Customs duties in US, UK and other developed economies less than half of the global average – benefitting consumers...

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  • Relatively low import tariffs help keep goods costs down
  • Free Trade Agreements an increasingly critical policy area

 

Consumers in the US, UK and other developed economies benefit from customs duty rates around half the global average, saving them significant amounts of money according to a new study by UHY, the international accounting and consultancy network. 

UHY found that customs duties in the G7 are, on average, just 0.8% of the total value of imported goods. The global average is 1.8% of the total value of imported goods*.

This means that consumers in the G7 typically pay comparatively lower prices for goods than consumers in many other parts of the world – including many emerging economies – where costs are pushed up by higher import taxes.

UHY studied customs duties levied by 22 economies around the world as a percentage of the total value of their imports, as a simple indicator of the impact of a country’s trade barriers.

In the US, where protectionism has been rising up the political agenda, raising the possibility that higher import duties may be levied, customs duties are currently worth just 1.3% of the value of imported goods. This compares to 1.8% in China.

In the UK, where Brexit is also creating uncertainty over the future of UK trade deals, customs duties are currently even lower, worth just 0.5% of the value of imports.

European countries generally impose comparatively low rates – the European average is 0.4% – so British consumers could be at a significant disadvantage if the UK fails to keep duties at a similar level on leaving the EU.

UHY points out that many regional trade blocs – and in particular the EU – help to keep import tariffs low. Given the size of UK/European trade, this highlights the importance of securing low or no customs duties post-Brexit for both the UK and the EU.

Other multi-lateral trade agreements are also under pressure. For example, the US has signalled it wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has abandoned the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), throwing the future of both into doubt.

Bernard Fay, Chairman of UHY, comments: “Customs duties can be a major burden on consumers and significantly distort an economy.”

“Globalisation and protectionism are powerful forces at play. While talk of securing national interests may be gaining traction, the question of how citizens will respond to higher trade tariffs is yet to be tested.”

“Such policies could end up having an adverse impact on the industries governments are trying to protect, potentially undermining efforts to stimulate competitiveness or drive innovation.”

Eric Hananel, Tax Principal at UHY’s US member firm UHY Advisors, says: “Motivations to adopt a protectionist stance to safeguard jobs and nurture home-grown industry can be very compelling. However, there is often a price to pay through higher costs of goods. Lower income consumers tend to be worst affected.”

“The US has historically been a strong champion of free trade deals, but there’s now real uncertainty over America’s future participation. Given that we are talking about the world’s biggest economy, this is a highly significant global issue.”

Bangladesh has the highest customs duties as a proportion of total imports of any country in the study at 12.1%.

Of the major emerging economies, Brazil also imposes relatively high rates, with duties worth 7.6% of the total value of its imports. The Brazilian government is currently seeking to protect specific products and industries from foreign imports by increasing customs duties, for example in the cosmetics sector.

FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS, AN INCREASINGLY CRITICAL POLICY AREA

Bernard Fay adds: “Free Trade Agreements are becoming an increasing critical – as well as contentious – policy area.”

“As protectionist moves on the part of some governments are putting some Free Trade Agreements under review, other countries are embracing them with as much enthusiasm as ever, if not more.”

For example, earlier this year, Canada entered into formal free trade negotiations with Mercosur, the South American trading bloc and also launched a consultation period on a possible deal with China. Its plans for a free trade deal with the EU have recently been approved by the European Parliament.

Koko Yamamoto of UHY’s Canadian member firm McGovern Hurley LLP says: “Canada has a wide array of free trade deals in place and is actively pursuing several more with potential partners around the world. These initiatives, along with tariff-reduction measures introduced in the recent Budget, should strengthen the competitiveness of Canadian manufacturers both at home and abroad.”

Canada’s 2017 Budget eliminates tariffs on a broad range of agri-food processing ingredients and introduces changes to origin rules to allow more clothing products imported from low income countries to benefit from duty-free treatment.

Roy Maugham, Partner at UHY’s UK member firm UHY Hacker Young says: “For a post-Brexit UK, the continued appetite on the part of many countries for mutually beneficial trade deals represents a huge opportunity, but also poses a threat.”

“While a favourable attitude from some potential partners might make it easier for the British government to strike deals outside of the EU, there’s also a risk that if it fails to do so, it could be left far behind.”

AMOUNT OF CUSTOMS DUTIES COLLECTED AS A PERCENTAGE OF THE VALUE OF TOTAL IMPORTS

*Based on World Bank data – 2015, most recent available year

**Russian Federation Federal Statistics Service, 2015

Notes for Editors

UHY press contact: Dominique Maeremans on +44 20 7767 2621

Email: d.maeremans@uhy.comwww.uhy.com

Nick Mattison or Peter Kurilecz

Mattison Public Relations

+44 20 7645 3636, +44 7860 657 540 or email peter.kurilecz@mattison.co.uk

About UHY

Established in 1986 and based in London, UK, UHY is a leading network of independent audit, accounting, tax and consulting firms with offices in over 325 major business centres across more than 95 countries.

Our staff members, over 7,850 strong, are proud to be part of the 16th largest international accounting and consultancy network. Each member of UHY is a legally separate and independent firm. For further information on UHY please go to www.uhy.com.

UHY is a member of the Forum of Firms, an association of international networks of accounting firms. For additional information on the Forum of Firms, visit www.forumoffirms.org

Smart Buildings Reach for the Skies...

