RPT-City of London eyes Norway option to save Europe ties

(Repeats June 27 story with no changes)* Norway pays into EU coffers, allows free movement of people* City hopes for similar deal, but faces hurdles* EU lawmakers say no chance of free access without costBy Huw Jones and John O'DonnellLONDON/FRANKFURT, June 27 The City of London is in talks with government officials as it seeks support for a Norway-style deal giving financial groups continued access to Europe after Britain's exit from the European Union.The push underscores scepticism that the status quo on trade with Europe can be held at little or no cost, a pledge made by some who campaigned for Britain to leave the bloc.But while there is a growing desire in London's financial centre for a trade model similar to Norway's - which is not a member of the EU but has close ties to it - those who campaigned for Britain's exit from the EU would find it hard to accept.It would mean Britain would have to pay into European Union coffers and adopt its laws, without a say, in return for a license to sell products such as financial services across the EU single market of 27 countries. Norway's deal includes the free movement of people."A lot of City institutions want continued access to the single market with passporting rights," Mark Boleat, City of London head of policy, referring to the right to operate unhindered across the single market."Clearly, one of the options is the Norway model, but whether that is acceptable to people who wanted Britain to leave is another matter," Boleat said, adding trade bodies and others are in "non-stop meetings" since Friday's referendum result."There will be discussion with officials. We are not going to be waiting for the autumn. There is a huge amount of work to do." Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK, which promotes Britain's financial sector, said industry bodies are trying to come up with a framework."None of the existing models work for the UK as the economy is too big. We are looking for a bespoke Brexit solution," Cummings said.Britain's decision to leave the European Union has sent shockwaves through financial markets, sending sterling to its lowest level against the dollar for 31 years and putting European bank shares on course for their biggest two-day fall on record.Political turmoil in London, with deep rifts in the main political parties, and Brussels, following the resignation last week of Britain's EU commissioner in charge of regulation, makes it hard it to know who to lobby, one industry source said.Prime Minister David Cameron, who will resign by October, said he would leave it to his successor to invoke Article 50, the two-year procedure governing how an EU member state leaves the bloc.Over the weekend, several EU officials said the UK needed to formally split right away - possibly at a Tuesday EU meeting. But officials of the Leave campaign - including former London mayor Boris Johnson - say they want to negotiate Britain's post-Brexit relationship with the EU before formally pulling the trigger to divorce.Johnson, a likely contender to replace Cameron, wrote in Monday's Daily Telegraph that "there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market".But European officials and observers say it is unlikely the EU would grant Britain access to the single market - key to allowing Britain trade goods and services in the EU - without London accepting the free movement of EU workers. Many Brexit backers complained the EU had allowed uncontrolled numbers of migrants to arrive from eastern Europe.Securing the City's open access to the EU market, which lobbyists say is worth 10 billion pounds ($13.22 billion) a year, is crucial for the financial hub of London - a central pillar of the country's economy. 'BREXIT IS NOT A JOKE'In Brussels, sentiment appears to be hardening.Roberto Gualtieri, the Italian head of the EU parliament's influential economic and monetary affairs committee, criticised what he called the "false promise" that Britain would keep access to the European market but without the costs."Brexit is not a joke," he said. "It will have consequences."Bernd Lucke, a German member of the European Parliament who founded the Alternative for Germany party as a eurosceptic group, said Britain would regret leaving the EU as the economic fallout became apparent."Britain can be in the single market but, like Liechtenstein or Norway, it has to accept the free movement of people," he said.Alexandria Carr, a financial lawyer with Mayer Brown, said new trading terms with the EU will not be completed by the end of the two-year timeframe within which Article 50 negotiations must be concluded.Greenland took several years to negotiate its withdrawal from the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1985 and transitional provisions were part of the package."The focus (for banks) for the immediate future should be on negotiating transitional provisions," said Carr, a former UK Treasury official.Two years could be too long for banks to wait for the outcome of uncertain negotiations."We expect banks to execute restructuring fairly soon based on 'worst case' analysis of the possible outcomes of the exit negotiations," said Simon Gleeson, a regulatory partner at law firm Clifford Chance. ($1 = 0.7567 pounds) (Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Frank Siebelt in Frankfurt, Writing By John O'Donnell; editing by Susan Thomas)

