Despite annual requests, North Korea has still not paid for the 1,000 Volvo 144s imported from Sweden in the 1970s. The now 40-year-old models have recently been spotted in Pyongyang © 123RF
Despite annual requests, North Korea has still not paid for the 1,000 Volvo 144s imported from Sweden in the 1970s. The now 40-year-old models have recently been spotted in Pyongyang © 123RF

Chinese takeovers, Volvos in North Korea and Trump Twitter attacks – the supply chain in numbers

9 March 2017

Our number crunching round-up of the week in procurement and supply chains.


The surge in Chinese acquisitions of businesses in the UK between 2014 and 2016. New research by consultants Livingstone found that one in 20 foreign acquisitions in the UK are made by Chinese businesses. The assets owned by Chinese firms include House of Fraser, Pizza Express, Wentworth Golf Course, London’s Cheesegrater skyscraper and West Bromwich Albion football club. American investors are still the most acquisitive, accounting for 275 of 756 inbound takeovers in the same period.


The year Johannes Spyri published her classic children’s novel Heidi, featuring an orphaned heroine growing up in the Alps with her grandfather. The Swiss canton of St Gallen, where much of the novel was set, has announced plans to develop a new Heidi theme park in Flumserberg. Tourism has been in decline in St Gallen but it is hoped the new attraction, scheduled to open in 2020, will attract 350,000 visitors a year.


The area of new retail space expected to be opened in Dubai by 2020. Data from project tracking service Meed suggests that $4bn of new investment in shopping malls will be signed off this year, compared to just $502m last year. Although there have been signs of a slowdown in consumer spending, with the strong dollar deterring tourists from Russia and Europe, Dubai’s retail industry has one key advantage – rents are 75% lower than in Hong Kong, London and Paris.


The proportion of agricultural land in Angola that is actually cultivated. Believed to have the least diversified economy in the world – oil accounts for 45% of GDP and 95% of exports – the former Portuguese colony has been trying to stimulate its agricultural sector since 2006, when it set up a state development bank. Some progress has been made – the three main railway lines to the key ports have been upgraded and $32.5m is being invested in a wood fibre plantation in the central highlands – corruption and mismanagement have hampered the agricultural sector’s growth.


The price Gustav Klimt’s painting Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) fetched at auction at Sotheby's. Last sold for £35m, the work of art was fought over by four telephone bidders before fetching a record price for a landscape by the Austrian painter. The price was especially notable because some critics didn’t think the painting was up there with his best work, with one complaining: “It’s a bit loose, not a lot of definition, just lots of floating colour.”


The number of Volvo 144 models ordered by North Korea in the 1970s. The Swedish car maker began shipping the vehicles to the Communist country in 1974, with the order insured by the Swedish export board, which was encouraging companies to seek new export markets. Yet it soon became clear that the North Korean government had no intention of paying for them. Although supplied more than 40 years ago, the Volvos have recently been spotted on the roads of the North Korean capital Pyongyang. The Swedish export board still asks for the debt to be repaid every year: with interest, it now amounts to £253m.


The number of American businesses that have asked PR giant Burson Marsteller for helping in evaluating whether they have “vulnerabilities” that might expose them to an attack on Twitter from president Donald Trump. Other firms have had similar requests with Washington PR veteran Gene Grabowski saying: “This is now a category of risk. This is the first time clients have asked, ‘What do we do if the president attacks?’” So far, Trump has criticised Boeing, retailer Nordstrom and General Motors. Industry leaders are also seeking guidance on how to respond publicly to some of the polarizing policy changes Trump has initiated.

All Offices
Competitive salary
Browne Jacobson
Competitive salary + great bonus structure
Evolve Commercial Ltd
CIPS Knowledge
Find out more with CIPS Knowledge:
  • best practice insights
  • guidance
  • tools and templates