£100m drop in wagers hits Sportingbet

Its revenues also fell 35 per cent, which will worry William Hill. The bookmakers, alongside European gaming group GVC, has tabled an offer of more than £400m for Sportingbet, which was founded 15 years ago. The Sportingbet board, led by chief executive, Andy McIver, said last month it backed the bid after rejecting an initial £350m offer as “undervaluing” the company.

Under Takeover Panel rules, William Hill must make a formal offer next week. McIver said November’s figures would be better, largely due to results on the other side of the world. Australian Derby Day, which attracted big-name guests such as film star Nicole Kidman and Prince Charles, is one of the most important events in the country’s sporting calendar.

In Europe, gambling in struggling Greece and Spain fell significantly. However, Mr McIver insisted that overall annual results for the 12 months to next July should broadly hit market expectations.

German lawmakers approve Greek bailout despite qualms

Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:02am EST

BERLIN (Reuters) – German lawmakers approved the latest bailout for Greece on Friday by a large majority despite growing unease about the cost to taxpayers less than a year before federal elections.

The outcome of the vote in the lower house was never in doubt but it was a test of Angela Merkel’s authority over her center-right coalition. She did not manage to draw an absolute majority from her own ranks after 23 of her lawmakers rebelled.

But with the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens voting in favor with most of Merkel’s bloc, the revolt had only symbolic value. Of 584 deputies present in the chamber, 473 voted for the bailout and 100 voted against.

The parliamentary floor leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, Michael Grosse-Broemer, said he was happy with the result of the vote, adding: “Greece must now continue its efforts to reduce its debts and carry out structural reforms.”

The package, which aims to cut Greece’s debt load to 124 percent of national output by 2020, coincides with increased talk among German lawmakers and media that euro zone governments will eventually have to write off much of their Greek debt.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in the Bundestag debate that such speculation could undermine the Greek government’s reform drive.

“If we say the debts will be written off (Greece’s) willingness to make savings is correspondingly weakened. Such false speculation does not solve the problems,” he said. “A Greek bankruptcy could lead to the break-up of the euro zone.”

The government acknowledged for the first time this week that the bailout will mean lost federal revenues.

All week, German newspapers have reverberated with predictions, including from some coalition lawmakers, that Germany and other euro zone countries will eventually have to write off some of their Greek debt holdings.

Schaeuble said Germany was insisting on strict monitoring of Greece’s reforms to ensure it met its fiscal targets, adding that the country’s competitiveness was finally improving as a result of the austerity program.


Criticism of the Greek bailouts within Merkel’s coalition has softened in recent months after she decided the cost of expelling Greece from the euro zone would be far greater.

The SPD has accused the government of deceiving German voters by insisting that no further write-down’s of Greek debt will be necessary, but it is difficult for the strongly pro-euro center-left party to make political capital out of this issue.

Merkel’s policy of talking tough on austerity in Greece and other heavily indebted euro zone countries while making the necessary concessions to avert a messy default commands broad support in Germany, where the chancellor is as popular as ever.

“We will vote for it because we don’t want our reliability as European partners left in any doubt. It has nothing to do with the government,” Peer Steinbrueck, the SPD’s candidate for chancellor in next year’s election, said during Friday’s debate.

SPD parliamentary leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier accused the government of putting off the “economically unavoidable” debt haircut for Greece for its own political reasons.

“You can postpone it until after Christmas, until after the Lower Saxony election, the Bavarian election or the federal elections, but it will come.”

(Additional reporting by Matthias Sobolewski; Editing by Janet McBride)

Boeing engineers union likely to back mediation in stalled talks

Fri Nov 30, 2012 9:58am EST

(Reuters) – The union that represents Boeing Co engineers is likely to agree to mediated talks in a bid to resolve the standoff with the planemaker, the executive director of the union said on Friday.

On Thursday, Boeing asked for U.S. mediators to help resolve talks with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) union, which represents its 23,000 engineers, saying the sides were far apart on pay and benefits.

That move halted labor discussions around midday Thursday in Seattle, and no further meetings were scheduled, the two sides said. Union contracts with Boeing expired Sunday.

