Monday, April 3, 2017
South Africa credit status rated to junk; Tesla market value overtakes Ford's; No girlfriend -- China engineer marries robot
1 South Africa credit rated to junk status (The Guardian) South Africa’s rand has tumbled after credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s the credit grade to junk status, saying a cabinet reshuffle by President Jacob Zuma last week had put fiscal and growth outcomes at risk.
The agency said the downgrade reflected its view that the divisions in the African National Congress (ANC) government, especially the firing of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who was replaced by an ally of Zuma last week, have put policy continuity at risk.
Gordhan was seen as a bulwark against corruption and as finance minister had blocked some questionable policies by other members of Zuma’s government. Since he was fired the rand has fallen against major currencies and the ruling ANC party is in turmoil.
Economists had predicted that the firing of Gordhan would hurt South Africa’s economy, which saw growth of just 0.5% last year and has an unemployment rate of about 27%. Zuma’s actions would cause South Africa to be downgraded to junk status by credit rating agencies, economists warned.
South Africa is rated one notch above junk at Fitch and two notches above junk at Moody’s. S&P kept a “negative” outlook on South Africa, meaning it is more likely to downgrade it again than upgrade it.
South Africa is part of the so-called Brics economies – also including Brazil, Russia, India and China – that have enjoyed strong growth in the past decade. But all of them have run into economic trouble. Brazil and Russia have fared worst, falling into deep recessions, but even China has seen economic growth slow.
2 Tesla market value overtakes Ford's (BBC) Tesla's market value has overtaken that of Ford after shares in the electric car maker added more than 7%. At the close of trading Tesla had a market value of $49bn, compared with Ford's value of $46bn.
Tesla's shares rose after the company announced record vehicle deliveries in the first three months of the year. The firm delivered more than 25,000 cars in the first quarter, up 70% on the same quarter last year.
While Tesla's sales are growing fast they are still a fraction of Ford's, which sold almost 6.7 million vehicles in 2016. Tesla delivered 76,000 electric cars last year. However, investors are excited about the growth potential of Tesla.
This year it plans to start selling a cheaper car in the US, the Model 3, which it hopes will have mass market appeal. "Five years ago no one knew what a Tesla was. Now people want a Tesla. It has usurped BMW as an aspirational car," said Ben Kallo, energy technology analyst at Robert W Baird.
Mr Kallo said that the charisma, or what he described as the "magic dust" surrounding Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk, allows it to attract talented staff as well as investors. Meanwhile, Tesla has made a huge investment in battery production, building a $5bn factory in Nevada that when fully developed will be the biggest building in the world.
As well as supplying batteries for cars, the plant makes batteries for homes and businesses. In what was seen as a vote on confidence in the firm, last month China's Tencent spent $1.78bn on buying a 5% stake in Tesla.
3 No girlfriend – China engineer marries robot (Straits Times) A 31-year-old man, frustrated with his failed attempts to find a girlfriend, decided that he would marry a robot he built instead. Mr Zheng Jiaja and his creation, which he named Yingying, wed in a simple ceremony in the capital city of Zhejiang province on March 31, according to local media reports.
The artificial intelligence expert was seen in photos dressed in a black suit, while Yingying wore a black dress and had her head covered with a red scarf. One of Mr Zheng's friends said he had grown weary of futile attempts to find a girlfriend.
Mr Zheng created the robot towards the end of last year. Yingying can reportedly identify Chinese characters and speak some simple words. There are plans to upgrade her so that she can walk and help out with household chores, a report claimed. A former employee of telecommunications firm Huawei, Mr Zheng joined Internet venture company Hangzhou Dream Town in 2014.