Serbia, following hard fiscal consolidation measures, had the fourth straight year of stable public finances, says Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. Source: B92, srbija.gov.rs 16:43 (Tanjug) Speaking at the opening of the 26th Kopaonik Business Forum on Monday, Brnabic, according to remarks published by the Serbian government, added that in 2018 had a surplus in the budget of RSD 32.2 billion.
Brnabic pointed out that Serbia today is certainly in a much better situation than it was 10 years ago, when the world economic crisis began.
Public debt, which was only 70 percent of GDP a few years ago, is now about 50 percent (at the end of February, 50.4 percent), she noted.
Our goal is to put it into the framework of the so-called “safe zones” of 45 percent of GDP, the prime minister said.
According to Brnabic, we have done a lot to improve the business environment, which is obvious if we compare our position to the Doing Business List of the World Bank then and today, but it is even more important that this is evident in the number and size of investments in Serbia.
Last year we ended up with Eur 3.5 billion of foreign direct investments.
The increase in investments brought more jobs, and the fourth quarter of 20018 we ended up with an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent.
I believe that in 20019 the unemployment in Serbia will finally be one-digit, said Brnabic.
She also pointed out that in 2018 we achieved a growth of 4.3 percent of GDP, the highest in the last 10 years, and among the highest in Europe.
However, she added, even such a growth rate is not enough for Serbia to catch up with EU members in the foreseeable future, and our economy is still not fully prepared for sustainable growth.
“Therefore, we need to change things further so that our growth will be higher and sustainable in the long run,” the prime minister stated and outlined the most important sectors for sustainable growth.
“Agriculture: the huge problem of our agriculture is that we did not invest in systems that would make it more resistant to climate change.
That is why we invest in irrigation systems. We are also investing in electrification of fields, so that, as we end irrigation systems, farmers can use them in the best way. We do not have automatic anti-hail systems for better protection against hail than we currently have. In 10 days, we will put into operation 28 of the planned 99 automatic anti-hail stations throughout Serbia,” she said.
“We adopted a new Decree that allows incentives to capital investments to encourage investment in equipment. Also, our great potential is the digitization of agriculture, because of which we are investing enormous support and significant resources into the BioSens Institute and, together with the EU, we are building the European Center of Excellence for Digital Agriculture in Novi Sad,” she said.
“Energy and Mining: for more than three decades, Serbia has not built a new energy facility. There are also some results here, but there is a significant place for further improvement. By 2020, we will have about 700 MW of new energy capacities from renewable energy sources. We started construction of a new thermal power plant, Kostolac B3, with a capacity of 350 MW. We are planning to build 2-3 hydropower plants with the Serb Republic, which is about 200 MW capacity. In addition, most of the investment cycle is in the pipelines in order to have access to larger quantities of gas and to divide the gas pipeline itself across Serbia,” Brnabic said, adding:
As far as mining is concerned, I will mention only two projects that at the moment act as extremely important for our growth in the future.
“One is certainly a strategic partnership with the Chinese company ZiJin, which last year became the owner of 63 percent of RTB Bor and which guaranteed investments of USD 780 million in the first three years of operation, of which we expect to invest approximately USD 250 million this year to improve business of RTB. At the moment, RTB contributes to our GDP with some 0.8 percent, and we expect this to increase to 1.8 percent,” she said.
“The second project is Jadarit in Loznica and the fact that Serbia has about 12 percent of the world’s lithium reserves. We have excellent cooperation with Rio Tinto and we expect that the previous Feasibility Study will be completed by mid-2010 and the construction of the chemical plant will start in 2021. The estimated potential impact of this project is 1.3% of GDP, which can be significant more if we can attract partners who will use lithium for production in Serbia and export of semi-finished products or final products from Serbia,” Brnabic stated.
“Finally, it is more than clear to us how much construction and infrastructure are important for dynamic and strong growth, which is why we have increased the budget for capital investments this year, and for the first time it exceeds RSD 200 billion. But when it comes to our industry, the economy and services, and the challenges that we face, the biggest task that this government has before itself is to transform our economy into an economy based on innovation and knowledge in order to be side by side with more developed countries of Europe,” the prime minister said.
This is our future and this is currently our most important challenge. If we do this, we will leave the generations that come to us for a healthy economic model that will bring robust growth year after year, she said.
“We introduced programming as a compulsory subject from the 5th grade of elementary school. We connected all schools to the Internet within AMRES. We piloted digital textbooks and today we have 2,000 digital classrooms. This year, we budgeted EUR 20 million to connect 500 primary schools to high speed internet and increase the number of digital classrooms to 10,000.
