Joby targeted in flying taxi deal and Maersk seeks carbon-free future
"When you compare it to a driver in your Uber Lyft, who's driving one person around at 20 miles an hour and compare that to a pilot who's flying an average of two or three people around, but doing it at 10 times the speed ... that's transformational."
The boss of Joby Aviation, JoeBen Bevirt, spelled out the case for flying taxis at an industry event two years ago. Once considered the stuff of sci-fi, the eVTOL market is now attracting billions in funding, often from investment vehicles that are being set up specifically to target the growth potential in firms at the cutting edge of new tech. Joby looks to be on course for one such cash boost and Bevirt thinks its prototype could be in commercial operation by 2024.
Back on terra firma, the Ford Motor company says its entireEuropean passenger range will be electric by the end of the decade. It's spending a billion dollars to convert its main production hub in Germany for a greener motoring future.
Meanwhile, Danish shipping giant Maersk, which recently reported "crazy demand" for container capacity as locked-down consumers splash out on new furnishings and home exercise equipment, is trialling a carbon-neutral container vessel. Like the auto industry, shipping is under pressure to cut CO2 emissions, as EU regulators get tough on big polluters.
The one sector that has suffered more than most in the COVID-19 pandemic is retail. To tempt shoppers back to London's battered West End, Westminster City Council wants to showcase a climbable hill by Marble Arch. Could we see other similar schemes to encourage families back to empty shopping areas once the pandemic is over?
And finally, Bitcoin is still on its upward trajectory, now trading at more than $51,000 per coin. See our graph to map the meteoric rise in its value over the past month.
Read on for more of the day's business news in full.
The roll-out of a market-leading prototype flying vehicle is being funded through the planned merger of a leading special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) with the aviation group behind the project.
Santa Cruz, U.S.-based Joby Aviation is set to pair up with Reinvent Technology Partners, run by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and tech entrepreneur Mark Pincus, to develop its new electric flying taxi. The deal, when confirmed, will value the firm at $5.7 billion according to market estimates.
Joby, which has existing backers including Toyota, has hinted at a public flotation in New York later this year when the merger goes through. Analysts believe the tie-up may give Joby the edge over its two main aerospace rivals, Germany's Volocopter and Lilium, in getting an eVTOL model into commercial use. The firm is seeking certification for its model by 2024.
Meanwhile, shares in the leading SPAC, Churchill Capital Corp IV (CCIV), have jumped by a third on rumors it is about to merge with the premium electric car maker Lucid Motors ahead of a public flotation. The $12 billion listing for California-based Lucid would be funded through a private equity share sale. CCIV has already raised $2 billion through an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in July.
Lucid was founded in 2007 as 'Atieva' by former Tesla executive Bernard Tse, with backing from Chinese and Silicon Valley venture capital firms. It's also received support from China's BAIC Motor and LeEco technology firms.
SPACs have boomed on U.S. markets in recent months, with 143 launching so far this year, raising $42 billion. These so called "blank cheque" shell companies, which raise capital to fund takeover deals, are being taken up by several high-profile figures in the financial world, including Richard Branson, former Prudential boss Tidjane Thiam, the former Barclays chair Makram Azar. Amsterdam's Euronext exchange is seeking to position itself as a center for SPAC listings in Europe, as rival London often deems SPAC acquisitions reverse takeovers and in which case seeks to suspend shares from trading.
Trading volumes in Hong Kong have soared to four times those on London's major stock markets, according to new figures. Around $50 billion worth of investment has been poured into mostly tech stocks so far this year, with average daily turnover rising to around $25 billion by Tuesday, compared with $10 billion for the same period last year, more than quadruple the average daily turnover on the London Stock Exchange.
Europe's biggest low-cost carrier, Ireland's Ryanair, has lost its fight against state aid granted to rivals Air France and Nordic carrier SAS. A top European court has ruled the schemes, launched to counter the effect of COVID-19 on the industry, were not discriminatory. Ryanair had argued that these programs mainly benefited state carriers and were unfair to other European carriers. But in two judgments, the EU's General Court said the airline support packages were appropriate for tackling the impact on economies caused by the pandemic
Danish shipping giant Maersk is accelerating plans to decarbonize its seaborne container business by installing the world's first carbon-neutral fuel vessel seven years ahead of schedule. The shipping industry accounts for around 3 percent of global carbon emissions. Maersk, which says it aims to have an entirely carbon-neutral fleet by 2050, will launch the prototype feeder vessel, with capacity to carry up to 2,000 containers, by 2023.
Russia's main stock market, the Moscow Exchange, is to open three hours earlier from March to enable currencies and derivatives trading with Chinese investors. Trading will run from 7 a.m. to midnight Moscow time, also capturing working hours in other Asian nations. Analysts say increasing renminbi trading volumes against the rouble has been a long-term objective of both Russia and China.
