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Hong Kong tells foreign governments to stop accepting special British passport

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By Greg Torode and Anne Marie Roantree

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Hong Kong government has told some foreign consulates to stop accepting a British travel document that many of its young people use to apply for working holiday visas in Europe, North America and parts of Asia, diplomats say.

In a move seen by some envoys as a diplomatic affront, the government informed about a dozen foreign consulates in a letter that it no longer considered the British National Overseas (BNO) passport a valid travel document as of Jan. 31.

The letter, seen by Reuters, demanded that its Hong Kong passport should be used instead.

A diplomatic row broke out over the BNO in January after Britain introduced a new visa scheme offering a pathway to full citizenship for Hongkongers who want to leave the Chinese-ruled territory.

Britain launched the scheme after Hong Kong passed a sweeping national security law last year, that critics say is crushing dissent in the former British colony.

Almost 3 million Hong Kong residents hold or are eligible for the BNO document, that was created ahead of Britain handing the city back to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong also started to mirror mainland China by not recognising dual nationality, preventing for the first time foreign diplomats from visiting locals with foreign passports in detention.

“Most countries are going to ignore this,” said one senior Western diplomat who had seen the letter.

“It is the Hong Kong government just trying it on…they have no right to tell any state what foreign passports it can recognise.”

Another envoy described the move as “bordering on belligerent” and said it was not the way the Hong Kong government, generally mindful of the city’s standing as an international financial hub, has traditionally behaved.

The Hong Kong government has yet to respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

A Hong Kong government website lists 14 countries under the reciprocal Working Holiday Scheme, including Japan, Canada, Germany, Britain and Australia.

Officials in Japan, South Korea, Italy and New Zealand confirmed to Reuters that they still recognised the BNO passport for visas. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry added that it had not received the letter while Hungary said it had, and had started talks to change the working holiday programme.

Other nations, including the United States, Finland and Norway, also offer similar arrangements or student exchanges for Hongkongers, and have accepted BNOs from applicants.

It is not known if the United States also received the letter but a State Department spokesman told Reuters the BNO remained valid for visa-issuing purposes and travel to the United States.

Hong Kong’s moves against the BNO followed an announcement from the UK government that its new visa could attract more than 300,000 people and their dependents.

London said it was fulfilling a historic and moral commitment to Hong Kong’s people in the wake of the national security law, which allows for suspects in serious cases to be taken across the border and tried in mainland Chinese courts.

Beijing and Hong Kong authorities say the legislation is necessary to bring stability to the city after anti-government protests flared in 2019.

The UK scheme allows those with BNO status to live, study and work in Britain for five years and eventually apply for citizenship.

Beijing said it would make them second-class citizens, a line propagated by pro-Beijing media commentators in Hong Kong.

Britain handed its former colony back to Chinese rule in 1997 with guarantees its core freedoms, extensive autonomy and capitalist way of life would be protected.

 

(Reporting By Greg Torode and Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong, additional reporting by Krisztina Than in Hungary, Antoni Slodkowski in Tokyo, Hyonhee Shin in South Korea, Praveen Menon in New Zealand and Crispian Balmer in Italy; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Wall Street’s plant-based love wilts

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By Siddharth Cavale and Uday Sampath Kumar

(Reuters) – A cooling of the U.S. stock market’s taste for plant-based meat makers has raised doubts among some investors and analysts about Impossible Foods’ plans to achieve a $10 billion flotation.

Impossible is seeking to go public through an initial public offering or via a merger with a blank-check company within the next 12 months, sources told Reuters this month.

The market value of larger competitor Beyond Meat, however, has sunk from a peak of $14 billion to closer to $8.5 billion and is predicted by several brokerages to fall further.

Both firms carry expectations of being big players in a so-called faux meat market which some predict could be worth $85 billion a year by 2030 as dietary habits shift.

But with retail sales of some products sliding, four sectoral investors told Reuters that Beyond’s 420% rise in value since listing in September 2019 was now seen as overcooked.

