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S.Africa's All-Share hits lifetime high in edgy trade

JOHANNESBURG (iBBC News) - South Africa's All-Share index edged up to a new record of 33,723.81 in early Monday trade but shed gains to 33,683.80, down 0.06 percent in skittish trade.

The All-Share, the broadest measure of South African stock performance, hit four consecutive record closes last week, led by banks and resource firms.

The Top-40 index has also been on an upward trend, but is still a little way off its lifetime high of 31,393.10. It was down 0.01 percent to 30,085.50 at 0726 GMT.

Idea Cellular Q3 net falls less than expected

(iBBC News) - Idea Cellular, India's fourth-biggest mobile carrier by subscribers, reported a less-than-expected 17.3 percent fall in quarterly profit, hit by foreign exchange losses and higher interest costs.

Idea, part of India's Aditya Birla conglomerate, said consolidated net profit fell to 2.01 billion rupees for its fiscal third-quarter ended December from 2.43 billion rupees reported a year earlier.

Analysts in a Reuters poll of brokerages on average expected net profit of 1.56 billion rupees for the Mumbai-based company in which Malaysia's Axiata owns about a fifth.

Pakistan: Suspected US missile strike kills 4

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (iBBC News) — A suspected U.S. drone fired missiles at a house and a vehicle in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said, killing four alleged militants in an attack that could signal the program is picking up steam after strained relations halted strikes late last year.

The U.S. held off on carrying out drone attacks in Pakistan for nearly two months after American airstrikes accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two posts along the Afghan border on Nov. 26. The deaths outraged Pakistan, which retaliated by closing its border crossings to supplies meant for NATO troops in Afghanistan and kicking the U.S. out of a base used by American drones.

U.S. drone attacks have been a source of tension between the two countries. Although Pakistan is widely believed to have supported the strikes in the past, that cooperation has become strained as the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated.

The U.S. halted strikes until Jan. 10, when missiles hit a house in the North Waziristan tribal area in an attack that American officials said killed a key al-Qaida operations planner, Aslam Awan. The U.S. carried out another attack two days later.

Monday's strike in North Waziristan's Deegan village was the third since the attacks resumed. Initial reports indicated the alleged militants killed were foreigners, said Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The U.S. refuses to speak publicly about the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan, but American officials have said privately that the strikes have killed many senior Taliban and al-Qaida commanders.

Toyota cutting 350 jobs in Australia

CANBERRA (iBBC News) - Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> is cutting 350 jobs at its Australian manufacturing operations due to an ongoing downturn in production levels, a rare move from the Japanese auto giant.

Toyota Australia president Max Yasuda said the strength of the Australian dollar, which has traded at record highs above parity with the US dollar over the past year, was party to blame for the move.

Toyota, which employs around 4,700 people in Australia, had seen vehicle production drop 36 percent in four years, from 149,000 in 2007 to an expected 95,000 in 2012.

"The reality is that our volumes are down. What we assumed was a temporary circumstance has turned into a permanent situation," Yasuda said in a statement.

Australia's three car manufacturers, Toyota Australia, Ford's Australian division, and Holden, a division of GM , made 242,941 vehicles in 2010, exporting 94,000 vehicles. The industry employs about 50,000 people.

Despite hefty government subsidies and tariff support worth around A$2.5 billion ($2.4 billion) a year, the industry has struggled to maintain manufacturing jobs, with the Australian arm of Japan's Mitsubishi Motors Corporation closing its car plants in 2008.

Australia's Manufacturing Minister Kim Carr said the latest job losses were caused by the strong dollar and global uncertainty.

"Ultimately, companies have to take tough decisions based on commercial realities to ensure that their business model remains sustainable, and that is what Toyota has done today," Carr said in a statement.

INSIGHT - Africa "black diamond" spenders show their lustre

JOHANNESBURG/NAIROBI (iBBC News) - With a taste for Jimmy Choo shoes and Hermes handbags, Choice Okoro's idea of shopping is a world away from her mother's.

