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The assorted sashimi plate. Photographer: Richard Vines/Bloomberg
“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.” ―
Rainer Maria Rilke
“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
Every angel is terrible.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
“The only journey is the one within.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke
How China Upstage U.S. With a "Great Wall of Sand" WSJ
Law & Politics
Armed only with a set of revolving teeth, the Tian Jing Hao, Asia’s
largest dredger, has pulled off a stunning naval upset.
Under the noses of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, this Chinese vessel led a
civilian armada that built almost 3,000 acres of land atop submerged
reefs in the Spratly Islands, altering a strategic balance that has
held since the great naval battles of World War II established U.S.
primacy in the Western Pacific.
The construction began shortly after the Philippines challenged
China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea by filing a case at
a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague in January 2014. Now, on the eve
of a legal verdict, China has achieved its objective: a new geography
in the world’s busiest commercial waterway where China’s claims
overlap with those of five neighbors, also including Vietnam and
However the five judges decide the case, China has permanently altered
facts on the ground in its favor.
The seven Spratly outcrops on which it has built runways, docks, radar
and other facilities give China the ability to project new military
force in its contest with America for regional mastery.
Possession, after all, is nine-tenths of the law. And China’s
island-building may not have ended The Pentagon fears that Chinese
dredgers might be planning a fresh round of construction on
Scarborough Shoal that it effectively seized from the Philippines in
2012, which would give the People’s Liberation Army a jumping-off
point just 140 miles from Manila. It’s bracing, too, for China to
declare an Air Defense Identification Zone over the entire South China
Sea, which China could enforce from its artificial islands. China has
pledged to ignore the tribunal’s findings.
He thinks of himself as a child of the Pacific, born in Hawaii and
partly raised in Indonesia, and the “pivot” to Asia has been his
signature foreign-policy move. Yet he’s opted for restraint.
Confronting China in the Spratlys by, for instance, trying to chase
away the dredgers and their naval protection not only risks war but
could derail cooperation with Beijing on crucial issues like climate
change or North Korea.
China ratchets higher in increments and the US will have to Put Up or Shut Up.
Putting Up will require something more than sabre-rattling
Welcome to "Walking Dead Europe" Pepe Escobar
Law & Politics
Citizens of the EU – as in vibrant civil society manifesting in an
array of nations - are increasingly keen on ditching the political EU,
whose only functioning trait remains its status as a giant market.
The rest is chaos: The euro is now synonymous with massive
unemployment; Europeans aged 18-34 qualifying themselves as a “lost”
or at least “sacrificed” generation; European “values” diluted by the
rise of the populist extreme-right; “pacifism” transmuted into hot and
cold war – from Syria to Russia; and European cities, from Paris to
Brussels, under Salafi-jihadi assault.
Walking Dead Europe manifests itself in myriad ways - from a “No” to a
referendum in the Netherlands to the creeping possibility of Brexit.
Now add to this the ultimate insult a stark fact: What could the EU
possibly offer to the world as a vision when it subcontracts the
security gates of Fortress Europe to the wily, carpet-dealing antics
of Turkey’s Sultan Erdogan?
Even avowed Europeanists such as Le Monde – a former great newspaper
turned Empire of Chaos-cheerleading rag – are now distilling long
essays about the malaise.
What lies ahead is not pretty. There is an element of The Sleepwalkers
– Christopher Clark’s masterful account of how Europe marched to war
in 1914. But mostly, a low-budget American show gave away the game.
This is Walking Dead Europe.
12 JAN 15 :: Europe Off Balance, The Star.
Law & Politics
Events in Paris – the #CharlieHebdo offices, then the ‘Bonnie and
Clyde’ show in and around Paris, and finally the denouement in two
separate locations – captured the airwaves completely.
The arrival of the asymmetric threat on the streets of Paris was
deeply unsettling and will surely keep Europe off-balance and presages
a ‘new normal’. As small boys, the Kouachi brothers were abandoned by
their Algerian-born parents and brought up in a children’s home in
Brittany, according to The Independent.
