LA suspends Uber’s scooters and bikes permit after company refuses to share data

Los Angeles has suspended Uber’s permit to rent electric scooters and bicycles because the corporation refused to follow the city’s rules on data sharing.

The temporary suspension could result in the city confiscating scooters and bikes of Uber’s subsidiary Jump. It marks the latest conflict between local governments and the rideshare company, which has repeatedly flouted traditional transportation regulations.

Out of eight companies granted permits to operate scooters in LA, Uber is the only one that has refused to provide its data to the city, Colin Sweeney, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) spokesperson said Monday. The city suspended Uber’s permit last week, and if the company does not appeal the suspension by Friday, the permit would officially be revoked, he said.

Uber and its subsidiary Jump, which operates the scooters and bikes, have threatened to sue the city over the dispute.

“Our permit specifications are important … so that we can ensure the safety and livability of our neighborhoods, and so we can manage the companies and ensure they are abiding by the rules,” Sweeney told the Guardian. “Jump is the only one that is not in compliance.”

The LA suspension follows months of debate over a policy that requires the companies to provide data to the city on the trips each vehicle takes. The city argues that information helps it track the number of scooters and bikes in use and where they are being parked in an effort to address concerns about the electric vehicles clogging sidewalks and neighborhoods.

Uber and some privacy groups, however, have raised concerns about surveillance and have argued the tracking could allow for the misuse of personal data.

“We believe that LADOT’s requirements to share sensitive real-time location data compromises our customers’ expectations of data privacy and security,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “Independent privacy experts have clearly and repeatedly asserted that a customer’s geolocation is personally identifiable information.”

The statement said Uber had no choice but to “pursue a legal challenge”, adding, “We sincerely hope to arrive at a solution that allows us to provide reasonable data and work constructively with the City of Los Angeles while protecting the privacy of our riders.”

The city has strict privacy and confidentiality standards, and the data is not subject to public records requests, said Sweeney: “It’s held in the highest confidence. The city only collects data on scooters, not riders.”

Uber received multiple warnings about the potential suspension before it went into effect. Users in LA can still rent Jump bikes and scooters this week while the permit is suspended, but if it is formally revoked, it will no longer be lawful for the company to operate. At that point, the bikes and scooters would be subject to confiscation, said Sweeney.

Jump’s permit allows for 5,500 scooters and bikes, and the company currently has more than 2,000 on the streets of LA. The city approved a total of 36,170 dockless vehicles across LA, including permits for Uber, Lyft, Lime, Bird, Spin and several others.

The arrival of scooters in cities across America has prompted a number of legal battles.

In Santa Monica, California, the city filed a criminal complaint against the company Bird after scooters appeared on the streets overnight before legislation had been adopted. San Francisco initially banned scooters after a chaotic rollout.

Over the years, Uber has also defied regulations surrounding self-driving cars, and in 2016 was forced to remove them from San Francisco.

Lufthansa cancels 1,300 flights as it braces for 48-hour strike

German airline Lufthansa (LHA.DE) said it will cancel a total of 1,300 flights on Thursday and Friday, after a Frankfurt labour court ruled in favour of the UFO union, permitting it to go ahead with a 48-hour strike over pay and conditions.

Some 180,000 passengers will be affected, with as 700 out of a planned 3000 flights are struck on Thursday, and 600 more on Friday.

The strike is likely to cause travel chaos, just as Berlin gears up for a weekend of celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary oft he fall oft he Berlin Wall.

Lufthansa ($LHA.DE) said that anyone with a ticket for Thursday or Friday can rebook on a Lufthansa Group flight within the next 10 days, or convert domestic flights for train tickets.

Lufthansa said it will immediately appeal the court‘s decision not to grant it an injunction. Its subsidiary airlines, including Eurowings and SunExpress, could also be affected by the staff walkout.

Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr invited UFO and two other workers unions to talks on Wednesday night, to no avail—UFO said negotiations were deadlocked. The union already staged a warning strike at Lufthansa’s subsidiary airlines in October and got a 2% pay rise.

Rollback of China tariffs faces fierce opposition in White House

An agreement between the United States and China to roll back existing tariffs as part of a “phase one” trade deal faces fierce internal opposition in the White House and from outside advisers, multiple sources familiar with the talks said.

The idea of a tariff rollback was not part of the original October “handshake” deal between Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. President Donald Trump, the sources said.

Chinese officials said earlier on Thursday that tariff reductions had been agreed, and a U.S. official confirmed that was the case early Thursday afternoon.

But there is a divide within the administration over whether rolling back tariffs will give away U.S. leverage in the negotiations, current and former administration officials said.

