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60% of UK Directors feel an increase in broadband speed would improve competitiveness and 78% their organisation’s productivity

The October Policy Voice survey addressed the topic Internet Broadband in the UK. Below are some of the survey highlights:

  • 56% of members use broadband for video conferencing and 54% for downloading media files.
  • 57% store their data on owned or leased servers and 30% via the cloud.
  • 60% feel increase in broadband speed would improve competitiveness and 78% their organisation’s productivity (see chart below).
  • 51% feel faster broadband encourages flexible working opportunities(see chart below).
  • 49% are satisfied with the overall product or service provided by their broadband provider.

60% of UK Directors feel an increase in broadband speed would improve competitiveness and 78% their organisation’s productivity

Source: October 2015 Policy Voice Survey, IoD

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Venture Capital flowing to European companies reaches a 19-quarter high in Q3 2015

Q3 2015 was a 19-quarter high for VC flowing to European companies

Source: CB Insights

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$100 million Financings to VC Backed Companies in the U.S., Asia and Europe Continues to Grow

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Indonesia may be the next challenger to Beijing in the South China Sea

Claim almost an entire sea for yourself and you’re bound to stir things up. That’s especially true when it’s the South China Sea, arguably the world’s most important body of water for international trade and potential future military conflicts.

Citing a “nine-dash line” it drew up at the end of World War Two, China says almost all of the sea counts as its territory. To solidify that claim—considered outrageous by various Southeast Asian nations that also claim territory in the sea—Beijing has been busy building manmade islands atop reefs in the Spratly archipelago, complete with a runway, helipad, and lighthouse.

Challenges to Beijing’s claims are growing.

This week, the US flew B52 bombers near the artificial islands, the Pentagon said on Thursday (Nov. 12), on what officials called a “routine mission” in international airspace. Last month, the US sent a warship close to the manmade islands, in an area that it’s long considered international waters. (Beijing issued verbal warnings but otherwise not much happened.)

On Oct. 29,  an international arbitration court in the Netherlands ruled it has the authorityto decide whether China is violating international law with its claims in the South China Sea, two years after the Philippines first lodged a complaint. (Beijing refuses to recognize the case.)

Indonesia is the next country stepping in.

This week, Indonesia’s chief security minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, indicated the nation could turn to an international tribunal over disputed claims involving the Natuna archipelago, parts of which intersect with the China’s nine-dash line. That follows a confirmation last Sunday (Nov. 8) that Indonesia deployed seven warships to the archipelago, saying the move is “a routine patrol program carried out by the navy to safeguard Natuna waters.”

And yesterday (Nov. 12) Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it had asked China to clarify its claims in sea. “The position of Indonesia is clear at this stage that we do not recognize the nine-dash line because it is not in line with… international law,” noted ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir. “We asked for clarification on what they mean and what they mean by the nine-dash line. That has not been clarified.”

Indonesia’s pushback against China’s claims goes much deeper than that, though.

Last summer general Moeldoko, the commander in chief of Indonesia’s armed forces, took to the Wall Street Journal to express (paywall) Indonesia’s surprise about China’s claims. “Indonesia is dismayed… that China has included parts of the Natuna Islands within the nine-dash line, thus apparently claiming a segment of Indonesia’s Riau Islands province as its territory.” In response, he added, “the Indonesian military has decided to strengthen its forces on Natuna.”

Yet there would be little reason to, if not for China’s moves in the area. Consisting of about 270 islands, the sleepy Natuna archipelago is part of Indonesia’s Riau Islands province. Most of the less than 100,000 people living there are involved in fishing or farming.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.11.35 AM

In September Indonesia’s defense ministry announced that it would improve the infrastructure in Natuna, including runway improvements for the benefit of warplanes and a new radar system. It also said it was deploying unmanned aerial vehicles and at least 2,000 additional personnel to the islands.

Indonesia’s government said it is still counting on diplomacy. “We don’t want to see any power projection in this area,” Pandjaitan told Reuters this week. “We would like a peaceful solution by promoting dialogue. The nine-dash line is a problem we are facing, but not only us. It also directly [impacts] the interests of Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Philippines.”

