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    Volkswagen will work to develop budget SUVs and MPVs in China in a bid to improve its lagging market share in the country, the company's chief executive for China, Jochem Heizmann, said on Sunday. Heizmann told reporters that the firm's struggle to keep up with the pace of growth in China's passenger car market was in part caused by its lack of budget-priced SUVs and MPVs.

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    British finance minister George Osborne plans to sell government shares in Lloyds Banking Group (LYG) to small investors at a discount of at least 5 percent if his Conservative Party win the May 7 election, The Sunday Telegraph reported on Saturday. The Telegraph quoted Osborne as saying that a sale of Lloyds shares to small investors would give more people "a stake in our economy".

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    - Carlyle Group LP has decided to liquidate the two mutual funds it launched last year, regulatory filings showed this week, as the private equity firm seeks other ways to gain more traction with so-called liquid alternative funds. Developing mutual funds has historically been challenging for private equity firms because the average buyout fund is illiquid, with a typical life span of 10 years.

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    Gwyneth Paltrow didn't last long on food stamps. The actress announced last week she would attempt to feed herself for a week on just $29, a little less than the typical person in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has to spend on food. Paltrow gave up after just four days.People on food stamps can't give in, of course. Any extra money that they spend on food is money they're not spending on something else, whether that's an old bill or a bus fare. From the beginning, Paltrow had the freedom to go back to the grocery store.Yet the real reason that Paltrow's experiment felt unrealistic and even a little bit insulting was that in coming up with a shopping list, she revealed just how out of touch she is with life in poverty. Here's what she bought with her food stamps, as revealed in a recent tweet, compared to the kinds of foods sold at a Rhode Island grocery market often frequented by customers using food stamps.Paltrow's choice of beans, rice, corn and eggs were economical, and so was the sweet potato. In most respects, though, Paltrow's purchases were wildly unrealistic for a person on food stamps.Besides scrambled eggs and maybe corn on the cob, there's not really anything for the kids to make at home while their parents are at work, unless they're precocious chefs. There is no string cheese for them for when they get home from school. There are no canned soups or frozen entrees for when their mother is called in for an extra shift and comes home exhausted -- nothing that can be prepared in less than half an hour, at the most. Those beans would have to soak for half a day before cooking. Even the lettuce would have to be washed -- if there is a grocery store nearby that carries fresh lettuce, which is unlikely in many urban American neighborhoods.There's no meat in the basket, so maybe the expectation is that low-income families are vegetarian. And if you've even once been worried about your next paycheck, you would likely not buy seven limes on a $29 weekly budget.In short, this shopping basket suggests Paltrow never seriously regarded the challenge as an attempt to understand being poor in the United States.Paltrow's shopping expedition was obviously an attempt to demonstrate what a healthy diet might look like on a very tight budget. She writes that she was frustrated that so many Americans cannot realistically afford to eat fresh food, and her effort was a genuine attempt to raise attention and money for those providing aid to the poor.But the reality is more complex. Americans in general have unhealthy diets, and they don't buy much produce, no matter how much they earn. And shoppers on food stamps who do want to feed their families more greens don't just have to worry about the cost, but also about finicky children, spoilage, and any number of other hassles that are just minor inconveniences for more affluent families.Researchers at the Department of Agriculture have been considering various aspects of the American diet for years. They've concluded that encouraging the poor to buy more fruits and vegetables is not just a matter of money, and they've found that poor households with slightly more cash tend to spend it on beef and prepared frozen food:The evidence is not promising for achieving large gains in fruit and vegetable purchases through increasing food stamp benefits... Nearly all households—not just low-income households—consume low amounts of fruits and vegetables relative to Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommendations. The knowledge that even higher income households do not consume enough fruits and vegetables to meet DGA recommendation suggests that other factors besides income play a strong role in fruit and vegetable purchasing behavior.One way to get a sense of the priorities of food stamp recipients is to figure out what businesses serving them are stocking up on. And in 2013, the Washington Post's Eli Saslow visited Miguel Pichardo, the owner of a grocery store in the town of Woonsocket, R.I., whose sales are driven almost entirely by food stamps. Here's what the proprietor purchased to offer his customers ahead of the first of the month:Pichardo had placed a $10,000 product order to satisfy his diverse customers, half of them white, a quarter Hispanic, 15 percent African American, plus a dozen immigrant populations drawn to Woonsocket by the promise of cheap housing. He had ordered 150 pounds of the tenderloin steak favored by the newly poor, still clinging to old habits; and 200 cases of chicken gizzards for the inter-generationally poor, savvy enough to spot a deal at less than $2 a pound. He had bought pizza pockets for the working poor and plantains for the immigrant poor. He had stocked up on East African marinades, Spanish rice, Cuban snacks and Mexican fruit juice.If money is not the main reason that the poor can't eat more fresh vegetables, some might think it's just a lack of access to fresh produce. Grocery stores are hard to find in many American cities, especially if you don't own a car. But research on the subject hasn't found a strong connection between the presence of grocery stores and the diets of poor families.So other factors are likely at work--factors related to having children, unpredictable schedules and a completely understandable desire for a dose of comfort.Like other Americans, the poor eat foods that are convenient, tasty and familiar. Sometimes they may even make comparatively expensive purchases on, say, ground beef, frozen pizzas or (if they are immigrants) imported sauces from their home countries. Working parents have to prepare a satisfying meal for their families, even if they don't have much time. Dry beans and potatoes might be just as filling, but they take hours of work in the kitchen to prepare. If the parents don't have the time to cook, they'll eat out, just like everyone else in this country.Sarah Bowen, a sociologist at North Carolina State University, notes that if the children won't eat what the parents have cooked, the wasted food amounts to a major financial loss.Bowen has been interviewing more than 100 poor mothers for three years. Her preliminary results suggest that these women do not eat more unhealthy foods such as candy, soda or refined grains than the general population, but they do eat fewer healthy foods such as fresh fruits and seafood, which are expensive and don't keep well.Many of the families in her study only shop once a month, when they can borrow a car from a friend or because shopping requires a bus trip followed by a taxi ride. Produce will spoil, so they buy canned fruits and vegetables instead.For all of these reasons, trying to improve the diets of poor American families by giving them easier access to produce might prove difficult. More generous public benefits or work that pays better with more reliable hours would likely allow the poor to make somewhat healthier decisions. They might not eat more fresh produce, but they might buy leaner cuts of meat or healthier brands of prepared food.For kids, another approach is ask school cafeteria chefs to come up with healthier recipes. That's been the effect of First Lady's Michelle Obama's initiative to improve nutrition in schools. It's been a success by some measures, even though kids complain about it, as Wonkblog has previously reported.Bowen's caution about the difficulty of preparing food that everyone in the family will eat applies to new recipes as well. "When you try any new recipe, it's a risk, especially with kids. If they don't like it, you have all that food wasted," she said. "Middle-class families can afford to be more experimental with their food."Paltrow offered several "budget-conscious recipes" that are, sadly, far removed from the real world of the working poor. Her is the first instruction in her recipe for "Black bean cakes with grilled corn salsa":To make the black bean cakes, combine first 6 ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt to taste, then add egg and pulse again to combine. Shape the mixture into 8 cakes. If you have time, place the cakes in the fridge for an hour or more to firm up.And that's assuming you own a food processor, and that you've already cooked the beans.This post has been expanded with more details about other policies to encourage healthy eating, including the efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama. 




