Anyone can easily own a Basquiat painting, a pair of Yeezy sneakers or even a Ferrari — at least, that is the promise of a growing number of fractional ownership platforms that sell shares of these rare items, starting at just a few US dollars. One platform, Masterworks, in spring last year turned the US$6 million painting The Mosque by Jean-Michel Basquiat into 284,420 shares at US$20 each. With fractional ownership, there is no chance of hanging the painting in a buyer’s home, parking a Lamborghini in their garage or storing six bottles of Romanee-Conti wine in their cellar. However, by owning at least a piece of the property — at least on paper, like the shares of a publicly listed company — anyone can now directly benefit from an increase in the item’s value, just like a wealthy collector. Whether it is paintings or baseball cards, “it’s not a new industry,” said Ezra Levine, the chief executive officer of Collectable, a platform that specializes in sports paraphernalia. “It’s not like cryptocurrencies where it was literally invented five or 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s just that the ways that people can participate in [the market] and experience it, enjoy it, have just dramatically changed in the last six months,” Levine said. Slugger, the username of a collector who preferred to stay anonymous, made a 500 percent profit on a few shares of a box of Pokemon cards, initially priced at US$125,000. The platform Rally had offered the box via an initial public offering, similar to the listing of a company on the stock market and also subject to controls by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. “These fractional platforms just open up the class to people who can’t afford to buy a full [Michael] Jordan [trading] card,” said John Schuck, 43, whose holdings amount to about US$20,000
Innovation in central banking often starts in small markets. New Zealand was the first country to formally adopt inflation targeting as we now know it in 1990. Today, the Bahamas and Cambodia lead China in piloting central bank money in electronic form. However, few realize it was Finland that pioneered the world’s first central bank digital currency (CBDC). The experiment has some important lessons for those feverishly trying to figure out how revolutionary CBDCs will be, including the UK, which joined the club just last month with a new task force. Finland introduced the Avant Card in December 1992, long before bitcoin came into existence. It could be loaded with up to 500 euros (US$607) in today’s terms and was rechargeable. According to Aleksi Grym, an economist at the Bank of Finland, central bankers were convinced that this system would quickly displace cash. However, consumers found it difficult to use. Retailers were frustrated to have to add extra point-of-sale equipment. Finland’s central bank ended up selling the card to a group of banks that shut it down in 2006. Today, Avant Cards can be found on eBay for US$10 — hardly digital gold. It turns out that displacing the efficiency and convenience of modern credit card networks, and now their digital brethren, is incredibly hard. Most consumers value the reassurance that their money is safe in the bank if they lose their debit or credit card, which was not true with these bearer instruments. It is revealing that today Finland has chosen the digital slow lane for reconsidering a CBDC, despite being the most cash-lite country in the world, with just 3 percent of transactions undertaken in cash. This leads to another key lesson: Before major central banks issue tokens at scale, there needs to be a far deeper assessment of the impact on financial stability and
When Daniela Vicino started work as a teacher in Sicily three decades ago, she had up to 30 children in her classes. With the birthrate tumbling, that number has almost halved. There are now “18-20 at best, and even 15-16 in some cases,” she told reporters in the southeastern town of Caltagirone. “It is a very painful thing.” Italy has long suffered one of the lowest birthrates in Europe, but the situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic — saddling the country with problems that go well beyond empty cribs. Last year, the Italian population shrank by almost 400,000 — roughly the size of the city of Florence — to 59.3 million as deaths peaked, births bottomed out and immigration slowed down. At a conference on the decline of the birthrate on Friday also attended by Pope Francis, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said that the average age of Italians was 47, “the highest in Europe.” “An Italy without children is an Italy that has no place for the future, it is an Italy which slowly ceases to exist,” he said. Experts have said that fewer children today mean fewer tax-paying workers tomorrow, making any country less productive and less capable of providing for its aging population. This has long been a concern for Western societies, but the threat looms larger in Italy, already the most sluggish economy within the G7 club of industrialized nations. Draghi has promised more nurseries, support for working women and mortgage help for young couples as part of Italy’s 221 billion euro (US$268 billion), EU-funded pandemic recovery plan. Italy’s social security system is skewed toward the elderly, with health and pensions taking a lion’s share of the budget. The hilltop town of Caltagirone is famous for its ceramics and UNESCO-protected baroque architecture. However, like much of southern Italy, it is also economically depressed and
