The latest NEWS for your perusal (5)


BEDGEAR’s GermShield™ Mattress and Pillow Cover set is First Line of Defence For Clean and Healthy Sleep Environment

BEDGEAR®, the brand of Performance® that provides innovative bedding by focusing on an active lifestyle and well-being, today announces the launch of the GermShield™ Mattress and Pillow Cover Set that incorporates a lab-tested antimicrobial treatment to actively protect the fabric against 99% of certain allergens, germs, bacteria, microbes and odor. This fabric treatment technology is found in everyday safe household products like cleaning textiles, bandages, and towels. GermShield was developed as a first line of defense to create a clean and healthy sleep environment during or post-pandemic. The GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set was created in partnership with Polygiene, the world leader in stays fresh and odor control technologies. The GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set will be on display at Las Vegas Market from April 11 – 15 in the BEDGEAR Showroom (B-1100.)

The GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set is based on the original GermShield Protector. BEDGEAR added a GermShield Pillow Cover to provide additional protection specifically to the sleeper’s head area as the mouth and nose get most exposed to germs and bacteria. Additionally, GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set acts as an allergen barrier with fabric that is cured, which is a heating process that tightly closes the yarns and eliminates any space for allergens or dust mites to enter.

“Given the current health situation, BEDGEAR’s GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set adds to consumers’ overall safety and comfort,” said Eugene Alletto BEDGEAR founder and CEO. “They have peace of mind knowing they are sleeping on a bedding surface that not only has an allergen barrier but also helps inhibit the spreading of germs and bacteria. GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set also is designed to be travel-friendly, ensuring a safe sleep environment for those on-the-go, whether at Airbnb rentals, college dorm rooms, and even staying with friends or family members.”

Other bedding manufacturers focus on applying an antimicrobial topical treatment just to the mattress, which is the bottom of the bedding layer. However, GermShield Mattress Cover is placed between the sheet and the mattress protector, making it one bedding layer closer to the sleeper. GermShield Pillow Cover is placed beneath the pillowcase. GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set does not have waterproof barriers, resulting in increased airflow and breathability. They are also engineered with BEDGEAR’s Hyper-Cotton™ fabric technology to provide fast evaporation of moisture and enhance softness and comfort.

GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set is also high-efficiency machine washable, which requires less water, detergent and energy. The mattress cover features a fitted skirt with an enhanced elastic that provides a secure fit to the mattress and includes sidewalls that prevent dust mites or pet dander. The pillow cover features a zipper to provide a secure seal for the pillow. 

BEDGEAR is also introducing the GermShield™ Face Mask, which is available in either a fitted or pleated shape. Engineered with Dri-Tec® moisture-wicking fabric, these masks help reduce sweat and heat buildup. Both masks include Polygiene’s lab-tested antimicrobial fabric treatment for an extra layer of defence. To ensure a secure fit to the face, both machine washable masks include a nose clip and soft adjustable straps.

The GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set is available on and at select retail locations nationwide for USD 149.99 for queen sizing. The GermShield Face Mask is available on at USD 19.99.

Launched in 2009, BEDGEAR® is the brand of Performance® that provides innovative bedding by focusing on an active lifestyle and well-being. BEDGEAR’s sleep solutions are engineered with fabrics that are temperature neutral and instant cooling and maximizes airflow to allow the body to naturally regulate its temperature. With a core belief of One Size Does Not Fit All™, BEDGEAR has redefined the way people view sleep by developing interactive in-store experiences and breathable bedding products that are personally fit to a consumer based on specific factors, including body type, sleep position and temperature. BEDGEAR is dedicated to integrating environmental responsibility into product development to ensure less returned goods are being sent to landfills. BEDGEAR is essential to the rest and recovery routines of professional athletes and active people who need to maximize their sleep. A proud manufacturer in the USA, BEDGEAR offers mattresses, pillows, sheets, blankets, pet beds as well as travel, kids and baby products that often feature removable and washable covers to maintain a clean and healthy sleep environment. BEDGEAR is represented in more than 4,000 retail stores across the globe and has earned more than 220 U.S. and worldwide patents, trademark registrations and pending applications. Sleep Fuels Everything®!

As the world leader in stays fresh technologies, we want to change the way we view products – from fast consumables to durables. We treat clothes, accessories, home products, and textiles to help people stay fresh, wash less and let clothes and products live longer. Over 200 global premium brands have chosen to use the Polygiene brand with their products. With the wholly owned subsidiary Addmaster Holdings Limited, we now have the possibility to offer solutions for both soft and hard surfaces. Polygiene is listed on Nasdaq First North Growth Market in Stockholm, Sweden.


Chip Shortage Fuels USD 100 Billion Dream

Semiconductor-equipment stocks have soared this year on spending hopes, but Applied Materials is playing it safe with its forecast.

By guest author Dan Gallagher from the Wall Street Journal

When will the market for semiconductor manufacturing equipment reach USD 100 billion a year? Inquiring minds want to know.

It has become a key question in the context of a crippling production shortage that has spanned the globe. The shortage has national governments planning to open their wallets, and it is already spurring record capital spending by large chip makers such as Intel INTC and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, TSM – or TSMC. It also has investors seeing a lot of dollar signs; the PHLX Semiconductor Index is up 17 % this year, handily beating out other tech subsectors thanks to strong gains by equipment makers such as Applied Materials, AMAT – Lam Research LRCX and KLA.

Applied, for its part, is playing it safe. The company issued a new long-term forecast during a virtual analyst meeting on Tuesday forecasting a “base case” of USD 85 billion in total spending on wafer fabrication equipment by 2024. That fueled its projection for about USD 26.7 billion in revenue by that year, which was still about 11 % ahead of the consensus 2024 forecast by the few analysts willing to project that far in what has been a notoriously cyclical sector. But the stock wasn’t priced for caution; Applied’s share price slipped more than 2 % by the closing bell after having run up 66% for the year to date.

Applied is the largest semiconductor-equipment company by annual revenue, capturing about 20 US Cents on every dollar spent on equipment for chip foundries, according to Stacy Rasgon of Bernstein. As such, the company is in a prime position to capitalize on the industry’s growth prospects, even without gaining market share. Applied even says business will be less cyclical than in the past, with Chief Financial Officer Dan Durn promising Tuesday “higher highs and higher lows” for the company’s long-term revenue trend.

But investors could use a dose of caution on the sector overall. Government subsidies are still far from certain, and they could end up generating unintended consequences. Chris Caso of Raymond James warned clients in a note Tuesday that government involvement in chip production “could potentially lead to structural oversupply over time, which could depress industry profitability despite subsidies.” And tensions with China already have resulted in export controls affecting chip gear that might not abate soon. Paul Gallant of Cowen’s Washington Research Group predicted Tuesday that new policies coming from the Biden administration “would include a more explicit protectionist element” around chips and production tools.

Still, the outlook for Applied and its peers looks strong. VLSI Research projects wafer-fab equipment spending to jump 22 % to USD 77.6 billion this year, after a 20 % gain last year. The market-research firm also projects spending will cross the USD 100 billion mark by 2026. Applied’s Mr. Durn called that number a “high case” for the company’s 2024 outlook. Investors bidding chip-equipment stocks up now will need to be patient either way.

GM to halt Production at Several North American Plants due to Chip Shortage

Affected vehicles include Chevrolet Traverse, Cadillac SUV models XT5 and XT6.

By guest author Mike Colias from the Wall Street Journal. Alex Leary contributed to this article.

Caption courtesy by the Wall Street Journal

General Motors Co. GM will halt production at several North American factories and extend shutdowns at others because of a chip shortage that has been worsening for U.S. auto giants and poses a threat to a strong sales rebound.

GM said Thursday, April 8, 2021, that three plants previously unaffected by semiconductor supply problems will be idled or have output reduced for one or two weeks, including a factory in Tennessee and another in Michigan that make popular midsize sport-utility vehicles. Models affected include the Chevrolet Traverse SUV and the Cadillac XT5 and XT6 SUVs.

The moves follow news last week that Ford Motor Co. would deepen production cuts in North America, including idling for two weeks a factory near its headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., that makes the F-150 pickup truck, its biggest moneymaker.

Auto makers since late last year have been grappling with a shortage of semiconductor chips, which go into software modules used to control everything from brakes to dashboard touch screens. The companies have been cutting production for months as they move to line up chip supplies, with executives saying the shortage could last several more months.

The chip shortage, also affecting products such as videogames, is among a number of factors hobbling global commerce in recent months, including backups at California ports, plant closures due to the Texas freeze in February and the ship stuck in the Suez Canal last month.

The chip bottleneck has crimped production at virtually every major car company in recent months, including Toyota Motor Corp. , Volkswagen AG , Honda Motor Co. and Stellantis NV.

President Biden has ordered a supply-chain review and met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to address the issue, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. Next week, top administration officials are expected to meet with chip manufacturers to discuss what might be done.

“We fully recognise that this is an issue that is impacting industries across the country, including the auto industry,” Ms. Psaki said.

The problem contrasts with other positives for the auto industry. Continued low interest rates, a fresh round of federal stimulus and pent-up demand have been drawing shoppers to dealerships in large numbers despite economic disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic, dealers have said.

The pace of U.S. vehicle sales in March leapt to its second-highest level ever for that month, the National Automobile Dealers Association said Thursday. That is despite the shriveling discounts available amid tight inventories caused largely by chip-related production problems. The average new-vehicle incentive fell nearly USD 1000 last month compared with a year earlier, to about USD 3500, the association said.

Mike Stanford, who owns Ford and Lincoln dealerships in southeast Michigan, said customers have been willing to pay more partly because they are getting more for their used vehicles, prices of which have hit record highs recently. He said business has picked up as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

“Customer sentiment has improved,” he said. “I think people are getting more confident.”

But fallout from the chip shortage is worsening the strain on vehicle selection and is likely to erode sales later this spring, the dealer association said. The number of vehicles on dealership lots or en route to stores fell 10% to about 2.4 million by the end of March compared with a month earlier, according to research firm Wards Intelligence.

While sales have held up so far, the cuts to factory output are hurting the bottom line at car companies, which book revenue when vehicles leave the factory. GM has estimated the chip shortage could hurt pretax profit by as much as USD2 billion this year.   has said its hit could be USD 2.5 billion.

So far, the companies’ stock prices have outperformed the broader market despite the looming financial hit. That is partly because investors are looking beyond the near-term results to the growth prospects for electric vehicles and other nascent businesses that auto makers are rolling out, RBC Capital analyst Joseph Spak said in an investor note Wednesday, April 7, 2021.

Shares of GM and Ford have risen more than 40% this year, compared with a 9% increase for the S&P 500. GM closed about 1.2 % lower at USD 60.09 on Thursday, April 8, 2021.

GM also will extend closures of a factory near Kansas City, Kan., and a plant in Ontario, Canada, until May 10. Both facilities have been closed since February as GM diverts chips from less popular models to large pickup trucks and SUVs, its biggest profit producers. CNBC earlier reported GM’s latest closures.

This year’s production cuts have prompted temporary layoffs of thousands of factory workers at GM, Ford and Stellantis who are represented by the United Auto Workers. In addition to unemployment aid, those workers get supplemental pay under the union’s labour contract.

Meanwhile, GM said it would resume production April 12, 2021 at a Missouri factory that makes midsize pickup trucks and has been idled for two weeks due to the chip shortage.

“GM continues to leverage every available semiconductor to build and ship our most popular and in-demand products,” a company spokesman said.

The seeds of the auto industry’s chip shortage were planted last spring, when auto makers and suppliers cut their production schedules as the pandemic clouded the outlook for vehicle sales. When demand picked up, so did the need for chips.

Meanwhile, chip producers have been scrambling to keep pace with strong demand from makers of laptops, gaming systems and other electronic devices that have been in high demand, limiting the supply of automotive chips.


News from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Design and the circular economy

The Foundation’s #CircularDesignNow campaign explores how circular design is applied across different topic areas – from fashion to plastics and cities to food, and more. Keep an eye out on the Foundation’s social media channels for interactive content and important design messaging, and tune into our IG live with Chef Alex Atala this Thursday 8th April at 15:00 GMT+1 to explore the role of chefs as designers.

Delve deeper into the role circular design plays in the transition to a circular economy in an article written by the Foundation’s Design Network and Creative Lead, Simon Widmer.

The Foundation welcomes the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) as a Partner

The Foundation welcomes the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) to its network as a Partner, following a long-standing relationship dating back to 2011. The partnership will aim to significantly spread the idea and practice of circular design across both networks, create an empowered community, and ultimately drive global change.

The partnership focuses on advancing the circular design agenda and educating and engaging communities around the topic of circular design. This will be done by co-creating tools, resources, events, and projects to inspire designers, increase understanding and encourage day-to-day practice.

The RSA has been at the forefront of significant social impact for over 250 years, but more recently, the society has played an important role in supporting the circular design movement – seeking ideas and solutions to design challenges and building up a unique community of over 30,000 fellows.

The Foundation has successfully delivered on several design projects with the RSA, in particular, a two-year partnership with the Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, which saw £1 million awarded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The partnership focused its efforts on building tools and directly engaging with design institutions, the next generation of design talent, and innovators to inspire them to reimagine products, business models, and systems for a circular economy. The project dramatically scales awareness and gives a clear understanding of the benefits that applying circular design brings to fashion.

We are looking forward to increasing the ambition level among our networks and communities through this partnership and encouraging a movement towards embedding circular design as the norm.

To celebrate our formal partnership and convene our global communities around the topic of circular design, on Thursday 11th March the Foundation and RSA are hosting ‘Partnership for Change: A community networking experience’. The open-access event will introduce our work in progress and explore stories from across our network of design practitioners.

Build a better future with the Foundation and the LEGO Group

The Foundation has teamed up with the LEGO Group to host a fun and interactive online learning event for 13 to 18-year-olds. The one-hour event — Building a better future: exploring the circular economy with LEGO® bricks — will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel on Tuesday  May 18, 2021, at 14.00 GMT+1. The session will focus on the importance of harnessing creativity in the transition to a circular economy — a new way to design, make, and use things that’s better for people and the planet.

The purpose of the session is to bring your ideas of a better future to life using LEGO bricks. The session will focus on the circular economy with a strong emphasis on the role of creativity with activities and challenges designed to get you thinking outside the box.

The event will last one hour. However, we recommend setting aside another hour to build on the ideas you generate during the session. If you are taking part in school, this should fit nicely into a total of two lessons.

The event will be streamed via Youtube, following the necessary safeguarding requirements for under 18s.

Participants must have parental/guardian permission if joining outside of a school setting in order to take part. The consent is authorised via this form.

*If you do not have access to LEGO bricks, you can still participate using a variety of materials such as paper, card, tins, pots, string or any other materials that you have lying around including glues, scissors, pens etc.

*Please note, it is one form for each participant.

