The palm oil used in everyday products, like fast food, and cosmetics can be traced back to a single source: the destruction of rainforests by way too many companies. A BBC investigation has uncovered how these multinationals are depriving indigenous communities across Indonesia of potentially millions of dollars in income.
Mat Yadi’s spear is ready to strike, but today there are no fish. “Before this river was full of animals,” he says. “Now there’s hardly anything alive.”
The Orang Rimba are a nomadic tribe who have lived in the jungle on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra for generations. For them, hunting and gathering are not enough to sustain life – they also rely heavily upon rubber tapping as well! In the 1990s, came this huge palm oil company promising wealth through development.
The Orang Rimba people of Borneo have been fighting to get back ancestral land that was taken from them decades ago. Now they’re taking their case all the way up through international courts in order for justice, but not without some help! An Australian company has offered financial compensation and promises about 50% more oil palms planted on top of where previously, there were only trees growing wild among riversides lined with rubber trees.
The oil palms grew tall and the bright-orange fruit flooded into a company’s mill, producing millions of dollars worth of edible oils for its ultimate owner -the Salim Group. This multinational corporation is owned by manufacturers who use these oils in products like Cadbury chocolate; Pop-Tarts & Crunchy Nut Clusters. In 25 years’ time since they were planted, this one plant has contributed to biodiesel fuels that serve our needs as well.
Mat Yadi never received the smallholdings his tribe was promised. Today, Mat’s family lives in a makeshift hut inside of another plantation with nothing returning to them but shame and loss for all that was taken from them.
The elder Siti Maninah scrapes a living from the ground as she picks up fruitlets that fall when oil palms are harvested. If lucky, she will gather enough to buy rice and vegetables for her family’s meal today.” It isn’t much,” says this Orang Rimba woman but at least it keeps them fed. “This is just one example – it’s happening everywhere,” says Daniel Johan, an Indonesian MP from the island of Sulawesi.
The once lush jungle of Borneo and Sumatra has been largely replaced by a vast stretch of palm oil plantations.
To gain access to government financing, companies often promised that they would share their plantation with the local village. This is known as “plasma”. It became required for them in 2007 and now a fifth must go back if there’s any new planting happening on these lands. In order for economic development projects like mining or logging businesses to come about; locals are usually included at some point during the planning stages.
The global pal oil industry is worth more than $50 billion, but it’s not without its critics. A steady drumbeat of allegations has emerged against companies that they reneged on promises and legal obligations to the indigenous peoples in the area.
It has been found that companies have failed to provide more than 100,000 hectares – around the size of Los Angeles- in Borneo’s Central Kalimantan province alone.
Palm oil is a profitable business for Indonesia, but it’s not fair when communities lose out. We estimated that the province of West Sumatra has deprived its people from $90 million each year because their land was converted into the corporations’ palm oil plantations.
A recent study analyzed data from the Ministry Of Agriculture regarding agriculture-related losses across Indonesia which suggests there could be hundreds (or even thousands) of millions of dollars missing each year.
The Indonesian government has lifted a global export ban on edible oils, which will allow for the resumption of shipments from Palm Oil production. The move is an attempt by them to control rising domestic prices and secure local supply.
The palm oil billionaires of Indonesia have seen their profits soar this year as global prices reached record highs. The Widjaja family, who control Golden Agri-Resources and stand second place in Forbes’ list of the rich for the country; Anthoni Salim is one below them at third position with his company’s revenues totaling $2 billion dollars per year.
The Orang Rimba people live out their lives under the palm trees, where they wait for a chance to sing songs with the lyrics “our hearts are full if our grandchildren are healthy.”
The Loss From SEA Is Greater Than Expected As Consumer Spending Falls.
Sea Ltd. reported a loss that was larger than anticipated and dropped its e-commerce estimate for the year 2022, joining the ranks of other internet titans that are trying to gauge a more uncertain global economic environment.
The business with headquarters in Singapore reported a loss adjusted for interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $506.3 million for the quarter ending in June, which was significantly higher than the average prediction of $482.3 million. During the pre-market trading session, the stock dropped by more than 4%.
The disappointing outcome was a direct consequence of Sea’s decision in May to reduce its forecast for full-year e-commerce revenue to a lower figure of $8.5 billion, down from the earlier forecast of $8.9 billion. Shoppers who have recently emerged from pandemic lockdowns are cutting back on their purchases made online and are instead focusing on purchasing necessities in preparation for a possible economic downturn.
