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Google employees protest China’s Dragonfly

By Business Desk,

Hundreds of Google employees have signed a protest letter over the company’s reported work on a censor-friendly search engine to get back into China.

The employees, according to a New York Times report, are demanding more transparency so they can understand the moral implications of their work, said the Times, which obtained a copy of the letter.

It has been signed by 1,400 employees and is circulating on the company’s internal communications system, the newspaper said, quoting three persons who are familiar with the document.

The letter argues that the search engine project and Google’s apparent willingness to accept China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.”

“Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment,” they say in the letter, according to the Times.

Employee anger flared with a report earlier this month in The Intercept that Google is secretly building a search engine that will filter content banned in China and thus meet Beijing’s tough censorship rules.

Google withdrew its search engine from China eight years ago due to censorship and hacking.

The new project is said to be codenamed “Dragonfly.”

The tech giant had already come under fire this year from thousands of employees who signed a petition against a $10-million contract with the US military, which was not renewed.

With the secret project, Google employees are reportedly worried that they might unknowingly be working on technology that could help China hide information from its people.

“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” the protest letter says, according to the Times.

At a townhall gathering of employees on Thursday, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai said the firm was committed to transparency, and that while it was “exploring many options”, it was “not close to launching a search product in China,” the Financial Times reported, citing a person present at the meeting.

What Tesla take over proposal could look like

By Business Desk,

Now that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hired advisers for his plan to take the U.S. electric car maker private, and the Tesla board has named a special committee of independent directors to evaluate it — two steps CNBC reported would happen last week— the next milestone is for Musk to actually put together a formal proposal.

(Ideally, this proposal would already exist, but let’s table that point for now.)

Musk’s offer is likely to include conditional financing from third parties, including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and may have requirements that a certain number of Tesla shareholders roll over their existing stakes into a private company, according to M&A bankers and lawyers who have worked on similar transactions. Putting these conditions in a proposal will allow Musk to show the board something quickly without having to secure tens of billions in committed financing.

It’s also possible the Saudi sovereign wealth fund could commit much more in financing, but Tesla’s cash-burning business, costly factories and Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) issues make that less likely, the bankers and lawyers said.

Of course, Musk already tweeted he had secured financing last week, which has reportedly prompted an SEC inquiry. While conditional clauses may aid Musk’s efforts in lining up financing, the SEC will only care about what he knew to be true at the time of his first tweet, said Thomas Gorman, a lawyer at Dorsey & Whitney and a former SEC enforcement attorney who specializes in financial fraud and market manipulation.

It’s particularly important there is Saudi financing in the formal proposal because Musk has specifically said the country’s sovereign wealth fund’s interest in taking the company private was the basis for his “funding secured” comment,” said Gorman.

“The SEC needs to determine if Musk’s first tweet was a false statement when he put it out,” said Gorman. “There must be some documentation around conversations about funding, even if it’s limited. If the Saudi sovereign wealth fund has the ability and willingness to do this, and Musk knew at the time, you might not like the way he did this, but I don’t think that’s an enforcement case.”

Musk did make reference to existing shareholders rolling their stakes into a private company through a special-purpose vehicle when he first tweeted about Tesla’s take-private last week. The details around how such a fund would work weren’t clear, and there’s no obvious precedent for such a thing.

Musk said Monday he is being advised by Silver Lake on taking the company private. Silver Lake helped Michael Dell with his management-led buyout of Dell in 2013. It’s likely Musk wants to emulate how Dell took his company private, Gorman said. Still, Dell dealt with a variety of obstacles, including counterbidders and deducing a fair price for shareholders, when he attempted the leveraged buyout. Musk probably won’t have an easy time moving forward with a buyout even if he avoids the SEC’s glare, Gorman said.

“He can’t make the company do this,” Gorman said. “If the company decides it doesn’t want to do this, then it won’t.”

Tinder founders sue parent IAC, saying it owes them billions

By Business Desk,

A group of founders, executives and early employees of Tinder on Tuesday sued IAC/InterActiveCorp, claiming the parent company deliberately undervalued the dating app to avoid paying them billions of dollars and deprived some employees of stock options.

The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan stated that IAC and its subsidiary Match Group Inc deliberately prevented the plaintiffs from cashing in stock options they could exercise and sell to IAC. They are seeking damages of not less than $2 billion.

“The defendants made contractual promises to recruit and retain the men and women who built Tinder,” Orin Snyder, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

“The evidence is overwhelming that when it came time to pay the Tinder employees what they rightfully earned, the defendants lied, bullied, and violated their contractual duties, stealing billions of dollars,” he said.

IAC and Match Group said the allegations in the complaint “are meritless and we intend to vigorously defend against them.”

