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Now is not the time to bail out on world banks

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Dear Tim, I see that banks like Citigroup are now performing better. Therefore, I was wondering if it was safe to leave our money in their hands again. –Reg Reg, the banks, particularly the larger international ones that have benefitted from federal bailouts or similar direct government intervention appear to be performing better. Since you refer to Citigroup, indeed they benefitted from a $25 billion (Dh92bn) emergency bailout windfall to keep them on the straight and narrow. Certainly, American President Barack Obama could have been gauging his glimmer of hope comments on the fact that the banks seems to be responding well to the stimulus. And this bodes well as he enters his second 100 days of office.

That said, I was in the United States recently and read an article on the phenomenal growth in sales for safes and similar secure receptacles. Even the US mint has a promotional coin collection, which comes with a Fort Knox style safe delivered to your door – while stocks last of course! So perhaps the confidence is still left wanting in the US in certain circles and if everyone were to keep hold of their money then this is not going to help the liquidity issues. So, if there is no lending taking place then this will stymie growth and the spiral will go on and on. Notwithstanding share prices, perhaps another barometer that the banks are doing better is their ability at present to put monies to one side to pay bonuses. The “bonus” word conjures up such dreadful connotations nowadays but Wall Street believes that if you want to retain or attract good human capital then this system will prevail. We would like to think that it will be somewhat more policed in future to avoid any future CEO embarrassments we have seen recently.

Let’s face it, governments can ill afford to have a bank go under and unlike other companies, which have fallen victim to the downturn (such as Woolworths, for example), we need banks. Banking is a utility like water and electricity – it is a necessity unlike some of the companies, which are no longer trading. Reg, leaving your money in a safe, under the mattress or in the biscuit tin is neither helpful to you or the economy so go to a bank that ticks all your confidence boxes and become an account holder again with business 24

Which bank though? I cannot give that answer. However, you might want to consider various domiciles for your accounts and the investor protection legislation that prevails. The investor protection or rather deposit protection schemes vary greatly and by spreading your monies you can mitigate your risk if you really feel that nervous; typically the wealthy do just that. Be wary of account providers that offer the highest rates of interest particularly if there is no minimum term requirement. Keep to names you know and in traditional banking centres that can hopefully alleviate you of your banking jitters. Get more information about how banks are handling 7-8 figure online businesses here: https://www.business24-7.ae/5-steps-to-start-your-own-7-figure-ecommerce-business/

 

Business 24 – How To Win in a Downturn?

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emirates-businessEvery cloud has a silver lining. They say that while the recession ruins some people it also provides opportunities for others. And according to experts this is the best time to set up a new business.

Intrigued by this unusual take on the recession, Emirates Business 24 spoke to Waqar Mirza, Director and Partner, KF1 Management Consultants, to find out why the time is apt to set up a new business and came up with 10 reasons.

1. Bargains everywhere: In a recession, you are in a position where you can demand bargains because people who have products and services are desperate to sell. So if you are in a position to buy you can dictate terms. Also these days people want cash and not cheques. So if you offer cash you have more bargaining power to buy things cheap. Now also there are fabulous offers and bargains. Suppliers who you want to buy your goods and services from are now more flexible.

2. Man power at cheap prices: Due to the recession, a large talent pool has been made redundant. Earlier, you could not dream of hiring these people and their services because they would have cost you a packet, but now you can afford to hire them as good talent is available at cheaper prices. If you hire good talent you have a better chance to see success with business 24.

3. Out with the old, in with the new: Earlier companies had strong bonds with their suppliers. Now due to the crisis, they are looking for more flexible, nimble suppliers. So this is a good business opportunity for lean and mean suppliers and new businesses can take advantage of that. Read our review here – www.ecomsuccessacademy.net

4. Friend in need: People still have cash but they do not want to invest in banks, properties and stocks, basically the traditional investment avenues. So they have surplus cash lying around with nowhere to invest. So if you have a good relationship with someone who has the money to invest, and you have a brilliant idea for a business it is more likely that they will be more open to investing in your business now than earlier. Banks are also offering a facility called invoice factoring. They take your invoice and pay you instantly. Also, you can leverage your property to get money from the banks. In addition, you may have assets that may have gone up over the years, like gold for example. You can sell it off to provide you the much-needed money to set up your business. If you have a large office you can also sublet it in order to raise some money for your business. Also the government and other organisations always give grants to encourage people in different fields. So set up a business for which grants are available. You just need to be a bit more creative in order to raise that money right now and it can be done.

