Islamic State boosts attacks in response to territorial losses: IHS

BAGHDAD Islamic State attacks have increased this year, particularly in Iraq and Syria as the group responds to substantial territorial losses, a U.S.-based analysis firm IHS said on Sunday.There were 891 attacks during the first quarter of 2016 in neighbors Iraq and Syria, more than in any three-month period since the militants' sweeping advance in mid-2014, IHS said in a new report.Those attacks killed 2,150 people, a 44 percent rise over the previous three months and the highest quarterly toll in nearly a year."The group is resorting more and more to mass-casualty violence as it comes under heavy pressure from multiple angles," said Matthew Henman, head of IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center.The U.S. military estimates Islamic State's territory in Iraq has shrunk by about 40 percent from its 2014 peak and 20 percent in Syria. Iraq's military routed the militants from the western city of Ramadi four months ago and then pushed further west towards the Syrian border. The northern offensive has been slower, with army and Sunni Arab tribal forces taking only four villages over the past month south of Mosul.In Syria, government-aligned forces backed by Russian air power have recaptured territory from Islamic State, including the ancient city of Palmyra. The group is also under pressure from a separate U.S.-led air campaign in the north and northeast, where Kurdish fighters have advanced. The IHS report also noted a rise in Islamic State attacks in Libya, where the militants have grown in strength, taking over the central city of Sirte and attacking oilfields. Analysis showed almost as many attacks in the first three months of this year as in the preceding six months.IHS said Islamic State activity has also spiked around the northwestern town of Sabratha it described as a key staging ground for attacks in neighboring Tunisia. "High profile, mass casualty attacks are a tried and tested method of changing the narrative and deflecting attention away from the problems it is facing," said Henman. "This is done for internal consumption just as much as external." (Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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AIG raises $1.25 billion by selling Chinese insurer PICC P&C shares: IFR

HONG KONG American International Group (AIG.N) has raised HK$9.68 billion ($1.25 billion) by selling a large chunk of its stake in China's PICC Property and Casualty Co Ltd (PICC P&C) (2328.HK) in a block deal, IFR reported on Sunday.AIG sold about 740 million shares at HK$13.08 each, or near the bottom end of a marketing range, IFR said, citing sources close to the deal. Most of the shares were bought by institutional investors, it added. With this, AIG has raised about $2.6 billion by selling PICC P&C shares since last year, after investing in the company ahead of its IPO in 2003.AIG's stake sale is among the biggest block deals in Asia this year and comes at a time when several European and U.S. financial institutions have been trimming their exposure to Chinese banks and insurers. Citigroup (C.N) and Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) both have sold their minority holdings in Chinese banks in recent months.AIG had offered the shares in an indicative price range of HK$13.06-HK$13.35 each, an up to 8 percent discount to PICC's Friday close, a term sheet of the deal showed on Saturday. After the latest sale, AIG will be left with some 110 million shares in PICC, according to Thomson Reuters data. AIG has agreed to a 60-day lock-up on those shares, the term sheet showed.The U.S. insurer has been cutting exposure to PICC P&C, and last year it raised about $1.3 billion in two separate selldowns. AIG acquired a stake in PICC P&C as a cornerstone investor in 2003, ahead of the Chinese insurer's stock market flotation. AIG traces its roots to 1919 when Cornelius Vander Starr established a general insurance business in Shanghai. Following the global financial crisis, AIG sold part of its Asian life insurance business AIA Group Ltd (1299.HK) through a $20.1 billion Hong Kong IPO in 2010 to help repay a U.S. government bail-out. Over a period of time, AIG fully exited from AIA.But in 2013, AIG invested about $500 million in the IPO of People Insurance Group of China Co Ltd (1339.HK), reaffirming its commitment to the Asia Pacific region. Prior to Saturday's selldown, AIG held 851 million PICC P&C shares, making it the biggest shareholder in PICC P&C. Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) are the joint global coordinators for the deal, according to the term sheet.AIG did not respond to an email seeking comment. (Reporting by Fiona Lau of IFR and Denny Thomas; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Maryland man charged in bomb threat at Baltimore TV station

