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European Nations Compete for Chinese EV Factories

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European governments though wary of budget Chinese electric vehicles flooding their markets, but they’re also fiercely competing for a share of the manufacturing investment and jobs the new competitors bring.

While the European Union investigates China’s auto subsidies and considers tariffs on imports, national governments across the bloc are dangling their own incentives to attract Chinese automakers looking to build European factories.

Manufacturing costs for Chinese EV makers including BYD, Chery Automobile and state-owned SAIC Motor are much lower at home, but they are nonetheless keen to set up in Europe to build their brands and save on shipping and potential tariffs, said Gianluca Di Loreto, a partner at consultancy firm Bain & Company.

“Chinese automakers know their cars must be perceived as European if they want to bear interest among European customers,” he said. “This means producing in Europe.”

On the one hand, import taxes could help European automakers better compete with their Chinese counterparts, but they may also spur on Chinese automakers that are already heavily investing, and for the long-term, in Europe.

Sales of Chinese-brand cars comprised 4% of the European market last year and are forecast to hit 7% by 2028, according to consulting firm AlixPartners.

Hungary produced around 500,000 vehicles in 2023 and secured the first European-factory investment by a Chinese automaker, which EV giant BYD announced last year.

BYD is also considering a second European plant in 2025.

Budapest is also negotiating with Great Wall Motor for its first European plant, local media have reported, with the country offering cash for jobs creation, tax breaks and relaxed regulation in targeted zones to attract foreign investment.

Hungary has spent more than $1 billion in recent years to support the new battery plants of South Korean groups SK On and Samsung SDI, along with Chinese battery giant CATL’s planned factory.

China’s Leapmotor will use the existing capacity of Franco-Italian partner Stellantis, with Reuters reporting the pair have chosen the Tychy plant in Poland as a manufacturing base.

Poland has a number of programs currently supporting more than $10 billion of investments, the country’s development and technology ministry said, including one favoring the transition to a net-zero economy and another offering corporate income tax relief of as much as 50% in high-unemployment regions.

Spain, Europe’s second-largest car-making country after Germany, has secured investment from Chery, which will start production in the fourth quarter at a former Nissan facility in Barcelona with a local partner.

Chery is expected to benefit from Spain’s €3.7 billion ($3.98 billion) program launched in 2020 to attract electric-vehicle and battery plants.

China’s Envision Group has already received €300 million in incentives under the plan for a 2.5 billion battery plant creating 3,000 jobs.

Spain might also host Stellantis’ planned fourth gigafactory in Europe, with CATL.

Chery plans to have a second, larger facility in Europe, a source with knowledge of the company’s plans said, and has held talks with governments including Rome, which is keen to attract a second automaker to rival Fiat-maker Stellantis.

Italy can tap its national automotive fund, worth €6 billion between 2025 and 2030, for incentives for both car buyers and manufacturers. China’s Dongfeng is among several other automakers that have held investment discussions with Rome.

Italy’s industry ministry declined to comment.

Dongfeng and Chery did not respond to requests for comment.

SAIC, owner of the venerable MG brand, aims to build two Europe plants, two sources familiar with the matter said.

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WIOCC Raises $41 Million to Expand Infrastructure in 3 African Country

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The West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) has secured $41 million in debt funding to expand data centre infrastructure in Nigeria, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

The funding led by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, also saw participation from Proparco, a development finance institution and subsidiary of the Agence Française de Développement Group.  

The funding comprises loans of $10 million, ZAR 200 million ($11 million) from the IFC and $20 million from Proparco.

From a joint statement by the financiers, WIOCC is also expected to sign an additional $10 million loan with RMB in the next few weeks. 

With the funding, WIOCC which owns one of the largest data centers in Nigeria, Open Access Data Centres, said it would expand its core and edge data centers in its three operating countries to meet the growing demand for colocation and other data centre services.  

It will also grow its fibre networks, helping bridge the digital divide, and fostering economic growth across Africa. 

According to the statement, the financing is structured as a sustainability-linked debt, with pricing linked to WIOCC’s commitment to improve the energy efficiency of its data centres and obtain EDGE green building certification for them. EDGE, an innovation of IFC, makes it easy to design and certify resource-efficient and zero-carbon buildings. 

“We are excited to conclude this next stage of our capital raise, which will enable significant expansion, adding further capacity to our open-access data centre operation and extending open-access hyper scale national, international, and metro connectivity across our key markets in Nigeria, southern Africa, the DRC and Greater East and Central Africa 

“Our policy of continual investment in infrastructure to create Africa’s first, truly open-access interconnected digital ecosystem means ongoing investment for growth, ensuring readiness to meet the future demands of our client’s customers throughout Africa”  CEO of WIOCC Group, Chris Wood, stated

Head of Energy, Digital and Infrastructure at PROPARCO, Ariane Ducreux, said the Agence Française de Développement Group has been supporting WIOCC since its inception back in 2007.  

IFC Global Industry Director of Infrastructure, Bertrand de la Borde, also said that the Corporation’s long-standing partnership with WIOCC of more than 15 years demonstrates its commitment to increasing affordable and reliable digital connectivity in Africa through shared infrastructure.  

