Ford to shake up European business, cut jobs

Ford Motor Co. says it is cutting jobs in Europe in a wide-ranging restructuring as it focuses on its most profitable models and shifts production towards electric cars.

In a statement, the company said Thursday that “structural cost improvements will be supported by a reduction of surplus labour,” both hourly and salaried.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company didn’t reveal how many jobs would be cut and said reductions would be achieved as far as possible through voluntary departures negotiated with unions and employee representatives. Some 53,000 people work for Ford’s European operation, based in Cologne, Germany.

The move follows plans announced last year to reduce white-collar jobs across the company’s global business.

We will invest in the vehicles, services, segments and markets that best support a long-term sustainably profitable business.– Steven Armstrong, Ford president for Europe, Middle East and Africa

Steven Armstrong, group vice-president and president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said the company would focus on its most appealing models and exit its less profitable models.

“We will invest in the vehicles, services, segments and markets that best support a long-term sustainably profitable business,” he said.

Layoffs in the ‘thousands’

The company said it would shift to more electric models and that every model from now on will have a battery version, whether a hybrid that combines internal combustion and battery power or a battery-only version.

Armstrong was quoted by the Financial Times as saying the number of layoffs would be in the “thousands” but declined to repeat that quantity in a conference call with reporters, saying only that there would be a “substantial impact” on the work force.

He said the scale of the restructuring assumed that Britain would leave the European Union as scheduled on March 29 with a negotiated deal defining trading relations. He said that business changes could be “significantly more dramatic” regarding the company’s U.K. plants in the event the country crashes out of the bloc without a deal — a scenario that could see, among other things, tariffs imposed on goods traded and widespread disruption at ports.

JEFFREY LIPTON in BARBADOS – https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/ford-job-cuts-europe-1.4972932?cmp=rss

UPDATE 1-Fiat Chrysler agrees to U.S. diesel-emissions settlement worth nearly $800 mln

FILE PHOTO: A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sign is seen at its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S. May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has agreed to pay close to $800 million to settle claims from the U.S. Justice Department and California relating to allegations it used illegal software that produced false results on diesel-emissions tests, according to court filings Thursday.

The settlement includes $311 million in total civil penalties, up to $280 million to resolve claims from diesel owners, and extended warranties worth $100 million, court filings and people briefed on the settlement said.

The settlement also includes $72.5 million for state civil penalties and nearly $20 million in payments to California and to offset excess emissions, the sources said.

Fiat Chrysler did not admit any wrongdoing.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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UPDATE 1-Austria says will tax internet giants 3 pct of ad revenue

(Adds detail, quotes)

VIENNA, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Austria on Thursday announced details of a plan to tax internet giants including Amazon , Google, Facebook and Alibaba 3 percent of their advertising revenue, accusing them of failing to pay their fair share.

The announcement comes weeks after Austria failed to clinch a European Union-wide deal on a digital tax in its capacity as president of the bloc, a role it relinquished on Jan. 1. While it is pressing ahead with its own national measure, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Austria also supported an EU-wide levy.

“There is a tax injustice here,” Kurz told reporters at the start of a cabinet meeting, adding that big international online firms pay significantly less tax on average than traditional companies. He said no Austrian firms would be hit by the tax.

“I am convinced that others in Europe will follow our example and that in turn will lead to more pressure for there to be a Europe-wide solution at the end of the day, hopefully,” said Kurz, whose conservatives govern in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party.

The tax will apply to firms with global annual sales of 750 million euros ($864 million) and annual sales in Austria of 10 million euros, the Finance Ministry later said in a statement.

The Finance Ministry added that it would wait until an EU finance ministers’ meeting in March known as Ecofin, before implementing its plan.

“If, however ,there is still no political agreement on a European digital tax at the March Ecofin, Austria will implement the digital tax package at the national level, as this government does not want to wait any longer,” it said, adding that the tax could bring in as much as 200 million euros per annum.

$1 = 0.8679 euros
Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by David Goodman and
Elaine Hardcastle

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Meet Caper, the AI self-checkout shopping cart

The Amazon boogie-man has every retailer scrambling for ways to fight back. But the cost and effort to install cameras all over the ceiling or into every shelf could block stores from entering the autonomous shopping era. Caper Labs wants to make eliminating checkout lines as easy as replacing their shopping carts while offering a more familiar experience for customers.

The startup makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, but it’s finalizing the technology to automatically scan items you drop in thanks to three image recognition cameras and a weight sensor. The company claims people already buy 18 percent more per visit after stores are equipped with its carts.