The economic blowback from the frozen conflict in Ukraine with Russia
has exacted a price, as well. Economics and geopolitics are more
intertwined than ever before. If European bond yields – they are at
record all-time lows – are the ‘signal in the noise’, then this means
Europe is in danger of a major ‘death-spiral’.
The world economy will grow 3.2 percent this year, down from a projected 3.4 percent in January, the IMF said Tuesday World Economic Outlook.
“Growth has been too slow for too long,” IMF chief economist Maurice
Obstfeld said in remarks prepared for a press briefing. “There is no
longer much room for error.”
“But by clearly recognizing the risks they jointly face and acting
together to prepare for them, national policy makers can bolster
confidence, support growth, and guard more effectively against the
risk of a derailed recovery,” he said.
The IMF cited among the biggest risks as a “return of financial
turmoil itself, impairing confidence and demand in a self-confirming
negative feedback loop.”
“Consecutive downgrades of future economic prospects carry the risk of
a world economy that reaches stalling speed and falls into widespread
One bright spot: The IMF upgraded its China growth forecasts by 0.2
percentage point for this year and next, following signs of “resilient
domestic demand” and growth in services that offset weakness in
.@IMFNews World Economic Outlook PDF
World Economic Outlook have seen a renewed episode of global asset
market volatility, some loss of growth momentum in the advanced
economies, and continuing headwinds for emerging market economies and
lower-income countries. In addition, several stresses of noneconomic
origin threaten economic activity. Not only do these developments lead
us to a further broad-based reduction in our baseline projections for
economic growth in 2016 and 2017; they also suggest that possible
nonbaseline outcomes are at the same time less favorable and more
South Sudan Rebel Team Says Members Seized Before Leader Arrives
South Sudanese security officers arrested 16 members of an advance
rebel team in the capital, a spokesman said, about a week before the
insurgents’ leader, Riek Machar, is due to return to the city.
The men were seized Tuesday while gathering to welcome a deputy rebel
chairman to Juba, spokesman William Ezekiel said by phone from the
Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said the 16 were arrested for
moving around Juba without coordinating with security personnel. They
are being questioned and may be charged if suspected of wrongdoing, he
said by phone.
Machar has said he’ll travel to the city on April 18 to assume the
role of vice president in a transitional government led by President
Salva Kiir. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than
2 million have been displaced since conflict erupted in the
oil-producing nation in December 2013.
The entities behind dodgy Congo deal
THE Panama Papers data leak has unmasked the people originally behind
a highly controversial Congolese oil deal that was fronted by
President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma.
One is South African businessman Mark Willcox, although in 2010, he
told amaBhungane that he held no financial interest in the deal,
however remote. Willcox was then CEO of Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelaphanda
Holdings, and Sexwale served in Zuma’s cabinet at the time.
The other is the family of controversial Israeli citizen and diamond
scion Dan Gertler, a personal friend of Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) President Joseph Kabila. Gertler’s stake was made public in
2012, two years after the deal.
Hidden behind layers of offshore opacity, Willcox and Gertler’s family
were intended to be the original owners of Caprikat and Foxwhelp, the
mysterious British Virgin Islands (BVI) companies to which Kabila
handed highly sought-after oil rights in June 2010, according to the
Willcox said this week he never accepted these shares. The evidence
appears to support this.
The papers indicate that Khulubuse Zuma held no formal stake, despite
his 2010 claim that he was the sole owner.
The political exposure of the deal to Kabila, Jacob Zuma, and Sexwale
raised concerns in 2010, but everyone involved denied that the
politicians played any role.
IMF Cuts South Africa's 2016 Economic Growth Forecast to 0.6%
The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for economic growth
in South Africa for a second time this year after the central bank
raised borrowing costs and as policy uncertainty increased.