‘BUY EVERYTHING’: Investors were willing to step in and buy some of the stocks that had been battered over the week, Chuck Carlson of Wealthspire Advisors said
Wall Street on Friday closed higher in a broad rally, an upbeat conclusion to whipsaw week of buying and selling as signs of a rebounding economy squared off against mounting inflation jitters. All three major US indices extended Thursday’s gains, which saw S&P 500 notch its biggest one-day percentage bump in more than a month. “Today [is] ‘everything is going up day’ because everyone is buying,” said Chuck Carlson, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors LP, in New York. “It’s a ‘buy everything’ day.” Still, the indices suffered their biggest weekly declines since late February. “This week, given the big swings, is more evident of a trader’s environment than a long-term investor’s environment,” Carlson added. “It’s a market looking for its next sustained impulse to the upside.” Those big swings were stoked by economic data, which fanned concerns that near-term price spikes could translate into long-term inflation, despite assurances to the contrary from the US Federal Reserve. “Inflation continues to be the biggest concern,” Carlson added. “And when interest rates didn’t go to new highs the bulls take over and investors are willing to step in and buy some of the stocks that had been beaten up this week.” Economic data showed US retail sales growth stalling and consumer sentiment dipping as prices remain on an upward trajectory, suggesting that while the demand boom might be taking a breather, inflation has not. However, in an indication that economic activity could return to normal, revised guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places. The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Friday rose 360.68 points, or 1.06 percent, to 34,382.13, the S&P 500 gained 61.35 points, or 1.49 percent, to 4,173.85 and the NASDAQ Composite added 304.99 points, or 2.32
European stocks jumped on Friday, led by gains in energy and retail sectors after the US Federal Reserve said there would be no imminent move to tighten monetary policy, easing fears of rising US inflation that pushed the STOXX 600 into negative territory for the week. The pan-European STOXX 600 rose 1.1 percent, with oil and gas, and retail stocks leading the gains. The benchmark still fell 0.5 percent for the week as a rally in commodity prices and signs of quickening US inflation raised fears about an earlier-than-expected interest rate hike by the Fed. However, sentiment improved on the Fed’s reassurances on monetary policy, as it also said it would not immediately reduce cash injections that have propped up financial markets. While price rises are less of a problem in the eurozone, investors have taken cues from Wall Street for most of the week. However, analysts have said Europe remains an attractive pick for global investors. “We look at the valuation of markets and the valuations have favored Europe for a number of years because it is more economically sensitive,” said Jeffrey Germain, investment group director at Brandes Investment Partners LP. Sebastian Raedler, investment strategist at Bank of America Global Research, wrote: “We see a further 5% upside for the STOXX 600, as well as 10% further outperformance for cyclicals versus defensives, value versus growth and financials, all of which benefit from both accelerating growth and rising bond yields.” Separately, Bank of America Corp’s weekly fund flow statistics showed that investors pulled out of tech equity funds and loaded up on inflation protection in the week that ended on Wednesday. Minutes from the European Central Bank’s latest policy meeting showed that policymakers set the stage for a June 10 showdown over the future of their emergency bond purchases when they met last month, but stopped short of