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They are efficient, connected and cool – and construction is booming.

Ask somebody what constitutes a ‘smart home’ and they might talk about a central heating system controlled remotely by an application on a mobile phone, or a fridge that texts its owners to warn about milk approaching its ‘use by’ date.

While both of those are examples of smart home technology, they barely scratch the surface of what a smart home can entail. A universally accepted definition of the term is hard to pin down, but it is commonly understood that a smart home, as opposed to a home with one or two pieces of smart technology, is a building that utilises an ecosystem of connected devices to automate a wide range of domestic activities.

Smart TVs, speaker systems and thermostats are in the vanguard of the smart technology movement. For example, many consumers have invested in wifi-enabled heating systems that can be controlled remotely via mobile app, allowing them to turn the heating on at home when they leave the office.

A GROWING MARKET

But these are small beginnings for a market that Transparency Market Research predicts will grow to USD 21 billion in 2020 (USD 4.4 billion in 2013). To meet that target, the piecemeal adoption of individual smart home technologies will be replaced by a more systematic approach that brings automation to every aspect of home life, from entertainment and security to sustainability and comfort. Increasingly, homes will be designed and built with these smart features in mind.

David J Burns, MBE, director of UHY Saxena, UHY’s member firm in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), says that the process is already underway in Dubai and other UAE cities. The UAE smart home market is expected to grow by nearly 15% annually between 2016 and 2022.

“In Dubai, a smart home means automation of everything and control of the technology by mobile phone,” says David. “The Internet of Things (IoT) is developing at a rapid rate and nowhere more so than in Dubai. We are a hotspot here for smart home building because homes tend to be built new rather than retro-fitted, meaning smart home technology can be designed into buildings at the planning stage.”

Sean Heckford, chairman of the Middle East chapter of CoreNet Global, the association of corporate real estate professionals, identifies two main drivers behind the increasing ubiquity of smart home technology in the UAE. “Smart home solutions connected to the IoT are constantly being presented to differentiate one high-end development from another,” he says. “There is a very prevalent snobbery when it comes to gadgetry in the UAE. It is an affluent place and there is always a need to be first, biggest and best.”

But while comfort, convenience and a desire to appear more technologically savvy than your neighbours are partly pushing smart home construction, Sean thinks that another factor is even more important. “The UAE has a smart approach to buildings in general, primarily because of the correlation between smart and sustainability,” he says. “Many sustainability initiatives have been launched in Dubai over the past decade, the most recent of which being the Smart Dubai initiative. Residential developers are actively encouraged to comply with its guidelines.”

POINTS OF DIFFERENCE

The sheer quantity of new construction in the UAE makes it something of a test bed for smart home technology, and the patterns emerging in Dubai are likely to be repeated around the world. The piecemeal installation of individual smart home technologies by consumers is increasingly being matched by the systematic construction of smart homes, hotels and offices, driven by building companies wanting to add points of difference to high-end developments and governments pushing sustainability agendas.

That pattern is also discernible in the United States, another hotspot for smart home technology. In 2017, American consumers will buy more smart home systems than anybody else, and the US is also home to companies that increasingly push the boundaries of what a smart home can mean.

One such company is Fluxus, a client of UHY LLP in New York. Fluxus has created a prefabricated housing system uniquely designed to be sustainable in its production, construction and use. As one example of that, Fluxus uses just nine advanced and standardised components, each performing multiple functions.

“In the Fluxus System, passive building design principles are implemented to minimise energy use, collect renewable energy and sustainably manage water and waste,” says Fanyu Lin, Fluxus’ chief executive officer. Fluxus housing is the opposite of high-end, consumer driven smart home developments, and current target markets include post-disaster and conflict housing, affordable housing for the regeneration of failing neighbourhoods, and student housing.

But it is smart nevertheless. Fluxus housing, customised for local conditions and aesthetics, can be implemented quickly and cheaply, using advanced cloud-based computerised systems for the streamlined planning, design, construction and management of projects. The Fluxus System is also designed to smoothly incorporate other smart home technologies from the outset. “It can build homes with smart home devices, appliances, technology and infrastructure that can readily sense, understand, respond to and gradually anticipate users’ needs,” says Fanyu. She adds that the system allows for the easy incorporation of sensors that monitor and adjust heating, lighting, ventilation, water consumption and security settings.

Fluxus is an emerging company and has the support of UHY LLP. “UHY LLP in New York is playing an instrumental role in the success of Fluxus as our consultant, helping with business development, financial planning and public relations,” says Fanyu. “They provide significant value-added services and help in the successful process of establishing our company via leveraging of experiences, resources, and partnership opportunities.”

PUBLIC SUPPORT

With UHY LLP’s help, Fluxus is in a position to benefit from the opportunities that the smart building boom affords. The smart home markets in Dubai and New York are clearly different, but are following a similar path. In both the US and UAE consumers are driving the uptake of gadgetry that controls entertainment systems, appliances and heating, while technology that delivers more sustainable housing is being actively encouraged by local and national authorities.

In Singapore, another smart home hotspot, this status is being driven largely by consumers demanding connected entertainment and security systems. Kelvin Lee, partner at UHY Lee Seng Chan & Co in Singapore, says, “According to our technology experts here, government incentives have made little difference to the take up of smart home technology.”

