Media Focus on Multinational Corporations [2023.02.06]






CRRC inks deal for UAE railway trains

CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co Ltd, a Shandong province-based subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corp, is due to supply diesel multiple unit passenger trains to Etihad Rail of United Arab Emirates, according to a contract signed by both firms on Tuesday.

It is expected to be the first time DMU passenger trains manufactured in China will be exported to the UAE, which will boost the passenger service of the mainline railway network in the Middle Eastern country, CRRC Qingdao Sifang said.

The Beijing-based China Railway Rolling Stock Corp is the country's largest rolling stock manufacturer by production volume. Etihad Rail is the developer and operator of the UAE's national rail network.

The supply contract includes three DMU passenger trains with top speed of 200 kilometers per hour, a purchase option of additional 20 trains at maximum and maintenance service for all trains in 15 years.

The trains are expected to be the fastest DMU trains in the world.

According to CRRC Qingdao Sifang, the supplied trains will be manufactured with internationally advanced standards and technology and can run in hot and sandy weather.

The trains, set to be put into use in 2025, will be equipped with first-class seats, second-class seats and family zones, as well as air conditioning and WiFi service, to provide a comfortable and intelligent experience for passengers, the company added.

Air Liquide】【Total

Air Liquide & Total to develop 100 H2 stations

Air Liquide and TotalEnergies announce their decision to create an equally owned joint venture to develop a network of hydrogen stations, geared towards heavy duty vehicles on major European road corridors. This initiative will help facilitate access to hydrogen, enabling the development of its use for goods transportation and further strengthening the hydrogen sector.


Ford returns to Formula One in partnership with Red Bull

Formula One's booming popularity in the United States has lured another American brand to the series as Ford said Friday it would return to the globe-trotting series as the engine provider for Red Bull Racing.

The partnership begins with immediate technical support this season, but Ford engines in 2026 when F1 adopts new hybrid regulations that lured Ford back after a 24-year absence.

Red Bull powertrains and Ford will partner on the development of a hybrid power unit that will supply engines to both Red Bull and AlphaTauri when new F1 regulations begin in 2026. The partnership which is for at least eight years was announced in New York as Red Bull unveiled the car design it will use in 2023. Red Bull won the constructors title last season, and Max Verstappen is the two-time defending world champion.

Red Bull is committed to winning and theyve demonstrated that they are capable of winning,Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance, told The Associated Press. We want to be in motorsports for the technology and for the marketing, but we want to do it winning and with the right partner. Theyre committed to that, they have a winning culture.

Ford dominated F1 in the late 1960s and 1970s as an engine manufacturer with Cosworth and the American automaker is the third most successful engine maker in F1 history with 10 constructorschampionships and 13 driverschampionships. Ford won 176 races and owned and ran the Jaguar F1 team until 2004 when Jaguar was sold and became Red Bull Racing.



BP Taps Deep Gas Reservoirs In Azerbaijans Caspian Sea

UK oil giant BP has started drilling two new exploration wells to search for gas deep beneath the Caspian Sea.

The announcement comes as Azerbaijan imports gas to meet both growing domestic demand and existing export contracts. Baku has also pledged to double exports to Europe within five years.

One of the wells will reach a depth of 7,000 meters, BP said this month, to tap a gas reservoir believed to lie below the existing Shah Deniz gas field, which currently provides the bulk of Azerbaijan's gas exports. This well, which is expected take around a year to complete, should confirm whether gas in the deep reservoir can be extracted commercially.

BP said the second well, which will reach a depth of about 4,500 meters, is targeting a possible reservoir below Azerbaijan's main oil field, the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) field. This drilling project will follow an existing well for part of its depth and so is expected to be completed in just three months.

Offshore drilling in deep water is enormously expensive, with each well costing many tens of millions of dollars.


QatarEnergy acquires 30% interest in Lebanese exploration blocks from Eni and partners

QatarEnergy has acquired a 30% interest in exploration Blocks 4 and 9 offshore Lebanon from Eni and TotalEnergies. This partnership marks QatarEnergys first exploration endeavor in Lebanon and confirms exploratory basin interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Eni and TotalEnergies will hold a 35% interest after the transfer.

