LONDON/BIRMINGHAM: March 28, 2017. A day before Britain confirmed its formal departure from the European Union, the country signed an MoU with Qatar to increase co-operation in education and healthcare, science, research and innovation, tourism and culture, transport, energy, financial services and the development of small businesses.
Qatar has invested over US$35 billion in the UK and according to the country's finance minister Ali Shareef al-Emadi, his government plans to invest a further US$5 billion in energy, infrastructure, real estate and services.
Public and private Qatari investors already have stakes in the International Airlines Group, Heathrow airport, Harrods department store, Sainsbury's supermarket chain, the landmark Shard building in Central London and the former Olympic Village in East London.
Speaking at the joint UK-Qatar Business and Investment Forum on March 28, Britain's prime minister Theresa May acknowledged the strength and seniority of the delegations from both countries "are a testament to the importance we both place on our bilateral relationship and the scale of our shared ambition to develop it".
As a precursor to her later Brexit announcement she added: "My plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU, but a plan to build a stronger economy...and a critical part of this plan is developing a modern industrial strategy that can help secure my vision of a high-skilled, high-paid Britain.
"As a global Britain, I am determined that we will be the most committed and most passionate advocate of free trade in the world," she declared.
Shareef al-Emadi added he was confident the UK would have a "good future" outside the EU.
The inaugural Qatar-UK Forum provided government ministers and business leaders from both countries with the opportunity to promote investment and trade opportunities in the UK and showcase best practice and areas of opportunity in support of Qatar's 2030 National Vision.
Forum delegates included Qatar Airways' Group CEO Akbar Al Baker who acknowledged his airline's investment in IAG and the 70-plus weekly flights linking Qatar with Heathrow, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester as part of encouraging trade between the two countries.
Also participating in the Forum was the revolutionary Dearman Engine that uses the expansion of liquid nitrogen to produce zero emission cold and power. Last year Sainsbury's became the first company in the world to trial a refrigerated truck cooled by Dearman's liquid nitrogen-powered engine that eliminates all related emissions.
Noting there are few countries that appreciate the value of cooling more than Qatar, Dearman said it is developing a suite of applications for the transport, energy, retailing and data sectors for possible use in the Gulf state.
(Pictured left to right: Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, and Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker at the UK-Qatar Business and Investment Forum)
ABU DHABI: March 28, 2017. Speaking at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit this week, Hyperloop One senior vice president Nick Earle said his company aims to acquire US$12 billion of the GCC region's US$35 billion multimodal transport market.
When fully operational, Hyperloop One claims the disruptive effect of traveling between GCC cities in under an hour will create new opportunities in manufacturing, warehousing and supply chain distribution.
Earle said the sectors would benefit from increased capital due to a 25 percent reduction in finished goods inventories; access to larger talent pools with the same commute time; up to 80 percent savings on real estate costs; shorter lead times; reduced freight spend; and a big reduction in CO2 emissions.
In October last year DP World announced it had become a "significant investor" and Board member of Hyperloop One following a reported US$50 million deal for continued research and development. This followed an August signing of an MoU to analyze the value of using Hyperloop systems to move containers from Jebel Ali Port to a new inland container depot in Dubai (pictured: artist rendering).
"As the only company in the world building an operational Hyperloop system, Hyperloop One is focused on creating a new mode of transportation to move people and cargo," said Earle. "Hyperloop One changes everything. We're committed to enabling disruption to create new opportunities in manufacturing, warehousing and supply chain distribution.
"Hyperloop will drive significant value for a wide range of businesses and reinvent transportation as we know it," he added.
Based on McKinsey 2016 data, Earle thinks his company could acquire 100 percent of the GCC's annual airfreight traffic worth US$7 billion, 22 percent or US$3 billion of the region's road and rail market, and 13 percent of its maritime industry valued at US$2 billion.
During the summit Hyperloop announced the launch of its partner program designed to add expertise in Hyperloop solutions, increase revenue, build industry recognition and provide inside access to understand and influence Hyperloop One's strategy.
Harj Dhaliwal, a senior vice president at the Parsons engineering and construction company said his organization is already providing Hyperloop with expertise and knowledge of regional transportation requirements on a number of projects worldwide.