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Rogue Banking Developments Sending Shockwaves Through the Financial World

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How did one man deposit less than thirty dollars into an account and then wind up becoming a millionaire? What kind of secret investment strategy is turning the financial world on its head?

These are just a few of the questions that investor Douglas Hill asked himself. The person who deposited those twenty seven dollars was named Kevin Koch and the secret currency he was putting his money into was Bitcoin.

You may have heard of Bitcoin. It’s the currency that doesn’t have any national backing, the one that lives and breathes on the internet.

It may just be the biggest revolution in economics since the invention of the stock market…

Why is investing in Bitcoin so worthwhile? There are no minimums to how much you have to deposit into the account. And you can get at the money at any time, with no lock out periods. There are no fees, hidden charges, or restrictions on where you have to be to use it. You could live on Antarctica or right in the middle of the town where you grew up—it doesn’t make a difference. This underground currency system doesn’t have the regulations that bog down the rest of the world of finance and banking.

But how are average investors like you supposed to know where to get access to quality Bitcoin markets and information? Here is a tip: The easiest way to find out everything you need to know about profiting from the Bitcoin craze, is to sign up for The Laissez Faire Letter, which will give you access to ‘The Bitcoin Bible: The Safest and Easiest Ways to Buy, Sell, Store, and Speculate’.

The Laissez Faire Letter is what Douglas Hill created to help people guide their way through these uncertain economic times. It stands for everything you believe about the economy—that it exists solely for you to make money. Period. That’s why when you subscribe for this amazing newsletter you’ll receive absolutely free access to three amazing publications: The Bitcoin Bible,The Obamacare Antidote, and How to Make Yourself Invisible to the NSA.

Each of these eBooks are targeted at the same audience as The Laissez Faire Letter: Ordinary people who just happen to have a problem with being told by the government that there is only one way that things have to be done – their way.

These eBooks are for those people who just say NO to big government and those who believe that privacy is NOT something that has to be compromised on in the name of liberty. If you are one of these people, you may have just found not only a way to protect yourself, but also to make yourself financially independent.

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Hong Kong still has the world’s priciest office rents

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Rents are rocketing up to USD255.5 psf per year.

Knight Frank’s Skyscraper Index reveals that in Q2 2015, Hong Kong, at US$255.50 per sq ft per year, retains the title of the most expensive place in the world to rent office space in a tower building.

According to a release from Knight Frank, meanwhile, London (10.7%) and San Francisco (8.2%) are seeing the fastest rental growth for high-rise offices in the six months to June 2015, reflecting a buoyant occupier market in gateway cities.

Despite the uncertainties in the stock markets and the devaluation of the RMB, Thomas Lam, Senior Director, Head of Valuation & Consultancy, Knight Frank expects Hong Kong to continue to enjoy moderate rental growth with sustained demand from Mainland Chinese companies.

In 2015, around 40-50% of new lettings in Central involve Chinese firms. Meanwhile, Central’s office buildings are aging, with more than 50% of the district’s Grade-A offices being over 25 years old. For some of them, the need for renovation is seen.

Together with the shortage of new Grade-A offices in Central, such renovation will lead to a long-term impact to the district’s Grade-A office supply. Overall vacancy rates in Hong Kong decrease to 1.7% in September, and Central’s vacancy rate was as low as 1.4%, close to the historic low of 2008.

Here’s more from Knight Frank:

Hong Kong will still have the lowest prime yields (2.9%) among 20 global cities in the world by the end of 2015 as office property prices surged in previous years.
Looking ahead, Thomas Lam expects rents in Central will increase no more than 5% in 2016 and rents will slightly drop 0-5% in Kowloon East with abundant new supply in the pipeline.

Despite the concentration of quality stock and attractive rents in Kowloon East, we believe CBD2 cannot replace Central in the short term because only some firms or operations prefer relocating to Kowloon East. In the long term, the emerging CBDs will serve as complements, rather than direct competitors, to Central.

As some significant projects like CBD2, redevelopment of Wan Chai government offices have already been put in place to provide new office space, Knight Frank research shows that, Hong Kong is likely to face a shortage of office space of around 2 million sq ft (equivalent to an office tower of a comparable size to Two IFC) by 2020.

