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Musk says deal to buy Twitter ‘temporarily on hold’

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Musk has said he wants to make Twitter 'better than ever' by 'defeating the spam bots and authenticating all humans'
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Elon Musk said on Friday he was putting a temporary halt on his much-anticipated deal to buy Twitter, sending shares in the social media giant plunging. 

Musk, the world’s richest man and founder of automaker Tesla, had made the eradication of spam accounts and bots one of the centerpieces of his proposed $44 billion takeover of Twitter.

When the deal was announced in late April he said he wanted to make Twitter “better than ever” by “defeating the spam bots and authenticating all humans”.

Reliable figures for the number of users is seen as vital to judge future revenue streams.

But on Friday he posted a link to an article from May 2 referencing Twitter’s latest filing to US regulators.

“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” he wrote on Twitter.

– ‘Horror show’ –

The filing said an internal review had concluded Twitter had 229 million “monetizable daily active users” in the first quarter of this year, and just five percent were regarded as false or spam accounts. 

Analyst Dan Ives from Wedbush said the Twitter “circus show” was likely to translate into a “Friday 13th horror show”.

Wall Street investors were likely to interpret the tweet as an attempt by Musk to pull out of the deal or trying to force a lower price, said Ives.

“Musk’s Twitter takeover was always destined to be a bumpy ride, and now it risks hitting the skids,” said market analyst Susannah Streeter of Hargreaves Landsdown.

She said the number of spam and fake accounts — and conversely the number of real accounts — was a key metric because future revenue streams would rely on advertising or paid subscriptions.

Friday’s announcement saw Twitter’s shares drop by 20 percent in early electronic trading before Wall Street opened, but Tesla’s stock was on the rise.

– ‘False and misleading’ –

Musk is boss of both Tesla and SpaceX and is estimated to be worth $240 billion, according to Forbes.

But his style of ownership has frequently landed him in hot water with the authorities.

He has been tangled in legal troubles ever since he tweeted in 2018 that he had enough funds to take Tesla private — a claim that a judge last month decided was “false and misleading”.

His potential stewardship of the social media platform has hit several bumps since the takeover attempt was made public, not least over the future status of Donald Trump.

The former US president was kicked off Twitter and other social networks following the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

On Wednesday, Musk said he would be open to lifting a ban on Trump’s account.

Activist groups responded by urging advertisers to boycott the platform if Musk opened the gates to abusive and misinformative posts.

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Emirates airline announces ‘significantly’ lower $1.1 bn annual loss

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Emirates airline announced a "significantly reduced" annual loss of $1.1 billion dollars
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Emirates airline announced a “significantly reduced” annual loss of $1.1 billion dollars on Friday, five times lower than a year before, as pandemic travel restrictions ease.

Losses came in at 3.9 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) in the 2021-2022 financial year to March, with revenues up 91 percent, as the airline expanded its global capacity and reinstated flights, Emirates said in a statement.

The Middle East’s largest carrier said it received a capital injection of $954 million from its owner, the government of Dubai, to help it survive the crisis.

“This year, we focussed on restoring our operations quickly and safely wherever pandemic-related restrictions eased across our markets,” said its chairman and chief executive, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

“Business recovery picked up pace particularly in the second half of the year. Robust customer demand drove a huge improvement in our financial performance compared to our unprecedented losses of last year and we built up our strong cash balance.”

In Friday’s statement, it said the Emirates Group — which includes ground-handling firm Dnata — recorded an annual loss of 3.8 billion dirhams ($1.0 billion), but with revenues up by 86 percent and “strong customer demand”.

Over the fiscal year, Emirates carried 19.6 million passengers, up from 6.6 million in the same period of the previous year.

“2021-22 was also a significant year as the UAE marked its 50th anniversary and hosted the world at Expo 2020 Dubai which generated increased global engagement and visitation to the UAE,” Sheikh Ahmed said.

– ‘Recalled and rehired’ –

In the previous year, Emirates posted a $5.5 billion annual loss, its first in more than three decades, after the pandemic devastated the aviation industry. 

Like many other major airlines, it announced heavy layoffs when its fleet was grounded.

In Friday’s statement, it said that as operations ramped up, “employees previously on furlough or made redundant were recalled and rehired, and new recruitment drives were held”.

The group’s total workforce increased by 13 percent to 85,219 employees, it added.

Emirates specialises in long-haul flights, with its fleet solely composed of large Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft, dozens of which it grounded amid a lack of passenger traffic. 

It added that the group invested $2.2 billion in new aircraft and facilities and received its final five new A380 plane during the financial year.

Emirates is currently flying to 140 destinations, almost its full travel network of 158 destinations in 85 countries before the pandemic.

Tourism has long been an economic mainstay of Dubai, which welcomed more than 16 million visitors in 2019. Before the pandemic, the aim had been to reach 20 million.

