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Oil giant Saudi Aramco beats estimates with 30% hike in first-quarter profit

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Oil tanks at an oil processing facility of Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian state-owned oil and gas company, at the Abqaiq oil field.

Stanislav Krasilnikov | TASS via Getty Images

Oil giant Saudi Aramco reported a 30% jump in net income Tuesday, in a sign of a continued recovery from the previous year’s oil market crash that saw full-year earnings for the state firm slashed in half.

In a release published Tuesday, the company said net income rose to $21.7 billion in the first three months of the year. The figure nears the firm’s net income level in the first quarter of 2019, which was $22.2 billion.

Saudi Arabia’s behemoth oil producer also maintained its dividend, with $18.8 billion due to be paid out in the second quarter.

The earnings reflect a dramatically improved climate for oil markets since the first quarter of last year, when Aramco reported a 25% fall in net income for the period as it grappled with the initial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and cratering global demand.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated shortly.

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Google Cloud helps England manager Gareth Southgate to pick Euros team

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England Manager Gareth Southgate at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

Michael Regan – The FA | The FA Collection | Getty Images

LONDON — With the biggest European national soccer tournament just around the corner, England manager Gareth Southgate is trying to keep close tabs on his most promising players.

One of his key tools is a piece of player performance software that has been developed by the Football Association, the governing body of association football in England, and Google.

“Thankfully it is easy to use,” the 50-year-old manager told CNBC in an exclusive interview.

The platform aims to bring together disparate sources of data into one place so that managers can track how well players are performing.

“Every weekend, we’ve got players in the Premier League … the Bundesliga, La Liga,” said Southgate. “We need to be able to access that footage as quickly as possible, and any data that we can get from those matches as well.”

It contains thousands of minutes of video clips and stats on everything from passes completed and shots on target, to fouls conceded and distance covered, with data coming from the likes of sports analytics firm Opta, recruitment platform Scout7, and even the BBC.

“When I was playing, it was really all geared around how far you ran,” said the former Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and England player. “The coaches used it to beast you on a Monday morning — they found this weird correlation between if you ran further, you won. That wasn’t really good use of data.”

Now managers are looking at key metrics for each position, according to Southgate.

“Are we really clear in each position what we’re looking for? What is the role in that position? How does that map to how a player might play at his club? They have players that play in the same positions, but they play in a different style, and how will that map into the way that we want to play?”

“We’re always trying to piece this jigsaw together because we don’t have weeks and weeks to be able to coach the team. They’ve got to come in and be as close to the finished article as possible before the Euros. If our teams get to the European finals, we might only have eight or nine days on the training pitch with our full squad.”

Southgate is under pressure from fans to get a result from his England team at the Euros, which get under way in Rome on Friday June 11 and finish at London’s Wembley Arena on Sunday July 11.

England have never won the tournament before. The team made the last four in 1968 in Italy and again on home soil in 1996, when they lost to Germany on penalties.

Data vs. privacy

The data collected on England’s players goes well beyond how they perform on the pitch and at the training ground. They also have their sleep and their mental health monitored, with the latter being tracked through a wellbeing questionnaire.

“Clearly, we need permission to gain some of that data,” said Southgate. “Sleep patterns would be a really good example. That would always be the choice of a player.”

He added: “The only reason for us to track that would be to help them with solutions in order to help them to sleep better, because sleep would be one of the key indicators on recovery, and for us in a tournament situation, recovery is one of the key physical areas we can hit.”

But not everything is tracked. Players aren’t obliged to share exactly what they eat for example, meaning a player could theoretically have a McDonald’s Big Mac meal in the run up to the tournament if they really wanted to. “If we were measuring that, I’m sure they would be anxious about it and I’m not certain we’d get the truth,” said Southgate.

Southgate’s player performance platform also contains data recorded on internet-connected gym machines at the team’s training ground at St George’s Park, near Birmingham.

As a result, Southgate can see how much the likes of Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount have been bench pressing, or how long Manchester City’s John Stones has spent on the exercise bike.

A digital database of player performances

Southgate said his predecessors, who didn’t have access to the same technology, had to either find former coaches to talk to, or rely on anecdotal evidence.

“There was no store of what had happened in the past, what breeds success, what lessens failure,” he said.  

Today, managers at rival clubs will be using similar software, Southgate admitted.

