Trudeau’s dilemma: how to be tough on Saudi Arabia and save jobs

LONDON, Ontario (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is faced with a dilemma as an election approaches – how to credibly clamp down on Riyadh over its human rights record while sparing a $13 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

FILE PHOTO: A pair of armoured personnel carriers are parked on the grounds of the General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada factory in London, Ontario, Canada October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

Trudeau, who has promised “consequences” for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is under pressure to freeze an already unpopular $13 billion contract for armored vehicles built in Canada by U.S.-based General Dynamics.

The problem is that the deal underpins 3,000 jobs in the small city of London, Ontario, a recovering manufacturing center and a likely battleground in next year’s federal vote.

The debate over the deal is worrying to members of Trudeau’s ruling Liberal party, including Peter Fragiskatos, the lawmaker from the London North Centre parliamentary constituency.

“A lot of jobs depend on this contract,” Fragiskatos said in an interview, noting Trudeau has visited the city several times and “understands very well the challenges that London has faced. I am advocating very strongly for my community.”

A source directly familiar with official thinking said “we don’t want to lose those jobs”, but added it was also important for Canada to take a stand when human rights are violated.

“Canada is committed to upholding human rights, freedom of expression and the protection of journalists around the world,” Trudeau said last week, and that Ottawa would review its export permits to Saudi Arabia in response to the death of Khashoggi, whose murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month has sparked an international outcry.

As for further penalties, a government official said on Monday that Canada is carrying out a “comprehensive review of our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” while trying to “establish a credible narrative” for the murder and coordinate a response with allies.

In recent years, Trudeau has cast himself and his government as standard-bearers for progressive values at a time when the United States is withdrawing from the global stage under President Donald Trump.

Canada is particularly sensitive to Khashoggi’s murder after Riyadh abruptly severed diplomatic ties following Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s tweet in August demanding the release of jailed activists.

Trudeau backed Freeland after the tweet and the two have been generally aligned on the murder of Khashoggi. But asked last week why Ottawa would go ahead with the arms deal, Freeland replied it was “a very good question” and declined to be more specific.

Trudeau has said scrapping the deal would cost “billions” in penalties.

Opposition critics and human rights groups say that if Trudeau is serious about standing up for human rights, he should cancel the deal.

Other nations are also grappling with how to send a strong message to the Gulf oil producer about its need to respect human rights while limiting the economic impact.

Germany halted new weapons sales to Riyadh, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for the rest of the European Union to adopt a similar position. Berlin is also reviewing sales that have already been approved, including contracts for patrol boats that are under construction.

But in Britain, the second-largest exporter of arms to Saudi Arabia after the United States, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has repeatedly rejected calls from opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to end arms sales to Riyadh.

    “There are jobs in the UK … at stake so when it comes to the issue of arms sales we have our procedures,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told lawmakers on Wednesday.

CRUCIAL TO LIBERALS

London’s newly elected mayor Ed Holder, a former Conservative minister who helped found the Canada Saudi Business Council and led a trade delegation to the kingdom in 2016, said the contract should not be canceled.

“I’ve been in contact with the federal government about that and I’m advised that they don’t intend to cancel the contract,” he said in a radio interview after his Oct. 22 election.

The political fallout of scrapping the deal could be significant. The Liberals control two of London’s four seats and have a narrow, 12-seat parliamentary majority heading into a re-election campaign for a vote due by Oct. 21, 2019.

“Places like London, Ontario, will be crucial to the Liberals,” said Darrell Bricker, head of Ipsos Public Affairs polling company.

The Liberals, at 36 percent, are just one point ahead of the Conservatives, with the left-leaning New Democrats, who say the Saudi military contract should be scrapped, are at 20 percent, according to the latest Ipsos poll.

FILE PHOTO: The General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada factory is seen in London, Ontario, Canada October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

While Trudeau has announced a review of export permits, those already issued are being respected, the government official said. That should spare General Dynamics any immediate impact.

A 2016 document from the foreign ministry posted online shows General Dynamics had already received approval for C$11 billion worth of exports as part of the deal. Canada shipped C$166.9 million worth of armored vehicles and parts to Saudi Arabia in July, trade statistics show.

“We are continuing to build that vehicle on schedule, and we see no indication that contract has changed,” General Dynamics Chief Executive Phebe Novakovic said on a conference call last week. “Steady as she goes.”