The Chinese Communist Party is trying to “re-trade” the agreement, said Stephen Bannon, former White House adviser. He added that rolling back earlier tariffs “goes against the grain” of the original October agreement.

“There’s nothing that Trump hates more” than someone backtracking on a deal, he said.

No one inside the White House would go on the record to confirm the division, and the United States Trade Representative’s office has not commented on whether or not there will be tariff rollbacks.

This is “very like” Beijing, said Christian Whiton, a former adviser in the Trump administration on East Asia issues. China’s Communist Party is a using a “hyper-aggressive negotiation strategy of trying to redefine reality,” he said.

“At the end of the day, Trump is the original hawk” on China trade, said Whiton. “I would be very surprised” if he agreed to this.

France’s EDF expects six new nuclear reactors to cost 46 billion euros

French power utility EDF estimates it would cost at least 46 billion euros ($51 billion) to build six of its latest generation EPR nuclear reactors if the government decides to build them, French newspaper Le Monde reported on Saturday.

The estimate was in a confidential document presented to the board of state-controlled EDF at the end of July, it said.

EDF declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Each reactor would cost 7.5 billion to 7.8 billion euros, based on building the reactors in pairs with financing over about 20 years, Le Monde reported.

The EPR model is the latest generation reactor being built by EDF, with complex engineering and enhanced safety features put in place after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan.

However, the Flamanville EPR reactor under construction in northern France has been plagued by cost overruns and a series of technical problems resulting in years of delays.

EDF, in which the state has an 84% stake, said in October the project which began in 2006 would cost 1.5 billion euros more than previously expected, raising the total cost to 12.4 billion euros.

Exclusive: Failed Exxon talks left Petrobras stranded for auctions

As the weeks ticked down to Brazil’s biggest-ever oil auction, state-run Petrobras held increasingly frantic talks to find potential partners, with the heaviest blow coming when major Exxon Mobil Corp pulled out days before, according to six people familiar with the matter.

While many firms were far from ready to take on enormous signing fees and investments, Exxon came closest but ultimately failed to reach acceptable terms for the blockbuster bidding round, according to four of the sources, who requested anonymity to discuss confidential negotiations.

With that, the state firm formally known as Petroleo Brasileiro SA was left to anchor an embarrassingly empty bidding round on Wednesday with token support from Chinese firms.

The big Brazilian round was the latest offshore auction this year to undershoot expectations, hurt by competition from shale oil and other unconventional sources as well as lower demand forecasts.

Most of the talks to form consortia between Petrobras and other oil firms were and brief and informal, according to the sources. But negotiations with Exxon were relatively advanced, offering the major a large stake in the coveted Buzios oil block until talks fell apart in the last few weeks, sources said.

The ill-fated talks show how even global firms that were seriously interested in the landmark “transfer-of-rights” (TOR) auction on Wednesday could not accept the terms of a required partnership with Petrobras – long seen as a bottleneck to the development of Brazil’s most promising deepwater resources.

The proposed Exxon-Petrobras consortium, which would have included the two Chinese state firms that ultimately bought 10% of Buzios block’ rights, CNODC and CNOOC, would have given a seal of private-sector approval to the landmark auction.

Instead the lack of major partners revealed how the powerful role of Petrobras in the so-called “pre-salt polygon,” along with complicated development terms and expensive signing fees discourage interest, even among majors with large purchasing power, in one of the world’s biggest proven oil reserves.

Exxon and Petrobras did not respond to requests for comment.

CNOOC and CNPC did not immediately respond to e-mails sent outside business hours.

DIFFERENCES EMERGE

Much remains unclear as to why the talks did not bear fruit.

One source said the Petrobras and Exxon disagreed over the way billions of dollars would be paid to the Brazilian firm in compensation for prior investments. Others cited differences over how much to invest in platforms to ramp up production.

Exxon was interested in taking over operations at the field, a non-starter for Petrobras, according to one of the sources.

All sources agreed that the complicated nature of the TOR auction played a major role in keeping the talks from reaching the finish line. This has been confirmed by Brazilian authorities to explain why the country failed to catch money from foreign oil companies.

“It’s an awful system,” Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said on Thursday. “You have to go through many layers of negotiations just to get to the oil.”

Due to an agreement signed between Petrobras and the Brazilian government in 2010, the state firm already has rights to develop up to 5 billion barrels of oil in the TOR area. The Wednesday auction concerned oil in the TOR area in excess of what Petrobras had already been promised.

