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Russia’s Rosatom to build nuclear power plant in China

China has invited Russia to take part in a nuclear power plant (NPP) project in the province of Jiangsu, according to Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom.

The project will be overseen by Rosatom’s subsidiary for South Asia Projects ASE.

Russia will take part in the construction of at least two out of six reactors, according to Andrey Lebedev, the vice-president of the company.

The new power station will be 20 kilometers from the Tianwan nuclear power plant. Built in 2006 by Russia’s nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly owned by Gazprom, it is the biggest joint NPP project between countries.

Two of its units with a capacity of 1,000 MW each were opened in 2007, while the construction of the third and the fourth units is still underway. The countries are reportedly negotiating the possibility of adding seventh and eighth units.

Last year, Beijing and Moscow said they intended further strategic partnerships in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The fact China offered Russia to build new nuclear power plants shows that plans for extending cooperation in the sector are moving to practical implementation,” said Aleksandr Uvarov, the chief editor of the AtomInfo web portal, as quoted by RIA Novosti.


Sweden’s $200 Million Treasure Hunt for Coins

Time is running out.

About 1.6 billion kronor ($200 million) of coins will soon be worthless in Sweden. A charity is now urging people to dig these out from between sofa cushions, kitchen jars or wherever they’re hidden to create Sweden’s biggest piggy bank for needy kids.

“It’s one and a half billion that will be wasted,” Christopher Robinson, the founder of Change for Change, said by phone. “Everything is physical so it’s more difficult. We must collect the coins and make people search for coins in their drawers, desks and bags.”

The recall is part of the biggest changeover in Swedish history as the Riksbank modernizes its coins, making them smaller, lighter and nickel free. It also comes as Sweden goes virtually cashless in its embrace of the digital age. So such pop-up charities willing to hoover up old coins could serve as a blueprint for other countries getting rid of their legal tender.

The world’s oldest central bank is asking Swedes to hand in old one, two and five krona coins to banks before the end of August. The bank estimates that 30-50 percent of the originally 2.6 billion kronor of outstanding coins will be returned.

Change for Change has designated ambassadors who collect coins upon request. It also cooperates with companies that are spreading the word ahead of the August deadline. The proceeds will support projects for Sweden’s neediest children.

The foundation hopes collect as much as 10 million kronor, Robinson said. But the clock’s ticking and by the end of the month, all that cash will be worthless.


Blockchain Targets the $27 Billion Gold Market

The blockchain revolution is gunning for the gold market.

Public online ledgers that emerged from the explosive markets for bitcoin, a virtual currency, already have drawn the attention of businesses from banks to retailers who see blockchain systems as a revolutionary way to verify and record transactions. Now, companies including exchange owner CME Group Inc., IEX Group Inc. spinoff TradeWind Markets and financial technology firm Paxos are rolling out similar platforms to bring gold into the digital age.

About $27 billion of gold changes hands every day in over-the-counter markets where settlements can sometimes takes days, leaving price risk for buyers and sellers. Using blockchain promises more transparency, security and speedier deals. It also could attract new participants at a time when investors are souring on gold-backed exchange traded-funds, a key source of growth in physical demand over the past decade.


“Digital gold would take market share away from other gold instruments: futures, physical gold bullion, gold ETFs,” Ebele Kemery, head of energy investing at JPMorgan Asset Management, said in a phone interview Aug. 9. Using the technology to trade the precious metal would create “another avenue for where investors can look to find value,” she said.

Bitcoin, the first instrument to use blockchain, has more than quadrupled in 2017 to more than $4,000. The crytocurrency this year surpassed the price of gold for the first time.

CME Group, the world’s largest exchange owner, teamed up last year with the U.K.’s Royal Mint to create a bullion product called Royal Mint Gold. CME, according to its website, worked with blockchain security company BitGo to provide a “fast, cost-effective and cryptographically secure method” of buying, holding and trading the precious metal.

Testing System

The RMG trading platform is now being tested with major financial institutions and will be offered to customers by the end of the year, according to CME. That’s in line with a timetable set in November 2016, when the exchange first announced the plan. The product, which is geared toward institutional and retail investors, will be backed up by as much as $1 billion of bullion stored at the mint, according to the exchange.

TradeWind, backed by Sprott Inc., a money manager focused on precious metals, is using blockchain for an electronic platform that would match buyers with sellers of gold stored in any London Bullion Market Association-approved vault. TradeWind also provides a distributed ledger that will handle trade settlement, account management and record-keeping. The company expects to launch the product late this year or early next.

Paxos built Bankchain Precious Metals. It’s a blockchain settlement service to allow for the instantaneous transfer of payments and ownership of the bullion stored in various vaults in London, Charles Cascarilla, Paxos’s chief executive officer, said in a phone interview.

Clearing Trades

In a pilot test with Euroclear, before its partnership with Paxos was dissolved, Bankchain cleared more than 100,000 transactions with participants including Citigroup Inc., Societe Generale SA, Barrick Gold Corp. and INTL FCStone, according to a statement in April.

Paxos, which built the infrastructure, conducted another test, this time involving the actual movement of dollars through the Federal Reserve and the ownership of gold in London vaults, proving that the system is ready to process instantaneous settlements, Cascarilla said. The service will be launched by the end of the year, as planned, even after breakup of Paxos’s partnership with Euroclear, he said.

