Media Focus on Multinational Corporations [2023.05.08]





Baosteel】【Saudi Aramco

Baosteel, Saudi Aramco, and PIF to Jointly Build World's First Green and Low Carbon Steel Plant in Saudi Arabia

Baoshan Iron and Steel Co Ltd (Baosteel), Saudi Aramco, and Public Investment Fund (PIF) have reached an agreement to build a full-process thick plate plant in Saudi Arabia, which will become the world's first green and low-carbon steel plant of its kind. The joint venture will be owned 50% by Baosteel, with Saudi Aramco and PIF each holding 25% stakes.

The plant will have a designed capacity of 2.5 million tons of direct reduced iron and 1.5 million tons of thick plate annually, and it is expected to become operational by the end of 2026. This will also be Baosteel's first full-process production base overseas, subject to regulatory approvals.

The project is part of Baosteel's efforts to develop high-quality infrastructure along the Belt and Road initiative. Alongside Saudi Aramco and PIF, the three partners aim to create a role model project for economic collaboration between China and Saudi Arabia.

The future production base will be equipped with a direct reduced iron furnace and an electric arc furnace fueled by natural gas, which is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 60% compared to conventional blast-furnace-based steelmaking processes. It will become a benchmark project in green and low-carbon development.


Zoomlion To Celebrate 30th Anniversary with Special Exhibition Highlighting Intelligent Products and Digitalization Achievements

CHANGSHA, China, May 6, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Co., Ltd. ('Zoomlion') will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a series of events and exhibitions from May 11 to 14 in the Zoomlion Smart Industrial City (the 'City') in Changsha, Hunan Province.

Zoomlion will hold its 30th anniversary convention on May 11 at the headquarters building of the City. Alongside this, a special technological achievements exhibition will showcase over 500 units of advanced equipment and core components. The exhibition will also highlight the fruitful achievements of Zoomlion's research institute, ZValley, 12 machinery business units, and five core components business units. The events will take place in the headquarters building and its four smart manufacturing parks. Global audiences can join in on the events through online livestreams, where they can explore Zoomlion's world-leading intelligent, international, and sustainable lighthouse factory, cutting-edge intelligent products, and digitalization achievements, wherever they are in the world.

Zoomlion's 30th anniversary exhibition will highlight its latest technological and intelligent achievements to visitors:

Embark on a journey through the world's largest construction machinery industry base with a comprehensive product lineup and experience the captivating world of intelligent manufacturing at the Lighthouse factories. The City is now home to eight world-leading lighthouse factories, 300 intelligent production lines, and eight national tech innovation platforms, boasting more than 150 industry-leading technologies and over 600 patented production technologies. It is at the forefront of a new era of globalization, intelligent manufacturing, and digital transformation, and leads the industry in achieving carbon peak and carbon neutrality through green manufacturing.

A grand showcase of more than 500 units of Zoomlion's flagship equipment and core components, as well as advanced technologies and solutions. This includes the world's largest tonnage all-terrain crane, tower crane with 5G remote control, and a pump truck with the world's longest carbon fiber boom. Visitors can also check out the world's tallest self-propelled straight boom aerial work platform, and new dry-mixed mortar construction materials.

A taste of authentic Changsha culture in the City, where guests can enjoy a variety of entertainment activities, including concerts, camping, games, hot balloon rides and more.

As part of the 30th-anniversary celebration, Zoomlion will also participate in the Changsha International Construction Equipment Exhibition (CICEE) on May 12-15, and host an employee open day on May 13.


BASF Eyes Sale of Wintershall Dea, IPO Preferred Option

German chemicals group BASF on Thursday said it was working to exit energy business Wintershall Dea, with a stock market listing remaining the preferred option.

CEO Martin Brudermueller also flagged a possible sale of the oil and gas producer to investors.

'The exit will not take place immediately,' Brudermueller said in a speech to the company's shareholder meeting, adding that it would require approval from public authorities and joint venture partners.

