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Fitch: Mexico Fintech Law Could Mitigate Operational Risks

(The following statement was released by the rating agency)
NEW YORK/MONTERREY, April 10 (Fitch) Mexico’s draft financial
technology
(fintech) regulation law, if passed, has the potential to reduce
operational
risk, enhance transparency and improve security for borrowers
and lenders over
time, according to Fitch Ratings.
The fintech law, which was distributed by the regulator to
select industry
participants for discussion in March 2017, could mark a step
forward in
developing a comprehensive regulatory framework for the sector.
Furthermore, it
has the potential to alter the competitive landscape and broad
market dynamics
over the medium-term qualitative aspects that Fitch uses when
assigning ratings
based on the banks’ intrinsic profile. These changes would have
implications for
banks and nonbank financial institutions (NBFIs) that have been
increasing their
exposure to fintech firms through equity investments, joint
ventures and
participation in start-ups.
Fitch believes Mexico has significant growth opportunities for
fintech
considering the country’s large size, high rate of penetration
of mobile phones
and internet and substantial unbanked population. The
proliferation of fintech
firms reflects this. Mexico has among the largest fintech
sectors in Latin
America, including around 150-180 start-ups that focus on a wide
range of
services including payments and remittances, crowdfunding,
marketplace lending
and financial management.
Traditional banks and NBFIs have also recognized the potential
growth
opportunities through fintech and have been increasing their
participation in
the sector. Several Fitch-rated financial groups and NBFIs have
made investments
in start-ups and/or have been developing their own fintech
businesses. Fitch
believes this trend will continue over the long term.
Investment in technology can be positive for financial
institutions’ credit
profiles to the extent that it grows the business and
profitability. However,
the benefits usually accrue only over the medium and long term.
Additionally,
the impact will only be positive if accompanied by commensurate
robust risk
control frameworks and levels of transparency and security as
existing business
models. Also key is that NBFIs maintain underwriting standards
and ensure that
new lines of business through fintech subsidiaries or joint
ventures do not
negatively affect asset quality.
The draft legislation would place the supervision of fintech
firms under the
National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) and the
Commission for the
Protection and Defense of Financial Services Consumers
(CONDUSEF). Fitch
understands that the proposed regulations are broad-based but
include targeted
rules for crowdfunding, virtual assets (such as Bitcoin) and
payment technology.
Crowdfunding companies’ assessments of users’ creditworthiness
could fall under
regulation according to media reports about the proposed law.
They could also be
asked to consult and submit credit information from a credit
bureau and
communicate their methodology for borrowers’ risk to the CNBV,
among other
nonconfirmed requirements. All fintech companies could be
required to list on a
registry of companies offering financial services through online
platforms and
be required to establish controls and have adequate
infrastructure to prevent
money laundering and protect against cybersecurity risks.
Fitch would view these changes, if confirmed and approved, as a
credit positive.
Rules concerning risk measures could improve asset quality and
the performance
of fintech companies, as well as making competitive conditions
fair for all
financial market participants and improving financial inclusion
in Mexico.
Contact:
Alba Zavala
Associate Director, Financial Institutions
+52 81 8399 9100
Fitch Mexico S.A. de C.V.
Prol. Alfonso Reyes No. 2612
Edificio Connexity, Piso 8
Col. Del Paseo Residencial
Monterrey, N.L.
Bertha Perez
Associate Director, Financial Institutions
+52 81 83 99 9161
Justin Patrie
Senior Analyst, Fitch Wire
+1 646 382-4964
33 Whitehall Street
New York, NY
Media Relations: Alyssa Castelli, New York, Tel: +1 (212) 908
0540, Email:
alyssa.castelli@fitchratings.com; Elizabeth Fogerty, New York,
Tel: +1 (212) 908
0526, Email: elizabeth.fogerty@fitchratings.com.
The above article originally appeared as a post on the Fitch
Wire credit market
commentary page. The original article can be accessed at
www.fitchratings.com.
All opinions expressed are those of Fitch Ratings.
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Could Index Funds Violate Antitrust Law?

Bloomberg’s Matt Levine posed a pretty interesting question in the latest Money Stuff newsletter. He asked: Should index funds be illegal?


Columbia’s Menesh S. Patel conducted an analysis of the competitive effects on common stock ownership in a recently published academic paper. Patel concluded that while institutional investors’ substantial stock holdings could be harmful to competition, the extent of the damage caused by common stock ownership should be evaluated on a case-by-cases basis. In a recent blog post he wrote:

Accordingly, as the article shows, while common ownership potentially can generate substantial competitive harm, whether it will actually do so in a given market will depend on the circumstances. For instance, common ownership may cause substantial competitive harm if the firms’ products are homogeneous or close substitutes for each other but not if the products are poor substitutes. As another example, while common ownership may increase the likelihood of collusion by making it easier for firms to form or monitor a collusive agreement, common ownership may also decrease the likelihood of collusion by making it harder for firms to punish deviations from the collusive agreement.

Yes it’s all theoretical now, but the issue could be more meaningful someday.

