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Anti-graft group says drugmakers failing to tackle corruption

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LONDON The global pharmaceuticals industry remains open to corruption abuse, despite a raft of scandals in recent years, with both companies and governments failing to tackle the issue adequately, according to Transparency International.

The anti-corruption advocacy group said on Thursday there were dangerous loopholes across the drug supply chain, from lack of publicly available research data to underhand marketing practices to poor enforcement of manufacturing standards.

“It is shocking that despite scandal after scandal involving pharma companies, still policy makers simply are not taking seriously the corrosive effect of corruption,” Sophie Peresson, its head of pharmaceuticals and healthcare, said. “The red flags are being ignored.”

Drugmakers are certainly no strangers to corruption claims.

Big Pharma has forked out billions of dollars to settle scandals involving improper promotion of drugs in the United States and, more recently, bribes paid to foreign doctors have emerged as another area of malpractice.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), for example, paid a record fine of nearly $500 million in 2014 for bribery in China and many companies face investigation under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

At the beginning of 2016, Transparency International said one in 10 corruption investigations by U.S. authorities involved pharmaceutical companies, significantly more than for the banking sector.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations agreed good governance was vital but it criticised the report for failing to mention a host of positive industry-led initiatives in areas such as financial transparency, data sharing and the fight against falsified medicines.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Adrian Croft)


Source: R-Business

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Volkswagen looks for more revenue from ride-hailing apps, mobility services

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BERLIN Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) is looking at on-demand mobility services such as smartphone ride hailing to earn a “notable share” of future revenues as the carmaker pushes a strategic shift in the wake of its emissions scandal, its top executive said.

Volkswagen, or VW, which posted 213 billion euros ($237.90 billion) of revenue last year, on Wednesday signed a cooperation with ride-hailing company Gett after announcing a $300 million investment in the firm last week.

Cooperation with Gett may lead to business models involving car sharing, limousine rides and taxi services in the fast-growing ride-hailing market which in Europe alone may yield 10 billion euros of sales by 2025 and could grow more than 30 percent annually, VW Chief Executive Matthias Mueller said.

“In future, our core product will not be just the car,” Mueller said. “Our core product, our promise to customers, is mobility.”

Europe’s largest automaker will this month unveil a new business strategy aimed at improving accountability and speeding up model development, with greater investments in electric cars, new technologies and mobility services among the key elements, company sources have said.

But VW’s rivals are not standing idly by. Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) last week said it would invest in mobility company Uber Technologies Inc UBER.UL while General Motors (GM.N) invested $500 million in Lyft, Uber’s main U.S. rival.

The growing number of deals reflects the desire by automakers to avoid becoming bystanders if a significant number of consumers around the world choose to forego vehicle ownership and buy transportation by the mile or the minute.

“Through this partnership, we’re getting access to 100 million VW customers,” Gett founder and chief executive Shahar Weiser said.

Volkswagen and Gett declined to disclose the financial terms of their agreement.

Wolfsburg-based VW has long ignored alternative mobility concepts unlike its German rivals Daimler (DAIGn.DE) and BMW (BMWG.DE) who have for years been running their own car-sharing operations.

The advent of smartphones has fundamentally changed customer expectations, with travellers seeking to connect to different modes of transportation through apps.

CEO Mueller on Wednesday pledged that post-dieselgate VW will open up to new investments and partnerships such as with Gett.

“Volkswagen now is not the same as Volkswagen before I became CEO” in September 2015, Mueller said, indicating the group is willing to expand beyond manufacturing and selling cars as a means to broaden its appeal with customers.

“The times when we thought that the world revolves around Wolfsburg are history.”

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by David Gregorio)


Source: R-Business

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Saudi, Iran set to clash over OPEC oil output targets

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VIENNA OPEC is set for another showdown between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran when it meets on Thursday, with Riyadh trying to revive coordinated action and set a formal oil output target but Tehran rejecting the idea.

Tensions between the Sunni-led kingdom and the Shia Islamic Republic have been the highlights of several previous OPEC meetings, including in December 2015 when the group failed to agree on a formal output target for the first time in years.

Several OPEC sources said Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies would propose to set a new collective ceiling in an attempt to repair OPEC’s waning importance and end a market-share battle that has sapped prices and cut investment.

“The Gulf Cooperation Council is looking for coordinated action at the meeting,” a senior OPEC source said, referring to a group combining OPEC’s biggest producer Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Any agreement between Riyadh and Tehran would be seen as a big surprise by the market, which in the past two years has grown increasingly used to clashes between the political foes as they fight proxy wars in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia effectively scuppered plans for a global production freeze – aimed at stabilising oil markets – in April. It said then that it would join the deal, which would also have involved non-OPEC Russia, only if Iran agreed to freeze output.

Tehran has been the main stumbling block for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to agree on output policy over the past year as the country boosted supplies despite calls from other members for a production freeze.

Tehran argues it should be allowed to raise production to levels seen before the imposition of now-ended Western sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Tehran would not support any new collective output ceiling and wanted the debate to focus on the more radical idea of individual country production quotas.

“An output ceiling has no benefit to us,” Zanganeh told reporters upon arriving in Vienna late on Wednesday and before seeing any fellow OPEC ministers.

COUNTRY QUOTAS

New Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih was the first OPEC minister to arrive in Vienna this week, signalling he takes the organisation seriously despite fears among fellow members that Riyadh is no longer keen to have OPEC set output.

At its previous meeting in December 2015, OPEC failed to set any production policy including a formal output ceiling, effectively allowing its 13 members to pump at will in an already oversupplied market.

As a result, prices crashed to $27 per barrel in January, their lowest in over a decade, but have since recovered to around $50 due to global supply outages.

Those include declining output from U.S. shale producers badly hit by low prices but also forest fires in Canada, militant attacks on pipelines in OPEC member Nigeria and declining output in Venezuela, also a member of the group.

Until December 2015, OPEC had a ceiling of 30 million barrels per day (bpd) – in place since December 2011, although it effectively abandoned individual production quotas years ago.

OPEC currently produces around 32.5 million bpd. Any ceiling below that number would represent an effective cut.

“One of our main ideas (is) to have a country quota. But I don’t believe at this meeting we can reach agreement for this,” Zanganeh said, adding that Iran was producing 3.8 million bpd and would soon reach pre-sanctions levels of 4 million bpd.

Should OPEC fail to agree any policy on Thursday, it would again convince the market that its main members could try to raise supplies further to gain market share despite low prices.

UAE Oil Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui said oil markets were still not close to rebalancing due to a severe glut and a further price correction was possible.

The Venezuelan energy minister also warned that supply outages have propped up prices in recent months but a global oil glut might build up again when missing barrels return.

“More than 3 million barrels are out of the market. When those circumstances are removed from the market, what’s going to happen?” Eulogio Del Pino told reporters in Vienna.

For a Take-a-Look on Reuters stories on OPEC, click on

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal and Reem Shamseddine in Vienna and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in Dubai; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson)


Source: R-Business

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