Archives for January 2019

5 Important Business Travel Tips You Should Stop Ignoring

Although technological changes and a rise in travel opportunities are good things, the possibilities of information being lost, stolen, or attacked come with the territory. You’ve probably come across articles addressing these issues with travel tips to help your business travels run smoothly. Most people (myself included) might do a quick scan, take note of something relevant, and disregard the rest.

However, there’s a reason these tips get posted often. While it’s true that some tips are obvious, there are some that you should stop ignoring. This is especially important given the US government shut down and the potential for delays and problems being higher than they normally would be.   

No matter how much we plan, things aren’t always guaranteed to go accordingly. Therefore, it’s important to prepare for the worst case scenario. Here are five travel tips that you probably ignore but shouldn’t. 

1. Make a copy of important documents.

No matter how much we plan, unexpected events will happen at some point or another. These events can be especially challenging when they involve documents such as your passport, driver’s license, or visa if your business trip requires it. If you lose any of these documents or they get stolen and you don’t have a backup in place, you’ll have an extra layer of stress and problems added to your trip that you really could’ve gone without.

While you’ve likely heard this tip before, taking the time to copy your documents and storing them somewhere safe online is worth it. Store them in your email, on a cloud-based service, and with family so that they are easily accessible. As someone who had their credit card hacked while abroad, having a copy of all the information from the credit card stored help me handle the situation much more efficiently.

This is one of those tips that once done, you won’t have to worry about again until your information changes or documents get renewed.

2. Learn your destination’s local emergency number.

We all know that 911 is the go-to emergency number in the United States. However, besides a few other countries like Canada and Argentina, dialing 911 in other countries will not put you across to their emergency department. Even then, some countries don’t use the same number to reach the local police, ambulance, or fire department.

Being aware of the different numbers while traveling is never a bad idea. No matter how alert and aware you are, things can always go wrong. Keep a note saved in your wallet and on your phone with useful numbers, just in case.

3. Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone you trust.

I can’t stress this enough – always leave a copy of your itinerary with a loved one. This goes without saying, but if something was to happen to you, it’ll give them a place to start looking. Plus, it will help you keep organized and keep track of your business activities.

4. Get travel insurance.

Travel insurance is something that I consider a necessity, especially when traveling abroad. Yes, it does add extra money you need to spend on a trip. But compared to the amount it’ll save you if you do end up in a situation where it’s needed, buying travel insurance is worth it.

Since most travel insurances cover things like cancellation, delay, lost baggage, and medical coverage, you’ll be glad you don’t have to worry about that. Additionally, if you use your credit card to book your travels, you may also have coverage from that. It’s a good idea to read up on your policy before you travel.

5. Sign up for alerts from the State Department.

Though many people prefer to avoid thinking about it (especially if they’re already a nervous traveler), there are possibilities of coming in contact with a terrorist attack, political violence, or even a natural disaster while traveling. If you are traveling abroad, I recommend checking the State Department’s website to see if there are any specific risks you should be aware of.

I also recommend signing up for the State Department’s Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so if a crisis does occur while you’re abroad, the U.S Embassy will contact you and help you through it. If you have social media, consider following or at least being aware of relevant accounts that will post any information you might need when traveling. For instance, you can often reach representatives and get updates through Twitter.

Though these five tips might require some time and research, they are worth doing. Being prepared and having friends and family in the loop can make a significant difference should something happen. It is always better to be prepared.

Cyber Saturday—Data Privacy in Davos, Facebook Chat Changes, Google’s GDPR Fine

Grüezi from the snow-coated Swiss Alps, in whose fir-studded, canvas blanc landscape the World Economic Forum recently transpired.

An inescapable theme at this year’s summit was data privacy. The topic happens, ironically, to play counterpoint to another central theme—that datavore dubbed “artificial intelligence,” as Adam Lashinsky, this newsletter’s regular, weekday author, noted in an earlier column (and elsewhere).

The two concepts are inversely related, a Yin and Yang. Businesses are looking to fill their bellies with as much information as possible, extracting insights that might give them an edge over the competition. Indeed, data-guzzling machine learning processes promise to amplify businesses’ ability to predict, personalize, and produce. But in the wake of a seemingly endless string of data abuses and breaches, another set of stakeholders has grown increasingly vocal about implementing some, let’s call them “dietary restrictions.” Our appetites need limits, they say; left unchecked, the fast-and-loose practices feeding today’s algorithmic models threaten to undermine the autonomy of consumers and citizens everywhere.

