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Trump says he does not mind Duterte ending VFA

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US PRESIDENT Donald Trump on Wednesday said he did not mind Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s decision to end a decades-old military agreement with the United States, a position at odds with that of his defense secretary who viewed the move with dismay.

Mr. Duterte on Tuesday announced the termination of the two-decade-old visiting forces agreement (VFA), which governs the deployment of troops for war games. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the decision “unfortunate” as Washington and its allies press China to abide by international rules in Asia.

The US Embassy in Manila called it “a serious step with significant implications.”

Mr. Duterte’s decision, sparked by the revocation of a US visa held by a former police chief who led Mr. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, takes legal effect in six months and US officials have expressed hope it can be reversed or delayed.

“I don’t really mind if they would like to do that, it will save a lot of money,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about Duterte’s move and whether anything could be done to get him to reconsider. “My views are different from others,” he added.

Mr. Trump has frequently expressed a desire to bring US military forces home from decades-long deployments abroad and has strong-armed some allies into paying more for the right to US defense.

Mr. Trump said the United States had helped the Philippines defeat Islamic State militants. He said he had “a very good” relationship with Duterte and added: “We’ll see what happens.”

Mr. Duterte’s decision could complicate US military interests in the broader Asia-Pacific region as China’s ambitions rise. Some Filipino senators quickly sought to block the move, arguing Mr. Duterte had no right to unilaterally scrap international pacts the country’s Senate had ratified.

The VFA is important to the overall US-Philippine alliance and sets out rules for US soldiers operating in the Philippines, a former US colony.

Washington has called the relationship “ironclad,” despite Duterte’s complaints that include allegations of US hypocrisy and ill treatment.

Ending the VFA complicates Washington’s efforts to maintain an Asia-Pacific troop presence amid friction over the presence of US personnel in Japan and South Korea and security concerns about China and North Korea.

Mr. Esper referred to the period before Mr. Duterte’s decision takes effect when he spoke with reporters on Tuesday.

“One hundred and eighty days. We’ve got to work through it, and we’ll just take a deep breath and take it one day at a time,” he said. “I don’t get too excited about these things. We’ve got a process we have to work through.”

Some lawmakers in the Philippines are concerned that without the VFA, two other pacts that make up the long-standing US alliance with Manila would be irrelevant, namely the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement made under the Obama administration, and a 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty.

‘ONE-SIDED’
Supporters of the agreements say they have helped deter Chinese militarization in the South China Sea and $1.3 billion of US defense assistance since 1998 had boosted the capabilities of underfunded Philippine forces.

Salvador S. Panelo, Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, called the VFA a one-sided deal that only benefits the US.

“The VFA and other treaties are there because of the global strategic defense of the United States,” he said at a briefing on Thursday.

Also yesterday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said the Philippines should stop entering into a visiting forces agreement (VFA) with other countries.

“No more VFAs even with other countries,” he said in a social media post. “We stand by our own guns by buying our own with a defense budget commensurate to the threats to our sovereignty.”

The Philippine military this week said it would boost defense ties with allies in the region including China, Japan and Australia after the VFA termination.

The tough-talking Mr. Duterte on Tuesday formally notified the US of his decision to pull out of the VFA, the first time he has scrapped a military deal with the former colonial power that he had criticized for treating the Philippines “like a dog on a leash.”

His decision came after the US Embassy canceled the visa of his former police chief, Senator Ronald M. de la Rosa.

Mr. Duterte had pushed for the Philippines to be less economically and militarily dependent on the US, which he accuses of hypocrisy in its criticism of his deadly war on drugs.

Mr. Duterte ordered his chief diplomat on Monday evening to send the termination notice. It will take effect in six months.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Felimon T. Santos, Jr. said the Philippines would also increase military engagements with Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Australia to fill the void left by the VFA.

Mr. Santos said the Philippines would try to build its own military capability, noting that the military had been receiving P20 billion yearly under a modernization program.

He said war games with the US would proceed in May unless Washington wishes otherwise. The event falls within the 180-day notification period, he said. — Reuters with Gillian M. Cortez and Charmaine A. Tadalan



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Think long-term for your financial security

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Some opportunities only come once in a lifetime. With the release of CIMB Bank Philippines’ (CIMB Bank PH) new ‘One Shot at Love’ short film, the digital bank wants to show every Filipino out there looking for love how having good saving habits can make them ready for those unexpected, life-changing moments.

The film tells the story of the typical working-class millennial: hard-working, future-oriented… and bored. The routine of every day gets exhausting, and without someone special to spend them with the days just blur on by until the next paycheck.

But life’s biggest moments hardly ever come with warning. You never know what each day can bring. But when the opportunity of a lifetime comes knocking on your door, you’d be happy to have some money in the bank to seize it.

