Perspectives on China, India, & Brazil News related to China, Brazil and India for the Foundation Global Education Perspectives summer programs

3May/11Off

BRICS Group

The BRICS Group is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

It was founded in 2009 and was originally the BRIC Group; South Africa joined in April 2011. Its first summit meeting was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia on June 16, 2009, a session that was intended to underscore the rising economic clout of these four major developing countries and their demand for a greater voice in the world.

All four had expressed varying degrees of discomfort with Washington's financial stewardship, and were particularly concerned about the value of the dollar at a time of rapidly mounting indebtedness in the United States.

The BRIC countries comprise about 15 percent of the world economy and, perhaps more important, have about 40 percent of global currency reserves. Brazil, India and China have also weathered the financial crisis better than the world as a whole; South Africa has the most developed economy south of the Sahara.

While they are far from a monolithic group, they are generally united in their frustration with the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency, which enables Washington to run budget deficits without fear of facing the kind of budgetary day of reckoning that other countries risk.

The excess dollars pile up in foreign central banks, leaving those countries with a difficult choice: reinvesting the dollars in United States securities or holding them and facing an increase in the value of their own currencies, making their products less competitive in world markets.

While there have been periodic complaints about the dollar through the years, the criticisms from the BRIC countries have become more frequent and more acerbic lately, and have included calls for a supranational currency to replace the dollar.

Senior officials in most of the BRIC governments -- India, which does not depend as much on trade, is something of an exception -- assert that while the United States has acted irresponsibly over the last 30 years by amassing too much debt, they will be the ones who suffer.

China, Brazil and Russia have said that they will purchase notes from the International Monetary Fund to begin diversifying their reserves, and China has taken steps to allow the renminbi to trade internationally, bolstering its case as a potential reserve currency.

Still, the reality is that even many forceful critics of the dollar see no immediate alternative to it as the vehicle for international trade. No other markets in the world have the depth and liquidity of those in the United States, experts say.

The very notion of the BRIC nations was conceived in 2001 by an economist for Goldman Sachs, and only then embraced by the countries themselves. Their leaders have conducted informal discussions before, but the June 2009 event was their first formal gathering.

14Apr/11Off

Scholars given tips on Fulbright scholarships

TNN, Apr 6, 2011, 11.11pm IST

PATNA: United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) senior programme manager Sudarsan Das on Wednesday encouraged the local scholars to apply for Fulbright scholarships for carrying out studies, research, teaching and professional development in the US.

Addressing the students at NIT Patna here, he said that outstanding students, academics, teachers, policy planners, administrators and professionals in all disciplines can apply for these fellowships. USIEF expects to offer approximately 110 Fulbright-Nehru fellowships for Indians in 2012, he said.

 

7Apr/11Off

China’s B-Schools On The March As Its Economic Clout Rises: John Quelch

Apr. 6 2011 - 8:09 am

Asia only five years ago didn’t have any business schools in the top 20 in global rankings. Now, there are four: China Europe International Business School, or CEIBS,  HKUST Business School, the Indian School of Business and the Indian Institute of Management. If John Quelch is successful, one of those is going to be moving even higher up the rungs soon.

In a sign of how China’s growing economic muscle is pulling the country’s business schools into the big leagues, too, John Quelch on Feb. 1 started as dean at CEIBS.  Quelch, one of the most influential leaders in global business education, had previously spent 10 years helping to keep Harvard Business School at the top of the business education ranks as an associate dean.  UK-born Quelch earlier ran the prestigious London Business School.

Quelch is starting off from a good base at CEIBS. The Shanghai-based school, a non-profit joint venture between the European Commission and the Chinese government, has the world’s 17th-ranked MBA and 18th-ranked EMBA program, according to the Financial Times. CEIBS alumni are in the country’s richest people, including at least three members of our 2011 Forbes Billionaires List,  Zhu Yicai, Che Fengsheng and Wu Guangming.