The subject of data stewardship clearly occupied the minds of the most powerful politicians in attendance. In the main hall of the forum, two heads of state shared their concerns on Wednesday. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the topic will be one of two primary agenda items for the G20 Summit he is hosting in Osaka in June. (The other is climate change.) Later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Europe to find an approach to data governance distinct from the U.S.’s style, where corporations dominate, as well as the Chinese one, where the state seeks total control.

While policy-makers leaned, unsurprisingly, toward lawmaking, some members of the business set countered their notions with alternative views. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, cautioned against regulation, arguing that it restricts innovation. During a panel on digital trust I moderated on Thursday, Rod Beckstrom, the former CEO of ICANN, an Internet governance group, argued that Europe went astray when it adopted the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, last year, and he advised against the U.S. pursuing a similar path. Instead, Beckstrom proposed adding a privacy-specific amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one separate from the Fourth Amendment’s guard against warrantless searches and seizures. A provocative, if quixotic, idea.

By all measures, the disruptive, data-centric forces of the so-called fourth industrial revolution appear to be outpacing the world’s ability to control them. As I departed Davos, a conference-sponsored shuttle in which I was seated careened into a taxi cab, smashing up both vehicles. (No major injuries were sustained, so far as I could tell; though two passengers visited the hospital out of an abundance of caution.) While waiting in the cold for police to arrive and draw up a report, I was struck by how perfectly the incident encapsulated the conversations I had been observing all week.

We are all strapped, inextricably, to a mass of machinery, hurtling toward collision. Now what must be done is to minimize the damage.

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

Who Should Govern Your Data? Inside the Privacy Debate in Davos

Grüezi from the snow-coated Swiss Alps, in whose fir-studded, canvas blanc landscape the World Economic Forum recently transpired.

An inescapable theme at this year’s summit was data privacy. The topic happens, ironically, to play counterpoint to another central theme—that datavore dubbed “artificial intelligence,” as Adam Lashinsky, this newsletter’s regular, weekday author, noted in an earlier column (and elsewhere).

The two concepts are inversely related, a Yin and Yang. Businesses are looking to fill their bellies with as much information as possible, extracting insights that might give them an edge over the competition. Indeed, data-guzzling machine learning processes promise to amplify businesses’ ability to predict, personalize, and produce. But in the wake of a seemingly endless string of data abuses and breaches, another set of stakeholders has grown increasingly vocal about implementing some, let’s call them “dietary restrictions.” Our appetites need limits, they say; left unchecked, the fast-and-loose practices feeding today’s algorithmic models threaten to undermine the autonomy of consumers and citizens everywhere.

The subject of data stewardship clearly occupied the minds of the most powerful politicians in attendance. In the main hall of the forum, two heads of state shared their concerns on Wednesday. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the topic will be one of two primary agenda items for the G20 Summit he is hosting in Osaka in June. (The other is climate change.) Later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Europe to find an approach to data governance distinct from the U.S.’s style, where corporations dominate, as well as the Chinese one, where the state seeks total control.

While policy-makers leaned, unsurprisingly, toward lawmaking, some members of the business set countered their notions with alternative views. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, cautioned against regulation, arguing that it restricts innovation. During a panel on digital trust I moderated on Thursday, Rod Beckstrom, the former CEO of ICANN, an Internet governance group, argued that Europe went astray when it adopted the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, last year, and he advised against the U.S. pursuing a similar path. Instead, Beckstrom proposed adding a privacy-specific amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one separate from the Fourth Amendment’s guard against warrantless searches and seizures. A provocative, if quixotic, idea.

By all measures, the disruptive, data-centric forces of the so-called fourth industrial revolution appear to be outpacing the world’s ability to control them. As I departed Davos, a conference-sponsored shuttle in which I was seated careened into a taxi cab, smashing up both vehicles. (No major injuries were sustained, so far as I could tell; though two passengers visited the hospital out of an abundance of caution.) While waiting in the cold for police to arrive and draw up a report, I was struck by how perfectly the incident encapsulated the conversations I had been observing all week.

We are all strapped, inextricably, to a mass of machinery, hurtling toward collision. Now what must be done is to minimize the damage.