Bargain-buying helped most Asian markets recover some of this week’s steep losses, with investors tracking a rally on Wall Street and taking heart from a forecast-beating jobless claims report in the US, although inflation fears continue to cast a dark cloud over trading floors. Global equities have been convulsed for months by expectations that a blockbuster global recovery would send prices rocketing, forcing central banks — particularly the US Federal Reserve — to taper the ultra-loose monetary policies that have helped drive a rally for more than a year. Still, after days of selling, investors were ready to jump back into the fold, analysts said, helped by the release of a report showing that new jobless claims in the world’s top economy came in below expectations and fell to their lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The heavily tech-weighted TAIEX climbed 1 percent to 15,827.09 after suffering massive losses this week. For the week, it plunged 8.43 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 piled on 2.3 percent to 28,084.47, but was down 4.34 percent for the week. The TOPIX added 1.86 percent on Friday, tapering its weekly loss to 2.6 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 1.1 percent to 28,027.57, while the China Enterprises Index advanced 0.6 percent to 10,404.95 points. However, for the week, the former declined 2.1 percent, while the latter shed 2.7 percent. South Korea’s KOSPI on Friday added 1 percent to 3,153.32, but was down 1.4 percent for the week. India’s SENSEX on Friday rose less than 0.1 percent and was down nearly 1 percent for the week. Australia’s S&P/ASX200 rose 0.45 percent to 7,014.20, down 0.9 percent weekly. Singapore slid nearly 3 percent as a spike in infections in the city-state put an already once-delayed travel bubble with Hong Kong in doubt. Wellington, Mumbai and Bangkok were also slightly down. Observers said they remain
Industrial materials from copper to iron ore are feeling the pain as China steps up efforts to cool a blistering rally in commodities that is fanning fears over a global surge in inflation. Iron ore futures plunged as much as 11 percent in Singapore and steel rebar slid as Chinese officials introduced fresh measures for steelmakers to take the steam out of markets. Base metals have also come under pressure in the past few days, with copper down 4.7 percent from a record high set on Monday. The measures targeting China’s steel sector come after surging raw-material costs last month sparked the biggest jump in Chinese factory-gate prices in more than three years. A sharp jump in US consumer prices has also sparked worries across financial markets that rising inflation would hamper a global recovery and force the US Federal Reserve to tighten policy sooner than thought. “Many fear that high inflation will force the Fed to take away the punch bowl,” which acted as one of the forces in propelling a rally in commodities from their nadir in March last year, TD Securities analysts led by Bart Melek said in a note. “Ongoing deleveraging in China should take some wind out of the sails for commodity demand.” Copper and iron ore have been among the biggest gainers in a year-long rally in commodities as COVID-19 upended supply while stimulus measures supported economies and sparked a surge in demand, particularly in China. An accelerating global decarbonization drive has also transformed the long-term outlook for metals like copper. Copper on Friday fell 1 percent to settle at US$10,240.50 a ton on the London Metal Exchange, after peaking on Monday at US$10,747.50. Other base metals fared better on Friday, though aluminum still had a 3 percent weekly drop. In ferrous markets, iron ore fell 4.3 percent in Singapore
Oil in New York surged the most in a month on Friday as prices garnered support from a recovery in equities and a softer US dollar. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) climbed back above US$65 a barrel, eking out a third straight weekly gain as a weakening US dollar boosted appeal for commodities priced in the currency. Concerns persist over the spread of COVID-19 in Asia, which has tempered further gains. Progress on reopening economies in countries including the US supports expectations for heavy summer travel, buttressing the market’s underlying structure from recent weakness. The premium of Brent’s nearest contract against the next month strengthened on Friday to its widest in more than a week. Growth in that structure, which is called backwardation, suggests the market is expecting tighter supplies. “The economy looks a lot better,” with the US easing its mask mandate “suggesting that we’re going to be close to normal soon,” Strategic Energy & Economic Research president Michael Lynch said. “Any boost that happens with demand will likely be met by restored supply.” Oil prices have been stuck in a range lately, with optimism around global inventories rebalancing being offset by constant reminders that parts of the world remain far from a full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. WTI crude for June delivery on Friday rose 2.43 percent to US$65.37 a barrel. The contract rose 0.7 percent for the week. Brent for June delivery on Friday gained 2.48 percent to US$68.71 a barrel, up 0.6 percent weekly. The International Energy Agency this week said that the global glut that built up last year has cleared. However, the agency also lowered its demand estimates due to a virus resurgence in India. “So far, the demand recovery is still fairly uneven,” BCA Research Inc commodity and energy strategist Bob Ryan said. “COVID has not yet been contained.
