Category Archives: Cloud Computing

China Evergrande invests in project to build world's fastest supercomputer

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Property developer China Evergrande Group on Thursday said it will invest 1.65 billion yuan ($239.53 million) into six high-tech projects by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, including one aimed at building the world’s fastest supercomputer.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of China Evergrande Group is displayed at a news conference on the property developer’s annual results in Hong Kong, China March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

The other projects involve artificial intelligence, surgical robotics, unpiloted aircraft, health engineering and graphene. Together, the six projects have a current value of 4.6 billion yuan, Evergrande said in a statement.

The investment is the first from a total 100 billion yuan that Evergrande agreed with the academy to inject into high-tech sectors earlier this year.

Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yan first announced in March that the property developer would explore opportunities in high-tech sectors to drive growth.

It set up a subsidiary in April focusing on high-tech agriculture.

($1 = 6.8885 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Clare Jim;; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Exclusive: Amazon considering UK insurance comparison site – sources

LONDON (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) is sounding out some of Europe’s top insurance firms to see if they would contribute products to a UK price comparison website in what would be a major foray by the U.S. online retail giant into the region’s financial services.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

Three industry executives told Reuters they had held talks with Amazon about the possible launch of a site. One said the talks were part of several discussions Amazon is having with insurers. A second said there were no imminent launch plans.

While it was not immediately clear what type of insurance would be sold on any Amazon site, home and motor policies are popular sellers on existing UK price comparison sites.

“As Amazon becomes a larger part of the home, whether it’s products delivered to the home, security monitoring, home services like Wi-Fi installation, you can make the case that insurance is the next logical step for this company,” said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy.

The industry sources declined to be named as the talks are confidential. Amazon declined to comment.

An Amazon price comparison website for insurance products would be a potential challenge to existing UK sites given the U.S. company’s cutting-edge technology, reach and loyal customer base.

Two of the most high profile are comparethemarket.com which shows products from insurers including AXA (AXAF.PA), Hastings (HSTG.L) and eSure (ESUR.L); and GoCompare (GOCO.L), which lists insurance from firms such as Santander (SAN.MC) and LV= [LV.UL].

A UK insurance site would also build on Amazon’s existing products in Europe offering extensions to manufacturers’ warranties, a service known as Amazon Protect.

While Amazon’s loyal customer base and reach would probably prove attractive to some insurers happy to cede some of their premiums to Amazon to expand sales, the potential for premiums to be forced lower through competition could deter others.

One of the industry sources said the comparison site model fitted Amazon’s strategy of offering a range of products, as opposed to partnering with one firm.

A price comparison website in particular could also be used to help drive traffic to its other marketplaces, Hottovy said.

It was not immediately clear what financial arrangements Amazon would strike with insurers if it were to go ahead.

Tech-rival Google launched a financial services comparison site in the United Kingdom and the United States in 2016 but shut it down after only a year due to low traffic.

REGULATORY BURDEN

In the United States, Amazon has a joint venture with insurer Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) and JP Morgan (JPM.N) aimed at slashing U.S. healthcare costs. It also offers a small business loan program.

In Europe, Amazon has had a partnership with The Warranty Group since 2016 to offer the warranty extensions. It also offers co-branded credit cards in the United Kingdom and Germany although it does not lend money of its own.

In a sign of potential expansion plans, Amazon began to place job ads last year for staff for a new insurance business in Europe, without giving details.

While Chinese tech giants Alibaba (BABA.N) and Tencent (0700.HK) have large finance arms, leading Western tech firms have taken a more cautious approach to heavily regulated financial services, which often have hefty capital requirements.

A comparison site, however, would let Amazon give its customers access to insurance from a variety of providers while avoiding that level of regulatory burden, industry sources said.

The use of comparison websites to buy motor and home insurance is more prevalent in the United Kingdom than Europe or the United States.

Some insurers rely heavily on comparison websites for sales. UK insurer Hastings (HSTG.L), for example, told Reuters it sells 90 percent of its motor policies through such sites.

Rival car insurer Admiral (ADML.L) also relies on websites for sales and would be open to joining any Amazon site, its chief financial officer, Geraint Jones, said.

“If it establishes a comparison site then I suspect Admiral will be interested in being a member, potentially. Price comparison is the main source of distribution of our products and we’ll await with interest what they do,” Jones told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Sinead Cruise in London, Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru, Jeffrey Dastin and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; editing by David Clarke

Former Baidu executive Lu to helm Y Combinator's new China unit

BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. startup incubator Y Combinator said it is establishing a China unit, its first dedicated overseas office, which will be headed by Baidu Inc’s former chief operating officer Qi Lu.

FILE PHOTO: Qi Lu, vice chairman, group president and COO of Baidu, responds to a question during a panel discussion on 5G wireless broadband technology during the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

“China has been an important missing piece of our puzzle -the entrepreneurial energy and talent there is an amazing force. Qi will be able to take what makes YC work and adapt it for China,” Sam Altman, president of YC Group said in a blog post.

Y Combinator has backed companies such as Airbnb Inc, Dropbox Inc and Reddit.

