Swatch’s China sales revive
Swatch Group AG said sales in China are rebounding this month after slumping 50 percent last month due to lockdowns followed by a wave of COVID infections. A shortfall of 700 million Swiss francs (US$760 million) of revenue due to the situation in China led the company to report slower-than-expected earnings growth, with operating profit up 13 percent. Revenue could reach a record 9 billion francs this year, chief executive officer Nick Hayek said in an interview. Swatch reported net sales of SF7.5 billion, an increase of 4.6 percent compared with the previous year at constant exchange rates. Analysts expected SF7.73 billion.
Maruti Suzuki profit doubles
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd reported a higher-than-expected profit in the latest quarter as car sales rebounded and supply chain issues eased. Net income for India’s largest carmaker more than doubled to 23.5 billion rupees (US$288 million) for the three months ended Dec. 31, the unit of Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp said in an exchange filing yesterday, beating the average analyst estimate of 18.51 billion rupees forecast by a Bloomberg survey of brokerages. Revenue also topped estimates, rose 25 percent to 290.4 billion rupees. Total costs surged 21 percent to 269.5 billion rupees, according to the filing.
Consumer confidence up
German consumer confidence improved at the start of the new year, a key survey showed yesterday, as government support measures help keep the lid on energy costs. Pollster GfK said its forward-looking survey of around 2,000 people climbed 3.7 points to reach minus-33.9 points for February, the fourth consecutive monthly increase. “Falling prices for energy, such as gasoline and heating oil, have ensured that consumer sentiment is less gloomy,” GfK consumer expert Rolf Buerkl said. He warned that the indicator was still at a “very low level” overall and that the months ahead would remain “difficult” for Europe’s top economy.
Portugal home prices soar
Home prices in Portugal had the biggest annual rise in more than three decades, defying expectations that rising interest rates would dampen demand for property in the southern European nation. House prices increased 18.7 percent last year from the previous year, Confidencial Imobiliario, which collects data on the property market, said in an e-mail. While the annual gains are the biggest since 1991, Confidencial said its data also indicated that the country’s housing market was slowing down. Still, data showed that home-price gains in Portugal slowed over a quarter-on-quarter basis toward the end of last year.
Sri Lanka offered a deal
The Export-Import Bank of China has offered Sri Lanka a two-year moratorium on its debt and said it will support the country’s efforts to secure a US$2.9 billion loan from the IMF, according to a letter reviewed by Reuters. The Export-Import Bank of China said it would provide an extension on the debt service due last year and this year as an immediate contingency measure based on Sri Lanka’s request, the letter said. At the end of 2020, the bank had loaned Sri Lanka US$2.83 billion, which is 3.5 percent of the island’s debt, according to an IMF report released in March last year.
UK offers furnace grants
Britain will offer grants to help its two largest steelmakers replace dirty blast furnaces with less carbon-intensive technology, media reported on Monday. The BBC reported that grants worth ￡600 million (US$744 million) will “likely” be unveiled this week for Chinese-owned British Steel Ltd and Indian-owned Tata Steel UK Ltd, to help slash damaging emissions, cut fuel bills and protect thousands of jobs. British Steel and Tata Steel operate Britain’s four remaining steel blast furnaces. However, London reportedly wants the pair to switch to electric arc furnaces, which the BBC reports could recycle the scrap steel Britain produces and be powered by electricity from renewable sources.
UK falling behind: CBI
Britain is falling behind global competitors in green investment growth, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned on Monday, urging action to soften the blow of recession. The business lobby’s head Tony Danker in a speech called on British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt to make “big decisions” on green investment to “get growth going.” “Our international competitors in Europe, Asia and the United States are going hell for leather on green growth and getting firms investing,” Danker said in the speech in London. “We are behind them now and seem to be hoping for the best.”
Serta files for Chapter 11
Serta Simmons Bedding is seeking bankruptcy protection in an effort to trim its debt load following an earlier out-of-court restructuring. The Atlanta-based mattress maker filed in the Southern District of Texas, listing assets and liabilities of US$1 billion to US$10 billion in its bankruptcy petition. The Chapter 11 filing allows Serta to continue operating while working out a plan to repay creditors. The company’s debt, which stems from a roughly US$3 billion leveraged buyout by Advent International in 2012, has hobbled the retailer. Confidential talks over a restructuring plan started late last year, Bloomberg earlier reported.
Germany scrutinizes PayPal
Germany’s antitrust regulator opened an investigation into PayPal Holdings Inc over potential obstruction of competitors and restriction of price competition. The Federal Cartel Office is looking at PayPal’s user terms that block businesses from offering products at lower prices if their customers chose other payment services. The regulator will also look at how the company bans sellers from making it more convenient to use other payment methods than PayPal. “We will now examine what market power PayPal has and to what extent online retailers are dependent on offering PayPal as a payment method,” said Andreas Mundt, the Cartel Office’s head.
BlockFi to sell loans
Bankrupt crypto lender BlockFi Inc plans to sell about US$160 million of loans backed by around 68,000 bitcoin mining machines, according to two people familiar with the matter. The US company, which filed for protection from creditors in November last year, started on the bidding process for the loans last year, the people said. Some of the loans have already defaulted and appear to be undercollateralized given the current prices of bitcoin mining equipment, the people said. BlockFi is among several digital-asset lenders that have filed for bankruptcy in the past year.
Vaccine skeptics blocking transfusions for life-saving surgeries, Facebook groups inciting violence against doctors and a global search for unvaccinated donors — COVID-19 misinformation has bred a so-called “pure blood” movement. The movement spins anti-vaccine narratives focused on unfounded claims that receiving blood from people inoculated against COVID-19 “contaminates” the body. Some have advocated for blood banks that draw from “pure” unvaccinated people, while medics in North America say they have fielded requests from people demanding transfusions from donors who have not received a vaccine. In closed social media groups, vaccine skeptics — who brand themselves as “pure bloods” — promote violence against doctors
Asteroid mining start-up AstroForge Inc is planning to launch its first two missions to space this year as it seeks to extract and refine metals from deep space. The first launch, scheduled for April, is to test AstroForge’s technique for refining platinum from a sample of asteroid-like material. The second, planned for October, would scout for an asteroid near Earth to mine. The missions are part of AstroForge’s goal of refining platinum-group metals from asteroids, with the aim of bringing down the cost of mining these metals. It also hopes to reduce the massive amount of carbon emissions that stem from mining
‘IT HURTS TOO MUCH’: After talks between Blizzard and NetEase over their contract broke down, servers hosting Blizzard’s games in China were shut down Millions of Chinese gamers have lost access to World of Warcraft after a furious dispute between US title owner Activision Blizzard Inc and NetEase Inc (網易), its longtime local partner in the world’s biggest gaming market. Devotees of the popular game took to social media networks to bemoan the loss, with one posting an image of a failed connection message accompanied by crying emojis. “It really hurts my heart,” one wrote. “It hurts, it hurts too much,” another said. Massively popular worldwide, particularly in the 2000s, World of Warcraft — often abbreviated as WoW — is an online multiplayer role-playing game set in
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday accused Alphabet Inc’s Google of abusing its dominance in digital advertising, threatening to dismantle a key business at the heart of one of Silicon Valley’s most successful Internet firms. The US government said Google should be forced to sell its ad manager suite, tackling a business that generated about 12 percent of Google’s revenues in 2021, but also plays a vital role in the search engine and cloud company’s overall sales. “Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful means to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies,” the