Category Archives: Business Updates

Microsoft support search engines paying for news globally.

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Australia’s biggest media companies, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment, have said they think the payments should amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Microsoft on Thursday lobbied for other countries to follow Australia’s lead in calling for news outlets to be paid for stories published online, a move opposed by Facebook and Google.

Microsoft last week offered to fill the void if rival Google follows through on a threat to turn off its search engine in Australia over the plan.

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Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement the company fully supports proposed legislation in Australia that would force Google and Facebook to compensate media for their journalism.

“This has made for an unusual split within the tech sector, and we’ve heard from people asking whether Microsoft would support a similar proposal in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries,” Smith said in a blog post.

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“The short answer is yes.”

Facebook and Google have both threatened to block key services in Australia if the rules, now before parliament, become law as written.

The situation raises the question of whether US President Joe Biden will back away from his predecessor’s objection to the proposal in Australia.

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“As the United States takes stock of the events on January 6, it’s time to widen the aperture,” Smith said, referring to a deadly attack on the US Capitol building by a mob of Trump supporters out to overturn the election results.

“The ultimate question is what values we want the tech sector and independent journalism to serve.”

Smith argued that internet platforms that have not previously compensated news agencies should now step up to revive independent journalism that “goes to the heart of our democratic freedoms.”

“The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press,” Smith said.

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“It should copy it instead.”

Bing goes big?
The proposed law in Australia would govern relations between financially distressed traditional media outlets and the giants which dominate the internet and capture a significant share of advertising revenues.

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Microsoft’s search engine Bing accounts for less than 5 percent of the market in Australia, and from 15 to 20 percent of the market in the United States, according to the tech giant based in Washington State.

“With a realistic prospect of gaining usage share, we are confident we can build the service Australians want and need,” Smith said.

“And unlike Google, if we can grow, we are prepared to sign up for the new law’s obligations, including sharing revenue as proposed with news organizations.”

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Under the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, Google and Facebook would be required to negotiate payments to individual news organizations for using their content on the platforms.

Australia’s biggest media companies, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment, have said they think the payments should amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

If an agreement cannot be reached on the size of the payments, the issue would go to so-called “final offer” arbitration where each side proposes a compensation amount and the arbiter chooses one or the other.

Google and Facebook, backed up by the US government and leading internet architects, have said the scheme would seriously undermine their business models and the very functioning of the internet.

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Both Facebook and Google have insisted they are willing to pay publishers for news via licensing agreements and commercial negotiations, and both have signed deals worth millions of dollars with news organizations around the world.

Google has said the bargaining code should focus on facilitating these kinds of negotiations, but it rejected the idea of mandatory “final offer” arbitration.

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#Newsworthy

Huawei CEO speaks on open policy hopes from Biden’s Gov’t.

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Huawei also is building an alternative operating system after the US barred it from using Google’s Android.

The CEO and founder of Chinese telecom giant Huawei called Tuesday for a reset with the United States under President Joe Biden, after the firm was battered by sanctions imposed by Donald Trump’s administration.

In his first appearance before journalists in a year, Ren Zhengfei said his “confidence in Huawei’s ability to survive has grown” despite its travails across much of the western world where it is maligned as a potential security threat.

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The comments come as the firm struggles under rules that have effectively banned US firms from selling it technology such as semiconductors and other critical components, citing national security concerns.

Insisting that Huawei remained strong and ready to buy from US companies, Ren called on the Biden White House for a “mutually beneficial” change of tack that could restore its access to the goods.

Continuing to do so, he warned, would hurt US suppliers.

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“We hope the new US administration would have an open policy for the benefit of American firms and the economic development of the United States,” said Ren, 76.

“We still hope that we can buy large volumes of American materials, components and equipment so that we can all benefit from China’s growth.”

Ren was speaking during a visit to the city of Taiyuan in China’s northern coal belt to open a laboratory for technologies that automate coal production to boost safety in a notoriously dangerous industry.

Founded by Ren in 1987, Huawei largely flew under the global radar for decades as it became the world’s largest maker of telecoms equipment and a top mobile phone producer.

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That changed under Trump, who targeted the firm as part of an intensifying China-US trade and technology standoff.

Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei speaks during a press briefing in Taiyuan, in China’s northern Shanxi province on February 9, 2021. (Photo by JESSICA YANG / AFP)

Trump from 2018 imposed escalating sanctions to cut off Huawei’s access to components and bar it from the US market, while he also successfully pressured allies to shun the firm’s gear in their telecoms systems.

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The former president raised fears that China’s government could potentially use “back doors” in Huawei gear for espionage, which the company strenuously denies.

The US campaign is hurting Huawei. Once a top-three smartphone supplier along with Samsung and Apple, its shipments plummeted more than 40 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to industry tracker IDC, as the supply-chain disruptions curbed production.

It fell to number five in the world in smartphones in the quarter — behind Chinese rivals Xiaomi and Oppo.

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Diversification
With China’s huge domestic market, Huawei will likely survive but not without major changes, said Nicole Peng, analyst with Canalys.

“They will not go away. I believe they will come back, but need to rethink the business model,” she said.

To this end, Huawei in November spun off budget smartphone line Honor to free that brand’s access to needed components.

But Ren insisted Tuesday it would hold on to its main premium phone brands.

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“We have decided we absolutely will not sell off our consumer devices, our smartphone business,” he said.

Despite his apparent overture to the White House, Ren admitted it would be “extremely difficult” for Biden to lift the sanctions.

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There is pressure in Washington to stay firm on China, and Biden’s commerce secretary nominee Gina Raimondo has pledged to “protect” America from potential Chinese threats, including Huawei.

Huawei is fast diversifying to encompass enterprise and cloud computing, Internet-Of-Things devices and networks, and other business segments related to the advent of 5G networks, an area of Huawei strength.

“We have more means to overcome the difficulties (we face),” Ren said.

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Huawei also is building an alternative operating system after the US barred it from using Google’s Android.

But Ren appeared to shoot down recent reports that Huawei is seeking self-sufficiency in semiconductors — long an Achilles Heel for China — either by acquiring stakes in chip companies or setting up its own plant.

“Huawei won’t be investing in this ourselves,” he said.

Ren also has had to deal with the December 2018 arrest of his daughter, Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, on a US warrant during a Vancouver stopover.

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Meng, 48, faces fraud and conspiracy charges in the United States over alleged Huawei violations of US sanctions against Iran, and separate charges of theft of trade secrets.

Her trial will begin in earnest in March, after two years of legal skirmishing. She could ultimately be extradited to the United States.

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#Newsworthy

eQAfy report estimates WordPress’ share of US institution Website to 40.8%

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WordPress does much better in the category of 4-year private for-profit higher education institutions, capturing a staggering 75% of the market.

A new report from eQAfy, a company that collects and analyzes data about higher education websites, has benchmarked which content management systems US institutions are using.

The report is a snapshot of data from December 2020, sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS database.

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After scanning a list of 4,000 active institutions, EQAfy’s headless browser was able to detect the CMS for 3,359 homepages (83.8%).

A market leading group of 12 content management systems made up 90% of the homepages eQAfy detected, including four open source solutions and eight proprietary solutions. WordPress captures 40.8% of the market, followed by Drupal at 19.1%, as measured across all institution types (public, private for profit, and private non-profit), levels (2-year and 4-year), and sizes.

WordPress’ estimated market share for public institutions came in at 27%, and is much higher in the private for-profit institutions category at 55%.

Looking at 2-year public higher education institutions by student population, WordPress falls to #3 at just 18.3%. Drupal leads the pack in that category with 29.2%, and proprietary CMS’s take up the rest of the market. WordPress does much better in the category of 4-year private for-profit higher education institutions, capturing a staggering 75% of the market.