As a result, any winning member of a consortium would have needed to bang out a complex deal reconciling itself with the existing claims of Petrobras in the region. Brazil’s government would then have needed to approve the deal.

WEAK COMPETITION

In the end, the state-run company was nearly alone in submitting minimum bids for two of the four areas in the TOR bidding round, which officials hoped would cement Brazil’s ascendance as Latin America’s undisputed oil powerhouse.

Petrobras won Itapu, the smallest block up for grabs, with a solo offer. Sepia and Atapu, the second and third largest blocks respectively, received no bids.

Had the government sold off all areas, it would have reaped some 106.5 billion reais ($25.8 billion) in signing bonuses. Instead Brazil got just under 70 billion reais.

The following day, Petrobras was also almost completely alone when bidding for the largest of five oil blocks offered at the country’s sixth pre-salt bidding round, the Aram area. China’s CNODC again accompanied the state-run company by committing to a 20% stake.

The results of both rounds were widely seen as a disappointment, as no private firms placed bids for fields that are known to hold billions of barrels of untapped crude.

Economy Minister Guedes told Reuters on Friday that the week’s auctions were a “condemnation” of the production-sharing system Brazil uses in the pre-salt polygon, adding that the country needs to shift toward a concession model.

Following the results, Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque said the government had learned a lesson, and would adjust the rules of any future auction. That could involve lowering the minimum signing bonuses required from bidders, among other parameters, he said.

“We’re evaluating the whole process, and we’re certain that we’re going to correct it,” Albuquerque told Reuters.

Oil drops on concern over U.S.-China trade talks progress, oversupply

Oil prices fell on Monday amid renewed doubts over the prospects of a trade deal between the United States and China, while concerns over excess supplies also weighed on the market.

Brent crude was down 55 cents, or 0.9%, at $61.96 by 0350 GMT. The contract rose 1.3% last week.

U.S. crude was 47 cents, or 0.8%, lower at $56.77 a barrel, having risen 1.9% last week.

Trump said on Saturday that trade talks with China were moving along “very nicely,” but the United States would only make a deal with Beijing if it was the right one for America.

The 16-month trade war between the world’s two biggest economies has slowed economic growth around the world and prompted analysts to lower forecasts for oil demand, raising concerns that a supply glut could develop in 2020.

Trump also said there had been incorrect reporting about U.S. willingness to lift tariffs as part of a “phase one” agreement, news of which had boosted markets.

Underlining the impact of the trade war, data over the weekend showed that China’s producer prices fell the most in more than three years in October, as the manufacturing sector weakened, hit by the dispute and declining demand.

“Oil prices are dampened by re-escalating trade uncertainties and a strengthening U.S. dollar,” said Margarat Yang, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore.

“Supply is expected to remain ample in the near term as OPEC showed it is reluctant for further cuts, while production in North America remains robust,” she added.

The oil market outlook for next year may have upside potential, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said last week, suggesting there is no need to cut output further.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies led by Russia meet in December. The so-called OPEC+ alliance, seeking to boost oil prices, has since January cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day until March 2020.

Money managers boosted their net long U.S. crude futures and options positions in the week to Nov. 5 by 22,512 contracts to 138,389, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said.

In the United States, energy companies last week reduced the number of oil rigs operating for a third week in a row. Drillers cut seven rigs in the week to Nov. 8, bringing the total count down to 684, the lowest since April 2017, Baker Hughes said.

WhatsApp update drains battery on Android phones, users claim

The latest update to WhatsApp is draining the battery of Android phones, according to some users.

Owners of OnePlus phones appear to be particularly affected by the issue, with reports appearing in forums, Google Play Store comments and across social media.

Other problems with the popular messaging app also seem to have surfaced since the release of the most recent version for Android.

“Unfortunately, since the last update I can’t download nor send photos [or] videos,” one user wrote in one of the most popular comments on WhatsApp’s Google Play Store page.

“The screen keeps telling me that the media file doesn’t exist on this device. Also, the battery drainage has exponentially grown. When I’m on the road I always need to bring my powerbank to ensure I’m reachable for colleagues when working.”

Other WhatsApp users shared screenshots of their battery usage on Twitter, complaining that the app was accounting for the majority of their battery use despite not using it much.

One OnePlus 5T user wrote: “It really freaks me when I see the battery stats just to know WhatsApp is sucking the battery like anything”.

Despite being tagged in many of the tweets, the Facebook-owned app did not respond to affected users. The Independent has reached out to WhatsApp for comment.

Reddit users reported similar issues with other devices, including the Google Pixel 3, Pixel 4, Huawei P20 Pro and certain models of Xiaomi smartphones.