Any personal data will be processed in accordance with EMF’s privacy policy at

Online registration is available here

The Circular Economy Show | Measuring your business transformation towards a circular economy

Online | April 13, 3pm GMT+1

Measuring progress against targets is vital for any business. More companies are developing circular strategies to create growth and help them achieve their climate goals, but we cannot create a circular economy until we can properly measure it. In this episode, we’ll be joined by speakers from Brambles, H&M, and HP Inc to discuss how businesses are using Circulytics, the Foundation’s award-winning circular economy performance measurement tool, to inform strategic decision-making and seize opportunities to fast-track their transition.

Tune in


Swiss Ems Group First-quarter report 2021 (January – March 2021)

EMS Group:

  • Positive development of business
  • Pleasing order situation
  • Supply chain problems with an impact on global business recovery
  • Supply chain bottlenecks lead to price increases

Course of Business January – March 2021

The EMS Group, with its companies combined in the EMS-CHEMIE HOLDING AG and globally active in the business areas High Performance Polymers and Specialty Chemicals, achieved net sales of CHF 566 million (496) in the first three months. This is 14.1 % above previous year. In local currencies, net sales increased by 15.3 % compared to previous year.

After the slump in the first half-year of 2020 due to COVID-19, the economy recovered noticeably in the third and fourth quarters. The epidemic outbreak initially resulted in a worldwide demand shock and state-ordered shutdowns, including industrial plants. In the meantime, however, the comprehensive state support and stimulus measures are having a positive effect on the consumer mood. Success achieved in containing the virus, as well as the upcoming widespread vaccination of the population are creating trust and confidence again. Companies are rebuilding their inventory stocks and increasing their production capacity, generally reduced during the crisis. Innovations are being introduced into the market. As a result, sudden bursts of growth and bottlenecks in global supply chains are happening. A lack of semiconductor chips is forcing the global automotive industry to reduce production despite increasing demand.

Winter storms in the South of the U.S. have caused a shutdown of major global production capacity for basic chemicals, resulting in massive global market shortages and significant price jumps for raw materials. The logistics industry is also reporting bottlenecks and price increases.

During the pandemic, EMS continued to pursue ongoing development and expansion projects for new business. With the successful strategy of speciality products in the main area of High Performance Polymers, EMS is in a good position to make use of all opportunities offered in the market as they appear. In this way, EMS recorded a pleasing course of business in the first three months of the year and a pleasing order situation. In local currencies, net sales have already picked up to the same levels as before COVID-19. Local inventory stocks of raw material and finished products, already built up last year, safeguard delivery capacity of all EMS companies at any time, even with the current raw-material shortages. Continually rising raw material prices will make sales price increases for customers inevitable.

EMS launched comprehensive measures at all sites worldwide and at a very early stage, in order to prevent infection of employees with COVID-19. These measures have proven successful. In addition, EMS employees in Switzerland are taking part in the effective company testing programme organised by the Canton Grisons, with the aim of quickly recognising existing infectious cases in the population and avoiding a spread of the virus. In various other countries, EMS employees have already been vaccinated.


For the business year 2021, EMS is expecting further economic recovery worldwide. The  exact  course  of  this  recovery  will  continue  to  depend  on  the  pandemic  and  associated  political  interventions. The  negative  effect  of  COVID-19  on  consumer  spending  and  economic  activities  should  steadily  lose  its  impact,  however.  State stimulus  programmes  and  support  measures  will  now  come  into  their  full  effect  and  provide  strong  support  for  consumer  spending worldwide.  Temporarily  however, continuing  instability,  bottlenecks  and  price  increases  in  supply  chains  are  to  be  expected.  The  shortage  of  semiconductor  chips  in  the  automotive  industry  will  also  continue.EMS will continue to follow its successful strategy of speciality products in the main area  of  High  Performance  Polymers.  Steady  growth  in  demand  from  customers  for  innovative products, solutions achieving reductions in weight and CO2 emissions as well as cost savings through replacement of metal, is continuing. This allows EMS to develop    new    business    and    further   strengthen   market   position.    Innovative    development  expertise  in  close  cooperation  with customers  enables  EMS to quickly recognise market requirements and to adapt flexibly to them.

Due  to  a  comprehensive  number  of  new  and innovative  customer  projects,  EMS is also  confident  for  the  future.  To  satisfy  increasing  market  demand  in  future as  well, EMS  has  decided  to  invest  more  than  CHF  300  million  over  the  next  5  years  in  expansion of the production site at Domat/Ems (Grisons, Switzerland). The first step was the ground-breaking ceremony for a new high-rack warehouse which took place on March 31, 2021. Further major production lines, also at other production locations, will start operation this year.

For 2021, EMS continues to expect higher net sales and a higher net operating income (EBIT) than in the previous year.

UBS shareholders approved all proposals of the Board of Directors at the AGB Meeting of UBS Group AG.

Shareholders confirmed the re-election of the Chairman and the members of the Board of Directors. They elected Claudia Böckstiegel and Patrick Firmenich as new members of the Board.

Shareholders approved a dividend distribution of USD 0.37 (gross) in cash per share. They also approved the new share buyback program 2021–2024.

Shareholders approved the proposals relating to the remuneration of the members of the Board of Directors and the Group Executive Board and accepted the Compensation Report 2020.

At the Annual General Meeting, the independent proxy represented 2146061226 votes.

UBS Group AG shareholders approved all of the Board of Directors’ proposals at the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Management report and consolidated and standalone financial statements
Shareholders approved the management report and the consolidated and standalone financial statements for the 2020 financial year of UBS Group AG by 99.49 %.

Compensation Report Shareholders ratified the Compensation Report 2020 in an advisory vote by 85.72 %.

Appropriation of total profit and dividend distribution of ordinary dividend out of total profit and capital contribution reserve
Shareholders approved the appropriation of total profit and an ordinary dividend distribution of USD 0.37 (gross) per share in cash (99.60 %).

Discharge of the members of the Board of Directors and the Group Executive Board
Shareholders approved the discharge of the members of the Board of Directors and the Group Executive Board for the 2020 financial year (excluding all issues related to the French cross-border matter) by 91.36 %.

Re-election of the members of the Board of Directors
The AGM confirmed the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Axel A. Weber (92.02 %), and fellow Board members Jeremy Anderson (98.96%), William C. Dudley (99.03 %), Reto Francioni (98.85 %), Fred Hu (89.97 %), Mark Hughes (99.03%), Nathalie Rachou (96.55 %), Julie G. Richardson (94.89 %), Dieter Wemmer (98.86 %) and Jeanette Wong (98.67 %) for a one-year term of office.

Election of new members of the Board of Directors
Shareholders elected Claudia Böckstiegel (99.22 %) and Patrick Firmenich (99.25 %) as new members of the Board of Directors for a one-year term of office.

Election of the members of the Compensation Committee
Shareholders confirmed Julie G. Richardson (92.97 %), Reto Francioni (93.97 %), Dieter Wemmer (94.17 %) and Jeanette Wong (96.85 %) as members of the Compensation Committee for a one-year term of office.

Maximum aggregate amount of compensation for the members of the Board of Directors
Shareholders approved the maximum aggregate amount of compensation for the members of the Board of Directors from the 2021 AGM to the 2022 AGM (91.09 %).

Aggregate amount of variable compensation for the members of the Group Executive Board
Shareholders approved the aggregate amount of variable compensation for the members of the Group Executive Board for the 2020 financial year (84.76 %).

Maximum aggregate amount of fixed compensation for the members of the Group Executive Board
Shareholders approved the maximum aggregate amount of fixed compensation for the members of the Group Executive Board for the 2022 financial year (91.79 %).

Re-elections of the independent proxy, the auditors and special auditorsShareholders approved the re-election of the independent proxy ADB Altorfer Duss & Beilstein AG, Zurich, (99.79 %), the auditors Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, (94.17 %) and special auditors BDO AG, Zurich (99.16 %).

Amendments to the Articles of AssociationShareholders approved amendments to article 23 para. 1 of the Articles of Association (99.33 %).

Reduction of share capitalShareholders approved the request of a capital reduction by way of cancellation of 156,632,400 shares repurchased under the 2018–2021 share buyback program (99.51 %).

New share buyback programme

Shareholders approved the new 2021–2024 share buyback programme (93.15 %).

Clariant’s shareholders approve all agenda items

  • Distribution of CHF 0.70 for Group’s performance over past two financial years approved
  • Integrated Report and Group Consolidated Financial Statements for fiscal year 2020 approved
  • Shareholders approve Compensation Report 2020 on an advisory basis
  • Günter von Au newly elected as Chairman of the Board of Directors

At the Annual General Meeting of April 7, 2021, the shareholders of Clariant Ltd, a focused, sustainable and innovative specialty chemical company, approved all agenda items and resolutions proposed by the Board of Directors, including the election of Günter von Au as new Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Due to the ongoing situation with regard to the spread of the coronavirus, shareholders could not attend this year’s Annual General Meeting in person and could exercise their rights exclusively via the independent proxy. Overall, 231 091 133 shares or around 69.62 % of the share capital of Clariant were represented.

Günter von Au, Chairman of Clariant’s Board of Directors, said “It is a great honour for me to be elected as Chairman of the Board of Directors, especially because of the close relationship that I have with this company for almost a decade now. Together with all my fellow board members as well as CEO Conrad Keijzer, I look forward to continuing Clariant’s successful path towards becoming one of the world’s leading companies for specialty chemicals and create value for all stakeholders, including shareholders.”

“I wish to thank all Clariant customers, employees and shareholders for the trust, commitment and loyalty that I have experienced during my time as Member of the Board, CEO and Chairman. I am proud of all our achievements and am convinced that I leave Clariant on a strong basis from which it can continue its path of sustainable, profitable growth”, commented Hariolf Kottmann, former Chairman of Clariant’s Board of Directors.

Conrad Keijzer, CEO of Clariant, said: “The 2020 results proof the resilience of our portfolio and the hard work of our teams. We will now focus on unleashing the full potential of our three core Business Areas to strengthen our profile as a true specialty chemicals company. Today, I have shared my confidence with our shareholders that our strong market positions can deliver leading financial performance and thereby further increase the value of Clariant.”

At the Annual General Meeting, the Integrated Report as well as the Financial Statements and Consolidated Financial Statements of Clariant for the 2020 fiscal year were approved with 99.89 % of the votes. The 2020 Compensation Report was also approved on an advisory basis with 92.55 % of the votes. The members of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee were discharged with 99.47 % of the votes.

In addition, the Annual General Meeting approved a distribution through capital reduction (par value reduction) of CHF 0.70 per share, with 99.84 % of the votes. The CHF 0.70 distribution should not be interpreted as a recurring dividend or distribution as it takes into consideration the Group’s performance of the past two financial years (CHF 0.55 per share for FY 2019 and CHF 0.15 per share for FY 2020).

Günter von Au

The Annual General Meeting approved the election of Günter von Au as new Chairman of the Board of Directors until the Annual General Meeting 2022 with 97.96 %. Günter von Au has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2012 and acted as Vice Chairman from 2012 to 2018. The ten other members of the Board of Directors were also reelected by a large majority until the next Annual General Meeting. Further, Dr. Balthasar Settelen, attorney, was reelected as independent proxy until the next Annual General Meeting and PricewaterhouseCoopers AG was confirmed as the statutory auditor for 2021.

The proposal for total compensation of the Board of Directors for the term from the 2021 to the 2022 Annual General Meeting was approved with 92.82 % of the votes, as was the total compensation of the Executive Committee for the 2022 fiscal year, with 93.39 % of the votes.


Pakistan government’s rejection of cotton imports from India disappoints textile leaders

The government’s rejection of a proposal to import cotton from India has disappointed Pakistan’s textile industry. Jawed Bilwani, Chairman, Pakistan Apparel Forum has termed the move disappointing and said cotton and cotton yarn import, as recommended by Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, is the need of the hour.

Compared to 2014-15, Pakistan faces a 50 % drop in cotton production this year. Sea freights have also increased 700 % due to the pandemic, delaying goods shipment to 105 days instead of 25, says Bilwani. He recommended a ban on cotton and yarn exports for six months in case the government does not want to allow imports from India.

In May 2020, Pakistan lifted the ban on import of medicines and raw material of essential drugs from India amid COVID-19. India-Pakistan trade ties nose-dived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in Pakistan. Ties strained further after India’s war planes pounded terrorist training camp inside Pakistan in response to the Pulwama terror attack. India’s move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 strained India-Pakistan ties further leading to the expulsion of Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. Pakistan also snapped all air and land links with India and suspended trade and railway services.


IMF praises Switzerland’s handling of the pandemic

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Switzerland has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic well up to now and has been able to limit the decline in economic output. Economic measures should now be geared towards a strong and sustainable recovery. The IMF expects Swiss growth to reach 3.5 % in 2021. It sees pension reforms and climate change as long-term challenges.

In 2020, the Swiss economy contracted by 2.9 %, less than other European advanced economies. According to the IMF, the impact was cushioned by the solid public and household finances, competitive export industries, the large and well-capitalised financial sector, low dependency on contact-intensive sectors, the well-resourced healthcare system and targeted containment measures. The swift emergency measures exceeding 10 % of GDP to provide targeted support for households and businesses were also crucial in curbing the economic slowdown.

Given the ongoing uncertainty and fiscal policy leeway, the IMF recommends maintaining targeted support for demand until the recovery is secured. In view of the still subdued outlook for inflation, the IMF additionally advises keeping monetary policy accommodative. In the event of large capital inflows into Switzerland and strong appreciation pressure on the Swiss franc, this could also include forex market interventions.

The Swiss banking sector entered the COVID-19 crisis with strong buffers and has incurred only limited losses so far. The IMF recommends continuing to keep an eye on real estate price developments, monitoring financial market participants’ risk controls and buffers, and taking early action if needed.

In order to preserve jobs, the IMF believes that crisis-related support measures in the labour market should be maintained until a sustained recovery is under way. At the same time, it cautions that keeping support measures too long could impede necessary structural adjustments.

In the longer term, the IMF recommends supporting digital and sustainable growth with efficient and targeted measures. The required investments, including in the energy system, transport and building renovation, must take account of synergies with ongoing programmes and ensure high effectiveness and efficiency of expenditure.

Finally, the IMF considers more far-reaching reforms to secure pension benefits in the longer term to be important, especially in view of rising life expectancy. Among other things, the retirement age should be raised more significantly and linked to life expectancy.

The IMF delegation conducted this year’s Article IV Consultation from  March17  to  April 7, 2021 via video conferences, following the cancellation of last year’s evaluation because of the pandemic. The regular evaluation of the economic and financial situation of its member states within the scope of the Article IV Consultation is a core element of the IMF’s economic policy monitoring activities.

Link: Switzerland – Concluding Statement of the 2021 Article IV Mission

IMTF International Textile Industry Statistics n°62/2019Decrease in global short-staple and rotor capacities

ITMF (International Textile Manufacturer Federation ( has published its report on International Textile Industry Statistics (ITIS) on productive capacity and raw materials consumption in the short-staple organized (spinning mill-) sector in virtually all textile-producing countries in the world.

