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Exclusive-Amazon seeking to settle EU antitrust investigations, sources say

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November 9, 2021

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Amazon is seeking to settle two EU antitrust investigations to stave off potential hefty fines and orders to change its business practices, people familiar with the matter said.

The European Commission in November last year charged the world’s biggest online retailer with using its size, power and data to push its own products and gain an unfair advantage over rival merchants that sell on its online platform.

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It also opened an investigation into Amazon’s possible preferential treatment of its own retail offers and those of marketplace sellers that use its logistics and delivery services.

Amazon is engaged in preliminary discussions with the EU competition enforcer and has offered concessions to address their concerns, the people said.

Settlement talks can take months to wrap up, with no guarantee that both sides will reach an agreement.

Amazon, however, may find a receptive ear in EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager compared to Alphabet unit Google, which tried but failed to settle with her.

Vestager, who has taken a tough line with Apple and Facebook as well, has cited Amazon’s willingness in 2017 to offer concessions to settle an investigation into its distribution deals with e-book publishers in Europe, which she subsequently accepted.

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An offer to settle gives a company an opportunity to take the edge off regulatory demands for changes to business practices seen as anti-competitive.

The Commission, which can fine companies up to 10% of their global turnover, declined to comment. Based on last year’s revenue, that could total around $38.6 billion for Amazon.

Amazon is also under fire in India after thousands of pages of internal Amazon documents examined by Reuters show it ran a systematic campaign of creating knockoffs and manipulating search results to boost its own product lines in India.

It also faces a Washington D.C. antitrust lawsuit over its agreements with wholesalers as well as third-party sellers.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)

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Canada’s Shopify records Black Friday sales up 21%

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November 27, 2021

(Reuters) – Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc recorded worldwide sales of nearly $2.9 billion on Black Friday, an increase of about 21% in comparison to last year, the company said Saturday.

New York, London and Los Angeles were among the top-selling cities, the company said, while apparel and accessories was the top-selling product category.

Shopify also said it funded 23,000+ tonnes of carbon removal to counteract emissions from the delivery of every order placed on its platform on Black Friday.

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(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Xiaomi to open car plant in Beijing with annual output of 300,000 vehicles – Beijing govt

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November 27, 2021

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp will build a plant that can produce 300,000 vehicles annually in Beijing for its electric vehicle unit, authorities in the capital said on Saturday.

The plant will be constructed in two phases and Xiaomi will also built its auto unit’s headquarters, sales and research offices in the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Zone, the government-backed economic development agency Beijing E-Town said on its official WeChat account.

Beijing E-Town said it anticipated the plant reaching mass production in 2024, a goal announced by Xiaomi’s Chief Executive Lei Jun in October.

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In March, Xiaomi said it would commit to investing $10 billion in a new electric car division over 10 years. The company completed the business registration of its EV unit in late August.

The company has been opening thousands of stores to spur domestic sales growth for its smartphone business but eventually intends to use these shops as a channel for its plans to sell electric vehicles.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by William Mallard)

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Eni sells Snam 49.9% stake in Algeria gas pipelines for 385 million euros

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November 27, 2021

MILAN (Reuters) -Italian energy group Eni has agreed to sell gas group Snam 49.9% of its stake in strategic pipelines carrying Algerian gas into Italy for 385 million euros ($436 million), the two companies said on Saturday.

The pipelines will be jointly controlled by the two companies, they said in a joint statement.

Italy imports more than 90% of its overall gas needs and Algerian gas currently accounts for around 30% of flows.

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“This transaction allows us to free up new resources to be used on our energy transition path,” Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi said.

Eni is working on spinning off a series of oil and gas operations into new joint ventures to help reduce debt and fund its shift to low-carbon energy.

Snam, which owns a 20% stake in the TAP pipeline that carries Azeri gas into Italy, makes most of its money from managing Italy’s gas transport grid.

It has pledged to spend more on new green business lines such as hydrogen and, like other gas grid operators in Europe, is upgrading its gas network to be hydrogen ready.

“In the future, North Africa could also become a hub for producing solar energy and green hydrogen,” Snam CEO Marco Alvera said.

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The pipeline companies involved in the deal posted net income of around 90 million euros in 2020.

($1 = 0.8836 euros)

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, editing by Giselda Vagnoni)

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