Gross domestic product in Africa’s most-industrialized economy will
probably expand 0.6 percent in 2016, compared with January’s estimate
of 0.7 percent and last year’s 1.3 percent growth, the
Washington-based lender in its World Economic Outlook report on
Tuesday. The IMF lowered its projection for 2017 to 1.2 percent from
The forecast of weaker growth is due to “lower export prices, elevated
policy uncertainty, and tighter monetary and fiscal policy,” the IMF
The IMF cut its 2016 growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa by 1
percentage point to 3 percent and reduced next year’s estimate to 4
percent from 4.7 percent. The World Bank on Monday lowered its 2016
projection for the region by 0.9 percentage points to 3.3 percent.
Cash Flees South Africa in Longest Run of Outflows Since '99 @business
South African investors are shifting cash overseas at the
most-sustained pace since outflows triggered by the end of apartheid
as political upheaval undermines confidence in the continent’s
Money poured out of the country for the 16th consecutive quarter in
the final three months of 2015, the longest streak of quarterly
outflows since the five years through September 1999, according to
central bank data. An increase in South Africans investing abroad
followed a gradual relaxation of exchange controls almost each year
since 1995, about a year after Nelson Mandela’s African National
Congress won the first all-race elections.
Investec Asset Management has seen 60 percent of domestic flows shift
into its offshore funds in the first three months of this year,
compared with 40 percent in the prior quarter, the company said on
“We see a net outflow of rand across all our desks,” said Andrew
Rissik, the managing director of foreign-currency trading at Sable
Group Ltd., a London-based money manager with 100 million pounds ($142
million) in assets. “Poor decisions by Zuma and the ruling party
triggered a widespread urge to move assets abroad.”
Direct investments by South Africans abroad more than doubled in the
fourth quarter from the previous three months to 37.4 billion rand,
the most since the third quarter of 2014, according to data from South
Africa’s central bank, released on March 8.
Is Lagos the Most Dangerous Party City on the Planet? By Adam Skolnick via @playboy H/T @rencapman
It was midnight on Saturday and the club was heating up. Some men were
decked out in black tie, others in Ankara print caftans and matching
fezzes. They leaned on the bar in double-breasted sports coats and
Windsor knots, and glided across the dance floor in high-dollar
sneakers, draped in silver and gold chains, eyeballing women of all
shapes and shades who dazzled in designer gowns, slinky dresses, short
shorts or miniskirts, by turns accentuating or revealing ample curves,
long legs or an elegant neckline.
It was my second night in Lagos, Nigeria, and once more I was in a
room of clinking glasses and rumbling bass, a room filled with
Nigeria’s upper crust bouncing to indigenous Afro-pop. Everything was
washed in hot pink. Beams from a bank of rotating lights glinted off
gaslight chandeliers and mirrored ornaments behind the bar. Bottles of
Dom Pérignon set in buckets of dry ice left vapor trails as they
streamed from the bar in the arms of statuesque African beauties
conveying them to booths manned by oil or telecom executives, real
estate developers, entrepreneurs and their guests.
But Lagos, for all its money, glamour and status as the world capital
of Afropop, seems immune to all that. Thanks to its crime-riddled
reputation, it has become the dark frontier of the global party
circuit, a place of cognac-washed clubs, B-boy block parties and
Afrobeat root systems. There are no carbon-copy full-moon raves or
overly organized pop festivals featuring homogenous EDM robots with
$100 haircuts. Instead Lagos offers the elusive electrical charge that
all travelers crave: the authentic, even if that means having to watch
your back on the street at all times.
Out in front of Sip Lounge, blinged-out revelers, the ajebotas
(“butter eaters,” Yoruba slang for rich kids) stepped from tinted
Range Rovers and Lexus SUVs amid nearly invisible beggars—the
disabled, the orphaned, the displaced. Along the way they kept their
eyes peeled. It wasn’t the beggars they were concerned about, nor was
it the overt presence of danger that raised their antennae. It was the
potential for mayhem.
