The Great Debate UK
from Chrystia Freeland:
Get ready for the next wave of globalization. The emergence of the emerging markets is old news, of course: after all, Tom Friedman discovered that the world was flat back in 2005. But even as much of the developed world is struggling with weak consumer demand and stubbornly high levels of unemployment, the emerging market countries are writing a new chapter in the story of the global economy.
We are accustomed to thinking of our economic relationship with the countries Fareed Zakaria describes as “the rest” as a two-way exchange between west and east or north and south: western companies setting up call centers in India or manufacturing their goods in China, for instance; and, more recently, savings-rich emerging market economies, especially China, investing in US treasuries, or Russian oligarchs buying London mansions.
That was Globalisation 1.0. In the next stage, some of the biggest deals and some of the most important capital flows will be between emerging markets, with no need to stop-over at Heathrow or JFK. Forget the last decade’s race-to-the-bottom rivalry between Wall Street and the City of London to be the world’s financial capital; the new motto of the moneymen, as one Manhattan banker put it to me this week, is “Mumbai, Dubai, Shanghai or goodbye.”
One place you can watch Globalisation 2.0 gathering pace is on the 49th floor of the ‘C’ tower in the high-tech high-rise complex the locals call Moskva City, on the banks of the Moskva river, half a mile downstream from Russia's White House, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is currently installed. The fancy modern furniture (the “Ziricote veneer,” a sign informs visitors, is “sourced in Chile”) and contemporary art are standard New York hedge fund decor. But Stephen Jennings, the 50 year-old New Zealander who receives visitors here, is betting on a world that by-passes the west altogether.
Russian initial public offerings are set for a comeback. Some $20 billion of Russian share sales are forecast this year, including dozens of IPOs. With plenty of options, investors should be able to drive a hard bargain.
Following a two-year lull in activity, bankers are excited at the prospect of a return to the heady days of 2006 and 2007, when Russian companies raised some $37 billion in 42 international share issues. Media group Profmedia plans to raise $500 million in April with a London listing, while iron ore miner Metalloinvest and coal miner SUEK are mulling billion-dollar IPOs in 2010.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has come out with a new report that tries to measure, country by country on a global level, government and social restrictions on religion. You can see our coverage of the report here and here and can download the whole report here.
The report, which Pew says is the first major quantitative study of the subject on a global level, ranks countries under two indices -- one measures government restrictions on religion, the other social hostilities or curbs on religion that stem from violence or intimidation by private individuals or groups.
from Global News Journal:
Western responses to President Dmitry Medvedev’s proposal for a new European-Atlantic security body that stretches from Vancouver to Vladivostok have ranged from dismissive to lukewarm. None have been enthusiastic.
But some inside and outside Russia argue it would be unwise for Europe and the United States to reject the proposal out of hand, not least because, as one Russian official put it, this is one of the few occasions where Russia isn’t disagreeing but coming up with something constructive.
from Global Investing:
Some fascinating data about the growing power of emerging markets, particularly the BRICs, was on display at the OECD's annual investment conference in Paris this week. Not the least of it came from MIGA, the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, which tries to help protect foreign direct investors from various forms of political risk.
MIGA has mainly focused on encouraging investment into developing countries, but a lot of its latest work is about investment from emerging economies.
from Global Investing:
It may end up sounding like a famous ball-point pen maker, but an argument is being made that Goldman Sach's famous marketing device, the BRICs, should really be the BICs. Does Russia really deserve to be a BRIC, asks Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in an article for Foreign Policy.
Åslund, who is also co-author with Andrew Kuchins of "The Russian Balance Sheet", reckons the Russia of Putin and Medvedev is just not worthy of inclusion alongside Brazil, India and China in the list of blue-chip economic powerhouses. He writes:
Just a few months ago, there was widespread alarm in Russia about the state of the country's banking sector.
In June, rating agency Fitch predicted that impaired loans would reach 25 percent of all loans by the end of this year, requiring at least $22 billion in additional capital. Other analysts warned that the final bill could reach $60 billion. But as the smoke clears, it seems increasingly obvious that these concerns were greatly overblown.
The Russian Interior Ministry is about to seek the arrest of William Browder, the chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management, for illegally evading taxes. That’s according to a front-page article in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, a leading political-economic daily.
Browder, a British and US citizen who resides in London, has been denied entry into Russia ever since 2005, when his visa was annulled for obscure reasons. His Hermitage Fund, managed by the British bank HSBC, was once the largest portfolio investor in Russia, but has more recently been embroiled in a series of interconnected scandals.
After just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration's decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The shield, energetically promoted by former President George W. Bush, was designed to intercept a small number of missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue state". But Russia saw it as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent and NATO's new east European members saw it as a useful deterrent against Russian bullying, by putting U.S. strategic assets on their soil.
Political and economic logic are set to collide in the byzantine decision-making over the future of German carmaker Opel, the main European arm of fallen U.S. auto giant General Motors.
If politics prevail, as seems likely, the cost to German taxpayers will be higher and the chances of commercial success lower.
The aim of the Berlin government and four federal states, which are sustaining Opel with bridging finance, is to save as many German jobs and production sites as possible. That makes political sense ahead of September's general election. But the business logic is that only a greatly slimmed-down Opel can survive in an industry with chronic overcapacity.
In theory, it is up to GM's board to choose among the three offers it expected to receive on Monday from Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna <MGa.TO>, Belgian financial investor RHJ <RJHI.BR>, and, less plausibly, Chinese state-owned auto maker BAIC. But there are several other powerful players with a say. They include the trustees responsible for the company since GM entered U.S. bankruptcy in June, the German federal and state governments, Opel's works council and, last but not least, the European Commission, which must approve the restructuring plan as a condition for authorising the state aid.