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5. Distress sales: In the good days, many businesses overstretched their resources and spending. But they could afford it till the going was good but now the margins have come down. Many people are desperate to get rid of the business, as they are not used to performing in a downturn and now want to cut their losses. So you do not have to start a new business, you can buy an established business at a cheap price.

6. No option: For many people setting up a business has become imperative now as they have no other option. These are the very people who would not have thought of setting up a business because they had good, well-paying, and satisfying jobs and there was no need for them to think in terms of striking out on their own. Now these very people have lost jobs, there are no jobs available in the market and they cannot afford to wait for another job to come around. Also, as now the security blanket has been taken away, and there are no other options available so why not go to work for yourself?

7. Like-minded people: Not everyone is cut out to set up a business. You may have the expertise and knowhow required to do a certain job but you may not have the acumen to do the business. For example you may be a good chef but you might not know how to run a restaurant. So you can now search for people who can team up with you to help you set up the business and run it. Whereas earlier they would have been hard to find, now due to redundancies galore, you will find it easier to find this kind of talent and you can get together with them and set up a business. Also bartering is quite big right now. For example, if you are a marketing guy who wants accounting services but do not want to spend that kind of money in the initial stages of setting up the business, then you can barter with the accounting service. You can do their marketing for them for a year and in return they can provide you with accounting services. Outsourcing is also a good way of getting what you want without having to spend a packet on it. For example, you need a lot of IT support these days for setting up and running your business. There are companies in the market who will provide you the services.

8. Niche market opportunities: Earlier, the UAE was geared up towards providing high value services. All focus was on luxury and high-end items and services. Now due to the crisis, low value services are in demand as people are holding on to their money. So if you set up a business were you can provide cheaper services you can do well as now there is a market for it that is huge.

9. Lots of public relations: The media is fed up of publishing bad news. Everyone is looking for some good news. If you come up with a brilliant and interesting business concept right now you are sure to get their interest, as they are more open to this kind of news right now. So you could land up getting a lot of positive coverage that is key to the success of a business 24.

10. Easier to set up a 7 figure business business: Due to the recession it has become easier to set up the business as local sponsors have become more flexible and amenable than ever before and are open to working with you more closely in order to make the business a success. But there is still a better opportunity to start your business online. One of the most profitable business models around is the 7 Figure eCommerce business revealed by Aidan Booth and Steve Clayton from 7 Figure Cycle – you can read the full review here: https://7figurecycles.net/7-figure-cycle-review

Get more info about how to start your own 7 figure business on our homepage.

Indian travel companies focus on Middle East

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indian-travel-businessIndian destination management companies and state tourism boards are showcasing their products at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) to generate business from the Middle East, industry executives said.

EM Najeeb, Chairman, ATE Group, a leading destination management company in India, told Emirates Business: “Since traditional source markets in Europe have dried up, we have refocused our marketing to the Middle East and other markets, which are not affected by the economic downturn to generate travel.”

He said inbound tourism to India had seen a decline of 20 to 25 per cent especially during the last quarter of 2008. The numbers were looking better since February, he said.

Najeeb said with a number of Indian leisure travellers to the Middle East increasing, there has been reciprocal interest from the five-star leisure segment in the Middle East. Travel from this region also got a boost with the increased number of flights to India by various airlines.

Areas of interest for the Middle East travellers are medical-related as many people like to take advantage of the exchange rates as well as world-class facilities available there, he said. Read more about it on official business 24 ae

The recession offers a good opportunity for marketing, said Najeeb and UAE News

He said companies should not make the mistake of cutting back on marketing costs during a downturn, as this is the time to plug the loopholes. While, the South Indian state of Kerala has a large contingent at the ATM, Karnataka has doubled its marketing efforts.

Vinay Luthra, Managing Director, Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, said there was a decline of about 20 per cent especially into Bangalore, where occupancies were about 60 per cent.

He reiterated there should be no cut backs on marketing spends at such a time.

Amit Chopra, Associate Director of Travel Pals, which specialises in bespoke tours, said: “There was increased interest in specialty tours. Tours on the steam engines, both hill trains and the broad gauge are popular especially with British tourists. Special groups are organised to see old cinema theatre architecture in places such as Mumbai, Delhi, Jodhpur and Udaipur.”

