Monday, May 23, 2016

'China needs massive bailout'; World's first 3D-printed office in UAE; Uber tests self-driving car; People of no religion outnumber Christians in England & Wales

1 ‘China needs massive bailout’ (Straits Times) Charlene Chu, a banking analyst who made her name warning of the risks from China's credit binge, said a bailout in the trillions of dollars is needed to tackle the bad-debt burden dragging down the nation's economy.

Speaking eight days after a Communist Party newspaper highlighted dangers from the build-up of debt, Ms Chu said she was yet to be convinced the government is serious about deleveraging and eliminating industry overcapacity.

She also argued that lenders' off-balance-sheet portfolios of wealth-management products (WMPs) are the biggest immediate threat to the nation's financial system, with similarities to Western bank exposures in 2008 that helped to trigger a global meltdown.

She estimated as much as 22 per cent of all China's outstanding credit may be nonperforming by the end of this year, compared with an official bad-loan number for banks in March of 1.75 per cent. "The stock of Chinese banks' off-balance-sheet WMPs grew 73 per cent last year. There is nothing in the Chinese economy that supports a 73 per cent growth rate of anything at the moment” she said.

"We call off-balance-sheet WMPs a hidden second balance sheet because that's really what it is - it's a hidden pool of liabilities and assets. In this way, it's similar to the Special Investment Vehicles and conduits that the Western banks had in 2008, which nobody paid attention to until everything fell apart and they had to be incorporated on-balance-sheet.

"The mid-tier lenders is where these second balance sheets are very large. China Merchants Bank is a good example. Their second balance sheet is close to 40 per cent of their on-balance-sheet liabilities. Enormous. However, the idea that China needs a massive bailout in the trillions of US dollars isn't something I think the authorities are on board with or accept yet. They still believe they can grow out of it."

2 World’s first 3D-printed office in UAE (Khaleej Times) "The rapidly changing world requires us to accelerate our pace of development, for history does not recognize our plans but our achievements," Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai said while opening the 'Office of the Future', the first 3D-printed office in the world.

The unique building on the Emirates Towers premises will house the temporary office of the Dubai Future Foundation. Shaikh Mohammed stated: “We announce today the opening of the first 3D-printed office in the world, after less than a month of launching Dubai 3D printing strategy which showcases a modern model of construction.”

Shaikh Mohammed pointed out that the competitive advantages of 3-D printing in terms of lower costs and faster delivery will make the UAE one of the most important sustainable economic hubs, enabling the effective use of this technology to establish future cities in all sectors.

The office space covers up to 250 square metres, while the exterior design reflects the most innovative forms of future work place. The 3D-printed office was constructed using a special mixture of cement and a set of building material designed and made in the UAE and the US.

A 3D-printer measuring 20 feet high, 120 feet long and 40 feet wide was used to print the building. The printer features an automated robotic arm to implement printing process. The labour involved included one staff to monitor the function of the printer, seven people to install the building components on site, and a team of 10 electricians and specialists to take care of the mechanical and electrical engineering. As a result, the labour cost was cut by more than 50 per cent compared to conventional buildings of similar size.

The full model took only 17 days to print after which the internal and external designs were adopted. The office was installed on site within two days, which is significantly faster than traditional construction methods.

3 Uber tests self-driving cars (Emily Price in San Francisco Chronicle) One of the first self-driving Ubers is hitting the streets within the next few weeks .The ride-sharing company is deploying a self-driving Ford Fusion, a test car from its Advanced technologies Center.

The vehicle is loaded with sensors and will be mapping the areas it drives through while simultaneously testing the car’s self-driving capabilities. Don’t worry, the car won’t be alone. In the driver’s seat will be a trained employee that will be monitoring how the car performs, and will be there to grab the wheel if anything happens.

“[A total of] 1.3 million people die every year in car accidents — 94% of those accidents involve human error. In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents,” Uber said in its blog.

Uber isn’t the only one looking into self-driving cars. Lyft and General Motors have teamed up to work of a self-driving taxi of their own, and they plan on testing self-driving Chevrolet Bolt vehicles on public roads within the next year. In January, GM made a $500 million investment in the ride-sharing service.

4 People of no religion outnumber Christians in England & Wales (Harriet Sherwood in The Guardian) The number of people who say they have no religion is rapidly escalating and significantly outweighs the Christian population in England and Wales, according to new analysis.

The proportion of the population who identify as having no religion – referred to as “nones” – reached 48.5% in 2014, almost double the figure of 25% in the 2011 census. Those who define themselves as Christian – Anglicans, Catholics and other denominations – made up 43.8% of the population.

“The striking thing is the clear sense of the growth of ‘no religion’ as a proportion of the population,” said Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St Mary’s Catholic University in Twickenham.

The new analysis will fuel concern among Christian leaders about growing indifference to organised religion. This year the Church of England said it expected attendance to continue to fall for another 30 years as its congregations age and the millennial generation spurns the institutions of faith.

According to Bullivant’s report, both the Anglican and Catholic churches are struggling to retain people brought up as Christians. Four out 10 adults who were raised as Anglicans define themselves as having no religion, and almost as many “cradle Catholics” have abandoned their family faith to become “nones”. Neither church is bringing in fresh blood through conversions. Anglicans lose 12 followers for every person they recruit, and Catholics 10.

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