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Uber wins $1bn investment from Toyota, SoftBank fund

TOKYO: Japanese car giant Toyota and investment fund SoftBank Vision Fund on Friday unveiled an investment of $1 billion in US company Uber to drive forward the development of driverless ridesharing services.

The latest cash injection, expected to close in the third quarter this year, came amid fevered anticipation of Uber’s public share offering which is expected to be the largest in the tech sector for years.

Toyota has already invested $500 million in Uber as the firm races Google-owned Waymo and a host of other companies, including major automakers, to develop self-driving vehicles.

The latest investment, which also involves Japanese parts maker DENSO, will go to Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group in a bid to “accelerate the development and commercialisation of automated ridesharing,” the firms said in a statement.

Toyota and DENSO are stumping up $667 million and SoftBank Vision Fund, the investment arm of Japanese tycoon Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank, will pour $333 million into the venture. It is already the top shareholder in Uber, holding 16 percent.

The Japanese car firm said it would also contribute “an additional $300 million over the next three years to help cover the costs related to these activities.”

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said driverless cars would “transform transportation as we know it, making our streets safer and our cities more liveable.”

His firm is aiming to go beyond car rides to becoming the “Amazon of transportation” in a future where people share, instead of own, vehicles.

If all goes to plan, commuters could ride an e-scooter to a transit station, take a train, then grab an e-bike, share a ride or take an e-scooter at the arriving station to complete a journey — all using an Uber app on a smartphone.

Uber is also seeing growing success with an “Eats” service that lets drivers make money delivering meals ordered from restaurants.

‘Sharing economy’

Last week, Uber filed official documents for its much-anticipated public share offering.

The filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said it operates on six continents with some 14 million trips per day and has totalled more than 10 billion rides since it was founded in 2010.

The filing contained a “placeholder” amount of $1 billion to be raised but that figure is expected to increase ahead of the initial public offering (IPO) expected in May.

The Wall Street Journal said earlier this month that Uber was seeking to raise $10 billion in what would be the largest stock offering of the year.

Media reports said the ride-hailing giant was likely to seek a market value of close to $100 billion.

Uber is the largest of the “unicorns” or venture-backed firms worth at least $1 billion to list on Wall Street, and is one of the key companies in the “sharing economy” based on offering services to replace ownership of cars, homes and other commodities.

Its revenue grew 42 percent last year to $11.2 billion but it continued to lose money from its operations. A net profit was reported for the year from a large asset sale, but operational losses were more than $3 billion.

And some analysts have voiced caution over the forthcoming IPO given a relative lacklustre debut for Lyft, the main US rival.

Khosrowshahi has promised greater transparency as he seeks to restore confidence in the global ridesharing leader hit by a wave of misconduct scandals.

In October, Toyota and SoftBank announced the creation of a joint venture to create “new mobility service” including driverless vehicles for services such as meal deliveries.

The new company — called “Monet”, short for “mobility network” — is majority owned by SoftBank.

SoftBank started as a software firm but has increasingly been pushing into investments under tycoon Son, one of Japan’s richest men.


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SoftBank plans US$60-100b investment in solar in India: Report

TOKYO: Japan's SoftBank is planning to invest between US$60-100 billion in a solar power project in India, a Japanese report said Friday, as the firm looks to expand its interests into various sectors.

The report by public broadcaster NHK comes after SoftBank announced in March it would partner Saudi Arabia on a multi-billion dollar solar project that the company's founder called the largest in the world.

NHK said the massive investment in India would be funded jointly by SoftBank and Saudi Arabia, which have already partnered to create the Vision Fund investment vehicle.

A spokesman for SoftBank declined to comment on the report.

NHK said the deal would likely be announced by SoftBank and the Indian government after details were finalised, without giving a timeline.

Under CEO Masayoshi Son, SoftBank, which started as a software firm, has increasingly been seen as an investment firm, ploughing funds into a broad range of companies and projects outside its core business. In recent years it has completed deals with the likes of French robotics firm Aldebaran and e-commerce Chinese giant Alibaba.

In March, Son said it would fund the “largest solar project ever”, in Saudi Arabia.

The project aims to generate 200 gigawatts of energy by 2030, with building beginning in 2018 and operations to start the following year.

The entire project is expected to cost $200 billion, with the first phase costing US$5 billion.

SoftBank's US$100-billion Vision Fund, created in 2016 with money from Saudi and other investors, will contribute US$1 billion to the first phase. — AFP

US$1= RM3.99


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Advertisers rush back to YouTube

NEW YORK: YouTube was rocked earlier this year when it suffered a mass boycott by brands concerned about their ads appearing next to inappropriate content, but the latest data suggests advertisers are using the video platform as never before.

MediaRadar, the US ad sales software firm, reported in April that it had tracked a 5% drop in the number of advertisers using the top 24 Google Preferred channels between March and April.

However, new findings provided to Marketing Dive and Adweek have revealed that the number of advertisers using these channels soared 50% just a month later in May.

What's more, some 508 brands were advertising within Google Preferred in June, a reported 134% increase from January, before the brand safety scandal emerged.

MediaRadar also said that trust in YouTube is growing, with more advertisers using Google Preferred channels in May and June than in any other month in 2017.

The average number of channels where ads are run has increased 9% per month, while the number of days advertisers run campaigns is up 10% per month.

“There was a real contraction and reaction [among] brand-name advertisers, but our feeling was that YouTube responded very foreseeably to remedy the situation,” said Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar, in comments to Adweek.

“Even in the NewFronts, where I thought YouTube said the right things, they even had some of those same advertisers who said that they were going to pull out and did briefly … back on the stage again.”

Most observers would accept that YouTube has been working hard to rebuild its damaged reputation with the announcement of a series of initiatives over the last few months to combat online extremism.

Just last week, the company announced that it had doubled the number of videos it had removed for containing extremist content, and has doubled the rate at which it removes them.

It has also developed software, known as the Redirect Method, which steers would-be jihadists to anti-hate videos aimed at debunking extremist narratives.


Excel Force signs MOU with UK firm for software and operations support

PETALING JAYA: Software firm Excel Force MSC Bhd has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with UK-incorporated Aquis Exchange Ltd for software and operations support.

Aquis operates a pan-European cash equities trading exchange and develops and licences exchange software to third parties. It is authorised and regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority to operate a multilateral trading facility.

Excel Force said both parties are engaged in discussions concerning intention to enter into a software delivery, support and operations agreement in the area of designing and building infrastructure and software as well as customised training to support operationalisation.

“The MOU is not intended to create legal relations between the parties and will not constitute a contractually binding arrangement between the parties,” it noted.

At 2.40pm, Excel Force shares rose 2 sen to RM1.16 on some 417,700 shares done, giving it a market capitalisation of RM479.93 million.


Market Morning Brief [ 20 July 2017 ]

US Market : U.S. stocks closed at record highs on Wednesday as investors digested key quarterly earnings. The S&P and Nasdaq notched intraday and closing records as earnings season chugs along. The Dow also eked out a record close despite IBM capping gains on the index. Europe Market : European stocks closed higher Wednesday as investors took stock of a series of corporate announcements from across the continent. Swedbank, Tele2 and Volvo Group among the companies reporting Wednesday. Precious Metal Gold : Gold steadied just above $1,240 an ounce onRead More