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Huawei Reports Sales Recover From Coronavirus Slump

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 14 July 2020

Telecom giant Huawei reported double-digit revenue growth for the first half of the year on Monday as it appeared to have recovered from a sales slump seen after the coronavirus pandemic broke out in its home country China.

The sales figures came just as the British government was poised to make a crucial decision on Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s future 5G telecoms network.

The CNY 454 billion (roughly Rs. 4.88 lakh crores) first half revenue figure — up 13.1 percent year-on-year — pointed to a sharp uptick in sales for the second quarter, after first-quarter revenue came in at just 182.2 billion yuan, a mere 1.4 percent increase year-on-year.

Analysts had blamed the slowdown in the first three months of 2020 on the virus fallout on business, and on US-led efforts to contain the company’s involvement in foreign telecom networks.

Washington has lobbied allies to shun Huawei over suspicions that its telecoms gear could contain security loopholes that allow China to spy on global communications traffic.

The COVID-19 pandemic emerged in China in December before spreading globally.

Also reporting a net profit margin of 9.2 percent for the first half, Huawei said communications technologies were both a tool for combatting the coronavirus and an engine for recovery of the world’s battered economies.

The net profit margin for the first half also marked an improvement over the first quarter, when it was 7.3 percent, as well as over the first half of 2019, when it was 8.7.

But despite the improvement in the latest figures, Huawei’s sales growth of 23.2 percent was still well below that seen a year earlier.
‘Crucial tool’

Huawei is the world’s top supplier of telecom networking equipment and number-two smartphone maker behind Samsung.

“As countries around the globe are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, information and communications technologies (ICT) have become not only a crucial tool for combatting the virus, but also an engine for economic recovery,” Huawei said in Monday’s statement.

The company said it “reiterated its commitment to working with carriers and industry partners to maintain stable network operations, accelerate digital transformation, and support efforts to contain local outbreaks and reopen local economies”.

Allegations that Huawei has both the capacity and willingness to spy on users of its telecom networks on behalf of China have placed the company at the centre of a global controversy about how much access is should get as many countries prepare to roll out super-fast 5G technology.

Analysts say Huawei’s 5G equipment is both more advanced and cheaper than anything the competition can bring to the table.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reportedly decide this week whether to phase out the Chinese tech giant’s equipment from the UK’s 5G network.

The government had already pledged to cut the firm out of the most sensitive “core” elements of 5G that access personal data.

Reports say Johnson has received a damning security agency reassessment about the long-term safety of Huawei.
‘Impossible’ to remove

The British review was triggered by new US sanctions that blocked Huawei’s access to US chips and semi-conductors at the heart of 5G networks.

On Monday, the head of British telecom operator BT said it would be “impossible” to remove Huawei’s equipment from Britain’s current infrastructure in under 10 years.

BT chief executive Philip Jansen warned that Britain could suffer “outages” and potential security risks if the sector was forced to stop dealing with the Chinese firm.

Huawei, which denies all spying charges, urged Britain last week not to rush into taking any costly decision to phase out its equipment because of US sanctions.

Also last week, China urged France to guarantee a “fair and just” environment for its companies after Paris decided to restrict licenses for telecom operators using 5G technology from Huawei.

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Reliance AGM 2021: Mukesh Ambani Announces Rs. 75,000-Crore Investment to Set Up ‘Giga Factories’ for Clean Energy

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 24 June 2021

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani on Thursday announced a Rs. 75,000-crore investment in setting up four ”Giga” factories to make solar photovoltaic cells, green hydrogen, batteries, and fuel cells over the next three years.

Addressing the company’s annual shareholder meeting, he said Reliance will set up 100GW of solar power generating capacity.

“We plan to build four Giga Factories to manufacture and integrate all critical components of new energy ecosystem – solar photovoltaic module factory, energy storage battery factory, electrolyser factory, fuel cell factory,” Ambani said.

These four factories will involve an investment of Rs. 60,000 crores.

“We will invest an additional Rs. 15,000 crores in the value chain, partnerships, and future technologies, including upstream and downstream industries. Thus, our overall investment in the new energy business will be Rs. 75,000 crores in 3 years,” he said.

