Uber's Finance Head Leaves As Company Says It's Quarterly Loss Narrows

Uber Technologies Inc said its head of finance is leaving, and the privately held ride-hailing company also said that its first-quarter loss narrowed substantially from the prior quarter, putting it on a path toward profitability.

Head of finance Gautam Gupta is leaving in July to join another startup in San Francisco, the company said, making Gupta the latest high-profile executive to leave Uber.

Uber, which has been rocked by several high-level executive departures in the past few months as it grapples with a series of controversies, has been looking for a chief operating officer to help change its now-notorious "bro" culture.

Gupta's exit sets the stage for a second major executive search, now for a chief financial officer who has public company experience.

About a dozen top executives have left Uber since February.

The company on Tuesday fired the technology whiz it had hired to lead its self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, after he failed to comply with a court order to hand over documents at the center of a legal dispute between Uber and Alphabet Inc's Waymo unit.

Uber on Wednesday said its net loss in the first quarter, excluding employee stock compensation and other items, narrowed to $708 million, from $991 million in the fourth quarter.

As a private company, Uber does not report its financial results publicly, but at times it has confirmed figures reported in the media.

Uber said its first-quarter revenue rose 18 percent to $3.4 billion from the fourth quarter.

"The narrowing of our losses in the first quarter puts us on a good trajectory towards profitability," an Uber spokesperson said in an email.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news on Wednesday. (Reuters)

Gartner Announces Rankings Of This Years Supply Chain Top 25

Gartner Inc. has released the findings from its annual Supply Chain Top 25, identifying supply chain leaders and highlighting their best practices. Analysts announced the results at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, which is being held this week at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix, AZ.

“2017 marks the 13th year of our annual Supply Chain Top 25 ranking,” says Stan Aronow, research vice president at Gartner. “This year we have an impressive group of leaders with new lessons to share, including two more recent entrants from the high-tech and consumer product sectors.”

Aronow told SCMR in an interview that he was surprised to discover how quickly the most mature supply chains have adopted digital capabilities, including cognitive computing and advanced warehouse and factory floor automation, in the last two years. 

“There is a growing gap between these leaders and rest of the supply chain community,” he says. “The talent to go after the most leading-edge capabilities is limited and the solution market is still immature, so we’re now seeing partnerships and consortia form across elite companies, regardless of industry, along with top academic research institutions, to create their own solutions for cognitive planning, sourcing, logistics and manufacturing.”

He adds that he is tracking whether all these technologies will be collaborative with supply chain workers (“cobots”, cognitive advisors, etc.) or if there will be a structural impact to supply chain organizations.

“Despite some striking performances, however, today’s supply chain leaders face a much different business environment than just 12 months ago,” says Aronow. “A general trend toward protectionism, as evidenced by Brexit and the policies of the current U.S. administration, has caused some companies to shift supply network design decisions and create contingency plans in anticipation of new trade policies. Continued investment in innovative supply chain capabilities will be required to meet this changing landscape.”

Unilever topped the Supply Chain Top 25 ranking for the second consecutive year in 2017, followed by McDonald’s, Inditex, Cisco and H&M (see Table 1). Two new companies made the Supply Chain Top 25, with Nokia rejoining after a seven-year hiatus and Diageo making the list for the first time.

Perennial supply chain leader Amazon joined Apple and P&G in qualifying for the “Masters” category, which Gartner introduced in 2015 to recognize sustained leadership over the last 10 years.

“Hardly a day goes by without another announcement of Amazon’s foray into a new market, ownership of its own logistics capabilities or filing of patents to improve customer experience,” says Aronow. One indicator of Amazon’s outsized influence on retail is the simultaneous real estate boom in distribution centers and bust of brick and mortar stores in the U.S. over the past two years.

Apple continues to improve and innovate both its solutions and the means of producing them. While the company has backed off plans to produce its own cars, it is still actively working on autonomous vehicle technology and experimenting with augmented reality (AR) technologies.

Consumer product giant P&G continues to innovate through digital automation of workflows, and the use of algorithm-driven tools to reduce exceptions and enable end-to-end planning. In recent years, P&G has also accelerated its investment in people and environmental initiatives.

