Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger jointly inaugurated CeBIT, one of the top annual fairs in the technology industry. CeBIT exhibits computers, software and communications products, mainly for corporate and manufacturing buyers. At the event this year, California has been declared ‘partner,’ an honorary status usually awarded to entire nations. Schwarzenegger, speaking in both English and German to an invited audience, highlighted California’s advanced computer technology. “Technology is really our great hope for creating extra revenues and stimulating the economy — especially green technology is where the action is,” said Schwarzenegger. Speaking in English, our Austrian-born governor said environmental-technology companies represent the only sector of California’s economy that is creating jobs. Schwarzenegger praised Germany’s commitment to renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and attacked economic protectionism. “The world is the marketplace … and the only way we can protect the consumer is if we let the consumer choose from products all over the world no matter where they come from,” he said. The Governor also tried to encourage the executives attending to be more upbeat, “”Losers whine but winners move forward in a strong and powerful way and I know that everyone who is here at the CeBIT is a winner!” In spite of the upbeat speeches, to mood at CeBIT was reported to be gloomy as a result of the worldwide economic slowdown and slump in the computer industry. This year’s CeBIT has suffered a 25-per-cent slump in exhibitor numbers to 4,300.
March 12, 2009
Online video site YouTube will block most music videos in the United Kingdom because talks with a royalty group there failed and an earlier license between YouTube and the group expired. San Bruno-based YouTube, which is owned by giant Google Inc. said the Performing Rights Society for Music asked for too much money in licensing fees, more than YouTube was willing to pay.
Fifty members of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have taken a business trip to Washington D.C. to protest the “anti-junket” attitudes that have gripped Congress and the public after several incidents of abuses by bailed out financial firms. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Big business is cutting back on convention travel these days, afraid of being branded as lavish spenders in a down economy. And that’s having a real impact on cities like San Francisco, where conventions and business meetings have a huge impact on our economy. That’s the message a delegation of the city’s civic leaders will deliver to Congress today, specifically asking the Northern California congressional delegation to help tone down the criticism of such business meetings. The San Francisco officials are concerned that businesses that otherwise would send employees to meetings and spend appropriate sums on food and entertainment will increasingly cancel meetings out of fear they will be singled out on Capitol Hill and by the public as overindulgent. “They don’t want to be on the front page of the newspaper or on the 11 o’clock news, seen as frivolously spending money even though it is for legitimate purposes,” said Joe McInerney, the president and chief executive officer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, based in Washington. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce-led delegation, consisting of some 50 participants, is in Washington to ask members to keep in mind the economic contribution of travel and tourism while they negotiate proposed restrictions on recipients of federal emergency funds. They do not want legitimate business travel chilled because of extravagant spending by others… “We do not want to support irresponsible extravagance, but we also do not want to discourage business from holding conventions and meetings so they can spend appropriately on entertainment in San Francisco,” said Steve Falk, the chamber president. Among those suffering the consequences of a falloff in business are service employees, he said. “While we understand the need for transparency, we want to make sure that legislation (covering emergency fund recipients) does not have the unintended consequences of impacting negatively on the hospitality workforce,” said Mariann Costello, vice president of Scoma’s restaurant in San Francisco, who is among the chamber delegation.
March 13, 2009
Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., the movie studio subsidiary of the Japanese electronics maker, is laying off nearly 250 people and eliminating nearly 100 open positions in an effort to cut costs. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, about 150 of those jobs will be in the Los Angeles area:
Chief Executive Michael Lynton and studio co-chair Amy Pascal announced job cuts of 3.5 percent of the studio’s staff worldwide in a staff memo sent out Tuesday afternoon. “Our studio remains profitable, but over the past five months, the deepening global financial crisis has begun to impact some of our lines of business, such as television syndication, DVDs and advertising sales,” they said in the memo. These economic effects have, regretfully, made it necessary to take the step we had hoped to avoid, and worked hard to minimize: reducing our headcount.”
March 24, 2009
China has blocked the video-sharing Web site YouTube but has not offered any reason or explanation for the ban. Mountain View-based Google, which owns YouTube, said it began noticing a decline in traffic from China about noon Monday. By early Wednesday, site users insider China continued to encounter an error message: “Network Timeout. The server at youtube.com is taking too long to respond.” “We do not know the reason for the blockage and we are working as quickly as possible to restore access to our users,” said Scott Rubin, a spokesman for Google. It’s not the first time users in China have been unable to access the site. In March 2008, China blocked YouTube during riots in Tibet.
March 25, 2009
California came in dead last in a national ranking of the best states to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. Finishing just ahead of California in the 2009 rankings were New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Texas was ranked first. The magazine evaluated states on natural resources, regulation, tax policies, quality of living, education and infrastructure, among other categories. Chief Executive magazine said states that perform well in the rankings tend to have lower taxes and little unionization. California ranked 48th in “cost of business” and “business friendliness.”
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The UCLA Anderson Forecast, an economic think tank, has linked the current national recession to slumping international economic conditions that will impact the timing and pace of any national recovery. The Forecast asserts that a turnaround in the U.S. economy depends upon a recovery in world trade. The report also states that regardless of the steps taken by the U.S. government, national solutions will not be enough to restore growth and therefore global solutions are essential. In California, it’s forecasted that the economy will remain in turmoil for the foreseeable future as the twin sector engines of consumers and construction continue to drag, according to a press release that summarized the report.
More on UCLA Forecast says National Recovery depends on World Trade
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Agricultural holding company Yasheng Group reported a $76 million profit for 2008 as part of its goal to be listed on a major U.S. stock exchange, according to a report in the San Francisco Business Times. Yasheng Group is a Redwood City holding company focused on agriculture in China. It has about 15,000 workers. It owns seven agricultural businesses in China that grow products such as onions, potatoes, apples, alfalfa, flax, beets, wheat, apricots, sunflowers, beer barley and cumin. As part of its move towards a major stockmarket listing, Yasheng published its financial results for 2006 and 2007 in January. More on Yasheng Group seeking stock exchange listing
The Sacramento business journal is reporting “huge” demands for California bonds: Investors were more enthusiastic about buying California debt than expected, putting in orders for $6.54 billion in general obligation bonds in a sale by the state Treasurer’s Office that ended Tuesday State officials had expected to sell $4 billion. The extra cash will allow officials to restart more stalled projects that were halted in December due to the state’s cash crisis. Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s office said there was “huge” demand from both individual investors and institutional buyers such as mutual funds. Officials have not determined which of 5,300 halted projects should be allowed to proceed. Until this sale, the tight credit market and the state’s prolonged budget crisis kept California out of the bond market for nine months.