Sea, which counts Tencent Holdings Ltd. as its largest investor, has had a string of setbacks this year, including the unexpected suspension of its most popular mobile game in India and the subsequent shutdown of its e-commerce activities in that country. Sea is owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd. Since reaching a high point in October, its share price has dropped by around 75%.
The company has been working hard to increase its profitability despite the fact that its revenue growth has leveled off. The growth in sales was the lowest it has been in over five years, coming in at 29% to $2.9 billion for the second quarter.
In spite of declining Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), sales for Sea Ltd. are expected to increase.
Shopee experienced a loss of less than one cent in adjusted Ebitda for each order it processed in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, prior to the allocation of headquarters’ common expenses. Forrest Li, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, has stated that the organization’s goal for this year is to achieve a positive adjusted Ebitda before HQ costs in Asia.
The quarterly report for Sea reveals that the company’s net loss has more than doubled, reaching nearly $931 million.
The revenue generated by Shopee, the e-commerce division of Sea, increased by 51% to around $1.7 billion during the second quarter, which was lower than the projections of $1.9 billion.
As the popular mobile game Free Fire continues to age, revenue from the gaming division of Garena decreased to $900.3 million, coming in slightly above of analysts’ projections for $827.6 million. Garena’s annual bookings are projected to fall for the first time ever in 2022, according to projections made public by the firm in March. These projections ranged from $2.9 billion to $3.1 billion.
SeaMoney, the digital financial services division of Sea, had an increase in revenue, reaching $279 million.
As a result of the toll that competition is taking on the company and as it focuses more on profitability, Sea has been reducing its overseas footprint and cutting jobs in businesses that are peripheral to its core operations. This represents a dramatic shift from the company’s previous strategy of investing in global expansion.
Gross merchandise value, which is the total amount of transactions that take place on Shopee’s platform, increased by 27% to reach $19 billion.
A number of investors are taking steps to lessen their exposure to sea. According to the filings with the SEC, Tiger Global Management LLC reduced its holdings in Sea by selling shares in the amount of $473.8 million after having invested in the company for six consecutive quarters. According to an investigation of its papers, Altimeter Capital Management LP sold all of its shares of Sea’s Class A-ADRs. Grab Holdings Ltd. of Singapore is one of Altimeter Capital Management LP’s shareholders.
Stocks Suffer As China Cuts Interest Rates, Sending Oil Prices Tumbling.
Despite statistics pointing to sluggish growth in the world’s second-largest economy and oil prices falling by about 2%, investors struggled to advance global markets on Monday as they processed news of an unexpected decrease in Chinese interest rates.
The outlook was also negatively impacted by weaker U.S. stock index futures and a stable currency, which hurt gold.
The MSCI all country index (.MIWD00000PUS), whose drop for the year had been reduced to approximately 13% by a month-long rebound, was scarcely firmer.
Data indicated the economy unexpectedly slowed down in July, with manufacturing and retail activity being constrained by Beijing’s zero-COVID policy and a real estate crisis. In response, China’s central bank lowered key lending rates to boost demand.
Investors have been trying to predict how far higher rates will go when the US and European central banks meet next month.
Wall Street recorded gains for a fourth consecutive week as of Friday thanks to expectations for lower rate increases and indications that American inflation may have peaked.
The Nikkei (.N225) share average in Tokyo increased to its highest level in more than seven months thanks to Wall Street advances and stable GDP data for Japan.
“China, in my opinion, has a unique circumstance compared to the rest of the globe. Because of their zero COVID policy, they have a self-imposed recession “Patrick Armstrong, chief investment officer at the Plurimi Group, said.
“If there is another leg down in the markets, I do believe the Fed will be the driving force. I believe that quantitative tightening will start in earnest in September and that it will drain market liquidity “said Armstrong.
The markets continue to suggest that there is a 50% chance the Fed will raise rates by 75 basis points in September and to a range of 3.50–3.75% by the end of the year.
The Fed will release the minutes from its most recent rate-setting meeting on Wednesday, but investor hopes that they will show the central bank starting to change its stance on rate rises may be crushed.
Armstrong disagreed, saying “I don’t think (Fed Chair) Powell would say that, and I don’t think the minutes will show that.”
The STOXX share index of 600 elite firms in Europe increased by 0.13% to 441.43 points, but it is still down by around 10% for the year.
Following advances the previous week, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were both down about 0.5%.
Target (TGT.N) and Walmart (WMT.N) earnings will be closely examined for indications of waning customer demand.
