Thursday, January 9, 2014

[RIO exercises TRQ rights, EBRD invests in junior explorer, Moody's warns banks, and Mongolia 2nd fastest in 2014 says EIU]

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original


Overseas Market

TRQ up 10.78% in last 3 days

Turquoise Hill Successfully Completes Rights Offering

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Jan. 8, 2013) - Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ)(NYSE:TRQ)(NASDAQ:TRQ) today announced the completion of its rights offering, which expired on January 7, 2014, as scheduled. Based on preliminary results that are subject to confirmation of amounts that will be received from brokers using guaranteed delivery procedures, Turquoise Hill estimates it will receive gross proceeds of approximately US$2.4 billion from the rights offering. The Company intends to use the net proceeds from the rights offering to repay all amounts that will be outstanding under its US$1.8 billion interim funding facility and its secured US$600 million bridge facility with Rio Tinto, and to use any remaining proceeds for the continued funding of the Oyu Tolgoi Project, working capital, general administrative expenses and other corporate expenses.

Based on the preliminary results, Turquoise Hill expects to issue approximately 1,006 million common shares through the rights offering, which would represent approximately 100% of the maximum number of common shares available under the rights offering.

Rio Tinto exercised all of its respective rights issued to it in the rights offering.

Dr. David Klingner, Chairman of Turquoise Hill, said, "The Turquoise Hill board extends its sincere gratitude and appreciation to all shareholders who participated in the offering and contributed to its success."

Turquoise Hill expects that the rights offering will close on January 13, 2014, to accommodate those who exercised rights using guaranteed delivery procedures. The Company intends to mail new common shares acquired through the rights offering to registered subscribers on or promptly after the scheduled closing of the offering.

Link to release


SouthGobi vows vigorous defence against proposed class action

January 8 (Stockhouse) SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX: T.SGQ) says it understands that on or around January 6, 2014, Canadian law firm Siskinds LLP filed a proposed securities class action against the company, certain of its current and former senior officers and directors, and its former auditors.

The proposed class action, which was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in relation to the company's restatement of financial statements, as disclosed on November 8, 2013, November 11, 2013 and November 14, 2013 and December 12, 1013.

The company has not been formally served with a copy of the proposed claim, it said in a press release.

SouthGobi is a 56%-owned subsidiary of Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. (TSX: T.TRQ), which took management control of SouthGobi in September, 2012 and made changes to the board and senior management.

The company is focused on exploration and development of metallurgical and thermal coal deposits in Mongolia's South Gobi region. It has 100% stake in SouthGobi Sands LLC, the Mongolian registered company that holds the mining and exploration licenses in Mongolia and operates the flagship Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine.

Ovoot Tolgoi produces and sells coal to customers in China.

The company has engaged independent legal counsel in Canada to advise it on this matter and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit if and when it is served in the proposed claim.

SouthGobi shares rose 1.2% to 86 cents Tuesday, leaving the company with a market cap of $161.1 million, based on 187.3 million shares outstanding. The 52-week range is $2.71 and 75 cents.

At current levels, the stock is down from around $2.60 in January, 2013.

Link to article

Link to SGQ release


AMO closed +33.33% to C$0.04 on the news

Altan Rio Announces Equity Facility of up to $10M with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

VANCOUVER, Jan. 8, 2014 /CNW/ - Altan Rio Minerals Limited ("Altan Rio" or the "Company," TSX.V: AMO) announces that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development ("EBRD") has agreed to provide equity financing to the Company for the furtherance of the Company's Mongolian operations.

EBRD has 61 shareholders (59 Governments and 2 International Institutions) and invests in 29 countries from central Europe to central Asia.

EBRD is the largest institutional investor in Mongolia.  Mongolia became an EBRD country of operations in October 2006 and since the beginning of its operations in Mongolia, the EBRD has committed through debt and equity investments more than US$ 684 million to the Mongolian private sector through 52 projects in sectors ranging from banking to manufacturing and from mining to agribusiness.

Mr Evan Jones, President & CEO of Altan Rio commented:

"We are delighted to have attracted a partner of the calibre of EBRD."

