Media Focus on Multinational Corporations [2023.04.24]






ABB Group launches contest to cultivate local innovative talents

With China entering a new era of green and innovation-led growth, ABB Group, the Swiss technology company, launched the 2023 ABB Cup Innovation Contest in China on Tuesday to support the cultivation of local innovative talents, according to a statement released by the company.

Themed 'Intelligent Technologies for the Future', the contest this year involves areas such as power electronics, machine learning, mathematical modeling, industrial robotics and human-computer interaction, with the aim of promoting open and innovative thinking among young people, and enhancing their ability to solve real-world problems by exploring interdisciplinary approaches.

The contest invites students from vocational schools and universities in China to create bold innovations and designs around either of the two set topics, namely AI-based modeling for predicting the temperature of insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) in drives, and robot programming and remote control for domino. Students can join the competition individually or in teams.

Gu Chunyuan, chairman of ABB China, said China's high-quality economic growth depends on high-level technical professionals, particularly the outstanding engineers that meet new requirements from the emerging technologies, industries and business models.

'With a focus on engineering practice, the contest aims to advance the student's innovation and practical skills, and encourage them to try to solve technical problems in real industrial scenes by making full use of interdisciplinary knowledge, so as to adapt to the changes brought about by new technologies,' said Gu.

Zhang Nan, secretary-general of Beijing-based Chinese Association of Automation (CAA), the co-organizer of the contest, said China's new engineering construction emphasizes the interdisciplinary integration, combining science, humanities and engineering.

In line with this trend, the innovation contest encourages participants to break down barriers between disciplines and innovate cross-boundaries, so as to cultivate outstanding engineering talents who are able to solve problems through interdisciplinary research and meet the needs for the future development of industries, said Zhang.

The Embassy of Switzerland in China and the Consulate General of Switzerland in Shanghai have been strong supporters of the contest over the years. Jurg Burri, ambassador of Switzerland to China, said that since the establishment of China-Swiss innovative strategic partnership, the two countries have carried out fruitful cooperation in technology innovation.



Honeywell to expand ties in China for decarbon biz

Honeywell is positioned to continuously expand its business in the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) sector in China to further tap market potential, as the country's low-carbon transition goals breed massive opportunities for the chemical and aviation sectors, which produce high greenhouse gas emissions, said a top company official.

'We are optimistic about the SAF industry prospects in the country, which are expected to further facilitate China's green transition,' said Henry Liu, vice-president and general manager of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies Asia-Pacific.

'Honeywell will further tap the massive potential of the SAF market in China and cooperate more with local partners to support carbon reduction in the aviation industry, as we believe its green ambitions will only accelerate development in the country,' he said.

The US-based industrial conglomerate launched its new SAF process technology in China and signed cooperation agreements with several local partners on Thursday during a summit in Tianjin, aiming to support carbon reduction in the aviation industry and accelerate the deployment of ready-to-use SAF solutions.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Honeywell and the Zhejiang Jiaao Enprotech Stock Co Ltd on a second SAF production facility in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province based on prior cooperation. The company also signed an MOU with Inner Mongolia Jiutai New Material Co Ltd to cooperate in SAF and plastic recycling, in addition to MOU agreements with Qingdao Haier Air-condition Electronic Co Ltd and Shanghai Hanbell Precise Machinery Co Ltd to cooperate on the application of the company's refrigerants, it said.

It also signed an MOU with Tianjin Free Trade Zone during the summit to explore cooperation opportunities to build a SAF production base in the city to help meet growing demand in China.

'While China's low-carbon transition goals pose emissions reduction challenges for industries with high greenhouse gas emissions including the aviation industry, it brings along opportunities for innovation and application of sustainable technologies as well,' said Liu.

'As a long-time practitioner and enabler of sustainability, Honeywell is pleased to join hands with Chinese partners to help drive a sustainable future.'

The International Air Transport Association estimates that SAF could contribute around 65 percent of the reduction in emissions needed by the aviation industry to reach net zero in 2050, while the Civil Aviation Administration of China also pointed out that it is necessary to vigorously promote the decarbonization of the industry and the deployment of SAF.



CATL announces carbon neutrality plans

Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd, the world's largest battery maker for electric vehicles, announced plans on Tuesday to achieve carbon neutrality in its core operations by 2025 and across the battery value chain by 2035.