A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

Zuckerberg to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger: NYT

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is planning to unify the underlying messaging infrastructure of the WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger services and incorporate end-to-end encryption into these apps, the New York Times reported on Friday.

WhatsApp and Facebook messenger icons are seen on an iPhone in Manchester , Britain March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble

The three services will, however, continue as stand-alone apps, the report said, citing four people involved in the effort.

Facebook said it is working on adding end-to-end encryption, which protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in a conversation, to more of its messaging products, and considering ways to make it easier for users to connect across networks.

“There is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work,” a spokesperson said.

After the changes, a Facebook user, for instance, will be able send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, according to the New York Times report.

Integrating the messaging services could make it harder for antitrust regulators to break up Facebook by undoing its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, said Sam Weinstein, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

“If Facebook is worried about that then one way it can defend itself is to integrate those services,” Weinstein said.

But Weinstein said breaking up Facebook is viewed as an “extreme remedy” by regulators, particularly in the United States, so concerns over antitrust scrutiny may not have been a factor behind the integration.

MAJOR TRADEOFFS

Some former Facebook security engineers and an outside encryption expert said the plan could be good news for user privacy, in particular by extending end-to-end encryption.

“I’m cautiously optimistic it’s a good thing,” said former Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now teaches at Stanford University. “My fear was that they were going to drop end-to-end encryption.”

However, the technology does not always conceal metadata – information about who is talking to whom – sparking concern among some researchers that the data might be shared.

Any metadata integration likely will let Facebook learn more about users, linking identifiers such as phone numbers and email addresses for those using the services independently of each other.

Facebook could use that data to charge more for advertising and targeted services, although it also would have to forgo ads based on message content in Messenger and Instagram.

Other major tradeoffs will have to be made too, Stamos and others said.

Messenger allows strangers to contact people without knowing their phone numbers, for example, increasing the risk of stalking and approaches to children.

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Systems based on phone numbers have additional privacy concerns, because governments and other entities can easily extract location information from them.

Stamos said he hoped Facebook would get public input from terrorism experts, child safety officers, privacy advocates and others and be transparent in its reasoning when it makes decisions on the details.

“It should be an open process, because you can’t have it all,” Stamos said.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru, Jan Wolfe in Washington and Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Writing by Katie Paul; Editing by Tom Brown

How to Spot a Fake Glassdoor Review

As a result, you have some companies encouraging or downright pressuring employees to leave positive reviews. And, of course, you have people who are bitter leaving fake negative reviews as well. So, how can you spot which reviews are real and which are fake?

It’s not a perfect science

There’s always going to be some error in figuring out what is going on. The same happens with companies that conduct reference checks for job candidates. Because you don’t actually know who wrote the review, and you don’t know anything about them, you can’t make always make an accurate judgment about the quality of the rating. You have to do your due diligence and make your best guess. But, there are a few things you can do.

A spike in reviews needs a good cause.

Because many people write a review after they leave a company, you’d expect a surge in reviews after a large layoff, but you would also expect them to lean to the negative side. (Although, it’s perfectly possible to be laid off from a great place to work.) But, a flood of positive reviews is a pretty good signal that there’s a problem.

Polarized reviews.

If it’s either the worst place in the world or the best place in the world, someone is not telling the truth. This is not to say, of course, that I can’t love working for the same company that you hate, but if there are only extreme views, someone is probably either got an ax to grind or someone is pressuring people for good reviews. 

The reality is most companies are fine. Most are not the best to work for, nor are they the worst. So, be wary of companies that elicit extremes. And, as a side note, if all these reviews are correct, this indicates a company that doesn’t treat people fairly. If you’re one of the blessed few, you have a great time. If not? Your life will be difficult.

It sounds fake.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If many people repeat the same talking points, there might be a problem. 

Does this mean you shouldn’t trust Glassdoor?

That’s the same as asking “does this mean you shouldn’t trust references?” The answer is you should trust, but verify. Don’t eliminate a company from your list purely based on a bad Glassdoor review, but don’t blindly accept a job based on good Glassdoor reviews.

Ask in the interview: “I read on Glassdoor that bonuses are fantastic. Can you tell me about your bonus program?” and also, “I read on Glassdoor that people didn’t receive promised bonuses. Can you clarify what happened?”

And after you receive a job offer, ask to meet with your future teammates. Peers are more likely to be honest about the good and bad than a boss and recruiter who are trying to fill a position.

