News Archive


Elon Musk’s new co could allow uploading, downloading thoughts: Wall Street Journal


Tesla Inc founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk has launched a company called Neuralink Corp through which computers could merge with human brains, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Neuralink is pursuing what Musk calls the “neural lace” technology, implanting tiny brain electrodes that may one day upload and download thoughts, the Journal reported. (on.wsj.com/2naUATf)

Musk has not made an official announcement, but Neuralink was registered in California as a “medical research” company last July, and he plans on funding the company mostly by himself, a person briefed on the plans told the Journal.

It is unclear what sorts of products Neuralink might create, but people who have had discussions with the company describe a strategy similar to space launch company SpaceX and Tesla, the Journal report said.

In recent weeks, Neuralink has also hired leading academics in the field, the Journal reported.

(Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/cm8PFnVXBWE/us-musk-neuralink-idUSKBN16Y2GC

Bill Gross, Pimco settle lawsuit over his exit for $81 million: sources


NEW YORK Bill Gross has reached a roughly $81 million settlement of his lawsuit against Pacific Investment Management Co, ending a bitter 2-1/2-year drama over the well-known bond investor’s abrupt departure from one of the world’s biggest asset managers.

Terms of the accord were not disclosed, but were confirmed by two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the terms were confidential.

Gross and Pimco said in a joint statement the settlement was “amicable,” and that Pimco will donate the proceeds to charity.

“Pimco has always been family to me, and, like any family, sometimes there are disagreements,” Gross, a Pimco co-founder, said in the statement.

The accord quietly ends an acrimonious battle over the 72-year-old billionaire’s September 2014 exit from Pimco, where he had been chief investment officer. That battle played out first in the media, and then in Gross’ $200 million lawsuit.

Gross, who now works for Denver-based Janus Capital Group Inc (JNS.N), left Pimco following negative reports about his leadership and weak returns at Pimco Total Return (PTTRX.O), once the world’s largest bond mutual fund with $293 billion of assets at its peak.

In his October 2015 lawsuit, Gross accused a greedy “cabal” of Pimco executives, including group chief investment officer Dan Ivascyn, of plotting to oust him so they could divide his 20 percent share in Pimco’s bonus pool among themselves.

The pool totaled $1.3 billion in 2013, and Gross’ pay that year topped $300 million, according to the complaint filed in California Superior Court.

Pimco, a Newport Beach, California-based unit of German insurer Allianz SE (ALVG.DE), countered that Gross’ “egregious misconduct,” including abusive behavior toward colleagues, would have justified his firing had he not resigned.

Once known on Wall Street as the “Bond King,” Gross left Pimco eight months after his second-in-command Mohamed El-Erian quit, in part because of Gross’ management style. Gross is worth $2.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

The joint statement reflected Pimco’s recognition of Gross’ role in building the firm into a mutual fund powerhouse over four decades, with more than $2 trillion of assets under management, even if his last months proved uncomfortable.

“Bill Gross has always been larger-than-life,” Ivascyn said. “Bill has had an enormous influence on Pimco and the careers of many who have passed through its halls. He built this business from the ground up and we have great respect and admiration for his talents.”

In the statement, Gross also said: “I’ve always been amazed by my success, and grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the world. I’m glad that can continue.”

Gross has been unable to replicate his Pimco success at Janus. His Global Unconstrained Bond fund (JUCAX.O) has just $1.9 billion of assets, and been outperformed by 80 percent of its peers in the last year, according to Morningstar.

Janus said last October it planned to merge with London-based Henderson Group Plc (HGGH.L).

Pimco said it will dedicate a “Founders Room” at its headquarters to honor its co-founders, while its Pimco Foundation named Gross a director emeritus and established an annual award in his name.

The case is Gross v. Pacific Investment Management Co et al, California Superior Court, Orange County, No. 2015-00813636.

(Reporting by Jennifer Ablan, Sam Forgione and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Andrew Hay and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/M5MFAaNQb4w/us-investing-gross-pimco-idUSKBN16Y23C

Asset sales plan secures EU backing for $130 bln Dow, DuPont merger


Dow Chemical and DuPont won the blessing of the European Union for their $130 billion merger on Monday by agreeing to sell substantial assets including key research and development activities.

The European Commission had been concerned that the merger of two of the biggest and oldest U.S. chemical producers would leave few incentives to produce new herbicides and pesticides in the future. The deal is one of a trio of mega mergers that will reshape the industry and consolidate six companies into three.

Asset sales would ensure competition in the sector and benefit European farmers and consumers, the Commission said.

“We need effective competition in this sector so companies are pushed to develop products that are ever safer for people and better for the environment,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“Our decision today ensures that the merger between Dow and DuPont does not reduce price competition for existing pesticides or innovation for safer and better products in the future.”

The two other big deals in the industry are ChemChina’s [CNNCC.UL] $43 billion bid for Syngenta and Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto.

Dow and DuPont said they were still on target for $3 billion in cost synergies and $1 billion in growth benefits.

The deal is still to be approved by regulators in the United States, Brazil, China, Australia and Canada, but the companies said they were confident of clearance in all remaining jurisdictions.

“This regulatory milestone is a significant step toward closing the merger transaction, with the intention to subsequently spin into three independent publicly traded companies,” Dow spokeswoman Rachelle Schikorra said in an email.

The EU approval may be a sign that U.S. regulators would follow suit because the agencies have traditionally coordinated on reviews and remedies for large multinational mergers, said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute non-profit group.

However, any required asset sales would likely reflect antitrust concerns in the local marketplace.

“In the U.S., there are very high shares in corn and soybean seeds. We would expect those problems to be significant enough for enforcers in the U.S. to remedy them,” Moss said.

WEIGHTY DECISION

The 1,000-page decision underlined the significance of the merger. In return for the EU green light, DuPont will divest large parts of its global pesticides business, including its global research and development organization.

The unit makes herbicides for cereals, oilseed rape, sunflower, rice and pasture and insecticides for insect control for fruits and vegetables.

Dow, in turn, will sell two acid co-polymer manufacturing facilities in Spain and the United States, as well as a contract with a third party through which it buys ionomers. The company has already found a buyer in South Korea’s SK Innovation.

“The main surprises here are the inclusion of the pesticides and the exclusion of any kind of seed assets,” Bernstein analysts wrote in a note. The analysts also said they had expected EU to be concerned about the concentration of seed sales, and that they would require Dow to divest its corn seeds business.

“We see the required divestments here as smaller than we originally expected, due to the exclusion of seed assets”.

Antitrust experts said the regulator’s demand to sell large swathes of RD facilities could set the benchmark for future deals.

Lobbying group Friends of the Earth Europe criticized the EU decision, saying that the three deals would lead to three companies controlling about 70 percent of the world’s agrichemicals and more than 60 percent of commercial seeds.

“This decision to allow Dow Chemicals and DuPont to form the world’s biggest agribusiness company will give giant corporations an even tighter toxic grip on our food and countryside. For the public and nature such mergers are marriages made in hell,” said Adrian Bebb from Friends of the

Earth Europe.

The agriculture company it planned to create with DuPont will be able to serve farmers better, helped by leveraging strong pipeline in its seeds and chemistry business, and competitive prices, Dow’s Schikorra said.

“We’re concerned about the signal this sends for U.S. approval. We’re concerned about further consolidation in an already highly concentrated industry,” said Barbara Patterson, director of government relations for the National Farmers Union, which represents 200,000 U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Sources said last week that ChemChina’s [CNNCC.UL] bid for Syngenta could be approved this week but the timing could slip. Bayer and Monsanto are set to ask for EU approval in the coming months.

Shares of both Dow Chemicals and DuPont were marginally up in afternoon trading.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, Vishaka George and Karl Plume; editing by Robin Emmott/Keith Weir/Sriraj Kalluvila)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/NGc9OO4bz-k/us-du-pont-m-a-dow-eu-idUSKBN16Y16O

Facebook’s Messenger app adds live location-sharing


MENLO PARK, Calif. Facebook Inc added a feature to its Messenger app on Monday to allow users to share their locations continuously for up to an hour, ramping up competition with tools offered by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google Maps.

The company has found that one of the most used phrases on Messenger as people talk to friends and family is “How far away are you?” or some variation, Stan Chudnovsky, head of product for Messenger, said in an interview.

“It happens to be what people are saying, what they’re interested in the most,” he said.

Sharing location information is optional, but it can also be live, so that once a user shares the information with a friend, the friend can watch the user’s movement for up to 60 minutes.

