• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
  • Editorial Calendar 19-20
BW Businessworld

Globescan: Summer Sense

Software maker Microsoft is selling about 1,500 of its patents to Chinese device maker Xiaomi, a rare departure for the US company and part of what the two companies say is the start of a long-term partnership

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said global markets appear to be “well-prepared” for a summer interest rate hike from the Fed, although he did not specify a date for the policy move. “My sense is that markets are well-prepared for a possible rate increase globally, and that this is not too surprising given our liftoff from December and the policy of the committee which has been to try to normalise rates slowly and gradually over time,” he said. “So my ideal is that if all goes well this will come off very smoothly.” Bullard added a rebound in US GDP growth seems to be materialising in the second quarter, but reserved his opinion on whether the Fed should hike in June or July.

Fair Deal
Software maker Microsoft is selling about 1,500 of its patents to Chinese device maker Xiaomi, a rare departure for the US company and part of what the two companies say is the start of a long-term partnership. The deal also includes a patent cross-licensing arrangement and a commitment by Xiaomi to install copies of Microsoft software, including Office and Skype, on its phones and tablets. Both companies declined to discuss financial terms of the deal. “This is a big collaboration agreement between the two companies,” Wang Xiang, senior vice-president at Xiaomi, said. Analysts said Xiaomi’s ambitions to be a major player outside China were hampered by weak patent protection and a fear of a prolonged legal battle.

Private Affair
US private equity firms Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic have bought a 49 per cent stake in United Arab Emirates-based payments processor Network International from The Abraaj Group, the companies announced in a statement. The investment is a rare example of Western private equity capital being injected into the Middle East, with Warburg and General Atlantic attracted by the gradual transition from cash to electronic transactions in the Middle East and Africa. Neither Warburg nor General Atlantic indicated how much they paid for their stake in the largest payment processor in the Middle East and Africa, which has a presence in more than 40 countries and is 51 per cent owned by Dubai’s largest bank, Emirates NBD.

Debt Service
SoftBank Group said it will sell at least $7.9 billion of shares in Alibaba Group Holding — a move that will cut the Japanese firm’s debt amid worries about losses at its US telecoms unit Sprint Corp. The transaction marks the first sale of shares in the Chinese e-commerce giant by its largest shareholder since SoftBank began investing in the company in 2000, and will reduce its stake to around 28 per cent from 32.2 per cent. The two companies said they would maintain a strategic partnership. Investors have been worried about finances at the Japanese Internet and telecoms company since its 2013 buyout.

Biding Time
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his widely expected decision to delay a scheduled sales tax increase by two-and-a-half years, putting his plans for fiscal reforms on the back burner due to growing signs of weakness in the economy. While the decision may help Abe win votes at an upper house election on 10 July, it could fan doubts about his plans to curb Japan’s huge public debt and fund ballooning social welfare costs of a fast-ageing population. Mindful of opposition criticism that the delay is a sign his “Abenomics” stimulus policies have failed to spur growth, Abe justified the decision, saying it was needed to forestall risks posed by external factors — notably slowing Chinese growth.

Hygiene Check
Regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore have asked banks doing business there to disclose if they have dealings with entities and individuals named in the leaked ‘Panama Papers’, which contained details on thousands of shell firms, people familiar with the requests said. The leaked documents from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, which contained information on 214,000 offshore companies, revealed that Hong Kong was the most active center in the world for the creation of shell firms, which have many legitimate purposes but can also be used to hide assets and avoid taxes.

Talking Sense
European Union governments should not ban services like home-rental site Airbnb, or ride-hailing app Uber except as a last resort, the EU says in new guidelines, seeking to rein in a crackdown on the “sharing economy”. In guidelines, the European Commission said any restrictions by EU member states on these new online services should be justified and proportionate to the public interest at stake. “Total bans of an activity constitute a measure of last resort that should be applied only if and where no less restrictive requirements to attain a public interest can be used,” the draft document says.

Healthy Idea
Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, is stepping up its push into medicine with a global deal worth up to $111 million to develop and market an experimental milk allergy test for infants. The Swiss group will pay DBV Technologies €10 million upfront for rights to its skin patch test for cow’s milk protein allergy, with the balance depending on successful development, the two companies said. The deal underscores Nestle’s ambitions for its Health Science division, which it believes could eventually generate more than $10 billion in annual sales. It also complements the company’s market-leading infant formula business and could help lift sales of products designed for babies with food intolerance. Nestle has signed a series of similar deals with other small companies.

Sign Of Revival
Volkswagen’s mass-market VW brand returned to profit in the first quarter, in a sign deep cost cutting is starting to revive the business at the heart of the German carmaker’s emissions test cheating scandal. VW said the group underlying operating profit fell 5.9 per cent to $3.5 billion in the quarter.

That was better than analysts’ average forecast of €2.8 billion, as demand for upmarket Audi and Porsche models offset a drop in sales at the mass-market VW brand. But Volkswagen said it was still braced for a tough year as it battles to rebuild following the biggest business crisis in its 79 year history. VW plunged to a record loss last year after making provisions at a group level to cover the costs of the diesel emissions scandal and ditched its long-standing CEO after it admitted to cheating tests in the US.