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Fox Taps Law Firm To Investigate O'Reilly

Facing its second high-profile sexual harassment scandal in as many years, Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox is turning to third-party legal assistance — which could put top host Bill O’Reilly in the hot seat.

Law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the same practice whose investigation was instrumental in the departure of Fox News head Roger Ailes last summer, has been asked by 21st Century Fox to investigate complaints against “O’Reilly Factor” host.

Human resources and workplace harassment law experts said employing a third party, especially a law firm, in the midst of a crisis sends a strong message.

RELATED: Advertisers Flee Fox’s Bill O’Reilly Show Amid Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

“[Ailes] did step down and there was a large settlement. It may indicate that they do have the trust of both sides,” said Ariane Hegewisch, program director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

“Fox has an opportunity, if they manage this correctly, that they can actually build a stronger, healthier organization,” said Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at CEB.

But representatives for both the network and O’Reilly sought to downplay the firm’s involvement. “21st Century Fox investigates all complaints,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement.

In a statement to NBC News, O’Reilly representative Mark Fabiani said there was “nothing special” about the firm’s involvement, saying, “Paul Weiss is already retained by the company to look into all hotline calls, so it’s inaccurate to say that Paul Weiss has been brought in specifically for this matter.”

In terms of both HR and PR, the participation of an outside law firm can be significant, said Sahar F. Aziz, a professor of law at Texas A&M University.

“The publicity is probably a trigger for Fox to let people know it’s taking the complaint seriously,” she said.

The stakes are high, with more than two dozen advertisers pulling their commercials from O’Reilly’s show since news of the scandal broke. “The last thing they would want it to be viewed as being flippant or dismissive about the issue. They want to show that they invested the time and money to do this seriously,” Aziz said.

RELATED: Roger Ailes Scandal: Julie Roginsky‬‬ Hits Fox News With Sex Harassment Suit

Experts say having the backing of a third party could give the network better justification if it sought to remove the embattled host.

“Having an external expert come in sometimes allows a company to make some hard decisions that might be internally, politically harder,” said Fatima Goss Graves, senior vice president for program and president-elect at the National Women’s Law Center. “It may take a little bit of heat off of leadership in terms of their ability to make a tough decision.”

Aziz said a decision to look outside the company for help during a scandal was not unusual. “Some firms will use their internal HR department if they have the capability to do so; however, even if they do have those capabilities, it can be tainted by the appearance of a conflict of interest if the findings turn out to be in favor of the company’s position,” she said.

“The advantage of having a third party do it is it helps to create a belief that the process is fair,” Kropp said. “The rub about it is.. .the third party can’t just be perceived as agents of whoever’s involved.”

This is a risk, said Jerry Carbo, professor of management and marketing at Shippensburg University. “[The corporation] is their client so they have this natural inclination, and maybe duty, to protect their client,” he said. “I have seen that occur.”

For Fox, even an appearance of wielding influence over the law firm’s investigation could hurt its ability to attract and retain talent, to say nothing of the ongoing advertising fallout O’Reilly’s show faces. “Employees need to know that it’s fair, that all employees are treated equally,” Kropp said. “The worst thing you and do is bring in a third party and not be transparent.”

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Spyware Firms in Breach of Global Sanctions

From a report on Al Jazeera: Spy equipment producers are breaking laws and circumventing international sanctions by agreeing to sell stock to countries known for human rights abuses, and to clients who do not declare the end user — meaning surveillance tools could easily fall into the hands of armed groups, corporations, governments cracking down on dissent, or opposition leaders, an exclusive investigation by Al Jazeera reveals. During “Spy Merchants”, a four-month undercover operation, Al Jazeera secretly filmed representatives of two Italian companies and one Chinese business agreeing to sell spyware that is capable of tracking millions of people online and able to intercept phone calls and text messages without anyone finding out. The vendors boasted of being able to side-step the law by using sister and shell companies and explained how to possibly circumvent export regulations by lying about the details of shipments and using third countries exempted from certain rules as stopping places.

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Motor vehicles bill passes Lok Sabha test: Heavy fine for violations, heat on auto firms

A bill to unleash radical reforms in the transport sector by ensuring 100 per cent e-governance, checking bogus driving licenses and vehicle thefts, slapping heavy penalty on traffic violators and protecting the good samaritan was approved by the Lok Sabha today.

All efforts would be made to eliminate corruption in the sector, Road Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari said while replying to a discussion on the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill 2016, claiming that “no bogus driving licences would be made and there would be no theft of the vehicles once there is e-governance.”

The bill was passed by a voice vote after several opposition amendments were rejected, including one moved by a CPI(M) member on enhancing the compensation in case of accidents, was defeated by 37 votes in favour and 221 against.

There should be uniformity in the rules concerning issuance of driving licenses, the minister said, adding that through “e-governance, there would be provision of electronic registration.”

The bill seeks to “save lives” by ushering in radical reforms in the motor vehicles law to slap heavy penalty on traffic violators, protecting good samaritans and making vehicle-makers responsible for design defects to cut road accidents.

The basic aim of the Bill is “to save human lives”,as a whopping five lakh accidents take place every year claiming around 1.5 lakh lives across the country.

