Elderly people borrow more from savings banks, private lenders

The elderly in South Korea are increasingly turning to savings banks or smaller private lenders despite relatively high interest rates, data showed Monday.

Outstanding loans extended by local savings banks to people aged 60 or older totaled 218.2 billion won ($188 million) at the end of last year, up 41.32 percent from a year earlier, according to Rep. Min Byung-doo of the Democratic Party.

Labrador Iron Mines Holdings Limited leaves CCAA protection

On Feb. 28, Labrador Iron Mines Holdings Limited (LIM) reported its financial results for the quarter ending in December and the news is good.

According to a release from the company, it reported a net income of $72.1 million or $0.55 per share, mainly attributable to a restructuring recovery of $47.1 million and reassessed value of their assets equaling $25.5 million.

The company had been working under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act, which allows corporations the opportunity to restructure their company to avoid bankruptcy.

Under that legislation, a company submits a Plan of Arrangement, which LIM did on Dec. 16 of last year. Following that, claims totaling approximately $75 million (in addition to approximately $293 million of intercompany claims) were extinguished in exchange for equity and most of the Company’s debts disappeared.

The $25.5 million came from a management assessment of the company’s mineral property based on the value of the company’s projects. The rising price of iron ore was another factor, LIM said.

“The price of iron ore doubled during 2016, reaching a two-year high of USD $80 per tonne in November,” the release said. “Since the new year prices have moved higher, almost touching the USD $100 per tonne mark, the highest level since mid-2014. By February 2017, the price of iron ore was up more than 90 per cent from the near decade lows experienced in December 2015.”

They are now free of the CCAA proceedings, debt free and with ownership and value of business and core assets maintained.

The release said they are now positioned to develop mining operations from the Houston direct shipping iron ore project when market conditions permit, subject to completion of development financing.

LIM worked in the James Mine and Silver Yards plant in 2011 and is engaged in the mining, exploration and development of direct shipping deposits located in the Schefferville/Menihek region of the Labrador Trough. They stopped work in 2014 due to the dipping price of ore.

Hope runs high to retain prized EPA brownfields program

Editors note:The fourth to last paragraph of this article was updated in full on March 21, 2017, to correct information about the financial status of MassDevelopments brownfields program.

PITTSFIELD — For a developer, there was a lot not to like about buildings in North Adams.

Take the floorboards. Years of industrial use at the Greylock Mill along Route 2 — a former 240,000-square-foot factory space — left wood contaminated with petroleum.

That gave Salvatore Perry pause, as development director for Latent Products. But today, the New York companys vision for GreylockWorks is moving ahead, with an event space set to open this fall.

Concern about contamination led Perry to Melissa Provencher at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission in Pittsfield. Since 2004, Provencher has worked to use brownfields funding from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to get properties with dirty histories off the disabled list.

After a 15-minute call with her, it was clear there was a desire and a precedent, Perry told The Eagle.

It delivered an epiphany, he said. The project could be done after all.

Its been critical, absolutely critical, Perry said of brownfields funding received through the commission.

Around Berkshire County, municipalities and developers tell similar stories.

But the future of the EPAs 22-year-old brownfields program is uncertain.

Recently, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told a gathering of mayors he values the work the grant program does to assess and fix environmental problems that stand in the way of new uses for old industrial properties.

At the same time, though, a White House budget proposal that emerged would cut EPA grants to states by nearly a third and potentially zero out brownfields money, according to the Washington Post.

GUARDED OPTIMISM

The programs uncertain future concerns Provencher and other municipal officials in the Berkshires, a region home to many sidelined factories and polluted commercial sites.

In his session with mayors, Pruitt invited people to speak in support of keeping the brownfields campaign going.

We plan to do that. We hope that will help to spare the program, Provencher said. Were cautiously optimistic that Scott Pruitt has said its a program worth saving and is willing to fight for.

In its 13 years, the commissions brownfields program has distributed $5,675,000 in EPA grants to 36 sites in the county. It has $1.4 million in pending applications to the EPA that Provencher believes to be secure.