The 2019 data shows a decrease in short-staple spindles and open-end rotors capacities around the world (see Fig. 1). The number of installed short-staple spindles went down from 230 million. in 2018 to 223 million in 2019. The number of installed open-end rotors decreased from 8.2 million in 2018 to 7.4 million in 2019. These changes are mainly driven by scraping of outdated machinery in China. The trends observed in other regions are stable. The number of installed air-jet spindles is increasing worldwide, mainly in Asian countries and Turkey.

The substitution between shuttle and shuttle-less looms continues but the growth in shuttle-less looms capacities has slowed down (see Fig. 2). The number of installed shuttle-less looms increased by 1 % in 2019 and reached 1.7 million units.  Total raw material consumption in the short-staple organized sector has stagnated in 2019 (see Fig. 3). Consumption of cellulosic short-staple fiber increased by 9 % to 5.4 million tons and consumption of synthetic short-staple fibres decreased by -4 % to 14.2 million tons. The consumption of cotton has stabilized at 26 mill tones.

First release for the fourth quarter of 2020 – Household saving rate up to 19.8 % in the Euro Area

Business profit share increases to 40.4 %

The household saving rate in the euro area was at 19.8 % in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with 17.3 % in the third quarter of 2020. It is the second highest value since the beginning of the time series in 1999 (the highest was 25.0% in the second quarter of 2020).

These data come from a first release of seasonally adjusted quarterly European sector accounts from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

At the same time, the household investment rate in the euro area increased from 8.7 % to 9.1 % in the fourth quarter of 2020, the highest value since 2011.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, the business profit share increased from 39.1% to 40.4% in the euro area.

The business investment rate in the euro area increased to 23.4%, compared with 23.2% in the third quarter of 2020. The peaks of the investment rate of non-financial corporations observed in 2015Q2, 2017Q2, 2019Q2, 2019Q4 and 2020Q1 are related to large imports of intellectual property products reflecting globalisation effects.

Household saving rate and its components

The increase of households’ saving rate in the euro area is explained by consumption falling at a higher rate (-3.7%) than households’ gross disposable income (-0.8%).

Household investment rate and its components

The increase of household’s investment rate in the euro area is explained by a 3.0% rise in gross fixed capital formation, while gross disposable income decreased by 0.8%.

Non-financial corporations profit share and its components

The increase of business profit share in the euro area by 1.3 percentage points is explained by the increase of business gross value added (+1.1%), while compensation of employees (wages and social contributions) plus taxes less subsidies on production decreased by 1.1%.

Geographical information

The euro area (EA19) consists of 19 Member States: Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland, plus the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and the European Financial Stability Facility.

Methods and definitions

The gross saving rate of households (household saving rate) is defined as gross saving divided by gross disposable income, with the latter including the change in the net equity of households in pension funds reserves. Gross saving is the part of the gross disposable income which is not spent as final consumption expenditure. Therefore, the saving rate increases when gross disposable income grows at a higher rate than final consumption expenditure.

The gross investment rate of households (household investment rate) is defined as gross fixed capital formation divided by gross disposable income, with the latter being adjusted for the change in the net equity of households in pension funds reserves. Household investment mainly consists of the purchase and renovation of dwellings. The gross investment rate of non-financial corporations is defined as gross fixed capital formation divided by gross value added. This ratio relates the investment of non- financial businesses in fixed assets (buildings, machinery etc.) to the value added created during the production process.

The profit share of non-financial corporations is defined as gross operating surplus divided by gross value added. This profitability-type indicator shows the share of the value added created during the production process remunerating capital. It is the complement of the share of wage costs (plus other taxes less other subsidies on production) in value added.

The compilation of the European sector accounts follows the European System of Accounts 2010 (ESA2010) and covers the period from the first quarter of 1999 onwards. The data comes from a first release of seasonally adjusted quarterly European sector accounts released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union and the European Central Bank (ECB).

Institutional sectors bring together economic units with broadly similar characteristics and behaviour, namely: households (including non-profit institutions serving households), non-financial corporations, financial corporations, government and the rest of the world. In the latter, to measure the external transactions of the euro area / European Union (EU), it is necessary to remove cross-border flows within the area concerned.

The method used for compilation is the same as for previous releases. However, these estimates are based on source data that are subject to revisions under the COVID-19 containment measures.

Fourth quarter of 2020 – EU current account surplus EUR 110.3 billion EUR 27.1 billion surplus for trade in services

In the fourth quarter of 2020, the EU seasonally adjusted current account of the balance of payments recorded a surplus of EUR 110.3 billion (3.2 % of GDP), up from a surplus of EUR 81.1 billion (2.4 % of GDP) in the third quarter of 2020 and from a surplus of EUR 66.0 billion (1.9 % of GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to estimates released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

In the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with the third quarter of 2020, based on seasonally adjusted data, the surplus of the goods account increased (+EUR 107.6 billion compared to +EUR 92.0 billion), as did the surplus of the services account (+EUR 27.1 billion compared to +EUR 9.7 billion). The deficit of the primary income account increased (-EUR 8.9 billion compared to -EUR2.7 billion), while the deficit of the secondary income account decreased (-EUR15.6 billion compared to -EUR17.9 billion). The deficit of the capital account rose (-EUR 7.5 billion compared to -EUR 4.3 billion).

Main partners

In the fourth quarter of 2020, based on non-seasonally adjusted data, the EU recorded external current account surpluses with the United Kingdom (+EUR 46.8 billion), the USA (+EUR 31.0 billion), Switzerland (+EUR 24.9 billion), Brazil (+EUR 9.3 billion), Hong Kong (+EUR 5.9 billion), Russia (+EUR 4.7 billion), Canada (+EUR 4.6 billion), Japan (+EUR 3.3 billion) and India (+EUR 2.5 billion). Deficits were registered with China (-EUR 23.0 billion) and the offshore financial centres (-EUR 15.4 billion).

Financial account

Based on non-seasonally adjusted data, direct investment assets of the EU decreased in the fourth quarter of 2020 by EUR 80.0 bn, while direct investment liabilities fell by EUR 19.5 billion. As a result, the EU was a net recipient of direct investment from rest of the world in the fourth quarter of 2020 by EUR 60.5 billion. Portfolio investment recorded a net outflow of EUR 461.7 billion, while for other investment there was a net inflow of EUR 167.4 billion.

Current account of Member States (including intra-EU flows)

As concerns the total (intra-EU plus extra-EU) current account balances of the EU Member States, based on available non-seasonally adjusted data, seventeen recorded surpluses and ten deficits in the fourth quarter of 2020. The highest surpluses were observed in Germany (+EUR 70.4 billon), Italy (+EUR 22.2 billion), the Netherlands (+EUR 13.9 billion), Ireland (+EUR 7.1 billion) and Denmark (+EUR 6.5 billion), and the largest deficits in Romania (-EUR 3.5 billion), Greece (-EUR 2.7 billion), Bulgaria, Estonia and Cyprus (-EUR 0.8 billion).

Current account of Member States (including intra-EU flows)

As concerns the total (intra-EU plus extra-EU) current account balances of the EU Member States, based on available non-seasonally adjusted data, seventeen recorded surpluses and ten deficits in the fourth quarter of 2020. The highest surpluses were observed in Germany (+EUR 70.4 bn), Italy (+EUR 22.2 bn), the Netherlands (+EUR 13.9 bn), Ireland (+EUR 7.1 bn) and Denmark (+EUR 6.5 bn), and the largest deficits in Romania (-EUR 3.5 bn), Greece (-EUR 2.7 bn), Bulgaria, Estonia and Cyprus (-EUR 0.8 bn).

Geographical information

The European Union (EU27) includes Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden.

The euro area (EA19) includes Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland.

Offshore Financial Centres (OFC) is an aggregate that includes 40 countries. As example, the aggregate contains financial centres such as Liechtenstein, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Andorra, Gibraltar, Panama, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines.

Methods and definitions

The current account covers all transactions occurring between resident and non-resident entities, and refers to international trade in goods and services, as well as primary and secondary income. The capital account comprises capital transfers and the acquisition and disposal of non-produced, non-financial assets. The financial account records transactions that involve financial assets and liabilities, and take place between residents and non-residents and is further subdivided into direct investment, portfolio investment, other investment, financial derivatives and employee stock options and reserve assets. Further details of the statistical concepts and definitions used can be found on the Eurostat website here.

In line with the agreed allocation of responsibility, the European Central Bank (ECB) is in charge of compiling and disseminating monthly and quarterly balance of payments and quarterly international investment position statistics for the euro area, while the European Commission (Eurostat) is responsible for monthly, quarterly and annual aggregates of the EU. The aggregates for the euro area and the EU are compiled consistently on the basis of Member States’ transactions with residents of countries outside the euro area and the European Union respectively.

IMF World Economic Outlook

Transcript of the Press Conference of April 6, 2021


  • Gita Gopinath, Chief Economist and Director of the Research Department, IMF
  • Petya Kovea-Brooks, Deputy Director, Research Department, IMF
  • Malhar Shyam Nabar, Division Chief, Research Department, IMF
  • Moderator: Raphael Anspach, Senior Communications officer, Communications Department, IMF

Raphael Anspach: Good morning and welcome to the International Monetary Fund’s press conference on the April 2021 World Economic Outlook. Delighted that you could join us. We hope that you are doing well and staying safe as the pandemic continues to affect us all. I’m Raphael Anspach with the Communications Department, and I’m happy to be joined by my colleagues of the research department to present the report and answer your questions. Gita Gopinath. she’s the economic counselor of the IMF and the director of the IMF Research Department, Petya Kova Brooks, deputy director of the IMF’s research department and Malhar Nabar Division Chief of the research department at the IMF.

Gita will start us off with some introductory remarks and then we’ll be happy to turn to your questions. With that Gita, the floor is yours.

Gita Gopinath presents the World Economic Outlook of April 2021

Gita Gopinath: Thank you, Raphael, and welcome to this April World Economic Outlook. It is one year into the Covid-19 pandemic, and the global community still confronts extreme social and economic strain as a human toll rises and millions remain unemployed.

Yet even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible. Thanks to the ingenuity of the scientific community, hundreds and millions of people are being vaccinated, and this is expected to power recoveries in many countries later this year. Economies also continue to adapt to new ways of working, despite reduced mobility, leading to a stronger than anticipated rebound across regions. Additional fiscal support in large economies, particularly the United States, has further improved the outlook. We are now projecting a stronger recovery for the global economy compared with our January forecast, with growth projected to be 6 % in 2021 and 4.4 % in 2022 after an estimated historic contraction of -3.3 % in 2020. Nonetheless, the future presents daunting challenges. The pandemic is yet to be defeated and virus cases are accelerating in many countries. Recoveries are also diverging dangerously across and within countries as economies with slower vaccine roll out, more limited policy support and more reliant on tourism do less well. The upgrades in global growth for 2021 and 2022 are mainly due to upgrades for advanced economies, particularly to a sizable upgrade for the United States that is expected to grow at 6.4 % this year. Now, this makes the United States the only large economy projected to surpass the level of GDP it was forecast to have in 2022 in the absence of this pandemic.

Other advanced economies, including the Euro Area, will also rebound this year, but at a slower pace among emerging markets and developing economies. China is projected to grow this year at 8.4 %. Now, while China’s economy had already returned to pre pandemic GDP in 2020, many other countries are not expected to do so until 2023.

Now these diverging recovery paths are likely to create wider gaps in living standards across countries compared to pre pandemic expectations. The average annual loss in per capita GDP over 2020 to 24 relative to pre pandemic forecasts is projected to be 5.7 % in low income countries and 4.7 % in emerging markets. While in advanced economies, the losses are expected to be smaller at 2.3 %. Such losses are reversing gains in poverty reduction, with an additional 95 million people expected to have entered the ranks of the extreme poor in 2020 compared with pre pandemic projections.

Uneven recoveries are also occurring within countries as young and low skilled workers and women remain more heavily affected. Now, because the crisis has accelerated the transformative forces of digitalization and automation, many of the jobs lost are unlikely to return, requiring worker reallocation across sectors which unfortunately often comes with severe earning penalties.

Swift policy action worldwide, including 16 trillion dollars in fiscal support, prevented far worse outcomes. Our estimates suggest last year’s severe collapse could have been three times worse had it not been for such support. Now, because the financial crisis was averted, medium term losses are expected to be smaller, though still substantial then after the global financial crisis at around 3 percent. However, unlike after the 2008 crisis, this time it is emerging markets and low-income countries that are expected to suffer greater scarring given their more limited policy space.

Now, a high degree of uncertainty surrounds the projections. Faster progress with vaccinations can uplift the forecast, while a more prolonged pandemic with virus variants that evade vaccines can lead to a sharp downgrade. Multispeed recoveries could pose financial risks if interest rates in the United States rise further in unexpected ways. This could cause inflated asset valuations to unwind in a disorderly manner, financial conditions to tighten sharply and recovery prospects to deteriorate, especially for some highly leveraged emerging markets and developing economies.

Now policymakers will need to continue supporting their economies while dealing with more limited policy space and higher debt levels than prior to the pandemic. This requires better targeted measures to leave space for prolonged support of needed. With multi speed recoveries, a tailored approach is necessary with policies well calibrated at this stage of the pandemic, the strength of the economic recovery and the structural characteristics of individual countries. Right now, the emphasis should be on escaping the health crisis by prioritizing health care spending on vaccinations, treatments, healthcare infrastructure. Fiscal support should be well targeted to affected households and firms, and monetary policy should remain accommodative while proactively addressing financial stability risks. Now, as a pandemic is beaten back and labor market conditions normalize, support such as worker retention measures should be gradually scaled back. At that point, more emphasis should be placed on reallocating workers, including through targeted hiring subsidies and reskilling of workers. Now, as exceptional measures such as a moratorium on loan payments are withdrawn from insolvencies could rise sharply and put 1 in 10 jobs at risk in many countries. To limit long term damage, countries should consider converting previous liquidity support into equity like support for viable firms, while developing out-of-court restructuring frameworks to expedite eventual bankruptcies.

Resources should also be devoted to helping children catch up on lost instructional time during the pandemic. Now, once the health crisis is over, policy efforts can focus more on building resilient, inclusive and greener economies, both to bolster the recovery and to raise potential output. The priority should include green infrastructure investment to help mitigate climate change, digital infrastructure investment to boost productive capacity and strengthening social assistance to arrest rising inequality. Financing these endeavors will be more difficult for economies with limited fiscal space. In such cases, improving tax capacity, increasing tax progressivity, deploying carbon pricing, and eliminating wasteful expenditures will be essential. All countries should anchor policies, in credible medium-term frameworks and adhere to the highest standards of transparency to help contain borrowing costs and eventually reduce debt and rebuild buffers for the future.

On the international stage, first and foremost, countries need to work together to ensure universal vaccination. While some countries will get to widespread vaccinations by the summer, most will likely have to wait till the end of next year. Speeding up vaccinations will require ramping up vaccine production and distribution, avoiding export controls, fully funding COVAX facility and ensuring equitable global transfers of excess doses.