“Once we (BJP) complete five years, we would be able to save 50 per cent lives lost due to road accidents. We are working towards it,” Gadkari said.

The minister said once the changes are incorporated in the law, it would be impossible for anyone including VIPs like politicians to obtain driving license without tests. “Even as a minister I would not be able to obtain driving license sitting at home,” Gadkari stressed.

On a specific opposition amendment on compensation which was defeated by 221 votes against to 37 in favour, Gadkari said it would not be possible to increase the compensation in case of death to Rs 20 lakh as it would entail substantial hike in insurance premium. The amendment was moved by CPI-M member Sankar Prasad Datta.

Stressing that any kind of corruption would not be tolerated in the transport sector, he said “we will have to bring online governance to put an end to the corruption. Corruption would not be tolerated and we are firm on this.”

Observing that was corruption at the state check posts and the Centre was in touch with state to deal with the issue.

The bill seeks to make services like issuance of license totally transparent and online and provides for punitive action against officials in case of delay in issuing of the document to eligible applicants.

Under the new system, every one will have to go to the license issuing authorities under a uniform procedure and if the license is not issued in 3 days, then the RTO will have to face action. A learner’s license can be availed online sitting at home.

Responding to the concerns of members, he said there would be no cap on compensation to be paid by insurance companies to the victims of road accidents.

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Exclusive: Spyware firms in breach of global sanctions

AL JAZEERA EXCLUSIVE: SPY MERCHANTS

  • Four-month investigation unveils illegal dealings of surveillance industry
  • Undercover reporter finds spy equipment producers bypassing international sanctions
  • ‘Dual-use’ tactic allows countries with records of human rights abuses to buy spyware
  • Tools which monitor phone, internet are powerful enough to spy on millions
  • Civil liberties groups, politicians warn of free speech violations

Spy equipment producers are breaking laws and circumventing international sanctions by agreeing to sell stock to countries known for human rights abuses, and to clients who do not declare the end user – meaning surveillance tools could easily fall into the hands of armed groups, corporations, governments cracking down on dissent, or opposition leaders, an exclusive investigation by Al Jazeera reveals.

During “Spy Merchants”, a four-month undercover operation, Al Jazeera secretly filmed representatives of two Italian companies and one Chinese business agreeing to sell spyware that is capable of tracking millions of people online and able to intercept phone calls and text messages without anyone finding out.

The vendors boasted of being able to side-step the law by using sister and shell companies and explained how to possibly circumvent export regulations by lying about the details of shipments and using third countries exempted from certain rules as stopping places.

[embedded content]

Posing undercover as a middle man buying equipment for the South Sudanese and Iranian governments, our reporter James (not his real name) was able to negotiate deals to acquire surveillance tools that Iran is prohibited from buying and that would cause serious human rights concerns in South Sudan .

The two Italian companies, IPS and AREA, indicated that they were open to the possibility of violating European laws to sell equipment that would end up in the hands of Iranian and South Sudanese clients, where they could potentially be used to spy on citizens.

READ MORE: Spying on dissent through illegal means

China-based business Semptian, meanwhile, was ready to sell spying gear worth nearly $3 million without knowing who the recipient would be.

When our reporter asked Semptian cofounder Frank Feng if previous buyers had used shell companies, Feng responded: “We have done it. We don’t know who is the private company and who is the end user. And we don’t care about it. This way is good, because we have done it before.”

‘Nuclear weapons of 21st century’

Former British intelligence officer Julian Richards described powerful surveillance tools as “the nuclear weapons of the 21st century”.

“These are the things that states that want to get ahead in, in their security capabilities. These are the things they’ll pay big money for,” he told Al Jazeera.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about electronic surveillance

The equipment these surveillance companies make is used to monitor phone and internet traffic on a large scale.

The so-called IMSI catchers and IP Intercept systems are respectively used to listen in on phone calls and text messages, and can be used to spy on the internet usage of millions of people.

“When these technologies end up in the wrong hands. They end up with agencies which have a very proven and bloody history of repression and human rights abuse,” Claire Lauterbach, a researcher at Privacy International, told Al Jazeera.

“It’s truly remarkable, when you consider what the implications of this might be.”

The surveillance systems do have legitimate uses for intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but they are often used by repressive governments to track political dissidents.

“I found that activists, students, journalists, opposition figures in North Africa and the Middle East would be [targeted] and sometimes be imprisoned as a result of these systems coming from Europe,” said Marietje Schaake, a member of the European parliament focused on foreign affairs trade and technology.

After viewing Al Jazeera’s investigation, she said: “I found that unacceptable then, and I find it unacceptable today.”

The companies our undercover reporter approached seemingly had no problem in forging documents to make sure the deal would go ahead.

“First, we are ok with Iran. Of course, it’s subject to export restriction. But this is something that we can manage,” said IPS sales manager Ugo Castillo.

By using a sister company and describing the hardware sold by IPS as a “traffic management system”, IPS said it could sell IP intercept systems to Iran.

OPINION: Infrastructure vulnerabilities make surveillance easy

In response to these allegations, IPS told Al Jazeera that they operate with full respect of the regulations.