“We will almost certainly agree to some type of mediation, but we find the company’s position confusing,” Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director, said in an email to Reuters.

Goforth said Chicago-based Boeing had not responded to many union proposals and that a lot work was left to do.

“We view this action on their part as a stunt to distract people from the proposed pay and benefit cuts,” Goforth added.

The union has balked at a Boeing contract that it says would cut the growth rate of compensation of professional and technical employees. Boeing says its latest offer is much improved over its initial proposal and reflects a tough competitive environment.

Shares of Boeing were up 0.6 percent at $74.56 in early trading.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York and Karen Jacobs in Atlanta; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Obama takes "fiscal cliff" on the road; Republicans stew

Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:05am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, reapplying his re-election campaign theme of protecting the middle class, heads to Pennsylvania on Friday suggesting that Republicans could spoil Christmas by driving the country over the “fiscal cliff.”

The president’s road trip, visiting a factory that makes Tinkertoys, is infuriating Republicans, with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner calling it a “victory lap” Thursday as he rejected Obama’s proposals to avoid the cliff, which is a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to start taking effect in January.

But Boehner confronts challenges not only from Democrats but increasingly from other Republicans, some of whom have advocated greater flexibility than their leadership on Obama’s demand that Congress approve tax increases for the wealthy as well as extend tax cuts for the middle class as part of a deal to avoid the cliff. Most Republicans oppose raising any tax rates.

While Republicans are unhappy with the Obama’s opening bid of deficit reduction measures, drawn mostly from previous presidential budget proposals, they are nervously eyeing the markets as well as polls indicating that the public is likely to blame Republicans if there is no deal at year’s end to avoid the tax increases and severe spending cuts that economists say could tip the economy into a recession.

What the president is doing, Republican Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska told MSNBC on Thursday, “is setting us up to be the fall people for going over the fiscal cliff. And, frankly, going over the fiscal cliff is a win for the president. So either way, we’re going to get it.”

Obama will visit a manufacturing facility in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, operated by The Rodon Group, a plastic-injection molding company that supplies, among other things, Tinkertoys and Angry Birds building sets for children.

“As we move into holiday season, Democrats and Republicans should come together to renew middle class tax cuts so families have more certainty at this critical time for our economy,” the White House said in announcing Friday’s trip.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

Superstorm Sandy hits consumer spending, income

Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:24am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Consumer spending fell in October for the first time in five months as superstorm Sandy choked off car sales, suggesting slower economic growth in the fourth quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Friday consumer spending fell 0.2 percent after a 0.8 percent increase in September. It said Sandy had impacted on income growth last month, but it had made adjustments to wages for storm-related work interruptions.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, would be flat last month. While the storm slammed the brakes on automobile purchases, the drop in overall spending was in part a reflection of weak economic fundamentals.

“The report reinforces the fact that U.S. growth in Q4 would be weak,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington.

U.S. government debt prices rose modestly on the data, while the dollar pared losses versus the euro. Stock futures held steady at higher levels.

When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending fell 0.3 percent, the first decline since June, after rising 0.4 percent the prior month.

It was also the largest decline since September 2009 and implied growth in consumer spending this quarter would struggle to exceed the third-quarter’s 1.4 percent annual pace, which was the slowest in more than a year.

While the economy grew 2.7 percent in the third quarter after advancing 1.3 percent in the prior three months, much of the boost came from the restocking of goods and robust government spending. That is likely to be lost in the final three months of the year.

Growth could also be pressured by the lingering effects of the storm and automatic deep cuts to government spending and tax increases that could drain $600 billion from the economy early next year unless Congress and the Obama administration agree on a less-severe plan to cut budget deficits.

Income was unchanged in October for the first time since April and followed a 0.4 percent gain in September. The department said private wages and salaries fell, reflecting work interruptions caused by Sandy.

The amount of income at the disposal of households after inflation and taxes dipped 0.1 percent after being flat in September. Despite weak income growth, the saving rate rose to 3.4 percent from 3.3 percent the prior month.

A 29 cent drop in gasoline prices helped to keep inflation contained in October. A price index for personal consumer expenditures nudged up 0.1 percent after rising 0.3 percent in September.

