The increased presence of southern dialects on Vietnamese state television may be a sign that true unification is happening between the country’s politically dominant north and the economically stronger south.
After a war between the north and south from the early 1960s until 1975, the language adopted as standard became that of the north, the winner, which is primarily used in Hanoi. Since then, state-run Vietnam Television(VTV) had been dominated by announcers from the northern region.
In 2013, however, the first announcer from the south appeared on a nationwide VTV news program. There are now three announcers who speak southern dialects on TV today. Their accents are distinctive from northern intonations, especially when pronouncing words with the letter “z,” “y” or “r.”
In the current environment, it can be common for both professional TV anchors and ordinary Vietnamese to continue speaking their local dialects and refrain from adopting the standard language.
The north-south divide seems to exist even among younger generations who did not experience the war. A 32-year-old company employee in Hanoi said she is proud of the language spoken in her hometown of Ho Chi Minh City, the former capital of South Vietnam, previously known as Saigon, and does not feel the need to adapt her language.
Many people once thought that Nguyen Tan Dung, the former prime minister from the southern province of Ca Mau, might become the first secretary-general of Vietnam’s Communist Party — the country’s supreme leader — to hail from the south. But overcoming the north’s dominance proved too difficult, and he eventually stepped down.
Ho Chi Minh City is the economic capital of Vietnam, and most major companies, such as Vietnam Dairy Products (Vinamilk) and VietJet Air, are based in the south. Despite the south’s economic dominance, though, the north’s political establishment continues to control the country — a situation that rankles southerners. Even the city’s secretary, Dinh La Thang, is from the north.
For a country sometimes described, ironically, as two countries under one system, a small change at its state broadcaster may be a big step toward the unification of north and south.
On Thursday, a woman named Wenxia Man was convicted in a Florida court of conspiring to evade U.S. export laws by illegally acquiring and sending fighter jet engines and drones to China, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Prosecutors said Man was working with an associate in China to buy and export engines made by Pratt & Whitney and General Electric (), which are found in a range of top U.S. military aircraft, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-22 and the F-16 fighter jets. She was also found to have tried to export a General Atomics drone, and technical data for the different hardware items.
During the investigation, Man referred to her associate as a spy “who worked on behalf of the Chinese military to copy items obtained from other countries and stated that he was particularly interested in stealth technology,” the Department of Justice said.
The conviction of Man is the latest development in an ongoing saga of corporate espionage between the U.S. and China. Experts say spying has played a role in China’s strategy to modernize the country in recent decades. The illicit acquisition of technology has helped China accelerate the process, bypassing problems that would otherwise require years of research and development to resolve, according to analysts.
But Beijing has repeatedly denied that it engages in corporate espionage.
Boosting jet engine capabilities has long been a priority for China as it seeks to increase its military clout. The most recent five-year development plan for the country identifies domestic development and production of engines and planes as a major goal.
But it’s a difficult area to master, forcing China to rely heavily on importing technology. Over the last four years, engines accounted for 30% of all its imports, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Even the C919, a commercial airliner that China is developing in the hope of rivaling Boeing, is using engines made by a U.S. and French joint venture.
The Department of Justice statement didn’t provide details on Man’s background. The Sun Sentinel in Florida reported that she was born in China but is a naturalized U.S. citizen. She will be sentenced in August and could spend up to 20 years in jail.
Hers is the latest in a series of corporate espionage cases in the U.S. that have been linked to China. They have swept across numerous industries from agriculture to aviation. Alleged targets have included a solar panel manufacturer, aluminum and steel producers, and a company that designs nuclear power plants.
In March, a Chinese man pleaded guilty to cyber spying on Boeing and other U.S. firms by hacking into their networks to pilfer sensitive information to send to China.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to faxed questions Friday, which is a public holiday in the country.
Wall Street is bracing for the earnings recession to hit the one-year mark this earnings season, which kicks off next week when Alcoa () and JPMorgan Chase ( ) reveal results.
