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Month: November 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Uber: new charges on endless judicial drama

Uber: new charges on endless judicial drama

San Francisco – The clouds keep piling up for Uber, now accused of having set up an organized system to escape justice, adding to the hassle of his new boss named to put the group back on the right track.

According to a former employee, the U. S. Driver Car Rental Service (VTC) has set up a system to retrieve information about competitors and regulators, exchanged and stored via Uber-linked mailboxes and servers.

Uber “has put in place a sophisticated strategy to destroy, conceal, cover up and falsify records or documents with the intent to prevent or impede government investigations” or any pending or future legal proceedings, is written in a letter sent by the U. S. Department of Justice to a California judge.

Because of this new element, partially made public during a hearing in San Francisco, the California court postponed sine die the trial that was supposed to oppose, from Monday, Uber to Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous car subsidiary (Google’s parent company).

Waymo accuses Uber, who also works on driverless driving, of stealing technology secrets from him.

According to Uber, this testimony has nothing to do with Waymo and does not change the substance of the case.

Former employee Richard Jacobs, who was responsible for “intelligence” (“global intelligence”) at Uber, said his former employer paid him $4.5 million to avoid denigrating the group.

“Uber is going to be very expensive because judges have no sense of humour about collusion and concealment at this level,”said analyst Rob Enderle.

It is a new ball at the foot of Dara Khosrowshahi, appointed at the end of August to put the group back on track after months of scandals, with a planned stock market flotation in 2019.

Cleaning –

This ambition requires that the group must be presented to the American stock exchange authorities, which will examine its accounts. It will also have to convince potential investors that the era of scandals attached to Travis Kalanick, the controversial former boss pushed out by worried investors in June, is now over.

But if the new manager had recently decreed that Uber should move “from an era of growth at all costs to one of responsible growth”, this objective now sounds like a pious wish, as the Herculean task seems to be similar to cleaning up Augias’ stables.

As recently as last week, Uber revealed the hacking of 57 million user data in 2016, which has led to investigations. The group is suspected of hiding this piracy for months.

But that’s not all: the U. S. justice system also investigates suspicions of corruption abroad or the use of other illegal software to spy on competition or evade government control. In several countries, Uber has turned his back on the traditional taxis, which see in him their scheduled death.

The billions of SoftBank-

The group has also been working with regulators abroad, particularly in London, one of its largest markets, where it has recently lost its licence. On Monday again, it was the Israeli justice system that banned Uber because of problems with passenger insurance.

Accusations about a system of organized industrial cover-up and espionage come at a time when the group is negotiating a huge, multi-billion dollar investment led by the Japanese SoftBank. The consortium of investors is expected to inject 1 billion in cash and also wants to take a stake of up to 14%.

Uber wants to see this investment as a sign of “confidence” but SoftBank is in a strong position to lower the price of the shares due to the setbacks of the VTC group.

According to a SoftBank spokesman on Wednesday, the funds “Benchmark, Menlo Ventures and other historical investors intend to sell shares” to the consortium.

Especially since the group continues to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. According to the American press, Uber, which does not publish certified accounts, increased its loss in the third quarter to $1.46 billion.

Uber “has a long way to go to regain the trust of users (…) and that of the financial community,”said analyst Jack Gold.

Oil rebounds in Asia, Opep suspends the market

Oil rebounds in Asia, Opep suspends the market

Singapore (awp/afp) – Oil prices rebounded Thursday in Asia under the effect of cheap purchases in a market that awaits the meeting of Opep and its partners on a possible prolongation of the agreement restricting their production.

At about 02:30 GMT, the barrel of light sweet crude (WTI), the American benchmark for crude oil, for delivery in January, took five cents to 57.35 dollars in electronic exchanges in Asia.

The barrel of Brent, European reference, also for delivery in January, earned 26 cents, at 63.37 dollars.

The day before, prices had fallen, fuelled by figures on the sharp rise in inventories of refined products in the United States and the fall in American oil inventories.

Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opep) and their major partners, including Russia, are meeting on Thursday in Vienna to discuss the extension of an oil agreement aimed at limiting their crude oil production in order to rebalance the market. This agreement is currently in force until March 2018.

Opep’s heavyweight, Saudi Arabia, is campaigning for a nine-month extension, but speculation about Russia’s attitude is on the rise.

Moscow may have a clear incentive to oppose an extension of the agreement or shorten its duration, as its oil field of “Sakhalin 1” in the Okhotsk Sea is expected to see its production increase, analysts say.

“The Saudis are aware that Russia must stand by them to demonstrate their strength and unity,”said Shane Chanel, analyst at ASR Wealth Advisers.

“As he would do to prevent a young child from having a crisis, the Opep will take gloves with Russia and will be keen to respect his wishes”. But “Saudi Arabia and Russia need $74 million and $72 million respectively to balance their economies and it is in their interest to extend the agreement.

Analysts warn in any case against a fall in prices if an agreement does not go far enough.

“The market has already taken into account a nine-month extension. If the Vienna Accord falls below that, prices could plummet uncontrollably,”said Jeffrey Halley, an analyst at Oanda.

On Wednesday, the WTI gave 69 cents to close at 57.30 dollars on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In London, the Brent ended at $63.11 on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).

Mexico: the government will no longer fix fuel prices

Mexico – After 70 years of state monopoly, the Mexican government will stop fixing fuel prices all over the country on Thursday following the opening of the energy sector to private capital.

The Department of Finance used to set maximum gasoline and diesel prices on a daily basis.

Prices had already been gradually released in the north of the country. From now on, this liberalization will affect the south and centre of the country, which concentrates the majority of the population, particularly the metropolitan area of Mexico City with more than 20 million people.

In 2013, a constitutional reform opened the door of the energy sector to private capital, both Mexican and foreign, ending the monopoly that the state-owned company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) had held since the nationalization of oil in 1938.

This reform was passed when the country’s largest oil field was exhausted and oil prices on international markets fell from 2014 onwards.

But the reform was accompanied by a 20% increase in fuel prices, which led to demonstrations in early 2017.

“In the regions where this process of flexibilisation has already taken place, where maximum prices have been abolished, we do not see any price surges”, the Under-Secretary of State for Finance Miguel Messmacher said on Wednesday.

He assured that the government would ensure that fuel prices, which are a source of great concern to the public, would not go up.

In Mexico, 78% of the service stations continue to be operated by Pemex but are now present in Mexico with other Mexican companies and international giants such as British British petroleum, Anglo-Dutch Shell and American Gulf.

Swiss Chocolate is increasing its popularity

The Swiss chocolate industry, which comprises 18 manufacturers, saw its turnover increase by 2.7% last year to CHF 1.72 billion. However, sales in Switzerland and the main export markets of Germany and the United Kingdom, however, fell sharply.

However, this decline was offset by increased sales in other markets, according to the umbrella association Chocosuisse in a press release on Tuesday. The total volume of sales was 183,738 tonnes, almost 4900 tonnes more than the previous year. The share of production sold abroad increased again to 62.8% (61.2% in 2013).

Total domestic sales of Swiss chocolate manufacturers fell by 1.4% compared to the previous year,”said Urs Furrer, director of Chocosuisse. The decrease in volumes is particularly noticeable for semi-fabricated products such as topping chocolates and fillers (-8.7%).

While the sale of solid bars increased slightly overall (-0.8%), the volume of filled bars decreased (-4.2%) and the volume of white chocolate bars (-7.3%). On the other hand, branches, bars and poles showed a positive development (5.8%). Overall, sales in Switzerland increased by 1.8%.

Exports up

Despite a decline in the two main export markets of Germany (14% volume, 7% turnover) and the United Kingdom (9% volume, 3% turnover), foreign sales grew. They amounted to 115,474 tonnes (5.3%), while at the same time raising turnover to CHF 821 million (3.7%).

One of the best chocolatier in Geneva confirm “The trend is definitely Bullish.”

The Asian and American markets have shown a gratifying development,”notes Chocosuisse. Double-digit growth rates were recorded in Canada, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, China, Russia and Singapore.

In the European markets, Italy and Belgium in particular showed a positive trend. After the decline of the previous year, France and Austria returned to growth.

Consumption of chocolate (excluding powders) per capita in Switzerland declined from 12 to 11.7 kg last year. The share of imports increased again to 37.2% in 2014. Since 2000, this proportion has almost doubled.

Desired political intervention

The removal of the floor rate reinforces import pressure on the Swiss market and puts a strain on exports, notes Chocosuisse. Moreover, the price of raw materials, conditioned by agricultural policy, significantly weakens competitiveness.

Consequently, the umbrella association considers that it is up to the political world to make the necessary corrections. It advocates the conclusion of additional free trade agreements and the removal of new bureaucratic obstacles in the framework of the Swissness project.

China: Consumerist fever for “Bachelor’s Day”

China: Consumerist fever for “Bachelor’s Day”

At least 15 billion euros worth of transactions in half a day: the Chinese rushed Saturday on the online trading platforms for “Single Day”, a monster sale transaction that once again frightened the counters.

At midnight China time (16:00 GMT on Friday), Internet users rushed to their phones or computers to take advantage of the discounts offered during this event launched in 2009 by Alibaba, the national giant of Internet sales, and imitated since then by all the rival platforms.

Like the American “Black Friday”, 11 November – celebrated as the “day of singles” because of the succession of “1” in the date– is for Alibaba and its competitors the opportunity to massively boost their sales with great reinforcement of promotions… while inflating the business of the booming parcel delivery sector.

By mid-day on Saturday, Alibaba said it had recorded nearly $18 billion in transactions on its platforms since midnight via its Alipay electronic payment system.

This is a staggering figure that already surpasses last year’s record of 17.8 billion for the entire day, which was already a 32% jump over a year. This is equivalent to Mozambique’s annual GDP.

While more than 600 million Chinese own a smartphone, some 91% of the transactions on Alibaba’s main platform, Taobao, were carried out via mobile phone.

The event is considered a key barometer for gauging the evolution of the sector. Electronics, breast milk, rice, clothing, furniture, cosmetics… no segment is forgotten by monster sales.

Alibaba — which does not sell the products offered on these platforms by third parties, individuals or companies — is taking full advantage of the explosion of online commerce in China: during the quarter July-September, its turnover has increased by 61%.

Its performance on the New York Stock Exchange, where it is listed, places it shoulder to shoulder with the American giant Amazon as the world’s largest e-commerce value provider.

China’s number two in the sector, JD. com, also enjoyed Saturday’s consumer frenzy: on the first hour after midnight, it saw its sales of fresh food products swell by 350% over a year, and those of breast milk multiplied by five, according to a spokesman.

For Cheng Huaibao, the 28-year-old owner of a bunk-bed factory in Jiangsu (east), the “Single Day” represents a sixth of annual orders in 24 hours. Its village is one of the more than 1,300 “Taobao villages” living from the rise of online orders.

For the occasion, we offer countless discounts, and almost no benefits,”he told AFP,”but it’s hard to escape. “We’re just glad to be part of it.”

Ghana dreams of oil boom after border conflict with Abidjan

Ghana dreams of oil boom after border conflict with Abidjan

Accra – Ghana hopes to earn billions of dollars from oil exploitation to boost its economy at half mast, thanks to a court ruling that ruled in its favour in a maritime dispute with its Ivorian neighbour.

Accra has been producing black gold on a large scale since 2010, after the discovery of offshore deposits, considered to be the most important in West Africa for 10 years. A turning point that has led to renewed growth, propelling the English-speaking country to the rank of an emerging economy, and has aroused the interest of foreign investors.

But oil exploration was halted three years ago when Côte d’ Ivoire accused Ghana of offshore drilling encroaching on its territorial waters.

After unsuccessful negotiations, the case ended before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (TIDM), which finally ruled in September:”Ghana did not violate” Ivorian sovereignty.

According to the operator Tullow Oil, production from its Twenboa, Enyenra and Ntomme (TEN) fields – located on the border between the two countries – is currently about 50,000 barrels a day and will continue until the end of the year.

The goal is to reach 80,000 barrels per day through the commissioning of new wells within two years. The TEN fields are part of the Tano Basin, which is home to reserves estimated at 3 to 4 billion barrels.

Economist Theo Acheampong says that at the current price of $55 a barrel, Tullow’s fields in the Tano Basin could be worth up to $165 billion.

“This is really what was at stake in this decision,” said Mr. Acheampong of London-based IHS Markit.

And in this area of the Gulf of Guinea, known for its rich oil and gas, there is probably more to discover, he says.

Need for cooperation –

Compared to other oil-producing countries in Africa, such as Nigeria and Angola, which produce more than 1.5 million barrels per day, Ghana’s production remains marginal.

According to Mr. Acheampong, the billions expected from the exploitation of new deposits will not necessarily lead to the country’s economic recovery, however.

From 2011 onwards, the Ghanaian economy did indeed have a bright future, with growth rates above 14%, but then slowed down as inflation and public debt soared.

The government obtained a loan of $918 million from the International Monetary Fund in 2015, conditional on greater fiscal discipline, lower inflation and fiscal consolidation.

The recovery is expected to continue this year and in 2018 with growth estimates at 7.1% and 8.0%, according to the African Development Bank.

This will depend on “the commissioning of new hydrocarbon wells and the rapid resolution of technical problems that led to disturbances on the Jubilee petro-gas field (very large deposit also operated by Tullow Oil, ndlr) in 2016,”the financial institution added.

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said last month that the court’s ruling had opened up “opportunities for development, progress and prosperity.

Over the past seven years, some $3.5 billion has been used to finance development projects, new roads and hospitals, according to official figures, as required by Ghanaian law, which requires the reinvestment of a portion of black gold revenues in priority sectors.

Côte d’ Ivoire, for its part, has pledged to “respect the decision” of the Tribunal de la mer and to “cooperate fully in its implementation”, in a communiqué signed jointly with Ghana in September.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara has meanwhile visited Accra in October in what has been interpreted as a sign of reconciliation intended to reassure investors.

According to Benjamin Boakye, executive director of the African Centre for Energy Policy, rather than worsening relations, the court’s ruling paradoxically seems to have strengthened the ties between the two neighbours.

“Given the number of discoveries on both sides of the border, it is possible that at some point in time countries may have to come together (to manage a discovery together,”Boakye told AFP. “So this kind of cooperation is necessary.”

Trump and Putin:”No military solution” in Syria (Kremlin)

Trump and Putin:”No military solution” in Syria (Kremlin)

Moscow – U. S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agree that there is no “military solution” possible to the war in Syria, the Kremlin said citing a joint statement.

“The Presidents agree that the conflict in Syria has no military solution” and have confirmed their “determination to defeat the EI” (Islamic State Group), according to the Kremlin website. According to Moscow the joint statement was approved in the margins of the Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.

The two heads of state, during the summit in Danang, exchanged twice a handshake and a few words, but without any real face-to-face contact.

“The Presidents confirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity, territorial integrity and secular nature” and called on all parties to participate in the UN talks in Geneva, says the Kremlin.

The Russian military command recently accused the United States of “pretending only” to fight the EI in Iraq and hindering Russia’s counter-offensive in eastern Syria.

“The President also discussed the need to reduce human suffering in Syria, and called on all UN member states to increase their contribution to meeting humanitarian needs in the coming months,”the Kremlin said.

Russia has been conducting a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad in support of Syria, and has turned the conflict in its favour

French medias are happy since they’re growing fastly

Supported on the one hand by the digital kiosks of the telephone operators, and on the other hand by intense news coverage and efforts on exclusive content, several national titles are improving their sales, an improvement in a period that remains difficult for the press.

Sales of the national dailies have risen almost continuously during the first three quarters of the year, according to figures published by the ACPM-OJD, which has just released September’s data.

In September, the national daily press (now in France, La Croix, les Echos, L’ Equipe, Le Figaro, Libération, Le Monde) saw its circulation increase by an average of 1.50% compared to September 2016.

In detail, five newspapers recorded increases in circulation: Le Monde (+6.55% to 284,431 copies), Le Figaro (+3.18% to 304,591 copies), L’ Equipe (+3.15% to 247,877 copies), Libération (+0.89% to 73,354 copies) and Les Echos (+0.06% to 129,431 copies).

On the other hand, La Croix (-3.33% to 89,118 copies) and Today in France (-10.16% to 120,373 copies) saw their circulation decline, as did Le Parisien (-3.13%, 200,379 copies).

We’ve been on a positive trend for several months now,”points out Philippe Rincé, general manager of the ACPM-OJD,”an increase that can be explained by two factors:”a year of strong news” and “the shift from print to digital, with a standard bearer that is Le Monde”.

In September, the evening paper sold an average of 120,916 digital copies every day (subscription or sale of exclusively digital copies). The group is expected to end the year with 160,000 purely digital subscribers, said CEO Louis Dreyfus at Stratégies magazine, without specifying the current number.

– Takeoff –

“Today we have titles, notably Monde, Le Figaro, Les Echos and L’ Equipe which took off on the digital scene. With very attractive rates, they are able to recruit new, purely digital subscribers,”emphasizes Philippe Rincé.

This phenomenon was accentuated by the kiosks of telephone operators,”particularly SFR Presse, which gave new readers the opportunity to access the national daily press,”he continued.

The optional SFR Presse application, offered as an option and included in several SFR packages, gives access to 80 titles, including Le Figaro and Libération. More recently, Bouygues Télécom and Orange launched similar offers.

Sales of “digital versions by third parties”, where the number of newspapers downloaded via these applications are recorded, posted impressive growth for September: +145% for Libération, +100% for L’ Equipe, +50% for Le Figaro.

However, the model is far from unanimous: at the end of October, the founder of Free and shareholder of Le Monde Xavier Niel compared the service to “a VAT scam”, deploring that “making the press free is destroying it”, in the Clique program on Canal+.

Both the print and digital press benefit from a reduced VAT rate, which is passed on to the operators offering this service. An opportunity that the law could take away.

Alain Weill, who has just been appointed CEO of SFR, defended a model that will explode “and could” change the distribution model of the press “in front of the Paris Audiovisual Club. He also assured Stratégies that SFR will have made it possible to pay 50 million euros to press publishers in early 2018.

“It is an important element but it is also a very young one, we will have to look at whether the use is taking place. If it takes hold, we can have a major growth driver ahead of us,”emphasizes Philippe Rincé.

However, digital technology is more difficult to monetize than paper.

Le Monde, which has decided not to participate in digital kiosks, ensures that Lemonde. fr is the group’s most profitable activity, according to Louis Dreyfus, which highlights the “investments made in editorial writing” and “exclusive content”.

The survey by the Paradise Papers has thus enabled Le Monde website to almost triple its digital subscribers this week compared to a normal week.

Macron in Arabia to reduce tension with Iran

French President Emmanuel Macron made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia on Thursday evening, where he met with the young Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salmane, amidst tensions between Ryad and Iran.

Since last weekend, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been setting the tone again. At the heart of the new tensions is the fate of Lebanon and Yemen, both in the midst of a deadly conflict in which the two heavyweights of the Middle East support opposing sides. This country on the Arabian Peninsula is the scene of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday accused Iran of “direct aggression” after a missile fired at Ryad International Airport by Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen.

According to the Saudi news agency SPA,”the French President condemned this missile attack on Ryad by the Houthis, and underlined France’s solidarity with the Kingdom”. SPA added that Prince Salmane and Emmanuel Macron had “also discussed recent developments in the Middle East and their efforts for security and stability in the region, including through coordination in the fight against terrorism”.