After an initial strict lockdown, life in the Gulf emirate — one of the first destinations to welcome visitors again in July 2020 — has returned to largely normal, with restaurants and hotels up and running and beaches open to the public.

The United Arab Emirates, made up of seven emirates including Dubai, has launched an energetic vaccination drive with some of the highest inoculation rates worldwide.

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Ukraine finance minister eyes reconstruction as war rages

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'We cannot lose this war and we need the arms, finances and sanctions,' Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergiy Marchenko told AFP
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The war is not over, but Ukraine’s finance minister says the first signs of economic recovery are emerging after Russian troops retreated away from the capital and northern areas.

“The war continues but we are not seeing the same level of escalation as we saw in the first two months,” Finance Minister Sergiy Marchenko told AFP in an interview in his Kyiv office, decorated with Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag.

“In the first two months we saw attacks and bombings of large cities,” Marchenko said. “Now the military front has been localised to specific territories.”

Already one of Europe’s poorest countries before the Russian invasion beganon February 24, Ukraine’s economy is now in shambles.

Cities have been levelled by fighting, infrastructure is shattered and over six million people have left Ukraine. A Russian blockade has prevented Ukraine to use its ports to ship its key agricultural exports such as wheat and sunflower oil.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have forecast that the Ukrainian economy will shrink by between 35 and 45 percent this year.

Marchenko said gross domestic product could contract by as much as 50 percent, with the overall damage from the conflict totalling $600 billion.

Customs duty revenues fell 70 percent compared to pre-war levels and tax collection dropped 25-30 percent. Exports and imports fell by almost half and inflation topped 16 percent in April from a year ago, Marchenko said.

– ‘A way to survive’ –

After fierce Ukrainian resistance forced Russian troops to pull away from areas outside of Kyiv and from northern Ukraine, many residents have returned to the capital and businesses have reopened.

Ukraine’s central bank has seen “first signs of revival” in April and May, Marchenko said.

“Consumer demand is rising,” said Marchenko, who sported jeans and a mustard-coloured hoodie for the interview as — like other Ukrainian officials — the 41-year-old minister has traded his formal suit for more casual wear during the war.

“As of today, 37 embassies have returned to Kyiv and it gives a signal to citizens to return gradually to Kyiv and renew economic activity,” he added.

With heavy fighting continuing in the country’s east and south, many companies have relocated to western Ukraine to keep their businesses running. 

If no default on the payment of the foreign debt or even its rescheduling is envisaged by Kyiv, “we need $5 billion a month to cover the budget deficit,” the minister said. 

His priority is now to ensure the flow of permanent international financial aid. 

“We are asking for a high level of financial support but the price is also high. This for us is a way to survive,” Marchenko said. 

Facing the Kremlin’s advancing forces, the economist said Kyiv is “now an outpost for democracy” and defeat is not an option. 

“We cannot lose this war and we need the arms, finances and sanctions.”

– ‘Banal robbery’ –

Vast amounts of funds are needed not only for the war effort, but also to rebuild Ukraine. 

President Volodymyr Zelensky has already called for a new Marshall Plan — the US economic aid programme for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II — for his country. 

Marchenko said he backed using Russian assets seized abroad to rebuild Ukraine — an idea floated by several Western countries, including the United States.

He also accused Russian forces of mass “robbery” in Ukraine, saying Russian soldiers have stolen from ordinary people’s homes as well as grain and “other mineral, raw, intellectual resources.”

“We are dealing with bandits who entered the house and are taking away everything they like,” he said, calling it the “banal robbery of a country.” 

Marchenko said it is Ukraine’s critical infrastructure — such as roads, bridges and power supplies — that has suffered most and that needs to be rebuilt first. 

He wants people to return to territories retaken by Kyiv and “start a normal life with electricity, water and gas supplies”.

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Emirates airline announces ‘significantly’ lower $1.1 bn annual loss

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Emirates airline announced a "significantly reduced" annual loss of $1.1 billion dollars
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Emirates airline announced a “significantly reduced” annual loss of $1.1 billion dollars on Friday, down from $5.5 billion a year earlier, as pandemic travel restrictions ease.

Losses came in at 3.9 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) in the 2021-2022 financial year to March, with revenues up 91 percent, as the airline expanded its global capacity and reinstated flights, Emirates said in a statement.

The carrier said it received a capital injection of $954 million from its owner, the government of Dubai, to help it survive the crisis.

“This year, we focussed on restoring our operations quickly and safely wherever pandemic-related restrictions eased across our markets,” said its chairman and chief executive, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

“Business recovery picked up pace particularly in the second half of the year. Robust customer demand drove a huge improvement in our financial performance compared to our unprecedented losses of last year and we built up our strong cash balance.”

Over the fiscal year, Emirates carried 19.6 million passengers, up by 197 percent from the same period the previous year.

“2021-22 was also a significant year as the UAE marked its 50th anniversary and hosted the world at Expo 2020 Dubai which generated increased global engagement and visitation to the UAE,” Sheikh Ahmed said.

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