABL is well supported at
these price levels.
KenGen which fell sharply after the release of its FY Earnings and
some -13.77% on Friday, stabilised today and closed unchanged at 5.95
with 521,100 shares changing hands. The share price reaction on Friday
was overcooked and in part because of the dividend pass and an
optically big dividend payment to the GOK. The share price remains
undervalued but Management need to start promoting the Investor story.
Deacons EA whose shares are down by 58% since it listed at the NSE on
2nd August through this morning, Deacons closed limit down -9.72% at