“It’s pretty shocking when you see some of these valuations come out,” said Patrick Morris, whose Eat Beyond vehicle has invested in three Canada-listed plant-based ventures.

“The $10 billion for Impossible Foods, with Beyond Meat at $8 or $8.5 billion? The first reaction is that these valuations are coming from outer space,” added Morris, who said he is looking at investing in Impossible if it opens its books.

Some existing investors have told Impossible that it should aim to go public at a valuation below where Beyond is trading, a person familiar with the discussions told Reuters.

Impossible declined to comment.

BIG DEALS

While the signs remain positive for plant-based food, COVID-19 has halted restaurant sales, and sector studies suggest that the industry has yet to convincingly win over shoppers.

Nevertheless, both Beyond and Impossible have signed deals with major restaurant and grocery chains and the U.S. industry as a whole grew by 44% last year during the pandemic.

Revenues at Beyond and some other producers are growing, but the rate of volume sales growth of fresh and fully cooked plant-based meat alternatives has been declining steadily at U.S. retail stores since July last year, NielsenIQ data shows.

Unit sales growth eased from 32.6% in the July to September period last year to 1% in January to March quarter of 2021, when compared to the same period a year ago, the data showed.

Beyond’s sales overall were still just $407 million last year, and its stock trades at nearly 21 times sales per share, according to Refinitiv data, versus 1.6 times and 1.9 times for Kellogg Co and Kraft Heinz, which last year had sales of $13.78 billion and $26.19 billion respectively.

“Food companies need to trade in a multiple that has some logic to it,” said Christopher Kerr, Chief Investment Officer at Unovis Asset Management, an early investor in Beyond Meat who cashed out and now holds stakes in Oatly and Zero Egg.

“The question is can they get to something that represents market valuation tied to revenues … right now we’re seeing some pretty premium valuations out there,” Kerr added.

 

Graphic: Beyond Meat market cap – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/buzz/jznpnandjvl/Beyond%20market%20cap.PNG

 

SPAC BOOM

One reason for the valuation floated for Impossible is the boom in special-purpose acquisition deals and initial offerings that has seen big jumps for a range of start-ups at launch.

Brian Schaeffer, managing director of private equity trading platform InvestX, which allows investors to trade in pre-IPO companies, said Impossible had been one of the top five traded stocks on the platform since introducing it this year.

“The SPAC trend is super aggressive right now …so those kind of public valuations are being translated into interest on the private platforms,” Schaeffer added.

Some market debuts, however, have not gone as well.

British-based food delivery service Deliveroo flopped on its debut last month.

While Impossible does not publish sales numbers, some industry estimates give it a less than 4% share of the U.S. imitation meat industry, compared with Beyond Meat’s 25%.

Beyond has signed deals with McDonald’s, PepsiCo and KFC and Taco Bell owner Yum Brands while Impossible last year gave up on McDonald’s, citing its inability to supply on the required scale.

Impossible’s burgers and sausages are available at only 20,000 stores globally, versus Beyond’s 122,000 and it is still seeking regulatory approval in Europe and mainland China, where the genetically modified yeast it uses is banned.

“There is so much money (from SPACs) looking for so few places to go, because the space is so new,” Curt Albright, managing member of alternative protein investment firm Clear Current Capital said.

“Whether the valuations are too much or too little, that the market will figure out eventually.”

 

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Uday Sampath Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham and Alexander Smith)

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The Art of Finding Work

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By Nick Kossovan

Interviews Are Modern Greek Tragedies

Odds are the person interviewing you has a similar story as mine—they developed their interviewing skills “on the job.” Executives and managers are thrust into the recruiting part of their job without first developing skills to evaluate talent.

Outside of human resources, those whose job requires them to assess and interview candidates get little to no training. I never received any formal training regarding how to interview and evaluate a candidate. Yet, I’ve interviewed 1,000’s throughout my career.