A Maryland man accused of threatening Fox Television's Baltimore affiliate while wearing a hedgehog suit and a fake bomb vest loaded with foil-wrapped chocolate bars has been charged with arson and other counts, authorities said on Friday.The suspect, Alex Brizzi, 25, of Elkridge, Maryland, was shot and wounded by police after trying to deliver a flash drive with video about the end of the world during Thursday's incident at the offices of WBFF-TV.Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told a news conference that there was no connection to organized terrorism.Even though the bomb was fake, "the fear of what he had shut down an entire community and scared a whole lot of people," he said in announcing the charges.Brizzi faces charges of second-degree arson and first-degree malicious burning, both felonies. He also faces misdemeanor charges of arson threat, four counts of reckless endangerment and possessing a phony explosive device.The suspect's father, Ed Brizzi, told NBC's WBAL-TV that his son had had problems with depression in recent years. "About two weeks ago, Alex had some kind of a breakdown and came to us and said he had a vision from God and that he thought the world was going to end on June 3," he said."I think that's why he went to Fox, to try and warn all the people that the world was going to end on June 3." Brizzi set his car's gas tank on fire in the WBFF parking lot. He then entered the building's vestibule dressed in a hedgehog suit and a surgical mask, an outfit associated with Japanese anime culture, Davis said.He also had strapped on a life preserver with chocolate bars wrapped in foil, wires and a motherboard taken from a smoke detector.He asked that WBFF broadcast his message, and the station was evacuated. Brizzi was shot three times when he emerged from the station vestibule and refused police orders to take a hand from his pockets. He kept his hand on a fake detonator despite police orders to take it away, Davis said.He is in serious but stable condition at a hospital, police said. (Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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How France sank Japan's $40 billion Australian submarine dream