Lu, who oversaw the transformation of Baidu’s artificial intelligence unit, stepped down as COO in July, saying he would return to the United States for family reasons.

In his new role, Lu will also become the head of YC Research, the company’s non-profit research and development project, and YC Research will open a new location in Seattle.

Before joining Baidu, Lu was an executive at Microsoft Corp and headed a unit that was in charge of Office, Bing and Skype among other products.

Y Combinator did not disclose details of its plans for its China arm, but in the United States it runs two three-month funding cycles a year where startups receive intensive support in return for equity.

Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Foxconn profit below forecast on soaring operating costs, shares fall

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Foxconn posted second-quarter net profit well below expectations as a rise in component costs and unsold inventory weighed on the performance of the Apple supplier and world’s top contract electronics maker, analysts said.

FILE PHOTO: A shovel and FoxConn logo are seen before the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump as he participates in the Foxconn Technology Group groundbreaking ceremony for its LCD manufacturing campus, in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Hauck/File Photo

The company, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, reported net profit of T$17.49 billion ($567.25 million) late on Monday, 20 percent short of analyst expectations and slightly below the year-earlier results. Foxconn shares fell more than 3 percent on Tuesday.

Analysts said the results reflected concerns about a loss of momentum in global smartphone sales. Last week, Foxconn unit FIH Mobile Ltd posted a wider first-half loss and acknowledged that it faced a high risk of saturation in the smartphone market.

Foxconn’s results showed that its gross margin narrowed in the second-quarter in part owing to the cost of carrying unsold inventory of the iPhone X. Overall global smartphone shipments fell 3 percent to 350 million units in the April-June quarter compared with a year earlier, market research firm Strategy Analytics says.

However, Vincent Chen, an analyst at Yuanta Research, predicted a brighter outlook projected by Apple would benefit Foxconn and boost its margins in the third quarter.

Apple has forecast above-consensus revenue for later in the year, when it typically launches new iPhone models. Reports suggest these models will use OLED screens, which can display colors more vividly.

“We expect Hon Hai to be the main assembler of OLED version new iPhones and we believe the OLED iPhone model will see better demand in 2H18F,” Chen said in a research note.

The company’s report also illustrates its moves to diversify by pushing into new areas such as display screens – it bought Sharp Corp earlier this year – autonomous car startups and investments in cancer research.

Still, Foxconn earns most of its profits from manufacturing smartphones for Apple and other brands and from Foxconn Industrial Internet, a unit that makes networking equipment and smartphone casings, among other things.

“Investment in factory automation and component price hikes capped gross margin,” said Fubon Research analyst Arthur Liao.

Foxconn’s operating costs jumped 18.8 percent in the quarter.

Liao noted that Foxconn absorbed some expenses related to the Sharp acquisition this quarter, as well as development costs from setting up a factory in the United States, and taking Foxconn Industrial public in June.

Additional reporting by Chyen Yee Lee in Singapore and Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Neil Fullick

Samsung may suspend operations at China mobile phone plant: report

SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) is considering suspending operations at one of its mobile phone manufacturing plants in China due to slumping sales and rising labor costs, the Electronic Times reported on Monday.

FILE PHOTO – The Samsung logo is seen in Seoul, South Korea, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

Samsung might stop producing mobile phones this year at Tianjin Samsung Telecom Technology, located in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, the South Korean newspaper said, describing the move under consideration as a potential withdrawal.

FILE PHOTO: A man checks Samsung’s Virtual Reality device at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

The world’s biggest smartphone maker said on Monday that nothing had been decided on the fate of its Tianjin operation.

“The overall smartphone market is having difficulties due to slowing growth. Samsung Electronics’ Tianjin telecom enterprise aims to focus on activities that increase competitiveness and efficiency,” it said in a statement to Reuters.

Just five years ago, Samsung had 20 percent of the Chinese market only to see that fall to less than 1 percent this year, outgunned by Huawei , Xiaomi (1810.HK) and other Chinese brands, particularly on pricing.

The South Korean tech giant is also under pressure to jump-start faltering smartphone sales after posting its slowest quarterly profit growth in more than a year, as rivals nip at its heels with cheaper, feature-packed models.

In addition to the Tianjin plant, Samsung also another Chinese phone factory in Huizhou.

In recent years, Samsung has focused its major mobile phone investments on production facilities in Vietnam and India. It opened the world’s biggest smartphone factory outside New Delhi last month, which is slated to become an export hub.

According to the Electronic Times, its Tianjin plant in China produces 36 million mobile phones a year and its Huizhou plant makes 72 million units a year, while the two factories in Vietnam combined make 240 million units a year.

Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Vietnam's Vinfast in deal with Siemens for technology to make electric buses

HANOI (Reuters) – VinFast Trading and Production LLC has signed two contracts with Siemens Vietnam, a unit of Siemens AG, for the supply of technology and components to manufacture electric buses in the Southeast Asian country.

