Buffett bought his own shares while selling others amid the market rally

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shares were left out of the stock market rally in the second quarter. Warren Buffett clearly thought the disconnect wasn’t justified.

The famous investor spent a record $ 5.1 billion buying Berkshire stock in the second quarter, more than double the amount he had bought before. That came as he dumped nearly $ 13 billion of stock from other companies, including airline stocks and some finance, in what was Buffett’s best-selling quarter in more than a decade.

Buffett has shown signs of buying appetite in recent weeks, but second-quarter results show this is a new phenomenon, as the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the economy but failed to make a permanent dent in valuations. of the stock market. Buffett has been amassing cash this year even as other investors have tried to seize opportunities amid the turmoil, and the pain felt by Berkshire’s own businesses may inform his thinking.

“Our operating business groups are preparing for reduced cash flows from reduced revenue and economic activity as a result of covid-19,” Berkshire said Saturday in a regulatory filing. “We currently believe that our liquidity and capital strength, which is extremely strong, is more than adequate.”

Buffett’s cash pile rose to a record $ 146.6 billion at the end of June, in part from dumping all of his airline stocks in April. He’s been more active lately, closing a deal for natural gas assets in July and buying at least $ 2 billion worth of Bank of America Corp. shares in the last few weeks through Aug. 4.

Berkshire’s Class A shares, which fell in line with the S&P 500 in the first three months of the year as the pandemic spread to the US, fell another 1.7% last quarter, while the index broader rose 20%. Buffett said in early May that the buybacks weren’t more compelling than in the past, but the buybacks in the quarter suggest his thinking changed.

The company’s shares have rallied in July and August, but are still underperforming in 2020. Berkshire Class A shares fell 7.4% for the year through Friday’s close, compared to a gain on March 3. , 7% on the S&P 500.

Berkshire’s operating profit slumped 10% in the second quarter to $ 5.5 billion. That was driven by a 42% drop in profits from the conglomerate’s manufacturing, services and retail businesses.

The company also took $ 10 billion in impairment charges related to its Precision Castparts unit. Berkshire bought Precision Castparts in 2016 in a transaction valued at $ 37.2 billion, making it one of Buffett’s largest offerings. Now the maker of jet engine blades and aircraft structural components is bracing for lean times as Boeing Co. and Airbus SE cut production of passenger jets and less air travel reduces the need for replacement parts.

That forced the aerospace parts maker to undergo an “aggressive restructuring,” and the company reduced its workforce by about 10,000 employees during the first half of 2020.

“We believe that the effects of the pandemic on commercial airlines and aircraft manufacturers continue to be particularly severe,” Berkshire said at the presentation. “In our view, the timing and extent of recovery in the aerospace and commercial airline industries may depend on the large-scale development and distribution of drugs or vaccines that effectively treat the virus.”

Other key takeaways from the results:

Unrealized gains and losses on Berkshire’s huge portfolio of stocks count toward the bottom line. So the S&P 500 rally in the second quarter raised net income to $ 26.3 billion.

Insurance underwriting earnings more than doubled to $ 806 million in the period. That was helped by profits from auto insurer Geico, as fewer accidents benefited the business. Berkshire warned that Geico could be hurt in the next three quarters by a program that gives drivers a credit on their premiums.

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The price of gold falls from record highs of US $ 2,000 as the dollar regains strength

Gold’s record bullish streak was paused today as the dollar got some respite from investors seeking hedging from the US-China clash, though fear of the Covid-19 pandemic had the bullion on its way to its biggest series of weekly earnings in about a decade.

Earlier, spot gold was down 0.31% to $ 2,056.72 an ounce, after climbing to a record $ 2,072.50 earlier in the day. Overall, the metal is up 4% so far this week, which will be the ninth in a row of gains.

“We are going to see some decline in gold from its highs because the dollar’s decline is bottoming out, and we may have some recovery in the currency in the short term, which will reverse bullion gains, although not entirely,” said Spencer Campbell, director of SE Asia Consulting Pte Ltd.

The dollar was rebounding from two-year lows after US President Donald Trump’s decision to ban transactions in the country with two popular apps owned by Chinese firms, in a move that eroded risk appetite.

In many cases, the US currency has been the preferred hedge asset for investors when tensions between Washington and Beijing intensify, a factor that makes gold more expensive for buyers who handle other currencies.