They added: “We had no intention of completing this or any deal with the individual our staff met with. Any deal that we may have discussed with him would have to be dependent on obtaining the full legal authorisation from the authorities.”

‘Freedom of speech curtailed’

AREA, meanwhile, was prepared to discuss selling IMSI catchers – tools that can spy on mobile phones without users’ knowledge – to South Sudan, despite serious human rights concerns and EU sanctions.

In South Sudan, according to Human Rights Watch , government forces and opposition fighters “committed serious abuses against civilians” in the civil war, and authorities there “harass, intimidate, and arbitrarily arrest and detain journalists”.

Pagan Amum, a South Sudanese politician, was forced to flee the country in 2013 when the war began after becoming the target of government surveillance. He was arrested and accused of plotting a coup.

“The government with that surveillance has reduced the political space for our citizens to speak, the right of freedom of speech has been curtailed, even to speak in private,” he told Al Jazeera.

Analysis: Citizens pay cost of illegal spyware trade

“To conduct this surveillance, in violation of the law, this is absolutely very dangerous, it becomes actually, just like weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

AREA explained what it described as a typical industry tactic: theoretically one could sell surveillance equipment by getting a licence to export to Tanzania , it said, from where the IMSI catcher would be “donated” as a “gift” to South Sudan.

Ultimately, AREA did nothing more than set up a meeting with a Turkish partner, BTT.

To obtain this export license the Turkish partner, offered to lie by stating that the hardware is telecom equipment and not used to spy on people.

“I say this is dual use telecom equipment, okay,” BTT’s Alper Tosun told our reporter. “And most of the time, it is telecom testing equipment. This is the main purpose that I am declaring.”

‘Absolutely unacceptable’

In the past, AREA has been caught selling spy equipment to a country with a history of abusing its citizens.

In 2011, the company made a deal with the Syrian government worth almost $14 million.

Although AREA claimed it had a valid export license to supply Syria, company executives were recently accused of falsifying export documents relating to the 2011 deal.

“I find it absolutely unacceptable that there are people willing to sell to places where human rights violations are obvious,” said MEP Schaake.

READ MORE: How we revealed the surveillance world’s illegal trades

In the case of South Sudan, she said, the country “is on the brink of massive violence. I do believe that every individual, no matter who their employer is, should really look at themselves in the mirror and wonder, ‘What am I doing?'”

BTT did not respond when asked for comment about these allegations.

AREA said it “works with the relevant governments to ensure the proper export and legal use of our equipment.”

The company declined further comment until seeing the evidence.

‘Huge effects for democracy’

Semptian, the Chinese company, was also ready to sell IMSI catchers. 

At one point, impatient company cofounder Feng encouraged our reporter to buy sooner rather than later because he had to reach a sales “performance” target.

Using a shell company, Semptian was ready to sell our reporter 10 IMSI catchers without knowing who would end up using the spying tools.

To remain anonymous, Feng told our undercover reporter that the company would remove all logos and branding from the surveillance equipment.

Semptian did not respond to a request for comment for this programme.

READ MORE: How the ‘dual-use’ ruse is employed to sell spyware

“Anyone with enough money is able to buy these highly sophisticated systems which could proliferate all over the world. I would like to see more accountability and transparency in this very, very dark and dangerous market,” said MEP Schaake.

For Privacy International’s Lauterbach, continued illegal trading of surveillance could threaten the foundations of many societies.

“If we can’t find a way to bring surveillance and the practice of surveillance within the rule of law, it’s going to have huge effects for democracy,” she said.

After Spy Merchants was completed, Al Jazeera received a letter from lawyers acting for IPS denying all wrongdoing. They specifically denied that Chief Executive Officer Fabio Romani or any other person in a position of authority at IPS ever attempted to sell its products and services in Iran. 


Spy Merchants can be viewed on Al Jazeera:

Monday, April 10 – 20:00 GMT

Tuesday, April 11 – 12:00 GMT

Wednesday, April 12 – 01:00 GMT

Thursday, April 12 – 06:00 GMT

Friday, April 14 – 12:00 GMT

Saturday, April 15 – 20:00 GMT

Sunday, April 16 – 01:00 GMT

Monday, April 17 – 06:00 GMT

Source: Al Jazeera News

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More Chinese firms investing in India, but political, cultural barriers remain

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) last year estimated that total FDI from China between April 2000 and December 2016 was .6 billion. (Reuters)

China has emerged as one of the fastest-growing sources of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India — it was 17th largest in 2016, up from the 28th rank in 2014 and 35th in 2011. In 2011, the total Chinese investment in India was $102 million. Last year, a record $1 billion of Chinese FDI reportedly flowed in, but official Indian and Chinese statistics differ on cumulative figures. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) last year estimated that total FDI from China between April 2000 and December 2016 was $1.6 billion. Indian industry analysts and media reports have estimated the figure to be over $2 billion.

“Actual Chinese investment in India is at least three times higher than the official Indian figure,” Santosh Pai, partner at Gurgaon-based Link Legal India Law Services, which provides legal services to members of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, told IndiaSpend.