The headquarters of Siemens AG is seen before the company’s annual news conference in Munich, Germany, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

VinFast, a unit of Vietnam’s biggest private conglomerate, Vingroup JSC, said on Monday the deals will enable it to launch the first electric bus by the end of 2019.

“Electric buses are an essential element of sustainable urban public transportation systems,” Siemens Vietnam President and CEO Pham Thai Lai said in the statement.

VinFast will also produce electric motorcycles, electric cars and gasoline cars from its $1.5-billion factory being built in Haiphong City, it said.

In June, General Motors Co agreed to transfer its Vietnamese operation to VinFast, which will also exclusively distribute GM’s Chevrolet cars in Vietnam.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Cyber Saturday—The War on InfoWars

Good evening, Cyber Saturday readers.

A number of tech companies excised the rantings and ravings of Alex Jones, a pundit known for promulgating deranged conspiracy theories, from their digital repositories this past week.

On his website, InfoWars, Jones has been known to push baseless, detestable claims; for example, that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax and the September 11th attacks were orchestrated by the government. Fed up with Jones’ antics, Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube—with the notable exception of Twitter—corked his megaphone.

Add this confrontation to the longstanding tug-of-war between free speech and censorship on the web. One of my favorite contributions to this dialogue was supplied last year by Matthew Prince, CEO and cofounder of Cloudflare, a startup offering services that improve website performance and security. By policy, Prince’s firm chooses to protect all comers, whether that’s the webpage of an ecommerce startup or a black market site. Cloudflare has long maintained that policing the Internet is a job for, well, the police—not for itself.

Until Prince broke his own rule. As the CEO described it in a blog post, one day he felt a customer crossed the line. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi sympathizing site, said that Prince’s company was a secret supporter of its ideology. That went too far—and to prove the point, Prince gave the site the boot.

“Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it’s so dangerous,” Prince wrote. “Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.”

Subverting his own decision, Prince continued: “Law enforcement, legislators, and courts have the political legitimacy and predictability to make decisions on what content should be restricted. Companies should not.”

I don’t have an easy answer for these predicaments. But as I considered Facebook’s move, the words of the company’s parting security chief, Alex Stamos, rang in my ears. “We need to be willing to pick sides when there are clear moral or humanitarian issues,” he said in March, part of a letter addressed to Facebook that leaked publicly. “And we need to be open, honest and transparent about our challenges and what we are doing to fix them.”

Amen to that. What do you make of this debate, dear reader? I would like to hear from you. What is the right course of action for these companies? Is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in the right for keeping Jones afloat, or not?

Do write. I welcome your thoughts.

Have a great weekend.

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

United Airlines Has Some Great News About Its Business (There's Bad News for Passengers)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Even if it says so itself.

The airline just released some figures for July, and, at a cursory glance, they’re glowing.

Consolidated traffic (revenue passenger miles) increased 6.9 percent and consolidated capacity (available seat miles) increased 4.0 percent versus July 2017. UAL’s July 2018 consolidated load factor increased 2.4 points compared to July 2017.

Won’t you look at that?

This means the airline’s packing them in and making lots of money.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that domestic traffic rose by 9.1 percent in July. Compared to last July, that is.

And Lordy, the airline is doing wonderfully in the regions. There, traffic is up a pulsating 17.6 percent.

United’s also packing them in on each flight.

The so-called load factor (number of people who are actually paying) at home soared to 90.5 percent. That’s a 2.6 percent increase.

United was loaded internationally, too. A 2.2 percent increase to 87.8 percent.

People are paying to fly United and there are more flights to more places, which makes the United world a wonderful place.

Alright, if you read the headline at all — and if you didn’t, what are you doing here? — there’s a little bad news. 

You see, when you pack more people onto your planes, it might take a little longer. 

That’s what appears to be happening. All this success in selling tickets appears to be leading to a reduction in on-time departures, the beautifully named D0. 

A mere 62.3 percent of mainline flights — that is, the non-regional variety — departed on time or even slightly early. 

This is a 1 percent drop from this time last year.

This isn’t, of course, merely an inconvenience for passengers. When a plane departs late, cabin crew must explain themselves to their bosses.

Well, you see, it was like this. There were so many darned people. And have you seen all that stuff they bring on planes? 

Trump says he will have dinner with Apple CEO Cook on Friday

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said in a Twitter post that he would have dinner with Apple Inc (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook on Friday.

FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Tim Cook, CEO of Apple speaks during an American Technology Council roundtable at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

“Looking forward to dinner tonight with Tim Cook of Apple. He is investing big dollars in U.S.A.,” said Trump, who is on vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Cook said in a conference call with investors last week that Apple was looking at whether Trump’s tariffs in a trade war with China would hit the company on the purchases it must make.

The New York Times reported in June that Trump told Cook that the U.S. government would not levy tariffs on Apple iPhones assembled in China.

The newspaper reported that Cook traveled to the White House in May to warn Trump of the potentially adverse effects of Trump’s trade policies on Apple in China, but did not specify precisely when Trump made the commitment to Cook.

Apple this month became the first $1 trillion publicly listed U.S. company,

Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington; writing by Mohammad Zargham, editing by G Crosse