The plaintiffs, including Tinder founders Sean Rad, Justin Mateen and Jonathan Badeen and several executives and employees were given stock options in Tinder as part of their compensation in 2014, according to the lawsuit. Because Tinder is a private company, they were not able to exercise their options and then sell stock on the open market.

Instead, they were allowed to exercise their options and sell only to IAC and Match on four specific dates, in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021, on which the stock options would be independently valued, according to the lawsuit.

Match and IAC, which owns 80 percent of Tinder-owner Match, appointed Greg Blatt, Match’s then chairman and chief executive, as interim CEO of Tinder in 2016. The plaintiffs said this allowed the two companies to “control the valuation of Tinder.”

The plaintiffs claimed that IAC and Match engaged in a “disinformation campaign” to obtain a “bogus” $3 billion valuation for the 2017 date. Some plaintiffs who had left the company were contractually forced to exercise their options using that valuation, according to the lawsuit, while other plaintiffs kept their options.

However, IAC and Match then merged Tinder into Match without the consent of Tinder’s board of directors and canceled the future dates for exercising options, the lawsuit said.

“Mr. Rad has a rich history of outlandish public statements, and this lawsuit contains just another series of them,” IAC and Match Group said in a joint statement.

Ethiopian Airlines leads bids for Nigeria Air

By Business Desk,

Ethiopian Airlines already has contracts for maintenance work with two Nigeria-based carriers, Arik Air and Medview Airline, he said.

In May, Tewolde told Reuters that the airline was in talks with Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea to set up carriers through joint ventures. It aimed to create a new airline in Mozambique that it will fully own, the chief executive said at the time.

In June Ethiopia said it would open Ethiopian Airlines and other companies including the telecoms monopoly up to private domestic and foreign investment, but details have not yet been made public.

Tewolde also said that net profit in the 2017/18 financial year rose to $233 million from $229 million the previous year. Ethiopia’s 2017/18 financial year ended last month.

The airline’s operating revenue rose by 43 percent to $3.7 billion in the 2017/18 financial year.

NCAA gives 7-Star private hangar license to begin operation

By News Desk,

An internationally licensed Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO), 7 Star Global Hangar, owned and managed by Nigerians, has received operational licence from the National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to commence operations in Nigeria.

A statement by Isaac Balami, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 7 Star Global Hangar, on Friday in Abuja, disclosed that MRO was ready to commence operations soon.

Balami said that MRO, which was conceived about six years ago, had the capacity to handle Boeing 737 fleets.

He said that the hangar would serve as stock a comprehensive spare parts inventory market place for airlines in Nigeria and across the West and Central African region.

Balami decried the high cost of maintenance of aircraft by airline operators in the region, adding that relief had come to the aviation sector.

The chief executive officer urged operators to take advantage of the opportunity.

The CEO, a former President of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), and a former Senior Manager at Aero Contractors, is the brain behind the MRO facility.

According to him, with the licence granted an indigenous MRO, millions of dollars will greatly reduce capital flight and saved money for airlines.

“In additional, foreign airlines local currency accounts will encourage their engagement with 7 Star Global.

“Working with Jordanian, American and European technical partners, maintenance will be carried out on Boeing Classic alongside new generation, private jets military/para military planes and other aircraft types, over time,” he said.

Balami said that capital and fleet erosion were prime contributors to the failure of so many airlines in Nigeria over the years, adding that with licensed local maintenance support, the problems could be mitigated.

He said that the continuous rise in the cost of maintenance of airlines necessitate his team to apply their expertise to deliver such a facility in Nigeria to assist local African operators.

Balami disclosed that services would be available in Abuja in a couple of weeks in addition to Lagos centre to deliver world class services at a reduced cost.

“Our new hangar in Abuja can take two Boeings 737 at the same time.

“Some of the experts in the organisation have worked for more than thirty years in the aviation sector, at local and international levels,” the statement quoted the CEO as saying.

Low cocoa prices cripple Ghana

By Business Desk,

Without government subsidy, Ghana’s cocoa sector would have difficulty financing its core activities, said Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) Joseph Boahen-Aidoo.

Government support has become critical due to the lowering price of cocoa on the world market that has made Ghana, the second largest producer of cocoa in the world, struggle to meet its obligation to farmers as well as keep developing the sector.

The cocoa sector, according to the CEO, has been compelled to cut down on a lot of its core operational cost due to the lower outturn in cocoa revenue as a result of lower cocoa prices.

While the regulator spends 2,400 U.S. dollars per ton, including 1,800 as producer price and 600 to cover buyers’ margin, haulage, storage, conditioning before shipment, global price for cocoa has fallen to 2,100 dollars.

This has left the cocoa market regulator in deficits whenever prices fall below 2,400 dollars, Boahen-Aidoo pointed out in an interview on Wednesday during the 80th Anniversary lecture of the Cocoa Research Institute.

“We have been running at a loss. In fact, last year there was a deficit of 2.03 billion Ghana cedis (428.6 million U.S. dollars). That was the difference,” he said.