Indian statistics capture direct investments from mainland China, but a majority of Chinese overseas direct investment, Pai noted, flows through tax havens such as Hong Kong. Last year, Chinese Vice-minister for Finance Shi Yaobin was quoted saying China has cumulatively invested $4.07 billion in India, and India has invested $650 million in China.

“China will be one of India’s top 10 investors shortly,” Pai said. He recalled his experience of building a clientele in Beijing in 2010. The Indian firm he worked for had no clients in China. He would drive up and down Beijing’s best-known road, Changan, noting down companies’ names on buildings along the way. Later, he would track down those companies online and approach them for business. In six years, his firm’s Chinese clientele grew from zero to 120 companies (the firm has since merged with the one he works with now).

Six years ago, investors from the world’s second-largest economy were hard to find in India. Today, India’s largest digital payments company Paytm is 40 per cent-owned by Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba and its affiliates, and Alibaba is reportedly raising its stake to 62 per cent. China’s fourth-largest mobile phone company Xiaomi assembles one phone every second at a new factory in India.

Sixty percent of Chinese FDI is concentrated in the automobile industry. Several companies’ regional offices are located in Ahmedabad, although Chinese companies are gradually moving away from an initial preference for Gujarat towards Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Haryana. Seven smartphone companies from China have launched, or plan to launch, factories in India, according to a February 2017 Chinese media report, Rise and Coexist.

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Nonetheless, Chinese investment flows into India remain relatively low, both in terms of total FDI flows into India and Chinese outward investment globally. China’s share of total FDI in India is only 0.5 per cent, despite its being the second-largest economy in the world and India’s largest trading partner, according to DIPP.

This pales in comparison with fellow Asian powerhouse Japan (7.7 per cent). Meanwhile, the US, which China recently replaced as the world’s largest economy in purchasing power parity terms, has a 6.13 per cent share in total FDI in India.

While China’s FDI flow into India last year showed a relatively significant rise, the figure was negligible when viewed against China’s outbound investment of over a trillion yuan or $170 billion across 164 nations last year — including $45.6 billion in the US alone.

Chinese FDI in India has increased even as India and China have picked new points of political disagreement in the last two years. India objects to China’s $46 billion investment in the China-Pakistan economic corridor that passes through parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Last year, Beijing obstructed India’s efforts to get membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and China has repeatedly blocked a proposal at the United Nations to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, implicated in terror strikes in India including the 2016 Pathankot attack.

“There is no drop in the activity of Chinese companies evaluating India because of political relations between the two countries,” Sridhar Venkiteswaran, CEO of Avalon Consulting in Delhi, told IndiaSpend. “Increasingly, the Indian political establishment too does not want to place any roadblocks on Chinese investment into India… but Indian companies tend to push back when there is negative news about the Sino-Indian relationship.”

Chinese commentary on India today reflects this combination of geopolitical rivalry and enhanced commercial interest. China’s government-backed newspaper Global Times published a record-setting 80 opinion pieces on India in 2016, and its coverage of India is on the rise. The articles are a mix of political warnings against antagonising China and business reports evaluating investment in India. Though New Delhi has refused to endorse China’s One Belt, One Road initiative to build infrastructure to link Asia with Europe and Africa, sections of the Chinese media have projected an upcoming industrial park in India’s Gujarat as part of the same Chinese initiative.

Faced with double-digit increases in labour costs, an ageing workforce and a record slowdown in economic growth, Chinese companies have been searching for alternative manufacturing destinations and new markets since the economic downturn of 2008.

India is a “hot investment opportunity”, Li Bojun, a counsellor at the Chinese embassy was quoted saying in the People’s Daily in February 2017. Chinese companies are showing more confidence in the Indian economy as it grows faster than their own and narrows the gap in competitiveness between the two Asian giants. India ranked 39th compared with China at 28th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report on 138 nations in 2016-17, raising its rank by 16 positions from the 55th in 2015-16.

“The fact that the Indian economy is now the fastest-growing has had a positive signalling effect in China,” Pai said.

A 2015-16 joint report by Indian industry association Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Avalon Consulting estimated that labour costs for manufacturing personnel are 1.5 to 3 times higher in China than in India. The report noted that China is “losing competitiveness” to India in several light engineering-related industries, which is attracting Chinese investors to India.

“The relative competitiveness of India compared to China is increasing, especially for Chinese companies to shift production from China to India in the automotive, chemical and electronics value added chain,” Venkiteswaran said. For example, he said, imports from China have been 35 per cent costlier since 2013, and the cost of labour in China is increasing by 18-19 per cent since 2014, compared with 8-10 per cent in India.

Chinese businesses have noticed. One of the most-shared articles in March on the Global Times website warned: “China should pay more attention to India’s increasing manufacturing competitiveness”.

However, it is far from smooth sailing for Sino-Indian investment. India’s attempts to gain market access in China for its information technology, agricultural and pharmaceutical industries have hit a wall for over a decade. India’s deficit in trade with China bloated to $46.56 billion last year. Bilateral trade remains below the target of $100 billion that both sides were aiming to achieve in 2015. At $70.08 billion in 2016, bilateral trade was 2.2 per cent lower than the $71.63 billion in 2015. The CII-Avalon study forecasts that the trade deficit will hit $60 billion by 2018-19.

