Category: Economy

Seedcom-Backed Cau Dat Farm Brings Smart Technology Into Vietnam Agricultural Production

Looking past food delivery startups or applications that do grocery shopping for the urban tech-savvy population. Internet of Things (IoT) is now also moving on to tackle the supply side, widely transforming the agricultural scene.

From solutions for small-scale farming households to large farms, the use of technology has helped farmers and agriculturalists minimize their farming effort while maintaining the optimal growth conditions of the plants.

In Vietnam, Cau Dat Farm is one of the farms using IoT in its agricultural system. The farm in Dalat currently has an underrunning IoT solution deploying a gateway to collect data such as light, humidity etc. through a system of sensors, weather stations, and robots, as to enable the management of farm operations via the cloud.

To accomplish this, the farm tech has formed a partnership with Intel in terms of importing its expertise and hardware from the inception of businesses, as well as incorporating other international hardware supplies and knowledge from agribusiness experts.

Also, understanding the operations and business strategy of Cau Dat Farm, it seems that the Vietnamese farmstead is establishing a connection between farmers through transferring the technology to other enablers.

This is because operators believe that Cao Dat Farm alone cannot cover the country’s demand for food. Hence, the key to the strategy instead is to manage the entire network through ensuring the quality, and transparency of the products made by its partners.

“Cau Dat Farm will be a platform for other agribusiness players to join, and all will produce quality goods,” Pham Ngoc Anh Tung, the director of Cau Dat Farm said.

Tung, which had a technology background in automation, was assured that joining Dinh Anh Huan’s Seedcom – one of the biggest success stories in Vietnam is positive that the application of IoT in agriculture will be robust.

Yes. Indeed it is.

Sellers in street market selling fresh organic fruits and vegetables

Sellers in street market selling fresh organic fruits and vegetables

As aside from Cau Dat Farm, smart farming has been apparent in Vietnam with its primary movers being Captii Ventures-backed MimosaTEK, which provides real-time solutions to optimize farm operation and Tech mogul FPT Corporation, which has also partnered with Japanese IT equipment and service firm Fujitsu in a smart agriculture project in Hanoi.

But what sets Cau Dat Farm apart from its competitors is that the company is also looking to work with local telecommunication platforms which have already developed their IoT platforms. In this sense, Cau Dat Farm will build a standardized database for agriculture, which is not yet available in Vietnam.

“Once these agriculture data becomes big enough, we will be able to solve the questions of forecasting crops, diseases, and productivity. It will also help connect the value chain together, including farmers, agribusiness companies, retailers, experts, and users.” Pham Ngoc Anh Tung, director of Cau Dat Farm adds.

This is because IoT (Internet of Things) can ensure transparency of food production without amplifying the costs, at a time when the country is highly concerned about food safety. Especially with the rampant cases of food safety violations – a recent case being the mass poisoning of 34 Japanese students who visited a Five-star Hotel in Ho Chi Minh city last month.

Considering the final effect, smart farming has a bright future in Vietnam as compared to traditional forms of cultivation. As despite the growing investment in clean products with high technology that might be more time-consuming as well as taxing in price.

But the products of technology – ready-to-eat tomatoes and lettuce, grown without soil that can be consumed unwashed are filling the gap for Vietnamese that are worried about food safety. They are going organic and looking for a healthy and reasonably priced choice – which make this profitable in the long run.

For more information, please visit http://caudatfarm.com/

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

DBS, Bank Of Singapore Seize Opportunities For More Acquisitions In Asian Wealth Mission

It is an all most familiar pattern, as Singapore banking enterprises have been picking up assets and acquiring wealth management and retail banking arms of foreign players that have retreated the rough terrain of the Singapore market.

But as much as Singapore banks are locked in a race to expand their wealth management businesses, they are also competing with larger Western rivals such as UBS Group AG. Furthermore, Singapore banks also have to keep up with the city-state financial ambitions of being the key financial hub in Asia.

In this scenario, Keith Pogson, a senior partner for financial services at Ernst & Young said, “You either bulk up or you go niche. For the banks here in Singapore, the obvious choice is to bulk up.”

But even among local banks, DBS Bank and Bank of Singapore are the most intense to ramp up on its offerings. As the two banks combined have already announced at least US$400 million worth of acquisitions for the year 2016 alone.

Bringing an update on their most recent purchase, OCBC who wholly owns Bank of Singapore has completed its purchase of Britain’s Barclays Pic’s wealth-management units in Singapore and Hong Kong on Monday for S$ 324.5 million (about US$227.5 million) while DBS has announced last month that it will buy Asian retail and wealth businesses from Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Banking Group Ltd’s wealth businesses in five Asian countries for about US$110 million.