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    Colombia's government will sell its controlling stake in electricity generator Isagen SA on May 19, the company said in a statement to the financial regulator on Friday. The sale of the 57.6 percent stake, vital to infrastructure funding plans as budget revenue takes a hit from low crude oil prices, is expected to generate at least 5 trillion pesos, according to the government.

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    Greece's Piraeus Bank has bought the "good" part of small cooperative lender Panellinia, the country's central bank and Piraeus said on Friday, confirming what bankers had told Reuters earlier in the day. The Bank of Greece said it had acted with a view to safeguarding customer deposits and financial stability.

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    On tap: Wells Fargo (WFC) and Bank of America (BAC) professionals, and private equity and buyout firms. In the middle of the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, Ore., this week, one phrase summed up the tenor of the event best: "The Passion Has Been Professionalized." Chris Furnari of beer-industry publication Brewbound coined that phrase during a panel discussion featuring the founders of Goose Island, Elysian and 10 Barrel, all breweries that have been purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) in the...

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    Teva Pharmaceuticals shares are spiking in afternoon trading on Friday, up 2.41% to $65.02, after trading in negative territory earlier in the day following reports that the company is in the process of putting together a bid for fellow generic drug manufacturer Mylan, according to multiple media reports.A potential merger would continue the recent spat of biopharmaceutical companies consolidat...

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    A Bloomberg report on Friday cast new doubts on Comcast's (CMCSA) long-gestating bid to buy Time Warner Cable (TWX). The news wire, citing anonymous sources, reported that "staff attorneys at the Justice Department's antitrust division are nearing a recommendation to block" the bid. The attorneys "could submit their review as soon as next week," Bloomberg said.

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     Mylan shares have spiked in afternoon trading today and are up 4% to $69.51 following reports that the biopharmaceutical company has become a takeover target for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA), according to Bloomberg.However, Mylan released a statement less than an hour ago that disputes these claims, saying that the company is committed to remaining a stand alone entity."Although it has been ...

