China imports surge almost 40% in February

Chinese leaders will likely take heart from the import figures as they look to reconfigure the economy from one driven by exports and state investment to one based on domestic consumption. (Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2017

China imports surge almost 40% in February

BEIJING/ SHANGHAI: China’s imports surged almost 40 percent last month, data showed Wednesday, fueled by higher commodity prices and strong domestic demand, bolstering hopes that the world’s No. 2 economy is getting back on track.
The forecast-beating 38.1 percent year-on-year jump was almost twice as high as the 20 percent increase tipped in a Bloomberg News survey, while exports fell 1.3 percent, far below the 14 percent estimate.
The readings left China with a trade deficit of $9.15 billion, its first in three years.
Analysts said the February results owed to strong domestic demand, high international commodity prices and shifting timing of the Spring Festival holiday, which causes a slowdown in activity at factories and ports.
Leaders will likely take heart from the import figures as they look to reconfigure the economy from one driven by exports and state investment to one based on domestic consumption. The figures follow upbeat reports on fourth-quarter growth and February factory activity.
Imports surged as economic activity recovers and commodity prices increase, Wen Bin, a researcher at China Minsheng Banking Corp. in Beijing, told Bloomberg News.
“Exports missed estimates mostly because trade is generally very volatile in the first two months due to the Chinese New Year factor.”
However, the data come as a cloud of uncertainty hangs over global trade owing to fears US President Donald Trump will press on with a protectionist agenda and kick off a trade war with China, which he has repeatedly accused of currency manipulation and unfair trade practices.

Stocks dip
Meanwhile, China’s stocks edged lower, as small-caps pulled back amid lingering concerns over tighter liquidity. The CSI300 index fell 0.1 percent, to 3,449.45 points at the close, while the Shanghai Composite Index was barely changed at 3,241.18.
After an early-week rally led by technology shares, investors started to focus on longer-term factors such as liquidity situations and regional stability, while continuing to digest news flows from the annual meeting of China’s legislature.
Hedge fund manager Zhang Kaihua said an anticipated US rate hike next week “may prod China to tighten liquidity and increase money rates.”


A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

Updated 05 December 2019

A Jordan startup delivers eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning

  • Products used by WashyWash are non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral
  • Amman-based laundry service aims to relocate to a larger facility in mid-2020

AMMAN: A persistent sinus problem prompted a Jordanian entrepreneur to launch an eco-friendly dry-cleaning service that could help end the widespread use of a dangerous chemical.

“Dry cleaning” is somewhat of a misnomer because it is not really dry. It is true that no water is involved in the process, but the main cleaning agent is perchloroethylene (PERC), a chemical that experts consider likely to cause cancer, as well as brain and nervous system damage.

Kamel Almani, 33, knew little of these dangers when he began suffering from sinus irritation while working as regional sales director at Eon Aligner, a medical equipment startup he co-founded.

The problem would disappear when he went on vacation, so he assumed it was stress related.

However, when Mazen Darwish, a chemical engineer, revealed he wanted to start an eco-laundry and warned about toxic chemicals used in conventional dry cleaning, Almani had an epiphany.

“He began to tell me how PERC affects the respiratory system, and I suddenly realized that it was the suits I wore for work — and which I would get dry cleaned — that were the cause of my sinus problems,” said Almani, co-founder of Amman-based WashyWash.

“That was the eureka moment. We immediately wanted to launch the business.”

WashyWash began operations in early 2018 with five staff, including the three co-founders: Almani, Darwish and Kayed Qunibi. The business now has 19 employees and became cash flow-positive in July this year.

“We’re very happy to achieve that in under two years,” Almani said.

The service uses EcoClean products that are certified as toxin-free, are biodegradable and cause no air, water or soil pollution.

Customers place orders through an app built in-house by the company’s technology team.

WashyWash collects customers’ dirty clothes, and cleans, irons and returns them. Services range from the standard wash-and-fold to specialized dry cleaning for garments and cleaning of carpets, curtains, duvets and leather goods.

“For wet cleaning, we use environmentally friendly detergents that are biodegradable, so the wastewater doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals,” Almani said.

For dry cleaning, WashyWash uses a modified hydrocarbon manufactured by Germany’s Seitz, whose product is non-carcinogenic and environmentally neutral.

A specialized company collects the waste and disposes of it safely.

The company has big ambitions, planning to expand its domestic operations and go international. Its Amman site can process about 1,000 items daily, but WashyWash will relocate to larger premises in mid-2020, which should treble its capacity.

“We’ve built a front-end app, a back-end system and a driver app along with a full facility management system. We plan to franchise that and have received interest from many countries,” Almani said.

“People visiting Amman used our service, loved it, and wanted an opportunity to launch in their countries.”

WashyWash has received financial backing from angel investors and is targeting major European cities initially.

“An eco-friendly, on-demand dry-cleaning app isn’t available worldwide, so good markets might be London, Paris or Frankfurt,” Almani said.

 

• The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian
and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.