Read more

Exclusive: Analysis suggests Anthem deal could raise health costs

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON As questions mount over whether health insurer Anthem Inc's (ANTM.N) proposed $48 billion purchase of Cigna Corp (CI.N) will win U.S. antitrust approval, an exclusive analysis produced for Reuters suggests the merger could lead to higher costs for large companies offering workplace medical benefits.More than 154 million people receive health benefits through employers, many of them large national corporations. The large employer market is a top concern for U.S. Department of Justice regulators reviewing the Anthem deal, company officials say. The government could block a deal if it finds evidence it would drive up the cost of such coverage.Anthem and Cigna, the nation's No. 2 and No. 5 health insurers, are among a handful of carriers selling national coverage plans to employers with thousands of workers across many states.Anthem has said the added heft will work for employers, not against them. A bigger Anthem, it emphasizes, could drive better deals from doctors and hospitals and pass savings onto these customers.In addition, Anthem has argued that there still will be plenty of competition: large employers pit smaller, local insurers' bids against those of large national carriers in regional markets. Anthem officials told an investor conference last month that many employers include health plans from several smaller insurers to cover far-flung employees. But an Aon Hewitt analysis of benefits data for Reuters found that a majority of large employers buy worker health benefits from just one or two insurers.Among 75 companies representing a cross-section of industries, 54 percent used a single insurer and 26 percent used two, the analysis found. Aon Hewitt, a unit of Aon Plc (AON.N) which helps employers select their benefit plans, based its analysis on data from over 400 customers that participate in healthcare cost research. The companies cited in the analysis for Reuters are all self-insured and have more than 10,000 employees. It is not known how the Justice Department will define the large employer market.Spokeswoman Maurissa Kanter said Aon Hewitt did not conclude "whether or not carrier consolidation would be a competitive issue that could lead to higher prices for employers." She also said that the data did not "support an argument for or against market consolidation."Several human resources directors from large corporations also told Reuters they review potential benefits contracts from only the biggest insurers, rather than regional players. UnitedHealth Group (UNH.N), Anthem, Aetna Inc (AET.N) and Cigna are the only national players in the employer health insurance market. It is less efficient for companies to hire multiple regional insurers, and the merger could allow the few remaining national insurers to raise their rates, said Peter Carstensen, an antitrust expert and professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin Law School. "The Aon Hewitt data on its face is bad for the deal and hurts their chances of getting approval," Carstensen said. A Justice Department official declined to comment on its review of the deal. It is also considering Aetna's proposed $34 billion purchase of Humana Inc (HUM.N). If both acquisitions were approved, it would result in an unprecedented consolidation of the top insurers, from five to three. Thomson Reuters Corp has benefits contracts with Cigna and Aetna. A company spokesman declined to comment on the merger.LOWER ODDS OF A DEAL Anthem has said that buying Cigna would help it drive deeper discounts from hospitals and doctors, holding down the price of medical coverage. "What the Department of Justice will see is that we are going to bring a better focus on managing the cost of care," Anthem Chief Executive Joseph Swedish told an investor conference last month. But at least some large U.S. employers fear they will face higher prices if the deal goes through, according to Wall Street analysts. Concerned employers include Detroit automakers, according to a person familiar with the industry's position.Other employers found merit in Anthem's assertion that the deal could benefit customers by eliminating overhead."There is some chance that consolidation could lower some of those costs," said Michael D'Ambrose, chief human resources officer for Archer Daniels Midland Co (ADM.N), which buys coverage from Anthem and other Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. The deal has raised opposition from leading medical groups, California's insurance commissioner and Democratic lawmakers. Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte recently lowered the odds of deal approval to below 50 percent. Cigna shares were trading at a 33 percent discount to the offer price, reflecting investor skepticism that it will close.If the Anthem deal goes through, its share of the entire market for employer self-insured health coverage would reach 25 percent, up from 15 percent, according to healthcare analytics firm Mark Farrah Associates. That would push it beyond the current No. 1 UnitedHealth, which has a 16 percent share.David Fortosis, a senior vice president at Aon Hewitt, said when employers compare insurers, they do find regional and local companies can offer discounts and lower fees based on their relationships with local hospitals and doctor's offices. But employers often find the hassle of managing multiple insurance plans is greater than any discounts such insurers offer, he said. "They trade that modest loss of savings in favor of administrative streamlining and simplicity," Fortosis said. (Reporting by Caroline Humer in New York and Diane Bartz in Washington; Additional reporting by Joseph White in Detroit; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Lisa Girion)

