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Asia’s trade at a turning point

Policymakers in Asia are rightly focused on the potential reconfiguration of global supply chains, given the implications these shifts may have for the…

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By Sebastian Eckardt, Jun Ge, Hassan Zaman

Policymakers in Asia are rightly focused on the potential reconfiguration of global supply chains, given the implications these shifts may have for the development of their export-oriented and highly open economies. While the focus on potential shifts on the supply side of the global and regional trading system is well-justified, equally dramatic shifts on the demand side deserve as much attention. This blog provides evidence of the growing role of final demand originating from within emerging Asia and draws policy implications for the further evolution of trade integration in the region.

Trade has been a major driver of development in East Asia with Korea and Japan reaching high-income status through export-driven development strategies. Emerging economies in East Asia, today account for 17 percent of global trade in goods and services. With an average trade-to-GDP ratio of 105 percent, these emerging economies in East Asia trade a higher share of the goods and services they produce across borders than emerging economies in Latin America (73.2 percent), South Asia (61.4 percent), and Africa (73.0 percent). Only EU member states (138.0 percent), which are known to be the most deeply integrated regional trade bloc in the world, trade more. Alongside emerging East Asia’s rise in global trade, intra-regional trade—trade among economies in emerging East Asia—has expanded dramatically over the past two decades. In fact, the rise of intra-regional trade accounted for a bit more than half of total export growth in emerging East Asia in the last decade, while exports to the EU, Japan, and the United States accounted for about 30 percent, a pattern that was briefly disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis. In 2021, intra-regional trade made up about 40 percent of the region’s total trade, the highest share since 1990.

Drivers of intra-regional trade in East Asia are shifting 

Initially, much of East Asia’s intra-regional trade integration was driven by rapidly growing intra-industry trade, which in turn reflected the spread of cross-border global value chains with greater vertical specialization and geographical dispersion of production processes across the region. This led to a sharp rise in trade in intermediate goods among economies among emerging economies in Asia, while the EU, Japan, and the United States remained the main export markets for final goods. Think semiconductors and other computer parts being traded from high-wage economies, like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, China for final assembly to lower-wage economies, initially Malaysia and China and more recently Vietnam, with final products like TV sets, computers, and cell phones being shipped to consumers in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

The sources of global demand have been shifting. Intra-regional trade no longer primarily reflects shifts in production patterns but is increasingly underpinned by changes in the sources of demand for exports of final goods. With rapid income and population growth, domestic demand growth in emerging East Asia has been strong in recent years, expanding by an average of 6.4 percent, annually over the past ten years, exceeding both the average GDP and trade growth during that period. China is now not only the largest trading partner of most countries in the region but also the largest source of final demand for the region, recently surpassing the U.S. and the EU. Export value-added absorbed by final demand in China climbed up from 1.6 percent of the region’s GDP in 2000 to 5.4 of GDP in 2021. At the same time, final demand from the other emerging economies in East Asia has also been on the rise, expanding from around 3 percent of GDP in 2000 to above 3.5 percent of GDP in 2021. While only about 12 cents of every $1 of export value generated by emerging economies in Asia in 2000 ultimately met consumer or investment demand within the region, today more than 30 cents meet final demand originating within emerging East Asia.

Figure 1. Destined for Asia

Source: OECD Inter-Country Input-Output (ICIO) Tables, staff estimates. Note: East Asia: EM (excl. China) refers to Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

These shifting trade patterns reflect dramatic shifts in the geography and makeup of the global consumer market. Emerging East Asia’s middle class has been rising fast from 834.2 million people in 2016 to roughly 1.1 billion in 2022. Today more than half of the population—54.5 percent to be precise—has joined the ranks of the global consumer class, with daily consumer spending of $12 per day or more. According to this definition, East Asia accounted for 29.0 percent of the global consumer-class population by 2022, and by 2030 one in three members of the world’s middle class is expected to be East Asian. Meanwhile, the share of the U.S. and the EU in the global consumer class is expected to decline from 19.2 percent to 15.8 percent. If we look at consumer-class spending, emerging East Asia is expected to become home to the largest consumer market sometime in this decade, according to projections, made by Homi Kharas of the Brookings Institution and others, shown in the figure below.

Figure 2. Reshaping the geography of the global consumer market

Figure 2

Source: World Bank staff estimates using World Data Pro!, based on various household surveys. Note: Middle-class is defined as spending more than $12 (PPP adjusted) per day. Emerging East Asia countries included in the calculation refer to Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and China.

Intraregional economic integration could act as a buffer against global uncertainties  

Emerging economies in Asia are known to be the factories of the world. They play an equally important role as rapidly expanding consumer markets which are already starting to shape the next wave of intra-regional and global trade flows. Policymakers in the region should heed this trend. Domestically, policies to support jobs and household income could help bolster the role of private consumption in the steady state in some countries, mainly China, and during shocks in all countries. Externally, policies to lower barriers to regional trade could foster deeper regional integration. While average tariffs have declined and are low for most goods, various non-tariff barriers remain significant and cross-border trade in services, including in digital services remains particularly cumbersome. Multilateral trade agreements, such as ASEAN, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) offer opportunities to address these remaining constraints. Stronger intraregional trade and economic integration can help diversify not just supply chains but also sources of demand, acting as a buffer against uncertainties in global trade and growth.

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

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With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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