In the 12 months through October, the PCE index rose 1.7 percent, the largest gain since April, after increasing 1.6 percent in September.

A core measure that strips out food and energy costs gained 0.1 percent after a similar rise in September. In the 12 months to October, the core PCE index increased 1.6 percent after advancing by the same margin in September.

The Federal Reserve has a 2 percent inflation target and the moderate rise in core inflation should offer comfort to the central bank, which has been buying $40 billion in mortgage-backed debt each month in an effort to push borrowing costs lower and spur faster job growth.

(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Wall Street opens flat, Obama to speak on "cliff"

Fri Nov 30, 2012 9:38am EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street opened flat on Friday, amid caution ahead of a statement from President Obama on the progress of budget talks in Washington that have fueled volatility and nervousness in the financial markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 5.45 points, or 0.04 percent, to 13,027.27. The Standard Poor’s 500 Index .SPX dropped 0.51 points, or 0.04 percent, to 1,415.44. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 0.07 points, or 0.00 percent, to 3,012.10.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

6 Reasons Sales Campaigns Fail

Are you making these six common selling errors? Find out what they are and how to easily avoid them.

Old damaged posters

shutterstock images

Why does one sales campaign end in success and another in abject failure? In almost every case, it’s because the seller neglected an essential step in the selling process. Here are the most common errors, along with some advice on how to avoid them.

1. Failure to Research the Customer

In today’s information-rich business world, customers expect you to know the following before you contact them:

  • Who they are
  • Whom they work for
  • Whom they work with
  • What their company does
  • Who their customers are
  • Why they might need your offering

Whenever you ask a customer a question that could be answered by spending 30 seconds on the Web, you’re telling that customer that either you’re stupid or you don’t really give a damn. So why should they buy from you?

2. Failure to Qualify the Opportunity

It’s easy to get excited when you see the opportunity to make a big sale. When visions of huge success float through your brain, you’re already enjoying the pleasure of that success. That’s why it’s difficult to ask questions that might reveal that the opportunity isn’t real.

Nevertheless, there’s nothing worse than spending hours, days, and weeks of effort on making a sale that was never going to happen in the first place. That’s why you must, within the first 10 minutes of meeting with a customer, ask qualifying questions that confirm there is a real need for your offering, that the need is a priority, and that there’s money for it.

3. Failure to Research the Competition

In every sales campaign, there’s a very real danger that the competition either already has the inside track or will swoop in and scoop the deal out from under you. The only way to keep from being blindsided and outsold is to know more about the competition than the competition knows about you.

It’s not enough to simply know a competitor’s offerings. You must also understand how that competitor positions those offerings against your products and services. Ideally, you should even know the names of the people calling on your potential customer and, even more important, whom they are talking to. (Hint: Use LinkedIn to suss out a competitor’s possible allies.)

4. Failure to Define the Financial Impact

Even if you’re sure the customer needs your offering, they’re not going to spend money to buy it unless and until you can show them both the positive financial impact of buying and the negative financial impact of failing to buy.

Early in the sales cycle, work with the customer to define all the ways that your offering impacts their revenue and profit: direct costs, lost opportunity costs, lower personnel costs, higher sales, higher profit, and so forth. Then describe the specific elements of your offering that uniquely address those financial issues better than the offerings from the competition. Do this carefully and thoroughly, and nine times out of 10, the customer will say something like: “So, when do we start?”

5. Failure to Focus on Helping

More than anything else, customers want you to have their interests at heart, even if it means that you’re not going to make the sale. Customers immediately sense when you’re more concerned with closing the deal than helping them out and, Zip!, up go the barriers.

I don’t know if the “hard sell” ever really worked, but today, anything that smacks of pressure is a great way to get yourself thrown out of the building. The only way to approach a selling situation is with honest curiosity combined with a willingness to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy…even if it means admitting that you’ve got nothing the customer really needs.

6. Failure to Discover the Buying Process

Every company has its own way to make buying decisions, with its own timetable for making them. If you want a sales campaign to end successfully, you had better know those stages or you will probably end up with some surprises: such as contracts that don’t get signed and purchase orders that get issued.