Among other precious metals, silver was down 2.2% at $ 28.30 an ounce, after hitting its highest level since February 2013. It has gained about 16% so far this week.

Likewise, platinum was down 2.8% to $ 970.31 an ounce, and palladium was down 1.7% to $ 2,183.70.

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Is it the end of the dollar as a reserve currency?

In the last month the dollar has returned to the headlines due to the strong movements in the currency. In March, the greenback was sought in every corner of the planet, acting as an active refuge from the wave of uncertainty due to the arrival of the pandemic, showing great strength where even currencies such as the Colombian peso reached historical minimum levels compared to the greenback, about $ 4,200 to the dollar.

Four months later, the story appears to be different, a surge in sales has pushed the US dollar to one of its worst months in the last decade. In just July it lost -4.6% against the euro, -3.6% against the Swiss franc, -2.4% against the yen, among others. This sharp depreciation has raised many questions, such as whether the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented currency printing has begun to have its consequences or even whether its privileged status as a reserve currency is in jeopardy.

But what is a reserve currency and why is the dollar so important in the world? First, a reserve currency is one that is used in large quantities by many governments and central banks to carry out their investments, transactions and the fulfillment of their international obligations.

Now, today, the dollar is the world’s largest reserve currency precisely because around 65% of central bank international reserves are in dollars and about 50% of global trade is carried out in dollars.

The roots of this great rise in the US currency go back to the Bretton Woods agreement signed in July 1944. There, they sought to establish a new global monetary system since at that time the world was going through World War II and a plan was required postwar period. The participants were the allied countries and agreed to exchange their currencies for dollars at a fixed exchange rate. Why against the dollar? Because the United States had a large part of the world supply of gold, therefore, no other country had enough reserves to back its currency, since before this treaty the gold standard was the one that was maintained . Consequently, the dollar was accepted as a global currency with a fixed exchange rate against gold of US $ 35 per troy ounce.

Although the system collapsed 30 years later, due to a scenario of economic stagnation and inflation in the US that put the value of the dollar in doubt, some things such as the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank were maintained. , and of course, the dollar as the reference currency.

In March 1973 (months after the collapse of the Bretton Woods system) the DXY index was calculated for the first time, which shows the behavior of the dollar against the currencies of its main trading partners. In order from highest to lowest they are the euro, the yen, the British pound, the Canadian dollar, the Swedish krona and the Swiss franc. When the index rises, the dollar is strengthening and vice versa.

Since its inception, the index has reached a high of 164 points in March 1985 and a low of 70.6 in March 2008. Today, the index stands at 93, and has lost about -10% since March .

Starting from this context, the recent weakness is explained mainly in two catalysts. First of all, currencies are usually analyzed in relative terms, if one region tends to do better than another, its currency tends to strengthen and is currently looking at the euro, which is trading at levels of US $ 1.19 per euro. , reflecting the expectation that the old continent will surpass the US in its economic growth thanks to a better containment of the virus and the approval of the economic recovery fund worth € 750,000 million. Yet Europe has only surpassed the US eight times since 1992, according to the IMF.

The second catalyst is a greater appetite for risk thanks to the fact that everything seems to indicate that the worst of the crisis is behind us and the world is on a recovery path from the third quarter.

However, the strength seen in the euro has not been replicated in the same magnitude to other currencies. In other words, the weakness of the dollar has been largely caused by a strong euro and not by a general weakness of the greenback. In fact, so far this year the DXY has lost just -2%, while the currencies of emerging markets such as Latin America measured through the JP Morgan Latin American Currency Index (LACI) have fallen -16% against the dollar in this same period.

In conclusion, the recent movements of the dollar have been driven by short-term catalysts such as better expectations for Europe and doubts about the containment of the virus by the US, but not by fundamental changes in the role of the dollar in the world. It is difficult to find a currency that can replace the magnitudes of the greenback because although Europe has positive prospects, structural problems persist such as demographics, innovation, and even memories such as the debt crisis seen in 2012. In other currencies such as the franc , the yen or the yuan does not seem to exist such a large issue and such high confidence to replace the role of the dollar from one day to the next.

Of course, there is no doubt that there are reasons to question the dollar, such as the massive printing of dollars by the Fed, the constant increase in the fiscal deficit, the country’s debt stacking which is expected to reach 130%. of GDP this year, the uncertainty regarding the evolution of the pandemic in the country or the announcement of the reduction of the outlook from stable to negative of the US credit rating by Fitch, but there are still no reasons structural and weight that lead to the collapse of the currency. Therefore, it is possible that the dollar is close to a floor and any event of uncertainty will return the appetite for the world’s main reserve currency.

