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  • A stock market correction – long overdue – will tip the global economy into a perfect storm

    Leading stock markets may finally be connecting with the real economy after a long period of in-denial euphoria. Even before United States President Donald Trump signalled that trade wars may persist (only to be refuted by rumours of an imminent deal), there were signs that stock dumping might be imminent.

    After a veritable frenzy of buying back their stocks, some big companies in the US and elsewhere are using their overvalued shares or “scrip” as a currency to buy other companies that have…

    Posted: by South China Morning Post

  • Chemical companies going round in circles

    Covestro China, an arm of the German specialty chemical company, is turning carbon dioxide from a climate villain into an environmental plus in reducing dependence on fossil fuels. In the not too distant future, you may sleep on a mattress made from carbon dioxide, not petroleum-based plastic, according to Covestro.Finding positive uses for carbon dioxide is one way the chemical industry is embracing the global concept of the “circular economy,” which seeks to eliminate waste and recycle resources. It’s a break from the traditional “take-make-dispose” industrial approach.Holly Lei, Covestro China president, said company research and development specialists have spent nearly 10 years working on ways of using carbon dioxide as a raw material to produce plastics instead of relying on petroleum feedstock.Covestro is not alone in such cutting-edge technology. The China arm of Canada’s Methanex Corp, a leading methanol producer, is using carbon dioxide and other raw materials to produce methanol in Iceland.Zhang Jianning, Methanex China president, said the company hopes to introduce the technology to China soon. Methanol is an important raw material in many basic chemical products and a clean alternative fuel. It is traditionally made from natural gas.The company is now working with China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and other government departments to make methanol fuel for vehicles. Methanol cabsIn the provinces of Shaanxi and Guizhou, more than 20,000 taxis will be running on methanol by the end of this year, according to Zhang.“The circular economy will be the next significant trend and core focus of the chemical industry in its development,” said Zhu Ji, president of the China arm of US-based specialty chemicals company Cabot Corp.The concept has been embraced by Chinese authorities as part of the goal of achieving more sustainable development. “The circular economy and digitalization are the focus of the company’s future development,”said Covestro’s Lei. “But the circular economy requires the cooperation of an entire industry.” “My prime work is to speed up implementation of the circular economy by our customers and by partners in our value chain,” said Covestro’s Chief Commercial Officer, Sucheta Govil.Belgian chemical company Solvay SA endorses that view.“In the next 10 years, the overall economic development situation will be very different from what it is today,” said IIham Kadri, Solvay’s chief executive. “Solvay wants to be a very important part of it. We believe that China may be a leader in circular economy.”Circular systems reuse, share, repair, refurbish, re-manufacture and recycle to create a closed-loop system that reduces waste, pollution and carbon emissions. The chemical and plastics industries, long villains to many environmentalists, are among the best positioned to adopt the concept, given their dependence on fossil fuels. “Chemical products make our lives more beautiful,” said Lei. “But to solve the new challenges facing the industry, we are spending time and energy to research how to recover things through chemical methods.”German chemical giant BASF launched its “ChemCycling” project to embrace circular economy, which provides a method of reusing plastic waste that is currently not being recycled, such as mixed or uncleaned plastics. By using thermochemical processes, one of the chemically recycled methods, BASF utilizes these plastics to produce syngas or oils. The resulting chemically recycled raw materials can be used as inputs in BASF’s production for the first time, thereby partially replacing fossil resources. BASF has cooperated with its partners to produce some pilot products, such as mozzarella packaging, refrigerator components and insulation panels.

    Posted: by Shanghai Daily

  • China poised to name another technocrat to helm top lender with focus on greasing growth engine

    China is set to appoint another heavyweight financial technocrat to one of its state-controlled lenders in a move seen at greasing the nation’s growth engine after a year of economic slump.