The US dollar edged lower against major currencies on Friday after a report that US retail sales unexpectedly stalled last month and as fears of accelerating inflation receded. The greenback was down 0.5 percent against a basket of currencies, last at 90.30, retracing most of the gains made earlier this week after data showed a surprise surge in consumer prices. The index is little changed from last week’s 90.23. The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that retail sales were unchanged last month after recording a 10.7 percent surge in March, boosted by stimulus checks. However, another acceleration in retail sales is likely in the coming months as the US economy reopens and Americans spend the savings they have been amassing. “The US dollar pared more of its weekly gain Friday after disappointing news on America’s main growth engine, the consumer, added more evidence of an uneven recovery,” Western Union Business Solutions LLC senior market analyst Joe Manimbo wrote. Friday’s drop erased some of a two-day rally in the US dollar after data on Wednesday showed that US consumer prices increased by the most in nearly 12 years. While the US Federal Reserve has pledged to keep interest rates low even as inflation rises, some in the market have bet that the Fed would be forced to act sooner than expected. Higher interest rates strengthen the US dollar. “Tepid data serves as a strong vote of confidence in the Fed’s low rate outlook, a dovish stance and a key vulnerability for the dollar,” Manimbo said. In Taipei, the New Taiwan dollar fell against the US dollar, losing NT$0.016 to close at NT$28.012, down 0.4 percent for the week. The euro was among the gainers against the US dollar on the day, up 0.46 percent at US$1.213. The British pound rose 0.3 percent to US$1.4098, up more
COMPONENTS ISSUE: Hon Hai’s Young Liu said that although prices for components and raw materials have increased, their influence on the company would be limited
Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), also known as Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團), yesterday said that a global supply crunch that has hit the consumer electronics and automaking industries will worsen this quarter, after it weathered component shortages to post better-than-expected quarterly profit last quarter. The world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and main assembler of iPhones reported net income of NT$28.2 billion (US$1 billion) in the first quarter, beating the average NT$24.4 billion of adjusted analyst estimates. Revenue in the second quarter will likely be steady from the previous quarter’s NT$1.35 trillion, as growth in its consumer electronics and components divisions is countered by a slowdown in its server and computer divisions, in part because of parts shortages, Hon Hai said. “Component shortages in the second quarter will be more severe than the first quarter,” Hon Hai chairman Young Liu (劉揚偉) said on a conference call. He reiterated previous comments that shortages might persist until the second quarter of next year and that the effect on its businesses would not exceed 10 percent. While prices of components and raw materials have increased, the impact on Hon Hai will be limited, Liu said. The firm still aims to reach gross margins of 7 percent this year, he said. To reduce its reliance on consumer electronics, Hon Hai has been searching for new growth drivers and it has identified electric vehicles as a key emerging industry. In the past few months, it has entered into partnerships with an array of automakers, including Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co (吉利控股), Byton Ltd (拜騰) and Fisker Inc to boost its automotive capabilities. Hon Hai said in a statement that it has signed a framework agreement with Fisker to establish an electric vehicle production site in the US with both sides using the MIH Open Platform promoted by Hon Hai for EV development. Its first joint
INFLUENCE OF TWO: An analyst said that MediaTek and TSMC have performed much better than was expected, prompting a much bigger forecast for all local designers
The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院) yesterday revised upward its growth forecast for Taiwan’s chip industry, expecting production value to increase 18 percent to NT$3.81 trillion (US$136.01 billion) this year from NT$3.22 trillion last year. In March, it estimated a rise of 8.6 percent to NT$3.5 trillion. Buoyed by MediaTek Inc (聯發科) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the latest forecast would mean that local IC companies are to outgrow the global semiconductor industry’s 10.9 percent growth, the institute said. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, boosting demand for chips used in 5G devices, notebook computers and vehicles. Production value at Taiwanese IC companies rose to NT$904.7 billion in the first quarter, surpassing ITRI’s estimate of NT$723.8 billion. “MediaTek and TSMC have performed way better than we expected,” ITRI analyst Jerry Peng (彭茂榮) said in an e-mail to the Taipei Times. Revenue at MediaTek, the world’s biggest 5G handset chip designer, soared 77.5 percent year-on-year to NT$108.03 billion in the first quarter, indicating 40 percent growth for the whole of this year, it said. TSMC’s first-quarter revenue rose 17.6 percent annually to NT$262.41 billion, with expected growth of about 20 percent this year, TSMC said. Peng said he adjusted his output growth forecast for local chip designers to 30.5 percent annually this year, compared with a previous estimate of 10.9 percent. Production value of local chipmakers is expected to increase 14.8 percent to NT$2.09 trillion this year, with the fastest growth of 32.7 percent by memorychip makers, he said. Three months ago, ITRI estimated that chipmakers’ production value would grow 8 percent and memorychip makers’ output 4 percent this year. DRAM chipmaker Nanya Technology Corp (南亞科技) has said that the memorychip industry is entering a new supercycle. Supply is expected to be tight throughout this year, Nanya Technology said.
