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News from China
Fast beauty: South Korean cosmetics shine in China
25th August 2016

 AT an Innisfree cosmetics store in Seoul’s popular Myeongdong shopping district, a saleswoman helps 21-year-old Chinese tourist Yang Hui carry her shopping baskets to the pay desk in front of a large display showing K-Pop star Yoona.

“There’s a lot to choose from,” said Yang, confessing to having bought more than she’d planned from the store’s range of around 900 products.

South Korea’s top cosmetics company Amorepacific Group launches some 400 new Innisfree branded products each year, about half of which are no longer available a year later.

It’s one of dozens of Korean mass cosmetics brands with a short product development cycle — a “fast beauty” approach that is increasingly popular among Chinese and other Asian millennials, gaining exposure in the United States and Europe, and attracting high-profile foreign investment. South Korea has become a hot-bed for applying to cosmetics the “fast fashion” principles of shifting designs quickly from catwalk to Main Street to capitalise on new trends.

Thousands of small cosmetics firms compete to get their new products to market, with third-party manufacturers cutting the time on testing and recipe alignment and providing the capacity for swift market launch.

Korean brands have cut product development cycles to as little as four months, compared to over a year for global brands, industry experts say.

“When we received an eyeshadow order from a major global client in 2004, it took us two years to begin production. Now it takes us one year from the word go,” said Lim Dae-gyu, a director at Cosmax Inc, a cosmetics manufacturer with annual sales of close to US$500 million.

“For South Korean mass brands, it takes less — just 4-6 months from planning to market launch is average,” Lim added.

South Korea last year overtook the United States and Japan to become the No. 2 cosmetics exporter to China after France. It shipped US$1.1 billion worth of skincare creams, facial masks, compacts and other cosmetic products to the world’s second-largest economy, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

South Korea’s total cosmetics exports were worth US$2.59 billion, up 44 percent from 2014, with Hong Kong and the United States its second- and third-biggest markets, a long way behind Chinese mainland.

Sales are boosted by South Korea’s duty-free market — the world’s biggest — which caters especially to big-spending Chinese tourists. Cosmetics accounted for nearly half of the country’s record duty-free revenue of 5.8 trillion won (US$5.1 billion) in the first half of this year, customs data showed.

The trade is not without its downside. To counter unofficial re-sales, Korea’s Customs Service is considering setting a 50 product limit for duty-free buyers, a customs official said.

 
Source: Shanghai Daily, August 25, 2016
China Telecom’s H1 profit surges 6.3%
24th August 2016

 CHINA Telecom’s net profit jumped 6.3 percent annually in the first half of the year as revenue from 4G and broadband grew, the country’s No. 3 carrier said yesterday.

Its net earnings for the first half year ended on June 30 rose to 11.67 billion yuan (US$1.76 billion) from a year ago while its revenue in the same period totaled 176.83 billion yuan, up 7.2 percent annually.

The telco cited the increase in revenue and profit from growth in high-speed wireless connection and family broadband business, which helped overcome the decline in income from voice and short message service that is being challenged by message tools like WeChat and FaceTime.

By the end of June, China Telecom had 207 million mobile users, including 90.1 million 4G users.

The country’s biggest fixed-line phone operator also posted a 24.3 percent jump in high-speed fiber optic broadband users to 88.3 million in the first half year.

China Mobile, the country’s biggest telco, also saw its first-half year profit increase 5.6 percent annually.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 24, 2016
Global travel spending growing at slower pace
23rd August 2016

 GLOBAL travel spending is still growing, although at a slower pace, despite weakening economies and fears over terrorism.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, a group backed by travel providers with the mission to promote tourism, said in a report yesterday that global travel spending for 2016 is expected to grow by 3.1 percent. That is down from a March forecast of 3.3 percent but still outpacing global economic growth, which the group expects to be 2.3 percent.

Macroeconomic problems have a much bigger impact on travel than terrorist attacks, according to the group’s President David Scowsill.

“Travelers aren’t going to allow isolated terrorist attacks to put them off traveling,” he said. Tourists worried about safety in France have chosen Spain or Italy instead.

He said destinations with tourist-specific attacks usually take two years to recover, while other types of attacks lead to a faster resumption of travel.

Other travel groups are also seeing the slowdown in travel spending.

The International Air Transport Association has noted that while more people are flying, the upward trend “has moderated since January” and the percent of seats occupied has actually slipped slightly.

“The fragile and uncertain economic backdrop, political shocks and a wave of terrorist attacks are all contributing to a softer demand environment,” said IATA’s head, Tony Tyler, in a statement.

And in April, the Global Business Travel Association warned of slowing volume from US-originating business travelers.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 23, 2016
Uber set to carry passengers in autonomous cars
19th August 2016

 RIDE-HAILING service Uber says it will start hauling passengers with self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh in the next several weeks.

The company says its autonomous Ford Fusions will have human backup drivers but will carry passengers just like normal Uber vehicles.

Uber has a self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh and is working on autonomous technology.

Also yesterday, Uber and Volvo announced a US$300 million deal for Volvo to provide SUVs to Uber for autonomous vehicle research. Eventually the Volvo SUVs will be part of the self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh. Volvo will develop base vehicles for research and both companies will develop autonomous vehicles on their own.

The ride-hailing company also announced that it is acquiring a self-driving startup called Otto that has developed technology allowing big rigs to drive themselves.

The maneuvers are intended to significantly accelerate Uber into the quest to deploy self-driving vehicles to the public. It’s also the latest tie-up between Silicon Valley, ride-hailing firms and major automakers.

Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, has said the ride-sharing company’s future — indeed, the future of all transport — is driverless. The deals are a bold down payment on that vision, one characteristic of Uber, a firm valued in the billions.

With the acquisition of Otto, Uber gets a fast infusion of self-driving expertise, including the co-founder of Otto Anthony Levandowski.

Self-driving technology is not ready for the masses. Hurdles include software that is not yet good enough for public rollout, safety concerns raised by state and federal regulators, and uncertainty over society’s readiness to trust robot drivers.

But the race is on. Large tech and auto firms suggest they could start selling self-driving cars within three to five years.

If history is any guide, that push will begin with high-end models that few people can afford. Uber’s vast on-demand auto fleet could presumably bring the technology to ordinary people more quickly.

Uber, however, isn’t alone in the race for autonomous vehicles. It’s not even a leader.

The company’s primary US competitor, Lyft, received a US$500 million investment from GM earlier this year. Those two companies said they plan to put self-driving vehicles into Lyft’s fleet on a small scale sometime in the next year. GM also bought itself some self-driving expertise in March with the acquisition of a company called Cruise Automation.

This week, Ford Motor Co announced — in Silicon Valley, not Detroit — that it intends to have a self-driving vehicle on the road by 2021. The car will have neither a steering wheel nor pedals and will be rolled out for commercial ride-hailing services, not directly to consumers.

Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc is even further ahead in pursuing driverless cars that offer passengers little control beyond an emergency stop button.

Source: Shanghai Daily, August 19, 2016

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