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Volkswagen a winner as EU set to favour wifi over 5G: draft
October 19, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission is set to approve and set rules for the use of wifi in cars, giving Volkswagen and Renault who have pursued this technology the edge over Daimler and others who invested in rival 5G networks.

Workers clean the facade of a car showroom under a Volkswagen logo on the Chinese National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2018. Picture taken October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The EU executive is expected to announce draft legislation on the issue next month for feedback from EU countries and EU lawmakers before adopting it next year.

The decision is a crucial one for both carmakers and telecoms operators and equipment makers as the market for internet connected cars is expected to be worth billions of euros a year.

While connected cars have been available for some years in Europe, the Commission wants to speed up their deployment and encourage cooperation between manufacturers to make safer and more efficient cars via legislation.

Such legal protection and regulatory-approved technical specifications would also reassure car buyers and auto insurance companies, advantages which cars equipped with a rival technology would not have.

The latest draft of the proposed rules seen by Reuters paves the way for cars equipped with wifi called ITS-G5 to hit the roads in Europe while regulators will review the rules at the latest three years after its implementation to take into account any new technologies.

This could mean that the alternative 5G standard called C-V2X could take months or even years to win approval. Supporters however expect a shorter timeframe.

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The issue has pitted two powerful groups of carmakers, chipmakers and telecoms providers against each other. Connected cars are seen as lucrative targets for online retailers and advertisers.

Volkswagen, Renault, NXP, Autotalks and Kapsch TrafficCom are pushing ITS-G5, which they say has been sufficiently tested and fully standardised in European government-funded projects.

However, 5G backers include big names like Daimler, Ford, PSA Group, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei [HWT.UL], Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung. They say that C-V2X has wider application and is future-proof.

Backers of C-V2X say it can hook up to both cars and devices in the surrounding environment, with a wider range of applications in areas such as entertainment, traffic data and general navigation where data speeds or signal failure are less of an issue.

Fans of ITS-G5, which is primarily for connecting cars to other cars, say it is better for time-critical communications involved in crash avoidance and object navigation.

The EU executive declined to comment on the draft. It said: “Currently the Commission is looking into the best European framework to promote the right investments in this area and ensure interoperability between the existing systems and the development of new technologies.”

In effect, the decision puts the region at loggerheads with the United States and China which see C-V2X, using cellular networks, as the way forward.

Some EU countries such as Spain, Sweden, Finland and Norway had called for a postponement of the proposed rules because of the diverging views on the topic.

Following intense lobbying, France, which supports the wifi-based technology, came up with a compromise clause which is now under discussion.

Its proposal, seen by Reuters, would force the Commission to revise the rules in less than 12 months if a new technology is approved. The paper also calls for all involved parties to cooperate to ensure a level playing field between different technologies.

Lobbying group and C-V2X supporter 5GAA said that is not enough.

“A legislation confined to a wifi based communication would send a negative message about Europe’s commitment to 5G, and is contrary to the objectives of the Commission’s own 5G action plan, which aims to promote early deployment of 5G along major transport paths,” 5GAA said.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; additional reporting by Eric Auchard in London; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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Tesla CEO Musk accused in lawsuit of fraud over going-private proposal
August 11, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc and Chief Executive Elon Musk were sued on Friday by an investor who said they committed securities fraud in a scheme to “completely decimate” short-sellers that included Musk’s proposal to take the electric car company private.

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla, speaks at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

The proposed class-action complaint filed by Kalman Isaacs in San Francisco federal court accused Tesla and Musk of trying to artificially manipulate the company’s stock price.

It said this occurred largely through a series of tweets by Musk on Aug. 7, including when he said he might take Tesla private and that there was “funding secured.”

Musk’s tweets helped push Tesla’s stock price more than 13 percent above the previous day’s close.

The stock has since retreated, in part following reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had begun inquiring about Musk’s activity.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Isaacs accused Musk of making false and misleading statements to inflate Tesla’s stock price, and that Tesla “doubled-down” on those statements by failing to correct them.

According to the complaint, Isaacs bought 3,000 Tesla shares on Aug. 8 to cover his short position, or bet that the price would decline, in the company.

The complaint said the class period begins on the afternoon of Aug. 7, when the defendants launched their “nuclear attack” on short-sellers, and ends the next day.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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London taxi drivers plot to sue Uber for over $1.5 billion: Sky News
July 24, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

LONDON (Reuters) – London taxi drivers are drawing up a plan to sue mobile app Uber for over 1 billion pounds ($ 1.3 billion), Sky News reported on Tuesday citing unidentified sources, weeks after it was granted a temporary licence to operate in Britain’s capital.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Uber is seen on an iPad, during a news conference to announce Uber resumes ride-hailing service, in Taipei, Taiwan April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

Sky News said the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) was likely to argue that 25,000 black-cab drivers in London had suffered lost earnings averaging around 10,000 pounds for at least five years as a result of Uber’s failings, taking the overall possible bill to 1.25 billion pounds ($ 1.64 billion).

The report said it had engaged the law firm Mishcon de Reya to explore the options.

Uber won a probationary licence to operate in the city last month, after Transport for London (TfL) had refused to renew it last September for failings in its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

The LTDA were not immediately available for comment. Uber declined to comment.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Kate Holton

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Australia's IMF Bentham to fund complaint against Facebook over alleged privacy breach
July 10, 2018 6:43 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Litigation funding provider IMF Bentham Ltd (IMF.AX) said on Tuesday it was funding a representative complaint against social networking website Facebook Inc (FB.O) over alleged breaches of the Australian Privacy Principles.

FILE PHOTO: A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

The company said it would fund the complaint made to the Australian Information Commissioner against Facebook Australia, Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland. The complaint is being handled by Sydney-based law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery.

The Australian Information Commissioner has also commenced a separate investigation into the matter, IMF Bentham said, adding a class action may follow depending on the Commissioner’s findings.

Facebook has come under intense scrutiny after it admitted in March to making mistakes in letting 50 million users’ data get into the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

The company lost more than $ 50 billion in market value in the week after the allegations emerged that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data to build profiles on American voters and influence the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook had said in April that a little more than 311,000 Australian users may have had their information improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. (bit.ly/2Ejpktb)

Facebook’s Australian arm was not immediately available for a comment.

Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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Meituan-Dianping files for Hong Kong IPO; aims to raise over $4 billion: sources
June 25, 2018 6:16 am|Comments (0)

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Meituan-Dianping, an online food delivery-to-ticketing services platform, is bringing its sizable initial public offering (IPO) to Hong Kong, where it aims to raise over $ 4 billion, three people with knowledge of the deal said.

Drivers of food delivery service Meituan are seen in Beijing, China April 11, 2018. Picture taken April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The firm filed plans late on Friday for the city’s second multibillion-dollar tech float this year after smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp’s blockbuster IPO of up to $ 6.1 billion. Meituan-Dianping is also – after Xiaomi – the latest company with a dual-class share structure to file for a Hong Kong listing, under the city’s new rules designed to attract tech companies.

The Beijing-based firm, backed by gaming and social media company Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK), was valued at around $ 30 billion in a fundraising round last year.

It is aiming for a $ 60 billion valuation with the IPO, though industry insiders said it may have difficulty reaching that target as it is still money-losing and relies on a cash-burning business model to boost growth.

The firm is likely to list in October, said the people, who declined to be identified as the information was not public.

Meituan-Dianping did not detail the amount of funds targeted or a time frame. It declined to comment on its planned IPO when contacted by Reuters.

Founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Wang Xing, Meituan, likened to U.S. discounting platform Groupon Inc (GRPN.O), in 2015 completed a $ 15 billion merger with Dianping, akin to U.S. online review firm Yelp Inc (YELP.N). It offers a broad range of services including movie ticketing, food delivery, hotel and travel booking as well as ride-hailing.

Competitors include food-delivery platform Ele.me, backed by e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N), and leading ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T).

In its draft prospectus, which gave investors the first detailed look at its financial health ahead of the IPO, the company disclosed a 19 billion yuan ($ 2.9 billion) loss for 2017, steeper than in the previous two years.

Its adjusted net loss – which excludes the impact of fair value changes of convertible redeemable preferred shares and other items – was 2.85 billion yuan, smaller than losses of 5.35 billion yuan in 2016 and 5.91 billion yuan in 2015, the prospectus showed.

Revenue rose to 33.9 billion yuan in fiscal 2017, sharply higher than the 12.99 billion yuan made in the prior year.

Meituan-Dianping’s other backers include venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and DST Global, Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd and state-owned investment company Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd, as well as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Currently, Chief Executive Wang Xing owns 11.4 percent of the company, while Tencent owns 20.1 percent and Sequoia Capital 11.4 percent. Wang will remain controlling shareholder after the listing, the prospectus showed.

Being holders of Class A shares, Wang and two other co-founders, Mu Rongjun and Wang Huiwen, will be beneficiaries of a weighted voting rights structure, or dual-class shares, which give greater power to founding shareholders even with minority shareholding. Each Class A share has 10 votes while each Class B share has one vote.

The firm has mandated Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) to jointly sponsor its IPO. China Renaissance is the financial adviser.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan in Shanghai, Julie Zhu and Fiona Lau of IFR in Hong Kong, Aaron Saldanha in Bangalore, and Matthew Miller in BeijingEditing by Christopher Cushing and Edwina Gibbs

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China's Leshi questioned by bourse over trade suspension risk
May 9, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp Beijing has been formally asked whether its assets, which have fallen 98 percent over the past year, are at risk of turning negative and triggering a share trading halt and possible eventual delisting.

The logo of of Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp is seen on its building in Beijing, China March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The Shenzhen Stock Exchange’s website on Wednesday showed the bourse had sent Leshi 33 questions, including about its assets. Under its rules, a year of negative net assets results in “suspension from being a listed company”, with two years ending in delisting.

Leshi, a video-streaming company that also makes internet-connected television sets, has seen revenue and profit dwindle since mid-2017 amid a funding crisis involving parent conglomerate LeEco and its founder Jia Yueting.

Net assets attributable to shareholders stood at 304 million yuan ($ 47.70 million) at the end of March, from 13.6 billion yuan a year earlier. It reported a net loss of 307 million yuan for January-March 2018 and a loss of 13.9 billion yuan for all of 2017.

The Shenzhen bourse also questioned Leshi about its operations, asset impairment and auditing. It asked the firm to detail its debts, explain slumping performance at subsidiaries, and disclose ownership relations with other companies as well as whether units conduct transactions with other group companies.

It also asked for an update on Jia and his related parties’ repayment of debt to Leshi, and whether there has been a change in the company’s decision-making personnel.

Leshi, which since July has been managed by second-largest shareholder Sunac China Holdings Ltd, in January said Jia and LeEco owed it 7.5 billion yuan. LeEco disputed the figure.

Jia, who remains Leshi’s largest shareholder, has been residing in the United States to work on his electric vehicle start-up company, though Chinese regulators have requested his return.

The Shenzhen exchange has also asked Leshi to explain how its salary expense rose in 2017 though headcount dropped.

It has requested a reply from Leshi by May 18.

A Leshi spokeswoman said the company had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

Leshi’s shares were down 2.6 percent in morning trade in a flat broader market.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang and Hong Kong newsroom; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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UK Regulators Demand Cambridge Analytica Hand Over User Data
May 5, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office issued an order Friday requiring SCL Elections, the British affiliate of the controversial data mining firm Cambridge Analytica, to turn over all of the data it collected about a United States-based academic named David Carroll. Carroll filed a request for this data in January of 2017 under British data protection law, and received a response in March of that year that the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham describes in the order as “wholly inadequate.” Now, Denham is requiring SCL to comply with the request, or face criminal charges.

The enforcement order comes just days after Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, announced that it would shut down and declare bankruptcy, along with its international affiliates, following revelations that the companies had harvested the data of up to 87 million Americans without their knowledge. The company’s former CEO Alexander Nix was also recorded this year on undercover video, appearing to brag about using tactics like bribery and entrapment on behalf of Cambridge Analytica’s clients.

Long before the name Cambridge Analytica became notorious in households across the country, though, Carroll, a professor of media design at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, became suspicious about the way the company built its so-called psychographic profiles of US voters. These profiles, the company claimed, contained information not only about people’s demographics, but their personalities as well. Given that Cambridge Analytica originally spun out of a British company called SCL Group, Carroll filed a request under the UK’s Data Protection Act seeking access to all of the information the company had collected on him.

When SCL sent Carroll back his file, he was utterly unsatisfied. It ranked his interest in topics like immigration and gun control on a numeric scale, but offered no insight into what data was being used to generate those scores, or who actually used them. In mid-March, the same day Facebook announced it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from its platform as punishment for their transgressions, Carroll filed a request for disclosure in the UK in an attempt to force SCL to hand over the underlying data and answer a litany of questions about how they were being used.

Though that case is still ongoing, the ICO’s order does accomplish some of that work for Carroll. In the order, Denham describes the months-long battle between her office and SCL’s office over Carroll’s data request. According to the order, SCL repeatedly argued that as an US citizen, Carroll had no right to request his data under British laws, going so far as to write in one response that Carroll had no more data access rights in the UK “than a member of the Taliban sitting in a cave in the remotest corner of Afghanistan.”

Denham disagreed with that assessment. In March, after the undercover videos of Nix went public, the ICO stormed the company’s offices and seized its servers. Now, the regulator is giving SCL 30 days to provide descriptions of Carroll’s personal data, the purpose that data served, a list of all the recipients of that data, copies of the data itself, and the sources of that data.

“It’s quite exciting,” Carroll says of the order. “At the minimum, it’s the beginning of a victory and pointing toward winning.”

Still, he says, “It didn’t have to come to this. We’ve been trying for more than a year to do this out of court…It just kept escalating.”

SCL now has the opportunity to appeal the ICO’s order. Representatives for SCL didn’t immediately respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

Cambridge Analytica Exposed

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Parents Get More Control Over Facebook’s Messenger Kids With New Sleep Mode
April 27, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

Facebook’s recently introduced Messenger Kids app is getting an upgrade that lets parents set “off times” that blocks their children from using the service.

The new Sleep Mode, which debuted on Friday, also lets parents set different times for the app to shut off depending on the day of the week. During “off times,” the app is inaccessible, meaning children will be unable to send or receive messages or video calls, use the creative camera to take or send photos or receive notifications.

All Sleep Mode settings are controlled from the parent’s Facebook account and can be changed at any time.

Messenger Kids, which is aimed at children from 6 to 12, launched in December. While some parents have said that they appreciate having control over their children’s social media access, it’s still been met with controversy. Facebook itself recently faced a number of questions from Congress over how user data it collects is handled, especially when those users are minors.

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General Electric: Finally, It's Over
April 23, 2018 6:11 pm|Comments (0)


Image Source

So far, the word “unpredictable” seems to be one of the most-used descriptive choices when characterizing the events of 2018. And, broadly speaking, this appears to be an accurate term. Just a few months ago, if you were to suggest that the NASDAQ would be seeing “flash crash” activity while General Electric (NYSE:GE) was forming a long-term bottom in a multi-year decline, you might have been laughed out of the room. But this appears to be where we are, given the market’s positive reaction to GE’s April 20th announcements and the generalized lack of certainty in almost every aspect of this current financial environment. We have been saying that the stock declines below $ 13 per share would be the worst of it for holders of GE and we maintain this view in light of the company’s recent strategic moves. We are long GE with a bullish stance on the stock as a long-term hold for portfolio strategies.

Chart: CNN Money

Many analysts have argued that there are fundamental earnings problems within the company itself. But, since this is the most “mega” of the “mega-conglomerates” it is critical to assess the trends over at least three years before drawing any drastic conclusions. The earnings performance at GE has been erratic since 2015. But the revenue side of the equation has been much more stable over the same period.

