News Archive


U.S. companies no longer know rules of game under Trump, Hasbro director says


CASCAIS, Portugal Confusion surrounding the trade policies of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration means U.S. companies no longer know the rules of the game, a board member and former CEO of toymaker Hasbro (HAS.O) told an international conference on Monday.

Alan G. Hassenfeld, whose family founded America’s second largest toymaker in the 1920s, said: “We thought, you know, if you run a business today you would like to know what the rules of the game are,” Hassenfeld at told the Horasis conference, attended by business leaders, politicians and academics to discuss globalization and other challenges for corporations.

“Right now in America we don’t know what the rules of the game are. They are changing constantly,” said Hassenfeld, a billionaire with a large stake in Hasbro, whose stock has risen 34 percent this year and is now at all-time highs.

Hasbro makes many of its toys outside of the United States and has markets worldwide. Hassenfeld said there was great uncertainty on trade with Trump.

“Right now we don’t know whether we are friendly with Mexico, whether we are friendly with Canada, whether we are friendly with China, whether we are friendly with Russia,” Hassenfeld said.

Trump has said he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada to try to win better terms for U.S. workers and manufacturers.

Hassenfeld said the confusing situation had been created by so much “white noise, and smoke, coming out of the White House right now that the most important thing is basically to improve confidence.”

Hassenfeld said gridlock in the U.S. Congress on Trump’s election promises of fixing healthcare, spending on infrastructure and tax reform was not helping.

“Right now, our Congress and in some cases our courts, are caught up in trying to figure out what they are going to do with the executive branch,” he said. “So right now, we are in that – almost twilight zone – that we are really not sure where things are going.”

He said Trump’s promise of bringing jobs back to America was doubtful. “Even if they (the jobs) did come, we’ve all learnt how to automate, we’re all spending money to innovate.”

Hassenfeld was CEO and chairman of Hasbro between 1989 and 2008.

(Reporting By Axel Bugge, editing by Andrei Khalip and Jane Merriman)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/wRhcz5sxF8I/us-hasbro-trump-idUSKBN18P1MQ

With flights back in the skies, British Airways must now repair damaged reputation


LONDON/BERLIN British Airways (ICAG.L) must turn its attention to repairing its brand after a weekend of chaos and criticism caused by a major IT outage that grounded flights from London’s two main airports.

Thousands were left stranded when an IT systems failure on Saturday left the airline unable to allow passengers to check in or board flights.

The meltdown at the start of a school holiday week in Britain unleashed a wave of criticism for BA, which like other full-service airlines has been cutting costs to compete with budget carriers Ryanair (RYA.I) and easyJet (EZJ.L).

BA had already come under fire in recent months for charging passengers for sandwiches on shorter flights and cutting leg room on short-haul business to help fit in more seats per plane.

Ryanair was quick to try to capitalize, using references to comedies “Airplane” and “Little Britain” on social media to suggest passengers book with it instead.

Critics in the British media questioned BA’s strategy and the way it was positioning itself in a competitive market.

“How long will passengers continue to pay through the nose if they are receiving a service the cheapest budget airline would be ashamed of,” mid-market newspaper the Daily Mail wrote on Monday.

On customer review site Skytrax, BA had a score of 5/10, with many reviewers saying they feel the airline’s economy class on short-haul is now no better than a budget carrier.

By comparison, low cost carriers Ryanair and easyJet score 6/10, while Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and KLM (AIRF.PA) score 7/10.

RBC analyst Damian Brewer said that the latest BA problems could hit future revenues for parent company IAG (ICAG.L).

“This is, in our view, a very unhelpful development for BA customers – and hence IAG shareholders,” he wrote in a note, adding that sister carrier Vueling also experienced operational problems during the peak summer period last year.

CHARM OFFENSIVE NEEDED

Spanish-listed shares of IAG, which also owns carriers Iberia and Aer Lingus, dropped 2.5 percent on Monday after an outage which is likely to cost tens of millions of pounds in compensation and other refunds.

Analysts said BA needed a charm offensive after being criticized for its response over the weekend.