Caper’s cart

Today, Caper is revealing that it’s raised a total of $3 million including a $2.15 million seed round led by prestigious First Round Capital and joined by food-focused angels like Instacart co-founder Max Mullen, Plated co-founder Nick Taranto, Jet’s Jetblack shopping concierge co-founder Jenny Fleiss, plus Y Combinator. Caper is now in two retailers in the NYC area, though it plans to use the cash to expand to more and develop a smart shopping basket for smaller stores.

“If you walked in to a grocery store 100 years ago versus today, nothing has really changed” says Caper co-founder and CEO Lindon Gao. “It doesn’t make sense that you can order a cab with your phone or go book a hotel with your phone, but you can’t use your phone to make a payment and leave the store. You still have to stand in line.”

Autonomous retail is going to be a race. $50 million-funded Standard Cognition, ex-Pandora CTO Will Glaser’s Grabango, and scrappier startups like Zippin and Inokyo are all building ceiling and shelf-based camera systems to help merchants keep up with Amazon Go’s expanding empire of cashierless stores. But Caper’s plug-and-play cart-based system might be able to leapfrog its competitors if it’s easier for shops to set up.

Caper combines image recognition and a weight sensor to identify items without a barcode scan

Inventing The Smart Cart

“I don’t have an altruistic reason to care about retail, but I really want to put a dent in the universe and I think retail is severely under-innovated” Gao candidly remarked. Most founders try to spin a “super hero origin story” about why they’re the right person for the job. For Gao, chasing autonomous retail is just good business. He built his first startup in gaming commerce at age 14. The jewelry company he launched at 19 still operates. He went on to become an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan but “I always felt like I was more of a startup guy.”

Caper was actually a pivot from his previous entry to the space called QueueHop that made cashierless apparel security tags that unlocked when you paid. But during Y Combinator, he discovered how tough it’d be to scale a product that requires a complete rethinking of a merchant’s operations flow. So Gao hoofed it around NYC to talk to 150 merchants and discover what they really wanted. The cart was the answer.

Caper co-founder and CEO Lindon Gao

V1 of Caper’s cart lets people scan their items’ barcodes and pay on the cart with a credit card swipe or Apple/Android Pay tap and their receipt is emailed to them. But each time they scan, the cart is actually taking 120 photos and precisely weighing the items to train Caper’s machine vision algorithms in what Gao likens to how Tesla is inching towards self-driving.

Soon, Caper wants to go entirely scanless, and sections of its two pilot stores already use the technology. The cameras on the cart employ image recognition matched with a weight sensor to identify what you toss in your cart. You shop just like normal but then pay and leave with no line. Caper pulls in a store’s existing security feed to help detect shoplifting, which could be a bigger risk than with ceiling and shelf camera systems, but Gao says it hasn’t been a problem yet. He woudn’t reveal the price of the carts but said “they’re not that much more expensive than a standard shopping cart. To outfit a store it should be comparable to the price of implementing traditional self-checkout.” Shops buy the carts outright and pay a technology subscriptions but get free hardware upgrades. They’ll have to hope Caper stays alive.

“Do you want guacamole with those chips?”

Caper hopes to deliver three big benefits to merchants. First, they’ll be able to repurpose cashier labor to assist customers so they buy more and to keep shelves stocked, though eventually this technology is likely to eliminate a lot of jobs. Second, the ease and affordable cost of transitioning means businesses will be able to recoup their investment and grow revenues as shoppers buy more. And third, Caper wants to share data that its carts collect on routes through the store, shelves customers hover in front of, and more with its retail partners so they can optimize their layouts.

Caper’s screen tracks items you add to the cart and can surface discounts and recommendations

One big advantage over its ceiling and shelf camera competitors is that Caper’s cart can promote deals on nearby or related items. In the future, it plans to add recommendations based on what’s on your cart to help you fill out recipes. ‘Threw some chips in the cart? Here’s where to find the guacamole that’s on sale.’ A smaller hand-held smart basket could broaden Caper’s appeal beyond grocers amongst littler shops, though making it light enough to carry will be a challenge.

Gao says that with merchants already seeing sales growth from the carts, what keeps him up at night is handling Caper’s supply chain since the product requires a ton of different component manufacturers. The startup has to move fast if it wants to be what introduces Main Street to autonomous retail. But no matter what gadgets it builds in, Caper must keep sight of the real-world stress their tech will undergo. Gao concludes “We’re basically building a robot here. The carts need to be durable. They need to resist heat, vibration, rain, people slamming them around. We’re building our shopping cart like a tank.”