China Steel Corp (CSC, 中鋼), Taiwan’s largest steelmaker, on Thursday said that it is raising domestic steel prices by 8 percent on average for delivery next month, reflecting climbing steel demand worldwide and increased manufacturing costs due to higher raw material prices. The Kaohsiung-based company is hiking prices for a 12th consecutive month, taking a cue from its Chinese counterparts Baosteel Group Corp (寶鋼) and Wuhan Iron and Steel Corp (武鋼), as well as Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp (台塑河靜鋼鐵興業) in Vietnam. Formosa Ha Tinh has raised steel prices by US$120 per tonne, CSC said. “Global steel demand is picking up significantly due to a recovery in the world economy,” CSC said in a statement. “Tight steel supply and price hikes in raw materials, including coal, iron ore and shipping costs, have pushed global steel prices to historic highs.” “High steel prices are becoming a new norm,” it said. The company expects the uptrend to extend into next quarter. Domestic steel prices have increased at a much slower rate than global steel prices, it said. The price discrepancy has caused unusual exports of steel, causing domestic supply and demand imbalance, the company said. “This has gone against the free-market mechanism,” CSC said. The latest price hikes aim to alleviate mounting manufacturing costs as prices of global iron ore, which is used to make steel, have surged to an all-time high of US$229 per tonne, CSC said. Global coal prices are also on the rise, it said. Prices of mainstream hot-rolled steel and hot-roll steel plates are to rise by NT$2,300 (US$82.11) per tonne next month, while cold-roll steel prices are to climb by NT$2,500 per tonne, the company added. The company is to raise prices for mid-to-low-grade electrical steel coils by NT$1,000 per tonne and NT$1,500 for high-end coils, while prices for hot-dipped zinc-coated steel coils used in home construction are to
A rout in the local stock market before it stabilized yesterday pushed margin debt down to NT$236.63 billion (US$8.45 billion) on Thursday, the lowest since NT$236.1 billion on April 7, and the figure is expected to drop further next week, Taishin Securities Investment Advisory Co (台新投顧) general manager Mason Li (李鎮宇) said yesterday. Rising domestic COVID-19 infections would take a toll on local stocks, forcing more investors to face margin calls by their brokers, Li said by telephone. “The viral spread continues to be the largest risk for the local stock market, as stricter measures against COVID-19 would hurt private consumption,” he said. The TAIEX closed up 1 percent on 15,827.09 points yesterday, with market turnover of NT$510.512 billion, Taiwan Stock Exchange data showed. Foreign institutional investors sold a net NT$13.66 billion of shares on the main board. While the market staged a technical rebound, heavy plunges over the previous three sessions had forced brokers to sell shares held by investors trading on margin, but failing to cover losses in their stock accounts. The forced selling drove margin debt down by NT$12.7 billion on Tuesday, NT$12.9 billion on Wednesday and NT$8 billion on Thursday, the data showed. Thursday’s NT$236.6 billion was up 26.3 percent from NT$187.3 billion at the end of last year, but down by 14 percent from a nine-year high of NT$274 billion on April 29, the data showed.
Formosa International Hotels Corp (FIH, 晶華國際酒店集團) yesterday posted NT$295 million (US$10.53 million) in net income for last quarter, up 87.27 percent from a year earlier as properties across Taiwan largely rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic. The figures are the best showing in five quarters and translated into earnings per share of NT$2.11, FIH said after a board meeting. The virus outbreak was well under control last quarter, allowing business to pick up at the Regent Taipei (台北晶華酒店), Silks Place Tainan (台南晶英酒店), Silks Place Taroko (太魯閣晶英酒店) in Hualien County and Wellspring by Silks (晶泉丰旅) in Yilan County’s Jiaosi Township (礁溪), it said. FIH-owned Domino’s Pizza’s revenue and profit also gained, it said. Consolidated revenue totaled NT$1.55 billion, rising 13.62 percent year-on-year due partly to a low base last year, when the pandemic wreaked havoc on hotels, restaurants and tourism-related sectors, it said. The group’s Just Sleep brand next month is to launch a soft opening of a new outlet at Ten Drum Culture Village (十鼓仁糖文創園區) in Tainan, increasing the groups total properties in Taiwan to 15. The company this year is to boost its presence in Vietnam, Indonesia and China to take advantage of an expected boom in international travel from the second half. Separately, luxury hotel operator My Humble House Hospitality Management Consulting Co (寒舍餐旅) reported a net loss of NT$75.58 million for the first quarter, narrowing from a loss of NT$194.27 million a year earlier. Losses per share were NT$0.68. A boom in domestic tourism accounted for the improvement, My Humble House said, adding that restaurant revenue jumped 23.69 percent year-on-year. The group, whose facilities including Le Meridien Taipei (台北寒舍艾美酒店), Humble House Taipei (寒舍艾麗) and Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel (台北喜來登大飯店), is seeking to woo customers during the summer vacation through discount offers for its hotels and restaurants.
