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Facing a boom without workers, Australian employers deploy bonuses and raises

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November 11, 2021

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – As closed borders intensify a skills shortage, demand for Australian mergers and acquisitions lawyers is so high that firms are offering sign-on bonuses for the first time in 15 years and have nearly doubled recruiting fees.

Firms are also reviewing salaries twice a year and have raised base pay by up to 15% as they try to avoid losing workers amid record-high demand for the industry’s services, people in the hiring process said.

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“I had sign-on bonuses for nearly every deal in 2007 and this is very much like that, and actually probably more is required in this market to compete for those candidates,” said Belinda Fisher, a legal industry recruiter who has raised her fee from 18% to 30% of a placed lawyer’s salary.

The measures reflect a sense of desperation among Australian employers as a sharp increase in demand for some services – from M&A law to data analytics to hospitality – runs headlong into a workforce thinned out by two years of closed borders.

Demand for skilled technology workers, for instance, has soared as pandemic-related movement restrictions jolted the world into conducting business online. But the shortage has been especially pronounced in Australia, where immigration remains on hold.

Job ads are 54% above pre-pandemic levels, but the number of job applications is down about the same amount, according to jobs website SEEK, just as Australia’s economy reconfigures itself to cope with supply chain blockages and a requirement to automate many aspects of trade.

People in fields seen as essential to the changed conditions – data management, business intelligence, cybersecurity, talent acquisition – can expect salary increases of up to 20% thanks to demand, according to recruiter Robert Half.

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“We’re finding ourselves talking to our clients about how they can retain staff because in many ways the cost of replacement is more,” said Andrew Brushfield, Robert Half’s Australia director. “If employers don’t have their back yard sorted, employees are leaving.”

Increasing pay is the main way to attract and keep staff, but flexibility in working at home was a close second, he added.

Wild Tech, a Sydney operator of cloud-based business software, is offering a A$10,000 sign-on bonus for the first time because of the “tight labour conditions we’re experiencing”, said managing director Grant Wild. “I haven’t seen (sign-on bonuses) used this way, having worked 25 years in the technology space.”

‘BRAIN DRAIN’

Though Australia opened its borders this month to vaccinated citizens, recruiters say the difficulty of finding and keeping personnel may worsen in 2022 as workers shake off some of the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns and look abroad.

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About 2 million of Australia’s 25 million population postponed applying for or renewing a passport since early 2020, but the number of applicants is now doubling every two months, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.

“Without question we’re going to see a brain drain to major markets around the world as some of the younger people in an earlier stage of careers really do try and soak up some of that pent-up demand,” said Jason Johnson, a recruiter for white-collar jobs.

Johnson added that one fifth of the executives on his books have in recent months said they would consider positions abroad instead of staying home.

Hospitality companies in Britain, the most popular destination for Australians working abroad, are battling their own labour shortage caused by the country’s exit from the European Union. Many are offering flights, accommodation and even European tours for Australians willing to move, said Nick Hare, founder of UK Pub Co, which arranges industry jobs for Australians in Britain.

“The rush for the exit is certainly there,” he said.

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(Reporting by Byron Kaye. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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Tesla sold 52,859 China-made vehicles in November – CPCA

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December 8, 2021

BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc sold 52,859 China-made vehicles in November, including 21,127 for export, the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said on Wednesday.

Tesla, which is making Model 3 sedans and Model Y sport-utility vehicles in Shanghai, sold 54,391 China-made vehicles in October, including 40,666 that were exported.

Chinese EV makers Nio Inc 10,878 cars last month, a monthly record high, and Xpeng Inc delivered 15,613 vehicles. Volkswagen AG said it sold over 14,000 ID. series EVs in China in November.

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CPCA said passenger car sales in November in China totalled 1.85 million, down 12.5% from a year earlier.

(Reporting by Sophie Yu, Brenda Goh; editing by Jason Neely)

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Renault Zoe goes from hero to zero in European safety agency rating

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December 8, 2021

By Nick Carey

LONDON (Reuters) – French carmaker Renault on Wednesday received a blow for its popular Zoe electric model, as the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) gave it a zero-star safety rating in tests that are standards for Europe.