Policymakers should also continue to ensure adequate access to international liquidity. The major central bank should provide clear guidance on future actions with ample time to prepare to avoid taper tantrum kinds of episodes, as occurred in 2013. Low income countries will benefit from further extending the pause on debt repayments under the debts service suspension initiative and operationalizing the G20 common framework for orderly debt restructuring.

A new allocation of the IMF special drawing rights will provide needed liquidity protection in what is still highly uncertain times. Now, even while all eyes are on the pandemic, it’s essential that progress is made in resolving trade and technology tensions and countries will need to cooperate on climate change mitigation, on modernizing Internet and modernizing international corporate taxation.

Over the past year, we have seen significant innovations in economic policy and massively scaled up support at the national level, particularly among advanced economies that have been able to afford these initiatives. A similarly ambitious effort is now needed at the multilateral level to secure the recovery and build forward better. Without additional effort to give all people a fair shot, across country, gaps in living standards could widen significantly, and decades long progress in global poverty reduction could reverse mitigation goals. And the current proposal doesn’t have that. So I would say that that’s one area that I hope the administration will look into more, which is on carbon pricing.

Question: To what extent the anticipated rise in U.S. interest rates could affect the performance of the economic activity in the Middle East and for the developing countries as well?

Gita Gopinath: So we have to look at the rise in interest rates in the context of the global recovery, and especially with the very strong recovery projected for the U.S.. And so, we’ve actually researched this and we have an analytical chapter in a spillover chapter in this world economic outlook which goes into this. And what we see is that, you know, obviously when there’s better growth that has positive benefits for U.S. trading partners, and that is one positive effect that outweighs the effect of rising interest rates. So, as long as the increase in interest rates is orderly, it remains low, the spreads that we are seeing in emerging and developing economies, you know, even in the Middle East, are mostly well behaved. And so, in that particular environment, we should see that, financial conditions should remain fairly accommodative. But, of course, there is important reasons to be concerned. When we have multispeed recoveries, if it so happens that interest rates start going up much faster, there is a loss in risk appetite then that can have a sharp effect on portfolio flows to all parts of the world, including the Middle East. And that is indeed one of our downside risks that we have. But, again, we have to keep in mind the balance, the fact that there is positive growth and then and there are many countries that have much larger foreign exchange reserves than they did during the 2013 taper tantrum episode. But on the other hand, they have higher levels of debt and fiscal needs. So, I think our assumption is the financial conditions will remain well behaved. But there are certainly there are downside risks, too.

Question: One related question shouldn’t the Fed start to pull back its easing? Don’t you see it as a prudent risk management?

Gita Gopinath: Well, at this point, the Fed has made quite clear that the risk that they are still worried about is off, not durably attaining their inflation goals. Inflation and employment goals. And that’s the reason why they plan to stay on hold for some time because they know there’s distance to travel. I think what’s different from the past, when you said that you would move in the expectation that maybe inflation would go up, I mean, this time the statement is that they would wait to actually see inflation reach their target. So, again, given the mandate, the policy of moving gradually is consistent. Of course, they have, of course, also pledged to kind of give sufficient advance warning if they were to reverse course, be it asset purchases or be it interest rate hikes. And again, we expect that that will happen.

Question: A couple of questions here on Africa. Can you talk a little bit more specifically about the situation in sub-Saharan Africa? [What is] your assessment, how much of the new SDR allocation would the African countries need to restart their economies?

Gita Gopinath: Thank you. I’m going to hand it over to my colleague Malhar here. But before I do that, just to mention, in terms of the SDR allocation, we expect about 21 billion of that to go to low income countries. So, an important share will also go to sub-Saharan Africa. But more broadly, I don’t have the exact number for sub-Saharan Africa. But let me hand it over to a Malhar Nabar.

Malhar Nabar: Thanks, Gita. On the overall situation in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, the region experienced the historic contraction of negative one point nine percent. But we expect a recovery to resume this year with growth close to three and a half percent and that for that to continue next year. Now, within the region, of course, there are huge differences in countries circumstances, the tourism dependent economies such as Seychelles and Rishis. Have been particularly hard hit with the collapse of cross-border travel and the collapse of cross-border tourism, the other resource dependent economies are also in a tight spot, whereas the more diversified economies seem to be recovering a bit faster than the others. The region as a whole entered this crisis with high levels of debt vulnerabilities. The decline in revenues with the pandemic and the increase in crisis related spending has, of course, made that situation even more difficult. And a lot of effort will be needed to help countries in this region regain the paths of convergence that they were on before the crisis hit. And that must come from the international community with the efforts that, for instance, the IMF has been anchoring as well, but also within countries, the efforts -once this crisis fades- the efforts must be directed towards boosting domestic revenue sources, catalyzing private financing and ensuring that that the country, the region as a whole resume’s a part of healthy job creation to employ the young population of the region.

Question: UK is expected to have the strongest growth among advanced economies in 202[1]. This is largely just a reflection of how large the fine GDP was for the UK in 2020. And why was the UK growth upgraded in general?

Gita Gopinath: So indeed, I mean, UK was very hard hit, was very hard with the pandemic, it had one of the largest contractions among large economies in 2020. The first quarter of this year also the pandemic was it was tough. But it is doing exceptionally well on the vaccination front. And we you know, the expectation is that by sometime in July, they would get to a truly widespread coverage in which in which case the economy opens at that time. So that is looking promising. There also there was the additional stimulus that was provided in the March budget round. You know, we welcome the extension of some of the lifelines into this year, just given the status of the pandemic. So, both of those were behind the increase in the upgrade. Now, of course, Brexit had a hard knock in the first couple of months of this year in terms of the impact on trade. Some of that will continue to weigh. I don’t know if Petya would like to add anything on the UK?

Petya Koeva Brooks: Don’t have to add much. But just to say that of our upward revision for this year, which is about 0.8, 0.3 of that is the impact of the fiscal measures that were in the budget. Thank you, sir.

Question: Could you elaborate on the reasons for raising China’s economic growth projections this year? And how is this year’s growth different from last and what are the challenges down the road?

Gita Gopinath: So, for China, we have a smaller group of about I say 0.3 percentage points. And that reflects basically the external environment having improved in the sense of with global growth being stronger, you have more exports. The U.S., you know, a rescue plan, that spending is also will increase demand for China’s goods. There also still remains a high level of demand for pandemic related products. And so the kind of the update is really externally driven. In terms of the growth going forward, you know, it’s been a very strong recovery. China was an economy a large economy that had positive growth in 2020, and we projected to grow 8.4 percent this year. So, it’s quite strong.

However, we view it as a somewhat unbalanced recovery in the sense that it’s still very heavily reliant on public support, public investment and private consumption has not recovered as fast as we would have hoped. So to make this a durable recovery, our hope is that fiscal measures and other support measures would work in the direction of supporting the recovery coming from the private sector as opposed to the public sector.

Question: A question on India now, what are the factors behind the rise in India’s growth prospects to 12.5 percent this year? And how are you considering the recent spike in Covid cases?

Gita Gopinath: So, in the case of India, we have a pretty small change. It’s 1 percentage increase for growth for 2021. This came in with high frequency… The evidence we were getting in the last couple of months in terms of the normalization of economic activity. These numbers precede the current wave of the virus, which is quite concerning. So, it indeed comes before that. But let me actually bring in a Malhar Nabar and see if you would like to add something else on India.

Malhar Nabar: Perhaps Gita. Just to add that the current forecast that we have already takes a fairly conservative view on the sequential growth for the Indian economy for this for this year. But it’s true that with this very worrying uptick in cases that that poses very severe downside risks to the growth outlook for the economy.

Question: I’d like to talk about Brazil. Of course, in recent months, large companies have left or decreased their presence in Brazil, such as for LG. Sony and foreign investors were not very excited about Brazil even before the pandemic. But now they keep more of foreign capital. In those important companies, it’s even more evident. So, is Brazil losing competitive edge because of this crisis? What is the impact of this movement for post pandemic recovery?

Raphael Anspach: Thank you. Before I turn to Gita and Petya, I do have another question on Brazil here, which I’m going to read. And the question is, why does the IMF predict that Brazil is going to grow at three point seven percent this year if the vaccination rollout and the speed of the recovery is slowing down? So those two questions.

Gita Gopinath: Brazil is one of the countries that have unfortunately been hit very hard by this pandemic. Just looking at the number of cases per 100000, the number of deaths per 100000. It’s just it’s very high. But that said, given the large amount of support that was provided, you know, the contraction that was seen in 2020, there was a floor put on it. It was not as bad as it would have been. Now the economy is expected to come back into in 2021. But still there are challenges. I mean, there are still financial conditions around the world. There is a risk of financial conditions tightening, that can be a problem. And we’ve seen some of that affecting Brazil. On the other hand, Brazil did provide additional emergency support measures, which has helped the outlook positively. And, of course, the global economy recovering will help. But again, the number one priority has to be on the vaccination front and getting rolling out a much more speedier vaccination than what we are seeing at this point. I’m going to ask Petya if she would like to come in and add anything, including on the business environment.

Petya Koeva Brooks: Sure. When it comes to the recovery this year, we do have growth projected at 3.7%. And that is, I would say, a very slight uptick relative to what we had in January as we had factors going in different directions. On one hand, we had the positive impact from the U.S. fiscal stimulus. And on the other hand, we had the higher interest rates which Brazil faced. The other thing I would mention is that what’s also underpinning our forecast is the expectation that in this quarter, in the first quarter, we are going to see negative growth. But then in the second quarter, as the impact of the new emergency aid, which was provided in the form of cash transfers, is going to start helping.

Now, when it comes to the business climate, this is an area in which I think having improvement in that which and I think part of that is going to also come with the receding of the pandemic. But this is clearly an area in which anchoring that and making sure that that that climate is favorable would be particularly important for the recovery in private investment, which is something that we are expecting.

Question: I have a couple of questions here on Mexico. What are the factors that motivate the estimated five percent growth in Mexico’s GDP for 2021? What can be what could the impact be on the economy if the current vaccination strategy fails?

Gita Gopinath: So with Mexico, what we’re seeing, which is what we’ve been seeing for a for a while now, is what we call a two speed recovery: which is the economy is, you know, rebounding from its 20-20 lows, which is a very deep contraction. Mainly because of external demand, because of demand coming in the other parts of the world, which has had very strong exports in these past several months. On the other hand, domestic demand remains subdued. So this is the two-track recovery. Now, again, well, one of the big beneficiaries of the USD 1.9 trillion rescue plan package would be Mexico, as would, you know, Canada. These are the main trading partners. And so that would also benefit Mexico. When we look at vaccinations in Mexico, it has indeed been somewhat slow in the first quarter. But our expectation is that in the second quarter, it things will ramp up, that there will be more supply available and distribution will take place. And so, we are hopeful this second quarter will actually see a faster recovery. But again, like for all countries that would apply for Mexico to us, we’re not out of the woods and the pandemic is not over. And countries should provide adequate support to their people and their firms. And that’s required even now.

Question: What is your overview about the Argentine economy, given that in the past the IMF highlighted some of the important macroeconomic imbalances? And what is driving your upgrade in your forecast?

Gita Gopinath: So Argentina, like many other countries in the region, of course, also has had to deal with many waves of the pandemic. The upgrade reflects to some extent that the containment measures in the most recent round, the virus itself had somewhat of a less negative effect on economic activity than was previously anticipated. Argentina is also benefiting from an increase in price of food around the world, world food prices, which is one of the main exports of Argentina. And so that’s that is also helping the country. Of course, challenges remain. Inflation remains high, inflation expectations are not well anchored. So clearly, there’s a lot more that needs to be done in terms of macroeconomic stabilization. The government is clearly working very hard on it. And we are in close collaboration with Argentina to help build a stronger social and economic framework.

Question: I have a question on Pakistan. So the projection that your GDP is going to reach five percent in 2026. Why do you think it’s going to take such a long time in getting the same level it did in 2017? And what are some of the assumptions in the scenario?

Gita Gopinath: Thank you. I’m going to ask my colleague to come in. Thank you.

Petya Koeva Brooks: So what we are seeing in Pakistan is, I would say, a very subdued recovery. We have growth projected this year at 1.5% and then going up to 3 % next year. So what is underpinning this assumption is the is the continued recovery in the industry and construction sectors. As in other countries, we’ve also seen this two-track recovery within the economy with services lagging behind. Now, clearly, the path of the pandemic, as well as the ability of the authorities to provide policy support, would be important for that outcome.

Question: Could I ask what are your concerns about the explosive growth of United States debt? What are the implications possibly for the global financial system?

Gita Gopinath: So firstly, when you look at the debt numbers in the U.S., they have gone up significantly. But if you look at the debt servicing costs in the U.S., those have actually gone down over time. So if you look at the actual cost of making those payments, they’re much lower now because interest rates are still very low and they’ve been low for a while now compared to the past. So, this is a common trend, by the way, we see for a bunch of countries where debt levels have gone up, but interest rates have come down. So, again, the question is, what do we see in terms of concerns into debt servicing ability, rollover risks and so on? And for the U.S. on both those fronts, we don’t see them as as as major concerns, because that would be the broad point. Of course, there was none of this detracts from the basic idea that when you provide policy support, that you should provide it, of course, in a well targeted, tailored manner to get the best, you know, best reaction, best economic effect on the economy. So that’s still that, of course, applies. But in terms of just the level of debt at this point is not something we’re flagging as a major concern.

Question: Yes, I was asking about how our eurozone and the countries that are lagging for the moment. You only recommendations for the countries over there and what you see how they can catch up and when they are and compared to the U.S.

Gita Gopinath: Thank you. So, the euro area is also projected to rebound this year after a very significant collapse, but it is at a slower pace. So, you know, it’s expected to get back to pre covid levels next year, not this year, next year. Now, different countries will gather in different places. You know, Germany, for instance, in the first half and so on, and Spain actually would come later. So, there is, again, multispeed recoveries even within the euro area. If you look at the fiscal support that’s in the system, I would say that it is quite substantial even for 2021. So, I think they are in a good place. The big challenge right now in the euro area is the virus and vaccinations. So, again, we have had the third wave. We’re seeing the third wave in these countries. Vaccinations have been so far, have been slow to roll out. But again, I think the second quarter we should expect to see a much faster roll out with much more supply coming on. I think both of those will help with the faster normalization. I think these are a couple of factors which have set the euro-area a kind of a couple of months behind the U.S. in terms of the recovery. But again, once this is addressed in terms of the vaccinations and when the EU recovery funds, the new generation EU recovery funds are used, hopefully used in an efficient in a well targeted manner to raise public investment, to have a green, inclusive recovery. I think all of that will be very positive for the Euro-area.

Raphael Anspach: Great. So on that, we’ll wrap this conference, this press conference. Thank you very much for joining us, for listening in for your questions. And thank you to our speakers, Gita, Petya and Malhar. And stay safe, stay well and hopefully see you all soon in person. Thank you very much.

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The McKinsey week in Charts (1)

People who see people – How high mixers help spread COVID-19

Some people interact with many others in the course of a day; others see very few. Sounds basic, but it’s a critical distinction, often overlooked in epidemiological models, and may explain the sharp rise and recent fall in US COVID-19 cases.

