COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

29 September 2020 | Business

ArcelorMittal in talks to merge

ArcelorMittal SA, the world's largest steelmaker, is exploring a deal to merge its US operations with Cleveland-Cliffs Inc, the largest US producer of iron ore pellets, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

The combination would signal a new push among steelmakers to consolidate and diversify their business, making it less vulnerable to swings in demand. It would come after Cleveland-Cliffs acquired AK Steel, a US maker of flat-rolled carbon steels, including stainless steel, for US$3 billion, including debt, last March.

The latest deal could result in the merger of US assets of Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal that are worth between US$2 billion and US$3 billion with Cleveland-Cliffs, one of the sources said. It would be transformative for Cleveland-Cliffs, which has a market value of US$2.3 billion and had total long-term debt as of the end of June of US$4.5 billion.

There is no certainty the negotiations will lead to a deal, the sources said. If, however, the talks prove successful, a deal could be announced in the coming days, one of the sources added.

The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. ArcelorMittal and Cleveland-Cliffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. – Nampa/Reuters

Qatar Airways receives US$1.95 bln

Qatar Airways received a 7.3 billion-riyal (US$1.95 billion) lifeline from the Qatar government after losing 7 billion riyals in the year to March 31, the state-owned group disclosed on Sunday.

Several countries, including the United States, have stepped in to help airlines hammered by the coronavirus crisis that brought global travel to a near-halt earlier this year.

The lifeline was provided to Qatar Airways after annual losses exceeded 50% of share capital and was later converted into new shares, said the airline's financial statement.

Qatar Airways, which has slashed jobs and delayed new aircraft deliveries due to the pandemic, flagged in March that it would seek state support but had not until now disclosed the funding.

The airline said the 2019-20 financial year had been one of the most difficult in its nearly three-decade history, with losses widening from a restated 4.5-billion-riyal loss in the previous year. The airline saw revenue increase 6.5% to 51.1 million riyal. Passengers carried rose 10% to 32.4 million. – Nampa/Reuters

SoftBank brings food service robot

SoftBank’s robotics arm said it will bring a food service robot developed by California-based Bear Robotics to Japan as restaurants grapple with labour shortages and seek to ensure social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The robot named Servi, which has layers of trays and is equipped with 3D cameras and Lidar sensors for navigation, will launch in January, SoftBank Group Corp said.

Servi will cost 99 800 yen (US$950) per month excluding tax on a three-year plan. The launch leverages SoftBank’s long experience in bringing overseas technology to Japan but reflects the shift away from CEO Masayoshi Son’s earlier focus on humanoid robots.

Servi has been tested by Japanese restaurant operators, including Seven & i Holdings at its Denny’s chain, as the sector grapples with an aging workforce and deepening labour shortages.

SoftBank’s humanoid Pepper robot became the face of the company following its 2014 unveiling but failed to find a global customer base. – Nampa/Reuters

Judge to rule on Uber

A judge is set to tell Uber whether it has won back its London operating licence after it was removed over safety concerns, the latest stage of a long-running battle with the regulator in one of its most important markets.

Transport for London (TfL) refused in 2019 to grant the Silicon Valley-based company a new licence due to what it called a “pattern of failures”, including thousands of trips conducted where drivers other than those advertised picked up passengers.

The taxi app, which was also denied a licence by TfL in 2017 before a judge restored it on a probationary basis, appealed the decision and says it has improved insurance document verification systems and rolled out real-time identification.

Uber’s 45 000 drivers in London are still able to operate until the appeals process is exhausted, which could go on for many more months depending on any further legal action after Monday’s verdict.

Senior District Judge Tan Ikram is set to hand down his decision from 1000 BST (0900 GMT) at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. TfL did not take a formal position during hearings earlier this month on whether Uber should now obtain a licence. – Nampa/Reuters

Unifor approves tentative deal with Ford

Local union leadership in Canada across all Ford Motor Co F.N locals in both trades and production approved the tentative deal reached between Unifor and the company, the union said here on Sunday.

Ford will invest C$1.95 billion (US$1.46 billion) in its Oakville and Windsor plants in Canada as part of a tentative deal with Canadian autoworkers was announced last week.

The federal government, along with the Ontario government, is willing to invest in turning the Oakville plant over to the production of electric vehicles, an investment that could keep the facility open for years, a government source confirmed on Tuesday.

Ratification meetings are being held on Sunday to consider the tentative agreement’s details and vote results will be made available on Monday, the union said in a statement. – Nampa/Reuters

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