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Iraq PM on a potential weapons tax



Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers a speech during Baghdad Dialogue Conference in Baghdad, Iraq on January 14, 2017.

Haydar Hadi | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers a speech during Baghdad Dialogue Conference in Baghdad, Iraq on January 14, 2017.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that spending on reconstruction — not arms — was necessary for peace.

Discussing the amount of money spent on conflict in the Middle East, “this is not good for us,” Al-Abadi said. “We cannot build our nations with a lot of arms,” he added.

Al-Abadi was speaking to CNBC Sunday on the sidelines of the 2018 Munich Security Conference in Germany, attended by politicians from Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East among others, as well as leaders from NGOs and private companies. Iraq received pledges of $30 billion from allies this week, though this was less than its propositioned $88 billion to recover from years of conflict.

Al-Abadi said that he had not met with any arms manufacturers at the conference, but instead had been in talks with civil manufacturing companies.

This is a “good sign that there is now an understanding that without rebuilding, reconstruction, peace and security cannot be achieved – I think this should be the slogan,” he said.

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Augmented reality firm Nreal targets IPO within 5 years, CEO says



SHANGHAI — Nreal, a Chinese company making glasses for so-called augmented reality experiences, is looking to go public within five years, its CEO told CNBC.

“We’re thinking this is really a major tech market and really looking forward to what’s going to happen in the next 10 to 15 years. Very exciting – I think its more like ’06, ’07 of the smartphone business,” Chi Xu, CEO of Nreal said.

“We see a lot of good opportunities and, definitely, we’re thinking the market size is going to be massive. And we have this opportunity and we want to take this to the final end.”

He said an initial public offering could come in “less than 5 years.”

The company’s flagship product is a pair of lightweight glasses called Nreal Light, which has been released in a handful of markets including South Korea and Japan. Nreal says its glasses allow users to experience “mixed reality” where digital images are superimposed over the real world.

The Nreal Light connects to a smartphone. One of the immediate uses frees people from being tied to their small smartphone screens.

“Whatever you’re displaying in the cellphone screen in front of you, you put that in front of your face, into a massive screen, and that can be 3D, that can be ultra-high definition,” Xu said.

An attendee tries a pair of Nreal mixed-reality glasses at the MWC Shanghai exhibition in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nreal’s ambitions pit it against technology giants that see a bright future in augmented reality. Apple CEO Tim Cook has called AR the “next big thing” and the iPhone giant is reportedly working on a headset. Facebook, Microsoft, Google and other technology companies are all investing in AR.

But current headsets on the market are expensive and often bulky. Nreal is hoping its portable nature will appeal to consumers. The price varies by market depending on how it is distributed. For example, in Japan the headset costs around $700. But in South Korea, the device can be purchased through a telecom operator’s plan which subsidizes the headset to around $300.

Business model

Nreal has a platform for developers to create apps for the headset’s operating system called Nebula.

“It’s very similar to what Apple has been doing for smartphone,” Xu said. “We offer a platform where people use that for different kinds of experiences and developers — they can deploy, they can develop different content onto the field.”

Apple not only makes money from sales of its iPhones and other hardware but it also gets revenue from commissions off its App Store.

Nreal has some notable backers. Kuaishou, the short-video platform in China and iQiyi, a video streaming service, are among the company’s investors. Xu said Nreal would be working with both Kuaishou and iQiyi.

“As we mentioned, not only are we going to provide the hardware. We want to bundle different services with the glasses. So take video for example, whether it’s a long video or short video. We’re thinking glasses are a much better terminal to experience the video in,” the CEO said.

“So that’s why we’ll be working with those giants, really working on the new interface.”

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SEC slaps new disclosure requirements on Chinese IPOs amid Beijing’s crackdown



People exit the headquarters of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington, D.C., May 12, 2021.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday it will require additional disclosures from Chinese companies seeking a listing on U.S. stock exchanges, following Beijing’s intensified crackdown on oversea share issuance.

“In light of the recent developments in China and the overall risks with the China-based [variable interest entities] structure, I have asked staff to seek certain disclosures from offshore issuers associated with China-based operating companies before their registration statements will be declared effective,” SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a statement.

The so-called variable interest entities are a structure used by major Chinese companies from Alibaba to to go public in the U.S. while skirting oversight from Beijing as the country doesn’t allow direct foreign ownership in most cases. These variable interest entities allow China-based operating companies to establish offshore shell companies in another jurisdiction and issue stocks to public shareholders.

Gensler said he worries that “average investors may not realize that they hold stock in a shell company rather than a China-based operating company.”

The SEC will ask Chinese companies to clearly distinguish the shell company’s management services from the operating company, while stating any risk from future actions from the Chinese government.

The move came as Beijing stepped up its oversight on the flood of Chinese listings in the U.S. Ride-hailing app Didi became the latest victim of the clampdown. The stock tumbled nearly 30% this month after Beijing announced a cybersecurity investigation, suspending new user registrations.

The tensions between the two countries could be a huge blow for Chinese companies, which have clamored to list in New York in recent years. In 2020, 30 China-based IPOs in the U.S. raised the most capital since 2014, data from Renaissance Capital shows.

There were at least 248 Chinese companies listed on three major U.S. exchanges with a total market capitalization of $2.1 trillion, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. There are eight national-level Chinese state-owned enterprises listed in the U.S.

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Scarlett Johansson’s agent slams Disney for lawsuit response



Scarlett Johansson attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.

David Crotty | Patrick McMullan | Getty Images

“Black Widow” star Scarlett Johansson’s powerhouse agent on Friday slammed Walt Disney for accusing the actor of “callous disregard” for the dangers of Covid-19 to the moviegoing public.

Bryan Lourd, who is co-chair of talent agency giant CAA, also suggested Disney was not playing fair by publicly revealing Johansson’s $20 million salary for the Marvel Entertainment movie. That figure had not previously been shared publicly.

Lourd said Disney’s response to Johansson’s lawsuit was “an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t.”

Disney’s comment came hours after the “Black Widow” star filed a lawsuit against the company Thursday, claiming it had breached her contract when it released the film on its streaming service Disney+ at the same time it debuted in theaters.

“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” Disney said. “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Johansson, like many Marvel veterans including Robert Downey Jr., negotiated to have a percentage of box-office receipts tacked on to her salary. This has become increasingly common with Marvel Cinematic Universe films because of their theatrical track record.

The Academy Award-nominated actress has starred as Natasha Romanoff in eight Marvel films, which have collectively grossed more than $10.5 billion in global box-office receipts in the last decade.

Only eight of Marvel’s 24 theatrical releases have grossed less than $700 million globally. And only three have secured less than $400 million. On average, these franchise films garner nearly $1 billion globally over the course of their theatrical runs.

So far, “Black Widow” has tallied $150 million during its first three weeks in theaters and a little more than $300 million globally. Its $80 million domestic opening weekend remains the highest opening figure of any film released after March 2020, when many Covid pandemic restrictions hit.

The streaming release of the film ate into box-office profits, though Disney reported “Black Widow” scored $60 million from sales on Disney+ during its opening weekend. The company has not shared additional information about the film’s digital performance. Entertainment experts have also blamed rampant piracy of the film for its steady drop in performance since the release.

While Disney’s decision to put “Black Widow” on Disney+ and in theaters on the same day and date was a strategic move based on pandemic pressures, it is projected to have cost Johansson more than $50 million, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Johansson’s lawsuit claims the actress tried to renegotiate with Disney after she discovered the film would not be released exclusively in theaters, but the studio did not respond.

Representatives from Disney did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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