The world's biggest producer of iron ore, Rio Tinto, has announced the largest dividend payment in its history. The Anglo-Australian miner is to reward shareholders with a record $9 billion in dividends, after announcing a rise of 20 percent in underlying earnings to $12.4 billion in 2020. New boss Jakob Stausholm described "commodity-intensive growth" after "a year of extremes," with strong demand from China funding a return to previous dividend policy.
Nestle is to sell its U.S. bottled-water business to private-equity firm One Rock Capital Partners for $4.3 billion. However, the Swiss giant is hanging on to premium brands such as Perrier and San Pellegrino. Nestle, which has faced a consumer backlash over its plastic bottle policy, has been undergoing a product revamp since early last year and has just announced plans for a vegan version of its flagship Kit Kat chocolate bar.
The UK's chief finance minister Rishi Sunak has been advised to "think big" by a leading think tank ahead of the Budget in two weeks, with a massive stimulus project to reboot the world's sixth biggest economy. The Institute for Public Policy Research has said Sunak should consider a $260 billion public spending package to match the ambition of the measures being taken by the Biden administration in the U.S. So far, Sunak has allocated around $55 billion, or 2 percent of gross GDP, to deal with the economic impact of COVID-19, around half what Germany plans to spend.
Meanwhile, UK inflation rose in January ahead of expectations, hinting at what some economists say could be a sign of wider price increases post-lockdown. Inflation was up 0.7 percent in the 12 months to January, with experts warning the Bank of England's 2 percent target by the end of 2021 may be missed.
Marble Arch in London's West-End is to showcase a climbable "hill" after lockdown conditions end,to help lure shoppers back to Oxford Street. The temporary 25 meter-high attraction will overlook the landmark at the corner of Hyde Park, if it wins planning permission. The move is part of a $200 million initiative by Westminster City Council to overhaul the capital's shopping offer, which was recording a decline in foreign visitors even before the pandemic struck.
WATCH: Serbians like a party! That may explain why the country is among only a few in the world that celebrates two new years, the first on January 1 and the second Orthodox Christian new year on January 14. Now, Serbia has added a third, celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Oil prices have jumped after freezing temperatures swept through Texas and left millions of people without power. U.S. President Joe Biden has declared a state of emergency after the power grid was crippled and two people were left dead following a winter storm.
CGTN Europe spoke to Ellen Wald, energy analyst with Transversal Consulting, about what is happening to demand in U.S. amid the coldest winter in decades.
There is a huge demand on the system right now. It's not just a snowstorm, it's the cripplingly cold temperatures. We're talking about 1 or 3 degrees Fahrenheit [minus 16 to 17 degrees Celsius], which is completely uncommon in Texas. Some parts get cold weather, but not that frigid ... and that's ramped up demand, particularly for natural gas heating and natural gas is used in Texas both for heating and for power plants.
So the demand is getting siphoned between these two places, and on top of that, you've got other power plants in Texas that are simply just going offline because it's so cold that critical parts are just freezing. So the prices are exploding. And it's not just in Texas, it's also in Oklahoma and other areas in the region.
Why has the power grid been so badly affected by this cold weather?
It's just not meant to withstand these kinds of low temperatures. In other places in the United States, in Wyoming, they have, like they have in Texas, wind turbines, but those turbines are weatherized for the really cold temperatures that you'd expect in Wyoming. In Texas, they didn't winterize their wind turbines or their natural gas power plants, so they're suffering under both high demand and this cold that's taking out parts of the ability of the grid to to manufacture electricity. And also, Texas's grid is self-contained. In the United States, a lot of other grids are managed federally or are not totally self-contained. Texas does all of its own grid and electricity management. And so some people think that that has also contributed to the problem.
What are the lessons learnt? Is this about diversification?
Texas actually has fairly well diversified sources of electricity. They get plenty from wind, although in this case they weren't even expecting to get a lot from wind. It was really divided between coal, natural gas and nuclear. The problem is that just a lot of these things have all gone offline at the same moment as demand skyrocketed. So really, I think the lesson here is - do we think that it's important to spend the money to weatherize the power grid and the power plants against these freak temperature issues? Remember, temperatures haven't become this cold in Texas since 1989. But I think, also, as people start to transition more to electric vehicles, that's going to put more stress on the grid. And so maybe it is time to say, hey, do we want to spend the money to really upgrade the grid, considering it's going to just be more and more critical?
And finally, the world's biggest digital currency is now trading at $51,721, with a market capitalization of more than $900 billion, boosted by signs that it is winning corporate approval from companies such as Tesla, Uber, Mastercard and BNY Mellon. See the rise in its value over the past month.