But it has spent all of its regional assessment funding and is awaiting grant decisions due in May or June.

Its been a successful program, and an important program, Provencher said. But its a small fraction of what we could have done. It really depends on what our federal government does.

Nate Joyner, permitting coordinator in Pittsfields office of Community Development, said the city has often tapped brownfields funding, including work to clean up contaminated soil at the site of a new Dewey Avenue park alongside a narrow reach of the Housatonic River.

The city recently landed a $350,000 grant directly from the EPA to assess the extent of contamination at the site of a former dry cleaners at 35 Federal St. The grant will enable the city to gauge environmental hazards that remain after the propertys demolition.

Joyner said that without the EPA support, the city would simply not know about hidden hazards — keeping a barrier up against possible future use.

Theres quite a bill associated with these activities, he said of cleanups. It allows work that otherwise would not get done. They are critical for redeveloping these old spaces.

He noted that as a former property developer, President Donald Trump may appreciate what the brownfields program achieves.

Im hoping it hits a soft spot with this administration, Joyner said. But its Congress making these decisions — and they have sharp axes.

BRINGING SITES BACK

Jennifer Tabakin, town manager in Great Barrington, said brownfields money is helping her community remove a stain from a prime development site — also a former dry cleaners.

Solvents used for decades at the former Reid Cleaners are believed to have contaminated the soil, discouraging many prospective buyers. The vacant property, still owned by the Reid family, has been on the market for years, Tabakin said, and is a choice location for redevelopment in the economically vibrant community.

To help address the stalemate over contamination, the town landed a $95,000 grant from a brownfields assessment program run by the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, as well as backing from EPA funds overseen by the planning commission.

That work will enable prospective buyers to understand the environmental risks present, and to figure out the cost of removing them. Private lenders typically shun that work.

Our goal is to bring the site back into productive use, Tabakin said.

Continued backing from the EPA, she said, is essential.

We have many more needs that are not being met, she said. Wed like to see an increased commitment. Any remediation money the EPA can provide is critical for economic development.

Though the brownfields program deals with historical misuse of land, Tabakin and others note how vital it is to future uses.

We are not talking about sites that are not prime real-estate sites, Tabakin said. They will absolutely be developed. Its the public money that we need to step up. The return on it is huge. Its going to be good business.

Karla Rothstein, director of design for Latent Productions, who co-owns the firm with Perry, knows that firsthand from her work in North Adams.

The grants enable these sites to be productive and contribute to the future, she said.

NOT A REGULATOR

As the Trump administration takes aim at what it sees as burdensome regulations, backers of the brownfields program stress that it awards money, not penalties.

The state Department of Environmental Protection handles regulatory work at contaminated sites in Massachusetts.

Aside from spurring development in a region hungry for economic gains, Provencher notes that EPA funding improves public health and safety by addressing contamination.

Weve had sites that were considered an imminent health hazard, she said.

In some cases, the grants are able to clear properties of suspicions they contain hazards, when in fact that isnt the case.

Its a really legitimate issue in terms of how these sites move forward, if there is a concern. A smart developer is going to want to know the extent of it before they get into it, Provencher said.

Conan Exiles Dev Talks More About Next Update, Also Explains The End-Game Mechanic Purge

According to GameSpot, Conan Creative director Joel Bylos made a good conversation with the media on the subject of whats next for the MMORPG survival game Conan Exiles. The creative director talked about a new area expanding the existing map into the highlands, featuring new creatures, armors, weapons and a new temperature system.

Its a great place for hardcore gamers looking for real adventure and a whole new kind of survival challenge, this might be the ultimate challenge for them. Players may explore vast wasteland and even scale tall mountains in the unforgiving rugged terrain and weather-beaten part of Hyboria.

As mentioned earlier by GameSpot, the first batch of Conan Exiles updates will include mounts that players can find and tame out, but larger and more powerful mounts will require multiple players to capture, the developer said. Another impending game update is a dye crafting system that can be used to change characters color schemes, however, this update is still on works.

