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Volkswagen invests in EU-backed energy transformation fund

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November 3, 2021

By Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Volkswagen is expanding its green strategy by investing in an EU-backed fund to jointly back technology firms in the field of energy transformation.

The carmaker, which has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, said on Wednesday it had entered a strategic partnership with EIT InnoEnergy and will become a shareholder in the EU-backed venture.

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The move is in line with other steps by Volkswagen, which in September unveiled plans to set up its own 300 million euro ($348 million) venture capital fund to invest in decarbonisation projects and start-ups in the field.

“The idea is simply … to use InnoEnergy as an additional way to find interesting enterprises and support them in scaling up their business models,” said Jens Wiese, Volkswagen’s head of group M&A, investment advisory and partnerships.

VW aims to become the world’s largest seller of electric vehicles by the middle of the decade and has outlined plans to build six large battery cell factories with partners in Europe by the end of the decade.

EIT InnoEnergy has already invested 560 million euros ($650 million) and holds stakes in about 300 groups, including Swedish battery cell maker Northvolt, steel venture H2 Green Steel, and lithium miner Vulcan Energy Resources.

Supported by the EU’s European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), EIT InnoEnergy funds start-ups and companies that are active in the energy transition towards decarbonisation and away from fossil fuels.

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Volkswagen did not disclose the value of the investment or the size of the stake in EIT InnoEnergy, whose owners also include Schneider Electric, TotalEnergies, Engie and EDF.

Volkswagen holds a fifth of Northvolt and, via its trucks unit Scania, has also invested in H2 Green Steel, whose backers include Mercedes-Benz, Spotify founder Daniel Ek, and Northvolt co-founder Vargas Holding.

($1 = 0.8624 euros)

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by David Holmes)

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UK firms struggle to find staff, see higher inflation – BoE survey

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December 2, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – British companies are struggling to find the staff they need and expect higher inflation in the year ahead, according to a survey published on Thursday by the Bank of England which is weighing up whether to raise interest rates this month.

The BoE’s monthly Decision Maker Panel survey showed 85% of respondent firms were finding it harder to recruit new employees compared to normal, with 58% reporting it to be much harder.

The survey also showed year-ahead annual price inflation was expected to be 4.2%, up from 3.9% in the October survey.

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(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce)

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Sustainable investors look for profits in fuzzy data

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December 2, 2021

By Ross Kerber and Simon Jessop

(Reuters) – Sustainability-focused investors believe a little effort can go a long way toward finding profitable opportunities buried in incomplete corporate environmental or social impact filings.

That is according to several speakers on a panel at  the  Reuters Next conference, who described how they choose sustainable investments and work with executives at a time when there are few standard requirements for how major U.S. and European companies should detail carbon emissions disclosures or workforce demographics.

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Eoin Murray, head of investment at Federated Hermes, said the disparate reports from many companies give portfolio managers the chance to dig deeper.

“As an active manager, there’s a part of me which doesn’t mind that some of the data doesn’t entirely line up, because it means the rewards go to those that do their homework properly and unearth the real gems,” Murray said.

Mary Jane McQuillen, a managing director for ClearBridge Investments, said while some companies are eager to become more sustainable, others are defensive and don’t want to be burdened by yet another topic of investor interest.

A third group, McQuillen said, admits there is much about sustainable reporting they don’t know, and is seeking input from their shareholders.

“They say, ‘we really don’t know what the issues are. If you can help us as an owner, and with your years of experience as an investor in understanding how these issues may apply to my industry, as well as to my particular company, that would be super helpful,” she said.

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U.S. regulators are in the process of developing guidance for how companies should spell out things like emissions, and rules in Europe are just coming into place.

At the U.N. climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, global leaders agreed to do more to curb carbon emissions and took other steps toward setting up global carbon markets and an international body to set sustainability reporting standards.

Julie Gorte, senior vice president at Impax Asset Management, said absent complete corporate reporting, investors can still learn a great deal about companies’ environmental, social or governance impact through government filings.

“For companies the watchword is, look, people are going to find out stuff about you, whether you tell them or not. If you want them to know what the truth is, tell them,” Gorte said.

To watch the Reuters Next conference please register here https://reutersevents.com/events/next/

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(Reporting by Ross Kerber and by Simon Jessop; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Facebook could be sued by consumer groups, EU court adviser says

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December 2, 2021

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Facebook could be sued by consumer groups for privacy violations, an adviser to Europe’s top court said on Thursday, in a German online gaming case that could pave the way for similar action across the EU.

The case started in 2012 and is one of several privacy and antitrust headaches facing Facebook in Europe, where regulators have introduced legislation to curb the power of so-called tech giants and ensure more transparency.

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“Member states may allow consumer protection associations to bring representative actions against infringements of the protection of personal data,” Richard de la Tour, advocate general at the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said in an opinion.

Such actions must be based on infringements of rights derived directly from GDPR, he added, referring to the landmark EU privacy rules adopted three years ago.

“We’ll analyse the Advocate General’s opinion. Legal clarity on scope and process of GDPR is important and we’re glad the Court of Justice of the European Union is considering the questions raised in this case.” said a spokesperson Meta Platforms Inc.

GDPR stipulates that any requests to collect personal data should be subject to clear and informed consent.

De la Tour said consumer bodies that defend the collective interests of consumers are particularly suited to GDPR’s objective of establishing a high level of personal data protection.

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Facebook found itself in the dock after the Federation of German Consumer Organisations filed a lawsuit alleging that the social network had allowed operators of online games to improperly collect the personal data of gamers.

The games were offered on Facebook’s App Center in 2012. By playing the games, users automatically agreed to share personal data including email addresses. At the end of the game, they would receive a message saying that the app could post their status, photos and other information.

A German lower court had ruled in favour of the German federation, leading Facebook to appeal to a higher court, which subsequently sought advice from the CJEU.

Facebook has since revamped its privacy settings.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Goodman)

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