"As shareholders will be aware, the ability for junior explorers such as Altan Rio to raise capital to fund ongoing activities is somewhat limited in the current market environment. As such, by entering into this agreement, Altan Rio has substantially reduced financing uncertainty."

EBRD has agreed to purchase, on a private placement basis, 16,666,000 common shares of the Company at a price of $0.06 per share as a first tranche subscription (the "First Tranche Subscription") pursuant to a larger potential investment referred to hereafter.

The First Tranche Subscription is made by EBRD pursuant to a Subscription Agreement and Framework Agreement (the "Financing Agreements") entered into between EBRD and the Company. Under the Financing Agreements, EBRD has committed to invest a minimum of $5,000,000 (subject to certain limitations as referred to hereafter) and a maximum of $10,000,000 to purchase common shares of Altan Rio under the First Tranche Subscription and a series of subsequent private placements in minimum tranches of $1,000,000 each ("Subsequent Tranche Subscriptions").  Each Subsequent Tranche Subscription will be triggered by a notice from the Company requesting funds and providing certain other required information. The size of each tranche will be dependent on the amount requested by the Company and agreed to by EBRD, with the price per share to be subject to agreement between the parties based on the market price for the Company's shares at the time and the requirements of Exchange policies.

The First Tranche Subscription is subject to a number of conditions precedent including among other things:

·         Exchange approval,

·         the conversion of loans made to the Company by certain of its principals and non-related parties into shares of the Company, and

·         the Company obtaining certain required government documentation in connection with its continuing exploration activities in Mongolia.

Each Subsequent Tranche Subscription will be subject to a number of conditions precedent including among other things:

·         Exchange approval,

·         any necessary shareholder approvals being obtained,

·         outside investors having subscribed for common shares of the Company at least equal in number to the number of shares to be purchased by EBRD, at the same subscription price,

·         the continued compliance by the Company with the Financing Agreements and the agreed business plan, and

·         EBRD's total shareholding in the Company following the Subsequent Tranche Subscription not exceeding 35% of the Company's issued and outstanding shares.

The Financing Agreements also provide for the Company to adhere to an agreed business plan with respect to its ongoing exploration activities in Mongolia, to report quarterly and annually to EBRD with respect to ongoing operations, and to obtain EBRD's consent to certain material changes in the Company's business, material corporate reorganizations and certain other material events including outside equity financings. The Financing Agreements also require certain principal shareholders of the Company to maintain a threshold shareholding in the Company and to make specified time and work commitments to the Company's affairs. EBRD also has participation rights with respect to future proposed debt and equity financings. EBRD is entitled to appoint a director to the Company's Board and to appoint a non-voting observer to attend Board meetings. Certain of the foregoing obligations are subject to EBRD holding at least 5% of the Company's shares or a minimum investment of $5,000,000.

The proceeds from the First Tranche Subscription in the sum of approximately $1,000,000 will be employed to advance the Company's exploration activities in Mongolia and to provide working capital.

The transaction is subject to Exchange approval.

Link to release

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Local Market

BDSec Daily Market Update: Top 20 -1.12%, Turnover 52.1 Million

January 8 (BDSec) Shares dropped over the MSE on Wednesday as 11 stocks declined while 9 stocks ended the session in green. MSE Top 20 index declined 1.12% to sit at 16,038.96 points. Stocks of Tavantolgoi (TTL) lost 3.92% today after retreating 7.28% on yesterday's trading. APU (APU), the largest beverage producer of the country, was the most actively traded company on the bourse with a value of MNT 17.5 million. Turnover for the day was MNT 52.1 million.

Top Movers

Trading Value Leaders

Close (MNT)

Value (MNT)




Tavantolgoi (TTL)



Shivee Ovoo (SHV)






Top Gainers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Sharyn Gol (SHG)



Genco Tour Bureau (JTB)



State Department Store (UID)






Top Losers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Mongol Nekhmel (MNH)



Shivee Ovoo (SHV)



Mongolia Development Resources (MDR)



Link to update

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BoM MNT Rates: January 8 Close































Link to rates


Total outstanding fall ₮247.95 billion to 1.27 trillion

BoM issues 1-week bills

January 8 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 384.2 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release



January 8 (Bank of Mongolia) Regular auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 20.0 billion MNT and each unit was worth 1 million MNT. Face value of 20.0 billion /out of 30.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold to the banks at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 9.14%.