The company also promotes golf tourism. “India is one of the most interesting places in the world to play golf,” he said.

Get more UAE Business News Here

Lauritzen to get ¥15.5bn loan to buy six ships

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Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan’s biggest bank by market value, and France’s Société Générale will lend ¥15.5 billion (Dh624.4m) to Danish shipper J Lauritzen to buy six ships made in Japan. Che the other live UAE business news

“We will make the first order on this facility granted by Société Générale and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi tomorrow,” said Birgit Aagaard-Svendsen, said Chief Financial Officer of Copenhagen-based J Lauritzen. “The deals will be more formally announced later.”

Nippon Export and Investment Insurance, a Japanese Government-backed export credit agency, will guarantee 95 per cent of the loan, said Aagaard-Svendsen.

The Danish ship owner, which has already ordered the vessels from Japanese shipbuilders including Imabari Shipbuilding Co, is seeing an improvement in its bulk shipping, she said.

The banks agreed on March 16 to provide the ship-owner with funds, a person familiar with the deal said earlier, declining to be identified ahead of an announcement.Shinya Matsumoto, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Mitsubishi UFJ, declined to comment, as did Hiroko Kato, a spokeswoman for Société Générale in Tokyo.

emirates business 247 by business24-7.ae

Dubai’s Spanish Standoff Over Colonial

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Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) has allowed the time limit to pass on its planned deal to buy Spanish property group Immobiliaria Colonial – but this, I suspect, is a tactical manoeuvre to show Dubai will not overpay for assets in this distressed market, especially when they come encumbered with equally distressed debt.

In short, ICD is saying it has as much sense as it has money.
It is a good lesson to get across, especially in these troubled times.
Dubai walked away from a deal once before because the price did not suit it – when Dubai International Capital allowed American businessmen George Gillett and Tom Hicks to buy Liverpool football club. Now Dubai is back in a commanding strategic position to take over Liverpool football business. We will have to wait and see the detailed terms to tell if Sameer Al Ansari’s wait was financially worth it.
The circumstances at Colonial and Liverpool are different. In the case of the football club, Dubai’s offer was turned down by the greedy former owners of the club, who suddenly saw millions more on the table from Hicks and Gillett. (Money borrowed by the Americans, as it turns out.) The delicate business negotiations still being played out over Colonial are rather different, not least because they come after the collapse of debt markets around the world after the US sub-prime crisis. Colonial has some decent assets on its books, in the Spanish commercial market and in France, but is over-borrowed at the bank and undervalued on the market.
It appears ICD initially won the agreement of the controlling shareholders of Colonial to sell their stake in the company for a mixture of cash and bonds to the value of around €3 billion (Dh13.2bn).
The stumbling block, however, is that Colonial has more than twice that in debt, and its bankers would not agree to the takeover unless Dubai took on this debt at existing terms of the negotiated business. Quite sensibly, Dubai pointed out that the market had changed in its favour – now, any financial deal that has the words “property” and “debt” in the same paragraph will get the corporate advisers and the lawyers running for the doors.
The Colonial bankers involved are interesting too. Goldman Sachs wants to keep its reputation as the one big US bank that sailed through sub-prime virtually unscathed; Royal Bank of Scotland wants to limit the already considerable damage it has suffered at the hands of American “trailer trash”; Calyon wants to prove that not all French banks are a soft touch when it comes to complex financial instruments. Together, they have said “no” to Dubai’s offer, which involved discounting the debt before agreeing a deal. Check out the other UAE Top Business News
You have to admire the nerve of the banks involved in that transfer business. Dubai is offering hard cash, and bonds that (given the backing of ICD) are as good as cash, to a value way above Colonial’s collapsing worth on the stock market. The alternative to Dubai’s terms would appear to be effective bankruptcy for Colonial, which would leave the banks with only a small portion of their outstanding loans likely to be repaid. To insist on full value for the debt in these circumstances is either brave, if Dubai pays up, or foolhardy, if ICD walks away. It will be up to the bank’s shareholders to judge which.
The banks are trying to draw a line under their post-subprime exposure; Dubai is trying to ensure it does not overpay for assets, and demonstrate that it should not be viewed as a sovereign wealth fund with deep pockets, but shallow understanding of the financial world. It will be intriguing to see who comes out on top.
Check out the other business 24-7 top news

SWFs: what’s all the fuss about a name?