Along with the Masters category, the Supply Chain Top 25 continues to offer a platform for insights, learning, debate and contributions to the rising influence of supply chain practices on the global economy.

Why Should Every Entrepreneur Be Biking To Work

Entrepreneurs' productivity, performance, and effectiveness have much to do with not only their approach to work, but also their personal lifestyle. Strategies like delegation, strict time management, and schedule optimization are all important, but they only represent one side of the equation. If you want to get the most out of your average workday, you need to improve your lifestyle and personal habits--and one of the best ways to do it is by biking to work every day.

The Benefits

Of all the lifestyle changes that could have a potentially positive impact on your working life--such as eating healthier or practicing yoga--why is biking to work on a daily basis the focal point of this article?

1. Everybody can do it.

First, just about everybody can bike to work (so long as they live within 20 miles or so). Unlike jogging, you don't need to be in particularly good shape, and you don't need any particularly expensive equipment to get started--you can get a bike for a few hundred dollars or less. Even if you aren't in shape, you can travel at a somewhat leisurely pace, and you don't need any special skills to be successful here. It helps if your city is especially bike-friendly, but as long as you have roadways, you'll have some place to bike.

2. It relieves stress.

There's no question that entrepreneurship is stressful--and if you allow that stress to accumulate, you'll suffer both mental and physical health complications, including unhealthy sleep patterns, and higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. Cycling is shown to reduce stress--both in the short-term, as a measure of instant relief, and in the long-term, as a way to mitigate the onset of symptoms associated with excessive stress.

3. It boosts productivity.

A short burst of exercise--around 20 minutes of strenuous activity--is enough to release endorphins that boost your alertness and improve productivity. Starting your day with a bike ride will help you launch into work and start getting things done the minute you walk in the office--and you'll feel better, intrinsically, when you're done.

4. Necessity mandates consistency.

Committing to bike to work every day will force you to make exercise a habit. The commute needs to happen, so you'll force yourself to establish some kind of regular rhythm. Obviously, you'll need to make different accommodations for days of excessive heat or precipitation, but the near-daily process of cycling will keep you going steady.

5. It familiarizes you with the city.

When you drive to work, you don't have time to look at your surroundings (unless you're stuck in traffic). On a bike, you'll be moving slower, so you'll have the chance to get to know the intricacies of your city. Not only will this give you better personal appreciation for the city in which you do business, you'll also be able to spot other businesses in the area you might have otherwise missed--giving you new prospects for sales, partners, or vendors.

6. You'll get in better shape.

Depending on personal factors and how fast you plan on traveling, you can burn 600 calories an hour with relative ease. Over the course of a workweek, for an average hour-long round trip commute, that leaves you burning 3,000 calories--or nearly a pound of fat. Keep that momentum up, and you'll get yourself in better shape, which in turn will boost your confidence, your image, and maybe even how much money you make.

7. You'll reduce your environmental impact.

It's true that your environmental impact won't have much of a direct impact on your productivity or your personal health, but riding a bike every day will offset all the greenhouse gases your vehicle emits. If more entrepreneurs and professionals biked to work, it could drastically cut our collective environmental impact--but even sponsoring a bike-to-work program in your own business could net you the benefits of positive branding.

8. You can meet new people.

The cycling community is a large one, and there's likely a bike meetup in your city. That makes biking to work every day a valuable networking opportunity--and possibly, a catalyst for forging better professional relationships with your team and your partners.

Getting Started

The biggest hurdle to overcome is getting started. If your city doesn't have bike lanes, or if you haven't ridden a bike in a while you may be nervous, but make a commitment to getting one trip under your belt. Once you get the fresh air in your lungs and feel the rush of physical exercise in the morning, you'll want to keep going back for more.

Google's Sundar Pichai Gives A Master Class For Creating Simple, Engaging Presentations

Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced at the company's 2017 developers conference that Google is "rethinking all our products" as it moves from a mobile-first world to an "A.I.-first" one. His presentation also reflected a rethinking of traditional presentation style.

Senior managers and executives at Google have told me that visual storytelling plays an important role in getting their messages across. In fact, Google's employees are being trained to present in a bolder, fresher style--less text heavy and more visual.