Exploration block 9 has a total area of 1,749 km2 and rests roughly 80 km offshore southern Lebanon in water depths of approximately 1,700 m; exploration block 4 has a total area of 1,911 km2 in water depths of roughly 1,500 m.

Exxon Mobil

Exxon Mobil Sets Large-Scale Hydrogen Plant Start-Up for 2027

Exxon Mobil Corp. disclosed on Monday its plan to start operations at its large-scale hydrogen plant in Texas in 2027 or 2028, Exxon's Low Carbon business president Dan Ammann told Reuters.

The unit is part of Exxon's efforts to create a new business to make money out of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from other companies looking to decarbonize their own operations. Exxon estimates 10% or more of return for the business.

Exxon has budgeted $7 billion for hydrogen, carbon capture and biofuels projects between 2022 and 2027. A final investment decision for the hydrogen project is expected by 2024.

'People will see that this works and that it can be economically viable,' Ammann said.

Exxon said its Baytown facility in Texas is expected to produce 1 billion cubic feet of blue hydrogen per day. The fuel, which produces no emissions when burnt, is targeted at heavy industries trying to switch from fossil to renewable fuels.

Blue hydrogen is made from natural gas in combination with carbon capture. Exxon plans to permanently bury underground 98% of the associated CO2 produced, or about 7 million metric tons annually.

Last year, Exxon struck its first commercial carbon storage deal with the world's top ammonia maker CF Industries under an effort to target a projected $4 trillion CCS market by 2050. Ammonia in its liquid form can be used to transport hydrogen to different parts of the world, as a hydrogen carrier.



Shell profit doubles to record as war drives up energy costs

LONDON -- Global energy giant Shell said Thursday that its annual profits doubled to a record high last year as oil and natural gas prices soared after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

London-based Shell Plc posted adjusted earnings of $39.9 billion for 2022 in its financial results for the final three months of the year. Adjusted earnings in the fourth quarter, which exclude one-time items and fluctuations in the value of inventories, rose by 50%, to $9.8 billion, from the same period a year earlier.

Shell is the latest oil company to report bumper profits, which risks reigniting public anger that the fossil fuel industry do more to offset high energy bills for households and small businesses as well as cut climate-changing carbon emissions. U.S.-based Exxon Mobil also posted record annual profits days earlier, while U.K. rival BP and Frances TotalEnergies reported huge quarterly profits last year.

The results demonstrate Shell's capacity to deliver vital energy to our customers in a volatile world,' new CEO Wael Sawan said in a statement.

It's the first earnings report presented by Sawan since he took over as chief executive at the start of the year, replacing Ben van Beurden, who stepped down after nine years. Sawan also has reorganized the companys core business units.


Aramco Closes In On $7.2 Billion In Deals Supporting Saudi Industry

Saudi Aramco has signed more than 100 agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth $7.2 billion to support the local industrial and manufacturing sectors, the Saudi oil giant said on Monday as the Kingdom looks to have more local content in the industrial supply chains.

The signing of the deals took place during the 7th edition of the In-Kingdom Total Value Add (iktva) Forum and Exhibition, a program to boost local content in supply chains. The program achieved 63% local content in 2022, up from 35% in 2015 when it was launched, Saudi Aramco said in a statement.

The event was attended by Saudi Arabias Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.

During the event, Aramco launched its wholly owned subsidiary Aramco Digital Company, which aims to accelerate digital transformation within Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region.

The iktva program encourages the establishment of regional headquarters in the Kingdom, Saudi Aramco said.

In 2021, Saudi Arabias authorities said that companies willing to do business with Saudi government firms or such owned by the state should have their regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2023. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia eased some of those rules about regional headquarters and allowed companies with small foreign operations to continue working with customers affiliated with or owned by the Kingdom.

The move to boost local content and strengthen manufacturing and industry is part of Saudi Arabias Vision 2030 to diversify its economy, which depends a lot on oil production and exports.


Spanish court: Amazon violated labor law with delivery app

MADRID -- A Spanish court has ruled that Amazon broke labor laws by forcing more than 2,000 delivery drivers to use an app that the company controlled for scheduling work and payments and requiring them to use their own cars and cellphones on the job.