The timing of the profit downturn is somewhat unusual because it’s taken place in the face of an American economy that continues to grow, albeit slowly. But the one-two punch of cheap oil and strong U.S. dollar have been powerful enough forces to drown out that steady growth.
“The depth and breadth of the current earnings slump is quite rare outside of an economic recession,” Paul Eitelman, investment strategist at Russell Investments, wrote in a recent report.
The good news is that profits could resume growing later this year.
The market has stalled out ever since the profit recession began in the third quarter of last year. When earnings shrink, stocks suddenly look more expensive. Even Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen recently warned that the market is trading at historically high valuations.
Just look at how the S&P 500 is trading at 17.1 times forward earnings estimates — near the loftiest levels of the past seven years, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
The upcoming earnings season may only worsen those valuation concerns. Second-quarter profits from S&P 500 companies are expected to decline by 5%, the fourth-straight quarterly drop, according to S&P.
The most pain will be felt in the energy sector, which is expected to suffer an incredible 81% plunge in profits due to lower oil prices. Even diversified oil giants Chevron () and ExxonMobil ( ) are on track to suffer big profit slumps.
More bottom-line trouble is brewing in the financial sector as banks grapple with extremely low interest rates that depress earnings. Citigroup (), JPMorgan and Wells Fargo ( ) are all expected to disclose profit declines when they hit the earnings stage next week.
The U.S. dollar remains another sore spot, especially for multinationals like Pizza Hut owner Yum! Brands (), which reports results on July 13. A strong dollar makes U.S. goods sold abroad more expensive and hurts revenue when it’s translated back to dollars.
Thankfully, American consumers continue to open their wallets, due in part to lower gasoline prices. Consumer discretionary stocks are poised to log a healthy profit gain of nearly 10% this earnings season. Big expected winners include Amazon (, Tech30), which analysts believe will reveal an incredible six-fold increase second-quarter profits.
“It’s a very good sign for our economy. The consumer is hanging in there,” said Lindsey Bell, a senior analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence.
America’s profit recession could finally end in the second half of this year, thanks to higher oil prices and a tamer U.S. dollar. S&P 500 profits are expected to grow 2% in the third quarter, 8% in the fourth and then by double-digits in 2017, according to S&P.
But Wall Street will be paying close attention to make sure CEOs are still expecting a rebound later this year, especially given the Brexit turmoil in Europe.
The other crucial thing to look for is confidence that the long-awaited revenue rebound is materializing after what is expected to be a sixth-straight quarterly decline.
In the past, Corporate America has masked anemic sales by cutting costs and buying back stock, but there isn’t much room for those moves at this point in the economic cycle.
“We’ve run out of financial tricks and now we’re waiting for real economic growth to show up,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network.
Singapore-based logistics provider Global Logistic Properties announced Tuesday that it was acquiring a $1.1 billion U.S. logistics portfolio from Hillwood Development Company, expanding its reach in America.
The portfolio totaling 1.4 million sq. meters would help to solidify GLP’s position as “the second largest owner and operator of logistics facilities in the U.S.,” the company said. It would expand GLP’s U.S. footprint to 17 million sq. meters, which in total would make 8% of GLP’s net asset value.
GLP aims to complete the deal for fully leased properties in December this year, worth $700 million. The remaining $400 million are for properties in development that will be acquired in phases.
The transaction would be funded by $470 million of equity and $635 million of debt. GLP intends to retain only 10% of the portfolio and expects to sell on the rest to institutional investors. The company expects to generate a 13% return-on-equity including fees in the first year of investment. It also said that it would fund its equity commitment with cash and existing credit facilities.
GLP has been building its key market in China as e-commerce grew rapidly in the country and boosted demand for logistics centers. Its China facilities make up 57% of its total net asset value, followed by 25% in Japan. Apart from the U.S., its next biggest holdings are in Brazil.
