Uber pledges to make drivers happier

Uber drivers in south africa

Uber’s relationship with its drivers has become increasingly strained, the company admitted on Tuesday, as it vowed to improve its service.

The ride-sharing firm told the media some of its policies were “unintentionally stacked against drivers”.

In particular, drivers for the company will now have more ability to defend themselves against rider complaints and refunds.

Uber also spoke about its continuing investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and “toxic” working culture.

The news follows the recent departure of the company’s president Jeff Jones, who said the “beliefs and approach” at Uber were “inconsistent” with his own views. Part of Mr Jones’s job at the company had been to manage the relationship between the company and its drivers.

Mr Jones held a Q+A session with drivers in February which provoked angry responses – one driver remarked: “The ONLY thing you made clear to the majority of us is that you don’t have ANY productive answers.”

Real-time ID

Rachel Holt, who manages Uber’s operations in the US and Canada, conceded that the firm had underinvested in the driver experience and that the firm was now “re-examining everything we do”.

uber pick up laguardiaImage copyrightAP
Image captionMany drivers want a tip option included on the app

Last month, Uber’s embattled chief executive Travis Kalanick was recorded arguing with a driver about falling fares. The incident prompted Mr Kalanick to admit he needed “leadership help”. The company later announced it was hiring a chief operating officer.

Central to Uber’s plan to appease its drivers is giving more weight to their own defence in the face of customer complaints.

Ms Holt cited the example of a driver in Toronto who had worked more than 8,000 trips – but after receiving just three complaints was barred from using the service (though he was later reinstated).

Ms Holt said drivers who had amassed a long history of trips would be treated differently to a newer driver.

“We need to bring more humanity to the way we interact with drivers,” Ms Holt said in a call with reporters.

“We’re updating many customer support policies that were unintentionally stacked against drivers.

“We also need to give drivers a say in fare adjustments instead of relying on what a rider tells us.”

However, the promises fell short of what many drivers have been calling for.

“If Uber truly cares about ‘growing up’ and listening to drivers, they should start by adding a tipping option,” said Ryan Price from the Independent Drivers’ Guild, an organisation that represents ride-sharing workers in New York.

Eric HolderImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionFormer Attorney-General ERIC Holder will investigate sexism allegations at Uber

“That’s the number one request from drivers.”

Rival services such as Lyft allow riders to use the app to tip drivers after a ride has completed – but Uber has so far rejected adding the option.

Sexism update

In February Uber was rocked by a former employee’s devastating assessment of her time working at the company. She detailed several instances of sexual harassment and a culture that did not welcome women.

In response, Uber announced it would launch an investigation led by Eric Holder, who served under President Barack Obama as attorney-general, the highest ranking police officer in the US.

Liane Hornsey, Uber’s new head of human resources, said more than 100 “listening sessions” had taken place across the company.

“The focus of the company has been on the business and not the employees,” she told reporters.

She said the atmosphere at the company had created a “cult of the individual”.

The company reiterated its promise to release a report on diversity at Uber by the end of this month.

Toyota to invest £240m in UK plant at Burnaston

Toyota is to invest £240m in upgrading its UK factory that makes the Auris and Avensis models.

The Japanese carmaker’s investment in the Burnaston plant near Derby will allow production of vehicles using its new global manufacturing system.

The factory employs about 2,500 people, while another 590 work at Toyota’s engine plant at Deeside, North Wales.

Burnaston made about 180,000 vehicles last year, most of which are exported to Europe and other markets.

Johan van Zyl, chief executive of Toyota Motor Europe, said the investment showed that the company was doing all it could to make Burnaston more competitive.

However, he warned: “Continued tariff-and-barrier free market access between the UK and Europe that is predictable and uncomplicated will be vital for future success.”

Burnaston factoryImage copyrightREUTERS

Industry trade body the SMMT said in January that uncertainty around Brexit and the UK’s future trading arrangements had hit investment in the car sector.

Investment commitments in the UK automotive sector last year totalled £1.66bn, down from £2.5bn in 2015.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said Toyota’s investment “underlines the company’s faith in its employees and will help ensure the plant is well positioned for future Toyota models to be made in the UK”.

The government is providing £21.3m in funding for training, research and development, and improving the Burnaston plant’s environmental performance.

Last year, rival carmaker Nissan said it would build both the new Qashqai and the X-Trail SUV at its Sunderland plant following government “support and assurances”.


Analysis

Toyota AurisImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

John Moylan, industry correspondent

The decision to upgrade the plant to take Toyota’s New Global Architecture, its new system for producing vehicles worldwide, suggests the company sees the UK as part of its long-term future.

