Wednesday, March 30, 2016

South Korea industrial production rebounds; Steel crisis puts UK ministers in 'disarray'; Neighbours outshine Singapore in IPOs

1 South Korea industrial production rebounds (BBC) South Korea's industrial activity rebounded in February, supported by the chemicals and chip making businesses. Official numbers showed industrial production increased by 3.3% from a month earlier, marking the the biggest monthly increase since late 2014.

In January, the export dependent nation saw production fall by 2.1%. South Korea's economy has been hurt in recent times by softer demand from China, one of its most important trading partners.

Following a raft of disappointing economic data, South Korea's government unveiled new stimulus measures in February designed to help boost exports and domestic demand. South Korea, which is Asia's fourth largest economy, saw its economy expand by 3.1% in the three months to December compared to a year earlier.

2 Steel crisis puts UK ministers in ‘disarray’ (The Guardian) David Cameron has flown back to Britain for emergency talks with ministers over the financial crisis engulfing Tata Steel’s British operation – amid warnings that the firm has just weeks to secure a rescue deal on which up to 40,000 jobs could depend.

The Indian-owned company said it was losing £1m a day, with a source claiming that the government’s failure to back calls in Europe for higher tariffs against cheap Chinese imports was the “last straw”, prompting the decision to sell the business that was once British Steel and more recently Corus.

Labour accused the government of being in “disarray” as Cameron and his business secretary, Sajid Javid, scrambled back to the UK after Tata announced it would be selling off British plants. Jeremy Corbyn has urged Cameron to treat the unfolding situation as a national crisis by recalling parliament and considering bringing Britain’s ailing steel industry back into public ownership.

However, Javid rejected the idea of nationalisation, which government officials believe will carry a pricetag of £1.5bn a year. “I don’t think that nationalisation is going to be the solution,” said Javid. “I think everyone would want a long-term viable solution and, if you look around Europe and elsewhere, I think nationalisation is rarely the answer, particularly if you take into account the big challenges the industry faces.”

The financial problems facing Tata are so significant that the value of its British steel operations are now “almost zero”. The company source said Tata was now prepared to “give it away for nothing”. They warned that Tata had tried and failed to find a buyer over the past 18 months because of the amount of money needed to get the company back on track.

Tata’s decision came after Javid opposed calls last month to scrap a regulation known as the “lesser duty rule”, which would have allowed the EU to increase tariffs on Chinese steel beyond the current 9%. The government said this would lead to higher costs for users of steel and was not a proportionate response.

3 Neighbours outshine Singapore in IPOs (Straits Times) Singapore's reign as the premier destination for initial public offerings in South-east Asia has come to an end. Its exchange had the smallest haul of new share sales among the region's four largest stock markets in 2015. Listings this year on South-east Asia's biggest bourse have totalled $34 million, lagging behind Thailand and Malaysia.

Singapore's slide down the IPO rankings reflects not so much its own failings, but the growing ability of rivals from Jakarta to Bangkok to convince local issuers to stay at home instead of flocking to the regional hub. Indonesia, which has South-east Asia's biggest population and largest economy, plans to start an exchange dedicated to young technology companies, while Thailand's premier has highlighted the importance of the country's capital markets.

Singapore's decline in new listings adds to the challenges faced by Mr Boon Chye Loh, who became chief executive officer of Singapore Exchange in July and has been trying to restore confidence in a market where turnover hasn't recovered from a mystery penny-stock crash in 2013.

Companies that listed last year in Singapore raised $366 million, its worst performance since 2001. The amount was less than 10 per cent of funds raised from Thailand's IPOs, just a third of Malaysia's and half of Indonesia's, the data show. Globally, companies have raised $14.5 billion from IPOs in 2016, a 67 per cent plunge from the same period last year.

Singapore will continue to be relevant as a listing destination, said Mr Michael Wu, an analyst at Morningstar in Hong Kong. The island's pro-business regulatory environment, political stability and robust currency makes it an ideal place for issuers and investors, he said.

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