Link to release


Moody's Warns on Mongolia's Banks

January 8 (WSJ) Moody's Investors Service has placed negative outlooks on three Mongolian banks, citing risks from rising bad loans, slower economic growth and a deteriorating operating environment.

Moody's changed its outlook to negative from stable on Khan Bank LLC, Trade & Development Bank of Mongolia LLC and XacBank LLC while reaffirming the three lenders' B1 ratings.

The warning on Mongolia's banking sector follows similar views from other ratings firms, who have noted that lenders in the resource-rich country are vulnerable to an economic slowdown after a period of rapid loan growth.

Because around 90% of Mongolia's revenues come from mining-product exports, falling commodity prices have hurt growth and the nation's balance of payments.

"Given the resource-based nature of the economy and a large lending concentration in mining, there is the risk of boom-bust cycles, resulting in a volatile operating environment," Moody's said in its assessment.

The credit firm noted that loan growth from January to November 2013 was 55%, much higher than the 23% growth of a year earlier. The nonperforming-loan ratio rose to 5.3% from 4.2%, still not as high as it might be given the pace of lending. But Moody's noted that the bulk of loan growth was concentrated in the construction sector.

If those loans sour, capital raisings by the banks may be needed.

"The effects of the strong loan growth for 2013 are likely to offset the strong internal capital generated by reported earnings," Moody's said. "Therefore, despite an annualized average 26% return on equity before tax over the first nine months of 2013, the banks will need additional capital from external sources to support growth and maintain capital ratios."

The downbeat assessment comes despite Mongolia's authorities having projected a bumper year for the economy, led by foreign investment and an expected agreement with the country's international partner to launch phase II development at the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, a $6.5 billion project that is projected to eventually account for a large chunk of the country's gross domestic product. Central bank head Naidansuren Zoljargal said in November that GDP could expand as much as 17% next year from around 11% this year.

Meantime, Mongolia is drawing criticism for its treatment of foreign business executives in the country. In December, authorities moved to block a consultant to Standard Bank Group Ltd. from leaving in a dispute over loan repayment. They eventually allowed him to depart shortly before Christmas.

Around 20 foreign executives are estimated to have been barred from leaving Mongolia over the past two years.

Link to article

Link to Moody's release


Mongolia Bond Yields at Four-Month Top as Moody's Cuts Banks

January 8 (Bloomberg)( Mongolia's borrowing costs rose to near a four-month high as Moody's Investors Service joined Fitch Ratings Ltd. in downgrading the ratings outlooks for some of the country's banks.

Yields on the North Asian country's dollar notes due in 2022 climbed to 7.96 percent today, close to the Jan. 6 level of 7.962 percent, which was the highest since Sept. 17, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg. The country's debt, including corporate securities, fell to 99.01 on Jan. 6, the lowest since Dec. 10, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. indexes.

The ratings outlooks of Khan Bank LLC, Trade & Development Bank of Mongolia LLC and XacBank LLC were demoted to negative from stable, because of the negative impact of the global commodity-market slowdown, according to a Moody's report today. The nation's economic growth decelerated to 11.3 percent in the first half of 2013 on reduced Chinese demand for its coal, after an expansion of 12.4 percent in 2012.

"Given the resource-based nature of the economy and a large lending concentration in mining, there is the risk of boom-bust cycles, resulting in a volatile operating environment," said Hyun Hee Park, an analyst at Moody's. "The system's non-performing loans ratio only rose to 5.3 percent at the end of November 2013 from 4.2 percent at the end of 2012."

Khan Bank is the nation's biggest lender, while Trade & Development Bank has the second-largest loan portfolio, according to the report.

Trade & Development Bank is considering an offshore yuan bond sale, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The bank is starting on a series of fixed-income meetings from tomorrow, the person said.

Fitch revised the outlook of Khan Bank and XacBank LLC to negative from stable last month.

Link to article


EIU Expects 2nd Fastest Growing Economy in 2014 to be Mongolia with 15.3% Growth

January 8 (The Economist) ACCORDING to the forecasts of the Economist Intelligence Unit, the world's five fastest-growing economies in 2014 will be South Sudan, Mongolia, Macau, Sierra Leone and Turkmenistan, as seen in the video above. Notably, China is absent. In fact, for the first time since The World in... started publishing forecasts of the fastest-growing economies in 2004, the world's most populous country has dropped out of the top dozen.

