Investors could pump $1bn into Uber self-driving cars

An Uber self-driving car drives down 5th Street in San Francisco, California. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019

Investors could pump $1bn into Uber self-driving cars

  • SoftBank’s Vision Fund and other investors are weighing up a minority stake in Uber’s self-driving vehicle unit
  • Uber has been in a race with Google-owned Waymo and a host of other companies to develop self-driving vehicles

SAN FRANCISCO: A group of investors including SoftBank Group are in talks to invest $1 billion or more into Uber’s self-driving car unit, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Word of a potential infusion of cash valuing the Uber autonomous vehicle division at from $5 billion to $10 billion comes as the ride-hailing startup steers toward a hotly-anticipated stock market debut.
Under terms being discussed, SoftBank’s Vision Fund and other investors, including a car maker, would take a minority stake in Uber’s self-driving vehicle unit, according to the Journal.
Led by Japan’s Masayoshi Son, the Vision Fund is heavily invested by Saudi Arabia.
The Journal described the “late-stage” talks as fluid, with the possibility a deal might not be reached.
Uber has been in a race with Google-owned Waymo and a host of other companies, including major automakers, to develop self-driving vehicles.
Waymo said this month that it would sell a key innovation to companies that don’t compete with its autonomous cars.
The California-based unit of Google parent Alphabet will offer its lidar sensors, which measure distance with pulses of laser light, to companies in robotics, security, agricultural technology and other sectors.
The move could offer a new revenue stream for Waymo as it invests in bringing “robo taxis” to market, broadening the availability of the 3D lidar sensors it has been developing since 2011.
Uber is aiming beyond car rides to becoming the “Amazon of transportation” in a future where people share, instead of own, vehicles.
If all goes to plan, commuters could ride an e-scooter to a transit station, take a train, then grab an e-bike, share a ride or take an e-scooter at the arriving station to complete a journey — all using an Uber app on a smartphone.
Uber’s platform moves cargo as well as people, with a “Freight” service that connects truckers with shippers in a way similar to how drivers connect with people seeking rides.
Uber is also seeing growing success with an “Eats” service that lets drivers make money delivering meals ordered from restaurants.


Saudi-led group reinstated as builder of Bulgaria gas pipeline

Updated 16 September 2019

Saudi-led group reinstated as builder of Bulgaria gas pipeline

  • Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court announced that the Saudi-led group’s main competitors for the project had dropped a legal challenge relating to the award
  • Bulgaria’s state gas operator Bulgartransgaz had initially chosen the Saudi-led group — made up of Saudi Arabia’s Arkad Engineering and a joint venture including Switzerland’s ABB

SOFIA: A Saudi-led consortium was definitively reinstated on Monday as the builder of a new gas pipeline through Bulgaria, intended to hook up to Gazprom’s TurkStream project.
Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court announced Monday that the Saudi-led group’s main competitors for the project had dropped a legal challenge relating to the award.
The latest development brings to an end a long-running tussle between the Saudi-led consortium and its competitors for the project, a consortium of Luxembourg-based Completions Development, Italy’s Bonatti and Germany’s Max Streicher.
Bulgaria’s state gas operator Bulgartransgaz had initially chosen the Saudi-led group — made up of Saudi Arabia’s Arkad Engineering and a joint venture including Switzerland’s ABB — to build the 474-kilometer (294-mile) pipeline.
But Bulgartransgaz later decided to strike the winner off the tender for failing to supply documents needed to sign off the contract.
Instead it accepted the offer of the second-placed consortium led by Completions Development.
However, Bulgaria’s competition watchdog ruled in July that the operator should honor its previous commitments and sign a contract with the Saudi-led group.
The watchdog’s verdict was subject to a final appeal in the courts but the Supreme Administrative Court announced Monday that the appeal had been withdrawn, meaning that the Arkad-led group has now been definitively reinstated.
Bulgartransgaz is in a hurry to complete the pipeline as soon as possible in a bid to enable Russian gas giant Gazprom to hook it up to its TurkStream pipeline after it becomes operational at the end of this year.
Bulgaria, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas for its domestic needs, has been repeatedly criticized by both the EU and the United States for failing to diversify both its gas sources and its delivery routes.
The Balkan country hopes to start receiving Caspian Sea gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field as well as liquefied natural gas from various sources via terminals in Greece through a 182-kilometer (113-mile) interconnector expected to be ready by the end of 2020.