EU fines 4 German car makers $1 billion over emission collusion

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said the companies avoided to compete and denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars. (AP)
EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said the companies avoided to compete and denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 09 July 2021

EU fines 4 German car makers $1 billion over emission collusion

EU fines 4 German car makers  $1 billion over emission collusion
  • Even though the companies had the technology to cut harmful emissions beyond legal limits, they resisted competition and denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars: EU antitrust chief

BRUSSELS: The European Union handed down $1 billion in fines to major German car manufacturers Thursday, saying they colluded to limit the development and rollout of car emission-control systems.
Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen along with its Audi and Porsche divisions avoided competing on technology to restrict pollution from gasoline and diesel passenger cars, the EU’s executive commission said. Daimler wasn’t fined after it revealed the cartel to the European Commission.
It was the first time the European Commission imposed collusion fines on holding back the use of technical developments, not a more traditional practice like price fixing.
EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said that even though the companies had the technology to cut harmful emissions beyond legal limits, they resisted competition and denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars.
“Manufacturers deliberately avoided to compete on cleaning better than what was required by EU emission standards. And they did so despite the relevant technology being available,” Vestager said. That made their practice illegal, she said.
According to Vestager, the companies agreed on the size of onboard tanks containing a urea solution known as AdBlue that is injected into the exhaust stream to limit pollution from diesel engines, and also on the driving ranges that could be expected before the tank needed refilling. A bigger tank would enable more pollution reduction.

FASTFACT

Daimler, BMW, VW, Audi and Porsche avoided competing on technology to restrict pollution from gasoline and diesel passenger cars, the European Commission said.

Vestager said cooperation between companies is permissible under EU rules when it leads to efficiency gains, such as the faster introduction of new technologies. “But the dividing line is clear: Companies must not coordinate their behavior to limit the full potential of any type of technology,” she said.
Volkswagen said the investigation had ended with a finding that several other forms of cooperation under review were not improper under antitrust law.
“The (EU) Commission is breaking new legal ground with this decision, because it is the first time it has prosecuted technical cooperation as an antitrust violation,” the company said in a statement. “It is also imposing fines even though the contents of the talks were never implemented and customers were therefore never harmed.”
Volkswagen said that the tank sizes produced by all the carmakers involved were “two to three times” bigger than discussed in the talks. It said it was considering an appeal to the European Court of Justice.
BMW said that discussions on the AdBlue tanks had “no influence whatsoever on the company’s product decisions.” The company said it was significant that that the fine notice found there was no collusion involving earlier allegations of using software to restrict AdBlue dosing.
BMW said it set aside 1.4 billion euros ($1.7 billion) based on the commission’s initial accusations but reduced the set-aside in May due to more serious allegations in the case not being substantiated.
The case wasn’t directly linked to the “dieselgate” scandal of the past decade, when Volkswagen admitted that about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with the deceptive software, which reduced nitrogen oxide emissions when the cars were placed on a test machine but allowed higher emissions and improved engine performance during normal driving.
The scandal cost Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen 30 billion euros ($35 billion) in fines and civil settlements and led to the recall of millions of vehicles. The Volkswagen vehicles in the scandal did not use the urea tanks but relied on another pollution reduction technology.


WEF leader urges countries to ‘pay close attention’ to digital currency

WEF leader urges countries to ‘pay close attention’ to digital currency
Updated 25 min 44 sec ago

WEF leader urges countries to ‘pay close attention’ to digital currency

WEF leader urges countries to ‘pay close attention’ to digital currency
  • The Asian superpower recently announced it will allow foreign visitors to use digital yuan in the upcoming Winter Olympics

DUBAI: Digital currency is going to play a big role in the global economy, a World Economic Forum (WEF) committee leader said, and nations need to pay attention to its unprecedented progress.

“Somebody needs to be paying close attention to this space, and assessing on a weekly basis, what the national policy ought to be regarding digital currencies,” Sheila Warren, deputy head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) committee of WEF, told Arab News.

Digital currency will continue to evolve, she said, adding some nations have already started investigating its effect on their own economies.

