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Geely covets Daimler tech with $9 billion stake, shares surge

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Li, who founded Zhejiang Geely Holding Group – the parent firm of the group – in 1986, said on Saturday that alliances were necessary to respond to the challenge from “invaders” in the global auto market, a reference to firms such as Tesla , Google and Uber.

Chinese carmakers are under particular pressure to jump several leaps forward in technology with Beijing bringing in new quotas from next year for the world’s largest auto market that will require firms to hit strict targets for electric vehicle and hybrid electric plug-in vehicle sales.

Geely Auto said in a filing on Monday it was not directly involved in the purchase of the shareholding but did not rule out exploring cooperation opportunities with Daimler in the future.

Germany has said there is no need to take action on the stake owned by Li and Daimler has said it is pleased that it could win another long-term oriented shareholder with Li.

The German automaker, however, also underlined its partnership with BAIC on the weekend, announcing an investment of almost $2 billion in a China plant to build premium Mercedes-Benz cars including electric vehicles..

Chao added the purchase of the Daimler stake – amid a broader crackdown by China on outbound deals – seemed to have gone relatively smoothly and was likely helped by the fact that it fitted with Beijing’s strategic goals to bolster China’s tech capabilities, especially in the automotive market.

Geely has been the most eager of China’s automakers to build a major presence globally.

“I think we’ll see a lot more on the global stage (from Geely) outside of China,” added Chao. “Clearly they have ambitions that are much greater than what they’ve done so far.”

Zhejiang Geely Holding owns Volvo Cars, LEVC, the maker of London’s black cabs, and last year took a majority stake in sports car maker Lotus, a 49.9 percent stake in Malaysian automaker Proton, a $3.3 billion stake in Volvo Trucks and control of flying car start-up Terrafugia.

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Anthony Scaramucci on bitcoin and its potential to replace gold

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Investors will need to accept the trajectory and level of volatility in bitcoin as the digital currency becomes more widely adopted globally, according to SkyBridge Capital’s Anthony Scaramucci.

Following a run to an all-time high above $63,000 in April, the price of bitcoin has swiftly tumbled in a matter of weeks — at one point even more than halving from those earlier highs. Still, it’s gained more than 10% since the start of 2021. As of 2:35 a.m. ET Wednesday, the price of bitcoin was at $33,744, according to data from Coin Metrics.

“I will point out that bitcoin is still up on the year, so it’s actually been a very good performer this year.,” Scaramucci told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Tuesday.

Skybridge Capital has “about $500 million” in bitcoin, according to Scaramucci, founder and co-managing partner at the firm as well as a CNBC contributor.

He said bitcoin is still only in its early adoption stage and is set to become a “replacement” for gold, adding: “We actually like the upside characteristics and are willing to accept the volatility in bitcoin.”

The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, according to CoinMarketCap, bitcoin is often pitched as a potential rival to gold as a long-term store of value. At present, however, bitcoin’s price tends to be exponentially more volatile than that of gold.

“If you went back to Amazon’s IPO back in 1997, if you held that stock, $10,000 of that stock on its IPO is now worth $24 million. But you would have subjected yourself to eight periods of time where the stock dropped at least 50% as it was scaling, pursuant to Metcalfe’s law,” he said.

Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of its users. Skybridge’s research department expects bitcoin users to reach a billion by 2025, from the 125 million at present, Scaramucci said.

“Think of the phone system back in the early 1900s as people started to buy those phones and connect to each other,” he said. “That’s sort of what’s happening to bitcoin right now.”

“I’m very confident that we’ll be sitting here a year or two from now and talking about this volatility, but also being amazed at the upward trajectory of bitcoin over the next 24 months,” Scaramucci said.

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China’s Guangzhou covid cases rise as authorities tighten measures

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People receive nucleic acid testing at Liwan District on May 26, 2021 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China.

Southern Visual | Visual China Group | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — Police in Guangzhou detained people who have fallen foul of Covid prevention laws, as the southern Chinese city deals with an outbreak of the Delta variant first identified in India.

Authorities in the city of over 15 million people have moved swiftly to introduce mass testing and lockdown local areas since detecting the first local case of the Delta variant in China on May 21 in Guangzhou.

Since then, Guangzhou had a total of 115 cases as of midnight on June 8 — the most out of the entire Guangdong province which also includes the technology hub of Shenzhen. It began with a 75-year-old woman who visited a restaurant.

The latest flare-up is cause for concern as the Delta variant is known to be highly transmissible.

After the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan last year, China broadly managed to control it. Life in the world’s second-largest economy has been relatively normal for over a year, but a broad spread of the Delta variant could threaten that. So far it has been contained in Guangdong.

But cases continue to show up, mainly in the hotspot of Liwan in the west of Guangzhou and Haizhu and Nansha in the south. Authorities are fighting to contain its spread.

