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Air taxi startup Lilium expands production as prototype exceeds 100 km/h

Berlin, Reuters – A prototype flying taxi has achieved speeds in excess of 100 km/h (62 mph), its German developer Lilium said on Tuesday, giving it confidence to expand production capacity ahead of a planned commercial launch in 2025.

Munich-based Lilium is one of a clutch of startups working on battery-powered aircraft that can take off vertically, potentially sparing future travellers the hassle of an airport check-in or delays due to road traffic.

Powered by 36 electric motors, the Lilium sports a fixed-wing design that its makers say will give it an efficiency and range advantage over more drone-like competitors, such as German rival Volocopter and Britain’s Vertical Aerospace.

“We are taking tangible and concrete steps towards making our vision of regional air mobility a reality, and we are doing it on time,” said CEO Daniel Wiegand, who founded Lilium in 2015 with three friends from the Technical University of Munich.

The test flights come six months after the five-seater Lilium first staged a test “hover” at a Munich airfield. For now, Lilium is testing its air taxi by remote control, but it will bring in on-board pilots later to be certified airworthy.

Ultimately, its creators say, the Lilium will be able to complete a 300 km inter-city “hop” in an hour, offering an affordable and emissions-free alternative to travelling by commercial airline, road or rail.

The company has completed a first manufacturing facility in Munich, with a second under construction that will enable it to make hundreds of craft a year by the middle of the next decade.

SMOOTH REACTION

Lilium is meanwhile working with European flight safety regulators to get the aircraft certified – a prerequisite for commercial operation. Tests so far have included engine and flap failures, and fuse-blow tests, both in flight and on the ground.

“What we’re seeing is how well the aircraft can cope with such a failure mode, which ultimately is the critical bit for certification,” chief commercial officer Remo Gerber told Reuters. “The whole system needs to be able to react smoothly if something goes wrong.”

Lilium, which has so far raised $100 million in backing from investors led by Atomico, Tencent, LGT and Obvious Ventures, plans to run Lilium as an airline together with local operator-partners.

The cost of making the aircraft will work out at less than a tenth of the annual cost of running it, Gerber said, adding Lilium was in talks on launching in one or more markets.

That puts it a step behind Volocopter, which said recently it would form a partnership with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to bring its air taxis to China.

Volocopter, backed by carmaker Daimler, also sees Singapore as a hub for its electric helicopters, this week showcasing a prototype “vertiport” in the island state. It says air taxi operations are two to five years away.

($1 = 0.8966 euros)

Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by David Holmes

Source: Reuters: Money News
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Whistleblower crisis: Infosys may need some private time to fix itself

India’s best-known software exporter is facing an impossible trinity of sorts: Out of sales, margins and governance, can hit only two goals at a time.

Or so it would appear from yet-to-be-proven whistle-blower allegations against Chief Executive Officer Salil Parekh and Chief Financial Officer Nilanjan Roy that they used hyper-aggressive accounting practices to hide from investors the lack of profitability on large deals. The stock tanked as much as 16 per cent in Mumbai after the letter was published by the Deccan Herald.

It’s a deja vu moment for co-founder and non-executive Chairman Nandan Nilekani, who returned to the Bangalore-based company two years ago during a previous crisis — sparked by a set of different anonymous charges against Parekh’s predecessor, the former SAP executive Vishal Sikka, who was accused of impropriety in a $200 million acquisition in Israel.

That scandal culminated in an unseemly spat between Sikka and the board on one side and N R Narayana Murthy, another of the company’s co-founders, on the other. Sikka resigned in August 2017. The new board exonerated him, but by then the damage was done.

It’s been a slow road to recovery. At a one-year-forward price-to-earnings multiple of 20 times at the end of September, Infosys’s valuation is now almost 50 per cent higher than at the depth of the last crisis. The risk is of a repeat of that slump.

If investors start to believe that the culture at the software services provider, once seen as India’s most transparent company, is beyond redemption, expect a durable deepening of the 10 per cent discount at which traded against larger rival Tata Consultancy Services, or TCS, at the end of last month. Since the company’s American depository receipts trade in New York, there’s also the threat of expensive class-action suits.

The allegations are being evaluated by the audit committee and the board. The CEO and the CFO won’t be a part of those deliberations. Whatever the truth of the whistle-blower’s complaints, another protracted governance saga could be just as damaging.

It might not be a bad idea for a buyout fund to step in and take out of the glare of the public markets. As a private company, it could rediscover its moorings and find a new purpose in a digital world where clients increasingly want nimble, cloud-based, on-demand software, rather than clunky, on-premise enterprise solutions.

At $12 billion in the fiscal year that ended in March, Infosys revenue is nowhere close to Sikka’s 2020 target of $20 billion. An operating margin of less than 23 per cent was lower than the near 26 per cent at TCS, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

After a period of rehabilitation, Infosys should be able to deliver all three targets: sales growth, margins and good governance. Some private time could be just what it needs to get fixed.