No comment had yet been made on this visit from the Elysée side.

After a 24-hour visit to the United Arab Emirates, Macron announced earlier this evening in Dubai that he would travel for “two hours” to Ryad to meet the young prince, considered the strong man of Saudi Arabia.

The decision “was made early this morning,”Macron said. “It is important to talk with everyone,”he stressed, adding that France had a role “in building peace”.

“I have heard very harsh positions” expressed by Saudi Arabia “against Iran that are not in line with what I think,”Macron said.

He added,”I think it is essential to work with Saudi Arabia on regional stability, given the close bilateral relations we have.

-‘ Convincing’ –

Mr Macron also wants to preserve the agreement on Iran’s nuclear deal of 2015, by which Tehran pledged not to acquire the atomic weapon in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. This agreement has already been undermined by the questioning of it by US President Donald Trump, close to King Salmane of Saudi Arabia and his son, Prince Mohammed.

This agreement “must be preserved” but “complemented by two pillars, a negotiation on Iran’s ballistic activity, with sanctions if necessary, and a strategic discussion framing Iran’s hegemony throughout the region,”Macron said.

He said he still intended to visit Lebanon in 2018.

“I would also like to reiterate the importance of Lebanon’s stability and integrity,”Macron said, noting that “informal contacts” had been established with Mr. Hariri. He assured that the latter had not asked to come to France, while rumours were circulating in this direction.

“Very fruitful” –

Mr. Macron also described his visit to the Emirates, his first visit to the Middle East since his election, as “very fruitful”. He notably inaugurated the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first “universal museum” in the Arab world, presented as a bridge between different cultures, civilizations and religions.

Mr Macron described the Emirates as France’s “essential partner”, particularly in the field of defence, welcoming their decision to acquire two corvettes built by the Naval Group.

Although far from 6,000 km away, France maintains a “very high level operational cooperation” with the Emirates State, which has been participating since 2014 in the international coalition against the IA and is also pursuing a policy of “zero tolerance” on its territory towards Islamists.

Mr. Macron visited the more than 700 French soldiers stationed in the Emirates, some of whom are involved in operations in Iraq and Syria.

“We won in Raqa”,”this city from which the attacks” which killed 130 people in Paris on 13 November 2015 “had been planned, organized and directed,”Macron told the troops.

“And the next few weeks and months will allow us, I believe profoundly, to win militarily in the Iraqi-Syrian zone,”Macron added.

“But it will not end this fight. Stabilization over time, the fight against all residual terrorist groups will be essential complements to the inclusive, pluralist political solution that we want to see emerge in the region,”the president said.

On Thursday, Ms. Macron visited the huge Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, wearing a scarf on her hair.

Paradise Papers: Bernard Arnault is fighting back

Bernard Arnault, the first French asset manager and owner of LVMH, said on Wednesday that the assets cited by Le Monde as part of the “Paradise Papers” were “constituted in a perfectly legal manner”, in a statement sent to the AFP.

The French daily – which is part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which has been unveiling investigations since Sunday based on the leakage of millions of financial documents – claims that Bernard Arnault has “called on at least eight different consulting firms to locate its assets in six different tax havens”.

“All the assets mentioned in this article have been constituted in a perfectly legal manner and are of course known to the tax authorities,”Mr. Arnault said in his statement.

The billionaire denounces “a journalistic operation of this medium to create a sensation by using[his] patrimony”, and denounces the fact that some of his investments were “presented as hidden and undeclared goods, taxally reprehensible, or on the brink of legality”.

In his article, Le Monde cites in particular a property north of London of 4,300 m2, the owner of which used to appear in the British cadastre as “a simple company registered in Jersey”: but “the investigations of Le Monde in the +Paradise Papers+ reveal” that”Bernard Arnault”, writes the daily.

This property “has been declared to the French tax authorities as English from the outset and has been subject, since its acquisition, to the payment of the ISF”, says Bernard Arnault.

It also assures that the “mode of holding” of the property did not “give it any tax advantage, as did the other assets mentioned”.

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