Yet China, after getting rich early on from low-cost manufacturing, needs to continue to change its economy. CEIBS’ new leader aims to position to the school to help. “Instead of being focused on teaching what we already know, we know have to be focused on creating new knowledge that is China-based, because it’s absolutely clear that China is going to shift from a production economy to a knowledge economy,” Quelch said in a recent speech to the Shanghai Foreign Correspondents Club.

Although it’s hard to imagine today, China three decades ago barely had any business education.   Much has changed since CEIBS opened its doors in 1994. Market reforms have created a huge demand for business skills in the world’s fastest-growing major economy, and hundreds of business degrees are on offer throughout the vast country.

“To set up a business school is a very easy thing to do in the sense that there’s a very low barrier to entry,” Quelch said. “If you think about it, as I used to say, all you need is a warm body and a piece of chalk, and a blackboard, you can set up a business school. If you’re setting up a business lab or a chemistry lab, you need a lot more capital investment up front. So, without getting into the whole permitting and approving issue in China, it’s very easy to get into the business school business.”

Making a mark internationally is another thing. CEIBS, besides its international perspective and standards, has advanced quickly in part because of the success of its EMBA problem. With 800 students this year, it is the world’s largest (versus only 200 in CEIBS’ MBA program). Some 80% of the students are Chinese; the other 20% can enroll in an English-language International EMBA catering to expatriates in China.  It also offers short executive education class for the likes of IBM, GE, Coca-Cola, Eli Lilly, Emerson and Kraft.

EMBAs are a good place for a relatively young school like CEIBS to invest resources because they attract students who are already influential, or close to it.  “The average age of people that are coming in is 38 years old in a good EMBA program,” Quelch says. So by the time a school is only 17 years old – as CEIBS is, “you have a mass of hugely important and highly placed people in the economy.” CEIBS  generates about $30 million of fees from its EMBA program alone.

One change for Quelch from his old job at Harvard Business School: attention to rankings. “Coming from HBS, it’s a little bit strange for me to get into this whole ranking thing, because with a 105-year history and so on, and  brand of awareness of 95 %, we didn’t really have to worry about ranking, whether we were one or two or three, it didn’t matter,” he said.

“But when you get down into the second tier, the ranking that you do achieve actually does have a lot of significance and impact in terms of driving MBA applications. And obviously the bigger the MBA application pool, the more selective we can be in terms of the submissions, and the better the students you get (and) the better the faculty you’re going to get in retain, because they want to teach good students and work with good students. So like it or not, ranking is important.”

China’s economic rise is shaking up business education all across Asia, not only China, Quelch says.  “Why are these Asian business schools rising in the ranking? Obviously, the answer is the growth of the Chinese economy, and the room in China’s job market” for top

23Mar/11Off

Vinod Khosla thinks most venture capitalists are being too cautious with their green investments. But is his own approach too risky?

Mar 10th 2011 | from the print edition

“ENVIRONMENTALISTS are fiddling while Rome burns,” says Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm. “They get in the way with silly stuff like asking people to walk more, drive less. That is an increment of 1-2% change. We need 1,000% change if billions of people in China and India are to enjoy a Western, energy-rich lifestyle.” Forget today’s green technologies like electric cars, wind turbines, solar cells and smart grids, in other words. None meets what Mr Khosla calls the “Chindia price”—the price at which people in China and India will buy them without a subsidy. “Everything’s a toy until it reaches that point,” he says.

Mr Khosla has a different plan to save the planet. He is investing over $1 billion of his clients’ money in “black swans”—ideas with the potential for sudden jumps in technology that promise huge environmental benefits, easy scalability and rapid payback. The catch? Mr Khosla expects nine out of ten of his investments to fail.

“I am only interested in technologies that have a 90% chance of failure but, if they do succeed, would change the infrastructure of society in some radical way,” he says. Khosla Ventures’ portfolio reads like an eco-utopian wish-list: non-polluting nuclear reactors; diesel from microbes; carbon-negative cement; quantum batteries; and a system for extracting methane from coal while it is still underground.

