Pakistan’s Imran Khan to visit China next week for Belt and Road Forum

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, second right, meets with China’s President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019
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Pakistan’s Imran Khan to visit China next week for Belt and Road Forum

  • China has pledged about $60 billion in infrastructure loans for Pakistan, touted as a success story of its Belt and Road initiative
  • But Pakistan’s economy has hit serious turbulence over the past year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit China next week to meet its leaders and deliver a keynote speech at the vast Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, the South Asian nation’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, as economic anxiety grows at home.
China has pledged about $60 billion in infrastructure loans for Pakistan, touted as a success story of its Belt and Road initiative, which aims to build road and maritime trading routes across the globe.
But Pakistan’s economy has hit serious turbulence over the past year and Islamabad is now finalizing a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stave off a balance of payments crisis, despite more than $10 billion in short-term loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia.
Khan will visit China from April 25, and give a keynote speech at the three-day Belt and Road Forum that starts the following day. The high-profile gathering is one of China’s biggest annual state events.
“In addition to participating in the Belt and Road Forum, the Prime Minister would also hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang,” the ministry said in a statement.
The two countries will sign several pacts to enhance cooperation, and Khan will meet corporate and business leaders, it added.
Khan’s visit to Pakistan’s all-weather friend China comes as his government, in power since August, faces a deepening economic crisis, with a ballooning current account deficit and fast-depleting foreign reserves.
It initially tried to avoid an IMF bailout by securing loans from friendly countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but has since changed tack and said it had agreed in principle to turn to the IMF.
The long-delayed rescue package would be Pakistan’s 13th IMF bailout program since the late 1980s.


BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

Oliver Zipse
Updated 19 July 2019
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BMW picks insider Zipse as CEO to catch up with rivals

  • German giant has lost ground to Mercedes-Benz and Tesla as tech steps up

FRANKFURT: BMW has named Oliver Zipse as its new CEO, continuing the German carmaker’s tradition of promoting production chiefs to the top job even as the auto industry expands into new areas such as technology and services.
Hailing Zipse’s “decisive” leadership style, BMW hopes the 55-year-old can help it win back its edge in electric cars and the premium market  from rival Mercedes-Benz.
But some analysts questioned whether Zipse was the right choice with new fields such as software and services like car-sharing becoming increasingly important.
“What is intriguing is the cultural bias to appoint the head of production. It works sometimes but ... being good at building cars is not a defining edge the way it was 20 years ago,” said Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois.
Current CEO Harald Krueger, and former chiefs Norbert Reithofer, Bernd Pischetsrieder and Joachim Milberg were all former production heads.
Zipse joined BMW as a trainee in 1991 and served as head of brand and product strategies and boss of BMW’s Oxford plant in England before joining the board.
He will become chief executive on Aug. 16, taking over from Krueger who said he would not be available for a second term.
“With Oliver Zipse, a decisive strategic and analytical leader will assume the Chair of the Board of Management of BMW. He will provide fresh momentum in shaping  the future,” said Reithofer.
Zipse helped expand BMW’s efficient production network in Hungary, China and the US, in a move that delivered industry-leading profit margins.
Under Krueger, BMW was overtaken in 2016 by Mercedes-Benz as the best-selling luxury car brand.
It also had an early lead over US  rival Tesla in electric cars, but scaled back ambitions after its i3 model failed to sell large numbers.
Reithofer initially championed Krueger’s low-key consensus-seeking leadership, but pressured him to roll out electric vehicles more aggressively, forcing Krueger to skip the Paris Motor Show in 2016 to reevaluate BMW’s electric strategy.
Krueger’s reluctance to push low-margin electric vehicles led to an exodus of talented electric vehicle experts, including Christian Senger, now Volkswagen’s (VW) board member responsible for software, and Audi’s Markus Duesmann, who is seen as a future CEO of the company.
Both were poached by VW CEO Herbert Diess, a former BMW board member responsible for research who was himself passed over for BMW’s top job in 2015.
VW has since pushed a radical 80 billion euro ($90 billion) electric car mass production strategy, and a sweeping alliance with Ford.

Other skills
“A CEO needs to have an idea for how mobility will evolve in the future. This goes far beyond optimising an existing business,” said Carsten Breitfeld, chief executive of China-based ICONIQ motors, and former BMW engineer. “He needs to build teams, attract talent, and promote a culture oriented along consumer electronics and internet dynamics.”
German manufacturers have dominated the high-performance market for decades, but analysts warn shifts towards sophisticated technology and software is opening the door to new challengers.
“Tesla has a lead of three to four years in areas like software and electronics. There is a risk that the Germans can’t catch up,” UBS analyst Patrick Hummel said.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport car magazine, normally quick to champion German manufacturers, this week ran a cover questioning BMW’s future.
“Production expertise is important, but if you want to avoid ending up being a hardware provider for Google or Apple, you need to have the ability to move up the food chain into data and software,” a former BMW board member said.