Mazda Australia Keeps On Breaking Records

When choosing a new car, there is a wide range of choice. However, the Mazda Australia figures, show that a great number of people have great confidence in this Japanese brand. Mazda has been a popular brand in Australia for many years and from the utility vehicles through to family hatchbacks, deluxe saloons through to super minis, the Mazda range has a car to suit all requirements and tastes.

Recent figures have shown that for the second year running, Mazda Australia has sold over 100,000 new vehicles. These figures confirm Mazda’s place as one of the top three brands in the Australian car market. According to the FACTS figures, Mazda now dominates almost a ten percent market share with 103,144 new vehicles sold for 2013. These figures include utilities, cars and SUVs, which seats Mazda as the third popular brand in the country and the leading importer of a full line of vehicles.

The figures are bolstered by the Mazda 3. This is one of highest cars in demand for Mazda Australia. Annual sales for 2013 were over 42,000 vehicles. This included an astonishing figure of 4,022 Mazda 3’s sold in December 2013. This provided a great boost to the sales figures as many car enthusiasts sought out an advantageous deal before the launch of the new design Mazda 3 in early 2014.

The Mazda titles don’t stop there. The figures show that the Mazda 2 is the favourite light car for Australia. This is the second time in three years that Mazda has taken this title. The figures for 2013 show that over 15,000 Mazda 2’s were sold through Mazda Australia.

However, Mazda is not just thought of as a hatchback manufacturer. The CX-5 managed to set a number of sales records for the 2013 sales period. Although the 2012 figures were very favourable at 15,861 vehicles sold, the 2013 figures have shown a huge improvement of twenty seven percent increase at over 20,000 CX-5’s sold. This made the CX-5 Australia’s favorite SUV.

Mazda Australia also managed to improve supply and boost sales of the BT-50. The BT-50 had an all time sales record high of 13,702 vehicles sold in 2013. This eclipsed the previous sales record by almost two thousand vehicles or sixteen percent.

With the recent award winning trend at the Australia’s Best Cars and Drive Car of the Year, the Mazda 6 has also had its best sales year since the last high in 2008. 7,701 Mazda 6’s were sold in 2013, which represents a thirty percent sales increase since 2011. This is thought to be due to the launch of the new look Mazda 6 which hit the show rooms in late 2012. The Mazda 6 has easily achieved the crown for Australia’s top selling mid sized import, outselling its nearest rival by almost 4,500 vehicles.

The company are understandably happy with the 2013 sales performance. According to managing director of Mazda Australia, Martin Benders, the company is very grateful for the support Mazda receives from the Australian public. 2013 is the second year, the company sold in excess of 100,000 new vehicles and they anticipate that the new developments for SKY ACTIV technology in the Mazda 3 will provide a “strong start” for sales in 2014.

Panzer 88 – Gary Kurtz Develops WW2 Sci-Fi Fantasy Film

At American Film Market, I was invited to a special presentation of “Panzer 88” a film in development. It was most enlightening seeing how a film of this magnitude is promoted. The sizzle video, the elaborate picture brochure, and the talk by producer Gary Kurtz gave an intriguing picture of how the film will look and the many aspects of developing and producing it. I had an opportunity to talk with him and from he and other participants gather details about this upcoming production.

Additional details were gleaned from the promotional brochure, trade stories, industry websites, and online interviews. This article provides an overview of this fascinating film being ready for production. Of course, changes will likely be made so information presented here is based on available information.

Entitled “Panzer 88” this WW2 film takes place in October 1944 as a five-man German tank crew motors across Russia in retreat. To develop this WW2 film project they have assembled a notable creative team. They include Gary Kurtz, the Oscar award-winning producer of Star Wars, American Graffiti and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, director/writer Peter Briggs (best known for co-writing Hellboy), and Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop (The Hobbit, District 9, and King Kong), who have signed on to handle the film’s physical productions.

Producer Kurtz said that the film is a “visceral, reality-based story with horror overtones.” It’s a combination of the monster genre and a period piece war movie. The film thus caters to the WW2 armor fanatics with adrenalin-fuelled tank-to-tank battle scenes. It also caters to the audience in love with the suspense of a supernatural world, as a vengeful Creature will stop at nothing to see this tank crew die. Another target for this film is video game players who are into sensory cinema, an audience with an incredible visual literacy.

The Story

The movie opens 100 years previously with a flashback. A child is being told a bedtime story about the history of Krytepka, her Russian town. In the story, Marauding Cossacks invade the town and kill Irina, Rabbi Loew’s daughter. Bereft, the Rabbi forges supernatural pact to save the town and a monster-like Creature emerges, driving horseback attackers away.

Several miles away from this ill-fated village, the story segues to “Present Day” late 1944. In as swift, frantic tank-battle scene we are introduced to the heroes of the story. Exploding from the edge of the forest, the King Tiger, nicknamed “Isla” inadvertently stumbles upon three Russian T-34 tanks. A tense tank battle scene ensues and we see “Isla’s” men in full action. They are seasoned professionals. We also see how tough the King Tiger’s is as it takes on hits and returns fire. With its reinforced armor and 88mm cannon, it is no match for the Russian T-34s.

The crew is a microcosm of Germany at the time. Kessler, the commander, is a member of the Nazi party because his rank requires it, not because he wants to be. Heinz, the loader, is sort of an Aryan poster boy, blond and pretty, with no real notion of what Aryan means. He’s an innocent participant.

The gunner, Wolfy, represents the average person, the one who is manipulated to do wrong. Director Peter Briggs says, “For me, he is the most interesting.” Another crewmember is the grizzly old driver, Max; one who would rather not be involved. Kurt, the radio operator, is the new kid and it’s through him we see the story unfold.

The crew of “Isla,” needing to restock supplies and refuel, passes through the current-day town of Krytepka. To their disgust, they find that SS Troopers have gotten there first and massacred everyone. Strange supernatural occurrences affect them: a forewarning of things to come. Leaving the town, they pass the walking wounded, and remnants of abandoned German vehicles. These visuals elevate the theme of the movie. While this is a retreat of men and machines, it is also a retreat of ideologies, a questioning of the war, ones country, ones duty, and ones accountability to human values.

