UNIQA to Acquire AXA Subsidiaries in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Uniqa Insurance Group AG said Friday it reached an agreement with AXA and a subsidiary, Societe Beaujon, to acquire AXA subsidiaries in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

AXA said under the terms of the deal, it will sell 100% of its Life and Savings, Property and Casualty and Pension businesses in Central and Eastern Europe.

"The acquisition of the companies is in line with Uniqa's strategy of growing further in countries in which it is already present," Uniqa said.

Uniqa said the purchase price would be about EUR1 billion ($1.09 billion). The company said it expects to finance the acquisition through borrowing rather than via a capital increase.

"This transaction marks another step in the simplification of AXA's footprint," AXA Chief Executive Thomas Buberl said. "We are convinced that AXA's operations in Central and Eastern Europe will benefit from UNIQA's strong presence and local expertise in the region to create new growth opportunities ...

Feb. 13, 2020

Uber Founder Backs 3D-Printed Hotel Start-Up

A hotel company using 3D printing to manufacture modular buildings has raised $20 million from a cabal of investors, including Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, dating app Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen, and the Indian ad-tech billionaire Div Turakhia.

The company, called Habitas, manufactures its hotel rooms in Mexico before shipping them off around the world, where they are fitted into the local landscape, limiting construction time to six to nine months. This earns Habitas a return on investment within two years, a fact that co-founder Oliver Ripley told the Financial Times is, “unheard of for traditional hotels.”

Habitas will use its fresh $20 million to expand to new markets in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

“We assemble them like Lego,” Oliver Ripley states. The company will have around eight locations by the end of 2020 and aims to build 10 to 12 a year afterward.

With rooms costing $200-$400 a night, Habitas is pitched ...

Feb. 10, 2020

George Soros to Start $1 Billion School to Fight Nationalists, Climate Change

Billionaire George Soros said he will commit $1 billion to start a global university to fight authoritarian governments and climate change, calling them twin challenges that threaten the survival of our civilization.

The Open Society University Network will offer an international platform for teaching and research, the 89-year-old said Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The university will be launched through a partnership of the Soros-backed Central European University and Bard College.

“As a long-term strategy our best hope lies in access to quality education, specifically an education that reinforces the autonomy of the individual by cultivating critical thinking and emphasizing academic freedom,” Soros said.

Last year, Soros warned of the “mortal danger” of China’s use of artificial intelligence to repress its citizens under the leadership of Xi, whom he called the most dangerous opponent of democracies.

He has also lashed out at social-media giants including Facebook and Google, saying they ...

Feb. 5, 2020

SoftBank, Bill Gates invested US$161 million in Memphis Meats, California artificial meat producer

California-based Memphis Meats reported $161 million were raised in round B from a group of investors led by SoftBank Group, Norwest, Temasek. Other investors include Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Threshold Ventures, writes Forbes.

Startup plans to spend money on launching production plant and invest in its team. The investment will allow Memphis Meats to enter Asian markets.

Founded in 2015, Memphis Meats' startup produces meat from animal cells. Product launched date was is yet unknown.

/Source: VF-SG/

Jan. 31, 2020

Nestlé Invests $2 Billion in Food-Grade Recycled Plastics

Nestlé plans to invest as much as CHF 2 billion ($2.07 billion) to boost new sustainable packaging solutions and create a stronger market for food-grade recycled plastics.

The Swiss food and beverage company said this week that the investment builds on a 2018 commitment to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. Nestlé expects to reduce the use of virgin plastics by one third during that same period while collaborating with others on advancing the circular economy — and cleaning plastic waste from oceans, lakes, and rivers.

“Most plastics are difficult to recycle for food packaging, leading to a limited supply of food-grade recycled plastics,” the company said. In response, Nestlé committed to sourcing as many as 2 million metric tons of food-grade recycled plastics, and allocated more than CHF 1.5 billion ($1.55 billion) to pay a premium for those materials between now and 2025.

To keep the initiative earnings-neutral, ...