'For CATL, achieving carbon neutrality demonstrates our capability, which also opens up more opportunities,' said Jiang Li, CATL's board secretary, at the Auto Shanghai.

The battery giant's carbon neutrality plan also marks the largest plan in scale in lithium-ion battery industry, as the sales volume of CATL's lithium-ion batteries soared to 289 GWh last year, according to SNE Research.





Microsoft localizes Teams app for China

Microsoft Corp has localized its popular teamwork app Microsoft Teams in China to meet the surging demand for more engaging and efficient work apps.

The software giant is also using artificial intelligence technologies to reshape productivity tools so as to accelerate the digital transformation of a wide range of industries in China.

Microsoft said the localized Teams service is operated by its Chinese cloud computing partner 21Vianet Group. The China version of Teams is said to offer comprehensive service experience and technical support.

Roan Kang, chief operating officer of Microsoft Greater China, said Teams can boost communication efficiency at Chinese companies that go global and multinationals that aim to better serve the Chinese market.

Enterprises, Kang said, demand not just digital tools but a 'digital hub' so as to ensure innovation is comprehensive through higher quality, efficiency, security and intelligence.

Microsoft 365, a platform for communication, collaboration and intelligent productivity built around Teams, is increasingly serving as an 'organizational digital hub' in a growing number of businesses, he said.



Huawei launches in-house ERP system

Huawei Technologies Co has developed its own in-house, enterprise resource planning MetaERP system marking a breakthrough in possessing self-controlled crucial technologies amid prolonged United States government restrictions.

ERP represents key software that underpins a company's business operations, ranging from accounting to supply chain management. It is widely seen as the most critical enterprise management IT system.

Meanwhile, Huawei is now developing a tailor-made ERP system for a unit of a Chinese State-owned enterprise, signaling that it is exploring a new business line by commercializing ERP software, people familiar with the matter said.

The move will increase pressure on foreign companies such as SAP and Oracle in the Chinese market, possibly reducing the use of their ERPs in State-owned enterprises in particular, experts said.

Huawei said on Thursday that it had replaced its legacy ERP system with its in-house MetaERP, which currently handles 80 percent of its business volume.

Until the breakthrough, Huawei had used ERP software developed by US tech company Oracle.

Tao Jingwen, a Huawei board member and president of its quality, business process and IT management department, said in a speech on Thursday in Shenzhen, Guangdong province: 'We were cut off from the old ERP system and other core operation and management systems three years ago. Now, we are proud to announce that we have broken through that blockadeand we have survived.'

As a result of Washington's restrictions, Huawei was unable to purchase the newest ERP system from Oracle three years ago.

Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei, also said on Thursday that Huawei now has self-controlled ERP thanks to the support of its partners, and its future development is also closely linked to its partners.

'We are still lagging behind in software today, but will we be strong one day? Maybe,' Ren said.

The move is the latest push by Huawei to explore a new business line and seek new revenue sources amid Washington's restrictions.



Tencent inks partnership deal with Singapore tourism authority

The Singapore Tourism Board and WeChat Pay, the mobile payment tool from Tencent Holdings, signed a three-year strategic agreement in Shanghai on Friday ahead of the upcoming May Day holiday.

With the agreement, the two aim to bring smarter and more convenient traveling experiences to Chinese tourists. They will also leverage the WeChat ecosystem to promote the digital transformation of various industries in Singapore.

'In the past, we have collaborated with the STB to promote the popularity and development of digital payment. We will work together further to create high-quality cross-border smart travel experiences for Chinese tourists,' said Freedom Li, president of WeChat Pay International Business.

The signing ceremony also included multiple measures to attract Chinese tourists to Singapore from May 1 to Oct 31 in partnership with dozens of key merchants in Singapore. For example, Chinese tourists can enjoy a 20 percent discount at selected stores when spending via WeChat Pay.


China Mobile

China Mobile denies reports of HKBN buyout

China Mobile on Wednesday denied media reports it is exploring a buyout of Hong Kong's leading telecoms company HKBN Ltd.

The company said in a statement to China Daily the report in question is untrue.