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Credit cards advantageous offers 2020 from 467 banks in the Russian Federation

Natalia, good afternoon!

What’s going on with your customer service in the last year?

Or money has blurred the TOPs’ eyes?

I have been your client for more than a year, I often used the S7 Black Edition card on business trips, I had a personal manager, I solved all the issues, when there was no other one, but also promptly. Business trips ended, closing the map with a battle for a month.

The Central Bank lowered the bank rate, interest on loans should also be reduced, it has begun again

season of business trips, I decided to use the service of refinancing a credit card from your savings account by ALL airlines, on 08/07/2020 I wrote an application for its receipt, surprisingly, the decision was made within a minute, the courier was sent immediately, the message came in 2 hours with platinum.

I decided to contact the support service so that they could replace me with a mile one, then the circus and horses began ..

An “unfinished” bot meets me in my personal account and tries to solve the above question / problem, then it switches to the operator for 5-10 minutes waiting (at least), he was asked a question, ok no problems, another 5 minutes switching to another, SMS comes that they entered my profile of State services, okay, I’m waiting, (the courier has already left) I am informed that the application is under consideration, day two will be considered !!

This is the Tinkovs’ service aerobatics.

In the evening, around 18.00 (the working day is over) Maya calls and wants to offer favorable conditions, please dial in 5 minutes. Doesn’t call back.

Today is Saturday 08.08.2020 at 11.13. a call from you, Elena repeatedly offers me this “advantageous offer” – to provide a mobile phone, my boss !! Are you seriously??? General Director of the holding structure. If it is not there, then the phone number of a colleague, I have all colleagues whose phones I know, managers, directors. Why do I need this? Call the worker, they will connect with the accounting department, personnel.

I’m pulling myself into bondage, where does the boss or colleague, why all this divorce?

And you know what for this I will get bingo- ACCELERATION of consideration of my application.

That is, essentially NOTHING.

Natalya, I don’t need any cards, you need them. You need crazy commissions and interest from me, why should I suffer from conversations with incompetent, stupidly motivated managers and ruin my mood on weekends?

Tinkoff used to be a contactless super mobile bank, now sorry sucks worse than alpha and discovery.

I wrote a refusal, probably another 30 days will spoil my personal account with cards that are under consideration.

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Athena Foods acquires a plant in Bucaramanga, Santander, to strengthen its local operation

María Alejandra Ruiz Rico – mruiz@larepublica.com.co

Athena Foods, a company of Minerva SA, a leader in the export of beef from South America, signed an agreement for the acquisition of the slaughter and boning plant of Frigorífico Vijagual SA located in Bucaramanga, Santander.The company will start operating it starting next September 1.

This operation represents a total investment of approximately US $ 26 million that includes the acquisition of assets, working capital and investments to expand and modernize the facilities. This is an important example of Athena Foods’ commitment to Colombia and the livestock sector.

“We are very happy with the materialization of this important objective, a job in which we have put all our efforts, aware of the importance it represents for the growth of our operation and the development of the sector in Colombia. With this purchase we strengthen our leadership and confirm the commitment we have with the country and its people. We will continue to grow together, generating more and better opportunities and positioning Colombian meat around the world, ”said Leandro Protzen, COO of Athena Foods in Colombia.

The meat processing plant of Frigorífico Vijagual SA, recently acquired by Athena Foods, has a slaughtering and deboning capacity of 700 heads per day, which doubles the company’s production capacity nationwide.

“With a herd of approximately 28 million head of cattle (larger than Australia’s), Colombia has enormous growth potential, especially in exports,” Protzen pointed out.

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July laws affect motorists, retirees and students

If the train is canceled, not everything is lost

From July 1, a document begins to operate that guarantees railway passengers a refund in case of cancellation of a flight. This applies to three points.

First: if the trip did not take place due to the threat of individual emergencies (ES). The second and third: with the introduction throughout the country (or some part of it) of high alert or emergency. This is stated in Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of June 20, 2020 N 901.

So, if on the day and time indicated on the ticket, it was not possible to leave the train for these three reasons, then within twelve months the passenger can receive money. Or, if he so desires, take the route along the same route in the train and carriage of the class indicated on the ticket after removing the emergency mode or high alert. Also for twelve months.

