Most Japan firms oppose holding Tokyo Olympics as planned: Poll



FILE PHOTO: A man looks at his mobile phone next to The Olympic rings in front of the Japan Olympics Museum in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo

February 18, 2021

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Nearly two thirds of Japanese firms oppose holding the Tokyo Olympics as planned, a Reuters monthly poll found, swinging from the previous survey that showed most companies were in favour of giving it a go-ahead amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Reuters poll was taken as Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori resigned over sexist remarks, further undermining confidence in organisers’ abilities to fulfil their pledge to hold safe and secure Games.

The Corporate Survey found 36% of Japanese firms called for postponement and 29% demanded cancellation, while the remaining 35% wanted the Tokyo Olympic Games to go ahead.

The results were in line with recent public opinion polls, including one taken by the Yomiuri newspaper last week, which showed a majority of Japanese opposed holding the Olympics this summer due to the pandemic.

The Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed last year due to the pandemic and rescheduled to take place this year from July 23.

“If the Olympics can wait another year, we could then see vaccines become widely available,” making it safe to hold the Games, an electric machinery maker manager wrote in the survey.

“No one wants it to be held forcibly now,” wrote a transportation company manager.

Should the Olympics go ahead this summer, almost half the companies called for restrictions on the number of spectators, and 43% demanded no-spectator Games, the Feb. 2-12 poll found.

While 6% called for cuts in the number of events at the Olympics, just 3% wanted the Games to be held as scheduled, the Corporate Survey showed.

Asked how much impact the Tokyo Olympics may have on the Japanese economy, 88% of the companies said they expected either limited or not much effect. While 6% saw it weighing on the economy, only 5% expected a big economic boost.

“Considering the economic impact, a cancellation would deepen damage to the economy,” wrote a manager of a chemical producer.

The Corporate Survey, conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research, canvassed 482 large and medium non-financial Japanese corporations on condition of anonymity because they can express opinions more freely. Managers of roughly 220 firms responded.

The previous corporate survey, conducted Oct. 26-Nov. 4, showed 68% wanted the Games to go ahead while three quarters thought spectator numbers should be restricted if they do go ahead.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes)



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Citadel’s Griffin details firm’s role in trading during GameStop rally



FILE PHOTO: Traders work at the Citadel Securities post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

February 18, 2021

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

(Reuters) – Electronic trading firm Citadel Securities last month played a critical role in processing retail investors’ orders and was not involved in online trading app Robinhood’s decision to limit trading in GameStop, Citadel’s founder Kenneth Griffin said.

Griffin, who has been trading stocks for more than half his life, also laid out his ideas for improving trading for all, suggesting shorter settlement cycles and transparent capital models could be introduced now.

The 52-year old billionaire investor, who founded hedge fund Citadel LLC in 1990 and co-founded Citadel Securities in 2002, will deliver prepared remarks and answer questions for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Financial Services on Thursday, giving his most detailed public description yet of events that unnerved markets for days in January.

“When others were unable or unwilling to handle the heavy volumes, Citadel Securities stepped up,” Griffin said, describing the frenzied retail stock trading when Citadel Securities processed 7.4 billion shares for retail investors on Jan. 27. “That day Citadel Securities executed more shares for retail investors than the average daily volume of the entire U.S. equities market in 2019,” he said.

Citadel Securities, led by Peng Zhao, competes with other market makers for order flow from companies like Robinhood and receives a large percentage of orders based on execution quality. It also pays Robinhood to process orders it receives.

Retail investors have benefited from technology that companies like Citadel Securities are employing to speed trading and help cut fees, Griffin said. But last month’s events — when an army of retail investors sent up the stock prices of unloved companies like GameStop — illustrate that more work is needed.

Trades should be settled faster, Griffin said noting that the trade date now usually takes two business days to settle.

“Individual investors are better served by America’s markets than ever before, and it is critical that our markets continue to be a force for fairness and integrity worthy of investor confidence and participation,” Griffin said.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by David Gregorio)



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Exclusive: Goldman, other financial firms add China staff, eyeing growth



FILE PHOTO: The Goldman Sachs company logo is seen in the company’s space on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

February 11, 2021

By Scott Murdoch and Samuel Shen

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Global financial firms including Goldman Sachs, BlackRock and Fidelity International are poised to add hundreds of staff in China this year as they look to take advantage of the opening up of its $40 trillion financial sector.

Beijing in the last one-and-a-half years stepped up the pace of liberalisation mainly as part of a trade deal with the United States, and allowed foreigners to fully own their local ventures in areas including investment banking and asset management.

After having won regulatory approval to raise holdings and dealt with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Western firms are now readying plans to boost their onshore presence, representatives and headhunters said.

Foreign financial firms have long coveted a bigger presence in China, and their expansion comes against the backdrop of a revival in its economy, increased onshore deal activities, and a rapid pace of wealth creation.