With additional reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Guy Faulconbridge in London; Editing by Susan Thomas

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Rockset launches out of stealth with $21.5 M investment

Rockset, a startup that came out of stealth today, announced $21.5M in previous funding and the launch of its new data platform that is designed to simplify much of the processing to get to querying and application building faster.

As for the funding, it includes $3 million in seed money they got when they started the company, and a more recent $18.5 million Series A, which was led by Sequoia with participation from Greylock.

Jerry Chen, who is a partner at Greylock sees a team that understands the needs of modern developers and data scientists, one that was born in the cloud and can handle a lot of the activities that data scientists have traditionally had to handle manually. “Rockset can ingest any data from anywhere and let developers and data scientists query it using standard SQL. No pipelines. No glue. Just real time operational apps,” he said.

Company co-founder and CEO Venkat Venkataramani is a former Facebook engineer where he learned a bit about processing data at scale. He wanted to start a company that would help data scientists get to insights more quickly.

Data typically requires a lot of massaging before data scientists and developers can make use of it and Rockset has been designed to bypass much of that hard work that can take days, weeks or even months to complete.

“We’re building out our service with innovative architecture and unique capabilities that allows full-featured fast SQL directly on raw data. And we’re offering this as a service. So developers and data scientists can go from useful data in any shape, any form to useful applications in a matter of minutes. And it would take months today,” Venkataramani explained.

To do this you simply connect your data set wherever it lives to your AWS account and Rockset deals with the data ingestion, building the schema, cleaning the data, everything. It also makes sure you have the right amount of infrastructure to manage the level of data you are working with. In other words, it can potentially simplify highly complex data processing tasks to start working with the raw data almost immediately using SQL queries.

To achieve the speed, Venkataramani says they use a number of indexing techniques. “Our indexing technology essentially tries to bring the best of search engines and columnar databases into one. When we index the data, we build more than one type of index behind the scenes so that a wide spectrum of pre-processing can be automatically fast out of the box,” he said. That takes the burden of processing and building data pipelines off of the user.

The company was founded in 2016. Chen and Sequoia partners Mike Vernal joined the Rockset board under the terms of the Series A funding, which closed last August.

NEX allows repo clearing in Europe ahead of Brexit

Nov 1 (Reuters) – London-based NEX Markets said on Thursday users of its BrokerTec Europe platform would be able to clear repo trades on Deutsche Boerse as it prepares for Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The unit of NEX Group said clearing for repo, or repurchase agreements, on the German exchange’s Eurex Clearing would be available by the end of 2018.

“There are emerging opportunities in a post-Brexit world, as well as a desire to extend and diversify the clearing choices that our customers have when trading repo,” said here John Edwards, managing director of BrokerTec Europe.

Having an alternative clearing house in the euro zone would ensure no disruption in service for NEX customers if Britain were to crash out of the bloc without a deal.

The move by NEX, which is being taken over by U.S.-based CME Group, comes just a week after Deutsche Boerse announced plans to intensify competition with rival London Stock Exchange ahead of Brexit.

Euro clearing has become a Brexit battleground as some EU policymakers want it moved from London, where LSE dominates, to the single currency area after Britain leaves the bloc next March, threatening the city’s role as a global financial centre.

However, LSE has said that Deutsche Boerse was simply getting a “small slice of a growing pie”.

BrokerTec is a market leader for electronic trading in many U.S. and European fixed income products, including U.S. Treasuries, European Government Bonds and European Repo.

Taking similar steps to Brexit-proof its operations, London-based FX and fixed income trading platform NEX is also opening an EU base in the Dutch financial capital Amsterdam and establishing a new trade reporting unit in Sweden. (Reporting by Muvija M and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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UPDATE 1-Mnangagwa says Australian firm finds oil, gas in Zimbabwe

(Adds details, quote)

HARARE, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Thursday that Australia’s Invictus Energy had found oil and gas deposits in the northern Muzarabani area of the country.

Invictus Energy has agreed to enter a production sharing arrangement with Zimbabwe once the project reaches commercial production, Mnangagwa said.

“Government of Zimbabwe will work very closely with Invictus to ensure that Invictus realises its plans to sink an exploration well by mid 2020,” Mnangagwa told reporters.

