Daily Archives: January 31, 2011

More than £25bn profits for just FOUR British banks as earnings soar

Increase: Four British banks – Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Lloyds – are expected to announce a 15 per cent increase in profits

Daily Mail | Jan 31, 2011

By Ben Griffiths

Four of Britain’s largest banks are preparing to unveil combined annual profits of more than £25billion next month.

At a time when austerity cuts are just beginning to bite, Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Lloyds are expected to tell the stock market their annual profits have grown by more than 15 per cent from the £21.5 billion figure they posted a year ago.

The £25billion total, based on City estimates, will include a profit of up to £6.5billion from Barclays, whose chief executive Bob Diamond was criticised this month for telling MPs that the time for bankers apologising for the global financial meltdown was over.

Mr Diamond is also in line for an £8million bonus this year. Barclays’ figure is lower than its £11.6billion profit in 2009.

HSBC is expected to post the biggest profits of 2010 with an estimated £13.5billion, while Standard Chartered – based in the UK but focused on emerging markets – will announce about £4.5billion, according to analysts at City investment bank Nomura.

The state-backed banks are expected to fare less well. Lloyds is due to announce about £1billion, while Royal Bank of Scotland – which is 83 per cent taxpayer-owned – will remain unprofitable with a loss of about £613million.

Britain’s big banks are expected to show a hefty gain from a year earlier because their bad loans are shrinking, helping to offset lower revenues from investment banking and trading activities.

Barclays is due to report on February 15, and RBS on February 24, a day before Lloyds. HSBC will announce its figures on February 28 and Standard Chartered on March 2.

News of the bumper profits haul will increase pressure on the Government to force the banks to increase lending to small businesses and the transparency of bankers’ pay deals.

Ministers have been in talks – called Project Merlin – with the banks on issues such as pay and lending but a final agreement has yet to be reached.

Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority watchdog, warned that society needs assurances from the banks that the financial collapse will never happen again.

In a Sunday newspaper interview, Lord Turner said more regulation was on the cards to stop banking’s riskier activities from moving to murkier, unregulated markets.

There were continued efforts to resolve the issue of how big banks could fail without bringing down the entire sector, he added.

Lord Turner also dismissed threats from London’s banks to shift their business to Singapore or Hong Kong to escape over-regulation in the UK as a ‘fantasy’.

He added: ‘I think the industry needs to recognise that society wants to be assured that measures that have been taken are robust enough to prevent this terrible crisis ever happening again.’

Chancellor George Osborne appeared to have softened his stance on banks during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

It was time to ‘move on’ from banker bashing, he said, and for the Government to ‘make it explicit that it wants the UK to be the undisputed European home of wholesale finance and great global centre of finance’.

But he added he would only do a deal with banks on bonuses and lending in return for state backing if it was a good deal.

South Carolina scientist works to grow meat in lab

Reuters | Jan 30, 2011

By Harriet McLeod Harriet Mcleod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) – In a small laboratory on an upper floor of the basic science building at the Medical University of South Carolina, Vladimir Mironov, M.D., Ph.D., has been working for a decade to grow meat.

A developmental biologist and tissue engineer, Dr. Mironov, 56, is one of only a few scientists worldwide involved in bioengineering “cultured” meat.

It’s a product he believes could help solve future global food crises resulting from shrinking amounts of land available for growing meat the old-fashioned way … on the hoof.

Growth of “in-vitro” or cultured meat is also under way in the Netherlands, Mironov told Reuters in an interview, but in the United States, it is science in search of funding and demand.

The new National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, won’t fund it, the National Institutes of Health won’t fund it, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration funded it only briefly, Mironov said.

“It’s classic disruptive technology,” Mironov said. “Bringing any new technology on the market, average, costs $1 billion. We don’t even have $1 million.”

Director of the Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Center in the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology at the medical university, Mironov now primarily conducts research on tissue engineering, or growing, of human organs.

“There’s a yuck factor when people find out meat is grown in a lab. They don’t like to associate technology with food,” said Nicholas Genovese, 32, a visiting scholar in cancer cell biology working under a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals three-year grant to run Dr. Mironov’s meat-growing lab.

“But there are a lot of products that we eat today that are considered natural that are produced in a similar manner,” Genovese said.

“There’s yogurt, which is cultured yeast. You have wine production and beer production. These were not produced in laboratories. Society has accepted these products.”

If wine is produced in winery, beer in a brewery and bread in a bakery, where are you going to grow cultured meat?

In a “carnery,” if Mironov has his way. That is the name he has given future production facilities.

He envisions football field-sized buildings filled with large bioreactors, or bioreactors the size of a coffee machine in grocery stores, to manufacture what he calls “charlem” — “Charleston engineered meat.”

“It will be functional, natural, designed food,” Mironov said. “How do you want it to taste? You want a little bit of fat, you want pork, you want lamb? We design exactly what you want. We can design texture.

“I believe we can do it without genes. But there is no evidence that if you add genes the quality of food will somehow suffer. Genetically modified food is already normal practice and nobody dies.”

Dr. Mironov has taken myoblasts — embryonic cells that develop into muscle tissue — from turkey and bathed them in a nutrient bath of bovine serum on a scaffold made of chitosan (a common polymer found in nature) to grow animal skeletal muscle tissue. But how do you get that juicy, meaty quality?

Genovese said scientists want to add fat. And adding a vascular system so that interior cells can receive oxygen will enable the growth of steak, say, instead of just thin strips of muscle tissue.

Cultured meat could eventually become cheaper than what Genovese called the heavily subsidized production of farm meat, he said, and if the public accepts cultured meat, the future holds benefits.

“Thirty percent of the earth’s land surface area is associated with producing animal protein on farms,” Genovese said.

“Animals require between 3 and 8 pounds of nutrient to make 1 pound of meat. It’s fairly inefficient. Animals consume food and produce waste. Cultured meat doesn’t have a digestive system.

“Further out, if we have interplanetary exploration, people will need to produce food in space and you can’t take a cow with you.

“We have to look to these ideas in order to progress. Otherwise, we stay static. I mean, 15 years ago who could have imagined the iPhone?”