To read more, see “All in the mix: Why US COVID-19 cases rose and fell, and what comes next,” March 29, 2021.

Executives, mind the purpose gap

85 % of execs and upper management told us in a recent survey that they’re living their purpose at work. The exact same number of frontline managers and frontline employees told us they are not.

To read the article, see “Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave,” April 5, 2021.

Vaccination programs plunge ahead

COVID-19 vaccine stocks are building in the EU, UK, and US. The US will likely soon have sufficient supplies for all adults; the others are not far behind.

To read the article, see “When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?,” March 26, 2021.

Build that bridge: How top IT companies connect businesses and tech teams

In our latest McKinsey Global Survey on technology strategy, top performers revealed the practices that build bridges between technology and business units. CXOs, please step forward: 57 %of respondents say their senior leaders are very involved in strategic planning, versus 17 % in the bottom quartile.

To read the survey, see “Seven lessons on how technology transformations can deliver value,” March 11, 2021.

One, two, three, exhale: Europe’s vaccination supplies are on track

In Q2, the EU expects millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to pour in from a range of manufacturers, bringing its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults within reach.

To read the article, see “When will the pandemic end?,” March 26, 2021.

The McKinsey Week in Charts (2)

Almost half of the Black US workforce is in lower-paying, frontline-service industries

In the United States, 45 % of Black private-sector employees work in industries—healthcare, retail, and accommodation and food service—that have both large frontline-service presence and high shares of workers earning less than USD 30000 annually.

To read the report, see Race in the workplace: The Black experience in the US private sector, February 21, 2021.

How e-commerce share of retail soared across the globe: A look at eight countries

Online retail has been growing consistently. But in 2020, consumers went all in; in the United Kingdom, for example, e-commerce growth leapt nearly fivefold. Other countries also saw large gains.

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To read the report, see The future of work after COVID-19, February 18, 2021.

The doors may be opening wider, but the halls remain narrow

On the whole, gender and racial diversity at private equity firms are stronger in entry-level positions than at the top.

To read the article, see “How private equity can catalyze diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace,” March 1, 2021.

Americans are willing to pay a premium for some PPE products but not all

Several categories of personal protective equipment (PPE) aren’t very differentiated, so they are susceptible to price-based competition. Others offer manufacturers a better chance to create distinctive products.

To read the article, see “Navigating opportunity in the US personal-protective-equipment market,” February 19, 2021.

Full COVID-19 vaccine courses could be available for the entire global adult population by the end of 2021

More than 14 billion doses (including 2020 doses) are planned for 2021, enough for six billion individuals—assuming that all innovators’ vaccines are successful and require two doses.


To read the article, see “On pins and needles: Tracking COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics,” February 18, 2021.

Calm down: Your work and life may depend on it

Continual, or chronic, stress can cause mood swings, reduced empathy, and impulse-control issues. It’s also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

To read the article, see “How to turn everyday stress into ‘optimal stress’,” February 18, 2021.

As COVID-19 surges, the top ten players own 20 % of the online-education market in the US

Prepandemic, online education was already a driver of growth in higher education. COVID-19 hastened a growth spurt, and big institutions such as Western Governors University (WGU), Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), and the University of Phoenix are building considerable market share.

To read the article, see “Scaling online education: Five lessons for colleges,” February 15, 2021.

Just 26 % of leaders create psychological safety for their teams

The benefits of psychological safety in the workplace—where team members feel they can take interpersonal risks and remain respected and accepted—are numerous. This interactive, highlighting a new survey on how leaders can create safer, higher-performance work environments, details the effects of leadership behaviors on employees’ mindsets and the quality of their work.

To read the article, see “Psychological safety and the critical role of leadership development,” February 11, 2021


Ready To Show & Virtual Fashion Tour Italy successfully concluded

Ready To Show & Virtual Fashion Tour, Italy the duo virtual concurrent events were concluded successfully recently. Held between March 16-19, 2021, the virtual events, first of its kind, were aimed at giving international apparels, accessories, textiles and leather manufacturers direct access for sourcing to major Italian and European buyers, as well as offering Fashion Collections by designers and labels of Italy and other countries.

The show featured companies 35 companies across product categories from over 25 countries, divided into three halls; Sourcing Global, Sourcing Mauritius and Fashion Collections. Over 800 registered visitors from 65 countries attended the show with exhibitors from 12 countries including Italy, France, India, the US and Latvia. Mauritius, with 11 selected exhibitors was the main attraction at the event. The visitors consisted of importers, private labels, large retailers and all other imported apparel and textiles.

The event was organised by Tortona Design & Fashion Italy, in association with FashionatingWorld.

The first day hosted a webinar under the theme “Fashion Sourcing & Trends during Challenging Times” consisting of five sessions titled, ‘Mauritius: Your Partner of Choice to Source Fashion and Sustainable Apparel Products’. The session was discussion with Geerish Bucktowonsing, Executive Director, Economic Board, Mauritius. The second session, ‘Buyers’ Perspective: How should Companies & Countries make effective presentations?’ was discussion with Claudia Carillon, CEO International Designers Network & Senior Expert Fashion Consultant and Manuela Brodersen-Horn, Fashion TV Production, Germany.

The third session titled ‘India as a potential Sourcing Hub for Europe’ was moderated by Sudhir Sekhri, Chairman, Export Promotion Committee, AEPC; the fourth webinar ‘Changes in fashion during and after the pandemic: Prevention & Therapy’ was moderated by Vittorio Giomo, Milano, Expert in Trends and Sustainable Fashion & Textiles.

The fifth session was on ‘Inter-Seasonal Evolution of Current Trends- FW21-22 & SS22 ‘moderated by Cristina Fedriani, Owner and Director, Progetto Stile & Fashion Consultant.

Fashionatingworld along with DFU Publications partnered Virtual Fashion Tour Italy to organise five webinars on issues facing the global fashion industry.


USTR recommends tariff on fashion imports in reply to digital service tax on US companies

Captions courtesy by Fashionating World

In January this, year, USTR announced plans to indefinitely suspend Section 301 tariffs on certain luxury goods from France. This was in response to the discriminatory digital service tax levied France on certain US digital companies. A report by the Fashion Law terms this tax as being inconsistent with the principles of international taxation and burden US companies.

Tariffs on fashion to damage exports, raise tensions

Fashion is one of the goods that USTR plans to tax in response to the digital service tax levied by countries like UK, India, Austria, Italy, Spain, etc. In UK, USTR plans to add upto 25 % tariffs on fragrances, different types of makeup, skincare products, ‘women’s or girls’ dresses, knitted or crocheted, of synthetic fibers, women’s’ and men’s’ overcoats, and different types of footwear, etc. The government agency plans to tax handbags, footwear, women’s or girls’ suits, jackets, blazers and men’s or boy’s track suits.

The proposed tariffs have raised concerns amongst various fashion experts. Helen Brocklebank, CEO, Walpole, believes, they have a tremendouslyUSTR recommends tariff on fashion imports in reply to digital service tax on US damaging impact on businesses’ ability to export to the US while Amie Ahanchian, Donald Hok, Philippe Stepbanny and Elizabeth opine, the proposed tariffs may increase trade tensions amongst countries besides increasing the cost of business for many companies.

Call for duty drawback programs

In a Bloomberg Tax article, these experts urge for duties to be made eligible for duty drawback under two conditions: first, these goods being subsequently re-exported and second, being incorporated as products manufactured in the US. Duty drawback rules are becoming increasingly popular as they enable companies to recover 99 per cent of the duties originally paid on the imported merchandise when exported, say Ahanchian, Hok, Stephanny, and Shingler.

Another popular duty reduction program that can be used includes the First Sale for Export (FSFE) duty reduction program. However, to use this rule, the US importer needs to prove the marked exports destined for the US market, say Ahanchian, Hok, Stephanny, and Shingler. This program has often been used by retail and apparel importers facing steep duties. It is now becoming popular in other industries too.

The American government aims to resolve international taxation related disputes by building a consensus among members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, say Husch Blackwell LLP attorneys, Camron Greer and Turner Kim. Katherine Tai, US Trade Representative, reaffirms US’ commitment to resolving concerns related to digital services taxes through an international consensus through the OECD process. Until it reaches such a consensus, USTR aims to maintain its options under the Section 301 process, including imposition of tariffs.

Pandemic leaves a permanent mark on fashion retail

The pandemic caused a seismic shift in fashion retail last year and retailers expect this change continue in future. Figures from UK’s Office of National Statistics show, fashion sales plunged 75.7 % and 49.3 %in March and April last year. By the end of the year, clothing sales declined almost 25.1 %, says a Drapers Online report.

Lockdown restrictions compelled shoppers to shop online, giving a boost to sales of digital fashion  retailers. From September to December last year, Boohoo Group’s sale rose 40 %, while those of Asos rose 35 %. Independent retailer Wolfe & Badger also recorded an increase in online sales during the period.

Digital platforms record high sales

Online sales became the common theme for fashion retailers in 2020 with sales of John Lewis growing 70 perPandemic leaves a permanent mark on fashion cent by December 2020. The retailer also noted consumers’ growing preferences for shopping during the day rather than evening. Another retailer, Joules also witnessed a shift in consumers’ shopping habits as its digital sales increased from 20 to 70 per cent of its total sales.

Joules improved its digital platform by adding more relevant product listing, enhancing its products filtering, enabling a more seamless search of products and improving website’s navigation. It also added new payment options such as Klarna, Apple Pay and Google Pay.

New technologies to attract shoppers

The rise in online sales also encouraged fashion retailers to use new technologies to interact with shoppers. Wolf & Badger moved events, panels and workshops to Instagram, which enables it to reach a much wider audience, says George Graham, Co-founder and CEO. Similarly, John Lewis launched online personal styling appointments via Instagram. It’s first virtual personal styling appointment was launched via Instagram within three weeks of the first national lockdown. The group now plans to expand these sessions via Zoom from March this year.

While stores have reopened with restrictions and safety precautions, shoppers still do not feel confident enough to venture out and shop. David Dalziel, Creative Director, Dalziel & Pow expects shoppers to again start flocking to stores once restrictions loosen. They would want to reconnect with things they missed during the pandemic besides feeling safe.

Dalziel advises retailers to adapt their in-store experience and range presentations to suit new consumer attitude. He recommends retailers to emphasize on storytelling from the shop window to the fitting room. He also suggests investing in pay-points at the fitting room to create a more seamless journey for consumers.

A toll on retailers’ mental health

The pandemic has also taken a toll on mental health of fashion retail employees. Charity organization for the UK retail industry, Retail Trust has reported an 81 per cent rise in requests for mental health support from people working in fashion retail since the start of the pandemic. The charity noted over a half of them are suffering from anxiety, depression and stress and, has launched nearly 1,000 counseling sessions.

Retailers are also supporting their staff by introducing new safety measures in stores. For instance, high street retailers Matalan and JD Sports installed body cameras to deter and record aggressive customers in store. Marks & Spencer has partnered Unmind – an app designed to encourage staff to regularly take time for their mental health. The retailer also organized a staff Well-being Fair in January 2021. The buying teams of retailer Next have developed new ranges by using digital technologies that enable them to handle diverse tasks from amending garment fit to checking color continuity. The pandemic has changed fashion retail forever. It is unlikely the industry will ever go back to its original mode of functioning.

Intellectual Property

WIPO – Madrid Information Notice

Declaration made under Article 8(7)(a) of the Madrid Protocol: Pakistan.

The Government of Pakistan deposited with WIPO the declaration indicating that Pakistan wishes to receive an individual fee when it is designated in an international application, in a designation subsequent to an international registration and in respect of the renewal of an international registration in which Pakistan has been designated (Article 8(7)(a) of the Madrid Protocol). Those amounts will be:

•             CHF 94 for each class of goods or services, when designating Pakistan in an international application or subsequently;

•             CHF 83 for each class of goods or services, when renewing an international registration in which Pakistan has been designated.

This declaration shall have effect on May 24, 2021.

For further information, please refer to Information Notice No. 5/2021.

All Madrid Information Notices are available on WIPO’s website.
Please check our dedicated Madrid webpage on COVID-19 to find out more about recent updates and important information for Madrid users.


Levi Strauss wants to capitalise on commercial vacancies as it expands footprint, CEO says

By guest author Tylor Clifford from CNBC

Key Points

  • Levi Strauss wants to add to its 40 stores and 200 outlet locations in the U.S. in order to boost its direct-to-customer operations.
  • “That represents a huge opportunity especially with the, you know, the commercial real estate tsunami that is happening right now,” CEO Chip Bergh told CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh said Thursday the jeans maker is shopping for more space as commercial rental vacancies are up.

The San Francisco-based company wants to add to its 40 stores and 200 outlet locations in the U.S. in order to boost its direct-to-customer operations, the executive said.

“That represents a huge opportunity especially with the, you know, the commercial real estate tsunami that is happening right now,” Bergh told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in a “Mad Money” interview. Vacancy rates at regional malls rose to a record 11.4 % in the first quarter, up from 10.5 % in the fourth quarter, according to data from Moody’s Analytics.

“It gives us an opportunity to secure great locations at great leases and we’re capitalizing on that,” he said.

Direct-to-consumer sales accounted for about 40 % of Levi’s total revenue last year, the company said in February. For this year, Levi wants those sales to make up 60 % of total revenue.

Part of its new store roll out is what the company calls NextGen Stores. These are designed to be smaller, as little as 2500 square feet, and equipped with machine learning to help with inventory, Bergh said.

“These really do represent significant opportunities and we’ve declared we’re going to be DTC-led going forward,” he said. “It’s really critical to us, gross margin accretive and we’re successful at it.”

Levi’s direct-to-consumer strategy includes its mainline and outlet stores, online operations and department stores it partners with. Sales in the category dropped 26 % last quarter, losses it blamed on less foot traffic in its stores.


World’s First Coffee Face Mask AirX Announces New Eco-Fashion Improvements

Born during the fight against the spread of COVID-19, AirX – the world’s first coffee mask, encourages great effort in establishing itself as a fashion trend. After a year of circulation, coffee mask AirX has upgraded to a new level.

AirX the World’s First Coffee Face Mask announces new eco-fashion improvements.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a new normal of wearing face masks as a part of governments’ preventive measures against the deadly virus. The promotion of mask wearing has led to a great increase in the production of disposable masks. According to The ASEAN Post, there are already 8,000,000 tonnes of plastics entering our oceans every year. A study in the UK cited by the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that if every person wore a single-use face mask a day for a year, it would create an additional 66000 tonnes of contaminated waste and 57000 tonnes of plastic packaging.

Where wellness meets sustainability

Product improvement is not only reusable and protective packaging, but also an adjustable nose clip as well as an easy face-fitting with flexible ear straps. The “new-and-improved” mask can be well customized for corporate logo branding and personal remarks with lines of new colors. In addition, a bendable metal bridge holder has been added to AirX face masks to tighten up the nose area with adjustable face covered with string ties using PowerKnit and FlexKnit technology. Replaceable bio-based filter is AATCC 100 certified by QUATEST 3, modified with medical – grade N95 respirator applied in European countries.

