Apple reveals first sales drop in two years as Tim Cook hints at cheaper iPhones

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 30th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Apple has revealed its first sales drop in more than two years and warned of further falls in the coming months as it confirmed that its iPhone business had gone into decline.

The company revealed that revenues in the final three months of 2018, its traditionally lucrative Christmas period, had fallen by 5pc to $84.3bn (£64.5bn). 

The decline was most pronounced in the iPhone business, which makes up the majority of Apple’s profits. Sales of the iPhone fell by 15pc, with much of the drop due to waning demand for its products in China. Profits, at $20bn, were flat on the same period a year ago.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, suggested that consumers outside of America could benefit from cheaper iPhone prices in future as he said the company could reverse a policy of pricing its phones in dollars, rather than local currencies.

The falling pound in the last two years has pushed up the price of the most expensive iPhone in Britain from £789 in 2015 to £1,449 today, an 83pc increase. In comparison, the price in dollars has risen by just 52pc over the same period. “When you look at foreign currencies and then particularly those markets that weakened over the last year those (iPhone price) increases were obviously more,” Mr Cook told Reuters.

Shares in the company rose  after the results, with the revenue figure marginally better than investors had expected. However, Apple warned that sales in the next quarter, the first three months of 2019, would decline again.

The news served as more evidence that iPhone sales may have peaked as the global smartphone market saturates and existing users upgrade their phones less regularly. Consumers are holding on to their old devices for longer as newer versions of the smartphone offer fewer of the must-have features they once did.

Apple became the world’s first public company to be valued at more than one trillion dollars last summer but its shares have sunk since amid growing signs that sales of its most popular product, the iPhone, have ceased growing.

The company pre-empted the sales fall earlier this month, when it announced its first profit warning in 17 years due to an unexpectedly large decline in iPhone sales. The drop, which sent shares falling by 9pc at the time, was pinned largely on a stuttering Chinese economy, although Mr Cook admitted that consumers elsewhere were not upgrading their phones as regularly as the company had hoped.

Tuesday marked the first set of results since Apple decided to stop revealing how many iPhones, iPads and Mac computers it sells in each quarter, a move that had been interpreted as a sign that sales were in decline.

The company now merely gives revenue figures for each category, disguising whether the number of devices it sells has gone up or down.

While revenues from the iPhone fell, those from the iPad tablet and Mac computers rose, as did sales at Apple’s burgeoning wearables division, which includes the Apple Watch and its AirPod headphones.

Apple is hoping that revenues from its App Store and a growing investment in video streaming will serve as a new source of growth as iPhone sales stutter. Its services division, which also includes Apple Pay and its Apple Music streaming business, grew by 19pc year-on-year, a slightly slower growth rate than investors have become used to.

The iPhone continues to account for more than half of revenues, however.

The company predicted that sales in the next quarter would be between $55bn and $59bn, meaning they will fall again against the same period last year, when revenues were $61bn.

It came the day after Apple suffered a major privacy setback when it emerged that a group video-calling feature on its devices was transmitting people’s audio or video feeds before they had answered the phone call.

The Irish Data Protection Commissioner, its primary privacy regulator in Europe, said it had been in touch with the company over the matter.

By James Titcomb

Samsung Reveal Their New Shape-shifting TVs At CES Tech Show Vegas

Source: BBC News

Samsung has revealed a 75in (190cm) television made of modular micro LED panels, at the CES tech show in Las Vegas. The BBC's Chris Fox explains why micro LEDs, which have predominantly been used in large applications such as billboards, may soon be heading for our homes.

Vodafone second largest mobile operator ‘pauses’ Huawei deployment in its core network

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 25th Jan 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile operator, said it was “pausing” the deployment of Huawei equipment in its core networks until Western governments resolve concerns about the Chinese company’s activities.

Huawei is facing increasing scrutiny over its ties with the Chinese government and a suspicion that its technology could be used by Beijing for spying. Huawei has denied the allegations.

Vodafone’s Chief Executive Nick Read said on Friday that the Huawei debate was playing out at a “too simplistic level”, adding that it was an important player in an equipment market dominated by three companies.

Read said its equipment was used in Vodafone’s core – the intelligent part of its networks – in part of Spain and some other smaller markets.

“Given that, we have decided to pause further Huawei in our core whilst we engage with the various agencies and governments and Huawei just to finalise the situation, of which I feel Huawei is really open and working hard,” he said after Vodafone reported third-quarter numbers.

Vodafone said its key revenue measure deteriorated in the third quarter, down 40 basis points quarter-on-quarter to 0.1 percent, reflecting continuing price competition in Spain and Italy and a slowdown in South Africa.

Analysts had expected growth of 0.3 percent.

Shares in the company fell to their lowest level since July 2010 after the update, and were trading down 1.1 percent at 142 pence at 0840 GMT.

Vodafone said competition in the Spanish and Italian markets had moderated through the quarter.

“Lower mobile contract churn across our markets and improved customer trends in Italy and Spain are encouraging, however these have not yet translated into our financial results,” Read said.

But he said the signs of improvement underpinned confidence in Vodafone’s full-year guidance.

Vodafone expects around 3 percent growth in underlying adjusted core earnings for the full year, with free cash flow before spectrum costs coming in at about 5.4 billion euros.

Reporting by Paul Sandle

Sony to move European headquarters from the UK to the Netherlands

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 23rd Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Sony will move its European headquarters from the UK to the Netherlands to avoid disruptions caused by Brexit.

The company said the move would help it avoid customs issues tied to Britain's exit from the EU.

Despite the move, Sony won't shift personnel and operations from the existing UK operations.

It is the latest Japanese company to flag a move to the continent in response to Brexit.

And on Tuesday appliance maker Dyson announced it was moving its headquarters to Singapore, from Malmesbury in Wiltshire, although it said it had nothing to do with Brexit.

The UK is on course to leave the European Union in March, but the two sides have yet to strike a deal.

On a recent trip to the UK, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed concern over a no-deal Brexit.

He said it could hurt Japanese companies, which employ up to 150,000 people in the UK.

Electronics firms switch off

In a statement Sony said the move would mean “we can continue our business as usual without disruption once the UK leaves the EU. All our existing European business functions, facilities, departments, sites and location of our people will remain unchanged from today.”

Sony spokesperson Takashi Iida said the move would make Sony a “company based in the EU” so the common customs procedures will apply to Sony's European operations after Britain leaves the bloc.

Sony's rival Panasonic has already moved its headquarters to Amsterdam, mostly because of tax issues potentially created by Brexit.

Both companies say the decision is unlikely to have a major impact on jobs in the UK.

When Panasonic announced its move, it said “fewer than approximately 10” people would be affected out of a staff of 30.

Bank withdrawal

Several Japanese firms, including Nomura Holdings, Daiwa Securities and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, have said they plan to move their main EU bases out of London.

Japanese bank Norinchukin announced earlier this month that it would set up a wholly-owned subsidiary in the Netherlands in response to Brexit and other economic changes in Europe.

Hitting the brakes

A number of Japanese carmakers have also expressed concern over the impact of a hard Brexit.

Toyota has warned that a no-deal Brexit would affect investment and would temporarily halt output at its plant in Burnaston.

Honda has already planned a six day halt in April to plan for “all possible outcomes caused by logistics and border issues”.

Google Drones Already Making Coffee Delivery In Australia

Source: WSJ

Alphabet's Project Wing is delivering hot coffee and food, hardware supplies and drugstore items via drone near Australia’s capital. Some residents say it’s the future, while others want the drones to shut up.

Hitachi pulls out of £16bn Wylfa nuclear plant in Wales

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Thur, 17th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

The government has reasserted it commitment to developing nuclear power after Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa nuclear power plant this morning.

The company took the decision to suspend work on the £16bn facility behind Hinkley Point C, which was meant to produce six per cent of the UK’s electricity, after holding detailed discussions with the government.

Read more: Hitachi claims ‘no decision' has been made on future of UK nuclear plant

But despite the move, Hitachi has indicated that it will keep ownership of the site, while discussing options with the government.

“I am very sorry to say that despite the best efforts of everyone involved we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned,” said Duncan Hawthorne, the chief executive of Hitachi subsidiary of Horizon Nuclear Power.

“As a result we will be suspending the development of the Wylfa Newydd project, as well as work related to Oldbury, until a solution can be found. In the meantime we will take steps to reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future.”

The move puts thousands of jobs at risk and will cause headaches for a government which aims to increase nuclear’s share of energy production from a quarter to a third by 2035.

It could also come at a cost to taxpayers if the government decides to step in and rescue the project.

However, the move also hits Hitachi. The company said it will take a write-down of ¥300bn (£2.14bn) at its British nuclear unit as it suspends the project.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “As the business secretary [Greg Clark] set out in June, any deal needs to represent value for money and be the right one for UK consumers and taxpayers.”

They continued: “This government is committed to the nuclear sector, giving the go ahead to the first new nuclear power station in a generation at Hinkley Point C, investing £200 million through our recent sector, which includes millions for advanced nuclear technologies.”

“We are also reviewing alternative funding models for future nuclear projects and will update on these findings in summer 2019.”

Read more: Toshiba withdraws from UK nuclear power station

Hitachi was struggling to find other investors to join it in the project, and had called on the government to step in to provide support.

The Japanese company bought into the project when it paid £697m to two German power companies in 2012.

By August Graham

TSMC forecast sharp revenue drop as global slowdown eats away at smartphone and technology firms

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 17th Jan, 2019) London, Uk – –

Semiconductor market bellwether Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)has forecast a sharp drop in sales growth as a global slowdown eats away at smartphone companies and technology firms.

Taiwan-based TSMC, which makes chips that are used in Apple's iPhones and iPads, said it expected revenues to fall to around $7.3bn (£5.7bn) in the current quarter, below the $8.1bn predicted by analysts, and a significant drop on its previous quarter.

Earlier this month, Apple warned that its revenues, which are largely driven by sales of the iPhone, were due to miss expectations.

With the global smartphone market slowing down as sales reach saturation point, chipmakers are expecting orders to slip.

TSMC endured its worst quarter in a decade in the three months ending in December as its market cap fell by $39bn.

The amount of revenue it is expecting would be significantly down on the $9.4bn the chipmaker made in the final three months of 2018.

TSMC is the world's largest dedicated semiconductor foundry, supplying customers including Qualcomm, Nvidia and AMD. It also manufactures dedicated chip designs exclusively for Apple's iPhones, such as the A12 Bionic chip which appears in the iPhone XS and iPhone XR smartphones. 

TSMC chief financial officer Lora Ho said the fall was down to weakening macroeconomic environment, “mobile product seasonality” and an overstocked supply chain.

Earlier this month, Apple chief executive Tim Cook warned shareholders that its sales were set to fall to around $84bn, down from a previous estimate of $93bn.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Samsung, which manufacturers the Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphone, also predicted its first quarterly earnings drop in two years last week as chip and phones sales stall.

By  Matthew Field 

Ford and Volkswagen to announce partnership at Detroit auto show

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 15th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Car companies seek to reduce costs amid slowing sales, with announcement expected at Detroit auto show on Tuesday

Ford and Volkswagen are expected to announce an alliance on Tuesday as the two car companies look to cut the cost of the technological revolution now shaking the industry and deal with slowing sales.

The announcement is expected at the Detroit auto show and comes after Ford and VW signed a memorandum of understanding last June to explore several joint projects, including the development of a range of commercial vehicles.

“We are talking to Volkswagen,” the Ford chairman, Bill Ford, said on Monday at the show. “The talks are going really well. We’re going to have more to say later this week. Stay tuned.”

Ford’s chief executive, Jim Hackett, has suggested that VW could also build Ford-branded cars in Europe.

An alliance would be the largest of its kind in the industry and comes as both companies have struggled. This month, Ford announced it was cutting thousands of jobs in Europe and closing plants. Its European sales fell 2.3% in the first 11 months of last year.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Hackett said Britain’s decision to leave the European Union had hurt the company’s “evolution” in Europe.

“As it relates to Europe, this is not just a new problem,” Hackett said. “We think there’s a design in the future that allows us to be there with Ford-branded products. But we have to get the industrial system in the right construct for that. I’m not going to pull any punches – Brexit hurt.”

But Hackett said Ford would not leave Europe as General Motors did in 2017, when it sold Opel and Vauxhall to PSA Group, owners of Peugeot and Citroën.

Volkswagen, meanwhile, has its own issues and sales have been hit by “dieselgate”– the revelation that VW executives had gamed emission tests by installing illegal software in 11m diesel cars.

Both companies have been hit by falling sales of diesel vehicles and by a slowdown in the Chinese market, the world’s largest, where car sales recently fell for the first time in 20 years. Analysts are also expecting the US market to contract over the next two years after several years of growth.

Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst for Autotrader, said an alliance would come at a crucial moment for both companies. Both are investing billions in new technology including autonomous vehicles and electric cars.

“The cost of developing these technologies is high and nobody knows when there will be a payoff,” she said. “It’s all expense and no clear path to profit.”

Ford has earmarked $15bn for electrified and driverless vehicle technology in the coming years and is renovating Detroit’s landmark Michigan Central Station into a “mobility lab” for new car technology.


By Dominic Rushe 

Google shareholders file lawsuit over multi-million dollar payout to executives

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri 11th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Google shareholders are suing the company board and senior management for covering up executives' sexual harassment and rewarding them with large payouts for leaving quietly. 

Two lawsuits, including one from shareholder James Martin and another from the Northern California Pipe Trades Pension Plan and Teamsters Local 272 Labor Management Pension Fund, were filed on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Both argue that the Silicon Valley giant’s leaders breached their duty to shareholders by covering up employee complaints. 

Last year it emerged that Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android operating system had been given $90m to leave in 2014, despite Google concluding that sexual harassment allegations from another employee were credible.

The truth behind his departure was only made public thanks to a report in the New York Times. The story detailed how Google had covered up sexual harassment accusations against at least three other male executives, who were either allowed to continue their role or offered a similar severance package. The revelations spurred a mass “Walkout” from Google staff around the world.

As a result, Google said it would remove a forced arbitration from its employee contracts, which workers were initially forced to sign to waive their rights to a day in court over work-related complaints. Many are continuing to protest what they described as a sexist and toxic work culture among the ranks. 

The organisers of the walkout said they were “grateful” for the lawsuits adding that “anyone who enables abuse, harassment and discrimination must be held accountable, and those with the most power have the most to account for”.

Both lawsuits are targeting leaders and executives at Google who were aware of Rubin’s misdemeanors and those who authorised his large payouts upon his resignation including former human resources director Laszlo Bock and top lawyer David Drummond, who was also accused of improper work relationships in the New York Times’ story.

Lawyers for Mr Martin said they had obtained minutes from internal meetings that proved that one of the executives had been given the money so he would not share any “dirt” on former colleagues. 

The charges include  breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, abuse of power and corporate waste. Google has been contacted for comment. 

By  Margi Murphy

Sophia Genetics gets $77m in funding as Mike Lynch steps down from biotech board

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 4th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Sophia Genetics has raised $77m (£61m) in a round led by Al Gore's Generation Investment Management, just days after Mike Lynch stepped down from his role on the biotech startup's board.

According to The Financial Times, as part of Generation Investment Management's investment and before Mr Lynch's indictment, the fund had “agreed with Sophia that Mr Lynch would step down from the board”.

“There was obviously noise around Invoke and the Autonomy investigation long ago, and we just thought it could prove a distraction for the company and that it would be in their best interest if he stepped down,” Lilly Wollman, of Generation Investment Management, said.

Last month, Mr Lynch agreed to step down from a number of his board positions, including his post at cyber security company Darktrace and on the Council of Science and Technology. 

It came after the US Department of Justice filed an indictment charging him on 14 counts of fraud – the latest twist in a six-year legal battle over the sale of Mr Lynch's software company Autonomy to Hewlett-Packard.

The DoJ claims that Mr Lynch, together with a former finance executive, artificially inflated revenues and misled auditors and analysts ahead of the 2011 $11.7bn tie-up. The year after HP bought Autonomy, it was forced to take a $8.8bn writedown on the deal. 

Lawyers for Mr Lynch had responded at the time saying the indictment was a “travesty of justice”, and that the “stale allegations are meritless and we reject them emphatically”. 

However, a spokesman for Mr Lynch's investment fund Invoke had said he had “decided to step away from some of his public facing roles whilst he focuses on clearing his name”, including giving up his post at Sophia Genetics.

Invoke will retain its board seat.

The latest funding round, announced on Friday by the Switzerland-based company, takes the total raised by Sophia Genetics to $140m, and also included investments from Balderton Capital and Idinvest Partners. 

Jurgi Camblong, Sophia's co-founder and chief executive, said: “We want to be ready in the next two years to afford an IPO and raise a substantial amount of capital because we believe there will be a health-tech player that will dominate this market.”