Messenger was once part of the core Facebook smartphone app, but the company broke it out as a separate app in 2014 and has since invested in frequent changes to build a service distinct from the massive social network.

Google Maps said last week that it was adding a similar live feature, an attempt to boost engagement on a product of increasing strategic importance to that company.

The close proximity of the announcements tells Facebook “that we’re working on the right things,” Chudnovsky said.

The Messages app on Apple’s iPhone has such a feature, too.

Facebook has been testing its change in Mexico, he said. It was ready as long ago as October, he added, but the company worked on it for five more months to minimize the impact on the battery life of phones.

Facebook sees the feature being used for convenience to coordinate with friends, for safety-related purposes or for other uses, Chudnovsky said. “There are all sorts of products that you can imagine you could build on top of that,” he said.

The update is being made available globally, the company said.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Andrew Hay)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Oqb_d-0wS_s/us-facebook-location-idUSKBN16Y1TV

Saudi Arabia sweetens huge Aramco IPO with tax cut


JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia/RIYADH Saudi Arabia’s government has cut the income tax paid by national oil giant Saudi Aramco to smooth the company’s initial public offer of shares next year, which is expected to be the world’s largest equity sale.

A royal decree on Monday, retroactive to Jan. 1, set a tax rate of 50 percent for the firm. Previously, Aramco had paid 85 percent tax, plus a 20 percent royalty levied at a different stage; the decree did not mention the royalty.

The step appeared likely to reduce Aramco’s tax burden by as much as tens of billions of dollars, which could make the firm much more attractive to private investors. Saudi authorities had been considering such a change for months, sources told Reuters.

“The royal order is a milestone in setting the stage for the world’s biggest IPO. I am sure there will be more such moves to follow in coming weeks and months,” an oil industry executive said.

“It shows the Saudi government is serious about the IPO of Saudi Aramco, and this is a very strong message to those who doubted that the government will follow through on taking Aramco public.”

The government aims to sell up to 5 percent of Aramco, listing the shares in Riyadh and at least one foreign exchange, to raise cash for investment in new industries, as the kingdom seeks to diversify its economy beyond oil exports in an era of cheap crude.

Saudi officials have predicted the IPO will value the company at $2 trillion or more. Many private analysts have been skeptical, making estimates below $1 trillion, but a 50 percent tax rate could bring the offer closer to $2 trillion.

“This move carries strategic benefits for Saudi Arabia, its citizens and future generations,” Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said in a statement about the tax cut.

The government, which is struggling to close a budget deficit due to cheap oil that totaled $79 billion last year, obtains over 60 percent of its income from oil, so the tax change could affect its finances.

However, analysts said the measure might not have a big impact since tax revenue was expected to be replaced by dividend payments from Aramco. The firm has not revealed its post-IPO dividend policy.

“Any tax revenue reductions applicable to hydrocarbon producers operating in the kingdom are replaced by stable dividend payments by government-owned companies, and other sources of revenue including profits resulting from investments,” Jadaan said.

He said in a later statement to Reuters that the 2017 state budget had been prepared with the tax change in mind, so government revenues and public services would not be affected.

Industry executives have said the IPO will help Aramco, one of the country’s most efficient state enterprises, expand its business in line with market principles and form partnerships with private-sector companies around the world.

Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser said in a statement that the tax cut would help Aramco develop by bringing the company in line with international benchmarks.

(Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/vt_3f_pIpzc/us-saudi-oil-tax-idUSKBN16Y1AG

Samsung Electronics says to sell refurbished Galaxy Note 7s


SEOUL Tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) said on Monday it plans to sell refurbished versions of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones that were pulled from markets due to fire-prone batteries.

The Note 7s were permanently scrapped in October, roughly two months from the launch of the near-$900 devices, as more of the phones self-combusted despite a global recall initiated in September. A subsequent probe found manufacturing problems in batteries supplied by two different companies – Samsung SDI Co Ltd and Amperex Technology Ltd.

Analysis from Samsung and independent researchers found no other problems in the Note 7 devices except the batteries, raising speculation that Samsung will recoup some of its losses by selling refurbished Note 7s. The company estimated a $5.5 billion profit hit over three quarters from the Note 7’s troubles.

Samsung, which had sold 3.06 million Note 7s to consumers before taking the phones off the market, had not previously said what it plans to do with the recovered phones. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters in January that it was considering the possibility of selling refurbished versions of the device or reusing some parts from the recalled phones.

