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Japan warns on ‘interests’ after Russia gas project decree

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The Russian move comes with Japan sweltering through a heatwave that has stretched power capacity
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Japan’s energy “interests must not be undermined”, Tokyo said Friday, after Moscow issued a decree transferring operations of a key oil and gas project to a new Russian company.

Japanese trading houses Mitsui and Mitsubishi Corp own 12.5 and 10 percent stakes respectively in the Sakhalin-2 project, but the future of their investments appears uncertain after the Russian move.

The decree calls for the establishment of a new Russian operator and requires existing foreign shareholders to apply for the right to participate in the new firm, with Moscow deciding on their inclusion.

Japanese government spokesman Seiji Kihara said Friday morning that Tokyo was “closely examining the impact on liquified natural gas (LNG) imports”.

“Speaking generally, we believe our resource interests must not be undermined,” he added, declining to give further comment.

Later Friday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government did not think the decree “will immediately stop LNG imports,” on which Japan is heavily dependent.

“We think we need to carefully monitor how the decree will affect our contract,” he told reporters.

Japan’s economy minister meanwhile said Tokyo would look into alternative suppliers.

“In the mid-to-long term, we will do everything we can to ensure a stable supply of energy, including through alternative procurement from LNG suppliers other than Russia, buying from the spot market, and reducing demand when necessary,” Koichi Hagiuda told journalists.

He said Japan would also look into boosting renewable and nuclear energy, which remains controversial in the country after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The Russian decree says the move is a reaction to the “unfriendly actions” of countries that are imposing “restrictive measures” on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

It warns the Russian government will carry out a “financial, environmental and technical audit” of foreign stakeholders and identify any “damages” they have caused.

Those accused of such damages may be obliged to pay unspecified compensation, it adds.

Energy resource-poor Japan relies heavily on LNG imports and had previously ruled out withdrawal from the Sakhalin-2 project despite joining Western-led energy sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

Spokesmen for Mitsubishi and Mitsui would say only that the firms were examining the details of the decree in coordination with the government.

The other major stakeholder in the project is oil giant Shell, which has already committed to selling its 27.5 percent stake.

“As a shareholder, Shell has always acted in the best interests of Sakhalin-2 and in accordance with all applicable legal requirements,” the British group said Friday. 

“We are aware of the decree and are assessing its implications,” it added.

Shell in May announced it had taken a hit totalling $1.6 billion linked to Sakhalin-2.

Japan is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels, in part because many of its nuclear reactors have been offline since the Fukushima disaster.

Russia supplies nearly nine percent of Japan’s LNG demands, with Australian exports accounting for about 40 percent of the market.

Japan is currently sweltering through a record heatwave and the government has warned several times in recent days of a power crunch in the Tokyo region.

On Friday, it began a three-month period in which it is asking residents to conserve power, with fears of shortages during the summer heat.

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Uber courts drivers by letting them pick rides

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Uber drivers in the United States who had to accept ride requests before learning where they were headed will soon be seeing details of trips being sought along with the fares
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Uber on Friday said it will let drivers in the United States see trip details before deciding whether to accept them — a new feature long sought by drivers.

A common lament by drivers at the app-summoned ride platform has been that they have to accept a request before learning where trips will take them, or how profitable they will be.

“Our new trip request screen makes it easier for drivers to decide if a trip is worth their time and effort by providing all the details — including exactly how much they’ll earn and where they’re going — upfront,” chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.

Revealing details only once a driver had accepted a trip was seen as a way to ensure riders would get picked up promptly, and not be snubbed because they were headed to locations deemed undesirable by drivers.

But Khosrowshahi said drivers have made it clear that they want more flexibility and choice.

Uber said the new feature, called Upfront Fares, was tested in several cities and was a success with drivers while resulting in shorter wait times for passengers.

The ride-sharing firm will also shift from sending drivers a single ride request at a time, to letting them pick from a list of detailed passenger requests in an area.

Uber is engaged in a long-term effort to prove that its business model is socially and economy viable.

The “gig economy” — which uses temporary independent contractors for short-term tasks — has grown rapidly since Uber’s launch in 2009 and is promoted as a flexible way for people to earn money without the constraints of a full-time job.

But there has been growing backlash in countries around the world about the conditions and dangers gig workers face.

Uber driver ranks — which shrank during the Covid-19 pandemic — have not rebounded as quickly as demand for rides, and soaring fuel costs have made the gigs less attractive.

The firm in March announced a surcharge on both rides and Uber Eats meal deliveries that would go directly to drivers to help offset high fuel prices.

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Elon Musk fires back at Twitter in court battle

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Court rules require Elon Musk to provide a public version of his 'confidential' counter claims against Twitter as the court battle over holding him to the terms of the $44 bn buyout deal heads for trial in October.
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Elon Musk on Friday filed claims against Twitter as he fights back against the tech firm’s lawsuit demanding he be held to his $44 billion buyout deal.

Musk’s counter-suit was submitted along with a legal defense against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the deal he inked in April to buy Twitter, the Chancery Court in the state of Delaware said in a notice.

The 164-page filing was submitted as being “confidential,” meaning the documents were not accessible by the public, the notice indicated.

Rules of the court, however, require Musk to submit a public version of the filing with trade secrets or other sensitive information redacted.

A judge has ordered a five-day trial over Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk to begin on October 17.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter, whose stock price closed at $41.61 on Friday, has stuck by its estimates regarding accounts run by software “bots” rather than people, and argued that Musk is contriving excuses to back out of the contract.

The social media platform has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.

“We are committed to closing the merger on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and board chairman Bret Taylor said in a copy of a letter to investors.

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

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Musk, Twitter get Oct. 17 trial in buyout fight

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Twitter is due to face off with Tesla boss Elon Musk on October 17 in the US state of Delaware in a buyout trial
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Twitter’s lawsuit to force Elon Musk to complete his $44 billion buyout bid is set to go to trial on October 17, a US judge has ordered, in a case with major stakes for both sides.

The trial is due to open in a court in the eastern state of Delaware and is set to last five days to decide whether Musk can walk away from the deal.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter has countered by saying Musk already agreed to the deal and can’t back out now.

An order from the judge handling the case, Kathaleen McCormick, lays out an expedited schedule to resolve a fight that has left Twitter in limbo.

She reminds both sides that they “shall cooperate in good faith” on matters like handing over information to each other, a key topic that can result in delays. 

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

Twitter blamed disappointing results last week on “headwinds,” including the uncertainty imposed on the company by Musk’s chaotic buyout bid.

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