17 10 / 2011

RIM will offer premium apps worth more than $100 to customers and a month of technical support for businesses free of charge, hoping to stem fresh defections from the BlackBerry, whose market share was already shrinking before the incident.Analysts have said RIM needs to quickly repair the damage to its image caused by the outage and stem the loss of corporate customers who are now questioning the reliability of the BlackBerry.”RIM has responded swiftly but this won’t undo the damage done to its reputation,” analyst Geoff Blaber at CCS Insight told Reuters earlier on Monday. “This may go some way to appeasing customers but what’s critical is that the problem does not repeat itself.”The stock was trading 5.1 percent lower at $22.75 on the Nasdaq by 11:30 a.m. It has shed more than 60 percent of its value since the start of the year.The BlackBerry has in recent years lost market share to Apple Inc’s iPhone and devices powered by Google’s Android system. At the same time it has sought to make deeper inroads beyond its core corporate base, with a special focus on younger consumers and in emerging markets.Highlighting the challenges, Apple said it sold 4 million of its new iPhone 4S in the first three days after launch last week.”DEEPLY GRATEFUL”RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie told Reuters on Monday the company wanted to make amends with customers.”This is our way of expressing appreciation for their patience during the recent service disruptions and a tangible way of telling them how deeply grateful we are for their continued business,” he said in a phone interview.Balsillie declined to estimate how much the offer would cost RIM and said he was unable to say whether RIM might have to revise its earnings forecast for the current quarter, which ends in late November.The financial impact could prove sizable if a large enough portion of RIM’s more than 70 million subscribers take up the offers.Balsillie said RIM was not running any tests on its network at the time of the failure and was still investigating the precise cause of the breakdown, the company’s worst ever.The free apps on offer include games such as Bejeweled, and premium versions of a translation service and the music discovery tool Shazam.Richard Levick, who runs a U.S. consultancy that specializes in crisis management, praised the move but said the company should have made the announcement last week.”I think it’s a good start, but they are always late,” he said. “They are always behind the curve.”Francisco Jeronimo, an analysts at IDC, had a different perspective on the offer. He said the decision was a clever move by RIM because it would help customers to discover the app service.He said the company was likely to have struck a deal with app developers to keep the cost down.”For RIM, this is an interesting way to attract users to the App World and incentivize them to search and download apps,” he said.”More important than the offer itself, is that RIM is showing goodwill and being humble. They recognized the problem, apologized and now they are compensating their users.”

15 10 / 2011

The player was not identified pending notification of relatives.”This is a devastating loss for our community,” said Phoenix Central School District Superintendent Judy Belfield in a message on the high school’s website.”Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family, players, and coaches.”A statement on the Homer Central School District’s website said: “The Homer School Community is deeply saddened.”The death comes at a time of growing national debate over how to handle the dangers of head injuries in football.Repeated collisions have been linked to trauma and death, and lawmakers have backed efforts aimed at minimizing injuries.For example, New York state lawmakers this summer passed a bill requiring coaches to bench players who suffer a concussion for at least 24 hours until the symptoms abate.

12 10 / 2011

* NatureWorks eyes 2nd bio plastic plant in Thailand - CEOBy Pisit Changplayngam and Ploy Ten KateBANGKOK, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Thailand’s largest olefins maker, PTT Chemical Pcl (PTTCH) , said on Wednesday it would buy a 50 percent stake in NatureWorks LLC, the world’s largest polylactic acid (PLA) manufacturer, in a deal worth $150 million.PTT Chemical’s investment in NatureWorks, until now wholly owned by U.S.-based agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. , is subject to regulatory approval.PTTGC International (USA) Inc., 100 percent owned by PTT Chemical International Private Ltd, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of PTTCH, will take the stake.Cargill Inc. will retain the remaining 50 percent. According to NatureWorks’ website, Cargill was advised on this transaction by J.P. Morgan Securities Inc.Veerasak Kositpaisal, president and chief executive of PTT Chemical, expected to start booking gains from the investments in NatureWorks from 2012.”The purchase would give us an opportunity to focus more on producing bio-based products,” Veerasak said, citing Thailand as a strategic location for bioplastic manufacturing due to its plentiful sugarcane and cassava supplies.NatureWorks supplies a broad family of renewable Ingeo biopolymers made from plants to plastics and fibre markets worldwide.Marc Verbruggen, president and chief executive officer of NatureWorks, said the company and PTTCH were studying a plan to build a second production plant worth about $200 million in Thailand, expecting the new plant to come online in 2015.”PTT Chemical’s investment supports NatureWorks intent to globalise its Ingeo manufacturing capability by building a new production facility in Thailand, supporting our Asian customer base and delivering on our commitment to renewable feedstock diversification,” Verbruggen said.Further details were expected to be announced later this year, its website said.Nebraska-based NatureWorks has estimated annual capacity of 140,000 tonnes. In recent years it has seen steady 25-30 percent increases in annual product demand.PTT Chemical is keen to play a role in pioneering a world-scale bioplastics industry with the aim of becoming a global leader by 2020 and helping Thailand become an Asian bio-hub.PTT Chemical shares, valued at $5.2 billion, were suspended from trading on Oct. 11, pending a merger with PTT Aromatics and Refining . Shares in the merged firm will start trading on Oct. 21.