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UPDATE 1-Titan in talks to sell control stake as W
* Warburg files lawsuit seeking liquidation of Titan
* Titan gets non-binding offer to take control of company
* Debt-laden Titan in the red for past 5 years
By Charlie Zhu and Stephen Aldred
HONG KONG, July 13 (Reuters) - Debt-laden Chinese shipping and oil storage firm Titan Petrochemicals Group Ltd, facing a lawsuit seeking its liquidation from Warburg Pincus, is in "active discussions" to sell a controlling stake.
Titan, in which Warburg Pincus holds a stake of around 10 percent, have suffered losses for five consecutive years after its debt-driven growth strategy was unravelled by a nasty downturn in the shipping industry.
Warburg Pincus filed a petition in a Bermuda court earlier this month seeking a cheap black glitter
winding up of Titan, whose assets totalled HK$6.4 billion ($825 million) as of the end of last year while current liabilities reached HK$7.7 billion. The private equity firm has invested more than $215 million in Titan since 2007.
Titan said it received a non-binding indicative offer on Thursday to take control of the company, and it is now in talks to issue new shares to the potential investor, which it did not identify. If the shares were issued, it is likely to result in a change of control of the company, Titan said in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Mainland Chinese businessman Tsoi Tin Chun stepped down this month as Titan's chairman after building the company into a firm with oil storage, shipping and trading businesses spanning China, Singapore and Malaysia. Tsoi controls nearly 48 percent of Titan.
A native of China's Fujian province, Tsoi, 49, made a big bet on the highly cyclical oil shipping business in 2005, borrowing heavily to expand its tanker fleet. The strategy turned out to be a mistake, said sources familiar with Titan.
"He has a lot of good business ideas. He captured the upturn in the shipping. But shipping has big highs and big lows. He overextended himself," said a former Titan employee with knowledge of the company's strategy then.
"The problem is what to do when the cycle turns. You sell all your ships? It is a capital-intensive industry. You can't buy quickly and sell quickly," said the source, who declined to be identified.
In March 2005, with the help of Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, Titan issued $400 million of seven-year bonds carrying a fixed annual coupon of 8.5 percent to buy oil tankers, bunkering barges and invest in oil storage facilities in China.
"Our ability to issue one of the largest high-yield bonds in Asia this year testifies to our solid cash flow, correspondingly high level of debt coverage and the revenue generating nature of the assets in which we are investing," the company said in a statement on the bond issue on March 14, 2005.
The shipping market plunged after 2007, and the company's storage business in China ran into stiff competition from dominant Chinese state players like PetroChina and Sinopec Corp .
Heavy interest expenses ate into Titan's finances, with the company racking up combined net losses Toms
of HK$3.5 billion from 2007 to 2011.
Titan defaulted on HK$825.8 million of principal and HK$35.1 million in interest due on its U.S. dollar bonds March 19. It attributed the default to the failure in selling a shipyard to a Chinese company called Grand China Logistics.
Grand China terminated a contract signed in late 2010 to buy Titan's 95 percent interest in a Chinese shipyard for about HK$1.8 billion. Grand China is a unit of HNA Group, which controls Shanghai-listed Hainan Airlines .
Warburg Pincus' petition to wind up Titan is expected to be heard on August 16, said the Chinese company, which went public in Hong Kong in 2002 through a backdoor listing.
Shares in Titan, with a market value of $248 million, were suspended on June 19 pending an announcement of price-sensitive information. The stock last traded at HK$0.246, after plunging 50 percent in the last 12 months.
Al Qaeda suicide bomber attacks Yemen police acade
A suicide bomber killed at least 10 people outside a police academy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday, dramatically exposing the government's vulnerability to al Qaeda-linked insurgents despite a U.S.-backed offensive against them.
Yemeni Interior Minister Abdul Qader Qahtan told state television the death toll was 10, with 15 wounded, some of them in a serious condition. Security officials had earlier put the number of dead at 22.