Nevertheless, China is Mongolia's biggest export market. Mongolia's mines (not its large numbers of goats) will help push GDP growth to 15% in 2014. Reports suggest the country's mineral deposits may be worth more than $1.3 trillion: an exciting possibility for Mongolia's 2.8m people.

Macau also depends on China for its prosperity. As a special administrative region, it entices tourists bent on gambling, many of them Chinese. Punters will wager around $50 billion in 2014, nearly ten times more than a decade earlier and far more than in Las Vegas.

South Sudan's position at the top of the list is controversial in many ways. Its forecasted 35% growth this year may take it only some of the way back to levels of prosperity it enjoyed before oil production stopped in 2012. But the world's youngest independent country is currently in turmoil: a rupture in mid-December between President Salva Kiir and his former vice-president, Riek Machar, has triggered violence. Neighbouring countries are trying to make the two sides talk. But the starting date for a ceasefire, negotiated in Ethiopia on December 31st, has not yet been agreed upon. Rebel troops are also massing in Jonglei state, complicating the situation. If Mr Machar's intentions are to fight over South Sudan's oil production infrastructure, the country may see slower growth, and much destruction, in 2014.

Link to article



January 9 (Independent Mongolian Metals & Mining Research) --


·         Major Mongolian TV-s, specifically, MNB and Eagle TV have reported that proceeds from DBM's Samurai bonds of JPY30B have been received or have started being received by the DBM on January 6,2014 according to TV stations' sources in Finance Ministry. At the moment there are no official confirmations by the DBM or the Ministry. Further, medias report on plans for remainder of 600 million USD worth of Samurai bonds.

·         On January 6,2013 DP Caucus has briefed media saying that in 2014 expansion of the economy will be continued while stability of exchange rate will be ensured

·         Bank of Mongolia's reference USDMNT exchange rate on January 8,2014 is 1722.24 after reaching lows of below 1620 on December 25,2013.Moreover, the Bank sold USD12M on January 7,2014 foreign exchange auction


·         Based on Bloomberg information, it appears that DBM's Samurai bonds have been issued on 12/25/2013, also, according to Bloomberg, yield on DBM 5 3/4 bonds due 03/21/17 reached 8.09% on January 5,2014

·         According to Mongolian Ministry of Finance on December 31,2013 , expected implementation of State(national) debt for 2013 expressed in present value is 49.5% of GDP fulfilling requirement of FSL

·         IMF has projected that in 2013 total public and publicly guaranteed debt of Mongolia will reach 67.3% of GDP or US$4.98B including domestic debt of 15.5% of GDP and external debt of 51.8% of GDP.

·         According to Bank of Mongolia BOP preliminary stats for November 2013 YTD:

·         current account deficit US$3B

·         capital and financial account surplus of US$1.286B, down 61% y-o-y

·         FDI declined 50% y-o-y to US$2.08B USD

·         BOP deficit is US$1.79B

·         National Statistics Office of Mongolia has reported as of end of November of 2013, official foreign exchange net reserves have decreased m-o-m by US$243.6M and y-o-y by US$980M and reached $1.2463 billion , which is sufficient for 10.2 weeks or 2.6 months of import consumption

·         According to Central Bank, gross official foreign exchange reserves are US$2.3B in November 2013


·         It appears that delay in receipt of proceeds of Samurai bonds was possibly related to not breaching FSL in 2013 so that the issue would be recorded for debt in 2014

·         It appears that impact of Samurai bonds news is over already and we reiterate our view that FX market reflects market participants concerns over foreign exchange reserves, current/capital accounts imbalances and FDI situation

·         In our opinion, the GoM and BoM are not spending largely and will not spend the US$ or Japanese yens the current or future Sovereign and Samurai bonds are issued in. Rather they will keep them in reserves, print more MNT to be injected into the economy (ie fiscal expansion as being re-iterated by the DP Caucus), without FDI (which is needed to support the BoPs and provide sustainable growth and which as DP Majority Leader put it "belongs indeed to foreigners"), and the excessive printing of more MNT should support a further significant depreciation of the MNT meaning that the international debt increases in MNT terms. Thus it just adds more fuel to the fire creating a bigger problem in the medium-longer term, once the implications of that action become realized and the initial fear of dwindling reverses have passed.