I admit I stumbled through my first 150 – 200 interviews. I developed my interviewing skills, a skill I knew would serve me well, on job candidates, which I now admit was unfair to them.

Hiring the right people who’ll fit with the position, team and company can’t be overstated. I keep British-American author Simon Sinek’s words top of mind, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for the money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”

Since finding work is seeking approval, I often think of interviews as conduits to modern Greek tragedies.

We spend much of our youth and adulthood seeking approval, trying to “fit in” with the right clothes, car, house, job, etc. We’re constantly aware we’re being judged—a cause of much of why we second-guess ourselves and the stress this causes.

 

  • Am I good enough?
  • Do I fit in?

 

You desperately want to hear, “We want you.”

WARNING: Three interview truths coming.

  • When interviewing, everything goes into “the mix”—past hiring mistakes, bias, prejudices, commonalities.
  • At the core of every hiring decision is gut feel.
  • Likability is the most valuable currency a job seeker has, trumping education, skills, and experience.

 

When a candidate is sitting in front of me, I’m asking myself:

  • Will this person fit in with the current team members and the company’s culture?
  • Will this person be seen as a good hire by my boss and peers, and the team? (A bad hire = bad judgment, which is an X against my reputation.)

Acing an interview is extremely hard. Much of your success depends on whom you’re speaking to, and humans are the ultimate moving target. The best you can hope for is to stack the odds in your favour and hope your interviewer is in a good mood.

Keep top of mind: An interview is a sales meeting, and hiring is a business arrangement.

When interviewing, your job is to establish rapport (READ: connection), build trust and achieve the following goals of making the interviewer:

  • Believe in you.
  • See you as a fit.

You achieve these goals by:

  • Clearly demonstrating what value you can bring to the employer. Connect how yourtrack record, which needs to be quantified; otherwise, it’s just your opinion, would be an asset to the employer.
  • Presenting yourself as a problem solver. If you look at work holistically, you’ll realize every position within an organization exists to solve a problem(s). How can your experience and skills solve the problem(s) the position you applied to exists to solve?
  • Asking good questions. By asking good questions, your interviewer will talk about their pain points. You can then explain (sell yourself) how you’d go about solving their pain point.

Three things worth noting and using as guidance when interviewing:

  • An employer will hire you if they’re convinced you’ll bring more value than you cost, therefore offer as much value as possible.
  • Problem solvers, those with a proven track record of solving their employer’s pain points, will always be in demand.
  • People don’t have short attention spans. They have short interest spans. Make your interviewer interested in you!

 

There’s no blueprint to guarantee interview success. All you can do is stack the odds in your favour as much as possible. However, there’s one universal interview rule that’ll tip the odds in your favour: Always tell the person sitting across from you what they want to hear. When you develop the ability to read your interviewer and comfortably offer solutions to their pain points, you’ll have developed solid interviewing skills. Such skills will mitigate the number of Greek tragedies you’ll experience while job searching.

______________________________________________________________

 

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send him your questions at artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

 

 

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Judge Rules to delay Huawei CFO’s extradition hearings

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By Moira Warburton

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A Canada judge has agreed to delay Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s U.S. extradition hearings for three months, according to a ruling read in court on Wednesday, handing her defense team a win.

Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on charges of bank fraud in the United States for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.

Meng’s team had asked for more time to review additional documents that became available after HSBC and Huawei reached a settlement in Hong Kong. Extradition hearings were originally set to wrap up in May.

Defense attorney Richard Peck argued in court on Monday that they were requesting “a modest frame of time” to be able to read the documents and potentially file them as evidence in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Lawyers representing the attorney general of Canada had fought the adjournment of hearings set to start on Monday, arguing that Meng’s team had been given more time than was usual in an extradition to make their case, and the contents of the documents were too redacted to be relied upon as significant to the case.

“The outstanding feature of this application is that it’s based on speculation,” prosecutor Robert Frater said on Monday.

But Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes disagreed, siding with the defense in granting an adjournment.

Her reasons will be read out on in court on April 28.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)

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