Daily Archives: Jan 25, 2013

ChavezIt is well known that Hugo Chávez is the one that takes the all big decisions in Venezuela, and quite a lot of the smaller ones too.

Indeed, the policy paralysis as he battles cancer from his hospital bed in Havana is becoming all too evident. But there is growing evidence that other important decisions for the nation outside of the government’s control are also being postponed because of Chávez’s absence – in particular regarding investment by foreign companies interested in developing oilfields in the Orinoco Belt. Read more

By Andrew Bowman and Rob Minto

This weekend sees large protests in Egypt against president Mohamed Morsi on the second anniversary of the revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak. Two years on, where has Egypt got to? These four charts provide an insight. Read more

Thousands of IT start-ups dream of that golden phone call from an industry giant offering to buy out the business– a vision that until now has been a bit of a hallucination for Polish entrepreneurs.

That changed this week with Amazon’s purchase of Ivona Software, a Polish maker of text-to-speech software, already used in the retailer’s Kindle Fire tablets. Read more

Daimler, the German auto maker, on Friday inaugurated production of its new CLA four-door coupé at its Mercedes-Benz factory in Kecskemet, Hungary, adding a new model to the €800m plan less than a year after it opened in March last year. Read more

Nigeria’s economy remains hooked on oil revenues, but its government is hoping agriculture might help ween it off. Around Davos this week, president Goodluck Jonathan has been talking up the sector, announcing production increases of 8m tonnes during 2012. This sounds impressive, but behind the numbers lie an array of problems. Read more

The ink has not yet dried on the shale gas exploration deal signed on Thursday in Davos between Ukraine and Royal Dutch Shell. The energy giant, which might invest up to $10bn, has yet to commence exploration, let alone find commercially-viable reserves.

Yet Ukrainian officials are already waving the agreement in front of Russia’s Gazprom, counting gas flows and predicting that Kiev may not need costly Russian gas in the future. Read more

Africa may host some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but it also still suffers from coups, riots and messy elections, which can bring business to a sudden halt. Kenya’s general election in 2007 wreaked economic havoc. It will hold another in March – but this time around, political risk insurance is providing a modicum of security for foreign investors and locals alike. Read more

Nursultan Nazarbayev has always taken pride in the privately-run pension system he introduced in the late 1990s that set Kazakhstan apart in the former Soviet Union as a pioneer of financial reform.

However, in a policy U-turn this week that has set investors worrying, the Kazakh president (pictured) has decided to nationalise the pension system and transfer the approximate $20bn of funds accumulated into the trusty hands of the central bank. While the details were not immediately clear, the move has triggered concerns among fund managers and their clients. Read more

Mumbai’s women’s-only taxi service, Viira Cabs, has a lot to offer – both for the female passengers seeking safety and for the women it trains as drivers.

After a 23 year-old girl was brutally raped on a bus in Delhi last month, public attention has turned to the issue of women’s safety. And businesses that have developed solutions to these security issues are growing as a result. Read more

How do you tackle corruption? To that age-old question, Rahul Bajaj, the Indian billionaire businessman, has some unconventional answers: “Stop prosecuting givers of small bribes, ban criminals from standing for election, and use the e-ID to transfer benefits directly from the government to the receiver.”

Bajaj was addressing a meeting at the World Economic Forum on how to achieve EM growth in a global slowdown. Corruption was the biggest issue singled out – and the Indian subcontinent figured large. Read more

It’s been a tricky few days for South Africa’s electricity public utility Eskom. Strikes, controversy over political breakfasts, allegations of spying on unions and others, anger over price hikes: it’s a lot to contend with.

At Eskom’s Medupi site in Limpopo, strike action has halted construction of the R91bn ($10bn) coal-fired power plant. It was hoped work could resume on Thursday (Jan 24), but talks have yet to produce an agreement. Read more

How low can Russian rouble yields go? Sberbank this week raised Rbs25bn ($832m) in a 10-year eurobond issue at just 7 per cent, the lowest coupon for a Russian issuer since before the 2008 global crisis.

The yield matches the record low achieved by rival bank VTB. But that was in 2006, and for three-year money. Despite recent warnings about a possible bubble in emerging market debt, investors are clearly still bullish on the asset class and bullish on Russia. Read more

Yet more gloom and doom for Hungary: retail sales in November were down 4.1 per cent from a year earlier. The forint lost ground, trading at Ft297.95 to the euro at 1.30pm, after opening the day at Ft295.20.

The latest data means 11-month retail sales for last year are down by 2 per cent on 2011, with food, drink and tabacco down 0.6 per cent, and non-food retail down 3 per cent, the Hungarian Central Statistics Office reported. Even more tellingly, sales in November at furniture and electrical goods stores slumped 16.2 per cent. Read more

* Samsung warns on smartphones slowdown

* China and Japan in bid to ease tensions

* Emerging stocks decline to three-week low as Samsung, Kia tumble Read more

The push to create a network of commodities exchanges in Africa, following a pioneering experience in Ethiopia, has received a big boost after the World Bank and Morgan Stanley invested in a new company to build markets, writes Javier Blas in the Commodities Note.

Eleni Gabre-Madhin, founder of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, has launched a new company to try to replicate elsewhere in Africa and Asia the experience of Ethiopia. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, which invests in the private sector, and Morgan Stanley have put $5m into the venture. Read more

Timothy AshBy Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

New issues are finally coming out of the woodwork and pricing very, very aggressively. It’s set to be a feeding frenzy across EM, and any EM issuer worth its salt, or its rating, is likely to want to get some cash (as much as possible) in the bank.

I am tempted to say that almost any issuer, whatever the name and fundamentals, with a bit of carry could tap this overbaked and pretty ridiculous market. Read more

They don’t call them the “Fishing” islands for nothing, it seems. The territory at the centre of the protracted Sino-Japanese-Taiwanese islands dispute is known as Diaoyu in Chinese, which means fishing, and now Beijing is making sure that Chinese citizens get a taste of the islands – just in time for Chinese New Year when fish is usually high on the menu. Read more

For the tens of millions of Chinese who will journey back home next month for the Chinese New Year, fighting over the limited supply of train tickets is nothing new. But this year, the fight has moved online, and somewhat controversially. Read more

Friday’s picks from the beyondbrics team: China’s economic rise hides its increasing domestic political fragility; Kenya braces itself for elections; why Paris and London bear much responsibility for the chaos in Mali; CELAC shows Davos has no monopoly on hot air; plus, India’s missing ingredients for growth. Read more

Relations between Samsung and Apple reached a low point last year as they squared off in intellectual property disputes on four continents.

But this week gave the rivals something to bond over: each company reported strong growth in smartphone sales, only to watch investors rush for the exit. Read more