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SoftBank, Saudi Arabia creating world’s biggest solar power project

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Saudi Arabia and Japanese telecom giant-turned-tech investor SoftBank expanded their partnership this week, announcing the world’s biggest solar power generation project at a press conference in New York.

The project was projected to cost $200 billion through 2030. That’s about how long it’s anticipated it will take to build out all 200 gigawatts of the project.

By comparison, there are roughly 70 gigawatts of solar capacity in operation, under construction or in development in the United States, according to a list of large-scale projects kept by the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The project is so large, it will support the creation of a domestic solar equipment manufacturing industry in the kingdom, said SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son.

The project remains in the early phases, and it is not yet guaranteed it will be built. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Son signed a memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the SoftBank Vision Fund on Tuesday evening, which kick starts the process of forming a new power generation company. The intention is to complete due diligence on the project by the end of May.

“This kind of a project would never have been feasible without the big vision we shared with the crown prince,” Son told reporters.

“The kingdom has great sunshine, great size of available land, great engineers, great laborers,” he said. “But most importantly it has the greatest vision.”

Expanding into renewable energy is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a plan spearheaded by Prince Mohammed to diversify the nation’s oil-dependent economy.

The 200 gigawatts of capacity announced Tuesday will be spread throughout the kingdom. The first two solar parks will be able to generate 7.2 gigawatts of power and are scheduled to begin construction this year and start generating electricity in 2019.

The cost of the two parks will be about $5 billion, with $1 billion coming from Softbank’s Vision Fund and $4 billion from project financing.

Son said revenues from early stage solar parks will help fund the construction of future projects in the kingdom. Each park will have a 25-year power purchase agreement, a long-term contract to supply electric power to customers, which is common in the solar energy industry.

The first parks will not include battery storage, but the new Saudi electricity generation company will begin adding that feature to solar farms within two to three years, according to Son.

The estimated $200 billion project cost includes building the solar parks, integrating battery technology and constructing a massive new facility that will vertically integrate solar equipment manufacturing, according to Son. The venture also plans to build centers for research and development and education and training, he said.

The growth of the solar industry is expected to create 100,000 jobs and increase Saudi gross domestic product by $12 billion. It is also expected to save the kingdom $40 billion by obviating the need to burn domestically produced oil to generate power.

The announcement happened during the New York leg of Prince Mohammed’s trip across the United States. The 32-year-old king-in-waiting and a Saudi delegation are cementing ties with the Trump administration and lining up American investors as the kingdom embarks upon an ambitious plan to diversify its economy.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum gathered American and Saudi business leaders in New York, where the kingdom announced about three dozen memorandums of understanding with U.S. firms, which are often the first step in establishing business ventures.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is the largest investor in Softbank’s $100 billion Vision Fund. The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund has reportedly committed $45 billion to the massive technology investment vehicle, which counts Uber, Nvidia and WeWork among its largest investments.

The fund, which was at $93 billion, reached its target after raising $7 billion from U.S. corporates and managers of the Vision Fund in the last few months, according to a source familiar with the fund. The fund is now closed.

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Stock futures rise slightly as traders monitor stimulus talks, debate ahead

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An artist name Theodore Tsinias who wrapped himself next to the Charging Bull to show his attention about world’s behavior amid Covid-19 pandemic in Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States on May 25, 2020.

Tayfun Coskin | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday night as Wall Street weighed the potential for additional fiscal stimulus, news on the earnings and coronavirus treatment fronts while awaiting the final U.S. presidential debate.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up by 44 points, or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.1% and Nasdaq 100 futures traded higher by 0.2%.

Intel shares fell more than 9% in after-hours trading following the release of mixed quarterly numbers for the chip maker. The company’s earnings were in line with analyst expectations, but revenue from its data center business fell short of analyst estimates.

Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences gained 4% after the Food and Drug Administration approved the company’s drug, remdesivir, for use as a treatment against the coronavirus.

The Dow and S&P 500 each gained 0.5% during regular trading while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.2% after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were making progress in their fiscal stimulus negotiations.

“If we were not making progress, I wouldn’t spend five seconds in these conversations. … This is not anything other than I think a serious attempt. I do believe that both sides want to reach an agreement,” Pelosi said.

However, Pelosi also tempered expectations over Democrats and Republicans reaching a deal before the election, saying it could take “a while” for a bill to be written and signed.

Traders have been keeping an eye on Washington in recent weeks as they gauge the prospects for new coronavirus aid to be pushed through. Several market experts and economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, think it is imperative that lawmakers reach a deal on another stimulus package.

“Governmental powers are still trying to put together another economic relief package,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group. “However, despite the July expiration of unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act, here, two-and-a-half months later, U.S. economic momentum is remarkably healthy.”

Paulsen’s comment came after the release of much better-than-expected U.S. unemployment data on Thursday.

Thursday’s moves came ahead of the second debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The debate is set to start at 9 p.m. ET and will be the last one before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Biden holds a lead in most national polls heading into the debate as the possibility for a so-called Blue Wave grows. Some market experts a Democratic sweep could lead to a pop in equity prices in the short term. However, legendary hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones warned Thursday that this scenario could pressure stocks in the long term.

“I think under a blue wave, and the Biden tax plan, financial assets over the long run suffer a great deal,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

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GM shares close at new year-to-date high following Hummer EV debut

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Coronavirus treatment from Gilead approved by FDA

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The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved Gilead Sciences‘ antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for the coronavirus.

In May, the FDA granted the drug an emergency use authorization, allowing hospitals and doctors to use it on patients hospitalized with the disease even though the medication had not been formally approved by the agency. The intravenous drug has helped shorten the recovery time of some hospitalized Covid-19 patients. It was one of the drugs used to treat President Donald Trump, who tested positive for the virus earlier this month.

The drug will be used for Covid-19 patients at least 12 years old and requiring hospitalization, Gilead said. Remdesivir is now the first and only fully approved treatment in the U.S. for Covid-19, which has infected more than 41.3 million people worldwide and killed more than 1 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Shares of Gilead were up more than 5% in after-hours trading.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilead has worked relentlessly to help find solutions to this global health crisis,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said in a statement. “It is incredible to be in the position today, less than one year since the earliest case reports of the disease now known as COVID-19, of having an FDA-approved treatment in the U.S. that is available for all appropriate patients in need.”

Remdesivir is approved or authorized for temporary use as a Covid-19 treatment in approximately 50 countries worldwide, according to the company.

The drug is administered in a hospital setting via an IV. The company said the drug should only be administered in a hospital or in a health-care setting capable of providing acute care comparable to inpatient hospital care.

Earlier this month, a study coordinated by the World Health Organization had indicated that the drug had “little or no effect” on death rates among hospitalized patients. Still, the drug has shown to be modestly effective in reducing the recovery time in some hospitalized patients.

Earlier in the year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said the drug would set “a new standard of care” for Covid-19 patients.

The majority of patients treated with remdesivir receive a five-day treatment course using six vials of intravenous the drug. The company is also developing an inhaled version of the drug, which it will administer through a nebulizer, a delivery device that can turn liquid medicines into mist. The company has said the drug can’t be administered in pill form because its chemical makeup would impact the liver.

In August, the company said it planned to produce more than 2 million treatment courses of the drug by the end of the year and anticipated being able to make “several million more” in 2021, adding it has increased the supply of the drug more than fiftyfold since January. Its manufacturing network now includes more than 40 companies in North America, Europe and Asia.

The company said Thursday it is meeting real-time demand for the drug in the United States and anticipates meeting global demand in October, even in the event of potential future surges of Covid-19 cases.

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