10,000 march in Dublin against next Irish budget

Updated 26 November 2012
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10,000 march in Dublin against next Irish budget

DUBLIN: About 10,000 socialist protesters marched Saturday through Dublin in opposition to government plans to unveil Ireland's sixth straight austerity budget.
The capital's major boulevard, O'Connell Street, was filled in both directions with marchers, some donning ghostly white masks and Santa hats.
The demonstrators were from a wide range of anti-tax campaigns, labor unions and community groups, most of them with a hard-left bent. Many bore banners denouncing government leaders and vowing not to pay new and future tax hikes.
"The government can't be given a free hand to cut whatever they like. You have to be willing to get out on the streets and do something," said Lizzy Stringer, a 26-year-old school assistant who marched in a hand-made protest suit emblazoned with words summarizing the personal despair behind Ireland's debt crisis: hunger, depression, suicide.
The parade mixed darker themes with gallows humor. A rider on horseback in white mask and black cape depicting Death led the parade, while the horse had a "no to austerity" banner round its neck.
On placards Irish leaders were portrayed as serpents, with pleas to St. Patrick to return and banish them from Ireland. Marchers donned Santa hats, some bearing the slogan "No no no!" rather than ho ho ho, and warned that the government wanted to play Grinch and steal Christmas.
Ireland faces more protests in the buildup to the Dec. 5 budget, when the government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny is committed to unveiling a further 3.5 billion euros ($ 4.5 billion) in spending cuts and tax hikes in this country of 4.6 million.
Ireland already has pledged to keep imposing annual cuts and tax hikes through at least 2015 as part of its austerity program, begun in 2009, to combat yawning deficits and fund a colossally expensive bank rescue program. Ireland's long-booming economy plunged in 2008 as credit-fueled property speculation collapsed, forcing Ireland to nationalize five of its six banks.
Ireland faced the risk of national bankruptcy in 2010 when it was forced to negotiate an international bailout.

The last of the 67.5 billion euros borrowed from European Union partners and the International Monetary Fund is scheduled to be spent next year, by which time Ireland is supposed to be borrowing normally again on bond markets. It has begun to dip its toe back into those markets since the summer.
While many on Saturday's march called for sterner action such as national strikes, labor leaders here have sought instead to negotiate with the government in hopes of minimizing job losses and pay cuts.
That tension between a radical grassroots and cautious leadership was obvious as union leaders tried to speak from a makeshift stage in front of Dublin's colonnaded General Post Office, but were interrupted by hecklers chanting "Strike!"
"We need to play our part in the growing movement of resistance across Europe," said Richard Boyd Barrett, a member of Irish parliament from a small socialist pressure group called People Before Profit. "And we have to bring this government down if they continue with this disastrous policy of austerity."
The government is trying to get Ireland's deficit back to 3 percent of economic output — the supposed limit for euro zone members — by 2015. Its deficit last year exceeded 10 percent, but this year is forecast to fall to nearer 8 percent.
Cuts and tax hikes already have reduced people's average net pay by around 15 percent from the Celtic Tiger boom days, and new annual taxes on homes and water are supposed to come in 2013. Unemployment sits near a 17-year high of 14.8 percent, a figure that would be far worse were it not for Ireland's tradition of emigrating worldwide for jobs.
Ireland is hoping for 2013 economic growth of 1.5 percent driven by the exports of the nearly 1,000 foreign multinationals based here producing goods and services, chiefly in computer and health technologies.


Ericsson swings to profit as savings kick in; shares jump

Updated 48 min 22 sec ago
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Ericsson swings to profit as savings kick in; shares jump

  • The Swedish mobile telecom gear maker has met an industry-wide downturn and mounting losses by sweeping cost cuts
  • Bolstering investor optimism are expectations that Ericsson is on the cusp of a new cycle of network upgrades

STOCKHOLM: Mobile telecom equipment maker Ericsson unexpectedly swung to a modest operating profit in the second quarter, boosted by growing sales in North America and said it was increasingly confident of meeting its longer-term targets.
The Swedish mobile telecom gear maker has met an industry-wide downturn and mounting losses by sweeping cost cuts, clearing out most of its top management and setting a strategy to focus on profitability over growth.
It had been in the red since the third quarter of 2016 and its return to profit sent its shares up 10 percent by 0816 GMT. “A trend of good execution (is) starting to emerge,” UBS analysts said of the latest results.
Bolstering investor optimism are expectations that Ericsson is on the cusp of a new cycle of network upgrades as demand for next-generation 5G gear kicks in later this year or early in 2019, starting in the United States.
Its shares have gained more than 36 percent in the year to date, buoyed by progress toward meeting its 2020 financial targets and hopes for a 5G-led industry growth cycle.
Marking its second consecutive quarter of substantial progress toward hitting its 2020 financial goals, the Swedish firm reported an operating profit of 0.2 billion crowns ($23 million), excluding restructuring charges of 2.0 billion crowns.
The operating profit compared to a 0.5 billion loss in the year earlier quarter. Analysts, on average, had forecast an 0.1 billion loss for the second quarter in a Reuters poll.
“We have good market traction in Networks, with a sales growth of 2 percent, particularly in North America where all major operators are preparing for 5G,” CEO Borje Ekholm said in a statement.
Networks, which accounts for two-thirds of Ericsson sales, rose 2 percent, year on year, buoyed by 15 percent growth in North America, Ericsson’s largest market. But they fell around 5 percent in South and Southeast Asia, North East Asia and the Middle East and Africa. Europe grew just 1 percent.
Ericsson appears to be benefiting from rising competition among the four top US carriers, which are all racing to be the first to deliver 5G in dozens of American cities. 5G has become a test of US technology leadership in the country’s growing stand-off with China over trade and national security.
Overall, Ericsson’s net sales dipped 1 percent in the second quarter compared to a year ago, reflecting the bottoming out of sharp declines for the mobile equipment industry since 4G sales peaked in 2015 and the expectation of a return to growth in 2020.
Ericsson Chief Financial Officer Carl Mellander said the company was focused on meeting its 2020 profitability targets but warned that quarterly results may still be up and down.
The CFO said that while the first commercial use of 5G would kick off later this year, the business was largely being driven by North America. “But material volumes... we maintain that will be in 2020,” he cautioned.
Ericsson, once the world’s biggest supplier of mobile communications gear, is facing falling spending by telecom operators, weakness in formerly fast-growing emerging markets and stiff competition from bigger telecom equipment players Huawei of China and Nokia of Finland.
The company said it had recently finished an annual cost-cutting program that saved more than 10 billion crowns, which would increasingly result in higher earnings.
Its second quarter gross margin, excluding restructuring charges, was 36.7 percent, versus 35.9 in the first quarter, driven mainly by cost reductions across its business divisions and the ramp-up in sales of its flagship 5G-ready radio gear.
The company has pledged to deliver a gross margin of 37-39 percent and an operating margin of at least 10 percent by 2020 and better than 12 percent heading into the next decade.