"Hyperloop One's progress is extraordinary and it will happen sooner than you think," he declared.
ARMONK, NY: March 06, 2017. Following ratification of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement, IBM and Maersk are developing the use of blockchain technology to help transform global supply chains.
The goal is to digitize the paper trail associated with a container-based global supply chain by using a blockchain solution built by IBM and Maersk based on the Linux Foundation's open source Hyperledger Fabric. When adopted at scale, the solution has the potential to save the logistics industry billions of dollars, according to the two companies.
IBM and Maersk intend to work with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and Customs authorities to build the new global trade digitization solution, which is expected to go into production later this year.
This follows a proof of concept study with various shippers and government agencies including Schneider Electric, the Customs Administration of the Netherlands, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Damco, Royal FloraHolland and the Port of Rotterdam.
"The projects we are doing with IBM aim at exploring a disruptive technology such as blockchain to solve real customer problems and create new innovative business models for the entire industry," said Maersk Chief Digital Officer Ibrahim Gokcen. "We expect the solutions we are working on will not only reduce the cost of goods for consumers, but also make global trade more accessible to a much larger number of players from both emerging and developed countries."
An industry standard application program interface (API) for the centralized sharing of data via the Cloud was originally conceived by Frank Heijmann, head of trade relations, Customs Administration of the Netherlands, and David Hesketh, head of Customs research and development at Britain's HM Revenue and Customs.
"The Customs Administration of the Netherlands see the data pipeline as a tool supporting the balance between trade facilitation and enforcement, where information sharing in supply chains is optimized from a commercial perspective, and government authorities can re-use that information flow for supervision purposes," said Heijmann.
Bridget van Kralingen, IBM senior vice president Industry Platforms added: "We believe that this new supply chain solution will be a transformative technology with the potential to completely disrupt and change the way global trade is done."
WASHINGTON, DC: March 03, 2017. IATA has reiterated its warning to the Trump Administration about a future of restricted borders and protectionism.
"Our world has grown much wealthier through trade and travel. Air travel liberates people to live better lives and makes our world a better place," said IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac, "In the U.S., the aviation sector contributes US$680.1 billion dollars to GDP and supports 6.2 million jobs."
De Juniac said political change in the U.S. is being watched very closely because of its impact on global aviation. He called on the Trump Administration and Congress to replace the Federal Aviation Administration with an independent, "corporatized non-profit entity" to manage U.S. skies.
"Airlines and their passengers suffer the impact of the unpredictable federal budget process on the [FAA] provision of air traffic services," he said, adding the U.S. is falling behind in the introduction of new and more efficient technology.
De Juniac also urged the Trump Administration to create jobs by reducing the tax burden on travel: "Airlines for America estimates that taxes account for more than a fifth of the cost of the average domestic ticket," he declared.
Noting the idea of private sector involvement in Trump's US$1 trillion infrastructure plan, De Juniac said he knew of only one airport in the world – San Juan Puerto Rico – that had fully delivered on expectations: "Airports are monopolies. When they are in private hands, the pressure to maximize shareholder returns too often outweighs the core objective of delivering user/consumer benefits."
He warned that private sector involvement in funding infrastructure improvements should be balanced by regulatory innovation to protect national and consumer interests.
Acknowledging the need to maintain international and domestic environment regulations, the IATA director general said it was "vital" the Trump Administration supports the successful implementation of the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
At the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization last October, 191 countries - including the U.S. - agreed to reduce and offset carbon emissions beginning in 2021: "Airlines cannot operate with multiple and conflicting environmental regimes. CORSIA is the global solution that is in everybody's best interest," he declared.
Pictured: IAG Cargo celebrated World Wildlife Day on March 03 as member of the IATA/CITES initiative to protect endangered species. The cargo business of the International Airlines Group donated 400 passenger blankets to an elephant orphanage run by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.
LONDON: February 01, 2017. Google is now the world's most valuable brand after Apple falls to the No.2 spot in a report of the world's top 500 brands from consultants Brand Finance.
The company said Google's brand value rose by 24 percent last year to reach US$109.47 billion while Apple dropped 27 percent to US$107.14 billon.
In third place for the second consecutive year is Amazon at US$106.36 billion as Walmart retains its position at No.8 with a value of US$62.49 billion.
