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Author: Tan KW   |   Latest post: Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 4:09 PM


32 more coronavirus cases at U.S. Futenma base in Okinawa

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 4:09 PM

TOKYO - Another 32 cases of coronavirus infection were confirmed at the Futenma U.S. military base on the southern island of Okinawa, TV Asahi reported on Monday.

That comes on top of 62 previously confirmed infections at U.S. bases on the island, in an outbreak that drew a sharp rebuke from the prefecture's governor.


  - Reuters


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Australian top flight to resume on Friday: FFA

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 4:08 PM

MELBOURNE - Football Federation Australia (FFA) confirmed on Monday that the A-League would resume on Friday after a four-month hiatus, with three Melbourne teams in quarantine at a hub in western Sydney.

Australia's top flight was originally to resume on Thursday with a match between Melbourne Victory and Western United but an outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne forced a schedule rejig.

Sydney FC will instead kick off the restart against Wellington Phoenix at Jubilee stadium on Friday.

Melbourne Victory, Western United and Melbourne City were relocated to Sydney over the weekend and are serving out a 14-day quarantine period.

"We have faced many challenges over the past week since we released the original match schedule and it will need a few tweaks to reschedule the Melbourne teams considering their relocation to Sydney," FFA Head of Leagues Greg O’Rourke said in a statement.

The league is attempting to jam the final 27 regular season matches into four weeks, with the "Grand Final" championship decider planned for Aug. 23.

Ensuring the season resumes smoothly has been a chore for the FFA, who were caught off guard when New South Wales authorities closed the state border with Victoria last week leaving the three Melbourne teams stuck until they received travel exemptions on Friday.

The Melbourne teams are confined to a hotel in western Sydney and were tested on Monday after a player showed COVID-19 symptoms over the weekend, local broadcaster SBS reported.

If all test results come back negative, they will be cleared to train on Tuesday.

The A-League will have limits on game-day crowds to mitigate infection risks.

A crowd of 4,500 have been permitted for the Central Coast Mariners' clash with Perth Glory at their home in Gosford, north of Sydney.

"Our members have been so important for us and so supportive during this time, and it’s fantastic that they can attend our first match back,” Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp said.


  - Reuters


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Bomb blast, clash at Afghan government compound, dozens hurt

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 4:08 PM

KABUL - Gunmen clashed with security forces following a car-bomb blast at a government compound in Afghanistan's northern province of Samangan on Monday, officials said, and more than 40 people were wounded.

The attack took place at a government facility in Samangan's capital, Aybak, close to an office of the National Security Directorate, the main intelligence agency, officials said.

It was not immediately clear what the target of the attack was or who was behind it.

"It's a complex attack that started with a car bomb. Clashes with the attackers are still going on," said Mohammad Sediq Azizi, a spokesman for Samangan's provincial government.

The province's health director, Khalil Musadeq, said 43 civilians and members of the security forces had been wounded in the attack, with that number expected to rise and deaths expected.

The attack comes at a sensitive time as violence in the Afghanistan ramps up even as the United States tries to usher the government and the Taliban towards peace talks to end more than 18 years of war.


  - Reuters


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Alibaba's Jack Ma sells $9.6 billion worth shares, stake dips to 4.8%: filing

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 4:02 PM

SHANGHAI (July 13): Alibaba Group Holding Ltd co-founder Jack Ma has cut his stake in the company over the past year to 4.8% from 6.4%, cashing out around $9.6 billion at its current share price, the firm’s annual filing released on Friday showed.
The divestment comes as Ma retired as the Chinese e-commerce company’s executive chairman in September and pulled back from formal business roles to focus on philanthropy.
Alibaba did not disclose the average selling price of his divestment. Its share price has risen around 40% since Ma reported his 6.4% holding in the company a year ago.
The stock’s stellar performance has been helped by forecast-beating earnings growth, even as China’s economy sharply slows, as more people shop online for essentials due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai also reduced his stake in the company over the same period, from 2.3% to 1.6%. The offloaded shares were worth $4.1 billion as of Friday.
Both Ma and Tsai have been steadily less involved in Alibaba’s regular operations since Daniel Zhang was announced as Ma’s successor as company chairman. He assumed that role formally in September 2019.
Throughout this year, the two have donated millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) via their individual charity arms to hospitals worldwide to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
An April 2019 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stated that Ma would plan to sell up to 21 million shares within one year to support his philanthropic efforts.
 - Reuters
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Empty offices growing in Tokyo as virus gives tenants pause