Whether it’s for an unexpected plane ticket, for the capital for a new business, or for the funds to supplement a scholarship application, money allows freedom. This is the true meaning of financial inclusion — to give Filipinos the ability to seize the opportunities that life throws their way.

Bringing more Filipinos towards financial inclusion

Since its foundation in December 2018, CIMB Bank PH has aimed to bring more Filipinos towards financial inclusion. As an all-digital, mobile-first bank, it has served around two million customers since its first year of establishment, earning its reputation as the most awarded digital bank in the country in 2019, securing eight international awards, including Global Finance’s Best Digital Consumer Bank, Asian Banker’s Best Digital Bank, and International Finance’s Fastest Growing Digital Bank Award.

The all-digital bank seeks to empower Filipinos by giving them access to flexible, innovative products and services specifically designed to prepare them for every opportunity. Through the CIMB Bank PH mobile app, Filipinos can open a savings account and apply for a personal loan without the hassle of waiting in line or the extensive paperwork required by traditional banks.

Applicants can open an UpSave account seamlessly in 10 minutes, anytime all-year round, all without an initial deposit, minimum balance, nor any penalty charges for anytime withdrawal.

To help more Filipinos in their financial journey, UpSave account holders also have access to one of the highest savings interest rates in the market at a no-time-limit 4% per annum — 1600% higher than other major banks in the country. Account holders with P100,000 and above average daily balance can also get free life insurance coverage worth up to P2 million.

CIMB Bank PH’s digital model further accounts for Filipinos’ increasingly busy work schedules by forming strategic partnerships with local payment gateways, giving their account holders access to over 8,000 convenience partners to make their transactions, or withdraw in over 20,000 ATMs nationwide for free.

The all-digital bank eliminates the barriers of traditional borrowing methods offered by other banks through an all-digital loan application system. No need to appear for a personal review, as the system allows for initial loan approval of up to P1 million in 10 minutes (with a minimum of P30,000), with zero processing fees and no hidden charges. Loans are payable within 12 to 60 months, providing flexibility and ease of mind for borrowers.

Giving everyone a chance to take charge of their life

Financial inclusion, after all, is giving every Filipino the chance to take charge of their life and make the decisions they need to create a better future.

How many people in the distant provinces remain unbanked without a choice? How many businesses failed to get off the ground because of a lack of capital? How much savings have been lost to inflation due to low interest rates?

With an always-accessible mobile app, best-in-market rates, and a hassle-free loan application system, financial inclusion for every Filipino might not be so far away.

“Highlighting how financial literacy is a main component of CIMB Bank’s operations in the Philippines as the company fulfills its mission in bringing Filipinos closer to their next step of achieving a comfortable future while enjoying today,” said CIMB Bank Philippines Chief Executive Officer Vijay Manoharan.

CIMB Bank PH is the newest member of the CIMB Group, one of ASEAN’s leading banks and is present in over 16 global markets. With the establishment of CIMB Bank PH, CIMB Group is able to extend its reach and transform the Filipino banking experience.

To know more about CIMB Bank PH, click here or download the app for Android and iOS.


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Nokia to Weigh Strategic Options as Profit Pressure Mounts

