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Global Top 100 reach record $20 trillion, with China narrowing the US’s lead

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The market capitalisation of the 100 largest companies globally has increased significantly by $2,597bn or 15% compared to 31 March 2017, according to PwC’s Global Top 100 ranking, released today. This rise comes on top of a 12% increase in 2017, and the total capitalisation continues to grow, year on year, since the global financial crisis.

Forty eight percent of growth in the past year has been contributed by US companies, on the back of strong economic conditions and their pre-eminent position in the technology sector. Europe registers an increase in market capitalisation for the second year running, with its market share remaining unchanged.

For the fourth year running, the US accounts for more than half of the Top 100 (54 companies, down from 55 in 2017). It also weighs in with 61% of the overall market capitalisation, down from 63% last year.

Amazon is the strongest performer in terms of absolute increase in market capitalisation, gaining $278bn or 66% in value compared to 2017.  It’s followed by two Chinese companies: Tencent, up by $224bn 0r 82%, and Alibaba, rising by $201bn or 75%. The next three highest performers in absolute terms are all from the US – Microsoft, Alphabet and Apple.

Despite coming sixth in terms of absolute growth in value, Apple retains pole position in terms of market capitalisation for the seventh year in a row. However, its lead over Alphabet in second place has narrowed by 25%, to $132bn from $175bn last year. Apple has also returned more cash to shareholders than any other company, handing back another $31bn to investors in dividends and share repurchases in calendar year 2017 (having distributed $29bn in calendar 2016). JP Morgan Chase ranks second in term of value distribution with $24bn, up from $18bn the previous year.

Turning to sectors, technology remains ahead of the financial sector in market capitalisation for the third successive year, with consumer goods in third place. The global top three are still technology companies – Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft – followed by Tencent in fifth position and Facebook in eighth, down from sixth last year.

European companies were especially hard hit a decade ago by the global financial crisis, and have seen fluctuations in their market capitalisations since then. However, the past year has seen Europe sustain its recent recovery, with the number of European companies in the Top 100 rising from 22 to 23, and an increase of $331bn in their aggregate market capitalisation. Despite this improvement, Europe is still significantly below the 33 companies it had in the Top 100 in 2010. And its 17% market share in 2018 – while unchanged from 2017 – is down from 27% in 2009.

The market capitalisation of the companies from China in the Top 100 leaps by 57% compared to 2017, with 12 Chinese companies making the Top 100, up from 10 last year. Hong Kong contributes another two companies, up from one in 2017. In terms of absolute increase in market capitalisation, Tencent is the leading Chinese performer in 2018 for the second year running, and the second highest overall after Amazon, increasing its value by 82% to $496bn. Alibaba is the second highest performer from China and third overall, increasing its value by 75% to $470bn. These strong increases have pushed both companies into the Top 10 in terms of market capitalisation, with Tencent rising to fifth and Alibaba to seventh.

According to Ross Hunter, IPO Centre Leader, Partner, PwC: “The most striking feature of this year’s figures is the strong increases in the value of the leading Chinese companies. For many years, US companies have used their global reach, financial strength and ability to innovate to pull away from the rest of the world. Now China is drawing on equivalent attributes, founded on the huge scale of the Chinese market, to make inroads into the US’s lead. Tencent and Alibaba’s entry into the Top 10 is a clear sign of their success in doing this.”

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Public Transport Can Bounce Back from COVID-19 with New and Green Technology

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Public transport must adapt to a “new normal” in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and adopt technologies that will render it more green and resilient to future disasters, according to a new report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The report, Guidance Note on COVID-19 and Transport in Asia and the Pacific, details the profound impact of the pandemic on transport, as swift lockdowns forced millions this year to work from home overnight, schools to shift to e-learning, and consumers to flock to online shopping and food delivery.

While public transit may have been previously perceived as a mostly green, efficient, and affordable mode of travel, initial trends in cities that have re-opened have indicated that public transit is still considered to be relatively unsafe and is not bouncing back as quickly as the use of private vehicles, cycling, and walking.

“The two key challenges ahead are addressing capacity on public transport to maintain safe distancing requirements, and how best to regain public confidence to return to public transport,” said Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. “In the short term, more effort is needed to reassure public transport users of safety and demonstrate clean and safe public transport. In the longer term, technological advances, big data, artificial intelligence, digitalization, automation, renewables and electric power can potentially offer fresh innovations to tackle changing needs, giving rise to smarter cities.”

While drastic lockdown measures around the world have brought world economies to their knees, satellites have recorded data on how the concentrations of CO2 and air pollutants have fallen drastically, bringing clear blue skies to many cities.

But as cities have reopened, traffic levels have increased. For example, Beijing traffic levels, by early April 2020, exceeded the same period in 2019. If this trend is seen on a wide scale, it could set back decades of effort in promoting sustainable development and more efficient means of urban mobility.

The report says there is a short window of opportunity for cities to promote the adoption of low-carbon alternatives to lock-in the improved air quality conditions gained during the peak of the pandemic lockdown. Public transport can play an important role through more active promotion of clean vehicles, provision of quality travel alternatives in public transport, and a better environment for non-motorized modes such as walking and cycling to enhance overall health and wellbeing.