Thomas Lam remains positive about the long-term outlook for premium and Grade-A office buildings in the city, due to sustained long-term demand boosted by the Mutual Fund Recognition Scheme.


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Debt threat: Indonesian banks’ profits pressured by rising bad debts and slowing economy

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Bank Negara Indonesia’s gross NPL ratio rose to 2.8% for the first nine months of 2015.

According to SNL Financial, Indonesia’s GDP expanded 4.67% in the second quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace since 2009, as the resources-rich nation faces headwinds from low commodity prices and a slump in China, Indonesia’s largest trading partner. The World Bank in October cut its 2015 and 2016 growth projections for Indonesia.

Here’s more from SNL Financial:

Worsening economic conditions are translating into challenges for banks, putting pressure on their asset quality. The industrywide nonperforming loan ratio hit 2.6% as of the end of May, as the mining and commodity sectors struggle, Fitch Ratings said in September. Still, nine Indonesian lenders covered by the rating agency have enough loss-absorption cushions for now, Fitch said at that time.

PT Bank Negara Indonesia (Persero) Tbk’s latest results may be an indicator of what is to come. The fourth-biggest Indonesian bank by assets on Oct. 15 reported a 21.2% year-over-year drop in net income for the nine months through September, with the gross NPL ratio rising to 2.8% at the end of the period from 2.2% 12 months earlier, and with provisioning surging 93.6%.

Although the bank’s third-quarter net profit came in above expectations, bad debt will likely continue to increase if macroeconomic circumstances remain challenging, with its NPL coverage ratio rising to 145% by the end of 2015 from 123.4% a year earlier, Teguh Hartanto, an analyst at PT Bahana Securities, said in an Oct. 16 note.

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American Pride to Pacific Northwest

Most river cruisers travel in Europe and Asia, but American Cruise Lines — the largest operator of small ships in the U.S. — is sending a second ship to the Pacific Northwest.

American Pride will be joining Queen of the West to sail the Columbia and Snake rivers next year.

The repositioning of American Pride is the latest in growth and expansion of this cruise company. The 150-passenger ship, built only three years ago, has been the leading cruise ship on the Mississippi River. To meet the high demand for cruising on the Columbia and Snake rivers, this authentic paddle wheeler was re-named and will offer 7-to-10-day cruises, beginning April 2.

The American Pride will be replaced on the Mississippi next year by the larger America, currently being completed at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland.

American’s reputation — according to the cruise line —rests on its service and attention to guests. Chefs source local ingredients, and programs are led by experts in the fields of history, nature and culture, sharing their knowledge and passion for the region’s best-kept treasures.

The American Pride will boast the largest staterooms on the Columbia and the Snake. All suites offer expansive views (from anywhere within the stateroom) of the Columbia River Gorge’s lush landscapes, volcanic Mount St. Helens and brilliance of Multnomah Falls, on the route pioneered by Lewis and Clark over 200 years ago. There’s an abundant selection of all-inclusive onboard features: finely styled mahogany clad lounges, complimentary cocktail hours and locally celebrated musicians.

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Typhoon Koppu could dump nearly a meter of rain on the northern Philippines

Typhoon Koppu slammed into the Philippines with formidable winds this weekend—reaching 240 kph (150 mph) before landfall—but weather experts say the rain, not the wind, is the main worry.

The storm (known locally as Typhoon Lando) has already dumped massive amounts of rain on Luzon, the nation’s main northern island and home to nearly half its population of 98 million people. The death toll has been minimal, but with the exceptional rains expected to rage on for several more days, the risk of flash floods and mudslides is growing by the hour and over 16,000 have been evacuated so far.

The heavy rains are widespread across the island, including in Cabanatuan, a city in central Luzon:

Oct. 19 in Cabanatuan city, northern Manila.Improvised transport in Cabanatuan city, on Oct. 19.

 

Crossing a bridge in Cabanatuan city on Oct. 19.Crossing a bridge in Cabanatuan city on Oct. 19.

A flooded street in Cabanatuan city on Oct. 19.A flooded street in Cabanatuan city on Oct. 19.