“We’re going to see a variety of offerings in the digital currency space — central bank digital currency, stable coin issuances, and cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin,” Warren explained.

According to Atlantic Council, which tracks central banks’ participation in the space, 81 countries have already explored a digital currency with China leading the pack.

The Asian superpower recently announced it will allow foreign visitors to use digital yuan in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Other major central banks in the race are the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Bank of England.

In the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the UAE previously said they were working jointly on a digital currency plan — they called the initiative “Project Aber.”

The two countries aim to develop a cross-border payment system that will reduce transfer times and costs between banks.

Although every nation doesn’t necessarily have to “immediately jump in,” Warren said it is important to watch the evolution of the industry.

“If you're not doing that, you're going to be stuck, I think, with whatever the world decides, the direction of travel is going to be, and not have enough opportunity to help shape that,” she explained.

On decentralized cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, Warren said it will continue to have a huge role in the global economy as well.

“We’re going to see an increase in market cap, an increase in market share of the suite of digital currencies,” she said.

The private sector will take advantage of this by developing some of a blockchain or distributed ledger, she added.


Tunisians hope for better times ahead

Tunisians hope for better times ahead
Updated 39 min 39 sec ago

Tunisians hope for better times ahead

Tunisians hope for better times ahead
  • The proceeds from selling the plastic, combined with limited financial assistance from the government

TUNIS: As day breaks over Tunis, Jamila Ghuili takes her two small children out into the streets to scavenge in waste bins for plastic bottles that she sells to buy food for her family.
Abandoned by her husband, the single mother lives in a poor part of Omrane Superieur, a neighborhood of the capital where Tunisia’s economic malaise is acutely felt.
“Everything has become expensive,” said Ghuili, as her children played next to her.
Exacerbated by the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic grievances have fueled discontent in Tunisia, leading to protests that encouraged President Kais Saied to remove the prime minister and assume governing authority last month.
Ghuili, 55, gathers a few kilograms of dirt-covered plastic each day, foraged from heaps of garbage dumped at the roadside.
The proceeds from selling the plastic, combined with limited financial assistance from the government, amount to 190 Tunisian dinars ($69) a month, around half her monthly rent.
Hamza Ayari, who buys the bottles and re-sells them to factories, says many people are doing the same. “They don’t have any other job, they are poor people,” he said.
Desperate for better lives, some of Omrane Superieur’s residents are hopeful about Saied’s move.
“I salute the people who voted for him, he is a good person,” said Fakhreddine Wannas, 56, a resident. “I hope he can take us out of the dark and into the light.”
It echoes sentiment expressed by other Tunisians who are fed up with political bickering and want to see an improvement in the economy — which shrank by 8.8 percent last year — and more effective action against COVID-19.
Saied, who was elected in 2019, says he will not become a dictator and that the actions he took on July 25, including the 30-day suspension of parliament, were constitutional. He has yet to set out next steps.
Soumaya, who paints henna tattoos for a living, expressed relief about the situation, saying that for a long time Tunisians did not know where they were heading. “Now we are all happy,” said Soumaya, as she painted a child’s hand.


Bitcoin falls as investors criticize US tax plan

Bitcoin falls as investors criticize US tax plan
Updated 47 min 34 sec ago

Bitcoin falls as investors criticize US tax plan

Bitcoin falls as investors criticize US tax plan
  • Binance has announced that it will discontinue its derivatives and futures products in Germany, Italy

DUBAI: Bitcoin traded lower on Tuesday, falling by 2.81 percent to $38,516.96 at 5:01 p.m. Riyadh time, while Ether was down 4.03 percent to $2,517.24, data from CoinDesk showed.

The decline comes amid reports of cryptocurrency organizations criticizing the US government’s plan to tax the industry.

The US Congress earlier said it has plans to tax various actors in the crypto financial system to help pay for infrastructure expenditures. It will do this by classifying these parties as intermediaries under the Internal Revenue Code.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore has approved Australia’s Independent Reserve to operate digital payment services.

The reserve, which is one of Australia’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, said it was one of the first digital asset service providers to obtain initial approval for a license from a major payment institution in Singapore.

