Monday, July 24, 2017

Denmark Now Has More Electric Car Charging Docks Than Petrol Stations — But Will They Be Used?

Via Business Insider:

The number of electric car charging docks across Denmark have overtaken the amount of petrol stations, finds a new report from the Danish Energy Association.

With more than 1300 charging pods, E.ON is by far the biggest provider in Denmark. The company acquired a 770-station strong charging network from U.S.-based operator Better Place after it went bankrupt in 2013. Moreover, the German utility giant recently launched a mobile charging solution with parking app Easypark, which enables customers to use their phone when charging.

But despite all the flourishing electric vehicle infrastructure, the prospects for Denmark catching up with Norway in terms of EV-adoption look bleak right now. The country's EV-sales have plummeted after the Danish government decided to cut back subsidies for electric vehicles.

So far in 2017, only 182 electric cars have been sold in Denmark overall, and just 17 of those sales have been to private consumers, according to The Copenhagen Post. That’s a steep decline from the 4.605 sold in 2015 (albeit a sales spike that ensued in anticipation of the subsidy cutbacks).

There is little doubt that electric vehicles will become the norm in the next decade, as evidenced by Volvo's commitment to phase out conventional car engines. But whether or not government shoulds use taxpayer money to make that future arrive faster, remains a point of contention.

The Danish government miscalculated its attempt to expose EV-makers to market forces, as it's now revisiting its policies in order to smooth out the transition — and consequently, to make all those charging stations more relevant again.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Finnair Was Named The Best Airline In Northern Europe For The 8th Consecutive Year

Via Business Insider:

After holding the title over the past seven years, it should not come as a surprise that Finnair has once again been named Northern Europe’s best airline at the World Airline Awards. The award is based on a customer satisfaction survey organized by Skytrax, comprising 325 airlines and 19 million survey participants.

It may actually be misrepresenting to limit Finnair’s prestige to Northern Europe. The airline consistently performs well also on the global scene. For example, Finnair has been named one of the safest airlines in the world, and amongst the most punctual. Also, last year AirHelp found Finnair to be one of the ten best airlines in the world, based on quality performance, delay time and claim processing. The same ranking found Norwegian Air Shuttle and Icelandair to be amongst the ten worst airlines in the world – which may be reason to say that ‘being the best in Northern Europe’ kind of misses the point.

High performance is no reason for Finnair to get lax though. The airline is putting special emphasis on improving the passenger experience by developing its digital services. Earlier this year, Finnair participated in a trial of face-recognition check-in technology at Helsinki airport (which incidentally is one of the 10 best airports in Europe) in collaboration with airport operator Finavia. This year Finnair also became the first airline to accept the Chinese digital payment service Alipay onboard its planes, also in conjunction with the adoption of the technology at Helsinki airport. All long-distance flights by Finnair now also offer its Nordic Sky Wi-Fi service. It’s clear that being an innovator is part of the airline's strategy to survive in the ever more competitive space.

“Digital development is one of our central strategic goals, but we’re continuously improving all aspects of the customer experience, like, for example, our collaborations with high-profile cooks in business class on long-distance flights, and the improvement of our lounge experience through new partnerships”, says Piia Karhu, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at Finnair.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Finnish Innovators Have Invented A New Material To Wrap Up The Packaging Market – No Plastic, No Harmful Chemicals And Completely Recyclable

Via Business Insider:

Kotkamills has developed a new paperboard material that can be totally recycled after use. The material is water- and greaseproof, but that is achieved without using plastics, and it also does not contain harmful fluorochemicals. Packaging for food and drinks normally uses polyethylene coating to achieve the same features, which makes recycling difficult and expensive, so waste board is usually incinerated.

Kotkamills, based in the southern Finnish coastal town of Kotka, has developed a chemical combination, which changes the paperboard’s properties to make it naturally resistant to grease and liquids – at least long enough for its use by consumers. The company’s coffee cups were recently tested by YLE and were found able to hold hot and soft drinks for more than two days.

The resistance even worked for alcoholic beverages, though only for a couple of hours. But YLE pointed out that 39% of all disposable paper cups on the market are only able to contain spirits for a few hours – and that’s still more than enough for the overwhelming majority of consumers.

The new coating is, needless to say, a closely guarded secret. Kotkamills CEO Markku Hämäläinen revealed that he and a colleague developed the chemical mixture to form a coating that combines the proofing needed whilst the product is being manufactured with seams that keep together and do not tear or leak when being used.

The end product is totally recyclable after the ink has been removed during the pulping process and involves no fluorine compounds whatsoever. The quality is high enough that the recycled pulp can even be made into copy-grade paper, as the paperboard contains a large amount of short fibre.

The new packaging product, marketed under Kotkamills’ AEGLE brand, has already received certification and orders from Germany, Norway, UK as well as Finland.

“It’s mostly folding box board for consumer products such as packaging for medicines, cosmetics and alcohol”, Hämäläinen says, “Though a combination of folding box board and barrier board is also used for food packaging such as chocolate and frozen fish”.

Although Hämäläinen cannot name potential customers for the cup stock, it is whispered that major brand owners such as McDonald’s and Starbucks have shown interest in Kotkamills’ ISLA-brand paper cup, which awaits final certification after having passed thorough testing.

“Now we will start marketing the cups and I am sure orders will come fast as the brands are eagerly waiting to use it as soon as the necessary qualifications have been granted - by August at the latest”, he told Business Insider Nordic.

“Fluorochemicals are still widely used in fast food packaging, even though studies have shown them to be unhealthy and may cause cancers,” Hämäläinen, “Our products are moisture-resistant without presenting a health hazard”.

Kotkamills’ new main owner, Finnish private equity MB Funds, was behind the €170 million ($196 million) conversion of a board machine last year as part of a €210 million upgrade of the whole Kotka plant. With 400.000 tons in annual capacity “There is more than enough to satisfy European annual demand of a maximum of 300.000 tons, some of which do not need plastic-free quality for all uses, so we will target the USA, which is much bigger”.

Hämäläinen is confident of the new products’ success. Green should turn into gold as there are no similar rival products, neither in folding board packaging nor disposable cups.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Xi Wraps Up Three-Day Hong Kong Trip

Via Xinhuanet:

President Xi Jinping ended his three-day trip to Hong Kong Saturday after attending celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, and the inauguration of the fifth-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.

He also inspected the special administrative region.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Stockholm Issues 90 Percent Of All Stock Market Capital In The Nordics – Here’s The Secret Behind Sweden's IPO miracle

Via Business Insider:

From early stage startups all the way to the stock market, the last decade has proved that Sweden is doing something right.

This year – well on track towards a new record in the amount of Swedish listings – Nasdaq Stockholm’s main market has issued 1.4 billion euros in capital, which is almost 90 percent of the Nordic total of 1.6 billion. The ratio on the alternative First North markets have been equally skewed towards Sweden.

Moreover, three three companies with the largest IPO’s in the Nordics this year – Munters, Ambea and Medicover – have all rung their bells in the Swedish capital. The same was true of the three largest IPO’s in 2015 – all Swedish.

Adam Kostyál, the Head of Listings of EMEA at Nasdaq Inc, is mighty impressed with these fertile conditions; which he thinks is underpinned by Swedish households’ positive attitude towards equity.

"What other markets can learn is that it’s a very active market, and a very knowledgeable one. This means that households are willing to take on the risk of managing equity ownership. That’s fundamentally interesting, because the rest of Europe is against that. It’s more debt-driven", he told BI Noric during a record-breaking morning last week, when five companies listed simultaneously on Nasdaq Stockholm.

Although last year saw Copenhagen dominate Nasdaq Nordic, with listings of payment giant Nets Group (€2.1bn) and DONG Energy (€2,3bn), Stockholm’s main market raised 90% percent of the Nordic capital in 2015 as well. An dominance that's unrivalled not only in the Nordics, but in most of Europe too.

“In Sweden, you have a perfect ecosystem. A good retail base, on top of which you have an institutional base of small and medium-sized funds, investors and advisors that can thrive around this ecosystem. They can then recommend [the stock market] going forward, both for companies and for investors. So this is what we’re missing in the rest of Europe. Also on the Nordic level this is quite unique”.

Kostyál notes that Nasdaq is looking to share some of the learnings across the Nordics.

"We are working actively in all markets where we are present - including Copenhagen and Helsinki - to see what we can recommend, both regarding tax aspects and different incentives, to make sure that we can develop this kind of market in each geography".

Nasdaq Nordic - 2017 YTD

Nordic Listings: €1.6 bn

Stockholm Listings: €1.4 bn

2017 – Largest IPO’s to date (all in Stockholm)

Munters €414 million

Ambea €209m

Medicover €208m

Nasdaq Nordiq – 2016

New Listings: €7.2 bn

Stockholm Listings: €1.6bn

Nasdaq Nordic – 2015

New Listings: €5 bn

Stockholm Listings: €4.5bn

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Visa Makes Investment In Klarna, Fueling The Swedish Unicorn's Banking Business

Via Business Insider:

Visa and Klarna announced today they have reached an agreement for Visa to make an equity investment in the Swedish fintech company.

The announcement comes just two weeks after Klarna secured its Swedish banking license. The two companies are also committing to a strategic partnership with the aim to accelerate online and mobile commerce, says a joint press statement.

With a partnership, Visa will get better access to the online merchant realm whereas Klarna — according to CEO Siemiatkowski — will be able to “strengthen its global presence and product portfolio”, giving the Swedish payment company access to Visa's s 50 million offline and online customers.

“The Visa and Klarna partnership is a natural fit. We both understand consumer credit and the value of consumer centricity in developing innovative payment solutions”, said Seimiatowski.

The pair is targeting a growing online retail sales market, which is expected to grow 12 percent per annum in Western Europe by 2021 according to Forrester.

“Visa has invested in Klarna for its proven expertise in consumer credit and online purchasing. Together, we share a vision for how today’s online and mobile commerce experiences can be as simple as they are in the real world”, said Jim McCarthy, executive vice president, innovation and strategic partnerships, Visa Inc.

”They have their bank licence, a broad customer base and plans to expand beyond their current markets. Klarna is a natural partner," Bill Gajda, Visa's Head of Innovation said to Di Digital.

The end goal of the partnership seems clear: to acquire as many merchants as possible both online and offline, and provide them with a broad range of payment and personal finance products.

The two companies didn’t disclose how much equity Visa will receive, and said that further details on the partnership will come at a later date.

Visa's planned investment is part of a global strategy to open up the company's ecosystem to digital players and follows on previous bets in U.S. payment giants Stripe and Square (10 percent stake in the latter). Visa has also recently opened an in-house startup accelerator, Collabs.

Valued at more than $2 billion, Klarna has become a leading online payments provider with more than 60 million customers and 70.000 merchants across Europe. Its Visa partnership will provide it instant heft in a pivot into personal banking services, and might also ease its entry into the U.S. market.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The US Is "Flatlining" In Social Progress Compared To Countries Like Finland And Denmark

Via Business Insider:

While much of northern Europe continues to provide affordable healthcare, promote equality, and minimize poverty rates, across the Atlantic the US is getting more divided and less tolerant.

In the 2017 Social Progress Index, a ranking of 128 nations looking at quality of life, the US is 18th out of 128. Michael Green, the CEO of SPI, said the US was "flatlining", primarily due to its falling scores on measures of tolerance and inclusion.

"Compared to other countries with similar GDP, the US is lagging in its homicide rates, terrorism, and its traffic deaths", Green told Business Insider.

But the country also fell well below other nations, including Denmark, Finland, Germany, Canada, and Sweden, because of its poor scores on information and communication. The category measures a country's access to the internet, mobile phone subscriptions, and level of press freedom.

"A surprisingly low number of people have access to the internet in the US" relative to the rest of the industrialized world, Green said. The US ranks 27th in the world. It also showed a weak performance in environmental quality (33rd), health and wellness (34th), and nutrition and basic medical care (36th).

The strongest category for the US was education. The country placed first, but Green points out the ranking did not take cost into consideration.

Declining scores in tolerance and inclusion highlight the growing political and cultural divides taking place in the US, most noticeably in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. A Gallup poll published in late November 2016 found the number of Americans who viewed the country as divided was at a record-high 77%. SPI's ranking shows US discrimination against minorities ranks 39th in the world. Religious tolerance ranks 92nd.

Enough countries show poor scores in tolerance and inclusion, in fact, that Green believes the data reveal how fractured much of the world has become in matters of immigration.

The US joins France, Kuwait, and Saudia Arabia as the only countries that stood out for their poor performance relative to their GDP. Generally speaking, countries with higher GDPs were more socially progressive, according to SPI's ranking.

Countries such as Uganda and Ghana showed great improvement since 2014, Green said. The rise of mobile phones in East African nations has enabled more people to come online, boosting their countries' overall scores.

Green said that in order for under-performing countries like the US to improve their scores in 2018 and 2019, they'll need to embrace long-term investments in protecting people's rights.

"The US is not under-performing because of the Trump administration or the Obama administration", he said. "It's about the story of long-term under-investment in the justice system, in the education system, in healthcare. Those are the real challenges".