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RIYADH SEEKS CASH SETTLEMENTS IN CORRUPTION PROBE
German automaker Volkswagen on Friday announced an investment of $40 billion by the end of 2022 in “electric mobility, autonomous driving, new mobility services, and digitalization.” Most of the investment is aimed at the electrification and hybridization of all the company’s vehicles. The goal is a fully electrified portfolio of vehicles by 2030.
VW is joining automakers like Volvo, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and others in a major push to electrify their fleets in next 10 years or so.
In addition to the electrification of its fleet, VW is also investing at about $38 billion in a broader direct-investment program the company calls “Strategy 2025.” Today’s announcement does not include an investment of about $12 billion that the company is making with its partners in China.
Matthias Müller, VW’s CEO said:
With the planning round now approved, we are laying the foundation for making Volkswagen the world’s number one player in electric mobility by 2025. We are reinventing the car. We are making targeted investments in digitalization, autonomous driving, electric mobility and new mobility services by providing the necessary funds from our own resources. We are, however, doing so without sidelining existing technologies and vehicle projects, since this is how we will earn our money for the foreseeable future.
VW plans to remodel its Zwickau plant to be a pure-play “e-mobility” facility. The Emden plant will build all the VW Passat models beginning at the end of next year, and the Wolfsburg plant will build the VW Golf family beginning with the next generation of those vehicles.With committed investments of this size, it remains something of an anomaly that the Trump administration is doing everything it can to encourage more mining of fossil fuels. The companies with skin in the game are clearly betting on electric cars, and opening more federal U.S. lands for drilling and mining is not going to change that.
Speaking to the issue of emissions, VW Chief Financial Officer Frank Witter explained:
[Tighter global restrictions on carbon emissions are] why we have to complete the transformation toward producing more electrically powered vehicles – combined with digitalization, connectivity and mobility services – with utmost efficiency.In other words, this is what the market wants and we’re going to listen to the market. VW was slow to get on the electric vehicle bandwagon, but the company’s diesel emissions scandal provided solid evidence that a strategic shift away from fossil fuels and toward electric vehicles and autonomous driving technology
Chancellor Angela Merkel may not remain in office as a coalition among several parties has fallen apart. Merkel is considered the most powerful political figure in Europe
Time Warner’s (NYYSE: TWX) Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ “Justice League” had a weak open over the weekend. According to Box Office Mojo:
Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ “Justice League” struggled compared to expectations as it failed to top $100 million over the course of its three-day weekend. Meanwhile, it was Lionsgate’s “Wonder” that captured audience attention, debuting with an excellent $27 million, topping “Thor: Ragnarok” for a second place finish, positioning itself well for the holiday weeks ahead
China’s Alibaba (NASDAQ: BABA) bought into the bricks-and-mortar retail business. According to Bloomberg:
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s $2.9 billion deal to buy a slice of China’s largest hypermart chain pits it against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in the world’s largest retail arena.
China’s biggest e-commerce company agreed to acquire 36 percent of Sun Art Retail Group Ltd., which operates about 400 hypermarkets under the Auchan and RT-Mart banners. As part of the deal, France’s Auchan Retail SA will raise its stake in the Hong Kong-listed company to a similar level, and form an alliance with the internet giant to tackle the same Chinese food retail sector Wal-Mart’s targeting.
The cost of the opioid epidemic has soared, according to the Council of Economic Advisers. The Hill reports:
The economic cost of the opioid epidemic was about $504 billion in 2015, which is more than six times higher than other studies from previous years, according to a newly released analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).
This figure accounts for roughly 2.8 percent of gross domestic product. The opioid crisis has garnered the national spotlight, as it has led to a significant uptick in overdose deaths since 1999 and, most recently, was declared a national public health emergency by President Trump.
The value of Bitcoin topped $8,000. According to CNBC:
Bitcoin hit a fresh all-time high Sunday above the $8,000 mark after a wild week for the cryptocurrency.
On Sunday around 8:00 p.m. London time, it hit a record high of $8,101.91, according to data from industry website CoinDesk. Bitcoin held above $8,000 in early trade on Monday.
The rally comes on the back of a huge sell-off on Sunday, November 12, where the price of bitcoin fell to around $5,500. That low, to the record high on Sunday, marks a more than 47 percent increase in the cryptocurrency’s price.