Bank Of Singapore

Bank Of Singapore

A brief introduction on the two Singaporean banks:

Bank Of Singapore
Bank of Singapore (BoS) was formed in 2010 from the combination of the former ING Asia Private Bank business and OCBC Private Banking business. It grew its starting asset under management of US$22 billion to US$62 billion in September 2016, riding on its strong investment capabilities as well as wealth planning and premium advisory services supported by one of the largest research teams in Asia. Operating as one of OCBC’s private banking arm, Bank of Singapore, had $68 billion worth of assets under management at the end of 2015.

DBS Bank
Established on July 16, 1968, by the Government of Singapore to take over the industrial financing activities from the Economic Development Board, DBS since then has grown to become one of the largest bank in SouthEast Asia by assets. At the end of 2015, the private bank had S$97 billion (about US$70 billion) of assets belonging to high net worth clients.

Further Consolidation In Asian Wealth Scene
Both DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and Bank of Singapore, Asia’s largest homegrown private bank, are considering more acquisitions as they intend to expand their foothold onto a larger slice of Asian wealth market share, consisting of businesses from the region’s growing number of successful millionaires.

The two banks are looking to intensify its focus on capitalizing the growing wealth in Asia, which will allow them to offset the drag on interest income by lowering global interest rates.

Bank of Singapore, the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.’s private-banking arm said that it will definitely evaluate any opportunities. While the DBS acquisition criteria were also revealed in a Bloomberg Interview to be any deals that plays to DBS strength, fitting with the company’s strategy and reasonably priced.

Tan Su Shan

Tan Su Shan

“We look at deals if it fits in with our overall strategy and there’s price discipline and we have both the bandwidth and the operational expertise to do so,” the Singaporean Bank’s consumer and wealth head, Tan Su Shan told Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin on Tuesday.

Obstacles For Foreign Players
Some may question why are these foreign players dropping out of the game in spite of the fast pace growth in Asia’s private wealth scene. Slimmer margins amid rising costs, complex regulatory compliance and mounting pressure for higher returns are among their reasons for leaving as they are unable to achieve the scale needed to be quickly profitable.

Nonetheless, this makes it a great time for Singapore banks to snap up these assets, to build the scale needed to overcome the same challenges without additional burden. Furthermore, these consolidations will help gain a competitive advantage and scale to work in this wealth business environment.

As seen with the move on ANZ Banking Group, DBC has added about 1.3 million people to its client list, including about 100,000 deemed affluent or private wealth customers. Similarly, the Barclays deals have also enlarged the firm assets under management to be more than US$75 billion. This has also made it closer to DBS, which has ranked fifth in Private Banker International’s annual survey of Asia-Pacific Banks, with $79 billion of high-net-worth client assets.

ABN Amro Group: DBS Next Possible Acquisition
On a similar note, DBS Group Holdings Ltd. is among the companies which are considering bids for ABN Amro Group NV’s private-banking business in Asia, alongside with Julius Baer Group Ltd. and LGT Bank that have similarly expressed interests in the ABN Amro Unit.

According to a 2015 ranking by Asian Private Banker, ABN Amro is the 18th-largest private bank in Asia, with $19 billion of assets under management in the region. Sources also told that this deal could potentially fetch more than US$300 million, would most likely be anounced by year-end.

Tan Su Shan did not comment directly regarding this matter.

The Way Forward
Thus, the race is on for Singapore banks to acquire and compete for the largest wealth acquisition which will give it a leg up from its competitors. That is not only on the local level, but the acquisitions come at an opportune time for the Asia Pacific to overtake the Western Europe to become the second wealthiest region in 2017.

Nonetheless, for local banks, the challenge also exis post-acquisition as they have to keep an eye out on the integration of the new assets, and retaining clients. But unlike DBS and BoS, UOB has not pursued acquisitions to expand its private bank, leaving it smaller than those of its two rivals.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Asia Climate Partners Invest US$20 Million In US-Based Fluidic Energy To Expand Renewable Energy Access In Southeast Asia

As part of their vision initiative to provide renewable energy access to Southeast Asia, ADB-backed private equity firm Asia Climate Partners (ACP) has made a US$20 million investment in Fluidic Energy, a provider of intelligent storage solutions based in Scottsdale.

By supporting Fluidic Energy’s expansion of its game-changing, intelligent and low-cost storage technology, ACP hopes to extend renewable energy access to Southeast Asia while limiting carbon intensive energy adoption and advocating the replacements of environmentally damaging diesel generator sets, the company says in a statement.

“We are excited about this investment for many reasons, including the commercial traction of Fluidic Energy’s product and its proven ability to deliver in diverse environments and harsh conditions, competitive position in its target market; and the team’s commitment to high environmental standards and improving lives through its business offering,” said Duarte Da Silva, the Managing Director of Asia Climate Partners.

