Toys ‘R’ Us says to shut about 180 US stores

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September casting doubt over the future of its 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores. (Reuters)
Updated 24 January 2018
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Toys ‘R’ Us says to shut about 180 US stores

BENGALURU: Toys ‘R’ Us said on Tuesday it will shut about one-fifth of its stores in the US in the coming months, as the toy store chain tries to emerge from one of the largest ever bankruptcies by a specialty retailer.
The closure of about 180 US stores will begin in early February and continue until mid-April, Chief Executive David Brandon said in a letter on its website.
The company filed for bankruptcy protection just ahead of the crucial holiday season in the US and Canada to restructure $5 billion of long-term debt, casting doubt over the future of its 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores.
All 83 Toys ‘R’ Us stores in Canada will remain open, said president of the Canadian unit, Melanie Teed-Murch, in a letter to customers.
Toys ‘R’ Us, which like other traditional brick-and-mortar retailers has struggled as more and more consumers shop online, is taking steps to try and entice customers to its stores.
The retailer planned to close unprofitable locations and improve its website and loyalty programs while investing in its stores, according to bankruptcy court papers.
Toys ‘R’ Us, which also operates the Babies ‘R’ Us chain, has set aside more than $400 million out of its$3.1 billion in bankruptcy loans for sprucing up about 900 stores over the next three years with more experiences and better-paid staff.
As the Wayne, New Jersey-based company aims to exit bankruptcy in 2018, its efforts to reinvent its stores will shape how other retailers look to experiential shopping to tackle e-commerce.


Iraq parliament approves 2019 budget, one of largest ever

Updated 24 January 2019
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Iraq parliament approves 2019 budget, one of largest ever

  • The budget will be largely funded by oil revenues
  • The 2019 budget is almost 45 percent higher than last year’s budget

BAGHDAD: Iraqi lawmakers on Thursday approved the government’s 2019 budget, which at $111.8 billion is one of the oil-rich country’s largest ever spending bills.
It represents a nearly 45 percent increase from last year and awards even more money for public salaries, including those of the northern Kurdish region.
Nearly 90 percent of the budget comes from oil revenues.
Iraq expects to export 3.9 million barrels per day in 2019, including 250,000 bpd from the Kurdish region, at an average of $56 per barrel.
The current price of crude sits at $63 per barrel.
The deficit is expected to more than double to $23.1 billion, while investments increase to $27.8 billion.
The draft bill was originally submitted to parliament in October but has been fiercely debated since then.
MPs from provinces ravaged by the fight against the Daesh group criticized it for not allocating enough reconstruction funds to their regions.
Another debate raged over the share that would be allotted to the administratively autonomous Kurdish region.
MPs had originally scheduled a session for 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday but delayed it to 7:00 p.m. and voted article by article, finishing just after midnight.
The government proposed $52 billion in salaries, pensions, and social security for state workers — a 15-percent jump from 2018 and more than half the total budget.
Notably, parliament passed a budget measure to fund salaries for the Kurdistan region’s state workers and armed forces, the peshmerga.
The budget also stipulates the Kurdish Regional Government must export 250,000 bpd of crude through state-owned companies and deposit the revenues in federal coffers.
If it didn’t, MP Sarkawt Shamsaddin told AFP, Baghdad would continue to pay salaries but would not disburse other funds to the Kurdish region.
“The good thing is public servants’ salaries and peshmerga are not subject to political disputes,” said Shamsaddin, representing the northeastern Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah.
Relations between Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, soured in 2017 after Kurdish authorities held an independence referendum.
Last year’s budget was approved by parliament in March.
Parliament had also scheduled a vote on two of the five remaining empty cabinet posts in Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s government but adjourned without holding it.