Lagos is a city of approximately 20 million people where some 9,000
millionaires float upon a sprawling mass of ajepakos (Yoruba slang
that roughly translates as “twig eaters”).
But in Africa the music is everywhere. Lagos is the laboratory and the
loudspeaker, conjuring and blaring Africa’s continental soundtrack to
all 54 countries of the motherland.
At two a.m. one of the biggest stars in the room, Burna Boy, stood in
his booth, wearing a straw hat and a gold medallion over his white
T-shirt. He took a long pull from the Hennessy bottle in his right
hand and reached for the mike with his left. The hype man set the
mood. All heads turned. DJ Obi, a Lagos mainstay, laid down a beat,
and Burna Boy launched into his hit “Like to Party.”
Imagine hitting the clubs in Toronto or New York and seeing Drake or
Jay Z grab the mike. That rarely happens, but in Lagos clubs, when
artists turn up—which they often do—they almost always deliver. The
promise of priceless impromptu performances and ostentatious displays
of wealth are two reasons the Lagos club scene is world-class.
If you were to track Nigerian music on a historical graph, you would
see a spike in international interest and record sales around the
heyday of legendary highlife acts such as King Sunny Adé, defined by
joyful guitar licks, and Fela Kuti—the rebellious political activist
and progenitor of the infectious, brass-heavy Afrobeat sound. Both
became international stars in the 1970s.
The trappings of true wealth in Lagos include a fat yacht and a
mansion in Ikoyi. Bizzle craves both and is angling to open his own
clubs to get there. “Owo ni koko,” he said. “That’s Yoruba for ‘Money
is the main thing.’ ”
The next day I met him at a late-afternoon pool party hosted by
another of Bizzle’s partners, Quilox nightclub. The pool, set in a
private entertainment facility, was lined with curtained cabanas—the
type you see in Las Vegas—and the event lured heavyweights from across
the spectrum of Lagosian arts and industry. Despite the flash, though,
the venue itself was unfinished. The view from the bathroom overlooked
construction rubble. We were partying steps from a dirt parking lot
off the thrumming Lekki-Epe Expressway, which connects the residential
neighborhood of Lekki with Victoria Island—home to hotels,
restaurants, banks and oil company offices.
“Help me,” she gasped. The driver swerved, narrowly missing her. She
spun and fell to her knees on the asphalt.
“What the fxxk,” I yelled.
“It’s a trap,” the driver said, accelerating and leaving her in the
dust. “I’m telling you, it’s a trap. If we go back, there will be a
mob of men who will rob us and maybe kill us.” My driver had once been
held up by a mob in the street and was eventually locked in his own
trunk. “They could have automatic weapons, those guys.”
I turned back. Aside from the girl, the street was completely empty.
Was he right? Was she bait, or was she the one in danger? I’d like to
say we went back to check, but this was Lagos after all, so we kept
China has offered Nigeria a loan worth $6 billion to fund infrastructure projects, the Nigerian foreign minister said on Tuesday.
The announcement came as both countries signed a currency swap deal to
boost trade. Nigeria has been in talks with China on an infrastructure
loan for months.
Nigeria is Africa's largest economy and its top oil producer. But its
public finances have suffered as the price of crude oil dropped around
Although President Muhammadu Buhari wants to triple capital spending
in 2016, he also needs to plug a projected deficit of $11.1 billion.
"It is a credit that is on the table as soon as we identify the
projects," Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told reporters
after Buhari met Chinese President Xi Jinping. "It won't need an
agreement to be signed. It is just to identify the projects and we
There was no immediate comment from China.
Nigeria Inflation Soars to Almost Four-Year High of 12.8%
Inflation in Africa’s largest economy and oil producer accelerated to
12.8 percent on an annualized basis, the highest since July 2012, from
11.4 percent in February, the Abuja-based National Bureau of
Statistics said by e-mail on Tuesday. Food prices rose 12.7 percent in
March from a year ago, compared with 11.4 percent in the previous
month, driven up by transportation costs, the planting season and
foreign-exchange movements, the statistics agency said.