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When examining CMS suppliers for institutions by size, WordPress is the overall market leader but does far better in the smallest institutional size categories, with waning dominance in the large to very large categories.

The report has more interesting data comparisons across different categories if you want to dig deeper. It’s important to note that eQAfy only collected the main websites for these institutions, which may not be representative of the CMS that powers the schools’ ancillary websites. They are often created using a combination of platforms. This report covers only which CMS the schools preferred to use for the face of their institutions.

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#Newsworthy

Jeff Bezos reveals his replacement as Amazon CEO.

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Jeff said being Amazon CEO is exhausting and consuming as he hand over.

World’s richest business tycoon, Jeff Bezos has confirmed his retirement as Amazon CEO after years of tangible activeness.

File Photo: Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon Group | Noble Reporters Media | Adigun Michael Olamide | NoRM News

According to the February 2 announcement, Bezos will be replaced by Andy Jassy.

His replacement, Jassy has worked for Amazon since 1997 and currently serves as CEO of the company’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services.

File Photo: Andy Jassy, CEO, Amazon Web Services since 1997 | Noble Reporters Media | Adigun Michael Olamide | NoRM News

Bezos said in a letter to employees Tuesday that he is delighted to take the next step.

Story Source: Noble Reporters Media

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#Newsworthy

World’s richest, Jeff Bezos considers ‘stepping down’ as Amazon CEO.

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His replacement, Jassy has worked for Amazon since 1997 and currently serves as CEO of the company’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services.

The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos is set to step down as Amazon CEO and transition to the role of executive chair, later this year the company has announced.

According to the February 2 announcement, Bezos will be replaced by Andy Jassy.

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Bezos has been Amazon’s CEO since it was established in 1995 and grew the company from an online bookseller into a $1.7 trillion global retail and logistics Heavyweight.

His replacement, Jassy has worked for Amazon since 1997 and currently serves as CEO of the company’s cloud business, Amazon Web Services.

Bezos said in a letter to employees Tuesday that he is delighted to take the next step.

“Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” Bezos wrote.

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“When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else. As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions. I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have.”

The news came as part of Amazon’s fourth-quarter earnings report. The company’s stock has grown nearly 69% over the past year.

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#Newsworthy

CBN Moves License Payment Service Banks To Unbanked Individuals

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued guidelines for licensing and regulation of Payment Service Banks (PSBs) as it aims to enhance financial inclusion to small businesses, low-income households, and other financially excluded entities.

In a circular to PSBs on Thursday, the financial regulator said that despite several initiatives introduced, the inclusion rate remained below expectations.

It added that in collaboration with critical stakeholders in the digital financial ecosystem, the need to establish a guideline for the operations of the PSBs is crucial to enhance financial inclusion and stimulate economic activities at the grassroots through the provision of financial services.

“The National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) seeks to ensure that over 80 percent of the bankable adults in Nigeria have access to financial services by 2020. The CBN in collaboration with stakeholders launched the NFIS on 23rd October 2012 with a view to reducing the exclusion rate to 20 percent by 2020.

“Despite several initiatives including the Introduction of Microfinance banking, Agent Banking, Tiered Know-Your-Customer Requirements, and Mobile Money Operation (MMO) in pursuit of this objective, the inclusion rate remains below expectation.

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“In view of the challenges to effective outreach to rural communities as well as the need to complement the services provided by other licensed entities, the CBN issues this regulation to provide for the licensing and operations of Payment Service Banks (PSBs) in Nigeria,” it added.

According to the CBN, the Payment Service Banks structure shall include; “Operate mostly in the rural areas and unbanked locations targeting financially excluded persons, with not less than 25% financial service touchpoints in such rural areas as defined by the CBN from time to time; enter into direct partnership with card scheme operators. Such cards shall not be eligible for foreign currency transactions; deploy ATMs in some of these areas, amongst others.

However, the apex bank revealed that the PSBs shall not grant any form of loans, accept foreign currency deposits, deal in the foreign exchange market or accept any closed scheme in electronic value as a form of deposit or payment.

The CBN stated that banking agents, telecommunications companies, retail chains, postal and courier service providers, mobile money operators, FinTech, and any other entity whose application is approved on merit are eligible to promote the new scheme.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Tesco supermarket unveils 16,000 jobs

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Tesco will create 16,000 permanent UK jobs to meet a coronavirus-fuelled surge in online grocery demand, the supermarket giant said Monday in a boost for the country’s embattled retail sector.

Britain’s biggest retailer added in a statement that it expects “the majority” of jobs to be filled by temporary staff drafted in during the pandemic to cope with soaring home food deliveries amid the country’s lockdown.

“Since the start of the pandemic, our colleagues have helped us to more than double our online capacity, safely serving nearly 1.5 million customers every week and prioritising vulnerable customers to ensure they get the food they need,” said Jason Tarry, chief executive for Tesco UK and Ireland.

“These new roles will help us continue to meet online demand for the long term, and will create permanent employment opportunities for 16,000 people across the UK,” he added in a statement.

The new permanent positions are in addition to around 4,000 full-time jobs created by Tesco during the pandemic.

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Some 47,000 temporary staff joined Tesco at the peak of the coronavirus, most of whom have reached the end of their contracts.

Pre-pandemic, online sales at Tesco accounted for about nine percent of total revenue.

That has jumped to more than 16 percent, with Tesco expecting online sales this year to reach more than £5.5 billion ($7.1 billion, 6.0 billion euros).

Monday’s update comes after major UK companies announced thousands of job cuts in recent weeks, notably across the aviation, energy and retail sectors, owing to COVID-19 fallout.

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Britain’s economy shrank by one fifth in the second quarter, more than any European neighbour, as the lockdown plunged the country into its deepest recession on record.

In October, the UK government is to end a furlough scheme that has been paying up to 80 percent of wages for around ten million workers during the pandemic.

Analysts said this would result in soaring unemployment across Britain.

– Travel sector warning –

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) warned Monday that more than 90,000 travel jobs have been lost or remain under threat owing to coronavirus fallout.

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Far fewer Britons are heading abroad, particularly after the UK government re-imposed quarantine on travellers returning from nations including Austria, Croatia, France, the Netherlands and Spain.

“Travel desperately needs the government in its next review to provide tailored support or tens of thousands more jobs will be lost,” said ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer.

The gloomy survey came after student specialist holiday firm STA Travel UK collapsed on Friday.

Among British retailers hit hard by virus fallout is Marks and Spencer, which last week said it was axing 7,000 jobs as wary customers steer clear of its stores, which mainly sell clothes and food.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: European Stock Markets Surge On Vaccine Hopes.

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European stock markets surged Monday on hopes of a coronavirus vaccine, while the dollar waned on continued deadlock over a new US stimulus deal, dealers said.

Looking ahead to a key meeting of central bankers this week, traders sent London’s benchmark rallying 2.0 percent and major eurozone indices were almost 2.5-percent higher approaching the half-way stage.

American authorities on Sunday announced that doctors could use blood plasma from recovered coronavirus patients as a treatment against the disease that has killed more than 176,000 in the US.

The move by the Food and Drug Administration comes as President Donald Trump faces intense pressure to curb the contagion that has hobbled the world’s largest economy and clouded his once-promising prospects for re-election in November.

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“European markets have kicked off the week in style, with the FDA’s decision to approve the convalescent plasma coronavirus treatment raising hopes that we could see a vaccine fast-tracked before long,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG trading group.

Hong Kong’s main stock index meanwhile led gains across Asia, rallying 1.7 percent with traders cheered by a pledge from China’s banking regulator that it would continue to back the city as a financial hub after concerns were raised following the imposition of a new security law last month.

Investors will this week be keeping an eye also on a virtual gathering of central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for monetary policy guidance after they have already provided already a wall of cash to support the global economy during the pandemic.

The main attraction is a speech by Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell that is slated to take place on Thursday.