Mines Minister Winston Chitando said the well would be sunk at a cost of $20 million.

Mobil Oil was the first company to undertake oil and gas studies in Muzarabani in the early 1990s but abandoned the work. Invictus is using the data first generated by Mobil.

Australian-listed Invictus is an independent oil and gas exploration company whose only asset is in Zimbabwe, according to information on its website. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Writing by Joe Brock Editing by James Macharia)

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UPDATE 3-U.S. charges financier, former Goldman bankers for 1MDB

NEW YORK/KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors unveiled criminal charges on Thursday against two former Goldman Sachs Inc bankers and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho tied to the alleged theft of billions from Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Men walk past a 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the fund’s flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo

Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn announced that Tim Leissner, former partner for Goldman Sachs in Asia, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million.

Roger Ng, the other charged former Goldman banker, was arrested in Malaysia at the request of U.S. authorities and is expected to be extradited, according to John Marzulli, a spokesman for the prosecution.

The third person, the financier popularly known as Jho Low, remains at large. Malaysian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for him and have also applied for an Interpol red notice seeking assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong.

Low, whose Malaysian passport has been revoked, has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Lawyers for Leissner and Low could not immediately be reached for comment. It was not immediately clear who is representing Ng.

The government of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, in 2009. An estimated $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials of the fund and their associates between 2009 and 2014, the U.S. Justice Department has alleged.

Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing in connection with alleged graft involving 1MDB.

According to the indictment against him, Low never held a formal position with the fund but he worked as an intermediary in numerous 1MDB transactions involving Goldman and others.

Prosecutors say Low, Ng, and Leissner conspired to launder the proceeds of fraud involving 1MDB through the U.S. financial system. Some of the laundered funds were then allegedly used to pay bribes to obtain business for Goldman. Other funds were used for the personal benefit of defendants, including purchases of luxury U.S. real estate and art.

Goldman did not immediately respond to a request for comment but has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said it is fully cooperating with authorities.

According to prosecutors, the investment bank generated about $600 million in fees for its work with 1MDB, which included three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013 that raised $6.5 billion. Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.

While U.S. prosecutors have previously filed civil asset forfeiture suits for assets allegedly bought with some of the stolen funds, these are the first criminal charges the Justice Department has brought against individuals in the case under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal law targeting official bribery abroad.

At least six countries, including Malaysia, the United States and Switzerland, have been investigating alleged thefts from 1MDB.

The 1MDB investigations in the United States and Malaysia have gathered pace since Najib unexpectedly lost a general election in May to Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to power 15 years after he retired as prime minister.

Since the election, Malaysian authorities have brought 38 charges against Najib. Many of the charges – multiple counts of corruption, money laundering and criminal breach of trust – are linked to 1MDB.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York and A. Ananthalakshmi in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Anthony Lin and Nick Zieminski

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UBS to introduce training, confidential hotline for sexual misconduct claims: memo

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in Zurich, Switzerland October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

LONDON (Reuters) – Swiss bank UBS (UBSG.S) will expand training for specialist staff investigating sexual misconduct claims, and introduce a confidential hotline to handle such allegations, according to an internal memo sent to staff and seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The changes follow an independent review by a law firm into how the bank handled accusations of sexual assault made by a former junior trader.

The law firm’s review found “no fundamental errors” in how the bank had investigated the claims, the memo said.

A spokeswoman for UBS confirmed the contents of the memo and declined to comment further.

Reporting By Sinead Cruise, writing by Lawrence White, Editing by Silvia Aloisi

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Trump says will meet China’s Xi as trade talks ‘move along’

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said trade discussions with China were “moving along nicely” and that he planned to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming G-20 summit, after the two had a “very good” talk.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Estero, Florida, U.S., October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Earlier on Thursday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told a group of visiting U.S. politicians that China and the United States could overcome their differences and get relations back on track if they worked together in a spirit of mutual respect.

China and the United States are locked in an increasingly bitter trade war, and both countries have already placed tariffs on some of each others’ imports.

Trump has long threatened to impose tariffs on all $500 billion-plus goods that the United States imports from China if Beijing fails to meet his demands for sweeping changes to its policies on intellectual property, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and local market access.

He and Xi are due to attend the G20 summit in Argentina, which starts at the end of this month.

