By Hyonhee Shin and Sangmi Cha
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in has told Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, that he was willing to sit down anytime in a bid to improve ties strained by historical and economic disputes, Moon’s office said on Wednesday.
Disputes dating from the neighbouring nation’s colonial occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 deepened over a 2018 order by South Korea’s Supreme Court for a Japanese steelmaker to pay compensation for forced labour during World War Two.
In a move widely seen as retaliation for the ruling, Japan last year said it would stop preferential treatment for shipments to South Korea of some key high-tech materials whose production it dominates and which are used by firms such as Samsung Electronics Co.
In a letter to Suga, Moon said Japan shared fundamental values and strategic interests with South Korea, and was its closest friend geographically and culturally, said Kang Min-seok, a spokesman of the presidential Blue House.
“Our government plans to cooperate actively with the Suga administration to wisely overcome issues of past history and reinforce practical cooperation,” Kang told a briefing.
These included economic concerns and people-to-people exchanges, he added.
Kang said Moon also sent a letter to Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, wishing him a rapid recovery following his resignation because of ill-health.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Sangmi Cha; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
UK upholds decision to not prosecute 15 soldiers for 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’
DUBLIN (Reuters) – Prosecutors in the British region of Northern Ireland on Tuesday upheld a decision not to prosecute 15 soldiers for their role in the killing of 13 unarmed Catholic civil rights marchers in Londonderry by British paratroopers in 1972.
Prosecutors last year announced that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute one former British soldier, dubbed “Soldier F”, for two murders, but that there was insufficient evidence to charge 16 other soldiers. One of those 16 has since died.
A number of the bereaved families and injured victims subsequently exercised their right to request a review of decisions.
“I have concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction of any of the 15 soldiers,” Marianne O’Kane, Senior Assistant Director of Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service, said in a statement.
The prosecution of Soldier F is ongoing but has not yet reached trial.
In one of the most notorious incidents of the Northern Ireland conflict, soldiers from the Parachute Regiment opened fire on Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972, during an unauthorised march in a nationalist area of Londonderry.
They killed 13 people and wounded 14 others, one of whom died later, in the worst single shooting incident of “The Troubles”, three decades of sectarian violence involving Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland and pro-British forces.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement brought a close to a conflict in which about 3,500 people were killed.
A judicial inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday said in 2010 the victims were innocent and had posed no threat to the military.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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3 Stocks Flashing Signs of Strong Insider Buying
If you really want to know which stocks the experts – and those in the know – are buying, pay attention to what they’re doing. Stock reports, company reviews, and press statements are helpful, but you’ll get significant information from watching what the insiders are up to.The insiders – the corporate officers and board members – have to disclose when they snap up shares to prevent any unfair advantages. Tracking their stock purchases can be a useful strategy because if an insider spends their own money on a stock, it could signal that they believe big gains are in store.So, investors looking for stocks that may be flying ‘under the radar,’ but with potential to climb fast, watching for insider purchases identify some sweet market plays. To make that search easier, the TipRanks Insiders’ Hot Stocks tool gets the footwork started – identifying stocks that have seen informative moves by insiders, highlighting several common strategies used by the insiders, and collecting the data all in one place.Fresh from that database, here are the details on three stocks showing ‘informative buys’ in recent days.TravelCenters of America (TA)We’ll start with a company that you probably don’t think about often, but that does provide an essential service. TravelCenters of America is the largest publicly traded owner, operator, and franchisor of full-service highway rest stops in the US. TA started out operating truck stops for rest, repair, and maintenance, and has since expanded to full-service fueling stations offering both gasoline and diesel, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, and other rest stop amenities. Their network of rest stops is part of the infrastructure that makes long-distance motor transport, both private and commercial, possible in the USA.As can be imagined, the social lockdowns and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic were not good for TA. The good news is, the worst of the pandemic hit during Q1, and the first quarter is normally TA’s slowest of the year. This year, the first quarter showed a net loss of $1.81 per share. In the second quarter, when warmer weather normally leads to increased driving, the pandemic restrictions were also – at least partially – lifted, and TA reported a sudden turnaround, with a 59 cent EPS profit. Even so, that missed the forecast by almost a dime. The outlook for Q3, normally TA’s strongest of the year, is for EPS of 73 cents.Turning to the insider trades, Adam Portnoy of the Board of Directors has the most recent informative buys. Earlier this month, he purchased over 323,000 shares, laying out more than $5.32 million for the stock. Analyst James Sullivan, of BTIG makes two observations about TravelCenters. First, he points out, “The long-haul trucking industry has an approximate 71% share of total primary tonnage in the U.S. freight industry, making it the primary mode of freight transportation.” Sullivan then adds that this opens up opportunity for TA going forward: “The increasing demands of the nation’s large trucking fleets for consolidated service providers that can provide fuel and truck service on a national basis appear likely to drive additional consolidation in the industry.”Sullivan rates TA shares a Buy, and his $34 price target suggests the stock has an impressive 82% upside potential for the coming year. (To watch Sullivan’s track record, click here)Overall, shares in TA are rated a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 5 recent reviews including 4 Buys and 1 