Asked if England’s player performance software is any better than what the likes of France or Germany are using, he said: “The reality of that is we don’t know … We always have to be humble enough to accept that other people are very good at what they do. Other countries are at the cutting edge as well.”

He added: “We can only keep trying to improve what we deliver and make our systems the highest possible level that we can for all of our staff. In the end, if you add all those little gains together, our performance would improve, which gives us a better chance of winning. I think we should always be careful about saying we were the best in the world.”

FA’s relationship with Google

FA Chief Information Officer Craig Donald told CNBC on the same call that the Google-powered platform provides Southgate and the other England coaches with “new insights” that can “hopefully allow them to thrive and win.”

The FA and Google declined to comment on the financial details of their arrangement.

Donald acknowledged that other cloud computing providers exist — such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud — and said that the FA relies on some of them for different products.

He praised Google for having “open standards” and being flexible. “They’re allowing us to collaborate and to integrate with those other clouds effectively, so we found that to be a really big selling point,” said Donald.

England’s player performance platform was built by a small team of developers at the FA in conjunction with Google and other firms, Donald said.

“Google are the people that will help us understand the true power of the sheer capacity of what they have and then we work with a partner and with our own team as well to try and pull all that knowledge together and build a solution,” said Donald.

 

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Xiaomi shares rally after US agrees to remove it from blacklist

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Xiaomi’s headquarters in the Xuhui District of Shanghai.

Costfoto | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — The U.S. has agreed to remove Xiaomi from a blacklist that would have barred Americans from investing in the Chinese smartphone maker.

Shares of Chinese tech giant Xiaomi rallied as much as 6.5% after the news, before paring some gains.

In January, the administration under former President Donald Trump designated Xiaomi as one of several “Communist Chinese military companies” or CCMC.

This meant the world’s third-largest smartphone maker was subject to a November executive order restricting American investors from buying shares or related securities of any companies given this designation by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

Xiaomi brought a legal challenge against the U.S. Department of Defense.

In March, a U.S. court granted Xiaomi a preliminary injunction against the Trump-era order, saying the company would “suffer irreparable harm in the form of serious reputational and unrecoverable economic injuries.”

And on Tuesday, the DOD agreed that a “final order vacating” Xiaomi’s designation as a CCMC “would be appropriate,” according to a court filing.

Xiaomi and the DOD will “negotiate over the specific terms of the order” and provide the court with a “joint proposed order” on or before May 20.

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Tesla’s China sales tumble 27% in April from March

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A gigafactory of electric carmaker Tesla is seen in Shanghai, China October 18, 2019.

Aly Song | Reuters

BEIJING — One gauge of Tesla’s success in China pointed to a sharp drop in sales in April.

The U.S.-based electric car company sold 25,845 made-in-China vehicles last month, down 27% from 35,478 in March, according to figures released Tuesday by the China Passenger Car Association.

The report noted that in April, Tesla exported 14,174 cars from its Shanghai factory. The association did not disclose Tesla’s export figures for March.

Tesla’s sales decline came amid an overall 12% month-on-month drop in April for new energy passenger cars in China, according to the association. The category includes pure-electric and hybrid cars.

Guangdong-based BYD, which is backed by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett, came close behind Tesla in April. The passenger car association said BYD sold 25,450 new energy vehicles in April, up 6.5% from 23,906 in March.

The figures are close to those disclosed by BYD itself, which said earlier this month it sold 25,034 new energy passenger cars in April.

Some in China’s electric car industry have cast doubt on the accuracy of the association’s figures.

China becomes more important for Tesla

Tesla does not disclose monthly deliveries by country. The company delivered 184,800 cars worldwide during the first quarter.

Publicly disclosed figures indicate China is becoming a more and more important market for Tesla. The company made $3 billion in sales in the country during the first quarter, accounting for 29% of global sales for the period. That’s up from up from 21% for all of 2020.

Meanwhile, negative press has increased for Tesla in China. In the last few months, local reports of Tesla brake failures, crashes and explosions have mounted and drawn scrutiny from regulators. Separately on Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing sources, that Tesla has halted plans to buy land and expand its Shanghai factory.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report, or the association’s figures. Shares fell about 1.9% overnight and are down roughly 12% for the year so far.

Looking ahead, the passenger car association pointed out the capital city of Beijing is releasing 60,000 new license plates for new energy vehicles this month, which should help sales for recent market launches such as Tesla’s Model Y and Aion Y, produced by a new energy brand spun-off from Chinese state-owned automaker GAC.

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