    Wang Jiang, who is the deputy governor of eastern Jiangsu province, is set to become the president of Bank of China in the coming days as the central government rotates key officials into commanding roles in the US$40 trillion banking system, according to postings in a social media account operated by the…

    Posted: by South China Morning Post

  • Cosmetic giant Shiseido gambles on ‘Made in Japan’

    On wasteland once used for earthquake drills in the small town of Otawara north of Tokyo, Japanese giant Shiseido has built its first domestic factory in 36 years, hoping to capitalise on a boom for “Made in Japan” cosmetics.The Japanese cosmetics industry faces huge competition not only from established players such as L’Oreal and Estee Lauder but increasingly also from the “K-beauty” craze coming from South Korea.Nevertheless, Japan is more than holding its own, with exports nearly quadrupling since 2013 to 546 billion yen (US$5 billion), according to finance ministry figures, nearly two-thirds of that going to Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.The domestic industry is also benefitting from an explosion of inbound tourism in recent years ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — in particular a relaxing of visa requirements for Chinese tourists who lap up the latest Japanese cosmetic fads.Shiseido chief executive Masahiko Uotani told AFP that a focus on the high end of the market and time-honoured attention to detail set them apart from the foreign brands seeking to dominate globally.“We are focusing on prestige, premium brands. Consumers in those categories see the value of Japanese culture,” said Uotani.“So strategically, we are telling consumers: those brands are from Japan, it’s Japanese R&D. And that is becoming a very important competitive value.”In addition to the new plant in Otawara, Shiseido plans to open two more in Japan before 2022 — a total investment of 120 billion yen — the fastest pace of expansion in the firm’s 150-year history.Otawara’s mayor said the plot for the new factory had been barren since the 1990 tech bubble burst. “We used to use it to hold exercises to prepare for natural disasters,” Tomio Tsukui explained.The 1,000 jobs it creates will make Shiseido the biggest private employer in the town, Tsukui said, putting it down to a drop in value of the yen that has made relocalising production more profitable.‘Sake breweries’Norio Tadakawa, Shiseido production manager, has a different explanation. “There are six sake breweries” around Otawara, he says. This is due to the high-quality water around the region — also a fundamental component in making cosmetics.The three new Shiseido factories in Japan will feature the latest in Japanese tech — from advanced robotics to artificial intelligence — but will also rely heavily on human intervention, especially for the highest-range products. “Where it’s possible we are introducing robots, AI, and digital production capacities. But we still need people, employees that have high craftmanship and skills,” said Uotani.In Otawara, for example, while machines fill the bottles, lines of employees in white, blue or pink overalls fix the tops — there are too many different types of container to automate this process.Despite the highest labour costs, Shiseido is not the only company to bring back production to its home base. In 2017, Kose Corporation sold its factory in China to boost its presence in Japan. The gamble on high-cost, high-quality domestically produced goods appears to be working, said Mitsue Konishi, senior innovation analyst at GlobalData.“With quality ingredients, luxurious formulations, elegant packaging, and craftsmanship, cosmetics with the ‘Made in Japan’ tag are gaining appeal in Asian and Western markets,” she told AFP.But the flip side of Japanese attention to detail means development times and quality checks take longer, pointed out Shima Yamanaka, analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities.“The product timeline of Japanese companies is very long. Safety and quality are high but the product checking takes a long time,” she told AFP.For example, Japanese firm Kao on Wednesday unveiled a “spray-on skin” they claim is the world’s first but that took 10 years to bring to market.Even Shiseido’s Uotani admits that the nimble South Koreans have the advantage on this front.“They are good competitors… They are quite efficient, their development time is quite short, which allows them to be very reactive to the market,” he said.

    Posted: by Shanghai Daily

  • Huawei files lawsuit over US ban on rural carriers to buy its products

    CHINESE tech giant Huawei is asking a US federal court to throw out a rule that bars rural phone carriers from using government subsidies to purchase its equipment on security grounds.

    The lawsuit announced yesterday is Huawei’s second legal challenge this year to Trump administration efforts to reduce the company’s US market presence.

    Huawei’s petition said the ban — imposed last month against the company and its Chinese rival ZTE on national security grounds — failed to substantiate claims that Huawei was a threat and was a violation of due process, and thus “unlawful.”

    The petition says the Federal Communications Commission acted improperly when it voted last month to bar rural carriers from using government subsidies to buy equipment from Huawei or its Chinese rival, ZTE Corp.

    The lawsuit says the FCC exceeded its authority by making national security judgments, designated Huawei a threat without evidence and violated its own procedures by adopting a rule without citing a legal basis.

    Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer, said yesterday that there is no evidence that Huawei has threatened the national security of the United States, adding that the US decision was based on political motives.

    “The US government has never presented real evidence to show that Huawei is a national security threat. That’s because this evidence does not exist,” Song said at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen in southern China.