Toshiba’s stock was hit as it plans to sell new shares. According to CNNMoney:
Toshiba’s stock plummeted Monday, after the company announced plans to raise $5 billion to avoid being booted off the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Shares in the Japanese firm fell more than 6% in Tokyo, before paring some of those losses to close down 5.8%
$40 BILLION FOR ELECTRIC
NOVEMBER NEWSLETTER 9
Electric vehicles are not living up to the hype, auto makers in China are finding, as they churn out more EVs than they can sell to satisfy government directives. Beijing tempts buyers with subsidies and the construction of a vast charging network and pushes consumers to buy electric cars in crowded cities. The policies have made China a driving force in world wide development of EVs and left foreign auto makers scrambling to keep up. Yet at the Guangzhou Auto Show companies are reckoning with the challenge of attracting buyers and generating profits while meeting Beijing's requirement that electric vehicles account for roughly 3% to 4% of their total output in 2019 Volkswagen AG aims to build 400,000 EVs by 2020 to meet the green car targets, but it is unrealistic to expect consumers alone to buy that many, it is studying options like car sharing servioces to soak up the excess
Authorities in Saudi Arabia are widening a corruption investigation that has reached the upper echelons of the royal family and entangled businessmen who are not being asked to surrender assets in exchange for their freedom. At least two dozen military officers, including multiple commanders, recently have been rounded up in connection with the Saudi government's sweeping corruption investigation according to two senior advisers to the Saudi government. Several prominent businessmen also were taken in by Saudi authorities in recent days. It is not clear if those people are all accused of wrongdoing, or whether some of them have been called in as witnesses. Their high stakes campaign spearheaded by Sauki Arabia's 32 year old crown prince
Saudi authorities said all wealth that can be proved was amassed through corruption would become state property Authorities are pushing for plea bargains that could see the accused transfer the bulk of their wealth to the state. The government initially hoped to recover as much as $800 billion it believed was accumulated illegally Now the government expects to recover $300 to $400 billion
SAN FRANCISCO - Uber on Tuesday disclosed that it was the victim of a data breach in October 2016 that affected 57 million driver and rider accounts and that it fired its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, for keeping the breach a secret for more than a year.
The ride-hailing company said information on driver and rider names, emails and telephone numbers had been compromised by the attack. After the breach, two hackers approached Uber demanding payment for the stolen data and proof of the deletion of the data. Uber did not make the breach public and instead paid the hackers $100,000 to ensure the stolen data was expunged.
The issue came to light in recent months after an investigation by Uber's board into the company's past, in which board members looked at several internal practices. Dara Khosrowshahi, who was chosen to be the chief executive in late August, said he only recently learned of the incident and decided to take action.
"None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it," Khosrowshahi said in a company blog post. "While I can't erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes. We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers."
The revelation of the breach and the way it was kept quiet raises more questions about the tenure of Travis Kalanick, Uber's co-founder, who was chief executive at the time of the breach.
Kalanick began 2017 on a high note as chief executive of the most valuable privately held startup in the world, but that rapidly fell apart after Uber came under scrutiny for its workplace culture. The New York Times also reported on a secret program called Greyball that had been undertaken under Kalanick's watch, in which Uber staff members surveilled some law enforcement in order to evade them.
By June, some of Uber's shareholders were agitating for Kalanick's exit. That month, he stepped down under pressure but has since fought to retain control of several board seats. Benchmark, a venture capital firm that is one of Uber's earliest investors and had been a supporter of Kalanick, sued the former CEO for fraud.
HOLIDAY SALES STRATEGY.
Nissan Motor Co released an internal report detailing how factory workers engaged in a multidecade coverup designed to fool inspectors and meet management demands. Friday's report seeks to outline causes of a vehicle inspection scandal at Japan's second largest car maker by sales, in which final vehicle inspections where being conducted by wrong personnel. Trainees,received badges to make it seem lie they were fully qualified inspectors. The scandal resulted in Nissan recalling 1.2 million vehicles in Japan, nearly every one it produced in the past three years, and has hammered domestic sales after the company shut down production for Japan to resolve the issues.