“There needs to be an important communications exercise after this, to give assurances that the systems, back up systems and risk plan is as good as it can be,” said Davy transport analyst Stephen Furlong.

“But this has happened before with other global airlines, and the stock market effect for these other airlines really wasn’t big,” he added.

BA CEO Alex Cruz said on Monday that he was “profusely sorry”, and that the problems were due to a power surge that also knocked out its back-up systems and had nothing to do with outsourcing. The GMB union had blamed IT shortcomings on a decision to shift work to India last year.

Some wondered why IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh, a former head of BA and better known in Britain than Cruz, had not appeared in public.

Kunal Kothari, UK All Cap equity analyst at Old Mutual Global Investors, a top-10 shareholder in IAG stock, said he did not expect lasting financial repercussions for the group.

“As long as an airline deals with outages in a sensible and customer friendly way, lasting brand damage is unlikely,” he said.

“Without a full investigation I just don’t think cost cutting can be blamed,” he added.

IT FAILINGS

Gil Hecht, the CEO of Israel-based IT outage prevention firm Continuity Software, told Reuters that providing such incidents happened no more than once a year, people would probably carry on booking.

Other airlines have swiftly recovered after a one-off financial hit from IT glitches.

Delta (DAL.N) had to cancel 2,300 flights over a three-day period in August after a power outage grounded its flights. The incident knocked $150 million off its pretax profit for the quarter, while Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) also downgraded revenue targets last year after a computer outage forced it to cancel more than 2,000 flights.

Airlines’ reservations and IT systems are often a combination of modern systems built on top of technology from the 1960s. The need to keep systems running 24/7 means it is hard to shut them down for a full overhaul.

Hecht of Continuity Software said the Delta outage had spurred interest from firms looking to improve their resilience, and that in the last two years, there has been a 500 percent increase in demand for business continuity technologies.

“It is possible for British Airways and other airlines to do a better job, but some of it is a financial decision,” he said.

Speaking after the Delta incident last summer, a senior Lufthansa manager said the carrier’s main operations center in Frankfurt had continuity measures built in but that the airline also had a back-up center at a separate, undisclosed location.

Michael Gierse, a fund manager at Lufthansa shareholder Union Investment, said all companies, not just airlines, should have a board member responsible for IT.

“It would be even better if the CEO were in charge of IT. It’s so important,” he told Reuters.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Victoria Bryan; Editing by Keith Weir)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/s42v8tNQft8/us-britain-airports-heathrow-ba-analysis-idUSKBN18P1HX

British Airways flights returning to normal after damaging IT collapse


LONDON British Airways was operating most of its flights from London’s two largest airports on Monday after a computer system failure stranded thousands of passengers over a holiday weekend and turned into a public relations disaster.

The airline planned to run more than 95 percent of flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick on Monday, Chief Executive Alex Cruz told Sky News.

BA had been forced to cancel all its flights from Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, and Gatwick on Saturday after a power supply problem disrupted its operations worldwide and also hit its call centres and website.

The disruption had continued on Sunday. Some stranded passengers curled up under blankets on the floor or slumped on luggage trolleys, images that played prominently in the media at the start of a week when schools were on holiday.

“Apologizes all well and good but not enough. BA has lost another loyal customer #disgraceful,” tweeted Tom Callway, who had been due to fly to Budapest.

Cruz said the origins of the problem, which also hit passengers trying to fly into Britain, had been a power surge on Saturday morning which affected messaging across BA’s systems.

He said there was no evidence of a cyber attack and denied a union claim that the outsourcing of IT work to India had played a part in the failure.

The company was left counting the cost of the disruption, both in terms of a one-off impact to its profit and the longer term damage to its reputation.

Spanish-listed shares of parent company IAG, which also owns carriers Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, dropped 2.5 percent on Monday after the outage. The London-listed shares did not trade because of a public holiday.

Flight compensation website Flightright.com said that with around 800 flights canceled at Gatwick and Heathrow on Saturday and Sunday, BA was looking at having to pay around 61 million euros ($68 million) in compensation under EU rules. That does not include the cost of reimbursing customers for hotel stays.