“Regarding the Galaxy Note 7 devices as refurbished phones or rental phones, applicability is dependent upon consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers as well as due consideration of local demand,” Samsung said in a statement, adding the firm will pick the markets and release dates for refurbished Note 7s accordingly.

The company also plans to recover and use or sell reusable components such as chips and camera modules and extract rare metals such as copper, gold, nickel and silver from Note 7 devices it opts not to sell as refurbished products.

The firm had been under pressure from environment rights group Greenpeace and others to come up with environmentally friendly ways to deal with the recovered Note 7s. Greenpeace said in a separate statement on Monday that it welcomed Samsung’s decision and the firm should carry out its plans in a verifiable manner.

(Reporting by Se Young Lee; editing by David Clarke/Ruth Pitchford)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Yc7POd2PQas/us-samsung-elec-smartphones-idUSKBN16Y1NF

Toshiba wants Westinghouse to file for bankruptcy as early as Tuesday: source


TOKYO Toshiba Corp (6502.T) wants its U.S nuclear unit to file for Chapter 11 protection from creditors as early as Tuesday, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter, seeking a quick ringfencing of losses before the Japanese parent’s financial year ends.

While a Westinghouse bankruptcy filing would help limit future losses for Toshiba, it still falls far short of drawing a line under its problems.

Any filing would trigger complex negotiations between Toshiba, the nuclear unit and creditors, and could embroil the U.S and Japanese governments given the scale of the collapse and U.S. state loan guarantees for new reactors. A worry for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is that a bankruptcy would give President Donald Trump cause to criticize Japanese firms operating in the United States.

“Westinghouse is a major employer and nuclear industry company with ongoing nuclear new build projects in two different states, one of which is supported by U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees,” said George Borovas, the global head of nuclear at law firm Shearman Sterling.

The future of Toshiba and Westinghouse has already been raised in bilateral talks, with Japan’s Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko agreeing to share information on developments during talks in Washington with his U.S. counterparts Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The source said Toshiba is keen on a Tuesday filing as it would prefer to avoid a day close to a shareholders meeting on Thursday that will seek approval for the sale of its prized memory chip unit.

“A March 28 filing is one proposal. The thinking is that it would great if we could pull that off but whether it goes that well or not, is another issue,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and declined to be identified.

The Japanese conglomerate wants to avoid upsetting investors as it seeks to sell more than half of its chips unit and gain funds that would allow it to remain viable as it absorbs losses at Westinghouse.

Toshiba on Monday reiterated a previous statement that it was premature to comment on a potential bankruptcy.

The company’s main lenders, including Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp (8316.T) and Mizuho Bank Ltd (8411.T) may also balk at a Tuesday filing. They favor an even more cautious approach to shareholders, said a financial source familiar with the matter.

“Lenders are aware that Toshiba wants to file by the end of the month, but if possible would like to see it after the meeting,” the source said.

Separate sources with knowledge of the matter said last Friday Toshiba had informed its main banks that it was planning a March 31 filing for Westinghouse.

Toshiba shares closed down 2.1 percent.

$9 BILLION CHARGE

A Chapter 11 filing for Westinghouse would be decided by the U.S. unit’s board and would not require approval by Toshiba’s shareholders, It could increase charges related to the unit to 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) from a publicly flagged 712.5 billion yen estimate, sources have said.

While that would be a much bigger-than-expected hit in the short-term, it could limit the risk of future losses at two U.S. nuclear projects in Georgia and South Carolina.

The power plants Westinghouse is building are called the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in Fairfield County, South Carolina and the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Burke County, Georgia. Scana Corp (SCG.N) and Santee Cooper own the plants in South Carolina, and Georgia Power leads a consortium that commissioned the Georgia plants.

In any Westinghouse bankruptcy, the utility companies would be among the largest creditors of the developer, owed the work that has yet to be completed and potential penalties, sources have said.

The Nikkei business daily reported on Monday that Toshiba has asked South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) (015760.KS) to sponsor its Westinghouse bankruptcy reorganization.

A Seoul-based KEPCO spokesman said that no request had been made.

