Archive for January, 2012


* Shanghai aims to be global financial centre by 2020

China Daily: “China plans to make Shanghai, the country’s financial hub, a global center for innovation, transaction, pricing and clearing of RMB-denominated financial products by 2015,the country’s top economic planner said Monday.

“The plan will be part of China’s bid to build Shanghai into an international financial center by2020 amid a shifting global financial landscape, with China’s economic weight and its currencytaking a more prominent position on the world stage.”

This move is not contrary to Hong Kong’s continuing role as the ‘off-shore’ RMB trading centre, probably allied with London to provide 24 hour coverage.


* Starbucks finally opens in India

Starbucks and a Tata company have started a JV and will open 50 shops in India this year, starting in Delhi and Mumbai.

In the meantime Starbucks has raised its coffee prices in its 500 stores in China.


* Indian billionaire bids for Marriott Hotels

Bloomberg: “Indian billionaire Subrata Roy, the owner of Sahara group, has offered about 750 million pounds ($1.18 billion) for a collection of Marriott hotels being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), the Sunday Times reported, without citing anyone.

“Roy, who bought the Grosvenor House hotel in London last year, is competing with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, and Indian investor Blue Post Group, according to the newspaper.”

Just as with China, India is buying into foreign tangible assets. The big difference is that Chinese acquisition are often carried out by its sovereign wealth funds or by SOEs (State Owned Enterprises –, whereas Indian acquisitions are more often than not by private sector companies; though India is considering setting up a sovereign wealth fund.


* Biggest human migration

This January sees the start of the Year of the Dragon. The Chinese dragon, opposite to its western counterpart, is perceived as an auspicious, powerful and dynamic icon, always courageous enough to face daunting challenges.

Chinese Lunar New Year/Spring Festival is when traditionally Chinese families get together to exchange presents and to wish each other well. With between 150 to 200m Chinese from rural areas working in big cities in China, the week-long break is a must-travel time. Most do so by rail, though many take coaches and some fly.  The travel exodus is exacerbated by students visiting families too. It is estimated that 3bn passenger trips are incurred during for the two-way trips.

The Chinese railways lay on up to a 1,000 addition trips at the two weekends on either end. This year, a new on-line and telephone system that was meant to ease booking problems actually contributed to chaos as many migrant workers do not use the Internet and many do not know how to book by phone, especially as some form of credit facility is needed. Another case of the manifestation of the “Law of Unintended Consequences” or, in this case, “The Law of Contrary Consequences”.

The fundamental problem is that migrant workers are not issued with full residency permits in the cities in which they spend 90% of their lives and often cannot either afford to or are allowed to bring their children with them. The children therefore remains in the village looked after by the grandparents. This in turn means if there is no wisit, they do not see their offspring at all!


* Cadmium discharge threatens 3.7m people in China

31/01/12 update: Seven chemical company officials arrested.

27/01/12 – Reuters: “A cancer-causing cadmium discharge from a mining company has polluted a long stretch of two rivers in southern China, and officials warned some 3.7 million people of Liuzhou in the Guangxi region to avoid drinking water from the river.

“Pollution of waterways by toxic run-offs from factories and farms is a pressing issue in China, prompting authorities to call for policy tightening, though the problem shows no sign of going away.”



* Huawei invests in British research firm

Huawei, China’s premier telecoms supplier, is acquiring the Centre for Integrated Photonics (CIP), the UK’s world-leading photonics research laboratory, for $10m.

The optical networking research unit is currently owned by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), but is being sold as part of a larger rationalisation of assets.

Huawei said CIP will “significantly deepen” its optical research and development capabilities. The CIP research team will be retained and will form the core of a new Huawei UK R&D centre, part of Huawei’s global network.

This acquisition is much more significant than that of a 10% ownership of Thames Water by a Chinese sovereign fund. It will enable Huawei to tap into British brainpower. Given China’s meed to diversify its surplus from the US$ and other static holdings into tangible assets, this will not be the first such acquisition.

However, there is no need for alarm. Years ago Microsoft set up a research facility in Cambridge and HP set one up in the Thames valley. Even long before then, IBM set up research labs in Switzerland, Britain and France. This all plays to one of the three strands of global power shift that Paddy Ashdown talked about in his talk at – From national states to global corporations.


* Jaipur Literary Festival sides with bigotry, intolerance and censorship

Over the last six days at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India, bigotry, intolerance and censorship has dominated everything, both formal and informal.

This is because of a book The Satanic Verses banned by a Muslim fatwa in 1988, and the planned appearance of Salman Rushdie, the author. Fanatics threatened violence if Rushdie came to Jaipur and police intelligence suggested that assassins were planned to kill Rushdie.

What with corruption high in the public’s mind, the failure to guarantee free speech, esp at a literary festival does not bode well for democracy in India.


* Tibetan protester shot dead

31/01/12 update: Indian Express – “In the wake of protests by Tibetans in Sichuan province over self-immolations by monks, China has tightened its control over Buddhist temples and monasteries in Tibet and is taking steps to prevent “trouble-makers” from entering the region.

“The official Chinese media also defended the recent police firing on Tibetan demonstrators as “justified response and accused “Dharmashala” of instigating protests, without directly naming the Dalai Lama.”

24/01/12: Many demonstrators were injured and one shot dead when Chinese police fired into a crowd of demonstrators in Luhuo, which is known in Tibetan as Draggo and located in westernmost Sichuan Province, near the border with Tibet.

It was the second reported shooting of Tibetan protesters this month. The previous one, on Jan. 14, in which two people were reported wounded, took place in Aba, also located in Sichuan Province and 100 miles northeast of Luhuo.


* Chinese luxury goods brand you’ve never heard of

Chow Tai Fook is a Hong Kong based jeweller with revenues 50% higher than Tiffany’s. It has 1,500 outlets in China, mainly in second tier and third tier cities. It IPOed 10% of its shares 6 weeks ago which puts the value of the company at around $20bn.

With Chinese New Year here (Year of the Dragon), jewellery purchases are expected to be high and Chow Tai Fook hopes to gain some of that.


* Indian Pharma considers acquisitions

Piramal Healthcare is mulling a string of small-ticket acquisitions in the UK biotechnology sector, eyeing early-stage businesses in drug discovery, anaesthetics and contract manufacturing, said Ajay Piramal, head of the Indian pharmaceutical firm.

Piramal, whose company sold its generic drug business to Abbott Laboratories in 2010 for $3.7bn and also has access to debt facilities worth $2bn, told The Timesthat the planned takeovers in the UK and Europe are aimed at strengthening the firm’s drug research unit.

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