COST CUTTING

BA has been cutting costs to respond to competition on short-haul routes from Ryanair and easyJet and recently faced criticism for starting to charge passengers for their in-flight snacks.

Ireland’s Ryanair was quick to seize on the marketing opportunity, tweeting “Should have flown Ryanair” with a picture of the ‘Computer says no’ sketch from the TV series “Little Britain” to poke fun at BA.

Ryanair said it had seen a spike in bookings over the weekend but gave no further details.

The GMB union said that BA’s IT systems had shortcomings after they made a number of staff redundant and shifted their work to India in 2016.

“This could have all been avoided. BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India,” Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for Aviation, said.

Cruz rejected the union criticism.

“They’ve all been local issues around a local data center, which has been managed and fixed by local resources,” he said.

Several passengers complained about a lack of information from BA staff at the airport. Others said their luggage had been lost.

The airline said it was working to get reunite passengers with their luggage after many items were left at Heathrow over the weekend, although staff on Twitter warned this “could take some time”.

While other airlines have been hit by computer problems, the scale and length of BA’s troubles were unusual.

Delta Air Lines Inc canceled thousands of flights and delayed many others last August after an outage hit its computer systems.

Last month, Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France suffered a global system outage which briefly prevented them from boarding passengers.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin, Costas Pitas in London and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/yp0hgwyDCfU/us-britain-airports-heathrow-idUSKBN18P01O

Italian banks sink on early election worries


LONDON Concern over Italy’s banks and Britain’s national election dominated holiday-thinned European financial markets on Monday, from back off two-year highs.

Sterling, hammered by a slump for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives in opinion polls last week, recovered after weekend polls confirmed the trend but showed her still on course to win next week’s vote.

European share prices were lower [.EU] overall, but Italian banks and blue chips fell as worries over recapitalisations of regional Italian lenders bled over into a second week.

Weekend reports that Italy’s main parties could converge on a proportional electoral law pointed to growing chances of an early election that may yield an indecisive hung parliament.

“The risk of early elections has suddenly increased to 60 percent,” LC Macro Advisers founder Lorenzo Codogno said. “A hung parliament is thus the most likely outcome.”

European blue chips .STOXXE overall slipped 0.2 percent, but losses for Banco BPM (BAMI.MI), Unicredit (CRDI.MI) and others drove a 3.4 percent loss for Italy’s banking index – its biggest in nearly four months .FTIT8300.

Milan’s main blue-chip index fell almost 2 percent .FTMIB while Germany’s DAX .GDAXI was little changed.

Asian markets were also lower overall after some early gains that largely shrugged off another missile launch by North Korea, the broad MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS dipping 0.2 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 edged up 0.2 percent while Australian shares fell as much as 0.8 percent, hit by another round of falls in the prices of oil and other commodities. China’s markets are also closed on Monday and Tuesday for a holiday.

On currency markets, the dollar was flat, trading at $1.1185 per euro and 111.35 yen after steadying on a better batch of U.S. economic data on Friday that solidified expectations of a rise in official interest rates next month.

San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams said in Singapore on Monday that medium-term trends in U.S. inflation remained “pretty favourable,” despite some recent soft consumer price data.

After falling more than 2 cents last week, sterling was 0.2 to 0.3 percent stronger against the dollar GBP= and euro EURGBP=.

“A lot of what we are seeing is the after effects of Friday’s news and data releases,” said Thu Lan Nguyen, a currency strategist with Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

“We have a little bit of dollar strength following better U.S. data and some hawkish comments from Federal Reserve officials. And we have a little bit of a pound recovery following the latest poll results from the UK.”

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets

(Editing by Larry King)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/BrAt5jW_ZEs/us-global-markets-idUSKBN18P00Y

RBS investor group accepts offer to end lawsuit over 2008 cash call


LONDON A group representing Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) investors has accepted an out-of-court deal to settle a lawsuit that aimed to call disgraced former CEO Fred Goodwin to account over a 12 billion pound ($15 billion) cash call in 2008.