The report blamed management for setting unrealistic targetes, relying on factory workers to figure out the details. As a result, factory workers cut corners to meet those target and then hid evidence. The report said foremen and factory workers were aware of the violations and made efforts to hide the evidence from company auditors and government regulators. There was no evidence that factory management or headquarters knew about the coverup
SAUDI ARABI BACKING OFF YEMEN
BLACKOUT OF CBS
Dish Network Corp said Friday that it reached a carriage agreement with CBS Corp and was restoring was programmer's stations to more than two million customers affected by a three day black out that lasted through CBS's Thanksgiving Day National Football League game. CBS and other local television stations owned by CBS were not available on Dish beginning late Monday night and early Tuesday morning in markets including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. The action which did not affect all of Dish's 13.2 million subscribers, came after the two companies failed to reach a new deal for Dish to carry a new deal for Dish to carry CBS's stations before their current contract expired. Neither company disclosed financial terms of the new deal.
— Saudi Arabia’s dramatic moves to counter Iran in the region appear to have backfired, significantly ratcheting up regional tensions and setting off a spiral of reactions and anger that seem to have caught the kingdom off guard.
Now it’s trying to walk back its escalations in Lebanon and Yemen.
On Monday, the kingdom announced that the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen would begin reopening airports and seaports in the Arab world’s poorest country, days after closing them over a rebel ballistic missile attack on Riyadh.
The move came just hours after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who shocked the nation by announcing his resignation from the Saudi capital on Nov. 4, gave an interview in which he backed off his strident condemnation of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah, saying he would return to the country within days to seek a settlement with the Shiite militants, his rivals in his coalition government.
The two developments suggest that Saudi Arabia’s bullish young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, may be trying to pedal back from the abyss of a severe regional escalation.
“This represents de-escalation by the Saudis,” said Yezid Sayigh, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “The general trend is that the Saudis are going to back off and this is largely because of the unexpected extent of international pressure, and not least of all U.S. pressure.”
Mohammed bin Salman, widely known by his initials, MBS, has garnered a reputation for being decisive, as well as impulsive.
At just 32 years old and with little experience in government, he has risen to power in just three years to oversee all major aspects of politics, security and the economy in Saudi Arabia. As defense minister, he is in charge of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
He also appears to have the support of President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, who visited the Saudi capital earlier this month.
Saudi partners in the Gulf and the Trump administration rushed to defend the kingdom publicly after a rebel Houthi missile was fired at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, from Yemen last week. A top U.S. military official also backed Saudi claims that the missile was manufactured by Iran.
However, Saudi Arabia’s move to tighten an already devastating blockade on Yemen in response to the missile was roundly criticized by aid groups, humanitarian workers and the United Nations, which warned that the blockade could bring millions of people closer to “starvation and death.”
Saudi Arabia’s decision to ease the blockade after just a week suggests it bowed to the international criticism, and did not want the bad publicity of even more images of emaciated Yemeni children and elderly people circulating online and in the media.
Public pressure, however, has not always worked to bring about a change in Saudi policy. The kingdom’s abrupt decision, in coordination with the United Arab Emirates, to cut ties with Qatar five months ago was widely criticized as an overreach. Still, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have not backed down from their list of demands, and if anything, appear to have dug in their heels further. The kingdom accuses Qatar of backing extremists in large part due to its ties with Iran and its support of Islamist groups, an allegation that Qatar strongly denies.
While Saudi Arabia appears to have the full backing of Trump, the recent purge of top princes, officials, businessmen and military officers has raised concerns the crown prince has overextended himself. The kingdom says it has detained 201 people in the sweeping anti-corruption probe, which MBS is overseeing. The arrests raise the potential for internal strife and discord within the royal family, whose unity has been the bedrock of the kingdom for decades.
The crown prince shows no sign of backing down from the purge either. The government has promised to expand its probe, and has reportedly frozen some 1,200 bank accounts.
It is too early to say how Saudi Arabia will handle the crisis in Lebanon triggered by Hariri’s resignation, and whether he will indeed try to reach a new settlement with Hezbollah as he announced in the interview Sunday night.
But his abrupt resignation, clearly engineered by the kingdom, may have been an uncalculated step too far.
The 47-year-old Saudi-aligned Hariri was summoned from Beirut to Riyadh on Nov. 3 and resigned the next day in a televised speech in which he unexpectedly tore into Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, announcing in uncharacteristically strong language that Iran’s arms in the region would be “cut off.” The resignation shattered a year-old coalition government that included Hezbollah members that had kept the calm and was just starting to make strides toward injecting some cash and confidence in the country’s economy.
