BUSINESS

How a small African nation is beating AIDS

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AS A middle-class Senegalese man, Salou (not his real name) was rather proud of his roundness in 2002. But by 2003 his clothes were falling off. He got tested and found he had AIDS. His pregnant wife was also infected with HIV. They went to Dakar, Senegal’s capital, and she was put on antiretroviral drugs to prevent the infection of her unborn child. “When my son was born he tested negative, thank God,” exclaimed Salou. The hopeful tale of Salou’s baby is far from universal. Although west and central Africa have long had a lower prevalence of HIV than the south and east (see map), the region still has a stubbornly high rate of new infections. In south and east Africa close on 20m people have the virus, almost four times more than in west and central Africa. From this high base, the numb

Li Ka-shing cedes a sprawling empire to his son

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“TOO long” was how Li Ka-shing, known fondly by locals as chiu yan (Superman) for his business nous, described his working life when he announced on March 16th that he would be retiring in May. Asia’s pre-eminent dealmaker has been around for longer than his fictional namesake, scoring and selling assets in ports, telecoms, retail and property to amass a fortune estimated at $36bn.Few expect Mr Li, who will turn 90 this summer, to hang up his cape for good. He says he will stay on to advise his eldest son, Victor Li, who will inherit his two main businesses. The first is CK Hutchison, a conglomerate with interests in power plants, perfume and much in between. It runs 52 ports and owns 14,000 high-street stores, including Watsons at home and Superdrug in Britain. The second is CK Asset, one

Why tariffs on steel and aluminium are easier said than done

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HISTORY will rhyme on March 23rd, when Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium imports are due to come into force. Several previous presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, also used tariffs in an attempt to protect America’s steel producers from foreign competition. (There are historical echoes, too, in Mr Trump’s plans to slap tariffs on a range of Chinese imports; in the 1980s Japan was the target.) A rhyme is not a repeat. But past experience is not encouraging.The central problem for America’s policymakers is that trade is like water. Block its flow in one place and pressure builds elsewhere. When many countries are covered by tariffs, trade may simply be diverted through those countries that are let off the hook. Importers will howl for exemptions. As a result, whatever

Japan Inc and the government are trying to tackle overwork

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Dreaming of lifestyle changeSANAE ABUTA is a manager at Panasonic, a giant electronics manufacturer, in Osaka. One day she may work from 9am to 5.45pm. On another she may take a break in the middle, to go to the bank or see a doctor. Or she will stay with her child in the morning and start at 11am. One day a week she works from home. “I appreciate the flexibility,” she says.Ms Abuta’s schedule is unusual in Japan. Long office hours are seen a proxy for hard work, itself regarded as the cornerstone of Japan’s post-war economic boom. Companies offer to look after employees for life in return for a willingness to dedicate that life to the company, including “service” (ie, unpaid) overtime or moving house on demand. People hesitate to leave the office before their peers, and certainly before t

The EU wants to tax tech giants’ revenues

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IT IS a choice that would make Thomas Hobson proud. European officials this week unveiled plans for a quick and dirty tax policy to apply to big digital firms, in theory by the end of the year. The idea, promised since September, would ditch a tradition of taxing profits and instead let collectors in member states take a share, 3% for starters, of the firms’ local revenues. There is a lively debate about where exactly the tech giants create taxable value. Is it where their programmers sit? Or the intellectual property? Or users? The firms have become so adept at tax avoidance that the European Commission is not going to hang around until the argument is settled.Pierre Moscovici, the commissioner overseeing the proposals, was at pains to say on March 21st that the turnover tax would be an “

Dropbox goes public

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DREW HOUSTON and Arash Ferdowsi must have few regrets since they turned down an offer for their startup from Apple’s then boss, Steve Jobs, in 2011. Dropbox hasn’t done too badly in the interim. It rakes in over $1bn in revenue by allowing users—500m at the last count—to store and share data in the cloud. On March 23rd it is due to go public, making it the biggest firm to do so since Snap, a messaging app, floated in early 2017. Dropbox’s range for its share price values it at between $8bn and $9bn. That will comfort other “unicorns”, the tag given to startups valued at over $1bn, that are considering listing.True, the valuation is less than its early backers were hoping for when they valued the company at $10bn in 2014, when it last raised equity. But as Matthew Kennedy from Renaissance C

Indian drugmakers need a new prescription

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A SINGLE pill of Abilify, a drug used to treat manic depression, costs $30 or so in America. Or you could try gAbilify (the g stands for “generic”), better known to chemists as Aripiprazole. Thrifty pharmaceutical companies, many of them in India, can provide it for less than $1 a pop since the drug’s patent expired in 2015. That is bad news for Otsuka and Bristol-Myers Squibb, the two labs that formulated Abilify and got it approved by authorities in the 1990s. Everyone else, from patients to insurers to the public purse, is correspondingly better off. Generics-makers have thrived, particularly in India. But the prognosis for the industry is less rosy.India became the world’s biggest exporter of generics almost by accident. Lax intellectual-property rules in the 1980s allowed its firms to

FDA wants to help unproductive drugmakers

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SCOTT GOTTLIEB, the thoughtful head of America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has had a busy first year. He has launched the process of lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes, approved self-testing kits for breast-cancer genes and waved through the most new medicines in two decades, as well as a record number of copycat drugs (see article). There is one thing he and his regulatory agency are doing less of, however—regulating. New rules were at a 20-year low in 2017, according to analysts at PwC, a consultancy. Instead, the FDA is providing more guidance to industry. This approach, Mr Gottlieb hopes, will help pharmaceutical firms in America develop drugs more efficiently. Since that is where most drug development happens, the FDA’s philosophy matters beyond American borders.Given th

Europeans fret that Chinese investment is a security risk

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“WE ARE not naive free traders. Europe must always defend its strategic interests,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, last year as he introduced plans to screen foreign investment into the European Union. America has had such rules since the 1970s; they are set to tighten further. The EU used to be more relaxed about acquisitions by foreigners. Now it too is toughening up.The target is China, whose firms have been on a shopping spree (see chart). Purchases of fripperies such as football clubs and hotels have been curbed by the Chinese authorities, but investment continues to flow into technology and infrastructure, notes James Zhan of the UN...Continue readingPowered by WPeMatico