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    The tech incubator 1776 is a collegial place, with offices painted in lively colors, couches to greet visitors, and members who share seats, desks and the fixings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.It’s an atmosphere carefully cultivated by its founders, Evan Burfield and Donna Harris, and it helped position the outfit as a caretaker, connector and capital provider for tomorrow’s big technology companies.But after Thursday’s announcement that 1776 would acquire Disruption Corp., a Crystal City tech hub, there is little doubt that the founders have aspirations to grow one of those big companies themselves. The move raises questions about how its founders will balance their own financial success with support for the companies they’re helping to build.[Related: Tech hubs in D.C. and Arlington combine with 1776 acquisition of Disruption Corp.]In a former life, Harris and Burfield were software entrepreneurs themselves. Harris founded the online educational services firm Kinderstreet, while Burfield started netDecide, which provided wealth management services to financial services firms.They launched 1776 two years ago with $200,000 from the D.C. government and set about creating a local network backed by jurisdictions eager to attract jobs and entrepreneurs. Having already inked partnerships with the District and Montgomery County, 1776’s addition of Disruption’s offices will give it a Crystal City location, which Harris said “completes the circle of the region.”On Thursday, Burfield said the local tech industry needed to “tear down some of these borders between D.C., Maryland and Virginia” to compete with the likes of California’s Silicon Valley.Principals at both companies agreed not to reveal details of the deal. A person familiar with the transaction who didn’t want to publicly violate that agreement said it was an “all-equity” rather than a cash transaction.Frank Bonsal III, director of entrepreneurship at Towson University, who has worked with Harris, Burfield and Disruption founder Paul Singh, said the acquisition “either means they’re extremely aligned and they create cost-efficiencies by working together, or one was starting to compete with the other and they decided to roll it up.”What is more clear is that the 1776 founders have acquired in the Disruption deal two central components to advance their company.The first is venture capital expertise. Singh, 34, has raised eight venture funds in five years and has ties — from living in India, Virginia and Silicon Valley — to investors around the world.Last fall, he announced an expansion of his work backed by Halifax-based Innovacorp, with the support of the Canadian government. Harris and Burfield have invested with him previously and have known him for years.[Related: Disruption Corp. expands in Crystal City]The second is asset is software. At Disruption, Singh developed three products, including Dashboard, a tool to help start-up founders network, raise money and efficiently identify mentors and partners as they grow. Singh made Dashboard available to accelerators and investment communities around the world, creating more than a dozen disparate groups of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who use the program to communicate, plan meetings and track growth.Before the acquisition talks, Bur­field and Harris had begun developing competing software, dubbed George, aimed at providing similar tools to its 270 members and members of affiliates in Chicago, Toronto, Berlin, London and nearly a dozen other cities.Demonstrating George recently, Burfield said, “What we can do is track every interaction our founders made, how frequently they make those interactions and what each interaction meant to them.”Gary Hensley, founder of an education-technology company housed at 1776, said the George platform has become “an everyday tool” for his team.“Without it, there’s no way we could keep up with everything that’s going on here, all the events and speakers and investors who are coming by,” he said.Dashboard and George — which will be combined — seem like a mash-up of communication and scheduling tools from LinkedIn (LNKD), Facebook (FB) and Google Calendar. As Burfield sees it, they are critical time-savers for young entrepreneurs: “If you’re a start-up, you spend 90 to 95 percent of your time with your head down trying to solve a problem.”But the software might have a far more valuable use to 1776. It creates a detailed and proprietary store of information on start-ups and their employees that Harris and Burfield could use to invest or sell to other investors.Burfield said they were still considering how that data would be used. Say MedStar Health, a 1776 sponsor and partner, wanted to know specific information about meetings a health-focused 1776 start-up had taken. Would 1776 sell it to them? “We wouldn’t, but we could aggregate, rank or compile information about our members to our partners,” Burfield said. “There are a lot of possibilities here.”He later added: “We have no interest in selling data to anyone but rather using data and tools to help our community connect and innovate.”Despite 1776’s call for regional co­operation, there are likely to be parochial concerns raised by its expansion. Though the District put up the money to launch 1776, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), speaking beside Bur­field and Harris on a Crystal City rooftop at the announcement, trumpeted Virginia as the future “hub of innovators and start-ups in America.”The building was one owned by Vornado Realty Trust (VNO), a major backer of Disruption’s work in Crystal City. Mitchell N. Schear, president of the firm’s Washington office, has bet on tech growth to fill the company’s many Crystal City office buildings.As he put it, “We hope that they go from start-up mode to speed-up mode to scale-up mode and continue their full life span here.”Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz