Top international headlines: Big investments in the metaverse in the spotlight

Google explores pay cuts, while pharmaceutical giants raise Covid-19 vaccine prices and more.

The Covid-19 Delta variant takes its toll on Asian economies, even while investors bank on safe sectors amid China’s regulatory crackdown. Telecommunications companies look to the future to profit from the metaverse and Google considers less pay for work from home employees.

Asia takes a knock from Delta
Asia’s economies are already showing a hit from the surging Delta variant of Covid-19 as consumers stay at home and airplanes idle on the tarmac.

According to a report from Bloomberg, early warning signs are showing up on Google mobility data capturing the impact of government restrictions on movement. Flight capacity in China is pointing to a slump in travel, manufacturing in Southeast Asia is affected and Australian business sentiment has fallen. Economists at Goldman Sachs are warning of a “negative delta in Asia” and have lowered their growth forecasts for China, along with JPMorgan Chase and others.

Telcos bet on the metaverse
About a decade ago, mobile carriers poured billions of dollars into high-speed 4G networks only to see technology giants such as Apple, Facebook and Google walk away with most of the profits. As operators plough even more cash into 5G, they are betting on a futuristic concept in hope of a fair share of the returns this time, reports Bloomberg.

Telecommunications companies are looking to build a platform based on the metaverse. Early-stage examples include virtual and augmented reality headsets or glasses that provide immersive experiences. Advanced versions combine multiple technologies like holograms to bring the internet to life: 3D avatars of people working, interacting and relaxing in digital replicas of offices, factories and leisure venues.

Less pay for remote workers
Google employees in the US who opt to work from home permanently may get a pay cut. The technology giant has developed a pay calculator that lets employees see the effects of working remotely or moving offices, according to BBC News.

Silicon Valley firms, some of which are keen to get employees back to their desks, are experimenting with employee pay structures.

Big tech companies including Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter have offered less pay for employees based in locations where it is more inexpensive to live.

Pandemic profit
US pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have raised the prices of their Covid-19 vaccines after data from clinical trials showed their mRNA formula was more effective than cheaper vaccines from Britain’s AstraZeneca and the American drugs maker Johnson & Johnson, reports The Guardian.

AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson plan to provide their doses on a not-for-profit basis until the pandemic ends.

Investors look to safe-harbour Chinese investments
Investors in China are turning to semiconductors, renewable energy and consumer-focused firms in the belief they offer safe harbour from a blizzard of regulatory action that has battered confidence and forced funds to overhaul their portfolios, reports Reuters.

Money managers view months of crackdowns that have hammered shares in sectors from tutoring to big tech as part of a major push from China's Communist Party leadership to pursue common prosperity at the expense of private sector profit.