One of Fluidic Energy recent projects was the deployment of over 22 MWh of energy storage to 96 PV and energy storage powered rural electrification projects across Indonesia. This has provided clean and reliable energy to over 110,000 people.

“Energy storage is a key enabler of widespread decentralized renewable energy generation and we see enormous potential in other core countries like Indonesia and the Philippines as well as our own country India, that have high penetration of diesel generation and low electrification rates,” Duarte adds.

Furthermore, this lies in line with the initiative of Asian Asia Climate Partners, which exists as a joint venture between the Asian Development Bank, ORIX, and Robeco. The company is dedicated to clean energy, resource efficiency and environment sectors in the Asia-Pacific region. The company

Though based in Arizona, Fluidic Energy, however, has a strong presence in Asia, having established a regional headquarter and manufacturing facilities in Southeast Asia. Fluidic Energy has also been manufacturing its energy storage systems in Indonesia since 2011 and supplying its system to both telecom and rural electrification.

“We appreciate this partnership with ACP, including their regional expertise and the synergy that we can create with our combined vision of leveraging technology and investment to truly chnge lives in Asia and those around the world,” Steve Scharnhorst, CEO of Fluidic Energy said.

Of the more than 1.2 billion people without electricity on our planet today, 600 million are living in Asia. “Although we were founded in the U.S. and offer solutions for markets such as telecom, grid firming, and critical power, we immediately recognized the positive impact we could have in the Asia-Pacific region. We focused much of our commercialization strategy on Asia for the first several years simply because there was a problem that we knew we could help fix,” said Steve Scharnhorst, CEO of Fluidic Energy.

By combining the best energy and power centric technologies with integrated intelligence, Fluidic uniquely approaches the market with a whole product solution optimized for long duration and harsh environmental settings. A key enabler for Fluidic’s hybrid solutions is its proprietary Zinc-air battery technology, which is optimal for long duration applications due to its unique air-breathing architecture. Using “free” air allows for significantly lower costs as runtimes extend.

Fluidic solutions can store large amounts of energy and discharge that energy over several days, providing autonomy to villages and communities. This autonomy allows communities to adopt renewables, without sacrificing continuous, reliable electricity; remaining fully functional even when there is limited sunshine for days. In comparison to mini-grids that provide only a few hours of autonomy, days of autonomy helps empower these areas via economic growth and commercial activities. The environmental benefits speak for themselves: lower emissions while using no lead, cadmium, mercury, fossil fuels or other toxic elements; displacement of diesel generators and lead acid batteries and reduced CO2.

To date, the company has shipped more than 100,000 batteries worldwide and impacted more than three million people and thousands of communities by delivering reliable, affordable electricity to businesses and homes in diverse and difficult operating climates. The company recently announced an ambitious commitment to bring affordable and reliable energy to 100 million people globally by 2025.

Asia Climate Partners  (ACP)

Asia Climate Partners (ACP)

Based in Hong Kong, Asia Climate Partners (ACP) is a private equity fund supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), ORIX Corporation and Robeco Group.

ACP is also one of the largest private equity platforms for environmental finance emerging in Asia, with approximately US$440 million of investment capital to date.

The private equity fund is looking to partner with market-leading Asian businesses of significant growth in India, China and South East Asia with a particular focus on the clean energy, resource efficiency and environmental sectors.

Earlier this year, the mid-market private equity fund had acquired a stake in Indian cold chain logistics company ColdEX Logistics Pvt Ltd, the largest and fastest growing private company in the sector for an undisclosed amount.

For more information, please visit http://asiaclimatepartners.com.hk/

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Black Friday Sales Mark All-Time-High With Mobile Revenue Exceeding US$1 Billion

An American tradition, this year Thanksgiving has marked the start of a sales frenzy which continues on Black Friday and ends on the note of CyberMonday. The three holidays lined up to make the most frenzied shopping spree that leads up to the busy Christmas period which is lying only a month away.

But it is not just the United States. As consumers from across the world had spent more than US$5.3 billion in the two-days sales starting on Thanksgiving last Thursday which was extended to Black Friday. This figure accounts for an 18 percent increase from the previous year, according to a report from Adobe Systems.

In this scenario, Amazon, the giant internet business says that Thanksgiving is gradually becoming the new Black Friday as the company noted that some of its site’s Best Black Friday deals have already heated up during the “Turkey 5”.

However, when evaluating just Black Friday, the sales remains the highest as compared to Thanksgiving. The popular shopping festivity accounted for an estimated US$3.34 billion by the end of the day, which is a 21.6 percent increase from the same day last year, as according to Adobe Systems.

But comparatively, this year more buyers were going online for bargains and convenience instead of the traditional campout outside bricks and mortar shop. That is to say, online sales has outshined offline sales with spending via mobile devices on Friday in the United States seeing an increase of 33 percent to an all-time high of US$1.2 billion.