The carmaker, which is cutting costs and working to turn around its performance after overstretching itself over years of ambitious global expansion, also received a one-star rating for its electric Dacia Spring model.

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Euro NCAP said the latest Zoe had a worse seat-mounted side airbag than earlier versions. Euro NCAP noted the Renault Laguna had been the first car ever to receive a five-star rating in 2001.

“Renault was once synonymous with safety,” Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen said in a statement. “But these disappointing results for the ZOE and the Dacia Spring show that safety has now become collateral damage in the group’s transition to electric cars.”

In the year through October, the Zoe was the third top-selling fully-electric car in Europe, behind Tesla’s Model 3 in top place and Volkswagen’s ID.3.

In a press release titled “Hero to Zero,” UK insurance group Thatcham Research noted the Zoe had initially received a five-star rating back in 2013.

“It’s a shame to see Renault threaten a safety pedigree built from the inception of the rating,” said Matthew Avery, Thatcham’s chief research strategy officer and a Euro NCAP board member.

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Eleven cars received ratings in Euro NCAP’s final round of tests for 2021, which did not include Tesla models.

A number of other vehicles received five-star ratings, including BMW’s electric iX, Daimler’s electric Mercedes-Benz EQS, Nissan’s Qashqai and Volkswagen’s VW Caddy.

(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Weibo shares close down 7.2% in Hong Kong debut

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December 8, 2021

By Scott Murdoch

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Chinese social media giant Weibo Corp’s shares closed 7.2% below their issue price in Hong Kong on Wednesday, as it became the latest U.S.-listed China stock to seek out a secondary listing closer to home.

The Hong Kong debut was in line with a fall in Weibo’s primary listing in New York after a torrid week for U.S.-listed China shares, which are facing greater U.S. regulatory scrutiny and also under pressure from Chinese authorities.

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Weibo, which raised $385 million for its Hong Kong listing, opened at $256.20 and closed at HK$253.2 after a volatile debut session.

The stock had been priced at HK$272.80 each in its secondary listing in which 11 million shares were sold.

“For Weibo, it’s a matter of timing. The Hong Kong market had started to rebound this week and now we are seeing some softness emerging in the market,” said Louis Tse, Wealthy Securities director in Hong Kong.

Weibo’s fall came as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed Wednesday up 0.06% while the Tech Index was 0.03% higher.

Some major stocks such as Alibaba Group Holdings, down 4.35%, were off sharply as sentiment towards tech majors remains fragile.

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“The listing market in Hong Kong is very lukewarm right now,” said Dickie Wong, Kingston Securities executive director.

“Plus, there is regulatory pressure from the (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) on Chinese companies to disclose basically everything within three years.

“So there is a major trend that most of the U.S.-listed Chinese companies will seek secondary or dual primary in Hong Kong so they can exit the U.S. market if they need to.”

Ride-hailing giant Didi Global decided last week to delist from New York https://www.reuters.com/technology/didi-global-start-work-delisting-new-york-pursue-ipo-hong-kong-2021-12-03, succumbing to pressure from Chinese regulators concerned about data security and denting sentiment toward Chinese stocks.

Hong Kong and China’s mainland STAR Market have attracted $15.2 billion worth of secondary listings from U.S. listed Chinese companies so far this year, according to Refinitiv data.

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“The moves are probably based on the increasing recognition that the U.S.-China decoupling will not stop and will proceed steadily,” said LightStream Research analyst Mio Kato, who publishes on Smartkarma.

“I would expect a continuous flow of listings from New York to Hong Kong over the next year or two.”

The U.S administration is progressing plans to delist Chinese companies if they do not meet the country’s auditing rules, which could affect more than 200 companies.

Chinese companies https://www.reuters.com/business/us-sec-mandates-foreign-companies-spell-out-ownership-structure-disclose-2021-12-02 that list on U.S. stock exchanges must disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a government entity, and provide evidence of their auditing inspections, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said last week.

(Reporting by Scott Murdoch and Donny Kwok; editing by Richard Pullin and Louise Heavens)

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