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(Bloomberg) — Nokia Oyj is exploring strategic options as fierce competition puts pressure on the Finnish network equipment maker’s earnings, people familiar with the matter said.The company is working with advisers to consider potential asset sales and mergers, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.Nokia shares have lost roughly a third of their value over the past year before news of its deliberations. The company’s American depositary receipts rose as much as 13% Wednesday. The ADRs closed up 6.1% to $4.15 in New York trading, giving the company a market value of about $23.5 billion.The firm cut its outlook and suspended its dividend in October, saying it’s not expecting a major recovery in profit until 2021. That’s ratcheting up pressure on Chief Executive Officer Rajeev Suri to act.Deliberations are ongoing, and there’s no certainty they will lead to a transaction, the people said. A representative for Espoo, Finland-based Nokia declined to comment.Possible CombinationsOne possibility Nokia could also consider is combining with a competitor like Ericsson AB or partnering in certain business areas. Still, such a move would face significant hurdles including political pressure to preserve jobs as well as antitrust scrutiny. A representative for Ericsson declined to comment.The limited number of direct rivals to Nokia would also require the company to consider interest from further afield — like technology companies or wireless operators — if it were to ever seek a full sale.The December announcement that Nokia Chairman Risto Siilasmaa would step down stirred speculation about deeper changes at the company. The firm is in a fierce rivalry with Ericsson and China’s Huawei Technologies Co., as the three dominant players seek to benefit from phone carriers’ investments in next-generation mobile networks.“Nokia’s return to sustained growth and profitability has been delayed by its struggle to transition to a cost-competitive 5G hardware design, impeding its ability to compete, in our view. The 5G spending cycle is ramping up as commercial launches gain momentum, putting Nokia at risk of losing early awards.”\–John Butler and Boyoung Kim, telecom analysts, Bloomberg IntelligenceThe U.S. should be “actively considering” investments into Nokia or Ericsson to counter the threat posed by China’s dominance of emerging 5G technology, Attorney General William Barr said this month.Huawei RivalsLarry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, later said the U.S. government isn’t in the business of buying companies. He has since announced plans by the White House to hold a conference with Huawei rivals to try to accelerate development of affordable competing products.Nokia warned this month that, excluding China, its addressable market is likely to be stagnant this year compared with 2019.As it struggles to catch up with competitors, Nokia’s acquisition of French rival Alcatel-Lucent in 2016, which helped to broaden its offering, may have slowed down development of new products as it contended with a complicated integration process.(Updates with Ericsson response in sixth paragraph)\–With assistance from Matthew Monks.To contact the reporters on this story: Ed Hammond in New York at ehammond12@bloomberg.net;Dinesh Nair in London at dnair5@bloomberg.net;Myriam Balezou in London at mbalezou@bloomberg.net;Niclas Rolander in Stockholm at nrolander@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Aaron Kirchfeld at akirchfeld@bloomberg.net, Ben Scent, Michael HythaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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Lowe’s anemic e-commerce growth is helping Home Depot deepen its lead

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In the era of the so-called retail apocalypse, reporting even modest in-store sales growth should seem close to miraculous.

But that’s not the case for Lowe’s. On Wednesday, the $72 billion-a-year home improvement giant reported a 2.6% increase in comparable sales for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2019. Up against its biggest competition, Home Depot, that figure underscored a major weakness in Lowe’s business: a lackluster e-commerce business.

Lowe’s said that sales on its website rose 3% in the quarter ending January 31. On a call with Wall Street analysts, Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison acknowledged that the company’s e-commerce trajectory “lags market growth.” He is right on that front: in the final three months of 2019, e-commerce sales in the U.S. rose 16.7%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But of greater concern to Lowe’s, digital sales growth at archrival Home Depot was 20.8% during the same fiscal quarter, and data firm eMarketer estimates Home Depot’s e-commerce business has now hit the $10 billion mark. (Total Home Depot revenue was $110 billion.) Home Depot’s overall U.S. comparable sales rose 5.3%, continuing a years-long tradition of outpacing Lowe’s in quarterly sales growth.

“At the beginning of 2019, Lowes.com was sitting on a decade old platform,” Ellison explained to the analysts, noting that the “replatforming” of the site would not be complete until sometime in the second quarter of the current year.

Ellison tried to put a good spin on the numbers, saying, “there are very few large retailers in America delivering a 2.6% comp growth almost exclusively from the brick-and-mortar stores.”

Thin consolation. As results at countless big box retailers have shown, the stronger the e-commerce growth, the greater in-store sales growth is too since both avenues feed business to each other and reinforce the overall brand.

At Home Depot, for instance, some 50% of online orders last quarter were picked up in store. Such customers typically pick up an extra item or two while at the store, and the process saves Home Depot shipping money.

Ellison said he expects the trajectory of Lowe’s e-commerce business to change in the second half of 2020. Even so, the company will have a lot of catching up to do.

Home Depot has ramped up its business-to-business website that caters specifically to professional contractors, its biggest customer segment by sales. There are 1 million customers using the site. And, pairing with that site, in-store sales staff is equipped with customer relationship management tools that catalogs what customers bought previously and what they might need for a current project.

Meanwhile, Lowe’s is still looking to improve the basic functions of its main site. Ellison was candid about some its shortfalls and pointed to the labor intensive process of adding items to its online assortment, particularly for items that will be shipped by a brand directly to the customer rather than by Lowe’s. The process is currently manual, but Ellison said he is working on digitizing that. He also conceded that basic features like giving customers the ability to schedule a delivery in a narrow time window haven’t been added to the site yet. Ellison said new features like the tighter scheduling window will be “up and going by the second half” of 2020.

The CEO of J.C. Penney before joining Lowe’s in 2018, Ellison struggled to fix the department store chain’s ailing e-commerce business despite years of promises. While Lowe’s e-commerce is in better shape than Penney’s ever was, it remains a show-me story for Ellison.

E-commerce woes and all, Lowe’s has a lot of wind in its sails thanks to the booming housing market, a trend that has also lifted Home Depot. But, unless Lowe’s bridges the online shopping gap with Home Depot, it will be much harder to eke out sales gains when the environment gets tougher .

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