Policeman Fadel Ali told Reuters police cadets were leaving the academy when the bomber Spain Euro 2012 Jersey
attacked: "We ran to the place and found dozens of cadets covered in blood. Blood was everywhere."
Parts of the cadets' khaki uniforms were scattered across the dirt outside the academy, and blood spattered the walls.
Unusually, the suicide bomber did not die immediately but was evacuated to hospital by medical staff. He was missing a leg and an arm.
A Yemeni security official, who declined to be named, said the bomber told security officers before he died that he was affiliated with al Qaeda and came from Amran, a town 70 km (43 miles) north of Sanaa.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed the attack, just as it did a similar attack in Sanaa in May, when a suicide bomber in army uniform killed more than 90 people rehearsing for a military parade.
The violence in the heart of the capital demonstrated how far the government is from defeating the insurgents despite a U.S.-backed offensive that drove them out of their southern strongholds this year.
IN RETREAT, NOT DEFEATED
"The bombing shows that the security services are still weak and that al Qaeda has not been defeated but simply retreated, maintaining its ability to strike wherever it wants," said Saeed Obeid, an expert on al Qaeda.
The United States has been pouring financial and military aid into Yemen to stem the threat of international terrorism from AQAP and prevent any spillover of violence into neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer.
It has also stepped up a campaign of drone missile strikes against AQAP, which has been behind several failed attacks on the United States, including an attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.
The Yemeni government vowed to keep up the fight.
"Yemen will counter the evil of terrorism with honor and bravery. Al Qaeda today is not only facing the military and security services but also the fury of the Yemeni public," Adel al-Suneini, charge d'affaires in Washington, said in a statement sent to Reuters.
But analysts say Yemen faces an uphill battle to defeat the insurgents, who have vowed to carry their fight across Yemen.
"The government campaign against al Qaeda is going to be a long process and ... victory is still far away," said Theodore Karasik, the director of research and development at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
TOLERATED UNDER SALEH
The insurgents had been emboldened by a decline in government control over Yemen last year during protests that eventually ousted long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and seized several southern cities before being driven out this year.
U.S. officials say President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi - who came to power in February as part of Spain 11/12 A. INIESTA Home Jersey
a power-transfer deal brokered by the United States and Gulf states - is more cooperative in the fight against al Qaeda than his predecessor.
But that has also made his government, and state installations like the police academy, more vulnerable.
"Al Qaeda had a kind of détente with the Saleh regime which gave it a safe haven in return for not attacking government and local targets. This is over now, hence the attacks," said Yemeni political analyst Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani, echoing a widespread view that Saleh turned a blind eye to AQAP to convince Washington to keep providing aid.
Karasik said that AQAP appeared to be adopting methods used in Iraq against the government in Sanaa. "It's the same kind of tactics that we see al Qaeda using in Iraq, targeting police academies and the military. There is a migration of tactics from Al Qaeda in Iraq to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."
The U.S. involvement in Yemen, particularly the increasing use of its secretive drone missile strike program, has stirred controversy both there and in the United States.
Some argue that the drone strikes drive fresh recruits to al Qaeda by causing civilian casualties; others that Yemen actually welcomes them, though officials deny their use because it infringes Yemen's sovereignty.
Senate Dems want tax cuts for businesses that hire
Democrats began trying to push a bill through the Senate Tuesday slicing taxes for businesses that hire new workers and buy major new equipment. They ran straight into opposition from Republicans who complained that the measure was too timid and sought to refocus the debate on their own economic priorities.
As soon as debate began, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he would offer an amendment cheap toms glitter black
extending for another year broad tax cuts for millions of Americans that expire in January, including for the wealthiest earners. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders want to renew them only for families earning up to $250,000 — a cutoff that Democrats say would force the rich to contribute to deficit reduction but Republicans say would stifle job creation.