·         We believe that band-aid solutions such as Samurai bonds are unsustainable and will only add further pressure for the GoM to achieve a sensible solution with current issues impacting FDI and the private sector such at the current impasse for OT stage 2, which  has become single most important catalyst capable of changing investor sentiment on Mongolia. Furthermore, major increase in sovereign and quasi-sovereign borrowing would lead to further weakening of creditworthiness of Mongolia.

Link to reports on Samurai bonds by the TV-s:

Link to IMMMR

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First Presidential Decree of 2014 Directs Government to Centralize Agencies and Ministries in to Same Offices

January 8 / On January 08, 2014, the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj issued the first Decree of the year under No.01 addressed to the Head of Government N.Altankhuyag.

The Decree cites several measures to implement in the scope of the "From Big Government to Smart Government" policy initiated by the President himself that aims to convey state expenditure into economical and cost-effective system, besides to bring closer the state services to its civilians.

The national consultative meeting under "From Big Government to Smart Government" was first organized in the Government House on November 16, 2013, purposed to undertake a comprehensive government reform to build a modern and competitive state.

As the first steps of implementations, President Ts.Elbegdorj gives the following directions to the Government:

1.    The Capital City owned Khangarid Palace will be privatized by State under leasing conditions;

2.    All Implementing and Regulatory Agencies of the Government will be centralized in the Khangarid Palace, except for General Intelligence Agency, National Police and National Emergency Management Agency on the ground to provide the national security;

3.    New Office on the ground, formerly Ulaanbaatar Printing House locates on the east side of the Government House (Mogi: the carcass that's hiding behind the billboards), will be constructed as private property under State leasing condition;

4.    All Ministries of Mongolia will be centralized in the Office, except for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministry on the ground to provide the national security;

5.    Above Offices must meet requirements and standards in order to proceed transparent and smart government services, for instances, all activities of public servants will monitored openly, equipped with general data based on advanced information technology.

Link to article


This year's first decree of President is to reform gigantic structure of stateMontsame, January 8


MPP Youth Association to Hold Demonstration Demanding Altankhuyag Resignation on Thursday

Ulaanbaatar, January 8 /MONTSAME/ The Mongolian Social Democrat Youth Association (MSDYA) is allowed to hold a peaceful demonstration at the Chinggis Square Thursday.

The MSDYA, set up by the Mongolian People's Party in 1997, is planning to take a peaceful demonstration under a slogan of 'Dismiss or Entomb?' demanding sacking the Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag from the office, accusing him repeated violation of the Constitution of Mongolia.

About hundred young demonstrators are also planning to submit a 40 meter long print of the Constitution to the authorities.

Link to article


Ts.Munkhbayar's Trial Postponed to January 20, 2014

January 8 / The scheduled hearing for leader of "Gal Undesten" movement Ts.Munkhbayar, who is being investigated on the ground such as threatened public by placing TNT handmade "bombs" in several locations surround the Chinggis Square and entering the state protected area (Government House Fence) with firearms, was due today at the Detention Center No.461, Ulaanbaatar.

However, the hearing started at appointed time, but Ts.Munkhbayar's lawyer B.Bekhbat did not appear at the trial due to illness (Mogi: illness huh?), hence the judges accepted the request from defendants to postpone and the trial is re-scheduled on January 20, 2014.

If the accused Ts.Munkhbayar hurt or killed someone during or following the protest demonstration, he would be imprisoned up to 25 years or death penalty, according to current Criminal Code 177.2 and other sentences 149.3 and 185.2 preliminarilypronounced.

Link to article

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Microfinance Focus Europe, 07 January 2014: In December 2013, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) disbursed a USD 5.4 million loan to NVTS, the leading egg and poultry business in Mongolia.

