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China is powering ahead in the network race

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SINGAPORE: The future of 5G holds huge promise, of total connectivity of devices and the ubiquity of technology in our everyday lives.

China made its 5G ambitions clear since 2013 in the Made in China 2025 plan. Since then, China has invested heavily into 5G.

We are now seeing the fruits of China’s efforts, as 5G reaps economic dividends and transforms China’s cities.

5G IS CREATING MORE CHINESE BUSINESS AND JOBS

China’s 5G investment has helped to supercharge businesses and create new jobs. Much of these investments have poured in from the public sector.

In China’s latest five-year plan (2015 to 2020), the government earmarked US$400 billion for investment into 5G, helping to drive China’s 5G investment above those of key rivals in developed countries.

More than US$900 billion in output and 8 million jobs will be created by 2030, said the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.

The race for now looks asymmetrical. According to Deloitte, China outspent the US by US$24 billion in 5G infrastructure between 2015 and 2018.

The Chinese private sector has also moved rapidly in the 5G space, giving the country’s national efforts a huge boost. Huawei recently set up a research centre for innovation in 5G and related fields in Hefei, Anhui.

Even foreign partners want a piece of the Chinese pie. Nokia has partnered Tencent to build and test 5G applications. The partnership leverages Tencent’s over 1 billion users on instant messaging software giants WeChat and QQ.

WeChat mascots are displayed inside Tencent office at TIT Creativity Industry Zone in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China May 9, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files)

Private sector investment into 5G is expected to surge following issuance of the first 5G commercial licenses by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in June.

China’s three largest state-owned telecom operators – China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom – were the first recipients, although more carriers are expected to receive licenses soon.

China Mobile has already announced plans to invest over US$10 billion in 5G, of which US$5.6 billion will be channelled towards 5G-related procurement, whilst another US$4.4 billion will go towards a 5G industry fund.

With other carriers look set to follow suit, investment into 5G is likely to continue ramping up, providing a much needed push for the Chinese economy, which has recently seem a three-decade low this year.

REVOLUTIONARY CHANGES

Robust investment into China’s 5G ecosystem has already developed 5G uses that are transforming China’s cities. Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province and a 5G pilot city, sheds light on China’s 5G future.

Wuhan is home to China’s first 5G-based smart production line. The facility, opened by China Information Communication Technology (CICT), reportedly improves productivity by 30 per cent using automation and 5G networks, using robotic arms to assemble equipment and transmitting its operating status in real-time.

Also significant is Wuhan’s push towards being a smart city.  It has already implemented China’s first 5G smart street-lamps which are more energy efficient as the illuminance is adjusted based on road usage, weather and natural light conditions.

File photo of city of Wuhan, China
File photo: The Yellow Crane Tower in the city of Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province. (Photo: AFP)

China Mobile has also started work on the world’s first 5G smart highway project. This smart highway is touted to be capable of supporting cellular network-coordinated transportation such as smart toll stations that effectively remove the need for any human operators. Real time traffic information with AI prediction will be added to support autonomous vehicles eventually.

Other Chinese cities are also showcasing interesting uses of 5G.

Baidu has used 5G test networks in Xiong’an, a new city southwest of Beijing, to livestream events in virtual reality.

In Fangshan, 5G capability has enabled autonomous vehicles to transmit data to each other to avoid collisions. Similarly, Chinese bus manufacturer Yutong is testing the world’s first 5G autonomous electric buses in Zhengzhou.

While these cases suggest that the 5G’s transformation of China is still in its early stages, they hold great potential for the kind of impact 5G applications can make.

Research by IHS Markit forecasts that China’s 5G value chain alone could contribute US$984 billion in economic output and support 9.5 million jobs by 2035.

SPILLOVERS IN OTHER INDUSTRIES

Huge positive spill-over effects to other sectors can arise once 5G development in China take off.

Real-estate investors are likely to see significant opportunities arising from 5G in China. As 5G revolutionises work processes, it can create new business opportunities for property and property technology.

Man talks on his phone beside a Huawei's billboard featuring 5G technology at the PT Expo in B
A man talks on his phone beside a Huawei’s billboard featuring 5G technology at the PT Expo in Beijing, China. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer/Files)

Leasing demand for multiple real-estate asset classes should rise as a result of these new demand drivers. We have also seen an increase in the adoption of technology in China’s real estate industry, including a surge in the development of new property technology.

A report by investment firm JLL revealed that Asia Pacific region received over half of the US$7.8 billion invested in Property technology (PropTech) firms globally between 2013 and June 2017.

Not surprisingly, China was the key beneficiary. The country has adopted technology in man – real estate verticals, from brokerage and leasing to project development, investment and financing.

5G could further the development of these technologies.

For example, the collection of real-time data on user experience through the Internet of Things in an office or the pattern of human traffic flow in a mall could inspire a next wave of proptech development that identify dead spaces in mall design and promote greater productivity in office layouts.

GATHERING CLOUDS OVER THE PROSPECT OF 5G IN CHINA

In the competition for greater foreign direct investment, cities are racing to adopt 5G technologies to achieve smart city status and create a better urban environment for people.

A survey from The Economist Group and Intel showed that most respondents ranked “improvement in the quality of life” as a benefit of the adoption of smart city technology.

Quality of life is a major factor that attracts top talent and firms to any city, and this can only get increasingly more important in the future.