But as China’s growth slows, GLP is ramping up investments in more mature markets such as the U.S. For its financial year ending in March 2017, GLP budgeted only $1.4 billion for new developments in China, a 17.6% fall from the previous financial year.
GLP, together with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, entered the U.S. in 2015 with a whopping $8.1 billion acquisition from private equity fund Blackstone Group. Most of GLP’s stakes were eventually sold to institutional investors from Asia and North America. The landmark deal was followed by the purchase of a $4.55 billion U.S. portfolio through a second U.S. property fund established with China Life and other institutional investors. Through these acquisitions, GLP quickly became the second largest owner and operator of logistics facilities in the U.S.
GLP also sees a similar trend in Japan for an increase in demand for large-scale warehouses. It is currently growing its market share in the country. In June, it announced an investment of 23 billion yen ($210 million) to build a warehouse facility in the Ibaraki Prefecture. The company also announced on Monday it was developing a 27,000 sq. meter modern logistics property in Osaka. The $49 million development is expected to be completed around April to June 2018.
I spent my first days in Venezuela taking photographs of food. I needed to reassure family and friends. They were surprised – as was I – to see shelves brimming with vegetables, cereal and bread.
There is food in Caracas, the capital. But as inflation pushes prices higher and higher, the food is inaccessible for the majority of people.
The fall of the price of oil, which is the main source of income for the Venezuelan economy, has crushed the country’s ability to import products.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting that inflation will hit 700% by the end of the year. The government last published figures for inflation in December 2015, putting it at 180%. It regards the shortages as being caused by an “economic war” waged by the private sector and foreign countries.
Luxury shops have prices much higher than those in Europe or the US.
One delicatessen supermarket stocks only imported goods from Italy, Spain and the US. A jar of the Italian chocolate spread Nutella can reach 15,000 bolivares – $15 (£11) if you sell it on the black market. A 750g jar in a UK supermarket costs about £3.50.
More saliently, it is half the Venezuelan monthly minimum wage.
This is not the fault of the chocolate spread manufacturers but a symptom of a seriously struggling economy.
If you are unable to pay, you will have to queue for hours to get basic goods.
“I haven’t seen sugar in a while,” says Luiz. Fridays are his day for shopping – this is decided by the number on his ID card, in one of the ways the government has tried to deal with the food shortages.
Luiz lives in Petar, one of the poorest areas of Caracas. Every Friday he goes to a supermarket in Santa Fe, a middle class area.
He gets up at 03:00 so he can queue – but that does not guarantee anything. The supermarket may say the delivery did not arrive, or things might run out by the time he gets to the front of the queue, or there might only be soap when he wants sugar.
The Central Venezuelan Bank (BCV) used to publish an official scarcity index. In April 2014 it was at 25.3%. That was the last time the figure was made public.
There are hundreds of jars of tomato sauce, but no pasta. You will find plenty of gel to fix your hair with “cement effect”, but there is no trace of shampoo, necessary to return your hair to its less rigid state.
It is impossible to get cow’s milk. Almond milk is a healthy but expensive alternative.
The government is trying to fight against people who queue and then sell goods at massive mark-ups. It has regulated prices at some supermarkets and prioritised poor people at others.
But while the crisis continues, prices and politics will be the two big conversation topics in Caracas.
Apple and Google engage in practices that undermine competition in the smartphone app market by making the most of their control over distribution channels, a report by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry argues.
The report looked at how these two U.S. technology giants, as well as others that control platforms through which smartphone applications are sold, use their positions of power to decide what app developers can and cannot do.
Restricting what payment methods developers can accept and limiting their pricing freedom may not directly violate Japan’s anti-monopoly law, but these practices lead to elimination of competitors, the report asserts.
A study group established at the ministry in January compiled the report by incorporating a survey of app developers that was conducted jointly with the Japan Fair Trade Commission.
The so-called Apple tax was an issue covered in the report. The U.S. firm requires that any purchase made through an iPhone application — be it digital content, a service or something else — be processed through the company’s system. Apple then charges roughly 30% of the payment amount as commission. “Apple tax” is the name developers have given to this steep levy.
