🌍 Xi and Putin get chummy

Plus: What a royal funeral does to an economy
China's President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022.
China's President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022.
Photo: Alexandr Demyanchuk/Sputnik/AFP (Getty Images)

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Here’s what you need to know

Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin met in Uzbekistan. Both leaders expressed willingness to work together. It was their first meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Adobe will buy startup design platform Figma. With a price tag of $20 billion, it’s the largest-ever purchase of a private software company, Bloomberg reports.

London’s Heathrow Airport canceled over one hundred flights. About 15% of its schedule will be changed on Monday (Sept. 19), the day of the Queen’s funeral. An air traffic strike in France has also led to over 1,000 flight cancellations.

China’s Shein will expand into the US. The fast-fashion giant, valued at $100 billion, plans to build three distribution centers to speed up delivery times.

Shell’s CEO is stepping down in a pivot to climate goals. Wael Sawan, current director of its integrated gas and renewables division, will succeed Ben van Beurden.

Thousands of Chinese chip firms shut down... A record 3,470 semiconductor-related firms closed in the past eight months even as the state seeks self-sufficiency in the industry.

…and China’s state banks cut deposit rates. Seven major financial institutions decreased rates for the first time since 2015 as Beijing looks to shore up economic growth.  

What to watch for

The UK will grind to a halt on Monday (Sept. 19) for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. While the declared bank holiday has no mandate for closures, thousands of retailers, shops, and businesses across the country will shutter, in addition to many schools, several hospitals, and even food banks.

Meanwhile, hundreds of heads of state and foreign dignitaries will fly into London (though not in helicopters or private jets) to attend a ceremony likely to cost British taxpayers millions of pounds. With Princess Diana’s funeral having totaled about £3-5 million, and the Queen Mother’s around £5 million, Monday’s event will no doubt be an even pricier affair.

Not everyone approves of the national shutdown, nor the use of public funds to foot the bill of the Queen’s last rites, especially as the UK faces a cost-of-living crisis and soaring inflation. The decline in economic output from the holiday may well be in the billions, only adding to the royal family’s annual price tag.

Will China break into the luxury market?

China has figured out fast fashion, phones, and drones, but luxury is an elusive sector that it has yet to crack. The idea that China can one day shift from being the world’s top consumer of high-priced goods to a major creator of them is a story that investors have been hearing for years.

Lanvin Group, which plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange, wants to finally make that story come true. In its SPAC announcement, it laid out an ambitious vision of one day rivaling luxury houses like LVMH and Kering while tapping into Asia’s deep-pocketed consumer market.

But big questions still remain. The IPO date is still hazy, and Fosun, its debt-saddled parent company, has recently come under the scrutiny of Chinese regulators. Internal shakeups and covid curbs have also proven to be stumbling blocks. The group has potential, but realizing its vision may be a far way off.

The countries controlling Africa’s wealth

More than half of Africa’s total wealth is controlled by only three nations, according to an annual report on Africa’s wealth (pdf).

The latest tallies of private wealth (not to be confused with GDP):

🇿🇦 South Africa: $651 billion

🇪🇬 Egypt: $307 billion

🇳🇬 Nigeria: $228 billion

🌍 Africa in total: $2.1 trillion

As a testament to how much the top wealthiest countries affect the continent’s total wealth, in the past decade, South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria have had a negative private wealth growth rate of -12%, -23%, and -27% respectively, leading to a 7% decline in Africa’s wealth growth since 2011. Faustine Ngila crunches some numbers.

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Surprising discoveries

Dutch students created a car that captures carbon dioxide as it drives. It’s fitted with a filter that can absorb up to 2 kilograms of CO2 over 20,000 miles (32,000 km) of driving.

A robot called Erica is learning to have a sense of humor. Scientists are training an algorithm to understand whether laughter is appropriate, and what kind of laughter is best suited to a certain conversation.  

You say tomato, I say genetically-modified purple tomato. The US approved a British lab-altered berry for cultivation, which could reach supermarkets as early as next year.

A fireball spotted across the sky above the British isles was, in fact, a meteor. And not Elon Musk-related space junk, as was previously assumed.

Speaking of asteroids: It may not have been a meteor that caused dinosaurs’ demise. A new study revives the hypothesis of a volcanic eruption.

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