Goldman is leading the charge of the Wall Street banks operating in China – the first to move towards taking full ownership of its securities business after it was fully opened up to foreigners last April.

It aims to hire 70 staff in China in 2021, a Goldman spokesman said, as it seeks to double headcount to 600 by 2024. The bank has about 400 staff now and the new hiring round will target investment bankers, brokers, analysts and technology staff.

Fidelity tripled its office space in Shanghai in September to accommodate a fast-growing workforce as it prepares to launch its wholly owned mutual fund unit after China scrapped foreign ownership caps in the sector last year.  

The fund manager plans to hire around 100 people in China this year, not including its operation and technology centre in Dalian, the company told Reuters.

“We hope to hire high-end talents with both global perspective and local insight, which is in short supply in the current market,” it said.

BlackRock, which is setting up a 51%-controlled wealth management venture with Temasek Holdings and China Construction Bank Corp <601939.SS> in China, is hiring at least a dozen senior roles for the business, according to global recruiting site Glassdoor.

Vacancies include vice president of trading, vice president of marketing strategy, head of risk and quantitative analysis and fund operation manager, according to newly posted job ads over the past month.

BlackRock declined to comment.

TALENT WAR

Besides opening up of its financial sectors for foreigners, Beijing also initiated a slew of reforms in the last couple of years across capital markets, asset management and insurance businesses, boosting the earnings prospects of Western firms.

That has also resulted in increased activities in the Chinese financial market – Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market was ranked fourth last year in the global bourses league table with $20.3 billion worth of deals in 2020, according to Refinitiv.

The hiring plans have raised the prospect of a talent war with most looking to raid other foreign firms in China. Some of them are also looking to tap into their existing staff in other locations to build out their China workforce.

Goldman, for example, is planning to hire domestically while also tapping overseas talent networks to find the 70 new staff, the spokesman said.

UBS China country head David Chin said the jostle to hire staff by Western financial firms had not only triggered a talent war but meant banks had to work hard to stop their staff being poached by rivals.

UBS said in January it was planning to double its investment banking workforce in three to five years.

“Of course, we regularly transfer employees from Hong Kong to China but it needs to be done in a measured way. Many Hong Kong employees are not the best fit for mainland China, so the number of prospective candidates is limited,” Chin said.

(Reporting by Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong and Samuel Shen in Shanghai; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee)



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Biden’s ‘Buy American’ order likely to have little impact on Canadian firms, but U.S. stimulus may lift their fortunes


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The Buy American Act dates back to 1933, and put measures in place to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars support the U.S. economy — although exactly how to do so has been a challenge as the economy has become more and more global in nature.

Today, the U.S. federal government awards an estimated US$600 billion in goods and services contracts every year.

During his campaign for president, Biden had promised to protect U.S. manufacturing jobs and in a press release on Monday, he said his order means “that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars they are spent on American-made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts.”

It’s not as if this is brand spanking new for Canadian business

Doug Porter, chief economist, BMO Capital Markets

The order also creates a new agency to review all waivers of the Buy American requirement, and which will publicly report the details of any waivers.

Waivers should only be “used in very limited circumstances — for example, when there’s an overwhelming national security, humanitarian or emergency need,” Biden said.

While that appears to draw a clear line in the sand, which would restrict Canada from any fiscal stimulus measures, there’s always a chance it may not.

The Conservative party’s international trade critic, British Columbia’s MP Tracy Gray, has pointed out that a decade ago, Stephen Harper’s government won waivers for Canada from the Buy American Act, and she urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to push for a similar exemption.

“Canada and U.S. trade are closely tied — but this Buy American plan puts our mutual economic recovery at risk,” she said in a statement.

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UK firms told 'set up in EU to avoid trade disruption'



Firms say they have been advised by officials to set up EU hubs, but the government says it is not policy.

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Brexit: Boris Johnson promises compensation to firms experiencing issues exporting to EU | Politics News


Businesses experiencing problems exporting to the EU “through no fault of their own” will receive compensation, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson said he “understands the frustrations” of businesses exporting to the continent who have run into issues since new post-Brexit UK-EU trading rules came into effect.

He was speaking after angry seafood hauliers stacked their lorries outside Downing Street in protest.

Image:
Police said 14 people had been given fines after Monday’s protest

They have complained of being “tied in knots with paperwork” and about new checks, resulting in delays exporting fresh fish and seafood to the EU since the start of the year.

“I sympathise very much and understand their frustrations and things have been exacerbated by COVID and the demand hasn’t been what it was before the pandemic and that’s one of the problems we’re trying to deal with. That’s driven in large part by the pandemic,” the prime minister said.

“Where businesses, through no fault of their own, have faced difficulties exporting where there is a genuine willing buyer, there’s a £23m fund to help out.”