At the depot, the crew picks up their mail and stocks up on supplies. An altercation occurs with a rival Tiger 1 Panzer crew over fuel allocations. However, Colonel Bauer steps in halting the standoff, and then gives Kessler fresh orders to meet up with a King Tiger Battalion assembling across the ice plain. While adding fresh armor to the tank’s hull, a raid by allied fighter-bombers forces sends Kessler’s crew scurrying for cover, unaware they are being followed by a group of vengeful Russian partisans. To make matters worse, the Russian Partisans have radioed Kessler’s position to their command center.

Unable to secure the needed supplies at the Depot, the crew stops to hunt a deer for food. They find more than they bargained for–the lone and lost SS Officer Huber Gottfried. Gottfried, a junior SS officer, is partially responsible for the extermination of a small Russian village. He creates division among the crew driving a wedge between their camaraderie and teamwork. He’s a charming sociopath with a sadistic bent, an immoral compass, and the one actual dedicated Nazi in the story.

With the SS man onboard, the crew of “Ilsa” sees a huge hulk looming out of the Russian mists. It’s “Gustav” the giant siege gun built by the Krupp Munitions company in Germany. Its destruction later in this fictional version suggests what might have happened to this giant siege gun in its finals days.

“Ilsa” heads out across the ice lake where every creaking sound puts the crew’s nerves on edge. Along the way, they pass an eerie column of frozen and abandoned tanks, many sinking into the ice and jutting up at odd angles. Eventually, they come to rest for the night at an abandoned and half-destroyed church, where another disturbing night awaits them. While the crew beds down for the night, Kurt, the radio operator, has a jarring supernatural experience.

They are not alone. Out across the ice plain, the crew of the Tiger 1 tank, the one Kessler’s men encountered back at the Depot, is about to experience a more violent otherworldly event.

The next morning the crew wakens in a morning fog. Heinz, the loader, investigates a sound, and unearths an old Russian truck buried in the snow. However, off to the side in the fog, something else draws his attention. He calls out to the others, and they advance on a grisly sight, the crew of Tiger 1, the one they encountered back at the depot, all five are impaled on high spikes.

Before they can process this mayhem the sound of a Russian SU-100 killer tank seeps through the morning mist. It is accompanied by a white command tank, one from the previous encounters. In addition, Russian Partisans with rocket launchers emerge and a ferocious tank battle ensures.

After eluding the SU-100, “Ilsa” hurries into the woods, switches off her engines, and hides. There they discover the Russian Partisan they took inside during the battle is a woman, Nadia. The chain of command unravels with Kessler injured and unconscious. Then when Gottfried’s questioning of Nadia goes array things take a surprising twist when she unveils a grenade that she’s smuggled onboard.

Things become more desperate when out there somewhere, the arrival of the Creature takes the action to yet another level.

While Max and Heinz undertake repairs on “Ilsa,” Kurt and Wolfy venture on motorbike to the tank graveyard they passed earlier. There they find a replacement firing pin for their broken cannon. Barely escaping a frozen drowning from a sinking tank and roaming pack of wolves, Kurt plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Creature around of icy metal hulks.

Just in time, Wolfy rescues Kurt, but they loose the firing pin in the process. The two escape on the motorcycle and head back across the ice-plain to the tank, the Creature in hot pursuit.

Frantically racing to join up with Max, Heinz, and Gottfried at a repaired “Ilsa,” a perilous mid-ride transfer to the tank proves challenging with the vengeful Creature on their tail. When bullets, grenades, and rocket-launchers are thrown into the mix, Heinz and Wolfy are rapidly lost to the Creature.

The final showdown takes place at the giant siege cannon where demoralized remnants of the crew await rescue. Having discovered Kurt’s secret, Gottfried chooses to make his move atop the giant cannon. Unfortunately for Max, the Creature also makes its appearance and “Ilsa” is no more.

Kurt and Gottfried’s tense standoff is interrupted by the tortured whistling of the torn-apart King Tiger tracks and the final battle for survival is on. So ends the published synopsis. However, there has to be more and that’s why you’ll want to see this movie.

Pre-production

Putting this story into cinematic terms will be a challenging job. First off, the military hardware is a logistic nightmare. Accumulating the number of working tanks that are required for the battle scenes would be budget prohibited. Gary Kurtz told me there is only one working King Tiger tank and that is in War Museum, thus unavailable. He went on to say that Peter Jackson/ Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop would be building one. A Panzer 88 King Tiger weighs about 60 tons and the replica would weigh in at about 15 ton. By using lighter materials such as aluminum, plastics and fiber composites, the weight can be kept down, yet make it appear authentic. For cinematic purposes, this tank would appear fully operational.

Weta will also build the interior sets of the tank. Director Peter Briggs states that these interior sets would be placed on hydraulic ball joints to duplicate affect of movement across rough terrain. Currently, they are planing on building three interiors for the three models of tank they will be using. For “Ilsa” the set will have removable sections, which will allow camera access for full coverage of the tank’s interior. He also plans to use hand-held camera when in the mists of tank battles. There will also be some combination of jiggle/rack focus/45 degree shutter, possibly in conjunction with a C-G “shimmer” concussion blast. This, in combination with visual and sound effects will replicate much of the tank’s battle action.

A combination of C-G, miniatures, and green screen against realistic backgrounds will be used for much of the exterior scenes. For instance, the pursuit of “Ilsa” across the ice plain could be shot in Sweden using 1/4 scale tank in a live setting or in New Zealand with a cyclorama using the same miniatures. Moving plates would be C-G’d in for the background.

In such close-quarters, claustrophobia adds pressure to the crew. It becomes a story of five guys in a tin can who keep getting hit by the unforeseen. The director likens it the Das Boot where to survive; they must work as a team and not give in to their fears. However, in Panzer 88, the arrival of the SS officer creates disharmony and opens up those fears.

To mark the passage of time and distance, beauty shots of the terrain such as frozen waterfall, the abandoned hull of a capsized ship or the marvel of the Milky Way above them will be used. Another beauty shot considered is the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in the background as the tiny speck of the King Tiger tank moves across the Russian arctic landscape.

