Italy hits Amazon with $1.3bn antitrust fine

Italy hits Amazon with $1.3bn antitrust fine
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Updated 09 December 2021

Italy hits Amazon with $1.3bn antitrust fine

Italy hits Amazon with $1.3bn antitrust fine
  • As Europe powers ahead with antitrust litigation, US regulators are closely watching its approach to big tech firms

Italian regulators hit Amazon with a 1.1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) antitrust fine Thursday for allegedly abusing its dominance in the market, the latest action against US Big Tech in the EU.


US technology giants have been in the firing line in the European Union over their business practices.


In the latest salvo, Italy’s competition watchdog said Amazon abused its dominant position by promoting its own logistics service on its Italian platform to the detriment of third-party sellers who did not use it.


“The abusive strategy adopted by Amazon is particularly serious, since it is likely to discourage, if not eliminate competition in the relevant markets,” read the 250-page decision.


The move comes two weeks after the same authority imposed a 68.7 million euro fine on Amazon for infringing EU laws through restrictions that penalized sellers of Apple and Beats products.


In the same action, Apple was ordered to pay 134.5 million euros.


As Europe powers ahead with antitrust litigation, US regulators are closely watching its approach to big tech firms, after Washington pledged to intensify scrutiny of the technology industry.


Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Italian watchdog said Thursday that third-party sellers who do not use Amazon’s logistics service are excluded from “a set of advantages essential for obtaining visibility and better sales prospects.”


Those included better access to Amazon’s “most loyal and high-end customers” who use Amazon Prime, the e-commerce giant’s loyalty program.


Moreover, a tough performance measurement system is reserved for sellers who do not use Amazon’s logistics system, which can lead, if failed, to suspension of the seller’s account.


“In doing so, Amazon has harmed competing e-commerce logistics providers by preventing them from presenting themselves to online sellers as service providers of comparable quality to Amazon’s logistics,” said the watchdog, adding that such conduct had “increased the gap between Amazon’s power and that of its competitors.”


In its decision, the authority said it had imposed measures on Amazon subject to review by a monitor.


The company must grant sales privileges and visibility to all third-party sellers who meet fair and non-discriminatory standards for fulfilment, and must decide and publish such standards, it said.


Last month, EU legislation to impose unprecedented restrictions on how US tech giants do business passed a first, significant hurdle, with a European Parliament committee approving their version of the Digital Markets Act.


That would slap far-reaching rules on companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft.


Such tech companies have been variously accused of stifling competition, not paying enough taxes, stealing media content and threatening democracy by spreading fake news.


Dubai real estate sales in 2021 record highest value since 2009

Dubai real estate sales in 2021 record highest value since 2009
Dubai skyline
Updated 16 January 2022

Dubai real estate sales in 2021 record highest value since 2009

Dubai real estate sales in 2021 record highest value since 2009

Dubai real estate deals were worth approximately 151 billion dirhams ($41.1 billion) in 2021, their highest value since 2009.

The total number of deals last year reached 61,241, the largest number since 2013, according to Al Arabiya.

This value jumped by 110 percent compared to 2020, while the total number of deals increased over the course of 2021 by 74 percent compared to 2020.

Of these deals, ready made properties accounted for 60 percent of total real estate transactions in Dubai in 2021, while the rest was made up of off-plan properties.


Egypt sees first private issuance of green bonds 

Egypt sees first private issuance of green bonds 
Updated 16 January 2022

Egypt sees first private issuance of green bonds 

Egypt sees first private issuance of green bonds 

A Norwegian clean energy company Is working on what wiuld be the first private issuance of green bonds in Egypt. 

Norway's Scatec plans to issue around $340 million in green bonds, secured by its six solar energy plants in Benban complex that has a production capacity of 390 megawatts, Alarabiya reported citing banking sources. 

This comes amid Egypt’s boom in clean infrastructure projects during the last decade.  

 


China plans to increase consumption during the holiday season: Macro snapshot 

China plans to increase consumption during the holiday season: Macro snapshot 
Getty Images
Updated 16 January 2022

China plans to increase consumption during the holiday season: Macro snapshot 

China plans to increase consumption during the holiday season: Macro snapshot 
  • German gross domestic product rose by 2.7 percent in 2021 compared to 2020

Despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, China is planning to uplift consumption during the holiday season, the country’s National Development and Reform Commission said.

