Electric vehicle maker Rivian: expect prices lower than previously announced


MILL VALLEY, California (Reuters) – Electric vehicle startup Rivian on Saturday displayed its pickup truck and SUV at an event in San Francisco’s Bay Area and said that when their prices are unveiled soon they will be lower than has been previously announced.

The Rivian R1T all-electric truck is pictured at an event, held by the electric vehicle startup, for customers who preordered the truck, in Mill Valley, California, U.S., January 25, 2020. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino – RC29NE9IT0D9

Rivian founder and chief executive R.J. Scaringe told Reuters the mid-range R1T pickup truck with a glass sky panel that can change from blue to clear was about $69,000. It can travel 300 miles on a full charge. A similar range R1S SUV will sell for about $72,000.

Rivian said the large battery could go 400 miles and the smallest could go 230 miles.

Scaringe declined to say how many prospective buyers have so far spent $1,000 on a refundable deposit to hold their spot for a Rivian, but he said the reaction had been “really positive”.

“So we’re excited by that. But we now have the challenge of a lot of pre-order customers aren’t going to get the cars as fast as they like because there’s such a long queue,” he said.

Rivian, founded in 2009, made waves when it unveiled its first prototype model at the LA Auto Show in 2018. It has raised $3.6 billion and counts Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Ford Motor Co. (F.N) as investors.

Many customers at the event were excited about the designs, but Patrick Bonsi, who flew from New Jersey to see the vehicles, questioned whether Rivian would have a Tesla Supercharger-like charging network. He owns a Tesla (TSLA.O) Model 3.

“What I found with super charging is, if the Supercharger network is not made by the car company, it doesn’t charge the car as fast,” said Bonsi.

Scaringe said Rivian was working on rolling out a network of charging stations at key locations such as national parks, but that the vehicles can charge on most charging networks available today.

Brian Gase, Rivian chief engineer of special projects, and employee number four was busy showing customers the batteries, saying 7,776 of them were powering the pickup truck, and one was powering a flashlight that slides into the door, giving the car a lucky 7,777 batteries.

The first R1T trucks will be delivered starting at the end of this year, followed shortly after by the R1S SUVs, Scaringe said.

Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Daniel Wallis



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Boeing’s 777X jetliner successfully completes maiden flight


SEATTLE (Reuters) – Boeing Co successfully staged the first flight of the world’s largest twin-engined jetliner on Saturday in a respite from the crisis over its smallest model, the grounded 737 MAX.

A Boeing 777X airplane takes off during its first test flight from the company’s plant in Everett, Washington, U.S. January 25, 2020. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

The 777X, a larger version of the 777 mini-jumbo, touched down at the historic Boeing Field outside Seattle at 2 pm (2200 GMT) after a debut which began almost four hours earlier at Boeing’s revamped wide-body assembly lines north of the city.

The decision to take advantage of a gap in clouds to start the months of testing needed before the jet can carry passengers came after two attempts had to be postponed due to high winds.

“It’s a proud day for us,” said the chief executive of Boeing’s commercial airplane unit, Stan Deal.

As the 252-foot-long aircraft – the longest commercial jet by a whisker – drew to a halt before waiting VIPs, rows of undelivered 737 MAX stood idle nearby in a reminder of the crisis that has engulfed Boeing since it was grounded last year.

“It made all of our employees proud one more time of who we are and what we get to do, by flying a brand new airplane that is going to change the world one more time,” Deal said.

The aircraft is the larger of two versions planned by Boeing and will officially be called 777-9, but is better known under its development codename, 777X.

Hallmarks include folding wingtips – designed to allow its carbon wings to fit the same parking bays as earlier models – and the world’s largest commercial engines from General Electric, wide enough to swallow a 737 MAX fuselage.

FAA COOPERATION

While eyeing hundreds of sales this decade, Boeing’s new 406-seater must overcome hurdles from regulators and buyers.

The 777X will be the first major aircraft to be certified since the role of software flaws in two fatal 737 MAX crashes prompted accusations of cosy relations between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration and heralded tougher scrutiny.

The FAA has pledged to ensure the 777X review is conducted rigorously, while launch customer Emirates wants the plane to be put through “hell on Earth” during testing to ensure it is safe and meets performance expectations.

Boeing’s chief test pilot, who co-piloted Saturday’s sortie, said it would work closely with regulators.