This contrasts strongly with New York, where Fluxus pilot projects and others are being supported by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which offers tax benefits, access to financing, and assistance with the formation of strategic partnerships.

In many countries, authorities and companies are simultaneously realising that smart buildings offer long term economic benefits too. A boom in smart hotel construction in Spain is being driven by a post-financial crisis desire to cut operating costs, alongside consumer preference and government incentives.

“Without any doubt, ecology and sustainability are now on top of every agenda, as part of the social corporate responsibility strategy of companies,” says Miriam López Jadraque, national marketing director for the Spanish UHY member firm, UHY Fay & Co.

“It is clear that new norms and rules will promote sustainable developments and that hotels choose this route because, in the end, it has positive economic effects. Sustainable hotels can make major savings in water consumption and electricity use amongst others, but also gain competitive advantage. They fulfil the public demand for products manufactured or provided by companies that are socially responsible.”

SUSTAINABLE ADVANTAGE

UHY Fay & Co provides accountancy services for the Fuerte Hotels group, a leader in the sustainable tourism market. All the group’s new hotels are built using bio-climatic design principles, which take advantage of natural resources to reduce environmental impact. One example among many is the positioning of hotels to make the best use of natural light, significantly reducing power consumption.

New Fuerte hotels are also fitted with what the company calls ‘the robot’. According to José Luque, general manager of Fuerte Hotels group, “this is a cutting-edge software system that controls all water and energy consumed anywhere in the hotel. Thanks to this system, we can find out about energy demand levels at any given time and adjust parameters to improve efficiency.”

Like others in the business of smart buildings, José believes smart hotels offer a series of benefits. They help companies cut costs, and local and national governments meet carbon reduction targets. At the same time, they are attracting a new generation of tourists who want comfort and style but at minimal environmental cost.

“As long as the building sector is in good health there will be plenty of opportunities for the growth of smart buildings,” concludes Miriam López Jadraque. “There is a clear return on investment and those left behind risk losing competitive advantage.”

And that is perhaps the secret of the smart building boom, and one that suggests it is here to stay – driven by a perfect storm of powerful forces from technology-obsessed consumers and environmentally aware tourists, to companies and governments with long-term financial and ecological targets to meet.

For more information about UHY’s capabilities, email the UHY executive office, info@uhy.com or visit www.uhy.com.

Notes for Editors

UHY press contact: Dominique Maeremans on +44 20 7767 2621

Email: d.maeremans@uhy.comwww.uhy.com

Is the Future Alternative?...

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In 2016, Costa Rica ran for an unbroken period of more than two months on renewable energy alone – the second year in a row the country had achieved this feat. In May 2016, Portugal powered itself for four-and-a-half consecutive days without fossil fuels. In both countries, the lights stayed defiantly on.

Predictably, there is some dispute about what all this means. Sceptics argue that Costa Rica is a small country with an economy that relies far more on agriculture and tourism than power-hungry industry, and is hardly representative of global energy requirements. Portugal, they add, just got lucky with the weather.

A GLOBAL SURGE

While there is truth in both arguments, these achievements have been widely celebrated as the most tangible results to date of a period of record global investment in alternative energy sources.

Renewable energy can no longer be considered a fringe interest, by either policy makers or investors. According to the latest REN21 Renewables Global Status Report, 2015 saw the largest increase in renewable energy production capacity ever, with an estimated 147 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity added globally. And that despite an unfavourable market. “What is truly remarkable about these results is that they were achieved at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows, and renewables remained at a significant disadvantage in terms of government subsidies,” says Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21.

Renewable energy provided an estimated 19.2% of global final energy consumption in 2014, with wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass energy making up the vast majority of that total. But some countries are running way ahead of the curve. In Costa Rica, Portugal and elsewhere, renewable energy has become a major contributor to national economic wellbeing, rather than simply a way to meet environmental targets.

“The importance of alternative energy to the national economy is huge,” says Omar Pérez Rosales, managing partner of UHY’s member firm in Costa Rica, UHY Auditores & Consultores S.A. “In Costa Rica, 96.9% of energy generation is from clean energy. And that figure will grow, because the interconnection between the countries of Central America encourages them to sell electricity between them.”

LATIN AMERICA LEADS THE WAY

Uruguay is another Latin American country that sees renewable energy as an economic opportunity rather than a burden. The renewable sector has exploited a supportive regulatory framework and the country’s favourable geography and climate to run ahead of the pack. In 2015, 92% of Uruguay’s power generation was derived from renewable energy.

“Uruguay stands out as the developing economy with the most favourable framework for investment in clean energy,” says Hugo Gubba, managing partner, UHY Gubba & Asociados, Montevideo, Uruguay. “Investment law promotes clean energy, allowing industries that invest in renewable energy to finance up to 80% of that investment through taxation exemptions.”

The country is reaping the rewards of that support. Once a net importer of electricity, with a domestic capacity that could not meet demand at peak times, Uruguay is now a net exporter, selling its surplus mainly to Argentina. A new interconnection with Brazil will provide opportunities to supply electricity to the world’s ninth largest economy. Uruguay’s renewable energy supply is diverse, with the country generating power from wind, solar, hydro and biomass sources. This has created a range of opportunities for professional services companies like UHY Gubba & Asociados.

“We work specifically with clients in the wind energy sector, and they receive the very best advice and guidance in financial and tax planning, business advisory and audit services,” says Hugo. The advance of the renewables sector presents the company with the challenge of widening its specialist knowledge. “We must continue to specialise in renewable energy projects and we are working hard to acquire unique expertise in the industry.”