“Any one of these things is improbable but, if you have enough shots on goal, then it’s very likely that something improbable will win,” he says. “Ten years ago, no analyst in the world would have predicted 650m cellphone subscribers in India but only 300m people with access to latrines and toilets. Even five years ago, no one would have predicted the way that Twitter took off. These are the black swan outliers.” Mr Khosla is keen to point out that he has caught a black swan before. In the mid-1990s, when working for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture-capital firm, he invested $3m in Juniper Networks, a company making telecoms gear based on internet standards.

“At the time, every major telecommunications company told us that they would never switch to internet systems,” says Mr Khosla. Within just a few years, the internet boom had netted Kleiner Perkins a $7 billion return on its Juniper investment. Now Mr Khosla is gambling that venture capital can work similar magic in the field of clean technology. His approach is that of a pragmatic businessman rather than an eco-warrior. “I don’t view climate change as a moral thing. I view it as a risk, no different from nuclear proliferation, terrorism or national defence,” he says. “Business is used to buying insurance, and this is insurance that it is imperative we buy.”

These high-tech insurance policies come in many flavours. Mr Khosla has invested in companies that promise ultra-efficient air conditioning using hypersonic vortices or desiccant chemicals. He is funding the commercialisation of low-power lighting, next-generation solar cells and super-strong building materials. But, like the environmentalists he scorns, Mr Khosla puts most of his energy into seeking alternatives to traditional fossil fuels.

“We remain primarily a gasoline-driven consumer economy,” he says. “I’m happy to see the price of oil going up, as it will incentivise us to replace fossil fuels.” Mr Khosla has invested in several biotechnology companies that aim to condense the multi-million-year process of creating oil from plant life into a matter of hours. Amyris, which was floated on the NASDAQ exchange last autumn, is using genetically engineered organisms to turn plant sugars into a precursor of diesel.

Never tell me the odds

Another start-up, KiOR, is hoping to go one step further, converting cellulosic biomass (such as waste wood and leaves) into a crude oil replacement called Re-Crude. Fans of cellulosic biofuels hope that they can produce ethanol without competing with food crops for agricultural land. According to Mr Khosla, KiOR can produce Re-Crude in America today for less than $90 a barrel. “Three years ago, I would have said that there was a 90% chance of KiOR failing. But these things aren’t predictable. Forecasting is based on assumptions, and technology changes those assumptions,” says Mr Khosla. “I never compute returns. If you start forecasting cash flows, you lose innovation, you lose instinct. You average yourself down to mediocrity.”

No one is likely to accuse Mr Khosla of that. At the age of 20 he launched a soya-milk company in his home city of Delhi, targeting the multitudes in India who did not own a refrigerator. When it failed he moved to America to study biomedical engineering and business. In 1982 he co-founded Sun Microsystems, a maker of powerful workstation computers. After the company’s initial public offering (IPO) in 1986, Mr Khosla left to become a venture capitalist. At Kleiner Perkins, Mr Khosla was involved in the early financing of Nexgen, an innovative chipmaker, and Excite, a search engine. He also had some high-profile flops, including Dynabook, a company that designed a tablet computer 20 years before the Apple iPad but proved unable to bring it to market.

“I’ve had many more failures than successes in my life,” admits Mr Khosla. “My willingness to fail gives me the ability to succeed.” His next move was characteristically unpredictable: he temporarily moved his family to India. “I wanted to see if I could have a social impact,” he says. “I quickly realised that any non-profit activity I could do would be no more than a drop in the ocean. Most non-profit organisations are completely ineffective. That’s when I decided that I needed to look for scalable solutions, which meant self-propagating solutions, which meant capitalist solutions. Proving the capitalist tool as a solution for poverty is high on my priority list.”

Mr Khosla put several million dollars into SKS, a for-profit microfinance company. Although India’s booming microfinance industry has since attracted criticism (and even government action) for its high interest rates and aggressive debt-collection practices, Mr Khosla is adamant that its benefits outweigh any ills. “Millions of people now have access to financial services,” he says. “That’s more social than any non-profit thing I could have done. And guess what? In the process, I made $100m. You never know when something you’re trying to be radical on will make you money.”