The Creature will be a hulked-up entity twice the size of a human being and will be a green screen digital composition to gain the right perspective with the other characters and military machinery. He might be creature in a suit, with facial and other CG replacement and sometimes 100% CG. Director says, “He’s a fairly fiery bad ass: he’s most definitely not indestructible, but you need to pour an awful lot at him to make a dent.”

Smoke, fog and snow will play a major part in the atmosphere of the film. They will play into the horror aspects of the film as they hold up a curtain of intrigue as to what’s waiting out there. Fake snow, green screen plates, and a healthy dose of manufactured sounds will round out the production filming. In addition, authentic looking costumes, uniforms, armor & weapons will likewise give the story that authentic lived-in look.

The budget for the film is reported to be around 40 million, which is a moderate amount for an independent film. Talks with stars such as Gary Oldman, Jay Barucchel along with Thomas Kretchman have been reported as casting possibilities. Liev Schreiber has all been mentioned.

I suspect that the film will be action driven with limited dialogue. Much of the drama plays out with maneuvers of the tanks, soldiers, and Russian partisans. However, the major force will be on the expressions of the crewmembers as they face one dilemma after another. Such coverage makes the film more action oriented and thus easily marketable to foreign territories.

While the crew is the protagonist of the film, the director does not see them as being sympathetic. It is more likely we will admire them for their professionalism and the dangers they overcome. They are innocent pawns who stumble across a chain of events that turns them from being warriors into becoming victims. They don’t understand why the Creature is obsessing on them. Yet, we understand the aims of the Creature and sympathize with it. This is the moral dilemma the audience will have to play with and will undoubtedly create considerable commentary among audiences as well as reviewers.

Marketing “Panzer 88”

Carnaby International, based out of London, will be the marketing/sales force behind the project and will shepherd its placement in domestic and international markets. Carnaby is an integrated independent production and sales company with the specific purpose of financing and producing British feature films. To date, Carnaby has produced and co-produced ten feature films. Panzer 88 will be a truly international film with cast, crew, locations, and facilities crossing many borders. The project is being presented at the Berlin Film Festival for additional pre-sale commitments.

Financing and marketing “Panzer 88” embarks on new territories in filmmaking. Few films have ventured into telling a story from the loser’s point of view, much less between Germany and Russia. Therefore, this film should attract an eager audience wanting to explore this slice of history.

In this story, no one wins. There are no heroes. Only victims of devouring ideologies. In a way, it might be considered a tragedy where we care, feel and identify with the tragic struggles of admirable characters. Thus, there is a high emotional connection between the story and the audience.

The 1981 movie Das Boot is a comparable film with a budget of 14 million and a worldwide box office of 85 million. Adjusted for inflation the budget would now be around 37.8 million and box office of 229.5 million. Das Boot is about a WWII German U-Boat crew facing the boredom, filth, and the sheer terror of a precarious mission. The similarity is uncanny and while the film did okay in the U.S., 11.4 million (30.8 adjusted), it did exceptionally well internationally.

In Das Boot, what I found appealing is the diversity of characters, their wants and emotions. It wasn’t just about the mission; it was about compelling characters dealing with one crisis after another, each in their own way. They dealt with moral issues, family issues, mechanical problems, and their internal fears. With such characters, we strongly identify.

Similar characters are found in “Panzer 88,” as they too must deal with the same issues. While many WW2 films glamorize war measuring success by territory gained or the number of casualties inflicted, we rarely see the brutal carnage inflicted or the horrors experienced by the participants. Panzer 88 has an opportunity to show the realistic side of military action and bring a new dimension to such films. The mission is secondary; survival of the team becomes paramount in Panzer 88.

All these elements will draw audiences to this film, its story, its characters, and its dimension of horror. Another element is the realization of this story, the photography, the military hardware, locations, and the computer graphics. The way these are incorporated into a seamless story line that informs, entertains, scares us, and most of all, tugs at our heartstrings. These are my expectations for “Panzer 88.”

Extras

One thing viewers will look forward to is the behind the scenes video. This is a complicated and imaginative production and how it came together will be of emense interest to its audience. Interviews with the stars and the production team will display the many aspects of producing a film of this magnitude and the tremendous efforts behind it.

Links to online photos and sketches can be found at Panzer 88 Movie – Google Search and Facebook.com/Panzer88Movie.

This is a movie, whose concept is grounded in imaginative databases. It has a creative team that is highly capable of using these innovative tools to create a masterpiece. Panzer 88″ will be a monster hit the world over because it has a universal story, compelling characters, intense action, unique concept and a highly professional team behind it.

CREDITS: Proposed cast includes Gary Oldman, Jay Barucchel, Liev Schreiber, and Thomas Kretchman. Director-Peter Briggs; Writers-Peter Briggs, James Cowen and Aaron Mason; Producers-Gary Kurtz, Andrew Loveday, and Priscilla Ross,; Art Director- Kim Sinclair; Production Manager-Philip Sharpe; First Assistant Director-Richard Matthews. Casting Director-Steve Daly; Art Department: Armor & Weapons-Matt Appleton; Supervisor: Weta Workshop-Robert Gillies; Concept Artist-Stuart Jennett; Head Creature Designer-Paul J. Mendoza; Design & Effects Supervisor-Richard Taylor; Concept Artist-A. J. Trahan; Sound Department: Supervising Sound Editor-Mike Hopkins; Sound Designer-Dave Whitehead. Special Effects Department: Special Effects Supervisor-Steve Ingram; Visual Effects Director of Photography-Alex Funke; Special Effects-Weta Workshop. Studio Facilities-Stone Street Studios. Panzer 88 was slated to go into production March 2014. No revised date has been published.

Critical Mass on the Russian Internet

The Internet holding Rambler Media is known to every Russian-speaking user of the World Wide Web. It’s the first and the oldest Russian search engine. Search, news, an introductions service, mail on rambler.ru, the famous Lenta.ru, the goods catalogue on price.ru – for many years all these maintained Rambler as the market leader on the net. However, in the last few years, the company has been losing turnover. Certainly, the company has remained in the top three companies on the Russian net – Yandex, Rambler and Mail.ru – but reliance on old projects has become harder and harder to sustain, and fireworks from new ones – except the purchase of a block of shares in the contextual advertising company Begun – have not been remarkable. Their TV channel brought a series of losses, and was consequently sold. Mobile content initially generated decent profits, but then also began to stagnate. This spring, the company witnessed a change of all its top management. We invited one of the new team, Artur Akop’yan, Financial Director for the Rambler Media Group, to an online interview.