In 2014, Chinese president Xi Jinping committed to a $20 billion investment in India over five years. If fulfilled, this would increase China’s economic footprint in India. But it would still be a small percentage of Xi’s more recent promise that China will invest $750 billion overseas in five years.

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More US firms hold virtual annual shareholder meetings

Duke shareholder Danielle Fugere of the nongovernmental organization organisation As You Sow saidadded: “We do not believe it is in the company’s interest to insulate itself from the interested public.”

The group has proposed a shareholder resolution to require the company to report on the public health impacts of its use of coal.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees investments under the city’s $170bn billion public pension system, has declared war on virtual meetings, sending a letter to almost 20 companies demanding they go the traditional way.

“It’s one of the great markers of American enterprise — whether you own one share or a one million, you can speak at a company’s annual meeting,” Stringer said. “Except now, in this interconnected world, companies are using technological tools to whittle away at investors’ rights and hide from accountability.”

However, the companies rebut this point, with Ford saying “any pertinent questions that cannot be answered during the meeting, due to time constraints, will be answered and posted online”.

Virtual meetings became possible following changes in law in a number of US states, including Delaware, where many companies are based.

The annual events are not usually a major occasion for the biggest shareholders, who are typically in an ongoing dialogue with corporations.

But the annual meetings has traditionally offered a unique forum to the individual investors who lack the clout of large institutional investors. By going  virtual, big large companies can avoid sometimes pointed  criticism over shareholder pay, their environmental performance or any number of controversial matters.

AFP

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firms on Kospi, Kosdaq lose their luster

When China Ocean Resources, a Hong Kong-based fisheries company, debuted on Koreas main bourse Kospi in 2009, the company quickly became a favorite for punters.

Analysts said that Chinas growing middle class would drive demand for more diverse types of fish. So keen were investors that they plunked down over 1 trillion won ($881.8 million) in advance payments before the listing.

After the hype came reality: The company has been accused of false disclosures and substandard auditing practices. Korea Exchange, operator of Korea stock markets, suspended trading of China Ocean Resources earlier this month until it responds to rumors of dodgy audits – an echo of China Gaoxian Fibre Fabric Holdings, a textile manufacturer that was delisted from the Kospi in March 2011 – only two months after its listing – because of fraudulent audits.

The flameout of a few Chinese companies in Korea is giving a bad reputation to other China-based companies listed on the Kospi and the secondary Kosdaq, pushing down share prices across the board.

Local analysts are talking about the China discount on stocks and even China phobia.

The major factor behind the low valuations lies in the delisting of Chinese players, said Park Jong-sun, a researcher at Eugene Investment & Securities. Investors doubts remain high after the Gaoxian scandal.

Seven companies based in the Greater China region have been delisted. Three of the delistings were voluntary while four were kicked out due to failures to meet listing requirements.

A total of fifteen Chinese companies remain listed on the two trading boards, but only one, Yangzhou Golden Century Wheel Manufacturing, is trading above its initial offering price.

This year, their share prices suffered from the SeoulBeijing row over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a U.S. led-antimissile defense system.

The price of CKH Food & Health, a China-based bio company, plunged 22.54 percent as of March 31 compared to the beginning of this year while China Crystal New Material Holdings fell 15.9 percent.

Faced with less interest by the market, one company without major problems is actually pulling up stakes.

Wayport, a machinery maker, saw its share price rise 19.34 percent as of March 31 compared to Jan. 2, but it filed for delisting this month.

Its abrupt departure could further damage investors trust in Chinese companies.

Many of the companies have demonstrated irregular public disclosure practices and disregarded requests of minority shareholders, which worsened their corporate reputations, Park said.

The researcher also noted that recently listed companies such as China Crystal New Material Holdings and Hengsheng Group have adopted more investor-friendly gestures including favorable dividend policies.

In response to the series of scandals, financial authorities vow to strengthen due diligence and encourage good auditing practice by foreign companies.

The law currently allows any auditing firms to audit foreign companies listed on the local stock markets, a source at the audit supervision division at the Financial Supervisory Service.

But the financial authorities are pushing for a regulation that only licensed audit firms conduct the task so that we can better detect companies that alter or omit financial statements.

(c) 2017 Emirates News Agency (WAM) Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info)., source Middle East & North African Newspapers


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Law firms in Wales that are recruiting and winning new business

The vibrant legal services sector in Wales is continuing to expand and recruit.

And here are a number of firms winning new clients and expanding their legal expertise.

Capital Law

Capital Law’s commercial and property team

Capital Law, which recently celebrated its tenth birthday, is continuing to grow its team.

In the past few months some 16 new appointments have been welcomed into the firm in departments including property, banking and finance, employment, corporate and disputes.

Established in 2006 in Cardiff, and now with an office in London, Capital provides integrated legal and consultancy services to sectors including education, energy, retail, social housing and the public sector.

Managing partner of Capital Law Elin Pinnell

Managing partner, Elin Pinnell, said: “Many of our lawyers have grown up with us, while others have joined us from City firms and nationwide legal practices.