These results were not unexpected as it was clear from the start that the mobile platform has a significant impact on e-commerce sales, looking at Alibaba’s Singles Day Sales which was held on November 11. Furthermore, mobile platforms are proved to be the more convenient option for customers as they can perform their shopping anywhere, anytime and in any way.

Similarly, major retailers, like Amazon, Walmart, Target and eBay, noted that mobile traffic and sales were on the rise. Amazon said that mobile orders on Thanksgiving topped Cyber Monday last year, for example, while Walmart said that over 70 percent of website traffic on Thanksgiving was mobile. Target said that 60 percent of Thanksgiving sales were from mobile devices.

What is interesting, however as reported by Adobe, is that smartphones do not drive as many conversions as tablets and desktops. Because while conversions have as a whole increased, smartphone conversions were the lowest at 1.9 percent, as compared with the conversion rates of tablets at 3.7 percent and desktops at 4 percent. Holiday averages also show a similar trend where it was still the lowest for smartphones at 1.3 percent, while tablets and desktop are 2.9 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.

These results obtained in the Adobe’s report was based on aggregated and anonymous data from 22.6 billion visits to retail websites and consist of 80 percent of all online transactions from the top 100 U.S. retailers. Though it may be argued that Adobe’s sample does not cover the entirety of the scenario but still the sample is large enough for its numbers to be fairly close.

Additionally, Adobe also noted this year’s top-selling electronics which were Apple iPads, Samsung 4K TVs, the Apple Macbook Air, LG TVs and Microsoft Xbox. While top-selling toys included Lego Creator Sets, electric scooters from Razor, Nerf Guns, DJI Phantom Drones, and Barbie Dreamhouse.

“The negative impact on online shopping we saw following the election has not been fully made up, but consumers are back online and shopping,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst, and director, Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement. “As spending ramps up on Black Friday, we are back on track. We still expect Cyber Monday to surpass Black Friday and become the largest online sales day in history with $3.36 Billion.”

On another note, a promotional email which reads “President-elect Trump loves a great deal” shows that even the President-elect Donald Trump has participated in the online sales excitement. On Friday morning, Trump’s online store has made an announcement that it was offering a 30 percent off deal on all campaign products, which includes a US$149 Christmas ornament.

For more information, please visit Adobe Online Shopping Data

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Phillipines Jollibee Completes Buyout Of Happy Bee In China

Fast food service giant Jollibee Foods Corp (JFC) is confirmed the full ownership of Happy Bee Foods Processing Pte Ltd after it has secured government and regulatory approval in China to buy out its joint venture partner. Its wholly-owned subsidiary, Jollibee Worldwide Pte Ltd (JWL) acquired the remaining 30 percent stake in the China-based food manufacturer Hua Xia Harvest Holdings Pte Ltd., through an equity-and-asset swap deal valued at US$10.4 million.

This move lies in line with the Asian firm’s target as it seeks to rival McDonald to become one of the world’s top 10 fast food brand. Looking at its present oversea growth, the Asian food company has a total operation of 22 commissaries worldwide, that is 15 in the Phillippines, three in China and the United States as well as one in Vietnam. In a statement, the company said that it would continue to pursue an aggressive drive to buy more overseas companies with ticket sizes up to US$100 million.

This acquisition frenzy has begun in 1994 when it first acquired 80% of Greenwich Pizza in the Philippines. Since then, the Filipino fast food chain has more than 10 companies under its belt with its latest acquisition, prior to this, happening late last year at a 40 percent stake in US-based brand Smashburger Master LLC for US$99 million.

But aside from its ambitious appetite, another reason behind this partnership is so that Happy Bee can solely support the continued growth of its flagship restaurant Yonghe King in China, which is one of JFC’s largest business in China with a total of 316 stores which contributes 8 per cent to JFC’s worldwide system-wide sales.

“The objectives behind the acquisition of the 30 per cent ownership of Happy Bee which gave JFC 100 per cent ownership of the food processing facility are to enable JFC to concentrate on supporting the growth of its Yonghe King business and on further improving its food quality and increasing the assurance of its food safety,” says Jollibee’s Vice President Valerie Amante.

Henceforth, with this change in ownership, Happy Bee will no longer produce and sell food products to institutions other than JFC’s restaurant businesses. It is noted that the transaction is basically an asset for equity swap, with Hua Xia selling its 3,518,018 shares in Happy Bee priced at $2.96 per share. The transfer of shares and assets are expected to be completed within 2016.

On another note, JFC added that it is also exploring a joint venture possibility with ISE Foods Inc, a Japanese firm for an egg production facility in the Philippines.

For more information, please visit http://www.jollibee.com.ph/

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

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