By  Hannah Boland 

UK biotech firms thrive despite Brexit threat with £1.6bn from investors in 2018

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 26th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

Booming sector received nearly £1.6bn from investors in first eight months of 2018

Biotech is one of the most promising parts of the British drug industry, not least according to the investors who continue to pump vast sums into the sector despite the looming shadow of Brexit. In the first eight months of 2018 alone it received nearly £1.6bn, compared with £1.2bn for the entirety of 2017.

An unassuming building in a science park near the Hertfordshire town of Stevenage is hosting four biotech firms that hope to achieve a major breakthrough for the field – and go some way to justifying that faith from investors.

The premise of biotech is radical: it harnesses living organisms to fight diseases. These firms – Adaptimmune, Cell Medica, Autolus and Freeline Therapeutics – are working on so-called living medicines, which use human cells and genes, to treat conditions ranging from hard-to-treat cancers to haemophilia and eye diseases.

They are based at a government-funded cell and gene manufacturing centre, which opened in May and is the largest such collaborative centre in the world. Cell and gene therapies can fix genetic defects and reengineer patients’ cells to recognise and attack tumours and other diseases.

There are more than 60 biotech firms specialising in cell and gene therapy in the UK, making it the second-biggest cluster in the world after the US.

In Stevenage, Adaptimmune, Cell Medica and Autolus all focus on cancer while Freeline is working on therapies for bleeding disorders. Another UK firm, London-based Nightstar Therapeutics, has a gene therapy in late-stage studies to treat a rare retinal disorder that leads to blindness.

Keith Thompson, the CEO of Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT), who set up the Stevenage centre, believes that turning cells and genes into living medicines can offer cures rather than just treating symptoms – and could be exported by Britain around the world. He describes it as “an absolute revolution”.

He is optimistic despite the looming threat of Brexit. “We’re trying to take the UK science into a new industry and not let it bleed offshore.”

Simon Pegg, the director at Adaptimmune, which is developing T-cell therapies for cancer, says the re-engineered cells start working straight away and cancer patients can see benefits within a week. In T-cell therapy, white blood cells called T-cells are taken from a patient. They are refrigerated and shipped to be reprogrammed to combat cancer cells, and then frozen under liquid nitrogen before being transported back to the clinical site for infusion into the patient.

However, there are challenges. Living therapies are expensive to make, resulting in a high price tag, and unlike traditional drugs cannot be stored in blister packs in a pharmacy.

Along with others, CGT is working hard to scale up the new therapies so they become routine treatments in Britain. The Stevenage centre will eventually be able to make 6,000 patient doses a year.

Three new government-funded treatment centres, where patients will receive cell and gene therapies, are also in the works – in the north, Manchester, and the Midlands and Wales.

There has been a string of positive news recently. In October, a stem cell gene therapy for severe inherited blood disorders that is being developed by London-based Orchard Therapeutics, a spinout from University College London, was given priority status by industry regulator the European Medicines Agency.

By Julia Kollewe

Huawei’s kit removed from UK’s police force and other emergency services

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Tue, 25th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

BT has confirmed that equipment made by Huawei is being removed from the heart of a communication system being developed for the UK's police forces and other emergency services.

It follows a statement from BT earlier this month that it was swapping out the Chinese firm's kit from the “core” of its 3G and 4G mobile networks.

The Sunday Telegraph was first to report the latest development.

It said the move could extend work on the late-running £2.3bn project.

BT is covering the cost of the switch. It does not believe the changeover will lead to a further delay.

Priority access

The Emergency Services Network (ESN) was originally due to be completed by the end of 2019.

At that point it was meant to replace an existing Motorola-owned radio system called Airwave, which is used by the police, fire and rescue, and ambulance services.

The ESN is intended to give its users “secure” priority access to EE's 4G network, which is being extended via additional radio frequencies in rural areas and new mast sites. It should be cheaper to run than Airwave while also providing superior voice and data capabilities.

But the effort is overrunning, and in September the Home Office announced that it would pay for use of Airwave until the end of 2022 with scope for a further extension if required.

EE won the contract to roll out the ESN in 2015, a year before the network provider was acquired by BT.

Since then, it has become subject to a BT policy that Huawei's kit should not be used at the core of its mobile networks to push customers' data about.

Instead, BT limits the equipment to periphery parts such as phone mast antennas.

“We have ongoing plans to swap to a new core network vendor for ESN, in line with BT's network architecture principles established in 2006,” a spokesman for EE told the BBC.