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“More clarity will no doubt be sought via this week’s Jackson Hole symposium,” said Ben Emons, of Medley Global Advisors.

Traders are additionally keeping tabs on Washington, where US lawmakers are struggling to reach an agreement on a fresh stimulus package for the American economy.

“Democrats and Republicans are still very far (from) reaching a deal, and this means no further immediate aid in terms of fiscal policy,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Avatrade.

“Investors will like to know how the Fed will use language to make politicians understand in Washington about the importance of another stimulus package.”

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– Key figures around 1045 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: UP 2.0 percent at 6,118.76 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 2.4 percent at 13,075.07

Paris – CAC 40: UP 2.3 percent at 5,009.88

EURO STOXX 50: UP 2.3 percent at 3,334.80

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 22,985.51 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.7 percent at 25,551.58 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,385.64 (close)

New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 27,930.33 points (close Friday)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1829 from $1.1795 at 2115 GMT on Friday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.72 yen from 105.78 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3120 from $1.3087

Euro/pound: UP at 90.18 pence from 90.09 pence

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.7 percent at $44.66 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.6 percent at $42.61 per barrel.


#Newsworthy..

Breaking: Nigeria’s GDP in second quarter slumps by 6.10%

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Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased by six percent in real terms in the second quarter of 2020, according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics.

This was contained in the NBS’s GDP report published on Monday.

The retreat ends a three-year trend of low but positive real growth rates recorded since the national economy emerged from recession in 2017.

According to the NBS, the decline was “largely attributable to significantly lower levels of both domestic and international economic activity during the quarter, which resulted from nationwide shutdown efforts aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Nigeria essentially shut down its economy in March – restricting inter-state travel, closing worship centres, schools and markets – as parts of efforts to keep the spread of the novel coronavirus under control.

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decreased by six percent in real terms in the second quarter of 2020.

“The efforts, led by both the Federal and State governments, evolved over the course of the quarter and persisted throughout,” the NBS said.

The oil sector, which accounts for a large percentage of the country’s revenues, recorded negative growth of 6.63 percent, “indicating a decrease of –13.80%
points relative to the rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2019.”

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The non-oil sector also declined by 6.05% in real terms during the second quarter.

“It was the first decline in real non-oil GDP growth rate since Q3 2017,” the NBS said.

Not a surprise
The economy’s decline did not come as a surprise to many as the coronavirus pandemic has gutted economic productivity across the world.

The report will be “negative,” Presidential aide, Tolu Ogunlesi, tweeted on Sunday. “Tomorrow we find out to what degree.”

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The third-quarter results have also been projected to be negative, which will officially land the economy in a recession.

A recession is only declared after two consecutive quarterly contractions.

In May, Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, predicted that the country was heading towards a recession.

“On the economy, COVID-19 has resulted in the collapse in oil prices,” she said after a National Economic Summit meeting. “This will impact negatively, and the impact has already started showing on the federation’s revenues and on the foreign exchange earnings.”


#Newsworthy…

Update: Tik Tok set to take legal action against Donald Trump amid ban.

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Video app TikTok said Saturday it will challenge in court a Trump administration crackdown on the popular Chinese-owned platform, which Washington accuses of being a national security threat.

As tensions soar between the world’s two biggest economies, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on August 6 giving Americans 45 days to stop doing business with TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance — effectively setting a deadline for a potential pressured sale of the app to a US company.

“To ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and users are treated fairly, we have no choice but to challenge the executive order through the judicial system,” TikTok said in a statement.

“Even though we strongly disagree with the administration’s concerns, for nearly a year we have sought to engage in good faith to provide a constructive solution,” it said.

“What we encountered instead was a lack of due process as the administration paid no attention to facts and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

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ByteDance said in a separate statement that the suit would be filed on Monday, US time.

TikTok’s kaleidoscopic feeds of short clips feature everything from dance routines and hair-dye tutorials to jokes about daily life and politics. It has been downloaded 175 million times in the US and more than a billion times around the world.

Trump claims TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.

The company has said it has never provided any US user data to the Chinese government, and Beijing has blasted Trump’s crackdown as political.

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The US measures come ahead of November 3 elections in which Trump, behind his rival Joe Biden in the polls, is campaigning hard on an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.

– Trump and China –
Trump has increasingly taken a confrontational stance on China, challenging it on trade, military and economic fronts.

Shortly after Trump announced his moves against TikTok this month, the United States slapped sanctions on Hong Kong’s leader over the Chinese security clampdown after last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations.

Microsoft and Oracle are possible suitors for TikTok’s US operations.

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Reports have said Oracle — whose chairman Larry Ellison has raised millions in campaign funds for Trump — was weighing a bid for TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Trump administration has also given ByteDance a 90-day deadline to divest in TikTok before the app is banned in the United States.

The measures move away from the long-promoted American ideal of a global, open internet and could invite other countries to follow suit, analysts told AFP previously.

“It’s really an attempt to fragment the internet and the global information society along US and Chinese lines, and shut China out of the information economy,” Milton Mueller, a Georgia Tech professor and founder of the Internet Governance Project said previously.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Poland enters first recession since over three decades.

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Poland is experiencing its first recession since the end of the communist era more than three decades ago, an estimate by Poland’s statistics office showed on Friday.

The economy shrank by 8.9 percent in the second quarter because of the effects of the coronavirus lockdown, after a contraction of 0.4 percent in the first quarter.

Recession is defined two consecutive quarters of contraction.

Poland was the only European Union member state to avoid recession during the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 and has enjoyed healthy growth rates until now.

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The gross domestic product grew by 4.1 percent in 2019, slightly lower than the 5.3 percent rate in 2018.

File photo: Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attend the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019. Janek SKARZYNSKI / AFP

The economy “should recover” in the next quarters, the Polish Economic Institute, an independent research centre, was quoted by PAP news agency as saying.

The government is forecasting 3.4 percent contraction this year, down from a previous prognosis of 3.7 percent growth.

The European Commission forecast in May that the Polish economy would shrink by 4.3 percent overall in 2020 and bounce back with 4.1 percent expansion in 2021.


#Newsworthy…

NBS Report: Unemployment rate in Nigeria rises by 27.1% in Q2

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Nigeria’s unemployment rate has gone up by 27 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, from 23.1 per cent it reported in Q3 2018.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) disclosed this in its ‘Labor Force Statistics: Unemployment and Underemployment Report’ released on Friday.

“For the period under review, Q2 2020, the unemployment rate among young people (15-34 years) was 34.9 per cent, up from 29.7 per cent, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group rose to 28.2 per cent from 25.7 per cent in Q3 2018,” the NBS report said. “These rates were the highest when compared to other age groupings.”

According to the NBS, the number of persons in the economically active age (15 – 64 years), jumped from 115,492,969 in Q3 2018 to 116,871,186 in Q2 2020.

“The number of persons in the labour force (i.e. people within ages 15 -64, who are able and willing to work) was estimated to be 80,291,894,” it said.

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This was 11.3 per cent less than the number of persons in Q3 2018.

“Of this number, those within the age bracket of 25-34 were highest, with 23,328,460 or 29.1 per cent of the labour force,” it added.

A further peep into the latest NBS unemployment data indicated that the number of employed people in Q2 2020 slumped by 15.8 per cent to 58,527,276 when placed side by side with that of Q3 2018.

“Of this number, 35,585,274 were full-time employed (i.e. worked 40+ hours per week), while 22,942,003 were underemployed (i.e. working between 20-29 hours per week),” the report revealed.

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At 48.7 per cent, Imo State has the highest unemployment rate in the country and is trailed by Akwa-Ibom State (45.2 per cent) and Rivers State (43.7 per cent).

Anambra State, however, has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation – 17 per cent.

