FT W/end Pulled Chinese IPO's, Xinjiang issues, US jobs, Dubai art NFT's, Vaccine choices, Archegos


04 Apr

Asian markets open Monday:-  Japan, S Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India.
Markets closed:- Australia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong
European Markets also closed Monday

Online
Chinese tech groups scrap IPOs at record pace after Ant listing pulled
Companies cancel plans to sell shares on Shanghai’s Star Market as regulatory scrutiny rises.
FT research shows 76 companies have pulled their proposed IPO’s in March, more than double February’s. That is going to raise a question mark over the future of the Star Market and the development in offshore capital markets at a time when China is keen to provide an alternative to the US markets as Chinese firms are placed under pressure to delist there.
It is 'a U-turn by Chinese authorities, who had committed to a so-called registration-based system when Star launched with the personal backing of President Xi Jinping.’
That quick listing process it seems is now revoked due to Ant Group. The CSRC is asking more questions and that is increasing listing costs, making the process less attractive.
That said there are still ‘almost 2,300, according to market data provider East Money Information, a backlog that would take about four years to clear based on the pace of IPOs in 2020.’It says '
It says the increased scrutiny of IPOs also comes as official concerns grow that a flood of listings could suck liquidity out of China’s stock market, which has been a global laggard this year.’
I would say the laggard nature this year was because of its strength last year and hence a high base case effect. But I don’t see a lack of liquidity at present in the markets, China has been trying to tighten up on money flowing into the markets and generally withdrawing liquidity as it seeks to rein in debt. It is also tightening up on personal loans being used for either property or stock purchases. It is worried about a pullback from the current highs, with its markets trading at or near mutli year highs; especially if a crash were to occur ahead of the 100th year anniversary.
Additionally it says Beijing wants to see certain kinds of tech companies list; like semiconductors, which are seen as strategically important. That is certainly true and it is looking for money that can’t be ’sanctioned’ in some way by the US.

Multinationals tread cautious path in China boycott
Diplomatic row over Xinjiang abuse allegations risks lasting impact on foreign brands attempting to clean up supply chains
A further look at the situation.
It notes that Chinese netizens are being supported by state media to boycott Hennes & Mauritz, Nike, Adidas, Burberry, Uniqlo and Zara among others as the situation becomes more and more political. A difference from previous situations is that many companies are not prepared to apologise and acquiesce to China’s demands because to do so would result in criticism at home from customers, politicians and lobby groups.
'Zuzanna Pusz, an analyst at UBS, said the boycott was more serious than past crises as the brands have “been caught up in something that’s political”. “If a brand makes a mistake in terms of its communications or the choice of an influencer, it can apologise and make things right. Here, by trying to make things right, they would actually make things wrong,” she said, noting that many western groups have committed to following guidance on sourcing from Better Cotton Initiative, a Geneva-based ethical trade group that counts more than 2,000 brands as members, including Nike and H&M.
Yet membership is now a liability in China, after state media accused BCI of “smearing” Xinjiang and sparking a widespread rejection of its cotton. The non-profit group stopped licensing cotton from Xinjiang last year citing “sustained allegations of forced labour and other human rights abuses in Xinjiang”.
The article notes 'Chinese state broadcaster CCTV last week aired an interview with BCI’s Shanghai representatives, who accused the Geneva headquarters of disregarding its assessments declaring that there was no evidence of “forced labour” in Xinjiang. Mei Xinyu, a researcher affiliated with China’s commerce ministry, told the Financial Times that he believes BCI is now “just one step away from Chinese government sanctions”.
The group should reform its verification work to focus on technical standards and “steer clear of politicised acts”, he said.’
Whilst no doubt the state interview will go down well with the domestic population western watchers are less convinced.
In my view the easiest way to clear up the situation is for China to allow the UN team unfettered and complete access to Xinjiang. They have said they would but as with the WHO team on covid, now they are raising issues and restrictions. If China really has nothing to hide why is it following this path?
I think once again having adopted a state narrative on the matter Beijing cannot now concede to its domestic audience that it hasn’t told the truth. With such control of the media there is little chance the domestic audience will hear anything but the state view. But I think over time people will start to question why is China always denying foreign claims, at some point they may question the party narrative and that will present the party with a much bigger dilemma.