Despite their difficulties, Mr Johnson said there would be “great opportunities” for fishermen UK-wide to “to take advantage of the spectacular marine wealth of the United Kingdom”.

He added: “In just five-and-a-half years’ time, we will have access to all the fish in all our waters.

“And just now, we have access to 25% more than we did just a month ago. That means there is scope for fishing communities across the UK to take advantage of the increase in quota.

“What we’re going to do is give people a helping hand and that’s why we’ve set up the £100m fund to help people with boats, to help with the fish processing industry, the opportunity is massive.”

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Fisherman’s rant over Brexit red tape

Fourteen people had been given fines after Monday morning’s protest, the Metropolitan Police confirmed.

“The industry is being tied in knots with paperwork requirements which would be easy enough to navigate, given that companies have put in the time and training in order to have all the relevant procedures in place for 1st January 2021,” said a spokesperson for D R Collin & Son, a Berwickshire-based firm that took part in the London demonstration.

“However, all the training is going to waste as the technology is outdated and cannot cope with the demands being placed on it – which in turn is resulting in no produce being able to leave the UK.

“These are not ‘teething issues’ as reported by the government and the consequences of these problems will be catastrophic on the lives of fishermen, fishing towns and the shellfish industry as a whole.”

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Brexit issues not just ‘teething problems’ – Justin King

Alasdair Hughson, chairman of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, said the industry wanted to “make its voice heard loud and clear”.

“If this debacle does not improve very soon we are looking at many established businesses coming to the end of the line,” he said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers were “trying to blame the fishing communities rather than accepting it’s their failure to prepare”.

He said: “They are beyond frustrated, they are pretty angry about what’s gone on because the government has known there would be a problem with fishing and particularly the sale of fish into the EU for years.”

Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s rural economy secretary, said the new trading rules were having a “catastrophic impact on Scotland’s food and drink export industry” and any compensation may be “too little too late” for some businesses.

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Japan’s households, firms keep piling up cash at record pace as pandemic persists





FILE PHOTO: Women walk past a restaurant at a shopping district in Tokyo, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Japan August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

January 13, 2021

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s currency in circulation and bank deposits rose at a record pace in December, data showed on Wednesday, as a resurgence in coronavirus infections prompted companies and households to continue hoarding cash rather than spending it.

The numbers highlight the challenge the government faces in trying to contain the virus without threatening Japan’s already fragile economic recovery.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to announce an extension of state of emergency measures beyond Tokyo as early as Wednesday as COVID-19 infections keep rising.

Japan’s M3 money stock – or currency in circulation and deposits at financial institutions – rose 7.63% in December from a year earlier, marking the biggest increase on record, Bank of Japan data showed. The rise slightly exceeded a 7.59% gain in November.

Companies continue to pile up deposits as a precaution against the pandemic, while households are holding off on spending due to uncertainty over the outlook, a BOJ official said at a briefing.

Japan’s economy has been recovering moderately, after suffering its biggest postwar slump in April-June last year due to curbs imposed on economic activity to contain the virus.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)




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Giving and taking – What happens when firms have to stump up for good causes | Business


KITEX GARMENTS is one of the largest private companies in Kerala, a communist-led state in southern India. Its embrace of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is enthusiastic. In the fiscal year ending in March 2020 it allocated 5.3% of its average profit over the past three years to public roads, schools, housing and safe drinking water. That makes it a poster-child for an Indian law passed in 2013, in the aftermath of a corporate fraud scandal, that requires Indian companies to divert at least 2% of annual profits to CSR projects.

Arguments leading up to the law’s approval pitted NGOs and populist politicians, who supported it, against India Inc, which said it merely created a new tax. Several big corporate contributors argued that philanthropy would be damaged by government involvement. A new study by Shivaram Rajgopal of Columbia Business School and Prasanna Tantri of the Indian School of Business suggests that last group has a point.

The researchers sifted through the filings of 39,000 companies to see how behaviour changed. Advocates of the law will be pleased to see that the sum the average company channelled annually to CSR efforts rose slightly in fiscal 2014-19, compared with 2009-14. It was not, however, an unalloyed triumph. Kitex, with its consistently high charitable contributions, turns out to be an exception.

Of the 2,152 companies that gave more than 5% of profits before the law went through, average real contributions fell by half (see chart). In place of spending on social causes, Mr Rajgopal and Ms Tantri found increased spending on advertising.

Economists studying CSR spending posit three possible incentives for it: genuine altruism; private interests of managers who enhance their own position with corporate cash; and improved performance and valuations as a consequence of a burnished reputation among customers and better morale among employees.

If the first two were at work, Mr Rajgopal and Ms Tantri speculate, India’s biggest spenders would not have cut back: setting a minimum payment would impede neither altruism nor benefits to managers. Instead, the reduced payments suggest that past spending was mostly about “signalling value”. Once they became obligatory, CSR payments were seen as merely another component of regulatory compliance. Or, as Mr Rajgopal concludes, “The halo was lost.”