Read more

Exclusive: In Zika-struck Puerto Rico, trouble delivering donated contraceptives

NEW YORK Only a small fraction of contraceptives donated in Puerto Rico to prevent Zika-related birth defects are expected to get to the women who need them this month, public health officials told Reuters.The donations - tens of thousands of intrauterine devices and birth control pill packs - came from major healthcare companies as the virus spreads rapidly through the island. The delivery delays illustrate the struggles of Puerto Rico’s healthcare system, which is faltering amid the commonwealth's financial crisis.Hundreds of thousands of residents are expected to be infected in the coming months by the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a rare birth defect that can lead to severe developmental problems.Many local doctors do not have the expertise to insert IUDs, and have not stocked them because of their high cost to patients.The CDC Foundation, the U.S. public health agency's philanthropic arm that received the donations, said it needs $20 million for training and follow-up services to get the contraceptives to women.“We have people who would love to have them available,” said Dr. Carmen D. Zorrilla, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. She is encouraging patients to wait at least a year to get pregnant. As many as 138,000 women on the island are at risk of unintended pregnancy, based on historical trends and a lack of access to contraceptives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bayer AG, Allergan, Medicines360 and Merck have together contributed about 60,000 IUDs and 80,000 packs of birth control pills in recent weeks. The CDC estimates that about a quarter of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million people could be infected with the virus. Dr. Judith Monroe, President and CEO of the CDC Foundation, said the organization has trained about two dozen doctors and raised about $1.7 million in cash, enough to provide 700 women free services starting in June. It needs to raise an additional $20 million to train and pay medical professionals who will provide the services. In the meantime, the companies are still holding the donated devices and pills while the CDC Foundation lines up a licensed distributor in Puerto Rico.At the behest of the CDC, the nonprofit in February began soliciting private sector donations for Puerto Rico, Monroe said in an interview. Raising extra money for contraceptive distribution was challenging as would-be donors may not yet grasp the urgency of the situation in Puerto Rico. "We have an opportunity to be innovative," she said, referring to increasing access to "family planning across Puerto Rico, services that have not been there before on this scale." DOCTORS UNDER FINANCIAL STRESS Money is essential to train and pay medical professionals, many of whom are barely surviving because of the island's financial crisis and historically low reimbursement rates from the U.S. government's Medicaid insurance program for the poor, which covers nearly half of residents. "It is hard, close to impossible to ask doctors to take anything else from their pockets," said Dr. Nabal Jose Bracero, who chairs the Puerto Rico section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Things are very, very rough."The current Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil and has been linked to more than 1,400 cases of microcephaly. It has since spread to at least 39 countries and territories in the Americas. In Puerto Rico, at least 1,726 cases of Zika infection have been confirmed, including in 191 pregnant women, according to the Puerto Rico health department. Zika is expected to arrive in the continental United States in the coming weeks as the weather warms. CDC officials expect that Puerto Rico will be hit harder given the prevalence of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus on the island and a lack of infrastructure to protect against the insect bites. Health care donors say they are now urgently focused contraceptive distribution."We are working with the CDC Foundation on the distribution arrangements to ensure that product gets to Puerto Rico as quickly as possible," said Gavin Corcoran, Chief Medical Officer at Allergan.Bayer, Allergan and Medicines360 also have begun training a few dozen medical professionals to use their IUD devices, which need to be inserted and removed by a person with expertise to avoid potentially serious complications. The nonprofit Upstream USA also is providing training to medical professionals for IUDs and other methods of birth control. Despite the difficulties of distribution, Bracero said health professional in Puerto Rico are grateful for the contraceptive donations."It’s overwhelming," he said, "one of the good things to come out of the horrible situation." (Reporting By Jilian Mincer; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Brian Thevenot)

Read more

BRIEF-Atlas Resource Partners says received notice of borrowing base redetermination

June 14 Atlas Resource Partners Lp :* On June 8, 2016, received notice that its borrowing base had been redetermined in accordance with revolving credit agreement* As of June 14, 2016, $673.7 million in borrowings were outstanding under revolving credit agreement - SEC filing * Redetermined revolving credit agreement reduced from $700.0 million to $530.0 million. * $673.7 million in borrowings outstanding resulted in a borrowing base deficiency of $143.7 million * Continues to be engaged in discussions with lenders under revolving credit agreement with respect to addressing deficiency* As of June 7, 2016, partnership has approximately $36 million of cash on hand Source text for Eikon: [1.usa.gov/1OnXdxe] Further company coverage:

Read more

Venezuela's Maduro creates mining ministry

CARACAS Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday the creation of a ministry devoted just to mining, as the OPEC nation pushes to develop untapped mineral resources to diversify away from the oil industry, which provides nearly all its foreign exchange.Maduro's government is seeking international partnerships with foreign investors to boost gold production. This year, Venezuela inked an agreement with Canadian mining company Gold Reserve to develop the Las Brisas and Las Cristinas mines as a way of resolving a long-running arbitration dispute."I announce the creation of the new ministry of popular power for ecological mining development," Maduro said in his weekly program on state television, appointing Roberto Mirabal to the lead the ministry. State-run mining firms Minerven and the Venezuelan Mining Corporation will be under the supervision of the new ministry. Mining activities had been overseen by the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining.Mirabal will be in charge of leading negotiations with Gold Reserve, which won a $750 million award through the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes following a conflict over the 2009 termination of a mining concession. Gold Reserve agreed this year to participate in a new joint venture with Venezuela's government as a way of resolving the dispute. Venezuela is suffering a severe recession and the world's highest inflation because of a combination of low oil prices and a decaying state-led socialist economic model. Maduro blames the problems on an "economic war" carried out by political rivals and business leaders. (Reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Read more
Older Post