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U.S. tariffs cast a cloud over Huawei's solar electronics launch

(Reuters) – Huawei Technology Co’s coming U.S. launch of a solar-panel control device is expected to collide with new Trump administration tariffs on Chinese electronics, undermining a product that analysts had seen as challenging rivals on pricing.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a Huawei sign at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia 2018 in Shanghai, China June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The Chinese company, best known for its smart phones and telecommunications equipment, has developed a new generation of low-cost solar inverters, which convert, manage and monitor energy produced by solar panels for home use.

Huawei has said it was aiming to roll out the product, called FusionHome, in the United States before the end of the summer, a year after its original target. Analysts and distributors had expected it to knock $100-$200 off current market prices of similar devices costing between $1,000 and $1,500 per household.

But a coming 25 percent tariff on Chinese electronics that would overturn much of Huawei’s expected price advantage may have stalled talks with U.S. installers and distributors, said analysts and research firms.

Huawei will either have to reduce its margins or raise prices, they said, potentially benefiting rival producers including SolarEdge and Enphase Energy, which are ramping up manufacturing outside China.

Huawei declined to comment on tariffs and did not respond to detailed questions from Reuters on the current status of FusionHome.

Company spokesman Joe Kelly said in July that the company was planning to introduce the new product to its partners in the United States this summer and that the timing of the roll-out would depend on those distributors.

The 25 percent tariff, if implemented, will take effect Aug. 23, and analysts covering the sector say it will affect the new Huawei product.

“It certainly would eat into profits and is just a question on how aggressive Huawei wants to be,” said Cowen & Co analyst Jeffrey Osborne.

Huawei’s foray into the high-margin residential market comes after panel installations fell in 2017 for the first time in seven years. GTM Research recently cut its forecast for 2018 residential solar market installations by 8 percent to 2.2 gigawatts.

Of four major solar panel makers Reuters talked to, only Utah-based Vivint Solar confirmed it was considering adding Huawei’s inverter to its lineup.

SunPower Corp and Tesla’s SolarCity did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. A SunRun spokeswoman said the company welcomed new innovations that made solar energy cheaper and more accessible.

“A 25 percent tariff could eat up the margins of cost-competitive Chinese manufacturers and potentially change the player landscape of the U.S. solar inverter market,” said another analyst, Iben Frimann-Dahl from Rystad Energy.

Reporting by John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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In an Open Letter, Arianna Huffington Gave Elon Musk Really Good Advice You Should Follow Too

Huffington begins her message to Musk by reminding him what a devoted father he is:

I’ve always loved how, whenever I see you, the first thing you do is whip out your phone to proudly show me videos of your adorable children and their latest exploits. Clearly you have much going on in your life, but it says a lot about you that this is what you lead with.

You would think this opening statement might have hit home, since one of the many problems a tearful Musk acknowledged to the Times reporters is that his near-24/7 work schedule at Tesla for the past year was not good for his kids.

Huffington continued with an argument calculated to break through Musk’s denial–science. Musk is nothing if not a scientist, so Huffington asked him to look at the science of human overwork and sleep deprivation:

The science is clear. And what it tells us is that there’s simply no way you can make good decisions and achieve your world-changing ambitions while running on empty.

To cite just one study, after 17-19 hours without sleep, we begin to experience levels of cognitive impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .05 percent, just under the threshold for being legally drunk. No business leader would hire people who came to work drunk, so don’t model that behavior for your employees.

She ends with a plea to Musk. For his own sake, for Tesla’s sake, and for the sake of the planet he is trying to save from climate change, she begs him to please, please get some rest and time off so that he can be what his companies need him to be–a leader functioning at his very best.

Musk, to say the very least, doesn’t get it.

He seems to be stuck on two of the most common justifications people make for working too hard and refusing to get the sleep, relaxation, and companionship they need:

1. No one can do it but me.

2. I am so strong and so smart that I don’t need rest like other people do. I can power through this challenge and save the day.

Let’s take these two fallacies one at a time. The first one presupposes that there is no other executive at Tesla as dedicated as Musk, or as smart, or capable of managing the company’s most important task at the moment which is keeping Tesla Model 3 production at its target capacity so that the new model can be profitable and slow the depletion of Tesla’s cash reserves.

I have no idea if there’s anyone else at Tesla who could manage this task in Musk’s place but I know this: If there isn’t, then finding someone who can and putting that person in the right role is Musk’s and the Tesla board’s most pressing job.

Because–what if? What if Musk came down with an illness again, as he did when he caught malaria? What if he were in an automobile accident? He does, after all, tweet while driving. What if one his children fell ill or were injured, meaning that he simply couldn’t stay at the factory. Is Musk willing to risk his company’s future on a bet that nothing like this will happen? And even if he is, is his board willing to? There are no two ways about it: If truly no one but Musk can manage production at the Tesla factory, they need to put someone else in place who also can. Yesterday. 

It shouldn’t be impossible. Musk’s other major company, SpaceX, has a capable COO, Gwynne Shotwell, who has been running that company day-to-day while Musk spends his days and nights as Tesla. And–as opposed to building electric cars–SpaceX’s work actually is​ rocket science. 

Is Musk really helping Tesla by working 24/7?

The second fallacy has already disproved itself. Huffington points us toward the science that says we lose productivity, not to mention good judgment, when we’re deprived of appropriate rest. But we don’t even need to review the science, we can just consider Musk himself.

Musk has always spoken–and tweeted–somewhat impulsively, without much review by anyone. But he has never made a habit of getting himself or his company into trouble with his public statements. Until the past four months. In May, Musk’s comments about “boneheaded” questions on an earnings conference call led to a fall in Tesla’s stock price–a win for the short sellers he hates.

He himself acknowledged that this was a mistake when Musk apologized to the analysts on the next quarter’s call–and he himself blamed the long hours he’s been putting in. “There are reasons for it and I’d gotten no sleep and been working sort of 110-hour, 120-hour weeks,” he said. So he had every reason to know that by working through exhaustion he was harming Tesla more than helping it.

In July, the still exhausted Musk stepped in it again. When a British expert involved in the Thai cave rescue belittled the rescue submarine Musk created for the effort (which turned out to be unneeded and might not have worked) Musk took out his anger on Twitter, calling his opponent “pedo guy” with no evidence whatsoever. The comment may not have immediately affected Tesla, but it certainly damaged Musk’s personal brand–and Musk’s status as a widely beloved and trusted figure is one of Tesla’s biggest assets.

Then, of course, came last week, and Musk’s tweet that he would take Tesla private with “funding secured.” Tesla’s stock price went flying upward. Then it turned out funding had been discussed but was in no way secured. That earned Tesla a subpoena from the SEC. Next came his confessional Times interview. It was an extraordinary thing–try to imagine Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos saying any of those things on the record. I suspect it was intended partly as a cry for help, partly to make people like him again. But once again, Tesla’s stock price dropped in response. Over the weekend, the short sellers–Musk’s arch-enemies–had recovered $1.3 billion of their possible losses as a result. 

Don’t let this happen to you.

Musk is accustomed to listening to no advice, charting his own course, and being stubborn, even pig-headed, if not boneheaded. So I don’t know whether he will see the illogic of his own actions and change them before he and his company suffer the consequences.

I do know that the rest of us can look at these events and learn from them for our own work lives. No matter how smart you are, or how tough, or how dedicated to your job, you cannot escape the laws of human biology and neuroscience any more than you can the laws of physics. You may be able to pull an occasional all-nighter or working weekend to meet a tight deadline, but no one can go months or years working late into the night, working weekends, working birthdays, and never taking a vacation without serious consequences. Learn from Musk’s mistakes or it could kill your reputation, your biggest project, or even your company. It could even wind up killing you.

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Delta Just Made a Surprise Announcement That Shows How Different It Is From American Airlines

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It was a piece of news that seemed to drift by like a contrail of marijuana at a Jack White concert.

Well, it came out on Friday, so you’d think even Delta Air Lines might think it wasn’t important.

The words, though, seemed meaningful:

More screens, more choices: Delta equips 600th aircraft with seatback entertainment.

Wait a minute.

I thought many airlines were stripping seatback screens out of their planes.

Parker believes that ultimately people will prefer to bring their own devices. The airline’s job will merely be to give them great Wi-Fi and content they can stream.

Delta’s announcement, though, shows the contrary approach. The airline’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Tim Mapes explained:

We continue to invest in seatback screens, because customers continue to tell us they’re important. With seatback screens, customers don’t have to choose between using their phones or watching a movie. Whether they want to work, relax, or a little bit of both — we want to give our customers the ability to choose and make the most of their time in flight.

