From Falkland herders to oil barons
Riches offshore would change islanders’ lives
STANLEY, FALKLAND ISLANDS | Falkland Islanders are so accustomed to making do with what they’ve got that many still heat their homes with peat stoves, grow their own vegetables, repair their Land Rovers themselves and raise chickens for their soft-boiled eggs.
But now they’ve struck oil offshore — potentially vast stores of it. Billions of dollars in taxes and royalties could soon flow their way, creating an entirely unfamiliar challenge: the prospect of sudden and tremendous wealth.
If the first strike alone can attract the major investment needed to start producing crude, this closely knit community of 3,000 people mostly descended from sheep farmers, soldiers and sailors could find themselves richer than sheiks.
Far from celebrating the millions of dollars that oil exploration is already pumping into their treasury, however, most islanders seem far more concerned about the troubles that rapid change might bring. They like their way of life just like it is: tranquil, surrounded by nature and nearly crime-free.
“The important word here is ‘potential’ bolded and underlined several times. I’m potentially a lottery winner,” said Stephen Luxton, the government’s mineral resources director. “Don’t get me wrong: everybody’s excited about it, but we’re not going to spend money we don’t have.”
The reluctance comes from experience. Daunting political, technical, financial and environmental questions have kept the oil from flowing for years.
For one thing, Argentina still claims the islands despite nearly 180 years of British control. President Cristina Fernandez is trying to force Britain into sovereignty talks ahead of the April 2 anniversary of the 1982 Argentine invasion. Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said last week that Argentina will pursue “administrative, civil and criminal” penalties against the islands’ “illegal” oil industry.
With neighbors like these, islanders hope Big Oil money will enable them to fund their own defense and gain leverage in global trade.
“Oil means security for us. If we go back to being sheep farmers again, would the U.K. government stick up for us as much? I’d like to think so, but maybe not,” said Dan Fowler, a biologist born during the Argentine occupation.
Most islanders were tenant farmers who struggled to make a living on wool during their first 150 years as British subjects.
But now they are a self-governing British Overseas Territory, deciding for themselves how to tax and spend. And they will surpass Arab oil barons in per-capita wealth if they get even a fraction of the $10.5 billion in taxes and royalties some industry analysts predict will flow from the Sea Lion field, discovered north of the islands last year by Rockhopper Exploration PLC.
While Rockhopper seeks a $2 billion partner to move toward producing the crude, Borders & Southern Petroleum and Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd. are drilling two exploratory wells each this year in much deeper water south of the islands.
It’s high-risk, high-reward, costing them $1.3 million a day with less than a 25 percent chance of success. But a big strike could prompt a rush to join what might be one of the world’s last new sources of fossil fuels.
LONDON | England’s laws restricting shopping hours on a Sunday to six hours will be relaxed during the Olympics in London this summer, Finance Minister George Osborne said.
The suspension would run in England and Wales for eight Sundays covering the Olympics (July 27 to Aug. 12) and the Paralympics (Aug. 29 to Sept. 9).
“We’ve got the whole world coming to London — and the rest of the country — for the Olympics,” Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer told BBC television. “It would be a great shame — particularly when some of the big Olympic events are on Sunday — if the country had a ‘closed for business’ sign on it.”
Campaigners against sevendays-a-week shopping hours claim it will open the door to a permanent shift in the rules, hitting family life. Current law also protects the rights of workers who do not wish to work Sundays.
SAN FRANCISCO | Apple scheduled an announcement Monday on plans for its huge cash balance, estimated to be at least $97 billion from sales of its hugely successful gadgets, among them the ipad and iphone.
An Apple statement said Chief Executive Tim Cook and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer would hold a conference call at 9 a.m. EDT “to announce the outcome of the company’s discussions concerning its cash balance.”
Apple, with total available cash and securities at record highs — some reports said it has more cash on hand than the U.S. government — has been under pressure to pay dividends to shareholders with some of those funds. The company does not currently pay dividends on its common stock, which limits ownership of Apple shares and holds down their value.
Mr. Oppenheimer said on a quarterly conference call with analysts in January that the board was in “active” discussions on ways to use the cash. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, haunted by lean years in the mid-90s, likely stood in the way of returning cash to shareholders. Jobs died in October.
NEW YORK | Brian Lamb, who helped found the publicaffairs cable network C-SPAN in 1978 and has been its CEO ever since, will step down at the end of the month, C-SPAN said Sunday.
Mr. Lamb, 70, is handing the reins to two co-ceos, Rob Kennedy and Susan Swain, CSPAN said. He will remain chairman of the board and take on the new title of executive chairman.
C-SPAN said the leadership transition has been years in the making. Kennedy, 55, and Swain, 57, have been co-presidents of the company since 2006. Ms. Swain joined CSPAN in 1982, and Mr. Kennedy joined in 1987.
Washington-based C-SPAN is a nonprofit created and funded by cable- and satellite-tv companies. It employs 275 people.
NEW YORK | UPS has reached or is close to reaching a deal to buy European package-delivery company TNT Express, according to media reports Sunday.
The online editions of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed people familiar with the talks, said the deal could be announced Monday. They put the price tag around $6.8 billion, or 5.2 billion euros.
The offer equates to 9.50 euros per share. A month ago, Netherlands-based TNT rejected an “informal” offer from United Parcel Service Inc. at 9 euros per share. TNT shares closed Friday at 9.35.
A UPS spokeswoman said Sunday that she could not confirm the reports, but the company said Friday that it was still in talks and that they were “constructive.” TNT did not respond to a request for comment.
BEIJING | Home prices in nearly two-thirds of China’s major cities fell in February from the previous month, the government said Sunday, as moves to cool the red-hot property market continue to bite.
Of the 70 large and midsized cities tracked by the government, 45 saw new-home prices fall month-on-month, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement, down from 48 in January.
Prices in an additional 21 cities were stable, and just four cities experienced price rises, it added.
Beijing has introduced a range of measures aimed at curbing runaway property prices over the past year, such as bans on buying second homes, hiking minimum down payments and introducing property taxes in select cities.
Oil wealth, if it occurs, stands to change the way of life on the Falklands. A survey ship (top) sails in Stanley Harbor before leaving on a scientific mission to study the undersea topography for offshore oil exploration. Penguins gather on the coast of Murrell Farm near the northeastern corner of the islands.