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Gold prices steady as U.S.-China trade optimism sparks market cheer

(Reuters) – Gold was largely muted on Tuesday, weighed down by buoyant Asian shares that cheered progress in trade talks between the United States and China, but found support from a lack of clarity in the negotiation details.

FILE PHOTO: An employee takes granules of 99.99% pure gold at the Krastsvetmet non-ferrous metals plant, one of the world’s largest producers in the precious metals industry, in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/File Photo

Spot gold was largely unchanged at $1,484.86 per ounce as of 0632 GMT. U.S. gold futures also held firm at $1,487.80.

China and the United States have achieved some progress in their trade talks, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said on Tuesday, adding that as long as both sides respected each other, no problem could not be resolved.

Le’s comments came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump spoke of optimism about a deal, while White House adviser Larry Kudlow said tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled for December could be withdrawn if talks go well.

This cheered markets and pushed the benchmark S&P 500 stock index within striking distance of a record high on Monday. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.4% on Tuesday. [MKTS/GLOB] [.N]

“Equities markets are in a risk-on mode, and there seems to be a lack of support for gold prices and precious metals,” said Margaret Yang Yan, a market analyst at CMC Markets, adding that fears of a no-deal Brexit had ebbed and progressing U.S.-China trade talks gave markets some relief.

In the latest on the Brexit proceedings, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s parliamentary battle starts again on Tuesday, when lawmakers will debate and vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the detailed legislation that puts his exit deal into British domestic law.

“The (slip in prices) does not mean gold will continue to decline, because the market sees the Fed cutting another 25 basis points in its October meeting. For now it still looks like a healthy correction,” Yan said

Investors await a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting at the end of the month that could offer further signs of monetary easing. Lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion. [FED/DIARY]

“Though we remain optimistic on safe haven appeal for Q4, traders should take caution at key support level of $1,480 as strong technical selling may drive gold prices towards $1,473 and $1,459 in the near term,” Phillip Futures analyst Benjamin Lu said.

Among other precious metals, silver rose 0.1% to $17.58 an ounce, extending gains for a fifth straight session. Platinum dipped 0.1% to $886.63 and palladium gained 0.5% to $1,766.32 an ounce.

Reporting by Karthika Suresh Namboothiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

Source: Reuters: Money News
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Reckitt Benckiser cuts full-year forecast again as new CEO takes over

Products produced by Reckitt Benckiser; Vanish, Finish, Dettol and Harpic, are seen in London, Britain February 12, 2008. REUTERS/Stephen Hird/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – British household goods maker Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L) has cut its full-year sales forecast for the second time this year, blaming a drop in retail orders for Mucinex in the United States and a drop in demand for its Enfamil baby products in China.

The Durex condom and Lysol disinfectant maker said on Tuesday it now expected full-year like for like sales growth to range from flat to up 2%, down from its previous target of 2% to 3%, which marked its second forecast cut this year.

The company also said it expected to see a modest decline in adjusted operating margins for the year as it pours more money into its brands. The company had earlier expected margins to be at the same level as last year.

Reported sales rose 5.3% in the third quarter to 3.29 billion pounds ($4.3 billion), missing analysts’ forecast of 3.32 billion pounds, according to a company supplied consensus.

Reckitt blamed cautious purchasing of its Mucinex and Delsym cold and flu products by U.S. retailers ahead of the flu season and a drop in demand for its Enfamil baby food products in China for its weak performance in the three month period .

The quarterly report is the first for new Chief Executive Laxman Narsimhan who in September took over from long-time CEO Rakesh Kapoor.

“RB’s performance in Q3 was disappointing,” Narsimhan, the former PepsiCo (PEP.O) executive said in a statement. “I am prioritising execution and operational performance as a matter of urgency.”

($1=0.7710 pounds)

Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in London; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and David Holmes

Source: Reuters: Money News
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Saab third-quarter tops forecasts, order intake more than doubles

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedish defence firm Saab (SAABb.ST) reported quarterly operating earnings well ahead of market forecasts on Tuesday, and affirmed its view that operating cashflow this year would improve versus 2018.

FILE PHOTO: A visitor walks past a Saab Technologies pavilion at Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, Britain, July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

The Stockholm-based company, maker of the Gripen fighter jet, said its third-quarter operating profit was 518 million Swedish crowns ($53.76 million), versus a 61 million loss in the year-earlier quarter.

Analysts had forecast an operating profit of 301 million crowns according to Refinitiv estimates including three analysts.

Order intake at the firm, which typically sees sharp swings, more than doubled to 9.4 billion crowns from 4.5 billion, with Saab highlighting an order from Finland’s Ministry of

Defence to provide and integrate combat system for Finland’s new corvettes

“Although sales and profits are much better than thin consensus, cashflow is the big focus for the stock,” Citigroup analysts said in a research note.