BMW Mini apologizes for ice cream slight

Facing continued public fury, BMW Mini apologized again on Friday morning for what appeared to be different treatment between Chinese and foreign visitors during the ongoing Auto Shanghai 2023.

At 9 am on Friday, Mini China issued a second apology via Chinese social media Weibo amid mounting discontent from Chinese media and customers over alleged discrimination against Chinese visitors at its booth during the Shanghai auto show.

A video clip went viral on Chinese social media on Thursday that showed staff from the brand refusing to give free ice cream to a Chinese female visitor by saying that the promotional gift had run out, but a foreigner was offered ice cream a few moments later. The video also showed several foreigners eating ice cream near the Mini booth.

The person who made the recording questioned in the video if Mini's staff was treating foreign visitors and Chinese people differently.

The short video soon sparked huge controversy and became a hot topic on Chinese social platforms.

Mini China posted a short apology soon after on Thursday.

'We sincerely apologize for our problematic internal management and staff members' dereliction of duty, which have caused unpleasant feelings,' said the post.

The company also promised to improve management, strengthen internal training, and strive to provide good service and experiences to all.

In Friday's announcement, Mini China, the brand's Chinese Weibo account, explained that the foreigners who received free ice cream in the short video are actually company employees, while the ice cream for visitors had run out at the time.

'We feel at home here in China. The growth and success of BMW in the country has created prosperity in both China and Germany,' Oliver Zipse, chairman of BMW AG's board of management, was quoted as saying to media ahead of the auto show, which started on Tuesday and runs through April 27.

'China is one of BMW's most important markets. This incident could erode consumers' affection toward BMW and might further lead to investors' decisions to sell BMW stakes,' Yang Delong, chief economist with First Seafront Fund, was quoted as saying by Economic View, a financial media outlet under China News Service.

BMW issued its sales results in the first quarter earlier in April, according to which more than 194,000 vehicles under the BMW and Mini nameplates were delivered in China.



Toyota's new president vows to step up electric vehicle push

TOKYO -- Toyotas new president Koji Sato has promised what he called an aggressive shift on electrification,while acknowledging criticism that Japans top automaker has fallen behind in actual volumes of electric vehicles sold compared to its rivals.

We like to see that as people cheering Toyota on,to play catchup in electric cars, Sato told reporters Friday at Toyota Motor Corp.s Tokyo headquarters.

If we look at in practical terms of the situation today, we have done a great deal in reducing carbon emissions,he said, defending the automaker's record on other gas-sipping technologies.

Toyota is a leader in hybrids, which have both a gasoline engine and electric motor, and Sato stressed that different markets have varying powertrain needs, with emerging markets being slower to adopt pure electric vehicles.

But he said pure electric vehicles allow for more software functions because of their connectivity and other features, stressing that Toyotas electric vehicles would highlight intelligence,such as services and entertainment.

Sato, who has managed the Lexus luxury division, declined to outline specifics of such features. But he stressed that future EV models would be truly Toyota-like,pointing to a high standard for quality and not just affordable pricing.

The companys entire production system must be revamped to make quality EVs befitting the Toyota or Lexus nameplates, he said. Toyota prides itself on its just in timeproduction system, which runs like clockwork and is praised by manufacturing experts around the world.



ExxonMobil and Toyota team up to test fuels with a lower carbon footprint

ExxonMobil is exploring innovative fuel blends with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transportation up to 75% compared to conventional fuels available today.

Toyota has determined that these innovative formulas are compatible with older vehicles as well as its current model line-up.

These lower carbon fuels are intended to be compatible with existing fueling infrastructure.

Both companies agree that multiple solutions and supportive policies are required to reach a lower emission future for transportation.



Keppel, ExxonMobil to explore low-carbon ammonia solutions for Singapore

Keppel Infrastructure and ExxonMobil Asia Pacific have signed an agreement to develop access to low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia for scalable commercial and industrial applications in Singapore, said Reuters.

Keppel Infrastructure (KI) is the infrastructure arm of Singapore-based global asset manager and operator Keppel Corp. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two companies follows the Singapore government’s launch of its national hydrogen strategy in October last year, which expects hydrogen to meet up to half of Singapore’s power needs by 2050.