"Since stories are best told with pictures, bullet points and text-heavy slides are increasingly avoided at Google," Pichai said at the conference. His slides were remarkably uncluttered. The first thing you noticed in his presentation was the large amount of white space on each slide. Just as professional ad designers avoid filling up an entire page with text, Pichai didn't clutter his slides with extraneous words or numbers.

One researcher concludes that the average PowerPoint slide contains 40 words. From the beginning of Pichai's presentation, it took about 12 slides to reach 40 words. The slides were mostly photos and animations. When text did appear, it showed up as a few words to describe the photo or image.

For example, Pichai's first slide had seven logos for Google's primary products (Search, YouTube, Android, etc.) and the following text: "1 Billion+ Users." The point of the slide was to explain that Google's products each attract more than 1 billion monthly users.

The brain can't do two things at once

Pichai and Google's slide designers are creating brain-friendly presentations. Cognitive scientists say it's impossible for us to multitask as well as we think we can. The brain cannot do two things at once and do them equally well. When it comes to presentation design, we can't read text on the screen and listen to the speaker while retaining all of the information. It can't be done.

University of Washington biologist John Medina has done extensive research into persuasion and how the brain processes information. His advice is to burn most PowerPoint decks and start over with fewer words and more pictures. According to his book, Brain Rules, "We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you'll remember 10 percent of it. Add a picture and you'll remember 65 percent."

If you want to create visually interesting slides, less is more. Slide design guru Nancy Duarte recommends following a three-second rule. If viewers do not understand the gist of your slide in three seconds, it's too complicated. "Think of your slides as billboards," says Duarte. "When people drive, they only briefly take their eyes off their main focus, which is the road, to process a billboard of information. Similarly, your audience should focus intently on what you're saying, looking only briefly at your slides when you display them."

When is the last time you saw a billboard with a bullet-point list? Bullet points are the easiest design to create on a PowerPoint slide and the least effective.

In his book TED Talks, Chris Anderson writes, "Those classic PowerPoint slide decks with a headline followed by multiple bullet points of long phrases are the surest single way to lose an audience's attention altogether.... When we see speakers come to TED with slide decks like this, we pour them a drink, go and sit with them at a computer monitor, and gently ask their permission to delete, delete, delete."

According to Anderson, each bullet point becomes its own slide. A bullet point might become one sentence on a slide or be replaced entirely with a photo. In Pichai's Google presentation on A.I., slide number five carried the theme. There were five words on the slide: "Mobile first to A.I. first."

Pichai's slide obeyed the TED rule--delete, delete, delete. It works for Google. It will work for you.

Meg Whitman Says HPE Has To Reconsider It's Servers Business

For the second quarter in a row, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise chief executive officer Meg Whitman said that one part of the company’s business—which sells servers to major cloud and telecommunications providers—was slammed by lower sales to a “single tier one” customer.

Whitman, again, attributed lower-than-expected server sales to declining orders from a single customer, which she never identified but others have reported is Microsoft. But this time, Whitman said that HPE has to think about whether it even makes sense to stay in that business.

That’s because, in this arena, HPE depends heavily on that one customer. And Whitman expects that customer’s purchases to keep declining over the next few quarters from what is “a pretty big number,” she noted on the company’s second quarter earnings call.

“We’re really thinking hard about what the future strategy is for tier one, ” Whitman said. While HPE is getting new customers in that sector, this is a what she called a “low-calorie business,” meaning HPE has to figure out if it makes sense to continue in it or instead focus on more profitable products like high-end servers and storage.

HPE chief financial officer Tim Stonesifer said HPE revenue from continuing operations was $7.4 billion for the quarter, down 5% year-over-year with some adjustments. Excluding software sales and tier one servers, that revenue would be up 1%, he said.

HPE entered this server segment three years ago via a relationship with Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn, so it’s conceivable it could just shut it down.

The overriding issue here is that companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and Google tend to design their own data center hardware while outsourcing manufacturing to low-cost providers.

If software giants are dictating the innovation in hardware, that is a problem for the server makers of the earlier era.

