WWN26# – PM Sharif and Family: Forgery and Calibri

What’s Been Happening?

Last year, the infamous Panama Papers were leaked. 11.5 million documents from a Panama law firm called Mossack Fonseca were released to the public which included details of eight offshore companies that have ties to the family of Nawaz Sharif, the incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The controversy surrounds the purchases made by these offshore accounts, one of which were luxury apartments in London’s exclusive Mayfair area. In the subsequent trial that has taken months so far, opposition leaders have alleged that the money used for the real estate purchases was obtained through corruption.

After some months of deliberation, it was determined by the Supreme Court of Pakistan that further investigation needs to be conducted into corruption allegations. As a result, a six member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed under the supervision of a three-member special implementation bench on 20 April 2017

What Now?

On the 10th of July, the JIT presented a scathing 275-page report that charged Sharif and his family members of engaging in irregular finances, forgery and perjury. It also recommended that the Sharifs be tried for corruption.

Some documents that were submitted by Sharif’s family appeared to be tampered with:

  • A trust deed provided by the prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and executed in 2006 was written in Calibri font which was not commercially available till 2007. It was also notarised from an office in London on Saturday which is officially an off day, raising concern about the authenticity of the document.
  • The documents of Gulf Steel Mills provided by the prime minister’s son Hussain Nawaz were confirmed to be forged by the government of Dubai as they held no record of those documents.
  • A letter sent by a Qatari Royal supposedly verifying the business dealings of the Sharif family is alleged to be fake. Further supporting this allegation is the failure of the key witness to agree to record his statement via video link to JIT and was unwilling to visit the Pakistan embassy in Doha.

It is a criminal offence to falsify documents which carry a penalty of up to seven years of jail if the person is found guilty. Sharif dismissed the JIT report as the “sum of hypotheses, accusations and slander”. Upon the release of the report, the opposition leader Imran Khan hopes that next week will be (Mr Sharif’s) last week.

What’s Next?

The report highlights the failure of the Sharif family in providing a money trail for its London apartments.  All eyes will be on the Supreme Court who may disqualify him as Prime Minister. Another scenario could be that the Supreme Court expresses no confidence in the findings released through the damning JIT report. At this stage, it is very unlikely that Nawaz Sharif will step down as Prime Minister as he is adamant that no wrongdoing has been proven and so the case continues…

References:
http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/56febff0a1bb8d3c3495adf4/
http://www.firstpost.com/world/panama-papers-probe-pakistan-sc-warns-nawaz-sharifs-children-of-action-if-submitted-documents-are-proved-fake-3836883.html
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/pakistan-prime-minister-nawaz-sharif-s-fate-hangs-fontgate-n782966
http://www.firstpost.com/world/panama-papers-probe-pakistan-sc-warns-nawaz-sharifs-children-of-action-if-submitted-documents-are-proved-fake-3836883.html

WWN25# – A Chinese Start-Up Story: Umbrella Sharing Gone Rogue

Sharing E Umbrella.jpg

Sharing E Umbrellas – Credits 

What’s Been Happening?

China is in a sharing economy boom. Car-sharing, bike-sharing and even basketball-sharing have been some of the latest ventures that have prompted more innovative businesses. Over the past month, three umbrella sharing start-ups have raised financing of several million RMB despite critics questioning the viability and profitability of such business models.

What Now?

Sharing E Umbrella is one of those start-ups that was launched in April with an investment capital of 10 million yuan ($2 million AUD~). Customers use an app on their smart phone to pay a deposit fee of 19 yuan to borrow an umbrella from stands mostly found at subway and bus stations and for every half hour of use they paid a fee of 0.50 yuan. Within a few weeks of rolling out umbrellas in 11 cities in China, the company had lost nearly its entire supply of umbrellas due to people borrowing the rain protectors and not returning them. According to South China Morning Post, there were approximately 300,000 umbrellas that have gone missing. There is unfortunately no way to track where each umbrella went.

Although it costs the company about 60 yuan or $11 AUD for each umbrella lost, the company founder and CEO Zhao Shuping is determined to press ahead with 30 million of them to be available across the country by the end of the year. He’ll do it in a slightly different manner this time by spending the next few months devising a way of adding GPS to the umbrellas to keep track of them.

