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Musk says no Twitter deal without clarity on spam accounts

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Seen by his critics as an erratic megalomaniac, Elon Musk surprised many investors in April with news that he wanted to purchase Twitter
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Billionaire Elon Musk said Tuesday that his purchase of Twitter would not go ahead unless he was given assurances on the bots that he says plague the platform, further complicating his acrimonious bid for the social media giant.

The chief of SpaceX as well as Tesla, Musk is currently listed by Forbes as the world’s wealthiest person, with a fortune of about $230 billion, much of it in Tesla stock.

Seen by his champions as an iconoclastic genius and by his critics as an erratic megalomaniac, Musk surprised many investors in April with news that he wanted to purchase Twitter.

But his $44 billion bid for Twitter is now “temporarily on hold,” pending questions over the social media company’s estimates of the number of fake accounts, or “bots.”

“Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%,” tweeted Musk, who has almost 94 million followers on the social network. 

“This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal has said the platform suspends more than a half-million seemingly bogus accounts daily, usually before they are even seen, and locks millions more weekly that fail checks to make sure they are controlled by humans and not by software.

Internal measures show that fewer than five percent of accounts active on any given day at Twitter are spam, but that analysis can’t be replicated externally due to the need to keep user data private, Agrawal contended.

Musk, who has said bots plague Twitter and that he would make getting rid of them a priority if he owned the platform, responded to that tweet by Agrawal with a poo emoji.

“So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money?” Musk tweeted in a subsequent response about the need to prove Twitter users are real people.

“This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter.”

The process used to estimate how many accounts are bots has been shared with Musk, Agrawal insisted.

“It appears the spam/bot issue is cascading and clearly making the Twitter deal a confusing one,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors.

“The bot issue at the end of the day was known by the New York City cab driver and feels more to us like the ‘dog ate the homework’ excuse to bail on the Twitter deal or talk down a lower price.”

Musk has described his motivation as stemming from a desire to ensure freedom of speech on the platform and to boost monetization of a website that is massively influential but has struggled to attain profitable growth.

He has also said he favored lifting the ban on Donald Trump, who was kicked off the platform in January 2021 shortly after the former US president’s efforts to overturn his election defeat led to the January 6 assault on the US Capitol.

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Qatar Airways posts record $1.54 bn profit despite pandemic

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Qatar Airways said it managed to achieve record net profits in 2021-2022 despite the "most difficult period" ever in the industry
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Qatar Airways on Thursday posted a record net profit of $1.54 billion for the 2021-2022 financial year, a result it attributed to a “successful strategy” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state-owned airline said the profit result was “200 percent above its highest annual historical profit” and achieved on the back of $14.4 billion in overall income.

It said that the revenue figure was “a remarkable two percent higher than the full financial year pre-Covid” in 2019-2020.

Gas-rich Qatar is among several governments that stepped in to support their national carriers through the coronavirus shutdown, which pummelled global travel and the aviation industry.

Qatar Airways, the Middle East’s second biggest airline after Emirates, had reported in September last year an overall loss of $4.1 billion in the 2020-2021 financial year.

The flag carrier said at the time that it had received $3 billion in state aid to weather the coronavirus travel downturn and to offset the losses blamed on the cost of grounding aircraft.

Its chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, praised the “strength, resilience, and commitment” of Qatar Airways Group in the past year.

“In the most difficult period ever in the global airline industry, the airline credits its positive results to its agility and successful strategy,” the airline said in a statement.

Qatar Airways said it “continued to focus on customer needs and evolving market opportunities, as well as efficiency and the commitment of its worldwide employees”.

“This profit is not only a record for Qatar Airways Group, but also a record among all other airlines that have published financial results for this financial year worldwide,” the airline said.

– New routes –

The Qatari airline said it carried 18.5 million passengers in 2021-2022, an increase of 218 percent over the previous 12-month period.

It said its cargo division remained the “leading player in the world”, with growth of 25 percent in revenues and an identical figure for cargo capacity.

