BUSINESS

China’s bicycle-sharing giants are still trying to make money

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Shades of cycling joySTEVE JOBS liked to describe computers as “bicycles for the mind”—tools that let humans do things faster and more efficiently than their bodies would allow. The internet-connected bikes flooding the streets of urban China could be called “computers for the road”. Networked, trackable and data-generating, they are ones and zeros in aluminium form.The cycles belong to Ofo and Mobike, two startups that, taken together, have raised $2.2bn of capital and are valued at more than $4bn. Each has between 7m and 10m bikes in China, averages 30m-35m rides a day and, having entered more than 100 Chinese cities, is expanding abroad. At the start of 2016 neither firm had a single bike on a public road. Ofo’s canary-yellow cycles and Mobike’s silver-and-orange ones can now be found i

Wealth inequality has been widening for millennia

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THE one-percenters are now gobbling up more of the pie in America—that much is well known. This trend, though disconcerting, is not unique to the modern era. A new study, by Timothy Kohler of Washington State University and 17 others, finds that inequality may well have been rising for several thousand years, at least in some parts of the world. The scholars examined 63 archaeological sites and estimated the levels of wealth inequality in the societies whose remains were dug up, by studying the distributions of house sizes.As a measure they used the Gini coefficient (a perfectly equal society would have a Gini coefficient of zero). It rose from about 0.2 around 8000BC in Jerf el-Ahmar, on the Euphrates in modern-day Syria, to 0.5 in around 79AD in Pompeii. Data on burial goods, though spar

How tech giants are ruled by control freaks

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THIS month Schumpeter visited the Barnes Foundation, a gallery in Philadelphia full of paintings by Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh. Albert Barnes, born in 1872, is notable for two things. He made a fortune from an antiseptic that cured gonorrhoea. And he stipulated exactly how his art collection should be posthumously displayed. The result is hundreds of paintings jammed together nonsensically, often in poky rooms, and the creepy feeling of a tycoon controlling you from the grave.Barnes’s string-pulling comes to mind when considering today’s prominent tycoons, who often hail from technology, e-commerce and media. At the moment they seem omnipotent. But many founders are gradually cashing in shares in their companies. The consequences will vary by firm, with some tycoons gradually ceding con

The last media mogul stuns his industry with talk of selling

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THE only media mogul still bestriding his industry in old-fashioned style is used to being a predator rather than prey, a builder of empires, not a dismantler of them. So Rupert Murdoch’s reported willingness to sell off much of 21st Century Fox, whether to a rival such as Disney or to a distribution firm like Comcast or Verizon, has come as a shock to many. It should not.If Fox does follow through with selling the assets—its film and TV studio, its stake in Sky, a European satellite broadcaster, and many of its cable networks—it may well be remembered as one of his cleverest moves. Mr Murdoch would have correctly judged a shifting media and regulatory landscape and sold high (perhaps for $50bn or more; see chart). He would retain lucrative assets in news and sports broadcasting, notably F

Does Hong Kong’s Octopus card have too many tentacles?

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Your extensible friendIN 1997, two months after Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty, it acquired a cutting-edge payment technology. People could rush through turnstiles with a wave of their colourful Octopus cards—stored-value cards pre-loaded with cash. Its latest advance, however, is risibly low-tech. On October 30th Octopus launched an extensible pole with a plastic hand to help drivers pay at toll booths. Critics of Hong Kong’s cautious approach to fintech snorted in derision. Meanwhile, a government official was quoted as blaming Octopus for stifling the city’s shift to cashlessness. Both criticisms are unfair. Hong Kongers enthusiastically embrace electronic payments and do well from the fierce competition between different platforms.The Octopus card, designed for journeys on H

The case for reforming airport-slot allocation

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GULLIVER is back from the 141st Slot Conference in Madrid, a meeting of airlines and airport co-ordinators run by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airline lobby group. In this week’s issue, he opened the lid on how landing and take-off slots are allocated at congested airports around the world:Instead of letting airports decide who would use their runways and when, the system was designed to have schedules hammered out by committees of airlines. In the 1960s, as growing traffic started to fill up some airports, the committees became a way of parcelling out the most prized slots.Since the 1970s, allocation has been steered in most countries by IATA’s “Worldwide Slot...Continue readingPowered by WPeMatico

America’s culture wars are spreading to hotels

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CHOOSING a hotel for a trip is generally seen as an apolitical decision. In contrast, restaurants and cafes have sometimes taken on an ideological tinge, with conservatives mocking liberals for their latte coffees, and liberals ribbing conservatives for their deep-fried everything and well-done steaks. But for most hotel users, location and good Wi-Fi matter more than the ideology of the owners. In some places that now appears to be changing: a trend turbocharged since the arrival of Donald Trump, an owner of an international hotel brand, in politics.Suddenly the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC—on the same street as the White House and Capitol building—became the most politically-charged building in the city, if not the country. Celebrity chefs scrapped their plans to open

Sona Group to unveil ethanol plant in January 2018

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Barring any unforeseen hiccups, Sona Group, a diversified conglomerate with interests in the beverage industry, biscuits, food and allied products among others said it has set a January 2018 date for the completion of a N3 billion ethanol plant it is constructing. The group hopes to meet local demand of ethanol with a daily production capacity of 120,000 litres, which translates to 43.8 million litres per year. The plant which is located at the company’s facility in Sango-Ota, Ogun State is expected to meet the company’s needs with the remaining being sold to local multinationals such as beverage manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and others. The firm noted that it has also received interest across the West African Coast including Ghana, Togo, Republic of Benin, Gabon, Senegal, Ivory

Beta Glass appoints Seun Oni as a Non-Executive Director

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Beta Glass Plc, the glass bottle and metal crown maker announced on Wednesday the appointment of Seun Oni as an independent non-executive director of the firm. According to a statement by the firm, Ms. Oni is a Senior Finance Executive, with over 25 years professional experience spanning Assurance & Business Advisory and leading Financial strategies and processes in multinational organizations. Ms. Oni started her career in 1991 with PricewaterhouseCoopers and took increasing roles within the firm, including leading multidisciplinary consulting engagements for large scale organizations across various industry segments. She moved into operational management in 1999, joining the Coca-Cola Company as the Budget and Planning Manager for Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and held varied roles of increa...

Heineken launches Premium beer Amstel into the Kenyan Market

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Heineken East Africa on Wednesday introduced Amstel beer into the Kenyan market. Speaking at the event to unveil the brand in Nairobi, Heineken East Africa General Manager, Uche Unigwe said, “The introduction of Amstel was informed by the growing demand by Kenyans for a different brand of quality beer in the market. “This provided a great opportunity for us to expand our portfolio of products thus we brought in Amstel to meet this demand”, he said. The GM noted that Kenyan drinkers now have the option of socializing without sacrifice with a beer that instills the confidence of a premium brand choice without losing taste or image. “We want consumers to question their relationship with their current domestic beer and we are confident they will ‘succumb to the aaah taste’ once they’ve experie