Volkswagen to offer generous compensation for U.S. customers: fund head

FRANKFURT Volkswagen will offer generous compensation packages to the roughly 600,000 U.S. owners of diesel vehicles whose emissions are over the legal limit, the head of its claims fund told a German paper.The German car maker has still not decided whether vehicle owners will be offered cash, car buy-backs, repairs or replacement cars, Kenneth Feinberg told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.Feinberg previously headed the compensation funds for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill and General Motors' ignition switch crashes.On Friday, Volkswagen postponed the publication of its 2015 results and delayed its annual shareholders' meeting as it struggles to put an exact price on its emissions scandal.More than four months after the scandal broke in the United States, Europe's leading car maker has still not won approval for a fix for any of the vehicles. Last week it named a new head of its U.S. legal department to help resolve the case.Feinberg told the paper he was unlikely to meet his goal of setting up the claims fund within 60 to 90 days, saying: "My hands are tied as long as VW and the authorities have not overcome their differences."He said he expected an overwhelming majority to accept the eventual offer, and that VW had given him full authority to set the level."Look at my prior cases: 97 percent of the victims of Sept. 11 accepted my offer. At GM and BP it was more than 90 percent, too. That has to be my target for VW," Feinberg said. "It is a purely business transaction, less emotional. I see that from emails I get from vehicle owners, who say things like: 'Mr. Feinberg, I know I haven't lost a relative, I just want to be treated fairly.' They are all quite reasonable."SHARES FALL SHARPLYFeinberg said he had not yet decided whether to consider claims that the emissions damaged the health of claimants. "I am inclined to not accept that and tell such people they should sue Volkswagen if they want to," he said. Uncertainty about the financial impact of the scandal on VW's accounts has increased since the start of the year, sending its shares 26 percent lower.However, Norway's $850 billion sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, told the paper it would remain invested in Volkswagen, in which it holds 1.2 percent. "VW is an important company for Germany, Europe and the world. That's why we will keep our stake as long as the fund and the company exist," the fund's CEO Yngve Slyngstad said.But he added that since 2008 the fund has criticized the ownership structure at Volkswagen, where the Porsche and Piech families hold 31.5 percent of the capital but control 50.7 percent of voting rights.U.S. regulators last month rejected VW's original plan to fix 2.0 liter diesel cars equipped with software designed to conceal the cars' true emissions, raising concerns that VW may have to carry out a larger number of costly buy-backs.VW has already promised goodwill packages worth $1,000 to tens of thousands of VW owners in the United States, and the European Commission and European lawmakers have urged it to consider making a similar offer to owners in Europe.The group set aside 6.7 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in the third quarter of 2015 to cover repair costs for vehicles worldwide. Pieper said this might need to be topped up by another 2-3 billion euros. (Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Anti-Islam movement PEGIDA stages protests across Europe

DRESDEN, Germany Germany's anti-Islam PEGIDA movement staged rallies in several cities across Europe on Saturday to protest against the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.The movement, whose name stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, originated in the eastern German city of Dresden in 2014, with supporters seizing on a surge in asylum seekers to warn that Germany risks being overrun by Muslims.After almost fizzling out early last year, the movement has regained momentum amid deepening public unease over whether Germany can cope with the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in the country during 2015.The alleged involvement of migrants in assaults on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve has also spurred PEGIDA, which says it is proof that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's welcoming stance to refugees is flawed."We must succeed in guarding and controlling Europe's external borders as well as its internal borders once again," PEGIDA member Siegfried Daebritz told a crowd on the banks of the River Elbe who chanted "Merkel must go!".Police in Dresden declined to estimate the number of protesters. German media put the number at up to 8,000, well below the 15,000 originally expected by police.Hundreds of counter-demonstrators also marched through Dresden under the motto "Solidarity instead of exclusion", holding up placards saying "No place for Nazis". Far-right groups see Europe's refugee crisis as an opportunity to broadcast their anti-immigrant message. There were 208 rallies in Germany in the last quarter of 2015, up from 95 a year earlier, Interior Ministry data showed.CALAIS, PRAGUEProtests also took place on Saturday in other cities, including Amsterdam, Prague and the English city of Birmingham. In Calais, in northern France, more than a dozen people were arrested during a protest that was attended by more than a hundred people despite being banned, local authorities said.Thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East camp out in Calais, hoping for a chance to make the short trip across the English Channel to Britain.In Prague, an estimated 2,200 people including both supporters and opponents of Pegida held a series of rival demonstrations around the Czech capital. Police had to intervene in one march when supporters of the migrants came under attack from around 20 people who threw bottles and stones. Later, around 20 masked assailants threw Molotov cocktails during an attack on a center that collects donations for refugees, forcing the evacuation of the building and injuring one person who was hit by glass, police said. In Warsaw, hundreds of people waved Polish flags and chanted "England and France are in tears, that's how tolerance ends"."We're demonstrating against the Islamisation of Europe, we're demonstrating against immigration, against an invasion," Robert Winnicki, leader of Poland's far-right Ruch Narodowy (National Movement), told demonstrators.The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have together taken a tough stance on migration and have been largely opposed to taking in significant numbers of refugees. (Reporting Caroline Copley and Reuters TV; Additional reporting by Wiktor Szary in Warsaw, Petra Vodstrcilova and Michael Kahn in Prague, Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris, Estelle Shirbon in London and Pierre Savary in Calais; Editing by Gareth Jones and Toby Chopra)