“For underemployment, the state which recorded the highest rate was Zamfara with 43.7 per cent, while Anambra State recorded the lowest underemployment rate, with 17 per cent in Q2 2020,” the agency said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBS said: “2,736,076 did not do any work in the last seven days preceding the survey due to the lockdown but had secure jobs to return to after the lockdown.”


#Newsworthy..

Drivers as Employees’ law could drop operations in California – Uber Chief says

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Being forced to classify drivers as employees could temporarily idle Uber operations in its home state of California, the ride-sharing firm’s chief said Wednesday.

The comments from Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi to MSNBC come after a court gave Uber and rival Lyft until the middle of next week to reclassify drivers as employees instead of contract workers in compliance with a new state law.

“If the court doesn’t reconsider, then in California, it’s hard to believe we’ll be able to switch our model to full-time employment quickly,” Khosrowshahi said in the MSNBC interview.

“We’ll have to essentially shut down Uber until November when the voters decide.”

Uber and Lyft are backing a referendum in the state to overturn the law, while pledging to provide benefits for a social safety net that would keep gig workers independent

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 22, 2017 A woman poses holding a smartphone showing the App for ride-sharing cab service Uber in London. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

The order came Monday when a judge granted a restraining order in a lawsuit filed by California attorney general Xavier Becerra and three cities including San Francisco, where Lyft and Uber are based.

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The suit calls on Lyft and Uber to comply with a state law that went into effect at the start of this year that requires “gig workers” such as smartphone-summoned ride service drivers to be classified as employees, eligible for unemployment, medical and other benefits.

Uber and Lyft expect to appeal the decision, which could buy them more time.

A backup plan for Uber would be to pause operations in California, eventually restarting with “a much smaller service, much higher prices” and probably focused in the center of cities or in suburbs,” according to Khosrowshahi.

The rideshare rivals have maintained that most of their drivers want to remain independent even if they also are looking for benefits.


#Newsworthy…

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific reports $1.27BN loss in Q1 & Q2.

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Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said Wednesday it lost HK$9.9 billion (US$1.27 billion) in the first half of this year as the coronavirus pandemic sent passenger numbers tumbling, eviscerating its business.

Before the pandemic, Cathay Pacific was one of Asia’s largest international airlines and the world’s fifth-largest air cargo carrier. But it has been battered by the evaporation of global travel.

“The first six months of 2020 were the most challenging that the Cathay Pacific Group has faced in its more than 70-year history,” chairman Patrick Healy said in a stark statement announcing the results.

“The global health crisis has decimated the travel industry and the future remains highly uncertain, with most analysts suggesting that it will take years to recover to pre-crisis levels.”

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The airline said it carried 4.4 million passengers in the first six months of 2020 — a 76 percent plunge on-year — as the coronavirus burst out of central China and spread around the world.

At the height of the global lockdowns in April and May, Cathay Pacific’s entire fleet was averaging just 500 passengers a day.

Cargo remained the lone bright spot, rising nine percent on-year to HK$11.2 billion. Demand was driven up by a squeeze on space for cargo, which is often carried in the holds of passenger planes.

Despite the grim results, Cathay’s share price rose 12 percent on Wednesday, its biggest one-day jump since 2008.

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Bloomberg News said the rally was caused by a tweet by China’s state-run tabloid Global Times saying Hong Kong’s airport may soon restart transfer flights to the mainland.

The paper gave no source for its tweet but investors were buoyed because transfer flights could give Cathay some much-needed extra passengers.

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 12, 2019 shows the Cathay Pacific check-in area empty as all flights have been cancelled after protesters occupied Hong Kong’s international airport during continued unrest in the territory. – Troubled Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said it lost 1.27 billion USD in the first half of this year, the latest major airline to reveal how badly the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has eviscerated its business. (Photo by VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP)

Unlike other big international carriers, Cathay has no domestic market to fall back on, and it was already under pressure after months of huge protests in Hong Kong last year caused passenger numbers to plunge.

It was also punished by Beijing last year when some of its 33,000 employees expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

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– Rescue package –

Healy said 2020 had started promisingly, with signs that demand was beginning to return after the sometimes-violent protests had put travellers off visiting the financial hub.

But then the pandemic struck.

In response to the health crisis, Cathay Pacific has tried to save cash by reducing capacity, cutting executive pay, introducing voluntary leave schemes and slashing other non-essential costs.

It has so far refrained from any large-scale job cuts.

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Hong Kong’s government also came to its rescue earlier this year with a HK$39 billion recapitalisation plan.

The deal allowed Cathay Pacific to raise some HK$11.7 billion in a rights issue on the basis of seven rights shares for every 11 existing shares held.

Preference shares were sold to the government via Aviation 2020, a new company it owns, for HK$19.5 billion and warrants for HK$1.95 billion, subject to adjustment.

In return, Aviation 2020 received two “observers” to attend board meetings.

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Healy predicted little optimism for business picking up any time soon, quoting the International Air Transport Association as saying global travel is unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024.

And he said Asia-Pacific airlines were likely to suffer for longer given spiralling tensions between the United States and China.

“With a global recession looming, and geopolitical tensions intensifying, trade will likely come under significant pressure,” he said.

“And this is expected to have a negative impact on both air travel and cargo demand.”


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Asian markets mixed over worrisome trade hopes.

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Asian markets were mixed Wednesday with worries that US lawmakers might not agree to a fresh stimulus deal any time soon playing up against optimism about upcoming US-China trade talks.

Both nations are due this weekend to meet to review their much-vaunted trade pact, which had been a cause for concern among investors owing to ongoing tensions between the superpowers.

But Donald Trump’s top economic adviser eased concerns Tuesday by saying the pact was “fine right now”.

Larry Kudlow told reporters that despite the tensions, “one area we are engaging is trade”. He added that Beijing had promised to stick to its promises on the January trade deal and there was evidence it was increasing purchases.

However, optimism that US lawmakers will thrash out a new stimulus package to accompany Federal Reserve’s ultra-loose monetary policy is waning.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave traders a jolt when he told Fox News there had been no progress, fanning concerns the talks could take a lot longer than envisaged.

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“Another day has gone by with an impasse,” McConnell said, sparking a sell-off on Wall Street, which had been well in positive territory until then.

“The hope was that US politicians will look to restart negotiations on a new fiscal stimulus this week. Now with no talks scheduled, the deadlock between Republicans and Democrats is at risk of dragging on for weeks,” National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril said.

Hong Kong rose 1.4 percent, with airlines boosted by a report that the city’s airport might restart transfer flights to China soon.

Tokyo gained 0.4 percent, while Seoul added 0.6 percent and Singapore put on 0.5 percent. Manila and Jakarta each rose 0.7 percent.

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But Shanghai fell 0.6 percent while Sydney, Taipei and Mumbai were also lower.

Wellington dropped more than one percent after a three-day lockdown was announced for Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city with a population of 1.5 million, after four people tested positive, ending a 102-day run that had fanned hopes the disease had been contained.

London started slightly higher as data showed the economy suffered a historic contraction in the second quarter but officials said it was showing signs of bouncing back.

The UK economy shrank a record 20.4 percent in the second quarter but deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said things “began to bounce back in June, with shops reopening, factories beginning to ramp up production and house-building continuing to recover.”

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Michael Hewson at Markets.com said the reading largely was in line with expectations and “economic activity is bouncing back” but warned that “getting back to 2019 levels of activity is going to take a very long time”.

“Britain’s economy is on the ropes, but we knew this already,” he added.

Frankfurt fell and Paris edged up in morning trade.

– Deflated optimism –

“When you walk back the market’s expectations of an imminent fiscal deal, it is like poking the balloon with a straight pin as all semblance of near-term optimism gets immediately deflated,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.

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“Let us face it, the only relevant information that might aid investors’ comprehension of the path of the real economy has come from fiscal stimulus chatter,” he added.