Due to soaring beef and mutton prices in Mongolia, the consumption of chicken meat and eggs has increased of late. However, local production has been very limited and most eggs are traditionally imported from Russia. BIO's investment supports NVTS's plans to meet this rising demand for poultry and eggs. NVTS will ultimately expand its capacity to 1 million laying hens with a production capacity of 210 million eggs per year.

NVTS is incorporating sustainable practices into its plans for expanded operations. According to Tuesday's BIO press release, "In terms of environmental impacts, NVTS envisages the production of organic fertilizer, purify wastewater to be used for agricultural purposes and producing biogas from manure to produce electricity."

The factory will use battery cages to house its chickens, that are built to the current standards in the EU. Regarding the overall project, BIO stated, "NVTS proposes an impressively progressive and environmental solution for one of Asia's poorest countries."

Link to article



January 6 (Golomt Bank) The Shareholders' Meeting of Golomt Bank was held on December 19th, 2013 during which it appointed the Board of Governors as well as its Chairwoman Mrs.Munkhtsetseg Chultem.  

Mrs.Munkhtsetseg served in the Securities Trading and Foreign Relations Department of the Mongolian Stock Exchange between 1996 and 1998.  

She worked as a Consultant at the World Bank in 2004, as the Country Director and Financial Manager of the Asia Foundation office in Mongolia between 2004 and 2006, and as the Chief Executive Officer of Nepko LLC, a publishing house from 2007 to 2010, as the Editor in Chief of TOIM magazine since 2010.  

Chairwoman Munkhtsetseg was first appointed as a regular member of the Board of Governors in 2012.

Chairwoman Munkhtsetseg graduated from the 3rd Russian-Mongolian International High School, then from the Polytechnical University majoring in Mining, Electrical Mechanical Engineering.  In 1998, she obtained her MBA Degree with concentration in International Business & Finance from the Johns Hopkins University, USA.

On behalf of all Golomt Bank employees, we extend our warm regards and wishes for continued success for our newly appointed Chairwoman.

Link to release



January 6 (Golomt Bank) Bolormaa Luvsandorj is appointed as the Executive Vice President/ Chief Investment Officer of Golomt Bank.

Mrs.Bolormaa has been serving in the banking and financial industry for over 16 years.  

She worked as the Deputy Head of International Department as well as the Head of Credit, holding dual responsibilities undertaking credit and foreign exchange operations at the Ardyn Bank between 1992 and 1996.  

Mrs. Bolormaa served as a VP in Deutsche Bank, overseeing coverage of North American banks, financial institutions, and broker dealers between 2000 and 2009.  

In 2011 and 2012 she was the First Deputy CEO at the Development Bank of Mongolia.  Mrs.Bolormaa founded a financial consulting service company, BFAS, in 2009 and worked as its President.  

EVP/CIO Bolormaa completed her undergraduate study in Finance and Banking at the Mongolian National University and has an MA in International Economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA and an MBA with concentration in Finance from International University of Japan. She is Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).  

On behalf of all Golomt Bank employees we extend our warm welcome and we wish great success to Mrs.Bolormaa, our newly appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer.

Link to release


James Passin sponsors DC rappers trip to North Korea

Exclusive: Aspiring rappers Pacman and Peso reveal their new video shot in North Korea and describe their adventures in the world's most despotic regime

January 7 (The Guardian) t was a story that could hardly have been less likely to end in glory. Two aspiring rappers, who had barely been outside their impoverished communities in Washington DC, let alone abroad, declared their intention to make a music video in North Korea. When their online fundraising campaign went viral, raising more than enough cash to buy the flights, even Pacman and Peso admitted they were anxious they might not come home in one piece.

From Tiananmen Square to Ulan Bator

They managed to film their rap video inside Pyongyang's faltering metro, beside the demilitarized zone bordering South Korea, on a rice farm and in front of various North Korean monuments, not least the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, an ornate mausoleum for Kim Il-sung, the so-called founder and eternal president of the country, and his son, Kim Jong-il.

Before arriving in North Korea, the group took part in a tour through Asian countries including China, Hong Kong and Mongolia. But it almost began in disaster in Beijing, when the rap entourage, which included some of Aburdene's university friends, decided to hire motorcycles. 