"My mother would not pay what I pay for shoes," said Okoro, a Nigerian professional in her late 30s as she prowled the sleek Westgate shopping mall in her adopted home of Nairobi.

"At my age, my mother had nine of us. The reality for Africa is that we are the new breed," she said. She spends an average of about $500 a month on clothing and shoes - a breathtaking sum in the world's poorest continent.

Although millions of Africans remain stuck in crushing poverty, the fast-growing continent is no longer defined solely by privation and disease. Luxury brand sellers are targeting the small but increasingly visible number of what South African retailers call "black diamonds", or affluent African professionals.

Their mushrooming aspirations for Hugo Boss suits, Prada sunglasses and Louis Vuitton purses is reminiscent of India and China more than a decade ago, experts say, although Africa still has a long haul to match Asia's roaring demand for bling.

Africa's population of people whose fortunes are large enough to qualify as "high net worth individuals" was the fastest growing in the world in 2009-2010, according to the latest annual report from Merrill Lynch and Capgemini.

Of course, an exclusive band - usually of government elites - have for decades shopped in London, Paris and New York. Rising disposable incomes and the development of shiny new malls mean more Africans can now buy their luxury at home.

Sub-Saharan economies are among the fastest growing in the world. The region itself is expected to average 6 percent growth this year, driven by continued demand for oil and minerals.

Besides national commodity wealth, in South Africa many with ties to the ruling African National Congress have benefited from lucrative government contracts, or tenders, spawning a brash new elite known as "tenderpreneurs".

But serious money is still concentrated in the hands of a lucky few, meaning many buyers of luxury brands in Africa are "aspirational consumers," or shoppers who will splurge on a product even when they may not be able to afford it.

TAKING ON DEBT

"I'm not rich, but I have a few Gucci jeans," said David Zwane, a South African chartered accountant shopping in Sandton City, suburban Johannesburg's flagship upmarket mall.

"Rich is when you are able to eat sushi off half-naked women's bodies and pour expensive champagne on a crowd of people," he said, referring to a birthday party thrown by one South African businessman who was photographed in the media doing just that.

Dressed in a trim Lacoste T-shirt and fashionable jeans, Zwane said he had spent 10,000 rand on a silver Mont Blanc bracelet for his wife's Christmas present.

Africa's infatuation with expensive luxury brands is most visible in its cars: the potholed streets of Nairobi, Lagos and Johannesburg's Soweto township are increasingly home to Audis, BMWs and Mercedes-Benz.

Many consumers pay for big-ticket items with credit, which could pose a risk to the economy. "Luxury goods are a status symbol for Nigerians," said Edwards Efe, a 42-year-old telecom executive shopping for a Swatch watch and Polo cologne at The Palms, a shopping centre in Lagos.

"It doesn't have to do with your income, it has to do with the taste and class you want to associate with and that's why you find that sometimes we borrow to finance these things."

South Africa's central bank has repeatedly warned that debt levels are too high in the continent's biggest economy. Household debt currently stands at 75 percent of disposable income, the South African Reserve Bank said in December. For comparison, in Brazil, this ratio was 42.5 percent in October 2011.

On average, South Africans spend 7 percent of their disposable incomes just on servicing their debts. During a 2009 recession, banks were hit hard by ballooning bad debts at vehicle finance units.

LONG-TERM MARKET

Isabel Cavill, an analyst with research firm Planet Retail in London, expects affluent shoppers to continue to multiply in Africa, but much more slowly than in China and India: "We're looking at this as a very sort of long-term development."

For local shop managers, the steady growth in recent years has been noticeable. As recently as five years ago, some high-end stores in Johannesburg's Sandton City mall could go a full day without selling anything, according to several managers who spoke to iBBC News. That's not the case now.

"We are seeing more and more people coming to shop. On average we get 30 customers per day," said one manager at the Sandton City branch of an international fashion house. But she added that less than half the visitors actually buy something.