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PRESS DIGEST- Canada- Feb 5

Feb 5 The following are the top stories from selected Canadian newspapers. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.THE GLOBE AND MAIL** Royal Dutch Shell disclosed on Thursday that the LNG Canada joint venture in northern British Columbia is being delayed by about nine months, saying the partners are now aiming to make a final investment decision at the end of 2016 instead of the first quarter. (bit.ly/1L2Au2g)** Suncor Energy Inc faces a funding deficit estimated at C$4 billion ($2.91 billion) as oil prices remain under severe pressure this year, but it's still forging ahead with a pair of big-ticket oil sands and offshore projects while maintaining its dividend. (bit.ly/1UOzuod) ** External demand for Canadian bonds is at risk of faltering, casting doubt on the supply of foreign capital needed to meet Canada's borrowing needs, according to a National Bank Financial report. (bit.ly/1L2Au2g) NATIONAL POST** As the NFL's Carolina Panthers prepare to take on the Denver Broncos this Sunday, Bell Media is preparing for the possibility that this will be the last Super Bowl with a guaranteed audience for Canadian ads because a federal regulator has decided to stop Bell, which owns the television rights to the Super Bowl through broadcaster CTV, from requiring that cable companies carrying U.S. stations broadcasting the game substitute CTV's signal to increase the reach of its advertisements. (bit.ly/1S4I2t1) ** Canada's oil industry elite walked away Thursday with an "understanding" from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that oil export pipelines are needed and that there would be more collaboration to make them happen. (bit.ly/1nRnHv8)** Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere acknowledged Thursday at the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault trial that her profile soared after she made public allegations against the former CBC star as his lawyer repeatedly questioned why she maintained a friendship with him following an alleged attack. (bit.ly/1L0lNgf) ($1 = 1.3729 Canadian dollars) (Compiled by Parikshit Mishra in Bengaluru)

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Exclusive: Top airlines offer to re-assign crew from Zika-hit routes

Major U.S. airlines United (UAL.N) and Delta (DAL.N) and Europe's Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and Air France (AIRF.PA) are offering to re-assign certain flight crew concerned about contracting the Zika virus from routes to affected countries.The previously unreported policies by the U.S. airlines show how the mosquito-borne virus, linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, looms as an issue not just for airline passengers but for flight attendants and pilots as well.In an internal memo on Jan. 28, seen by Reuters, United said expectant flight attendants as well as those seeking to become pregnant could switch routes to avoid Zika-affected regions without repercussions. The airline has similar options available for pilots, Charles Hobart, spokesman for parent United Continental Holdings Inc, told Reuters on Wednesday.Delta Air Lines Inc has also let flight attendants and pilots switch assignments since Jan. 17, and "a small number of crew members have swapped trips to date," spokesman Morgan Durrant said."We have immediate concern about our members' health," said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, when asked for comment on United's memo."This issue is changing at a fairly rapid pace, (and) it's important that those updates are ongoing," she said, adding that airlines appeared to be responding faster to employee concerns than they did during past outbreaks, such as the spread of Ebola in 2014.In Europe, safety rules require that pilots and cabin crew are switched to ground jobs when they are pregnant. Major long-haul carriers Lufthansa and Air France also said they already offered crew members with any reservations about flying to a particular destination the chance to change a shift.Air France said it had offered that flexibility during the Ebola outbreak.A spokeswoman for Lufthansa said on Thursday that so far only a few crew members had switched routes because of fears over Zika. BABYMOONERS Airlines and hotel chains have said it is too early to tell if the Zika epidemic is affecting bookings, although several are offering pregnant women and in some cases all passengers a refund or a change of itinerary.However, top U.S. carriers, including United and Delta, are offering refunds for flights to impacted areas. Travel agents also say "babymooners" - parents-to-be taking last-hurrah vacations - have backed out of trips and changed itineraries.Concern about Zika has been magnified in recent days by a reported case of sexual transmission in Texas as well as a global health emergency declared by the World Health Organization. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged pregnant women to consider delaying travel to locations hit by Zika, for which there is no treatment or vaccine."The safety of our employees and customers is paramount, and we are providing this option because it's the right thing to do," Hobart said.United, the second-largest U.S. airline by capacity, declined to address whether it was concerned about crew shortages resulting from the Jan. 28 notice. The carrier has some 20,000 flight attendants worldwide. The memo said flight attendants can drop their re-assigned trips, without pay, if United is able to find replacements for them.United declined to say how many flight attendants have asked to switch their assignments. (Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Bernard Orr and Alexander Smith)

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Oreo cookie maker Mondelez profit misses as dollar bites

Mondelez International Inc (MDLZ.O), the maker of Cadbury chocolates and Oreo cookies, reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit, hurt by a strong dollar and weak demand in Europe.Shares of the company fell nearly 5 percent to $39.88 in early trading on Wednesday.The company has been raising prices in markets such as Europe and Latin America to cushion the impact of the strong dollar, but this has taken a toll on volumes. Sales in Europe, the company's biggest market, fell 1.1 percent after stripping off the impact of certain items such as divestitures and integration costs.Total revenue fell 16.6 percent to $7.36 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, hurt by a strong dollar and the sale of a majority of its coffee business. The company sold its coffee business to a joint venture spearheaded by D.E. Master Blenders 1753 B.V., owned by German investment group JAB, for 3.8 billion euros ($4.11 billion) in July, in which it retained a 43.5 percent stake..Excluding items, sales rose 4.7 percent, the company said. Mondelez reported a loss of $729 million, or 46 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, compared with net income of $500 million, or 29 cents per share, a year earlier.The company said it took a charge of $778 million, or 48 cents per share, due to a change in its accounting method for Venezuela operations. Excluding items, the company earned 46 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected earnings of 48 cents per share and revenue of $7.27 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Anil D'Silva)

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