Read also China intensifies Xinjiang propaganda push as global backlash grows
State broadcaster blames ‘terrorist threat’ to justify clampdown on Uyghurs in region.
'CGTN, the international arm of China’s state broadcaster, on Friday aired the final episode in a four-part documentary series that sought to justify the government’s policies by blaming international terrorist groups for violence in the region.’
Interesting to note that ‘Washington last year removed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group that China blames for violence in Xinjiang, from its terror list after concluding that there was “no credible evidence” that it still existed. ETIM had been added to the watchlist in 2004, in a move seen by analysts as a US effort to secure China’s support for the “war on terror”.’
It concludes ‘Adrian Zenz, a US-based scholar at Victims for Communism Memorial Foundation, an advocacy group, wrote on Twitter that many of the interviews in the documentary appeared to be “forced confessions”. “[CGTN] drags Uyghur intellectuals out of prison and makes them confess on camera, with shaven heads and in prison clothes, that the school textbooks they edited reflected the fact that Uyghurs also have cultural heritage outside of China,” he wrote. “[The] documentary should be submitted as evidence for cultural extinction to the Uyghur genocide tribunal.”’

In an increasingly small world, human rights are becoming an increasing part of ESG investing which itself is becoming a more influential part of fund management. The question will increasingly be ‘principles or profit?'

Total rejects campaigners’ pressure to freeze payments to Myanmar junta
French energy group’s chief warns withholding taxes would violate law and endanger local staff
Looks at Total’s response to calls from the Myanmar civil disobedience movement who are seeking to cut off the junta’s access to revenues. Total’s position is slightly blurred by the fact that ‘it is the operator and largest shareholder of the Yadana gasfield off the coast of southern Myanmar. It runs the field and its pipelines with Chevron, Thailand’s PTT, and the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise as its partners.’ That supplies both Myanmar and Thailand.
Again there are no easy solutions.


Front Page Print Edition
Jobs surge boosts US revival hopes
• 916,000 jump beats forecasts • ‘Help is here’ says Biden • Short-term Treasuries hit
Jobs number beat expectations in all areas except in Government hires (which did bounce back but not as much as expected), which gives scope for more upside next month too. Previous month’s were revised up too. But whilst the numbers are good there is still a long way to go.
For me the fact that average hourly earnings actually ticked lower MoM, is a slight +VE as it is likely that that gives the Fed more breathing space, if as many think it is focusing on wage inflation as a key indicator for economic recovery.
Many traders though may see this as a further confirmation of a swifter than expected recovery and hence expect the Fed to start tightening sooner. Bond markets were open and 'The yield on the two-year note rose 0.03 percentage points to 0.19 per cent, one of the largest one-day increases in the past year. Interest rate futures also climbed. ‘

Art puts Dubai back in frame
Looks at the art exhibition that has been held there, 'aimed to take advantage of pent-up demand and is the city’s latest attempt to revive its position as a commercial and tourist hub as it races ahead with a successful vaccination campaign. The usual throng of bespectacled hipsters, ladies-who-lunch and suited but tieless bankers was joined this year by a new crowd of digital enthusiasts seeking out the art world’s latest big-ticket items: non-fungible tokens — works verified by blockchain technology.’
See more below

Washington role in Vienna talks buoys bid to resuscitate Tehran nuclear deal
The US will attend next week’s talks which would be key to getting the agreement back after Trump effectively renegade on the agreement.Whilst no direct talks between Washington and Tehran are expected, just being present is a big +VE signal. This would be a first key stage to getting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action back working and provide a framework for further talks.
A key point will be that whilst China has been supportive of Tehran it has not been able to get Tehran integrated back into the global economy, something that really only the US can do. Something that will not be lost on both Tehran and Beijing.
INSIDE
Page 2
UK reveals 7 die of blood clots after jab
Regulator reports deaths from rare condition amid European concerns. Seven deaths out of 18.1m people who have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The article outlines concerns about the 'unusual combination of blood clots and low platelet levels has previously alarmed some scientists in mainland Europe. Reports of similar incidents have led France, Sweden, Finland, Canada and, most recently, Germany to recommend that younger people, who are more likely to be affected by the condition, avoid the shot. In Norway and Denmark, the vaccine is still suspended.
The MHRA, the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have all said there is no evidence of a causal link between the vaccine and the condition and recommended that governments continue to use the shot.’'
In Norway, health officials have reported at least six such cases among 120,000 recipients of the jab, four of whom died. In Germany, 31 cases have been reported after 2.7m vaccinations, including 29 women aged between 20 and 63, and two men aged 36 and 57. Nine of them have died. In the UK the MHRA has not provided information on age or gender for the cases.'

