China still on track to hit growth target despite pollution war — state planner

China’s steel output dropped 3.7 percent in September from a record high the previous month as mills reduced production in line with Beijing’s anti-pollution campaign. (Reuters)
Updated 21 October 2017
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China still on track to hit growth target despite pollution war — state planner

BEIJING: China’s economy is on track to meet its official growth target for 2017, the head of the state planning agency said on Saturday, despite a punishing war on pollution which is expected to slash industrial output over the winter months.
China has forced 28 cities in smog-prone northern regions to reduce emissions of airborne particles known as PM2.5 by at least 15 percent from October to March 2017, with some cities expected to cut steel production by as much as 50 percent.
But officials with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said the world’s second-largest economy will remain on track.
“We expect to achieve the full-year growth target of about 6.5 percent,” He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told a briefing on the sidelines of China’s Communist Party Congress.
Most economists believe China’s actual growth should easily beat the target. The economy grew 6.8 percent in the third quarter of the year, and 6.9 percent in the first half. Last year’s growth rate of 6.7 percent was a 26-year low.
China’s economy has surprised global markets and investors with robust growth so far this year, driven by a renaissance in its long-ailing “smokestack” industries such as steel and stronger demand from Europe and the United States.
But economists with Societe Generale said in a recent note that the winter output cuts could slash industrial production growth by 0.6-0.8 percentage points and GDP growth by 0.2-0.25 percentage points in the next six months.
Industrial growth slowed to 6.3 percent in the third quarter, from 6.6 percent in the previous period, data showed last week, with the services sector taking up much of the slack.
Prices of commodities like steel, copper and iron ore have turned wildly volatile in China and in global markets recent weeks on fears of possible winter shortages.
China’s steel output dropped 3.7 percent in September from a record high the previous month as mills reduced production in line with Beijing’s campaign, and analysts predict further declines as winter curbs set in.
However, Zhang Yong, vice-chairman of the NDRC, told reporters that the direct impact was likely to be limited.
“Measures to fight pollution don’t have a big impact on economic growth,” he said. “Measures to treat pollution have a positive impact on economic development in the long term.”
The government has been pushing a restructuring program designed to “upgrade” its heavy industrial economy, cut pollution and tackle profit-sapping capacity gluts in sectors like steel and coal.
China says it has cut annual crude steel capacity by as much as 110 million tons over the last five years, with coal capacity slashed by as much as 400 million tons, though some analysts say much of the outdated, inefficient plants are merely being replaced with leaner, cleaner ones.
Ning Jizhe, vice head of the NDRC and also head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, said the country would continue to crack down on steel overcapacity, prevent obsolete plants from restarting and promote more mergers in the sector.


Etisalat is region’s most valuable brand — report

Updated 16 min 56 sec ago
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Etisalat is region’s most valuable brand — report

  • Abu Dhabi-based telco overtakes STC as brand value hits $7.7 billion
  • Dubai-based Emirates Airlines fell to third position in the overall rankings for the region

Abu Dhabi-based telco Etisalat has been named as the region’s most valuable brand for 2018, rising by 40 percent to $7.7 billion in the past year, according to consultancy Brand Finance, with leading Saudi firms also experiencing gains.

Drivers behind the increase in value include “the brand’s innovative customer service-driven strategy, its leadership position on the 5G revolution, and successful launches of global brand-building initiatives,” Brand Finance said in a statement. 

Etisalat overtook fellow telco STC of Saudi Arabia to become the region’s most valuable brand. But STC enjoyed a positive year, its brand value rising 7 percent to $6.7 billion.

“Alongside its 5G rollout plans, STC’s new digital transformation strategy includes investment in digital media content and advertising services, creating opportunities outside of its core business,” according to Brand Finance. 

Dubai-based Emirates fell to third position in the overall rankings for the region, its brand value slipping 12 percent to $5.3 billion. Fellow airline Etihad also experienced a fall in brand value, with the regional aviation market hit by geopolitical issues over the past year. 

Emaar Properties entered the regional top 10 for the first time in 2018, its brand value increasing 39 percent to $2.7 billion, following a joint venture partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Aldar Properties, announced last month. 

“The strategic partnership between Aldar and Emaar strengthens prospects for the UAE’s real estate sector as well as delivering a real boost for the investment community as we inch closer toward Expo 2020,” said Andrew Campbell, managing director, Brand Finance Middle East.

The rise in Emaar’s brand value comes despite lingering uncertainty over Dubai’s real estate market. The developer’s shares have fallen more than 20 percent so far this year, as soft economic conditions and increasingly supply continue to weigh on prices and rental rates.

The UAE is home to 6 of the region’s top 10 brands and 42 percent of the total brand value in the Brand Finance Middle East 50 league table, more than any other country. But Saudi firms accounted for 21 of the region’s most valuable 50 brands, up from 18 in 2017. 

STC topped Brand Finance’s inaugural Saudi rankings. SABIC, in second place, was the Kingdom’s fastest growing brand of the past year, its value increasing 78 percent to $3.7 billion, which the consultancy attributed to the company’s renewed efforts to capitalize on the US shale boom by growing its business in
the country. 

Banks accounted for 11 of Saudi Arabia’s 25 most valuable brands, led by Al-Rajhi Bank, the world’s largest Islamic bank by total assets. Al-Rajhi’s brand value rose by 22 percent during the year, with NCB and Samba rising 16 percent and 14 percent respectively. 

Amazon was named as the world’s most valuable brand by Brand Finance in February, its value increasing 42 percent to $150.8 billion, with technology companies Apple, Google, Samsung and Facebook rounding out the top 5.