“We are going to follow the normal processes we always follow and work with the FAA and they are going to work hand-in-hand with us,” Craig Bomben told reporters.

“We took the time to get the airplane ready for flight test so I think we are going to march through flight tests successfully and quickly and get it certified to the FAA standards.”

The 777X is expected to enter service in 2021, a year later than originally scheduled because of development snags.

It will compete with the Airbus A350-1000 which seats about 360 passengers. Big twinjets are steadily displacing the older four-engined Boeing 747 and soon-to-be-axed Airbus A380.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Yet experts cite worries about wide-body demand due to overcapacity and economic weakness. Airlines canceled more than twice as many big jets as they ordered last year, according to Rob Morris, consultancy chief at UK-based Ascend by Cirium.

While Boeing says it has sold 309 777X – worth $442 million each at list prices – many in the industry have questioned its dependence on Middle East carriers who are scaling back orders.

“Longer-term, they’ll need more than those guys for that airplane. They’ll need the big network carriers to find routes that it works on,” said Aengus Kelly, chief executive of leasing giant AerCap.

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Additional reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Daniel Wallis



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Walmart testing higher minimum wage for some employees


FILE PHOTO: Employees work at the checkout counters of a Walmart store in Secaucus, New Jersey, November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc is testing a higher starting wage for certain newly created jobs in about 500 U.S. stores, as it looks to improve in-store experience for customers amid intense competition.

The company would offer team associates, a role it recently created, a starting wage of $12 an hour, Walmart spokeswoman Jami Lamontagne said.

That compares with Walmart’s minimum wage of $11 at its more than 5,000 stores across the United States.

The team associates would be cross-trained in several functions and will have more responsibility, Lamontagne said.

The big-box retailer last raised its entry-level wages for U.S. hourly employees to $11 in early 2018 and trails rivals, including Costco Wholesale Corp, Amazon Inc and Target Corp on the minimum wage front.

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru and Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Shounak Dasgupta



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Starbucks shuts shops, suspends delivery in China’s Hubei amid virus outbreak


FILE PHOTO: visitor drinks coffee at a Starbucks outlet inside the Forbidden City in Beijing January 18, 2007. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

BEIJING (Reuters) – Starbucks has closed all shops and suspended delivery services in China’s Hubei province for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, where a coronavirus outbreak originated from its capital Wuhan has caused 41 deaths in China.

Starbucks said on Saturday that the move is out of “health concerns” for its customers and employees, according to a post on China’s twitter-like Weibo. The central province of Hubei is home to nearly 60 million people.

Reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; Writing by Yawen Chen; Editing by Michael Perry



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Trump speaks with British PM Johnson about telecoms security: White House


FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump at the NATO leaders summit in Watford, Britain December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Pool/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday discussed the security of telecommunications networks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the White House said, as Britain nears a decision on Huawei’s role in the country’s future 5G network.

“The two leaders discussed important regional and bilateral issues, including working together to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks,” the White House said in a statement about the phone call.

Britain is expected to make a final call later this month on how to deploy Huawei equipment in its future 5G networks. The United States has voiced significant concerns about the Chinese telecoms behemoth, which Washington fears could compromise British secrets.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, denies it is a vehicle for Chinese intelligence.

British officials have proposed granting Huawei a limited role in the UK’s future 5G network, resisting U.S. calls for a complete ban, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Sandra Maler and Daniel Wallis



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Boeing weighing new 787 Dreamliner production cut: sources


(Reuters) – Boeing Co is weighing another production cut of its 787 Dreamliner, but may not have to take that step depending on the size and timing of orders from China stemming from a recent U.S. trade agreement, people briefed on the matter said Friday.

Earlier this month, U.S. airplane leasing firm Air Lease Corp Chief Executive Officer John Plueger said Boeing could be forced to cut production of its 787 Dreamliners to 10 aircraft per month, amid a drought of orders from China. Boeing shares were down 0.3% in mid-day trading Friday.

Bloomberg News reported the potential production cut earlier.

Boeing is also reviewing other global economic factors in deciding whether to again cut production including trade issues and travel demand, the sources said.

Boeing said Friday it maintains “a disciplined rate management process taking into account a host of risks and opportunities. We will continue to assess the demand environment and make adjustments as appropriate in the future.”