Forget the dream job.

And, most importantly, let go of the idea of a dream job. There is not such thing. So, make good and wise choices, but don’t assume you can find the best thing ever by  looking on Glassdoor.

So Uber Wants Self-Driving Bikes and Scooters. Why? And How?

Really, it was only a matter of time before somebody thought to combine today’s hottest transportation trends: shared electric scooters and autonomous driving. Over the weekend, Uber reportedly unveiled a micromobility robotics division at a robotics meetup in the Bay Area. Though the company declined to confirm or comment on the new addition, the division will reportedly explore how to make the scooters and shared bikes it’s now deploying alongside its cars capable of riding themselves.

The key questions, then, are the classic ones—why and how.

The “why” makes, well, a touch of sense. Self-driving e-scooters and bikes would be able to mosey themselves over to battery-charging stations, or wheel themselves into maintenance depots, or redistribute themselves to exactly where users need them to be. That would be helpful, because operations and logistics can be an pricey pain for tech-enabled scooter- and bike-share companies. Figuring out where and when scooters need to be deployed, and when and how they need to be charged and repaired, is hard enough. But getting human beings out into the field, and doing the actual work of collecting, charging, and maintaining the vehicles has proven costly for the companies. According to investor documents provided to The Information showing internal company numbers from last spring, the e-scoot company Bird spent almost half its gross revenue per ride paying individual contract workers to charge their scooters, and another 14 percent of gross revenue per ride to repair them.

So yes, it would save companies a tidy sum if they could cut human labor out of the picture. “Operating expenses are the biggest thorn in the side of the companies,” says Richard Branning, the CEO and founder of the startup Sweep, which provides operations and logistical services to scooter firms. (Sweep runs operations for Spin, the scooter startup acquired by Ford last year.) But he argues that even the most advanced robots might not be able to extricate themselves from the pinches that shared bikes and scooters can get themselves into. “Let me know when a scooter is behind a fence and there’s a dog biting at it, when it can hop that 10-foot fence and get back on the road and zoom itself back to a charging pod,” he adds.

Indeed, making anything drive itself in the real world is really hard. Beyond a few demo rides, no company has been willing to take the human safety operator out of its cars, which is another way of saying that nobody has cracked the self-driving problem yet. And while scooters and bikes don’t match the speed or weight—and thus the potential danger—of cars, they bring their own challenges.

First, these are two-wheeled vehicles, and they tend to fall over when they don’t have a human using their weight and movement to keep them upright. Beyond adding extra wheels or heavy, complex tech like a gyroscope, there’s no obvious way to ensure they don’t tip, or to get them back up off the ground when they do. It’s not clear how to make a bike propel itself at all, since the e-bikes that Uber’s mobility subsidiary Jump and its peers use are pedal-assist: They augment foot power with motors, but those alone aren’t powerful enough to move the whole bike.

Second, scooters will have to operate on the sidewalk or on the street. That means they’ll have to deal with vehicles, intersections, and walking humans. Maybe even the occasional rogue squirrel.

That stuff is hard, but achievable, according to Kevin Peterson, the CTO of sidewalk delivery-robot company Marble. The bigger hurdle he sees is cost. Any self-driving vehicle needs sensors to perceive the world and computers to turn that data into decisions about how to move. Even if you manage to do this without lidar—which is the most expensive sort of sensor and costs in the thousands-of-dollars range—and use a combo of sensors and computer vision techniques instead, you’re making the vehicle more expensive.“I don’t know of a safe autonomy system that would be cheap enough to put on a scooter,” Peterson says, suggesting an ambitious $50 as a ceiling.

Trouble is, a key advantage of bikes and scooters is that they are cheap, around $500 per scooter. And these shared vehicles live outside and take a beating—even when people aren’t hurling them into local bodies of water or stuffing them up into trees. On top of the cost of the system, Uber would have to put more money into hardening an expensive sensor and computing suite, or replace the scooters’ and bikes’ cameras and other bits more often than they’d like.

OK, so coaxing scooters and bikes to drive themselves would be very difficult and very expensive. The undertaking is still somewhat on brand for Uber. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has positioned the company as the “Amazon of transportation.” He wants Uber to be able to get you anywhere, and bring you any meal, no matter your travel mode. He also has decided against nixing the company’s expensive self-driving research and development efforts—Uber wants autonomy to be part of its very long term future.

