ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Tesla increases deliveries of electric cars

Why on Earth did you park here?

ELON MUSK, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has had two bits of good news recently about his various bets on new technology. SpaceX, his privately-held launch company, last month became the first successfully to reuse a rocket to put a satellite into orbit. And this week Tesla, his electric-car manufacturer, at last hit its production targets.

Some analysts doubted Tesla would meet its goals after a series of production difficulties. But the carmaker said first-quarter deliveries were just over 25,000 vehicles, a record for the firm and a 69% increase over the same period in 2016. Some 13,450 were its sleek Model S saloons and about 11,550 were the firm’s new SUV, the Model X. This puts Tesla on track to produce the 50,000 vehicles it has promised to make in the first half of this year. That is good progress. But Tesla is going to have to crank production up by an awful lot more to make the 500,000 cars a year which Mr Musk wants to see pouring off the production line by 2018, let alone the 1m intended for just two years later.

To reach those volumes, Tesla is counting on its forthcoming Model 3. Priced at…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Time Warner’s boss is the anti-mogul

THERE is a hawk in Central Park that sometimes dismembers its prey on the balcony outside Jeff Bewkes’s office. Guts are splattered around in the kind of Darwinian spectacle that any self-respecting media baron should appreciate as he plots plans for future world domination. Mr Bewkes, however, only manages a laconic shrug when he mentions the feathered predator.

The boss of Time Warner is an anti-mogul in more ways than one. In an industry long-dominated by imperious tycoons intent on amassing power—think of Rupert Murdoch, or Viacom’s Sumner Redstone in his heyday—Mr Bewkes has shrunk a content empire, not expanded it. He is about to sell it to AT&T for $109bn in the fifth-biggest takeover of all time. If the deal goes through shareholders will have made a 341% return during his tenure (including spin-offs and dividends), making Time Warner one of the best-performing big firms in America during that time.

Beneath his laid-back surfer persona, Mr Bewkes has been ruthless but in the rational pursuit of his owners’ interests, not his own vanity. His tenure can be split into three parts—culling, defending and preparing to exit on a high.

Back in…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Time Warner’s boss is the anti-mogul

THERE is a hawk in Central Park that sometimes dismembers its prey on the balcony outside Jeff Bewkes’s office. Guts are splattered around in the kind of Darwinian spectacle that any self-respecting media baron should appreciate as he plots plans for future world domination. Mr Bewkes, however, only manages a laconic shrug when he mentions the feathered predator.

The boss of Time Warner is an anti-mogul in more ways than one. In an industry long-dominated by imperious tycoons intent on amassing power—think of Rupert Murdoch, or Viacom’s Sumner Redstone in his heyday—Mr Bewkes has shrunk a content empire, not expanded it. He is about to sell it to AT&T for $109bn in the fifth-biggest takeover of all time. If the deal goes through shareholders will have made a 341% return during his tenure (including spin-offs and dividends), making Time Warner one of the best-performing big firms in America during that time.

Beneath his laid-back surfer persona, Mr Bewkes has been ruthless but in the rational pursuit of his owners’ interests, not his own vanity. His tenure can be split into three parts—culling, defending and preparing to exit on a high.

Back in…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Bill O’Reilly faces allegations of sexual harassment

Lights, camera, where’s the action?

EVEN for Rupert Murdoch and Fox News, no strangers to controversy, the allegations against Bill O’Reilly present an extreme test. On April 1st the New York Times published an investigative report that described accusations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour from at least seven women against the presenter. He and the network, the paper said, have paid about $13m to five women since 2002 to settle cases where they alleged such behaviour. Mr O’Reilly denied the merits of the claims.

The news came less than nine months after Roger Ailes, the network’s founding boss, stepped down following multiple sexual-harassment claims against him. This week around 50 advertisers left Mr O’Reilly’s programme, “The O’Reilly Factor”, among them several car brands, including Mercedes-Benz and Toyota’s Lexus, as well as GlaxoSmithKline, a drugs company. The National Organisation for Women has called for him to be fired.

All eyes are on Mr Murdoch, who has been running Fox News himself since he pushed out his friend, Mr Ailes. Mr O’Reilly has probably been…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusinessBusiness and finance

Growth at Indian internet consumer firms has stalled

THE promise of virgin commercial territory up for grabs, startups vying to lure investors’ money even faster than they burn through it, and Amazon trying to capture all the spoils: the recent scramble for the Indian online consumer has had more than a whiff of the late-90s dotcom boom about it. The exuberance seemed justified. India is the world’s fastest-growing large economy, its consumers increasingly clutching smartphones and fattening wallets. Online shopping, worth just $1bn five years ago, seemed to be growing so fast that it would exceed $100bn by 2020.

The boom has ended not with a pop, as in 2000, but a whimper. Online sales, after more than doubling in 2014 and nearly trebling in 2015, were nearly flat in 2016 (see chart). Analysts are scrambling to lower their forecasts. Given that total retail consumption in India grows by around 18% a year, and internet penetration went up by two-fifths last year, e-commerce if anything looks to be losing ground.

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De La Rue rethinks its strategy

THOMAS DE LA RUE set up shop more than 200 years ago, printing newspapers, then playing cards and stamps. In 1860 a contract to print banknotes for Mauritius started a transformation. Today De La Rue is the largest commercial banknote and passport printer, involved in aspects of the production of currencies for 140 countries, and passports for over 40.