'But we are very optimistic that we will be able to execute this in the foreseeable future,' he told the meeting.

Investment firm LetterOne owns a 27.3% stake in Wintershall Dea.

Brudermueller said the 6.5 billion euro ($7.18 billion) writedown on BASF's shareholding in Wintershall Dea led to a 2022 net loss for the company.

'It was very bitter. However, it now opens up a path forward for us,' Brudermueller said of the exit plans.

BASF confirmed its preliminary first-quarter results ahead of its shareholder meeting, which were initially published earlier in April.

'BASF started off 2023 better than analysts had expected – and in a stagnating and difficult economic environment,' Brudermueller said.

The company confirmed its outlook for 2023, targeting sales this year in a range of 84-87 billion euros and adjusted EBIT of 4.8-5.4 billion euros.


Chevron announces first quarter 2023 results

Reported earnings of $6.6 billion; adjusted earnings of $6.7 billion

Cash flow from operations of $7.2 billion; free cash flow of $4.2 billion

Shareholder distributions of $6.6 billion, up 65 percent from first quarter 2022

Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) today reported earnings of $6.6 billion ($3.46 per share - diluted) for first quarter 2023, compared with $6.3 billion ($3.22 per share - diluted) in first quarter 2022. Included in the current quarter was a $130 million tax charge related to changes in the energy profits levy in the United Kingdom. Foreign currency effects decreased earnings by $40 million. Adjusted earnings of $6.7 billion ($3.55 per share - diluted) in first quarter 2023 compared to adjusted earnings of $6.5 billion ($3.36 per share - diluted) in first quarter 2022.


TotalEnergies posts $6.5 billion profit in 1Q23

French oil giant TotalEnergies posted a $6.5 billion profit during the first quarter of 2023, down from an $8.9 billion quarter-on-quarter gain a year earlier, according to its financial results statement released Thursday.

The company's income during the last quarter of 2022 was around $7.6 billion.

The company also posted around $58.3 billion in revenue for the first quarter, down from about $63.9 billion in the same quarter last year.

The company’s revenue for the fourth quarter of last year amounted to $63.9 billion.


Suncor In $4.1B Deal To Buy TotalEnergies’ Oilsands Operations

Calgary-based Suncor Energy will acquire French TotalEnergies’ Canadian operations in a US$4.1-billion deal for the oilsands patch.

For US$4.1 billion in cash and another potential $450 million under a conditional arrangement, Suncor will acquire TotalEnergies EP Canada’s 31.23% interest in Canada’s Fort Hills oilsands project and a 50% working interest in Surmont, which is operated by ConocoPhillips.

Fort Hills is an open-pit mine containing raw oil sands bitumen.

Suncor says the deal will boost its per day production capacity by 135,000 barrels, adding over 2 billion barrels of proven and probable reserves to its portfolio.

Despite the rising costs and operational challenges of the Fort Hill project, along with oil prices that have dropped 20% from last year, Suncor’s stock was trading up 2.42% at $29.99 per share on Thursday at 11:06 a.m. EST. Year-to-date, Suncor is down a slight 0.73%.

“This transaction represents a major step in securing long-term bitumen supply to our base plant upgraders at a competitive supply cost,” Suncor CEO Rich Kruger said in a press release. “These are valuable oilsands assets that are a strategic fit for us and add long-term shareholder value.'

For TotalEnergies, the sale comes as the oil giant reports a decline in first-quarter earnings, with net income down 27% to $6.5 billion. While down for the quarter, the earnings met analyst expectations, Reuters reports.

The sale is expected to close in the third-quarter of this year.


Shell Posts Q1 Profit of $9.65B

Shell on Thursday posted first-quarter net profit of $9.65 billion, topping analysts' forecasts, as strong earnings from fuel trading offset cooling oil and gas prices.

Shell kept its dividend unchanged at $0.2875 per share and also kept the rate of its share repurchase program stable at $4 billion over the next three months. Shell reported adjusted earnings of $9.65 billion in the first quarter, exceeding a company-provided analyst forecast of $8 billion.