Sadly, it’s a multitasking world, which means that too many people are used to — because they’re often forced into it — using two screens at the same time.

And it may be that ultimately Parker will be right. We’ll all be carrying around vast numbers of screens, all synced with the chips in our heads.

Perhaps only then will Delta begin to dismantle its screens.

However, Delta went on to explain that its entertainment system provides customers with a qualitative depth and breadth.

How often, indeed, do you get on a plane with good seatback entertainment and find movies that you’d love to see but had forgotten about? Or movies that you simply hadn’t heard of, but turn out to be wonderful?

The fact that an airline bothers to offer this suggests it’s got at least some understanding of customer service. 

Customer service doesn’t just mean smiling and being pleasant — though goodness, does that help. 

It means anticipating a customer’s needs and bringing them a little delight — hopefully unexpected delight.

American’s approach implies that a family of five will actually bring five devices with them in order to remain entertained. 

How likely is that?

Google recently published some research it performed in the travel sector. It found, indeed, that customers’ greatest wish when booking travel wasn’t a fine loyalty program. 

It was customer service. 

Some airline executives simply don’t see the immediate return from giving something to customers for free. 

Soon, though, you might find them bemoaning the state of their business. 

Why, just last week, an airline president said he was concerned that his company was falling behind in attracting premium customers.

And which airline did he reference as being ahead of American? Why, Delta.  

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Foxconn profit below forecast on soaring operating costs, shares fall

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Foxconn posted second-quarter net profit well below expectations as a rise in component costs and unsold inventory weighed on the performance of the Apple supplier and world’s top contract electronics maker, analysts said.

FILE PHOTO: A shovel and FoxConn logo are seen before the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump as he participates in the Foxconn Technology Group groundbreaking ceremony for its LCD manufacturing campus, in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Hauck/File Photo

The company, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, reported net profit of T$17.49 billion ($567.25 million) late on Monday, 20 percent short of analyst expectations and slightly below the year-earlier results. Foxconn shares fell more than 3 percent on Tuesday.

Analysts said the results reflected concerns about a loss of momentum in global smartphone sales. Last week, Foxconn unit FIH Mobile Ltd posted a wider first-half loss and acknowledged that it faced a high risk of saturation in the smartphone market.

Foxconn’s results showed that its gross margin narrowed in the second-quarter in part owing to the cost of carrying unsold inventory of the iPhone X. Overall global smartphone shipments fell 3 percent to 350 million units in the April-June quarter compared with a year earlier, market research firm Strategy Analytics says.

However, Vincent Chen, an analyst at Yuanta Research, predicted a brighter outlook projected by Apple would benefit Foxconn and boost its margins in the third quarter.

Apple has forecast above-consensus revenue for later in the year, when it typically launches new iPhone models. Reports suggest these models will use OLED screens, which can display colors more vividly.

“We expect Hon Hai to be the main assembler of OLED version new iPhones and we believe the OLED iPhone model will see better demand in 2H18F,” Chen said in a research note.

The company’s report also illustrates its moves to diversify by pushing into new areas such as display screens – it bought Sharp Corp earlier this year – autonomous car startups and investments in cancer research.

Still, Foxconn earns most of its profits from manufacturing smartphones for Apple and other brands and from Foxconn Industrial Internet, a unit that makes networking equipment and smartphone casings, among other things.

“Investment in factory automation and component price hikes capped gross margin,” said Fubon Research analyst Arthur Liao.

Foxconn’s operating costs jumped 18.8 percent in the quarter.

Liao noted that Foxconn absorbed some expenses related to the Sharp acquisition this quarter, as well as development costs from setting up a factory in the United States, and taking Foxconn Industrial public in June.

Additional reporting by Chyen Yee Lee in Singapore and Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Neil Fullick

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Vietnam's Vinfast in deal with Siemens for technology to make electric buses

HANOI (Reuters) – VinFast Trading and Production LLC has signed two contracts with Siemens Vietnam, a unit of Siemens AG, for the supply of technology and components to manufacture electric buses in the Southeast Asian country.

