Today’s digital payments tech is delivering far more than process and cost efficiency in the B2B supply chain, says Patrick Bermingham, CEO, Adflex – it’s also creating new value by changing how buyers and suppliers find and do business with each other.
A surprising number of big organisations still rely on traditional paper invoicing and BACS to pay their suppliers. While this approach has some advantages, the stretching of standard payment terms – particularly in embattled sectors like construction – is causing suppliers considerable pain. At first glance, this looks like the odds are stacked against the supplier. In truth, however, the traditional model doesn’t really benefit the buyer either. The high volume of human and capital resources required to set up and maintain admin-heavy supply chain finance processes means buyers often struggle to onboard new suppliers. This ‘process overhead’ can be so cumbersome that many buyers become resistant to change, opting instead to limit their supplier choices to a small number of partners, meaning they end up doing business with only a tiny fraction of the overall market.
Thankfully, digital payments integration and the popularisation of B2B card payments in the supply chain is enabling dramatic change. Here, buyers, acquirers and suppliers can all plug into independent stakeholder-agnostic payments platforms that offer simplicity and efficiency as fundamentals, by doing the invoicing, payment and reconciliation ‘heavy lifting’ on their behalf.
Card payments enable large parts of the payments process to be automated and streamlined, reducing administrative headaches for procurement teams and suppliers alike. For example, Level 3 purchasing cards utilise bespoke electronic card management information systems. These systems receive invoices electronically, cost-allocate and then reconcile them, all without human input. This creates significant process efficiencies by freeing up internal resources at either end.
Best of breed B2B payment processing platforms also provide detailed email remittances and portals accessible to buyers and suppliers 24/7. These portals include information about past and incoming payments and calculators that allow stakeholders to input their data to show the cost of payments and savings offered – removing any uncertainty and complexity from the equation.
Stakeholder agnostic payments platforms circumvent the conventional ‘process overhead’ for buyers by providing fully managed end-to-end supplier onboarding services, including bespoke microsites with detailed instructions and tailored correspondence for buyers to share with their suppliers. This ensures that merchants can be onboarded quickly and creates an established business network of connected buyers and suppliers, further simplifying card issuance and acceptance and giving buyers access to a wide range of qualified merchants. In this way the digital transformation of supply chain payments is creating new value, fundamentally changing the way buyers and merchants find, evaluate and interface with one another.
Establishing partner-of-choice status
Suppliers that are connected to a well populated platform can also position themselves favourably to buyers. What was once merely transactional has now become a tool to enable the harmonisation of commercial engagement, which is in turn enabling stronger, deeper partnerships.
Payments integration is playing an increasingly influential role in supplier selection, evidenced by the sharp rise in tender documents that enquire about supplier acceptance of card payments, and even whether they accept Level 3 purchasing cards specifically. Suppliers who can answer in the affirmative can position themselves more favourably in tenders with any buying client operating a card programme.
Joining an established business network is also beneficial for suppliers – it opens them up to other buyers and issuers in the network. Plus, as a card acceptor, they automatically become part of the network of the card scheme they partner with (Visa or Mastercard, for example). Since the card schemes publish lists of accepting suppliers, buyers use these to identify suppliers on the same network as them – increasing merchant visibility amongst their target customers and driving business growth.
Faster, integrated payments
Ultimately, digital payment integration technologies go beyond improving efficiencies and reducing costs – they create opportunity. All parties benefit from the added value accessed through the smart application of flexible technologies that bring buyers, suppliers, issuers and acquirers closer together.
And, perhaps most importantly, no-one need ever write another invoice again.
Climate extremes seen harming unborn babies in Brazil’s Amazon
By Jack Graham
(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new study that links extreme rains with lower birth weights in Brazil’s Amazon region underscores the long-term health impacts of weather extremes connected to climate change, researchers said on Monday.
Exceptionally heavy rain and floods during pregnancy were linked to lower birth weight and premature births in Brazil’s northern Amazonas state, according to the researchers from Britain’s Lancaster University and the FIOCRUZ health research institute.
They compared nearly 300,000 births over 11 years with local weather data and found babies born after extreme rainfall were more likely to have low birth weights, which is linked to worse educational, health and even income attainment as adults.
Even non-extreme intense rainfall was linked to a 40% higher chance of a child being low birth-weight, according to the study, published on Monday in the Nature Sustainability journal.
Co-author Luke Parry said heavy rains and flooding could cause increases in infectious diseases like malaria, shortages of food and mental health issues in pregnant women, leading to lower birth weights.
“It’s an example of climate injustice, because these mothers and these communities are very, very far from deforestation frontiers in the Amazon,” Parry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“They’ve contributed very little to climate change but are being hit first and worst,” he added, saying he had been “surprised by just how severe these impacts are”.
Severe flooding on the Amazon river is five times more common than just a few decades ago, according to a 2018 paper in the journal Science Advances.
Last week, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited the neighbouring state of Acre in the Brazilian rainforest, which is under a state of emergency after heavy flooding.
Parry said local people had adapted their lifestyles to deal with climate change, but that “the extent of the extreme river levels and rainfalls has basically exceeded people’s adaptive capacities”.