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Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) are no more than government investors in developing markets who have been targeted by the West for years, renamed. Even for a seasoned Gulf financier like myself, the term “sovereign wealth fund” is a relatively new one.

For the seven years I have worked for international investment businesses seeking to raise assets here, myself and my colleagues referred to these government funds simply as institutional investors, or government institutions. Now, rebranded by the markets as SWFs, these powerful entities seem to be attracting even more interest, but it is not all positive.

The momentum behind the current global debate on the merits of regulating SWFs seemed to gather force in the furore following the acquisition by Dubai Ports World of P&O’s business in the US.

Each subsequent transaction including some as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, as well the EU have fanned the flames of controversy, and calls for the regulation of funds have got ever louder. Check out the other 24-7 emirates business updates

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In this maelstrom of ire and indignation, many of the positives SWFs have brought to international capital markets over many years has been overlooked. Further, many commentators and asset raisers have completely forgotten how SWFs have directly allowed them to develop their own businesses in the Gulf and other emerging regions.

Indeed, the world’s biggest asset management and private equity firms from the established markets of the West have courted these funds for years.

Never, has there been a suggestion that such institutional investors are anything other than extremely worthy of the attention of the blue-chip money managers who have poured into the Gulf, first as classic suitcase bankers, and latterly armed with DIFC licences.

In fact, what many of these bankers have learned is that in the Gulf we deal with some of the most sophisticated, analytical and successful investors in the world.

Investors who were among the first to realise the opportunity hedge funds represented and then to put their money where their mouths were.

Notably, many of these investors are increasingly shying away from the international behemoths and see increasing opportunities in investing in boutique firms – perhaps the next major trend for the so-called SWFs. Meanwhile, this willingness to spot an opportunity and go for it has also helped to stabilise markets in the rockiest of times – one need only consider the recent investments of Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) into Merrill Lynch; Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) into Citi and most recently Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) into Credit Suisse.

How would the volatility in equity markets look now had these massive investments not occurred?

I assume that what has caused such a dramatic turn around in sentiment towards SWFs is the sheer scale of some of these funds. Frankly, there is little concrete data on just how big they are but at best guess, ADIA could account for as much as $750 billion (Dh2.75bn) to $1 trillion, KIA in excess of $250bn and Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority in excess of $200bn.

The uncertainty over the exact figures, coupled with the dramatic growth in the size of the funds has certainly raised eyebrows in the West. However, this perceived lack of transparency is hardly unique for large institutional investors and certainly matched, for example, by some of the pension funds of the United States inside 100k factory revolution.

A further unjustified criticism levelled at the SWFs is that they contribute little strategically and are only invested for the short term. Again, this is not born out by fact and I can confirm that I have personal experience of working with sovereign institutions over long periods of time and have seen mandates retained by fund managers for as long as 13 years. Such a time scale would be rare in Europe.

Further, an investment vehicle such as Dubai International Capital is noted for its strategic investments in hotels and leisure businesses, where it benefits both from the experience of the management it seeks to retain and support, as well as from the obvious expertise Dubai Government can input, having been behind some of the most innovative and successful tourism ventures the world has ever seen.

Ultimately though, the call for transparency may be too great. Much as some hedge funds have attempted to do in the US and EU, the SWFs of the Gulf and other emerging markets may seek to pre-empt legislation and adopt a self-regulated approach. Find more here: https://www.business24-7.ae/100k-factory-revolution-ecommerce-hub-review/

A voluntary code of conduct would be one way forward and I believe the Middle East’s sovereign institutional investors may surprise us all, and lead the way in this as they have done in so many other global investment trends over the past 10 to 15 years.

P&O debacle was a blessing in disguise

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100K Factory Revolution – What Are The New Features?

You can’t always get what you want, they say, but sometimes you get what you need. That thought – I think it was those ageing rockers The Rolling Stones who coined the phrase – came to me as I read through the DP World results for the financial year 2007.
Note, this was the first full year after the acquisition of the P&O ports business in early 2006, and so the first chance to judge the financial effect of that very high-profile deal. It was also the first time DPW reported as a DIFX listed company – the perfect opportunity then for the market to check out the newly restructured entity.
One instant conclusion is irresistible, though I doubt anybody at DPWwould publicly admit it: those xenophobic American politicians who stopped DPW buying the United States ports business originally included in the P&O deal probably did Dubai a big favour.
By avoiding the American terminals, DPW has significantly limited its exposure to the looming threat of world recession, and ensured thatDubai will continue to benefit from the booming expansion in trade between the Middle East and Asia.
Even if the US is managing to pull out of an outright financial crisis – as the consensus seems to be at the moment – there will continue to be serious implications for the American consumer from the tightening of both cash and credit.