“Against the backdrop of the pandemic disruption, Qatar Airways Cargo transported more than three million tonnes of air freight and securing eight percent share in the global market,” it said.

The airline said it had also “transported more than 600 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines over the course of the pandemic to date”.

“Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the national carrier of the State of Qatar grew to more than 140 destinations” in 2021-2022, the airline added.

New routes were opened to destinations across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The carrier has maintained “strong performance and growing profitability,” Al Baker said.

“We have pursued every business opportunity and left no stone unturned as we aimed to meet our targets,” he said.

“Whilst our competitors grounded their aircraft and closed their routes, we adapted our entire commercial operation to respond to ever-evolving travel restrictions and never stopped flying, operating a network our passengers and customers could rely on,” he said.

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BoE unveils fifth rate hike in row as inflation soars

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The Bank of England raised its main interest rate to its highest level since 2009
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The Bank of England on Thursday hiked its main interest rate for a fifth straight time, as it forecast British inflation to soar further this year to above 11 percent.

BoE policymakers agreed at a regular meeting to increase the cost of borrowing by a quarter-point to 1.25 percent, the highest level since the global financial crisis in 2009.

The pound slumped one percent against the dollar following the announcement, one day after the Federal Reserve hiked US interest rates far more aggressively to fight runaway consumer prices in the world’s biggest economy.

The BoE’s latest rise was in response to “continuing signs of robust cost and price pressures… and the risk that those pressures become more persistent”, said minutes of the UK meeting.

A minority of BoE policymakers had voted for an increase to 1.5 percent.

The Bank of England is avoiding “shock and awe tactics being employed across the Atlantic”, said Laith Khalaf, head of investment analysis at AJ Bell.

“Despite the UK starting to tighten monetary policy first, interest rates are now higher in the US.”

The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced the most aggressive interest rate increase in nearly 30 years — and said it is prepared to do so again next month in an all-out battle to drive down surging consumer prices.

The Fed’s rate hike of 0.75 percentage points comes after US inflation rocketed to 8.6 percent in May, the highest level in more than four decades.

In the UK, inflation stands at nine percent, the highest level in 40 years.

Prices are soaring worldwide as economies reopen from pandemic lockdowns and in the wake of the Ukraine war that is pushing already high energy costs even higher.

– Growth impact –

British economic output declined for a second month in a row in April, weighed down by rocketing prices that are causing a cost-of-living crisis for millions of Britons, while increasing the risk of a UK recession this year.

Data this week also revealed the first rise in the UK unemployment rate since the end of 2020 — although at 3.8 percent it remains at a near 50-year low point amid record-high job vacancies.

At the same time, the value of average UK wages is falling at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

Fearing fallout from surging inflation, the BoE began to raise its key interest rate in December, from a record-low level of 0.1 percent.

Almost two years earlier, as the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold, the BoE slashed the rate to just above zero and decided to pump massive sums of new cash into the economy.

In the neighbouring eurozone, the European Central Bank is next month set to raise interest rates for the first time in more than a decade.

Switzerland’s central bank hiked its rate Thursday for the first time in 15 years.

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Qatar Airways posts ‘record’ $1.54 bn profit despite pandemic

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Qatar Airways said it managed to achieve record net profits in 2021-2022 despite the "most difficult period" ever in the industry
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Qatar Airways on Thursday posted a record net profit of $1.54 billion for the 2021-2022 financial year, a result it attributed to a “successful strategy” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state-owned airline said the profit result was “200 percent above its highest annual historical profit” and achieved on the back of $14.4 billion in overall income.

It said that the revenue figure was “a remarkable two percent higher than the full financial year pre-Covid” in 2019-2020.

“In the most difficult period ever in the global airline industry, the airline credits its positive results to its agility and successful strategy,” it said in a statement.

Qatar Airways said it “continued to focus on customer needs and evolving market opportunities, as well as efficiency and the commitment of its worldwide employees”.

“This profit is not only a record for Qatar Airways Group, but also a record among all other airlines that have published financial results for this financial year worldwide,” the airline said.

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