Even smaller countries that are still reliant on foreign aid, such as Senegal, are starting to see more lavish shopping habits.

Dakar, the west African country's capital, is home to the $35 million Sea Plaza mall, opened in 2010, and the nearby Radisson Blu luxury hotel. The work of media-shy Senegalese businessman Yerim Sow, both sites have become top attractions and draw as many as 4,500 visitors on a busy day.

Part of Sow's idea behind Sea Plaza was to dispel the misconception that top-end commercial retail centres cannot succeed in sub-Saharan Africa, said Cheikh Saadbou Niang, the mall's head of administration.

Sea Plaza is home to fashion labels such as Hugo Boss, Mango and Guess, as well as haute couture apparel shops and high-end electronics stores. "It is like the Champs Elysees right here in Dakar," said one shopper walking to his car, trailed by a shop assistant carrying a 40-inch flat screen television.

OVERLOOKED COUNTRIES

In addition to Senegal, German fashion house Hugo Boss has established a presence in several other African countries that have been so far been overlooked by big-name global retailers such as Mozambique, Angola and Ivory Coast.

The brand has four stores in South Africa alone. Nearly 80 percent of the customers who visit its Sandton City branch are "black diamonds", reckons Surtee Sulimann, a brand manager.

"Some of them can spend $24,000 without blinking an eye," he said. "And we get a lot of people from Nigeria and Angola."

Other retailers are joining in. Zara, the popular label of Spain's Inditex, opened its first sub-Saharan store, in South Africa, late last year. Cape Town-based retailer Woolworths, which is similar in style and products to Britain's Marks and Spencer's, is aggressively ramping up its presence on the continent.

It aims to double the number of its African stores outside of South Africa to 120 by 2014, Chief Executive Ian Moir said last month. Target countries include Nigeria, Uganda, Mozambique and Kenya.

INFRASTRUCTURE AND CORRUPTION HURDLES

But global retailers face plenty of hurdles in Africa, particularly from the continent's notoriously poor infrastructure and widespread administrative corruption.

"It is very difficult to set up business in Africa, it's very difficult to import goods into Africa," said Joelle de Montgolfier, a director in Bain & Co.'s retail and luxury practice. "Once you get goods into ports, it's very difficult to get them out."

Africa's luxury market will face significant challenges to see anything close to the expansion of China's, de Montgolfier said. "China is a very unified market and Africa is 57 markets with different regulations. It's a bit more complex to do business in Africa."

That won't deter the millions of Africans who want to show off their new-found wealth, or at least look like big spenders. Many poorer South Africans buy counterfeit goods - fakes from Hong Kong known as Fong Kongs - that are sold on almost every street corner in major cities.

"I love Louis Vuitton bags but I can't afford the real thing," said a man dining at an upscale fast food restaurant in Soweto's Maponya Mall who gave his name as Mpho.

"It looks just like the real thing, but it's a 'Fong Kong.'"

Will Kajol ever do a Chikni Chameli?



Gorgeous Kajol dazzles at a store launch and reveals her thoughts on doing a sexy item song.

Mitchell: 'We won't let Joe's legacy die'

Former Penn State star Lydell Mitchell visited Joe Paterno about a week and a half ago, hoping to get just a moment with his ailing coach.

After an emotional hour and a half, Mitchell said goodbye and told Paterno that he would always have the support of his players.

"I said, 'Hey, man, we love you.' We'll fight the fight for him," Mitchell said Sunday after Paterno died at age 85.

Mitchell says Paterno's legacy "will always be intact because we won't let Joe's legacy die."

Paterno died less than three months after he was ousted amid a child sex abuse scandal involving one of his former assistants.

Former Penn State tight end Mickey Shuler says, "It's just sad because I think he died from other things than lung cancer."

Fourth "Underworld" vampire movie leads U.S. box office

(iBBC News) - New vampire and werewolf sequel "Underworld: Awakening" starring Kate Beckinsale rose to the top of domestic movie box office charts over the weekend, according to studio estimates released on Sunday.