“The central bank can’t continue raising rates only,” Babajide
Solanke, an analyst at Lagos-based FSDH Merchant Bank Ltd., said by
phone before the data were released. “They should probably look at
adjusting foreign exchange controls now.”
The International Monetary Fund has lowered its 2016 growth forecast
for Nigeria by almost one percentage point to 2.3 percent and said the
effect of the lower price of oil, where Nigeria earns most of its
income, will be “durable.”
Kenya's KCB Open to Banking Deals After Third Lender Collapses
KCB Group, Kenya’s biggest lender by assets, said it has an interest
in new market opportunities after a local newspaper reported it may be
among potential buyers of Chase Bank Kenya Ltd., which collapsed last
“KCB is open to the potential consolidation in the market, but nothing
specific has been pinned down,” KCB spokeswoman Judith Odhiambo said
in an e-mailed response to questions. “We continue to pursue various
options and opportunities and cannot specifically discuss a particular
Business Daily, a Nairobi-based newspaper, reported earlier on Monday
that KCB is one of at least five companies interested in buying Chase
Bank. The list includes Equity Group, Centum Investments Ltd.,
Commercial Bank of Africa Ltd. and I&M Holdings Ltd., it said.
Chase Bank collapsed last week after a run by depositors. It’s the
third Kenyan lender to be seized by the authorities since Patrick
Njoroge was appointed governor of the central bank in June. Imperial
Bank Ltd. was taken over by the regulators in October, while Dubai
Bank Kenya Ltd. went into liquidation in August after running out of
The central bank placed Chase Bank in receivership on April 6, a day
after the lender’s chairman and group managing director resigned when
it announced restated earnings with a qualified opinion by auditors.
On Sunday, Njoroge announced the regulator would provide support to
banks facing liquidity constraints because of the “anxiety” caused by
“We will avail a facility to any commercial or microfinance bank that
comes under liquidity pressures arising from no fault of its own,”
Njoroge said in a statement e-mailed by the bank. “We will avail this
facility for as long as is necessary to return stability and
confidence to the Kenyan financial sector.
Smaller banks in Kenya are starved of liquidity, with seven of the
nation’s 42 institutions holding 80 percent of the financial system’s
cash, according to the regulator. At the same time, they’re also
having to struggle against an increase in non-performing loans with
not enough money set aside to cover them.
On April 8, the police ordered the arrest of Chase Bank Chairman
Zafrullah Khan and Group Managing Director Duncan Kabui. It also asked
for the detention of six other directors from state-owned National
Bank Ltd. who were placed on forced leave last month pending an
I&M CEO Arun Mathur didn’t immediately return a call by Bloomberg
requesting comment. Calls to Equity CEO James Mwangi’s mobile phone
didn’t connect. Centum didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed
questions and Commercial Bank of Africa denied it’s interested in
“We are not in discussions,” CBA Group Managing Director Isaac Awuondo
said by phone. “We have not evaluated the opportunity.”
Shareholders in Chase Bank include Amethis Finance, a Paris-based
company focused on investing debt and equity in Africa, responsAbility
Participations AG, a Swiss investment company known as rAP, and KfW,
the German development-finance group, according to an April 2015
document published on the lender’s website.
Amethis, responsAbility and KfW didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed
requests for comment.
NSE suspends Chase Bank's Sh10bn trading @BD_Africa
“Notice is hereby given on the suspension of trading of the Chase Bank
Fixed Rate Notes listed on the Fixed Income Securities Market Segment
of the NSE, in line with directives received from the Capital Market’s
Authority, effective April 8, 2016,” said the NSE in a statement
Chase Bank collapsed on April 7 following failure to pay customer
deposits after it ran out of cash.