'As part of this hydrogen strategy, the Energy Market Authority and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore issued an expression of interest in December for proposals to build, own and operate low- or zero-carbon power generation and bunkering facilities on Jurong Island,' KI said in a statement.

In addition to being a hydrogen carrier and storage medium, ammonia can be used directly as a carbon-free fuel or broken down into carbon-free hydrogen for use in power generation, as well as feedstock for refinery and petrochemical operations.

Currently, natural gas meets most of Singapore’s power generation demand.



Europe’s gas crisis is still not over, TotalEnergies CEO says

Paris: The crisis that sent natural gas prices skyrocketing in Europe over the past couple of years isn’t fully over as the region is still faced with constrained supplies and rising competition overseas for the heating and power-generation fuel, according to the boss of TotalEnergies.

“The idea that Europe has solved the issue is wrong,” CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in an interview at the Columbia Global Energy Summit in New York that was broadcast online. “We have a gap of supply.”

Prices for liquefied natural gas cargoes, which have plunged from 2022’s highs, may rise again through year-end as Europe needs to replenish its inventories before winter at a time when Chinese energy demand is rebounding. Meanwhile, supplies of the super-chilled fuel won’t significantly increase at least until 2026 after years of underinvestment in import and export infrastructure, he added.

“The only way for Europe to get the LNG is to pay more. It’s just the reality of supply and demand,” Pouyanne said.



Shell completes upgrade of Pierce Field for gas production

Shell U.K. Ltd, a subsidiary of Shell plc, has completed the restart of operations at the Pierce field in the UK Central North Sea, following a significant upgrade to allow gas to be produced after years of the field producing only oil.  Pierce is a joint venture between Shell companies (operator, 92.52%) and Ithaca Energy (UK) Limited (7.48%.)

Substantial modifications were made to the Haewene Brim floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO), which is used to produce hydrocarbons at the Pierce field.  A new subsea gas export line was also installed, connecting to the SEGAL pipeline system, which brings gas ashore at St Fergus, north of Aberdeen.

To enable the upgrade, the FPSO, which is owned and operated by Bluewater, stopped producing in October 2021. It then spent six months in dry dock, where it was transformed into a vessel that could also produce gas, which had previously been re-injected into the reservoir.

Peak production is expected to reach 30,000 bopd, which is more than twice the production prior to the redevelopment, with more gas being produced than oil. The gas will be sent through newly installed subsea pipelines and the oil will be transported by tanker, as before.

The Pierce field lies around 165 miles (265km) east of Aberdeen, Scotland, in water depths of around 262 feet (85m). It was discovered in 1975, with oil being produced since 1999.

The redevelopment of the Pierce field is part of Shell UK’s broader intent to invest £20-25 billion in the UK energy system in the next decade, subject to Board approval and a stable investment climate, 75% of which will be focused on the development of low and zero-carbon products and services. To deliver this significant investment, projects must remain economically viable under the recently revised UK tax regime.

The Pierce project is one of eight investment decisions Shell UK took in 2018 and 2019 alone in order to sustain North Sea production. These projects ranged from major redevelopments such as Pierce and Penguins, to tiebacks from fields such as Fram and Arran to existing platforms.

The redevelopment of the field is consistent with the UK Government’s North Sea Transition Deal and Shell’s Powering Progress strategy, providing the energy people need today while helping to fund investments in the low-carbon energy system of the future. Other recent UK projects include Shell’s plans to develop floating offshore wind in Scotland, which could bring clean energy to power the equivalent of 6 million homes.

Shell Upstream Director, Zoe Yujnovich, said “the completion of this major project is testament to Shell’s long-standing commitment to the UK North Sea. We took this investment decision in 2019, and it is now increasing locally produced gas right at the time when this additional supply is critically important for the UK’s energy security. It’s a source of huge satisfaction when projects like Pierce come to fruition.”


Saudi Aramco

Saudi Arabia Transfers More Aramco Oil Shares To Wealth Fund

Saudi Arabia has put a second four-per cent chunk of shares of the Aramco energy giant, worth tens of billions of dollars, under the control of the country's sovereign wealth fund, state media said Sunday.

The move underscores Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's campaign to use the kingdom's vast energy resources to open up the economy under his 'Vision 2030' domestic reform agenda.