As the company gears up for its initial public offering this year, of course self-driving scooters and bikes will be part of its narrative.


More Great WIRED Stories

Glassdoor Just Announced the 50 Best Jobs in America for 2019 (Is Your Job on the List?)

Some of the highlights in the 2019 best jobs rankings include:

  • A red-hot tech job — Data Scientist — takes the #1 spot

  • #1 most in-demand bob: Software Engineer (#10) with 49,007 open jobs.

  • Twenty-two jobs are new to the list this year, including Security Engineer (#17), Recruiter (#28), and Brand Manager (#48).

According to Amanda Stansell, Glassdoor economic research analyst, the results point out some important trends. Says Stansell:

“As we look closer at the Best Jobs in America for 2019, we’re seeing continued demand for highly-skilled workers, especially in tech and health care roles. Paired with today’s tight labor market, this demand heightens competition among employers to recruit and retain top-performing talent. This is why we’re seeing more employers across industries invest in workplace culture, transparent communication with senior leadership, clear career mobility and attractive compensation packages in order to keep employees satisfied in their jobs long-term.”

Here’s Glassdoor’s list of the 50 Best Jobs in America for 2019. Is your job on it?

1. Data Scientist
Number of Job Openings: 6,510
Median Base Salary: $108,000

2. Nursing Manager
Number of Job Openings: 13,931
Median Base Salary: $83,000 

3. Marketing Manager
Number of Job Openings: 7,395 
Median Base Salary: $82,000  

4. Occupational Therapist
Number of Job Openings: 17,701
Median Base Salary: $74,000

5. Product Manager
Number of Job Openings: 11,884
Median Base Salary: $115,000

6. Devops Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 4,657
Median Base Salary: $106,000

7. Program Manager
Number of Job Openings: 14,753
Median Base Salary: $87,000

8. Data Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 4,739
Median Base Salary: $100,000

9. HR Manager
Number of Job Openings: 3,908 
Median Base Salary: $85,000 

10. Software Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 49,007 
Median Base Salary: $104,000 

11. Mechanical Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 5,949  
Median Base Salary: $75,000  

12. Physician Assistant
Number of Job Openings: 9,819   
Median Base Salary: $105,000  

13. Sales Manager
Number of Job Openings: 21,695 
Median Base Salary: $65,000  

14. Sales Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 3,145 
Median Base Salary: $90,000  

15. Operations Manager
Number of Job Openings: 18,311  
Median Base Salary: $68,000  

16. Strategy Manager
Number of Job Openings: 2,783   
Median Base Salary: $140,000  

17. Security Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 4,683    
Median Base Salary: $102,000 

18. Construction Manager
Number of Job Openings: 3,334   
Median Base Salary: $75,000 

19. Speech Language Pathologist
Number of Job Openings: 29,467    
Median Base Salary: $72,000 

20. Project Manager
Number of Job Openings: 30,107  
Median Base Salary: $75,000 

21. Product Designer
Number of Job Openings: 2,158   
Median Base Salary: $100,000 

22. Java Developer
Number of Job Openings: 6,636  
Median Base Salary: $85,000 

23. Executive Assistant
Number of Job Openings: 4,858  
Median Base Salary: $60,000 

24. Electrical Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 7,191  
Median Base Salary: $77,000 

25. Finance Manager
Number of Job Openings: 3,747  
Median Base Salary: $118,000 

26. Business Analyst
Number of Job Openings: 13,340   
Median Base Salary: $72,000 

27. Solutions Architect
Number of Job Openings: 6,969    
Median Base Salary: $127,000 

28. Recruiter
Number of Job Openings: 9,782     
Median Base Salary: $48,000 

29. Business Development Manager
Number of Job Openings: 6,348    
Median Base Salary: $80,000 

30. Dental Hygienist
Number of Job Openings: 2,805   
Median Base Salary: $67,250  

31. Data Analyst
Number of Job Openings: 5,456  
Median Base Salary: $60,000

32. Nurse Practitioner
Number of Job Openings: 18,997   
Median Base Salary: $102,000

33. Applications Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 2,591   
Median Base Salary: $77,000

34. QA Manager
Number of Job Openings: 1,923  
Median Base Salary: $91,250 

35. Risk Manager
Number of Job Openings: 3,924 
Median Base Salary: $100,500 

36. Communications Manager
Number of Job Openings: 2,009 
Median Base Salary: $80,000 

37. Physical Therapist
Number of Job Openings: 34,899 
Median Base Salary: $70,000 

38. Facilities Manager
Number of Job Openings: 3,472 
Median Base Salary: $65,000  

39. Systems Engineer
Number of Job Openings: 16,793  
Median Base Salary: $90,000  

40. Customer Success Manager
Number of Job Openings: 2,601  
Median Base Salary: $65,000 

41. Radiologic Technologist
Number of Job Openings: 6,115 
Median Base Salary: $48,000

42. Restaurant Manager
Number of Job Openings: 21,754  
Median Base Salary: $49,000  