Boeing, which has been hurt by the grounding of its single-aisle 737 MAX planes, said last year it expects to lower the production of its 787 Dreamliners in late 2020 to 12 aircraft per month, from 14 currently, following some order cancellations and weak demand.

China, a major buyer of the 787, hasn’t been buying airplanes from Boeing recently, and “it’s hard to see the rate of 12 being sustainable” beyond 2020 without China in the marketplace, Plueger said at a Bank of America conference earlier this month.

Reporting by Tim Hepher and David Shepardson



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Ericsson hit by higher 5G costs and weaker U.S. market


STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s Ericsson (ERICb.ST) reported a smaller-than-expected rise in fourth-quarter core earnings on Friday and said higher costs would spill over into 2020 as the telecoms equipment maker looks to exploit its leading position in super-fast 5G networks.

FILE PHOTO: The Ericsson logo is seen at the Ericsson’s headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Olof Swahnberg

Its shares fell more than 6% in early trading.

After a number of lean years, Ericsson has been boosted by the roll-out of 5G, particularly in the United States.

But while 5G has helped sales, it has increased costs. Ericsson has also opted to take on strategically important clients to gain market share, betting a hit on margins in the short term will help to deliver longer-term profitability.

The company recently bought the antenna and filter business of Germany’s Kathrein to boost its 5G portfolio and said costs and investments related to the deal would weigh on margins through 2020.

Increased investments in digitalization and more spending on compliance – after a $1 billion payment to resolve probes by U.S. authorities into corruption – are also expected to mean somewhat higher operating costs in 2020.

Ericsson shares were down 6.1 percent to 79.44 Swedish crowns at 0840 GMT, underpeforming the STOXX Europe 600 Technology Index .SX8P, which was up 1.2%.

Nevertheless, CEO Borje Ekholm said Ericsson was on track to deliver on its 2020 targets of an adjusted operating margin of more than 10% and sales of 230 to 240 billion Swedish crowns.

5G

Ericsson is fighting rivals Nokia (NOKIA.HE) and Huawei [HWT.UL] to take the lead in the roll out of 5G networks, which are expected to host critical functions from driverless vehicles to smart electric grids and military communications.

That has led the United States to blacklist Huawei and launch a worldwide campaign to try to persuade allies to ban the Chinese firm from their 5G networks, alleging its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying – which Huawei denies.

Britain is expected soon to make a final decision on whether to allow Huawei equipment in its 5G mobile networks, while Germany may also rule on the matter during the spring.

North America has been the biggest market for 5G so far, boosting Ericsson’s sales, but the company said demand slowed in the fourth quarter as the proposed merger between Sprint (S.N) and T-Mobile hit their spending.

“It was a significant impact in a small part of the market which means the quarter came out negative in North America,” Ekholm said. “But in general demand is very strong there.”

While the United States is an early 5G adopter, China is expected to start its roll out this year and Western Europe after that.

By 2025, the GSMA telecoms industry lobby group estimates operators globally will have spent $1 trillion building up 5G networks, offering a huge jackpot for the leading suppliers.

Ericsson’s adjusted quarterly operating earnings rose to 5.7 billion crowns ($600.2 million) from 2.6 billion a year earlier, but were down from 7.4 billion the previous quarter. Analysts in a Refinitiv poll had forecast 6.9 billion crowns.

(For a graphic on 5G networks, click on: here)

Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; Writing by Simon Johnson; Editing by Mark Potter



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Exclusive: Trump to sign USMCA trade deal Wednesday at the White House – source


U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Air Force One to depart for travel to Florida at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

DORAL, Fla. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will sign a trade pact between the United States, Mexico and Canada on Wednesday during a ceremony at the White House, an administration official told Reuters on Thursday.

Invitations had been sent out and the White House location would allow lawmakers from all over the country to attend, the official said.

The ceremony is likely to take place while an impeachment trial against Trump proceeds on Capitol Hill.

The official said Trump would be touting the pact after the signing during travel around the United States.

“This is a major accomplishment for the president and he will be taking this on the road in the coming weeks,” the official said.

Trump has made pursuing new trade deals a signature of his presidency and one of his key promises as a political candidate. The Republican president is running for re-election this year.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces NAFTA, still needs to be formally approved by Canada.

