2018 brought several significant economic developments, technological revolutions, business-integrations and political affairs. Like other years, past year was no exception in terms of enhanced laws, regulations and frameworks. Cyber security remained one of the hot topics and yet 2018 saw major tiers of data breaches & security attacks. Users’ privacy and data protection received worldwide concerns with top companies facing acute scrutiny. Innovation and artificial intelligence gained major footprints as predicted, revolutionizing major industrial and business sectors. If 2017 was the story of rise in cryptocurrencies, 2018 saw its downfall from reduced market popularity to lowest market value. US President, Donald Trump continued to lay down his ambitious plans, creating controversies and sending economic shock waves throughout the world. Here are some of the major economic key developments and stories that shaped the year 2018:
- Coincheck Inc., Japan’s largest digital currency exchange, lost USD 534 million worth of virtual assets due to cyber-attack on its network. The theft turned out to be the world’s biggest ever digital currency theft. According to the company chief operating officer Yusuke Otsuka, the virtual assets were worth 58 billion yen based on the rate conversion calculation.
- Researchers at Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Neuroscience, successfully cloned two monkeys, using the same techniques that produced Dolly the Sheep in 1996. Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong were born two weeks apart from each other. According to the researchers, cloned monkeys would be useful as a model for studying genetic diseases including cancer, metabolic and immune disorders.
- Falcon Heavy, Space X’s new rocket, launched carrying the most powerful mammoth vehicle since the shuttle system, powerful to deliver a maximum payload to low-Earth orbit of 64 tones. According to Elon Musk, its performance is slightly more than double that of Delta IV heavy, the world’s next powerful rocket, but at one third of the cost. With this debut, the Falcon heavy became the most capable launch vehicle.
- With more than 76% vote, Vladimir Putin won Russia’s presidential election and will lead the country for another six years. Mr. Putin, who has ruled Russia since 1999, was followed by nearest competitor Pavel Grudinin, who secured about 12% vote. The scale of victory appeared to increase in his share of vote from 2012, where he had won with 64% vote.
- Security researchers in India found that world’s biggest biometric ID system, Aadhaar, had major security lapse, which might have been leaking information about its holders. With privacy of 1.1 billion registered Indian citizens on the line, it was found that anyone could download private information on all Aadhaar holders, exposing their names, 12-digit identity numbers and various other personal information.
- Mark Zuckerberg faced testimony for nearly five hours in front of congress in the wake of Cambridge Analytica scandal in which Facebook admitted to have harvested personal information of up to 87 million users without permission.
- GDPR, Europe’s new framework for data protection laws, came into full effect, replacing previous 1995 data protection directive. This new framework aims to simplify the regulatory environment for business so that both citizens and businesses in the European Union can fully benefit from the digital economy. With the implementation of GDPR, many high profile social media companies and U.S. news websites were subject to privacy and legal issues.
- Ooredoo became the first in the world to launch live commercially available 5G network on the 3.5GHz spectrum brand. Its 5G network is the world’s first commercially available 5G network which was an important breakthrough for the telecommunications worldwide.
- US President Donald Trump called for elimination of tariffs and trade barriers at G7 summit. The decision resulted due to major industrial nations’ struggle to resolve difference on trade.
- AT&T closed its USD 84.5 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which had been agreed upon at October 2016. With the merger, AT&T is now capable of marketing Time Warner’s massive pool of content to other cable companies and potential consumers.
- EU and Japan signed wide-ranging free trade deal aimed to counterweight the protectionist forces unleashed by US President. This trade pact is expected to have created world’s largest open economic area. The deal removes 10% EU tariffs on Japanese cars and 3% on most car parts. It also scraps Japanese duties of around 30% on EU cheese and 15% on wines, and secures access to large public tenders in Japan.
- Shareholders of Disney and 21st Century Fox voted to approve all proposals related to Disney’s USD 71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Disney and Fox had first reached a buyout agreement for USD 52.4 billion in December 2017. But the deal got complicated when Comcast made offer of USD 65 billion, prompting Disney to increase its bid to USD 71.3 billion.
- Apple Inc. became the first public company to hit USD 1 trillion in the world. The incorporation beat its rivals from Silicon Valley such as Microsoft and Amazon. Although with valuation of USD 1 trillion, many analysts didn’t view the share of Apple Inc. to be expensive as the company was holding 15 times of expected profit while Microsoft was holding for 25 times and Amazon for 82.
- Federal Court of California blocked the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of Tezos Foundation for allegation over violation of securities law. In 2017, its ICO had raised USD 232 million, but was later blocked following accusation of selling unregistered securities to the investors.
- Amazon, the ecommerce giant, hit USD1 trillion market cap, leaping off the benchmark set by Apple. Amazon stock increased more than 70% in 2018, doubling more than that of 2017. The analysts stated that the biggest value driver for the Amazon was its diverse investment portfolio as the company has ventured into different sectors. Moreover, impressive growth was viewed in its Amazon Web Services with 50% growth in the second quarter of this year.
- Trump announced to impose 10% of tariff on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese imported goods. United States further threatened to impose USD 267 billion or more duties in Chinese imports if the case of retaliation would be conducted by China. And further 25% of tariff was planned to be increased within the year end.
- Google pulled the plug out Google+ after approximately 500,000 users’ data was exposed by a bug. This decision was followed with revelation of security flaws of the platform which was resolved earlier in March. The company also stated “low usage and engagement” of Google+ as the other reason behind its decision. And the company further cited that the application is better suited for businesses rather than for social network.
- The president of China, Xi Jinping, inaugurated the longest bridge of the world. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is nearly 22-mile of road & bridge section and 4-mile of tunnel section. According to the authorities, the bridge valuation is worth HKD 120 billion. This bridge connects the financial center of Hong Kong to the comparatively lesser developed area of Macau.
- Alibaba’s Singles Day of November 2018 became the world’s largest online shopping day. New record was set by Chinese retail giant in its Singles Day with sales over USD 25.3 billion that had set record in 2017. The company generated more than USD 30.7 billion sales in 24 hours leaving Cyber Monday way behind that had sales worth of USD 7.8 billion only.
- CVS, world largest pharmacy company, combined with Aetna, an insurance company, through a merger deal of USD 69 billion. This merger integrated the CVS pharmacies with insurance business incorporating three major priorities: lowering the costs in healthcare, increasing health care accessibility and simplifying the healthcare opportunities.
- UN stated that about 3.9 billion people are using internet worldwide. The UN agency for Information and communication technologies predicted that an approximate of 51.2% of global population would be using internet by the end of 2018.
- Cigna, the global leader in health service industry, acquired Express Scripts with value around USD 67 billion, to transform health care industry as well as to deliver improved health-care system in affordable price through open connected solutions. Cigna also announced its investment of USD 200 million to the communities through its charitable foundation.
- Bitcoin struggled to sustain with price crash and plunge to the lowest value of USD 3144.89 in mid-December. Similarly, other virtual currencies have lost more than USD 700 billion of value since the market peaked in January 2018 with continued downfall throughout the year as tracked by Coinmarketcap.com.
Grishma P. Adhikari, Research Analyst at A2Z Insights