1. Can Rambler at last become competitive and marketable? Will it at last be possible to be proud of the company? Why does Rambler, unlike Yandex, not sell a full range of contextual advertising? How are you going to position Rambler?

– Rambler is a multi-service information Internet-portal offering a wide range of opportunities for work, information searching, communication and entertainment in the modern world. Rambler should be a portal that’s convenient and interesting to use every day. As for marketability, the company’s core business, its Internet division, has been profitable for several years already. In the future, we hope to bring you a number of pleasant surprises, so that you can be genuinely proud of us. We see our task as being to retain Rambler’s market position. Our priority is to increase traffic and the number of users, and also to improve the quality of our services.

2. How successful do you consider the existence of the Rambler-TV television channel? Has the investment justified expectations?

– From a purely financial perspective, Rambler-TV was very successful. We sold it at a significant profit (in January 2007 a deal was finalized for the sale of the channel to Prof-Media Holding for $23 million, the initial investment was considerably less). The question of expectations in terms of audience ratings is not so relevant for us now. In 2006, Rambler’s board of directors took the decision to focus exclusively on Internet development and, in that context, the sale of non-core business has been very successful.

3. Right now, hundreds of new companies are trying to “catch the spirit of Web2.0”, to “create a social network”, and are generally full of hope that a start-up in this field is going to garner then success. As a financial expert, and as a representative of one of the leading Internet companies in Russia, could you give your considered opinion on the prospects of such start-ups?

– As far as source of income goes, in a market like Russia’s, the preference for business models connected with profit from advertising is going to be with us for a long time. For Rambler, and for other major players, it will be a long time before other means of attracting income (including direct provision of services), play more than an utterly insignificant role in our financial results. As a financier, when I hear of yet another plan to “create a social network”, the main question that I want to ask is: how deep are the investors’ pockets for this project?

4. I’ve got an idea for an Internet project, but surely if I take it to web-development specialists there’s a good chance that they’ll develop my idea without me, or work with me, but then create a clone, a perfected version, already knowing all the plusses and minuses of my project. How can I protect myself from outcomes like this? What is the minimal sum needed to create an Internet portal from nothing, and are there financial structures that might actually be interested in start-ups?

– As I see it, at the current stage of market evolution, to create an Internet portal from nothing, especially a portal for a large public with a horizontal line of services, is practically impossible, or at least demands the investment of tens of millions of dollars. On the hand, it’s possible to develop a specialized service with the outlay of only a few tens of thousands of dollars. There are investors of that type right now, but, as far as I can tell, there are far more people interested in investing than there are realistic projects. As to your question about the protections of ideas: certainly there is that type of risk, and it all depends of the choice of partner. I should add, however, that it’s very rare to find a project that is genuinely unique, and that offers something that can’t be found anywhere else or can’t be realized by other people.

5. It’s often said today that there’s more money in the Internet than there are interesting ideas, and that all more or less interesting projects are snapped up. If that’s true, then what types of buyer are there around? What kinds of site generate buyer interest? Do the current profits of a project have decisive significance, or are the idea itself and the prospects for development more important?

– It’s almost impossible to give a clear classification of the types of investor. Individual investors can be swayed by current profitability or by future prospects. To answer that question would require separate research. I’d like to warn against following general trends. There has been a lot of talk recently about social networks, about blogs, about instant-messaging systems and Internet messengers. In fact, the market for such resources is already saturated. The pioneers in that market have already had the chance to take the pickings, or to sell out to the biggest players, and further new investment in that type of project is pointless.

6. What do you think about SEO (search engine optimization)? How long will it take for search engines to come up with a personalized information search on the Internet, which will take into account individual requirements, search history, etc. And will that not spell the end for SEO?

– There have been several estimates given recently for the size of the market in search-result optimization. According to some of them, it has reached $50 million dollars per year in Russia and the CIS. It’s a big industry. The battle between the human intellect and search engines reminds somewhat of the chess games with artificial intelligence (the battles between Kasparov or Kramnik and Deep Fritz or Deep Blue). Obviously, search engines are going to get more intelligent and more relevant through personalization (through narrower settings around users’ interests), through more intelligent setting of parameters, through better quality filtration of spam (doorways), and through a host of other algorithms. But it’s a little too optimistic to predict the end for search optimization. It’ll get harder for them, but there will still be opportunities for flashes of human intellect.

7. What do you think of advertising on blogs, and how good are the prospects for this sector?

– It is possible to make money from your own blog, but not much. I would point to three basic means: contextual advertising, hidden marketing and sponsorship. For personal blogs in Russia, as a rule we’re talking about tens or, in the best case, hundreds of dollars per year. As an example, take the recent noisy announcement of a contract between Soup Fabrik and Alfa-Bank ($50,000). Obviously, the commercial potential for that type of project can’t be compared with the opportunities or budgets for media, banner or contextual advertising. There is only really potential for projects that have existed for more than a few years and have a strong original concept with specific content. Good examples are Alex Eksler’s original project, where there are always numerous commercial advertisements. Also, Internet Things, the authors of which are looking for “favorite sponsors”. Secret marketing is, of course, secret, so it’s impossible to point to definite examples of its successful use. Although you could use the example of the recent post on the Norwegian Woodsman’s blog about the Macdonald’s factory. Most bloggers think of him as a hippy. There is an enormous public living in the blogosphere and, undoubtedly, that public is interesting to advertisers. But it’s still questionable whether or not there exist the tools or even the spaces to meet the requirements of those advertisers.

8. How much longer are the prices for banner advertising going to continue rising?

– The Internet in Russia is only just beginning to develop, growth for Internet access penetration is forecast for the next five to six years, but it’s already realistic to talk about the Internet having reached a critical mass to be of interest to advertisers. For now it is only 1.6% of general advertising budgets, while in developed countries that figure is closer to 5-6%. That suggests great potential for growth. Rambler is trying to unbalance the market by unnecessarily increasing prices for advertising. Nonetheless, thanks to the growth in our audience and the increase in interest in our advertising users, we have been able gradually and slowly to increase the price for a thousand displays.