We have increased the number of specialized IT departments in high schools throughout Serbia five-fold,” she said, adding:
We trained more than 30,000 teachers only last year.
We have expanded our capacities at faculties and institutes. We have established a Science Fund that aims to increase investment in science, as well as cooperation between science and the economy. We are investing around EUR 100 million in R&D, innovation and start-up infrastructure.
“Even EUR 1.135 billion is export of ICT services in 2018. This is today the branch with the largest net exports from Serbia and the fastest growing economic sector in Serbia. In 2018, the ICT sector grew by more than 26 percent compared to 2017, and in 2017 about 22 percent compared to 2016.
Do we know of any other sector that records such growth? In order to enable the transformation of our economy, we slowly change the policy of subsidies and tax incentives to stimulate investment in technology and knowledge more and more and move slowly from incentives for the workplace,” Brnabic said.
“I believe in Serbia that creates: today and in the future. With the great help of the Creative Industries Council we launched the ‘Serbia Creates’ platform” in order to support our creative individuals, initiatives, companies and events. There is no dynamic, sustainable development without effective administration,” the prime minister stressed, and expressed her satisfaction with the abolition of some meaningless administrative barriers.
She also pointed out that over the past year a public debate on the amendments to the Constitution in the field of judiciary was completed, adding that, when it comes to the rule of law, Chapters 23 and 24 as well as the dialogue with Pristina are focal points of our European integration.
“A healthy economy is based on the value system, which makes one country “European” even though it is not in the EU,” Brnabic concluded..
Lyft IPO — What to know in markets Friday
Lyft takes centerstage on Friday. The ride-sharing company is gearing up to have the biggest tech IPO in two years, at least until rival Uber hits the market. On Thursday evening, Lyft priced its stock at $72 per share , valuing the company at over $20 billion. The stock will debut Friday morning on the…
Lyft takes centerstage on Friday.
The ride-sharing company is gearing up to have the biggest tech IPO in two years, at least until rival Uber hits the market. On Thursday evening, Lyft priced its stock at $72 per share , valuing the company at over $20 billion. The stock will debut Friday morning on the Nasdaq under the ticker LYFT.
And some Wall Street analysts have initiated coverage of the stock ahead of the highly-anticipated IPO.
DA Davidson was the first to get bulled up on Lyft. On March 19, the firm initiated Lyft as a Buy and slapped a $75 price target on the stock.
Analyst Tom White argued, “LYFT is the #2 player in U.
S. ridesharing, but has grown its market share from 22% to 39% in the past two years. LYFT has benefited from PR/management/operational stumbles at its largest competitor, but is deftly maximizing the benefits by aggressively differentiating its brand/mission around socially-conscious values and corporate responsibility. This is good PR, but also good for business.”
Then on Thursday, Wedbush initiated Lyft as Neutral with an $80 price target. “The brand loyalty of Lyft has been quite impressive as the company continues to attract drivers and riders with its brand associated with corporate responsibility and social values, an impressive formula to go after the $1.2 trillion market spent annually in the US,” analyst Dan Ives wrote in a note to clients.
Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.
Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung .
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Hong Kong has licensed its first three digital banks — and tech giants may lose out (TCEHY, HSBC, BACHY, BABA, ACN, GS)
Mekebeb Tesfaye 0m This is an excerpt from a story delivered exclusively to Business Insider Intelligence Fintech Briefing subscribers. To receive the full story plus other insights each morning, click here . The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the territory’s de facto central bank, has granted the first set of its long-awaited digital-only banking licenses,…
Mekebeb Tesfaye 0m This is an excerpt from a story delivered exclusively to Business Insider Intelligence Fintech Briefing subscribers. To receive the full story plus other insights each morning, click here . The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the territory’s de facto central bank, has granted the first set of its long-awaited digital-only banking licenses, reports Bloomberg. Business Insider Intelligence The first batch of approvals has been given to firms that have partnered with Standard Chartered, Bank of China Hong Kong, and Chinese digital insurance firm ZhongAn, and the firms intend to begin operating within nine months. Although at least two of the joint ventures — with Standard Chartered and ZhongAn, respectively — had been expected to receive approval, the decision not to award licenses to Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial has surprised many observers, per the Financial Times. Here’s what it means: The licenses should ignite competition by giving holders access to a hugely profitable banking market where consumers continue to be frustrated by their options.
Hong Kong’s banking sector is heavily dominated by a handful of incumbents.
