Japan warns about risks to economy as outbreak toll mounts

Chinese tourists wearing protective face masks wait to board a Tokyo train. Japanese exporters are worried the virus outbreak will hit earnings. (AP)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Japan warns about risks to economy as outbreak toll mounts

  • China is Japan’s second-largest export destination

TOKYO: Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura on Tuesday warned that corporate profits and factory production might take a hit from the coronavirus outbreak in China that has rattled global markets and chilled confidence.

Asian stocks extended a global selloff as the outbreak in China, which has killed 106 people and spread to many countries, fueled concern over the damage to the world’s second-largest economy — an engine of global growth.

“There are concerns over the impact to the global economy from the spread of infection in China, transportation disruptions, cancelation of group tours from China and an extention in the lunar holiday,” Nishimura said.

“If the situation takes longer to subside, we’re worried it could hurt Japanese exports, output and corporate profits via the impact on Chinese consumption and production.”

China is Japan’s second-largest export destination and a huge market for its retailers. The Chinese make up 30 percent of all tourists visiting Japan and spent nearly 40 percent of the total sum foreign tourists used last year, an industry survey showed.

The outbreak could hit Japanese retailers and hotels, which count on a boost to sales from an inflow of Chinese tourists visiting during the lunar holiday.

Automaker Honda Motor, which has three plants in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, plans to evacuate some staff. Economists at SMBC Nikko Securities estimate that if a ban China has imposed on overseas group tours lasts another six months, it could hurt Japan’s economic growth by 0.05 percent.

Some expect the potential damage could be much worse.

Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said the decline in tourists from China could hurt Japan’s GDP growth by up to 0.2 percent.

“The biggest worry is the risk the negative impact from the outbreak persists and hits (the economy) during the Tokyo Olympic Games,” when a huge number of Chinese tourists are expected to visit Japan, he said.


Saudi fund shells out to help US cellular seafood pioneer

Updated 27 February 2020

Saudi fund shells out to help US cellular seafood pioneer

  • KBW Ventures joins ‘visionary’ $20m backing for San Diego food innovator

JEDDAH: A California innovative food company that produces seafood directly from fish cells is stepping up expansion plans with backing from “visionary investors” including KBW Ventures, the Saudi investment fund founded by Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal.

BlueNalu, based in San Diego, on Wednesday announced the completion of its $20 million Series A round of funding.

The financing will allow the company to develop a pilot production facility in San Diego, expand its worldwide staff, implement strategic alliances for global operations and prepare for its market launch.

The Series A round is co-led by Stray Dog Capital, CPT Capital, New Crop Capital and Clear Current Capital, each of which took part in BlueNalu’s seed round. The company secured $4.5 million in 2018 and has attracted investors from 11 nations so far, demonstrating global interest in the firm’s potential.

New investors include KBW Ventures, which supports innovative companies, such as BlueNalu, that have potential for growth and can sustainably feed the world.

BlueNalu’s A round attracted a significant number of strategic investors offering expertise and infrastructure in supply chain, operations, sales, marketing and distribution.

Strategic investors include global supply chain leaders that will provide guidance and raw material expertise to BlueNalu. These include Nutreco, a global leader in animal nutrition and aquafeed, and Griffith Foods, a global product development partner to the food industry, with expertise in market insights, food science, culinary and sensory optimization.

Strategic investors also include organizations with expertise in operations, sales, and distribution, including Pulmuone, a leader in healthy lifestyle and sustainable food products with distribution in Asia and North America; Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, a global investor and supplier of goods and services, including foods; Rich Products Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Rich Products Corporation, a leading supplier of icings, cakes, pizza, desserts, appetizers and bakery products.

FASTFACTS

• BlueNalu announced the completion of its $20 million Series A round of funding.

• The financing will allow the company to develop a pilot production facility in San Diego, expand its worldwide staff, implement strategic alliances for global operations and prepare for its market launch.

• The company secured $4.5 million in 2018 and has attracted investors from 11 nations so far, demonstrating global interest in the firm’s potential.

“BlueNalu has made considerable progress toward bringing cell-based seafood products to the world,” said Lou Cooperhouse, the company’s president and CEO.

“We have designed and executed a platform technology in which we will ultimately offer a broad array of sustainable cell-based seafood products to consumers, and our team has been extremely focused on implementing systems and processes that will be needed for cost-effective, large-scale production.

“We are thankful to the committed group of visionaries who participated in our earlier financing round and have invested again in this round, and we are eager to form partnerships with these five strategic investors, so that we can launch our cell-based seafood products in nations around the world,” he added.

“BlueNalu has demonstrated global leadership in cell-based seafood, and has the team, expertise, strategy and networks that are key to its success,” said Chuck Laue, co-founder and chair of Stray Dog Capital.

“As global demand for seafood continues to increase, and our supply continues to be compromised, we are excited at the potential for BlueNalu to play a significant role in feeding the planet in the decades to come.”

“BlueNalu has achieved a number of milestones in a short period of time, and we are proud to have backed this company since its origins,” said Chris Kerr, chief investment officer of New Crop Capital.

“We have seen extremely rapid global growth in plant-based foods, and BlueNalu is clearly at the forefront of this next generation of alternative proteins that many are predicting will have considerable growth and significant market penetration in the coming years.

“BlueNalu will offer a sustainable solution to consumers, free of mercury and environmental contaminants that will support the health, sustainability and biodiversity of our ocean. This is clearly a win-win-win for human health, sea life and for our planet,” he said.