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Airbnb says record bookings signal travel rebound

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Airbnb plans to announce major changes to its app as the home-sharing platform hopes to ride a global rebound in travel
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Bookings on Airbnb hit a new high in this year’s first quarter, the home rental platform reported Tuesday, in a fresh signal that travel demand stifled by the Covid-19 pandemic is being unleashed.

Despite the Omicron surge and a persistent level of infections, Airbnb bookings for lodging and travel “experiences” topped 102 million in the first three months of this year, setting a new quarterly record, the company said in an earnings release.

“Guests are booking more than ever before,” Airbnb told shareholders in a letter.

“Looking ahead, we see strong sustained pent-up demand.”

The company’s stock price rose more than 3 percent to $150.50 in after-market trades following the release of the earnings figures.

Revenue in the first quarter was $1.5 billion, up 70 percent from the same period a year earlier, the company said, adding that its quarterly loss shrank to $19 million from a loss of $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2021.

The San Francisco-based company’s earnings reflect an ongoing recovery in the travel industry and show that Airbnb is gaining share in the market, Baird analyst Colin Sebastian said in an investment note.

“Airbnb exceeded expectations on almost every line item, with strong bookings trends for the summer and balance of the year,” Sebastian told investors.

“Looking further ahead, travel recovery in urban areas, cross-border and (the Asia-Pacific region) should fuel additional bookings growth.”

The company said that trends of people booking stays away from urban areas and staying relatively close to home continue, but that guests are returning to cities and making cross-border trips.

The strong earnings come a week before a May 11 event at which chief executive Brian Chesky is to announce what the company bills as the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade.

“We will introduce a new Airbnb for a new world of travel,” the company said in their earnings letter, adding that “with a completely new way to search, guests will be able to discover millions of unique homes they never thought to search for.”

The booking platform has found traction around the globe, but is fighting various regulatory challenges in several jurisdictions.

In March, the European Union’s top court ruled that the property rental platform must share booking data with regional tax authorities in Brussels.

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Turkish inflation hits two-decade high of 78.6%

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Rising prices have sparked waves of protests in Turkey ahead of next year’s general election, the toughest of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule
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Inflation in Turkey in June soared to an annual rate of 78.6 percent — the highest in 24 years, according to official data released Monday — as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unconventional economic policies continued to take their toll.

But independent estimates published by Turkish economists showed prices rising at more than double that figure.

The inflation rate reported by Turkey’s state statistics agency was the highest since the emerging market suffered a currency meltdown during a global financial crisis in 1998.

Inflation had stood at 73.5 percent in May and at 15.0 percent at the start of last year.

Economy Minister Nureddin Nebati on Friday vowed that consumer prices will start dropping in December.

“I promise to you and to the president, we will see a drop in inflation starting in December,” he was quoted as saying by Turkish media.

According to the official data, the surge in inflation in June was driven by a jump of 123.4 percent in the cost of transportation and a 94-percent increase in non-alcoholic drinks.

Turkey’s latest problems began when Erdogan forced the central bank to go through with a series of interest rate cuts last year that he said were part of his “new economic model”.

The policy rate went down despite rising consumer prices.

But the Turkish leader rejects conventional economics and affirms that high interest rates cause prices to rise.

Economists believe his approach has exacerbated the pain felt world-wide from the jump in food and energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

– Questions over data –

However, more and more economists are starting to question Turkey’s official data.

A monthly report release Monday by Turkey’s ENAG group of independent economists showed consumer prices rising by 175 percent in June.

ENAG said prices had risen by 71.4 percent since the start of the year alone.

The Istanbul chamber of commerce said inflation in Turkey’s largest city has reached an annual rate of 94 percent.

“No one actually believes official Turkish data anymore,” said BlueBay Asset Management economist Timothy Ash.

“There is no expectation of anything like a credible policy response.”

Turkey’s official data are turning into a hot political issue ahead of next year’s general election — widely viewed as the toughest of Erdogan’s two-decade rule.

Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu accused the state statistics agency of “lying”.

“Stop committing crimes for the benefit of President Erdogan,” Kilicdaroglu told the agency on Twitter.

A survey published by the Metropol polling agency on Friday showed 69 percent of respondents believed the unofficial ENAG figure and just 24 percent the one reported by the government.

– ‘Cost-of-living problem’ –

Erodgan has doubled down on his economic approach and hinted that he may want the benchmark interest rate to move even lower in the months to come.

He has also tried to reverse the accompanying drop in his public approval by announcing a rapid series of wage hikes to large parts of the population.

He has bumped up the minimum wage earned by roughly 40 percent of the working Turks from 2,826 liras in late December to 5,500 liras ($325) this month.

The wage is used as the benchmark for a wide range of social benefits across the economy.

Economists warn that substantially raising the pay of so many people is an inflationary measure that should be accompanied by interest hikes or other means of limiting spending.

But Erdogan rejects the very idea that Turkey is suffering from inflation.

“We do not have an inflation problem. We have a cost-of-living problem,” Erdogan said last month.

