Daily Briefing Meet Alibaba, the Chinese Amazon, expanding fast and furious

Berlin data buy; let’s play guess the password; low interest rates, high times. Here's our Daily Briefing for January 9, 2019.
Quelle: imago/China Foto Press
The only way is up.
(Source: imago/China Foto Press)

Here comes online retail, China-style, and while that’s good news for tech-savvy, time-poor consumers, Germany is hopping mad.

Yesterday, Jack Ma spent €90 million on Data Artisans, a Berlin startup that analyzes data for companies including Netflix, Uber and ING. Data Artisans can hardly believe its luck, and the founders, Kostas Tzoumas and Stephen Ewen, said they welcome the “undreamed of opportunities” for stream processing, a fancy term for analyzing data as it arrives, rather than saving it and dissecting it later.

“We spend money, good government cash, pumping up companies that are then bought by China,” humphed investor Klaus Hommels, distinctly underwhelmed.

Alibaba is best-known for e-commerce but, like Amazon, also runs a cloud business and streaming services.

The Berlin acquisition comes on the back of Ma’s investment in a huge logistics center in Liege, Belgium. The Belgian hub will start operating in 2021 and will add to Alibaba’s growing global electronic trading platform. The company’s aim is to “complement the WTO” with barrier-free trade.

Germany has two familiar problems here: ambivalence about Chinese takeovers. Politicians have been worried for several years as China bought into German technology firms, from KuKa’s robots to KraussMaffei’s machinery and Osram’s lamps. Germany, of course, isn’t alone in this; Brits and Americans are also worried.

The other sizeable problem is the lack of clear industrial policies, backed up by cash. Consider the sums Beijing is investing: Europe, brace, brace.

One of the largest hacks in the country’s history turned out to be the handiwork of a 20-year-old. He lives with his parents, is not an IT specialist and said his motive for the crime was being hacked off with politicians in general. Police yesterday were relieved that he had acted alone, had no deeper political aims and no connections to intelligence services. You might ditch your account, as Green party politician Robert Habeck did, or dial back on fears that youngsters aren’t particularly IT savvy. Then again, the passwords were overly simple. You may roll your eyes – I’m updating my passwords.

Handelsblatt Today's Allison is Deputy Editor-in-Chief. Quelle: Marko Priske für Handelsblatt
Allison Williams

Handelsblatt Today's Allison is Deputy Editor-in-Chief.

(Source: Marko Priske für Handelsblatt)

The Bundesbank reckoned that Germany saved €368 billion on interest rates thanks to cuts made after the financial crisis. Other European countries saved too, from France with €350 billion to Italy with €261 billion. The euro zone as a whole saved €1.42 trillion. Unfortunately, nobody made much hay while the sun shone, getting budgets in order. That could mean problems when rates rise again. Meanwhile savers here lost €300 billion to lower interest rates between 2010 and 2018. At the same time though, Berlin cut taxes, raised welfare and reduced public debt. The piggy bank seems to be half full.

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