9. What is the growth potential for regional and highly specialized segments on the Internet? Will they be able to escape from the shadow of big-budget projects like yours? As far as I can tell, they have two possible paths of expansion – to stop being targeted or to come under the umbrella of the strongest players on the Russian Internet.

– Highly specialized projects can live very well in their niche, if their concept is in demand. If the project is a copy of some competitor’s and there is a strong desire to beat them, then the deciding factor is really the support of the portal. Regional projects are a different matter. In many respects, they exist in a different world. In fact, it’s less that they need the portals, and more that the portals need them to increase their penetration in the provinces. From an economic point of view, access to regional and to national traffic in the regions is slowly leveling out, although nothing is going to change the fact that local resources know their area better, and that makes them more interesting to local users. The local listings business (a good American example would be Craigslist), undoubtedly has a definite potential. Neither Rambler, nor Microsoft, nor Yahoo! are capable of, or interested in, providing an information resource for the timetable of turning off the hot-water supply in Ussuriysk. And there are users who want not only to take pride in Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, but also to find suburban train timetables for their local station, and cinema listings for their neighborhood. A resource like Rambler should consolidate those resources – through searches, through special projects, and through promotion. But we don’t want to swallow up all regional resources and, what’s more, we can’t.

UK Mortgage Market Review

The Mortgage Market Review

Getting a mortgage is no longer as straightforward as it used to be and is increasingly becoming difficult. Add to this, the difficulty of raising a sufficient deposit. Unfortunately, it may become more challenging to get a mortgage from 26 April 2014 when new rules come into effect, commonly known as the Mortgage Market Review or MMR.

Background to the Mortgage Market Review

Partly due to the property boom, in particular 2005 to 2007; and the severe financial consequences faced by some; the Financial Services Authority conducted a full review of the mortgage market as highlighted in its discussion paper of October 2009. In particular, the Financial Services Authority looked at the regulatory framework to ensure that risky and sometimes, irresponsible borrowing of the boom years is a thing of the past and that consumers are better protected.

Shelter fully supports the changes. Interestingly, in Shelter’s Consultation Response it highlights that the “FSA’s own data shows that nearly half of mortgagor households have either no money or a shortfall after living costs and housing costs, a stark statistic which further highlights the extent of our affordability crisis.”

The Mortgage Market Review Implementation

Buy to let is not affected by the Mortgage Market Review and buy to let lending remains unregulated. The Mortgage Market Review only applies to residential mortgages.

Borrowers will need to satisfy lenders of their income. Effectively, an end to self-certified UK residential mortgages which were popular in the boom years. Evidence of income must be provided by all borrowers.

A significant change is a move away from income multiples in assessing how much a borrower can lend to strong affordability checks to check expenditure versus income to see if a borrower can really afford the mortgage applied for.

Any application for an interest only mortgage will also require the lender to delve a bit deeper than simply taking the word of the borrower. Lenders will looks closely at the proposed repayment strategy and its credibility.

With some exceptions, all face to face and telephone mortgage sales must be on an advised basis (in a nutshell, this where the borrower is advised on the best mortgage).

Some lenders have already announced their changes whilst other have already implemented their new stricter lending policies.

Conclusion

The Council of Mortgage Lenders Director General, Paul Smee, states:

“The introduction of MMR regulation will bring the largest change to how the mortgage market works in over a decade. The industry has shown that it is ready, and we anticipate a smooth transition into the new framework. We hope and expect the new rules will provide a robust and stable framework for the long term. We hope that any transition issues can be managed in a way which minimises their impact on the borrower, and the CML is ready to assist the FCA in this task.”

The Council of Mortgage Lenders has been working closely with the Money Advice Service to produce online guides for anyone wanting to apply for a residential mortgage under the new rules.

The Mortgage Market Review is designed to protect consumers. Borrowers should check revised lending criteria that applies from 26 April 2014, be prepared for a longer mortgage application process compared to previously and should be fully prepared to provide evidence of income and expenditure.

Debtors Can’t Be Hoarders

To some people, great art is more important than anything, including food and shelter.

For most of us, though, no matter how moving we find a piece of artwork, the choice between parting with it and meeting our basic needs would really be no choice at all.

The conflict between preserving culture and survival has recently played out on a national scale. Portugal, a country that remains desperately short of cash, partnered with Christie’s to prepare 85 pieces of art by Spanish surrealist Joan Miro for auction this month. However, in part due to the efforts of Portugal’s Socialist Party to challenge the sale, Christie’s withdrew the art just hours before the planned London auction. Even though the High Court in Lisbon dismissed the challenge, the auction house still cited concerns about legal complications that could affect future ownership rights.

The incident has been an embarrassment for Portugal and also leaves the government in a bind. Jorge Barreto Xavier, Portugal’s secretary of state for culture, said the government would have to consider next steps. “If we want to hold onto these works, we will have to find money for them somewhere,” he said, possibly in the form of additional cuts to the already slim budgets for education or health. (1)

The Banco Portugues de Negocios, the bank that formerly owned the artwork, was nationalized in 2008. The bank purchased the Miro collection from a Japanese investor in 2006; the collection was never displayed in Portugal. Though The Wall Street Journal reported that it is not yet certain whether the works will be auctioned by Christie’s in May or if they are destined for another fate, Portuguese opponents of the sale have lauded Christie’s decision as a cultural triumph anyway.

Pedro Lapa, the art director of Lisbon’s Berardo Museum, said “The Portuguese people should have the right to keep and enjoy what is now theirs.” (2)

His sentiment is understandable but deeply misguided. Portugal still relies on other members of the European Union, and other international sources, for support. But somehow it has become vital that this collection of artwork remain in the hands of the government, which never set out to acquire it in the first place.

If it is truly of great importance to the people of Portugal to retain this art, and if they would rather pay higher taxes, forego even more services or sell some other government property instead in order to keep it, that decision is their business. I don’t object. But it seems crazy to imagine that most of the people who have suffered through five years of crushing austerity will say their government’s top priority should be to collect artwork on their behalf.