“Take that out of this week’s equation, and you are left hoping on a wing and a prayer for a vaccine.”

Analysts said easing concerns about the future of the US-China trade pact and healthy China data provided some cheer to investors, giving them the confidence to shift out of safe havens such as gold and the yen.

Gold prices fell three percent, extending the previous day’s sell-off on profit-taking and owing to a pick-up in the dollar, which had been hammered through July to push the yellow metal to multiple records.

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– Key figures around 0810 GMT –

Tokyo: Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 22,43.96 (close)

Hong Kong: Hang Seng: UP 1.4 percent at 25,244.02 (close)

Shanghai: Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,319.27 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 6,187.94

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1739 from $1.1734 at 2045 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.79 yen from 106.50 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3045 from $1.3047

Euro/pound: UP at 89.99 pence from 89.94 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.9 percent at $42.00 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.9 percent at $44.91 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 27,686.91 (close).


#Newsworthy….

PTECSSAN threatens two weeks strike over anti-labour practices by MTN Nigeria MGT.

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The Private Telecommunications and Communications Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PTECSSAN) has threatened to embark on a two-week industrial action over the alleged anti-labour practices by the management of MTN Nigeria.

The union, which is an affiliate of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), issued the warning in a statement on Tuesday.

It also vowed to disrupt the services of the telecommunications company nationwide after several attempts to resolve the issues failed.

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According to PTECSSAN, the issues bother on the remuneration of workers, exit packages for long-term staff, employee relations practices, and alleged abuse of expatriate quota, amongst others.

It accused MTN of disregarding its employees in the country, saying such an action was contrary to the core values preached by the organisation.

“MTN practices an unwholesome, insensitive, and discriminatory structure in the emoluments of some categories of workers.

“Workers on the same job level earn disproportionately. In many cases, members of a team earn more than their team leads and even more than their direct managers,” the union alleged.

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It added, “Non-payment of severance benefits at the point of departure of employees after long years of dedicated and uninterrupted services to the company has become a deep frustrating practice to the live long guarantees for workers in MTN.

“The company claims it has not been paying exiting employees severance benefits, hence, it cannot be a matter for negotiation with the union despite the fact that social dialogue demands that all matters without exception concerning workers in the workplace are subject to negotiation.

“The rate at which companies in the telecommunications sector import excessive manpower to the country to do jobs Nigerians are not lacking in competence is alarming. It is becoming pervasive in MTN Nigeria as well.

“We have several expatriates in the company who do exactly what Nigerians do. Most of these expatriates are trained by Nigerians and we still wonder how the permits for these individuals were approved.”

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The union warned that if the company fails to yield to its demands or source for another alternative to satisfy their business interests, its proposed strike would be wide and compelling with deep implications for the company’s businesses.

“Once again, we reinstate that if our demands are not fully and appropriately complied with by MTN Nigeria Telecommunications Limited on or before the next 14 days from today, we shall withdraw every guarantee of industrial peace within MTN Nigeria. Services may be disrupted across the nation throughout the network from the midnight of the 24th day of August 2020,” it said.

PTECSSAN leadership at a press conference on August 11, 2020. (Noble Reporters Media / Adigun Michael Olamide)

A Great Place To Work
In his reaction, MTN’s Chief Corporate Services Officer, Tobechukwu Okigbo, stated that the allegations made by the labour union were totally untrue and without any merit.

Bayelsa NSCDC Uncovers Plot To Attack MTN
A file photo of the MTN logo.

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Okigbo, in a statement sent to Channels Television, insisted that MTN has built a ‘people first’ culture that empowers its employees, values inclusivity and hard work, and instills a responsibility for its customers and communities.

“This is what defines and unites us. MTN cares greatly about all its workers, deploying global best practice people solutions and policies that make MTN Nigeria a great place to work.

“We intentionally invest in our people. Indeed, MTN’s success in Nigeria is as a result of the hard work, commitment, and dedication of all staff, guided by a strong culture of people management,” the statement said.

It added, “Our people/workforce are our most critical competitive advantage and a key differentiator in the marketplace so we take staff welfare, remuneration, and career development seriously.

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“We have stringent policies in place that promote meritocracy and protect our employees from all forms of harassment and discrimination and creates a workplace where employees feel valued and safe.”

Recently, the MTN group announced plans to exit the Middle East and focus on the African continent, stating that the Middle East environment was becoming increasingly complex and has contributed less to its earnings.

It explained that the move was part of its medium-term strategy, starting with the sales of its 75 percent stake in MTN Syria.

After the planned exit, the firm’s entire portfolio would amount to 17 subsidiaries in Africa.

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Meanwhile, half-year earnings report sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange showed that MTN Nigeria reported a half-year revenue of N638 billion in 2020, compared to N566.9 billion it reported in the same period last year, driven by growth in data revenues in the first and second quarters of the year.

In the second quarter of 2020, total revenue rose by 8.5 per cent to N308.9 billion, driven largely by higher data revenues.

The company explained that the growth in data revenue was driven by growth in data usage and traffic while adding two million new data subscribers in the quarter compared to 1.8 million in the first quarter.

PTECSSAN, however, insisted that the increase in revenue was enough reason why the company should not engage in unfair treatment of its staff in a country that contributes about 60 per cent in its entire Africa operations.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: European stock markets surge

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Stock markets surged Tuesday on optimism that lawmakers in Washington will hammer out a new stimulus package for the crippled American economy, while concerns about the US-China trade pact eased.

Approaching the half-way stage, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 2.5 percent.

In the eurozone, Frankfurt and Paris rallied 2.6 percent.

European indices took “their cues from a positive Asia session, as investors focus on the prospect of a fiscal stimulus deal from US political leaders…. while setting aside concerns about an escalation in US-China trade tensions”, noted Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Hong Kong rose more than two percent, with Macau casinos rallying on news that China would resume issuing tourist visas to Macau, reopening a crucial revenue stream for resorts that have been battered by a crash in tourist numbers.

Shanghai dropped more than one percent.

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There was some relief that China did not include any members of US President Donald Trump’s administration in a group of 11 Americans hit with sanctions, in retaliation to a similar US move last week linked to the Hong Kong row.

As the pandemic hustles economies around the world, the US-China stand-off has been a major headache, with the two sides butting heads on several issues that have fanned worries they could renew their damaging trade war.

However, there is some confidence they will stick to their commitments after talks at the weekend to review their January tariffs pact.

Observers have pointed out that Beijing has failed to buy certain products owing to restrictions caused by the coronavirus, but the head of the central People’s Bank of China told state media the country would abide by the agreement despite tensions.

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“No matter how the international situation changes, the most important thing is to get our own things done and to firmly deepen financial reform and opening-up,” Yi Gang told the Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported that China would increase buying of soybeans from the US and ditch expensive Brazilian purchases.

“The strong sense is that the Trump administration won’t want to jeopardise the deal this side of the election for fear of alienating the important midwest farming constituency,” said Ray Attrill at National Australia Bank.

– Next Digital rockets again –

Shares in Next Digital, the media company owned by Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai who was arrested under a Chinese security law, surged 668 percent at one point thanks to pro-democracy activists buying it.

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The stock, which ended Friday at HK$0.09, had soared more than 2,0000 percent to HK$1.96 at its Tuesday peak, before easing back to end at HK$1.10.

US lawmakers meanwhile remain deadlocked in their pursuit of a new stimulus, though observers say that with an election around the corner, Democrats and Republicans will likely reach a deal.

Trump’s executive orders at the weekend deferring payroll taxes, providing $400 in weekly unemployment benefits and making it harder to evict people eased immediate concerns, though markets say a full deal is key.

“The pressure is on the Democrats to offer a meaningful concession and likely a deal will emerge in the $1.5-2.0 trillion area,” said OANDA’s Edward Moya.