This practice may be deemed abuse of an advantageous position under the anti-monopoly law, some members of the study group argued at a meeting. The report expressed concern that the monopoly on payment methods will lead to market control that allows the company to eliminate competition.
Restriction of app developers’ freedom in pricing was another issue. Apple does not allow yen-dominated prices to include sub-10 yen (10 yen roughly equals 10 cents) amounts. This means an app that would have been sold at 125 yen must be priced at 120 yen or 130 yen to be offered through Apple’s distribution platform.
The report also criticizes Apple’s handling of refunds as placing an excessive burden on developers. Since the company does not return its 30% commission, developers must pitch in with their own funds to cover the 30% charge to issue a full refund to customers.
The anti-monopoly authority at the European Union and others have been investigating possible abuse of dominant positions by Apple and Google, but the METI report is the first to shed light on payment systems from the angle of possible anti-competition violations.
Japan’s competition watchdog intends to investigate further and “may choose to conduct on-site inspections if there is sufficient suspicion of regulation breach,” a high-ranking official said.
That made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world and contributed to the vote for Brexit, the charity said.
Its analysis found that about 634,000 Britons were worth 20 times as much as the poorest 13 million people.
Oxfam has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to help close the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.
The charity’s report analysed data from Credit Suisse and found that the richest 10% of the UK population own over half of the country’s total wealth, with the top 1% owning nearly a quarter (23%). The poorest 20% share just 0.8% of the UK’s wealth between them.
The report said many people in the UK felt locked out of politics and economic opportunity.
“Whatever your views on Brexit, the referendum brought divisions within our country to a head, with many people expressing distrust and disconnection with political processes and voting for change in the hope that it would improve their economic position,” Oxfam said.
The charity welcomed Mrs May’s recognition of the need to reform corporate culture and proposed a series of measures for the government to adopt.
- delivering on the Prime Minister’s pledge to give workers more representation on companies’ boards
- Giving firms incentives to improve workers’ skills and encouraging benefit claimants to undergo training and education
- Adopt pay ratios of 20:1 so that the best-paid person at a company can earn no more than 20 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker
- tackling corporate tax avoidance and ending UK-linked tax havens.
Rachael Orr, head of Oxfam’s UK Programme, said: “Inequality is a massive barrier to tackling poverty and has created an economy that clearly isn’t working for everyone. While executive pay soars, one in five people live below the poverty line and struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table.”
Ending unscrupulous practices must be a central element of the government’s plans to reform the economy, she said.
“That means closing wage gaps, incentivising investment in companies’ staff and making sure they pay their fair share of taxes,” Ms Orr said.
A Downing Street spokesperson said the government had made changes such as bringing in the National Living Wage and reforming the welfare system, but admitted that more needed to be done to help both the poorest in the UK as well as families struggling to make ends meet.
Currently, Icahn’s company, Icahn Associates Holding LLC, owns 21% of Herbalife’s outstanding shares and he has permission from his company to buy up to 35%. He announced Tuesday that he wants to increase that stake to 50%.
Herbalife’s stock was up about 2% in after-hours trading, but it wasn’t immediately clear if Icahn’s comments triggered the move.
Icahn also argued that Herbalife would be better off as a private company to avoid some of the public scrutiny it has received.
“I think Herbalife is a lot better off private,” Icahn said Tuesday at the Delivering Alpha conference in New York.
Icahn took a jab at activist investor and billionaire Bill Ackman, who has traded verbal punches with Icahn over Herbalife’s business model. Since 2012, Ackman has bet against — or “shorted” — Herbalife’s stock, labeling the company as a pyramid scheme, a sophisticated scam which is illegal.
“I think Ackman is smart, but I think he’s absurd to have a major short position,” Icahn said.
“No professional [investor] would really want to be short a company where” Icahn owns 21% of the stock, he said. Translation: Don’t bet against me.