“Q3 operating cashflow being on target and commentary around cash in Q4 should be taken positively by the market given the recent underperformance of the shares.”

Saab has been burning through cash and last year raised 6 billion crowns to boost its balance sheet, allow it to compete on big new contracts and meet a growing order backlog.

The company said its operational cashflow was developing in line with its plan for the year, adding it still expected better cash flow in 2019 than 2018, with large milestone payments scheduled in the fourth quarter

Saab shares are down 12% over the past three months, compared to a 2% rise for the European industrials sector .SXNP.

($1 = 9.6360 Swedish crowns)

Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; Editing by Simon Johnson

Source: Reuters: Money News
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Delhi becomes first Asian city to get public transport feature from Uber

San Francisco-based ride hailing major on Tuesday launched its public transport service in Delhi, the ninth city globally and the first in Asia to have the feature.

With this feature, users in Delhi would be able to use the public transport option that will appear on the app.

Once the users use this option, will show the best three routes for using a metro or bus in the city.

Uber, which has tied up with the (DMRC) for the new service, will show end-to-end directions from point A to point B.

“We want to be the operating system of your everyday life,” Uber CEO told reporters here.

“We want to replace your car with your phone he said.

 

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Alembic Pharma gets USFDA nod for ointment to treat various skin disease

on Tuesday said its joint venture, Aleor Dermaceuticals has received approval from the US health regulator for its generic version of Temovate topical solution which is used to treat a variety of skin conditions.

The approval by the (USFDA) is for Clobetasol Propionate topical solution USP, 0.05 per cent, which is therapeutically equivalent to the reference listed drug product Temovate Topical Solution, 0.05 per cent, of Fougera Pharmaceuticals Inc, the company said in a regulatory filing.

The medicine is indicated for short-term topical treatment of inflammatory and pruritic manifestations of moderate to severe corticosteroid-responsive dermatoses of the scalp, it added.

Citing IQVIA, Alembic said Clobetasol Propionate topical solution USP, 0.05 per cent, has an estimated market size of USD 33 million for 12 months, ending December 2018.

Alembic said it has a cumulative total of 104 abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) approvals (92 final approvals and 12 tentative approvals) from

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Overall hiring intention of IT employers drops 5 percentage points: Survey

Corporate India’s hiring intention for IT professionals for the next two quarters shows a dip of 5 percentage points from what it was in the last six months, as demand for talent with new skill sets for the future is reshaping the tech job market, says a report.

According to the Experis IT Employment Outlook Survey (EITEOS), the overall intention of Indian employers for the period between October 2019-March 2020 stood at 47.54 per cent, down from 53.41 per cent in the last six months.

“The entire landscape of the world of work is changing. Employers are looking for adaptability, critical thinking and leadership skills apart from technical skills. From the talent’s perspectives, candidates are interested in making work, work for them,” Manmeet Singh, President at Experis IT, ManpowerGroup India said.

Singh further noted that “the amalgamation of both is leading to the emergence of a job environment we have never seen. Dynamism and volatility are here to stay”.

As per the report, the IT job market is gradually aligning with the megatrends of evolving technology, and a huge talent shortage can be expected by the year 2021, thanks to around 200,000 in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data.

The survey that reflects hiring sentiments of Indian IT professionals in both IT, non-IT organisations noted that IT services firms will remain the biggest employers of tech talent with an employment outlook of 21.61 per cent, while non-IT organisations expressed hiring intentions with an employment outlook of 13 per cent.

The report further noted that Indian intend to hire mostly freshers, up to five years experience.

A city-wise analysis showed that while major metros remain the hubs for tech talent, tier 2 cities are also coming up in attracting IT professionals.

“Employers in the tier 2 cities, especially in Jaipur, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Bhubaneshwar and Vishakhapatnam expressed strong intentions of hiring IT talent,” it noted.

As per the report, while basic technology skills still remain the cornerstone for an IT professional, a supplemental balance of high cognitive skills, social intelligence and integrated thinking will meet the rising demand of employers at a time when the IT industry is witness hiring, albeit, at a comparatively lower rate.

The analysis of the survey data was based on parameters such as geography, level of experience, type and size of organisation, IT skills and practice areas. IT, retail, manufacturing, healthcare, BFSI are the sectors that have been broadly covered in this survey.

A sample population of 509 Indian employers (both IT and non-IT) was surveyed.

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Investor revolt makes Sunrise scrap rights issue for UPC takeover

ZURICH (Reuters) – Sunrise Communications Group (SRCG.S) bowed to investor pressure on Tuesday and scrapped a rights issue needed to complete its 6.3 billion Swiss franc ($6.39 billion) acquisition of Liberty Global’s (LBTYA.O) UPC business.