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– Key figures around 1100 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: UP 2.5 percent at 6,201.60 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 2.6 percent at 13,012.16

Paris – CAC 40: UP 2.6 percent at 5,039.10

EURO STOXX 50: UP 2.5 percent at 3,342.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.9 percent at 22,750.24 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 2.1 percent at 24,890.68 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.2 percent at 3,340.29 (close)

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New York – Dow: UP 1.3 percent at 27,791.44 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1801 from $1.1737 at 2115 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.11 yen from 105.95 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3101 from $1.3065

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.02 pence from 89.79 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.5 percent at $42.58 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.1 at $45.50 a barrel.


#Newsworthy…

Facebook creates ‘Financial services’ unit

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Facebook on Monday said it has created a new unit devoted to financial services to harmonize payment systems on its platform.

The new group, called Facebook Financial, will be headed by e-commerce veteran David Marcus, who was a president at PayPal before joining the leading social network six years ago.

Marcus is one of the creators of Facebook’s digital money network Libra, and heads the team building a Novi digital wallet tailored for the currency.

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The Novi wallet — set to launch when Libra coins debut — promises to give Facebook opportunities to build financial services into its offerings, offer to expand its own commerce and let more small businesses buy ads on the social network.

Facebook Financial will handle management and strategy for all payments and money services across the Silicon Valley company’s platform.

“Today various payments features exist across our apps, and we want to make sure decision making, execution and compliance are not fragmented,” Facebook said in an email reply to an AFP inquiry.

This file illustration taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google displayed on a tablet in Lille, France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP

“We want to be able to give people the ability to make a payment however they choose — debit, credit or Libra digital currencies.”

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Noting security concerns posed by Facebook’s yet-to-be-launched digital currency Libra, the Federal Reserve last week revealed plans for its own instant payments system.

FedNow will provide households and businesses with instant access to payments, for wages, government benefits or sales, without waiting days for checks to clear, the Fed said.

The system, which is not due to launch for two to three years, “will be designed to maintain uninterrupted 24x7x365 processing with security features to support payment integrity and data security,” the central bank said.

Facebook’s announcement last year of plans to design the Libra cryptocurrency and payments system raised immediate red flags for global finance officials who expressed a barrage of withering criticism about the security and reliability of a private network.


#Newsworthy…

Storyline: President Buhari signs to allow African Trade Insurance Agency.

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President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the instrument to establish the African Insurance Agency.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement on Monday.

According to him, the Agreement and the Agency are registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations in accordance with Charter of the United Nations, and is in cognizant of the fact that lack of adequate political, non-commercial and commercial risk insurance is a significant impediment to the availability of finance for investments in Africa and the expansion of African foreign trade and intra-Africa trade.

Adesina said the Agency, when executed, would acknowledge previous multilateral efforts made by African States towards regional economic integration through co-operation in trade liberalisation and development.

He explained that this was aimed at attaining sustainable growth, promoting economic activity, and creating an enabling environment for foreign trade, as well as cross-border and domestic investments.

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“Recalling the economic objectives and aims of the African Union, there are several African Treaties on regional economic integration, including the Treaty Establishing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Treaty Establishing the Southern African Development Community and the Treaty Establishing the Economic Community of West African States.

A file photo of president Muhammadu Buhari signing documents. (Noble Reporters Media / Adigun Michael Olamide)

“A memorandum from the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, stated that the request for the President’s signature on the agreement was sequel to the directive of the Federal Executive Council, that the instrument is prepared and forwarded for execution,” the statement said.

Mr. Adesina further stated that the ratification was adopted at Grand Bay in the Republic of Mauritius on May 18, 2020.

He noted that the object and purpose of the Agency were to provide, facilitate, encourage and otherwise develop the provision of, or the support for, insurance, including coinsurance and reinsurance, guarantees, and other financial instruments and services, for purposes of trade, investment and other productive activities in African States in a supplement to those that may be offered by the public or private sector, or in cooperation with the public or private sector.


#Newsworthy…

As Naira slides: Forex local demand hits $1.16BN

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…Manufacturers lose credit lines as costs escalate

… Parallel market faces pressure on CBN interventions


With the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) adjusting foreign exchange rates in search of uniform framework, local demand has hit $1.16 billion on the back of outstanding obligations.

Local manufacturers have also warned that many factories may shut down if obligations of over one year to foreign suppliers are not met. Some of the producers lamented that locally sourced materials were being indexed and priced at the same rates for which they would have been imported, thus stalling backward integration agenda.

Data from manufacturers’ union showed steady decline in backward integration activities since 2017 until H2 2019 due to local pricing and availability of raw materials.

Already, the CBN, few days ago, altered the official exchange rate at which it sells the naira to the dollar on its website to N379/$1 from the N361 per dollar that the website had reflected since March 20, this year.

The CBN had, on July 3, adjusted the naira rate from N360/$1 to N380/$1 at the Secondary Market Intervention Sales (SMIS). Similarly, on July 7, the regulator adjusted the exchange rate at the Investors and Exporters’ (I&E) window, also known as NAFEX, according to data on FMDQ website, by 5.54 percent to N381 per dollar from N361/$, sparking speculations that it was set to officially unify the exchange rates.

However, it left the exchange rate unchanged at N361/$1 on its website. In the wake of acute forex scarcity, occasioned by low oil prices, the naira has come under pressure on the parallel market and the I&E window where it trades for about N475 per dollar and N386 per dollar respectively.

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The CBN initially sought to stem the decline of foreign exchange by suspending dollar auctions in March and has continued to severely ration supply, while Bureaux De Change (BDCs) have also not accessed official dollar sales from the apex bank since March.

According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), while the move is gratifying, the apex bank should urgently put measure in place to minimize intensity of the pain by considering outstanding obligations of manufacturers from the second quarter 2019 till date.

Noble Reporters Media gathered that forex demand across 14 sub-sectors/groups of MAN may have risen beyond the initial $1.16 billion request made during the first half of 2020.

Local manufacturers believe that the outstanding obligations given at N345 to a dollar prior to unification should be given the privilege to be settled at between N330 and N360 per dollar to enable banks to redeem these obligations to foreign suppliers of manufacturers.

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If not done, MAN said many factories might close and CBN stimulus packages to the manufacturing sector would suffer setback, just as cash flow crunch would become worse.

MAN, in its position on the matter, noted that it was important to recognise existence of unavoidable pains that naturally come with transition from multiple exchange regime to the domain of single exchange rate, particularly the burden of dollar denominated loans and offsetting existing credit commitments to foreign suppliers of raw materials.

To address the concerns, the local producers urged the CBN to develop appropriate implementation strategy that would engender successful transition from the current multiple windows to a single efficient one; and to ensure that the strategy pursues two fundamental objectives.

The first objective, according to MAN, is to limit the short-term pains until efficiency gains materialise by responding swiftly with an inward-oriented rescue guideline while the second should seek to boost the pace at which such efficiency gains materialise.

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MAN also urged the apex bank to submit all instruments of exchange rate determination gradually to the unseen forces of demand and supply as a matter of necessity and completely avoid the temptation of interference, so as to fully harvest all benefits that foreign exchange unification offers.

The LCCI had raised concerns that the liquidity crisis in the foreign exchange market was becoming increasingly unbearable as many businesses faced challenges with importation of raw materials, equipment, spare parts and other inputs.

Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf said the development had created new dimensions to supply chain problems, which many manufacturers had suffered in the peak of the lockdown.

Yusuf said the forex crisis had put enormous pressure on the parallel market, resulting in sharp exchange rate depreciation in that segment of the market.

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“Across all sectors, we are experiencing cost escalation, loss of credit lines enjoyed from foreign creditors, forex remittance challenges and many more. We need an urgent response from the CBN to calm the situation and restore confidence in our foreign exchange management framework,” he said.