Under previous business models, server buyers simply ordered hundreds or thousands (or more) brand-name servers from the established hardware makers. Many of those corporate customers are now turning to large cloud providers to run more of their workloads. Thus, they don’t need to buy as many servers.

That shift has stressed legacy server providers—including the old HP (now HPE), IBM, and Dell— and they had to adjust. IBM sold its X86-based server business to Lenovo. Dell, now Dell Technologies, has its own “white box” or commodity server business to address that market.

Earlier this week, former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer made a remark illustrating hardware makers’ dilemma in the age of cloud computing. One of his mistakes at Microsoft, he said at the Code Conference on Tuesday, was being too slow to get into hardware:“I wish we’d built that. One of the new expressions of software is new hardware.”

Ballmer said he was talking hardware in general, not just mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. “Microsoft Research said all silicon would be in the cloud,” Ballmer continued. “That was a wakeup call for me that we had to be good at hardware.”

NASA's Parker Space Probe - Six Decades Spent On Planning

In a mission nearly six decades in the making, NASA plans to launch the first probe into the sun’s atmosphere.

Christened Wednesday morning at an announcement at the University of Chicago, the Parker Solar Probe has been on NASA’s docket since the space agency’s inception. The probe is designed to take two dozen increasingly close plunges into the mysteriously hot corona, the wreath of charged particles emanating from our nearest star, as it passes some 4 million miles off the sun’s surface.

The mission was first conceived in 1958, the year NASA came into existence. It aims to answer longstanding questions about the solar wind, the stream of charged particles that originate in the sun’s atmosphere and flow from the star at millions of miles per hour to far beyond the orbit of Pluto. Getting an up-close look at solar wind near its birthplace could help scientists better predict solar storms that could wreak havoc on power grids on Earth and imperil spacecraft and astronauts in deep space, and could lend insight into the basic processes that govern how stars function.

“This has been a mission that has been planned multiple times over more than 50 years, and now we have the technology to do it,” says Eric Christian, a senior research scientist in the Heliospheric Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “We’re finally at a point in time where we can do this mission that NASA has been wanting to do since its very start.”

Researchers also hope the probe will reveal clues about one of our solar system’s most enduring mysteries: Why, in an apparent violation of everything we know about thermodynamics, temperatures are hundreds of times cooler on the surface of the sun than they are on the corona. NASA heliophysicist Georgia de Nolfo likens this phenomenon to “putting a pan of water on a block of ice and watching the water come to a boil.”

Perhaps more important, the mission promises to bring scientists closer to understanding fundamental processes of our solar system, and of the hundreds of billions of other star systems in the universe.

“The sun is a primary puzzle in the universe,” Dr. Eugene Parker, the probe’s namesake and the the University of Chicago physicist who theorized the existence of the solar wind in a 1958 paper, told reporters. “It’s the one star we can observe in detail, and stars are complicated things.”

One key complication researchers have been unable to contend with, until recently, is the searing heat emanating from the sun.

“We’ve never had the technology to allow us to go up and be in the corona and be in that intense heat,” says Nicola Fox, a mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

The Parker Solar Probe’s 7.5-foot-diameter, carbon-carbon composite thermal protection system is the first heat shield capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because the probe’s orbit is highly eccentric, the shield has to withstand not just heat, but it also must stand up to vast changes in temperature without cracking. Over its seven-year mission, the spacecraft is scheduled to make 24 increasingly closer passes around the sun, each time swinging back up to the orbit of Venus. 

The progress that allowed engineers to build this spacecraft is also what makes its mission so important. “Our increased dependence on technology in space and on the ground makes us more vulnerable to space weather events,” says Dr. de Nolfo.

The solar wind is anything but a steady breeze. Sometimes, our star will belch out intense streams of plasma, known as coronal mass ejections. If those ejections of charged particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the resulting electrical current on Earth can overload the transformers on power grids and corrode oil and gas pipelines. Additionally, solar storms can disrupt communications and GPS satellites and could threaten astronauts with radiation. For instance, in 2006, a powerful solar flare forced astronauts aboard the International Space Station to hole up in the airlocks and other heavily shielded areas.

“As we send man further into the solar system and certainly with all our satellites, prediction is really important,” says Dr. Christian.

The possibility of unraveling the fundamental mysteries of the sun, like the coronal heating problem, are just as tantalizing for scientists.

“Understanding how our own sun creates and maintains its atmosphere is a critical step in understanding how other stars maintain their atmospheres and how these atmospheres influence surrounding planets and the potential for life on planets,” says de Nolfo.

A distance of 4 million miles from the sun’s surface may seem like a long way, but this summer, those of us on Earth will get a much better sense of just how close that really is. The Great American Eclipse of August 21, 2017, will afford skywatchers a detailed glimpse of the sun’s corona, unobscured by the blinding light of the sun itself.

If all goes will, the probe will actually be inside that corona. “Even I struggle to think about how close that really is,” says Fox.

“To get within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun is going to be really exciting,” says Christian. “It’s where the solar wind is still being accelerated. It’s where the corona is still being heated. We will be there where the action is, for the first time.”

Donald Trump Announces Withdrawal From Paris Climate Agreement - Signalling Huge Break With Rest Of The World

President Donald Trump said he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate pact, saying it favors other nations at the expense of American workers, a move that angered European allies, corporate executives and religious leaders.

“We are getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal, and if we can, that’s great,” Trump said Thursday, arguing the pact benefits China and India. “And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

Trump’s announcement spurns pleas from corporate executives, world leaders and even Pope Francis who warned the move imperils a global fight against climate change. His decision also drew an immediate condemnation from the leaders of France, Germany and Italy, who issued a statement insisting that the agreement was “irreversible” and “cannot be renegotiated.” The Japanese government described the U.S. move as “regrettable.”

Trump is kicking off a withdrawal process that will take years to unfold -- creating an opening for him to reverse course and injecting it as an issue in the next presidential election. Under the terms of the deal, the earliest the U.S. can formally extricate itself from the accord is Nov. 4, 2020 -- the day after the next presidential election. And Trump would have wide latitude to change his mind up until that point.

“The Paris accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risk and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world,” Trump said. “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. We can’t build new coal plants, but China, India can.”

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh -- not Paris,” he said.

What Did Trump Just Do? The Paris Climate Withdrawal Explained

Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax,” campaigned on the pledge to exit the 2015 pact. White House legal advisers had warned that staying in the accord could undercut Trump’s efforts to rescind rules on power-plant emissions and fuel efficiency.

The agreement allows nations to adjust their individual emissions targets, with a goal of strengthening them over time. But there is no established mechanism that would prompt countries to renegotiate the entire accord. Negotiators built flexibility into the deal from the start, structuring the agreement so that individual countries could determine their own commitments -- without any punishment for failing to fulfill them.

“Apparently the White House has no idea how a treaty works,” Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told reporters in a conference call. She described Trump’s announcement as a “vacuous political melodrama.” 

Withdrawal would put the U.S. in league with just two other nations -- Syria and Nicaragua -- that are not participating in the agreement.

What Comes of Paris Climate Accord Without U.S.

Countries’ individual pledges vary widely. For instance, where the U.S. promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, China said it would only begin reducing its emissions by about 2030. And India said it would only reduce the carbon intensity of its economy, meaning the nation’s emissions could continue to rise.

For the best of our coverage on climate science and the future of energy, sign up for Bloomberg's new weekly Climate Changed newsletter.

The Paris accord was a signature achievement for Barack Obama’s efforts to combat climate change while president. Obama released a statement after Trump’s announcement saying the pact “opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale.”

“Even in the absence of American leadership -- even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future -- I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way,” Obama said.

As if to underscore that point, Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, tweeted that his city “will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future.”

Conservative groups and fossil fuel advocates quickly applauded Trump’s move.

“By not succumbing to pressure from special interests and cosmopolitan elites, the president demonstrated he is truly committed to putting America’s economy first,” Michael Needham, the chief executive officer of Heritage Action, said in a statement.

Coal executive Robert Murray praised Trump for “supporting America’s uncompromising values, saving coal jobs and promoting low-cost, reliable electricity for Americans and the rest of the world.”

