Saudi Arabia-backed SoftBank fund to invest $333m in Uber

Updated 21 April 2019

Saudi Arabia-backed SoftBank fund to invest $333m in Uber

  • Toyota has already invested $500 million in Uber as the firm races a host of other companies to develop self-driving vehicles
  • Uber is the largest of the “unicorns” or venture-backed firms worth at least $1 billion to list on Wall Street

TOKYO: Japanese car giant Toyota and the Saudi Arabia-backed investment fund SoftBank Vision Fund on Friday unveiled an investment of $1 billion in US company Uber to drive forward the development of driverless ridesharing services.
Toyota has already invested $500 million in Uber as the firm races Google-owned Waymo and a host of other companies, including major automakers, to develop self-driving vehicles.
The latest investment, which also involves Japanese parts maker DENSO, will go to Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group in a bid to “accelerate the development and commercialization of automated ridesharing,” the firms said in a statement.
Toyota and DENSO are stumping up $667 million and SoftBank Vision Fund, the investment arm of Japanese tycoon Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank, will pour $333 million into the venture.
Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said driverless cars would “transform transportation as we know it, making our streets safer and our cities more liveable.”

 

His firm is aiming to go 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 is also seeing growing success with an “Eats” service that lets drivers make money delivering meals ordered from restaurants.

The latest cash injection came a week after Uber filed official documents for its much-anticipated public share offering that is expected to be the largest in the tech sector for years.
Uber’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said it operates on six continents with some 14 million trips per day and has totalled more than 10 billion rides since it was founded in 2010.
The filing contained a “placeholder” amount of $1 billion to be raised but that figure is expected to increase ahead of the initial public offering (IPO) expected in May.
The Wall Street Journal said earlier this month that Uber was seeking to raise $10 billion in what would be the largest stock offering of the year.
Media reports said the ride-hailing giant was likely to seek a market value of close to $100 billion.
Uber is the largest of the “unicorns” or venture-backed firms worth at least $1 billion to list on Wall Street, and is one of the key companies in the “sharing economy” based on offering services to replace ownership of cars, homes and other commodities.
Its revenue grew 42 percent last year to $11.2 billion but it continued to lose money from its operations. A net profit was reported for the year from a large asset sale, but operational losses were more than $3 billion.
And some analysts have voiced caution over the forthcoming IPO given a relative lacklustre debut for Lyft, the main US rival.
Khosrowshahi has promised greater transparency as he seeks to restore confidence in the global ridesharing leader hit by a wave of misconduct scandals.

 

FASTFACTS

$100bn

Size of the SoftBank Vision Fund, of which Saudi Arabia has pledged to contribute some $45 billion.


American farmers worry as crop prices dip amid corona outbreak

Updated 26 May 2020

American farmers worry as crop prices dip amid corona outbreak

  • Farmers growing corn and soy — the biggest crops in the world’s largest economy — were hoping for a turnaround this year

MOUNT AIRY: Dave Burrier steered his tractor through a field, following a GPS map as he tried to plant as much corn as possible amid the yellow and green rye covering the ground.

Striving to get a massive yield out of his crops in rural Maryland is how Burrier hopes to make it through yet another uncertain year, beset by market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed trade tensions between the US and China.

“We’ve had so much price erosion that we’re basically at below the cost of production. We’ve got to figure out how to manage and turn a profit,” Burrier said. “That’s harder than planting this corn.”

American farmers growing corn and soy — the biggest crops in the world’s largest economy — were hoping for a turnaround this year after Washington and Beijing reached a truce in their months-long trade war, which included a pledge to buy more US agricultural goods.

But the coronavirus hit before the benefits of that deal could be felt, disrupting transportation and operations at slaughterhouses, sapping demand, while the global oil price crash closed the ethanol and biofuel plants that could have picked up the slack.

“It’s kind of glum,” said Dave’s wife Linda Burrier, a soybean farmer who serves on the United Soybean Board, the crop’s governing body in the US. Yet she remains guardedly optimistic.

“Farmers are one of the most faithful people there are,” she said. “You put a seed in the ground, you expect to get a crop out of it.”

Facing a supply glut, the US Department of Agriculture projects the average farm price for corn will to drop to its lowest level in 14 years in the 2020-2021 growing season. Soybean prices also are expected to fall. And a study from the University of Illinois and Ohio State University earlier this month predicted that even with payments from government safety net programs, corn and soybean farmers are facing total revenue losses of $8.5 billion to $10.2 billion amid the pandemic.

President Donald Trump’s administration spent $28 billion in 2018 and 2019 to help farmers hurt by the trade war, and pledged another $16 billion this year to offset the market disruptions.

Dave Burrier said the current conditions are a grim echo of the 1980s — a decade he would prefer to forget — when a combination of low commodity prices, heavy debt burdens and a grain embargo against the Soviet Union ruined American farmers. “It gives me a chill to talk about it,” he said.

Plenty has changed in the more than four decades Burrier, 67, has been farming.

Computer monitors in his tractor display detailed metrics to track his planting, replacing the pen and notebook his father relied on.

The Soviet Union is gone, but US farmers once again are partly at the whim of a foreign power.

China retaliated for Washington’s unilateral trade actions with crippling tariffs on US soy that drove a steep drop in total US agricultural exports to $9.2 billion in 2018, less than half the 2017 amount, according to government data. Exports recovered to nearly $14 billion last year.

In the “phase one” deal reached in January, Beijing agreed buy up to $50 billion in US farm products. But with Trump accusing China of covering up the origins of the coronavirus, fears are rising that the deal will fall victim to the acrimony.

“Agriculture in America is very vulnerable right now, but if we have a good growing season we should be able to get through this year,” said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at INTL FCStone.

Danielle Bauer, executive director of both the Delaware and Maryland soybean boards, said farmers in her area have stepped up exports to Taiwan and are expecting increased demand for high oleic soybean oil, a variety grown exclusively in the US.

“There is a lot of uncertainty. The farmers are bracing for a really hard year all around,” she said.

The Burriers also plant wheat and make good money selling hay to a nearby racetrack, and Dave’s corn yield last year was double the county average.

But 60-year-old Linda admits the setbacks of recent years plus the pandemic mean the couple probably will have to delay retirement.

“We’re going to have to wait, I don’t know, another 5 or 10 years, if we can, physically,” she said. “My husband’s worked really hard. I don’t know how much longer he’s going to want to keep at it.”