The final print edition of the Chinese-language Apple Daily in Taiwan is to be published on Monday after 18 years, the newspaper said in a letter to readers posted on its Web site yesterday. Although the Apple Daily has changed Taiwan’s media environment with its innovative content over the past 18 years, “we were also changed by the media environment,” the newspaper said, citing continuous operating losses as the reason it is ending the print edition. The company plans to focus on the development of its online Apple News network, according to the letter, which also thanked the paper’s readers for their support since it started publication in Taiwan on May 2, 2003. It sells 100,000 copies daily in Taiwan, it said. “It was a difficult choice to give up the print edition,” it said. “However, we dare not and will not give up our responsibility as a media firm that speaks for the people, pursues justice and defends democracy and freedom,” the newspaper said. Apple Daily Taiwan is owned by Hong Kong-based Next Digital Ltd (壹傳媒), which also prints the Hong Kong Apple Daily. The online edition of the Apple Daily in Taiwan was launched in April 2019.
RANSOM PAID: Reports said that Colonial Pipeline Co paid almost US$5m in cryptocurrency to hackers to help get fuel flowing again along the eastern seaboard
The largest fuel pipeline in the US restarted its entire system after a cyberattack nearly a week ago, but said it would take several days for the supply chain to return to normal. Colonial Pipeline Co has started delivering products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to all of the markets it serves, the pipeline operator said in a statement on Thursday, but some areas might experience service interruptions during the restart process. The system, which transports products from Gulf Coast refineries as far north as New York, is running at less than half of capacity, people familiar with the matter said. Earlier, it emerged that the operating company last week paid almost US$5 million in untraceable cryptocurrency to eastern European hackers to help get gasoline and jet fuel flowing again along the eastern seaboard. Fuel shortages from Florida to Virginia continue, and Colonial said that its system is about five-and-a-half days behind its current schedule. In a message to filling stations, US President Joe Biden said in a White House briefing on Thursday: “Do not — I repeat, do not — try to take advantage of consumers during this time.” The attack on Colonial occurred just weeks before the US Memorial Day Holiday and the start of the summer driving season, with many Americans expected to eagerly take to the roads and the skies. Earlier in the week, average US pump prices surged above US$3 a gallon for the first time in six years as motorists raced to fill tanks. US gasoline futures were US$2.0938 per gallon early yesterday after dropping 3 percent on Thursday. More than half of stations in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina were still without fuel on Thursday, according to retail-tracker GasBuddy. In Miami, an area not even directly fed by the pipeline, nearly 40 percent of stations were without gasoline. Hospitals, railroads and
DARKSIDE: The unit said only a minimal amount of work data were lost and no leaks of data had been detected, while its teams are mobilized to deal with the incident
A unit of Toshiba Corp was hit by a ransomware attack, overshadowing an announcement of a strategic review for the conglomerate and an upbeat profit forecast. Toshiba Tec France Imaging System SA yesterday said that DarkSide, the group that the FBI has blamed for the Colonial Pipeline Co attack, on Tuesday last week targeted it in a ransomware attack. The unit said in a statement that only a minimal amount of work data were lost during the cyberattack and no leaks of data had been detected. It put protective measures in place immediately after the attack, the unit said. Toshiba Tec France Imaging System also said that its teams remained mobilized to deal with the situation. Security researchers said that DarkSide’s multiple Web sites had stopped being accessible. Ransomware attacks have increased in number and amount of demands, with hackers encrypting data and seeking payment in cryptocurrency to unlock it. They increasingly release stolen data as well, or threaten to unless they are paid more. Investigators in the Colonial Pipeline case say the attack software was distributed by DarkSide, which includes Russian speakers and avoids hacking targets in the former Soviet Union. DarkSide lets “affiliates” hack into targets elsewhere, then handles the ransom negotiation and data release. Separately Toshiba Corp, which has had to grapple with a series of scandals over the past several years, said it was setting up a strategic review committee to consider ways to increase corporate value and had appointed UBS Group AG as a financial adviser. The move follows a US$20 billion offer from CVC Capital Partners to take the conglomerate private that Toshiba Corp has said lacked substance. CVC had said that it would retain management and the offer was perceived by some in the company as designed to shield former Toshiba Corp chief executive officer Nobuaki Kurumatani from activist shareholders. The company has since faced calls