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 4:02 PM

Rising vacancies for offices in central Tokyo are weighing on shares of Japan's real estate developers and owners as the market digests the damage that the pandemic has done to a seven-year office boom.
Office vacancies in five of Tokyo's major business districts rose for a fourth consecutive month, gaining to 1.97 per cent from 1.64 per cent in May, real estate brokerage Miki Shoji Co. said on Thursday. The increase is the the largest one-month gain in more than a decade.
Shares in Tokyu Fudosan Holdings Corp. fell as much as 4.6 per cent on Friday, while Ichigo Inc. fell as much as six per cent. The Topix Real Estate index fell as much as 2.9 per cent, the third-worst performer among the index's 33 sub-groups.
Vacancies in Tokyo fell almost unrelentingly for the seven years since before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in late 2012, even as rents continued to rise. The vacancies trend was halted by the pandemic, which has made prospective tenants reluctant to sign leases and raised questions worldwide about the future of the office.
Vacancies in Tokyo offices have risen for four consecutive months
Fujitsu Ltd., one of the country's largest employers, has already declared its intent to cut its office space in Japan by 50 per cent over the next three years and have 80,000 workers work mostly from their homes.
Hisayuki Shimokawa, an analyst with Tachibana Securities Co. in Tokyo, said it was hard for investors to favor real estate stocks given the lack of clarity surrounding the future of the office amid the need to avoid enclosed spaces. Reports on companies reducing office space or spreading their space out were weighing on real estate stocks, he added.
Tokyu Fudosan's share drop on Friday was larger than some peers, with the increase in vacancies especially prominent in the Shibuya area, where the rate increased to 3.38 per cent from 2.55 per cent. The area houses some 34 per cent of Tokyu's office portfolio, according to Jefferies.
"Shibuya is known for a higher concentration of both tech-related and mid-sized tenants," Jefferies analysts William Montgomery and Shunsuke Kuriyama wrote. "With the increase in teleworking, the market is concerned that small and mid-sized companies and tech-focused companies are reducing demand." However, they noted that while its older portfolio of Shibuya properties will be under pressure, much of its portfolio is new, which will add "earnings resilience."
SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. analyst Junichi Tazawa wrote in a note on Thursday that he expects vacancies to increase to 3.9 per cent by the end of the year, before recovering to 3.4 per cent by the end of 2021 and 3.1 per cent by the close of the following year.
 - Bloomberg
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Dutch housing market continues to boom despite Covid-19

Author: Tan KW   |  Publish date: Mon, 13 Jul 2020, 4:01 PM

The fallout from the coronavirus shows no sign of derailing a boom in the Dutch housing market.
The average price of a home climbed 8.8 per cent in the second quarter from a year earlier to 335,000 euros ($380,000), realtor's association NVM said on Thursday. More houses than ever were sold above the asking price.
"Although there are fewer buyers in absolute terms, people are still outbidding to get the desired home," NVM chairman Onno Hoes said in a statement. As investors and expats stay away, locals have more opportunities, according to Hoes.
A lack of homes has made the Netherlands one of Europe's hottest property markets. After six years of rising prices, NVM expects growth to slow to between four per cent and six per cent in 2020 after an eight per cent rise last year as the government introduces measures to increase construction and damp demand in big cities. In Amsterdam, for example, investors are no longer allowed to buy newly constructed homes in order to lease them out.
Prices are holding up even as the Netherlands heads for a recession in the wake of the pandemic. The economy is expected to shrink 5.6 per cent this year, according to the median estimate of economists.
Real estate agents have reported an increase in demand throughout the country for houses with an extra study room, a balcony or a garden, NVM said. That's after the government recommended in March that people work from home as much as possible.
 - Bloomberg
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