August 14, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

FT – China ‘granny gang’ jailed in lending clampdown – Emily Feng 8/10

  • “A Chinese court has sentenced 14 members of a roving band of elderly female debt collectors to as many as 11 years in jail, in the latest sign of the country’s clampdown on informal channels of lending.”
  • “A court in the mountainous province of Henan this week found that members of the ‘granny gang’, as local media dubbed them, used loudspeakers to publicly cajole and intimidate borrowers into paying up.”
  • “The women, aged 50 to 70, were found guilty of engaging in ‘provocative and disturbing behavior’ that resembled ‘participating in gangster-like organizations’.” 
  • “The women were largely unemployed and looking for work when local debt-collection agencies recruited them at outdoor dancing classes in 2013. In return for helping secure loan repayments, the ‘grannies’ received Rmb200 ($30) per day as well as meals.”
  • “’I had nothing to do every day. When I was asked to help, I did it as a kind of fun,’ Gao Yun, one of the women, told a local newspaper.”
  • “The grannies employed a variety of tactics, including hitting and spitting at borrowers. A more common method was to give debtors an aggressive verbal dressing down until they handed over the money.”
  • “On their most recalcitrant targets, the women took more creative measures. In one 2015 incident, eight of the women began stripping to intimidate male borrowers to pay up, according to an interview that a debtor surnamed Zhao gave to local media.” 

Perspective

Howmuch.net – Do You Want the Best Bang for your Tuition Buck? Check out this College Rankings – Raul 8/10

Bloomberg – Venezuelan Currency Madness Valued Local Bank More Than Apple – Christine Jenkins 8/11

  • “What does it take to surpass Apple Inc. as the world’s most valuable traded company? One way is to be listed in Venezuela, with its massively overvalued currency.”
  • “Venezuelan stocks are ascending the ranks of the most valuable companies on Earth, with lender Mercantil Servicios Financieros CA briefly topping Apple’s market capitalization last week, and now back in the No.2 spot. Five other top-20 companies are also Venezuelan, a mirage caused by currency controls combined with the world’s fastest inflation.”
  • “Most of the lender’s theoretical $775 billion market capitalization evaporates if you stop using the official exchange rate of 10 bolivars to the dollar. The value would be 0.1% of that at the black-market rate that most Venezuelans have to use if they want hard currency.”

Markets / Economy

FT – The credit crisis did not lead to deleveraging – Martin Sandbu 8/10

Real Estate

Why Department Stores Remain on the Down Escalator – Miriam Gottfried 8/10

Energy

Vox – Solar eclipse 2017: how the solar power industry is prepping for a huge sunlight blip – Annette Choi 8/9

  • “The total solar eclipse passing over the United States on August 21 is going to be disruptive. Authorities are predicting huge traffic jams, strained cellphone networks, and insufficient bathrooms for the masses driving to the center of the show.”
  • “But there’s another disruption that will be brought on by the eclipse: power.”
  • “Since the last total solar eclipse passed over part of the US in 1979, we’ve grown a lot more dependent on solar to electrify our homes and businesses. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar energy has grown by an average of 68 percent per year in the past decade. The country now has about 45 gigawatts of solar capacity installed, with 260,000 Americans employed in the industry.”
  • “The solar eclipse will significantly diminish that capacity for a couple of hours on August 21, especially in California and North Carolina.”
  • “The federal Energy Information Administration expects 1,900 utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants in all will be affected.”
  • “Solar facilities have long been anticipating this eclipse, mapping out step-by-step demand management for the day of and arranging substitute energy sources to dispatch depending on various demand scenarios. Thanks to the unusually wet winter in California, hydroelectricity is abundant this year, says Greenlee (Steven Greenlee, spokesperson for the California Independent System Operator – CAISO).”
  • “In the past few months, CAISO — which manages 80% of California’s electric flow — has been busy seeking advice from German solar facilities.”
  • “During a 2015 solar eclipse that passed over Europe, 80% of Germany’s sunlight was cut off. For a country whose electricity is 40% powered by solar, it was hit hard. But despite the dramatic seesawing of solar production, the eclipse came and went without major disturbance.”

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