It will be safer to ride in minibuses and buses

Starting July 1, all vehicles of category M2 and M3 must be equipped with tachographs. This is stated in the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of March 30, 2019 N 382.

We are talking about vehicles with more than eight passenger seats. That is, buses, trolleybuses and minibuses.

A tachograph is a special measuring device that monitors the movement of a machine along the way. It makes it possible to fix and stop violations of the speed limit. And also monitor the condition of the driver, because it tracks the time spent by him driving. And from these data, you can determine how tired the driver of the same minibus.

New parking rules

From July 1, at least 10 percent of the places in any public parking should be allocated for disabled people. This is stated in the Federal Law of July 18, 2019 N 184-FZ.

Recall that in such places citizens with disabilities group 1 and 2 (or drivers who transport disabled people) can park their cars for free.

Disabled people and 3 groups will be able to take advantage of the privilege, but not all. According to the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of 10.02.2020 N 115.

from July 1, free parking is allowed for people with the 3rd disability group, who have restrictions on independent movement, and who have received the “Disabled” identification mark until July 2020.

In addition, on July 1, they will no longer issue a sign “Disabled”. Instead, the disabled person or driver who is transporting him needs to register his car with the Federal Register of Disabled People. To do this, you need to apply to the Pension Fund, through the Unified Portal of Public Services or through the MFC. This is stated in Order No. 724н of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Russian Federation of 11/14/2019.

For those who already have the “Disabled” sign, a transitional period is set until January 1, 2021. That is, before the end of the year it will still be possible to park in preferential places without entering your car in the register.

Guardians will start indexing pensions year after year

From July 1, pensioners who are guardians or trustees on a paid basis cease to be considered working.

This is stated in the Federal Law of April 1, 2020 N 86-ФЗ “On Amending Article 7 of the Federal Law” On Mandatory Pension Insurance in the Russian Federation “.

Thus, these pensioners will again be indexed insurance pension with the payment of increases in the same year, and not after the end of their employment. And it was considered guardianship and trusteeship on a paid basis, that is, under an agreement, for example, on a foster family. Pensioners such as guardians and trustees receive monthly payments from regional budgets.

From July 1, the Russian Pension Fund explains, they “will not be equated with working citizens (as at present), and they, like all non-working pensioners, will be indexed annually with an insurance pension and a fixed payment to it.”

University graduates will be able to quickly find work

From July 1, the concept is introduced – “practical training of students.” This applies to institutions of higher education and secondary vocational. The goal is to provide graduates not only with strong knowledge of the theory of a future profession, but also with practical skills.

This is provided for by the Federal Law of December 2, 2019 N 403-ФЗ “On Amendments to the Federal Law” On Education in the Russian Federation “and certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation.”

Students have practice now. However, practical training is a broader concept, which provides for the acquisition of specific competencies in the specialization of a university or college. That is, when mastering the educational program, students and students will have to, as the law says, perform certain types of work related to future professional activities and aimed at the formation, consolidation, development of practical skills.

All these educational institutions can arrange for themselves or conclude an agreement with a specialized company or organization.

Counterfeit medicines, cigarettes and shoes will become less

From July 1, Russia will introduce mandatory labeling of medicines, shoes and tobacco.

As RG already wrote, labeling will become mandatory for manufacturers, importers, distributors, and will also apply to wholesale and retail trade, pharmacies and medical organizations. All market participants must be registered in the state marking and tracing system “Honest Sign”.

Such marking will allow to trace the path of goods from producer to consumer.

Medicines

Medicines without labeling, which came into circulation before July 1, 2020, will be allowed until the expiration date. This is stated in the Federal Law of December 28, 2017 No. 425-FZ.

For violation of labeling rules, a fine is imposed. Officials will pay from 5 thousand to 10 thousand rubles, legal entities and individual entrepreneurs – from 50 thousand to 100 thousand rubles. This is stated in the Federal Law of April 15, 2019 No. 58-FZ.

At first it was planned that the mandatory labeling of drugs would begin on January 1, 2020. But then it was postponed to July 1.

Footwear

Mandatory labeling of shoes is introduced by Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of 05.07.2019 No. 860.