“WhatsApp has been draining the battery insanely,” one user wrote. “I think I’ve seen 33 per cent of all battery consumption by WhatsApp on the stats.”

The latest WhatsApp 2.19.308 update introduced several new features, including biometric security that allows users to secure their private conversations and group chats with their fingerprints.

Owners of iPhones and other iOS devices do not appear to be facing any problems with their battery when using WhatsApp.

Telecoms giant Vodafone smashed by India Supreme Court ruling

Vodafone (VOD.L) unveiled a €1.9bn (£1.6bn, $2bn) loss in the six months to 30 September after a Supreme Court ruling in India set in a motion a raft a huge fees for the telecoms giant.

“In October the Supreme Court in India ruled against the industry in a dispute over the calculation of license and other regulatory fees, and Vodafone Idea is now liable for very substantial demands made by the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) in relation to these fees,” it said in a statement.

“We are actively engaging with the government to seek financial relief for Vodafone Idea. Given the ruling our guidance now excludes recharges from India (a drag of c.€0.1 billion on our free cash flow) and Indus Towers dividends (a drag of c.€0.15 billion on our free cash flow).”

Vodafone said its liability “appears to be at least €3.7bn but could be substantially higher.”

The ruling centres around the Indian government’s claim that Vodafone owes billions under its calculation of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) following a telecom tribunal judgement in 2015. Currently, operators have only paid up what they estimated was due but the DoT is demanding the alleged remainder from companies.

However, Vodafone said improvements in South Africa, Spain and Italy and a solid retail performance in Germany helped grow organic service revenue by 0.3% in the first half of the year. It also upped earnings guidance.

“I am pleased by the speed at which we are executing on the strategic priorities that we announced this time last year. This is reflected in our return to top-line growth in the second quarter, which we expect to build upon in the second half of the year in both Europe and Africa,” said Nick Read, CEO Vodafone.

“The consistency of our commercial performance has improved in both regions, and we have made a fast start on integrating the acquired Liberty Global businesses, where we see significant long-term opportunity.

“Our digital transformation is already creating a better experience for our customers, improving our differentiation, supporting growth and at the same time reducing our structural costs.

“We have now secured network sharing agreements across most of our major European markets, and we recently announced a major long-term wholesale partnership with Virgin Media in the UK, in order to improve the utilisation of our network assets. And we expect our European TowerCo to be operational by May next year, enabling us to continue to unlock the significant value embedded in our tower infrastructure.”

Shares are tentatively moving to the upside as Vodafone returned to growth in the second quarter this year.

Alibaba poised to launch record-breaking $15 billion Hong Kong share sale

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is poised to launch a Hong Kong share sale expected to raise up to $15 billion (11.7 billion pounds) as soon as Thursday, according to two sources with knowledge of the discussions.

While Alibaba executives are preparing for a Thursday launch, sources said the timing could slip depending on developments in Hong Kong’s ongoing protests.

The deal – the world’s biggest cross-border secondary listing – will be seen as a boost for Hong Kong, which recently entered its first recession in a decade as more than five months of street protests and worries about the U.S.-China trade war take their toll.

Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company had been planning to sell the shares earlier this year but in August postponed the deal as the protests rocking Hong Kong since June became increasingly violent.

Hyundai to make Santa Cruz pickups at Alabama plant in $410 million expansion

South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor will start making its Santa Cruz pickup trucks at its U.S. factory in 2021, with an investment of $410 million (£320.41 million), as it seeks a foothold in the popular, but highly competitive, segment led by U.S. rivals.

The Alabama factory expansion was announced as President Donald Trump is expected this week to push back a self-imposed deadline on whether to put tariffs of up to 25% on imported cars and parts.

Hyundai has invested more than $1.1 billion in the Montgomery region in the last 18 months, with the latest move expected to add 200 new jobs and 1,000 people employed by regional suppliers and logistics companies.

The factory, which began production in 2005, was Hyundai’s first assembly and manufacturing plant in the United States and now has 2,900 full-time and 500 part-time employees.

Hyundai, whose late response to the SUV market took a heavy toll on its sales in the United States, China and other markets, has expanded its SUV offerings in recent years.

The Santa Cruz pickup truck, introduced as a concept vehicle four years ago, will be its first for the U.S. market, joining three models – the Sonata, Elantra sedans and the Santa Fe SUV, now made in its sole U.S. factory.

Last year, the United States and South Korea agreed to revise a trade pact sharply criticized by Trump, striking a deal to extend U.S. tariffs on Korean-made pickup trucks by 20 years, until 2041.