EGS Biweekly Global Business Newsletter Issue 107, Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Edited and curated by: William (Bill) Edwards, CFE, CEO of Edwards Global Services, Inc. (EGS)

Comments About This 107th Issue:  AI tools, global patents and developments around the world. Political stability in Italy. Global coal production continues to rise. International business travel is definitely back.  And business news from Argentina, Canada, China, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the USA.

Edited and curated by: William (Bill) Edwards, CEO & Global Advisor, Edwards Global Services, Inc. (EGS), Irvine, California, USA. Contact Bill with any questions, comments and contributions.

Bedwards@edwardsglobal.com, +1 949 375 1896



First, A Few Words of Wisdom From Others For These Times

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”, Stephen Hawking and Daniel J. Boorstin

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”, Winston Churchill. Compliments of Neil Sahota

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S. Lewis


Highlights in issue #107:

  • Brand Global News Section: Red Lobster®, Snap Fitness® and Tropical Smoothie®

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Interesting Data, Articles and Studies

“Vistage U.S. Small Business Index – Each month, we share the insights of small businesses with the understanding that the sentiment captured in the WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index predicts economic changes. This month, we see a slight decline in the overall Index, but the trend remains above last year.”, Vistage, April 24, 2024


I Tried These AI-Based Productivity Tools. Here’s What Happened – Hoping to make life easier, I tested six AI-powered tools meant to help me write better and work smarter. Every writer I know is talking about AI tools and whether they’re ethical to use. But what’s just as interesting to me is why we’re so enamored with them even if they produce outrageous or below-average results. Why do we chase the shiny new thing even if it’s not better, faster, or cheaper? This year my LinkedIn feed has been full of posts touting the best new AI tools for doing absolutely everything, and I’ve already fallen for too many


Where Women Are Most Likely To Be Your Boss – The latest data from 2022 and 2023 shows that in Burkina Faso and Nigeria, between 67% and 70% of all managers are women. Jamaica and Botswana are the only other countries with available data listing more female than male managers, at around 60% and 52%, respectively. More countries with a high share of women in managerial positions are the Philippines and Caribbean island nation Saint Lucia as well as Jordan and Zambia. The share of female managers is also high in Eastern Europe at almost 42% as of 2022, North America at around 40%, Southeast Asia at around 39% and Northern Europe at approximately 38%. The MENA region had the lowest share of managers who are women at just over 15%. Yet, Jordan is featured among the countries with the most female managers, again due to female-centric fields.”, Forbes, April 23, 2024


AI Patents By Country – This infographic shows the number of AI-related patents granted each year from 2010 to 2022 (latest data available). These figures come from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), accessed via Stanford University’s 2024 AI Index Report. From this data, we can see that China first overtook the U.S. in 2013. Since then, the country has seen enormous growth in the number of AI patents granted each year. In 2022, China was granted more patents than every other country combined.  While this suggests that the country is very active in researching the field of artificial intelligence, it doesn’t necessarily mean that China is the farthest in terms of capability.”, Visual Capitalist, April 24, 2024


How People Are Really Using GenAIThere are many use cases for generative AI, spanning a vast number of areas of domestic and work life. Looking through thousands of comments on sites such as Reddit and Quora, the author’s team found that the use of this technology is as wide-ranging as the problems we encounter in our lives. The 100 categories they identified can be divided into six top-level themes, which give an immediate sense of what generative AI is being used for: Technical Assistance & Troubleshooting (23%), Content Creation & Editing (22%), Personal & Professional Support (17%), Learning & Education (15%), Creativity & Recreation (13%), Research, Analysis & Decision Making (10%).” Harvard Business Review, March 19, 2024

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Global Supply Chain, Energy, Commodities, Inflation, Taxes & Trade Issues

Global operating coal power capacity increased 2% in 2023 and 11% since 2015. 2,130 gigawatts (GW) operating coal power capacity. An increase of 217 GW coal power capacity since 2015. And 578 GW new coal power capacity currently under development.”, Global Energy Monitor, January 2024