(Additonal reporting by Makiko Yamazaki in Tokyo and Jane Chung in Seoul)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/j4DCRsvPqhw/us-toshiba-accounting-idUSKBN16X12P

EU antitrust regulators clear $130 billion Dow, DuPont merger


BRUSSELS Dow Chemical (DOW.N) and DuPont (DD.N) gained conditional EU antitrust approval on Monday for their $130 billion merger by agreeing to significant asset sales, one of a trio of mega mergers that will redraw the agrochemicals industry.

The European Commission had been concerned that the merger of two of the biggest and oldest U.S. chemical producers would have few incentives to produce new herbicides and pesticides in the future.

It said the asset sales would ensure competition in the sector and benefit European farmers and consumers.

“We need effective competition in this sector so companies are pushed to develop products that are ever safer for people and better for the environment,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“Our decision today ensures that the merger between Dow and DuPont does not reduce price competition for existing pesticides or innovation for safer and better products in the future.”

In return for the EU green light, DuPont will divest large parts of its global pesticides business, including its global research and development organization.

Dow in turn will sell two acid co-polymer manufacturing facilities in Spain and the United States, as well as a contract with a third party through which it buys ionomers. The company has already found a buyer South Korea’s SK Innovation (096770.KS).

Antitrust experts said regulator’s demand to sell large swatches of RD facilities could set the benchmark for future deals.

Sources said last week that ChemChina’s [CNNCC.UL] $43 billion bid for Syngenta (SYNN.S) could be approved this week but the timing could slip. Bayer (BAYGn.DE) and Monsanto (MON.N) are set to ask for EU approval in the coming months.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Robin Emmott)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/NGc9OO4bz-k/us-du-pont-m-a-dow-eu-idUSKBN16Y16O

China state firms eye land around Panama Canal: waterway authority


SHANGHAI Chinese state firms have expressed an interest to develop land around the Panama Canal, the chief executive of the vital trade thoroughfare said, underlining China’s outward push into infrastructure via railways and ports around the world.

The Panama Canal Authority will officially open a tender to develop about 1,200 hectares of land – roughly the size of 1,200 football fields – around the waterway by the end of this year into a logistics park, after completing a five-year-long decontamination of the area, Chief Executive Jorge Quijano said.

“We have been talking to people here in China,” Quijano told Reuters on Monday ahead of a meeting with the canal’s advisory board in Shanghai. China Communications Construction Corp (601800.SS)(1800.HK), its subsidiary China Harbour Engineering Company and China Railway Group (601390.SS)(0390.HK) have shown interest in the project, he added.

This comes at a time when China is urging its companies to invest in infrastructure overseas as part of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to improve global trade links.

China’s state firms have in recent years already chalked up investments in key logistics nodes, including Piraeus in Greece and Bandar Malaysia, a major development project that is set to be the terminal for a proposed high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

China’s COSCO Shipping Corp (601919.SS)(1919.HK), which owns stakes in ports around the world including Piraeus (OLPr.AT), has in the past approached the Panama Canal Authority about the latter’s plans for the land, Quijano said.

“There are opportunities there, definitely for some of these Chinese companies to participate as a concessionaire, not just as a contractor to build something, but they can actually bid for the concession and then build,” he said.

He did not say how much the authority expected to get by selling the concession to develop the land.

China Communications Construction, China Railway Group and COSCO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

NEW REVENUE STREAM

Quijano said the canal authority will parcel out the land and grant concession agreements of up to 40 years, with the aim to develop infrastructure and buildings on land previously used by the United States military for target practice.

Also up for grabs is an operating agreement for a roll-on, roll-off terminal near the canal, the tender for which will be put out in the middle of 2017, he said, adding the authority expected interest from Japan, China, Norway and South Korea.

He estimated the land and terminal would help bring in an annual revenue of “between $100-$125 million” after the first five years of operation. Overall, the Panama Canal is expected to bring in $2.8 billion in revenue this year, he said.

Panama opened the long-delayed $5.4 billion expansion of the canal between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans last June, but it has since been roiled by claims of cost overruns and criticism after a series of incidents that saw ships hit the lane’s wall.

Quijano said the canal had attracted 18.3 percent more tonnage between October to February, versus year-ago levels, driven by a jump in liquefied petroleum gas, liquefied natural gas and container shipments.

(Additional Reporting by SHANGHAI Newsroom; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/4vW3jFzHOVk/us-panama-canal-land-idUSKBN16Y13J