It canceled an extraordinary shareholder meeting planned for Wednesday to approve the 2.8 billion franc cash call and avoid an embarrassing loss on the measure.

“The board of directors of Sunrise has concluded that the clear majority of shareholders who have registered their shares to vote at the EGM do not support the capital increase,” it said, citing shareholder indications and opposition from its biggest shareholder, Germany’s Freenet (FNTGn.DE).

Freenet and other investors had opposed the rights issue even in its scaled-down form.

“We regret cancelling the EGM. We have spent a significant amount of time engaging with our shareholders and continue to believe in the compelling strategic and financial rationale of the acquisition,” Sunrise Chairman Peter Kurer said.

It said it canceled the EGM with Liberty Global’s consent.

“The share purchase agreement remains in force and effect unless terminated by a party and has a long stop date of 27 February 2020.”

Some Sunrise investors said the 6.3 billion franc price tag for cable operator UPC was too expensive and raised concerns that Liberty Global was not taking part in the deal.

Liberty Global, set up by U.S. cable pioneer John Malone, this month offered to buy up to 500 million Swiss francs in new Sunrise shares as a way of easing through the capital hike needed to clinch the sale.

“The existing share purchase agreement between the parties will remain in place with some minor amendments, including the flexibility to convene a new EGM and certain adjusted termination rights,” Liberty Global said on Tuesday.

“In addition, the commitments by Liberty Global in the recently announced conditional rights purchase agreement will lapse and thereby terminate,” it added in a separate release, referring to the offer to buy new Sunrise stock.

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Clarence Fernandez

Source: Reuters: Money News
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Ola bets big on food biz, to launch portfolio of in-house food brands

Ride-hailing firm is betting big on the food business and is planning to launch a portfolio of in-house food brands and take them across the country. These brands would not only be available on external platforms like food delivery apps Swiggy and Zomato, but also offline stores including restaurants, cloud kitchens, food trucks and pop-up kiosks that is also planning to set up.

Ola’s food business will focus on becoming a food-first company with a massive kitchen infrastructure and a slew of brands. These include brands related to desserts, rice bowls and biryanis which would be unveiled within this year. These initiatives will also help the company reach new customers by penetrating deeper into the existing markets and expanding to tier-2 and tier-3 cities and towns.

“It is a very big opportunity and there are very few food brands with a national footprint. Eating out was an indulgence four years back and now it is part of the daily routine. And the food and supply has to modify with that behaviour,” said Pranay Jivrajka, chief executive of Ola’s food business. “We aim to have a national presence for our (food) portfolio and our goal is to have 80 per cent penetration in the top markets,” he added.

To begin with, the SoftBank-backed company has launched its flagship brand ‘Khichdi Experiment’ which has gone live in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai. It is offering more than 16 varieties of ‘khichdi’ and the flavours will keep expanding depending upon the feedback from the customers. ‘Khichdi’ is a comfort food which is liked by people across ages and demographics. said the idea was to answer to the hunger pangs, reconnect with the nostalgia and comfort that one attaches with an item like ‘khichdi’ and at the same time surprise customers with different flavours of the dish.

According to sources, Ola was facing challenges for its food delivery business and is pivoting towards focussing on its own in-house food brands through its cloud kitchens. It has a network of 50 kitchens in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi NCR and Chennai. The firm is looking to expand this network in more than 80 cities over the next year. Ola had acquired Foodpanda’s India business from Germany-based Delivery Hero Group in December 2017 and had committed an investment of $200 million into India. It was competing with large food delivery players in this space, while burning a lot of cash in the process, with rising competition, according to sources.

However, Ola said that through Foodpanda, it realised that there is a need to solve for the overall food experience rather than just focussing on the logistics part of the business. would be a distribution channel for Ola’s own food brands as well as some other partner brands.

The concept of cloud kitchen has recently caught the attention of food tech and investors who are pouring millions of dollars into such facilities.

Mumbai-based food-tech firm Rebel Foods, known for brands like Faasos and Behrouz Biryani, operates more than 205 delivery cloud kitchens and 1,600 online restaurants across 18 Indian cities. In the next two years, the company aims to have around 500 cloud kitchens. Rebel also runs brands such as Mandarin Oak that provides Chinese cuisine; Oven Story that is known for pizzas, and Sweet Truth that offers desserts.

Bengaluru-based Swiggy, a Naspers and Tencent Holdings backed food delivery firm, is expanding its cloud kitchen platform Swiggy Access to metros, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad. The platform enables its restaurant partners to set up kitchen spaces in locations where they don’t operate but have a high demand for their product. Swiggy Access houses brands such as Truffles, Vasudev Adigas, and Leon Grill as well as the company’s private-label brands like The Bowl Company and Homely.

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