The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 19 December 2017

Aviation

Image: Shutterstock

Fight for flights

An Austrian airline may be in the red but that isn’t stopping investors from building castles in the sky.

Sale! Final days! Everything must go! Investors are flocking to buy insolvent Austrian holiday airline Niki – including the carrier’s founder: entrepreneur and one-time Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda. But time is running out. Among the airline’s most valuable assets are its take-off and landing slots at key European airports including Düsseldorf, Munich and Vienna. These rare commodities are, however, at risk of being revoked in the coming days unless a takeover is agreed. Lufthansa had previously put in a bid for the Air Berlin subsidiary but shelved its plans last week after the European Commission voiced concerns about the deal’s impact on consumer choice. A deal is still likely but the clock is ticking.

Diplomacy

Image: Shutterstock

Friend zone

With North Korea testing missiles and relations between Japan and China getting warmer, South Korea is keen to reach out.

Is it a sign of warming ties or a strategic meeting of frenemies? South Korea’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha arrives in Tokyo today for a chat with her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono – the first for these two countries’ top diplomats in 16 months. Tokyo and Seoul seem to be putting aside their differences over historical grievances to focus on their security and economic partnership. The backdrop is, of course, North Korea’s recent test-firing of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles. But Kang and Kono could also discuss a surprising development: Tokyo ​​might ​support​ China’s One Belt, One Road regional infrastructure initiative. This shifting dynamic between China and Japan – the region’s two biggest economies ​– could motivate Kang and Kono ​to make an extra effort to find common ground​.

Economy

Image: Reuters

Raise a glass

Vietnam’s Sabeco sale is a savvy move: not only does it deliver on the country’s privatisation promise, it’ll also bring in a most-welcome windfall.

The sale of a majority stake in Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corporation, known as Sabeco, this week signals that Vietnam is getting serious about its long-promised privatisation programme. The sale, to Thai Beverage, was worth $4.84bn (€4.1bn) and is the biggest divestment of any of the Communist state’s numerous state-owned enterprises. And pundits have noticed that the government has made a clever move by waiting to sell until now, when it’ll be getting the best value out of the stock market this year. The windfall from the sale is expected to provide the state with much-needed funds to build the necessary infrastructure to support its fast-growing economy – Vietnam’s middle-income status means it has lost much of its developmental assistance.

Urbanism

Image: Getty Images

In transit

Toronto’s newly extended subway heralds the city’s commitment to renewing its infrastructure.

This past weekend marked the opening of the newest extension to Toronto’s creaking subway system – the first such expansion of the network in 15 years. The construction of the project, which is the first branch of the underground railway to stretch outside Toronto’s city limits, has long represented the tussle between the city itself and its suburbs, divisions that were exacerbated by the city’s former mayor Rob Ford. Toronto’s subway system was, when it began operating in the 1950s, considered the most integrated network in North America. But it has failed to keep up as the city ballooned. The extension to the subway still has its sceptics but Toronto’s growth needs the infrastructure to match it – and this is a welcome first step.

From Monocle 24

Image: Victor Frankowski

Abba: Super troupers

Culture with Robert Bound

We head to the Southbank Centre where a new exhibition dedicated to Swedish pop behemoths Abba has just opened.

From Monocle Films

Celebrating fashion in Beirut

A group of edgy fashion designers and Lebanon’s first-ever fashion school are shining a light on the possibilities for the next generation of creatives.

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