"I remain amazed that the Democratic majority has decided to pursue this bill to support small businesses, when looming tax increases threaten to crush these same small businesses," Hatch said.
"It's just like asking to go into a deeper recession," he added of the tax increases that will hit unless Congress acts. "It's like saying we don't care."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would not say whether he would allow a vote on Hatch's amendment, but it seemed unlikely. He tried turning the tables on Republicans by accusing them of holding middle-class tax cuts hostage so the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans could get tax reductions.
"So I give Mitt Romney and all the Republicans this news: They're all doing just fine. Mitt Romney doesn't need additional tax breaks," Reid said of the wealthy GOP presidential challenger.
With Election Day less than four months off, the battle highlighted how both parties are using congressional debate to transmit their messages to voters with little regard to whether the legislation at stake will ever become law.
The Senate's Democratic tax-cutting bill has little chance of surviving. Neither does Wednesday's planned vote by the Republican-run House to repeal Obama's 2010 health care law, which has no chance of being duplicated in the Democratic-led Senate.
The Senate bill debated Tuesday would let businesses take tax credits for 10 percent of the difference between their payrolls this year and 2011, whether the extra money is used to hire workers or give raises to existing employees.
Because the credit is capped at $500,000, Democrats said it would predominantly help small businesses. It also limits the tax credit to the first $110,100 of each worker's salary, which the White House said meant that "well-paid executives would be ineligible for tax relief."
The measure would also let firms buying major new equipment in 2012, such as machinery, deduct the entire cost of the purchase this year under so-called bonus depreciation rules. Currently they can only deduct half the amount.
Though both parties favor the idea, critics say it sometimes gives tax breaks to companies that would have purchased the equipment anyway, limiting its impact.
Democrats said the measure would create 990,000 jobs, citing a study they requested from a private, nonpartisan economic consulting firm. The White House said almost 2 million companies that boost their payrolls would get tax breaks and noted that Obama had proposed lower levies for small businesses in the "to-do" list he suggested for Congress in May.
The bill has a 10-year cost of $29 billion.
Republicans prefer a measure the House approved in April granting 20 percent tax deductions to Wholesale Toms Shoes
all businesses with fewer than 500 employees — more than 99 percent of the nation's companies. That bill — which would cost $46 billion over 10 years — drew a veto threat from Obama and has gone nowhere in the Senate.
Both measures would be paid for by enlarging federal deficits.
Republicans considered using procedural moves to prevent the Senate from even debating the business tax-cut bill.
But most decided the debate was an opportunity to showcase their own tax policies and the Senate voted 80-14 to begin debate. In the end, they are unlikely to help provide the 60 votes the measure will need for approval, unless they are unexpectedly able to reshape the bill to their liking.
"We'll have to see what the bill looks like" at the end, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He added, "Having said that, I think it is a good idea to talk about taxes this week."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, plans a vote before Congress' August break on extending all the tax cuts for a year. Republicans say this would give Congress time to work on overhauling the tax code and avert deep automatic spending cuts that take effect in January unless lawmakers head them off.
Reid also plans a vote soon on renewing the tax cuts, but only for those earning under $250,000.
Underscoring the partisan warfare over taxes and the economy, the two parties drew Toms Glitters
differing conclusions from a report issued Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The study found that the average federal tax rate — including income, payroll and other taxes — fell to 17.4 percent in 2009, the lowest level since the agency began compiling the data in 1979. Democrats contrasted that with continued GOP demands for tax cuts.
"However much Republicans try to perpetuate false claims, the facts speak for themselves: Tax rates have never been lower than under President Obama," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
The report also found that average before-tax income fell 12 percent from 2007 to 2009 to $88,400, while average government support payments have been growing.
"Under President Obama and the Democrats who control Washington, Americans have lost their jobs, seen their wages decline, and fallen into lower tax brackets," said Michelle Dimarob, spokeswoman for Ways and Means Republicans. "A weak economy and fewer jobs is nothing to cheer about."
