Company news in brief

20 August 2019 | Business

BMW urges staff to narrow sales gap with Mercedes

BMW's new chief executive urged employees to embrace change and to find innovative ways to help the Bavarian carmaker overtake rival Mercedes at a time when demand for luxury cars is waning.

Oliver Zipse addressed staff in an internal email a day after his predecessor Harald Krueger stepped down. BMW has lost ground to Mercedes-Benz producer Daimler in the past five years and seen rivals such as Tesla jump ahead in electric car sales.

"Instead of blaming the current situation, conditions, political landscape or particular individuals, a positive spirit will enable us to seize the opportunities available to us. Such a positive spirit will be reflected in our culture: the harder the job, the more innovative our solution," Zipse said.

BMW has already narrowed the sales gap between BMW and Mercedes and is preparing to launch more models, Zipse said.

BMW's flexible production methods, which allow the carmaker to build electric and combustion-engined cars on the same production line, provide a major competitive advantage because it will allow the carmaker to scale up or slow down production of electric cars in line with demand, Zipse said. – Nampa/Reuters

Airbnb records 30% growth rate

Airbnb Inc recorded US$9.4 billion in total booking value in the first quarter, up 31% from the year-ago quarter, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday, a key number that could help pull in investors as the home-sharing company plans its foray into the public market.

The San Francisco-based home rentals company booked 91 million nights on its platform in the quarter, leading to the surge in total booking value, which measures the transaction dollars on its platform, the source said.

Airbnb had about US$3.5 billion in cash on its balance sheet as of 31 March, the source said. The company reported a 40% revenue growth rate in 2018 compared with the previous year, according to the source.

Airbnb is readying for a listing in the first half of 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported Airbnb's first-quarter financials earlier in the day.

This year marked several high-profile IPOs including Uber Inc and Lyft Inc, but the companies have fared poorly after their launch, amid investor skepticism over their lack of a concrete plan to profitability. – Nampa/Reuters

Uber appoints new boss as London licence renewal nears

Uber appointed a new boss for Britain and Ireland yesterday just over a month before its licence expires in London, one of its most important global markets where the regulator has previously stripped it of its right to operate.

Transport for London (TfL) rejected the Silicon Valley company's licence renewal request in 2017 due to failings it said it found in its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and driver background checks, prompting court action.

A British judge in 2018 then granted Uber a probationary 15-month licence which expires on 25 September.

Melinda Roylett, former head of Europe at digital payment company Square, began her new role at Uber yesterday, replacing Tom Elvidge, who moved to co-working space company WeWork earlier this year.

Uber has introduced several new initiatives in London to assuage regulator concerns, including 24/7 telephone support, the proactive reporting of serious incidents to police and the ability to share journeys with friends and family. – Nampa/Reuters

Rosatom interested in Bulgaria nuclear plant tender

Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom said yesterday it had filed an application to be a strategic investor in a nuclear power plant project in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is seeking a strategic investor for its revived Belene project on the Danube, which is estimated to cost at least 10 billion euro (US$11.1 billion).

Sofia cancelled the project in 2012 after failing to find investors and as it faced pressure from the United States and the European Union to limit Bulgaria's energy dependence on Russia, which had been under contract to build the plant.

The deadline for submitting letters of interest for investing in the project expired yesterday.

A Rosatom spokesman declined to provide further details of the company's application. – Nampa/Reuters

Google cuts some Android phone data

Alphabet Inc's Google has shut down a service it provided to wireless carriers globally that showed them weak spots in their network coverage, people familiar with the matter told Reuters, because of Google's concerns that sharing data from users of its Android phone system might attract the scrutiny of users and regulators.

The withdrawal of the service, which has not been previously reported, has disappointed wireless carriers that used the data as part of their decision-making process on where to extend or upgrade their coverage. Even though the data were anonymous and the sharing of it has become commonplace, Google’s move illustrates how concerned the company has become about drawing attention amid a heightened focus in much of the world on data privacy.

Google's Mobile Network Insights service, which had launched in March 2017, was essentially a map showing carriers signal strengths and connection speeds they were delivering in each area.

The service was provided free to carriers and vendors that helped them manage operations. The data came from devices running Google’s Android operating system, which is on about 75% of the world's smartphones, making it a valuable resource for the industry.

Google spokeswoman Victoria Keough confirmed the move but declined to elaborate, saying only that changing "product priorities" were behind it. – Nampa/Reuters

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