Asia Has a Strong Dollar Problem Stretching Far Beyond Japan – Strong dollar means Asian central banks likely to delay easing Swaps suggest dovish bets for Korea, Malaysia scaled back. Investors are looking for the next policy domino to fall in Asia amid an escalating campaign against a resurgent dollar, after Indonesia used a surprise interest rate hike to defend the rupiah. The currencies of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and India are all trading within sight of multi-year lows, raising the odds for local authorities to take firmer action to stem the slide. Won and ringgit swaps, for example, are already pricing in a less dovish stance by the two local central banks.”, Bloomberg, April 24, 2024


Suez trade plunges after war forces ships to reroute – Containers’ trip round Cape of Good Hope adds 20 days to journey. A substantial share of containers pass through the Red Sea, carrying everything from commodities to consumer goods. An escalation in tensions in the region prompted carriers to reroute their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope. The ONS said there had been an annual 57 per cent increase in the number of ships passing through the alternative and longer trade route……the average price of a container has leapt to $2,719 in April from $1,390 in early October, although that is down from a recent peak of nearly $4,000 in January and nowhere near the levels hit in the aftermath of the pandemic.”, The Times of London, April 25

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Global & Regional Travel

Hilton Sees Full Corporate Travel Rebound in Hotel Stays in 2024 Hilton has ridden high on a surging wave of vacationers. But executives at the hotel giant now see the return of corporate trips and conferences as powering the next phase of its growth. Executives predicted Wednesday that occupancy by corporate road warriors and conference-goers would fully recover to pre-pandemic levels soon. ‘By the end of the year from a demand point of view, we think there’s an awfully good chance that BT [business travel] will get there, too,’ said Christopher Nassetta, president and CEO. ‘Just given continued growth in the big corporates and very resilient SMB [small-and-medium-sized] businesses.’”, Skift, April 24, 2024


Welcome Back, Road Warriors: Business Travel ReturnsAirlines, hotels say work trips are rebounding to near prepandemic levels—‘they’re hungry to meet in person’. Videoconferencing hasn’t made in-person meetings obsolete. Scattered workforces have in some cases resulted in more trips, not fewer. Companies are sending employees back on the road again, driving business travel closer to prepandemic levels. The banks, tech companies and consultants who are among the travel industry’s most lucrative customers are hitting the road again.  Airlines reported big increases in revenues from corporate accounts in the first quarter, with Delta and United both reporting a 14% bump from a year ago.”, The Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2024


India’s Hotel Boom: Latest Investments from Marriott, Hilton and Other ChainsThe world’s biggest hotel chains are doubling down on India, betting that the country’s rising affluence will fuel a surge in travel demand for years to come. In the past six weeks, all the global hotel groups — including Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide — have unveiled ambitious expansion plans in India. They see a golden opportunity to establish a bigger foothold on the subcontinent in what may become the world’s third-largest economy as soon as 2027.”, Skift, April 27, 2024

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Country & Regional Updates

Africa

For Multinationals, Africa’s Allure Is Fading – After decades of optimism about the region, global giants such as Bayer, Nestlé and Unilever are cutting back. Drawn by rapid growth, youthful populations and increasing wealth, legions of top multinationals rushed into Africa in recent decades. But lately, the difficulties of doing business there—cratering currencies, overweening bureaucracies, unreliable power and congested ports—have dimmed the allure. ‘It doesn’t justify the effort,’ says Kuseni Dlamini, a former chairman of Walmart Inc.’s African unit who now heads the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa.”, Bloomberg, April 16, 2024


Argentina

Argentina President Announces First Quarterly Fiscal Surplus in 16 YearsArgentina reached a fiscal surplus of 0.2% of gross domestic product due to severe spending cuts and the halting of public works, marking the country’s first quarterly fiscal surplus since 2008. Since taking office in December 2023, Milei’s government has focused on spending cuts and freezes to reduce the country’s very high inflation rates. While the plan is working, inflation is falling at the cost of a severe reduction in Argentines’ purchasing power, leading to a contraction in economic activity.”, Stratfor Worldview, April 23, 2024


Canada

Canada’s per capita output drops 7% below trend – To return to trend over the next decade, real gross domestic product per capita would need to grow at an average annual rate of 1.7 per cent – similar to the robust expansion in the United States in recent years.  Real GDP per capita has fallen to levels seen in 2017. For decades, Canada has struggled with lacklustre capital investment. A Statscan report published in February noted that investment per worker in 2021 was 20 per cent lower than in 2006.”, The Globe and Mail, April 24, 2024


