Five Japanese automakers sign on to SoftBank-Toyota self-drive venture

1 / 2
A mock-up of self-driving car e-Palette is displayed at a news conference by Monet Technologies Inc., a joint venture of SoftBank Corp and Toyota Motor Corp that will develop self-driving car services, in Tokyo, Japan, on March 28, 2019. (REUTERS/File Photo)
2 / 2
The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. (REUTERS/File Photo)
Updated 28 June 2019

Five Japanese automakers sign on to SoftBank-Toyota self-drive venture

  • Suzuki, Mazda, Subaru Corp, Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Toyota’s compact car unit Daihatsu will each invest $530,620 in the venture — dubbed Monet — in return for a 2% stake

TOKYO: Five Japanese automakers including Suzuki Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. on Friday said they would each invest 2% in the on-demand, self-driving car service venture set up by SoftBank Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.
Suzuki, Mazda, Subaru Corp, Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Toyota’s compact car unit Daihatsu will each invest 57.1 million yen ($530,620) in the venture — dubbed Monet — in return for a 2% stake, the companies said in a statement.
SoftBank and Toyota will each retain their 35% stakes in the company, which is now capitalized at $26.6 million. The latest investors join Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Hino Motors Ltd., Toyota’s truck-making operations, which each own 10% stakes.
Launched in October, the venture plans to roll out on-demand bus and car services in Japan in the next year, and a services platform for electric vehicles in the country as early as 2023 based on Toyota’s boxy “e-palette” multi-purpose vehicle.
Monet is building up members as it joins the ride-sharing sphere which is dominated by startups such as Uber Technologies Inc, Didi Chuxing and Lyft Inc, as traditional automakers band together to compete in an industry which is placing growing emphasis on offering vehicle services rather than selling cars to individual drivers.
Automakers are increasingly joining forces with technology companies as well as each other as they grapple with the massive investment and software expertise required to develop these new services for which demand has yet to be tested.
The new investment will see Suzuki, Mazda and Subaru deepen their partnership with Toyota, as they have already agreed to tap the R&D firepower of Japan’s biggest automaker for electric cars and other future vehicle technologies.
Friday’s announcement comes after Monet’s chief executive told Reuters earlier this month it was planning to expand its investor base and start operating in,

 


Tankers defer retrofits to cash in on freight rates

Updated 21 min 56 sec ago

Tankers defer retrofits to cash in on freight rates

  • The rates for chartering a supertanker from the US Gulf Coast to Singapore hit record highs of more than $17 million and a record $22 million to China earlier this week

SINGAPORE: Tankers that had been scheduled to install emissions-cutting equipment ahead of stricter pollution standards starting in 2020 have deferred their visits to the dry docks to capitalize on an unexpected surge in freight rates, three trade sources said.

US sanctions on subsidiaries of vast Chinese shipping fleet Cosco in September sparked a surge in global oil shipping rates as traders scrambled to find non-blacklisted vessels to get their oil to market.

The rates for chartering a supertanker from the US Gulf Coast to Singapore hit record highs of more than $17 million and a record $22 million to China earlier this week.

By comparison, prior to the sanctions, shipping crude from the US Gulf to China cost around $6 million-$8 million.

The extraordinary spike in freight rates proved too good to miss for some shipowners who were due to send vessels to the dry docks for lengthy retrofitting and maintenance work.

“We can confirm several owners have postponed dry docking earlier scheduled for the months of October and November to take advantage of the skyrocketing freight rates,” said Rahul Kapoor, head of maritime and trade research at IHS Markit in Singapore.

The shortage of ships to move crude oil was so acute that some shipowners also switched from carrying so-called “clean” or refined fuels like gasoline to “dirty” cargoes that include crude oil, despite the costs of having to clean them later.

“Current rate levels are a no-brainer for pushing back scrubber retrofitting,” said Kapoor.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires the use of marine fuel with a sulfur limit of 0.5 percent, down from 3.5 percent currently, significantly inflating shippers’ fuel bills.

Only ships fitted with expensive exhaust cleaning systems, known as scrubbers, which can remove sulfur from emissions, will be allowed to continue burning cheaper high-sulfur fuels.

Ships must be sidelined for up to 60 days for fitting these, according to IHS Markit and DNV GL.

While freight rates have abruptly come off their recent highs, shipowners can still profit from the higher charges.

“One cargo loading at current elevated rate levels can not only finance the scrubber capex, but also account for extra costs incurred to install the scrubber at a later date,” said Kapoor, referring to the capital expenditure of fitting the scrubber.

Freight rates are expected to hold firm for the rest of the year.

“With seasonal demand support and tanker supply deficit still pronounced, we expect (fourth-quarter) tanker freight rates to stay elevated and end the year on a high note,” Kapoor said.