As the richest nation and the second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the U.S. is central to efforts to address global warming. The Vatican, European leaders and companies as diverse as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Microsoft Corp. had urged the president to remain in the pact, with last-minute appeals by Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk and Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook.

Both Musk and Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said they would resign from a presidential jobs panel as a result of Trump’s decision.

Corporate leaders have warned of long-term economic consequences, arguing that a withdrawal would put the U.S. at a disadvantage in the global race to develop and deploy clean-energy technology. They argued a U.S. exit also risks a backlash against American products, raising the specter of consumer boycotts or carbon tariffs from the European Union, China and other nations.

Jeff Immelt, the chairman of General Electric Co., tweeted that he was “disappointed” with the decision, adding that "climate change is real," and the onus now falls on industry to lead.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, in his first tweet, said, “Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.” JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said in a statement that he “absolutely” disagreed with the withdrawal, but added, “we have a responsibility to engage our elected officials to work constructively and advocate for policies that improve people’s lives and protect our environment.”

Congressional Reaction

Congressional Democrats quickly condemned the decision on the Paris accord. 

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, tweeted "Dear planet, we’re sorry. Please just hang on for three and a half more years and we’ll fix this. We promise."

Some Republicans also criticized the action. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, tweeted that she was “disappointed in the president’s decision,” because "climate change requires a global approach."

The debate whether to exit the agreement played out for months in the White House. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and chief strategist Stephen Bannon pushed for a exit. Those arguing to stay included Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, senior adviser Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Energy Secretary Rick Perry endorsed a renegotiation.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner, her husband, did not attend Trump’s Rose Garden speech.

The Paris accord is broader than any previous climate agreement. It calls for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in hopes of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. That’s the upper limit scientists have set to keep climate change from hitting an irreversible tipping point, unleashing catastrophic floods, droughts and storms.

Dismantle Regulations

Trump has already moved to dismantle regulations and government programs to fight global warming. He ordered a review of fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, which along with other vehicles are the U.S.’s largest source of greenhouse gases. And he set in motion a process to scrap the Clean Power Plan, which would have required utilities to slash their carbon-dioxide emissions. The EPA is also moving to rescind rules to prevent methane leaks.

U.S. climate efforts won’t completely cease just because Trump is walking away from Paris.

California, New York, Massachusetts and other states continue to advance aggressive policies to cut carbon emissions. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other companies are still pushing to power their facilities with wind and solar energy. And low-carbon wind, solar and natural gas are so cheap the Department of Energy is studying what it can do to help ailing, older coal and nuclear plants.

The governors of California, New York and Washington responded to Trump’s speech by announcing the formation of a “United States Climate Alliance” to propel state action to address climate change.

California Governor Jerry Brown called the planned U.S. exit “tragic.”

“California will resist,” Brown said. “This is an insane move by this president.” (Bloomberg)

Car Sales Remain Robust In May - Clocks 11% Growth

Demand for new cars remained robust for the second month in a row last month with the passenger vehicle industry registering a growth of 11 percent during May.

Led by Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest car maker, five of the top six car makers which make up at least two-thirds of the local market sold 1.79 lakh units last month. The on-going marriage season, fear of rise in prices post implementation of GST and cheaper vehicle loans have pushed demand for new vehicles.

Models like the Baleno, Ignis, Alto and Swift drove Maruti Suzuki sales during May recording a total 130,248 units as against 113,162 units clocked in the same month last year.

Volumes of the utility vehicle segment which is made up of Ertiga and Brezza, rose impressively recording a growth of 66 percent during the month. UVs now account for 17 percent of Maruti’s total domestic sales.

Sales of utility vehicle major Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) rose by 3 percent to 20,290 units during the reporting month as against 19,635 units sold in same month last year.

Rajan Wadhera, President, Automotive Sector, M&M said, “Given the favourable monsoon projections and the focused investment in the rural sector, we have a robust outlook for the future which is expected to spur demand. The implementation of GST will be a significant game-changer and we hope it benefits the auto industry."

Ford sales grew by 17 percent to 6,742 units as compared to 5,780 units while that of Honda grew by 13 percent to 11,278 units as against 9954 units.

Yoichiro Ueno, President and CEO, Honda Cars India, said “We are happy to have achieved positive growth in May sales. We continue to receive strong demand for new City and the WR-V. The government’s plan for timely rollout of GST and a better monsoon forecast will aid in sales growth in coming months.”

Toyota was the outlier during last month reporting a fall in volumes possibly because of the anticipation in reduction in prices post the roll-out of GST. Price of the best-seller Innova Crysta as well as the Fortuner are expected to come down while that of the Camry and Prius hybrid will rise.

Raja, Director & Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Toyota Kirloskar Motor said, “With the ambiguity surrounding the upcoming GST proposed tax structure, the customers are postponing their plan of purchasing the vehicle post the GST implementation. We expect this impact to magnify in June 2017 until the customers have a clear understanding of the final pricing post the GST roll-out.”

India's Debt 'Significantly' Higher Than Similarly Rated Countries Says Moody's

Moody's Investor Service has said that India's debt level is "significantly" higher as compared with similarly rated countries like the Bahamas and South Africa.

The bond credit rating business has thus hit out once again at the Modi government, which has been trying hard to earn a sovereign upgrade.

Rating agencies like Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings have ranked India just above "junk," because of high debt levels, which even though declined to 67.5% of GDP in 2016 from 84.7% in 2003, continues to remain a "key credit constraint."

As per Moody's notes accessed by Bloomberg , India's debt burden is higher than most of the countries ranked 'Baa,' a medium-grade credit risk with possibly speculative characteristics. Moody's has rated India at Baa3, the lowest in that category.

"We view ongoing central government deficit reduction as supportive of India's credit profile," Moody's said in a note. "However, the recent widening of Indian state deficits has more than offset the narrowing of the central government deficit."

Moody's, however, is upbeat about India's decision to implement a unified tax code for goods and services called the goods and services tax (GST).

"Over the medium term, goods and services tax will contribute to productivity gains and higher GDP growth by improving ease of doing business, unifying markets and will enhance India's attractiveness as a foreign investment destination. GST will also support higher government revenue generation through improved tax compliance and administration," it said.

Air India Plans To Sell It's Prime Real Estate

Air India is planning to sell its properties and land parcels across the country. Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju met finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday to decide the process.

Sources privy to the discussions say the idea is to sell real estate assets in cities, airport locations, and airline offices at prime locations. A consultant will be appointed to make a detailed inventory report of the assets and fix a proper valuation for them. The entire process will be reviewed by a committee, which will comprise of secretary-level officials from the civil aviation ministry and finance ministry, people from Air India, and a retired judge.

“Air India has a vast bank of immovable properties, which have been accumulated over a period of time at various locations in India and abroad. Some of the properties are lying unused for a long time. Besides these, there are some locations from where the airline has stopped functioning; the idea is to sell those assets to see how much it can reduce the company’s debts,” an official close to the developments said.

When asked about it after the meeting between civil aviation minister and finance minister, civil aviation secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey said the government was considering all options. "At this stage, we are considering all options and we cannot say as to what will be the final decision," Choubey said.

Air India has a total debt of Rs 46,570 crore. Of the total debt, around Rs 16,000 crore is on account of aircraft loans, which were raised partially from Export-Import Bank of India, foreign institutions and through non-convertible debentures. The aircraft loans are guaranteed by the government. The remaining is working capital loan raised from a consortium of 25 banks led by State Bank of India.

This is not the first time that the company has decided to sell its assets. The previous UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government had also advised selling properties as a part of a turnaround plan approved in 2012.

When asked about Air India’s privatisation plan, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the civil aviation ministry will prepare a road map for the process. Business Standard has learnt that despite Niti Aayog’s suggestion of a complete sell-out, the government may not cede control over the airline, and instead attempt a turnaround by a debt-equity swap with lenders, sale of non-core assets and appointment of professionals to run the airline. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the control of Air India by government is important because of its strategic importance in a sector that has a few private players. 

“If you see Air India’s performance in terms of pure operational metrics, over the last two years it has done well, the debt issue has pinned them down, selling off non-core assets can be used to retire some of the debt burden,” a senior official said. A sale of the assets can generate more than Rs 10,000 crore, the official said.