It highlights that we still do not know everything about the virus and that we don’t know all about how the vaccines react to different individuals. I don’t know how many people die from the annual flu jab but I am sure there are a few; more than 7?

Barcelona restaurateurs envy Madrid’s more palatable rules
Highlights the regional differences to social distancing and how it is causing disquiet.

Page 3
Europe’s ports prepare to be busy clearing Suez backlog
Ships likely to ‘dump’ cargo and rush back to Asia and reap higher rates for freightWhilst the Suez Canal was block they were quiet, with it being re-opened they expect to be very busy initially.
Operators are negotiating for berths or anchorages as the late arrivals compete with some ships that are still currently on schedule. They also need space to off-load the containers and then transport to get them delivered to the end customer. They will be trying to arrange return cargo or for empty containers to be loaded as there is a big imbalance between where empty containers are needed (Asia) and where the empty ones are currently located (Europe and US) a reflection of the state of the recovery.
The Suez blockage adds to the problems that ports were already experiencing with it says a booming ecommerce sector but a shortage of containers in China in addition to covid outbreaks at the ports and additional border controls.
Some ports have set up special units to deal with the issue; after berths the next problem is what to do with the containers as they have to clear customs etc. In my view it is one area where the use of blockchain for what is still a paper intensive process would be beneficial.
Not only is there a backlog but additional ships are being allowed through the canal to try and clear the waiting vessels. Ports may operate longer hours but storage and paperwork are likely to be the weak links.
For the ship operators current rates are high and they want to take advantages of them so speed is off the essance.
On the flip side 'the cost of maintaining one ship per day was about $6,000-$8,000, while the loss of charter income a day was in the range of $15,000-$25,000, making any further waits undesirable.’
For investors shipping companies logistics in general are benefitting from the recovery and easing in social distancing. Shippers are doing well but the outlook of more ships being brought back into service and rising oil costs is going to hurt margins over time. For container makers there is a window due to the current imbalance of empty containers in the west and demand for them in Asia but that too is being resolved.
The question is whether the export business from Asia has dramatically changed and I don’t think it has and that over the course of the next year we will see a return to more normal trade patterns.

Page 4
HK executives choose China jabs for visas to mainland
For the basic reason of increased chances of getting a visa to travel into China, as Beijing announced “visa facilitation” for overseas visitors who choose a Chinese made jab. Bearing in mind the choice the BioNTech jab, with a 95 per cent efficacy rate, and the CoronaVac shot by Sinovac, with a 50 per cent efficacy rate it could be a costly choice.
Furthermore a Chinese vaccine then could preclude those people from getting visa’s to other countries that are offering quarantine free travel, like Iceland to those vaccinated with recognised 'vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organization. No Chinese-made shots are on either’s list.’
A key point is that you cannot 'mix and match’ once you have embarked on one source of vaccine you cannot take another vaccine for around 9 mths to a year. So any decision made now is going to have lasting impact.
For a lot of people especially overseas Americans they will be waiting to see whether the US makes a similar requirement.
For those younger people whose business is in China, it will be a simple business decision based in part on the fact that they feel young and healthy.
The article notes that many in Hong Kong are reluctant to get vaccinated; partly it says from distrust of the government, some concerned about the safety of the vaccines and I think some because the city has been successful in containing the virus and so they see little need.
Without doubt there are concerns about the vaccines and as other articles have shown some people do have reactions to the vaccines. It seems to me that those reactions in terms of numbers are small and people have similar reactions to the annual flu jabs which cause alarm but is generally accepted.
These are vaccines that have been developed in record time and are still being refined as are the annual flu jabs. So as long as the companies are open about their results, something that the Chinese makers have been accused of not being, then for the greater good I think people should be vaccinated. The choice of which one shouldn’t be down to a visa choice and the WHO and governments should agree the standards.