The headquarters of Siemens AG is seen before the company’s annual news conference in Munich, Germany, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

VinFast, a unit of Vietnam’s biggest private conglomerate, Vingroup JSC, said on Monday the deals will enable it to launch the first electric bus by the end of 2019.

“Electric buses are an essential element of sustainable urban public transportation systems,” Siemens Vietnam President and CEO Pham Thai Lai said in the statement.

VinFast will also produce electric motorcycles, electric cars and gasoline cars from its $1.5-billion factory being built in Haiphong City, it said.

In June, General Motors Co agreed to transfer its Vietnamese operation to VinFast, which will also exclusively distribute GM’s Chevrolet cars in Vietnam.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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Tesla's slow disclosure raises governance, social media concerns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) handling of Chief Executive Elon Musk’s proposal to take the carmaker private and its failure to promptly file a formal disclosure has raised governance concerns and sparked questions about how companies use social media.

FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk at a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

Musk stunned investors last Tuesday by announcing on Twitter that he was considering taking Tesla private in a potential $72 billion transaction and that “funding” had been “secured.”

Tesla’s shares closed up 11 percent before retrenching after the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had asked Tesla why Musk announced his plans on Twitter and whether his statement was truthful.

Musk provided no details of his funding and as of Thursday Tesla’s board had not received a financing plan from Musk, Reuters reported, leaving investors and the broader market clamoring for more information.

Putting aside whether Musk misled anyone, the unorthodox manner in which he announced the news and Tesla’s failure to promptly clarify the situation with a regulatory filing is a corporate governance lapse that raises questions about how companies use social media to release market-moving news, securities lawyers said.

“Management buyouts or other take-private transactions already suffer from serious information asymmetry between management and public shareholders,” said Gabriel Rauterberg, a University of Michigan law professor.

SEC rules typically require companies to file an 8-K form within four business days of a significant corporate event.

While several securities lawyers said Musk’s tweets alone did not trigger this obligation, such a filing would be prudent given the unusual circumstances, David Axelrod, a partner at law firm Ballard Spahr LLP, said.

“An 8-K would provide some more details, it would say what stage negotiations are in, and provide more information than 53 characters in a tweet,” he added.

SEC guidelines published in 2013 allow companies and their executives to use social media to distribute material information, provided investors have been alerted that this is a possibility. Tesla did this in a 2013 filing.

But such disclosures have to be full and fair, meaning the information is complete and accessible by all investors at the same time, a bar that Musk’s tweets may not have met.

“Twitter is not designed to provide full and fair disclosure. That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t, but in a series of 20 to 30 characters I’m not sure you’re getting full disclosure,” said Zachary Fallon, a former SEC attorney and principal at law firm Blakemore Fallon.

Tesla and the SEC did not reply to requests for comment on Sunday.

Securities lawyers said there was also a question mark over whether Musk selectively disclosed information on the possible terms of the deal when he subsequently replied to followers, two of whom claim in their handles to be investors.

Those tweets were not immediately visible to all followers of Musk’s main feed until he retweeted them.

The 47-year-old billionaire’ s history of joking about Tesla and using twitter to bait his critics, also appears to have undermined trust in Musk’s feed as a reliable source of company information, with many investors initially believing Tuesday’s tweet was a prank.

“Musk’s irreverence and showmanship is part of the Tesla brand, I get that, but I don’t think the securities laws do,” said Fallon.

Reporting by Michelle Price and Jessica DiNapoli; Editing by Susan Thomas

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​How to add Linux to your Chromebook

It’s long been possible to run Linux on a Chromebook. That’s no surprise. After all, Chrome OS is a Linux variant. But, doing it by using either Crouton in a chroot container or Gallium OS, a Xubuntu Chromebook-specific Linux variant, wasn’t easy. Then, Google announced it was bringing a completely integrated Linux desktop to the Chromebook.

Today, with a properly-equipped Chromebook and the bravery to run canary code, you can run Debian Linux on your Chromebook. Here’s how to do it.

This new Chromebook Linux feature is Crostini, the umbrella technology for getting Linux running with Chrome OS. Crostini gets enough Linux running to run KVM, Linux’s built-in virtual machine (VM). On top of this, Crostini starts and runs LXC containers. You won’t see it, unless you look closely, but it’s in those containers that your Debian Linux instances are running.