The channel of art from private collection to collapsing bank to government to auction, in all its variations, is nothing new. The Bank of Ireland was among several Irish banks to sell their art collections during the height of that country’s recent austerity. Seized artwork from a collapsed South Korean bank went to auction in 2012. But the gap between critics’ reaction and financial reality is most closed mirrored by a situation here in the United States.

As part of its bankruptcy proceedings, Detroit hired Christie’s to appraise the value of the portion of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection owned by the city. The auction house valued the 1,741 works of art in question between $421.5 million and $805 million. Some of the city’s creditors claimed this was a low-ball estimate. Either way, it is dwarfed by Detroit’s $18 billion debt.

Detroit is literally broke, making its situation even more outrageous than that of Portugal. The city barely functions. A lot of people to whom Detroit owes money are not going to get paid in full, or anywhere close. It is the duty of the bankruptcy court to get creditors paid as much as reasonably possible while allowing the debtor to clear the slate and go on with life.

Art lovers who have visions of Detroit someday becoming a world-class city again are loath to part with the city’s collection. But when the streetlights don’t work, ambulances don’t come and pensioners don’t get paid, it is at best a case of grossly warped priorities to insist on holding the art.

If some wealthy philanthropist – or a group of them – wanted to buy the art at fair market value and arrange to lend it to the DIA indefinitely, or establish or endow an independent museum in Detroit to house the art, that would be a great answer. There would be nothing more to talk about.

For now, a group of private foundations has stepped forward to try to preserve the art. Instead of purchasing it from the city, however, the group would pledge its funds toward Detroit’s pension obligations directly in exchange for the city leaving the art alone. So far, the foundations have pledged $370 million – not enough to meet even low end of Christie’s estimate. Officials at the museum have pledged to raise an additional $100 million, and Gov. Rick Snyder has asked the state Legislature to provide $350 million to reduce possible pension cuts and, at the same time, leave the museum’s art collection whole.

Art is important, but it is hard to argue that it is more important than reducing Detroit’s 58-minute average 911 response time or meeting its pension obligations, believed to be underfunded by up to $3.5 billion. Any outcome that leaves Detroit’s artwork in the hands of a city that can’t afford to maintain it, much less do without its value, or that underpays the city for what the art is worth and thus underpays the city’s citizens and creditors, would be almost grotesquely unjust.

Being broke has consequences. One is that you have to liquidate some assets and carefully set your priorities. Debtors can’t afford to be hoarders.

Sources:

1) The Washington Post, “Legal concerns foil Portugal’s art sale ambitions”

2) The Wall Street Journal, “Christie’s Pulls Auction of Joan Miró Art After Uproar”

Can a Property Buyer Really Help You Financially?

The property market can always be a difficult area to follow. With the predicted increase of UK house prices by 7 per cent over 2014, many buyers are looking to invest. But what does this mean for home owners and sellers? As a home owner this means now is the best time to sell.

With more people desperate to buy, home owners and sellers can look to sell their properties for as much as 95% of asking price whereas on average sellers tend to sell for as little as 80% of asking price. This benefits any home owner you can gain more for your property than before. Home owners can also expect to achieve a quick house sale.

Although property prices have been increasing steadily over the recent months; studies show that the rate of property transactions have not increased at all. This means that despite the recent surge in property prices, the amount of sales has not increased which could prove worrying over the coming years. The fact is, mortgages are harder to gain and the government scheme ‘Help to buy’ has yet to be seen.

“House prices and the number of transactions remain well off their pre-crisis peak: we are not seeing an all-consuming bubble with prices running out of control and buyers snapping up anything at any price.” Said Nicholas Ayre, managing director of Home Fusion.

Many property experts are predicting a house price bubble. This means even if the prices are increasing now, there is a chance that property values will eventually decline and crash.

So how can a property buyer help you? A property buyer can help you in many ways, the first being landing you a large sum of money. With mortgage interest rates increasing, a property buyer can help to take away any mortgage payments you may currently have and save you from any debts. If you are looking to sell your house fast, there is no better time than now. Selling now will help you to avoid a housing bubble and help you gain maximum value for your property. With some buyers offering cash for property, there is no reason to wait. Selling now ensures a safer route out of any debts and mortgage payments giving you a comfortable future.

To summarise, rising house prices aren’t always a good thing. With recent problems in the British economy, many people are struggling; with wages at a standstill. Many people are stuck with low equity and are unable to progress. Increase in property prices in the short term may help, but with the fears of a possible house price bubble, it is advisable to not to take any risks. If a thought on your mind is “buy our house”, then look into a property buyer.

Jobs in the Film Industry

If you are looking for a career in the film industry, you are looking at a pretty competitive business. The good news is that many people are getting jobs in this area, even when the economy is suffering from a slump, because entertainment is the one thing people still spend money on during tough times. Here are a few statistics pertaining to careers in film.

In recent years, theater admissions did decline, but it seems that the year 2006 ended a three year downward trend because admissions increased three.3 percent over 2005. Revenues from ticket sales increased by 5.Close to 5 percent, making 2006 a $9.49 billion year. Movies released in 2006 were up 607, marking an 11 percent increase over the number of releases in 2005.

If you want to learn how to be a director or a producer the latest published data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the film industry provided 157,000 jobs for actors, directors and producers in 2004. This number is expected to grow between 9-17 percent by the year 2014.

In 2002, there were about 360,000 jobs in the motion picture and video industries, but most of these workers were involved in the production end of film making. There are many companies in the industry employ 10 workers or less. The good news is that a 31.1 percent increase in jobs is expected industry-wide between the years 2002 and 2012. This growth is about twice the 16 percent growth expected across all industries combined over the same timeframe.

How much money can you can make by getting a job in the film industry? It seems that median annual earnings for salaried producers and directors, were about $46,240 in 2002. And if you were really good, and lucky, the top ten percent earned over $119,760.