If Mr Khosla is unapologetic about making money while helping some of the world’s poorest people, he is equally outspoken when it comes to the environmental movement in the West. “Wind projects are a waste of time. And the reality is that electric cars today are coal-powered cars, because the USA and much of Europe have mostly coal-based electricity,” he says. “Environmentalists use artificial rates of return, buried assumptions and ‘what if’ assumptions about behaviour changes. It’s useless crap.”

This sort of talk does not exactly endear Mr Khosla to environmentalists. “The solution to our energy problems is almost the exact opposite of what Khosla says,” declares Joseph Romm, who is the editor ofClimate Progress, an influential climate blog, and a senior fellow at the Centre for American Progress Action Fund, a think-tank. “Technology breakthroughs are unlikely to be the answer. Accelerated deployment of existing technologies will get you down the cost curve much more rapidly than a breakthrough.”

But Mr Khosla is standing behind his black swans. “We fool ourselves into thinking that if 5% of San Franciscans or rich Germans can afford a technology, then it’s getting market traction. But only when an electric car can compete with a Tata Nano will you achieve scale, and that requires radical innovations in battery technology,” he says, referring to the world’s cheapest production car. Accordingly, Khosla Ventures is funding several energy-storage systems, including high-efficiency solid-state batteries that sidestep the safety problems with today’s lithium-ion cells.

It’s all about diversification, says Mr Khosla: “We’ll try half a dozen batteries. If other people try 30 more, only one has to work to completely change society.” Whether other investors will be prepared to take similar gambles on blue-sky technologies remains to be seen.

Going it alone

Although Khosla Ventures’ two funds are fully subscribed, and have invested about $1.3 billion in over 40 companies, billions more dollars and many more start-ups will be needed to hatch a flock of black swans. Mr Khosla estimates that the amount of investment required to replace all the petrol consumed in America with renewable fuels will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. But other high-tech venture capitalists seem to be steering clear of risky green investments.

“I would love to say that Vinod is starting a trend,” says Steve Westly, another venture capitalist focusing on green technology. “But no. Not everybody has the courage to do that. Even here in Silicon Valley, people find it hard to understand that if you think big, you’re going to have some failures.” Mr Khosla thinks other investors will come round to his way of thinking eventually. “The climate will change as soon as we have a Netscape moment. When we have an IPO where people see they can make a billion dollars, everyone will start to invest.”

But Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, whose IPO kicked off the internet boom, thinks Silicon Valley investors will prefer to stick to information technology. He has even promised that his latest venture-capital fund will avoid “clean, green, energy and electric cars”. He argues that clean-tech is a very different field. “Moving from IT ventures to green technologies is nearly impossible, except for rare and extraordinary individuals like Vinod,” he says. “He has put years into becoming a master of the field, but it’s not the entire Valley deciding to move into clean-tech.” Mr Khosla’s mentor at Kleiner Perkins, John Doerr, has expressed concern over his own company’s green investments and Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and a partner at the Founders Fund, has said that clean-tech companies “for a variety of reasons don’t work”.

Facing both industry scepticism and the ire of environmentalists, Mr Khosla decided to engage Tony Blair, a former British prime minister, who joined Khosla Ventures last year as a senior adviser. The idea is that Mr Blair can provide a more diplomatic public face for the company, and he also brings global clout.

Mr Khosla, who clearly likes to see himself as a green iconoclast and financial maverick, is either very foolish or very clever. But at this point it is difficult to say which. “I try a lot of new things,” he says. “It’s fun to play the game and fun to play the odds—and long odds win a lot of fun.” Mr Khosla’s cold-blooded view of the economics of environmentalism has certainly ruffled some feathers. But if he turns out to be right, his quest for clean-tech black swans could be exactly what the planet needs.

from the print edition | Technology Quarterly

Brain scan

Betting on green

9Mar/11Off

India Faces a Linguistic Truth: English Spoken Here

Published: February 16, 2011

NEW DELHI — In a recent Hindi film, the actress Katrina Kaif holds a thin white bed sheet against her bare body and sings, in English: “I know you want it, but you’re never gonna get it.”

