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Juggernauts grab spotlight from jumbos at Dubai Airshow

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November 14, 2021

By Alexander Cornwell and Tim Hepher

DUBAI (Reuters) -The nuts and bolts of post-pandemic trade loomed over the first major aerospace event since the coronavirus crisis on Sunday, as planemakers touted new freighters plans at the Dubai Airshow.   

Plane giants Airbus and Boeing are hoping to launch the West’s first all-new flying juggernauts in 25 years as e-commerce gets a boost from the global pandemic.   

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Airbus, without a buyer after launching a freighter version of its A350 jet in the summer, was knocking on the door of one the industry’s go-to patrons for new plane launches, Steven Udvar-Hazy’s Air Lease Corp, industry sources said.   

And for best-selling small passenger planes, the founder of Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air was also seen ready to hand Airbus an order in Dubai, four years after taking part in a group of airlines striking a record deal at the same event.

Reuters reported in September that Wizz was in negotiations with Airbus over the purchase of at least 100 more jets.

Air Lease is expected to be among early customers for a long-haul A350 freighter alongside an unspecified cargo firm, industry publication The Air Current reported.   

Airbus declined comment at the opening of the Dubai Airshow on Sunday, the first day of the Middle East industry event. Wizz and Air Lease were not immediately available for comment.   

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An A350 freighter would go up against a proposed cargo version of Boeing’s 777X passenger series, a twin-engined successor to the soon-to-be-halted 747.

Boeing has not launched the cargo variant but analysts say it is widely expected to do soon as it negotiates with potential buyers including major cargo player Qatar Airways.    

Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, who is locked in a dispute with Airbus over the quality of A350 passenger planes, said in June Qatar was in discussions over a possible 777X freighter.   

Freighters have replaced jumbo passenger jets in typical dealmaking at the showcase event, as the industry looks to put on a brave face after losing two years of passenger growth to the global drop in travel caused by COVID-19.

In contrast to the passenger market, air freight is booming as consumers increasingly shop online while global supply chain constraints have limited the amount of cargo that can be moved.

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MILITARY DELEGATIONS 

Converted passenger jets are also riding the freight boom. Reykjavik-headquartered lessor Icelease announced an order for 11 Boeing 737-800 converted freighters on Sunday.   

Chief Operating Officer Magnus Stephensen said demand for freighters would continue to expand even as passenger jets grounded by the pandemic return to the skies, putting currently unused capacity in their cargo holds back into the market.

“The COVID pandemic has changed the cargo environment for good,” he said. “E-commerce has entirely changed the outlook.”   

Military officials also gathered as diplomats say Gulf states and neighbours are questioning Washington’s commitment to the region following a pull-out from Afghanistan.   

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Washington is the key security partner for the six Gulf Arab countries that include Saudi Arabia and the UAE, though European states have sought to increase their influence.   

U.S. Lieutenant General Gregory Guillot, the top American air force general in the Middle East, said on Saturday the U.S. was committed to the region but that “size and presence could adjust” at times depending on what was happening elsewhere.    

Israel has a public presence at the show for the first time after establishing diplomatic ties with the UAE last year.   

Russia is due to present its Sukhoi Su-75 “Checkmate” fighter, a competitor to the U.S. F-35 that the UAE is buying as part of a deal with Washington following the establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel.

The Emirati deal has slowed as U.S. senators seek more control of arms deals, including assurances that weapons sales to Middle East countries won’t undermine Israeli security.

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(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell and Tim Hepher)

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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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