Those who are really serious about a career in the film business should take a look at programs with film mentor teachers from inside the industry, which takes you out of the classroom of some film schools in colleges and onto real movie sets. This is how and where you’ll learn by doing while you apprentice, one-on-one with a mentor, or by working with a professional – a producer, actor, or a director – in the area of film that you want to study. There are plenty of Los Angeles film schools, and even New York film schools, and many in between in just about any major city in the U.S., but the reality is that in order to really “break into the film business” you will benefit by studying with a working professional.

The reality is that no matter what the economy has in store, or what the job market statistics come in at — if you really want to work in the entertainment or film industry, the best way to do it is to learn your skills from a mentor in the entertainment industry who will help you get a job once you graduate.

The Future of US Accounting – Similarities and Differences Between GAAP and IFRS

The United Sates will begin the switch from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles(GAAP) to International Financial Reporting Standards(IFRS) in 2014. This transition will bring significant changes in the way accountants treat, record, report, and interpret financial and other relevant industry information within U.S. and foreign companies. It is therefore important, before we begin to learn accounting in practice according to IFRS, that we inform ourselves about the key similarities and differences between GAAP and IFRS. Thorough research of web articles concludes that both systems of accounting have numerous similarities but have significantly more differences. Once completed, convergence will break down the accounting standards translation barriers that domestic and foreign firms currently have among their accounting processes and lead to harmonization in the accounting world.

Today, the majority of United States’ businesses are involved in overseas markets and most foreign companies are already using IFRS. The Securities Exchange commission has recognized this and released a statement in support, in February of 2010, of the need for a universal, unified set of accounting standards to be followed, and that IFRS is the best suited set of standards to take on that role. The SEC also developed a road map to achieve this task of convergence and plans to make a final decision in 2011 regarding the definite incorporation of IFRS into the United States. The recent economic recession that affected the majority of the world is one such reason a global set of accounting standards is in need. Many worldwide capital markets were affected by the recession and this only strengthens the argument of the need for a unified set of accounting standards. The convergence of IFRS and GAAP will unify all companies in a common financial reporting language and will iron out any differences domestic and foreign firms encountered in the past. Before this convergence begins, it is important to have a discussion of a few of the major similarities and differences between IFRS and GAAP regarding the Financial Statements, Inventories, and Revenue Recognition so that we may begin to understand how greatly this convergence effort will affect us as U.S. GAAP users.

Before any interested party can begin to examine the internal workings of a company they usually begin in the same place, the financial statements. Financial statements are useful for a multitude of reasons to investors, creditors, directors, internal and external managers etc. and comparability of foreign and domestic financial statements is essential to the modern business. Fortunately, IFRS and GAAP already consider the same financial statements to be the accepted standard for reporting. Under both systems, the preferred statements are: the Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Other Comprehensive Income Statement which is called the Statement of Recognized Income and Expense under the IFRS system, the Statement of Cash Flows, and the Notes to the Financial Statements. Both frameworks require the accrual method of accounting be used with the exception for the Statement of Cash Flows. Both frameworks however, have their significant differences. GAAP allow comparative statements be issued or even a single year in some cases. The balance sheet must be presented with the two most recent years as a comparison and all other statements must cover a three-year period based upon the balance sheet date. Under IFRS, all reports must be released comparatively with the previous period. A standard layout of the balance sheet and the income statement is not necessary under GAAP however, public companies must follow specific rules. Under IFRS, there is no standard layout, just a list of minimum items that must be disclosed. Balance sheets under GAAP must present debt to be paid in more than one year as a long-term liability while IFRS requires all debt to be classified as current unless the agreement to pay the debt was made prior to the balance sheet date. Under GAAP, expenses are classified according to function. IFRS allows expenses to be classified according to function or nature of such expense. Extraordinary items must be unusual and infrequent in occurrence to be included in GAAP income statements whereas extraordinary items are prohibited under IFRS. This is certainly not an all-inclusive list of the differences between the financial statements under both of the frameworks. It is clear to see though, how even the slightest differences between a set of two financial statements, one IFRS and one GAAP, could lead a user of such statements into a troubling situation.

Most businesses in the U.S. and worldwide all have one aspect in common, inventories. Luckily, the basis for valuing inventory under IFRS and GAAP is cost. They both define inventory as assets held for sale in the ordinary course of business, in the process of production for such sale, or to be consumed in the production of goods or services. The cost of inventory is also supported by the money that was spent readying inventory for sale, such as freight-in. Likewise, the two standards have their differences when it comes to reporting inventories. Under GAAP, any cost method can be used for inventories whereas IFRS prohibits LIFO and requires the same costing method be applied to all inventory similar in nature. GAAP requires inventory be measured at the lower of cost or market value. IFRS states that inventory must be measured at the lower of cost or net realizable value. There are several more issues to deal with regarding inventories, in particular mark-down reversals of inventory under each system are different. There are currently no ongoing convergence efforts regarding inventory by the FASB and IASB.

The most important asset to a business, many say, is cash. Without cash the business will be in trouble when it comes time to pay off debts, make any capital expenditures, or simply get lines of credit. One of the ways of getting cash is from revenue into the business. Revenue is defined as the gross inflow of economic benefits during the period arising in the course of the ordinary activities of the entity when those inflows result in increases in equity except increases in equity from distributions from owners.

Under both sets of standards, revenue is not recognized until it is earned or realized(or realizable). When discussing the sale of goods, GAAP requires that there is a legal transfer of ownership and the goods have been delivered at a set price and the seller can reasonable expect payment. Under IFRS, revenue can only be recorded when the risks and rewards of ownership are transferred and the buyer has control of the goods. When recording service revenue, GAAP does not allow any up front revenue recognition if the services are to be performed over a period of time. Such revenue must be amortized. IFRS does allow the option to record the revenue all at once even if the services will be performed over a period of time. In regards as to when to recognize revenue for contingencies, U.S. GAAP requires companies to wait until the contingency is resolved before they record any revenue. IFRS does allow for contingent revenue to be recorded as long as certain mandatory requirements are met. This presents a problem because a company using IFRS could potentially record revenue earlier than it actually received the inflow of assets, misleading users of financial statements.

As one can see just by viewing the similarities and differences among these three categories, the task of convergence is going to be quite challenging. The two sets of standards both have their logic in some areas yet have their downfalls in others. Convergence will benefit the United States in the sense that our financial statements will be much more easily compared to foreign companies’. Though it may take some time and money to be completely unified in our financial reporting, the benefit to global accounting harmonization far outweighs the cost.