TOKYO/PARIS/SYDNEY In 2014, a blossoming friendship between Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe looked to have all but sewn up a $40 billion submarine deal. Then French naval contractor DCNS hatched a bold and seemingly hopeless plan to gatecrash the party.Almost 18 months later, France this week secured a remarkable come-from-behind victory on one of the world's most lucrative defense deals. The result: Tokyo's dream of fast-tracking a revival of its arms export industry is left in disarray.Interviews with more than a dozen Japanese, French, Australian and German government and industry officials show how a series of missteps by a disparate Japanese group of ministry officials, corporate executives and diplomats badly undermined their bid. In particular, Japan misread the changing political landscape in Australia as Abbott fell from favor. The Japanese group, which included Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) (7011.T) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), (7012.T) also failed to clearly commit to providing skilled shipbuilding jobs in Australia. And Tokyo realized far too late its bid was being outflanked by the Germans and particularly the French, the sources involved in the bid said. France, on the other hand, mobilized its vast and experienced military-industrial complex and hired a powerful Australian submarine industry insider, Sean Costello, who led it to an unexpected victory.Japan's loss represents a major setback for Abe's push to develop an arms export industry as part of a more muscular security agenda after decades of pacifism."We put our utmost effort into the bid," the head of the Ministry of Defense's procurement agency Hideaki Watanabe said after the result was announced on Tuesday. "We will do a thorough analysis of what impact the result will have on our defense industry."By the end of 2014, Japan was still comfortably in the driving seat thanks to the relationship between Abe and Abbott, which had begun soon after Abbott's 2013 election and strengthened quickly.Japan and Australia - key allies of the United States - had wanted to cement security ties to counter to China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and beyond.FRENCH OVERTURESStill, France saw an opportunity to get into the game. In November 2014, DCNS CEO Herve Guillou prevailed on French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to visit Australia and start the pitch for France.Le Drian traveled to Albany in the country's remote southwest, where officials had gathered to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first sailing of Australian soldiers to fight on France's Western Front during World War One. The poignant shared history opened the door to discussions about the submarine contract, a source close to the French Ministry of Defense told Reuters. "The French minister wished to be there for this important event. There, he held talks with his Australian counterpart David Johnston and with ... Abbott," said the source, who along with other officials asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. FIGHTING FOR JOBSSoon after, however, Australia's political instability would erode Japan's advantage with the old guard. In December 2014, Johnston, the Australian defense minister, was forced to resign after disparaging the skills of Australian shipbuilders. South Australian lawmakers, worried that Abbott had quietly agreed to Japan supplying the new submarines, insisted the government look at options to build them in their state. They pressured the prime minister into holding a competitive tender which DCNS and Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKAG.DE) quickly joined. In February 2015, Abbott called his "best friend in Asia", as he had previously described Abe, to tell him about the new bidding process. Abe sympathized and said he would do his best to comply, two sources with knowledge of the conversation said. Yet, convinced the deal was still in the bag, Japan's bidding group dithered. "Even though we were in the competition we acted as though nothing had changed," said one Japanese government source involved in the bid. "We thought we had already won, so why do anything to rock the boat?" The Japanese did not attend a conference for the Future Submarines project in March, failing to understand the importance of the crucial lobbying event and leaving the field to their German and French rivals, sources within the Japanese bid said.Japan's belated attempt to engage with potential local suppliers at a follow up event in August 2015 went badly. Companies complained Tokyo was unwilling to discuss substantive deals. Having only ever sold arms to Japan's military because of a decades-old ban on exports that Abe lifted in 2014, neither Japanese company had any Australian military industrial partners.And unlike France and Germany which quickly committed to building the submarines in Australia, Japan initially only said it would follow the bidding rules, which required building in Australia as just one of three options."The Japanese had been invited in on a handshake deal and were left trying to compete in an international competition having no experience in doing such a thing," an Australian defense industry source said. By September 2015, Japan's key ally Abbott had been deposed by Malcolm Turnbull, blowing the competition wide open.LOCAL EXPERTSIndustry officials said all of the sub offerings had some drawbacks, meaning other factors including experience and connections came into play.Crucially, in April 2015, DCNS hired Costello, who had earlier that year lost his job as chief of staff of Australia's Defence Ministry in the wake of Johnston's resignation. A former navy submariner who had also been the general manager for strategy at state-run Australian submarine firm ASC, Costello was ideally placed to lead a bid.Had the Japanese called first, Costello would have likely have accepted an offer to head their bid, according to a source who knows Costello. "They didn’t pick up the phone," he said. Costello declined to speak publicly about the bid.Costello's team drew up a list of a dozen tasks DCNS needed to complete to win the deal, including the critical job of winning over U.S. defense companies Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Raytheon Co (RTN.N), one of which will eventually build the submarine's combat system.In a final coordinated push, a huge delegation of French government and business leaders visited Australia a month ago, touting the economic benefits of their bid.LATE JAPANESE PUSHFinally stung to action, Japan ramped up its campaign in September 2015. Senior defense bureaucrat Masaki Ishikawa stepped in to unite what had until then been a disjointed approach spread around various ministries, the Japanese ambassador in Canberra, Sumio Kusaka, and MHI. Japan began talking about investment and development opportunities beyond defense, including the possibility of opening a lithium-ion battery plant in Australia, while MHI opened an Australia unit.In a last ditch attempt to woo Australia, Japan sent one of its Soryu submarines to Sydney this month. But as it sailed home on Tuesday, Turnbull announced the deal had gone to DCNS. In an echo of his first Albany trip, Le Drian heard of France's win on Monday as he attended an ANZAC Day service for Australia's war dead in northwestern France.For Tokyo, another big international defense competition that could help Japan develop the arms export industry that Abe envisaged is unlikely any time soon. A more likely tack will be joint development projects with overseas partners to embed Japanese companies in military industrial supply chains. That might even include components for Australia's French submarines, one source in Tokyo said. Other Japanese officials still want Australia to explain why they lost so they can learn from the painful and bewildering experience. "We thought up to the end that we could have won," another source in Japan said. (Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo in TOKYO; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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BRIEF-American Midstream says acquired 66.7 pct interest in Okeanos pipeline

April 27 American Midstream Partners LP:* American Midstream announces additional acquisition in the prolific Gulf Of Mexico * Says acquisition was fully funded under $225 million financing announced on April 25, 2016 * Says acquisition of a 66.7 percent interest in Okeanos pipeline Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage:

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