As RG already wrote, imported shoes imported after July 1, but purchased before this deadline, companies will be able to mark before August 1. Unrealized product balances produced or acquired before July 1 must be marked before September 1.

Cigarettes

Mandatory labeling of cigarettes is led by Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of February 28, 2019 No. 224.

The compulsory labeling system will also cover cigars, cigarillos, various types of smoking tobacco, including for hookahs and pipes.

Recall that labeling was introduced a year ago. But all the balances produced before July 1, 2019 without marking were allowed to sell until July 1, 2020.

Electricity without cheating

From the second attempt, from July 1, fines for energy retail companies and their managers begin to apply.

They were provided for by the Federal Law “On Amendments to the Federal Law“ On the Electric Power Industry ”and certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation related to licensing of energy sales activities” dated December 29, 2017 N 451-ФЗ.

The fines were supposed to start taking in January 2019. But then this period was postponed to July 1, 2020. And if there are no new changes, then fines will become a reality for those companies that work in violation of the law.

For example, a company official will have to pay between 200 and 250 thousand rubles for work without a license. Or he will be disqualified for up to 3 years. And the company itself may part with a million rubles. There are fines for violating licensing requirements.

Citizenship of the Russian Federation: new “beneficiaries”

From July of this year, more foreigners will become easier to obtain Russian citizenship. But there are certain conditions for this. They are listed in the law, which comes into force on July 24.

We are talking about the Federal Law of 04.24.2020 N 134-ФЗ “On Amendments to the Federal Law” On the Citizenship of the Russian Federation “in terms of simplifying the procedure for admission to the citizenship of the Russian Federation of foreign citizens and stateless persons.”

The simplified procedure applies to foreigners who are married to a citizen or citizen of Russia and have lived in our country for at least three years. And if such a family has common children, then the time of residence of the Russian Federation does not matter at all.

Lucky also those who studied in Russia and received a diploma after July 1, 2002. True, for them there is one more condition: they must have work experience in our country. But not three years, as before, but only a year.

Another new “benefit” for citizenship is those with one of the parents — a citizen of the Russian Federation and resides in Russia. And finally, it will be easier to get a Russian passport for citizens of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Ukraine.

Legislation related to the simplified procedure for obtaining citizenship continues to evolve. Recently, the State Duma adopted a law that will allow this to be done to those foreigners whose children are citizens of our country and they are already 18 years old.

What else comes into force in July

Pensions will only come to the MIR card. Starting July 1, pensions and other social payments will only be credited to bank cards of the MIR payment system. This is stated in the Federal Law of June 27, 2011 N 161-ФЗ of Moscow “On the National Payment System”.

But they will not be punished for violation of this rule yet. The Bank of Russia until October 1, 2020 will not apply measures to banks that continue to charge payments to cards of other payment systems. The transition period was introduced due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

However, the requirement of the Central Bank on the MIR card does not apply to pensions and social benefits that are credited to savings books or delivered by mail, the Pension Fund of Russia recalled.

Self-employed. Starting July 1, a special tax regime for the self-employed will be available in all regions. But the last word remains with the local authorities. This is stated in the Federal Law of April 1, 2020 N 101-ФЗ.

So far, a special tax regime is in force in 23 regions of the country. As explained by the Federal Tax Service, people who do not have an employer and employees who produce products or provide services themselves can go to it. Another condition is that their income should not exceed 2.4 million rubles per year.

Thanks to the special tax regime, the self-employed will pay 4 or 6 percent on income from their activities.

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“Central” required banks notify customers of “negative lists and black” to delete them

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The central bank issued, in its instructions the need for banks to notify their customers listed in the negative lists and black lists, including taken action to remove them from those lists.

The aim of this instruction to expedite the completion of the procedures benefit the customer of the decision last April to cancel the negative lists and black for both individuals and businesses, which will benefit about 8 thousand companies and 100 thousand clients from individuals, the abolition of the Prohibition of dealing with them and the freedom of their cooperation with the banking sector, including reflected positively on advancing the production industry and to maintain employment.

According to the statement, the central bank, the decision included the reduction of the periods of disclosure of historical information for customers who have to pay their indebtedness in full to be 6 months instead of 3 years, the number of beneficiaries of the above about 162 thousand clients, and ensure reduced periods of disclosure of the clients who have already completed the repayment of their indebtedness after the agreement with the banks on the reduced part of them to become one year instead of 5 or 10 years, where the number of beneficiaries from approximately 61 thousand clients.