Thousands of villages have fled their homes, wary of a repeat of previous typhoons. In 2009 more 460 people died from severe flooding and mudslides in the city of Baguio and other parts of northwestern Luzon. That’s when Typhoon Parma (known locally at Typhoon Pepeng) dumped 1,854 milliliters (73 inches) on the area.

Baguio, a high-elevation city of about 320,000, is getting especially walloped. As of earlyMonday (Oct. 19) morning, it had received 208.3 millimeters (8.2 inches) of rainfall, with 610 millimeters more possible in the coming days, even as the storm is weakening.

Some 15 to 20 million people live in the area of northern Luzon north of Manila, many of them in cities with steep hillsides or flood-prone rivers, and in some cases both. Many roads have already been flooded, and millions of people have suffered power outages.

Floods in Manila, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, are also a worry. Parts of the capital look oddly naked without road-side billboards, many of which were taken down ahead of the typhoon’s arrival.

Public warning systems have been greatly improved since 2013, when Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,300 people.

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One of America’s premier research institutions was hacked—and the signs point to China

Tech companies, healthcare giants, defense contractors, top universities, the US government—you name it, Chinese cyber-spies have probably hacked it. And now, it seems likely, we can add one of the world’s preeminent marine research groups to the list.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution sustained a “sophisticated, targeted attack” that looks to have originated from China, according to Christopher Land, the organization’s general counsel and leader of its internal investigation.

If the perpetrator is indeed from the People’s Republic, it marks the latest in a series of high-profile hacks that US officials say has resulted in theft of US commercial secrets, potentially sensitive government information, and military data. With the US threatening sanctions, Chinese president Xi Jinping recently vowed not to commit commercial cyber-espionage—a pledge US officials are watching closely for signs of follow-through.

WHOI isn’t a company or a government agency, but given its close ties with the US military and the National Science Foundation, it’s not exactly a regular research institution, either. Its vast cache of research holds data on everything from bowhead whale habitats and plankton to hydrographic surveys and oceanic oxygen levels—as well as classified work WHOI does with the Navy and the US defense department.

The organization’s cyber-security team first noticed suspicious activity in late June of this year. But the breach turns out to have started back in February 2013, based on what Land learned from Mandiant, a cyber-security firm that WHOI brought in to investigate the attacks and help plug the breaches.

The attack bears the hallmarks of an APT group—that stands for “advanced persistent threat,” meaning, a long-term, covert hack—based out of China, according to Mandiant’s report to Land. Though the forensic investigation is still underway, it appears that the hackers focused on data and emails, and not personal information.

So far, there’s no sign that the hackers stole any datasets, Land says, adding that the classified research WHOI does for the Navy and the US defense department was stored on a different network from the one that was breached.

Still, the question remains: If Chinese hackers were rummaging around WHOI, what would they have been looking for? Land declined to speculate, and the breadth of WHOI’s marine-science research makes it hard to narrow things down.

However, the range of China’s commercial and strategic interests in the ocean is no less extensive—and is growing fast. China’s leaders are increasingly intent on making the nation a “maritime power” capable of defending its “maritime rights and interests.”

In June, China’s cabinet broadened the focus of its naval strategy to include not only territorial waters but also “open seas protection.” Meanwhile, a new “Maritime Silk Road” plan is meant to facilitate regional maritime economic development.

China’s high-seas fishing fleet is the planet’s largest (paywall), making international waters a source of increasing strategic importance, according to a recent World Bank report (pdf, p.42). Far to the north, China seems to view the Northern Sea Route—the shipping shortcut to Europe via the Arctic that global warming has helped open up—as a strategic priority. China now boasts the world’s biggest conventionally powered icebreaker (pdf, p.36); a second is under construction. Those will also be of use at the opposite pole—China now has four Antarctic stations and is investing rising sums into research there (paywall).

Then, of course, there are the country’s territorial claims—notably China’s claim to more than four-fifths of the South China Sea, water that teems with valuable fish and is thought to sit atop even more valuable deposits of oil and natural gas.

Interestingly enough, recent reports of a cyber attack on an international court in The Hague came in the midst of a hearing on the Philippines’ contest of China’s South China Sea claim. As you might have guessed, security experts are saying the attack came from China.

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