AirX is N95 face mask with triple antibacterial layers of protection. The outer and inner layers are woven from coffee yarn using PowerKnit technology, provides a comfortable fit but softness for sensitive skin. In the middle is the patented face mask filter made of coffee, while the mask is washable and reusable.

AirX: eco-friendly, yet eco-fashion

As a matter of fact, face mask becomes the must-have accessory that everyone’s wearing this season. In addition to the affordable price tags, it also inspires some luxury brands to sell the so-called luxury sake of fashion.

When Gucci made one for Billie Eilish to complete her all-Gucci look at the Grammys, as part of her message that her body is her own, for her eyes only, Burberry announces its face mask production and Louis Vuitton releases a branded face shield for its Cruise 2021 collection. Christian Siriano, Eckhaus Latta, and Rick Owens featured face masks on every model in their pandemic-aware collections.

Thanh Le, founder of AirX said that the rise of face mask eco-fashion helps to raise awareness to COVID – 19 relief efforts and the involvement of luxury brands as well as celebrities could maximize the sustainable and ethical purpose of face mask. Thanh marks that his goal is to focus on controlling the product’s quality instead of increasing output as well.

AirX, the new face mask from the Vietnam via Canada-based company, is touted as “the world’s first ever coffee mask”. The coffee component of the AirX Coffee Mask comes in two forms: the coffee yarn using “Powerknit technology” that comprised the mask itself as well as the biodegradable coffee air filter insert, made with “N95 / FFP2”, ready to supply in Vietnam and on over the world.


EU Commission clears acquisition of LDC by LDCEH and ADQ

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over Louis Dreyfus Company B.V. (‘LDC’) by Louis Dreyfus Commodities and Energy Holdings N.V. (‘LDCEH’), both of the Netherlands, and Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company PJSC (‘ADQ’) of the United Arab Emirates.

Currently, LDC is solely controlled by LDCEH. LDC is a holding company of the Louis Dreyfus Company group of companies, operating as a merchant and processor of agricultural goods, with activities spanning the entire value chain, including origination, production, processing,  storing, transporting, merchandising and  distributing. LDCEH is a financial holding company.

ADQ is a holding company with investments in a number of sectors, including food and agriculture, financial services, industries, logistics and transport. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that there are only minor horizontal and vertical overlaps between the activities of the companies. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

EU Commission clears acquisition of certain assets and personnel of Daimler by Infosys

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of certain IT assets, personnel, contracts and liabilities of Daimler (the ‘Daimler IT Assets’) of Germany by Infosys Limited of India.

The Daimler IT Assets provide IT services (helpdesk, workplace IT tools, data centre, SAP solutions) for the internal use of Daimler AG. Daimler is a global corporation that develops, manufactures and distributes automotive products, in particular passenger cars, trucks, vans and buses.

Infosys is a global provider of digital services and IT consulting to clients across various industry segments. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns given that the companies’ combined market shares in the relevant markets remain limited. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

Partnering and M.M.LaFleur team-up to help Women get Back to Work with Apparel and Interview Resources

With Still-High Unemployment Rates among Women, New Initiative seeks to Raise Visibility of On-going She-Cession and Importance of Supporting Underserved Women., the leading customer service company and innovator in experience-commerce, and M.M.LaFleur, direct-to-consumer brand for women’s workwear, today announced the launch of a new initiative dedicated to American women’s return to work, whether in-person or virtual.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the U.S. economy significantly, with a disproportionate impact on women in the workplace (McKinsey&Co., Jul. 2020). At the onset of the pandemic, women were among the first to lose their jobs because of a shutdown in the service industry and school closures – which forced women to choose between work and caring for their children who were now home all-day.

According to this month’s job reports, while unemployment rates are decreasing over the span of the pandemic, unemployment among women is still estimated at 5.7 %.

“A key component to our country’s economic recovery from the pandemic is having greater opportunities for women to re-enter the workforce,” said Kedar Deshpande, CEO of “We see encouraging signs on our nation’s road to recovery, but we still have far to go in achieving re-employment parity for women. Zappos is passionate about partnering with M.M.LaFleur on the important issue of supporting women in their pursuit of career aspirations. Zappos looks forward to working with its brand partners to continue to create services for the greater good.”

As part of the new initiative, launched a microsite with curated head-to-toe M.M.LaFleur pieces (including footwear) perfect for the first day back in the office, and tips and advice for your next new job interview over Zoom. Additionally, donated $25,000 USD to Dress for Success Worldwide® to go toward the organization’s programs to provide various support and job development training to underserved women here and around the world. 

“M.M.LaFleur has always been dedicated to helping women succeed, and that’s especially important during this pandemic,” said Sarah LaFleur, Founder & CEO of M.M.LaFleur. “We are thankful for partners like, who help put a spotlight on the disproportionate challenges women, especially those of color, face in getting back to the workforce.” also launched a giveback contest over social media on Monday that allows the general public to nominate women in their lives who could use a new work wardrobe, and will be giving away USD 500 gift cards to each of the 10 winners. Sweepstakes ends Friday, April 9 at 12:00pm PT.

For tips on how to prepare for a Zoom interview and to find the curated M.M.LaFleur work pieces, please go to: 

Established in 1999, is a leading customer service company and innovator in online retail, company culture, and organizational evolution. Specializing in shoes, clothing, and more, Zappos WOWs customers through its legendary 365-day return policy, free shipping, and 24/7 friendly service. LLC is a subsidiary of, Inc.

M.M.LaFleur is the premiere women’s clothing brand for modern working women, founded in 2013 by Sarah LaFleur, a former management consultant, and Miyako Nakamura, the former head designer of Zac Posen. M.M.’s goal is to take the work out of getting dressed by offering versatile, easy to care for luxury-quality. Built on the core belief that when women succeed, the world becomes a better place, the company is committed to using its products and platform to partner on empowerment-based initiatives with organizations including Bottomless Closet, She Should Run, The Girl Scouts, and IRC. The brand’s award-winning digital magazine, The M Dash, offers readers wardrobe advice and career tips, as well as features interviews with inspirational women.

New Products

Nanodesign by Toray – Camifu: A textile inspired by Japanese paper

By guest author Iris Schlomski Editor-in-Chief of Textile Network

A newly developed fabric from materials technology company Toray combines the feel and texture of handmade Japanese paper with modern functionality.

The novel polyester filament fabric is based on the patented multi-component spinning process Nanodesign, which allows Toray to precisely arrange and shape different polymers within one fibre. The resulting structure, with its subtle unevenness, mimics that of handmade paper, but at the same time brings the softness and comfort of synthetic fibres.

  • Using the Nanodesign process, Toray developed a fibre with a flat, C-shaped cross-sectional structure that combines three different polymers.
  • In the center of the fibre is a soluble polymer, to the right and left of which are polymers with different heat-shrinkage properties.
  • One of the polymers was made from recycled film scraps to make Camifu more sustainable.

When these adjacent polymers are heat treated, they bend along the fibre according to their respective thermal properties. Combined with the flat cross-section, this creates a unique twist and stretch. The individual fibres are deliberately placed next to each other in such a way that they vary in shape and torsional structure. This creates fibre bundles with irregular cavities, which provide the characteristic unevenness of the material. This effect is reinforced by the additional hollow space inside the fibre created by the soluble polymer. A precisely placed slit in the fibre allows Toray’s engineers to permanently incorporate a range of features, such as antibacterial properties, directly into the fabric.

The high proportion of hollow spaces gives the fabric a light yet robust feel that corresponds to the feel of handmade Japanese paper. Visually, Camifu also follows this model: the fibres contain differently colored or dyeable polymers that do not align with each other. This creates fluctuating color variations that are typical of Japanese paper.

These characteristics make Camifu ideal for applications in men’s and women’s outerwear, including shirts, blouses, cut and sewn garments. The company plans to launch Camifu from spring/summer 2022. Toray is confident of selling around 500,000 meters of the material by 2025.

“It will become increasingly important in the future to combine advanced functionality, comfort and sustainability,” the company says. With its innovative technologies and advanced materials, Toray aims to contribute to a better and more sustainable future.

Toray Industries, Inc. is a leading global manufacturer of high-performance materials headquartered in Tokyo. The company was founded in 1926 and has been under the leadership of Akihiro Nikkaku since 2010. Toray employs approximately 48,000 people in 29 countries worldwide (as of 2020). The company’s product range includes the manufacture and processing of textiles and fibres, as well as plastics and a wide range of performance chemicals. Toray Industries is also the world’s largest manufacturer of PAN-based carbon fibres. In Europe, the group is represented by Toray Industries Europe GmbH, based in Neu-Isenburg, Germany.


Clothes Shoppers are about to realise just how messed-up Shipping has become

Port congestion issues are bad news for Americans eager to upgrade their wardrobes. But retailers may end up benefiting—at least a little.

By guest author Jinjoo Lee from the Wall Street Journal

All graphs courtesy by the Wall Street Journal

Armed with vaccines and pockets full of savings, Americans will soon be in the mood to shop for some new clothes. There’s just one problem: Port congestion and snarled shipping since last year means store racks could have less selection or even—gasp!—last year’s fashions.

Consumers across the board have more in their savings accounts after a year of spending less on travel, entertainment and restaurants and receiving three rounds of stimulus checks. Many are eager to spend on experiences they were deprived of during the pandemic, but they also have their eyes set on refreshing their wardrobes. In a recent survey conducted by Jefferies, when consumers were asked what category they would like to spend discretionary dollars on once the pandemic subsides, clothing and accessories came second behind bars, restaurants and pubs. Shoppers are already returning in healthy numbers: Same-store foot traffic at apparel and accessories retailers fully recovered to 2019 levels in the last week of March, according to data from ShopperTrak and Citi.

As they hit the mall, it is possible that consumers might not find what they want or will face steeper price tags. The Suez Canal blockage, which held up shipping traffic for six days, may have been an eye-catching moment for casual observers, but for the retail industry it was just the latest global supply chain headache. Delays began last year as retailers and manufacturers tried to rebuild inventories depleted in the beginning of the pandemic.

The rush of orders, combined with an increase in workers taking sick days amid the pandemic, has backed up America’s ports. At the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle more than a third of U.S. container imports, ships have often had to anchor offshore for days waiting their turn to unload. Once their containers are ashore, they often sit for days more waiting for handling.

In a National Retail Federation survey conducted in March before the Suez Canal blockage, 98% of surveyed retailers said they had been impacted by port or other shipping-related delays. More than half the respondents said congestion was adding at least three weeks to their supply chains.

As they hit the mall, it is possible that consumers might not find what they want or will face steeper price tags. The Suez Canal blockage, which held up shipping traffic for six days, may have been an eye-catching moment for casual observers, but for the retail industry it was just the latest global supply chain headache. Delays began last year as retailers and manufacturers tried to rebuild inventories depleted in the beginning of the pandemic.

The rush of orders, combined with an increase in workers taking sick days amid the pandemic, has backed up America’s ports. At the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle more than a third of U.S. container imports, ships have often had to anchor offshore for days waiting their turn to unload. Once their containers are ashore, they often sit for days more waiting for handling.

In a National Retail Federation survey conducted in March before the Suez Canal blockage, 98 % of surveyed retailers said they had been impacted by port or other shipping-related delays. More than half the respondents said congestion was adding at least three weeks to their supply chains.

Retailers’ in-stock levels are at a record low—a sharp contrast with last April when their inventory-to-sales ratio spiked after pandemic-induced lockdowns. That ratio quickly dropped as retailers reopened, but they also canceled or postponed orders to adjust. Then, when retailers collectively started stocking up their inventory for the holiday season, port congestion issues compounded the shortage. As of January, retail stores had enough inventory to cover just over a month of sales—a record low. In their most recently reported fiscal quarters, Macy’s and Kohl’s inventory levels were down more than 25% compared with a year earlier, while apparel companies Tapestry,Capri Holdings and VF, which owns brands including Timberland, Dickies and North Face, all saw inventory levels that were at least 15 % lower.

The delays will have ripple effects across the apparel industry: Calvin Klein’s parent company, PVH, said in a recent filing that the global vessel and container shortage was already delaying spring inventory arrival, pushing back delivery not only to its own stores but also to its wholesale customers, which include department stores. By extension, that could end up being bad news for off-price retailers such as TJX, which owns T.J. Maxx. They typically benefit from a greater selection when apparel brands are overstocked. Options are already narrowing somewhat because apparel brands have become more selective: Under Armour, for example, has pulled back from selling to off-price retailers to preserve margins.

As much as the product delays will frustrate consumers, the effect on retailers themselves might not be so terrible. Many reaped higher gross margins last holiday season because they planned conservatively and had relatively light inventory, yet shoppers still showed up. That meant fewer discounts. L Brands, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour and Capri, which owns Michael Kors and Versace, all saw their gross margins expand compared with a year earlier. Ralph Lauren noted that its average selling price grew 19% in its quarter ended Dec. 26 compared with a year earlier. Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands was able to charge at least 30 % more for lingerie in North America in its quarter ended Jan. 30 compared with a year earlier, while a sister brand, PINK, was able to command almost 40 % higher prices.


Russia’s 120-year-old Eliseevsky market to close

This grand Moscow store was a land of plenty since the czars. Its 120-year run is near an end.

By guest authors Isabelle Khurshudyan and Mary Ilyushina from Washington Post

All captions courtesy by the Washington Post

The lightbulbs on the old chandeliers are flickering, and the dark wooden shelves are bare. This food emporium, once known for carrying exotic goods even in the time of Soviet rations, is now trying to sell the last of its stock.

Most of the visitors to Moscow’s Eliseevsky market these days aren’t shoppers. Instead, they’re wielding cameras to photograph the more than century-old art nouveau adornments, perhaps for the last time.

Eliseevsky — born in czarist Russia, a witness to the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, a survivor of wars and bastion during eras of shortages and plenty — is due to close Sunday after 120 years. The pandemic was too much to overcome.

Often listed as a must-visit for tourists, the store suffered from restrictions on international travel to Russia. At the same time, many of its Russian customers scaled back, looking for cheaper groceries as disposable incomes sharply fell in 2020.

Eliseevsky becomes another of the many venerable brick-and-mortar businesses around the world that could not ride out the pandemic’s economic squeeze — raising questions about the next chapter for one of Moscow’s best-preserved time capsules from the early 20th century.

Nostalgic Muscovites are hopeful the city will step in and save the site for some enterprise.

Galina Gavrilovna, an 83-year-old engineer who visited the store Friday, paused in front of a photo depicting Eliseevsky’s heyday — barrels of fresh produce and a sign advertising Havana cigars.

She observed that now there are wreaths at a 70 % discount by the entrance — fitting because it’s what Russians send to a funeral to express condolences. The only fresh fruits for purchase are bananas.

“Any European capital has one of these places that has existed for centuries and is being well-protected as the national treasure it is. And what do we do?” Gavrilovna said. “All that is left is to cry.”