Semiconductor Industry Sales Overview – 2013

According to a report from the Semiconductor Industry Association, worldwide semiconductor sales in 2013 totaled $305.6 billion, hitting an annual record. This was an increase of 4.8% from 2012 sales of $291.6 billion.

Brian Toohey, president and CEO of SIA, reports that this is the first time that the global semiconductor industry exceeded $300 billion in sales for the first time ever, spurred by robust sales growth across nearly all regions and all product segments. Toohey notes that the industry finished the year with the strongest December sales on record, an indication that this momentum is likely to carry over to this year.

Toohey also adds that the semiconductor is becoming ubiquitous and is present in many products, from the home, the car, and mobiles. This indicates a favorable position for the semiconductor industry.

The SIA report indicated that total chip sales for the fourth quarter of 2013 came to $79.9 billion, which was 7.7% higher than the $74.2 billion reported in the fourth quarter of the previous year. In December 2013 alone, chip sales totaled $26.6 billion, which was an increase of 17.3% from December 2012.

The American market showed the biggest growth in sales, exhibiting an increase of 13.1% in its annual semiconductor sales. Europe and the Asia Pacific region also showed increases of 5.2% and 7.0%, respectively. However, sales in Japan actually suffered and decreased by 15.2%, part of which is due to the devaluation of the Japanese yen.

Falan Yinug, SIA director of industry statistics and economic policy, says that Japan has been artificially devaluating the yen in order to stimulate exports, leading to lower sales in the Japanese market, but there could be better growth this year. On the other hand, Europe’s sales had been suffering in 2012 and in the first half of 2013, but the numbers showed that the market there is already recovering.

Among the industry segments, memory was the fastest growing with sales increasing 17.6% in 2013. DRAM performed well in the memory segment, with its sales increasing by 33.3%, while NAND flash also showed strong growth with an 8.1% increase. Optoelectronic products and analog also showed positive growth, with annual sales increases of 5.3% and 2.1%, respectively.

It’s still too early to say whether the record sales is significant in itself as semiconductor sales has fluctuated yearly since 2008. However, even as industry sales remain cyclical, the extreme numbers are slowing down and are being replaced by numbers indicating small but steady growth as the semiconductor industry matures.

A Deutsche Bank Market Research release expects that growth in the industry would accelerate to 8% in 2014, but this projection has already been discounted by many sectors within the industry itself, such as analog and PLDs.

In contrast, the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization forecast a more consistent market growth for this year as well as in 2015, projecting sales of up to $317 billion in 2014 and $328 billion by 2015.

Films That Race to the Finish

It used to be that films about car racing catered to a specific audience, mostly young and predominantly male. But recently, car racing films have tried to reach across the aisle and bring in more female fans. With more complex plots and terrific action sequences, car racing films have grown in popularity in recent years.

Much is expected of a new biopic film released in September 2013. “Rush” tells the story of the Formula One rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the mid-1970s. Directed by acclaimed American master Ron Howard, the film is a joint production effort between Universal Pictures (United States), StudioCanal (United Kingdom), and Pathé Productions (France). Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl take on the roles of Hunt and Lauda, respectively. The film was released to critical acclaim, with many calling “Rush” the best sports drama film in a long while. Apart from “Rush,” there have been many other car racing films that have achieved success at the box office. Some of the most memorable are elaborated upon in greater detail below.

“Days of Thunder”

Directed by the late Tony Scott, “Days of Thunder” features Tom Cruise teaming up with “Top Gun” director Scott once again. The film, which also stars Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall, and Cary Elwes, follows the fortunes of a young NASCAR racing driver, Cole, played by Cruise. The early part of the film sees Cole and his archrival Rowdy Burns battle it out on the racetrack. At the Firecracker 400 in Daytona, each of them suffers major injuries from crashes that bring them together in the process. Cole takes longer to recover than Rowdy, and as a result he is shut out from the racing team. After Rowdy suffers another accident, Cole is allowed to get back on the race track. The final race is the Daytona 500, in which Cole overcomes the new hotshot Russ Wheeler to become the new champion. Film critics were mostly positive about the film, but some called it “Top Gun” on wheels.

“The Fast and the Furious”

The first film of what ultimately became the most successful car racing film series of all time, “The Fast and the Furious” showcases the very best street racing has to offer. Director Rob Cohen got the inspiration to make the film after reading a magazine article about street racing in New York City. Featuring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Michelle Rodriguez among others, the film follows the fortunes of LAPD officer Brian O’Connor (Walker), who is tasked with going undercover to infiltrate a street-racing gang led by Dom (Diesel). The pair forms an unlikely friendship, and they engage in an impromptu street race at the end that O’Connor wins.

The film was mostly panned by the film critics, but this feeling was not shared by many moviegoers. “The Fast and the Furious” became a commercial success worldwide, making back almost five times its production budget. Film executives were so pleased that a sequel was ordered, followed by another a few years later. Twelve years after the original, the series is still going strong, with six films produced so far. Another film is scheduled for release in the summer of 2014; it will be called “Fast & Furious 7.”

“Cars”

A computer-animated film, “Cars” was released in 2006 and surprised many experts in the film industry. The film was the last to be produced by Pixar before its takeover by Walt Disney Pictures. Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, and Tony Shalhoub lend their voices to some of the key characters in the film. “Cars” was widely praised by film critics, some calling it one of Pixar’s best films ever. The film also appeals to more than just kids, with viewers of all ages able to enjoy it. “Cars” held the number one spot at the U.S. box office for its first two weeks and made more than $450 million worldwide. This made it the highest grossing animated film in the United States for the year it was released.

The film was nominated for and won a plethora of awards during the 2006 awards season. Walt Disney was so pleased by the response to the film that it produced a sequel, “Cars 2,” five years after the original. Also, a spin-off called “Planes” was released in the summer of 2013, and some short animated films known as “Cars Toons” have been airing over the last five years. Retail merchandise from the film helped break several retail sales records for a Disney Pixar film, with some estimating that the franchise has brought in an additional $10 billion since its release in merchandising sales alone.