“This will be managed with no disruption to the ESN service.”

He added that it was still EE's intention to offer “full capability” of the system by 2020.

BT has not been explicit about the reasons behind its policy.

But security concerns have been raised about the use of Huawei's network infrastructure products, with the chief of MI6 Alex Younger recently saying Britain needed to decide how comfortable it was “with Chinese ownership of these technologies”.

Even so, the Financial Times reported last week that telecoms executives are opposed to an outright ban, warning that such a move would set back deployment of 5G in the UK by up to a year.

Huawei has repeatedly rejected suggestions that it poses a risk and denies having ties to the Chinese government beyond those of being a law-abiding taxpayer.

The billionaire who turned a small business in a shed into the biggest electronics operation on the planet

Source: Bloomberg

Foxconn is known for being the biggest assembler of iPhones. Terry Gou is the chairman and largest shareholder of Foxconn. He's also one of Taiwan's richest men. This is the story of how Gou turned a small operation in a shed into the biggest electronics operation on the planet. Now he's building a $14.5 billion factory in Wisconsin.

The rise and fall of Barnes & Noble the brick-and-mortar bookseller

Source: CNBC

Before Amazon challenged Barnes & Noble the brick-and-mortar bookseller was one of the most prolific American chains during the twentieth century. This holiday season could be the most crucial one of Barnes & Noble's history. Its sales have been in a decline for six years as the bookseller cedes market share to Amazon and consumers turn to their phones or portable tablets instead of books. There's been a revolving door in the retailer's C-suite, and activist investors have piled on. Now, Barnes & Noble is considering a sale of its business after receiving interest from a handful of parties, including its so-called modern-day founder and executive chairman, Leonard Riggio, and reportedly, U.K. retailer W.H. Smith.


Marlboro owner Altria buys stake in e-cigarette maker Juul Labs for £10bn

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 21st Dec 2018) London, Uk – –


Marlboro cigarette maker Altria Group has bought a 35pc stake in Juul Labs for $12.8bn (£10.1bn) as it seeks to gain a foothold in the growing e-cigarette market.

The deal values the San Francisco-based company at $38bn, more than double the roughly $16bn valuation it fetched in a private funding round in July.

As the popularity of smoking declines, the deal extends Altria’s move away from traditional tobacco products and into higher-growth businesses in order to protect its revenue.

Earlier this month, it spent $1.8bn buying a 45pc stake in Canadian cannabis company Cronos Group, with an option to take majority control in the future.

Howard Willard, Altria’s chief executive, said: “We are taking significant action to prepare for a future where adult smokers overwhelmingly choose non-combustible products over cigarettes.”

Juul has expanded rapidly since it launched in 2015 to become a market leader in e-cigarettes, and is expected to use the investment from Altria to give it a greater presence in convenience stores and other retailers.

Its products turn a nicotine-laced liquid into vapour, and are considered safer than cigarettes because they do not burn tobacco.

The deal will allow Juul to reach Altria’s customers through advertisements on traditional packs of cigarettes as well as by directly contacting customers.

Juul has faced criticism for encouraging young people to take up smoking, although legally its products cannot be bought by anyone under the age of 18 in the UK.

The company has also stopped using social media sites including Twitter and Instagram to promote its products, and strengthened its age verification processes to restrict sales to those who are under 21 years old in the US, where the problem is most acute.

Kevin Burns, the company’s chief executive, said: “Our success ultimately depends on our ability to get our product in the hands of adult smokers and out of the hands of youth.”

The UK has strict limits on the labelling of liquids for e-cigarettes as well as the quantity that is allowed to be sold at any one time. Initially, consumers were allowed to use e-cigarettes in buildings and on public transport but the rules were tightened last year to outlaw this.

Current NHS guidelines suggest e-cigarettes may help people to stop smoking, but admit that there is a not yet a “full picture on their safety”.

By  Rhiannon Curry 

Minicab and Uber drivers to pay London congestion charge from April

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Thur, 20th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –


Minicab and Uber drivers will no longer be exempt from the £11.50 congestion charge from April next year, Sadiq Khan announced today as part of his push to curb pollution levels.

TfL expects the changes to reduce the number of private hire vehicles entering the congestion zone each day by up to 8,000, a 44 per cent drop from current levels.