According to the LCCI D-G, the dollar shortage is hitting most of its 2,000 members hard.

The CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele had, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, asked correspondent banks and creditors to local lenders not to panic over Letters of Credit and other obligations extended to businesses during the economic crisis.

The bank also identified a few key local pharmaceutical companies to be granted naira and forex funding facilities to support procurement of raw materials and equipment required to increase local drug production in the country.


#Newsworthy…

Let’s implement ESP together – Osinbajo tells Private Sector.

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As the Federal Government consolidates efforts designed to ward off a deep recession and effect significant changes in the economy, opportunities abound across different sectors in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) for the private sector to lead the charge for Nigeria’s economic growth and development, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo made the call on Friday at the virtual edition of the Presidential Policy Dialogue of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

The Vice President said the ESP which is now being implemented by the Buhari administration is driven by the desire “to adapt to the challenges and make required changes in order to come out stronger than before”.

According to him, “I take this opportunity to encourage the private sector to be proactive in leading the charge against recession and poverty in our country. The Federal Government is not under any illusion that it can do this on its own. The opportunities that now exist in the short term in agriculture, infrastructural development, housing construction, in renewable energy, digital technology development, mining, financial inclusion, healthcare and pharmaceutical manufacturing, call for the private sector to take the bull by the horns and make them a reality.

“The priority of the Federal Government in response to the economic challenges caused by COVID-19 is to ward off a deep recession by an admixture of stimulus measures to support local businesses, retain and create jobs and ameliorate the circumstances of the most vulnerable.”

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Continuing, the Vice President said though the stimulus package is just about 1.5% of GDP, it is the best the government could do given existing realities in the economy.

He said “government developed the Economic Sustainability Plan with a stimulus package of N2.3trillion to give fillip to the economy across various sectors. The size of this stimulus which is just about 1.5% of national income is not as large as we would have liked it to be but it was the best we could do given existing fiscal and monetary constraints. Based on the assumption of the price of crude averaging out at $30 per barrel throughout the year, we anticipate an economic growth of about -0.59% in 2020.

“You would already be familiar with details of the Economic Sustainability Plan. In essence, it is intended to boost production, prevent business collapse, and provide liquidity. It will also promote the use of labour-intensive methods and direct labour interventions in key areas like agriculture, light manufacturing, housing construction and facility maintenance while increasing infrastructural investment in roads, bridges, solar power, and communications technologies. It is intended to do all this while extending protection to the poor and other vulnerable groups in our society.”

Speaking further on the plan of government to address the disruptions on the economy by the COVID-19 pandemic and the role that the private sector can play, the Vice President said, “these opportunities are the building blocks that will enable our medium-term goals to be achieved and make our long-term goals achievable.”

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According to Prof. Osinbajo, “this is a drive we hope to continue into the medium term as we build up the economy over the next few years. We do need foreign direct investment to complement our domestic efforts but it is the success of our own investments that will attract such inflows. Investors are already aware of Nigeria’s huge market and its great potential, but they will only ‘want in’ when government by its own positive interventions and the private sector by its success stories show them what is possible to do here.

“No doubt, the task ahead is challenging. Nevertheless, government is focused on doing its bit so I call on the private sector to play its part and join us in this noble venture. We know that this will be a difficult year but expect that with our combined effort growth will resume to the order of about 3 percent by the end of next year. We can do this working together.”

On the Ease of Doing Business reforms of the Federal Government, the Vice President maintained that the commitment of the Federal Government to providing an enabling environment for business to thrive remains strong.

“In this regard, we have made some strides in improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria. Through the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), a lot has been achieved to fast-track processes, reduce bottlenecks and improve transparency across Government MDAs.

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“As a result, we have moved 35 places upward in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. We have continued to scale up our business reform initiatives across regulatory agencies.

“Of course, there is still a lot more to be done. Our aim is to continue to improve our national ranking in the World Bank Doing Business Index Ranking to below 100 in the coming years. It is also very important to reduce the harassment and extortion of businesses by various government agencies,” the Vice President added.

In his remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, said the current focus of the Federal Government in the manufacturing sector “is on prioritizing local production especially in the importation of machinery that utilize local materials.”

Earlier, the LCCI President, Mrs Toki Mabogunje commended the Federal Government’s “spirited effort” regarding its managing of the Nigerian economy, adding that members of the chamber and private sector players are willing to collaborate with the Buhari administration.


#Newsworthy…

Why marketers ignore Nigeria – Report

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… FG Should Divest Share In JV To Cleaner Energy — Stakeholders
… Renewable Energy Laws Stalled In Nigeria — Olawuyi
… Tax Structure, Tariffs, Credit Critical To Investment—Expert


Nigeria is currently missing out on the $49 trillion projected renewable energy investment as International Oil Companies (IOCs) and others are shunning the country amid massive divestment into cleaner sources of energy.

Faced with a huge electricity deficit, the generated capacity that has stagnated at about 5000 megawatts and is sourced basically from gas fired plants, leaves immense opportunities for investors.

But the country has failed to attract serious investment due to prevailing challenges in the electricity sector, especially its gloomy regulatory outlook and the inability of the sector to stabilise years after privatisation.

Worried by the development, and citing the Norway example, where a $1 trillion government-owned investment fund has been set up as part of measures to redirect monies earned from oil and gas to clean energy projects, considering its multiplier implication of access to energy, especially in spurring economic development, poverty alleviation and employment opportunity, some stakeholders have asked the Federal Government to divest part of its share in oil and gas Joint Venture (JV) and push for investment in the renewable sector.

As critical as the move could be, the experts are equally worried about energy demand in the country. As such, they called for a holistic analysis of the industrial zones that would require mini grids, stressing that with minimal level of industrial hubs, the nature of renewable electricity may not encourage high level investors like the oil majors.

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With continuous pressure and commitment towards climate change as well as the current outlook of oil and gas investment, most IOCs and other energy investors are already taking strategic steps away from oil and gas, preferring to be seen more as an energy company thereby divesting into sustainable energy sources.

Earlier last week, BP disclosed plan to slash oil and gas production and pour billions of dollars into clean energy after a huge second quarter loss and dividend cut.

According to the plan, BP increased by 10-time yearly low carbon investments to $5 billion by 2030 as it tries to deliver on its promise of net zero emissions by 2050.

According to International Energy Agency, $49 trillion should be invested in renewables and efficiency over the decade until 2030 as the agency predicted that renewables would provide 57 per cent of global power generation by 2030, up from 25 per cent in 2017 and an expected 30 per cent in 2020.

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The current development in the oil sector, which has heightened concern on the commercial viability of numerous planned oil and gas projects, has reportedly caused an extensive asset write downs of $22 billion for Shell alone.

ExxonMobil had earlier stated it would invest up to $100 million over 10 years to research and develop advanced lower-emissions technologies with the U.S. but has doubled its commitment to cleaner energy in the face of the prevailing situation.

Norway had last year divested of 134 companies that develop oil and gas, including such companies as UK-based Tullow Oil, Premier Oil, Soco International, Ophir Energy and Nostrum Oil & Gas.

Indeed, while as much as about $26 trillion is globally being pushed into similar deal according to Climate Action 100+, significant increase in this activity has not been seen in Nigeria, where industries are folding up due to acute supply of electricity.

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At a time Kenya is already generating about 70 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy, most renewable energy projects in Nigeria are still backed by donors, especially World Bank and African Development Bank.

Private capital would always go to where the risk is low or the profit corresponds to the risk, Prof. Adeola Adenikinju, an energy economist at the University of Ibadan stated, while giving reasons for major investors not showing interest in clean energy investment in Nigeria.

“If the risk level is elevated, risk averse investors will not be attracted. There is a need to have very clear laws, regulations and policies that will provide appropriate framework to attract, and incentivise private capital into the renewable energy sector,” the Professor stated.