Still, blockchains won’t solve any problems related to the physical delivery of gold, said Adrian Ash, a research director at BullionVault. The company runs an online platform for retail trading of about $2 billion of metal stored in vaults around the world, including Zurich, London, New York and Singapore. It handles 38 metric tons of gold, more than the reserve holdings of Peru.

“People don’t trust the government, so why would you leave it at the government vaults?” Ash said. “Our customers don’t want it sitting in a commercial bank vault because they could go bankrupt. When we buy it from a bank, we put it in a specialist custodial facility. You need a truck to move it. Blockchain doesn’t solve the truck problem.”

Paxos’s settlement service may lure clients like Tornado Bullion, an online trading platform for coin dealers, metal recyclers and bullion buyers. Tornado is tracking the progress of Bankchain, hopeful the technology could lower the transaction costs, co-founder Peter Thomas said in a telephone interview.

Currently, Tornado buys and sells gold over the counter through JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of the five clearing members of the London Bullion Market Association. That way, same-day payments can be transferred to Tornado’s JPMorgan account in New York, Thomas said. Settlements take longer for smaller players who don’t deal directly with LBMA clearing members.

Given the transaction takes a couple of days to be cleared and the gold delivered, Thomas said his clients use a hedging tool that costs 10 cents for every ounce of gold to protect them against price fluctuations. The metal traded Thursday at about $1,288 an ounce. Avoiding that cost on about $500 million of trades every month would be useful, but Thomas says Tornado Bullion isn’t rushing to join the Paxos system.

“The biggest concern to me is reliability,” Thomas said. “The last thing I want to do is come in and find 700,000 ounces of gold are missing. We’ll give it a few years to see how it goes. Once accountability has been tested, then we’ll be a little more comfortable with it.”


Now Norway’s Domestic Wealth Fund Is Getting Worried

After a market rally that lasted years, big active bets have lost their luster for Norway’s domestic wealth fund.

The 220 billion-krone ($28 billion) Government Pension Fund Norway, the domestic counterpart of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, is cutting risk.

“It’s been a long cycle,” Chief Executive Officer Olaug Svarva said in an interview on Tuesday. “We’ve had good results in both our stock and bond portfolio with our long-term view. Pricing makes us think that it’s natural to realize some profits.”

Folketrygdfondet, which manages the fund on behalf of the Finance Ministry and invests in only Norwegian and Nordic assets, returned 2 percent for the second quarter, missing its benchmark by 0.1 percentage point. The stock portfolio, which is about 60 percent of the total fund, gained 2.7 percent.

“To be counter-cyclical is part of our investment strategy,” she said. “To go against the market is a big reason for our excess returns. Buying more when risk premiums are higher in the market.”

With about 27 percent of its fixed income investments in covered bonds, 24 percent in investment grade and 22 percent in government notes at end of June, bonds returned 1 percent for the fund as credit spreads continued to narrow in the quarter.

“It means that the risk premiums aren’t very high,” said Lars Tronsgaard, deputy managing director. “We’ve made an adjustment where the credit risk is lower than we would’ve had if risk premiums had been high, because the outcome is perhaps bigger on the upside than the downside — it’s a natural adjustment.”

The fund is lowering credit risk by buying shorter maturity debt and moving to less risky sectors. That’s a process that will take time.

“We can’t do it in one quarter,” he said. “Perhaps it’s too early but we must do it like that.”


NEWS: Sonoro replaces drilling contractor and rig for Budong Budong appraisal well program

Following repeated delays, Sonoro Energy Ltd. (“Sonoro” or “the Company”) (TSX-V: SNV), has replaced the drilling contractor for its LG-1 Up-dip appraisal well program in the Budong Budong Production Sharing Contract (PSC) lease in West Sulawesi, Indonesia.

This development follows continued delays in obtaining the necessary final rig certification, and mobilization, well past a deadline of July 24, 2017 that had been stipulated in the contract.

Sonoro has now agreed to the key terms of a contract with PT Advanced Services Indonesia (“ASI”) to provide a hydraulic drilling and coring rig, with all necessary certifications in place, after reviewing available equipment at ASI’s centre of operations in Balikpapan, Indonesia.

The revised timing of a new spud date for the LG-1 Up-dip well will be announced once a new schedule is finalized; initial targets indicate the first half of September 2017 to be a reasonable time frame.

“We are pleased to have found a well-established company in ASI with a strong track record, a fit-for-purpose drilling and coring rig and operating in Indonesia that is capable of achieving our objectives for the LG-1 Up-dip well. The new rig and its associated equipment have all the necessary certifications in place, allowing us to proceed with confidence in final mobilization plans,” says Sonoro’s Chief Executive Officer and Director Richard Wadsworth.

“Without having an SKPI certification from Migas (Indonesia’s upstream oil and gas regulator), we would have been exposed to continued delays–and the possibility of failing to meet the requirements of our PSC license,” adds Mr. Wadsworth.

Other associated drilling services and equipment for which Sonoro is responsible–including cementing services, mud services, chemicals, well head, casing and other tubulars–arrived last week at the port of Makassar, on the island of Sulawesi, and were transported by road to the LG-1 site.

“With the exception of the drilling rig, all other services and equipment are now mobilized, ready for the appraisal program, and prepared to integrate with this new drilling rig,” says Mr. Wadsworth. “We have been very pleased with our team and our local contractors in achieving the delivery of our other support services safely and within the planned timelines.”

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