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Globescan: No Frexit

Rival ride services Uber and Lyft have settled high stakes litigation involving two of their top executives, court filings show, in advance of a trial that could have aired sensitive details about both companies

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

President Francois Hollande ruled out organising a referendum on the European Union (EU) in France, saying next year’s presidential election will be the opportunity for voters to decide on which European policy they want. There have been growing calls in France for a referendum on the EU since Britons voted to exit the EU a week ago. Mainstream politicians, including economy minister Emmanuel Macron and the 2017 presidential election front-runner Alain Juppe, a center-right former prime minister, have called for a plebiscite on a new EU project. Only the far-right National Front is calling for a vote on EU membership. “Why organise such a tumult and confrontation if it’s not to leave the EU? Lies, simplifications, excesses and even the violence we saw in the referendum campaign in Britain were not enough for those sorcerer’s apprentices?” Hollande said.

Fizz Out
EU antitrust regulators will investigate whether brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev is illegally blocking cheaper imports of its own beer into the Belgian market, the European Commission said. The probe underlines the competition authority’s crackdown against companies seeking to prevent “parallel trade”, in which cheaper products in one country are transported for sale in another. “AB InBev may be pursuing a deliberate strategy to restrict so-called ‘parallel trade’ of its beer from less expensive countries, such as the Netherlands and France, to the more expensive Belgian market,” the Commission said. It said the investigation would focus on whether the brewer changes the packaging of beer cans or bottles to make it harder to sell them in other countries and whether it restricts non-Belgian retailers’ access to rebates to prevent them from importing cheaper beer to Belgium.

Looking Forward
Japan may include assistance for small businesses in an economic stimulus package it will compile after Britain’s shock vote to leave the EU, Economy Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said. Japanese policymakers also said financial markets are starting to calm down after the Brexit vote last week, but repeated that they want to remain ready to respond to any further sudden jump in the yen, which could jeopardise the struggling economy. Ishihara, did not answer reporters’ questions on the size of the stimulus plan, but sources have said the government is willing to spend at least $98 billion. “There are concerns about lessening the impact of the British referendum on Japan’s small- and medium-sized companies,” Ishihara said after a meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, the government’s top advisory panel.

Moving On
Takata Corp’s chief executive said he will resign after a “new management regime” is found, finally bowing to calls for change so that the auto parts supplier can move ahead in dealing with a multi-billion dollar airbag recall. Takata, one of the world’s largest suppliers of auto safety equipment, has been searching for a financial backer to help it overhaul the business and carry ballooning costs. The Japanese firm’s airbag woes first emerged in 2008 but its troubles have grown over the past three years as fatalities linked to its inflators rose and recalls mounted to the point where some analysts have questioned its future. CEO Shigehisa Takada — a quiet, bookish presence in contrast to his gregarious, hands-on father who previously led the company — is the first member of the founding family to take public responsibility. He apologised for the scandal last year, but has also defended the company’s products.

Faceoff
A federal judge in Chicago refused to dismiss a lawsuit in which wheat futures and options traders accused Kraft Heinz Co and Mondelez International of illegally manipulating the grain’s price at their expense. US District judge Edmond Chang said traders may pursue claims that a large and, in their view, unnecessary late 2011 purchase by Kraft Foods of wheat futures contracts violated the Sherman antitrust law and the Commodity Exchange Act. In a decision, Chang also dismissed claims that the defendants conducted offsetting “wash trades” over roughly a decade to create an illusion of greater market activity. He said the traders can try to bring those claims again.

Enter The Dragon
Netflix will continue to look into the possibility of entering China, a senior company executive said, as the video streaming service seeks to grow its subscriber base outside its home of the US. “Since China is a great opportunity, we continue to look into China,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said. Netflix is trying to counter slowing growth in the US with its move in January to launch in more than 130 new markets worldwide. But the streaming service remains absent in the world’s most populous country, where content providers face stringent regulations and censorship challenges. The company has also struggled to make headway in other large Asian markets such as South Korea and Indonesia due to a dearth of local content and regulatory hurdles.

Final Settlement
Rival ride services Uber and Lyft have settled high stakes litigation involving two of their top executives, court filings show, in advance of a trial that could have aired sensitive details about both companies. Lyft and its former chief operating officer Travis VanderZanden ended litigation in a California state court in which Lyft accused VanderZanden of breaking his confidentiality pledges when he went to work for Uber. Uber also withdrew a subpoena in separate litigation over a data breach at Uber, which had targeted an Internet address assigned to Lyft’s chief technology officer, according to a court filing. Last year the US Department of Justice was pursuing a criminal investigation of a May 2014 data breach at Uber, including an examination of whether any employees at competitor Lyft were involved. Lyft has said it found no evidence that any employee was involved in the breach.

Big Bet
Google has bought the entire 12-year power production from a yet-to-be-built Norwegian wind power farm to supply its European data centers with renewable energy, its developers said. Norway’s Zephyr and Norsk Vind Energi said the 160-MW capacity onshore Tellenes wind power farm south of Stavanger is expected to be fully operational in late-2017, and when built it would become the largest wind power farm in the Nordic country. “Google has been carbon-neutral since 2007 and we are committed to powering 100 per cent of our operations with renewable energy sources,” said Marc Oman of Google Global Infrastructure. “Google’s first wind power deal is an important step towards that commitment,” he added.


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