France urges ‘wake-up call’ on tax for US web giants Google, Amazon and Facebook

The tax would mainly affect US companies with worldwide annual turnover above €750 million. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018
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France urges ‘wake-up call’ on tax for US web giants Google, Amazon and Facebook

  • The tax, which Paris hopes to implement early next year, targets multinationals which declare their revenues from across the 28-member EU in a single low-tax jurisdiction
PARIS: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called Thursday for EU leaders to heed a “wake-up call” on a plan to tax US technology giants, amid signs of growing resistance to the French-led initiative.
“I urge my European counterparts to hear the wake-up call; that they listen to what European citizens want,” Le Maire told France 2 television.
The tax, which Paris hopes to implement early next year, targets multinationals which declare their revenues from across the 28-member European Union in a single low-tax jurisdiction, depriving other countries of billions of euros in fiscal revenue.
It would mainly affect US companies with worldwide annual turnover above €750 million ($870 million), such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Airbnb and Uber.
“European citizens want justice, they want fiscal justice,” Le Maire said.
“They don’t understand why we allow companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook pay 14 percentage points less in tax than small and midsize businesses, or a European company,” he said.
The tax is expected to be high on the agenda as EU and eurozone finance ministers meet in Vienna this weekend.
But France’s proposal, which would require backing by all EU members, appears to be running into resistance.
Germany’s Bild newspaper reported Wednesday that Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who had given his backing to the plan, now believes that “demonization” of tech giants was “not efficient.”
Bild cited an internal ministry note which said that “publicly declaring that companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon should pay taxes on their revenues is not defendable.”
Yet in a press interview Thursday, Scholz denied reversing his stance, while indicating he was considering alternatives.
“There are several proposals, which all have their advantages and disadvantages,” he told the Augsburger Allgemeine.
“But it isn’t the kind of solution that just comes to you while in the shower one morning,” he said.
Asked about Berlin’s stance, Le Maire played down the reported divergences.
“The Germans have been at our side since the beginning to start taxing digital giants. I’m convinced they will support us all the way,” he said.


Philippines’ richest man Henry Sy dead at 94

Updated 19 January 2019
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Philippines’ richest man Henry Sy dead at 94

  • Henry Sy had a net worth of $19 billion as of Friday, according to Forbes.com
  • Sy helped create mall culture in the Philippines

MANILA: The Philippines’ wealthiest man Henry Sy, who rose from being a penniless Chinese immigrant to leading a multi-billion dollar business empire, died on Saturday, his conglomerate has announced.
The 94-year-old, from the Chinese city of Xiamen, made his fortune with a Philippine shopping center conglomerate that has put up some of the largest malls in the world.
However his holdings also included banks, hotels and real estate in the Philippines, as well as shopping centers in China.
He had a net worth of $19 billion as of Friday, according to Forbes.com.
Forbes said he was the 52nd richest person in the world last year, beating out bold name tycoons like Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch and George Soros.
“Henry Sy ... passed away peacefully in his sleep early Saturday morning. There are no further details at the moment,” his SM group said in a statement.
Sy put up his first shoe store in downtown Manila in 1956, a business which later grew into a diversified empire.
He stepped down as chairman of his holding firm in 2017, assuming the title of “chairman emeritus” and leaving trusted allies as well as his children in charge of his empire.
It was a long journey for a man who came to the Philippines as a boy to work in his immigrant father’s variety store.
“Our store was so small it had no back or second floor, we just slept on the counter late at night after the store was closed,” he told the Philippine Star newspaper in 2006.
After their shop was destroyed during World War II, Sy’s father returned to China but Henry chose to stay in the Philippines.
He got a commerce degree from a Manila university and started selling shoes in a shop which would later grow into a chain named “ShoeMart.”
By 1972, his shops had branched out into selling all manner of goods, prompting the name to be changed to SM Department Store.
But it was in 1985 that Sy made history when he opened his first “Supermall” in Manila.
Spanning over 424,000 square meters (4.6 million square feet), the mall included dozens of stores, numerous cinemas, restaurants, banks and other attractions that made it a one-stop shop for millions of Filipinos.
This was just the start, as more of Sy’s mammoth malls popped up across the country, some even containing ice skating rinks, a rarity in the tropical country.
Sy helped create mall culture in the Philippines, where steamy temperatures and the regular threat of torrential downpours can make outdoor shopping uncomfortable.
Sy’s holding company, SM Investments Corp. opened its first mall in China in 2001 and has been expanding there as well.
By 2018, SM said it had 70 malls in the Philippines and seven in China as well as six hotels and eight office buildings.
Sy’s empire has earned its share of criticism from labor groups, who say it uses thousands of contractual hires to avoid paying higher wages and benefits that permanent workers are entitled to.
SM officials have insisted that they do not engage in so-called “contractualization,” but say they hire “seasonal” workers for peak periods like Christmas, back-to-school and even weekends.