Siege warfare will also be getting some revamp, allowing players to craft siege weapons, wall-scaling towers, and even used the infamous Trojan horse to take down enemy cities. Additionally, the developer also details two siege weapons which include a trebuchet and a corpse locker. The corpse locker is said to allow Conan Exiles players to collect dead diseases-infected bodies and then launch them at enemies to spread disease, just like in the real-world Mongol era.

Then, there are these sorcery things, which allow players to experiment with necromancy and do some sacrifice to gain new sorcery powers. The developer provides the highland biome and new cave dungeon to get players out of the desert, and eventually, defeat puzzles and combat trials.

Finally, the developer discussed the Purge, an end-game mechanic in which NPC armies will gather at the edges of the map in the survival game. Funcom stated that Conan Exiles players will need to build up defenses in their cities to stop attackers. The developer also added that Purge armies will include powerful special NPCs that is based on characters from the Conan fiction.

In other Conan Exiles-related news, the survival game Conan Exiles has been described by some analysts as the companys last ditch of effort to avoid bankruptcy. In a recent interview with Engadget at GDC, Conan Exiles creative director Joel Bylos explained that the company was so close to bankruptcy before Conan Exiles made a lift. The company has been struggling at that time and was borrowing from investors to cover the payroll.

In an effort to get out of the miserable life, Funcom seeks SteamSpy for help to find out what sort of games sold strongly enough to keep the company alive, and one that the company could afford to make. Luckily, SteamSpy has the answer- a plethora of dodgy survival games on Steam.

Amazingly, Funcom plan paid off: Conan Exiles has just recouped its 13-month development budget of $4.5 million in just one week, making it as one of the best-performing titles in the industry. Developer Funcom didnt expect that at all that the naked barbarian simulator Conan Exiles has just saved the company from bankruptcy.

Lawmakers: several schools with debt recovering into the black

I think we showed some good news today, where a year ago 40 districts were in deficit and today its down to 27 with nine hoping to eliminate their deficit and 15 reducing it, said Brian Whitson, state school superintendent.

In this area, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, Grosse Ile Township, Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy, The Webber Media Arts Academy and Taylor International Academy will wipe out their deficits this year.

The Pickney schools will get out of debt this year and several schools are being monitored closely including Williamston and Leslie schools.

The state school superintendent, however, reports large deficits still exist in some urban area schools.

Were still having issues with the Pontiacs, Benton Harbors, Detroits and a few other districts like that where the deficit is going in the right direction — is being reduced — so its good news but theres still large deficits there, Whitson said.

The chair of the K-12 budget believes the state system for identifying finically troubled schools early on is working to avoid bankruptcy down the road.

Attorney Clark Miller offers financial advice

For more than 30 years I have helped many individuals survive financial disaster and obtain a new start. This experience has given me countless examples of ways folks get into debt trouble in the first place. I appreciate the opportunity to share these insights with you, and help you avoid those money traps that can lead to credit disaster. I like to say that I’m the only bankruptcy lawyer you’ll ever hear with advice about how to avoid filing for bankruptcy.

For those trying to make a new financial start, whether aiming to avoid bankruptcy, or even rebuilding after a bankruptcy, the most important foundation of the fresh start actually has nothing to do with money or specific financial do’s and don’ts.

The first step is to absolve yourself and your spouse or partner of guilt. The past is past, and you are going to focus on the future. Whatever mistakes you feel you have made with money, whatever moves you wish you had or hadn’t made, are now irrelevant. We are free to move forward only when we remove the emotional shackles of regret and self-blame.

A look at alternative funding for SMEs

By Gary Palmer, CEO at Paragon Lending Solutions

The lending landscape in South Africa is transitioning. Taking the lead from their global counterparts, there are a host of smaller and FinTech lenders entering the market, bringing with them an exciting opportunity for SMEs looking for growth funding. However, by year-end we could see yet another shift.

As traditional organisations continue with their cautious approach, a host of new players have entered the South African lending market. These new players, including peer-to-peer (P2P) fintech companies, have replicated international models, and in some instances designed their own innovative products.