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) forecast better-than-expected revenue and pledged to invest in new growth arenas, signaling its intention to move past a Chinese antitrust probe that triggered its first loss in nine years. Jack Ma’s (馬雲) flagship e-commerce firm swung to a 5.5 billion yuan (US$852 million) net loss — its first since 2012 — after the company swallowed a US$2.8 billion fine for monopolistic behavior imposed by Beijing. It now intends to refocus on its business, plowing “all incremental profit” back into technology and hotly contested areas such as community commerce, chief executive officer Daniel Zhang (張勇) said on Thursday. Alibaba executives have sought to put behind them a crackdown on Ma’s Internet empire that has shaved US$260 billion off its market value. The penalty imposed last month marked the conclusion of a four-month probe, but uncertainty persists as Beijing continues to rein in Alibaba and increasingly powerful rivals from Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊) to Meituan (美團). No analyst asked directly about what is to come in the broader clampdown, although Zhang said that the company accepted the fine and will move forward. “We accept the penalty with sincerity and will ensure our compliance with determination,” he said. “During the past fiscal year, we have gone through all kinds of challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, fierce competition, as well as an anti-monopoly investigation and penalty decision by Chinese regulators. We believe the best way to overcome these challenges is to look forward and invest for the long term.” Alibaba’s shares are down about 35 percent from its peak in October last year, just before Ma’s criticism of outmoded regulations triggered a chain of events that torpedoed a US$35 billion initial public offering by his Ant Group Co (螞蟻集團) and started a probe into the e-commerce giant. On Thursday, the company forecast revenue for the year ending
Walt Disney Co on Thursday said it was seeing “encouraging signs of recovery” across a wide range of its businesses, although its streaming television service grew slower than expected in the recently ended quarter. TV streaming service Disney+ ended the quarter with nearly 104 million subscribers, fewer than expected, but still part of a stable of “direct-to-consumer” services that saw audiences swell as people turned to the Internet for entertainment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney said that it was seeing positive signs across its operations, including parks, cruises and resorts, which took the hardest hit amid the pandemic. “We’re pleased to see more encouraging signs of recovery across our businesses, and we remain focused on ramping up our operations,” Disney chief executive officer Bob Chapek said in the earnings release. “This is clearly reflected in the reopening of our theme parks and resorts, increased production at our studios, the continued success of our streaming services.” Disney held firm to its target of reaching 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024. Executives on the earnings call said that show production is returning to full levels as it continues to invest in new content for its streaming services as well as theatrical releases. The entertainment titan’s franchises include Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars. It also owns ESPN, Hulu and Hotstar. US sports broadcasting giant ESPN has acquired television rights for Spain’s La Liga in a record deal worth US$1.4 billion over the next eight seasons starting from the 2021-2022 soccer season, the company said. A statement from ESPN said that all La Liga games each season would be available live through its streaming platform ESPN+, with selected games on its traditional networks. The value of the agreement was not officially disclosed, but a source with knowledge of the deal said that it was worth US$1.4 billion, or US$175
The US needs new trade law tools to head off anti-competitive threats from China against key high-tech industries, rather than reacting once harm is done, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai (戴琪) said on Thursday. Tai told a hearing of the US House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee that existing trade law tools are more aimed at protecting US industries and companies after they have already been injured by illegal price dumping and subsidies, or other unfair competition. “I would really like to strengthen the trade tools that we have to address the problems we have today,” Tai said, adding that many of the US trade laws are nearly 50 or 60 years old. US trade laws, with their backward-looking nature, have struggled to prevent damage to the US steel industry as China has built up massive amounts of production capacity over the past 20 years, Tai said, adding that China’s industrial plans show it is poised to do the same in other industries. “I think we need tools that are not just about responding to harms that we have experienced in the past, but tools that are going to anticipate where we’re going to have the same pattern of harm to allow us to get ahead of the harm, and allow us to respond as quickly as possible,” she said. On Wednesday, Tai called for an update to the 1962 Section 232 national security trade statute that was used to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Her remarks on Thursday add detail on her desire for tools to address China’s massive subsidies and state-driven economic system. If enacted, these could lay the groundwork for new tariffs to shield more US industries or be used as leverage in negotiations. Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan targets investments in 10 strategic industries now largely dominated by the US,