China

China’s consumers seek security in ‘the only safe asset’ as gold purchases remain strong – Consumers in China bought 308.9 tonnes (10.9 million ounces) of gold in the first quarter, representing a 5.9 per cent increase compared with the same period in 2023, according to data released by the China Gold Association on Friday. ‘Gold represents the only safe asset for [Chinese consumers] to protect their wealth against domestic inflation, asset price declines as well as against geopolitical risks,’ said Chen Zhiwu, the chair professor of finance at the University of Hong Kong. ‘I expect Chinese household demand for gold to rise more in the future. And the Chinese central bank will also continue to purchase more gold to prepare for more geopolitical turmoil ahead.’”,  The South China Morning Post, April 29, 2024


Why China Keeps Making More Cars Than It NeedsChina has the capacity to produce roughly two times as many cars as it sells at home each year. Despite overcapacity, government officials keep supporting automakers. China has a long history of auto overcapacity, with more than 100 domestic brands churning out more vehicles than the country’s drivers buy each year. China currently has the capacity to produce some 40 million vehicles a year, though it sells only around 22 million cars domestically, according to capacity data from Shanghai-based strategy firm Automobility and sales figures from the China Passenger Car Association.”, The Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2024


Italy

Political stability gives Italy a chance to step into the spotlight Historically, Italy’s political scene has been highly mercurial. But is it possible that politics in Rome is, dare it be said, boring now? Not exactly. Still, today’s political dynamics in Italy are not what international observers, or even Italians, may be used to. True, the country’s economic prospects remain weak, but Italy is living through a period of relative political stability under the government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. This stability makes Italy well placed to push forward its foreign policy priorities and leadership.”, The Atlantic Council, April 24, 2024


Mexico

Why tech firms are investing in MexicoAs the US seeks to decrease its dependence on China, investments in Mexico are making the country a hot destination for AI hardware. Amidst an ongoing chip war between the US and China, investments in Mexico are making the country a hot destination for hardware manufacturing in the AI space. At the request of AI companies in the US, Taiwan-based companies are ramping up production efforts in Mexico….A 2020 free-trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada has brought in billions from manufacturing companies “aiming to move operations from China to Mexico.”, IT Brew, April 24, 2024


Turkey

Turkey’s ‘Orthodox’ Pivot Makes Lira a Favorite for HSBC – Turkey’s return to a more conventional approach to monetary policy is boosting investor confidence, setting the stage for capital inflows and underpinning HSBC Holdings Plc’s bullish stance on the nation’s assets. Raising the benchmark interest rate and “normalizing” monetary policy have been at the center of a policy overhaul. Officials have previously said they see Turkish headline inflation peaking at around 75% in the coming months.”, Bloomberg, April 24, 2024


United Kingdom

Canary Wharf dangles £150m to convince Morgan Stanley to stay put – After exits of high-profile companies, owner of financial district agreed to pay towards refurbishment costs to keep US bank as a tenant.  In return, the US bank has removed a break clause, in effect committing to its European headquarters until 2038; its lease had originally been due to expire in 2028.  Canary Wharf has become a poster child for the turmoil in the office market, which has been hit hard by rises in interest rates and fears over the impact of flexible working. The decisions of both HSBC and law firm Clifford Chance to ditch their offices at Canary Wharf for buildings in the City have handed more negotiating power to the estate’s remaining tenants.”, The Times of London, April 27, 2024


UK Recovery Gains Pace as PMI Beats ForecastPMI composite gauge rises to 11-month high of 54 in April Pound rises as traders reduce wagers on scope for rate cuts. The UK economy’s recovery from recession unexpectedly gathered pace at the start of the second quarter as private-sector firms reported the strongest growth in almost a year.

