Apple teams with Ant Financial, banks for interest-free iPhone financing in China

Apple Inc. has teamed up with Chinese payments giant Ant Financial Services Group and several local banks to offer interest-free financing. (File photo/AFP)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Apple teams with Ant Financial, banks for interest-free iPhone financing in China

SHANGHAI: Apple Inc. has teamed up with Chinese payments giant Ant Financial Services Group and several local banks to offer interest-free financing, its first such move in the country as it looks to boost waning smartphone sales.
The US tech behemoth issued a rare revenue warning last month citing weaker iPhone sales in China, one of its most important markets, where consumer spending has taken a hit due to a slowdown in economic growth. 
On its China website, Apple is promoting the new scheme, under which customers can pay 271 yuan ($40.31) each month to purchase an iPhone XR, and 362 yuan each month for an iPhone XS. Customers trading in old models can get cheaper installments.
Users buying products worth a minimum of 4,000 yuan worth from Apple would qualify for interest-free financing that can be paid over three, six, nine, 12 or 24 months, the website shows.
The 64GB versions of iPhone’s XR and XS models sell at official sticker prices of 6,499 yuan and 8,699, respectively.
Apple is offering the plan through Huabei, a consumer credit service run by Ant Financial, the payment affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Apple’s China website shows.
Apple and Ant Financial declined to comment on the scheme.
China Construction Bank Corp, China Merchants Bank Co. Ltd, Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and Industrial and Commercial bank of China Ltd. also offer financing schemes for Apple products, with minimum purchases of 300 yuan, Apple’s China website shows.
Apple is facing headwinds in China where economic growth slowed in 2018 to the weakest pace in 28 years, exacerbated by a crippling trade war with the United States. The US company is also battling mounting competition from Chinese handset makers.
Several Chinese electronics retailers including Alibaba-backed Suning and JD.com slashed iPhone prices recently, with discounts as steep as 20 percent.
Data from research firm IDC shows iPhone shipments to China fell 19.9 percent during the fourth quarter of 2018 versus a year earlier. Total smartphone shipments to the country were down 9.7 percent over the same period, although domestic brands such as Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo still grew market share.
Apple’s revenue for its Greater China region fell 27 percent year-on-year to $13 billion in the quarter ended December. CEO Tim Cook blamed macroeconomic conditions and currency fluctuations for Apple’s overall flagging growth.
The company has been sharpening its focus on its services business, including the App Store, mobile payments and music streaming, after the recent dip in iPhone sales that generates most of its profit.
It has teamed up with Goldman Sachs to issue credit cards that will be paired with iPhones and will help users manage their money, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. ($1 = 6.7227 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Himani Sarkar)


‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

Updated 17 June 2019
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‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

  • Fatih Birol’s comments were a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges
  • Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving problems such as global warming

DUBAI: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, cracked a joke in the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be,” he wrote about the fuel that many experts agree could hold the key to the world’s energy problems.
It was a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen — generation, storage, and transportation — make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges.
Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving such problems as global warming and environmental degradation.
“The world has an important opportunity to tap into hydrogen’s vast potential to become a critical part of a more sustainable and secure energy future … The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future,” the report said.
That argument will get a critical boost today, when Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, opens its first hydrogen fueling station in Dhahran Techno Valley, in the heart of the Kingdom’s oil producing region.
Aramco has partnered with Air Products, a US company that has been a pioneer in the use of industrial gases, to produce a filling station for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

 

It is very much a test. “The collected data during this pilot phase of the project will provide valuable information for the assessment of future applications of this emerging transport technology in the local environment,” Aramco said when the project was first announced.
But it is something Aramco has been investigating for a long time. Ahmed Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chef technology officer, said: “The use of hydrogen derived from oil or gas to power fuel cell electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity to expand the use of oil in clean transport.”
Hydrogen — essentially what is left when you take the oxygen out of water — has been recognized as a potential fuel source for many decades. Motor manufacturers developed a hydrogen motor engine 50 years ago, but the ease and accessibility of hydrocarbon fuels — oil, gas and coal — made it uneconomic to develop this technology beyond the prototype stage.
Now, as the debate over the role of hydrocarbons in the global environmental balance has become ever more intense, some experts, including Birol and other influential parts of the thought-leadership establishment, believe hydrogen is the next Big Thing in global energy trends.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said recently that “green” hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, and that is the problem the theoreticians are struggling with: Hydrogen is released naturally in the process of burning hydrocarbons, but it is self-defeating, in an environmental sense. if you have to burn oil, gas or coal to produce it.
On the other hand, renewable sources, like sun, wind and water, do not produce enough hydrogen to be practically or commercially viable, and not at the right times, when people actually need it.
But, as the WEF noted recently “low-cost green hydrogen is coming”, as technology advances mean the cost of renewable energy falls dramatically each year. The Middle East already has a very big and very cost-efficient program for solar energy generation.
The other challenges lay in how to store and transport hydrogen. It can be loaded onto a tanker like LNG, or pushed through pipelines, but it would require a huge investment to change current logistics systems — essentially designed for oil and LNG — to handle hydrogen.
Many countries, including Saudi Arabia, already have the infrastructure associated with oil and gas refining and petrochemicals production to be able to equip “hydrogen hubs,” as long as there is government will and commercial incentive to do so.
For the Kingdom, it looks like a no-brainer for the future. As Birol said: “So, hydrogen offers tantalising promises of cleaner industry and emissions-free power. Turning it into energy produces only water, not greenhouse gases. It’s also the most abundant element in the universe. What’s not to like?”

FACTOID

Technological advances mean low-cost ‘green’ hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, according to the World Economic Forum.