According to him, this new debt facility would help WIOCC fulfil its ambition to establish an integrated, open-access, core-to-edge cloud ecosystem throughout the African continent, which is critical to bridging the digital divide.  

 

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Biden Administration Bans Sales of Kaspersky Software Over National Security Concerns

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The Biden administration announced on Thursday that it would ban the sale of software in the U.S. built by Russian antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab, citing longstanding concerns that the firm poses a significant national security threat.

“Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” stated a Commerce Department announcement.

The decision followed a comprehensive investigation which concluded that Kaspersky’s continued operations in the United States posed a national security risk due to the Russian government’s offensive cyber capabilities and potential influence over the company’s operations.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo emphasized, “Russia has shown time and again they have the capability and intent to exploit Russian companies, like Kaspersky Lab, to collect and weaponize sensitive US information.”

Kaspersky, in a statement to AFP, criticized the Commerce Department’s decision as being based on the current geopolitical climate and theoretical concerns. The company vowed to “pursue all legally available options to preserve its current operations and relationships.”

“Kaspersky does not engage in activities which threaten US national security and, in fact, has made significant contributions with its reporting and protection from a variety of threat actors that targeted US interests and allies,” the company asserted.

This move marks the first action of its kind since an executive order issued under former President Donald Trump granted the Commerce Department the authority to investigate whether certain companies pose a national security risk. Raimondo stressed that the department’s actions signal to America’s adversaries that the U.S. will act decisively when foreign technology poses a risk to national security.

While Kaspersky is headquartered in Moscow, it operates offices in 31 countries and serves over 400 million users and 270,000 corporate clients in more than 200 countries, according to the Commerce Department.

In addition to banning the sale of Kaspersky’s antivirus software, the Commerce Department added three entities associated with the firm to a list of companies deemed national security concerns. These entities were cited for their cooperation with Russian military and intelligence authorities in support of the Russian government’s cyber intelligence objectives.

The Commerce Department strongly encouraged current users to switch to new vendors, although the decision does not outright ban them from continuing to use the software if they choose. Kaspersky is permitted to continue certain operations in the U.S., including providing antivirus updates, until September 29 of this year. This grace period is intended to minimize disruption to U.S. consumers and businesses and to allow them time to find suitable alternatives.

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N280 Billion Final Approval For Bodo-Bonny Road Project ~ FG

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The Federal Government has approved a final N280 billion for Julius Berger Nigeria PLC to complete the Bodo-Bonny road project in Rivers State.

This announcement was made by the Honourable Minister of Works, David Umahi, during his inspection visit to the project site on Wednesday, as reported on the Ministry’s website.

Minister Umahi set December 2024 as the deadline for the project’s completion and urged the contractor to strictly adhere to this timeline, with the goal of resolving the longstanding transportation challenges in Bodo-Bonny once and for all.

“The Federal Government has approved the total and final sum of N280 billion for the completion of Bodo-Bonny road project

“This was revealed by the Honourable Minister of Works, His Excellency, Sen. Engr. Nweze David Umahi CON during his inspection visit to the project site this 19th June 2024. He warned that the contractor handling the project, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, must work round the clock to beat the project delivery timeline of December 2024,” the statement read in part.

Engr. Umahi strictly advised Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. that, regardless of any unexpected challenges or difficulties, the cost of the project will not be increased beyond the approved amount. He insisted that the project must be completed to a high standard.

The Works Minister highlighted the urgency by noting that the project has been ongoing for 11 years and must be finished within this year, setting December 15, 2024, as the deadline for completion.

The statement also revealed that Umahi praised the perseverance of the Bodo-Bonny Peace Committee and the cooperation and integrity of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) in funding the project.

NLNG representative Dienye Godson, on behalf of the company, expressed gratitude to the President and his team for their determination to complete the project.

He noted that NLNG is pleased with the progress and will now review its internal processes to provide as much support as possible to the government.

In response, the project manager from Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. assured that they will continue their efforts without hesitation and will expedite the re-mobilization of the project to demonstrate their full commitment.

He acknowledged the Minister of Works’ statement and emphasized the need for everyone involved to work together diligently as partners to ensure the project’s success.

Back story

The contractor handling the Bodo-Bonny road project, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc., had abandoned the 35.7-kilometer project, which includes 13 bridges: three main bridges, nine mini bridges, and one bridge over a pipeline.

This road is set to be the first to connect oil-rich Bonny Island to mainland Rivers State. The abandonment occurred because Julius Berger was seeking additional funds for the project.

In 2021, Julius Berger requested a review of the contract, but the Federal Government maintained that this was against the original agreement signed in 2017 by the three parties: the Federal Government, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), and Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.

The Federal Government’s refusal to accept the contractor’s request for a variation led to the abandonment of the Bodo-Bonny road project.

In December 2023, the Federal Government directed Julius Berger to return to the site and complete the project, faulting the company for seeking a project variation despite the agreement. However, Julius Berger did not comply and refused to return until their request for an upward variation was eventually approved by the Federal Government in June 2024.

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