During your initial conversations, work with your customer to define the way that they buy the sort of product or service you’re offering. Create a brief document that defines that buying process and what to do (or whom to call) if something goes awry. That way, when you get a yes, you’ll know that really means something!

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Whittle Down Your To-Do List. Finally

Those items at the bottom of the list? You know you’ll never get to them, so stop trying–there’s a better way to get more done.

Rob Warde/Flickr

Working for yourself can seem like working for a lot more people than if you had one employer and one boss. In my self-employed life, there are seven online and print publications that are regular clients; their editors all expect their work to be a top priority when they give me an assignment. Then there’s the American Society of Journalists and Authors, a large writers’ group of which I’m president, as well as the Glaring Omissions, a local writing group I belong to and for which I organize regular readings.

The only way I can keep all this straight is with heavy use of to-do lists. Especially one master list, which started today with 35 items on it. That list is laughingly called “Today’s Tasks,” even though I obviously can’t get to all the tasks on it in one day or even many, and some of the tasks are ongoing things, such as a schedule of Glaring Omissions’s reading dates, that never get checked off but that I don’t want to move elsewhere lest I forget about them. My to-do list is the one thing I’m certain to check every day. So I read with interest but skepticism when business gurus recommend a to-do list of very limited length. I see the logic–but it would never work for me.

That’s the challenge I posed to mental-training expert Jason Selk, author of Executive Toughness, when I interviewed him for a column earlier this month. He’s a short-to-do-list proponent, but when I insisted that I need a longer one, he thought for a moment, then offered the following advice:

1. Make the first item on the list a Stephen Covey quote.

“Write this down,” he told me: “‘The noise of urgency creates the illusion of importance.’ Put the word illusion in italics.”

The idea is to have a constant reminder not to let the things with the soonest deadlines dominate my workday, but to pause and consider which tasks will best advance me toward my most important goals. I have to accept that setting priorities for goals and tasks will sometimes mean dropping the ball on other things I intended to do or may even have told someone else I would do. That idea bothers me a lot, but Selk is right–I have to pay attention to what’s important as opposed to urgent.

2. Make the second item a list of the three most important things for the day.

This is a good suggestion, but following it has been tricky for me. I have to admit that I sometimes include items on the three-most-important list not because they truly are most important but because they need to be done soon and are short, simple tasks that I can quickly clear away and replace with more important ones.

But I do have important items on my to-do list that have languished there for months on end–things like getting a health checkup, for instance, or pitching a story to a magazine–and they never get done because they don’t have deadlines and no one is pushing me for them. Having the Covey quote to stare at and the list of the three most important things have at least gotten me thinking that I have to make time for such items even if other things are pressing. And sometimes it has inspired me to do the items with long-term importance rather than short-term urgency.

3. Shorten the list.

More recently, I read about Matthew May, author of The Laws of Subtraction, who suggests simply eliminating the bottom 20% of one’s to-do list, on the reasonable assumption that those items won’t make much of a difference. I can’t go that far, but I’ve been cutting out the less important items that–if I’m honest with myself–I’ll never get to anyway. So far today, I’ve managed to cut 35 tasks down to 32 this way.

And that’s OK, Selk would say. “People have a perfectionist mentality,” he says. “You have 25 items on your to-do list. Instead of going from 25 to 3, I’d go from 25 to 22, with the end goal of getting it down to 3.” Judging yourself against perfection will lead to discouragement. “You have to recognize what you’re doing well,” he says.

Sounds good to me.

Houses That Entrepreneurship Built

Location: Los Gatos, California

Price: $1.125 million in 1987

Woz’s playhouse: Wozniak built the house with kid-friendly features, like a cave in the backyard.

Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs, purchased this Los Gatos home in 1987 for $1.125 million, about two years after Wozniak had already left Apple to start CL9, a remote control company. Wozniak is well-known for his work with kids, and the house–which he sold in 2004–served as the unofficial headquarters for Unuson, a company Wozniak uses to focus his educational and philanthropic efforts, like computer training for local students. According to a 2003 Wired profile of Wozniak, classes for Unuson were held in his three-car garage, which included “computer equipment, class supplies, and unopened cases of Jolt.”