“Just had a long and very good conversation with President Xi Jinping of China. We talked about many subjects, with a heavy emphasis on Trade,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter. “Those discussions are moving along nicely with meetings being scheduled at the G-20 in Argentina. Also had good discussion on North Korea!”

Meeting a group of Republican lawmakers in Beijing, China’s Li noted the China-U.S. relationship’s “ups and downs” over the past four decades of diplomatic ties.

“We do hope that China and the United States will meet each other halfway and work together in the spirit of mutual respect and equality,” Li told Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander told Li that the delegation was there “to show our respect to a great country and a great people,” and that the two countries “are competitors but not adversaries.”

Alexander said he would be discussing trade with Li, though neither of them mentioned the ongoing tariff war in remarks in front of reporters.

Earlier this week, Trump said he thought there would be “a great deal” with China on trade, but warned that he had billions of dollars worth of new tariffs ready to go if a deal did not materialize.

The United States has already imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China has responded with retaliatory duties on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods.

Reporting by Joseph Campbell; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Rosalba O’Brien

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UPDATE 3-Canada’s Encana widens N. America reach with $5.5 bln Newfield deal

(Reuters) – Canada’s Encana Corp will buy Newfield Exploration Co for $5.5 billion, giving the natural gas producer greater access to North America’s biggest oilfields.

FILE PHOTO – Encana offices is pictured in Parachute, Colorado, U.S. on December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/File Photo

Thursday’s all-stock deal will give Encana more acreage in United States’ Anadarko and Permian basins as well as Canada’s Montney regions. This fits into its five-year plan to boost output by focusing on high-margin, liquids-rich production.

U.S. listed shares of Encana fell 15 percent, while Newfield rose 13 percent.

“This (deal) gives Encana a third growth area in the STACK/SCOOP. It also makes it more weighted obviously to the U.S. and U.S. oil,” Eight Capital analyst Phil Skolnick wrote in a note.

The SCOOP/STACK region is a fast-growing shale oil play in the Anadarko basin in Oklahoma and Texas that is attracting investment from oil producers expanding beyond Texas’s giant Permian basin, which is getting costly.

“We have large contiguous positions in three of the best plays in North America… Southwest Kingfisher County feels like the place that is ripe for development today,” Chief Executive Officer Doug Suttles said in a conference call, referring to the STACK region.

Encana’s offer comes against the backdrop of increased deal-making in the U.S. shale industry.

Chesapeake Energy inked a $4 billion deal to buy Texas oil producer WildHorse Resource Development Corp on Tuesday. Earlier this year, Concho Resources offered to buy rival RSP Permian Inc in an $8 billion deal.

Encana said liquids production will make for more than half of the combined company’s total output and help expand margins.

Under the deal terms, Encana will buy Newfield for about $27.36 per share, a 35 percent premium based on Newfield’s Wednesday close.

Newfield shareholders will receive 2.6719 Encana common shares for each share of Newfield common stock.

Separately, the Calgary, Alberta-based company, which reported third-quarter results on Thursday, said total production rose 33 percent to 378,200 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/d).

Oil and oil equivalent production rose 40 percent to 178,700 barrels per day.

Reporting by Nishara Karuvalli Pathikkal and Nivedita Bhattacharjee; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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DeepMap, a maker of HD maps for self-driving, raised at least $60M at a $450M valuation

As car and tech companies continue to make inroads on vehicles and services to build autonomous driving systems, a startup that is creating high-definition maps to help these vehicles move around has quietly picked up a significant round of funding.

DeepMap — a Palo Alto startup co-founded by James Wu and Mark Wheeler, who previously helped build maps and more at Google, Apple and Baidu — has raised a significant round of growth funding at a valuation of at least $475 million to expand its technology stack and its reach into more markets beyond its current footprint of the US and China.

Founded in 2016, DeepMap has been relatively quiet since raising $25 million in 2017, but news about this round has been trickling out for the last few months. In July, the company filed papers for a $60 million Series B round. In August, it noted that Nvidia had joined the round, which by that point was “oversubscribed” but still not closed.

And today, Generation Investment Management — the VC firm that counts former Vice President Al Gore and others among its co-founders — also confirmed that it is part of that Series B, along with previous investors Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, and GSR Ventures, and new investor Robert Bosch Venture Capital. PitchBook notes that the round puts the valuation of DeepMap at $450 million post-money. However, with Generation added to the mix, both the size of the Series B and the valuation might both be higher.