But the UK’s automotive industry knows that Brexit is coming and with it the possibility of tariffs and complex customs arrangements.

That threatens the competitiveness of carmakers that rely upon the kind of just-in-time manufacturing which Toyota pioneered.

Read more from John here.


Profit fall

The general secretary of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, said Toyota workers “need to know that the government has their back and will do whatever is necessary to ensure new models and new investment keeps coming to Britain”.

“With discussions set to start on the replacement of models such as Vauxhall’s Astra and decisions due on BMW’s electric Mini, it is vital that ministers calm nerves by stating they will secure tariff-free access to the European single market and customs union in Brexit negotiations.”

In January, Toyota announced it was planning to spend $10bn (£8.2bn) in the USover the next five years.

The firm lost its crown as the world’s biggest carmaker to Volkswagen last year.

Last month, Toyota said it expected to report net profits of 1.7 trillion yen ($15.1bn; £12.1bn) for the 2016-17 financial year. However, that was lower than the 2.1 trillion yen profit it recorded a year earlier.

Oil prices fall after Opec stocks riseOil pump

Oil prices have fallen after the Opec group of oil producing nations said global crude stocks had risen.

A surprise output jump from its biggest member, Saudi Arabia, put further pressure on prices.

Gains made since Opec announced output cuts late last year have nearly all been erased.

Saudi Arabia said it was “committed” to stabilising the global oil market, and that its output was still in line with its Opec target.

“Despite the supply adjustment, stocks have continued to rise, not just in the US, but also in Europe,” Opec said in its report. “Nevertheless, prices have undoubtedly been provided a floor by the production accords.”

Saudi Arabia’s production increased to 10.011 million barrels per day in February compared with 9.748 million barrels per day in January.

Saudi Arabia “is committed and determined to stabilise the global oil market by working closely with all other participating Opec and non-Opec producers”, its energy ministry said.

Oil prices fell after the release of the Opec report to trade close to $50 (£41) a barrel, their lowest since November.

Crude prices are still higher than $40 per barrel a year ago and a 12-year low of about $28 in January 2016.

The price of Brent crude settled about 0.5% down at $51.09 per barrel, while US crude was at $47.90.

Intel buys driverless car technology firm MobileyeDriverless car

US chipmaker Intel is taking a big bet on driverless cars with a $15.3bn (£12.5bn) takeover of specialist Mobileye.

Intel will pay $63.54 a share in cash for the Israeli company, which develops “autonomous driving” systems.

Mobileye and Intel are already working together, along with German carmaker BMW, to put 40 test vehicles on the road in the second half of this year.

Intel expects the driverless market to be worth as much as $70bn by 2030.

Jerusalem-based Mobileye has contracts with 27 car makers. It also controls about two thirds of the market for software that runs automatic emergency braking and semi-autonomous cruise control systems already fitted to cars and trucks.

Technology companies are racing to launch driverless cars.

Earlier this month, Nissan test drove a converted Leaf vehicle and said it hoped to make the cars available by 2020.

Google has also done extensive development of driverless cars.

Announcing the deal, Intel said that as cars “progress from assisted driving to fully autonomous, they are increasingly becoming data centres on wheels”.

The chipmaker reckons that by 2020 driverless cars will generate 4,000 GB, or 4 terabytes, of data a day that can be mined for information.

Mobileye logoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Betsy Van Hees, analyst at Loop Capital Markets, said Intel had very little presence in the automotive market, “so this is a tremendous opportunity for them to get into a market that has significant growth opportunities”.

Timothy Carone, a Notre Dame University academic, said: “Major players are finding ways finding ways to position themselves for a change as seminal as the personal computer revolution.”

Shares in Intel fell 2.2% to $35.10 in New York.

Mobileye was founded in 1999 to develop “vision-based systems to improve on-road safety and reduce collisions”.

The company, along with Intel’s automated driving group, will be based in Israel and led by Amnon Shashua, Mobileye’s co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer.

In its results for last year, Mobileye said revenue more than tripled to $358m, while pre-tax profit jumped from $79.7m to $125.4m.

HSBC appoints AIA boss as new chairmanMark

HSBC has appointed Mark Tucker, the current chief executive of Asian insurer AIA, as group chairman.

Mr Tucker will take over on 1 October, succeeding Douglas Flint who has been in the role since 2010.

During seven years as chief executive of AIA, Mr Tucker oversaw the insurer’s expansion in Asia.

One of his first jobs will be to find a replacement for Stuart Gulliver, the current chief executive of HSBC, who plans to step down next year.

AIA said that Ng Keng Hooi, would take over as chief executive from 1 September.

HSBC is Europe’s biggest bank, but the bulk of its profits are generated in Asia.