Organisers of the RBoS Shareholder Action Group, that had vowed to see the bank and its former bosses in court, have told their members they will accept last week’s revised, out-of-court offer after days of intense talks delayed a long-awaited trial.

“Having carefully considered the merits of the current offer … we have decided to accept the offer of 82 pence per share on behalf of our membership,” the action group said in a letter, dated May 27, that was published on Monday.

“This is a decision which is fully supported by our legal advisers,” it added, acknowledging that some of its claimants, who had been keen to hold out longer, might be surprised.

The deal will cost state-owned RBS around 200 million pounds ($257 million), but spare it the embarrassment of having the lowest point in its near 300 year history raked over in court.

Goodwin, nicknamed “Fred the Shred” for his cost-cutting abilities and abrasive management style, was first feted and knighted before RBS’s near collapse at the height of the credit crisis prompted the world’s biggest bank bailout. Shareholders lost around 80 percent of their investments.

Sources familiar with the case said some shareholders within the group wanted to pursue the case against the bank, if they could find funding. But the letter indicated that investors representing the necessary threshold of 70 percent of the value of the claim for acceptance had been reached, one source said. A formal announcement on behalf of the group, which includes around 9,000 retail and 20 institutional investors and has been beset by internal wrangles, changing legal teams and questions over its funding and management structure, is expected later on Monday or Tuesday.

RBS declined to comment.

RAISING THE STAKES

Investors representing 87 percent of the claim had already settled their case after RBS put around 800 million pounds on the table last year.

In a bid to avoid a trial, Edinburgh-based RBS almost doubled its initial offer to 82 pence per share, from 43.1 pence per share, last weekend.

A deal had been expected. Jonathan Nash, a lawyer for the claimant group, told London’s High Court last week that the majority of shareholders were willing to accept RBS’s offer and there was a “good prospect” of a final settlement.

RBS’s final offer remains a fraction of the 200 to 230 pence per share that shareholders bought RBS shares at in 2008 and denies investors the prospect of seeing Goodwin cross-examined in court. Goodwin, who left RBS a wealthy man, became a symbol of banker recklessness and greed during the credit crisis.

But lawyers have said the case could have dragged on for years before a court established both whether RBS was liable for investor losses and subsequently quantified any damages.

The RBoS Shareholder Action Group also confirmed that a claimant funding the case had accepted the offer and was no longer willing to pay for further litigation. All institutional investors are also backing the offer, which would raise the costs for remaining claimants if they were to proceed, it said.

Shareholders were told that around 40-45 percent of the proceeds of the settlement would be deducted for legal and other costs. But the group added in the letter there were “many variables which may impact the level of the costs.”

RBS investors, including thousands of current and former RBS employees, had alleged the bank’s former executives deliberately hid its over-stretched finances and failed to disclose that the regulator had ordered it to raise cash when asking investors to stump up a then-record 12 billion pounds in 2008.

Just months later, the government was forced to step in with a 45.8 billion pound taxpayer-funded bailout.

RBS, which remains more than 70 percent state-owned, denies any wrongdoing and said its former bosses did not act illegally.

The bank has racked up nine consecutive years of losses totaling 58 billion pounds since the credit crisis, largely blaming “legacy issues” during Goodwin’s tenure.

($1 = 0.7789 pounds)

(Editing by Mark Potter)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/yZErglEEoY8/us-court-rbs-investors-idUSKBN18P1EB

BMW says shortage of parts from Bosch hampers production


FRANKFURT German carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE) said a shortage of steering gears supplied by Robert Bosch [ROBG.UL] slowed production of several of its compact and mid-sized models and caused stoppages at its plants in South Africa and China.

“Our supplier Bosch is not currently able to provide us with a sufficient number of steering gears for the BMW 1 Series, 2 Series, 3 Series and 4 Series,” BMW said in a statement on Monday.

BMW plants in Tiexi, China and Rosslyn, South Africa have extended or pulled forward planned interruptions to production, the carmaker said.