Adenikinju insisted that the institutional framework must be very clear and not overlap, stressing that the country has enormous potential for renewable energy development but needed a legal framework to guide the development. According to him, the tax structure, tariffs, credit, and others must work together to promote the business.

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Professor of Law and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Damilola Olawuyi, sees high renewable energy potential, availability of clear policy, legal and institutional frameworks on renewable energy investments; and overall investment climate in the country in terms of security, infrastructure and fund repatriation as key determinants of the flow of private sector investment into renewable energy.

But while Nigeria has significant renewable energy resources and potential, ranging from solar to hydro and biofuels, Olawuyi insisted that the country’s lack of clear policy, legal and institutional frameworks on renewable energy investments remain a key impediment.

“As can be seen in jurisdictions such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Germany, where massive renewable energy investments are ongoing, investment in RES- E must be backed with a clear and transparent legislative framework, including renewable obligations and performance standards; financial incentives to encourage private participation, especially through a feed-in tariff system, to offset the higher costs associated with renewable energy investments,” he stated.

Olawuyi noted that IOCs, renewable producers, financing bodies, and other investors would want to have a clear knowledge of power purchase processes; eligible renewable technologies; tariff system for micro-grid registration, and priority grid dispatch rules; as well as verification, validation, reporting, and monitoring requirements for micro-grids.

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While some of these issues are addressed in general electricity laws in Nigeria, the professor stressed the need for more specific legislation on renewable investments due to their decentralised nature.

“Efforts to enact a clear and comprehensive renewable energy law in Nigeria have been stalled for many years. There is a strong business case to promptly revisit those efforts now, especially when you look at the significant economic, social and environmental potential of renewable investments to post COVID-19 recovery processes,” Olawuyi stated.

Urging stronger renewable energy policies and laws, convener of PowerUp Nigeria, Adetayo Adegbemle stated that while Nigeria had targeted an energy mix, which include 35 per cent from renewable energy, inconsistent policies continue to deter private sectors in the sector.

At a time when other countries are providing tax holiday and other incentives to cleaner energy, Adegbemle said Nigeria was fighting for a 5 per cent VAT and increased Import Duty imposed by the FG in 2015.

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“My organisation had also pushed to see if stakeholders could get the National Assembly to sign a Renewable Energy Act for Nigeria, with clear incentives for investments. If countries like Kenya and Ghana can have RE Act, then Nigeria needs to do more in this development.

“A Renewable Energy Act will clearly spell out incentives for bringing manufacturing companies into the country, thereby creating more jobs for Nigerians,” he stated.

Associate Director, Energy, Utilities and Resources, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Habeeb Jaiyeola, sees the increasing divestment into clean energy space as an acceptance of the future of the global energy mix, which he said would gradually involve less of fossil fuel sources like crude oil and coal, and more of cleaner energy sources like bio fuels, solar, hydrogen and wind.

To him, Nigeria needs to seriously emphasise the awareness of the possibility that global crude oil demand may not return to quantities that would be healthy for oil producing countries. This is further intensified by the impact of the coronavirus on global economies and growing negative effects of climate change.

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“Cleaner energy sources are more integrated plants built closer to the energy demand. Attracting private sector investment in cleaner energy has to be driven by local demand for energy, largely through growth in local industrialisation and value addition.

“Emphasis has been more on extraction and export, which has largely driven the value chain in Nigeria, resulting in reduced value addition and industrialisation and resultant low energy demand locally. Nigeria requires an urgent national strategy on industrialization and value addition to link up the mining, power, industrial and energy sectors and drive local energy demand,” Jaiyeola stated.

This development, according to him, must be supported by free demand and supply and deregulation, with more emphasis on gas wealth as this would remain in high demand and remain a significant export earner.

Jaiyeola called for divestment of some share in oil and gas Joint Venture (JV) to the renewable sector but warned that a strategic plan was needed, otherwise the energy would be stranded.

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Founder/Executive Director, International Support Network for African Development (ISNAD-Africa), Adedoyin Adeleke, noted that while there were major investment gaps in the Nigerian renewable energy industry, it was crucial to acknowledge the recent growth in renewable energy investment in the country. He highlighted the efforts of development partners such as the German-EU Nigeria Energy Support Programme (NESP) being implemented by GIZ, and, the leadership of Ms. Damilola Ogunbiyi and her team at the Rural Electrification Agency that attracted World Bank’s support for renewable energy development in Nigeria.

Adeleke insisted that renewable energy investment in the country remained low relative to its potentials and the targets for renewable energy installed capacity as spelt out in the Nigerian Renewable energy and energy efficiency policy and the country’s renewable energy masterplan.

“An overarching challenge is the overall business environment. Security is a major element in the decision matrix of multinationals and Nigeria is not doing well on this and institutional bottlenecks, among other issues,” he stated.

According to him, the private sector participation in the Nigerian electricity sector is emerging and trying to get its feet especially for large scale investment, adding: “despite being implemented by an Act of Parliament, there has been calls, within the government, for the reversal of the privatisation of the electricity sector. This does not give any potential investors, especially multinationals, reasons to invest in such country and sectors.”


#Newsworthy…

Microsoft’s dangerous castle in bid to acquire Tik Tok: Firewall, Gates, Windows

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Microsoft, which is in talks to buy part of Chinese video app TikTok, is one of the few US tech titans that have managed to succeed in China.

The software giant has kept its business alive in the country by complying with strict local laws, despite the communist nation’s wide-reaching censorship.

Here are some key points about the technology and gaming group’s operations in the world’s second-biggest economy.

A pioneer
Microsoft arrived in China in 1992 and opened its largest research and development centre outside the United States. It now employs around 6,200 people in China.

The ubiquitous Windows operating system is used in the vast majority of computers in China — despite Beijing promising in recent years to develop its own operating system. The company’s success has a downside, however, as its software is widely pirated.

The important Chinese market, which is very restrictive for foreign firms, represents a drop in the ocean of Microsoft’s business, accounting for barely 1.8 percent of its turnover, president Brad Smith said at the beginning of the year.

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Microsoft’s Bing is one of the few foreign search engines operating in China — although it is far behind its local competitors Baidu and Sogou, which dominate the market.

Bill Gates
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has long embodied a model of success in the eyes of many Chinese people and his books are bestsellers in the country.

President Xi Jinping visited the company’s headquarters on a state visit to the US in 2015, where he met with Gates and his wife.

Today, as the head of his humanitarian Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 64-year-old has the prestige of a head of state in Beijing.

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In February Xi wrote Gates a letter thanking him for his support during the coronavirus epidemic.

Censorship and control
China censors all subjects considered politically sensitive in the name of stability, and internet giants are urged to block unwanted content online.

Refusing to comply with Beijing’s strict demands, American giants Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, as well as Wikipedia and several other foreign media, are blocked by China’s “great firewall”.

Microsoft, however, operates its professional LinkedIn network in the country by complying with the draconian censorship rules through a local joint venture.

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Skype and Teams, its other two big platforms, are also available in China.

It’s not all smooth sailing though, with Bing temporarily taken offline last year, prompting speculation the search engine had been blocked by censors.

Smith told Fox Business News at the World Economic Forum in Davos that “there are times when there are difficult negotiations with the Chinese government.”

The Greatfire.org website, which tracks online censorship in China, accused Bing a few years ago of redacting results containing sensitive information.

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– Video games –
In 2000 Beijing halted the sale of all consoles because of their alleged negative effects on the “mental health” of young users, although they remained available illegally.

After the ban was lifted, Microsoft in 2014 was the first foreign firm to break into the video games market in China with its Xbox One console.

Also in 2014, the Chinese competition authorities opened an anti-monopoly investigation against Microsoft and its Windows software.

Around 100 inspectors raided the group’s offices in four Chinese cities, confiscating files and questioning employees.


#Newsworthy…