In the light of the decision, has been deleted on the available historical system of credit registry at the central bank and the bank for the credit bureau(I-Score) for the customers who met the extended disclosure, including to take advantage of the funding opportunities for those who wish to get the personal loans or consumer or to complete their activities and return strongly to the circle of economic activity.

Come the instructions referred to with a view to achieving greater transparency and disclosure between the banking sector and customers through informing them with their current terms of application of the decision of the board of Directors of the central bank, encouraging the serious ones to deal again with the banks to achieve the directives of the state, in the framework of the directives of the president of the Republic on the re-run factories and enterprises to boost production and achieve growth rates desired which are consistent with the directions of the central bank in this regard.

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Bank charges, a decree that the customers fragile

While many households are affected by a reduction in income due to the health crisis, the government is preparing to extend by order the scope of the cap bank charges put in place at the end of 2018. This measure could be of benefit to 15 % of the customers “fragile” additional, according to the economy minister Bruno Le Maire.

→ ANALYSIS. Does it put a ceiling on banking fees ?

Matthew Robin, the consumer association UFC-que choisir, pointed out that every year,” one in three consumers pays a fee of a payment incident “. Fees amounting to € 450 per year, on average, for the more precarious.

Fees capped at $ 25 per month

According to the government, the decree expected for the end of June will focus on the definition of the customer fragile. This last was left up to the discretion of the banks that set their own criteria, combining the number of incidents of bank and the income of the customers. At the time of the implementation of the previous device, it was estimated that over 3 million people could be affected, but a million beneficiaries have been registered in the last year. Now, the client should be considered fragile from five incidents in banking over a period of a month. Its costs will be capped at $ 25 per month for three months.

However,” a blur remains on the criterion of income “said Matthew Robin. Is not defined explicitly, this second lever may continue to be used by banks to define their own customers fragile.

Rights are difficult to enforce

The decree provides for the publication by the Bank of France of a list of institutions that do not respect their commitment. But, according to the consumer association, this publication had already been raised, beginning in 2019, without ever being applied.

In the case of non-compliance of the device, consumers will need to ask their bank advisor or turn to consumer associations. “ We remind banks of their commitments, writing letters to complaints departments of banking institutions and if necessary, with the mediation services “says Matthew Robin. But” without legal provision, it is impossible to assert his rights in court “, he noted, saying further that if the measure is welcome, it will have to wait for the publication of the decree to rule.

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A coalition of public banks for sustainable investments

The French Development Agency (AFD) launched on Tuesday April 28 an invitation to all public banks around the world to meet next November in Paris.

“Public development banks are 450 financial institutions that represent $ 2 trillion, or 10% of the total investments made each year worldwide, explains Rémy Rioux, director general of AFD. We want to bring them together for the first time, in order to foster cooperation and support collective action in favor of the climate and sustainable development goals. ” This meeting is scheduled on the sidelines of the third Forum for Peace, which will take place around November 11 in Paris.

Behind the term public development bank, there are a multitude of very diverse institutions: some are international, such as the World Bank or the African Development Bank (ADB); others are national, such as the AFD in France or the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations; some are even regional, as in Brazil, where each federated state has its own public bank.

“Joint finance”

There are also public banks specializing in an economic sector such as agriculture or commerce. But all of these financial institutions have a few things in common: they work with public money to correct market imbalances and finance basic infrastructure and small businesses, for the benefit of those whose commercial banks do not want.

Twenty-six major public banks are already organized within a network, the IDFC (International development finance club) which is currently chaired by France. By bringing together 450 public banks in Paris, under the slogan “Joint finance”, France hopes to help pool the effort and mobilize public finance in favor of more sustainable development.

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when plants replace concrete

It is a popular place for tourists, who like to sail on the Mayenne and admire its bucolic shores. The Grez-Neuville canal, north of Angers (Maine-et-Loire), has been the subject of rather rare experimentation on this scale for two years: restoring its banks by preferring plants to stones. “We had observed their degradation during periods of low water, says Gwennaël Cordier, technician in aquatic environments in the department. To restore them, two options were available to us: resort to civil engineering, with masonry or riprap, or else to plant engineering, by focusing on the capacities of plants to fix and consolidate the banks. We chose the second. “