Eventually, anyone with a newer Chromebook will be able to run Linux. Specifically, if your Chromebook’s operating system is based on the Linux 4.4 kernel, you’ll be supported. But we’re not there yet. It’s also possible that older Chromebooks, running Linux 4.14, will be retrofitted with Crostini support.

Officially, you need a Pixelbook, Google’s top-of-the-line Chromebook, to run Linux. But, users have found a dozen other models can run Crostini with half-a-dozen others expected to be supported soon. Chromebooks that can already use Crostini include newer Intel-powered Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. Dell models will start getting supported later this year.

I used my best-of-breed Pixelbook with its 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor, 512GB SSD, with 16GBs of RAM for my tests. This is the fastest Chromebook on the market. It’s not cheap, at a list price of $1,399, but it’s worth it if you want to push Linux on the Chromebook’s limits.

Once you have the hardware you need, you must switch your Chromebook from the stable update channel to the dev channel. This is alpha software and it updates about once a week. Let me make this absolutely clear: This is not stable software. It will blow up at times. But, faint heart never won fair technology discoveries.

This is a bigger decision than it looks at first. You’ll lose all your local data if you try to go back to the stable, or even beta, channels. With a Chromebook that’s not much of a problem since most of your data and settings are kept on the Google Cloud, it’s still worth keeping in mind.

If you want to wait and be safe, Crostini support is expected to enter the stable channel with Chrome OS 69 in mid-September.

To make the switch to dev, take the following steps:

  1. Sign in to your Chromebook with the owner account.
  2. Click your account photo.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. At the top left, click Menu.
  5. Scroll down and click About Chrome OS.
  6. Click Detailed build information.
  7. Next to “Channel” click Change channel.
  8. Pick a channel.
  9. Click Change Channel.
  10. Your Chromebook will download the dev channel update. It will then ask you to restart your Chromebook.

Once that’s done, if you’re not using a Pixelbook you may need to set a Chrome flag to access Linux. You do this by entering: chrome://flags on the Chrome browser’s address line. This command displays all of Chrome’s experimental features. Scroll down the list until you find:


Activate this, and your system may be ready to go. I say “may” because to run Crostini your Chromebook must not only be on the dev channel, but Google must also have enabled the Linux VM for your hardware.

The easiest way to confirm that a particular Chromebook works with Linux is to follow the above steps and then open Chrome OS’s built-in shell, crosh, and run the shell command:

vmc start termina

If you get a message such as “ERROR: command ‘vmc’ is not available”, you’re out of luck. But, if you see a terminal, congrats, you’ve just found a new Chromebook that’s Linux-ready.

Next, head to Chrome OS settings (chrome://settings), scroll down to to “Linux (Beta)” and activate it.

Now, open the app switcher by pressing the Search/Launcher key and type “Terminal”. This launches the Termina VM, which will start running a Debian 9.0 Stretch Linux container.

Congratulations! You’re now running Debian Linux on your Chromebook.

From here you can install and run programs using Debian’s normal software commands. For example, to update my new Linux system and install the lynx web browser, I’d run:

$ sudo apt-get update

$ sudo apt-get upgrade

$ sudo apt install lynx

Crostini Linux running Lynx

With Crostini, you can now run Linux and Linux applications, such as Lynx, on a Chromebook.


While you could install pretty much any program on your new Linux instance, I gave a shell-based program example because accelerated graphics and audio aren’t working yet. So, while you could install Cinnamon, my favorite Linux interface, or Steam for games, it’s not fast enough even on a maxed out Pixelbook to be that enjoyable. Not yet anyway.

In addition, many graphics-based programs, such as the photo-editor Gimp, won’t run yet on Crostini. Give it time to mature before trying to get too fancy with heavy graphics software.

Soon, though, Linux and Chrome will be a matched pair. Come that day, I see high-end Chromebooks becoming the laptops of choice for developers.

In the meantime, if you want to do more with Linux and Chromebook, check out the excellent Reddit Crostini Wiki. For up-to-the-minute hands-on information about Crostini, its parent Reddit forum is the best resource on the web.


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Chinese discounter Pinduoduo aims for up to $1.63 billion in U.S. IPO

(Reuters) – Chinese online group discounter Pinduoduo plans to raise up to $1.63 billion from a U.S. listing, its latest filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange showed, in what would be the second-biggest U.S. float by a Chinese firm this year.