The question left open by the study is where CSR money goes and whether that too has been affected by the law. Many Indian businesses are family-controlled. Their CSR contributions often go from the companies to charitable entities also controlled by the families. India’s largest company, Reliance Industries, for example, directed 94% of its 2019 contributions to the Reliance Foundation, chaired by Nita Ambani, the wife of Mukesh Ambani, Reliance’s largest shareholder and boss. To its credit, Reliance discloses these contributions. Many others are less forthcoming.

Where CSR money ultimately ends up is often unclear. Some may flow into India’s political system. Kitex is again the exception. The company’s allied do-gooding arm is quite transparent about supporting political candidates and has spoken out about its efforts to do so in response to past government failures. This, it would argue, is the socially responsible thing to do.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “Giving and taking”

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Kenya firms cut pay for new jobs to cope with Covid pain


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Kenya firms cut pay for new jobs to cope with Covid pain


Jobseekers in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya’s job market conditions remained dark in December despite a slight improvement in recruitment, a monthly survey shows.
  • Companies weighed down by the economic knocks of the Covid-19 pandemic sustained pay cuts for existing workers while newly hired ones came in at lower pay.
  • Overall staff costs reduced at a faster pace in December than November despite firms hiring more workers.

Kenya’s job market conditions remained dark in December despite a slight improvement in recruitment, a monthly survey shows.

Companies weighed down by the economic knocks of the Covid-19 pandemic sustained pay cuts for existing workers while newly hired ones came in at lower pay.

The Markit Stanbic Bank Kenya Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) shows that though recruitment increased for the third month in a row in December on increased private sector activity, the take-home by workers remained downcast due to pay cuts and lower salary offers for fresh recruits.

Overall staff costs reduced at a faster pace in December than November despite firms hiring more workers—an indication of reduced earnings for employees whose incomes have further been chopped this month following the expiry of special tax reliefs to cushion them from the economic fallout of Covid-19.

“Efforts to lower wage bills led to a further drop in overall staff costs in December. The rate of decline quickened from November, but remained marginal and far softer than seen earlier in the year during the worst of the Covid-19 outbreak,” the survey says.

The drop in wages came ahead of the reinstatement of the normal pay as you earn (PAYE) tax bands by the Treasury, except for workers earning a monthly salary of up to Sh24,000.

Parliament has additionally revised the tax bands for salaried workers resulting in maximum PAYE tax of 30 percent applying from Sh32,333 compared with Sh47,057 in the pre-Covid period.

Pay cuts by private sector firms had intensified since November following a sharp jump in Covid-19 infection and deaths which prompted the State to tighten some of the regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, hurting demand locally and abroad.

The PMI report — based on feedback from corporate managers in key sectors such as manufacturing, services and agriculture — shows that overall expansion in private sector activity such as output, new orders, employment and backlogs for December recovered marginally from a sharp deceleration a month earlier, largely helped by increased festive season sales.

The headline PMI reading rose slightly to 51.4 in December from 51.3 a month earlier and 59.1 in October.

This means that growth in business deals was nearly flat, just staying above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction and that economic recovery from Covid-19 fallout was softer in November and December than the July-October period.

“The modest month-on-month improvement in the Stanbic PMI indicates that the pace of the post-pandemic recovery is slowing down. Rising input costs, partly caused by disruptions in supply chains as well as some input shortages, have also resulted in a slowdown in the growth in output,” Kuria Kamau, a fixed income and currency strategist at Stanbic Bank, says in the PMI report.

“This slowdown was inevitable following the significant improvements in economic activity witnessed in October after the relaxation of public health restrictions.”

Ministry of Health data shows the contagious coronavirus disease sickened 12,633 persons in December from a record 29, 821 persons in November, killing a further 198 from 488 a month earlier.

“Output rose at a slightly weaker pace in December, and the slowest seen in the current six-month sequence of growth,” analysts at Stanbic Bank and UK’s Markit wrote in the December PMI report. “Firms found that improved cash flow, looser restrictions and higher customer orders supported the expansion.”

The higher sales in December than a month earlier resulted in an increase in backlog of work, prompting firms to increase workers marginally for the third month in a row.

The modest rise in orders was supported by “improved cash flow and greater marketing activity” which included discount offerings during the peak of the festive season.

The sales were also lifted by recovery in orders from abroad from a five-month low in November after countries such as France and Ghana relaxed a second round of Covid-19 shutdown measures.

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ASX sags as banks, CSL weigh; Energy firms soar on Saudi oil cut



The ASX 200 dropped as much as 0.6% at the open as US voters head to the polls for the Georgia Senate run-off. The energy firms were higher but the banks and CSL fell. 

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