China will still maintain pandemic control, yet its effect would be mitigated through the fine-tuning of those regulations to each area, Bloomberg reported.

The commission also called on e-commerce vendors and online entertainment channels to introduce more sales promotions during the season.

South Korea Interest Rates

In a bid to combat inflation, the Bank of Korea decided to raise its interest by 0.25 percent to the pre-pandemic level of 1.25 percent.

The bank also signaled that further hikes would take place in the remainder of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The country’s annual inflation rate reached 3.7 percent in December, noticeably above the central bank’s target of 2 percent.

Inflation is set to remain above the 3 percent mark for a while and would average more than 2.5 percent for the full year, the bank’s governor, Lee Ju-yeol, said.

German GDP growth

German gross domestic product rose by 2.7 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, according to first calculations by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).


“Economic development has been largely dependent on the infection rates of Covid-19 and associated preventive measures also in 2021,” said Dr. Georg Thiel, head of the Federal Statistical Office, at the press conference on the 2021 GDP in Wiesbaden. 

“Despite the continuing pandemic situation, more delivery bottlenecks and material shortages, the German economy has managed to recover from the sharp decline last year, even though the economic performance has not yet reached the pre-crisis level agai,” Thiel continued.

Moreover, GDP in 2021 was still 2.0 percent lower than it was in 2019 the year before COVID-19 started.

UK economy

Britain's economy grew 0.9 percent faster than expected in November, before the latest wave of coronavirus infections and restrictions on many businesses, and was 0.7 percent larger than it was in February 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.


“It's amazing to see the size of the economy back to pre-pandemic levels in November – a testament to the grit and determination of the British people,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said.


Government deposits with SAMA in biggest monthly drop since 2016  

Government deposits with SAMA in biggest monthly drop since 2016  
Updated 16 January 2022

Government deposits with SAMA in biggest monthly drop since 2016  

Government deposits with SAMA in biggest monthly drop since 2016  
  • Compared to December 2020, SAMA's net foreign assets fell 2.4 percent

The government’s deposits with the Saudi Central Bank fell by SR74.7 billion ($19.9 billion) during December to reach SR538, preliminary data posted by SAMA revealed.

This change represents the biggest monthly drawdown of government deposits with SAMA since November 2016 when they fell by SR90.3 billion.

At the same time during December 2021, net foreign assets held by the Saudi Central Bank dropped by 2 percent from November to SR1.64 trillion, according to preliminary data.

Compared to December 2020, SAMA's net foreign assets fell 2.4 percent.

In addition, the Kingdom’s monetary base – which is the sum of currency outside banks, cash in vaults and bank deposits with SAMA – edged up by 0.5 percent in December on a month-on-month basis to reach SR356 billion.


Sixth Street Partners in final talks to buy stake in Eni's power unit: sources

Sixth Street Partners in final talks to buy stake in Eni's power unit: sources
Updated 16 January 2022

Sixth Street Partners in final talks to buy stake in Eni's power unit: sources

Sixth Street Partners in final talks to buy stake in Eni's power unit: sources
  • The companies all declined to comment

US investment firm Sixth Street Partners has emerged as the leading bidder for the power generation unit of Italian energy group Eni and is in advanced talks to buy a minority stake in the business, three sources told Reuters on Friday.

Eni, advised by JPMorgan, is looking to sell a stake of up to 49 percent in Enipower in a deal that could value the business at up to 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion), one of the sources familiar with the matter said.

The sale is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the first quarter, the source said.

BlackRock also studied a bid for the asset but a source close to the discussions said the fund's interest had cooled.

The companies all declined to comment.

Enipower, one of Italy's biggest power producers, runs five gas-fired plants and one co-generation plant in Italy with an overall capacity of more than 5 gigawatts.

As concerns about climate change push economies toward a lower carbon future, investing in fossil fuel assets is seen by some as a riskier bet than it used to be.

Eni, which has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, is selling the stake to help fund its shift away from oil and gas into cleaner businesses.

The group has merged its retail and renewable businesses and is planning to list part of the unit this year in what could be one of Italy's biggest IPOs of the year.