Pinduoduo plans to sell about 85.6 million American Depositary Shares in an initial public offering (IPO) at a price range of $16 to $19 each, its filing late on Monday showed.

That values the three-year-old startup – which has yet to make a profit – at $20 billion to $24 billion, higher than its $15 billion valuation in April. Its free float will be 6.8 percent of enlarged share capital after a 15 percent “greenshoe” or over-allotment option which can be sold if there is demand, showed a term sheet seen by Reuters.

Two of the firm’s main existing shareholders – Tencent Holdings Ltd and Sequoia Capital – have each indicated an interest in buying up to $250 million worth of shares in the IPO, according to the filing.

The price range represents a 2020 price-to-sales ratio of 2.1–2.6 and a 2020 non-GAAP price-to-earnings ratio of 8.9–10.6, Thomson Reuters publication IFR reported.

The firm will open its book to investors on Tuesday and price the IPO on Wednesday of the following week, showed the term sheet. It expects to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol PDD.

Pinduoduo is the latest in a series of Chinese tech groups flocking to list offshore, seeking to replenish coffers amid ever-intensifying competition with domestic rivals, notably e-commerce firms Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Inc, even as Sino-U.S. trade tension rattles global markets.

China’s Meituan Dianping, an online food delivery-to-ticketing services platform which rivals Alibaba-backed, is also looking to launch an IPO of over $4 billion in Hong Kong in coming months.

Pinduoduo, set up by former Google engineer Colin Huang in 2015, is also joining several sizable Chinese listings in New York this year. Chinese video streaming service provider iQiyi Inc raised $2.42 billion from a Nasdaq IPO in March, and Tencent Music Entertainment, China’s largest music-streaming firm, aims to raise up to 4 billion in a U.S. IPO in October.

In an initial filing, Pinduoduo, which allows consumers to group together to increase the discounts offered by merchants, said it had 103 million monthly active users of its mobile platform at the end of March.

Due to low-priced products and a larger user base in China’s smaller cities, the firm’s gross merchandise volume exceeded 100 billion yuan ($14.98 billion) last year, a milestone for Chinese e-commerce firms that took Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace five years and 10 years to reach.

Pinduoduo’s revenue has grown sharply, reaching 1.38 billion yuan in January-March from 37 million yuan in the same period a year prior. Its net loss, however, remained broadly steady at 201 million yuan.

China Renaissance, CICC, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs are advising Pinduoduo, according to the filing.

Reporting by Julie Zhu in HONG KONG and Nikhil Subba in BENGALURU; Additional reporting by Fiona Lau of IFR; Editing by Maju Samuel and Christopher Cushing

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Forget Elon Musk. Read About These Surprising Heroes of the Thai Cave Rescue Everybody Else Forgot

If you’ve ever contributed to a team but didn’t get any recognition, I’ve got a story for you.

Even just figuring out their part in this story requires some guesswork. Finding them by name would probably be impossible. They’re probably just fine with never having their story told. But their story is worth telling.

The long line of problems

To understand their role, we have to quickly recount the tactical story of how the boys and their coach were rescued. We’ll number this to make it easy to keep track:

  1. We start with the team of international cave divers and Thai Navy SEALs who found and stayed with the 12 youth soccer players and their coach. These people are true heroes, as is the diver who lost his life in the effort, and who will be remembered for a long time.
  2. Of course, finding the boys was only step one. Getting them out was an incredibly challenging mission. As time ran out, rescuers made the dangerous call that they’d have to rig the boys in dive equipment, and bring them out partially submerged on an hours-long trip.
  3. This was difficult even for experienced cave divers. None of the boys could swim, let alone use dive equipment. So, the rescuers had to find a way to keep malnourished, scared kids comfortable during the rescue–and most importantly, avoid panic. The idea was basically the least bad option.
  4. They decided to sedate the boys during the escape. This was extremely dangerous, and the rescuers did not expect a 100 percent survival rate. But they felt there was no other choice. As Thai Navy SEALs and U.S. military officials explained it to the Thai government, according to The Washington Post, the choice was either “save most of them now, or lose all of them soon.”`

The Australian doctors

Anesthesia is a medical specialty, obviously. The rescuers needed people who (a) could dive and reach the boys, and (b) then administer the drugs in as safe a manner as possible.