Around the globe, UHY member firms are doing the same, in recognition of alternative energy’s growing importance. The renewable energy companies and projects served by UHY’s global network are hugely diverse. In Canada, for example, UHY McGovern Hurley LLP in Toronto provides special audit services for the Smart Grid Fund Project, a government

scheme to support electricity grids in Ontario which is building one of the most advanced electricity grids in the world, with the aim of reducing energy use. The government supports various research projects, and UHY McGovern Hurley LLP audits the activities of recipients, helping to ensure that expenditures are in accordance with government requirements.

In the Philippines, UHY M.L. Aguirre & Co CPAs has several alternative energy clients, reflecting the expansion of the renewables sector in the country. One is the Restored Energy Development Corporation (RED), an innovative company that generates and supplies energy from biomass sources, and specifically rice husks. RED also constructs biomass power plants, and can name several major Filipino and international corporations among its customers. In fact, UHY M.L. Aguirre & Co CPAs has developed something of a speciality in the biomass sector, and also provides services to a Dutch and Filipino joint venture aiming to construct power plants fuelled by bana grass, a unique variety of elephant grass.

SPECIALISED KNOWLEDGE

These kinds of projects are increasingly essential to the wider Filipino economy, helping to provide secure power supplies in rural areas, create jobs for local workers and promote the growth of the country’s SME sector. But Michael L. Aguirre, managing partner at UHY M.L. Aguirre & Co CPAs, believes companies starting out in the sector need to enlist the support of professional service providers with specialised expertise.

“Companies in the alternative energy sector should seek the support of professional service firms that can give them proper guidance as to the fiscal and non-fiscal incentives available,” he says. “They also need proper evaluation of the feasibility of their projects. With RED, for example, the payback period is projected to be a decade or two.”

Compliance with local laws must also be considered, with companies facing a raft of regulations that can differ between countries and even regions. The alternative energy sector is relatively new, and start-ups desperately need knowledgeable support if they are to build solid foundations. That client need creates opportunities for UHY member firms around the world too.

WIND AND SUN

In breezy Northern Europe, UHY’s member firm in Denmark, inforevision A/S, is working with Connected Wind Services, the largest provider of wind turbine repair, maintenance and monitoring services in the region. Inforevision provides merger and acquisition services, drill-down financial analysis, and auditing and accounting services to the company. According to Carlos Christensen, CEO of Connected Wind Services, the company values the personal service they get from inforevision, alongside sector-specific knowledge. “Inforevision has an ability to make us feel like their only customer. There is always time for an urgent analysis, and there is always a thorough understanding of our business and our needs,” he says.

In sunny Italy, meanwhile, the focus is more often on solar energy, and the work of UHY Italy’s audit and assurance firm, UHY Bompani Srl, is evidence of a sector commanding considerable interest and investment. The company has undertaken six due diligences on alternative energy companies in the last five years, reflecting a market that is moving into a new phase of consolidation. UHY Bompani Srl has also worked for Chinese investors looking to sell solar products locally under an Italian brand, which again appears to indicate a sector in good health.

But managing partner Andrea Fantechi believes the picture is more nuanced, at least in Europe.

“In the last ten years, the proportion of alternative energy in total energy consumption in Italy has increased from 15% to 38%, but this growing trend is significantly reducing because of a cut in incentives for building new alternative energy productions plants,” says Andrea. His caution is borne out by the REN21 report, which finds that, while developing countries continue to pour money into the sector, renewable energy investment in developed countries declined by 8% in 2015. The most significant decrease was seen in Europe.

RISKS AHEAD

There is clearly a danger that the renewable energy boom could stall, especially in European countries where worries around Brexit are forcing governments to rethink financial priorities. For all its recent progress, the renewables sector is still heavily reliant on favourable legislation and government incentives. Arthouros Zervos, chairman of REN21, has talked of a sector “barrelling down the tracks, but running on 20th-century infrastructure.”

Nevertheless, nobody denies that the direction of travel for renewable energy is set, even if it faces short-term challenges. In Europe, where those challenges currently appear most acute, the sector needs all the help it can get. That is especially true when considering that many alternative energy companies remain limited in both size and experience.

“Very often, these companies are start-ups – though obviously, there are big players too – that require general help in transforming an entrepreneur’s idea into a solid business,” says Andrea Fantechi. “That means finding investors to finance the project, building business plans, introducing accounting, verifying tax incentives and more.”

The global UHY network is ideally placed to deliver these services, thanks to the increasingly deep pool of sector-specific knowledge that it can draw on and share.

Notes for Editors

UHY press contact: Dominique Maeremans on +44 20 7767 2621

Email: d.maeremans@uhy.comwww.uhy.com

Continental Shift – Doing Business in the New Africa...

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The ‘continent of despair’ or an untapped market eager for new products and services? Africa, it seems, can be both. Making the most of opportunities ahead of competitors is not a question of boldness, but of having an eye for detail beyond the headlines – and an ear for advice.

The continent of Africa has emerged as one of the fastest growing markets in the world, with imports rising around 7% a year for the last two decades. At this rate of growth, African countries could be spending USD 500 billion in the next 20 years. But many African countries still have serious problems – corruption, an informal sector that is often larger than the tax-paying formal sector, and trade deficits resulting from a low level of exports, in turn due to a dearth of larger manufacturers. One of the biggest challenges for any business looking to find partners, suppliers or investors is poor compliance with international standards.

