african inspired

The next generation of wireless technology is ready for take-off

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NORTH KOREAN athletes will not be the only unusual participants at the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea, which begin on February 9th. Anyone can take part, at least virtually. Many contestants will be watched by 360-degree video cameras, able to stream footage via a wireless network. At certain venues around the country sports fans will be able to don virtual-reality, head-mounted displays to get right into the action. Flying alongside a ski jumper, for instance, will offer an adrenalin rush without any risk of a hard landing.These virtual experiences will be offered by KT, South Korea’s largest telecoms firm. They are meant to showcase the latest generation of wireless technology, known as “5G”. But just as ski jumpers never know exactly how far they will leap after leaving t

Insider trading has been rife on Wall Street, academics conclude

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The joy of knowledgeINSIDER-TRADING prosecutions have netted plenty of small fry. But many grumble that the big fish swim off unharmed. That nagging fear has some new academic backing, from three studies. One argues that well-connected insiders profited even from the financial crisis.* The others go further still, suggesting the entire share-trading system is rigged.**What is known about insider trading tends to come from prosecutions. But these require fortuitous tip-offs and extensive, expensive investigations, involving the examination of complex evidence from phone calls, e-mails or informants wired with recorders. The resulting haze of numbers may befuddle a jury unless they are leavened with a few spicy details—exotic code words, say, or (even better) suitcases filled with cash.The p

Mining firms are dismayed by a new Congolese mining law

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ROBERT Friedland, the boss of Ivanhoe Mines, a large Canadian firm that digs out copper and zinc in Africa, is not one for pessimism. In his speech to an annual mining industry jamboree, Mining Indaba, in Cape Town, his promises about the potential of the business were as copious as the ore bodies his firm mines. But amid the hyperbole about electric cars, Chinese consumers and the “most disruptive copper discovery in the world” there was a note of panic. Money, he warned, is “a coward”, and may be about to flee.The cause of fear is a new mining code that was passed by parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo on January 24th. Congo is Africa’s biggest copper producer; its reserves, mostly in the southern copper belt, are among the world’s richest. As important, it has emerged recentl

How a brothel owner created the world’s biggest industrial park

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Lance Gilman, tech-titan whispererPAST the neon lights of Reno and the cookie-cutter homes of neighbouring Sparks, the I-80 highway winds through a thinly populated expanse of arid hills and lunar valleys in Storey County. On one side of the road flows the Truckee River; on the other bands of wild horses forage for parched grass. Signs of civilisation are restricted to electricity pylons and the odd rundown farmhouse. The Wild Horse Saloon, a dark and smoky room connected to a legal brothel, is the only sit-down restaurant for miles. It is not an area that immediately seems conducive to hosting a business park. Yet Storey County in Nevada is home to the world’s largest by some measures: the Reno Tahoe Industrial Centre (TRI). The park spans 104,000 acres in total—three times the size of Sa

What Natarajan Chandrasekaran must do next at Tata

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FACED with complexity humans often resort to a heuristic, a rough mental template that gets the job done. That could come in handy at Tata Group, India’s largest business, whose dizzying mix of scale, palace politics and sense of moral purpose defy any categorisation. Tata’s boss, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, known as Chandra, has been in the job for a year. He spent 2017 pepping up morale and extinguishing fires. Now he must squeeze Tata into a new strategic framework that clarifies its structure and purpose.Is it a 150-year-old national monument, a philanthropic vehicle or a conglomerate? In Schumpeter’s view Tata should instead be positioned as a holding company—like Berkshire Hathaway but minus the personality cult and with Indian characteristics.Tata is a handful. It has 695,000 staff an

Airbus executives get swept away by a corruption investigation

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 “THE success of Airbus is intimately linked to the success of John,” says Eric Schulz, successor to John Leahy, who has been chief salesman for the planemaker since 1994. Mr Leahy’s aggressive strategy to gain orders expanded Airbus’s market share for civil jets from 18% in 1994 to over 50%. Salesmen at Boeing, Airbus’s rival, say they wish their bosses were as good. But this year’s Singapore Airshow, which began on February 6th, will be Mr Leahy’s last before retirement.That is in itself a big change for Airbus, but staff turnover does not stop there. In December the firm said Tom Enders, its German-born chief executive, would step down in 2019; his French second-in-command, Fabrice Brégier, will leave this month. These changes follow the news that several countries, including Britain, F

Bitcoin and its rivals offer no shelter from the storm

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THE “biggest bubble in human history comes down crashing,” tweeted Nouriel Roubini, an economist, gleefully. After an exhilarating ride skywards in 2017, investors in crypto-currencies have been rudely reminded that prices can plunge earthwards, too. In mid-December the price of bitcoin was just shy of $20,000; by February 6th, it had fallen to $6,000, before recovering a little (see chart).And bitcoin is not the only digital currency to have fallen. Figures from CoinMarketCap, a website, show that the total market capitalisation of crypto-currencies has fallen by more than half this year, to under $400bn. This slide has taken place amid a flurry of hacks, fraud allegations and a growing regulatory backlash.Perhaps the most damaging allegations surround Tether, a company that issues a virt

Creditors call time on China’s HNA

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THE ascent of HNA, an aviation-to-financing giant, began on six wings and a prayer. It started out as Hainan Airlines, set up on China’s southern palm-fringed island in 1993 with three planes, in a joint venture between a Buddhist businessman, Chen Feng, and the local government of Hainan. In 2000 the firm became HNA Group and, from a Buddha-shaped headquarters, Mr Chen built his enterprise into an empire with more than $150bn in assets. Foreign trophies came next. The firm borrowed heavily to finance deals worth $50bn since 2015 over six continents, including a 25% stake in the Hilton hotel group and 9.92% of Deutsche Bank.In recent weeks it has become clear that its gorging—which had continued apace even after HNA was among those firms singled out for scrutiny by China’s banking regulato

South-to-South investment is rising sharply

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AT A meeting in Namibia last month Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, made a pitch to lure African investors to an economy ruined by Robert Mugabe. That he did so first in Windhoek, not London or New York, is telling. Although flows through tax havens muddy the data, 28% of new foreign direct investment (FDI) globally in 2016 was from firms in emerging markets—up from just 8% in 2000.Chinese FDI, a big chunk of this, shrank in 2017 as Beijing restricted outflows and America and Europe screened acquisitions by foreigners more closely. But the trend of outbound investment is widespread. Almost all developing countries have companies with overseas affiliates. Most of their investment goes to the West. But in two-fifths of developing countries they make up at least half of incomin