Wall Street drops after four-day rally as retailers, trade talks disappoint

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks looked set to snap a four-day rally on Thursday as disappointing holiday-season results from Macy’s hammered retail stocks and no clear signs of a resolution emerged from U.S.-Chinese trade talks.

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Despite the S&P 500’s .SPX 0.60 percent retreat, the benchmark index is holding near three-week highs and is 9.2 percent above the 20-month low it hit around Christmas, thanks to the recent rally that was driven by strong U.S. jobs data, easing fears of higher interest rates and rising hopes of a trade deal.

The trade optimism dampened after China said the three days of talks had established a “foundation” to resolve differences, but gave virtually no details on key issues at stake such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights, tariff barriers and cyber attacks.

The mood was further hit a 19 percent slump in shares of department store operator Macy’s Inc (M.N) after the retailer cut same-store sales forecast for the holiday quarter.

The report sparked a slide in retail stocks, with the S&P 500 retail index .SPXRT dropping 1.94 percent. Combined with a 1.9 percent fall in Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), the consumer discretionary index .SPLRCD slipped by 1.43 percent.

“Right now, the market is down given there is a lack of positive news and the fact that nothing clear came out (of trade talks) doesn’t necessarily help,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

“Investors are thinking if they want a risk-on ahead of earnings season.”

Big tech stocks .SPLRCT, which had led the recent surge, were down 0.76 percent. Apple Inc (AAPL.O) fell 1.3 percent, while Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) dropped 1.4 percent.

At 10:07 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 106.15 points, or 0.44 percent, at 23,772.97, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 15.62 points, or 0.60 percent, at 2,569.34 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 59.18 points, or 0.85 percent, at 6,897.89.

Minutes from the Fed’s most recent meeting, released on Wednesday, showed policymakers want to be patient about future interest rate increases. Investors will tune into Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s speech before the Economic Club of Washington to see if the same tone continues.

Oil prices reversed from an eight-day winning streak, driving the energy index .SPNY down 0.71 percent. Ten of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with only utilities index .SPLRCU posting slim gains.

American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) fell 9.7 percent after the No.1 U.S. airline cut its forecast for fourth-quarter growth in unit revenue, a closely watched performance metric. That weighed on other airlines as well.

The Dow Jones US Airlines index .DJUSAR fell 4.64 percent.

Among the few bright spots, Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (BBBY.O), gained 5.9 percent after the home furnishing company reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and gave upbeat earnings forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.47-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.34-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 8 new highs and 7 new lows.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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US STOCKS-Wall St drops after four-day rally as retailers, trade talks disappoint

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks looked set to snap a four-day rally on Thursday as disappointing holiday-season results from Macy’s hammered retail stocks and no clear signs of a resolution emerged from U.S.-Chinese trade talks.

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Despite the S&P 500’s .SPX 0.60 percent retreat, the benchmark index is holding near three-week highs and is 9.2 percent above the 20-month low it hit around Christmas, thanks to the recent rally that was driven by strong U.S. jobs data, easing fears of higher interest rates and rising hopes of a trade deal.

The trade optimism dampened after China said the three days of talks had established a “foundation” to resolve differences, but gave virtually no details on key issues at stake such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights, tariff barriers and cyber attacks.

The mood was further hit a 19 percent slump in shares of department store operator Macy’s Inc (M.N) after the retailer cut same-store sales forecast for the holiday quarter.

The report sparked a slide in retail stocks, with the S&P 500 retail index .SPXRT dropping 1.94 percent. Combined with a 1.9 percent fall in Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), the consumer discretionary index .SPLRCD slipped by 1.43 percent.

“Right now, the market is down given there is a lack of positive news and the fact that nothing clear came out (of trade talks) doesn’t necessarily help,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

“Investors are thinking if they want a risk-on ahead of earnings season.”

Big tech stocks .SPLRCT, which had led the recent surge, were down 0.76 percent. Apple Inc (AAPL.O) fell 1.3 percent, while Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) dropped 1.4 percent.

At 10:07 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 106.15 points, or 0.44 percent, at 23,772.97, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 15.62 points, or 0.60 percent, at 2,569.34 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 59.18 points, or 0.85 percent, at 6,897.89.

Minutes from the Fed’s most recent meeting, released on Wednesday, showed policymakers want to be patient about future interest rate increases. Investors will tune into Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s speech before the Economic Club of Washington to see if the same tone continues.

Oil prices reversed from an eight-day winning streak, driving the energy index .SPNY down 0.71 percent. Ten of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with only utilities index .SPLRCU posting slim gains.

American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) fell 9.7 percent after the No.1 U.S. airline cut its forecast for fourth-quarter growth in unit revenue, a closely watched performance metric. That weighed on other airlines as well.

