More recent items of interest

December 11, 2015


Reuters is reporting that China says loss-making state firms should exit market

China’s state-owned firms that suffer three consecutive years of losses should exit the market through bankruptcy or other means, the country’s state asset supervisor said in a statement on Friday.

“We will close, suspend, combine, divert, peel off or reorganize long-term, loss-making enterprises which are in the overcapacity industry and could not meet the state standards of energy consumption, environment protection, quality and safety,” the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration (SASAC)added in the statement.

The comment follows a urge from China’s premier Li Keqiang to clean zombie firms and tackle serious overcapacity in some industries.


Bloomber has an article entitled “China Disappearances Highlight Ruling Party Detention System”

The baffling disappearance of Chinese executives in recent weeks has drawn attention to the ruling Communist Party’s practice of holding people incommunicado either as targets of investigations themselves or to help with probes of others.

The most recent example came last night, when Caixin magazine reported that Guo Guangchang, the billionaire chairman of Fosun International Ltd. couldn’t be contacted. Fosun suspended its shares today and its bonds plunged by a record before the company said Guo was assisting justice authorities with a probe. Other high profile cases in recent weeks included two members of Citic Securities’ executive committee who became unreachable earlier this month, along with Yim Fung, the chief executive officer of Guotai Junan Securities Co.

The Chinese word for unreachable — shilian, which means “lost contact” — has become a euphemism in China for the party holding executives and officials for questioning or arrest, often indefinitely and at an undisclosed location. That practice has long been criticized by human rights activists who say the lack of transparency and accountability opens the door to abuses such as torture.

The detentions, known as “shuanggui” if the party detains one of its members and “shuangzhi” if a non-party member is held as part of a probe, has featured prominently in President Xi Jinping’s campaign to root out corruption that he says is now rife in the ranks of the party’s more than 87 million members. People can be detained even if they are not the target of a probe themselves.


How Far Can The Syria Conflict Spiral Out Of Control

Robert Bensh, partner and managing director of Pelicourt LLC oil and gas company was recently interviewed by James Stafford, Editor in Chief of OilPrice about the conflict between Russia and Turkey and the role that oil plays in that conflict. Interesting stuff.


This sounds a bit bonkers but the FT is reporting that the EU plans border force to police external frontiers

Brussels is to propose the creation of a standing European border force that could take control of the bloc’s external frontiers — even if a government objected. The move would arguably represent the biggest transfer of sovereignty since the creation of the single currency.

European Commission will unveil plans next week to replace the Frontex border agency with a permanent border force and coastguard — deployed with the final say of the commission, according to EU officials and documents seen by the Financial Times.


Nauro Campos and Fabrizio Coricelli have published an article in Vox which calculates the likely costs of a Brexit. Its called “Some unpleasant Brexit econometrics”

Focusing on three main areas (trade, foreign direct investment, and finance), we argue that Britain benefited significantly from EU integration. Leaving the EU (“Brexit”), it is likely to entail heavy losses and we expect the severity of these economic losses to increase substantially after the consequences in terms of intra-industry trade, foreign direct investment and financial integration are taken into account.

And yet these losses may be even larger when we account for interactions among the three areas. These interaction effects should be large for the relationship between foreign direct investment and trade (because intra-industry trade often involves foreign direct investment), between financial integration and intra-industry trade (because intra-industry trade is credit intensive, and between financial integration and foreign direct investment (because foreign direct investment in the UK concentrates in financial services.)

Further research on these issues is urgently needed as the current (and almost exclusive) focus on ‘UK exports to and imports from the EU’ may severely underestimate the true potential costs of Brexit. Time may be ripe to paraphrase Churchill – European may be the worst form of integration, except for all the others.

Exit from the EU may have particularly severe effects on the UK financial sector, and through these, on trade and FDI. True there are already pressures within the EU to reduce the relevance of the UK as the main financial centre for euro transactions. However, exiting the EU minimises how the UK can influence these decisions. In March 2015 the UK won an important legal battle against the ECB on the location of euro clearing houses, thanks in large part to its EU membership. It is unreasonable to expect the UK will be granted such powers if it chooses to leave the EU.


The excellent economist Frances Coppola has written an article in Forbes entitled “Investment Is Needed Everywhere”. She had this to say:

The ratings agency Standard & Poors has called for governments everywhere to increase investment spending. It also says they need to improve the efficiency of the spending they are already doing.

Private sector investment spending all over the world fell after the 2008 financial crisis. In Europe, where the crisis started earlier, it started falling in 2007. And it has not recovered. Private sector investors remain risk-averse and fearful of losses, chasing safe havens and unwilling to invest long-term in infrastructure, skills and R&D.

When the private sector will not invest, the job falls to government. And immediately after the financial crisis, governments did step up, increasing investment spending as private sector investment fell. Some governments have continued to invest ever since, notably China, which still spends about 8.5% of GDP every year (much of it outside its borders), and India, which is spending about 4.7%. But most governments have cut back investment spending in order to consolidate their budgets. The result is a widespread investment chill that is depressing growth and keeping unemployment elevated in far too many countries.


The SNP government has dropped Donald Trump as a business ambassador on the grounds that he is a bigot. Why did it take them so long and who thought it was a good idea to appoint him in the first place?

The FT has the story:

Donald Trump has accused Nicola Sturgeon of failing to appreciate his greatness, after the Scottish government dropped the US presidential candidate as a business ambassador on the grounds that he is a bigot.

The mogul on Thursday hit back at his mother’s homeland after Ms Sturgeon, first minister, stripped Mr Trump of his “GlobalScot” ambassador status and Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University revoked an honorary degree.

“The UK politicians should be thanking me instead of pandering to political correctness”, Mr Trump said, adding: “I have done so much for Scotland.”

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