Enter Richard Harris and Craig Challen, two Australian expert cave divers. Harris happens to be a practicing anesthesiologists, while Challen is a retired veterinarian. (They’re both big heroes in this story–widely praised, and rightly so.)

Even getting them into Thailand in the first place presented a problem. The Australian government reportedly had concerns about Harris and Challen’s legal exposure. Because even under ideal circumstances (like in a hospital), anesthesia carries some risk. Never mind in this incredible situation, in which they expected not all the boys would survive.

So, how do you work things out very quickly, and under extreme conditions, so that two foreign doctors volunteer to perform a risky mission in a foreign country, but find a way to exempt them from the country’s legal system if things go wrong? 

Better call the lawyers

An official source confirmed to Four Corners that Dr Challen and Dr Harris were given diplomatic immunity ahead of the risky mission, after negotiations between Australian and Thai Government officials.

Diplomatic immunity. Of course. Treat them like official Australian diplomats, as opposed to private citizen volunteers.

I’m a lawyer (currently non-practicing), and I spent a lot of time thinking about problems like this years ago in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. But this solution was so smart, straightforward and elegant–and I’m not sure I would have thought of it.

The negotiators for the Thai and Australian governments–and I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that some or all of them were lawyers–figured it out.

We’ll probably never know their names. But without them, there’d have been no legal protection for the Australian doctors in case something went wrong in this extremely risky rescue–and it’s quite possible the rescue wouldn’t have happened.

And to me, they represent all the thousands of other nameless people who came together to contribute, without knowing 

So, forget about Elon Musk. And forget about that pithy line from Shakespeare. Next time there’s a big emergency, first thing we do? Call all the lawyers.

By the way, here’s the Facebook post that Dr. Harris wrote on the way home to Australia after the rescue. Its tone of gratitude could teach some other players in this whole affair an important lesson.  

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SoftBank tightens grip on Yahoo Japan via $2 billion deal with Altaba

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group is increasing its stake in Yahoo Japan through a $2 billion, three-way deal with U.S. firm Altaba to deepen ties with the internet heavyweight ahead of an IPO of its telecoms unit.

FILE PHOTO: A website of Yahoo Japan Corp is seen on a computer screen in Tokyo August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Under the deal, SoftBank will buy 221 billion yen ($2 billion) of Yahoo Japan shares from Altaba, formerly internet giant Yahoo Inc. Yahoo Japan will then buy back 220 billion of stock from SoftBank.

As a result of the transaction SoftBank’s stake in Yahoo Japan will rise to 48.17 percent from 42.95 percent with just a $9 million net investment. Altaba, Yahoo Japan’s second largest shareholder, will have about 27 percent and end a joint venture partnership.

SoftBank said in a statement on Tuesday the deal will strengthen cooperation between the company, one of Japan’s big three telecoms firms, and Yahoo Japan, an internet heavyweight in areas such as news and shopping.

The synergies between SoftBank and Yahoo Japan are “consistent with SoftBank Group’s broader strategic synergy group initiative,” SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said in the statement.

FILE PHOTO: An employee works behind a logo of Softbank Corp at its branch in Tokyo March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

SoftBank and its Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund standing at over $93 billion as of May last year, have been taking minority stakes in technology companies around the world that Son believes will come to dominate their respective fields.

The news of the Yahoo Japan deal comes as SoftBank prepares to list its domestic telecoms unit in what could be the largest Japanese IPO in nearly two decades.

Yahoo Japan could use SoftBank’s telecom services to boost demand for online shopping and mobile payments among Japan’s increasingly net-savvy shoppers. SoftBank, through Yahoo Japan and others, is offering its mobile users an increasingly wide range of top-up services in addition to a basic phone subscription.

Yahoo Japan’s shares were up nearly 12 percent in early afternoon Tokyo trading. Despite that jump, its shares are down more than 22 percent this year.

“It’s clear that using excess funds for share buybacks is the only way Yahoo Japan has to hold up its share price,” said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments. The firm does not hold positions in Yahoo Japan or SoftBank.

Altaba has been selling down its Yahoo Japan stake. Two Altaba appointments to the Yahoo Japan board will step down as a result of the transaction announced on Tuesday.

SoftBank shares were up 2 percent, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index up 1 percent.

Reporting by Sam Nussey and Chris Gallagher; Additional reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Stephen Coates and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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