We’ve asked and Generation and DeepMap are not disclosing those details, but they have said that the investment is being made because the interests of the startup are in line with that of the VC.

“DeepMap and Generation share the deeply-held belief that autonomous vehicles will lead to environmental and social benefits,” said Wu, who is the CEO of DeepMap (Wheeler is the CTO), in a statement. “We are delighted to work with the talented team at Generation. We consider Generation to be a value-added investor, whose insights and mission-aligned network will be of great advantage as we scale, especially in Europe.”

DeepMap is not exactly in stealth mode, but it also doesn’t disclose much about what it is working on specifically, nor how the funding will be used. (But it is hiring, mostly in engineering roles, in Palo Alto and Beijing.)

Companies like Waymo are expanding their autonomous driving tests, Lyft is buying companies to help ingest more driving data more easily, and just this week Baidu announced new car plans with Volvo and Ford, but there are still some crucial pieces that need to be put in place for self-driving to become a wide-scale reality, and one of them is building systems that have an accurate reading of the roads that they are driving on.

HD mapping will play a key role in that regard, helping make systems more accurate with real-time localization features that respond to road types and driving conditions. DeepMap says that it provides centimeter-specific accuracy using “real-world data, not models” and the ability to incorporate 3D landmark features and full 3D environments using “true LiDAR intensity and RGB values data” for simulation tools.

While DeepMap does not detail its products on its site, one report describes its offering as including hardware tools, software solutions, field data collection services, and a service that is able to translate the self-driving fleet data that companies are now in the process of collecting “into their own personalized HD maps.” The same report claimed that DeepMap charges about $5,000 per kilometer for mapping services in the US.

DeepMap is also not the only company working on addressing this need for better and more accurate mapping: mapping startup Camera is also raising money to build its service; DeepMap’s investor NVIDIA is also working on this problem; and lvl5 is another name we’ve also seen mentioned in this context.

The funding, and these partnerships, will likely help DeepMap cement its position on the map, so to speak as all of these continue to grow.

“DeepMap is perfectly placed to address the imminent needs of autonomous vehicles. These vehicles will require HD maps and localization modules which are real-time, scalable, economically-viable, and machine-readable, something which DeepMap can deliver through its unique approach,” said Lilly Wollman, Co-Head of Generation’s Growth Equity team, in a statement. “We are very excited to partner with one of the most technically impressive and experienced teams in the industry.”

Uber Eats launches its new platform for corporate accounts

Uber Eats is expanding to enterprise customers with the launch of Uber Eats for Business. The new service allows companies to manage their employees’ food orders and positions Uber Eats to compete more directly against rivals that already offer corporate accounts, including Deliveroo, GrubHub, and Foodpanda (in some markets).

Uber Eats for Business is integrated into Uber for Business, which lets companies pay for and manage rides taken by their employees and clients. Its functions include setting meal programs that let employees order food at certain time and locations (for example, by geofencing a specific office’s address); automatic spending allowances that bill any overages to employees’ own credit cards; the ability for employees to order meals while traveling for work; and one monthly bill that sorts spending by teams, instead of multiple expense reports and receipts.

Enterprise accounts may help food delivery companies weather the headaches of operating an on-demand delivery service, including high operating costs, low margins, and competition. Over the past two years, food delivery startups that have shut down include SpoonRocket, Sprig, and Maple—and that’s just in the United States. India, which Uber Eats head Jason Droege recently said is its fastest-growing market, also experienced its own food delivery startup boom and bust, with TinyOwl, Spoonjoy, and Dazo among its best-known casualties (Foodpanda sold its struggling India business to Ola, Uber’s biggest competitor there, in December 2017).

For Uber in particular, Uber Eats also represents a way to reach customers who have never used its ride-hailing services, thanks in part to different regulatory requirements, Uber Eats’ head of U.S. cities Ana Mahony recently told TechCrunch. The company says 40 percent of new Eats users are new to Uber, and one of its goals for this year is to expand food delivery coverage to 70 percent of the U.S. If it succeeds, that would put it ahead of Postmates, which said earlier this month that it now covers 60 percent of households in America.