That compared with earnings of $9.1 billion a year earlier and $9.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, when Shell reported a record annual profit of $40 billion. Lower natural gas prices in the quarter weighed on Shell's giant integrated gas business, with profits slumping 18% on the quarter to $4.9 billion.

But this was broadly offset by a 139% jump in profits to $1.8 billion in its chemicals and refined products unit.


BP plans to up stake in Australia’s Browse gasfield

BP has agreed to acquire Shell’s stake in Australia’s largest untapped gasfield, Reuters reported on Saturday.

Under the agreement, BP will take on Shell’s 27% shares in the offshore Browse field, upping its total stake to 44%.

Development of the Browse concession is seen as a possible replacement for ageing fields supplying the North West Shelf LNG facility and is estimated to cost USD 20.5 million.

The Browse development located off the coast of the Kimberly region in Western Australia encompasses the Calliance, Brecknock and Torosa offshore fields, which are estimated to contain 566 bcm (20 tcf) of gas.

Given the fields contain up to 12% carbon dioxide, development of the project is expected to include a carbon capture, storage and reinjection scheme.

The Browse joint venture is operated by Woodside Energy with a 30.3% stake.

Cost of the transaction was not revealed, though 2022 estimates put the value of Shell’s shares in the project at around USD 350 million.

The deal is subject to regulatory approvals.

BP, Shell and Woodside Energy are all shareholders of the North West Shelf LNG plant.


Sinopec's Xinjiang well heralds ultra-deep success

China has made significant advances in the exploration of oil and gas resources in ultra-deep areas, experts said on Wednesday.

Confirmation of this achievement came after domestic energy company China Petrochemical Corp started drilling the Yuejin 3-3 well in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Monday.

The drilling of the Yuejin 3-3 well of the Shendi-1 project in the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang is intended to reach a depth of 9,472 meters, a record for the deepest oil and gas well in Asia.

It represents a major milestone in the country's exploration of deep energy resources that will further guarantee China's national energy security, the company said.

Also known as Sinopec, the company also struck sizable oil and gas flows on Tuesday in an exploration well in the Tarim Basin at a depth of 8,591 meters, another breakthrough in the hunt for hard-to-extract energy resources in the country.

The Shunbei 10X well, located in Xinjiang, tested a daily oil and gas flow of 600,000 cubic meters, making it the 50th well struck at a depth exceeding 8,000 meters in the Shunbei field, Sinopec said in a statement.

With an average well depth of more than 7,300 meters, Shunbei is one of the world's deepest oil and gas fields being commercially developed, with oil and gas production so far reaching 7.7 million metric tons of oil equivalent.

Lin Boqiang, head of the China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy at Xiamen University, said the discovery of the reserves in Shunbei 10X, a key exploration well in the region, confirms the overall connectivity of the oil and gas reservoirs in the central oil and gas area of the Shunbei oil and gas field.

This has significant implications for exploring and developing the reserves in the region on a large scale, Lin said.

The Tarim Basin is a major petroliferous basin in China as well as one of the most difficult to explore due to its harsh ground environment and complicated underground conditions. The discovery reveals a positive resource prospect in the region, he said.

Ma Yongsheng, president of Sinopec, said the company will step up the deep oil and gas exploration in the country in the years to come.

In recent years, China has achieved a series of breakthroughs in the exploration and development of deep oil and gas resources. China's oil and gas reserves in the deep and ultra-deep layers are equivalent to 67.1 billion tons of oil equivalent that account for 34 percent of the country's total oil and gas reserves.

The Tarim Basin, for example, has oil resources buried between 6,000 meters and 10,000 meters that account for 83.2 percent of its total, while the corresponding figure for natural gas is as high as 63.9 percent, the company said.


Ford recalls some vehicles for air bag inflator installation

Ford Motor Co. is recalling certain 2004 to 2006 Ranger vehicles because replacement front passenger air bag inflators may have been installed incorrectly.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a letter that the recall includes 231,942 vehicles.

