1 For ninth straight year, Singapore ‘best place to do business’ (BBC) Singapore has been ranked the best country to do business for a ninth consecutive year, according to an annual survey by the World Bank. New Zealand came second and Hong Kong third in the lender’s “Doing Business” report which rates 189 nations by the ease in which firms can operate there.
The UK moved up one position to eighth while the US stayed at number seven. Eritrea was at the bottom of the table, along with Libya, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. The World Bank ranking uses metrics such as the time taken to launch and close a business, gain construction permits and pay taxes in a country’s largest business city.
The survey, which was first published in 2004, was expanded this year to include the second-largest business city in countries that have more than 100 million people. There were 11 countries that were affected by this change, including China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan. China advanced three places to 90th while Japan fell two spots to 29th.
2 Terminal decline for UK superstores (Joanna Blythman in The Guardian) The supermarket sector is in meltdown. An overstatement? Hardly. In the cool-headed assessment of the Grocer magazine, the most authoritative voice on UK food retail, “consumers are abandoning supermarkets in their droves”. Tesco, once the darling of the stock market, the government’s pet performing British company, is in the most acute distress. From January to June this year, its profits crashed by 92%.
Morrisons is also in a bad way – its pre-tax profit for the six months to August was halved. Sainsbury’s share price has dropped. Even the supposedly trend-bucking Waitrose cannot be complacent: its profits for the first half of this year slumped by 9.4%. Overall, sales at the “big four” supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – have been stagnant, or in decline, since last May, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics. Rating agency Moody’s predicts that their profit margins and sales will shrink further.
Two German discount chains, Aldi and Lidl, acted as the immediate nemesis of the fat, smug, greedy status quo of British food retail. They dealt a deadly blow to our familiar chains by exposing just how expensive they really are. Before the discounters appeared, most British consumers swallowed the attractive proposition that UK supermarkets offer unbeatable value for money.
Supersize supermarket formats, “extra”-type stores are now written off by analysts as white elephants, an over-enthusiastic last century blunder. Traditional markets, small shops, farmers markets, box schemes, bread clubs, food co-ops and online enterprises are all holding their own or doing better than before. The alternatives to supermarkets not only look more attractive, but increasingly shrewd and practical.
Britain’s longstanding exclusive relationship with the supermarkets is in terminal decline as more people conclude that they have had quite enough of devoting a morning to driving to a soul-crushing store, buying the same things and paying ever more for them each week. This is no mere passing argument, but an irretrievable relationship breakdown, one built on slow-burning resentment, from which there is no way back.
3 China property loans fall 23% in Q3 (Straits Times) Banks’ lending to China’s property sector fell 23.3 per cent in the third quarter from the previous three months, Reuters calculations from central bank data have showed, another sign of cooling momentum in the housing market.
Chinese banks lent 570 billion yuan to home buyers and property developers between July and September this year, easing from the second quarter’s 743 billion yuan and down 5 per cent from a year ago. Reduced demand for property loans reflects sluggish sales as developers struggled with high inventories and banks became more cautious about lending to developers and investors.
For the first nine months, total property loans issued hit 2.1 trillion yuan, up 213 billion yuan from a year ago, the central bank said. Outstanding mortgages by the end of September were up 17.5 per cent from a year ago, but down a shade from end June’s 18.4 per cent rise, it said.