The fourth movie in the "Underworld" franchise took in an estimated $25.4 million at movie theaters in the United States and Canada from Friday through Sunday, distributor Sony Pictures said.

"Red Tails," a George Lucas-produced movie about Tuskegee Airmen fighting in World War Two, took second place for the weekend with $19.1 million. Last weekend's winner - Mark Wahlberg thriller "Contraband" - slipped to third place with $12.2 million.

The movie division of Sony Corp released "Underworld." News Corp unit 20th Century Fox distributed "Red Tails," and Comcast Corp unit Universal released "Contraband."

Heavy fighting in Somali capital kills 9

MOGADISHU (iBBC News) - Somali militants firing vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft guns clashed with African Union forces for a second night in Mogadishu, killing at least nine people including women and children, an ambulance official said Sunday.

African Union (AU) troops launched a new offensive against al Shabaab Friday, seizing rebel positions just outside the capital for the first time.

The insurgents, however, have launched counter attacks.

Saturday night they struck a government military checkpoint known as 'Ex-control' in a northwest suburb of the coastal city. Soldiers with the AU's AMISOM force repelled the assault, an AMISOM spokesman said.

Caught in the crossfire were Somalis seeking refuge in camps for displaced people, victims already of the anarchic country's two-decade civil war, or famine.

"At least nine displaced people, mostly women and children died in the camps near the former American embassy Friday and

Saturday night," Ali Musa, coordinator of the city's ambulance services, told Reuters.

Ex-control is a strategically important checkpoint. On the outskirts of Mogadishu, it is the final government-controlled roadblock on the road that bends south to Afgoye, a rebel stronghold about 30 km (17 miles) from the capital.

"These (two) nights al Shabaab came close with anti-craft guns mounted on lorries, but we repulsed them," Ndayiragije Come, spokesman for the AU's Burundian contingent, said.

AIR STRIKE INSTALLS FEAR

Camp resident Mohamed Sidow buried his mother Sunday morning in a shallow grave, hours after a stray round killed her.

"A bullet hit her in the head as she slept in front of our shelter last night," Sidow told Reuters.

Panic engulfed the camp through the night, he said, as shells pounded the area and bullets fizzed through the air. Trapped, Sidow and others were unable to take the wounded to hospital.

"We could not carry my mother to hospital last night. Al Shabaab's anti-aircraft fire forced us to stay put. My mother died from blood loss," he said.

Meanwhile, scores of families fled Elasha town and the surrounding area after al Shabaab said a missile fired by a U.S. drone had hit a car in the town, about 13 km from Mogadishu, killing one of its senior foreign militants.

In a statement emailed late Saturday, the insurgents said the militant was British passport holder Bilal el Berjawi, also known as Abu Hafsa, of Lebanese descent. The statement said Berjawi had grown up in west London and joined Somalia's Islamist militants in early 2006.

"Hafsa ... took on a distinguished role in the fight against the warlords that terrorized the city of Mogadishu at the time," the statement said.

But a British foreign office official denied Berjawi was a British national. No other details were immediately available.

Asha Ibrahim, a mother of five, said she and her children were fleeing the town of Lafole, close to Elasha.

"Mogadishu is no paradise, but we believe air strikes are more destructive than the shelling in Mogadishu," she told Reuters."In Lafole, al Shabaab is everyone's neighbor, so we are vulnerable to the bombs intended for al Qaeda."

Penn State coach: Following Paterno is an honor

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (iBBC News) — Penn State's football coach says following Joe Paterno in the job is an honor.

Bill O'Brien said in a statement Sunday after Paterno died that the school and all college football have suffered a great loss.

Paterno, who won more games than any other major college coach, was fired in November in the midst of a child sex abuse scandal that centered on a retired Penn State assistant coach. The school hired O'Brien, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, this month.

He says Penn State is one of the game's iconic programs because "it was led by an icon in the coaching profession."

He also offers condolences to Paterno's family on behalf of the team.
 
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