The bank has been through an overhaul in recent years in an attempt to reverse declining profits.

Over the last six years it has slashed more than 40,000 jobs and sold off businesses.

Despite those efforts, profits tumbled more than 60% last year.

HSBC, Hong KongImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

The banking industry has been hampered by the extended period of very low interest rates, which makes lending money less profitable.

For HSBC that problem has been compounded by its move into less risky areas of banking since the financial crisis which started in 2007.

Those challenges make the appointment of a new chief executive even more crucial for investors, a search which will now be led by Mr Tucker.

Reputation revamp

HSBC has also been attempting to repair its image after a series of scandals.

Earlier this year it reached a $470m (£325m) settlement with the US government and states related to dubious mortgage lending and foreclosure practices during the financial crisis.

In 2015 Mr Gulliver and Mr Flint apologised for “unacceptable” practices at its Swiss private bank which helped clients to avoid tax.

In late 2012 HSBC paid US authorities $1.9bn in a settlement over money laundering.

Trump trademarks approved by ChinaA sign in Lioaning Province

China has given US President Donald Trump the chance to expand his brand, after approving dozens of applications to register the Trump trademark.

Many of the requests, for industries from hotels to security, were made during the US election campaign.

President Trump, who already owns about 70 trademarks in China, has pledged not to strike new foreign business deals while in office.

Critics have warned the approvals could breach the US Constitution.

The Associated Press reported that 38 trademark requests had been provisionally given the go ahead.

The approvals still need to be rubber-stamped. If no one objects to them, they will be formally registered in 90 days.

In China it is not uncommon for celebrities or businesses to trademark their name, even if they have no immediate intention of using it, to protect it being used by others.

Conflict risk

Shortly before his inauguration, Mr Trump signed over his business interests to his sons – though critics said this did not go far enough.

When news of the trademark applications emerged earlier this year, experts from across the US political spectrum said granting them could be considered an “emolument” – the term for a fee, salary or profit provided by a foreign government.

A general view of the construction site of the under construction luxury apartment block, 'The Park' also dubbed as 'Trump Tower', is pictured in Mumbai on July 31, 2015.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDonald Trump has business interests around the world, including this Trump-branded (but not owned) project in Mumbai.

These are outlawed by the Constitution.

Barack Obama’s former ethics lawyer Norman Eisen said there was a risk of a conflict of interest.

“The concern of the constitution is that flows of benefit to presidents from foreign sovereigns will distort their judgment, and trademarks are certainly capable of that,” he said in January.

Meanwhile Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush, said the volume of new approvals raised questions about whether Beijing was being favourable to the US President.

“A routine trademark, patent or copyright from a foreign government is likely not an unconstitutional emolument, but with so many trademarks being granted over such a short time period, the question arises as to whether there is an accommodation in at least some of them,” he said.

Recently former US basketball star Michael Jordan won a trademark dispute over the use of his name in China.

China sees first monthly trade deficit in three yearsBeijing shoppers

China has reported its first monthly trade deficit in three years, after imports surged and a slowdown during the Lunar New Year holidays hit output.

Higher commodity prices and domestic demand were credited with pushing February’s imports up 38.1% on a year earlier.

But exports unexpectedly fell 1.3%, giving a trade deficit of $9.2bn for the month.

China’s monthly imports last exceeded exports in February 2014.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast China would have a monthly trade surplus of $25.8bn.

Import slowdown likely

The country’s economic data from January and February can be distorted by the long holidays, which see businesses slowing down and often cutting back operations or closing completely.

China factoryImage copyrightREUTERS

And most analysts agree that the latest data is just a blip, with a surplus inevitable again once the impact of the holidays tails off.

“The latest trade data suggest that, seasonal distortions aside, both exports and imports strengthened at the start of 2017,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.

“However we doubt that the current pace of import growth can be sustained. It is only a matter of time before we see a slowdown in domestic demand.”

Rebalancing

With the Chinese economy expanding at its slowest pace in 26 years in 2016, Beijing is likely to be heartened by the latest import figures, as it looks for signs of improvement.

Leaders are trying to rebalance the economy, reducing reliance on state investment and exports, and growing more through domestic consumption.

At the weekend, Premier Li Keqiang used his speech at the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC) to cut China’s annual growth target to 6.5%.

China’s trade balance was thrust back into the spotlight by Donald Trump during the US presidential election campaign.

He ramped up his protectionist rhetoric accusing Beijing of not giving US firms access to key Chinese markets, and of making it impossible for US firms to compete with Chinese imports because the value of the Chinese currency was kept artificially low.

However, since coming to office, Mr Trump has held off officially calling China a currency manipulator.