PM issues China directive
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed civil servants to make plans to end the UK’s reliance on China for vital medical supplies and other strategic imports in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Times reported yesterday. The plans, which have been code named “Project Defend,” include identifying the UK’s main economic vulnerabilities to potentially hostile foreign governments as part of a broader new approach to national security, the newspaper reported, adding that the efforts are being led by Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab. Two working groups have been set up as part of the project, according to the report, with one source telling the Times that the aim was to diversify supply lines to no longer depend on individual countries for non-food essentials. Johnson told lawmakers that he would take steps to protect Britain’s technological base, with the government review also expected to include personal protective equipment and drugs, the report said.
Borrowing sets record
Britain’s government last month borrowed more than it has done in any month on record, pushing up a measure of public debt to close to 100 percent of economic output. April’s borrowing of ￡62.1 billion (US$75.80 billion) was six times higher than in the same month last year and March’s figure was revised up sharply to almost ￡15 billion as the government’s emergency job-saving scheme began. Public debt, including the Bank of England’s massive bond-buying, jumped to nearly 98 percent of GDP, reflecting higher borrowing and a lower estimate of the size of the economy based on a scenario by Britain’s budget forecasters. That was the highest share of GDP by that measure since 1963, the Office for National Statistics said. The office also said that British retail sales last month fell by the most on record, as much of the sector was shuttered by the government’s COVID-19 lockdown.
IBM reduces US workforce
International Business Machines Corp (IBM) cut an unspecified number of jobs across the US, eliminating employees in at least five states. The company declined to comment on the total number, but the workforce reductions appear far-reaching. “IBM’s work in a highly competitive marketplace requires flexibility to constantly add high-value skills to our workforce. While we always consider the current environment, IBM’s workforce decisions are in the interest of the long-term health of our business,” company spokesman Ed Barbini said in a statement on Thursday. IBM is offering subsidized medical coverage to all affected US employees through June next year, he said.
Nissan planning job cuts
Nissan Motor Co is planning to cut more than 20,000 jobs across the world as the Japanese automaker grapples with factories and showrooms that have been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kyodo News reported. The outbreak is forcing Nissan to cut back on production and restructuring measures in Japan are also being considered, the news agency reported. The job reductions are part of a mid-term reorganization plan that Nissan is due to unveil on Thursday next week, Kyodo said. The reduction is much larger than the 12,500 staff cuts Nissan announced in the middle of last year.
SUPPLY CHAIN RESHUFFLE: The chipmaker was ‘cautious’ in not making commitments too early in building production in the US, citing ‘geopolitical factors,’ Nikkei Asia said Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) is considering building an advanced IC packaging plant in the US following a massive investment to set up a wafer fab in Arizona, Nikkei Asia reported. TSMC was considering the plant in response to “Washington’s desire to bring more of the tech supply chain onto home turf,” the report said. TSMC increasingly faces the need to expand in the US, which accounts for about 62 percent of its total sales, Nikkei Asia said, citing three sources who declined to be named. The potential US plant would be equipped with the latest 3D stacking technologies to arrange chips
MARKET BOOST: Elon Musk said Tesla would resume bitcoin transactions once there is ‘reasonable’ clean energy usage by miners and denied selling a big part of his holdings Bitcoin yesterday hit a two-week peak just shy of US$40,000, after another weekend reacting to tweets from Tesla Inc chief executive Elon Musk, who fended off criticism over his market influence and said Tesla sold bitcoin, but might resume transactions using it. Bitcoin has gyrated to Musk’s views for months since Tesla announced a US$1.5 billion bitcoin purchase in February and said it would take the cryptocurrency in payment. He later said the electric vehicle maker would not accept bitcoin due to concerns over how mining the currency requires high energy use and contributes to climate change. “When there’s confirmation of reasonable
China Steel Corp (中鋼), the nation’s biggest steelmaker, yesterday said that it would not be raising prices for some products next month, ending 12 consecutive months of increases. “There is a discrepancy between China Steel’s prices and international prices, but in consideration of price stability, we have decided not to adjust upward monthly-priced products,” the company said in a statement. That means the price of hot-rolled steel plates, hot-rolled steel coils, cold-rolled steel coils and other monthly-priced items would not change next month. However, the cost of other items priced seasonally would be going up, the company said, adding that prices of products
An announcement by ASE Technology Holding Co (ASE, 日月光投控) ordering its migrant workers to move from private rented accommodation to company dormitories is in line with Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) regulations, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Saturday. The “temporary measures” adopted by the IC packaging and testing company “are in accordance with epidemic prevention requirements set by the CECC,” the ministry’s Industrial Development Bureau said in a statement. By stepping up regulation of worker accommodation, the company hopes to prevent more migrant workers contracting COVID-19, the statement said. The statement did not specify which CECC regulations the