The Dow Jones US Airlines index .DJUSAR fell 4.64 percent.

Among the few bright spots, Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (BBBY.O), gained 5.9 percent after the home furnishing company reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and gave upbeat earnings forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.47-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.34-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 8 new highs and 7 new lows.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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‘It’s Unacceptable’: NRB Calls for Congressional Review of Tech Giants over Censorship of Conservatives, Christians

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is calling for a congressional hearing over censorship of Christians on social media from big tech companies like Facebook and Google.

The NRB sent a letter to eight senators and congressmen who lead key committees asking them for “Good Samaritan” protection, which is provided for in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law allows the government to protect individuals and companies from companies acting in bad faith.

“It is unacceptable for technology giants to discriminate by algorithmic bias or human will against users just because their viewpoints are not congruent with ideas popular in Silicon Valley,” Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of NRB, wrote in the letter.

According to NRB’s website, the organization launched its Internet Freedom Watch initiative at the end of 2017 to increase awareness of the online censorship problem for Christian and conservative viewpoints. NRB urged Congress to hold hearings after the launch of the initiative. They found success as multiple hearings were held over 2018, including a hearing with Facebook and Twitter executives.

The recent censorship of evangelist Franklin Graham for a Facebook post he made two years ago has prompted the NRB’s latest demand for a congressional review. Graham received a 24-hour ban for expressing his biblically based opinion on North Carolina’s controversial bathroom bill.

“That the ban happened at all illustrates the pattern of censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints by Facebook, which the company has failed to acknowledge and apologize for — a pattern shared by other big tech platforms,” Johnson stated in an NRB press release. “How many similar bans have happened to Christians without the profile of Graham who have never received their apology?”

The press release notes that Johnson first voiced the possibility of NRB calling for a review of Section 230 at a Silicon Valley technology conference. The NRB chief warned congressional action would be called for if the companies did not take the proper steps to ensure freedom of speech.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) have already raised concerns regarding big tech companies’ ability to monitor and dictate user content on their platforms.

Fiat Chrysler agrees to settle U.S. diesel emissions case: filing

FILE PHOTO: A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sign is seen at its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S. May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI) has agreed to pay $305 million in civil penalties to resolve claims from the U.S. Justice Department and California over allegations it used illegal software to emit excess diesel emissions.

Reuters reported that Fiat Chrysler is also expected to pay up to $280 million to resolve claims from diesel owners. A person briefed on the matter said Fiat Chrysler will also pay $6 million in civil penalties to resolve claims from U.S. Customs official.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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HSBC to pay $30 million to settle bond rigging lawsuit in U.S.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) has agreed to pay $30 million to settle litigation by investors who accused 11 big banks of rigging the roughly $9 trillion government agency bond market from 2009 to 2015.

FILE PHOTO: The HSBC logo is seen at their offices at Canary Wharf financial district in London,Britain, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

The settlement with the British bank was made public late Wednesday night in the federal court in Manhattan, and requires approval by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.

HSBC is the third bank to settle, after Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE) and Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) agreed in August 2017 to pay a respective $48.5 million and $17 million and cooperate with the plaintiffs.

Investors led by two Alaska government entities and the Iron Workers Pension Plan of Western Pennsylvania accused banks of colluding to manipulate prices of U.S. dollar-denominated supranational, sub-sovereign and agency bonds.

They said the banks used chatrooms and other means to share price data and coordinate trading, effectively functioning as a single “super-desk,” to reduce competition and boost profit on “virtually every trade” at customers’ expense.

“Rare is an antitrust case like this one, where a large volume of ‘smoking gun’ evidence exists at the pleading stage,” they said in an amended complaint filed on Nov. 13.

HSBC denied liability, but settled to avoid more litigation that could prove “extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming,” according to its settlement agreement.

It also agreed to cooperate with the plaintiffs, including by providing evidence such as electronic chats among the banks.

A spokesman, Rob Sherman, declined additional comment on Thursday.

The remaining defendants include Barclays Plc (BARC.L), BNP Paribas SA (BNPP.PA), Citigroup Inc (C.N), Credit Agricole SA (CAGR.PA), Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN.S), Nomura Holdings Inc (8604.T), Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO).

Ramos has yet to rule on their requests to dismiss the amended complaint.

He had dismissed an earlier version of the complaint last Aug. 24, but gave the investors another chance to prove their case.

The Manhattan federal court is home to a slew of private litigation accusing banks of conspiring to rig various financial markets, interest rate benchmarks and commodities.

The case is In re: SSA Bonds Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-03711.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas

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