Herbalife() had been in hot water up until July when it agreed to pay $200 million to the U.S Federal Trade Commission after a two year investigation into its sales practices.
The settlement cleared Herbalife of any illegality, but the FTC made it clear that the company would have to be more transparent to its distributors and consumers.
Hon Hai Precision Industry of Taiwan has already begun to restructure Sharp’s personnel management system and organization in earnest since it acquired the struggling Japanese electronics maker a month ago Monday.
Sharp, the first leading Japanese electronics company acquired by a foreign company, is faced with drastic changes brought by Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, to turn around the Osaka-based company.
At Sharp’s head office, relocated to Sakai from Nishi-tanabe as a result of the acquisition, company President and CEO Tai Jeng-wu, the No. 2 man at Foxconn, claps his hands in worship in front of a Shinto shrine on its premises before the meeting that starts at 8 a.m. every morning. Tai, 65, who was dispatched to lead the new subsidiary’s restructuring, began the practice in Taiwan and continues it in Japan.
Tai, who took the helm at Sharp on Aug. 13, studied accounting and Japanese language at the Tatung Institute of Technology established by major Taiwanese electrical and electronic equipment maker Tatung group. He joined Tatung after graduating from the institute and was dispatched to Japan as a resident official, among other assignments.
In 1986, Tai joined Foxconn and made a name for himself by succeeding in arranging a deal with Sony. He has since become Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou’s right-hand man. Gou is often in Taiwan and China, and Tai is in touch with him almost every day.
Gou has a cheerful demeanor and speaks loudly. Tai is generally considered an aide to Gou, but he has already begun to develop a management stance of his own.
Upending the system
At a management strategy meeting in late August, Sharp officials were surprised at Tai’s familiarity with the company’s operations, because he said that he would end the existing “rotation system.”
This is a personnel management practice by which young employees are assigned to three separate sections, thereby producing workers with knowledge outside their field of specialty, rather than being expert exclusively in a specific area.
The system was promoted by Sharp’s fourth president, Katsuhiko Machida, who was credited with a steep increase in the company’s earnings in the first half of the 2000s due to his avowed policy of replacing all cathode-ray tube TVs with liquid crystal display panels. Although the rotation system was identical to Sharp’s, Tai readily ended it because Foxconn usually requires workers to specialize in specific fields upon joining the company and continue improving their specialty.
An organizational reform announced on Aug. 26, exactly two weeks after Foxconn’s acquisition of Sharp, included the creation of the President’s Office to support Tai.
“The President’s Office is like the prime minister’s office, and the head of it is like the chief cabinet secretary,” a Sharp official said, because the new office is not only responsible for bundling secretaries for executives and overseeing management plans but is also tasked with putting Sharp under Foxconn’s control.
The office is staffed with 200 members and includes officials in charge of structural reforms, personnel management, legal affairs, information technology, public relations and external affairs.
It plans to sell off four airports and two port terminals as well as offer contracts to private firms for a wide range of projects from building new roads to running mining projects.
President Michel Temer, sworn in two weeks ago after his predecessor Dilma Rousseff, was removed from office, said the plan would boost growth and jobs.
“The state cannot do it all,” he added.
The plans are part of the new president’s “Crescer” (“Grow”) initiative, which aims to increase private investment in the country, in an attempt to address its huge budget deficit amid the country’s worst recession in 80 years.
Brazil’s economy contracted 3.8% last year, and is expected to shrink a further 4.3% this year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Mr Temer was vice-president, but took over as president at the end of August after Ms Rousseff was impeached and removed from office on charges of illegally manipulating the government’s accounts.
He has pledged to make pension and labour reforms as well as make infrastructure investments more attractive to private firms and foreign investors.
The government will scrap a rule that state-run oil firm Petrobras has to have a 30% stake in all new oil reserve developments.
And auction rules will be printed in English as well as Portuguese in a bid to attract overseas investors.