COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

30 June 2020 | Business

British Airways sacks 350 pilots

British Airways, which has said it needs to cut 12 000 jobs and proposed pay cuts for cabin crew, has reached a deal with its pilots that will see 350 laid off and another 300 put in a 'pool' for rehiring when needed.

Captains and first officers placed in the pool do not currently have an aircraft to operate and will remain on half-pay, the report said, while all other operating flight crew will take a 15% pay cut.

Once 'pooled' pilots return, operating flight crew members will get 7.5% of their deducted pay back, while the rest of the pay cut will be lost, the report added. The majority of pilots being 'pooled' will be Boeing 747 jumbo jet first officers.

British Airways, owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, said in an emailed statement that "constructive talks are ongoing with (UK pilots union) BALPA to save as many jobs as possible

Reuters reported last week that British Airways has made a proposal to its cabin crew on pay cuts. The airline plans to lay off a quarter of its pilots. – Nampa/Reuters

Biotec Group sees promise in vaccine

China National Biotec Group (CNBG) said on Sunday that early human test results for a coronavirus vaccine candidate suggested it could be safe and effective, the second vaccine candidate from the firm to show encouraging results in a clinical trial.

The experimental shot, developed by a Beijing-based unit of CNBG, has induced high-level antibodies in all the inoculated participants in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial involving 1 120 healthy people, according to preliminary data of the trial, CNBG said in a posting on the social media platform WeChat.

Chinese companies and researchers have been allowed to test eight vaccine candidates in humans at home and abroad, making China a major front-runner in the race to develop a shot against the virus that has killed nearly 500 000 people globally.

CNBG, affiliated to the state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), said earlier this month that another vaccine candidate produced by its Wuhan-based unit also triggered high-level antibodies safely in clinical trial participants based on preliminary results.

A vaccine has to prove its effectiveness in "Phase 3" human test where thousands of participants are recruited in order to be cleared for sale. – Nampa/Reuters

Sony sees software subscription as future

Sony Corp's image sensor business aims to replicate PlayStation's success to address its reliance on a handful of manufacturers in the fickle smartphone market.

Transforming the light-converting chips into a platform for software essentially akin to the PlayStation Plus video games service amounts to a sea change for the US$10 billion business, which built its dominance through hardware breakthroughs.

The effort chimes with Sony's pursuit of recurring revenue after years of loss in the volatile consumer electronics sector. Success, analysts said, could serve as a rejoinder to activist investor Daniel Loeb's calls for the business to be spun off.

"We have a solid position in the market for image sensors, which serve as a gateway for imaging data," said Sony's Hideki Somemiya, who heads a new team developing sensor applications.

Analysis of such data with artificial intelligence (AI) "would form a market larger than the growth potential of the sensor market itself in terms of value," Somemiya said in an interview. – Nampa/Reuters

Nissan denies corporate conspiracy

Nissan Motor Co Ltd blasted suggestions in media reports of a conspiracy within the company to oust former chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Ghosn's 2018 arrest in Japan on financial misconduct charges has led to much speculation that the move was orchestrated by Nissan executives who opposed closer ties with partner Renault SA.

"I know that in books and the media there has been talk about a conspiracy but there are no facts whatsoever to support this," Motoo Nagai, chairman of Nissan's auditing committee, told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting.

Responding to demands from a shareholder to address the speculation, Nagai argued that the investigation into Ghosn was conducted both internally and by outside law firms.

Monday's meeting lasted almost two hours - twice as long as planned, as shareholders grilled chief executive Makoto Uchida on how he planned to restore trust in the company following the Ghosn scandal, and revive sales in the United States and China. – Nampa/Reuters

Rio Tinto reaches power supply deal

Rio Tinto said that Mongolia would build a coal-fired plant that would supply power to its giant Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in the country, with construction set to start by this time next year.

The Mongolian state owns 34% in the Oyu Tolgoi project, while Rio's majority-owned Turquoise Hill Resources has a 66% stake.

The mining giant said in a statement it will amend its current power supply agreement with the Mongolian government by March 2021, under which the government will begin construction of a coal-fired power plant at Tavan Tolgoi by July 2021.

The notice confirms that Rio will not have to build its own 300 MW coal power plant, which it had earlier estimated could cost US$924 million. The Rio statement doesn't disclose details of its power purchase arrangement with the government.

The plant is expected to come on stream within the next four years. Until then, power supply to the mine and the underground project, which is sourced from China, will continue under the current terms, it said. – Nampa/Reuters

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