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Turkish inflation hits two-decade high of 78.6%

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Rising prices have sparked waves of protests in Turkey ahead of next year’s general election, the toughest of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule
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Inflation in Turkey in June soared to an annual rate of 78.6 percent — the highest in 24 years, according to official data released Monday — as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unconventional economic policies continued to take their toll.

But unofficial estimates published by Turkish economists showed prices rising at more than double that figure.

The inflation rate reported by Turkey’s state statistics agency was the highest since January 1998.

Inflation had stood at 73.5 percent in May and at 15.0 percent at the start of last year.

Economy Minister Nureddin Nebati on Friday vowed that consumer prices will start dropping in December.

“I promise to you and to the president, we will see a drop in inflation starting in December,” he was quoted as saying by Turkish media.

According to the official data, the surge in inflation in June was driven by a jump of 123.4 percent in the cost of transportation and a 94-percent increase in non-alcoholic drinks.

Turkey’s crisis started when Erdogan forced the central bank to go through with a series of interest rate cuts last year that he said were part of his “new economic model”.

The policy rate went down despite rising consumer prices.

But the Turkish leader rejects conventional economics and affirms that high interest rates cause prices to rise.

Economists believe his approach has exacerbated the pain felt world-wide from the jump in food and energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

– Questions over data –

However, more and more economists are starting to question Turkey’s official data.

A monthly report release Monday by Turkey’s ENAG group of independent economists showed consumer prices rising by 175 percent in June.

ENAG said prices had risen by 71.4 percent since the start of the year alone.

The Istanbul chamber of commerce said inflation in Turkey’s largest city has reached an annual rate of 94 percent.

“No one actually believes official Turkish data anymore,” said BlueBay Asset Management economist Timothy Ash.

“There is no expectation of anything like a credible policy response.”

Turkey on Friday substantially raised the minimum wage for the second time in a year to cushion the blow on households ahead of next year’s general election.

The hike of the net monthly take-home pay to 5,500 liras ($330) means the nominal minimum wage has nearly doubled since the end of last year.

It stood at 2,826 liras in late December and 4,253 liras in January.

Economists warn that substantially raising the pay of a large swathe of the population is an inflationary measure that should be accompanied by interest hikes or other means of limiting spending.

Official data show that more than 40 percent of Turks earned the minimum wage at the start of the year.

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Trial of Chinese-Canadian tycoon who disappeared in 2017 begins in China

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Canadian citizen Xiao disappeared from Hong Kong's Four Seasons hotel in January 2017
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Canadian-Chinese tycoon Xiao Jianhua is standing trial on Monday, Ottawa’s embassy in Beijing said in a statement, after the businessman disappeared from a Hong Kong hotel in 2017.

“Global Affairs Canada is aware that a trial in the case of Canadian citizen, Mr. Xiao Jianhua, will take place on July 4, 2022,”  the embassy told AFP, without specifying the location of the trial or charges against him.

“Canadian consular officials are monitoring this case closely, providing consular services to his family and continue to press for consular access.”

Xiao, who is a Canadian citizen, disappeared from Hong Kong’s Four Seasons hotel in January 2017, with local media reporting that he was snatched by mainland Chinese agents.

One of China’s richest people at the time of his alleged abduction, Xiao reportedly had close connections to the upper echelons of the ruling Communist Party.

Hong Kong police said at the time that he had crossed the border into mainland China. His company Tomorrow Group also later said that he was in the mainland.

But Chinese authorities have been silent about the case, which is reportedly linked to an anti-corruption drive championed by President Xi Jinping since he came into power.

Xiao’s alleged abduction came at a time when mainland Chinese agents were not permitted to operate in Hong Kong, and it sparked fear in the city about residents being forcibly disappeared.

These fears were at the heart of massive pro-democracy protests that shook Hong Kong in 2019, prompted by a government bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China’s opaque, Communist Party-controlled judicial system.

Xiao’s disappearance also followed the alleged kidnapping into mainland custody of five people working for a bookstore which published salacious titles about China’s leaders.

The booksellers later appeared on TV in mainland China admitting to a variety of crimes.

In response to the protests, China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020.

That law allowed its security agencies to operate in the city and toppled the legal firewall between mainland and Hong Kong courts.

– Rags to riches –

Xiao rose from a poor family to become one of China’s richest men, founding the Beijing-based Tomorrow Group.

He was head of the official student union at the prestigious Peking University in 1989 when the Chinese government used troops and tanks to crush peaceful demonstrations.

Xiao had tried and failed to defuse the protests, with his company later denying a report in The New York Times that he had been rewarded by the government for his role.

After university, Xiao began selling computers and in the years that followed built an empire with diverse interests, including in banking and insurance.

According to the Hurun Report, which ranks China’s wealthiest people, Xiao was worth almost $6 billion in 2017.

He had reportedly denied allegations that he fled to Hong Kong in 2014 to escape the corruption crackdown in China.

Xiao is said to have acted as a broker for the Chinese leadership, including for President Xi’s family. 

“After five years of quietly waiting, our family is still, based on my brother’s strict instructions, putting faith in the Chinese government and Chinese law,” Xiao’s elder brother Xinhua told The Wall Street Journal last month.

“It’s very complicated and full of drama,” he said of the case, according to the WSJ.

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