Data points

Published January 18, 2021
The logo for Fitbit appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Google has completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness-gadget maker Fitbit. It’s a deal that could help the internet company grow even stronger while US government regulators pursue an antitrust case aimed at undermining its power. Last week the completion of the acquisition comes 14 months after Google announced a deal that immediately raised privacy alarms.—AP
The logo for Fitbit appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Google has completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness-gadget maker Fitbit. It’s a deal that could help the internet company grow even stronger while US government regulators pursue an antitrust case aimed at undermining its power. Last week the completion of the acquisition comes 14 months after Google announced a deal that immediately raised privacy alarms.—AP

Using carbon to pump crude oil

Deep in the Permian Basin, America’s biggest oilfield Occidental Petroleum plans to build a facility that it believes could change the way the world thinks about fossil-fuel emissions. The globe’s first large-scale direct air capture plant will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pump it deep underground, where it will remain for millions of years. The process would essentially be the reverse of what oil and gas companies do today. The goal is to lower emissions of the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming — and one day even produce a carbon-negative barrel of oil. But to cover the cost of operating the plant, Occidental will initially use much of the CO2 to push out lucrative oil from underground reservoirs, thereby replacing one pollutant with another. The facility, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will also need support from tax credits and outside investors to be financially viable.

(Adapted from “Occidental to Strip Carbon from the Air and Use It to Pump Crude,” by Kevin Crowley and Akshat Rathi, published on Jan 12, 2021 by Bloomberg Quint)

The ‘wealthiest’ thought experiment

Imagine a scenario in which Elon Musk, the recently made richest man in the world, had to pay for his purchases in proportion to his wealth. His net worth is approximately 1.6 million times that of the median American family, which was $121,700 in 2019, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. So anything costing the median family $1 would cost him $1.6 million. In this thought experiment, he goes to Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon. Organic Honeycrisp apples that cost $3.99 a pound would cost him $6.4 million. A large Hass avocado would have a price tag of $2.4 million for him. The windfall from such a pricing system would go to Amazon rather than the Internal Revenue Service. Conceptually, the closest you could get at something like this with the tax code would be a cash-flow tax. The government adds up your income, subtracts the money you put into savings, calls the remainder consumption, and taxes it at a progressive rate: the more you consume, the higher rate per dollar of consumption.

(Adapted from “When Elon Musk Shops for Groceries,” by Peter Coy, published on Jan 8, 2021 by Bloomberg Businessweek)

Common-sense protection against cyber attacks

Cyberattacks are a growing threat facing businesses and governments, but the solutions aren’t always a complicated computer science matter, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Lawrence Susskind, co-director of the MIT Cyber security Research Project in The Science Impact Collaborative. To keep hackers out, Susskind teaches “defensive social engineering,” or creating an organisational structure and culture around best security practices and training employees to follow them. One of the main tenets is that cyber security is everyone’s responsibility. “It only takes one person to be foolish or not paying attention, open one attachment, and that’s it,” says Mr Susskind.” Another is that you don’t need to be a computer scientist to employ these methods and reduce risk.

(Adapted from “8 non-technical ways to improve your company’s cybersecurity” by Sara Brown, published on Jan 29, 2020 by MIT Management Sloan School)

Trading with Uzbekistan

Though trade with Uzbekistan is limited, Pakistan always enjoys a surplus. In 2019, Pakistan’s imports from Uzbekistan’s were worth $5.4 million whereas exports were $22.6 million, resulting in a surplus of $17.2m. Pakistan’s export potential in its trade with Uzbekistan was estimated at $373.1m for the top 25 export products in 2019. The products which showed the highest potential for exports to Uzbekistan were: pharmaceutical products, wheat, potatoes, sugar, bananas and surgical instruments. Pakistan and Uzbekistan signed a memorandum of understanding for a Joint Working Group on Trade and Investment in May 2020 to encourage bilateral trade. From Pakistan’s perspective the country needs to focus on increasing its exports of pharmaceutical products, wheat, potatoes, sugar, surgical instruments, bananas, lead-acid accumulators and milled rice to Uzbekistan.

(Adapted from “The Republic of Uzbekistan — Market Access Series 2020-21” by Samir S. Amir and Hasan Abbas, published in Jan 2021 by The Pakistan Business Council)

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, January 18th, 2021

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