Nvidia partners with Uber, Volkswagen in self-driving technology

Nvidia Corp will partner with Uber Technologies Inc and Volkswagen AG as the graphics chipmaker’s artificial intelligence platforms make further gains in the autonomous vehicle industry.

The company, which already has partnerships in the industry with companies such as carmaker Tesla and China’s Baidu, makes computer graphics chips and has been expanding into technology for self-driving cars.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas that Uber’s self-driving car fleet was using their technology to help its autonomous cars perceive the world and make split-second decisions.

Uber has been using Nvidia’s GPU computing technology since its first test fleet of Volvo SC90 SUVS were deployed in 2016 in Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

Uber’s autonomous driving program has been shaken this year by a lawsuit filed in San Francisco by rival Waymo alleging trade secret theft.

Nvidia said development of the Uber self-driving program had, nevertheless, gained steam with one million autonomous miles being driven in just the past 100 days.

With Volkswagen, Nvidia said it was infusing its artificial intelligence technology into the German automakers’ future lineup, using their new Drive IX platform. The technology will enable so-called “intelligent co-pilot” capabilities based on processing sensor data inside and outside the car.

So far, 320 companies involved in self-driving cars - whether software developers, automakers and their suppliers, sensor and mapping companies - are using Nvidia Drive, formerly branded as the Drive PX2, the company said.

Huang said Baidu and German auto supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG [ZFF.UL] had selected Nvidia Drive for their AV computing platform development in China.

Nvidia added that its first Xavier processors would be delivered to customers this quarter. The system on a chip delivers 30 trillion operations per second using 30 watts of power.

Nvidia will collaborate with Silicon Valley startup Aurora - co-founded by the former head of Google’s autonomous program, Chris Urmson - to build a new self-driving hardware platform using the Xavier processor, Huang said.

Bets that Nvidia will become a leader in chips for driverless cars, data centers and artificial intelligence have more than doubled its stock price in the past 12 months, making the Silicon Valley company the third-strongest perfomer in the S&P 500 during that time.

By –Reuters

Pharma's market poised for global M&A recovery

Danish pharma giant Novo Nordisk has bid €2.6 billion for biotech Ablynx. The move, made public by Novo after Ablynx refused to enter negotiations, would value the company at up to €30.50 per share. The Belgian drugmaker specialises in treatments for rare blood disorders.

The takeover offer comes at a busy time for deals and investments in the sector, which are off to a quick start in the new year. Last week, Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical agreed to acquire TiGenix for €520 million, while US-based Celgene also struck a deal to buy cancer drugmaker Impact Biomedicines for $1.1 billion up front and a potential $1.25 billion extra depending on performance.

This recent flurry of M&A activity in pharmaceuticals and biotech has prompted analysts to predict a robust year for M&A across life sciences—a thesis underpinned in part by the massive overhaul to the US tax code that passed last month, which will reduce some of the credits for R&D that drugmakers once enjoyed, while also drawing down the penalty against repatriating cash held overseas.

That combination of forces will likely encourage biotech and pharma companies to buy rather than build innovative new treatments over the coming year. And dealmakers in the space have already hit the ground running. Celgene's purchase of Impact, for example, comes just three months after the company raised a $22.5 million Series A from Medicxi.

Not to be outdone, neurology specialist Acorda Therapeutics is exploring a possible sale, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that the embattled drugmaker has retained investment bankers from Centerview Partners and MTS Health Partners to field takeover bids. The decision represents a concession to activist investor Scopia Capital Management, which holds more than 17% of the company's outstanding shares and, since August, has urged the drugmaker to find a partner to develop its new Parkinson's treatment.

If they prove accurate, the analysts' predictions for a big year in 2018 would mark a shift, as a closer look at M&A in pharma and biotech over the past few years reveals a steadily declining global trend. From a high of close to €200 billion on 432 deals in 2015, this figure fell to €86.7 billion across just 351 deals last year, per the PitchBook Platform.

While 2015's deal count was high, an unusually large proportion of those deals, when compared with 2014 and 2016, was made up of divestitures, such as Abbot selling off its generics and non-US developed markets business for more than €10 billion. The largest divestiture of the year saw GSK ship its oncology business for nearly €15 billion.

By– PitchBook

Exclusive: SS&C in talks to buy DST Systems for over $5 billion -Sources

SS&C Technologies Holdings Inc is in advanced talks to acquire DST Systems Inc for more than $5 billion, as it seeks to expand its footprint in financial technology software, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The deal would bolster SS&C’s offerings in technology infrastructure servicing financial institutions such as asset managers, but would also allow it to enter the healthcare information technology market, in which DST is active.