    “Politicians in the US say they are very concerned about cyber security” but they are “banning a company like Huawei, just because we started in China,” he said.

    “This does not solve any cyber security challenges.”

    Huawei warned the FCC rule will hurt rural American carriers.

    Song said that while potential lost sales are minimal, if the rule is allowed to stand, Huawei might suffer “reputational losses” that will “have a further impact on our business.”

    Huawei has consistently dismissed the security accusations, saying Washington has provided no proof to back them up.

    In a separate lawsuit filed in March, Huawei is asking a federal court in Texas to strike down a ban on the US government using its equipment or dealing with any contractor that does.

    In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, “I would like to ask you what the standard of safety is.”

    “If things are not safe insofar as they are made by Chinese, how is it that American people can wear clothes and shoes made by Chinese? Do they pose a security threat to them?,” she asked.

    Huawei has risen to become the world leader in telecom networking equipment and one of the top smartphone manufacturers.

    The Trump administration imposed curbs in May that threaten to disrupt Huawei’s sales of smartphones and network gear by blocking access to US technology and components including Google’s music, maps and other mobile services.

    But Trump has offered a series of temporary reprieves for Huawei to allow service providers covering remote rural areas time to comply with the ban.

    Huawei’s US sales plunged after a congressional panel warned in 2012 the company and ZTE were security risks and told carriers to avoid them. However, its sales in Europe and developing markets in Asia and Africa have risen steadily. Huawei reported its global sales rose 24.4 percent in the first nine months of 2019 over a year earlier to 610.8 billion yuan (US$86 billion).

    In November, Huawei started selling a folding smartphone, the Mate X, made without US-supplied processor chips or Google apps.

    Posted: by Shanghai Daily

  • Portugal defiant

    PORTUGUESE officials have told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo they won’t exclude Chinese companies from competing in a tender for the next-generation 5G wireless network.

    It is the latest move by a European Union country resisting US efforts to persuade allies they should shun Huawei’s bids for 5G contracts.

    Pompeo warned yesterday that the Chinese government “won’t hesitate” to use Huawei as a back door to confidential data. But Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said 5G operators will have to abide by strict regulations and that all foreign investment is welcome.

    Posted: by Shanghai Daily

  • Savvy New York Alibaba traders bagging profits through a temporary arbitrage opportunity

    It’s an opportunity that will not last, but savvy traders holding US-listed Alibaba stock certificates have been bagging profits by capitalising on shares costing more in Hong Kong.The manoeuvre is known as arbitraging, in which a trader makes a profit on securities selling on separate exchanges at different prices.Over the nine days that China’s e-commerce giant has been trading in a secondary listing in Hong Kong, excitement pushed the share price up – beyond what it was in the US. At one…

    Posted: by South China Morning Post

  • Tariffs must go for phase 1 agreement

    CHINA’S Ministry of Commerce said yesterday that if China and the US reach a phase one trade agreement, the tariffs should be reduced.

    Both sides are maintaining close communication, ministry spokesperson Gao Feng told reporters.

    Moreover, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that China’s stance has always been very clear: trade war is a loss-loss situation. She said it’s to the interest and expectations of people from both countries and the international society that China and the US reach a deal based on mutual respect and consultation.

    Investors are closely looking for any signs of progress on a phase one trade deal, especially as the December 15 deadline is approaching.

    The US trade representative in August postponed imposition of additional tariffs on some Chinese goods, including cell phones and laptops, until mid-December.

    US stocks closed on a low note on Tuesday amid trade uncertainties, as the S&P 500 Index fell the most in almost eight weeks while most of the 30 Dow components traded in red territory.

    US President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he will “restore” tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Brazil and Argentina.

    Washington’s threat to hit French products with tariffs over a taxation dispute concerning large US tech companies also fueled the stock market turmoil. Later on, France’s finance minister said the EU was ready to retaliate.

    Posted: by Shanghai Daily

  • The US will regret breaking WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism

    Just when you think things could not possibly get any worse, it does. After a fractious Nato week in London, and a deluge of gloom from the Madrid climate summit, we have tumbled into a week that embraces the launch of impeachment proceedings against a president of the United States and a preposterous Brexit election in Britain. Hopes of an interim US-China trade deal also seem to have drifted off into a fog.

    To cap it all, just when you need the world’s dispute settlement capabilities honed…

    Posted: by South China Morning Post

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