To select the best species to implant, the department relied on the expertise of the Fresne Agricultural High School, near Angers. “They had to resist the water, the waves caused by the boats, the erosion and the nutria which dig galleries, explains the technician. They also had to develop slowly and require little maintenance. “

Nature-based solutions

The choice fell on the plantation of earth sausages surrounded by coconut fibers, sown with helophyte plants such as irises or rushes. “They have the particularity of having their feet in the water and their heads in the sun”, describes André Evette, engineer and researcher at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Inrae), which closely monitors plant engineering projects in France (1). “These nature-based solutions are not new and date back to Antiquity, he recalls. But we lost sight of them from the 1950s and the transition to all-concrete. It was the era of the Thirty Glorious Years, and we didn’t have the same way of seeing the world as today … “ In the 1970s and 1980s, Austria and Switzerland brought these techniques up to date, followed by Germany and the Netherlands. In France, they have reappeared for ten years.

“Their major advantage is to favor the ecological restoration of the banks, high places of biodiversity, explains the researcher. The plants filter the pollutants that arrive in the water, provide a welcome shade and recreate a whole habitat in the air as in the water: insects, dragonflies, crayfish, freshwater shrimps, fish … “ A virtuous circle, which saves money. “Not only is it better to work with living things, but it’s also cheaper, confirms Gwennaël Cordier. Our plant site costs around € 40,000, when a “hard” development can amount to millions of euros, taking into account the difficulties of access to the site for construction machinery. “ Finally, if its effectiveness is not as immediate as a concrete installation, over time, “Plant engineering is becoming stronger than civil engineering”, he continues.

→ READ. Microplastics, nitrate: World Bank investigates invisible water pollution

Work on the Grez-Neuville canal was carried out in October 2018, testing two techniques. For the first 75 meters, a strip of local herb seeds has been planted above the helophyte sausages in geotextile. “It is a good alternative to the plastic sheet because it degrades naturally. “ Over the next 75 meters, a bed of willow plants has been added. The most effective technique will be reproduced on the 650 meters of remaining banks. A year and a half later, the first assessment is already positive: “The plants are well anchored to the ground and the willows have grown very well, greet the technician. But we must wait until spring 2021 to draw our conclusions. “

Only 5% of rivers in good ecological condition

In this department concentrating 7,000 kilometers of rivers, of which only 5% are in good ecological condition, the restoration of the banks and, ultimately, the recovery of the quality of the water prove to be crucial. “With plant engineering, we try to repair the mistakes of the past”, explains Marc Helbert, head of the water service in the department, which coordinates an Observatory of water quality in Anjou. “What weighs most on us is the fish index, he comments. It will replenish when they can circulate more freely in our waterways. But these actions will take time to produce their effects… ”

Especially since these techniques inspired by nature are not so simple to implement. “They require multidisciplinary skills and strong field experience, comments André Evette. It is not enough to follow technical rules like in civil engineering. Living things are impossible to model. How to predict that a beaver will eat the willow that has been planted? “ If plants can solve a multitude of problems – maintaining agricultural land in the face of erosion, preventing avalanches in the mountains, cleaning up soil, phyto-purification, wind or noise barrier – they cannot always be enough . “When you have a torrent near a school, you may not be going without concrete to secure the site, comments the researcher. In an urban environment, you don’t always have a choice. But mixed solutions are developing. “

→ REPORTAGE. At the Paris Aquarium, fish grow tomatoes

Nor is it easy to convince of the economic profitability of these developments. The establishment of hedges or buffer zones not cultivated in agricultural zones, for example, requires educational work. “Obviously, the financial gain is not necessarily demonstrated for a productivist agricultural model”, recognizes André Evette.

Last merit of plant genius: embellishing the landscape. “In front of our work on the canal, we have a very busy towpath, notes Gwennaël Cordier. Walkers are delighted with the new plantations. “ What hardly surprises André Evette: “Plants have a positive influence on humans: our blood pressure decreases in the forest, seeing a tree from its window facilitates healing in the hospital like concentration in a classroom. Putting plants back, in the end, is no longer disjoining man and nature … “

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Not enough fish, too many pesticides

The balance sheet drawn up in 2018 by the Observatory of water quality in Anjou over the last ten years draws up an unquestionable observation: too much nitrates, presence of 151 pesticide molecules (glyphosate, atrazine…), average or even bad fish population.

However, two indicators experience improvement (phosphorus, nitrogen) linked to
progress in wastewater treatment.

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