“We are taking advantage of the flexibility of our processes to minimize economic damage. We expect that Bosch, as the responsible supplier, will compensate for damages,” BMW said.

Bosch meanwhile blamed the problem on a sub-supplier in Italy, which it did not name.

“One main component of the steering system is the housing; which Bosch procures from a sub-supplier in Italy. We are currently experiencing delivery problems with this supplier,” it said in an e-mailed statement.

It said Bosch, BMW and the sub-supplier were doing all they could to resolve the delivery bottlenecks.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/cUsp915VZy4/us-bmw-production-bosch-idUSKBN18P0WJ

Japan Tobacco plans to quadruple smokeless tobacco output capacity by 2018: CEO


TOKYO Japan Tobacco Inc (2914.T) plans to spend $500 million to quadruple its smokeless tobacco production capacity by the end of 2018, as it races against bigger rival Philip Morris (PM.N) for a larger share of the Japanese vaping products market.

Global tobacco firms see Japan as a fertile test ground for vaping products since e-cigarettes using nicotine-laced liquid are not allowed under the country’s pharmaceutical regulation. While the Marlboro maker’s heat-not-burn “IQOS” tobacco device is already enjoying strong demand in Japan, Japan Tobacco’s launch of its “Ploom Tech” product has run into delays.

“It’s embarrassing for a tobacco company top to say this, but I did not expect this,” said Japan Tobacco CEO Mitsuomi Koizumi, referring to the popularity of IQOS, which had about a 10 percent market share in April, from 7.6 percent in January.

Japan Tobacco is looking for mergers and acquisitions (MAs)in emerging markets, such as Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as opportunities to invest in startups that have patents and technology for alternative tobacco products, the CEO of the world’s No.3 tobacco company said.

With more people shifting to smokeless products such as IQOS due to health concerns, Japan Tobacco’s domestic cigarette sales volume is likely to fall 9.6 percent this year.

“It’s shocking. I am doing this business for more than 35 years but I have never experienced losing 10 percent in volume in one year,” said Koizumi, a career insider who took the top job at the company in 2012.

Demand for traditional cigarettes may come under further pressure given the prospect of tougher regulations as Japan tries to introduce an anti-smoking law ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Koizumi said he expects vaping products, including Ploom Tech and IQOS, to grab as much as 25 percent of Japan’s cigarette market by the end of 2018.

Philip Morris’ IQOS is a battery-powered device that heats cigarette-shaped sticks packed with tobacco leaves. Ploom Tech, also a battery-powered device, generates vapor that goes through a capsule packed with tobacco leaves.

Koizumi said his company was aiming for the top share of Japan’s vaping market in three years.

Japan Tobacco plans to ramp up the annual output capacity of tobacco capsules used for Ploom Tech to the equivalent of 20 billion cigarette sticks in 2018, from 5 billion planned at the end of this year, the CEO said, adding the company was also developing other tobacco vaping products.

The former state monopoly – still a third owned by the government and whose top brands include Winston, Mevius and Camel – last week announced it would start selling Ploom Tech in Tokyo on June 29, later than initially expected.

There has been speculation Japan Tobacco, which has a market capitalization of 8.4 trillion yen ($75.3 billion), is ripe for major MA, especially after British American Tobacco (BATS.L) agreed a $49.4 billion takeover of U.S. rival Reynolds American Inc (RAI.N), creating the world’s biggest listed tobacco firm.

Some analysts speculate Japan Tobacco could even potentially acquire Britain’s Imperial Brands (IMB.L)

But Koizumi said the BAT-Reynolds deal was unlikely to have a direct impact on his company’s business and that Japan Tobacco was not interested in large-scale acquisitions.

“Specific names aside, deals that would be potentially problematic in terms of anti-monopoly regulation are not realistic,” he added.

(Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Pp0kdGSDGOQ/us-japan-tobacco-strategy-idUSKBN18P12F

China’s slam dunk ‘sharing economy’ booms, but can it last?


BEIJING Fancy shooting some hoops, but don’t have a basketball? Caught in the rain with no umbrella? Smartphone run out of juice?