Brand Finance said it calculates the values of the brands in its league tables using the "Royalty Relief approach". This involves estimating the likely future sales that are attributable to a brand and calculating a royalty rate that would be charged for the use of the brand, i.e. what the owner would have to pay for the use of the brand - assuming it were not already owned.
Placed unchanged at No.48 is UPS with a brand value of US$22.12 billion – up 13 percent from 2015. FedEx rose from No.85 to take the No.73 spot as its value increased 31 percent to US$17.09 billion. Meanwhile DHL, part of the Deutsche Post DHL group, fell from No.122 to No.137 position in the top 500 list.
Leading ocean container carriers Maersk, CMA CGM and MSC are either overlooked as brands or didn't make the Brand Finance list.
For the last five years Emirates held the title as the world's most valuable airline brand. However the combination of lower oil prices, a strong US dollar and increased competition has led to a 21 percent drop in the airline's brand value to US$6.1 billion and a fall to No.264 from the No.167 position in 2015, according to Brand Finance's calculations.
The top three airline brands are now American, occupying No.142 in a jump from No.225 in the previous 12 months; Delta, up from No.213 to No.152; and United from being placed No.330 in 2015 to No.210 last year.
Southwest also saw its value rise as it placed No.267 from No.429 in 2015. British Airways finished last in Brand Finance's airline list - dropping 150 places from the preceding 12 months to No.468.
Other highlights from the report include: • China's bank brands are now worth more than those of the U.S. • ICBC is the world's most valuable banking brand. • AT&T has overtaken Verizon to become the world's most valuable telecoms brand. • Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds, KFC & Subway all see brand values fall, undermined by healthy eating trends. • Nokia's brand is back in the top 500, following takeover and rebrand of Alcatel and launch of the Nokia 6 phone.
WASHINGTON, DC: March 02, 2017. With the confirmation of Trump's billionaire Florida neighbor Wilbur Ross as U.S. Commerce secretary, a recent Gallup poll says a record 72 percent of Americans see foreign trade as an opportunity for economic growth.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Ross told members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation: "China is the most protectionist country of very large countries. They talk much more about free trade than they actually practice."
In setting out its trade policy for 2017 this week, the Trump Administration argued: "While the current global trading system has been great for China, since the turn of the century it has not generated the same results for the United States."
Gallup said its latest poll is an increase from a previous level of 58 percent and is prompted by Trump's declaration to put "America First" in renegotiating NAFTA, or replacing multilateral trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with bilateral ones.
Seventy-one percent of Americans now think promoting favorable trade for the U.S. is a "very important" foreign policy goal, up from 66 percent in 2013, the last time the question was asked.
According to Gallup all the political parties have increased their views that trade is an economic opportunity. Among Democrats, it has risen 17 points to 80 percent, while among Republicans it has increased 16 points to 66 percent. The rise is smaller among independents it noted, up eight points to 71 percent.
Despite the cancellation of the TPP, viewing foreign trade as an economic opportunity is now at a record high level among politicians. The previous high mark for Democrats was 66 percent in 2013, and for Republicans it was 57 percent in 2002. Since 2012, Democrats have been more positive about trade than Republicans have been, Gallup concluded.
The Trump Administration said its approach to trade is designed to increase economic growth, promote job creation in the U.S., promote reciprocity with the country's trading partners, strengthen America's manufacturing base and "our ability to defend ourselves", and to expand agricultural and services industry exports.
"As a general matter, we believe that these goals can be best accomplished by focusing on bilateral negotiations rather than multilateral negotiations – and by renegotiating and revising trade agreements when our goals are not being met," it added.
SAN BRUNO, CA: January 31, 2017. In a bid to compete with Amazon Prime, Walmart has introduced free two-day delivery on over two million items without a membership fee. The retail giant has also lowered the minimum purchase ceiling from US$50 to US$35.
Walmart's two-day shipping is available on household essentials, beauty products as well as electronics and toys.
"I couldn't be more excited. We are moving at the speed of a startup," commented Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, and former CEO of eCommerce company Jet.com.