Headline stories have largely focused on falling commodity prices, declining Chinese demand and political instability. Counter that, however, with predictions such as that of Mohammed Dewji, president and CEO of MeTL Group and one of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs. Presenting to the World Economic Forum in January 2017, he advised businesses to look beyond the headlines and tipped 2017 to be the year the continent bounces back.

“Here on the ground, I am seeing something different,” says Mohammed Dewji. “An environment where private-sector-led investment is starting to flourish, in large part thanks to government-led far-reaching economic and political reforms.”

And here lies the secret to understanding the opportunities and risks Africa presents – in a continent of 54 very different countries, “on the ground” is what counts. For any company considering business within an African country, that means access to up-to-date local knowledge and expertise. It is this grassroots information that help businesses tap into the potential and gain advantage over those competitors who look only at the macro level.

RAISING STANDARDS

The message across the continent, however, is that small- to medium-sized enterprises are missing out on contracts and joint enterprises through a lack of compliance. Not only does this make partners and customers wary, but it also blocks access to cheaper financing from foreign investment.

“Joint ventures with foreign companies are few and far between, because local companies tend to fail at the due diligence levels, which makes them high risk,” says Sam Thakkar, managing partner, UHY Thakkar & Associates, Uganda. “All it needs is for SMEs to become more innovative in their approach and they would be in a better position to expand their businesses. They would also open up more opportunities for external investors and customers.”

Uganda is also not alone in recognising non-compliance as a major block to doing business and to economic growth. It is also not alone in seeing the start of change for the better. Among the other African countries now working to raise the bar are Mozambique, Angola, Ghana and Zambia.

DIVERSIFYING FOR THE FUTURE

While Angola has not had a good reputation for compliance and transparency historically, there have been changes, including tax and regulations reform. A newly developed accounting and audit board regulates financial operations and is just one step away from becoming part of the international standards boards.

“Africa continues to be a challenging, yet attractive, place to invest,” says Armando Paredes, managing partner, UHY A Paredes e Associados-Angola Auditores e Consultores, SA, in Angola.

Angola’s economy, he says, is driven by oil and has been hit by mismanagement of its fortune from its heyday and a lack of industry diversification. To remedy this, the government is now pushing for other sources of income, including manufacturing, farming and fishing. The promise is of new opportunities in many underdeveloped sectors, albeit that the high cost of entry and the bureaucracy make it a difficult leap for many businesses.

“For companies looking to move into Angola, the key is to have a plan in place for developing a local workforce and for forging partnerships,” advises Armando. “SMEs need local expertise and that is really our forte – detailed information about the path to follow and the steps in whatever type of partnership a company chooses.”

NEW STABILITY

Years of civil war between the government and the right-wing Renamo militant organisation have certainly not been conducive to doing business safely or successfully in Mozambique. But, says, Carlos Sitoe, managing partner, UHY Sociedade de Ensino e Consultoria (SEC) in Maputo, peace talks could herald a new era for the country.

“Mozambique actually experienced growth of around 8% between 2010 and 2014, but political instability over the last three years has halved our economic growth rate,” says Carlos. “Current talks look promising and could see the economy move into growth again. Peace will create enormous opportunities for inward investments, both from Africa and internationally.”

Carlos sees potential in significant changes to agribusiness in Mozambique, along with the exploitation of oil and gas resources.

“The government is now ensuring people can do business in Mozambique with fewer constraints,” adds Carlos. “And we are playing our part by sharing information and carrying out training so that SMEs can improve their compliance with international standards and regulations.”

MATCHMAKING ‘HEALTHY’ COMPANIES

“Uganda has seen stability now for over 30 years and the country intends to become a powerhouse for East Africa over the next 20 years,” says Sam Thakkar. “There is new thinking on corporate governance, new standards that meet international requirements, and development to help Ugandan companies maximise their involvement.”

Take oil and gas, which is expected to generate USD 25bn over the next seven to ten years. The Ugandan government is encouraging joint ventures, with the stipulation that 48% of each venture must be Ugandan-owned. SMEs in Uganda have just as much a chance of winning the multi-million dollar contracts as anyone else.

“We are already working with international oil companies to see how a professional firm like ours can help both sides ensure compliance. We have taken part in the review of the creation of a National Supplier Database and are talking to venture capitalists, private equity companies and individual investors in the UK, USA and other countries who are desperate to tap into the African markets. We will work with them to see how we can ‘marry’ them to healthy local companies. A similar drive is expected in agri-processing.”

INVESTMENT POTENTIAL

Henry Djangmah, international liaison partner, UHY Voscon Chartered Accountants, Ghana, highlights oil and gas production, healthcare, agriculture, mining, tourism and financial services as some of the sectors with the most to offer business investors.

“The lack of compliance with international standards and regulations by SMEs is an issue in our country however, as this inhibits attraction of finance and external partnerships,” acknowledges Henry. “This issue stems from the fact that firms tend to lack competency in corporate governance.”

Meanwhile, Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture is starting a number of projects to facilitate agriculture and agribusiness, and the government and donors such as the World Bank and the United States are promoting horticulture. There are opportunities too in tourism and leisure, and in what Henry describes as “one of the continent’s brightest prospects” – financial services.