A political crisis has gripped Lebanon since, but instead of splitting the Lebanese, the manner of Hariri’s resignation has provoked outrage among most. Convinced that he was forced to quit and was being held against his will, the Lebanese found rare unity around their demand that Hariri be allowed to return home.
The shock resignation, seen as a rash Saudi decision to drag Lebanon back to the forefront of the Saudi-Iranian battle for regional supremacy, jolted the Middle East and also took world capitals by surprise.
Already facing widespread international criticism over its crippling blockade of Yemen and skepticism over the unprecedented wave of arrests inside Saudi Arabia, the kingdom suddenly seemed like a rogue nation acting on impulse and taking the region to the brink of explosion.
If he was emboldened by the support from Trump and Kushner, the crown prince appears to have overreached.
While it took a few days, the U.S. response has been embarrassing for the kingdom.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. opposes action that would threaten the stability of Lebanon and warned other countries against using Lebanon “as a venue for proxy conflicts” — a statement that seemed to be directed equally at Saudi Arabia and Iran.
More surprisingly, the White House issued a strongly worded statement calling on all states and parties to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and constitutional processes, describing Hariri as a “trusted partner of the United States in strengthening Lebanese institutions, fighting terrorism and protecting refugees.”
“I think the Saudis fundamentally misjudged this... and should have known better,” said Sayigh, the Carnegie analyst.
“They’ve been relying too heavily ... on Trump’s people and misjudged that the U.S. administration is not just Trump,” he said.
Standing out from the crowd is not something we expect from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT). After all, Walmart practically defines the crowd.
But the world’s largest retailer is not only going after the mass market this holiday. Walmart is trying a variety of things to make itself stand out, not just from the crowd, but from the 800-pound online sales gorilla, Amazon.com.
Like just about every other retailer around, Walmart kicks off holiday pricing and Black Friday deals in early November. Just as lots of shoppers have figured out that many of the best deals in physical stores become available on Black Friday, they have also figured out that online prices are best on Cyber Monday. How does Walmart make that work to its advantage?
Here’s a list of eight things Walmart is doing during the five-day shopping period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday to boost its sales. Not all are unique to Walmart, but what may be different is the breadth of the company’s promotional push.
Black Friday sales extended through Sunday night
At Walmart, Black Friday does not end until midnight Sunday and Cyber Monday begins just one minute later. Last year, Walmart kicked off Cyber Monday on Black Friday. Shoppers who want the best Cyber Monday deals now have to wait until Monday although Black Friday has been extended through Sunday.
Save by opening a Walmart credit card account
This is by no means unique to Walmart, but it is an offer than many of the store’s customers may want to take advantage of.
Cyber Monday live TV
The company is live streaming a series of one-hour shows beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET highlighting merchandise and special Cyber Monday pricing.
Sharp discounts on lots of items
Again, not unique to Walmart, but the store offered much better deals on new Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy and Note devices than did Amazon. Walmart also offered a 55-inch, 4K smart TVs at less than $300 for Black Friday; for Cyber Monday, a 55-inch Roku 4K HDR smart TV is available for less than $380, more than half off the list price.
Store-pickup can save customers money
Walmart has been promoting its “order online, pick-up in store” for some time now and provided the store executes, this will become a very popular way for its customers to save money on shipping without having to buy a membership or spend more than a specified amount of money. As the holiday gets nearer and shipping prices rise this could be a significant differentiator for Walmart.
Categorized gift guide
A handy way to search for gifts in a variety of categories including Tech, Hobby, and Stocking Stuffers. It’s really an idea generator and could be quite useful in finding a gift for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list.
In categories from home goods to toys Walmart offers items exclusive to the store. For example, the company’s Mainstays brand 700W microwave oven for $44.48. A quick search at Amazon shows a similar product for $34.44, but the buyer has to pay $19.99 for shipping.24/7 Wall St.
Black Friday Online Sales Officially Pass $5 Billion
Specialized gift cards
Walmart offers gift cards not only for use in its own stores (again not unique), but for dozens if not hundreds of other businesses. Gift cards for both Apple and Google are available as are gift cards for both Hulu and Netflix. The Black Friday offer of a $300 Walmart gift card with the purchase of an iPhone 8, 8 Plus, or X was a wildly popular doorbuster item and could well make an encore appearance on Cyber Monday but only online.