Cheburashka was the beloved misfit of Soviet animation. It’s now a missing treasure for Russia.

The owners of Eliseevsky are also locked in a legal dispute with Moscow authorities over property rights. An attempt to auction the site in 2015 failed. The city still owns the space.

Eliseevsky was managed by Alye Parusa, a high-end grocery chain that recently went out of business. Eliseevsky’s representatives said they have tried striking a deal with other retailers, but the property ownership wrangle scares off potential bidders.

Moscow’s department of city property told the state-run Tass news agency on Wednesday that the city intends to preserve the site in some fashion.

“The chapter on this is not yet closed,” the department told Tass in a statement, adding that “regardless of who the owner or tenant of the premises is, an agreement on the protection of site will be signed with them under an obligation to preserve an architectural monument, an object of cultural heritage of federal significance.”

The palace-like interior of Eliseevsky was the main draw for tourists. Two chandeliers hang from an ornate ceiling. Gilt columns line the walls. The front of the store, looking out at Moscow’s main Tverskaya Street, has a row of stained glass.

Denis Romodin, a historian at the Museum of Moscow, said Eliseevsky is one of just two retail spaces in Moscow with such pre-revolutionary interiors. But Eliseevsky’s level of preservation makes it “one of a kind.”

The building’s history is just as vivid.

It was once owned by Zinaida Volkonskaya, a princess and Russian cultural figure in the 19th century. She remodeled the house, passed down to her by her father, into a literary salon whose luminaries included Russia’s greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin. For about 40 years, from 1829 to 1870, it was largely uninhabited and sometimes referred to as haunted.

St. Petersburg merchant Grigory Eliseev then bought the building in 1898. Three years later, he opened his store, quickly a hit among Russian nobility for the selection of European wine and cheeses.

Romodin said it was Russia’s first store with price tags — before Eliseevsky, haggling was the norm — and it was also unique in its innovative technology for the time: electric-powered refrigerators and display cases that allowed goods to be stored longer.

Even in the Soviet Union’s hungriest years, the 1930s famine, Eliseevsky stocked pineapples.

“One could find outlandish delicacies here, which at that time seemed very exotic,” Romodin said. “It was already impossible to surprise Muscovites with wine shops. But a grocery store with luxurious interiors, and large for that time, amazed and delighted Muscovites.”

That much hasn’t changed. Alexander Ignatiev, 30, said he lives far from Moscow’s city center, but he stopped by Eliseevsky to snap a selfie inside.

“I really want to believe that the government will first and foremost save its interior and all of the decor because this is not even a place to shop for some gourmet delicacies, this is first of all history, Moscow’s landmark,” he said.

Eliseevsky had a period of infamy in the early 1980s, when its director at the time, Yuri Sokolov, was at the center of one of the Soviet Union’s most scandalous large-scale corruption cases. He was sentenced to death in 1983.

But for the store’s longtime customers, their fondest memories were the scents from its bakery, the cuts of meat, the pistachio ice cream cones. One 85-year-old Muscovite brought her grandson to Eliseevsky just so he could see its beauty for himself.

“So many foreigners came here to take pictures,” said 55-year-old Ksenia Katarskaya. “Every country, every big city has this place where tourists come, and you don’t go here just to buy food, you come to take in the culture. They don’t make stores like this anymore.”


CCOO criticizes H&M’s shop closures in Spain

The Workers’ Commission (CCOO) union has called H&M’s shop closures in Spain absolutely disproportionate and the layoffs of furloughed staff unjustified. Swedish fashion giant H&M has announced plans to close 30 shops and lay off more than 1,000 staff in Spain. The brand plans to close 350 of its 5,000 shops worldwide, while opening 100 others to adapt to the increased digitalization of the retail industry.

The Spanish government has announced EUR 40 billion funding schemes to ease the current crisis in the industry. In return for the funding, companies are banned from laying off staff for six months after the end of the scheme which is currently set to run until May 31, but is likely to be extended.

However, H&M has refused to abide by this rule saying it is not subject to any job maintenance commitment. The brand’s net profit tumbled tenfold in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, although its online sales leapt more than 40 % on the figures for a year earlier, accounting for almost a third of its overall turnover.


Swiss Empa – Next generation of AI – Smart robots need intelligent materials

By guest author Maria Lucia Hijar from Swiss Empa

All captions vortesy by Empa

Artificial intelligence (AI) is nowadays considered a fundamental asset for developing products and technologies across industries, giving companies who master it a competitive edge. What is still lacking, however, is a thorough discussion about the implications for society to better understand opportunities but also potential drawbacks. In an interview Mirko Kovac and Aslan Miriyev from Empa’s Center of Robotics share their views about where AI and robotics research is headed.

You are about to host a virtual international workshop termed “Material Intelligence” – how can a material acquire intelligence? How do we have to envision a material that you would deem “intelligent”?

Mirko Kovac: The general definitions of “intelligence” typically refer to the interaction between an “agent” and its environment, such as an ability to learn, understand, react and/or adapt to situations and/or changes in the agent’s vicinity. An agent can be any organism, say, a fish, a cat or a human being. In our case, the agent is a robot. With regards to materials, the intelligence is in their ability to react to external stimuli. But the challenge is in taking this from a passive, more or less predefined reaction to stimuli to an intelligent adaptation to a changing environment. This means that, for instance, a material, which responds to heat by changing its shape, will do so while adapting to the external space conditions or limitations. We cannot change the laws of physics, but we can help the material to adapt using clever design. So, when we talk about material intelligence we rather think of a responsive system of matter and design.

Aslan Miriyev: A significant benefit here would be reversibility and high repeatability of the intelligent behavior. Such systems may be used in morphological computation that utilizes shapes and material properties as a means of computing. Thus, in the Workshop, we discuss this path from functional materials as a passive substance reacting to stimuli to a system serving as a computing mean.

What is the link between intelligent materials and artificial intelligence (AI)? And where or how would robotics fit into the picture?

Miriyev: In the context of the previous question, material systems comprise the physical artificial intelligence of robots’ bodies, similarly to the way biological tissues comprise the intelligence of our bodies. Synthetic and bio-hybrid materials are the key to collaborative robots that will co-exist with humans in future symbiotic human-robot ecosystems.

In recent years, AI research has moved away from a mere algorithm-based number-crunching approach to a more physical take on intelligence, called Physical AI. Where is this kind of research headed?

Miriyev: Indeed, the field of AI has been intensively growing in the past decades. Now, it has become clear that AI is not only the digital AI, which we all know, for example, from its ability to recognize, based on camera images, a pack of chips among a mess of many items on a table. AI is also about physical interaction with the world, with humans, the environment, nature, plants, animals.

Kovac: We envision the research going in the direction of developing the physical side of AI, and its merging with the digital counterpart. Recently, we described these ideas in a paper published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence. We define Physical AI (or, PAI) as “the theory and practice of creating physical systems capable of performing tasks that are typically associated with intelligent organisms.”

Which area or industry could benefit most from this type of AI? Do you have any specific examples?

Kovac: The areas of impact of Physical AI include healthcare, elderly care, infrastructure digitalization, disaster management, public safety, security, services sector, education, and industrial automation. The entire Industry 5.0 concept is based on real human-robot interaction. So far, most of the successively commercialized soft robotic solutions were in the pick-and-place, wearable, prosthetic, and minimally-invasive medical applications.

Miriyev: The current use of Physical AI is still very limited compared to the challenges of the world around us and to the opportunities that lie ahead. There is almost infinite room for the application of robots capable of co-living and co-working with people.

You are working on autonomous drones, or robots, if you wish, that are inspired by biological principles. How would you define their role, their function in interacting with humankind?

Kovac: In 2013 I published a paper entitled “The Bioinspiration Design Paradigm: A Perspective for Soft Robotics”. The principle may be divided into three stages: inspiration, abstraction, and implementation. In the inspiration phase, a scientist observes a natural phenomenon. In the subsequent abstraction phase, a scientist tries to find the underlying physical principles of the observed phenomenon. After that comes the implementation phase, in which scientist engineer the abstracted bioinspired design principles into a synthetic system. Specifically, we are now inspired by the process of creation of new living organisms as a new paradigm for creating artificial systems.

Miriyev: In Physical AI synthesis, knowledge from multiple disciplines contributes to the simultaneous creation of structures, sensing, actuation, and computation. In the coming Workshop we intend to discuss the paths to such advanced robot synthesis via the utilization of various aspects of material intelligence.

Given the number of dystopian Sci Fi movies/novels, you must face a certain degree of skepticism when you talk about achieving a symbiosis of man and machine. What are the biggest challenges in this arena and how do you address them?

Kovac: In the chase after fictional dramas, we often forget that real life’s calls are much more obvious than plots of sci-fi scenarios. Elderly people really do need reliable assistance well beyond telepresence humanoids.

Miriyev: Society needs lifelike robotic assistants that adapt to them in the manner, speed and language, but at the same time adapt to the environment in the associated speed and language to provide all necessary help to their elderly human companions. This should be done without compromising the quality of humans’ lives and/or their privacy and data. We need to think about creating useful items for people, for their everyday life.

So where are we in, say, 20 years from now with regard to AI, robotics and the like?

Kovac: Robotics becomes a fabric of our physical world and a digital tissue of our infrastructures and cities. Robotics will disappear as a term in many ways, and we will all become very used to engaging with synthetic intelligence in our everyday life. The frontier for the decades to come will be in bio-hybrid systems in a combination of robotics and living materials. This is the topic we also explore at Empa’s Centre of Robotics.

Useful Links:

A Miriyev, M Kovac; Skills for Physical Artificial Intelligence; Nature Machine Intelligence, 2 (2020); Image: Empa / Imperial College London

PAI: Physical Artificial Intelligence: On the way to lifelike robots; media release, 11 Nov 2020

Forest dwelling drones: Drones to monitor ecological changes; media release, 3 Nov 2020

Mirko Kovac: Vertical take-off; media release, 14 Jan 2020

Nordstrom Expands BEAUTYCYCLE to Canada

First major retailer in Canada to offer a recycling programme of hard-to-recycle beauty packaging for all brands.

BEAUTYCYCLE, the first beauty take-back and recycling program accepting all brands of beauty packaging at a major retailer in Canada, launches today at Nordstrom. Each year, more than 120 billion units of plastic packaging are produced by the global beauty industry, but less than nine percent gets recycled.

To help solve for this, Nordstrom is offering its customers the option to bring in any brand of their empty beauty product packaging to Nordstrom’s Canada stores, where the company is using TerraCycle® Zero Waste Boxes™ to recycle beauty waste and packaging in all retail locations. Through this program, Nordstrom aims to take back 100 tons of hard-to-recycle beauty packaging by 2025. Nordstrom first launched BEAUTYCYCLE in the US in 2020. Many local recycling centres do not accept beauty materials and packaging, as they often contain a mix of materials that are not locally recyclable.

“We understand our customers care about sustainability, and we want to help them move toward a zero-waste beauty routine so they can look great and do good at the same time,” said Gemma Lionello, executive vice president, general merchandise manager, accessories and beauty, at Nordstrom. “We’re proud to expand access to a recycling program that will help our Canadian customers easily and conveniently recycle their beauty packaging.” 

How does it work?

•             Starting April 6, customers can bring their empty beauty products to any Nordstrom Canada store to be recycled. BEAUTYCYCLE boxes will be available in the beauty department. Just drop your old beauty items into the box.

•             Nordstrom will send the content of these boxes to TerraCycle where they are cleaned and separated into metals, glass and plastics.

•             Those materials are then recycled based on the material composition. For example, plastics are recycled into a wide range of new products including park benches and picnic tables, while metals are reused as base materials for stamped product applications like nuts, bolts, washers and rings.

What items can be recycled?

Customers can bring empty cosmetic, haircare, or skincare packaging regardless of brand or purchase location. This includes:

•             Shampoo and conditioner bottles and caps

•             Hair gel tubes and caps

•             Hair spray bottles and triggers

•             Hair paste, plastic jars and caps

•             Lip balm tubes

•             Face soap dispensers and tubes

•             Lotion bottles, tubes, dispensers, and jars

•             Shaving foam tubes (no cans)

•             Lip gloss tubes

•             Mascara tubes

•             Eye liner pencils and cases

•             Eye shadow and tubes

•             Concealer tubes and sticks

Nordstrom leads with the fundamental belief that it has a responsibility to leave the world better than they found it. Customers increasingly feel the same and look to the fashion retailer to be a responsible company that plays an active role in protecting the environment.

In addition to Nordstrom’s goal to take back 100 tons of beauty packaging, the company has committed to the following environmental goals by 2025:

•             Set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

•             Reduce single-use plastic by 50%

•             Use sustainably sourced raw materials in 50% of Nordstrom Made products made of polyester, cotton and cellulosic fibres

•             Extend the life of 250 tons of clothing

•             Ensure 15 % of all product is considered sustainable

•             Donate USD 1 million to support textile recycling innovation

Nordstrom, Inc. is a leading fashion retailer based in the U.S. Founded in 1901 as a shoe store in Seattle, today Nordstrom operates 358 stores in the U.S. and Canada, including 100 Nordstrom stores; 249 Nordstrom Rack stores; two clearance stores; and seven Nordstrom Local service hubs. Additionally, customers are served online through,,, and Nordstrom, Inc.’s common stock is publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol JWN.


The Swissnex 2020 annual report: 20 years of unexpected encounters

Swissnex is Switzerland’s international network for education, research and innovation (ERI). It promotes the international exchange of knowledge, ideas and talent, strengthening Switzerland’s reputation in research and innovation excellence. Marking its 20th anniversary last year, Swissnex launched its ‘nex20’ campaign to explore future opportunities and challenges for Switzerland as a centre for ERI. The Swissnex 2020 annual report, available at, presents the many highlights, challenges and ideas which shaped an extraordinary year.

Twenty years have passed since Swissnex was founded in Boston. The incentive behind it was to increase the visibility of Switzerland’s enormous potential for innovation by establishing a dedicated local presence. Since then, Swissnex has evolved to become a unique networking platform – a global network with the potential to shape tomorrow’s ERI landscape through a mutual exchange of knowledge, ideas and talent.

‘nex20’: looking to Switzerland’s future as a centre for ERI
Swissnex used its anniversary in 2020 as an opportunity to reflect on a number of topics for the future. How will Switzerland position itself in the world as a centre for ERI in the next 20 years? What tasks will Swissnex face in 2040, and how will it meet its partners’ changing needs?
As part of its anniversary campaign ‘nex20 – connecting tomorrow’, a variety of events and activities were held around four individual themes: Learning Tomorrow, Meeting Tomorrow, Working Tomorrow and Living Tomorrow. For example, Swissnex in India organised a 48-hour global hackathon, ‘nexHack Edtech’, which brought together 130 participants from 45 countries to collaborate on finding solutions to the challenges facing education today.