43. Software Engineering Manager
Number of Job Openings: 1,445 
Median Base Salary: $153,000  

44. Software Developer
Number of Job Openings: 11,833  
Median Base Salary: $80,000 

45. Safety Manager
Number of Job Openings: 2,180   
Median Base Salary: $71,000  

46. UX Designer
Number of Job Openings: 3,333    
Median Base Salary: $89,000   

47. Office Manager
Number of Job Openings: 18,681     
Median Base Salary: $42,000  

48. Brand Manager
Number of Job Openings: 1,500      
Median Base Salary: $85,000   

49. Software Development Manager
Number of Job Openings: 1,178      
Median Base Salary: $140,000    

50. Systems Administrator
Number of Job Openings: 8,278   
Median Base Salary: $68,000     

Exclusive: Tesla in talks with China's Lishen over Shanghai battery contract – sources

BEIJING (Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) has signed a preliminary agreement with China’s Tianjin Lishen to supply batteries for its new Shanghai car factory, as it aims to cut its reliance on Japan’s Panasonic (6752.T), two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors are seen at the booth of Lishen Battery at a new energy expo in Beijing, China March 22, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

The companies had yet to reach a decision on how large an order the U.S. electric car company would place, and Lishen was still working out what battery cell size Tesla would require, one of the sources said.

While Panasonic is currently Tesla’s exclusive battery cell supplier, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said in November the U.S. company would manufacture all its battery modules and packs at the Shanghai factory and planned to diversify its sources.

“Cell production will be sourced locally, most likely from several companies (incl Pana), in order to meet demand in a timely manner,” Musk said in a tweet in November.

Other battery makers in the running for contracts could include Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (300750.SZ) and LG Chem Ltd (051910.KS).

Tesla broke ground on the $2 billion so-called Gigafactory, its first in China, earlier this month and plans to begin making Model 3 electric vehicles (EV) there by the end of the year.

Musk has said the factory will produce “more affordable” vehicles for the Chinese auto market, the world’s biggest, where the firm is facing mounting competition and risks from U.S.-China trade tensions.

Tesla declined to comment, while Lishen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Panasonic said in a statement it was studying various possibilities with regards to Tesla’s Shanghai plant, but nothing had been decided. It declined to comment on the possibility of losing exclusive-supplier status with Tesla.

The sources declined to be identified because the discussions are private.

APPLE SUPPLIER

Lishen, which says its clients range from Apple (AAPL.O) and Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) to Geely (0175.HK) and Hyundai Motor (005380.KS), has joined other battery makers in aggressively pursuing contracts with the rapidly growing EV industry.

The Chinese company started mass production of the same type of cylindrical battery made by Panasonic for Tesla’s Model 3 in 2017, in the city of Suzhou about 100 kms (60 miles) away from Shanghai.

Reuters reported on Monday that Panasonic and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) were set to launch a joint venture next year to produce EV batteries in an effort to compete with Chinese rivals.

Slideshow (2 Images)

A joint venture would build on the agreement that the pair announced in late 2017 on joint development of batteries with higher energy density in a prismatic cell arrangement.

It would also help Panasonic cut its heavy reliance on Tesla, whose production delays have weighed on the Japanese company’s earnings.

Panasonic planned to shift most of its prismatic battery-related equipment and facilities in Japan and China to the joint venture, while those producing batteries for Tesla would remain under the company, a source said.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Tom Daly in BEIJING; additional reporting by Makiko Yamazaki in TOKYO; Editing by Brenda Goh and Stephen Coates

Amazon.com starts direct sales of merchandise in Brazil after delays

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc is launching its long-awaited in-house fulfillment and delivery network in Brazil after months of delays caused by complicated logistics and a highly complex tax system in the largest Latin American economy.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the web service Amazon is pictured in this June 8, 2017 illustration photo. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/Illustration/File Photo

Amazon, which some rivals had expected to kick off direct sales of items beyond books as soon as the Christmas selling season, said it will directly sell 11 categories of merchandise from over 800 suppliers from L’Oreal to Black & Decker as of Tuesday.