What’s Next?

Even if Sharing E Umbrella succeeds in their second round release of umbrellas later in the year (and preventing them from being stolen), maintaining a steady operating cash flow and profit for the company may prove to be challenging.

  • China receives most of its rain in the summertime only and in regions with frequent rain, it is likely that people would buy their own umbrellas which would make it impossible to maintain a positive cash flow in drier months
  • Based on the low rates and likely low margins, it would be hard to turn a profit especially when there is an extremely high rate of theft (the deposit fee of 19 yuan barely covers the cost of the actual umbrella)

A third point is that cheap umbrellas are already sold everywhere in subway stations and public locations on rainy days. The price of the umbrellas range from 10 to 40 yuan, so there is an implied price ceiling on how far profit margins can grow and rise before alternative options become more attractive to consumers.

References:
https://medium.com/@actallchinatech/umbrella-rentals-are-the-latest-sharing-economy-fad-to-hit-china-1335f99598ba
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/umbrella-sharing-startup-loses-300000-umbrellas-2017-7?r=US&IR=T
http://www.businessinsider.com/chinese-umbrella-sharing-startup-sees-most-of-300000-umbrellas-disappear-2017-7?IR=T
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/28/business/china-communal-sharing.html

WWN #25 – A Revolution Led by Volvo: Going Electric All The Way

190848_volvo_concept_40_1_front_seven_eights

Concept 40.1 (SUV)  for  New All Electric Platform – Credits

What’s Been Happening? A Personal Best

In 2015, a luxury vehicles company set a global sales record for itself when it sold more than half a million cars for the first time in its 89 year history. Volvo subsequently announced plans in April 2016 to sell 1 million electrified vehicles by 2025 which is a cumulative total of sales from 2012 to 2025, not a yearly figure. Its first fully electric vehicle is expected to reach dealerships by 2019.

What Now? On Track

On Wednesday, the automaker announced that all future models will use some form of electric propulsion, whether in hybrid form with a gas engine or all-battery models. It will be the first broad luxury brand to announce plans to electrify all of its products, ditching the combustion engine only models. Luxury brands have traditionally relied on V-8 engines for power amongst their prestigious models but Volvo has already adopted to an exclusive four-cylinder line-up. At this stage, Volvo is remaining secretive about what percentage of future products will be conventional hybrids, plug-ins or pure battery offerings.

Three new mainstream products are set to roll out between 2019 and 2021. Electrified products will be produced in Europe, China and in a new plant that is currently being constructed in South Carolina.

Volvo’s announcement has received a mixed response. Industry analysts in the U.S say the strategy to become fully electric is risky, given that sales of all forms of electrified vehicles slipped last year, partly due to a decrease in a gasoline prices. However, several factors such as the declining cost of batteries and improved vehicle range may start to attract more customers.

What’s Next? Convenience & Support is Key

Although innovations in battery technology will increase range and reduce costs, it does not negate the need for regular charging. Whilst owners could easily accomplish this at home, it may be more difficult when they are looking to travel long distances. Additional investment in a network of remote charging stations needs to be done to overcome this issue. It remains largely uncertain as to who is going to bear the costs of doing so as well. Japan is already one step ahead, where there were more charging stations than filling stations as of April 2016.

An increase in electric cars on the road will need to be adequately supported by power companies that are able to cope with the increased demand. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, “A recent Morgan Stanley report found that a typical electric car requires the same amount of power as the average British home over the course of a year.”

http://www.smh.com.au/business/volvo-cars-joins-electric-race-with-plan-for-five-battery-models-20170705-gx5dyt.html
http://www.smh.com.au/business/innovation/is-the-car-industry-ready-for-a-revolution-20170705-gx5mb6.html
http://www.nbcnews.com/business/autos/volvo-going-all-electric-first-automaker-ditch-combustion-engine-n779791
http://www.autonews.com/article/20160421/OEM05/160429976/volvo-sets-goal-to-sell-1-million-electrified-cars-by-2025
http://www.autoblog.com/2016/04/21/volvo-electric-hybrid-one-million-cars/