Peso, whose real name is Dontray Ennis, collided with a car near Tiananmen Square and, aware that he was not insured, fled. An angry crowd apprehended Pacman, whose real name is Anthony Bobb. "I was like, man, we ain't going to North Korea. I'm gonna get locked up in Beijing," Pacman recalls. "This shit gonna be on the news." 

After some ad-hoc diplomacy and a visit to a car repair shop, the group was let free, but missed their flight to Hong Kong, arriving late for the next leg of the journey – hosted by their main financial backer

James Passin, a 41-year-old hedge fund manager who has poured millions of dollars in Mongolia, and also has business interests in North Korea, donated $5,100 to their Kickstarter campaign.

Described in BusinessWeek as 'The American Who Bought Mongolia', Passin was keen to be involved in the project. "He actually wanted to be in the North Korea video, but then his advisors told him it was probably better not to be," Aburdene said.

Instead, Passin invited the rapping tour to Hong Kong, where he happened to be hosting his investor conference – and birthday celebration – in the Grand Hyatt hotel. Later, Passin flew the group to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. It was Peso's favourite stop on the whole tour, not least because of the generous hospitality of their host. "The moment we arrived we got chauffeur rides to the hotel," he said. "I had lobster with some fries while I was sipping on Sprite," said Pacman.

Link to article


Counterfeit Yuan revealed in exchange attempt

January 8 / Over 6000 counterfeit Yuan, the Chinese currency, were discovered in a citizen`s amount to be exchange at Naiman Sharga exchange center on January 3rd. An officer of the exchange center called for the police. Chingeltei district police have initiated an investigation into the case. Due to the upcoming Mongolian traditional holiday, "Tsagaan sar", the lunar New Year, there is increasing demand for Yuan in the exchange centers in Ulaanbaatar. 

There is speculation that more Mongolian shoppers might become victims of counterfeit Yuan fraud when they trade in Erlian (Erenhot) in China. 

The Police warn citizens to register all currency exchanged and to provide proof by taking a picture of the exchanger if possible, and to exchange currency only via bank or official financial organizations. 

Link to article

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Mogi: seriously? 2/3 covered? 20% reduced?

Clean Stove Project Concludes with 68.6% Ger District Coverage

Ulaanbaatar, January 8 /MONTSAME/ In period covering 2011 to 2013, the Air Quality Department of the capital city sold 122,329 clean stoves to ger (national dwelling) district residents.

Some 68.6 percent of total ger district households have received the clean stove during that time, the Department reported on Monday.

Under the project, the Government has issued 17 billion togrog in subsidies for the clean stoves that were sold at 93 percent discount, for lower 30 thousand togrog.

The project aimed to replace traditional stoves with clean stoves, reducing the air pollution in the capital, will come to the end in near time. The last batch of clean stoves was distributed to 45,000 ger district households last year, under a funding from the World Bank.

Officials report that the clean stoves have reduced air pollution rate in Ulaanbaatar by as much as 20 percent during this winter.

Link to article

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Social, Environmental and Other

Bad to the Bone: Dealer Pleads Guilty in Fossil Smuggling Scheme

By Wynne Parry, LiveScience Contributor

January 7 (LiveScience) The feds have unearthed a trove of fossils brought into the United States illegally. An investigation of a Wyoming fossil dealer uncovered dozens of fossils from Mongolia and China, countries that prohibit their export.

The Wyoming dealer, John Richard "Rick" Rolater, pleaded guilty on Thursday (Jan. 2) to charges he conspired to smuggle fossils into the United States with the intent of selling them. Rolater, 69, owns two stores called By Nature Gallery, where he sells fossils and other items.

The investigation of Rolater led the feds to seize the fossils, which include three skulls from a prehistoric predator known as Tarbosaurus bataar, an Asian relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. Clearly identifiable Tarbosaurus fossils have been found only in a rock formation exposed in Mongolia, paleontologists say.  The list also includes fossils from Mongolian Protoceratops, and from four-winged microraptors and dinosaur eggs from China. [See Photos of Amazing Dinosaur Fossils]

Rolater had no idea he was risking prosecution by selling fossils from these countries, said Pat Crank, Rolater's attorney.

"Prior to this investigation, Rick advertised Mongolian and Chinese fossils on his website and had bataar skulls in the windows of his stores," Crank said. "I don't think anyone believed it was illegal."