“This contributes to the culture here and I believe this is something that has afforded us not only incredible growth over the past ten years, but also a privileged position as one of Wales’ premier law firms.”

Capital’s property team has taken on six new recruits in recent months to bolster the firm’s construction, energy and public sector offering.

Principal to the newly strengthened team is Jon Ely, who joins Capital as partner from Lewis Silkin.

Further recent additions to the property team include: Rhiannon Holtham an associate recruited from from Clarkslegal, Stuart Pearson, associate, from Foot Antsey; Emma Hill, associate, from Quality Solicitors and Kirsty Ellis, associate, from Rosenblatt.

The firm commercial disputes team has also grown exponentially – swelling its ranks by 40% to take on three new solicitors and boost the number of Partners in the department from four to five.

Key to the team’s new recruits is Nick Pester, who joins the department as partner and head of Insurance.

He joins the firm from Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, to establish a new specialist Insurance practice at Capital. Also new to the team are solicitors Ian Spencer and Lucy Emmanuel, who have joined Lyons Davidson and Eversheds respectively.

Acuity Legal

Commercial law firm Acuity Legal has opened a new office in Swansea.

The firm, which also has offices in Cardiff and London, has taken a lease on part of the Exchange Building near Morgans Hotel.

Acuity Legal employs over 70 members of staff, with the opening set to create at least 10 new jobs. This number is expected to double within the year.

The Swansea office will be headed up by Hugh Hitchcock, partner and dispute resolution specialist, who recently joined Acuity Legal after 21 years at DJM Solicitors.

Legal jobs in Wales

The team will also include members of Acuity Legal’s corporate and commercial, construction and real estate teams. This will offer Swansea and west Wales based clients a full commercial legal service.

Mr Hitchcock said: “This is an important expansion for Acuity Legal that will allow us to bring sector-leading expertise to business clients in the Swansea region.

“Swansea is a great city with a fast-growing economy and huge potential, and we are excited to be a part of its future.

“With a £1.3bn City Deal in the pipeline which is expected to boost the local economy by an estimated £3.3bn, the expert services we offer are going to be in high demand.”

Here’s all the info on the Swansea Bay City deal

The expansion follows a particularly strong year for Acuity Legal with growth across all areas of expertise as its client base expands both in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom.

Recent successes have included advising on the redevelopment of Central Square in Cardiff and new investment for Bluestone. Acuity Legal is ranked as a top tier firm in the 2016 UK Legal 500 and Chambers legal guides.

Steve Berry, chairman of Acuity Legal, said: ” Hugh and his team are a perfect fit with our approach to business and we are excited by the opportunity to open an office and invest in the future of Swansea and the surrounding area.

“We are committed to our existing and growing client base, and we look forward to welcoming new clients as we continue to grow with the city.”

CJCH

Gareth Thompson, Nerys Thomas and CJCH Solicitors senior partner Stephen Clarke

South Wales law firm, CJCH Solicitors, has further extended its range of services with the appointment of new heads of department in both commercial and dispute resolution, as well as opening two further offices.

Gareth Thompson joins CJCH from HCB in Solihull as head of the commercial department, while Nerys Thomas, a Cardiff litigato,r is leading the firm’s dispute resolution team. Collectively, they will steer the newly formed CJCH mediation service.

The firm’s growth also involves the opening of new offices in Bristol and London, with the Bristol office in Prince Street, and the London office in Mayfair.

Senior partner Stephen Clarke said: “Gareth and Nerys both have fantastic reputations as highly accomplished lawyers and with the team they have assembled, will really enhance the services we offer to clients

He added: “We’re excited to be opening new offices in Bristol and London, in addition to our headquarters in Cardiff and South Wales offices in Bridgend and Barry.”

CJCH, a Wales top-20 law firm with headquarters in Cardiff, has grown to more than 100 members of staff.

Watkins and Gunn

South Wales-based solicitors, Watkins and Gunn have announced a new partner on the back of continued growth.

The firm, with offices in Newport, Cardiff and Pontypool, have promoted associate, Janine Edwards, to partner

She joins fellow partners Clive Thomas, Jonathan Wellington, Sophie Hughes, Michael Imperato and Lisa Guscott.

Ms Edwards, a specialist property lawyer, joined the firm in 2014, bringing a wealth of experience to the firm.

Her role includes managing a variety of residential property transactions, as well as dealing with all aspects of commercial property such as acquisition and disposal of development land, business leases, development deals, and commercial lending.

During her first 18 months at Watkins and Gunn Solicitors, Ms Edwards has transformed the service that the property team provide to clients – resulted in a 39% increase in completions.

Mr Thomas, managing partner at Watkins and Gunn said, “We are delighted to welcome Janine into the partnership. It is richly deserved, as in a relatively short time, that she has proved herself to be an invaluable asset and shown an incredible amount of commitment both to the business and to her clients.

“Her leadership has been motivational and she sets a wonderful example to her team and the staff as a whole.”

Ms Edwards said, “I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have been invited to become a partner at Watkins and Gunn.