Internatonal Capsules: Armstrong team stumbles as
A federal judge handed Lance Armstrong a quick setback Monday as he went to court to save his seven Tour de France titles and his reputation as one of the greatest cyclists ever.
Armstrong filed a lawsuit aimed at preventing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency from moving ahead with charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his long career.
But within hours, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks in Austin dismissed the 80-page complaint. He said it seemed more intended to whip up public opinion in Armstrong's favor than focus on legal arguments.
Sparks, however, did not rule on the merits of Armstrong's claims and will let him refile the lawsuit. Armstrong attorney Tim Herman said he will do that, possibly on Tuesday.
The lawsuit claimed USADA rules violate athletes' constitutional right to a Spain 11/12 ALONSO Home Jersey
fair trial, and that the agency doesn't have jurisdiction in Armstrong's case. It also accused USADA's chief executive, Travis Tygart, of waging a personal vendetta against the cancer survivor who won the Tour de France every year from 1999 to 2005.
The judge was not impressed with a filing that dedicated dozens of pages to Armstrong's career history and long-standing disputes with anti-doping officials.
"This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims," Sparks wrote.
Herman said he got the message.
"When (Sparks) speaks, I listen," he said. "It doesn't change the legal issues involved or any of the relief that we seek."
The lawsuit was an aggressive, and expected, move as Armstrong seeks to preserve his racing legacy and his place as an advocate for cancer survivors and research. He wants Sparks to bar USADA from pursuing its case or issuing any sanctions against him.
Armstrong asked the court to issue an injunction by Saturday, the deadline to formally challenge the case against him in USADA's arbitration process or accept the agency's sanctions. He could receive a lifetime ban from cycling and be stripped of his Tour de France victories if found guilty.
Armstrong insists he is innocent.
"The process (USADA) seek to force upon Lance Armstrong is not a fair process and truth is not its goal," his lawsuit said, calling the USADA process a corrupt "kangaroo court."
Tygart, who was named as co-defendant, said Armstrong's lawsuit is "aimed at concealing the truth" and predicted Sparks will rule in the agency's favor.
USADA, created in 2000 and recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic sports in the United States, formally charged Armstrong in June with taking performance-enhancing drugs and participating in a vast doping conspiracy on his Tour de France winning teams, some of which were sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service.
The charges came after a two-year federal criminal investigation of Armstrong ended in February with no charges filed. The anti-doping agency, however, says up to 10 former teammates and associates are willing to testify against him and that it has blood samples from 2009-2010 that are "fully consistent" with doping.
Armstrong, who retired in 2011, says he has passed more than 500 drug tests in his career and was never flagged for a positive test.
Armstrong's lawsuit makes several arguments:
— USADA's rules and arbitration are designed to find athletes guilty. Athletes are not allowed to subpoena documents or compel witnesses to testify in a hearing. USADA has so far withheld the names of most of the witnesses against Armstrong, saying it is protecting them from potential intimidation.
— The International Cycling Union, cycling's governing body which licensed Armstrong to ride professionally, should have jurisdiction over the allegations. Armstrong says allegations of doping by him and his team that were first raised by admitted drug-user Floyd Landis in 2010 should be addressed by UCI.
— USADA may have violated federal law if it coerced witness testimony against him with deals to reduce punishments for riders facing doping charges. Media reports last week said former Armstrong teammates George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde, who are all riding in this year's Tour de France, may be witnesses against him.
In a twist, Armstrong is arguing against rules that his personal manager, Bill Stapleton, helped draft when he was a board member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and served as the chairman of the athletes' advisory council.
Armstrong's representatives have said those rules were written to deal with cases of athletes facing positive drug tests and lab results, not a case like Armstrong's where the evidence is weighted toward anecdotal witness testimony.
Legal experts were divided on the strength of Armstrong's case.
