The messy divorce that we’re all mostly tired of may finally see an end: The eighth round of post-Brexit trade negotiations between the UK and EU started on Tuesday. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to tell EU negotiators that unless a deal is reached by 15 October, when EU leaders meet, the UK will walk away, no deal. The two sides still disagree on two key issues: fisheries and the level playing field rules the EU says is necessary to stop Britain from trying to undercut the EU’s economy. UK is resisting, saying those are the very rules it’s trying to escape. For more updates, here’s Mint Lite.
Son’s moves worry investors
Shares in SoftBank dipped again on Tuesday, following reports that the Japanese giant is making huge bets on tech stocks using equity derivatives. The fall has erased about $10 billion of market value. SoftBank bought $4 billion worth of options tied to underlying shares it had earlier purchased in Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix, Bloomberg and Financial Times report. Investors worry that SoftBank is on a risky path, which could lead to losses like those it suffered on WeWork and Uber. SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son is personally leading the trading with a small staff. SoftBank reported a record $12.7 billion operating loss in May, caused largely by poor investments by his $100 billion Vision Fund, which invests in tech startups. Shares recovered from March lows after Son said he planned to raise $42 billion by selling assets, but there’s uncertainty in the markets again with investors wondering about his future plans.
Bitcoin turns business agile in Africa
Bitcoin is booming in countries across Africa, as young, tech-savvy populations doing business across borders need a quick way to transfer money. Monthly cryptocurrency transfers to and from Africa of under $10,000, which are usually made by individuals and small businesses, rose 55% in a year to reach $316 million in June, according to data cited by Reuters. The number of monthly transactions has also risen 50%. Most of the activity took place in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. Crypto-currency is not only making businesses nimbler, especially for those who trade with China, but it is also an easy way for those working in Europe and North America to send earnings home despite a weakening dollar. In 2018, the Nigerian central bank said cryptocurrencies were not legal tender, so converting it to local currency depends on informal brokers, but that isn’t stopping people who see the rewards outweigh the risks.
Few in school, but edtech a hit
Online learning platform Byju’s on Tuesday raised $500 million in a new round, taking its total funding so far this year to about $1 billion and its value to $10.8 billion. Funding to existing edtech players has seen an uptick this year even as a Mint analysis finds India’s school- and college-going population is likely to decline 10% in the next 15 years . But businesses like private schools and edtech ventures aren’t too worried by the decline caused by a falling fertility rate. Edtech penetration is about 1% right now, so even with fewer users, the potential is huge (see chart). India’s overall education market is likely to grow to $160-170 billion by 2025. And the pandemic has shifted mindsets, with more parents signing children up for online classes. For more, read Plain Facts.
Disney’s ‘Mulan’ in trouble again
Mulan, Disney’s $200 million live-action version of a Chinese folktale, finally found its way to screens in the US after a delay of five months due to the pandemic, but its troubles are far from over. It’s now facing criticism for being filmed in China’s Xinjiang, where over one million Uighurs are detained in what the Chinese government calls “voluntary re-education centres to prevent radicalization”. A recent Buzzfeed News investiga-tion used satellite images to show that over 260 structures rese-mbling prisons have been built in the region since 2017 where thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities have been detained. The film was already the target of a boycott call in Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong after its lead actor backed a crackdown on Hong Kong protesters last year. Mulan, set to release in China soon, is crucial to Disney, as its studio business declined 55% in the last quarter because of covid-19.
Festival of the dead goes online
It’s a grim time, and probably a year when remembering the dead is more important than ever before. Singapore’s getai concert, which includes songs, skits and over-the-top costumes to celebrate the dead, is going online for the first time because of the pandemic, much like many other events across the globe. Instead of having a live audience, the performance takes place in a studio and livestreamed over the internet. Shows of getai, or “song stage” in Chinese, includes stories of gods and goddesses and are held during the Hungry Ghost Festival, which, much like the American Halloween, is celebrated in honour of the dearly departed. It is held in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, when spirits of the dead are believed to return to wander the Earth. The online performances have proven popular, reports Reuters, with some attracting audiences of hundreds of thousands.
Curated by Shalini Umachandran and Pooja Singh. Have something to share with us? Write to us at [email protected] or tweet to @shalinimb