Tendências emergentes, factos e dados reveladores da evolução dos media, cultura, economia e sociedade. Impacto social, económico e cultural da tecnologia.


terça-feira, agosto 29, 2006

Hong Kong's chronic air pollution is having "bottom-line economic consequences" in the territory


Hong Kong's chronic air pollution is having "bottom-line economic consequences" in the territory, a senior government adviser said yesterday in the first official admission that worsening air quality is affecting companies' investment decisions.

"Up to a year ago [pollution] really hadn't hit our pocketbook," Victor Fung, chairman of the government-backed Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council, said in a briefing on cross-border issues affecting Hong Kong and China. "But now people are not coming to Hong Kong to take that job because their kid has asthma."

Mr Fung is also chairman of both Hong Kong's airport authority and Li & Fung, his family's $7bn-a-year trade sourcing company.

He is one of the most vocal figures on issues concerning the territory's links to its manufacturing heartland in the Pearl River delta, in China's southern Guangdong province.

Mr Fung's comments came on the heels of an American Chamber of Commerce survey that found that about 60 per cent of 140 senior executives polled were "very worried" about the effect pollution was having on their health.

Almost 40 per cent said Hong Kong's worsening air quality made it difficult to recruit overseas staff.


FT.com / World / Asia-Pacific - Air pollution hits HK economy as investors fear for their health

German blue chips fear eastern rivals


Germany's largest industrial companies are increasingly shaping their strategies based on the competitive threat from Chinese and Indian companies, which they fear could one day take them over, say top chief executives and bankers.

Groups such as Siemens, Volkswagen and BASF are investing billions in these countries and other key markets, such as Russia, to remain internationally competitive and to tap both their stronger growth and the larger number of engineers they produce each year.

But the blue chips are also acting in the belief that companies from fast-growing countries could soon follow the example of steelmaker Mittal and buy some of Europe's industrial giants.

"The dominant theme in German boardrooms at the moment is whether a company from one of these countries will one day - say in five or 10 years - be able to take over a big company," said the head of an investment bank in Frankfurt. "Nobody feels safe - from Eon and Siemens [the two largest companies by market capitalisation] downwards."

The catalyst for such discussion is the takeover of European steelmaker Arcelor by Mittal, a group largely unknown five years ago whose assets are predominantly in developing countries such as Kazakhstan and Ukraine. "That is the problem," said another senior German banker. "Nobody is quite sure yet what the name of the aggressor could be but they can see it coming and are trying to do all they can to head it off."


FT.com / Companies / Consumer industries - German blue chips fear eastern rivals

segunda-feira, agosto 28, 2006

But might they also be drooling because they're taking hits of leftover dope from 1999?


Sony thinks video sharing has the makings of a respectable business--and then some. Earlier in the week it agreed to spend $65 million to buy Grouper. File this under the heading of "Everybody wants to be like Rupert (Murdoch, of course)," whose $580 million acquisition of MySpace last year is looking smarter by the moment. If Sony is right about Grouper's growth prospects, the acquisition will more than offset management's current embarrassment over the exploding laptop battery fiasco that's led to big product recalls by Dell and Apple Computer.

No doubt Grouper puts up impressive numbers. The traffic tracking firm HitWise rates it No. 8 in the category. But Grouper has never turned a dime of profit. Similarly, YouTube, which was founded 18 months ago, remains in the red.

That has not fazed entertainment industry analysts from predicting YouTube could fetch as much as $1 billion in a buyout. The eerily familiar argument is that this is about eyeballs and traffic and generating a user base. Profits will come later. (For YouTube's sake, I hope so. The company's reportedly burning through $1 million a month.) With a 43 percent share of the online video market, the company commands the kind of reach that makes advertisers drool.

But might they also be drooling because they're taking hits of leftover dope from 1999? The fear is that this is just Napster redux, a case of a successful Web site ringing up enormous traffic on the strength of infringing content. Remember that at the zenith of Napster's popularity, nearly 2.8 billion files were being traded on the service by more than 26 million people globally. (Insiders say the real number was closer to 40 million.)


The promise and peril of video sharing | Perspectives | CNET News.com

terça-feira, agosto 22, 2006

Need for speed sees computers writing the news


Thomson Financial, the business information group, has been using computers to generate some stories since March and is so pleased with the results that it plans to expand the practice.

The computers work so fast that an earnings story can be released within 0.3 seconds of the company making results public.

By using previous results in Thomson's database, the computer stories say whether a company has done better or worse than expected. "This is not about cost but about delivering information to our customers at a speed at which they can make an almost immediate trading decision," said Matthew Burkley, senior vice-president of strategy at Thomson Financial. "This means we can free up reporters so they have more time to think."

Mr Burkley said the computer-generated stories had not made any mistakes. But he said they were very standardised. "We might try and write a few more adjectives into the program."

Thomson started writing computer programs for different types of stories, at a cost of $150,000-$200,000 (£79,623-£106,190) per project, to try to catch up with rivals.

Thomson has also hired hundreds of specialist reporters to boost its news operations. Reuters said it automatically generated some stories, while Bloomberg said it did not.

The desire for speed reflects the growth of automated trading. Many hedge funds want direct feeds that can be plugged into programs and used for trading.

Thomson's automatic stories are mostly for US company results but it plans to expand in other markets.


FT.com / Companies / Media & internet - Need for speed sees computers writing the news

Workers in favour of extending their hours


the FT/Harris poll reveals substantial support for greater freedom to work longer hours in Germany and France, countries which traditionally have attracted popular domestic backing for their more protective labour regulations.

High unemployment rates in Germany and France - which have been running at twice the rate of Britain's - and the prospect of losing more jobs to lower-cost eastern European labour markets, have prompted some politicians to reconsider the benefits of a more flexible approach to labour regulations.

The poll found that about 65 per cent of Germans and 52 per cent of French oppose government restrictions on working hours.

Only the Spanish were out of step, with 72 per cent of the population backing curbs.

Overall about 47 per cent of western Europeans oppose res-trictions on working hours. This still left a sizeable minority of 40 per cent who were in favour of controls. A third in the UK said the government should have the right to restrict working hours

Britain's opt-out under the EU working-time directive is strongly opposed by domestic unions which fear that vulnerable workers may be forced into choosing to work longer hours than is healthy.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, responding to the survey said: "Attitudes to working-time protection crucially depend on how the question is asked.

"People do want protection against excess working hours that damage their health and relationships, even when poor pay forces them to notch up maximum overtime to provide a decent living standard."

There were big differences however in the attitudes of workers from different countries over their willingness to consider working beyond their normal retirement age.

British employees were most willing, with 72 per cent prepared to work longer compared with only 41 per cent of French workers.


FT.com / Home UK / UK - Workers in favour of extending their hours