Read also
Dubai art fair paints back-to-normal picture. (Page 4)
Thousands visit downsized event as emirate recovers from second Covid wave.It is trying to promote its tourist industry along with commerce and the event has been successful in terms of achieving sales. Dubai was one of the first to allow travellers to enter on production of a PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival and it has had a successful vaccination programmes including some ’vaccination tourism’. Last year a number of conferences where still held there because of its ‘openness to travelers'. But that openness has triggered a spike in cases and admissions. Currently its second wave is receding but new case numbers are higher than the UK and US on a per capita basis. Furthermore as the delegates and visitors return home there is the potential for further spreading of the virus.
Talking to friends there, most have been offered the Chinese vaccine; as a lot are in government related jobs, but there has been concern over taking it in case the US or Europe then don’t accept it, much in the same way the China has announced visa priority for those that take the Chinese made vaccines. They also comment that they are worried about the virus, especially in the popular restaurants and night spots.It's a tough call, people want to return to the norms but as the saying goes ‘less haste and more speed’
Worth also noting from the article the rise a new collector. 'digital natives prone to proselytising the latest phenomenon: NFTs (non-fungible tokens), works of digital art verified by blockchain technology.
As collectors wandered the halls of Art Dubai, NFT enthusiasts joined an inaugural crypto-art cruise, where new works were displayed by UAE-based banker-turned-NFT artist Amrita Sethi.
The eye-watering sales prices raised by digital practitioners, fuelled by the soaring value of cryptocurrencies, have persuaded established artists to jump on the bandwagon, including Damien Hirst. A digital work by artist Beeple sold at auction for $69.3m last month.’

Many of us probably cannot fathom the value of a NFT or the link between blockchain and physical items but to the younger generation who are prepared to spend real money to buy a ’skin’ for their avatar in a video game; NFT and art or for that matter a lot of other things of value like Birkin handbags or Nike special edition shoes…. It makes perfect sense.
If you want to know more let me know.

Also read Opinion Gimmicks are creating a market of their own. He concludes 'We are starting to get the collective’s measure. One day, the novelty of works of art and video clips being engineered into NFTs will also fade, and the pricing power of those digital gimmicks will diminish. Capitalism is relentless: even the tricks devised to deconstruct it lose their wonder in time.’He might be right but for the moment NFT’s are in the spotlight.

Page 6
FT BIG READ. WEALTH MANAGEMENT The $6tn family office world
Family offices for the super-rich control almost twice the amount of assets that are managed by hedge funds, yet are largely unregulated. After the implosion of Archegos this week, that could start to change.
As I wrote last weekend the Family Office business expanded as the regulators clamped down on Hedge Funds; after the Achegoes incident; family offices are likely to come under the same pressure both from the regulator and from the banks.
It is big business as UBS reports it estimates 'On average, they control assets worth $1.6bn apiece, according to another 2020 study by UBS, and a handful can stretch into hundreds of billions of dollars. Typically, each family office has two or three offices, often in hubs like Singapore, Luxembourg and London’
But most are subject to very little regulation apart from Anti Money Laundering because they are only managing a family’s money. They have no need to make any public statements or declarations unless their holdings in a public company are of a size that requires it.
But it notes the definitions of a family office can be blurry; ' “It could be an entrepreneur selling a business who asks his bankers to invest the money, a multifamily office where families organise their affairs together, or a third party firm that manages the assets of family offices. Because there’s a lack of a decent definition there is no regulatory grip over it.”
’The Dodd-Frank act tightened general financial requirements but exempted family offices, many think that was a mistake: 'Tyler Gellasch, a former SEC official and executive director of financial reform group Healthy Markets, argues this was a mistake even though family offices might not have outside investors. “Family offices can still do bad things . . . They can still hurt the overall market,” he says. “We now have a clear example of someone exploiting the family office exemption and creating systemic risk.”
In his statement on Thursday, CFTC commissioner Berkovitz said other exemptions have opened the door to “convicted felons, market manipulators, and other financial market miscreants” to operate freely under family offices. “The information required would fit on a Post-it note, and the CFTC estimated the annual cost of the filing to be merely $28.50. In my view, there is no reasonable justification for such a policy,” he said'
The fact that there’s such a diversity of strategies at family offices is another issue. Most are quietly protecting and building wealth, others; probably at the other extreme, like Archegos, are taking large leveraged bets using banks money.
It cites a number of former hedge managers who now run family offices with seemingly good results as they are no longer constrained by regulation and institutional investor scrutiny; like Michael Platt who decided in 2015 to convert his hedge fund BlueCrest into a family office. Louis Bacon’s Moore Capital, which cited a “challenging business model” in 2019 when it told investors it was closing its flagship hedge fund to external money. Both subsequently made record profits as they had the ability to take more risk.
So some have been very successful the regulators will need to determine why they were able to do so without blowing up and how much responsibility lies with the banks.
It notes that is not all one sided 'One such banker pointed to a long-running legal tussle between Deutsche Bank and Sebastian Holdings, an investment fund run by billionaire financier Alexander Vik. SHI sued the bank for $8bn in 2008 over issues relating to margin calls stemming from trades with its prime brokerage division. The judge ended up ruling in favour of the bank in 2013, and some proceedings are still under way’.
That was a reminder that family offices were not institutional players but should be treated like private clients; higher trading costs, more controls and less leverage. But that was 2013 and memories fade and the desire for profit grows; especially the trading related fees.
I still think that because Hwang had met with the banks to try and unwind the positions in an orderly fashion when the margin call was made but then some of the banks took advantage of that meeting to protect their interests first; that the regulators needs to tighten up on such moves which seem to border on insider trading.