The British firm’s chief executive, Martin Sutherland, is relatively relaxed about the much-heralded death of cash. Despite advances in payments technology, and a shift to cards in Europe, the total demand for cash has proven remarkably resilient. Transaction values are rising rapidly in emerging economies, where hard currency is still the norm. De La Rue expects world demand for banknotes to grow by 3-4% a year for the foreseeable future.

But there are problems nonetheless. Even at the best of times, note production, which accounts for over 70% of the company’s revenues, is a volatile business. Contracts are lumpy. State-owned printers often call in commercial printers at short notice to manage spikes in demand, which are unpredictable. On top of that, national authorities are demanding better value. They are…Continue reading

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Encouraging African entrepreneurship

“YOU are either part of the solution or part of the problem,” it says in painted letters on a wall. “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” says the wall opposite. An old rickshaw sits among beanbags and a vase of flowers rests on an ancient oil barrel in the corner. “We wanted the space to feel like Google,” says Eleni Gabre-Madhin, the founder of blueMoon, a new agribusiness incubator that opened in Addis Ababa in February, without a trace of irony.

Incubators and their cousins, accelerators, provide hands-on training and mentoring, and often a physical space, to help early-stage business ideas develop. In Silicon Valley they find capital for startups and take a slice of equity in return for their services. Ms Gabre-Madhin says that blueMoon draws inspiration from Y Combinator, an American accelerator founded in 2005 whose investees include Dropbox and Airbnb. The new firm’s first cohort of startups will train at the office for four months, and it will give each a small cash injection in exchange for a 10% stake.

That is a rarity in Africa’s startup scene. A simpler and more common model is for “tech hubs” to provide office space, some networking…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

The history of growth should be all about recessions

“THROUGHOUT history, poverty is the normal condition of man,” wrote Robert Heinlein, a science-fiction writer. Until the 18th century, global GDP per person was stuck between $725 and $1,100, around the same income level as the World Bank’s current poverty line of $1.90 a day. But global income levels per person have since accelerated, from around $1,100 in 1800 to $3,600 in 1950, and over $10,000 today.

Economists have long tried to explain this sudden surge in output. Most theories have focused on the factors driving long-term economic growth such as the quantity and productivity of labour and capital. But a new paper* takes a different tack: faster growth is not due to bigger booms, but to less shrinking in recessions. Stephen Broadberry of Oxford University and John Wallis of the University of Maryland have taken data for 18 countries in Europe and the New World, some from as far back as the 13th century. To their surprise, they found that growth during years of economic expansion has fallen in the recent era—from 3.88% between 1820 and 1870 to 3.06% since 1950—even though average growth across all years in those two periods increased from 1.4% to…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

Payday lending is declining

IN MAY 2013 Gloria James borrowed $200 from Loan Till Payday, a lender near her home in Wilmington, Delaware. Rather than take out a one- or two-month loan for a $100 fee, as she had done several times before, she was offered a one-year loan that would set her back $1,620 in interest, equivalent to an annual rate of 838%. Ms James, a housekeeper making $12 an hour, agreed to the high-interest loan but quickly fell behind on her payments. After filing a lawsuit in federal court, a Delaware judge ruled that the loan in question was not only illegal but “unconscionable”.

Her story is remarkably common. Americans who live pay cheque to pay cheque have few places to turn when they are in financial distress. Many rely on high-interest payday loans to stay afloat. But government efforts to crack down on the $40bn industry may be having an effect.

Roughly 2.5m American households, about one in 50, use payday loans each year, according to government statistics. The typical loan is $350, lasts two weeks, and costs $15 for each $100 borrowed. Although payday loans are marketed as a source of short-term cash to be used in financial emergencies, they are often used to…Continue reading

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ApprovedBusiness and financeFINANCEFinance and economics

Payday lending is declining

IN MAY 2013 Gloria James borrowed $200 from Loan Till Payday, a lender near her home in Wilmington, Delaware. Rather than take out a one- or two-month loan for a $100 fee, as she had done several times before, she was offered a one-year loan that would set her back $1,620 in interest, equivalent to an annual rate of 838%. Ms James, a housekeeper making $12 an hour, agreed to the high-interest loan but quickly fell behind on her payments. After filing a lawsuit in federal court, a Delaware judge ruled that the loan in question was not only illegal but “unconscionable”.

Her story is remarkably common. Americans who live pay cheque to pay cheque have few places to turn when they are in financial distress. Many rely on high-interest payday loans to stay afloat. But government efforts to crack down on the $40bn industry may be having an effect.

Roughly 2.5m American households, about one in 50, use payday loans each year, according to government statistics. The typical loan is $350, lasts two weeks, and costs $15 for each $100 borrowed. Although payday loans are marketed as a source of short-term cash to be used in financial emergencies, they are often used to…Continue reading

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Reviews

Fatdog64: More Bark Than Bite

Fatdog64 has the potential to serve as an alternative lightweight OS to Linux distros such as Puppy Linux, Knoppix and Zephyr. However, it has some critical usability issues that need to be fixed first. Fatdog64 seems to have lost its performance edge over earlier versions that made it more appealing as an alternative “frugal” Linux candidate. The latest update does nothing to remedy that problem.

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