“Our office offers training to our clients’ finance staff, assistance in setting up internal processes and system audits to give them an advantage over their competitors,” he says, adding that these services sit well alongside more specialised corporate advisory services for investors, such as mergers and acquisitions, due diligence and capital formation.

ADDING VALUE

“We see a lot of poor compliance with standards and regulations,” says Kelly Mwansa, tax specialist at UHY AMO Certified Public Accountants in Lusaka, Zambia. “This also links to a lack of working capital and the high cost of interest to acquire it.

“At the same time, there is great potential for businesses that can add value to the copper industry, as well as prospects in agriculture and related areas, and in hydro and solar power generation and distribution.”

The Zambian economy is highly dependent on the price of copper, so economic swings are common here. Zambia’s central location is, however, a major advantage for trade with the rest of the continent, and the Zambian government is working on bilateral trade agreements with neighbouring Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The Zambian government is working hard to create a better environment for business,” says Kelly, “including the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA), incentives for firms investing in the Multi-Facility Economic Zone and PPP development opportunities.”

LOOKING FORWARD

The business landscape has been changing fast, says Mohammed Dewji – the result of increased regional mobility, and rapid urbanisation and population growth, which have boosted demand for African-manufactured products and services.

“Doing business in Africa offers some unique obstacles, but also endless opportunities,” says Henry Djangmah. “With fewer political struggles and economic growth rates now competitive with those of other developing regions, Africa is changing for the better.”

Sam Thakkar agrees. “There are problems everywhere in the world now. The UK and Europe are grappling with Brexit, and the world is adjusting to the new US administration. Putting these issues together, I think many countries in Africa are looking very promising indeed.”

With the public sector facilitating the establishment of Africa’s biggest economic bloc – with the potential to culminate in a Free Trade Area spanning the Cape to Cairo – the next great investment destination for 2017 may very well be Africa.

Notes for Editors

UHY press contact: Dominique Maeremans on +44 20 7767 2621

Email: d.maeremans@uhy.comwww.uhy.com

European economies lag in capital investment, putting future growth at risk...

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  • Europe sees capital investment fall 6% in five years – while USA raises it by 33%
  • China increases capital investment by 73% in five years

Europe is lagging behind the world average in terms of capital investment in its economies’ business resources and public infrastructure, putting future growth prospects at risk, reveals a new study by UHY, the international accounting and consultancy network.

According to UHY, European countries on average have seen capital investment decrease by 5.5% over the last five years* to just USD 187billion in 2015 (latest figures available). By contrast, the world average has increased by 21.1% to USD 364.2billion over the same period.

UHY says higher capital investment levels are an indicator that businesses are positioning themselves to expand capacity, to improve productivity, or to move into new markets by opening new sites. They also reflect governments’ support for growth by improving the transport links, power generation capacity and other vital infrastructure that businesses rely on.

The UHY study looked at “gross capital formation” – or capital investment – in 41 major economies around the world, measuring trends over a five-year period, and comparing investment levels to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Gross capital formation measures spending on assets such as IT systems, new equipment and machinery, and investments in infrastructure projects by governments. The UHY study compares it to GDP in order to put it into context against the size of a country’s economy.

The G7 is also seeing a slower rate of increase than the world average, raising capital investment by an average of 11.1% over a five-year period. However, the average amount invested by G7 economies is still substantial – at over USD 1trillion in 2015 (or 20.7% of GDP).

China and USA powering ahead

At the top of the table, China is powering ahead, increasing capital investment by 73% to USD 5trillion. This is equivalent to 45% of its GDP. UHY says that China’s extremely high levels of investment in recent years have helped underpin its long run of robust growth, which remains comparatively high, at 6.9% in 2015**.

Alongside a wide range of major public infrastructure projects helping improve productivity and competitiveness, businesses in China have been rapidly expanding capacity to keep pace with demand for goods, invest in innovation and strengthen their position in the global marketplace.

UHY adds that as China has witnessed significant amounts of capital investment over the past decade, the government is now working to start to shift the economy towards becoming a consumer-led economy.

Comments Bernard Fay, Chairman of UHY: “Capital investment is vital in paving the way for economic growth, so Europe simply can’t afford to fall behind.”

“As things stand, European economies risk being outpaced by both emerging and other developed economies. While in many developed economies, businesses’ and governments’ ability to invest was hit by recession, there’s a stark contrast between the relative lack of investment in Europe and activity in the US which has remained far more robust.”

“Companies in many emerging economies have positioned themselves for growth by pumping more capital into investment projects as they gear up to seize greater market share or sharpen their competitive edge. Where China has led the way, others are following.”

“It’s critical that governments pro-actively support business investment, especially by enacting measures to help small businesses, such as grants for start-ups or tax breaks for R&D or capex.”

Asia-Pacific and South American economies also demonstrate strong capital investment levels

UHY adds that several Asian and South American countries feature highly for capital investment levels. Bangladesh has seen the greatest overall increase in gross capital formation over five years, investing 86.2% more in 2015 than it did in 2010 (USD56.4bn – or 27.3% of its GDP).

UHY says Bangladesh is investing heavily in areas such as power generation, resulting in nearly 80% of the population having access to power, up from 47% in 2009 – which will significantly benefit businesses.

In Central and South America, Guatemala, Uruguay, Peru and Argentina have all seen increases in capital investment above the world average over the five years studied.