Jan. 27, 2020

Microsoft committing to become carbon negative by 2030

Microsoft recently announced an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove its carbon footprint.

By 2030, the technology giant will be carbon negative, and by 2050 the brand plans to remove all the carbon from the environment, the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.

At an event at its headquarters, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, President Brad Smith, Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood, and Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa announced the company's new goals and a detailed plan to become carbon negative. The company also announced an aggressive program to cut carbon emissions by more than half by 2030, both for direct emissions and for the entire supply and value chain. This includes driving down direct emissions and emissions related to the energy it uses to near zero by the middle of this decade.

It also announced a new ...

Jan. 22, 2020

Visa acquires Fintech Startup Plaid for 5.3 billion USD

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Plaid, a network that makes it easy for people to securely connect their financial accounts to the apps they use to manage their financial lives. Visa will pay total purchase consideration of $5.3 billion to acquire Plaid.

Plaid’s products enable consumers to conveniently share their financial information with thousands of apps and services such as Acorns, Betterment, Chime, Transferwise,  Blockchain company Abra and Venmo. Consumers rely on these apps and services to help plan their spending, increase their savings and monitor their investments. For example, when a user sets up a Venmo account, it is Plaid that enables the user to link their bank account to their Venmo account. 

Connectivity between financial institutions and developers has become increasingly important to facilitate consumers’ ability to use fintech applications. 75 percent of the world's internet-enabled consumers used a fintech application to ...

Jan. 17, 2020

Geely in talks to take a stake in Aston Martin

China’s Geely Automobile Holding held talks with Aston Martin management and investors as it considers investing into the British luxury carmaker.

Geely is conducting due diligence as it looks at taking a stake in the 107-year-old UK firm, which warned earlier this week its 2019 profits would by cut nearly in half due to weak European markets. Another report out today said that Aston had canceled its RapidE electric car because of its financial situation.

Geely owns controlling stake in another British car company, Lotus, and also the London EV Company, which makes London cabs. It also owns Volvo and a nearly 10% stake in Daimler.

Aston Martin was not immediately available for comment. Geely did not immediately respond to a request for comment.   

/Source: AutoBlog/

Jan. 13, 2020

Xiaomi to invest $7 billion in 5G, AI, Internet of Things over next 5 years

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp will invest more than 50 billion yuan ($7.18 billion) in artificial intelligence and fifth generation internet technologies over the next five years, as competition in the sector grows.

Xiaomi Chief Executive Lei Jun made the announcement in a letter posted on the company's social media account on Thursday, but did not provide specific investment details.

"We need to turn our continuous advantage we have in AIoT and intelligent life into absolute victory in intelligent full scene, and completely cement our king status in the smart era," Lei said, using the acronym for artificial intelligence of things, a reference to a combination of AI and internet technologies.

The announced investment increases Xiaomi's pledge made last year to invest 10 billion yuan over five years in an "All in AIoT" strategy.

The Beijing-based company started as an affordable cellphone maker but its internet-enabled products now include smart TVs and rice-cookers.

However, Xiaomi ...

Jan. 6, 2020

Apple shares hit $300 for first time

Apple’s share price crossed the $300 threshold for the first time, as technology names continued to charge ahead on the heels of last year’s rally.

Shares in Apple closed 2.3 per cent higher to $300.35 on Thursday. The rise coincided with a broader advance on Wall Street on the first day of trading in 2020, following a move by the Chinese central bank to stimulate the country’s economy.

Apple’s advance also came as the company reached an agreement with former HBO chief executive Richard Plepler, who will produce video content for its new streaming service, Apple TV+.

Investors in the tech giant have recently enjoyed robust gains amid enthusiasm for Apple’s foray into streaming video subscriptions and fading concerns that iPhone demand was lagging. Apple was up 86 per cent last year, its best annual gain in a decade, after sliding more than 6 per cent in 2018. The S&P 500 rose about ...

Jan. 3, 2020