Wal-Mart acquired Jet in August 2016 for US$3.3 billion in cash and Wal-Mart stock. The company was co-founded in 2014 by Lore, CTO Mike Hanrahan and COO Nate Faust after they'd sold their previous company Quidsi to Amazon for US$545 million in 2010.
"Two-day free shipping is the first of many moves we will be making to enhance the customer experience and accelerate growth," he said.
In addition to offering two-day shipping to stores, Walmart said it continues to offer same-day merchandise store pickup at more than 4,600 stores and grocery pickup at 600 sites.
"In today's world of e-commerce, two-day free shipping is table stakes. It no longer makes sense to charge for it," explained Lore.
The people at Jet.com (right) combine a rewards-based eCommerce platform with Walmart's retail expertise, purchasing scale, sourcing capabilities, distribution footprint and digital assets to reduce supply-chain and logistics costs.
In a related development UK eCommerce grocer Ocado could be a target for Amazon following the release of its latest 12-month results showing sales up 13.6 percent and revenue up 14.8 percent to £1.27 billion.
David Jinks, head of Consumer Research at UK parcel consolidator Fastlane International commented: 'Rumors still persist that Amazon or another retailer might actually take over Ocado lock, stock and barrel-aged feta cheese.
"Ocado doesn't have the economies of scale that traditional brick and mortar supermarket chains have and always seems a likely candidate for acquisition because of its net debts, which rose to nearly £165 million," he added.
PARIS/NEW YORK: February 10, 2017. A survey of supply chain purchasing executives has found that 97 percent place a "high level" of importance on sustainable procurement.
Supply chain rating organization EcoVadis said its data shows 50 percent of sustainable procurement leaders have increased revenue from such initiatives, a 33 percent increase over non-leaders.
"Sustainable procurement is no longer a nice-to-have – it's an integral business function responsible for protecting and improving brand reputation, driving revenue and mitigating business risk," said Pierre-François Thaler, EcoVadis co-CEO.
According to the survey, nearly half (45 percent) of organizations said their sustainable procurement program covers 75 percent or more of their spend volume, up from 27 percent that reported the same in 2013.
However only 15 percent admitted they have complete supply chain visibility into the CSR and sustainability performance of both tier one and two suppliers, and only six percent reported full visibility into tier three suppliers and beyond.
EcoVadis said its study also found that organizations collecting sustainability data are now using it to guide sourcing decisions. "By making CSR data a key factor in the sourcing process, organizations are incentivizing suppliers to be more sustainable and act more responsibly across the board," explained Thaler.
In its last survey conducted in 2013, the rating company found the main obstacle to supply chain and procurement sustainability was a lack of executive and board support.
This year "the C-suite appears to be finally on board with sustainable procurement initiatives," Thaler declared. "However, when you dive deeper into the data, an interesting picture starts to appear. While executives are finally on board, procurement teams still report that a lack of internal resources holds them back," he added.
The EcoVadis data confirms a study published last month by Unilever that revealed 33 percent of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.
The study asked 20,000 adults from five countries how their sustainability concerns determined their choices both in-store and at home, and then mapped their claims against real purchase decisions. Unilever concluded there is a €966 billion sales opportunity for brands "that make their sustainability credentials clear".
Pictured: Tea pickers work on a Unilever Lipton estate in Kenya. As the world's No.1 tea producer, in 2007 Unilever became the first company to commit to sustainably sourcing tea on a large scale.
AMSTERDAM: January 24, 2017. With the Netherlands committed to a circular economy by 2050, Dutch social enterprise Circular Economy and Rotterdam-based Erasmus University are conducting research into defining the key jobs and skills that will enable the transition.
Currently 8.1 percent of all jobs in the country are based on circular principles that ensure the use of resources to guarantee the highest level of long-term economic, environmental and social value.
With 70 percent of all global resources used in cities and 50 percent of the world's population living in urban areas, Circle Economy is developing a Dashboard that measures the circularity of cities and regions.
The dashboard aims to quantify the key elements of the circular economy, such as employment, resource efficiency, air quality and climate change and enable cities to link the circular strategies they are implementing with explicit data.
Annerieke Douma, director Programme and Business Development for Circular Economy said: "Implementing the circular economy is as much about people as it is about resources and sustainability."
