Planet Business

This week: ‘Kardashian bonds’, analogue loyalty and gun-toting caffeine addicts


Image of the week: Greenpeace – The Gazprom Years
Not for the first time, it’s Greenpeace vs Gazprom, as an activist from the international environmental organisation scales the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Arctic in a bid to prevent the project’s owner, Russian oil monopoly Gazprom, from drilling in the Pechora Sea.

This marks Russia’s first effort to extract oil from the Barents Sea and keep its oil-and-gas party going, and production is scheduled to begin at the end of the year, but Greenpeace says the operations threaten a unique and fragile environment. The Russian coast guard didn’t take kindly to its intervention, sending out 11 warning shots and then arresting two activists who boarded the rig.
Photograph: Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace/Handout/Reuters

In numbers: Left to our old devices
Percentage of Irish households who own and
regularly use a VHS player, according to a survey by Amárach. The research was commissioned by retailer Argos, which pejoratively, if accurately, referred to video players and analogue radios as “devices of yesterday”.

Percentage rise in vinyl sales in the UK last year – a fifth consecutive year of growth for the vintage format. Research by ICM identified 18 to 24-year-olds as the ones who have started putting the needle on.

Number of music shops listed as having participated in the inaugural International Cassette Store Day earlier this month. The event prompted Time Out to declare that while cassettes may be dead as a format, they’re not quite as dead as minidiscs.

Getting to know: Joanna Shields
The former Google executive, Bebo chief executive and managing director of Facebook for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is now the chief executive of Tech City in London, a British government initiative for expanding Silicon Roundabout, the metonym for its digital sector.

Shields (51) is naturally a big believer in tech- fuelled entrepreneurship, as she outlined in a speech in London this week. “Tech City is the epicentre of a movement that has swept not just the capital but the whole country,” the US-born businesswoman insisted.

As Shields said when she took up the post late last year, London “should not be a stepchild to other cities”. In case you’re wondering, the number of days of maternity leave she took after her son was born was five.

The lexicon: Kardashian bonds
In tribute to US reality television’s finest family of Armenian descent – you know, Kim, Khloé and, er, the other Kardashians, right? – Armenia is now selling something called Kardashian bonds. Well, not quite.

Armenia has issued some dollar-denominated bonds. But such foreign currency-denominated offers, or “frontier bonds”, generally attract nicknames in the investment community, with such stunningly clever examples being Australia’s “kangaroo bonds” and Japan’s “samurai bonds”.

For Armenia, everyone had to try a bit harder, and Standard Bank emerging markets analyst Tim Ash was the winner, coining the term “Kardashian bonds” in a note to clients earlier this month. It’s so hard keeping up with the complex world of international finance these days. But in other news, Kim Kardashian has dyed her hair blonde.

The list: Welcome to Starbucks
The coffee chain has very politely asked customers of its 7,000 company-operated US outlets to leave their guns at home. Up to now, it deferred to whatever “open carry” regulations were in force in each state – a stance that encouraged pro-gun advocates to show up armed at its cafes for “Starbucks Appreciation Days”. So, no openly carried firearms then, but what might you find in Starbucks these days?
1 Things that aren’t coffee: In 2011, the chain dropped the words “Starbucks Coffee” from its logo, so as not to exclude the iced chai tea latte constituency.
2 Warmed pastries: Starbucks is on the cusp of a major food revamp, beginning with the introduction of heated-up pastries in some US city outlets.
3 Lunch: Subway is eating Starbucks. Now it wants to compete, so new sandwiches, wraps and salads are destined for its counters.
4 Google: The chain recently decided to dump AT&T wifi from its US stores in favour of a partnership with Google. A “speedier internet” is promised.
5 Concealed weapons: Gun-owners have this week left comments underneath Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz’s open letter to customers in which they cannily note that he doesn’t say anything about firearms hidden on their person. Keep calm and carry concealed.

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