Amazon could not treat workers using its Flex app as self-employed because the e-commerce giant's Spanish subsidiary assumes the authority to make all decisions regarding the service, setting the conditions of execution and remuneration, and the circumstances of the day, time and durationof labor, according to the Madrid labor court's decision released Friday.

Amazon stopped using the Flex app in Spain in 2021.

Friday's ruling is the result of a lawsuit brought by Spains social security body following a 2019 labor inspection at an Amazon facility. The government agency is seeking to recoup payments that it says Amazon should have made on behalf of the drivers.

Amazon has long argued that Flex was an intermediary platform between freelance delivery workers and clients in Spain, rather than a delivery service in its own right.

We respect the court ruling, but we disagree and will be filing an appeal,the company said in a statement, adding that it worked with a range of delivery companies.

Between 2018 and 2021, we also collaborated with some freelancers through the Amazon Flex program, which accounted for a small percentage of packages delivered in Spain,' it added.

The court decision is the latest in a series of legal measures in Spain that are designed to stop e-commerce and delivery app companies from designating workers as self-employed when they have little control over their hours and earnings.

Spains socialist coalition government in 2021 passed the Riders Law,which classified food delivery riders as employees of the digital platforms they work for.

This is another step forward for jurisprudence as a corrective mechanism for new ways of workingusing apps, said Spains UGT union, which backed the lawsuit.


Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard settles SEC charges for $35 million

Government regulators announced Friday that videogame maker Activision Blizzard has agreed to pay $35 million to settle charges that it failed to maintain controls to collect and assess workplace complaints with regard to disclosure requirements and violated a federal whistleblower protection rule.

The lack of necessary controls left Activision 'without the means to determine whether larger issues existed that needed to be disclosed to investors,said Jason Burt, director of the SECs Denver office. Moreover, taking action to impede former employees from communicating directly with the Commission staff about a possible securities law violation is not only bad corporate governance, it is illegal.

In paying the settlement, Activision neither admitted nor denied the SEC's findings and agreed to a cease-and-desist order, the agency said.

Friday's settlement comes after the troubled Santa Monica, California-based gaming company settled with U.S. workplace regulators in 2021 over employee complaints about sexual harassment. Workers then also accused the company of discriminating against employees who were pregnant and retaliating against employees who spoke out, including firing them.

In that settlement, the maker of Candy Crush, Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft agreed to create an $18 million fund to compensate people who were harassed or discriminated against. Money left over would go to charities for women in the video game industry or other gender equity measures. Activision also agreed to strengthen its policies and training on harassment and discrimination and hire an independent consultant to oversee its compliance with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's conditions.

One month before that, in August of 2021, the company announced that its president, J. Allen Brack, was stepping down after the company was hit with a discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit in California. Californias civil rights agency sued the Santa Monica-based company in July of 2021, citing a frat boyculture that had become a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.

Activision shares fell close to 2%, to $75.60 in afternoon trading on Friday. Shares hovered near $100 in the weeks leading up to the flurry of workplace misconduct charges in the summer of 2021.

Just over a year ago, Microsoft said it was paying a hefty $68.7 billion for Activision, but the deal is being held up by regulators in the U.S. and Europe over anti-competitive concerns.


Raytheon Technologies Board of Directors Declares Quarterly Cash Dividend

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 3, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Raytheon Technologies Corporation (NYSE: RTX) announced today that its Board of Directors declared a dividend of 55 cents per outstanding share of RTX common stock. The dividend will be payable on March 23, 2023 to shareowners of record at the close of business on Feb. 24, 2023.

Raytheon Technologies has paid cash dividends on its common stock every year since 1936.



SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 4, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment, today announced an expansion of its partnership with REVERB, a leading environmental non-profit focused on working with musicians, festivals and venues, to increase sustainability and reduce the environmental footprint of the live music industry.

The partnership was highlighted earlier today at UMG Chairman & CEO Sir Lucian Grainge's Artist Showcase and will be again featured tomorrow, at UMG's Annual After Party to coincide with the 65th Annual Grammy Awards.  At the events, a number of emerging technologies have been, and will be, implemented from CO2 removal, renewable energy sources and recycled materials.  In addition, the events' menus are both 100% meatless and locally sourced.  The events will serve as models for sustainability standards at future UMG events.