That what has become one of the country’s popular Hindi songs opens with an English sentence is unremarkable for Indians. So is the truth that Hindi films are now written in English — the instructions in the screenplays are in English, and even the Hindi dialogue is transcribed in the Latin alphabet. Mumbai’s film stars, like most educated Indians, find it easier to read Hindi if it is written this way.

Almost all advertising billboards in India are in English. There is not a single well-paying job in the country that does not require a good understanding of the language. Higher education here is conducted entirely in English. When Hindustan Pencils makes cheap pencils, which its sells to rural children for a rupee apiece (about 2 cents), the company prints the brand name, “Jobber,” in English. “A villager has more respect for a brand that is written in English,” said Dhruman Sanghvi, a company director.

English is the de facto national language of India. It is a bitter truth.

Many Indians would say that India’s national language is Hindi. They would say it with pride if they are from the north and with a good-natured grouse if they are from the south. But this is a misconception. The fact is that, according to the Indian Constitution, the country does not have a national language.

In the years that followed the nation’s independence from the British in 1947, there were efforts to hoist Hindi as the national language, but regional linguistic sentiments were high. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, men immolated themselves to protest what they thought was the colonizing power of Hindi. As a compromise, Hindi was downgraded to one of the two official languages in which the government would conduct its business.

The other official language was English, which has long been considered a default language, a foreign language. But this is no longer true. Since independence, the influence and reach of English have grown immensely. It is impossible to arrive at a credible figure for the number of Indians who understand English (a lot), who can read it (many) or who can write it (very few). But what is indisputable is that in India today, English has the force and quality of a national language.

Alarmed at the power of English, India’s cultural elite and politicians have tried, through public policy and sometimes violence, to promote Indian languages. In Mumbai, for instance, every shop is required to announce its name in Marathi even though most of the people in the city can read English but not Marathi. In the recent past, thugs have beaten up shopkeepers who did not comply with the requirement.

Accepting that English is the national language would have benefits that far outweigh soothing the emotions of Indian nationalism. It is to emphasize this point that Chandra Bhan Prasad has built a temple to the Goddess English in an impoverished village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

People like Mr. Prasad, who want to liberate the poorest segment of the population, the Dalits, through the extraordinary power of English, view Indian culture and all related sentiments with suspicion. It was that same culture that had once deemed the Dalits “untouchable,” relegating them to the lowest of the low in the caste hierarchy.

In Mr. Prasad’s temple, there is an idol in robes, wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Very soon, Mr. Prasad said, he would encourage young Dalit couples to include a ritual in their wedding ceremony in which they would sign the letters A, B, C and D on a piece of a paper. “That would be a promise they make that they will teach their children English,” he said.

He also plans to adopt an Islamic tradition and fix a loudspeaker in the temple from which a recorded voice would chant the English alphabet, from A to Z , every day at 5 a.m. All these are just symbolic gestures, he said, and the best he can do in the absence of genuine political support for making English the national language.

The chief beneficiaries if English attained this status would be the children who attend the free schools run by the central and the state governments. An overwhelming majority of such schools are not taught in English. Indian politicians, whose own children attend private English-language schools in India and abroad, want their constituents to marinate in their mother tongues.

Sanjay Tiwari, the son of an illiterate security guard, was a victim of this attitude.

Until the age of 16, he studied in Hindi and Marathi-language schools. Then, he taught himself English, “and escaped.” He is now a marketing executive who makes a reasonable living in Mumbai, “only because I can speak in English.”

Low-income Christians, who have easy access to English-language schools run by churches and convents because they are granted tuition-waivers and discounts, have benefited immensely over the years. It is not surprising that Christians are disproportionately represented in Bangalore’s call centers.

Raj Thackeray, a pugnacious politician in Mumbai, is enraged by the diminished status of Marathi and the predominance of English in the city. His supporters have been known to beat up people who they believed disrespected the Marathi language. He wants everybody in Mumbai to learn Marathi.