In 2020, Swissnex hosted more than 210 events and activities in partnership with some 190 Swiss organisations. It also assisted 53 Swiss start-ups in their internationalisation process and facilitated exchanges between actors on a variety of topics relevant to Switzerland’s ERI landscape. These figures highlight the added value provided by the Swissnex locations: in connecting ERI actors in their respective countries with partners in Switzerland, they bring together people whose paths may never have crossed otherwise. Such unexpected encounters, made possible by Swissnex, enable the project partners to explore new avenues and enhance their international competitiveness. A global approach to ERI promotes knowledge-sharing and personnel mobility, both of which benefit Swiss actors in ERI and Switzerland’s reputation as a centre for research and innovation.

Swissnex is the global network connecting Switzerland and the world in education, research, and innovation. Our mission is to support the outreach and active engagement of our partners in the international exchange of knowledge, ideas and talent. The five main Swissnex locations are established in the world’s most innovative regions. Together with around twenty Science Offices and Counselors based in Swiss Embassies, they contribute to strengthen Switzerland’s profile as a world-leading innovation hotspot.
Swissnex is an initiative of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and is part of the Confederation’s network abroad managed by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The Swissnex activities are based on a collaborative approach, relying on public and private partnerships and funding.

Swissnex 2020 annual report

Credit Suisse ignored Warnings before Archegos and Greensill imploded

Bank is examining how, after years of beefing up compliance and risk, it pushed into risky trades that it couldn’t easily exit.

By guest authors Margot Patrick, Julie Steinberg, Juliet Chung and Duncan Mavin from the Wall Street Journal.

Credit Suisse Group AG’s double-barrelled financial crisis shares a common theme: a bank that looked the other way when warning signs argued for pulling back on lucrative corners of its business.

The Swiss bank with a big Wall Street presence was caught off guard starting in late February when USD 10 billion in complicated investment funds it ran with financing firm Greensill Capital unraveled, despite years of internal warnings about the relationship.

Then it lent more than other banks on big, concentrated positions to Archegos Capital Management, run by longtime client Bill Hwang. Though Archegos was flagged as a client of special interest, Credit Suisse acted more slowly than other banks, and ended up on the wrong side of a fire sale.

The bank said Tuesday it would take a USD 4.7 billion charge on the Archegos trade, equivalent to more than a year’s worth of profit. While it hasn’t put a number on the Greensill damage, a preliminary assessment inside the bank says losses to Credit Suisse investors may hit USD 1.5 billion, according to a person familiar with the bank.

In a statement Tuesday, April 6, 2021,Credit Suisse Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein said, “We are fully committed to addressing these situations. Serious lessons will be learned.”

The bank is now in full crisis mode. Credit Suisse’s supervisory board launched investigations into executives involved in decision making. It is also examining how, after years of beefing up compliance and risk, the bank pushed into risky trades that it couldn’t easily exit. The stock has lost nearly a quarter of its value since late February.

On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, Lara Warner, head of a risk and compliance unit that was supposed to make the bank safer, stepped down. Her teams reviewed both situations in recent months, according to people familiar with the bank’s operations.

The head of the investment bank, Brian Chin, and others who handled Archegos were also pushed out.

Credit Suisse has lurched from crisis to crisis in recent years, repeatedly promising to protect investors with better systems to measure risk and prevent bad situations from getting worse.

An internal spy scandal brought down its previous chief executive, Tidjane Thiam. Then last year, Luckin Coffee Inc., a prominent Chinese client, disclosed an accounting fraud that caused losses for Credit Suisse on a loan it made to Luckin’s founder. A former client is suing the bank for around USD 800 million for ignoring alerts that a Credit Suisse banker stole from him for years. And the bank faces lawsuits and regulatory fines over USD 2 billion in fraudulent lending in Mozambique.

All captions courtesy by the Wall Street Journal

Current and former bank executives say Credit Suisse’s problem is that it never focused on one thing after the financial crisis, choosing to maintain an investment bank and an asset-management arm tacked on to a private bank catering to the world’s rich.

The idea was that these parts could work together, moving clients from one arm of the bank to the other.

In reality, the asset-management unit, which brought in Greensill, and the investment bank, which handled Archegos, were too small to square off with Wall Street giants. The bank tried to make more money from fewer clients than rivals with larger balance sheets and ended up overlooking risks, the executives said.

More risks may lurk inside Credit Suisse. Last year it was Wall Street’s biggest underwriter in blank-check companies, known as SPACs. Its asset-management arm is also among the top managers of collateralized loan obligations, pools of risky loans that are sliced and diced and bought by investors. Both are areas financial regulators fret about.

The bank landed a hit in 2017 when a Credit Suisse fund that invested in Greensill’s supply-chain finance loans took off. Eric Varvel, the bank’s asset-management chief, told prospective investors they could invest on a short-term basis, “similar to the money market,” for attractive returns, according to a Credit Suisse client magazine.

Yet red flags were raised even before the funds launched. Members of Credit Suisse’s credit-structuring team, who knew Lex Greensill’s business, lobbied against working with Greensill on the funds, according to a person familiar with the funds.

Another group in the bank working on commodity trade finance had stopped doing business with one of Greensill’s biggest clients, U.K. steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta, according to people familiar with the relationship. They had identified suspicious shipments during a compliance check, one of the people said.

More warnings came in 2018, when Swiss investment manager GAM Holding AG suspended, and later fired, an employee over investments he made with Greensill and some of Mr. Gupta’s companies. GAM A spokesman for Mr. Gupta declined to comment.

The GAM situation prompted Credit Suisse to review the Greensill funds, according to executives from that time. Ms. Warner, who was seen by colleagues as tough on rules, and others were involved in the review. Credit Suisse’s fund managers in Zurich took a defensive stance. The funds were making tens of millions in management fees.

A former bank executive who asked the team running the funds basic questions said they belittled his concerns, and said the funds were fully protected.

The review didn’t find enough concerns to demand any changes to the funds, according to the executives from that time.

In 2019, members of the credit-structuring team escalated its alerts about Greensill to the bank’s reputational-risk committee, the person familiar with the funds said. They had become concerned Greensill might be taking operational shortcuts.

But by December 2019, the funds had tripled in the year to USD 9 billion. The asset-management arm sold the funds to rich clients and companies looking to eke out returns in an era of negative interest rates in Europe.

In February 2020, Mr. Thiam resigned in the fallout of a spying scandal, triggered when an executive leaving for rival UBS Group AG spotted someone following him and went to the police. Mr. Gottstein, at the bank since 1999, became chief executive.

But as the coronavirus spread, jittery investors pulled cash from the Greensill funds. It turned out Credit Suisse was acting as Greensill’s main source of off-balance sheet financing.

Without the money, Greensill would go bust.said at the time that money in the fund in question was returned to investors.

Greensill’s biggest outside investor, SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund, came to the rescue. It struck a deal with Credit Suisse and Greensill to inject USD 1.5 billion into the funds, The Wall Street Journal previously reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Greensill relationship deepened in other parts of the bank. It lent money to Mr. Greensill’s family trust in Australia through its Asia-Pacific bank, secured on Greensill’s assets, according to a person familiar with the loan.

Few people beyond Ms. Warner and other senior executives were aware of the full picture, according to the executives from that time, because confidentiality rules compartmentalized client business across divisions.

In October, Greensill asked Credit Suisse for a USD 140 million loan after the start-up was having trouble raising fresh capital from outside investors.

The bank’s London risk managers initially rejected the application, spooked by reports that Germany’s banking regulator was probing Greensill’s banking unit over its exposure to Mr. Gupta. Counterparts in Zurich and the bank’s Asia-Pacific operations soothed their concerns, and Greensill agreed to put up additional collateral, according to the people familiar with the bank’s operations.

The loan went to Ms. Warner, whom Mr. Gottstein had promoted in July to head a combined risk and compliance unit. Such transactions rarely crossed her desk, but there was extra sensitivity because of the earlier review, the people said.

She and other executives approved it, confident that Credit Suisse was well protected from loss by a pledge on USD 50 million cash in a Greensill bank account and around USD 1 billion in Greensill receivables, the people said.

But Greensill was in trouble. On Feb. 22, Ms. Warner learned Greensill’s vital credit-insurance coverage was ending, according to Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse froze the funds March 1.

Three weeks later, another major Credit Suisse client was on the rocks: Archegos.

Credit Suisse and Mr. Hwang had a long relationship. The bank was a prime broker to his hedge fund Tiger Asia Management. The fund pleaded guilty to wire-fraud charges related to insider trading of Chinese stocks in 2012, and Mr. Hwang was barred by U.S. securities regulators from managing client money.

Mr. Hwang formed a family office, Archegos, and Credit Suisse again served as a prime broker. In 2015, the bank’s reputational-risk committee reviewed its relationship with Mr. Hwang, according to a person familiar with the review. It decided Archegos would receive extra scrutiny, the person said Mr. Hwang wasn’t putting outside clients’ money at risk, a factor that gave Credit Suisse comfort in keeping him on as a client, the person said.

Credit Suisse took on more risk with Archegos relative to its size, according to people familiar with the Archegos trade, than did players such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley.

In the weeks leading up to the meltdown, Credit Suisse investment-banking executives discussed ways to bring down its exposure to Archegos. One option was to raise margin requirements on Archegos, said people familiar with the discussions.

The bank opted not to act.

When Archegos’s big positions began to sour, the hedge fund asked its lenders to meet. Credit Suisse argued for a take-it-slow approach, partly to protect Mr. Hwang, according to the people familiar with the bank’s operations.

Other banks beat Credit Suisse to the exit, leaving it with large positions to dump at a loss.

Mr. Gottstein reeled at the fresh disaster, according to the people familiar with the bank’s operations. Credit Suisse’s board then broadened a review of Greensill to include the bank’s entire risk culture.

The bank’s top shareholder, David Herro of Harris Associates, said he argued for keeping Mr. Gottstein in place but said the bank had to get risk under control.

Tailor-made Power Grids

Developing countries – Tailor-made Power Grids by Swiss Empa

By guest author Stefanie Zeller at Swiss Empa

All captions courtesy by Swiss Empa

Empa researcher Cristina Dominguez is developing a computer model, which can be used to plan electricity grids in developing countries. To collect data, she travelled to Kenya to get an idea of how people live without electricity and what developments access to the power grid can trigger.

The fact that electricity not only provides the luminous displays of our numerous gadgets, but also enables healthy, clean living spaces or even access to education in large parts of the world is easily forgotten in our highly digitalized world. Many developing countries are stuck in a vicious circle of poverty with their low electrification rates. Without lighting at home, there is a lack of opportunities for value-adding work besides agriculture. Children can no longer do their homework or learn to read in the evening. Moreover, there are health problems, often caused by smoking fireplaces in the house or sooty kerosene lamps. Access to clean energy is generally considered a springboard to generate a higher income and thus escape poverty. This is why it has been identified as one of the 17 UN goals for sustainable development.

A model for areas worldwide

To help achieve this goal, Cristina Dominguez, a PhD student at the Institute of Building Physics at ETH Zurich and in Empa’s Urban Energy Systems lab, is developing a computer model that will provide project developers in rural areas with estimates of household electricity requirements. This should enable accurate and therefore sustainable planning of the electricity grid. In developing countries, electrification projects often fail because reliable data for determining the needs of often widely scattered households is hardly available. Data collection in particular is a major cost factor that makes project developers hesitant to invest. If an electricity grid is then planned too large, for example, this is passed on to electricity prices, making electricity unaffordable for the poor population. Ultimately, electricity grids must be tailored to provide long-term benefits to the people on the one hand and to offer developers an attractive and realistic investment opportunity on the other.

To collect data, Dominguez chose an area in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the lowest electrification rate worldwide: “In addition to political problems, the areas here are extremely sparsely populated, and the small settlements are very widely scattered. This makes electrification much more difficult – and of course more expensive”, says Dominguez. As part of her PhD thesis, she determined the energy use and requirements of around 250 households in eastern Kenya. In order to make her model applicable worldwide, research institutes in Guatemala and Pakistan support her and provide her with equivalent data sets from these countries.

Analysing development

Dominguez’s fieldwork in Kenya collected data from households without access to electricity and from those that had been connected to a power grid within the last six years. She was concerned not only with recording existing energy sources and their requirements, but also with the change in use after electrification had been completed. The Empa researcher also used diaries, in which the residents recorded their activities, which they had followed throughout the day, in order to get to know their everyday lives and needs and to anticipate changes, which would set in after electrification and which would then be reflected in the demand for electricity. In Kenya, for example, kerosene is an important source of energy to light up the dark mud huts. To get the kerosene, it is often necessary to walk long distances to the dealership. Time that could perhaps be invested in value-adding work at home in the future – if a source of electricity were available.

And once the power supply is available, people start to act accordingly; they buy electrical appliances such as TVs, and power consumption increases accordingly. But how long can the power grid continue to function if demand continues to rise? Dominguez wants to incorporate these dynamics into her model: “In our local surveys, we asked people which appliances they would buy after the first year or second year with electricity. We then compared this with households that had already gone through this process.” In this way, Dominguez wanted to find out how people would handle energy when it was available to them. Dominguez knows from her research that engineers are often unable to assess this correctly: “There are great biases here, which often result in power supply systems being designed too large.

Tailor-made power grids

To make accurate predictions and recognize consumption dynamics, Dominguez applies machine learning algorithms and data mining techniques. To create the models, the researcher combines global data sets from organizations such as the World Bank with data from project development companies so that she can incorporate additional consumption patterns such as seasonal fluctuations. These are then validated for the three priority regions using field data from Kenya, Pakistan and Guatemala. Mini Grid companies have also provided data on electricity consumption in return for the opportunity to test their model on the basis of local conditions.

Cristina Dominguez’s approach highlights the problems facing developing countries with hardly any infrastructure: Although technical possibilities for electrification exist and have become cheaper with solar technology, investments in a weak economic environment must be made with careful consideration. Otherwise, there is a serious risk of over-indebtedness on the part of electricity users and, in the worst case, also on the part of the operating companies – which could well exacerbate poverty and deter others from investing in these areas. Dominguez’s computer model has the potential to overcome at least one hurdle to electrification and thus provide the impetus for a way out of poverty.


Chinese, Turkish textile companies to supply army uniforms to Tunisia

Chinese and Turkish textile companies plan to supply uniforms for the Tunisian armed forces over the next three years for a value estimated at around USD 22.7 billion.

As per Nafaa Ennaifer, President, Tunisian Textile Federation, the contracts awarded to the foreign companies are valued between USD 21.2 billion and USD 22.7 billion.

According to Ennaifer, the deal to purchase 180000 combat uniforms per year would deprive Tunisian companies of a transaction worth between 70 and 75 million dinars over 3 years.

The Ministry of National Defence argued that over the past three years, 73 per cent of government contracts in the military uniform industry have been awarded to local suppliers, TAP reports.

The Ministry of Defence favours local products and encourages Tunisian producers to get in tune with technical requirements so as to achieve efficient production lines.

The ministry added that the participation of local producers in tenders was low and not in conformity, in majority, with the required technical standards in coordination with the Technical Center of the textile.