See Editorial Archegos’s cautionary tale for banking
How the lure of fat fees made banks forget the lessons of the crisis
'In ancient Greek, Archegos is a leader or pioneer. The eponymous family office certainly pioneered financial acrobatics. Forced to liquidate positions in blue-chip stocks after being unable to pay margin calls, Archegos Capital left some of the world’s biggest banks with outsize losses, and regulators with some questions to answer.’
Suggests that family offices need more disclosure requirements. That Credit Suisse’s risk management needs a review, as this is the latest in a string of incidents where 'an ineffective risk-warning system too easily overruled by deal-hungry senior managers.’
Makes the point that it would appear that some banks have not heeded the lessons from 2008. Also makes the point that banks are not the predominant force they were and that other non-bank financials could be involved too; in lowering standards to achieve gains.
It concludes 'Some steps were taken globally to tame the most toxic parts of non-bank finance. Dealing with disparate entities in different jurisdictions means finding common rules is hard. Reforms can target regulated banks that act as prime brokers to leveraged counter-parties. Margin requirements — banks’ demands for counterparties to put up more collateral for trades; the catalyst for Archegos’s woes — could be made more countercyclical. When asset prices rise, so too should the margin required to initiate trades. That would protect banks more in times of stress.
Financial-reform fatigue has set in and banks are forgetting the fundamental lessons of the crisis. Archegos’s parable is a warning they must not repeat the same mistakes.’
It is probably also worth noting that a lot of the senior risk managers who experienced 2008 may now have left and those now in charge are not as aware of the potential dangers.

Also Devout pastor’s son at the centre of a Wall Street scandal. Looks more a Bil Hwang’s background and upbringing.
Read Twitchy resilience becomes norm in equity markets which notes that the markets in Q1 have managed the various flare up events in their stride.  Albeit not a smooth quarter, just look at the bond markets, but it has been a resilient one.  Tantrums are likely to become more common and interpreting data sometimes more complicated due to the covid impact.  That makes picking winners or losers more difficult especially in trying to determine what the new normal will be post pandemic.Q2 is very likely to be similar to Q2 with ’twitchy resilience’ …. one hopes.

Fossil fuel investors leave clean peers green with envy. 'We have a consensus that there has to be a transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. And particularly with the departure of the Trump administration, we largely agree on the requirement to shift from fossil fuel.
So why have fossil fuel equities prices, broadly, been rising since the beginning of the year, and why are many clean energy equities performing weakly, or even declining in price?’
An interesting read but I think the key is that the fossil fuel sector used to make up a huge part of the indexes, it fell from favour when the ESG camp took the ascendancy. This year in addition to the factors that John Dizard mentions is the base comparison effect coupled with a lot of investors being seriously underweight fossil fuels as the oil price recovered and continues to recover along with the economy; as highlighted by last weeks OPEC+ statement.
Mark Tinker at Market Thinking has a few articles on this subject;
ESG – be careful what you wish for October 16, 2020
https://market-thinking.com/2020/10/esg-be-careful-what-you-wish-for/
Is a good one to start with.