This implies that GE’s problems are internal (fixable) rather than external (not fixable). This is good news, as long as the company is able to reduce operations and focus on the businesses. Currently, jet engines, power plants, and healthcare machines are GE’s biggest money-makers – and we would prefer to see more of the company’s attention (and resources) focused on streamlining these segments.

Earnings Trend Chart: Yahoo Finance

On the other side of the ledger, the power, oil, and gas markets are still presenting major challenges for General Electric, with revenue in those segments showing significant weakness in Q1. Operating losses in the power unit were lower by 38%, but the company has said that improvements have been made in service operation and cost execution for the segment. Operating losses in oil and gas fell by 30%. Other negatives were seen in the GE Capital unit, as it continues with its weaker trends.

For the first quarter, net losses came in at 14 cents per share (roughly in-line with last year’s performance for the period). On a continuing basis, net incomes came in at 4 cents per share (a solid increase from the in the 1 cent per share seen a year ago). On an adjusted basis, the company posted earnings of 16 cents per share (well above analyst estimates calling for 11 cents per share). Total revenues for the quarter gained by 7% (to $ 28.66 billion against expectations of $ 27.45 billion). In the accompanying statement, Flannery highlighted the fact that margins, industrial earnings, and free cash flows are all gaining on an annualized basis – and this is all good news for dividend investors.

What really matters here is the strategic direction, and the willingness within those in management to cut the fat and become a more modern company. There are still very real questions with respect to whether or not Flannery & Co. will be able to address those needs. But we do know that many of the correct moves have already been made. This includes the decisions to sell NBC, Universal Studios, and its real estate portfolio.

These were areas where the company could not reasonably hope to compete, and sacrifices needed to be made in order to preserve as much of the dividend as possible. Another example of a strategic move in the “right” direction was deal to sell GE’s appliance division for $ 5.6 billion. GE is still in recovery-mode, and this is the short-term outlook that should define the long-term outlook for quite some time.

GE Chart Analysis: Dividend-Investments.com

The key point here is that the word “recovery” implies gradual strengthening. In market terms, that equates to positive price movement, and we view GE as a long-term hold with an attractive yield offering for investors. GE cut industrial structural costs by $ 805 million, and they expect to beat prior goals to reduce costs by $ 2 billion for all of 2018. This is strong evidence of progress, and it has not yet been reflected in share prices.

Shorter-term, we have seen some upside and this is an indication that the market is liking what it sees (so far, at least). Since aviation, healthcare, and transportation divisions all experienced double-digit profit growth, these moves should be viewed as valid. Prior resistance under $ 14 should now be expected to act as price support and we believe that a long-term bottom has likely formed at $ 12.80.

What is your position on GE? We look forward to reading your comments. Stay tuned to Dividend Investors and receive our next alerts by clicking the “Follow” button at the top of the page.

Disclosure: I am/we are long GE.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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How Some New College Graduates Are Pulling Over $1 Million a Year (Courtesy of Elon Musk)
April 21, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Artificial intelligence experts can command huge salaries and bonuses–even at a nonprofit.

OpenAI, a nonprofit research lab started by Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk released the salary details of it’s employees–and they are striking. The organization’s top researcher was paid more than $ 1.9 million in 2016, and another leading researcher who was only recruited in March was paid $ 800,000 that year, according to a recent article in the New York Times.

Salaries for top A.I. researchers have skyrocketed because there is high demand for the skills–thousands of companies want to work with the technology–and few people have them. So even researchers at a nonprofit can make big money.

It likely has more to do with competition than interest in the field itself, however. The Times points out that both of the researchers employed by OpenAI used to work at Google. At DeepMind, a Google-owned A.I. lab in London, $ 138 million was spent on the salaries of 400 employees, translating to $ 345,000 per employee including researchers and other staff, the Times reports. 

OpenAI was started by Musk who recruited several engineers from Google and Facebook, two companies pushing the industry into artificial intelligence. People who work at major companies told the Times that while top names can expect compensation packages in the millions, even A.I. specialists with no industry experience can expect to make between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000 in salary and stock as demand for the skills continues to outstrip supply. 

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