The vehicles had received replacement front passenger air bag inflators under a previous recall. The NHTSA said that an incorrectly installed inflator may not properly inflate the passenger air bag, increasing the risk of injury during a crash.

Dealers will inspect and reinstall the front passenger air bag inflator, if needed, for free.

Notification letters are expected to be mailed to owners of the impacted vehicles on May 22.

Ford recalled about 98,000 Rangers for the same problem in February, and the recent action adds about 133,000 of the pickups.

Vehicle owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332 or the NHTSA at vehicle safety hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153).

Ford recalled about 98,000 Rangers for the same problem in February, and the recent action adds about 133,000 of the pickups.

A day earlier, BMW warned the owners of about 90,000 older vehicles in the U.S. not to drive them due to an increasing threat that the air bags might explode in a crash.

The warning covers vehicles from the 2000 through 2006 model years that previously had been recalled to replace faulty and dangerous air bag inflators made by Takata.

The company used volatile ammonium nitrate to inflate the air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to heat and humidity and blow apart a metal canister, hurling shrapnel that can injure or kill drivers and passengers.

Since 2009, the exploding air bags made by Takata have killed at least 33 people worldwide, including 24 in the United States. Most of the deaths and about 400 injuries have happened in U.S., but they also have occurred in Australia and Malaysia.


Apple posts quarterly revenue decline; iPhone sales solid

Apple once again posted an, until now, rare revenue decline in its latest fiscal quarter, but said its overall business improved from the December quarter and sales of its iPhones were solid.

The results reported Thursday were better than Wall Street's muted expectations and Apple's stock rose in after-hours trading.

The latest numbers come after the Cupertino, California, company in February posted its first quarterly revenue drop in nearly four years after pandemic-driven restrictions on its China factories curtailed sales of the latest iPhone during the holiday season.

Apple said it earned $24.16 billion, or $1.52 per share, in the three-month period that ended April 1. That was down slightly from $25.01 billion, also $1.52 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 3% to $94.84 billion from $97.28 billion.

Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of $1.43 per share on revenue of $92.91 billion, according to a poll by FactSet.

Apple said iPhone sales brought in $51.33 billion in revenue in the first quarter. Analysts expected a more modest $48.66 billion. Revenue in its key services division was $20.91 billion, slightly above Wall Street's estimates of $20.66 billion.

CEO Tim Cook said in a conference call that Apple is seeing “ongoing challenges' related to the broader economic environment but the company continues to “manage for the long term.”

Unlike many of its tech industry peers, Apple hasn’t signaled any intention to resort to mass layoffs. Industry giants such as Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook parent Meta Platforms have announced plans to jettison tens of thousands of employees in recent months as they adjust to revenue slowdowns or downturns caused by people’s lessening dependence on the digital realm as pandemic restrictions have eased.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said Apple delivered a “LeBron-like March,” referring to the basketball star LeBron James.

“The iPhone beat was front and center,” Ives said, adding that it's a clear indication that the company is continuing to gain market share in China.

The company said its board also approved a $90 billion share buyback program and raised its regular quarterly dividend by 4% to 24 cents a share.

Apple's shares climbed about 2% in after-hours trading.


Google and Microsoft fight over the future of AI

Wall Street was able to breathe a sigh of relief on Tuesday as Google-parent company Alphabet (GOOGL) and Microsoft (MSFT) both beat the market’s relatively modest earnings expectations. The companies saw big boosts from their search and cloud computing businesses.

After a disastrous year for both stocks, the shares rebounded strongly in the first quarter.

And so, with immediate concerns out of the way, executives at Microsoft and Alphabet focused their remarks during earnings calls on what excites them most: Artificial intelligence.

Microsoft, Google and a number of smaller rivals are in a race to integrate generative artificial intelligence technology (similar to ChatGPT) into their search functions and other applications.

Both companies see it as an integral part of their future, but it was apparent on Tuesday that Microsoft and Google aren’t in agreement about what that future will look like.