“The partners at Watkins and Gunn are forward thinking and have developed the business into one of the leading modern law firms, whilst retaining its traditional values. I am looking forward to being a part of the firm’s ongoing development and success.”

Berry Smith

Berry Smith

Cardiff law firm Berry have announced a number of promotions, new qualifications and a new starter.

Gavin Hoccom, who has been promoted to associate,joined Berry Smith in 2015 having returned to Cardiff to practice commercial litigation at a local firm.

Jane Rees is now an associate and has practised law for 20 years advising commercial and individual clients on a range of issues including commercial disputes, insolvency and property law.

Jane Emery has also been promoted to associate. She joined Berry Smith in 2010 as part of the private client team as a residential property solicitor, specialising in equity release and re-mortgage transactions for a leading lender client.

Derek Holbrook has joined as finance manager.

And Catrin Mackie has qualified as a solicitor and works in the commercial property team. She has gained experience in a range of commercial property matters and regularly represents both sellers and purchasers.

Alison Hoy, chief executive at Berry Smith, said: “we are delighted with these changes as they recognise the high quality service being provided to our clients and that the strategy of continuing improving our team is progressing well.”

Darwin Gray

The Darwin Gray team marking 15 years in business

This month Cardiff law Darwin Gray celebrates its 15th birthday.

And since its launch in 2002, its turnover has grown tenfold.

Its first office was located at St Andrew’s Crescent, with two partners and two part-time secretaries. It now has a team of 30,

And Darwin Gray, based at Helmont House, boasts experience way beyond its original focus on employment and property Law.

It now has eight partners, some of whom joined from larger firms.

Partner and head of employment and HR, Fflur Jones, was the first newly qualified lawyer recruited.

She recalls: “It was obviously a much smaller enterprise back when I joined, but some things haven’t changed. We have retained a strong collegiate atmosphere while steadily growing our client base and services.

“This year is already proving a significant one for us. We recently launched the Wales HR Awards, with Acorn Recruitment & Training, through the Wales HR Network.

“It’s one of many ways we’re marking our 15th year andand looking ahead to the next 15.”

Agri Advisor

Agri Advisor, a bilingual legal firm specialising in rural matters, has expanded with a new office near Cardiff.

The firm was established in 2011 by Dr Nerys Llewelyn Jones on her home farm in Carmarthenshire.

It expanded in 2013 with an office Welshpool, to provide a local service for Agri Advisor’s mid and north Wales clients.

And its latest office at Groesfaen, near Cardiff, will service clients in south Wales and from across the border.

Agri Advisor has four partners and over 20 staff, three of which will be permanently based in the new Groesfaen office

Ms Jones, managing partner, said, “The opening of a new office just outside our capital city is an important development for Agri Advisor.

“As well as allowing us to offer the best possible service to our customers in south Wales it also means we are on the doorstep of the Assembly and are able to engage policy makers on the issues of importance to our clients, such as the future of agricultural policy, post Brexit.”

Clarke Willmott

New recruits at law firm Clarke Willmott left to right Kireene David, Bethan Evans and Laurie Jefferies

Law firm Clarke Willmot has strengthened its Cardiff office, which recently celebrated its second anniversary, with the appointment of three new lawyers.

Bethan Evans has joined Clarke Willmott as a senior associate having worked previously for a major international firm for a number of years. She has bolstered the firm’s banking and finance team, specialising in all areas of lending.

Kireene David joins from a Swansea-based firm as a solicitor in the commercial property team, while Laurie Jefferies has also joined the Commercial Property team as a Paralegal.

Vicky Kells, partner at Clarke Willmott and head of the Cardiff office, said: “We are delighted to welcome Bethan, Kireene and Laurie to the Cardiff office.

“Our appointments demonstrate Clarke Willmott’s commitment to the Cardiff office, and will bring extensive experience to the team here.”

She added: “There’s a great deal of investment and development activity happening in Cardiff, and we are committed to making a positive contribution to this success through our work in the area.

“We are extremely pleased with our progress to date. The Cardiff office is developing and with many positives on the horizon we expect another strong performance in 2017 when we will build on the progress and strong relationships we have developed in south Wales.”

Clarke Willmott also has offices in Birmingham, Bristol, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.

Gordon Dadds

Gordon Dadds new recruit David Quinn ( front left) being welcomed by Robert Biles and the rest of the team

Law and professional services firm Gordon Dadds has announced the appointment of new property litigation associate David Quinn to supportits growing client demands in property disputes at its Cardiff office.

He joins Gordon Dadds from Thrings LLP’s property litigation department in Bristol.

Senior partner of Gordon Dadds Cardiff office, Nigel Morgan, said: “We are delighted to welcome David to our rapidly growing team here in Cardiff and to continue to support the growth and development of our Welsh business particularly in the property sector.

“Gordon Dadds has recently joined the UK’s ‘top 100 law firms’, and our recruitment drive in Cardiff is another step in our journey to becoming the law and professional services firm of choice for ambitious individuals and organisations.”

In addition the Cardiff office have also recently welcomed four new appointments in family law solicitor Leah Stamp, patent and trademark specialist Matthew Hiscox, employment lawyer Andrea Price and head of corporate support services Melanie Kincaid.


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