North America

Japan's economy, the second-largest in the world, is shrinking at the fastest pace in more than 30 years, roughly twice as fast as the U.S. economy, The Washington Post reported. Exports and imports declined in February at a record rate, with monthly sales to the United States down nearly 60 percent compared with last year. Tokyo is giving itself public-works medicine for these global trade ills, deploying legions of men and women with flags and hard hats to repave streets, repaint crosswalks and fix broken clocks in city parks.
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Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, an avowed friend of the United States and the leader of the European Union’s biggest economy, is diplomatic about the coming visit by President Obama. But she is clear that she is not about to give ground on new stimulus spending, stressing the need to maintain fiscal discipline even as she professes to want to work closely with the new American president. “International policy is, for all the friendship and commonality, always also about representing the interests of one’s own country,” Mrs.
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Lawyers say debtor-in-possession financing (DIP)--the backbone of formal restructuring proceedings under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA)--is difficult to obtain, partly because financial institutions accustomed to providing such facilities face their own financial troubles, the Financial Post reported. Since the 1990s, CCAA filings have been the preferred legal avenue by which companies such as Eaton's, Air Canada, Stelco and Abitibi bought time necessary to continue operations while they restructured. That's changing.
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Beleaguered AbitibiBowater Inc. is facing down an imminent bankruptcy filing as early as this week after the newsprint giant blew past a deadline given by a contingent of secured U.S. lenders to come up with a suitable plan to restructure a multibillion-dollar debt load, the Financial Post reported. The Montreal-based company had until midnight Friday to reach an accord with lenders which included Bank of America, Citicorp and Wachovia Corp. that would allow Abitibi to proceed with a plan to restructure US$1.8-billion in debt at American subsidiary Bowater Inc.
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As companies try to hasten the restructuring process, they're negotiating deals with creditors before they reach the courts, an analysis by the Globe and Mail has found. Restructuring experts say this carefully crafted strategy is increasingly the norm as companies attempt to prenegotiate agreements with most of their major creditors, then file under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in Canada or Chapter 11 in the United States just long enough to have a court impose terms on any unwilling lenders.
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At least 17 of the 20 major nations that vowed at a November summit to avoid protectionist steps that could spark a global trade war have violated that promise, with countries from Russia to the United States to China enacting measures aimed at limiting the flow of imported goods, according to a World Bank report unveiled yesterday. The report underscores a "worrying" trend toward protectionism as countries rush to shield their ailing domestic industries during the global economic crisis, The Washington Post reported.
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German carmaker Opel and its U.S. parent General Motors have, to the knowledge of the German government, sufficient financing to see them through into April, a junior economy minister said on Wednesday. "What is positive is that money is apparently still there for them to carry on," Dagmar Woehrl told reporters in Berlin. Woehrl added that Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg's visit to the United States earlier this week had moved the Opel issue "a step forward." She added, however, that some questions remained open.
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When economic crisis struck Asia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, international law firms with newly crippled clients in the region flew in their top restructuring specialists from the United States and Europe. This time around, though, those lawyers are much in demand at home, leaving Asian offices somewhat strapped for bankruptcy lawyers, The AmLaw Daily reported. With the economy swooning, restructuring assignments are on the rise in Asia as much as elsewhere in the world.
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Law firms across the United States may be dismissing partners and staff, cutting bonuses and freezing salaries, but every cloud has a silver lining: experienced bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers are hotter than ever as the number of corporate failures surges, and the fees being charged are setting records for the United States, The Times reported.
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Banco Popolare became the first Italian bank to take up the government's offer of support for its lenders on Tuesday, with newspapers saying it could use the funds to help delist its Italease unit, Reuters reported. Italy's sixth-biggest bank said it had asked the Economy Ministry and the Bank of Italy for permission to issue €1.45 billion ($1.83 billion) of securities under a government-sponsored bond-purchasing scheme. Other leading lenders, including the country's two biggest banks--UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo--have said they would evaluate the programme.
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