"USADA is a unique agency, far from perfect ... but that doesn't necessarily means it's unconstitutional," said Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School. "He makes some good points, but his chances for success are less than likely."
An Armstrong victory in court, however, could shake USADA to its core, said Michael Spain Euro 2012 Jersey
Straubel, law professor and director of the Sports Law Clinic at Valparaiso University.
Straubel, who has represented athletes with doping cases before USADA, called Armstrong's lawsuit a "strong case" for greater protection for athletes.
"This is huge. It has tremendous implications for USADA. I really hope USADA thought all this through before it got things started," Straubel said.
To be successful on his constitutional claims, Armstrong must show that USADA is acting as a government agency. The lawsuit notes that USADA is mostly funded by the federal government and that some of the evidence against him was collected during the federal criminal investigation. On its website, however, USADA calls itself an independent agency.
USADA could ask the court to allow its arbitration process to go ahead, requiring Armstrong to raise his claims after a decision is made. But Armstrong predicts he can't win in a system stacked against him, and says he needs the court to step in now.
Also charged by USADA are former Armstrong team manager Johan Bruyneel and several team doctors and associates. None of them are included in Armstrong's lawsuit, but they could be affected by any legal decision because USADA consolidated their charges with Armstrong's.
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo: 'Time to move on'
Trade speculation involving Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo could heat up now after he said Friday in an exclusive interview with Vancouver's CFOX Morning Showthat he has been at peace with the idea that his Canucks career is over. "At the end of the day, it's time to move on, I'm OK with that," Luongo said in his first interview since the season ended. "I had a great six years in Vancouver. I think it's a wonderful city, I really enjoyed my Italy Euro 2012 Jersey
time there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to bring a Stanley Cup there, which was probably my biggest regret. But it will be remembered for six great years."
The interview was done in Las Vegas, where Luongo is competing in the World Series of Poker.
Since then, speculation has centered on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers as potential landing spots. Luongo makes his home in Florida in the offseason. He was a popular player in South Florida when he previously played there. He dodged the question about whether he would play in Chicago, saying that it wasn't solely his decision to make.
The Canucks have re-signed Cory Schneider to a three-year, $12 million deal, and he seems penciled in to be the No. 1 goalie.
"I'm sure he will win a few Vezina trophies," Luongo said.
Asked about playing in a non-traditional market Spain 12/13 Fabregas 10 Away Jersey
vs. a traditional market, Luongo said: "I think playing in a hockey market is great. Playing in one is a preference, for sure. Playing in a place like Florida with anonymity - to go out somewhere and have a dinner with your family and relax and stuff is great. When you're on the ice, being able to play in a building that's rocking, sold out and the fans are passionate about their team - as a hockey player, you always want to be in that type of market."
Free & Cheap in New York: Wed., July 4
THE BIG BANG QUERY. If you’re wondering how many shells will “Ignite the Night” at Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks over the the Hudson River, it’ll be 40,000. Plus, there will be performances by pop star Katy Perry (“Teenage Dream”) and award-winning country singer Kenny Chesney. 9 p.m. Free. Best viewing: West Side Highway and 12th Ave., between 20th and 59th St. Info: macys.com/fireworks.
IT’S A ZOO IN THERE! Party and dance all evening long with Zoogma at the Spain 11/12 A. INIESTA Home Jersey
Brooklyn Bowl. The British electronic-rock band just released their debut album and are on tour for the first time. 8 p.m. $5. 21 and over. 61 Wythe Ave. (718) 963-3369.
GET YOUR MARCHING ORDERS. Celebrate in style at the annual Staten Island Travis Parade. Free. Noon. The route starts at the Showplace Center and ends at the East Service Road.
A SPOONFUL OF MADISON . Enjoy the sounds of Spuyten Duyvil, a bluegrass group; the Sweetback Sisters, a country-style band, and banjo player Noam Pikelny at Madison Square Park. 3 p.m. Free. Madison Ave. and 23rd St. (212) 538-1884.