Parts of Liwan have been locked down, which means residents cannot enter or leave a certain zone. Shops have been shut. Across various areas of the city, restaurants have been forced to stop dine-in services and instead move to outdoor dining or takeout only.

Authorities have also conducted mass testing of residents over the last two weeks. Over 27 million people have been tested since May 26.

But as the government worries about the spread of the Delta variant, authorities have urged citizens to do their part or face punishment under law.

Over the past 24 hours, official Guangzhou government channels on popular messaging app WeChat, have been posting articles reminding people of the laws.

Chen Bin, the deputy director of the Guangzhou Municipal Health Commission, said on Tuesday that if people do not cooperate with the city’s attempts to to stamp out the virus, they could face “legal liability” including fines and detention.

Violations of laws include not wearing masks in public places, not co-operating when asked to take a coronavirus test, not complying when a person has been asked to isolate and quarantine and spreading false information.

Guangzhou police said they have investigated six cases related to violations of regulations on epidemic prevention and control.

One of the cases involved a man staying at a hotel in a district of Guangzhou. He was asked to take a coronavirus test but refused to do so. After an hour of persuasion, police managed to get the man out of his room, but he still refused to be tested, according to the Guangzhou Health Commission. He allegedly then stabbed a police officer with a fork. The man was detained.

Another case involved a man who concealed that he had contact with people with confirmed coronavirus cases. He has also been detained by police.

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SoftBank launching Emerge accelerator for diverse founders in Europe

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The logo of SoftBank Group in Tokyo.

Philip Fong | AFP via Getty Images

LONDON — SoftBank is aiming to put its money where its mouth is on diversity.

SoftBank Investment Advisers, which manages the Japanese conglomerate’s Vision Fund for tech investing, said Wednesday it will launch its diversity-focused Emerge accelerator program in Europe.

The company first introduced Emerge last year in the U.S. with WeWork Labs, the office rental firm’s start-up incubator, to back 14 start-ups whose founders come from underrepresented backgrounds. SoftBank says it has invested $5 million across 13 start-ups in the program so far.

Now, SoftBank is bringing Emerge to Europe — but with a twist. This time, it’s bringing in Speedinvest and a number of other notable venture capital investors in the continent to provide access to a broader network of potential investors and partners.

“Softbank is a famous investor in the later stages, with massive global successes” such as Uber, Oliver Holle, co-founder and managing partner of Speedinvest, told CNBC in an interview. “But they are not set up for investing in those very early nascent stages of company building.”

Other venture funds participating in the European program include Breega, Cherry Ventures, firstminute capital and Kindred.

Start-up accelerator programs are a common way for entrepreneurs to get access to mentorship in the early days of building their company. Many well-known tech firms today applied for accelerator schemes and went on to launch successful businesses, including Stripe, Airbnb and Coinbase.

Catherine Lenson, managing partner and chief human resources officer at SoftBank Investment Adivsers.

SoftBank

Two key differences between conventional accelerator programs and SoftBank’s is that the latter not only focuses on founders from Black and other minority backgrounds — it also invests in the companies.

“It changed from being an accelerator about connections, tools, networks and opportunities to being an accelerator which funded the companies at the end of it,” Catherine Lenson, managing partner and chief human resources officer at SoftBank Investment Advisers, told CNBC.

Last year, the murder of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and racism sparked discussions in boardrooms about how companies should address diversity. Tech is a sector that has gotten a bad rap for diversity, with people working in the industry predominantly white and male.

Various tech investors — including SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz — have come up with initiatives aimed at tackling the issue. Some firms, like London-based Ada Ventures, backed new standards for venture capital that bring diversity to the forefront of investment decisions.

In Europe, about 91% of venture money went to start-ups with all-male founding teams last year, according to a report from Atomico. And 62% of underrepresented founders found it more difficult to raise cash, up from 31% in 2019.

“What we’re seeing is that founders from a diverse background were going through incredible incubators very early in their life,” said Lenson. But “as they came to later funding rounds, what we were finding was that doors were still closing for them,” she added.

SoftBank’s Emerge program, which lasts eight weeks, will be open to a cohort of companies at seed stage that already have a viable product with potential to scale, and at least one founder who identifies as non-white, female, LGBTQ+, disabled or a refugee.

The investors would then back successful start-ups’ seed rounds, with SoftBank injecting up to $2.5 million and Speedinvest matching this sum, Holle said. The other venture capital firms would participate with smaller commitments.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, SoftBank wasn’t able to run its 2020 program in person as originally planned. Lenson said the same would go for this year, however she hopes there could be an in-person component as travel restrictions ease in the coming months.

Emerge isn’t SoftBank’s first diversity-focused investing initiative. The company also created a $100 million “Opportunity Fund” for minority-owned businesses, for example. SoftBank doesn’t have the best track record on backing diverse teams, however, having invested in only a handful of companies created by Black or female founders.

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