China’s rapidly expanding “sharing economy”, which already provides car rides and bicycle hire on demand, can help.

For just 2 yuan ($0.30) an hour, Nate Liu, a student at the Beijing Language and Culture University, rents a basketball from a court-side vending machine by scanning a barcode on his smartphone.

“I didn’t want to ask around and borrow a ball after losing mine, so I decided to give it a try,” Liu told Reuters.

Far away, in China’s wetter south, some 20,000 umbrellas have been released on to the streets of Shenzhen, and can be rented – unlocked by another smartphone barcode scan – for just half a yuan ($0.07) for 30 minutes.

The umbrellas can be dropped off “wherever convenient”, though users are encouraged to keep them, says Zhao Shuping, founder of E Umbrella Sharing, one of a handful of start-ups offering the service.

China’s government has taken notice, and expects the “sharing economy” to grow about 40 percent this year to 4.83 trillion yuan ($705 billion). By 2020, it should account for around one tenth of GDP, illustrating China’s aspiration to become a sharing economy leader on a global scale.

PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts five sharing sectors – car sharing, travel, finance, staffing, and music and video streaming – have the potential to increase global revenue to $335 billion by 2025 from $15 billion today.

Most of the money behind China’s ballooning sharing economy comes from angel investors and venture capital firms.

At least 1.69 billion yuan ($247 million) in mostly series-A, or early stage, funding was invested in April-May in over two dozen start-ups offering sharing services, according to Reuters calculations based on data from Chinese data firm IT Juzi.

Twelve firms renting out power banks – typically compact, mobile battery chargers – secured 1.13 billion yuan, while newer businesses such as basketball and umbrella-sharing took in about 25 million yuan ($3.65 million) combined.

While mobile-savvy, convenience-obsessed Chinese welcome the innovations, some critics question whether the demand is real, or sustainable. They say the low-revenue, capital-intensive model means profitability can be elusive.

“Young people are embracing renting as a way of life instead of possessing things,” said Emma Zhu, investment director at Beijing-based Innoangel fund, who has held off investing in any of these start-ups. “But the sharing model won’t work in every situation. In some cases, they’re trying to meet genuine demand, while in others they’re not.”

Some investors say the funding frenzy recalls the spectacular boom and bust of hundreds of Chinese Groupon apps in vogue in 2010-12, noting that most ultimately collapsed after fierce price wars, with losses of around $1 billion.

“In China, the only barrier to entry is who can raise the most capital – that’s good and bad,” said Xu Miaocheng, an investment manager at Unity Ventures in Beijing.

“The upside is, there are funds available to launch a bunch of companies. You may not need a lot of specialization or new technology. The downside is a lot of money could be wasted.”

“SPEED IS EVERYTHING”

Cai Min, founder of basketball rental firm Zhulegeqiu, says he wants to expand nationwide, and quickly, offering the service at all of China’s estimated 100,000 basketball courts, and growing into a multi-billion yuan business, eventually offering all “sharable” products.

The Zhejiang-based start-up received 10 million yuan ($1.46 million) in early funding from Shanghai-based Modern Capital on May 5, less than two months after Cai came up with the idea.

“We are expanding at all cost, because speed is everything,” Cai told Reuters. “Of course this means costs have been very high at the early stage because we have to make everything in a month.”

He declined to give specific figures, but each of the solar-powered basketball rental machines – currently in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin and Chengdu – costs “a few thousand yuan.”

“The key to success is to get more money than your competitors and to expand faster than them,” he said.

Even some keen players, though, have their doubts, saying balls are only used occasionally, so the need to rent is marginal.

All sharing services require a one-time deposit – from 99 yuan ($14.45) for a shared basketball – that gives sharing companies a one-off financial buffer that critics say won’t be sufficient in the longer run if profits are slow to take off.

The latest wave of “sharing” entrepreneurs has been largely inspired by the rapid rise of Chinese bike-sharing firms such as Mobike and ofo, which have together raised close to 13 billion yuan in a little over two years, extending their services to more Chinese cities and international markets including London and Singapore.