S&P Global’s purchasing managers’ index rose to a stronger-than-expected 54 in April, an 11-month high and a jump from 52.8 the previous month. The pound rose. Firms responded by boosting hiring by the most for nine months. They also reported the strongest cost pressures in 11 months, particularly from staff wages after a near 10% in the minimum wage took effect in April.”, Bloomberg, April 23, 2024


United States

The US is one of the least trade-oriented countries in the world – despite laying the groundwork for today’s globalized system – In 2022, the U.S. trade-to-GDP ratio was 27%, according to the World Bank. That means the total value of U.S. imports and exports of goods and services combined equaled 27% of the country’s GDP. That’s far below the global average of 63%.  In fact, of the 193 countries examined by the World Bank, only two were less involved in international trade than the U.S. Those were Nigeria, at 26%, and Sudan at 3%. Most world economic powers scored considerably higher, with Germany at 100%, France at 73%, the U.K. at 70%, India at 49%, and China at 38%.”,  The Conversation, April 25, 2024


US Goes From Soft Landing Back to Sticky InflationWhile the economy is still humming along by most metrics, gross domestic product slowed in the first quarter and the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge of underlying inflation—the core personal consumption expenditures price index—rose in March (though in line with expectations). The Fed’s expected delay in cutting rates is rippling across world economies and markets—from equities to bonds and forex.”, Bloomberg,  April 27, 2024

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Brand & Franchising News

Blackstone to buy Tropical Smoothie Cafe in $2B dealLevine Leichtman agrees to sell Atlanta-based 1,400-unit fast-casual brand. Blackstone said the deal for Atlanta-based fast-casual Tropical Smoothie Café LLC would be ‘the first transaction from Blackstone’s most recent vintage of its flagship private-equity vehicle’. Tropical Smoothie Cafe was founded in Destin, Fla., in 1997, and has grown to more than 1,400 locations in 44 states. It added 175 new restaurants in 2023, with 70% of those from existing franchisees, Blackstone said.”, Nation’s Restaurant News, April 24, 2024


Fair deal for franchisees as Government announces visa changesA change to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme announced today will mean the special franchisee accreditation category will be disestablished. Franchisees will be able to apply to bring in workers from overseas through the standard, high-volume, or triangular employment accreditation. The change, effective immediately, means that franchisees will no longer pay more for accreditation under the AEWV scheme. The previous scheme, introduced in July 2022, meant that franchisees had to pay up to five times the cost to employ the same employees as independently-owned businesses.”, Franchise New Zealand, April 7, 2024


The bounceback is always stronger than the setbackRecent data at Snap Fitness 24/7 show that membership numbers are up across the globe. Over the past two years we’ve seen membership numbers rise by an average of 22% across our global footprint of Snap Fitness locations. It seems the entire industry is experiencing a boom. A new report from Deloitte and EuropeActive has revealed that revenue and membership numbers topped pre-pandemic numbers for European operators in 2023. The numbers speak for themselves, with fitness memberships up to almost 68 million in 2023 compared to 62.9 million in 2022, and operators experiencing a 14% rise in revenue as a result.”, LinkedIn post, April 29, 2024


Red Lobster seeks a buyer as it looks to avoid bankruptcy filing – The company has considered filing for bankruptcy to help it restructure its debt and get out of a number of costly and lengthy leases, but it’s also sought a buyer in recent months, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.  For the past decade amidst ownership changes, Red Lobster has taken on debt and entered into a number of long-term leases across its 700-plus locations, which have weighed on its balance sheet.”, CNBC, April 25, 2024


To receive our biweekly newsletter in your email every other Tuesday, click here –  https://insider.edwardsglobal.com

Our Mission, Information Sources & Who We Are

Our biweekly global business update newsletter focuses on what is happening around the worldthat impacts new trends, health, consumer spending, business investment, the franchise sector, economic development, and travel. We daily monitor 30+ countries, 40+ international information sources and six business sectors to keep up with what is going on in this ever-changing business environment. And our GlobalTeam™ on the ground covering 25+ countries provide us with updates about what is actually happening in their specific countries. 

William “Bill” Edwards: Global Advisor Is Uniquely Qualified to Steer Sr. Executives Successfully Through the Complex Waters of Going Global.  With four decades of successful international business experience spanning virtually every corner of the world and many business sectors, Bill Edwards understands the global business landscape like no other.  He has been a County Master Franchisee in five countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East; the Senior VP for a franchisor operating in 15 countries and a full-service consultant since 2001 taking 40+ franchisors global.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to take your business global successfully, click on the QR code or contact Bill Edwards at bedwards@edwardsglobal.com or +1 949 224 3896. 

www.edwardsglobal.com

And download our latest chart ranking 40+ countries as places to do business at this link:

Our latest GlobalVue™ 40 country ranking