In South Korea, 11 cryptocurrency exchanges will be shut down by a top financial regulator, local media reported.

The regulator alleged their involvement in fraudulent bank accounts, and said they have yet to comply with state regulations.

Binance has announced that it will discontinue its derivatives and futures products in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands — a likely result of the regulatory crackdown government around the world imposed on the company, CoinDesk reported.


Saudi stock market index hits 14-year high

The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) on Tuesday reached its highest level since January 2008 with 11,209 points. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) on Tuesday reached its highest level since January 2008 with 11,209 points. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi stock market index hits 14-year high

The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) on Tuesday reached its highest level since January 2008 with 11,209 points. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Fitch Ratings also recently confirmed the long-term rating of Saudi Arabia at “A” with a change in the future outlook to stable

JEDDAH/RIYADH: The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) on Tuesday reached its highest level since January 2008 with 11,209 points.

The market index has witnessed a gradual rise since the beginning of the year, reaching about 2,500 points or 28.7 percent. The optimism in the market is also attributed to the rising oil prices following the easing of global COVID-19 restrictions and OPEC+ deal.

“The Tadawul index is benefitting today from many factors including the increase in the number of listed companies over the past 5 years and the rising investor confidence as the Kingdom is recovering from the pandemic,” said Faiz Alhomrani, a financial market analyst told Arab News. “The market today also benefited from the strong results of the banking and petrochemical sectors.”

Alhomrani also said that the increase in the oil prices also supported the markets as it is an indicator of increased government spending, adding that Tadawul might hit new highs around 13-14,000 points but this might take two years.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan recently said the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Kingdom is very much under control.

Fitch Ratings also recently confirmed the long-term rating of Saudi Arabia at “A” with a change in the future outlook to stable, and Capital Economics raised its forecast for the growth of the Saudi economy from 2.2 percent to 4.8 percent during the current year, and from 4.1 percent to 6.3 percent in 2022. 

Tadawul had recorded its highest level on Sept. 9, 2014 session at 11,160 points, and the market's rise at that time came after the approval of the Saudi Cabinet to open the stock market to qualified foreign financial institutions, according to Argaam.


Dubai-based company setup firm expands operations in Saudi Arabia

Dubai-based company setup firm expands operations in Saudi Arabia
Updated 03 August 2021

Dubai-based company setup firm expands operations in Saudi Arabia

Dubai-based company setup firm expands operations in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Pro Partner Group, a Dubai-based company specializing in company formations, has expanded its operations in Saudi Arabia.

It was established in 2014 and has offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, and Qatar. The company helps new entrants into the market to manage the legal requirements, arrange employment visas and other paperwork.

The company aims to take advantage of the Riyadh Strategy 2030 announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in January. 

“Companies both large and small are already looking at the benefits of setting up a business in the Kingdom and taking advantage of commercial opportunities that are potentially more lucrative than in neighboring markets,” said Jane Ashford, founder, and chair of PRO Partner Group.

Under the ambitious Riyadh strategy, the Saudi government wants to attract up to 500 international companies to set up their regional bases in the city, creating around 35,000 new jobs for Saudi locals and doubling the capital’s population. The strategy aims to invest up to SR70 billion ($18.67 billion) in the national economy by the end of the decade and it is already attracting international players eager to expand into the Kingdom.

“I see Saudi Arabia as our biggest opportunity of the region by far. And I think in the next two to three years, our business in Saudi Arabia should eclipse our UAE business and Qatar business,” said Nazar Musa, CEO of Pro Partner Group.

“This year, we are 60 percent more than Q1 of last year, and Q1 of last year was 30 more than the year before,” Musa said of the company’s recent growth.

Musa said the recent announcements by the Saudi government had spurred interest among companies to expand their operations to the Kingdom. “Obviously, there are businesses that have been there for years and years, but I’m talking about the kinds of companies that are starting to speak to us for the first time about opportunities in the Kingdom,” he said.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2020/2021 report, which surveyed adults aged between 18 and 64, found that 90.5 percent of those surveyed in Saudi Arabia believed there were good opportunities to start a business in their area, ranking it first in the world among 43 countries surveyed.