SS&C is negotiating acquiring DST for around $84 per share in cash, the sources said. If the negotiations are successful, the deal could be announced as early as this week, the sources added, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. There is always a chance the deal talks end unsuccessfully, the sources added.

SS&C and DST did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

DST shares jumped 23 percent on the news to $80.68, giving it a market capitalization of $4.8 billion. SS&C shares rose 11 percent to $46.78 per share.

SS&C, which is based in Windsor, Connecticut, and has a market capitalization of close to $9 billion, has been acquisitive over the years building out its financial technology software expertise that serves banks and the investment industry. DST would be SS&C’s largest deal to date and its first big acquisition since its $2.3 billion takeover of Advent Software in 2015.

“Acquisitions have been a key part of SS&C’s growth story. DST, with roughly 80 percent of revenue stemming from investment fund data processing and fund administration, would seem to be a good fit,” Peter Heckman, research analyst at D.A. Davidson, said in an email.

Heckman added that SS&C, which has $103 million in cash and $2.26 billion in debt, would need to borrow more to make the deal happen, but he expects cost savings and potential divestitures to help.

An $84 per share offer by SS&C represents a 29 percent premium to DST’s closing share price on Tuesday.

SS&C and DST have had dealings in the past. In 2014, DST sold its global solutions unit to SS&C for $95 million in cash.

By – Reuters

Toyota, Mazda announce $1.6 billion plant for Huntsville, Alabama

Toyota Motor Corp and Mazda Motor Corp announced on Wednesday they will build a $1.6 billion joint assembly plant in Alabama that will employ up to 4,000 workers, a boost for President Donald Trump, who wants automakers to expand U.S. production.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Mazda President and Chief Executive Officer MasamichiKogai joined Alabama Governor Kay Ivey in Montgomery at an event to announce the decision.

“Welcome to sweet home Alabama,” Ivey said to the two executives, after saying that the anticipated 4,000 workers at the plant to be built in Huntsville would earn an average of $50,000 a year.

The plant will produce 300,000 vehicles a year and should open on a 2,500-acre former cotton field in 2021, about 14 miles from Toyota’s engine plant in Huntsville.

Toyota plans to build Corolla cars at the plant, while Mazda will build crossover SUVs.

“Together, I am confident we will create yet another ‘Built in America’ success story,” Toyoda said.

Alabama will provide tax incentives. Officials said the state tax incentives were worth $370 million, but they did not disclose how much the local incentives were worth.

But with U.S. auto industry sales are declining, the new plant could exacerbate overcapacity and add pressure to cut prices. U.S. new vehicle sales fell 2 percent in 2017, after hitting a record high in 2016, and are expected to fall further in 2018.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the plant will “provide jobs for decades to come for Huntsville and Alabama. It vaults Alabama to the top as an industry leader in producing the next generation of cars that will power our nation.”

Among U.S. states, Alabama is already the fifth largest producer of cars and light trucks. The state has more than 150 major auto suppliers and 57,000 automotive manufacturing jobs.

Two decades ago, Alabama spent an estimated $250 million to woo Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz to put an auto plant in Tuscaloosa, sparking the birth of auto production in the state.

In September, Daimler said it would invest $1 billion to expand its Alabama Mercedes-Benz plant to start building electric sport-utility vehicles there from about 2020.

Alabama is also home to assembly plants operated by Honda Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co. A Kia Motors Corp assembly plant operates near the Alabama border in Georgia.

Mazda and Toyota said they still need approvals and authorization by antitrust agencies for the new joint venture. They announced a capital alliance in August and plans to jointly develop technology for electric vehicles.

Trump tweeted in March that he wanted “new plants to be built here for cars sold here.” Many automakers have announced expansions of facilities or new jobs but no other new U.S. auto plants have been announced.

A year ago, shortly before his inauguration, Trump criticized Toyota and threatened hefty tariffs against the Japanese automaker if it built its Corolla sedan for the U.S. market in Mexico.

In announcing plans for a new plant in August, Toyota said it would shift production of Corollas from Canada to the new venture rather than in Guanajuato and would build Tacoma pickups in Mexico instead.

Toyota North America chief executive Jim Lentz said in an interview on Wednesday that pressure from Trump was not a factor in the decision to build the plant. “These plants are going to live 30, 50 years plus and we have to make good business decisions,” he said.

Lentz said it makes sense to build Corollas because Toyota needs the volume even in a declining car market. He called the $800 million investment a “bargain” to get the additional volume.

Toyota hopes to break ground this spring after initially getting more than 100 proposed sites from 22 states. “It was a daunting task,” Lentz said.

In October, Toyota said it would scale back investment in a planned plant in Mexico by 30 percent to $700 million and cut planned annual capacity in half to 100,000 vehicles as it shuffles its production plans to meet market demands.