Fixed income. US bonds. Investors braced for further Treasuries turbulence
Observers caught out by sharp increase in yields as inflation expectations grow stronger
Starts with 'The $21tn US government bond market is in for a “bumpy” ride, investors warn, after a tumultuous quarter marked by the worst performance for long-dated Treasuries in more than four decades.’
The key is that no one knows what will happen and that there is no play book to follow.
It says 'This environment makes bond prices, particularly at the longer end of the maturity spectrum, far more sensitive to interest rate fluctuations, strategists say. Longer term bonds are also more susceptible to changes in the inflation outlook since the payments they provide are fixed over a long time horizon and stronger price growth makes these coupons less alluring.’
Some expect the US Government bond losses to ease as foreign investors see them as attractive. Worth noting especially to the Japanese and with the start of a new corporate year in Japan we could see increased buying from them in the near future. But any recovery could prompt selling by others, especially in the light of the Fed’s willingness to allow yields to rise.
Key to me is that the Fed’s focus is on wage inflation rather than anything else. Other factors will be monitored but with less weight.
Biden’s stimulus packages are an important factor in the improving economic outlook; with economists raising their projections and Friday’s jobs number will add fuel to the fire, and many expecting the T10 to trade at 2% or more in the not so distant future.
“The market is buying what the Fed is selling, which is that there is going to be more inflation,” Desai said (chief investment officer at Franklin Templeton’s fixed income group,). “The danger is a loss of another kind of credibility, [one] related to whether or not they can bring it back down again.”
Treasury auctions will be watched very carefully with concerns over liquidity ever since the February auction stumbled.
It concludes 'The Fed has not yet expressed concern about the rise in yields, but it has set parameters for the kind of market moves that would worry policymakers.“The Fed has made it clear that it is not OK if rates are going higher and it hits financial conditions and chokes off the recovery,” said Sara Devereux, global head of rates at Vanguard. “It is also not OK if rates are going higher . . . because of disorder in the market or because of liquidity issues.”’
I think another key factor will be that asset allocators are, I think, from the fact we didn’t see a big sell off in equites into the end of Q1, not looking to rebalance their equity bond weightings. Currently bonds are not providing a hedge and furthermore, in the past taking out such insurance paid the funds, now it costs. So why would you do it?
A revision of the equity bond ratio is taking place, equities outside the US have yet to really reweigh but they will. Asset allocators are looking at value/growth stocks but haven’t given up on the momentum plays which could still have space to run despite the current elevated valuations. There is risk but rising treasury yields is more of a certainty than ever as inflation comes back into the system.

Singapore steals march on Hong Kong with record number of arbitration cases
Hong Kong’s has remained flat over the past five years and in 2020 it oversaw 483 new cases in 2020, fewer than the previous three years but above 2016 levels but Singapore’s more than doubled in the past year. With parties from 60 countries including Hong Kong deciding to use Singapore’s services; with a dramatic increase in US parties using the city, probably due to perceived concerns about the neutrality of Hong Kong.
So far Singapore has managed to maintain an independence from both China and the US.It is just part of Singapore’s efforts at position itself as an alternative to Hong Kong as a regional hub.

US retail trading cools as consumers switch focus to holidays and spending
Looks at the drop in the 21 day moving average of retail trading flows versus the expectation that flows would increase with the arrival of new stimulus cheques. It also co-insides with a drop in some of the recently popular day trading names like Tesla. It suggests that many are sitting on loses but not selling but hoping for a rebound in the tech names that have sold down recently.
But it says whilst retail volumes are low, investor confidence remains high with overall flows into global funds hitting a record weekly high mid March. US funds attracting the most money. The Conference Board measure has been rising which suggests increased intentions to buy big ticket items which could explain the drop in retail on line investing along with increased air travel.
I would expect flows to continue to fall as workers return to their offices where they will be less able to trade online.