The negative impacts were even worse for adolescent and indigenous mothers.
The study said the “long-term political neglect of provincial Amazonia” and “uneven development in Brazil” needed to be addressed to tackle the “double burden” of climate change and health inequalities.
It said policy interventions should include antenatal health coverage and transport for rural teenagers to finish high school, as well as improved early warning systems for floods.
(Reporting by Jack Graham; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Energy leaders grapple with climate targets at virtual CERAWeek
By Ron Bousso and Jessica Resnick-Ault
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global energy leaders and other luminaries like incoming Amazon Chief Executive Andy Jassy focused on the tough road to transforming world economies to a lower-carbon future at the kickoff of the world’s largest energy conference on Monday.
Numerous speakers at CERAWeek were prepared to talk about the energy transition and the need for future investment in renewables. But many oil and gas executives were vocal about the need for more fossil-fuel investment in coming years, even as a way of leading the world to a lower-carbon future.
“One of the most urgent things we can do to combat global warming is to back carbon-emitting companies that are committed to get to net zero,” said Bernard Looney, CEO of BP Plc, one of several European oil majors to have committed to ambitious targets of cutting emissions to reach net zero carbon by 2050.
CERAWeek was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which stopped billions of people from traveling and wiped out one-fifth of worldwide demand for fuel.
The U.S. fossil fuel industry is still reeling after tens of thousands of jobs were lost. The pandemic has instead accelerated the transition to renewable fuels and electrification of key elements of energy use. Global majors have been playing catch-up, responding to demands from investors to lower production of fuels that contribute to global warming.
The primary message on Monday, however, was that achieving net zero – where polluting emissions are offset by technologies that absorb carbon dioxide for the atmosphere – is going to be difficult.
“There just isn’t yet enough renewable energy to fuel all of the energy that people need. That’s in developed countries,” said Andy Jassy, head of Amazon.com Inc’s cloud division who will succeed Jeff Bezos as CEO this summer.
He said the company had announced its goal for net zero emissions at a time when it had not entirely figured out how to get there.
Since the 2019 conference, many of the world’s major oil companies have set ambitious goals to shift new investments to technologies that will reduce carbon emissions to slow global warming. BP has largely jettisoned its oil exploration team; U.S. auto giant General Motors Co announced plans to stop making gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in 15 years.
Oil companies have come under increasing pressure from shareholders, governments and activists to show how they are changing their businesses from fossil fuels toward renewables, and to accelerate that transition. However, numerous speakers warned that the viability of certain technologies, such as hydrogen, remains far in the future.
Hydrogen “is a very small business at this point in time, it will scale up, and it will take a long time before it is a business that is large enough to start making a real difference on sort of planetary scale,” said Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden.
Other speakers expected to appear include several representatives from national oil companies along with CEOs of Exxon Mobil, Total, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum, though many are participating in panels focusing on the energy transition.
Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, was scheduled to appear, but backed out, citing a conflict.
Some CEOs said more oil and gas investment was necessary.
“We don’t think peak oil is around the corner – we see oil demand growing for the next 10 years,” said John Hess, CEO of Hess Corp. “We’re not investing enough to grow oil and gas in the future,” he said, explaining that prices would need to rise to support that investment.
(Reporting By Ron Bousso, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Marianna Parraga; additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Stephanie Kelly, Jeffrey Dastin and Gary McWilliams; writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
AstraZeneca sells stake in vaccine maker Moderna for nearly $1 billion
(Reuters) – AstraZeneca sold its stake in rival COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna for roughly $1 billion over the course of last year as the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker cashed in on the meteoric rise in the U.S. company’s shares.
London-listed AstraZeneca recorded $1.38 billion in equity portfolio sales last year, with “a large proportion” of it coming from the Moderna sale, according its latest annual report.
Shares in Moderna, which went public in 2018 at $23 per share, surged more than five times last year after it began working on a COVID-19 vaccine based on a new mRNA technology that won U.S. approval in December.
Its shot relies on synthetic genes to send a message to the body’s immune system to build immunity and can be produced at a scale more rapidly than conventional vaccines like AstraZeneca’s.
Last week, Moderna said it was expecting $18.4 billion in sales from the vaccine this year, putting it on track for its first profit since its founding in 2010.
AstraZeneca began investing in Moderna in 2013, paying $240 million upfront and by the end of 2019 had built up its stake to 7.65%.
That would be worth about $3.2 billion based on Moderna’s 2020 closing stock price of $104.47, Reuters calculation showed.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine being developed with Oxford University has not been authorized in the United States and uses a weakened version of a chimpanzee common cold virus to deliver immunity-building proteins to the body.
In December, U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co said it had sold its equity investment in Moderna, but did not disclose the details of the sale proceeds.
Asset manager Baillie Gifford on Monday disclosed in a separate filing it now held 11% passive stake in Moderna as of Feb. 26.
Moderna shares were down 5% at $146.62 in afternoon trading.
(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee, Pushkala Aripaka, Kanishka Singh and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely, David Evans and Arun Koyyur)
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