Over the last 30 years Toyota and other automakers from Germany and other parts of Asia have built a second auto industry in the United States. Its size and employment rivals operations of the Detroit Three automakers, but with newer plants and fewer unionized workers.

U.S. states covet auto assembly plants because they typically pay above-average wages and spin off jobs at suppliers and service companies. Southern states have been home to the majority of new auto production by German and Asian automakers. These states generally have good transportation infrastructure, business-friendly regulators and anti-union politicians.

From – Reuters

How Huawei can break Apple and Samsung’s smartphone grip

Americans are boringly predictable when it comes to smartphone shopping. Roughly three-quarters of Americans with smartphones own either a Samsung or Apple device. Every other mobile phone maker is competing for scraps.

Perhaps the company with the best shot at shaking things up, China's Huawei Technologies Co, has suffered a big blow to its ambitions to dislodge the Coke and Pepsi of the US smartphone market.

For the many Americans who have never heard of the company, Huawei is the top-selling smartphone company in China and the third biggest in the world. Huawei is a fascinating and controversial beast of a technology-and-telecom company, but it's been largely sidelined in the US over concerns that its telecom equipment could be abused by China to spy or harm US networks. Huawei denies those fears.

And while it announced that it will sell its newest high-end Mate smartphone in the US for the first time, Huawei has an uphill battle. AT&T Inc won't sell the Huawei phone after a sales arrangement between the companies fell apart. (Those Chinese spying fears seemed to have been a culprit.) Mobile carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc sell the vast majority of smartphones in the US. Without the Mate in top phone carriers' stores and websites, Huawei has an incredibly tough task.

Tech news publication The Information reported Huawei may give up its US plans entirely. If the company does want to stick with its US sales plans, it will have to be much scrappier. I have four suggestions that may help:

1) Cosy up to Amazon: If Huawei can't count on sales from the main US wireless companies, then it helps to have another 800-pound gorilla in its corner. None perhaps are bigger than Amazon.com Inc.

Consumers can already buy Huawei smartphones on Amazon, but that's not enough. Huawei needs to convince Amazon that it's in both their interests to be aggressive in shaking Americans out of their smartphone rut. It can offer discounted Huawei phones during Prime Day sales. It can pitch Huawei by e-mail to the tens of millions of US Prime members, on Amazon shipping boxes and in its website ads. Maybe Amazon can also – as it does with its own Kindle devices and some Android smartphones – lower Mate prices by offering the phones with Amazon-sold advertisements on the home screens.

Apple and Samsung's combined US market share: 74%

The idea is to make Amazon shoppers curious enough to break the Samsung or Apple habit. It's to Amazon's benefit, too. CEO Jeff Bezos can't be happy about phone companies selling the vast majority of US smartphones. A motivated partner in Huawei is Amazon's best shot at luring more mobile sales onto Bezos Beach.

2) Set up shop locally: If the big wireless carriers won't sell Huawei phones, the company needs to do much more to educate Americans who have never bought a so-called unlocked phone and then separately purchase wireless service for the device. One approach: Open Huawei electronics stores, or stores-within-stores at retailers like Best Buy, and then walk Americans through how to buy a smartphone separate from wireless service.

3) Find alternative mobile phone plans: A number of companies, including Project Fi from Google, Republic Wireless and cable provider Comcast sell a type of wireless service that routes calls, texts and Internet surfing over WiFi when it's available and cellular networks when it's not. Huawei could team up with one of these relatively fringe mobile players to sell Mate phones with one of these WiFi plus cellular phone plans. There's no better time to try than now.

4) Advertise like crazy: Huawei has proved adept at marketing the company in places like Europe, where the company sponsors several prominent European professional soccer teams and even the Norwegian cross-country skiing federation. Huawei has become a top seller of telecommunications equipment to European phone companies including Vodafone in the UK, and the company's marketing efforts have helped lift its brand recognition. Splashing Huawei's logo at Arsenal soccer matches and billboards in Poland surely has helped, although Huawei's smartphone sales still remain relatively small in some parts of Europe.

All of these sales tactics will be expensive for Huawei. But the company has the resources, with more than US$75bil (RM300.71bil) in 2016 sales. And if the company wants to fulfil its stated mission of becoming the world's top seller of smartphones, making it big in the US would certainly help.

It's also healthy for Americans' wallets to have more than the usual choices for both smartphone devices and mobile phone plans. If Chinese spying fears don't stymie Huawei entirely, breaking the ossified US smartphone market is still extremely unlikely, but it's not impossible. — Bloomberg

By – The Star

Potential Excelerate Group 9 Temasek Boulevard Suntec Tower 2 #09-01 Singapore 038989
+65 6407 1344