UP ON THE ROOFTOP. Celebrate America’s birthday with “Rooftop Films: An American Experience” at Socrates Sculpture Park. See eight shorts about subjects that range from a Pakistani-American kite fight to young lawyers. Dustin Wong, who was once in Ponytail, an art-rock band, will play guitar and keep things rocking. 7 p.m. Free. 3134 Vernon Blvd., Queens. (718) 417-7362.
THE WEINER TAKES IT ALL. Cheer on the contenders at Nathan’s Famous Annual Hotdog Eating Contest Championship. Joey Chestnut, who won the Mustard Belt last year by gobbling 62 franks in 10 minutes, will seek his sixth straight title. 11:30 a.m. for women’s contest; noon for men’s contest. Free. Corner of Surf and Stillwell Aves., Brooklyn. (718) 946-2705.
GO FOURTH & CELEBRATE. Join the Independence Day Festival in Queens Village. 10 a.m. Free. Sanford Ave., between Main and Union Sts.
EASY AS PIE. Historic Richmond Town, a colonial village Germany Euro 2012 Jersey
and museum, will host an Independence Day Celebration. Enjoy a bakery demonstration or enter your homemade pie and try to win a prize. You can also learn to churn old-time ice cream, join the Pinwheel Parade and meet patriotic villagers in period costumes. 11 a.m. $5-$8. 441 Clarke Ave., Staten Island. (718) 351-1611.
BOOGIE-DOWN BBQ . Enjoy “Beats and BBQ: The Star-Spangled Barbecue” in Williamsburg, featuring deejays Ali Coleman, Jose G, Dawn Anesta, Siren, Kyle McNeil, Ras, Herb Martin and Ruby Red. There’s also free BBQ when you buy a beverage (first come, first served). 3-11 p.m. Free. LP & Harmony, 683 Grand St., Brooklyn.
IT’S WORTH A SHOT . Drink up at the all-night tequila happy hour at Tequileria Maya, which was just opened by well-known chef Richard Sandoval. Sip on red and white margaritas and sample $4 tapas. 5 p.m.-midnight. 1191 First Ave. (212) 585-1818.
Brees' franchise tag arbitration hearing held
An arbitrator expects to rule within a week on arguments presented Wednesday concerning the Saints' use of the NFL's franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees, NFL Players Association outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler said.
Arbitrator Stephen Burbank, a law professor at the University Poland Euro 2012 Jersey
of Pennsylvania, is handling the matter of how to interpret language in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, which requires any club that designates a player as a franchise player for the third time to give that player a 44 percent raise.
Brees, once a franchise tag player with San Diego, has been designated New Orleans' franchise player in 2012. The QB seeks clarity on whether the raise for third-time franchise players applies to his career, or only his stint with one team.
Burbank "said he will have a decision within one week and we're going to eagerly await that decision," Kessler said.
The ruling could affect Brees' ongoing efforts to reach a long-term contract with the Saints, and also could set a precedent for other players who face the prospect of being named a franchise player multiple times.
If Burbank decides the 44 percent raise would kick in when Brees receives the tag for the third time in his career, the Saints would have to pay him more than $23 million in 2013 if they made him their franchise player a second year in a row. However, if Burbank rules for the NFL and the Saints, then Brees would only be due a 20 percent raise to about $19.6 million.
Attorney Ben Block argued the case for the NFL.
The franchise tag gives NFL teams the ability to maintain exclusive negotiating rights with Cheap Euro 2012 Jersey
one player each season. New Orleans designated Brees, 33, its franchise player in March after the club was unable to reach a new long-term extension with the record-setting quarterback before his previous six-year, $60 million contract expired.
Brees and the Saints still have until July 16 to negotiate a new long-term deal. Otherwise, Brees would have the option of signing his franchise tender of about $16.3 million for the 2012 season. He could also sit out, but has said this week he does not intend to do so.