Mr. Thackeray derives his political clout from other Maratha men like himself who hope to push Marathi as the most important aspect of life in their state.

When asked why his own son goes to one of the best English-language schools in Mumbai and not to a Marathi-language school, he replied that the question was not important and was politically motivated.

His followers would no doubt follow his example if they could. For all their laments about the siege of the Marathi language, they would probably put their children in English-language schools, too, the moment they could afford to do so.

 

4Mar/11Off

A new kind of global company is on the rise: diversified multinationals from emerging markets

Mar 3rd 2011 | from the print edition

OVER the past decade the world’s corporate pecking order has been disturbed by the arrival of a new breed of plucky multinationals from the emerging world. These companies have not only taken on Western incumbents, snapped up Western companies and launched exciting new products. They have challenged some of the West’s most cherished notions of how companies ought to organise themselves.

Many emerging-market multinationals are focused companies that are admired in the West: the likes of India’s Infosys Technologies (for IT services), Brazil’s Embraer (aircraft) and South Africa’s MTN (mobile phones). But others are highly diversified. In some ways these groups look like throwbacks to old-fashioned Western conglomerates such as ITT. But in other ways they are sui generis: much more diversified and readier to blur the line between public and private.

The most remarkable of these is India’s Tata group, active in everything from cars to chemicals and from hotels to steel; Tata is so big that several of its companies are important multinationals in their own right (see article). But others are also global forces: they include Alfa from Mexico, Koc Holding from Turkey and the Votorantim Group of Brazil. And dozens more are trying to break free of their national moorings. Tarun Khanna, of the Harvard Business School, calculates that such organisations are the most common business form in emerging markets. In India about a third of companies belong to wider entities. In Hong Kong 15 families control more than two-thirds of the stockmarket.

There are plenty of reasons to doubt the durability of these business groups. Many of them have thrived because they have close relations with their national governments. They are far too susceptible to scandal (witness the current furore in India over the sale of mobile-phone licences to favoured groups). Others are incapable of managing their diverse portfolios. Western stockmarkets habitually apply a discount to conglomerates’ shares.

Yet there is more to these groups than cronyism. A growing number of them are proving that they can compete in global markets as well as in sometimes rigged local ones. The Boston Consulting Group lists the rise of diversified global conglomerates as one of five trends that will shape the future of business. Mr Khanna reckons firms that belong to India’s business groups frequently outperform free-standing companies.

Such groups developed partly to deal with the problems of operating in places where governments are frequently incompetent and markets are hopelessly underdeveloped. Western management gurus love to advise companies to stick to their knitting. But in emerging markets your knitting may be your ability to stitch your way around underdeveloped markets rather than just your ability to manufacture a particular product. The key to Tata’s success arguably lies in its ability to recruit talented local staff (against stiff Western competition) and to assure quality across a wide range of products.

The business groups are nimble decision-takers and have proved strikingly successful at seizing opportunities in other emerging markets. Koc’s food-retailing business, Migros, has expanded throughout the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. Carlos Slim has extended his telecoms empire across Latin America. Tata also suggests that there may be yet another advantage in diversification: the ability to develop skills across a wide range of businesses. Not only are various Tata companies trying to produce “frugal” products such as the Nano, an ultra-cheap car. They are pooling their resources: Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Chemicals and Titan Industries co-operated to produce the world’s cheapest water purifier.

Masters and pupils

In the long run most of these emerging conglomerates are likely to follow the same path as Western companies: focusing on their core activities and buying ever more services from the market. But Western companies also need to recognise that—for the time being at least—these diversified giants have plenty to offer. Western firms may need to form joint ventures with “old-fashioned” conglomerates in order to win entry to fast-growing emerging markets. They may even find that they have to embrace diversification as they try to compete in these markets. The best emerging-market companies have learned a great deal from the West in recent years. It is time for Western multinationals to return the compliment.

http://www.economist.com/node/18283899?story_id=18283899

26Jan/110

IMF sees India’s ’11 growth at 8.4%

Hindustan Times

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that the Indian economy would grow by 8.4% in 2011 as activity remains buoyant although inflation pressures are emerging. It said there are also signs of overheating in many emerging economies driven in part by strong capital inflows.