Last year, he had announced a 15-year commitment to become net carbon zero by 2035.

“The age of fossil fuels, which powered economic growth globally for nearly three centuries, cannot continue much longer,” he said.

“In 2016, we launched Jio with the aim of bridging the Digital Divide in India. Now, in 2021, we are launching our new energy business with the aim of bridging the green energy divide in India and globally.”

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Jio, Google Join Hands in Cloud Partnership in Boost to 5G Plans

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 June 2021

Alphabet’s Google is forging a cloud partnership with Reliance Jio, helping the country’s biggest wireless carrier with tech solutions for its enterprise and consumer offerings as it plans to launch 5G services.

The tie-up lends Jio the expertise of a global tech giant as it expands digital services to small and medium businesses as well as hundreds of millions of individual customers. And it gives Google the unmatched scale of Reliance whose new-age businesses range from telecoms to e-commerce.

Jio is part of tycoon billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s oil-to-retail conglomerate Reliance Industries.

“It’s a broad partnership, it involves multiple pieces of Alphabet working together,” Thomas Kurian, Chief Executive Officer at Google Cloud, told Reuters in an interview ahead of Reliance’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday.

“Our own partnership spans multiple parts of Jio not just the communications business… but also health, retail and other things. And it allows us to bring our technology to many consumers in India in a broad-scale basis as well as to many businesses that are served by Reliance.”

While Google is working with other telecoms firms on 5G around the world, the scale of the Jio-Google cloud partnership is among the biggest for the California-headquartered company globally, said Kurian.

He declined to share the terms of the cloud contract with Jio.

Jio established a 10-year alliance with Microsoft in 2019, aiming to build data centres across India that will be hosted on Azure cloud in a bid to offer services to the country’s booming start-up economy.

Jio disrupted India’s telecoms market in 2016 when it launched with cut-price data plans and free voice services. It forced several competitors out of the market and is now India’s biggest mobile carrier with more than 422 million customers.

Google last year invested $4.5 billion (roughly Rs. 33,370 crores) in Jio’s parent Jio Platforms, a move that landed the US tech giant a rare board seat alongside rival Facebook which has also pumped $5.7 billion (roughly Rs. 42,270 crores) into the digital unit.

Ambani has previously said Jio, which also counts Qualcomm and Intel among its backers, would “pioneer the 5G revolution” in India in 2021.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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India’s New E-Commerce Rules Considered ‘Cause for Concern’ by US Lobby Group, Email Shows

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 June 2021

A top lobby group that is part of the US Chamber of Commerce believes India’s proposed new e-commerce rules are a cause for concern and will lead to a stringent operating environment for companies, according to an email reviewed by Reuters.

India this week spooked online retailers like Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart by outlining plans to limit “flash sales”, reining in a private label push and mandating them to have a system to address grievances.

The Washington-headquartered US-India Business Council (USIBC), of which Amazon and Walmart are members, described the rules as concerning in an internal email, saying some provisions were in line with New Delhi’s stance on other big digital companies.

India’s draft plan “includes several concerning policies, including significant limits on platforms’ ability to organise sales and handle grievances,” USIBC said in an email to its members.

USIBC has in the past urged India not to tighten a separate set of rules governing foreign investment in companies like Amazon and Flipkart, an issue that has often soured trade relations between India and United States.

USIBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new rules – open for consultation until July 6 – are expected to have an impact across the board in an online retail market forecast to be worth $200 billion (roughly Rs. 14,84,650 crores) by 2026.

They will also apply to Indian firms like Tata’s BigBasket and Reliance Industries’ JioMart, but the proposal comes after Indian retailers for years complained that market leaders Amazon and Flipkart used complex business structures to bypass India’s foreign investment law, hurting small businesses.

The companies deny any wrongdoing.

India’s new proposed rules have raised concerns they will force Amazon and Flipkart to review their business structures, industry sources and lawyers have told Reuters.

The USIBC email noted that India’s proposals “preclude (e-commerce) platforms from owning vendors”.

Amazon specifically holds an indirect stake in two of its top sellers and a Reuters investigation in February cited Amazon documents that showed it gave preferential treatment to a small number of its sellers.