E Umbrella’s Zhao said he came up with the idea after his three young children rushed to try out the rental bikes that mushroomed across Shenzhen early this year. “I thought: they’re just normal bikes, if this could work, why can’t shared umbrellas?” he said.

Zhao, who patented his coded lock umbrellas in March, said umbrella and lock manufacturers are fighting for his orders, offering him payment exemption for as long as 30 days.

“My cost for the umbrellas is basically zero right now,” he said, adding he hopes to release a “modest” 30 million umbrellas across southern China this year.

He says his business has already attracted interest from potential partners such as China Life Insurance Co 601628.SA, which wants to replicate the model in markets from Hong Kong to Singapore.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo, with additional reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/1OCwPbO2xL0/us-china-sharingeconomy-analysis-idUSKBN18P0T2

Asia stocks edge up on firmer Wall Street, pound nurses losses


TOKYO Asian stocks edged up on Monday, taking cues from Wall Street shares hovering around record highs, while the pound nursed losses after a poll showed a shrinking lead for Prime Minister Theresa May’s party in Britain’s upcoming elections. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was a touch higher.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 edged up 0.2 percent while Australian shares dipped 0.4 percent. China’s markets are closed on Monday and Tuesday for a holiday.

Brushing aside a North Korean missile launch, South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 added 0.4 percent to touch a record high. It was on track for its seventh straight day of gains.

Pyongyang fired what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile early on Monday.

“There are not many negative factors in the market for the KOSPI, and demand seems still strong enough to push the index up a bit more,” said Kim Ji-hyung, a stock analyst at Hanyang Securities.

On Friday, the SP 500 .SPX and Nasdaq .IXIC scraped to record closing highs on strength in consumer shares. [.N]

The dollar index against a basket of major currencies was steady at 97.487 .DXY after rising on Friday thanks to upbeat U.S. gross domestic product data.

The index fell to a 6-1/2-month low below 97.00 a week ago on U.S. political concerns centered on President Donald Trump, but have since crept back.

The dollar and U.S. stocks would face downward risks if trouble for the Trump administration becomes a long-term concern, said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“That said, the possibility of the president actually being impeached remains very low, and any negative pressure on U.S. stocks has been limited so far.”

The greenback added 0.1 percent to 111.410 yen JPY=, with the safe-haven Japanese currency showing little reaction to North Korea’s missile launch.

“While the North Korean situation remains tense, the market has gotten used to missile launches, with broader volatility also declining,” said Shusuke Yamada, senior strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Tokyo.

“The U.S. markets will also be shut today, and that is curbing incentive and restricting overall movements as well.”

U.S. markets will be closed on Monday for Memorial Day.

The pound was a shade higher at $1.2820 GBP=D4 after dropping more than 1 percent on Friday to as low as $1.2775.

Sterling suffered its steepest fall since January on Friday after an opinion poll showed the governing Conservatives’ lead over the Labour opposition down to just 5 percentage points with less than two weeks before a general election.

The euro declined 0.1 percent to $1.1166 EUR=. The common currency had soared to a 5-1/2-month high of $1.1268 last week on factors including relief at the French presidential election outcome, but it has failed to make further headway.

South Africa’s rand was turbulent after reports President Jacob Zuma defeated a no-confidence motion against him.

The rand went to a two-month high of 12.65 per dollar ZAR=D3 before pulling back to 12.83.

Crude oil prices slipped, their modest recovery from disappointment over last week’s OPEC meeting sputtering out on the back of a relentless rise in U.S. drilling. [O/R]

Oil suffered a big drop last week after an OPEC-led decision to extend production curbs did not go as far as many investors had hoped.

U.S. crude CLc1 was down 1 cent at $49.79 a barrel, having slumped to as low as $48.18 on Friday. Brent was flat at $52.15 a barrel LCOc1.

Spot gold XAU= hovered close to a near four-week high of $1,269.50 an ounce hit on Friday, led higher by investors who feared political risks. [GOL/]

(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Eric Meijer and Kim Coghill)

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