Its shift to stocking and delivering goods itself from acting mostly as a marketplace is expected to intensify competition for fast delivery of goods in Latin America’s largest economy as it exits a painful recession.

“We are launching (our direct sales platform) with 320,000 different products in stock, including 200,000 books… Our obsession is always to increase this catalog and to have everything Brazilian consumers seek and want to buy on the internet”, Amazon’s Brazilian country manager Alex Szapiro told Reuters.

In November, Reuters reported that Amazon’s attempt to advance with its so-called Fulfillment by Amazon program in Brazil had run into difficulties such as the nations’s tangled tax system, complicated logistics and testy relations with some prominent vendors.

“As in every negotiation, you take a seat at a table and you want to agree on the best possible terms”, said Szapiro when asked on the tone of conversations with suppliers, without entering in details.

Amazon entered Brazil quietly in 2012, selling e-readers, books and then streaming movies in the fast-growing Brazilian market. The company made its first big move into merchandise in October 2017, when it began offering the use of its Brazilian website to third-party merchants to sell electronics.

The company does not reveal the number of sellers in its marketplace, which it has slowly expanded over the past year, adding new categories while laying the ground for a direct sales platform.

As part of the fulfillment program, Amazon leased a 47,000 square-meter (505,904-square-foot) warehouse just outside of Sao Paulo, as first reported by Reuters almost a year ago.

Szapiro, who previously worked as Brazil country manager for Apple Inc, declined to say how much the company is spending on the new distribution center or how many people it is hiring, but said Amazon employs directly and indirectly over 1,400 people in Brazil.

In a report published on Monday, analysts at investment bank BTG Pactual said the expected direct sales launch signaled the company was ready “to strengthen investments, potentially via more partnerships with fulfillment operators and last-mile carriers.”

Even though the bank predicted Amazon would take a “gradual approach” and was likely to vye for a “low double-digit market share,” shares of Brazilian retailers reacted negatively to BTG’s report, with B2W, Magazine Luiza e Lojas Americanas among the biggest losers in Monday’s session.

Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Sandra Maler

Apple, Amazon called out for 'incorrect' Taiwan, Hong Kong references

TAIPEI/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – One of China’s top government-linked think tanks has called out Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and other foreign companies for not referring to Hong Kong and Taiwan as part of China in a report that provoked a stern reaction from Taipei.

FILE PHOTO: An electronic screen displays the Apple Inc. logo on the exterior of the Nasdaq Market Site following the close of the day’s trading session in New York City, New York, U.S., August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said in a report this month that 66 of the world’s 500 largest companies had used “incorrect labels” for Taiwan and 53 had errors in the way they referred to Hong Kong, according to China’s Legal Daily newspaper. It said 45 had referred to both territories incorrectly.

Beijing considers self-ruled Taiwan a wayward province of China and the former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and operates as a semi-autonomous territory.

China last year ramped up pressure on foreign companies including Marriott International and Qantas for referring to Taiwan and Hong Kong as separate from China in drop down menus or other material.

The report was co-written by CASS and the Internet Development Research Institution of Peking University. An official at the Internet Development Research Institution told Reuters that it had not yet been published to the public and declined to provide a copy.

A spokesman for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan would not bow to Chinese pressure.

“As for China’s related out-of-control actions, we need to remind the international community to face this squarely and to unite efforts to reduce and contain these actions,” Alex Huang told reporters in Taipei.

Beijing has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since Tsai, from the pro-independence ruling party, took office in 2016.

That has included rising Chinese scrutiny over how companies from airlines, such as Air Canada, to retailers, such as Gap, refer to the democratic island in recent months.

Nike Inc, Siemens AG, ABB, Subaru and others were also on the list. Apple, Amazon, ABB, Siemens, Subaru and Nike did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Reporting By Yimou Lee, Jess Macy Yu, Josh Horwitz; Additional Reporting by Shanghai Newsroom, Gao Liangping, Cate Cadell, Pei Li, Brenda Goh and Naomi Tajitsu in TOKYO; Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie