Category Archives: Business
Geographically, Ukraine straddles Eastern and Western Europe, but the President Viktor Yanukovych is finding it increasingly difficult to balance the country’s interests.
Yanukovych came into power touting his close relations with Moscow and he maintains when it comes to energy supplies they are essential for Ukraine and Europe as well.
"I think Europe will sleep peacefully in warmth if Ukraine has good relations with Russia, if there are no such conflicts like when we were shut off from gas,” he said on Ukrainian television. “This is unacceptable, so we need to protect our own interests," said Yanukovych.
Ukraine still gets 60 percent of its gas from Russia, but the level of dependence wanes the further one gets away from the Eastern and Central European neighbourhood.
Bulgaria gets all of its natural gas supplies from Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant; the Czech Republic 80%. Germany remains a big customer, but at just below 40%, dependency on Russian gas is much less compared to when supplies were cut off in 2006 and 2009.
What is important to watch are the signals sent from Moscow in terms of both direct funding to Ukraine and potentially re-working the 2009 gas agreement.
This is Ukraine’s third recession since 2008 and foreign reserves have dropped to their lowest level since 2006. A successful agreement from Moscow, according to Laurent Ruseckas of IHS CERA, would be obtaining up to $ 10 billion and a cut rate deal on gas prices.
This would allow the Ukrainian President to tell those still protesting on the freezing cold streets of Kiev that he can obtain some political payback for not signing on to the association agreement with the European Union.
While he deals with this crisis he knows full well that decisions this week will likely impact any hopes he has for re-election in 2015.
Iran's six month agreement with P5 + 1, Egypt's transition after the ouster of Mohammed Morsy and Syria's long and catastrophic civil war have nudged a plan to revitalize the Palestinian Territories right off the global agenda.
I was in the room when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled, on the evening of May 26, what he saw as an ambitious plan to deliver hope to Palestinians by jump-starting investment. His speech closing out the World Economic Forum regional meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan was met with a heavy dose of skepticism because it lacked specifics.
Kerry presented an economic road-map, calling for $ 4 billion of private investment covering eight sectors from agriculture to tourism. If you build the right framework, according to the top U.S. diplomat, investors will come. The goal is to boost the economies of the West Bank and Gaza by up to 50% in just three years.
While no one can really argue with the spirit of the economic initiative, the reality on the factory floor, whether it is light manufacturing or in telecommunications, is very different. Palestinian businessmen suggest it is time to be more holistic in the approach. One cannot divorce the peace process from business.
In the West Bank city of Hebron, I met the founder of New Tossetti shoes Shaker Syaj, who over Arabic coffee in his boardroom gathered half of the 30 family members involved in the ageing, but active three story factory.
Syaj is a true survivor of uncertainty, having opened the operation a half century ago. The company makes 12,000 pairs of shoes a day, but with low interest loans and export promotion by government, he says the company could boost sales by 30% in the first year alone.
Business in the West Bank is in a word complex. Whatever work is generated seems to be derailed by the stalemate in peace talks and sporadic violence. New Tossetti used to export 200 thousand pairs of shoes a year to Germany until the second intifada or uprising against Israel in 2001.
"When the intifada started our German partner stopped importing our product, because they were afraid of the risk to their business due to the political situation." said the operations manager and nephew of the founder, Omar Syaj.
But the shoemaker fits the profile of the type of company U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wants to see expand under his Palestinian economic blueprint.
Businessmen suggest inbound investment is not enough. Restrictions need to be lifted as well to send a signal to the outside world, that it is an even playing field for business regardless of which side a company sits on of the giant security wall that divides Israelis and Palestinians.
For New Tossetti these restrictions mean some chemicals used as adhesives are banned for import. Israel fears certain compounds could be used in bomb making.
Third and fourth generation mobile technology has been blocked and there are the more obvious barriers to trade such as checkpoints which slow down the flow of hard goods.
After spending the morning on the factory floor and experiencing the worn out infrastructure in the West Bank, the team and I went to technology networking event in Ramallah.
The talk was of leap-frogging those barriers and thinking big through e-commerce. The goal is to link start up companies with investors. The chairman of Arabreneur and co-founder of the event Abdulmalek Al-Jaber said this effort was driven by a lack of any progress despite many attempts in the last decade.
"We tried to industrial zones it failed, we tried to do projects like hotels and resorts, it failed because these kind of projects are very dependent on the peace process," said Al-Jaber in between business presentations.
This impacts tourists and their spending as well. There's a steady stream of visitors at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. But the West Bank economy is not seeing the full benefits of all this traffic.
"These people come in and spend a day in Bethlehem. We receive 2.3 million tourists a year out of which 1.8 million don't spend the night in a Palestinian hotel. What is the reason? access and movement," Fadi Kattan, Director General of ACA Travel and Tourism told me over coffee just outside the church grounds.
And free movement Palestinians say cannot be tackled without a peace agreement and that after a week on the ground seems more contentious than ever.
The Colombian capital of Bogota has rolled out a fleet of electric taxis, made by Chinese automobile company BYD. It is the largest such fleet in South America, and is designed to improve the city’s air quality and reduce pollution. But there are some challenges in maintaining these eco-friendly vehicles. CNN's Nick Parker takes a ride.
Meet the man who runs Hong Kong's vast subway system MTR, which carries a staggering 5.1 million people a day. But, CNN discovers, its chief executive Jay Walder is focused on efficiency – which he says translates into profits and sustainability.
Pakistan’s movie industry may be fledging, but passion keeps it vibrant. Now, Zinda Bhaag has been chosen as Pakistan's first entry in 50 years in the best foreign film category at the Oscars.
India’s multinational Mahindra Group is best known for its utility vehicles – and its mantra is “alternative thinking.” Anand Mahindra, chairman, of the Mahindra Group, spoke to CNN's Executive Innovator about the importance of innovation.
(CNN) – The historic six-month agreement over Tehran's nuclear program may begin a new era of relations with Iran, but it will be a long road back for the country's most vital sector, oil.
Iran produces about two and half million barrels a day – far off its 4-million-barrel-per-day peak a decade ago. Output is hovering at a level last seen at the end of Iran's war with Iraq. With North Sea Brent crude averaging over $ 100 a barrel for a record three years running, the sanctions on energy alone are costing Tehran about $ 50 billion in lost annual revenue.
Despite the deal breakthrough, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said most of the sanctions will stick as the world gauges the intentions of this relatively new administration in Tehran.
The message is clear: the pressure remains, but if all goes well, in a half year's time Iran can expect more in return for transparency.
It is still early, but can Iran emerge as the 'Germany of the Middle East?'
Read more here for analysis from CNN's John Defterios.
The new Triple E is the world’s biggest container vessel, and it’s been produced by shipping company Maersk Line. CEO Soren Skou talks to CNN’s Executive Innovator about thinking big.
Luxury cars are hot property in the Middle East, but a new hypercar has upped the extravagant stakes. The $ 3.4 million Lykan HyperSport, built by Lebanese company W Motors, comes with a holographic display, 770 horsepower, LED lights encrusted with diamonds and sapphires and a 24-hour concierge service. But established brands pose fierce competition for the newcomer. CNN's Leone Lakhani takes a look at the luxurious new vehicle.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey might be a billionaire but his latest venture is designed to support small business. CNN's Maggie Lake caught up with the entrepreneur and founder of Square, the mobile payment system which is helping to build a community of small companies.