Economist 1/27/16

  1. APPLE posted the largest quarterly earnings of any company, ever, yesterday. It made $18.4 billion in profit in the three months to December 26th 2015, beating the record it set a year earlier by a few hundred million dollars.Thanks to turmoil in emerging markets, chiefly in China, where it makes a quarter of its sales, quarterly revenue is expected to fall by about 11% year-on-year. That would mark the end of a remarkable run for Apple—51 quarters of consecutive year-on-year revenue growth—just as it nears completion on its $5 billion new HQ.Apple’s fortunes are dominated by the iPhone, from which it earns around two-thirds of its revenues. Over the past ten years the company has sold 900m iPhones, compared to: 350m iPods, 300m iPads and 140m Macs. The much-hyped smartwatch has sold perhaps 12m-15m units since it was launched in April, earning around $4 billion in revenue. Nevertheless, Apple can now boast a new landmark: one billion active devices over the past 90 days
  2. Didi Kuaidi was forged last year by the merger of rival taxi-hailing apps controlled by Alibaba and Tencent, two Chinese internet giants. It now dominates China’s online market for personal transport. Last year it arranged 1.4 billion rides in China, more than Uber has done worldwide in its history. It has perhaps two-thirds of the market for private-car service (the source of most of its revenues) and provides a taxi-hailing service in several hundred cities.It has also forged alliances with, and invested in, Uber’s rivals elsewhere: GrabTaxi in South-East Asia, Ola in India and Lyft in America. Jean Liu, Didi’s president and a former Goldman Sachs dealmaker, helped Didi raise $3 billion to take on Uber.A growing number of Didi’s drivers want to buy a new car, and many have a steady income thanks to the app, but often lack formal credit. Didi and CMB will start offering car loans—first to drivers, but in future perhaps to passengers as well.
  3. UNDER European Union law, companies are prohibited from sending EU citizens’ private information abroad to a country that does not meet European standards. According to a ruling in October 2015 by the European Court of Justice, the EU’s top judicial body, America does not meet those standards, largely because of the intrusiveness of its National Security Agency (NSA). That ruling ended the 15-year-old “Safe Harbour” agreement, which had enabled American firms to move data around easily.
  4. Today more than 4.5m students are enrolled in colleges and universities outside their own countries.Australia is the leader: a quarter of its tertiary students come from abroad, a bigger share than in any other country. Education is now its biggest export, after natural resources. For a while the influx of brainy foreigners was slowed by an overvalued currency and the reputational damage from the collapse of some badly run private colleges.Canada, until recently an also-ran, now emulates Oz. In 2014 it set a goal of almost doubling the number of foreign students by 2022. It has streamlined visa applications and given international students the right to stay and work for up to three years after graduating.
  5. America, by contrast, is horribly complacent. In absolute terms, it attracts the most foreign students, thanks to its size, its outstanding universities and the lure of Silicon Valley and other brainworking hotspots. But it punches far below its weight: only 5% of the students on its campuses are foreign. Its visa rules are needlessly strict and stress keeping out terrorists rather than wooing talent.Britain is even more reckless. It, too, has the huge advantages of famous universities and the English language. But its government has pledged to reduce net immigration to 100,000 people a year, and to this end it is squeezing students. Applying for a student visa has grown slower and costlier. Working part-time to pay fees is harder. And foreign students no longer have the right to stay and work for two years after graduation.

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