The IMF projected the world economy to grow by 4.5% in 2011 — up by 0.25 percentage points than the multi-lateral agency’s October forecast.

“The two-speed recovery continues. In advanced economies, activity has moderated less than expected, but growth remains subdued, unemployment is still high, and renewed stresses in the euro area periphery are contributing to downside risks,” the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook (WEO).

This reflects stronger-than-expected activity in the second half of 2010 as well as new policy initiatives in the US that will boost activity this year, it said.

While the Indian economy is expected to expand 8.4% this year, neighbouring China is projected to grow 9.6% during the same period.

In calendar 2012, India is projected to clock a growth of 8 %.

To ensure robust recovery, IMF said that countries should take steps to overcome financial troubles in euro area as well as initiate policies to redress fiscal imbalances.

26Jan/110

Wal-Mart Looks Abroad for Growth: China, Brazil, India

After Massmart, what's Wal-Mart's acquisition outlook in other emerging markets?

By R.J. Hottovy, CFA Morningstar

Over the past several months,  Wal-Mart's (WMT) stock has not enjoyed the same momentum shared by many of its retail peers. Wal-Mart, which closed around $56 per share on January 21, is up 12.3% since the end of August. That performance pales in comparison to the S&P Retail Index's astonishing 27.1% jump during the same period. Sluggish U.S. results have certainly played a role in weighing down Wal-Mart's stock price, as a weakened basic-needs consumer, and increased competition from dollar stores, have led to six consecutive quarters of same-store sales declines and only nominal operating margin expansion. However, we believe Wal-Mart's domestic troubles may be distracting from what could be one of retailing's more significant international growth stories.

Over the past several months,  Wal-Mart's (WMT) stock has not enjoyed the same momentum shared by many of its retail peers. Wal-Mart, which closed around $56 per share on January 21, is up 12.3% since the end of August. That performance pales in comparison to the S&P Retail Index's astonishing 27.1% jump during the same period. Sluggish U.S. results have certainly played a role in weighing down Wal-Mart's stock price, as a weakened basic-needs consumer, and increased competition from dollar stores, have led to six consecutive quarters of same-store sales declines and only nominal operating margin expansion. However, we believe Wal-Mart's domestic troubles may be distracting from what could be one of retailing's more significant international growth stories.

26Jan/110

Long live BRIC, welcome MIST

By Sreeram Chaulia, Asia Times

After setting the terms of discourse in world affairs at the turn of the millennium with the coinage, "BRIC" (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Jim O'Neill - the former chief economist of Goldman Sachs - has just kick-started the new decade with a fresh acronym: "MIST" (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey).

The catchiness of a four-country grouping which can be uttered in a simple abbreviated form that can play on every stakeholder's lip has proven a sure hit with BRIC, which captivated the investor community and shook global geopolitics. Whether MIST can achieve the same haloed status as a byword for high, guaranteed return on money and as a harbinger of further redistribution of power in the international system remains to be seen.

O'Neill, who is now chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset

22Jan/110

Is the Developing World Poised for an Electric-Vehicle Boom?

By Seth Fletcher, Popular Science

Mahindra REVAi Mahindra

That's what some experts here at the Lithium Supply and Markets conference believe, and if they're right, it could be good for everyone

If you had to separate the speakers at this year's Lithium Supply and Markets conference into two camps, you could do it like this: There are those who believe that the electrification of the automobile will proceed at a steady, orderly pace, and that over the next 10 or 15 years the world's lithium producers together to mine and process an additional 7 or so percent each year. Then there are those who believe anything could happen--who think this kind of orderly extrapolation is blindly conservative. And generally, these optimists--who believe that there's no telling how quickly electrically-powered vehicles of all kinds will spread, but that it'll probably be far more dramatic than most forecasters expect--happen to do business in either China or India.