The four largest lenders — HSBC, Bank of China, Hang Seng Bank, and Standard Chartered — account for 66% of retail banking loans and 77% of mortgages, per Bloomberg citing Goldman Sachs. And their share of the market is lucrative: For example, two-thirds of HSBC’s global profits last year came from its retail and wealth management operations in the territory, reports Reuters. However, the new licenses are anticipated to put up to 30% or $15 billion of Hong Kong’s total banking revenues up for grabs — threatening the big four’s entrenched position. Hong Kong registers among the lowest rates of customer satisfaction for a developed economy due to a lack of banking competition. Only 59% of consumers in Hong Kong say they like their bank, compared with 62% of global consumers and the 74% who say the same in the US. Further, less than half (43%) of bank customers in Hong Kong say they have a positive experience when visiting a bank branch, compared with the 57% of global consumers who say the same; and it’s significantly less than the 74% of US customers who report having a positive experience, per an Accenture survey seen by Business Insider Intelligence. Increased competition ushered in by the new license holders should force the old guard to up their game and ultimately improve these customer satisfaction numbers.
The bigger picture: Hong Kong’s efforts to remedy financial services competition and customer satisfaction may hurt established players, but it could also further entrench the position of some.
Although Hong Kong’s big four could be the biggest losers, the likes of Standard Chartered appear to be getting ahead of the curve. The chronic dissatisfaction of the territory’s digitally savvy consumers is a boon for the newly licensed firms, giving them an opportunity to scoop up customers at pace: 68% of customers use digital channels to check their bank accounts at least once a week, per Accenture. Moreover, while the likes of Ant Financial and Tencent haven’t yet received approval, their potential entry into the market could give the old guard a run for their money. However, the fact that Standard Chartered and Bank of China are among the players to be permitted first suggests established players are already in front of the trend. Given their vast resources and existing reach, the newly approved licensing could be an opportunity to maintain the status quo. So, while the licensing is generally good news for consumers, its business impacts for established and new entrants remain to be seen.
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Here comes Lyft… (LYFT)
John Sciulli/Getty Images for Lyft Lyft , the first ride-hailing company to hit the public market, began trading Friday on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Its shares opened at $87.24, jumping 21% from the $72 where they priced Thursday evening. That brought its valuation to just over $29 billion. Lyft shares gave back some gains in…
John Sciulli/Getty Images for Lyft
Lyft , the first ride-hailing company to hit the public market, began trading Friday on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Its shares opened at $87.24, jumping 21% from the $72 where they priced Thursday evening. That brought its valuation to just over $29 billion.
Lyft shares gave back some gains in the afternoon, but the company still carries a market value of roughly $27 billion. Several Wall Street analysts are already bullish on the world’s second-largest ride-share company.
Watch Lyft trade live .
Lyft , the first ride-hailing company to launch on a US public market, began trading Friday morning under the ticker ” LYFT .” Shares jumped 21% to $87.24 apiece as they opened, bringing the valuation to just over $29 billion.
The company priced its initial public offering at $72 per share the evening prior, at the upper-end of its expected range.
But the newly minted stock’s rally was fading by midday, as shares had given up around half of their opening gains by 1 P.
Lyft was trading just above $81 a share, below where they’d opened earlier in the session.
Lyft’s offering raised about $2.69 billion, which it plans to spend on “working capital, operating expenses, and capital expenditures,” as well as acquiring or investing in businesses, according to its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange and Commission.
While potential investors will have a chance to buy into one of the largest US-listed technology IPOs in recent years, one thing they won’t have is equal say in how the company is run.
That’s because Lyft will have a dual-class structure consisting of Class A and Class B shares. That means outside investors of the former are entitled to one vote per share while shareholders in the latter are entitled to 20 votes per share.
Investor appetite for Lyft’s publicly traded shares was strong heading into Friday’s debut despite the company providing no clear timeline for reaching profitability .
Lyft earlier this week raised its expected IPO range from between $62 and $68 a share to $70 to $72 after its offering was oversubscribed . In other words, demand for its IPO exceeded the number of shares issued.
Read more: READY FOR LYFT OFF: Lyft to IPO today at whopping $21 billion valuation
In the race to go public during what’s expected to be a banner year for high-profile IPOs — with Airbnb, Slack, and Peloton all expected to debut — Lyft is set to beat out rival Uber to the public markets.
“In our opinion while Lyft has clearly benefited from some of the negative PR issues that Uber faced in 2017/early 2018, going forward the battle for market share will be a bit more balanced,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to clients earlier this week.
Ives initiated coverage with a “neutral” investment rating and a 12-month price target of $80.
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