Good morning

The headlines:

  1. Microsoft invests $300 million in new subsidiary deal with Barnes & Noble. The new subsidiary is going to combine the B&N Nook e-reader and college bookstore businesses. Barnes & Noble sales have been driven almost exclusively by US sales until this point – but they are now attempting to get into overseas markets. Of course, I’ve never touched or physically seen a Nook, mainly because I don’t live in the US. But my experience of using textbooks on e-readers is that it’s cumbersome, although not as cumbersome as carrying around the textbooks. But the real drawback? I can annotate a textbook – but I am yet to see that functionality on any e-reader device (including the iPad – shocking!). However, if I could do that (cheaply), I would buy one this afternoon. The other side of the story (pun) is the overseas presence. If South Africa is anything to go by, someone is not paying attention to the potential markets. E-book distribution rights are either unpurchased or unused. B&N – maybe it’s not too late! Link: Microsoft finds a Nook.
  2. Walmart employees released after pork-labelling saga. They’ve been in jail for six months. After some ordinary pork in the Chongqing province was mislabeled as organic. Can we use the word “hectic” and mean it? Surely that takes the whole organic vibe a bit far – and let’s be honest, the people that want things to be organic are hardly likely to be eating pig. Or anything animal-related at all. If I was in any way influenced by conspiracy theories, I would say that the American store was being targeted for not being Chinese. Luckily I’m not. Dear Walmart – now that you’re here in SA, we’re more concerned with “halaal” markings than “organic” ones. Mess that one up, and the brotherhood may literally get up in arms. Hint: there might be an issue labelling the pork “halaal”. Link: In China, if it says “organic”, than it had better be organic.
  3. The Shanghai and Shenzhen Exchanges are to lower trading fees by 25%. But only on A shares, which are only available to Chinese investors: unlike B shares, which are the only ones that foreigners can purchase. So only good news if you’re Chinese. Link: Stimulating Chinese Investment.
  4. Australia cuts its key lending rate. By 50 basis points to 3.75%. It’s about 25 basis points more of a reduction than expected by 27 of the 29 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Link: The Australian Surprise.
  5. Hong Kong Stock Exchange considers buying London Metal Exchange. The equities market in Hong Kong is “maturing”, which (I guess) means that most of the companies likely to list have already listed. And while revenues can remain fairly constant based on commissions, etc – revenue growth comes from more listings and/or (in this case) a different asset class. At least – that’s the theory. The London Metal Exchange handles 80% of global trade in metal futures. By extension, the exchange is exposed to increased global demand for commodities, as well as mining industry growth in Africa. More growth and more demand equal more futures contracts? Link: The HK Exchange Conglomerate.
  6. Noma is still the world’s best restaurant. So visit Copenhagen with bookings long in advance. Link: The World’s Top 50 Best Restaurants Announced..
  7. As Chavez calls for Divine Intervention, Venezuela’s bonds rally on hopes of Chavez demise. Chavez is returning to Cuba for more treatment. Investors have been speculating on Chavez’ death resulting in a change in government. Link: Divine Dilemma: Chavez wants life, Investors don’t.
  8. Coca-Cola says it’s not in talks to acquire Monster Beverages. After the Wall Street Journal announced that it was in talks yesterday, Monster Beverages’ share price rose 28%. There’s quite possibly a WSJ source out there that just made some money. Link: That Awkward Moment.
  9. RIM attempts to “woo” back app designers. If they can’t, they may as well shut shop now. Apps are like the ultimate de-nationalisation (de-bigcorporatisation?) – if there’s a want, there’s someone that’s made an app for it. If you’re unhappy with something, you review – and a short while later, there’s usually an update. Way back three weeks ago when Instagram was solely the province of iPhone users, I had friends making the switch solely for the Instagram wave. Given the choice between apps and bbm, I’ll take the tempermental Whatsapp without question. Link: The Crisis Hurdle.
  10. South African road tolls delay may increase Government Debt. The High Court has prevented the South African National Road Agency (Sanral) from implementing its e-toll system on Johannesburg’s highways. Sanral owes $2.6 billion for the road improvements – and if Sanral can’t pay it; the government will probably have to. Why? Well Public Investment Corp., SA’s largest fund manager (and manager of the state pension plans) holds over half of Sanral’s bonds. Can you imagine the vote drama of letting Sanral go into default? Never. Link: Well who else was going to pay for it?