Indeed, fossils from Mongolia and China were freely bought and sold in the United States. But an international custody battle over a Tarbosaurus bataar skeleton changed that. The fight over the dinosaur gave rise to criminal charges against a Florida man, Eric Prokopi, who pleaded guilty in December 2012 to smuggling and other charges. This case was a "watershed event" for people involved in the commercial fossil industry in the United States, Crank said.

The fossils seized as part of the Rolater investigation, like those seized in the Prokopi case, will be returned to their countries of origin, according to officials.

Rolater's case began in June 2012 after a tip to a hotline informed investigators Rolater was selling a Tarbosaurus skull. At about this time, Prokopi's case was making headlines. Prokopi had attempted to sell the skeleton, which he had prepared and mounted, but news of the sale sparked protest from Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who said the fossils were likely taken illegally from his country.

Rolater had been displaying one Tarbosaurus skull in his Jackson, Wyo., store window, but it disappeared. Agents discovered the skull hidden in a closet of a home owned by Rolater and occupied by the store's director, according to a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) press release. 

HSI agents later found a second skull, this one from a juvenile Tarbosaurus, tucked into a crawl space in Rolater's Eagle, Colo., home, HSI announced.

Crank took issue with this version of events, saying investigators had previously contacted Rolater asking for the specimens, and that Rolater had put the items aside for safekeeping. "It makes no sense he would hide them," Crank said.

A third Tarbosaurus bataar skull, which Rolater had sold, was seized from Wichita Falls, Texas, this past July, said Special Agent Buckley J. Thomas, resident agent in charge of HSI Cheyenne, Wyo. Investigators hope to take possession of more fossils Rolater dealt, Thomas told LiveScience.

Rolater had no substantive connection to Prokopi, Thomas said. "We believe Rolater had a different source for his fossils than Prokopi did," and Prokopi did not provide information that led to charges against Rolater, he said.

Rolater pleaded guilty to conspiring with a "Chinese supplier" to smuggle Chinese fossils into the United States with plans to sell them. In a deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Wyoming, he has agreed to serve two years' supervised probation and pay a $25,000 fine.

Rolater's formal sentencing won't take place until March, Crank said. Both the Mongolian and Chinese fossils recovered from Rolater will be returned to their respective countries of origin, officials said.

"From the Mongolian perspective, there is some excitement to see that the U.S. government is continuing to uphold its attention and commitment to stopping the illicit fossil trade, and it wasn't just a one-hit wonder with Prokopi," said Robert Painter, the Houston-based attorney who represents the Mongolia leader Elbegdorj.

Mongolia is establishing its first dinosaur museum, which will house repatriated specimens. More than two dozen fossils recovered from Prokopi and the English fossil dealer Chris Moore are in New York awaiting return to Mongolia, Painter said.

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Mongolians Advance at Dakar Rally

Ulaanbaatar, January 8 /MONTSAME/ At the end of the third day of the Dakar Rally, Mongolian D.Boldbaatar is placed at 89th on Tuesday.

Another Mongolian N.Lkhamaa advanced greatly his position from 147th to 108th among 174, leaving some 60 behind him in the Dakar Rally a 14-day and 8,000-kilometer odyssey through three countries.

The Dakar Rally is living up to its fearsome reputation, the event's third stage wreaking havoc with the race order as punctures and crashes hit the leading contenders.

Nani Roma took his Mini into the lead of the car class after a nightmare stage for overnight leader Stephane Peterhansel, while Joan Barreda Bort extended his lead in the bike class as Dakar legends Cyril Despres and Marc Coma moved into the top three.

The stage took the field up into the Andes for the first time on this year's rally, the 250km competitive section the first half of a 'marathon' test where competitors can receive no help from their mechanics or teams overnight.

Australia's leading hope in the race, motorbike rider Ben Grabham, had a day of highs and lows. Starting the stage sixth on the road, he was running on the pace of the leaders before becoming one of several riders to take a wrong turn into a deep valley.

The 2014 Dakar Rally is the 35th running of the event and the sixth successive year that the event is held in South America. The event starts in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina on January 5 and finishes in Valparaiso, Chile on January 18 after thirteen stages of competition.

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