Analysts have expressed worry that Google is falling behind the competition when it comes to AI innovation. In March, Google introduced an AI chatbot named Bard, which met mixed reviews.

Google’s search engine has dominated the market for two decades, with Microsoft’s Bing struggling to gain market share. But the viral success of ChatGPT, which can generate compelling written responses to user prompts, appeared to put Google on defense for the first time in years.

Microsoft has invested in and partnered with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, to deploy similar technology in Bing and other productivity tools.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts on his earnings call Tuesday that artificial intelligence marks a massive potential opportunity for the company, comparing it to the “successful transformation we made from desktop to mobile computing a decade ago.”

He said the company plans to integrate comparable generative AI tools into its search and cloud operations, but struck a balanced tone. “Throughout the years, we have gone through many, many shifts in search,” he said.

Pichai also hinted at concerns about the potential for generative AI tools to spread false information.

“We know that billions of people trust Google to provide the right information,” he said.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, meanwhile, was more effusive about the future of AI in an earnings call Tuesday, telling analysts that he sees AI as a tool that will revolutionize the way people search online.

Nadella said that app installations for Bing have gone up four-fold since it became AI-powered this February. “We look forward to continuing this journey in what is a generational shift in the largest software category — search,” he said.

Shares of Microsoft were up about 8.5% in after hours trading on Tuesday. Shares of Alphabet were up 1.7%.

China Unicom】【Tencent

China Unicom, Tencent announce joint venture plans

China Unicom, the country's major telecommunications operator, and Tencent Holdings, a leading internet firm, have officially set up a joint venture to better tap into the opportunities of the digital economy.

The new JV, roughly translated as Yunzhou Times Technology Co Ltd, was officially established in Beijing last week, China Unicom said on Thursday. The move came after the State Administration for Market Regulation approved the venture capital arms of China Unicom and Tencent to establish the JV in October. The new venture will focus on content distribution and edge computing, and help accelerate the development of services such as digital governance and artificial intelligence.


Starbucks reports China recovery as customers return to stores

SHANGHAI - US coffee giant Starbucks said Wednesday that the company has posted a recovery in its Chinese mainland business this year, fueled by a rebound in traffic as customers returned physically to the stores.

Starbucks achieved a net revenue growth of 3 percent in the Chinese mainland in the second quarter of the 2023 fiscal year, which runs from Jan 2 to April 2, according to a fiscal report.

The coffee giant also saw a 3-percent increase in same-store sales, driven by a 4-percent increase in same-store transactions.

The net number of new stores opened by Starbucks China stood at 153 during the period, more than double the figure for the previous quarter.

By the end of the quarter, the company operated over 6,200 stores across 244 cities in Chinese mainland, on track to meet the goal of 9,000 stores by 2025, it said.


HSBC wins battle with biggest shareholder over call to break up bank

HSBC has seen off an attempt by its biggest shareholder to break up the bank, with an “overwhelming majority” of investors voting Friday to keep the business intact.

Shareholders of Europe’s biggest bank gathered at its annual general meeting in the English city of Birmingham Friday. One particularly controversial proposal up for a vote — supported by China’s Ping An Asset Management — would have forced the lender to come up with a plan to spin off or reorganize its business in Asia, which generates most of its profits.

“The overwhelming majority of shareholders, excluding Ping An, have voted to draw a line under the debate on the structure of the bank,” a HSBC spokesperson said in a statement.

Around half of shareholders voted at the AGM, consistent with turnout in previous years, the spokesperson noted. Ping An (PIAIF) Asset Management, an arm of Chinese insurer Ping An (PIAIF), has an 8% stake in HSBC, according to the lender’s latest annual report.

The London-based bank is one of the world’s top financial institutions, but Ping An has expressed deep concerns about the bank’s future and has called for its Asia business to be spun out into a Hong Kong-listed entity.

Retail investors in Hong Kong, HSBC’s top market, have also been calling for a breakup, arguing that the bank’s performance has been strong in Asia but weak elsewhere, dragging down overall value.