The bank suffered massive withdrawals, some of it done online, as it
was hit by a crisis of confidence resulting from a restatement of the
bank’s financial statement to reveal massive nonperforming loans.
On the day the restated results were published, the managing director
and the chairman were replaced, triggering further uncertainty.
“This (suspension) follows the placement of Chase Bank (Kenya) limited
under receivership by Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) with effect from
April 7, 2016, thereby prohibiting payment of any claims by the bank’s
creditors,” said NSE. “The shareholders, investors and general public
are asked to take note of the suspension.”
The CMA approved the issuance of the bond in June last year. However,
the company only managed to raise Sh4.8 billion in the first tranche
which got listed on the NSE in June.
The coupon rate of 13.25 per cent is the second highest of the
outstanding bonds on the NSE fixed-income board.
The Nairobi all Share snapped a losing streak which had seen the All
Share retreat 1.844% since the 7th of April and edged +0.06 points
firmer to close at 144.78.
There are strong indications that the MSCI Frontier Index will eject
Nigeria from its Index because of the restrictions on the Naira. This
will support Big Cap Stocks in Nairobi as Investors re-calibrate their
The Nairobi NSE20 Index could not snap its losing streak which started
7th April and closed -15.86 points lower at 3909.47.
The Nairobi NSE20 has retreated -3.57% since 7th April when its closed
at a 2016 High of 4,054.29.
Equity turnover clocked 484.513m.
The Equity Market has traded lower but on light volume since the Chase
Bank news broke.
N.S.E Equities - Commercial & Services
Safaricom firmed +0.3% to close at 16.75 and traded 4.066m shares.
Safaricom will surely be a big Beneficiary if Nigeria is removed from
the MSCI Frontier Index as SSA Funds will recalibrate in favour of
TPS Serena Hotels traded 5,500 shares all at 25.00 +5.26%. TPS Serena
is unchanged in 2016 and will surely glide higher on the back of a
Tourism recovery. I expect the Tourism Curve to head higher but in a
shallow shape but this will underpin TPS Serena. What is helping is
the diffusion of Terror - its everywhere - whereas before it felt like
Kenya was only in the cross-hairs.
N.S.E Equities - Finance & Investment
Kenya Commercial Bank closed unchanged at a 2016 Closing High of 42.50
and was the most actively traded share at the Exchange and traded
5.472m shares worth 237.72m. Yesterday Judith Sidi Odhiambo was quoted
by Bloomberg saying “KCB is open to the potential consolidation in the
market, but nothing specific has been pinned down,” KCB spokeswoman
Judith Odhiambo said
in an e-mailed response to questions. “We continue to pursue various
options and opportunities and cannot specifically discuss a particular
entity.” This speaks to the enviable position that KCB finds itself
in. The Flight to Quality [seven of 42 institutions hold 80 percent of
the financial system's cash, according to the regulator] and the
inevitable consolidation process favour the Group.
Standard Chartered firmed +0.4% to close at 249.00 and is an
Outperformer at the NSE this Year posting a blistering +27.69% Price
Increase in 2016.
Equity Group rowed back -1.23% to close at 40.00 and traded 3.013m
shares. Sellers outpaced Buyers through the session and hence the
downside price action.
Barclays Bank Kenya eased -0.48% to close at a Fresh Multi Year Low
10.25 and traded 243,300 shares. Barclays Bank has slumped -24.63%
through 2016 as Investors fret about Franchise Erosion and this period
of Limbo as Barclays PLC looks for a Buyer for its shareholding in
National Bank retreated 4% to close at 9.60 and has slumped a whopping
-39.04% in 2016.
The NSE rallied +4.58% to close at 28.50.
N.S.E Equities - Industrial & Allied
EABL rebounded +1.89% to close at 270.00 and traded 36,100 shares.
EABL is set to rebound further and will also be favoured by the
Ejection of Nigeria from the MSCI Frontier Index.