This happened “because the price of cocoa hovered around 1,700 dollars and 2,100 dollars which was woefully below the operational required cost of 2,400 dollars. So any time the price of cocoa goes below that level, we are in trouble,” he said.

Stakeholders therefore fear that without government intervention, the sector could lose its right of place as the backbone of the Ghanaian economy.

“And as I have explained, we cannot also reduce the producer price because the moment we do that, farmers will leave cocoa and give out their land for other purposes, including illegal mining,” Boahen-Aidoo cautioned.

He said COCOBOD had been in talks with government to cushion the industry because, for a long while, cocoa has supported the country.

“So if price is falling on the world market, through no fault of ours, then the country has to support the cocoa farmers to sustain them because if we do not sustain them and they cut down the cocoa, as is happening in the Eastern Region, to plant rubber, then Ghana would be in trouble,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, which account for about 60 percent of annual global cocoa production, are in talks to harmonise their trading in cocoa to control what goes into the market at any given time to ensure that the chocolate beans are bought at a fairly appreciable price.

Stock market cap sheds 21bn as Mobil, 21 others record loss

By Business Desk,

An analysis of the price movement chart on Thursday at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE ) showed that 22 stocks posted loses against 12 gainers.

The market capitalisation, which opened at N13.249 trillion, shed N21 billion to close at N13.228 trillion.

Top on the price laggards’ table was Mobil Oil which lost N10 to close at N170 per share.

FBN Holdings trailed with a loss of 45k to close at N9.50, while Vitafoam was down by 36k to close at N3.24 per share.

PZ industries depreciated by 20k to close at N14.05, while Zenith International Bank lost 15k to close at N23.60 per share.

On the other hand, International Breweries led the price gainers’ table, gaining 50k to close at N31 per share.

Sterling Bank followed with a gain of 13k to close at N1.49, while Ecobank Transnational gained 10k to close at N22.15 per share.

Eterna Oil also appreciated by 10k to close at N6.10, while Stanbic IBTC grew by 10k to close at N50 per share.

UBA was the most at active stock in volume terms, trading 27.22 million shares worth N260.24 million.

Law Union and Rock Insurance followed with 25 million shares valued at N22.50 million, while Zenith International Bank traded 19.92 million shares worth N71.39 million.

Courteville traded 19.69 million shares worth N4.13 million, while Regency Insurance sold 13.13 million shares valued at N3.05 million.

In all, a total of 188.26 million shares valued at N1.29 billion were transacted by investors in 2,795 deals.

This is in contrast to the 114.04 million shares worth N730.08 million traded in 2,610 deals on Wednesday.

The loses followed mixed second quarter earnings of companies and anxiety over 2019 general elections.

The NSE All-Share Index shed 67.16 points or 0.19 per cent to stand at 36,232.66 from the 36,299.82 posted on Wednesday.

The index had fallen by 5.26 per cent year to date so far this year after appreciating by 42 per cent in 2017.

Ambrose Omordion, the Chief Operating Officer, InvestData Ltd., in Lagos, attributed the persistent decline to political risk ahead of election and mixed sector quarter earnings announced by some companies.

Omordion said that second-quarter earnings had been mixed with most commercial banks posting decline in loans growth, while several consumer goods companies recorded lower profits.

Naira gains 40 kobo to firm against dollar

By Business Desk,

The Naira gained 40 kobo to firm against the dollar at the parallel market in Lagos, on Thursday .

The Nigerian currency exchanged at N358, stronger than N358.4 traded on Wednesday, while the Pound Sterling and the Euro closed at N480 and N417, respectively.

At the Bureau De Change (BDC) window, the naira was sold at N360 to the dollar, while the Pound Sterling and the Euro closed at N480 and N417, respectively.

Trading at the investors’ window showed that investors settled for N362.19 to the dollar, with a market turnover of 146.85 million dollars, while the naira exchanged at N306 to the dollar at the CBN window.

Meanwhile, the apex bank had sustained its interventions at the interbank foreign exchange market with the injection of 210 million dollars to the market on Tuesday.

The series of interventions of the CBN had helped to stabilise the exchange rate at the market.

Samsung launches Galaxy Note 9 phablet

By Business Desk,

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) launched the Galaxy Note 9 “phablet” in New York on Thursday, promising better battery life and quick cooling to attract gamers and revive flagging sales.

The focus on gamer-friendly features appears to be a shift away from Samsung’s previous positioning of the Note as a productivity-boosting device, and is an attempt to lure younger customers as the company’s smartphone sales falter.

U.S. carrier Verizon Communications Inc said the new device will be available for pre-order from August 10, with the 128 gigabyte model priced at $999.99 for the and 512GB model at $1,249.99.

Sprint Corp will introduce the smartphone on August 24 and offer a 50 percent discount as part of a promotional scheme.

Samsung also launched the Galaxy Home speaker, a device that will use its Bixby voice assistant and compete with similar products from Amazon Inc, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

The company last month posted its slowest quarterly profit growth in more than a year as rivals such as China’s Huawei Technologies nipped at its heels, challenging the market leader with cheaper, feature-packed models.

An industry source said the new Note would be priced similarly to its predecessor Note 8, which sold at around $950. The Note 8 sported dual rear cameras and the biggest screen to date on a Samsung smartphone.

The new Note will support up to 1 terabyte of memory – it will have a 512 GB version that will support an additional 512 GB memory card – the source said, making Samsung the first major smartphone maker to sell a 1TB phone.

Samsung launched the Note 9 at 11 a.m. in New York on Thursday, or Friday midnight in Seoul. The new Note is set to hit stores on Aug. 24, Samsung said.

The launch comes about three weeks earlier than its predecessor’s release date, a move prompted by increased competition in the second half of the year as rivals release new smartphone models.

During the event, the company also unveiled its Samsung Galaxy watch with a wireless pad and charger duo for its watch and Note 9.

Samsung said the Note 9 will be the first Android phone to support Fortnite, a hugely popular video-and-smartphone survival game that was only playable on computers, consoles and Apple products until now. Lovers of the game will get an exclusive Note 9 character skin or alternative appearance for characters.

The phablet – a cross between a smartphone and a tablet – would also be able to cool down quickly during game sessions that typically heat up phones a lot.

Its S Pen stylus is Bluetooth-enabled and designed to act as a remote for controlling YouTube video playback.

For its smart speakers, Samsung has partnered with Spotify Technology SA for music streaming. Spotify shares rose nearly 5 percent to $186.96 after the announcement.

FG, BoI launches direct traders empowerment initiative in Lagos, plan for 2M Nigerians

 By NewsDesk,

As part of measure  addressing level of poverty in Nigeria, the Federal Government (FG) and Bank of Industry (BoI) have launched an empowerment program, solely designed to assist petty traders boot their businesses, with aim to ensure two million Nigerians directly benefit from the initiative.

Specifically, representatives of both FG and BoI said that the initiative, tagged ‘Traders Moni’, was created to support traders and also address issued non accessibility of average Nigerians to load.

They disclosed that no fewer than hundreds of traders, particularly market women, received N10,000 loan respectively, in Lagos State, where it had kicked off and that it would soon spread across the country in due time.

The Executive Director, Bank of Industry, Toyin Adeniji, indicated that the launched initiative was a demonstration that the bank was not relenting on measure that would make Nigerians have access to loan irrespective of status or level of education.

Briefing journalists at unveiling of ‘Trader Moni’ initiative at Ojuwoye market in Mushin, Lagos on Tuesday,  Adeniji said that the programme which kicked off nationwide,  would support 2 million Nigerians to grow their business.

She informed that the goal of the scheme was to take financial inclusion down to the grass root whereby pure water seller, bead seller, food seller, okada rider among others can access loan to expand their business without any collateral.

The bank’s head claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari led administration recognised contribution of petty traders to economic development and that presidency had concluded to ensure market people enjoy dividend of democracy since it knew they may lack requirements for bank loans.

“The government identified the fact that some of them may not have what the commercial banks may required to grant loan, so he support this initiative to help them grow their business”.

“This ‘Trader Moni’ initiative is a mobile phone driven, after your details have been captured by agent and send to BOI system for validation, within 48 hours you will get cash notification in your mobile wallet account. You can either transfer the cash to your bank account or cash it out in any mobile money agent around.

“At the beginning you can access N10,000 and pay back N10,250 to qualified for N15,000. Once you payback N15,375 you will qualify for N20,000 loan, when you pay back N21,000 you will get N50,000. All these stages have duration of six months interval to pay back.”

“If you wish you can pay back before six month grace elapsed and access bigger loan. To pay back, just entered some of the backs we have partnered with such as Fidelity, Wema Bank, Gt Bank, UBA, Heritage Bank, Stanbic Bank, Sterling Bank, Union Bank Jaiz Bank, tell them that you want to pay BOI-GEEP loan for PayDirect.

Besides, Chief Operating Officer, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, GEEP,  Uzoma Nwagba, noted that GEEP has three product, including that of ‘farmer Moni’, meant for farmers which avail them opportunity to access up to N300,000 loan each.

“We have ‘Market Moni’ which target market women, traders and artisans that are little bigger and more structured, they get between N50,000 and N100,000. The whole initiative is available across the country.

Nwagba urged beneficiaries to ensure they pay back to avail other opportunity to benefit, “All this initiative aimed to expand financial inclusion because we have over 23 million Nigerians that are financially excluded, this administration aimed to reach them so that they can grow their businesses.