Looking North

Figures released late December 2016 by P2P lending platform, Twino, and KPMG, show that the UK and EU alternative lending market has grown significantly.

While the report shows that the UK is still markedly ahead in alternative finance, with four times higher volumes (in aggregate) than the rest of Continental Europe, the EU is the dominate geography when it comes to online lending platforms. Lenders on the Continent are focusing on niches in both the subprime and prime unsecured lending segments.

P2P consumer lending makes up the lion’s share of the alternative online lending market with 72% of the total in Q1-Q3 2016. Business lending, meanwhile, is growing steadily, but volumes still remain low in comparison to the consumer space.

Local market forges ahead

Back home, the growth in the alternative lending space has largely been in response to the increased demand from SMEs looking for smaller and more short-term loans. These smaller deals generally attract more interest and are often unattractive to the bigger, traditional lenders.

Over the past year, Paragon has played a significant role in accessing debt funding for these new alternative financiers who then on-lend to individual business owners. We now have around 60 alternative lenders on our books, with new ones coming on board.

Like Europe, the demand for unsecured lending has also seen newer players specialising, with niched lenders now the order of the day. Online working capital financiers are finding traction. Added to this, various government incentives are proving quite attractive to opportunistic small businesses looking to grow operations.

A good example of this is section 12 J of the Income Tax Act, which allows an investor to put money into a venture capital company and receive tax exemption on that investment, and which can then be passed on to SMEs. Recently Paragon has used this to raise R40 million for a client looking to grow their business.

Looking ahead

While it’s great that there are so many niched specialist lenders in South Africa, there are moves afoot to leverage the collective power of lenders under one roof. It is reasonable to expect to see some consolidation in the lending market – although we expect this to happen later in the year.

International uncertainty, especially around shifts in regulations under the Trump administration, could see shifts in how banks are able to lend. However, the South African Reserve Bank has traditionally erred on the side of caution and we can expect a steady hand in our regulatory outlook. Similarly, if the US interest rates tick upwards, additional risk will enter the market and lending will be affected.

Finally, we are seeing more and more people approach us to help them with equity finance. This can significantly benefit companies looking for additional expertise and new networks, which comes with their new partners.

As always, making sure you work with a financial partner who has access to diverse funding and equity networks remains key for businesses looking to access the most appropriate finance options available.

Conan Exiles Devs Detail Future Plans And Reveal Contents Of Next Update

Conan Exiles went into Early Access on Steam back in January, boasting shiny trailers and an array of impressive dongs. Creative director Joel Bylos recently spoke to the press on the subject of whats next for the MMORPG, a game he describes as Funcoms last ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy.

It seems as though its done its job on that front, with Bylos stating that the team was humbled at the news the game made one million dollars within the first hour of its release and ultimately recouped development costs in less than a week.

3 Mortgage Options That Don’t Require Down Payments

A VA Loan

If youre a qualifying veteran, a military service member on active duty, or one of certain National Guard and Reserve members, you may qualifyfor a home loan from The Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA), with no down payment required.

These loans originate from private lenders such as your local bank or credit union, and are then guaranteed by the VA. Unlike non-military homebuyers, who typically need to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI) if theyre putting down less than 20%, theres no PMI required.

There is a funding fee — which can be paid upfront by the homebuyer, or can be added to the borrowed sum. The funding fee is between1.25% and 3.3% and depends on whether its your first time taking out a VA loan, your military status, and how much youre putting down. A first-time veteran borrower with a down payment of 10% will be charged 1.25%, while a reservist making no down payment on his second VA loan will be charged 3.3%.

The maximum loan for this program is the sameas the conforming loan limitfor the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is $424,100, recently upped from $417,000. This can affect how much house can you afford. In some pricey regions, the limit is a bit higher.

To start the process, youll need to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). You can obtainit online, via the VA website, or your lender may be able to help you secure it. You can also get it through the mail. Youll need to produce a bunch of documentation supporting your eligibility, such as a statement of service, or a DD Form 214.