India’s rules also will force e-commerce companies to reveal the country of origin of a product and suggest alternatives to ensure a “fair opportunity for domestic goods”.

Some of the new provisions align with India’s similar federal policies “for social and digital media companies … and will result in a more stringent e-commerce regime,” USIBC said in its email.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Hackers Shouldn’t Be Paid Ransoms, FBI Director Christopher Wray Pleads With Public Companies

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 June 2021

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday pleaded with public companies and other hacking victims to avoid paying ransom, saying he fears it will only embolden cyber criminals to ramp up future attacks.

“In general, we would discourage paying the ransom because it encourages more of these attacks, and frankly, there is no guarantee whatsoever that you are going to get your data back,” Wray testified before a US Senate appropriations panel.

The Justice Department has disclosed it managed to help the Colonial Pipeline recover some $2.3 million (roughly Rs. 17.07 crores) in cryptocurrency ransom it paid to hackers – an attack that led to widespread shortages at gas stations on the East Coast.

The FBI was able to recover those funds because it had a private key that it was able to use to unlock a Bitcoin wallet holding most of the money. It was unclear how the FBI managed to access the key. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 24.3 lakhs IST on June 24.

Bitcoin seizures by the federal government are relatively uncommon, but authorities have been stepping up their expertise in tracking the flow of digital money.

Wray said on Wednesday that the FBI is seeing increasingly sophisticated types of ransomware attacks and that cyber thieves have been demanding larger sums of money.

“We’ve seen the total volume of the money paid I think triple over the last year or so,” Wray said.

He said companies and municipal governments who become victims of ransomware attacks should consider going to the FBI as soon as possible, and not wait.

“When they do, there’s all kinds of things that we can do,” Wray said.

“Sometimes through other work we’ve done, we might have the decryption key and be able to help the company unlock their data without having to pay the ransom,” he added.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Elon Musk Says Starlink to Go Public Once Cash Flow Is More Predictable

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 June 2021

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk will list SpaceX’s space Internet venture, Starlink, when its cash flow is reasonably predictable, the billionaire entrepreneur said late on Wednesday.

“Going public sooner than that would be very painful,” Musk said in a tweet. “Will do my best to give long-term Tesla shareholders preference.”

He was responding to a question on Twitter, where a user asked: “Any thoughts on Starlink IPO we would love to invest in the future. Any thoughts on first dibs for Tesla retail investors?”

Last year, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell floated the idea of spinning off Starlink for an initial public offering.

Starlink, a planned network of tens of thousands of satellites in low-earth orbit, aims to offer fast Internet speeds globally.

Musk had said earlier that Starlink, currently based in Redmond, Washington, will be a crucial source of funding for his broader plans like developing the Starship rocket to fly paying customers to the moon and eventually trying to colonise Mars.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Amazon Restores Services After Multiple Users Face Outage

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 June 2021

Multiple users experienced a brief outage at Amazon’s platforms including Alexa and Prime Video late Wednesday before services were restored, according to outage monitoring website Downdetector.

More than 6,200 user reports had indicated issues with Amazon’s online store site, as of 1:48am GMT (7:18am IST), while about 1,700 users reported problems with Prime Video and more than 400 with Alexa, according to Downdetector.

Outage reports dropped significantly to double digits on the platforms in a little over an hour, Downdetector showed.

The issue affecting the sites was not immediately clear. Amazon did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Downdetector tracks outages by collating status reports from a series of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform.

On June 23, Amazon and Google were pressed by US Senator Amy Klobuchar about how their smart home devices and virtual assistants will support competition and user privacy.

In a letter, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee said testimony last week by attorneys from the companies left her with concerns about their dominance of the fast-growing field.

She asked the companies which of their products will support – and which will not – a recently revamped industry alliance known as Matter. The group, which includes Apple, Ikea, and others, aims to allow home-automation gadgets such as Internet-connected lights and speakers from various companies to sync with one another.

“For what period of time do you commit to support the Matter interoperability project, and who at your companies is responsible for determining whether to extend the length of your commitment to Matter?” Klobuchar wrote to Amazon and Google.

She called on the companies by July 2 also to answer questions about data collection by voice assistants and how the information is used.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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