For interest in how the internet can change things and what the future is likely to embrace.
Scalpel, tongs . . . WiFi? The rise of virtual surgery
'Zoom for surgeons. Or as Nadine Hachach-Haram, a plastic surgeon in the UK’s NHS and the founder of Proximie, the platform I watched, says: “The idea is to bring virtual healthcare workers together — we are digitising the operating theatre and bringing it to people around the world.”’
Worth a read, in Hong Kong investors have already latched onto the potential in remote healthcare , through AliHealth and the other on-line providers and the trend in likely to continue if only because an on-line appointments saves the hassle /disruption to the working day of going to the surgery and no one these days wants to sit in a doctor’s eating room. But it makes the point that this could be even bigger in developing markets; '“They are looking for new ideas or ways to take an idea from one area and apply it somewhere else. Developing markets can sometimes leapfrog the west because there is less resistance to digital adoption.”'
She concludes 'To put it another way, when historians look back at the Covid-19 era, they may not just conclude that it changed how we work but that it also accelerated the movement of skills, ideas and money. Those gory videos of “Zoom surgery” are one tiny symbol of a new type of globalisation.’

Also read Improbable’s Matrix-inspired dream fades
UK software group planned to help games developers build vast virtual worlds but it has struggled to secure hit titles.
Key seems to be that the tech is praised by computer scientists for its precision but game developers are not familiar with it, which seems a fundamental flaw. Also the cost and labour involved is higher than expected. Interestingly Softbank is an investor and I think it is probably worth noting that the co founder is 32-year-old Herman Narula, the son of a billionaire construction magnate.
Also worth noting 'Improbable has seen several top executives depart the company. Its first head of games, Nick Button-Brown, left in 2016 and is now a board member at a rival start-up, coherence.
“I’ve always believed there are truly amazing and revolutionary online games to be made,” said Button-Brown, an Improbable shareholder. “That is why I joined Improbable originally and this is the reason I’m now helping coherence to achieve this.”
Five executives hired in 2017 and 2018 have left the company and a new chief legal officer that Improbable announced last April departed after six months, according to LinkedIn.’
Improbably says that is below the industry average.
It’s current main source of revenue is from 'contracts with the UK military worth more than £25m since 2019 …… developing a tool providing virtual training for our Armed Forces in simulated environments’
It 'intends to release later this year the game developed by Midwinter called Scavengers. It is not the massive world filled with thousands of players of which Narula had long dreamt. Rather, Scavengers is a battleroyale game, with up to 60 players in each match, fewer than the 100 accommodated by the hit game Fortnite.’
It maybe a case of the tech being ahead of the users at the moment but the costs involved are a concern too. An interesting read and a reminder that not all tech works.

For Interest Deliveroo’s founder is shaken but undeterred
Debacle of mooted $8.8bn IPO by chicken nugget fan punctures London’s tech aspirations, writes Tim Bradshaw
An interesting read, just as Bill Hwang has rocked Wall Street, Will Shu has had an impact in London, with his IPO which tried to change the standard pactice.
'Engulfed in rows over corporate governance, tech valuations and gig workers’ rights, shares in the company closed down 26 per cent on their first day. That was the worst performance for a large UK listing in decades and shook London’s ambitions to lure more tech deals.’
Like Bill Hwang to many he seems like a nice guy with a strong business ethic. But whilst he has found favour with venture capitalists on the basis of his ‘online food company’ the public and institutions are less convinced with concerns about the loss in 2020 which should have been perfect conditions for food delivery. Also 'insistence on dual-class shares, which hand him control of the board and shield him from activist investors or hostile takeovers until they expire in three years. On top of that, there are regulatory concerns that Deliveroo’s 100,000 couriers may eventually be reclassified as workers or employees, at a cost that could break its business model.’
Notes that he get various responses
'Fred Destin, a London-based seed investor, insists that Shu “always cared about the riders” and wrestled with the issue from the earliest board meetings. “Will is not some kind of megalomaniac, Silicon Valley, ‘I wanna make money at all costs’ kind of a guy,” he says.
Deliveroo has called for a “third way” in employment law that would give its contract workers more protections and benefits. Yet, while many Deliveroo riders value the flexibility of gig work, not all admire the boss.“Generally there’s a pretty negative view of him for any rider that’s been doing this a while because we’ve seen the conditions and pay decline,” said Joseph Durbidge, who has delivered for Deliveroo in London for over two years. Deliveroo says the average fee per delivery has risen year on year.’
It concludes 'Setbacks are not new to Shu, who has always bounced back before, says Mignot, adding that Deliveroo’s many “doubters” over the years have “become fuel to him”. Shu now has three years before his dual-class controls expire to prove the doubters wrong.’

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