Scott Ellaway, formerly organ scholar at Keble College, and James Bowman, previously a choral scholar at New, are just two of Oxford’s alumni making their way in the classical music world. Last Friday, at the Oxford Playhouse, counter-tenor Bowman performed alongside conductor Ellaway and his newly formed ensemble, Orchestra Europa. Europa has been set up to allow young ambitious musicians throughout Europe the opportunity to launch their careers. The idea is based upon New World Symphony, a project in Miami established in 1987 by Michael Tilson Thomas, which selects promising young classical musicians from across the U.S.A. and trains them for three years as orchestral performers. ‘Europa will take musicians recommended by conservatoires and, having given them training, help them to gain positions in the best orchestras in the world,’ Ellaway told me. ‘We will be holding auditions in April to select members of the orchestra, which will in the end be of symphonic size’.Despite having only rehearsed together for a week at the time of Europa’s first launch concert last Friday, the orchestra played with amazing cohesion, with Ellaway’s own enthusiasm as conductor displayed in the playing. Symphonies by Haydn and Schubert were separated by two short songs, sung by sixty-six year old Bowman. The first song, by Hasse, was extremely playful, and was juxtaposed perfectly by the beautiful Mozart song that followed. Both songs were short, however, and it was disappointing to see Bowman’s performance come to an end so quickly.Orchestra Europa will give a series of concerts in 2008 throughout Europe with world-famous soloists such as Yan Pascal Tortelier, Sir Thomas Allen, Peter Donohoe and Nicola Benedetti. The second of their launch concerts will be in Oxford on 25th April at the Sheldonian theatre, where the orchestra will be performing music by Beethoven, Haydn, and Dr. Robert Saxton, a fellow in music at Worcester College. – Robin Thompson
Romania’s mandatory second pillar pension funds returned -4.5% over the first four months of 2020, according to the Romanian Pension Funds’ Association (APAPR).The first quarter had seen returns for the €13bn-worth second pillar system slump to -6.7%.According to Mihai Bobocea, adviser to the board and spokesman for APAPR, 90% of the Q1 fall was caused by plunging equity markets, the Bucharest Stock Exchange falling by 24% over the period and the UK, German and French exchanges suffering similar falls.The remainder 10% loss was caused by short-term volatility in bond prices, as Romanian pension funds value all holdings on a mark-to-market basis. In fact, these bounced back into positive territory much sooner than the equity markets, Bobocea said. Bonds form the lion’s share of Pillar II portfolios, with 65% of assets in government bonds and a further 10% in other bonds, as at 31 March 2020. Listed equities made up 18.5% and UCITS 2.5% of portfolios at the same date, with the rest in bank deposits.But there was a significant recovery in April, and returns for the 12 months to 30 April 2020 were still positive, at 4%.Over the longer term, average annual returns for the three years to end-March 2020 were 2.2%, and 3% over the five years to that date.Bobocea told IPE: “We expect the recovery to continue, as the lockdown on the economy started being eased on 15 May.”Under the new “state of alert” which superseded the state of emergency, individuals may now move around their local neighbourhoods without an affidavit. Hotels, stores with direct access to the outside, dental surgeries and hairdressers’ salons have been allowed to reopen, although restaurants and bars remain closed, except for take-out services. Romania’s Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF) decided to temporarily lift some investment restrictions for pension funds, allowing them to invest more than 70% of their assets in government bondsWhile Bobocea said it is too early to measure how pension fund liabilities have been affected by COVID-19, he pointed out that liabilities are “insubstantial”. In any case, all second pillar funds are defined contribution schemes.Meanwhile, on 10 April 2020, the country’s Financial Supervisory Authority (ASF) decided to temporarily lift some investment restrictions for pension funds, allowing them to invest more than 70% of their assets – the previous ceiling – in government bonds.However, Bobocea said: “The asset allocation at end-March shows the 70% limit has not yet been breached, and pension funds seem to be treating this temporary lifting of restrictions more as a precautionary measure by the ASF.”Meanwhile, last January, Romania’s finance minister Florin Citu promised that the contribution rate for the second pillar would increase back to 5% in 2021, and ultimately to 6%, as specified when the second pillar was set up.This is in line with the government’s intention to strengthen private pensions by reversing some policies of its predecessor administration, run by the Social Democratic Party (PSD), which had reduced second pillar contributions to 3.75% in 2018, before losing power in October last year.However, in the light of the COVID-19 crisis, this move is now in the balance, given that the second pillar is funded by social insurance contributions, effectively from the government budget.Bobocea told IPE: “It is obvious that Romania’s economy and public finances, like all of Europe’s, will need to show a robust recovery and reconstruction before additional government spending will be possible.”To read the digital edition of IPE’s latest magazine click here.
Aquis Entertainment and Executive Sports and Entertainment have together established QeSports. This esports venture company will include a player and talent management agency along with event and tournament creation and management across Australia and New Zealand.Credit: QeSportsESE runs traditional sports and entertainment events like the NRL, AFL and Cricket in Australia and is a part-owner of League of Legends Oceanic Pro League team Bombers, while Aquis owns Casino Canberra in the capital city. ESE’s Co-founder, Rohan Sawyer will become QeSports’ CEO. Sawyer expressed that this partnership will allow QeSports to develop new assets as a first for Australia: “Australia is becoming a focus of major publishers and brands for investment and we’re aiming to be the market leader across all segments of the esports ecosystem.”Jessica Mellor, CEO of Aquis Entertainment added: “Aquis Entertainment’s vision is to provide Australia with next-generation entertainment and our move into the esports market is very much in line with our strategy. Australians are well known for their passion for traditional sports and we’re starting to see this translate to esports as the sector matures.”According to Nielsen Esports Playbook research, the Australian esports audience has more than doubled to 3.2 million in the past five years. Additions like the Gfinity Esports Elite Series expansion to Australia has assisted in that growth.“Two-thirds of Australian esports fans are aged 18-34 and that’s a market segment we know very well,” said Mellor. “This, coupled with our experience in entertainment venue operations, puts us in a strong position to meet a wide range of expanding needs in the esports space.”Esports Insider says: Many consider Australia/New Zealand a ‘minor’ region in just about any esport. Although, this doesn’t mean the country doesn’t have a passionate community around it. The combination of these two powerhouse entertainment companies will certainly be explosive and a welcome addition to ANZ. Don’t sleep on the Australian region as more and more support swarms around it.