The congestion charge applies from Monday to Friday from 7am to 6pm and covers London’s central zone. The boundary stretches round King’s Cross, the city, the Imperial war museum and Buckingham palace.

Higher costs can be expected to hit operators as well as customers looking for a ride in the centre. Uber rival Addison Lee has previously come out with a prediction that the plans will cost it £4m a year.

“We need private hire vehicles and taxis to play their part and help us clean up our filthy air,” said Sadiq Khan, who argued that “tough decisions” needed to be made in order to “protect the health and wellbeing of London”.

Khan has also argued that scrapping the drivers' exemption is necessary to drive down congestion. TfL has said that the pace of the rise in private hire vehicles, which has been bolstered by ride-hailing apps such as Uber, had not been anticipated when the exemption was originally put in place 15 years ago.

The move can also be expected to generate some extra cash for TfL at a time when its revenues have been squeezed as a result of fare freezes and the continued delays hitting its Crossrail project.

The Licensed Private Hire Car Association set up a petition opposing the changes last month, which reached just under 10,000 signatures. Responding to the decision, the group said: “We will do everything we can to challenge this disappointing decision.”

“We do not agree that removing the congestion charge exemption for private hire drivers in London is indeed fair, nor going to reduce congestion.”

An exception will be made for vehicles that are wheelchair accessible, while those that meet certain requirements will be eligible for a new type of cleaner vehicle discount.

Richard Dilks, transport director at London First, said: “The congestion charge has cut traffic in the capital, but London’s roads are still grinding to a halt.

“While it’s right to address the impact of private hire cars, in isolation it is not enough. London is Europe’s second most congested city, and after 15 years of the charge it’s time to modernise the entire system to make sure it continues to work for the capital well in to the future. That includes looking at how to tackle congestion and emissions together, help freight be even more efficient, and make bus journeys faster and more reliable.”

By Kim Darrah

The CEO Who Envisage One Day Sending People Into Space With High Altitude Balloons

Source: Bloomberg

Jane Poynter is CEO of World View Enterprises, a flight technology company which transports things to the stratosphere and back using high altitude balloons. One day soon, she'd like to send us all up there too. Video by Leila Hussain & David Nicholson

Huawei CFO arrested in Canada amid telecoms giant spying row

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 6th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

Canada has arrested the chief financial officer of Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant at the centre of a spying row, as US authorities seek to extradite her.

Meng  Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on Saturday, it emerged on Wednesday night. American prosecutors are seeking to have her moved to the US as it investigates whether the company broke trade sanctions against Iran.

It comes amid deepening suspicions of Huawei in the UK and elsewhere. On Wednesday, BT said it would remove the company’s equipment from its networks within two years, after more than a decade using it.

Huawei was founded by Ren Zhengfei, a former member of China’s People’s Liberation Army, and has been consistently met with suspicion in the West. Its equipment is banned in the US and Australia and in the UK it is rigorously tested by the Government at a guarded facility.

Ms Meng is one of Huawei’s top executives and its deputy chairman, as well as Mr Ren's daughter.

Beijing on Wednesday protested the arrest of the Chinese national and urged her immediate release.

“The Chinese side firmly opposes and strongly protests over such kind of actions which seriously harmed the human rights of the victim,” a statement said.

“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with the US and Canadian side, and urged them to immediately correct the wrongdoing and restore the personal freedom of Ms. Meng Wanzhou.”

A spokesman for Canada's Justice Department said : “Wanzhou Meng was arrested in Vancouver on December 1. She is sought for extradition by the United States, and a bail hearing has been set for Friday.”

“As there is a publication ban in effect, we cannot provide any further detail at this time.”

Earlier this week, the head of MI6 Alex Younger raised concerns about the company, saying Britain would have to make a decision about whether it was willing to have Huawei equipment in the next generation of mobile internet networks.

“We need to decide the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies and these platforms in an environment where some of our allies have taken a very definite position,” he said.

A Huawei spokesman said: “Recently, our corporate CFO, Ms. Meng Wanzhou, was provisionally detained by the Canadian Authorities on behalf of the United States of America, which seeks the extradition of Ms. Meng Wanzhou to face unspecified charges in the Eastern District of New York, when she was transferring flights in Canada.

“The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng. The company believes the Canadian and US legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion.

“Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates, including applicable export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, US and EU.”

By James Titcomb