There are plenty of other areas for confrontation, such as China's growing technological might,
(Photo: AFP/Hector Retamal)

Although China stands to gain significantly from 5G, the recent spate of global events could endanger its 5G prospects.

Many market watchers have flagged the possible delay in the development of China’s 5G network amid brewing concerns about cybersecurity, surveillance and spying, notwithstanding that the US has pulled back from the Huawei trade ban.

A delay in China’s plans for 5G development could also lead to a bifurcation of the 5G infrastructure. One part of the world could adopt the new Chinese standard, and the other use only European or American-made telecommunication technologies.

But 5G presents the best chance for China to leapfrog advanced economies to lead technology development on a global scale. And in this race, China looks set to maintain its pole position for some time.

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Hudson’s Bay Company agrees to taken company private

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Hudson’s Bay Co. will go private in a deal valuing the Canadian retailer at $1.9 billion in a bid by a group of investors led by executive chairman Richard Baker to try their hand at reinvigorating the fading 349-year-old department-store chain.


Hudson Bay Company executive chairman Richard Baker

The board of Hudson’s Bay said it entered into an agreement with investors led by Baker after the group raised its offer price to $10.30 a share, up from $9.45 a share. It approved the offer after a recommendation by a committee of independent directors.

Hudson’s Bay shares rose 7 per cent to $10.11 at 9:35 a.m. in Toronto.

Attention will now turn to minority shareholders who came out against Baker’s earlier proposal. The company needs a majority of them to approve the new deal for it to go through.

Catalyst Capital Group and other investors had said Baker’s original offer undervalued a company that’s rich in real estate holdings. Representatives for Catalyst and for Jonathan Litt, an activist investor who’s also been critical of Baker, were not immediately available for comment.

“The special committee is confident that this transaction represents the best path forward for HBC and the minority shareholders,” David Leith, head of the special committee, said in a statement.

Baker and his investment group want full control of the retailer, which also owns Sak’s Fifth Avenue, to turn the business around outside the glare of public markets. While Saks has been the group’s bright star of late, the Canada-based Hudson’s Bay chain, the oldest company in North America, is removing 300 “unproductive” brands and bringing in another 100 in a turnaround effort.


Mannequins sit on display inside a Saks Fifth Avenue.

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

A number of traditional retailers are struggling and closing stores as consumer preferences change and shoppers increasingly migrate online to competitors like Amazon.com Inc.

Department stores in particular have struggled to attract new consumers and maintain sales.

Luxury focused chains haven’t been exempt from the fallout: Barneys New York Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection in August amid rising rent costs and a decline in visitors. A consortium led by Authentic Brands Group LLC has been selected as its initial bidder, with the group planning to open Barneys shops inside Saks Fifth Avenue stores owned by Hudson’s Bay, Bloomberg reported on Oct. 16, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Hudson’s Bay has been trying everything to lower debt and stop its stock’s slide, most recently selling selling the operations of its Lord & Taylor department store chain to clothing rental subscription company Le Tote.

Chief executive Helena Foulkes, who was brought in last year, also sold flash-sale e-commerce site Gilt and cashed out of European operations.

The stock traded as high as $10.72 in August on expectations the bid would be raised. It was back at $9.45, the original offer price, at the end of last week. Over the last five years, the stock has lost about half of its value.

“It’s good to see that there’s a resolution with a good, formal take-private offer and a cash bid, and I think that should be a good resolution for a lot of people,” Greg Taylor, chief investment officer at Purpose Investments, said on BNN Bloomberg.

“Certainly a lot of people would have wanted a lot more from this but in the current dynamics around department stores in North America, I think this is probably as good as they could have hoped.”

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Energy regulator says crude-by-rail shipments fell to 310000 bpd

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The Canada Energy Regulator says exports of crude oil by rail from Canada fell slightly in August to 310,000 barrels per day from 313,000 bpd in July.

The August number is up 35 per cent from 230,000 bpd reported in August of 2018 but still well below the record high of 354,000 bpd set last December.

The small change in crude-by-rail shipments came despite a threat by Imperial Oil Ltd. CEO Rich Kruger to throttle back the company’s rail movements in August and September to protest the ongoing Alberta oil production curtailment program.

He says the program damages the economic case for crude-by-rail by artificially lowering the difference in oil prices between Alberta and the end market on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Imperial reported moving 80,000 bpd by rail in June. It co-owns an oil shipping rail terminal at Edmonton with capacity to load 210,000 barrels of crude per day.

Alberta has gradually eased the curtailment program designed to better align production with tight pipeline capacity from an initial withholding of about 325,000 bpd last January to 125,000 bpd in September.

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Hudson Bay Company agrees to pay more to shareholders for takeover bid

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Hudson Bay Company

The board of Hudson Bay Co. has agreed to a sweetened offer by a shareholder group led by executive chairman Richard Baker.

The retailer says the group has agreed to pay $10.30 per share in cash to take HBC private. The bid is up from an earlier offer of $9.45 per share.

The agreement values HBC at about $1.9 billion.

HBC says the price offered represents a premium of 62 per cent compared with where its shares were trading before the shareholder group’s initial privatization proposal in the summer.

The Baker-led group holds a 57 per cent stake in the retailer and includes Rhone Capital, WeWork Property Advisors, Hanover Investments (Luxembourg) and Abrams Capital Management.

The deal is subject to the approval by a majority of the minority of HBC shareholders, excluding the shareholder group and its affiliates, and approval by a 75 per cent majority vote at a special meeting of shareholders.

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