Speaking on the initiative, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, 'At a time when the world is grappling with the dire consequences of the climate crisis, it's more important than ever for all of us to step up and take meaningful action to reduce our environmental footprint. That's why I commend Universal Music Group for their bold efforts to lead by example and show the rest of us how it's done. This is our collective responsibility, and it's incumbent that we work together towards building a more sustainable future for generations to come.'

Susan Mazo, UMG's EVP of Corporate Social Responsibility, Events and Special Projects, said of the initiative, 'We're proud to build on our relationship with REVERB by partnering with them on two of our flagship events this year. With all eyes on the music industry in Los Angeles this week, this collaboration underscores our commitment to produce more eco-friendly events in order to set a new and sustainable standard across the industry. We are proud that these showcase sustainability in action while also supporting many of our other philanthropic partners.'


AMC exits Saudi Arabia as young cinema market booms

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- AMC Entertainment Holdings has decided to exit Saudi Arabia's fast-growing market amid heavy competition less than five years after the lifting of a decades-long ban on movie theaters.

The world's biggest cinema chain, which announced the decision on Tuesday, said it had always planned to eventually hand operations over to its Saudi partners and that the $30 million sale would further boost its cash reserves as the industry struggles to recover from the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on movie theaters and other forms of public entertainment as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to overhaul the economy and bring Western-style entertainment to the once-cloistered and ultra-conservative kingdom.

AMC marked its arrival by hosting a viewing of Black Pantherin April 2018 that attracted a large crowd of men and women, a scene that would have been unimaginable just a few years earlier.

But in the years since it has faced stiff competition, including from homegrown operator muvi Cinemas, which now leads the market, and Vox Cinemas, part of the Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim Entertainment conglomerate.


Disney World unions vote down offer covering 45,000 workers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Union members voted down a contract proposal covering tens of thousands of Walt Disney World service workers, saying it didn't go far enough toward helping employees face cost-of-living hikes in housing and other expenses in central Florida.

The unions said that 13,650 out of 14,263 members who voted on the contract on Friday rejected the proposal from Disney, sending negotiators back to the bargaining table for another round of talks that have been ongoing since August. The contract covers around 45,000 service workers at the Disney theme park resort outside Orlando.

Disney World service workers who are in the six unions that make up the Service Trades Council Union coalition had been demanding a starting minimum wage jump to at least $18 an hour in the first year of the contract, up from the starting minimum wage of $15 an hour won in the previous contract.

The proposal rejected on Friday would have raised the starting minimum wage to $20 an hour for all service workers by the last year of the five-year contract, an increase of $1 each year for a majority of the workers it covered. Certain positions, like housekeepers, bus drivers and culinary jobs, would start immediately at a minimum of $20 under the proposal.

Housekeepers work extremely hard to bring the magic to Disney, but we cant pay our bills with magic,' said Vilane Raphael, who works as a housekeeper at the Disney Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.


Starbucks focuses energy on lower-tier regions

Starbucks is diving into smaller Chinese cities at a pace never seen before.

According to market data tracker Geo-Hey, Starbucks, the world's largest coffee chain by annual revenue, opened 654 stores in China in 2020 and 229 new stores within the 90 days preceding the end of November 2022.

It should be noted that Starbucks' latest expansion in the country is mainly located in lower-tier cities, such as Qingyuan in Guangdong province and Xinyu in Jiangxi province.

This is in line with Starbucks' long-term plan in China. At a global investor meeting held in mid-September, the Seattle, United States-based coffee company announced that it will open 3,000 new stores in China by 2025, which comes to one new store every nine hours. Based on this bold plan, Starbucks will have opened 9,000 stores in 300 cities in China by the end of 2025.

It is the largest expansion plan that the 51-year-old Starbucks has rolled out for a single market outside of North America. Reaching into smaller Chinese cities sits at the plan's core.

'We are looking not only at 300 cities in China for expansion, but also its 3,000 counties, county-level cities and city districts,' said Liu Wenjuan, chief operating officer at Starbucks China.

Experts from market consultancy iResearch explained that well-established companies such as Starbucks have focused more on the third- and fourth-tier cities due to the intense competition in the big cities. They have provided coffee at more affordable prices in the smaller cities to attract more consumers.