In a prospectus published ahead of a huge bond sale, Saudi Aramco revealed for the first time how much money it makes. Saudi Arabia’s state oil firm reaped $356 billion in revenue last year. Annual net profit came to $111 billion, almost twice that of Apple, the world’s most valuable listed company. The prospectus also confirmed how important Saudi Aramco is to the country’s economy. Oil accounted for 63 percent of the state’s revenue in 2017 and 43 percent of the kingdom’s GDP.
Saudi Arabia’s cut in oil output has helped drive up the commodity’s price in recent months. Brent crude traded around $70 a barrel last week, the highest level this year.
The World Trade Organization released an estimate for global trade in 2018, which grew by 3 percent, well below the 3.9 percent that the WTO had forecast in September. It expects the growth in trade to fall to 2.6 percent this year. The organization blamed tariffs and related retaliatory measures, but also weaker economic growth, volatile markets and tighter monetary policy in developed countries.
A preliminary report from Ethiopia’s transport ministry into last month’s fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger plane found that the pilots followed the procedures issued by the manufacturer when the jet started nose-diving. It recommended that Boeing change the Max’s flight-control system.
Mark Zuckerberg’s apparent change of heart in calling for more regulation of tech giants got short shrift. Facebook’s boss said governments should take a more active role in policing the internet in areas such as privacy and elections material. But one leading Democrat tweeted, “Does anyone even want his advice?”
Carlos Ghosn announced a forthcoming news conference “to tell the truth,” presumably about the charges he faces for financial misconduct at Nissan. He was rearrested soon after in Tokyo on a new indictment and is expected to spend at least three weeks in jail. Ghosn described this latest move by prosecutors as “outrageous and arbitrary.”
India’s Supreme Court ruled that the Reserve Bank of India had overstepped its mark when directing banks to declare a default when a company defers loan payments and force the company into bankruptcy if it does not resolve its debt position within 180 days. The court found that the central bank could intervene on individual corporate defaults but could not undertake such a sweeping action. It is a big blow to the RBI’s effort to rein in India’s corporate debt.
Burger King started selling a plant-based version of the Whopper. The veggie burger, being rolled out in St. Louis, is made by Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley startup that is at the forefront of the flowering plant-based foods industry.
Global recorded-music sales grew by nearly 10 percent last year, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Streamed music has surged. But revenue from digital downloads has fallen even faster than that from vinyl albums over the past five years.
Global politics from the economist
Algeria’s president ends 20 years in power
After 20 years in power and weeks of mass protests, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s ailing president, resigned after weeks of massive street protests. The announcement sparked celebrations in the capital, Algiers. Some fear that the old guard will try to hang on to power. Abdelkader Bensalah, the speaker of the Senate (and a Bouteflika loyalist), is next in line as president, according to the constitution. He has 90 days to organize elections.
Iran ordered the evacuation of more than 70 flooded villages in Khuzestan Province after dozens of people have been killed in the worst rains in years. Iran blamed U.S. sanctions for impeding aid efforts. U.S. officials said Iran was mismanaging the crisis.
The number of cholera cases in Mozambique rose sharply in areas affected by Cyclone Idai. More than 1,400 people have been infected, up from the 249 cases reported recently. Many of the affected areas still cannot be reached by road, complicating a mass vaccination campaign.
Harsh new penalties came into force under Brunei’s Islamic criminal code. Gay sex and sex outside marriage can be punished by flogging or death by stoning.
Australia approved a new law imposing severe penalties on social-media firms that fail to remove footage of crimes. Under the law, social media companies that fail to remove violent footage showing murder, torture, terrorism, kidnapping or rape that were filmed by the attackers or by their accomplices, would face hefty fines or prison sentences of up to three years.
China declared that all types of fentanyl would be treated as controlled drugs. The U.S. had appealed to China to adopt tougher controls.