To accelerate the transition to complete circularity, defining key roles will need to be adapted and developed, she explained: "The first three are the architect to design for the future, the appliance technician to extend the lifetime of products, and the courier to enable reverse logistics processes for circular businesses."
In October 2016 a partnership of AkzoNobel, the Port of Rotterdam, recycler van Gansewinkel, Air Liquide and technology company Enerkem, announced plans to build a waste-to-chemicals plant that would produce methanol from synthesis gas generated from residual waste.
The plant will be based on technology developed by Enerkem to create the methanol for conversion into acetic acid used for fibres and adhesives, thickening agents and dimethyl ether – a clean propellant gas. The result will be a facility providing a sustainable circular replacement to sourcing from fossil fuels.
According to Erasmus University research, current governmental commitments are only able to achieve half of their climate goals, prompting the need for extra effort in order to stop the earth's temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees above its current state.
COPENHAGEN: February 09, 2017. A.P. Møller-Mærsk has reported a loss of US$1.89 billion for 2016 on revenue of US$35.46 billion, down from a profit of US$925 million on US$40.30 billion revenue the previous year.
Maersk Line recorded a loss of US$376m on a 13 percent decline in revenue to US$20.7 billion. This compared to a profit of US$1.3 billion on revenue of US$23.7 billion in 2015.
The company said the result was due to poor market conditions leading to sustained lower freight rates partly offset by higher volumes and lower unit costs related to lower bunker price, higher utilization and cost efficiencies.
Maersk Line has 27 vessels on order totalling 367,000 TEU for delivery in 2017 and 2018. This consists of eleven 19,600 TEU second generation TripleE, nine 14,000 TEU vessels and seven 3,600 TEU iceclass vessels for the intraEuropean market.
APM Terminals reported a profit of US$438 million on revenue of US$4.17 billion. Lower profit in "commercially challenged" terminals in Latin America, North-West Europe and Africa was only partly offset by cost saving initiatives.
Damco increased its net profit to US$31 million from US$19 million in 2015 on revenue of US$2.5 billion.
Commenting on the results Group CEO 2016 Søren Skou acknowledged 2016 was a "difficult year" with an "unsatisfactory" result mainly due to the loss at Maersk Line.
"Our top priorities for 2017 remain integrating our Transport & Logistics businesses, taking out cost in APM Terminals and Damco, closing the Hamburg-Süd acquisition, as well as progressing the work on finding structural solutions for each of our oil and oil-related businesses," he explained.
Skou said he expected the group to deliver a higher underlying profit this year, mainly driven by a US$1 billion improvement in Maersk Line results compared to 2016.
BERLIN: January 25, 2017. Corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has released its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index showing that of the 176 countries measured, 69 percent scored below 50, on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
While no country scores a perfect 100, not for the first time New Zealand joins the four Scandinavian countries plus Switzerland at the top of the list. Singapore, The Netherlands, Canada and a three-way tie between Germany, Luxembourg and the U.K. round out the top ten.
Out of the top group are Australia (13), the U.S. (18) and Japan (20). Unsurprisingly, Syria joins South Sudan, North Korea and Somalia at the bottom of the index.
The Gambia, which awaited the arrival of a new president this week after his defeated predecessor finally left the West African country with a reported US$11.4 million in government assets, placed equal 145 on TI's list.
TI said its findings reinforce the principle that systemic corruption and social inequality go hand in hand, resulting in a feeling of distrust with the political status quo and providing a platform for right-wing politicians.
Publication of the Panama Papers last year exposed the marriage between corruption and inequality, noted TI, and the ease in which the rich and powerful are able to exploit the global financial system "using the backs of the public good as a ladder to elevate themselves".
Shocking displays of human rights violations continue as conspiracies between businesses and politicians go unchallenged from Petrobras and Odebrecht in Brazil to Ukrainian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, said the watchdog.
"In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary," declared TI chairman José Ugaz. "Instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems."
An end to corruption is only possible if citizens are empowered and able to hold accountable those who are in power, added Ugaz. He noted that Brazil has shown that with support from independent law enforcement bodies it is possible to hold to account those previously considered untouchable.
"Only where there is freedom of expression, transparency in all political processes and strong democratic institutions, can civil society and the media hold those in power to account and corruption be fought successfully," he concluded.