Hugo Gubba, of UHY member firm UHY Gubba & Asociados in Uruguay says, “Rising capital investment in Uruguay has been driven both by more public projects, which include the possibility of public-private participation, and a variety of recent tax incentives.”

“Tax breaks approved in the past few years are designed to encourage business investment covering a whole host of areas – from construction to power generation, tourism to agriculture and biotech to call centres.”

“There is still further to go to improve Uruguay’s highways and railroads, so the country is in a better shape to promote our economy to foreign countries and attract more foreign direct investment.”

UK and Ireland buck downward European trend

The UK and Ireland have both bucked the trend of declining European capital investment. The UK increased its levels by 30% over the five-year period to USD503bn – equivalent to 17.6% of its GDP. This is likely to be due, in part, to the strong recovery from low levels brought about by the recession and credit crunch.

The Republic of Ireland has seen an even greater increase of 60% to USD61.4bn, or 21.7% of GDP.

As Alan Farrelly, Partner at UHY member firm UHY Farrelly Dawe White Limited in Ireland explains, “As well as initiating a number of key transport projects, supporting business growth and development is an area of high focus for the Irish government’s capital investment programmes.”

“Bodies like Enterprise Ireland, which provides assistance to Irish firms hoping to export through programmes to drive innovation and exploit market opportunities, and IDA Ireland,which attracts overseas companies to establish themselves in Ireland, help enable businesses to invest for growth.”

Table 1: Gross Capital Formation – change since 2010

 

Table 2: Gross Capital Formation – as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

*2010-2015 Gross Capital Formation. Source: World Bank & German Statistical Office **Source: World Bank

Notes for Editors

UHY press contact: Dominique Maeremans on +44 20 7767 2621

Email: d.maeremans@uhy.comwww.uhy.com

Nick Mattison or Peter Kurilecz

Mattison Public Relations

+44 20 7645 3636, +44 7860 657 540 or email peter.kurilecz@mattison.co.uk

About UHY

Established in 1986 and based in London, UK, UHY is a leading network of independent audit, accounting, tax and consulting firms with offices in over 325 major business centres across more than 95 countries.

Our staff members, over 7,850 strong, are proud to be part of the 16th largest international accounting and consultancy network. Each member of UHY is a legally separate and independent firm. For further information on UHY please go to www.uhy.com.

UHY is a member of the Forum of Firms, an association of international networks of accounting firms. For additional information on the Forum of Firms, visit www.forumoffirms.org

BRIC economies outpace G7 by over a third in attracting inflows of foreign direct investment...

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• FDI into BRIC economies up 59% in five years

ASEAN economies win FDI worth 5% of GDP

BRIC economies are outpacing the G7 by more than a third (35%) when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), according to a new study by UHY, the international accounting and consultancy network.

According to UHY, total inflows of FDI accounted for 2.3% of the total BRIC nations’ GDP last year. This figure compares to 1.7% of GDP for the G7 and the world figure of 2.2% of total GDP.

Countries are keen to win FDI because it helps power economic growth. As well as boosting job creation and tax revenues, it can act as a spur to competitiveness and productivity through knowledge transfer or investment in improved processes, technologies or infrastructure.

The UHY study looked at FDI inflows last year in 45 major economies around the world, measuring how successful they have been in attracting FDI compared to their GDP. 

Brazil attracted FDI equivalent to 4.2% of its GDP in 2015 and China 2.3%. They also had the third and second largest amounts of FDI in absolute terms (USD 75billion and USD 250billion in total respectively) after the USA (USD 379billion in total).

FDI INTO BRIC ECONOMIES UP 60% IN FIVE YEARS

BRICs economies received total FDI in 2015 of $375 billion – a 59% increase on five years ago in 2010 when the figure was $236 billion.

In this five-year period, China’s absolute total more than doubled – in 2010 it attracted USD 115billion in FDI.

UHY says that BRIC economies are seen as providing better growth opportunities for multinational businesses than the more mature economies of the G7.

In addition, the shift towards locating production facilities in BRIC economies rather than in western countries continues. This is particularly true in countries such as China, where low labour costs, availability of resources and a favourable business climate are key drivers.

Other emerging markets, such as Romania, are also seeking ways to attract more FDI. At the start of 2017, for example, it created a new institution, InvestRomania, to assist foreign companies wanting to invest in the country. However, tax measures introduced by the new government may have a greater impact on consumers than on increasing FDI.

However, Russia saw only 0.5% FDI as a share of its economy (USD 6.5billion in total), as sanctions continue to impact the economy and geo-political tensions deter potential business investment.

Of the G7, Japan and Italy saw the lowest performance with 0% and 0.7% respectively. Germany was also well below the average with just 1.4% (USD 46billion in total). Overall, Europe saw FDI worth 2% of total GDP, slightly below the global average of 2.2% of total GDP.

UHY says that this is likely to be due, in part, to complex company formation processes in Germany which can discourage certain types of foreign investment.

The UK is also lagging well behind the global average, attracting FDI worth just 1.8% of GDP (USD50billion in total) in 2015. Uncertainty following the UK’s Brexit referendum could deter multinational businesses and other foreign investors from investing in the country in the future.

ASEAN ECONOMIES WIN FDI WORTH 5% OF GDP

ASEAN economies (Association of South East Asian Nations) outperformed even the BRIC nations in terms of FDI as a share of their economies, attracting FDI worth 5.3% of GDP.