The official Saudi Press Agency said the shares had been transferred to Sanabil Investments, a firm controlled by the kingdom's Public Investment Fund (PIF), one of the world's biggest sovereign wealth funds with more than $620 billion in assets.

Last year, four per cent of Aramco shares, estimated at the time to be worth $80 billion, were transferred directly to PIF.

The latest shares are worth nearly $80 billion, based on the current market capitalisation of Aramco, one of the world's most valuable companies.

Prince Mohammed 'indicated that the transfer of part of the state's shares in Saudi Aramco is a continuation of Saudi Arabia's long-term initiatives to boost and diversify the national economy and expand investment opportunities,' the report said.

'The transfer will also solidify PIF's strong financial position and credit rating,' it added, noting Riyadh still owns 90 per cent of Aramco's shares.

Sanabil's investments 'include venture, growth capital and small buyouts', according to its website.

Aramco sold 1.7 per cent of its shares on the Saudi bourse in December 2019, generating $29.4 billion in the world's biggest initial public offering.

The firm, which reported record profits totalling $161.1 billion last year, has pledged to achieve 'operational net-zero' carbon emissions by 2050.

That applies to emissions that are produced directly by Aramco's industrial sites, but not the CO2 produced when clients burn Saudi oil in their cars, power plants and furnaces.

Aramco CEO Amin Nasser and other top Saudi officials have simultaneously called for further investment in fossil fuels to ensure global energy security.

The PIF has made high-profile investments in firms including Uber and Disney, and its so-called giga-projects -- centrepieces of Prince Mohammed's reform agenda -- include Neom, a $500 billion futuristic megacity under construction in the Saudi desert.

The crown prince has said he wants the fund to have one trillion dollars in assets by the end of 2025.



Amazon's Whole Foods to cut hundreds of corporate roles

NEW YORK -- Amazon-owned Whole Foods says it is cutting several hundred jobs as part of a process to simplify the grocery chain's operations.

The company plans to make changes to some regional and global support teams over the next two months, according to a memo sent to employees Thursday by the Whole Foods executive team.

The layoffs will take place as part of that shift and will affect less than 0.5% of the company's total workforce, a Whole Foods spokesperson confirmed.

Under the changes, Whole Foods, which operates across nine regions, will shift to six. Among other things, it will also create a companywide operations team and transition some specific store support services from regions to a single team.

“We often talk about how simplifying our work and improving how we operate is critical as we grow,” the company’s executive team wrote in the memo. “We’ve made great progress in these areas through previous operational and organizational changes. As the grocery industry continues to rapidly evolve, and as we — like all retailers — have navigated challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and continued economic uncertainty, it has become clear that we need to continue to build on these changes.”

Whole Foods said it will not eliminate any store or distribution roles, and the changes won’t result in any store closures.

Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion as part of a wider effort to expand its groceries business. But those effort have been rocky.

In February, the company said it planned to close some Amazon Fresh supermarkets and Go convenience store as part of a periodic assessment of its grocery portfolio. In a letter to shareholders last week, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said “Whole Foods is on an encouraging path, but to have a larger impact on physical grocery” the company “must find a mass grocery format that we believe is worth expanding broadly.



Shanghai Disney Resort names official medical service provider

Shanghai Disney Resort on Tuesday announced that United Family Healthcare has been appointed its official medical service provider.

Under the multi-year alliance between the two parties, UFH will support the operations of all three first aid locations within Shanghai Disney Resort as well as provide clinical medical services.

Doctors and nurses from UFH will be stationed at the first aid locations to help visitors deal with injuries and provide first aid for common ailments such as heat stroke and allergies, assist the resort with transporting visitors with severe health conditions to hospitals, and provide health education and management for the employees of the resort.

Carl Wu, CEO of UFH, said that UFH is equipped with medical professionals with multi-language capabilities and rich experience in providing medical support for important occasions like the China Development Forum, China International Import Expo, and the Beijing Marathons.

'At UFH Shanghai, we have an experienced team capable of emergency and critical case treatment. This allows us to better handle emergencies at the resort, especially those require CPR,' said Wu.

Joe Schott, president and general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort, said that the well-being of visitors has always been the top priority, and the alliance demonstrates the shared goal of the two sides to deliver an enjoyable and convenient resort experience to all guests.