The 100k Factory Revolution eCommerce Hub in UEA

That means there will be less for Americans to spend on imported goods from Asia, the world’s manufacturing headquarters, which in turn means fewer goods going through the big US ports.
DPW will not mind that. Apart from some scattered interests in the Caribbean and Latin America, DPW has little of significance west of London Gateway from 100k Factory.
Largely thanks to the anti-UAE lobby in the US Congress, DPW is left looking firmly East, to the still-thriving economies of China, India and Southeast Asia, and neatly positioned to straddle the trade routes between there and Europe. Check out the latest Business 24 News
Small wonder that Sultan bin Sulayem, DPW chairman, singled out the “faster growing economies of the emerging markets” in his analysis of the results of 100k factory eCommerce course.
The actual figures – 52 per cent profit growth to a post-tax $420 million (Dh1.54 billion) on revenue 32 per cent ahead at $2.7bn – also make the P&O deal look even better value.
100k-factory-members-area-overview
The amount DPW got from AIG when it was forced to sell in December 2006 has never been disclosed, but initial estimates put the value of theUS assets at around $700m.
Take this out of the purchase price, and the value of some other assets – largely property and port services – not included in the DPW flotation, and the company’s cash-generation potential makes it look good value indeed.
So why doesn’t the market agree? The shares slipped again yesterday on the Dubai International Financial Exchange, and despite all those optimistic target price forecasts a couple of weeks back, there seems little prospect for an imminent change in sentiment.
Maybe a bold corporate move is required to give the shares some impetus. The official line is that future expansion will continue to focus on the big projects that will increase capacity in the Asian ports as well as London Gateway and in Rotterdam’s Maasvlakte 2, and this is sensible, strategic stuff for ecommerce reasons like the new 100k factory training program.
But times have changed in the US, now that banks, property and leisure businesses all seem to positively welcome investment from the Gulf. Check out the latest AUE business news
I wonder how the US authorities would react now to a new and competitive offer for the US ports from DPW? Maybe an incoming USpresident would feel obliged to force it through on Capitol Hill.

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Economic threat that haunts UAE

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Did you hear the one about the economist who accurately predicted nine out of the last five recessions?

Forgive my little joke at the expense of the honourable profession of men and women who try to make sense of the complicated and arcane workings of the economy and how it impacts on society. But I think it symbolises a truth about them, and about how we – the rest of humanity – perceive them: they may give us all the warnings they like, but if we do not understand what they are saying, it is of little use – we will not be able to act upon it.
Economists often use such esoteric jargon that the ordinary individual cannot begin to evaluate it – until it is too late.
So, while the financial and business pages have been screaming “sub-prime crisis” and “credit crunch” at us for months, very few people outside the specialist disciplines of finance or economics will have understood the danger – until this week, when the news coverage became rather more down-to-earth: “property prices plummet” and “credit card limits cut”. We can all understand those as real attacks on our very livelihood.
As a huge, but valid, generalisation I believe there are only two economic concepts used by the experts that are instantly understood by the rest of us: inflation and unemployment.
The words are meaningful because they have an immediate impact on our way of life and standard of living – if prices of basic foodstuffs rise (as is happening now with rice) we can see the effect instantly; if you lose your job, the repercussions are immediately and painfully tangible.
Inflation and unemployment often go together in the popular imagination as twin evils that lead to other, greater problems, like war and famine. The experience of Europe and North America in the 1930s – when much of modern economic theory was conceived – has left such a lasting impression on the global psychology that we all fear them, doubly so when they come together.
Which, maybe belatedly, brings me to the point. The UAE has lived, and even thrived, with the spectre of inflation now for at least a couple of years. Apart from some rather hysterical headlines in the consumerist-oriented press, it has done little harm.
But what if unemployment were added to the problem? A recent report from government-controlled Emirates Industrial Bank highlighted the threat in a very specific fashion. Despite an economic growth rate of 17 per cent last year, the bank said, unemployment among UAE nationals remained high, and with nearly 40 per cent of the national population under the age of 21, the proportion of those out of work will grow.
Though the bank did not give an official current unemployment figure, most estimates put it at between 15 and 20 per cent.
I find those figures staggering, even for a region like the GCC, which ever since the Age of Oil was ushered in last century has traditionally had a young population. With so many people due to come onto the jobs market in the near future, the UAE can expect unemployment among the national population to top 25 per cent or more in the next few years. The social and demographic consequences are enormous, even for a country with such a generous system of social benefit and support for its nationals.
In an exact opposite to the situation in Europe and America, where an increasing number of people are working to support an ageing population, in the UAE the government will have to find ways to defuse the economic consequences of youth unemployment. Get more here: https://www.business24-7.ae
Their preferred solution hitherto has been to create jobs in the public sector to soak up the excess labour capacity of young, usually well-educated Emiratis. But with the twin pressures of global economic slowdown and the government’s declared policy of privatising state-owned corporations, that will become more difficult.
It is a conundrum that will require all the economists’ arcane language to explain and resolve.