The confidence of passengers on public transport should be restored through protective measures such as cleaning, thermal scanning, tracking and face covering, the report says. Further study to explore how protective and preventive measures can be stepped up to allow relaxation of safe distancing requirements would help mitigate capacity challenges. A possible future trend may be consolidation of services and rationalization of routes to better serve the emerging travel demand patterns and practices.

As countries enter the “recovery” phase, further preventive and precautionary operating measures and advanced technology should be implemented to enable contactless processes and facilitate an agile response. Demand management measures can facilitate crowd control in public transport systems and airports. As a complementary measure, non-motorized transport capacity could be expanded to absorb spillover demand from public transport.

Since mass public transport is the lifeblood of most economies, government policies and financial support are essential during this period, to enable public transport operators to stay viable and continue to support the movement of passengers and goods in a sustainable way.

For ADB, which committed last year $7 billion to the transport sector, behavioral trends linked to COVID-19 may require a review of the short-term viability of passenger transport and operational performance to meet changing demand for public transit systems. “Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic it is clear that developing Asia will continue to have a large need for additional transport infrastructure and services,” the report concludes. “It would take several years before the projects currently in the pipeline would be operational and much can happen during these years.”

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Zero emission economy will lead to 15 million new jobs by 2030 in Latin America and Caribbean

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In a new groundbreaking study , the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) show that the transition to a net-zero emission economy could create 15 million net new jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030. To support a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic , the region urgently needs to create decent jobs and build a more sustainable and inclusive future.

The report finds that the transition to a net-zero carbon economy would end 7.5 million jobs in fossil fuel electricity, fossil fuel extraction, and animal-based food production. However, these lost jobs are more than compensated for new employment opportunities: 22.5 million jobs are created in agriculture and plant-based food production, renewable electricity, forestry, construction, and manufacturing.

The report is also the first of its kind to highlight how shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets, which reduce meat and dairy consumption while increasing plant-based foods, would create jobs and reduce pressure on the region’s unique biodiversity. With this shift, LAC’s agri-food sector could expand the creation of 19 million full-time equivalent jobs despite 4.3 million fewer jobs in livestock, poultry, dairy and fishing.

Moreover, the report offers a blueprint on how countries can create decent jobs and transition to net-zero emissions. This includes policies facilitating the reallocation of workers, advance decent work in rural areas, offer new business models, enhance social protection and support to displaced, enterprises, communities and workers.

Social dialogue between the private sector, trade unions, and governments is essential to design long-term strategies to achieve net-zero emissions, which creates jobs, helps to reduce inequality and delivers on the Sustainable Development Goals .

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Women Gain Key Economic Benefits from Greater Trade

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Trade increases women’s wages and helps close the wage gap between men and women while creating better jobs for women, a new World Bank Group report concludes. Countries that are open to international trade tend to grow faster, innovate, improve productivity, and provide higher income and more opportunities to their people. Countries that are more open to trade, as measured by the trade-to-GDP ratio, have higher levels of gender equality.

The report, produced in collaboration with the World Trade Organization, marks the first major effort to quantify how women are affected by trade using a new gender-disaggregated dataset. The dataset, developed by the World Bank Group, allows researchers to understand how women are employed, in which industries they work, how much they earn, and whether or not they are involved in global trade. This analysis helps governments see how trade policies can affect women and men differently.

“Over the past 30 years trade has been the engine of poverty reduction. This report shows that, provided the right policies are in place, it can also provide an engine to reduce the gender gap,” said World Bank Managing Director Mari Pangestu. “Trade can expand women’s role in the economy and decrease disparities with men by giving women more and better employment opportunities. Seizing these opportunities will be even more important in a post-COVID-19 world.”

The report, Women and Trade: The Role of Trade in Promoting Women’s Equality, offers several key findings. Firms that are part of global value chains (GVCs) employ a greater percentage of women (33 percent) relative to non-GVC firms (24 percent). When countries open themselves to trade, women’s share of wages in the manufacturing sector increase by 5.8 percentage points on average. When women are employed in sectors with high exports, they are more likely to be formally employed. Formal employment means better job benefits, training, and job security.

The report also highlights the importance of addressing discrimination against women in trade policy. Although no country overtly imposes tariffs according to gender, implicit biases can amount to “pink tariffs” that put women at an economic disadvantage. The report shows that products specifically consumed by women face a higher tariff burden than men’s products. In the textile sector, for instance, tariffs on women’s apparel are US$2.77 billion higher than on men’s clothing, a consumption gap that grew about 11 percent in real terms between 2006 and 2016. Disparities like this can hurt women consumers all over the world.

Targeted policies can help women maximize the benefits of trade. These include removing trade barriers that impede women’s access to international markets and improving women’s access to education, financial services, and digital technologies. Governments can design trade facilitation measures that remove gender-specific barriers to trade. These measures could address burdensome customs requirements, limited access to trade finance, and exposure to extortion or physical harassment at borders.

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