Singapore won FDI worth 22.3% of its GDP (a total of USD 65billion) – likely to be largely due to its status as a significant financial centre allowing it to draw in huge flows of capital as more wealth is created across South East Asia.

Cambodia and Vietnam also performed strongly (9.4% and 6.2% respectively), as they are seen as locations of choice for businesses offshoring production and keen to look beyond China as a destination.

UHY says that the establishment of this new economic community last year is likely to give overseas businesses and other investors increasing confidence about investment prospects as they look to rationalise their operations following the lowering of trade and employment barriers in the region.

Comments Bernard Fay, Chairman of UHY: “Despite the slowdown in emerging markets, BRIC economies are continuing to attract significant amounts of FDI – while the G7 is falling behind.”

“Inbound investment by foreign businesses is a sign of confidence in an economy, providing a boost to business growth, job creation and developments in areas such as innovation and infrastructure.”

“Countries such as China in particular have for some time now been highly focussed on fostering an environment that encourages foreign investment.”

“In Brazil, although the strong economic growth of a few years ago has slowed, the current outlook for economic growth is positive with a strong internal market, the growth of which will be further enhanced by strong levels of FDI.”

“G7 economies could benefit from making themselves more attractive locations for foreign investment. One way to do this would be to make their tax regimes more favourable, by lowering corporate tax rates or introducing other incentives for multinationals to establish or expand operations there.”

“ASEAN nations are also punching well above their weight when it comes to winning high levels of FDI relative to the size of their economies. As this burgeoning economic community develops, this could further strengthen investor sentiment in South East Asia. ”

Ella Zhu, partner at UHY member firm, ZhongHua Certified Public Accountants LLP, in China says, “China’s commitment to creating a more open market means they have led the way among developing nations in FDI for two decades now.”

“As the political and legal environment has improved, more multinational companies and foreign businesses have been investing in high-tech, manufacturing and service industries. Since this approach has effectively promoted continuous, fast and healthy development of the national economy, it is unlikely to change in order to keep FDI strong. ”

Hara Nobuyuki, of UHY member firm UHY Tokyo & Co. in Japan says, “FDI in Japan has remained flat since the financial crisis and the Tohoku earthquake disaster, but the government has ambitious plans to double inward FDI stock to 35 trillion yen by 2020.”

“Key to this is the Japan Revitalisation Strategy, which aims to attract inward investment to Japan in a variety of ways. For instance, it will provide incentives, such as tax breaks, fundraising assistance and improvements in patent processes and costs, for new headquarters and R&D bases established here by multinational companies.”

Malta saw the highest FDI as a share of GDP in the study at 25.8% (USD 2.5billion in total), as the island continues to take advantage of its location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East to become an international centre for banking and attract substantial inflows of capital.

INFLOWS OF FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT (2015, USD$ BILLIONS)

inflow of FDI pdf 4

INFLOWS OF FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT AS A PERCENTAGE OF GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT

inflows gross domestic product pdf

UHY_RGB

Notes for Editors

UHY global press contact: Dominique Maeremans on +44 20 7767 2621

Email: d.maeremans@uhy.comwww.uhy.com

Nick Mattison or Peter Kurilecz

Mattison Public Relations

+44 20 7645 3636, +44 7860 657 540 or email peter.kurilecz@mattison.co.uk

About UHY

Established in 1986 and based in London, UK, UHY is a network of independent audit, accounting, tax and consulting firms with offices in over 320 major business centres across more than 90 countries.

Our staff members, over 7,600 strong, are proud to be part of the 16th largest international accounting and consultancy network. Each member of UHY is a legally separate and independent firm. For further information on UHY please go to www.uhy.com.

UHY is a full member of the Forum of Firms, an association of international networks of accounting firms. For additional information on the Forum of Firms, visit www.forumoffirms.org

UHY strengthens presence in Africa...

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New member firm in Mozambique joins the UHY network

We welcome, SEC – Sociedade de Ensino e Consultoria, our new member firm in Mozambique, to the global accountancy network UHY, extending our coverage within the EMEA region.

SEC – Sociedade de Ensino e Consultoria, is based in the capital city of Maputo, and was established in 2010. The firm provides a full suite of services including audit, accounting and consulting services to a portfolio of clients from state owned companies to finance entities and other corporations.

Managing partner, Carlos Sitoe of SEC comments: “Mozambique is one of the fastest growing African countries due to its natural resources creating opportunities for foreign investments, but it still has some challenges to overcome.  Our membership of the UHY global network will enhance our local capabilities and enforce our commitment to support international clients seeking to invest in East Africa.

Bernard Fay, chairman of UHY comments: “We are delighted to welcome SEC – Sociedade de Ensino e Consultoria to the UHY network. The firm’s membership reinforces our footprint in the region and strengthens UHY’s market expertise and capabilities to support clients’ needs and opportunities in Mozambique and the East African region as a whole.”

The firm is in the process of adopting the UHY branding and will be known as UHY Sociedade de Ensino e Consultoria, Limida or UHY SEC, Limitada.


Liaison office for SEC – Sociedade de Ensino e Consultoria contact: Carlos Sitoe, Managing Partner
Contact: 
Tel: +258 (21) 400652
Email: sec.lda@inmail.co.mz

UHY press contact:
Dominique Maeremans, marketing & business development manager
UHY International
Tel: +44 20 7767 2621
Email: d.maeremans@uhy.com