Going for gold in business Olympics

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The Olympics are nearly upon us again, and after all the controversy over the global relay of the Olympic flame – surely one of the most ridiculous pieces of shambolism ever inflicted on us – it will soon be time for the serious business of track and field, which is what the Games are supposed to be all about.

There will be more controversy, you can be sure, over what sports really constitute Olympic events. This time the most egregious new “sport” is probably BMX cycling, which should be regarded as a harmless teenage past-time, like pop music or hanging out with mates, rather than a true embodiment of the Olympian spirit.

But if BMX can get in, why not include activities from the business world? I would love to see the final of the “post credit-crisis buck-passing marathon” with Alan Greenspan taking on a Rest of the World team – and winning.

Or what about the “rogue trader sprint” with a team from the world’s financial regulators chasing after Jerome Kerviel of Societe Generale  and losing.

The financial sport I would really like to see included is the “protectionism relay.” This would involve bankers and financiers from various western countries competing to see who could introduce the most bigoted, short-sighted and xenophobic piece of legislation designed to halt the global free-flow of capital.
Each country would pass on its new protectionist law, as quickly as possible and with the minimum of serious consideration, to the next competitor, who would then try to add a new, cruelly chauvinistic and utterly stupid amendment. Easy isn’t it?

The only problem with such an event is that it looks as though the Americans would win gold, silver and bronze every time.

With the US Treasury seeking to strengthen the powers of the Congressional Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States(Cfius), even as Wall Street banks are going round the Middle East andAsia with their begging bowls out for capital, it seems like a sport only the Americans could ever win, because nobody else plays it. A bit like baseball, really.

But just recently a serious contender has emerged to play the Americans at their own game, and push for gold medal position inBeijing 08.

Last week the German government of Angela Merkel made it known that it would set up its own version of Cfius with a view to scrutinizing and perhaps even vetoing foreign state-backed investment if it is deemed to be a threat to “national security or public order.” How’s that for a winning run from the Germans as they go past the USA team on the final bend?

The Americans could come back with even tougher measures, like threatening foreign investors with forced divestment if they don’t like the colour of their money; or they could reduce the level of automatic scrutiny of a foreign investor to as little as 5 per cent of a US company’s shares – the Germans are proposing a pathetic 25 per cent at the moment.

But don’t write off the German challenge. With the country’s notoriously xenophobic labour ministry involved in the final framing of the legislation, they are in a strong position to take the top position on the Olympic rostrum.
Other European Union countries – which the Germans self-righteously exclude from their own anti-foreign investment laws – might also give the Americans a decent race. The French have never been reluctant to play the game of “security interests” or “national champions” when it has suited them.

The Australians too have had a recent attempt at the existing world records with their own piece of isolationist legislation, and the New Zealanders showed they are not far off the pace with their blocking tactics over Auckland Airport.

The British, having already sold most of the national assets over the past 20 years, will not be in the reckoning for a medal, but that’s nothing new for them at the Olympics.

The only problem I can foresee is that it might be difficult to have an Olympic event in which only Americans, Europeans and antipodeans participate. But if you let them carry on with their protectionist policies, it won’t be long before the rest of the world retaliates – and the Business Olympics are called off completely.

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