Chinese blue chips (.CSI300) continued to decline by 0.13% despite the country’s interest rates being slashed, while the yuan and bond yields also decreased.
A delegation of American legislators visiting Taiwan for two days is nevertheless fraught with geopolitical risk.
With the yield curve still firmly inverted, the bond market seems to be skeptical that the Fed can engineer a smooth landing. With a two-year yield of 3.27%, it is significantly higher than the 10-year yield, which was 2.86% at the time.
The U.S. dollar has been supported by these yields, despite falling 0.8% last week against a basket of currencies as risk sentiment increased.
However, the dollar found its footing on Monday as the euro declined 0.2% to $1.02345 against the dollar after rising 0.8% the previous week. The dollar held steady at 133.51 yen after declining 1% the previous week.
According to Capital Economics senior economist Jonas Goltermann, “our belief remains that the dollar rally will continue sooner rather than later.”
Gold fell 0.8% to $1,786, giving up almost all of its 1% gains from the previous week.
As concerns about the world’s fuel consumption increased as a result of China’s poor results, oil prices decreased.
Saudi Aramco’s CEO said the company was prepared to increase output once many offshore sites in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico resume production following a brief outage last week. Saudi Aramco is the top exporter in the world.
While U.S. crude slid 1.9% to $90.34 per barrel, Brent dropped 1.8% to $96.35.
China State-Owned Giants May Delist From US Exchanges
Five of China’s largest state-owned corporations want to delist from US exchanges as the two countries struggle to agree on auditing Chinese businesses.
China Life Insurance Co., PetroChina Co., and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. announced their delisting intentions Friday, together with Aluminum Corp. of China and Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co.
The US and China have been at conflict for 20 years over American inspectors’ access to Chinese company audit work files. Negotiators haven’t reached a deal despite a 2024 deadline to shut down noncompliant enterprises. Mainland China and Hong Kong are the only two jurisdictions that don’t allow PCAOB inspections, citing security and confidentiality concerns.
As US and Chinese officials struggle to achieve a settlement, speculation mounts that sensitive Chinese companies could leave US markets willingly.
“These state-owned firms are in vital areas and may have access to information foreign regulators don’t,” said Saxo Markets strategist Redmond Wong.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission said the delisting plans were business-related.
Bloomberg Intelligence projected in May that 300 Chinese and Hong Kong companies worth $2.4 trillion risk being removed off US exchanges as the SEC raises scrutiny. China Life, PetroChina, China Petroleum & Chemical, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., and Baidu Inc.
Uncertain if delisting will improve discussions on audit inspections, a US regulatory requirement aimed to safeguard investors from accounting frauds and other financial wrongdoing. The 2024 deadline comes from a popular 2020 bill, the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act.
PCAOB Chair Erica Williams said a voluntarily delisting may not stop the board from reviewing audit work papers. The PCAOB’s jurisdiction to investigate was retrospective, so the watchdog could still require work files from departing corporations, Williams noted.
If a corporation or issuer delists this year, it doesn’t matter to Williams because he wants to know if they committed fraud last year.
Alibaba joined a growing list of corporations that could be booted off American exchanges on July 29.
Alibaba stated in July it was seeking a Hong Kong main listing, joining Bilibili and Zai Lab. The switch might help corporations attract more Chinese investors and provide a model for US-listed Chinese enterprises facing delisting.
Alibaba stated in August it would aim to keep its NYSE and HKE listings.
Alibaba, Pinduoduo, JD.com, China Life, and Sinopec sank 3% in US pre-market trade. PetroChina lost 1% and Kraneshares CSI China Internet Fund ETF sank 1.8%.
China considers eight companies listed on major US exchanges to be “national-level Chinese state-owned enterprises,” according to a congressional investigation. China Southern Airlines Co., Huaneng Power International Inc., Aluminum Corp. of China, China Eastern Airlines Corp., and Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical.
Delistings will have little impact on the companies because their New York shares are thinly traded, but they highlight rising US-China tensions, said Bloomberg Intelligence strategist Marvin Chen.
Relations between the superpowers have been tight following Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan provoked Chinese military drills near the island.
Congress may speed up the delisting deadline to 2023, adding pressure for the two parties to achieve a compromise.
The PCAOB chair declined to set a deadline for reaching a deal with Chinese officials, but said it must be soon.
China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp., and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. were delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in January 2018 after President Trump banned investment in Chinese enterprises with military ties. Huaneng Power International plans to delist owing to poor volume and administrative complexity and costs.
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