The deal cannot take effect until it has been ratified by all three member nations. Last week, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation, sending the measure to Trump for him to sign into law.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler and Tom Brown



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Goldman Sachs to companies: Hire at least one woman director if you want to go public


NEW YORK (Reuters) – From June 30, Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) will only help take a company public if it has at least one diverse board member, as such companies perform better after listing, Chief Executive David Solomon said on CNBC on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The ticker symbol and logo for Goldman Sachs is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The policy will apply to U.S. and European companies and will increase over time, with the bank requiring two diverse board members starting in June 2021, Goldman Chief Executive David Solomon said on CNBC.

Solomon did not define what the company meant by “diverse” candidates, but said the focus was on women.

“We’re not going to take a company public unless there’s one diverse board candidate with a focus on women,” he said.

The decision comes as more than 60 U.S. and European companies went public in the last two years without any female board members, the bank said.

Citing its own data, Goldman said companies with greater diversity performed better in the markets.

Those with at least one diverse board member saw a 44% jump in their average share price within a year of going public, versus 13% at companies with no diverse board members.

“We think it’s the right advice and we’re in a position also because of our network to help our clients if they need help placing women on boards,” Solomon said on CNBC.

Goldman Sachs will not turn away companies that lack diverse boards at the outset, and it said it currently has some clients that will need help meeting this new standard. The bank said it would introduce executives of these companies to qualified potential candidates.

Ultimately, the bank will not take the company public if it does not meet this new standard, Solomon said.

On Goldman’s own board, four out of 11 directors are women and its lead director since 2014, Adebayo Ogunlesi, is black.

The new policy follows similar diverse hiring targets announced at the bank last spring.

In March 2019, the bank set a goal that half of all new analysts and entry-level associates it hired would be women, 11% would be black professionals and 14% will be Latino professionals in the United States.

In Britain, the bank aims for 9% of all new analysts and entry-level hires to be black professionals.

At more senior hiring levels, the bank is requiring that at least two diverse qualified candidates are interviewed for any open role. Senior members of management are judged on whether they meet these targets in the determination of their pay.

Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; Editing by Bernadette Baum



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Virus fears keep stocks red; ECB gets ready to rethink


LONDON (Reuters) – World shares fell on Thursday, led by the biggest decline in Chinese stocks in more than eight months, as concern mounted about the spread of a deadly virus in China.

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

With millions of Chinese preparing to travel for the Lunar New Year, the potential the disease to spread, along with the tendency of traders to reduce their exposure before holidays, left markets struggling.

Safe options like Japan’s yen and government bonds rose, while European stocks followed Asia lower [.EU]. The threat to airline travel and an increase in supply pushed oil prices to seven-week lows.

“Ultimately, the coronavirus is a slow-burning but important story for markets that is likely to last for months rather than just a few days,” said TD Securities’ European head of currency strategy, Ned Rumpeltin. “And the natural go-to currencies when there are headlines like these are the yen and the Swiss franc.”

The Swiss franc rose to a near three-year high against the euro overnight CHF, but it was trading little changed as the focus in Europe turned to its central banks.

Norway’s central bank had already left its interest rates unchanged. The European Central Bank holds its first meeting of the year later on Thursday, where it’s expected to outline its first formal policy review in 17 years.

It will probably last for most of the year and span topics from the inflation target to digital money and the fight against climate change.

“Quite a lot has happened in the last 17 years,” Rumpeltin said. “They are due for a rethink.”

WUHAN BAN

As the virus took hold, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 1.07%. Chinese shares .CSI300 dropped 3.1%, the biggest daily decline since May, when U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats of additional tariffs on Chinese goods rocked financial markets.

Hong Kong .HSI shares ended down 1.5% and Japan’s Nikkei index .N225 slid 1%.

Among major currencies, the Chinese yuan fell to a two-week low, on course for its worst week since August. The Japanese yen climbed 0.2% to secure a third day of gains.

Gold and U.S. Treasuries also rose as China blocked travel to and from Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak originated. Gold later recovered in Europe.

Deaths in China from the coronavirus rose to 17 on Wednesday, with nearly 600 cases confirmed. The outbreak has evoked memories of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, another coronavirus that broke out in China and killed nearly 800 people worldwide.

“The coronavirus has introduced some caution,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. “There is no reason to expect a global pandemic now, but there is some repricing in financial markets.”

Reporting by Marc Jones, editing by Larry King



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