Hold. The shares are selling for $19.24, and the $22.70 average price target implies room for 18% upside growth. (See TA stock analysis on TipRanks)Highwoods Properties (HIW)The next stock is a real estate investment trust. Highwood operates mostly in the Southeast US, but also in Pittsburgh, where it acquires, develops, leases, and manages a portfolio of suburban office and light industrial properties.Where most companies reported heavy losses during the corona crisis, HIW saw revenues in 1H20 remain stable. EPS has grown sequentially into Q1 and remained flat in Q2 at 93 cents. Both quarter beat EPS expectations.Despite the solid financial results, HIW shares have still not recovered from the market collapse of midwinter. The stock is down 27% year-to-date.Through all of this, Highwoods has maintained its dividend, as is common among REITs. The company has a 17-year history of dividend growth and reliability, and the current payment of 48 cents per common share has been stable for the past 7 quarters. At this level, it annualizes to $1.92 and gives a yield of 5.8%.Highwoods’ insider trading has come from Board member Carlos Evans, who purchased 10,000 shares for $337,000 dollars last week. His move was the first informative buy on HIW in the last 6 months.Truist analyst Michael Lewis is impressed by the quality of HIW’s portfolio. He writes, “We continue to believe that HIW’s portfolio is one of the best-positioned among traditional office REITs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent collections have been excellent and there are no large near-term lease expirations. More broadly, the portfolio should benefit from being focused in drivable, close-in Sunbelt suburbs.”In line with these comments, Lewis rates the stock a Buy. His price target, $45, indicates a 31% potential upside from current levels. (To watch Lewis’ track record, click here)Overall, HIW has a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy consensus rating from the Street. This breaks down into 2 Buy ratings and 1 Hold. We can also see from TipRanks that the average analyst price target is $43, which implies a ~25% upside from the current share price. (See HIW stock analysis on TipRanks)VEREIT (VER)The last stock on our insider trading list is another REIT. VEREIT is major owner and manager of retail, restaurant, and commercial real estate, with a portfolio that includes over 3,800 properties worth a collective $14.7 billion. The company’s assets are 45% retail and 20% restaurants; the rest is mainly office and light industrial sites. The total leasable square footage is 88.9 million square feet.So VEREIT is a giant in the REIT sector – but size didn’t protect it from the general downturn this year. Share performance has been lackluster, and revenues have been falling off gradually since Q4 of last year. The second quarter results showed $279 million on the top line, the lowest in a year – but the quarter also saw earnings turn back upwards, reaching 17 cents per share.VER cut back on its dividend earlier this year, reducing the payment to 8 cents per share to keep it in line with earnings. That dividend has been maintained, and the next payment is set for mid-October. The current dividend yield is 4.5%, well over double the average found among S&P stocks.The big insider trade on VER comes from Board member and CEO Glenn Rufrano. He spent over $252K on a block of 40,000 shares, pushing the insider sentiment on this stock into positive territory.Covering the stock for JPMorgan, 5-star analyst Anthony Paolone sees an important strength in VER, noting that the company has been successful in collecting rents during the crisis period. “[Its] collections showed good improvement going into July, with 85% collections in 2Q and 91% in July; when considering all the abatements and deferrals, it appears that at this point about 94% of pre-COVID contractual rental revenue has been addressed, and it seems to us that a normalized run rate for this vast majority of the portfolio should take hold in early 2021; the company is making progress in working through the remaining 5-6% of non-collections,” Paolone noted.Paolone gives VER an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and his $8 price target implies a 22% upside for the next 12 months. (To watch Paolone’s track record, click here)All in all, VER has drawn optimism mixed with caution when it comes to consensus opinion among sell-side analysts. Out of 5 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 3 are bullish on the stock, while 2 remain sidelined. With an 11% upside potential, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $7.25. (See VEREIT’s stock analysis at TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
Carlos Ghosn launches initiative to help his native Lebanon
BEIRUT (AP) — Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn made a new public appearance in Lebanon Tuesday during which he launched an initiative with a local university to help the country that is undergoing a severe economic and financial crisis.
It is Ghosn’s second appearance in public since he was smuggled from Japan in late December to his ancestral Lebanon. In early January, Ghosn gave a news conference in Beirut saying he fled because he could not expect a fair trial, was subjected to unfair conditions in detention and was barred from meeting his wife under his bail conditions.
Ghosn said that the initiative with the Maronite Christian Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, USEK, titled Moving Forward, aims to launch a top executive management program, a training center on new technologies and to support startups.
“The objective is certainly serving this institution … but also serving the society and the country,” Ghosn said in an opening speech. “Lebanon needs to create jobs.”
Lebanon is mired in the country’s worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. It defaulted on paying back its debt for the first time ever in March, and the local currency has collapsed, leading to hyperinflation and soaring poverty and unemployment. Talks with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout package have stalled.
Many Lebanese consider Ghosn as one of the country’s heroes in diaspora who succeeded in turning troubled companies into profit making ventures. Some have suggested that Ghosn should be given a governmental post in Lebanon to get the country that is notorious for corruption and mismanagement out of its troubles.
Since arriving in Lebanon, Ghosn gave interviews during which he repeatedly said he is innocent of allegations he under-reported his future income and committed a breach of trust by diverting Nissan money for his personal gain.
In January, Lebanon received the Interpol-issued wanted notice, which is a non-binding request to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive.
Lebanese authorities say Ghosn entered Lebanon on a valid passport, casting doubt on the possibility they would hand him over to Japan.
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